The Way Home: Episode 33 with Lisa Anderson

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Today I am glad to be joined by my friend Lisa Anderson. Lisa is the director of Boundless and young adults at Focus on the Family and hosts The Boundless Show, a national radio program and podcast.. Lisa is a longtime friend and a terrific voice on singleness, dating, theology and other issues that affect young Christian adults.

Today we are going to talk about her new book, The Dating Manifesto. There is a lot of confusion in the church about dating, courtship, etc. She helps clear some of this up and offers a Biblical way for Christian singles to live out the gospel and pursue marriage.

Listen to this week’s episode

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Show Notes:

  • On the podcast I mentioned the release of my new book, The Original Jesus, which releases September 1st.

The Way Home: Episode 32 with Phillip Bethancourt

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What does strategic and visionary leadership look like for Christian organizations? This is the topic of today’s podcast where I’m joined by my colleague, Phillip Bethancourt. Phillip is the executive vice-president of ERLC. He previously served as Vice President for Enrollment Management and Assistant Professor of Christian Theology at Southern Seminary. He completed an MDiv and PhD in Systematic Theology at Southern after attending Texas A&M University.

Phililp and I talk about creating healthy organizational cultures, anticipating crisis, and how Texas A&M will fare in this upcoming college football season.

Listen to this week’s episode

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Show Notes:

  • On the podcast I mentioned the release of my new book, The Original Jesus, which releases September 1st.

Are you preaching the right Jesus on Sunday?

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From my recent article at Lifeway Pastors: 

A few years ago I began a preaching series through the book of James. To be honest, I decided to preach through James because I felt it addressed some issues I wanted to address, from Scripture in our congregation. James is a book that doesn’t mess around. It addresses weak and shallow faith, joy in suffering, and pride and elitism in the body of Christ.

What surprised me, however, was how much James spoke to me, as a pastor. I was especially convicted by the way James 3 challenges the way pastors approach the text when they stand in the pulpit on Sundays.

Most of us are aware of James 3:1’s shot across the bow. “Not many of you,” James writes, “should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who are teachers will be judged with greater strictness.” I’d always read this verse as a warning to pastors to make sure they understand the weight of their calling. But there is more here, I think, in James’ warning.

The rest of James 3 addresses the tongue, how this “untamed…world of righteousness” can cause much destruction. As a child, growing up, I’d heard many sermons on the tongue and how gossip in the church can hurt church unity. But I’d never connected these warnings about the tongue to James 3:1. That was, until the weight of the entire passage hit me like a ton of bricks.

What James is saying here is this: the words you say in the pulpit matter. They can either be words of gospel life or words of death. When a pastor ascends the stage and stands in the pulpit, he is essentially speaking for God to God’s people. And when people sit and listen, they are assuming that what you are preaching and saying is what God has already declared in His Word.

This is why we have to get the text right. God uses good, sound, gospel preaching to communicate life to His people and to the lost. But bad, unsound, false doctrine leads to spiritual death.

And nothing is more important than the way we preach Jesus. Now, no evangelical pastor would say that he’s not preaching Jesus. Jesus is why we get into the ministry. It’s why we go through seminary, deal with the difficulties of church life, and represent God to God’s people.

I think there are three false Jesus’ preachers are tempted to preach. Read the whole article here

Anything is Possible if You Work Hard . . . Until it Isn’t

“Anything is possible if you work hard . . . ” this is a message that we hear, over and over again, a credo embedded in the ethos of many Americans. I say “many” because the realities of those of us who have grown up in safe, relatively affluent suburbs is vastly different from my brothers and sisters who’ve grown up in more hope-starved, crime-ridden, opportunity-free precincts of American life.

But is the above credo true? Is it biblical? And is it something we should whisper to our kids as we tuck them in at night? I get the sentiment behind it, I really do. I think it’s important, vital even, for parents to encourage, support and believe in their kids. However, we are lying to our kids if we tell them that if they work hard they can achieve anything they want. Let me use an example in my own life.

I was a marginal, at best, athlete. By marginal I mean marginal in a small Christian school with a limited talent pool. So, to be frank, I’m not an athlete. And yet I managed to play basketball in junior high and high school. I had to work harder than most of my teammates because I wasn’t especially tall, I wasn’t especially fluid, and I battled weight problems. I worked hard, though, at basketball, especially between my sophomore and junior years. In that summer I lost 40 lbs and ran two miles a day and got into the best shape of my life. I entered training camp ready to seize the fifth and final starting spot. That hard work paid off as I was a key player on my team which won the majority of its games and got second in the state (Relax: it was a Christian school league).

I worked hard. I wanted to be good at basketball. And I made the team. But even as hard as I worked–pushing myself beyond my self, subverting my body to my will–I still was only, at best, the 5th or 6th best player on my tiny Christian school high-school basketball team. The truth is that, yes, since I worked hard toward a goal, I was able to meet it. But if my dream was to play Division 1 college basketball or play in the NBA, no matter how hard I worked, I wouldn’t have made it. That’s a fantasy, not reality. So the maxim above is false. You can’t work hard and be whatever you want to be. I can work hard toward being an NBA all-star, a concert violinist, or an Oscar-winning actor and still never achieve that. It’s not where I’m gifted. It’s not in my skill sets. Most importantly, this is not God’s plan for my life.

This sounds a bit like hopeless fatalism, but seen through the eyes of a Creator who loves us and has redeemed us for his pleasure, this is the best possible news. Rather than being a hostage to my own, fallen dreams for myself I can be surrendered to God’s much better plan for me. My dreams are pedestrian, paltry, and lame. God’s Kingdom is better. It’s better not only because surrender to Christ allows me to be who I was created to be, but because God’s Kingdom is God Himself. The end of faith isn’t becoming the best me. The end of faith is Christ himself, in whom I will find more infinitely more delight than I would pursuing my own dreams.

What’s more, following Christ doesn’t make me choose between gospel-shaped desires, Spirit-bestowed gifts, and God-ordained opportunities. Surrendering my soul to him allows me, frees me to be what I was created to be. What’s more, a Christian view of the future shapes my expectations, knowing that in this fallen life I will not find ultimate satisfaction, but that everything I do is just an internship for eternity. If we believe we were made for forever, made for life with Christ, then we’ll entrust our dreams to the one who is restoring this fallen cosmos and is renewing my heart. We’ll not lament lost years, rue getting older, or get frustrated in suffering because we’re not looking forward to the next ten years, but to the next million years in that city “whose builder and maker is God” (Hebrews 11:10).

So what should we be whispering in the ears of our children? We should be telling them something better than the worldly maxim of “Work hard and you can be whatever you want.” Instead, we should tell them: “Work hard, love Jesus, and Christ will empower you to be whatever He created you to be, both now and in eternity.” We should prepare them for both short-term disappointment that involves both suffering and injustice in a fallen world and remind them that God’s redeemed who are last in this world, the marginalized, the poor, those who are not afforded the opportunity many of us–these will be first in the Kingdom of Heaven.

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