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Archive for February, 2012

Christian Leader, Are you Forgetting Something?

Last week, Crossway author Sam Crabtree shared the plenary stage with Thomas Nelson CEO Michael Hyatt at the National Religious Broadcasters Convention. Both speakers addressed the importance of Christian leaders affirming others.

In his book Practicing Affirmation, Crabtree explains in further detail why we should affirm people and how to restore affirmation to relationships that have been lacking it:

Corrections need to be overwhelmed by affirmations.

Offering correction, whether at work or in our personal life, is necessary and often helpful. Crabtree suggests that those corrections must be overwhelmed by affirmations in order to truly be effective. “If we have too much correction, and not enough affirmation, people will stop hearing our corrections; they’ll just tune out,” he explains. A habit of over-correcting and under-affirming also wounds relationships with spouses, children, co-workers, students, etc.

Why should we affirm people?

John Piper writes, “When our mouths are empty of praise for others, it is probably because our hearts are full of love for self.” However, there is a difference between godly affirmation and the kind of affirmation that puffs up. In order to affirm people, we must first learn to affirm God. For what should God be praised? (Ps. 150:2). Crabtree argues that “God is not given the praise he deserves when we ignore or deny the work he is doing in people.”

So why should we affirm others?

  • When we commend God’s image in people, God is glorified, and that’s why we were made—to glorify God.
  • By commending Christlike qualities, and celebrating them when we spot them, affirmation showcases the character of God, giving him honor for the kind of God he is.
  • It earns us the right standing from which to make suggestions. It gains us a hearing.
  • It lifts morale—in the home, the office, church, locker room.
  • It energizes people. It motivates them to action.
  • It makes us easier to live with.
  • It helps us practice looking at others positively.
  • It constructively uses time that could have been wasted on complaining.

How do you restore a pattern of affirmation to a relationship?

At first the other person may not believe you or receive affirmation well from you. That’s because of a deficit. Your checking account [so to speak] is in the hole. Here are some practical suggestions to reverse the trend of an overly corrective relationship:

  1. If he/she has stopped listening to you, quit preaching.
  2. Stop moralizing about listening: “You should be listening to me!” Instead, ask the Holy Spirit to do his job.
  3. Affirm. Stay up nights if you have to, thinking of ways to say what is so commendable in him/her.
  4. Keep up a steady, tender flow of words and gestures that confirm and commend them.
  5. Model. We don’t affirm any particular quality we don’t personally embrace and exemplify in some appreciable measure. If we try to commend punctuality while always running late ourselves, our hypocritical compliments become off-putting.
  6. Love the unchanged person as is. Be a blessing to that person before he/she listens to you.

Things are moving in the right direction when affirmation, not correction, is the pattern. Relationships are healthy when so much affirmation is being spread around that no one is keeping track of either affirmation or correction, because the relationship doesn’t feel predominately demanding, but refreshing. This is not a matter of a raw mathematical ratio, but a perception from the other person’s point of view. This requires us to see things through others’ eyes. Do they see us as affirming?

Content modified from Practicing Affirmation by Sam Crabtree. Sam is a former public school teacher and has served as executive pastor at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis since 1997. He is also lead pastor for life training, serving as the “vision keeper” of the church.

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February 27, 2012 | Posted in: AAA - BLOG UPDATE,Church Leadership,Church Ministry,Life / Doctrine,Marriage / Family | Author: Angie Cheatham @ 8:00 am | (2) Comments »

Video: The Joy of Calvinism

Calvinists and their theology have a less than positive reputation—stodgy, uptight, and arrogant are commonly used adjectives to describe this group. Justin Taylor recently sat down with Greg Forster, author of The Joy of Calvinism, who asserts that Calvinism is a largely misunderstood tradition that is ultimately about joy and the love of a God who saves.

00:00 — Introduction
00:21 — Forster’s Background – “I was lead to Christ by a man who’s been dead for 300 years.”
03:29 — The theme of God’s love in Calvinism
04:35 — What does Calvinism “taste like?”
06:34 — Calvin’s soteriology
07:21 — TULIP: Our simplification of the “5 points”
09:15 — The value of TULIP in highlighting the trinitarian nature of Calvinism
11:02 — The value of TULIP in negating the views Calvinism does not hold
11:25 — A few problems with TULIP
13:34 — Calvinism from the perspective of God’s love
14:33 — A strange fact: Calvinism is drenched in joy
17:03 — The advantage of a layman’s perspective
19:19 — Greg’s vision for the book in the Church
19:36 — Why you should read this if you’re not a Calvinist
20:40 — Why you should read this if you are a Calvinist
21:54 — Wrap-up: The Joy of Calvinism afresh

February 24, 2012 | Posted in: AAA - BLOG UPDATE,Church History,Life / Doctrine,Salvation,The Reformation,Theology,Video | Author: Angie Cheatham @ 4:41 pm | 0 Comments »

Is War Inherently Unjust and Immoral?

Empirically, there would appear to be but one adequate answer to this question. Whether one ponders the hundreds of thousands who have died in world wars or the “mere” several thousands who are casualties in lesser wars, localized wars, or the “war on terrorism,” this question would seem to provide its own answer. After all, war is hell, as we’ve often heard, and nothing can offset this reality.

On the basis of human loss, any war is immoral.

The pacifist presents a compelling case in arguing that, based on human loss, any war is immoral. Who among us can put a premium on human life? From the standpoint of loss, there is no explanation, no justification whatsoever, that might be deemed adequate. Period. In truth, everyone should become a pacifist tomorrow were this the only measurement of justice. But there are other perspectives that need to be taken into consideration.

On a daily basis, everywhere around us, law-enforcement officials engage in crime control, crime prevention, and crime interdiction. They operate on a decidedly different level than most theorists, yet like those theorists they maintain the highest regard for human dignity and human life. They do this, often unbeknownst to the public, at great cost and considerable effort. Most laypersons are unaware of the energy, planning, strategizing, and agonizing over how to deal with the problem of criminal behavior and violent crime. For example:

Suppose a child in your neighborhood is kidnapped. And suppose the kidnapper has taken refuge in a house in the neighborhood. What does local law enforcement do? Commit itself in principle to nonviolent intervention and hope that the kidnapper will change his ways and release the child without any altercation? Or perhaps firebomb the house so that the criminal will surely be incapacitated or killed? Criminal justice, at least as we have known it, will—very predictably, mind you—weigh the options, examine the dangers attendant, consult with other law-enforcement agencies, and chart its response. Along the way this will include attempting to “negotiate,” cordoning off the neighborhood, and perhaps a host of other measures. Why these measures? And why this predictability as a response?

The concern for safety and justice is balanced by a concern for the victim and the environment.

What we in the broader public take for granted is assumed in responsible criminal justice. In our particular scenario, law-enforcement officials neither (1) expect that the kidnapper will suddenly have a change of mind and give himself up without incident nor (2) resort to firebombing the house, or whole neighborhood, for that matter, in order to be sure to kill or restrict the kidnapper. The concern for safety and justice is balanced by a concern for the victim, as well as concern for the neighborhood environment. This latter concern, we must remember, does not mean a renunciation of coercive—even lethal—force should it be required. At the same time, police always measure their calculated use of force against the possibility of harm to the victim. This response to evil is fairly straightforward and remains noncontroversial.

But if we agonize over criminal justice for those who are vulnerable to mass murder, genocide, or a holocaust, the stakes become far greater even while the moral principles do not change. This is not to suggest that one potential death—that of the kidnapped girl—is any less tragic than the slaughter of a million people. It does, however, test the moral fabric and resiliency of a society’s body politic, whether the holocaust is our own or our neighbor’s.

To not intervene when mass murder is imminent is to be an accomplice to that mass murder.

Not to intervene when we know that mass murder is imminent would be irresponsible. But it is more; it is to be an accomplice to that mass murder. How we think about and prepare for such scenarios is not hypothetical. What is our ethical duty to our neighbor, or a neighbor nation? If we suggest that all war is always and inevitably immoral, we turn our backs on those who might, on some rare occasion, need our intervention. For this reason, Reinhold Niebuhr in the late 1930s could write, “It is not possible to disavow war absolutely without disavowing the task of establishing justice.” In his own day the dilemma reached critical mass in just a few years as the storm clouds of totalitarianism loomed on the horizon. Consequently, Niebuhr was left to confess:

We cannot make peace with Hitler now because his power dominates the Continent, and his idea of a just peace is one that leaves him in security of that dominance. We believe . . . that a more just peace can be established if that dominance is broken. But in so far as Hitlerian imperial will must be broken first, the new peace will be an imposed peace.

Pacifism tempts us to make no moral judgments at all when they are desperately needed.

In that sense, evil gains the upper hand. In his significant statement “Why the Christian Church Is Not Pacifist,” Niebuhr sides with Ambrose, Augustine, and Aquinas, who believe that genuine love can be—even when it will not always be— called upon to actively and directly oppose the forces of evil, given the sinful will to power that is rooted in human depravity. Responding somewhat sarcastically to the pacifists of his day who advocated nonintervention in foreign affairs, he writes: “If we believe that if Britain had only been fortunate enough to have produced 30 percent instead of 2 percent of conscientious objectors to military service, Hitler’s heart would have been softened and he would not have dared attack Poland, we hold a faith which no historic reality justifies.”Niebuhr sensed, and surely the Jews of his day knew, that there are sorrows and evils that are far worse than the physical deaths and ravages of war.

Simply said, there are, in fact, some human goods that are of such a high value that enormous sacrifices are justifiable in their defense. This, of course, is a moral and not mathematical judgment. Truly civilized society ascribes to human dignity and justice the highest place in its hierarchy of values. If this hierarchy disintegrates and justice is subverted, society is eclipsed. Peace and stability themselves are the fruit of justice. For this reason, peace is incompatible with a tolerance of evil. A belief in human dignity, given the human propensity for moral evil, requires such a view.

by J. Daryl Charles and Timothy J. Demy, adapted from War, Peace, and Christianity

| Posted in: AAA - BLOG UPDATE,Culture,Current Issues,Life / Doctrine,The Christian Life | Author: Angie Cheatham @ 8:41 am | 0 Comments »

Seeing Jesus in the Old Testament: Nancy Guthrie on Her Newest Bible Study

Her.meneutics, the Christianity Today blog for women, interviewed Nancy Guthrie about her latest Bible Study, The Wisdom of God: Seeing Jesus in the Psalms and Wisdom Books.

We thought we’d point you to this interview for more on the genesis of this new series, Seeing Jesus in the Old Testament.  In this interview Nancy speaks to how the Psalms model honest expression of our emotions but also show us that God intends to change how we feel, why each of her lessons includes a section on what’s yet to come when Christ returns, and the necessity of sound theology which, as she puts it, “provides a solid basis for the most compelling personal application”.

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February 22, 2012 | Posted in: AAA - BLOG UPDATE,Book News,News | Author: Lindsay Tully @ 8:50 am | 0 Comments »

The Gospel and Hate

Excerpt from Bloodlines: Race, Cross, and the Christian by John Piper

The horrors of racial and ethnic hatred are indescribable.

All over the world, through all of history, the slaughter of human life because of ethnic, tribal, and racial animosities is beyond imagination. If you could imagine it—in vivid color—you would not be able to bear it. From the Armenian genocide in Turkey in 1915, to the holocaust in Germany, to the Soviet Gulag, to the massacres in Rwanda in 1994, to the Japanese slaughter of six million Chinese, Indonesians, Koreans, Filipinos, and Indochinese—the litany of ethnic hatred goes on.

The gospel of Jesus cuts the nerve of hatred and anger and the bent to be a blaming person. It does so in many ways. I’ll mention two that seem almost opposite but are both crucial in the quest for racial justice and harmony.

When we receive the gracious provision of God to forgive our sins through Christ, our bent to be unforgiving is broken.

“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children” (Eph. 4:32–5:1). Our kindness and forgiveness of others is empowered by our being forgiven. Our loving others is empowered by our being loved by God.

We know we are sinners. We know that the offense we have given to God is greater than any offense others have given to us, and if God was gracious to us, we must be gracious to others. You cannot authentically rejoice in being treated better than you deserve while treating others the way they deserve, or worse.

The gospel cuts the nerve of hatred by making us feel the broken-hearted gratitude that God’s wrath was once on us and was removed, not because we deserved it but because of his absolutely free grace. Freely you have received; freely give. As the Father has sent me to love, Jesus said, so I send you. Love your enemies so that you may prove yourselves to be children of God, because that is the way he treated you. If you cherish grudges, you do not cherish God’s grace. But the definition of a Christian is one who receives and cherishes the grace of God in Christ.

The gospel overcomes vengeance by promising that justice will be done.

One of the emotional boosters behind our judicial sense is that justice must be done, especially when our rights are denied. And when it looks like justice will not be done to us, we feel the need to take matters into our hands and exact vengeance.

To this impulse, the gospel comes with a double message. All wrongs in the world will be punished justly, either on the cross (for the wrongdoers who trust Christ) or in hell (for the wrongdoers who don’t). “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’ To the contrary, ‘if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head’” (Rom. 12:19–20).

What God is telling us is that forgiveness and love do not mean the perpetrators get away with their abuses and injustices. They don’t. If they come to faith in Christ, their sins will be covered by his blood. But if they do not come to Christ, their sins will come on their own head, and God will see that justice is done. In this way, a life of love and forgiveness—a life of treating bad people better than they deserve—is not a foolish life. God’s mercy and vengeance frees us from the soul-destroying bitterness of hatred and anger and blaming and vengeance. It makes us merciful without making us naïve about evil.

This effect of the gospel of Christ would transform the world of race and ethnicity more than we can imagine. Who can begin to describe the possibilities of reconciliation and harmony where the work of Christ replaces hatred with love, anger with patience, and blaming with forgiving, and all of this without surrendering a passion that justice must be done?

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February 21, 2012 | Posted in: AAA - BLOG UPDATE,Culture,Life / Doctrine,The Christian Life | Author: Lindsay Tully @ 8:00 am | 0 Comments »