This morning I read a post on Sharon Hodde Miller’s blog written by her husband Ike titled Immodesty and Lust: A Man’s Perspective. Both Ike and Sharon are pursuing PhD’s at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. Ike has some really good things to say about immodesty and lust. Here are a few excerpts.
As our friend pointed out, there is a glaring inconsistency in the church, one that allows men to make judgments about the modesty of women without confessing and repenting of their own complicit lust in the process. Instead, a woman is accused of immodesty and shamed, all by virtue of the fact that a man has lusted after her; however, the man who engaged in lust does not experience the same public shame. In fact, he is sometimes considered praiseworthy for addressing such a “threat” to the community.
Ike then hits on the nature of lust.
No doubt, there is truth to the statement that all men lust, but it is a truth about the condition of the heart, not a women’s clothing. Rather than portray men as helplessly prone to lust, it would be more accurate to describe lust as an ever-pressing temptation to all men, a temptation that requires great vigilance and discipline of mind. The failure of men to diligently address this temptation has led to the false conclusion that all men are incapable of resisting the temptation entirely.
I encourage you to read the whole thing here.
Hero worship is a problem in our society. Even worse, hero worship is a problem in evangelical Christianity. The reliable Vaughan Roberts issues a prophetic warning on the phenomenon of personality cults in his book Authentic Church. Drawing from 1 Corinthians 3-4 he writes;
“We copy the world in its obsession with personalities, dividing into parties which gather around different Christian gurus whose teaching is exalted almost to the level of infallibility. Those who attach themselves to other leaders can be seen as enemies, even though they are fellow Christians who believe exactly the same as us on all the fundamentals of the faith and worship the same Heavenly Father. Sadly, membership of the same Christian family can be seen as less important than membership of the same faction.
Sometimes the leader is to blame for promoting such adulation by drawing attention to himself and encouraging and unquestioning loyalty from his followers; but often leaders placed on pedestals are as uneasy as the apostle was when people said, ‘I follow Paul.’ He was horrified a the thought of Christians gathering around him rather than the Lord he served.
To counter their immature, worldly thinking, he outlines a truly spiritual understanding of Christian leadership that never allows mere humans to take center stage. Churches should value not those who are the most flashy, with impressive gifts and personalities, but rather those who are faithful in fulfilling their charge, and point to the master, not themselves. (39-41)”
This morning I ran across a good concise post by Nicholas McDonald through Trevin Wax’s blog. Nicholas is a student at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. In this post McDonald outlines the “heart-diagnostic approach” to sermon application that Tim Keller has made famous. The full text of his points are below…
1. Show people what they’re doing wrong. The key for unbelievers here is to find common ground. After hearing these lectures, I was amazed at how much secular culture points to common-grace morality. Every week I’ve been able to find something in culture that points to the moral application. The other key is to be able to describe what it feels like to sin. Sinning is miserable, Christian or no – describe sin in such a way that people are anxious for a solution.
2. Explain to people why they do it. Keller’s a specialist at this – maybe the only one I know. In order to unearth people’s aberrant behavior, we need to get to the root. The root, as Christ has said, is the heart – the desires and longings we imagine our idols can fulfill. The key here is to know the idols of your culture – is it education? Family? Safety? Sex? Fun? This has added a level of penetrating depth to my preaching I’ve never had before – tell people what desires cause them to pursue their sin, and the soil will be fully dug for Christ to enter in.
3. Show how Christ satisfies those desires. Tullian Tchividjian said it best: “Jesus + Nothing = Everything.” This is the point in your sermon where people are on the edge of their seats, waiting for an answer – “Then how can I change!?” This is where you lead them to Christ. Keller says this kind of preaching “sanctifies people on the spot”. By pointing to Christ, we’re appealing to the deepest need of believers – we disobey the gospel because we fail to believe the gospel. We’re also pointing to the deepest needs of unbelievers – to see that their sin problem can only be taken care of through faith in Christ. Keller recommends using a secular story as an analogy (rather than a strictly doctrinal explanation) to penetrate the heart of your culture.
4. Paint a picture of a gospel-filled life. The most beautiful, helpful one-word phrase I’ve ever learned, I learned in this series: “If you really believed, you would…” This is what your congregants need to hear every week. Show them what it means to really believe the gospel, deep down, and let it penetrate every portion of our hearts. Point them to the spiritual disciplines that foster this kind of faith. Show them what it means to be a radical disciple in your culture, time and place. Let them walk away knowing for sure whether they are being obedient to God or not. Show them precisely where they need to become less, and Christ needs to become more.
I was flipping through the tv channels recently and caught a few seconds of an interview with a cultural icon. The interviewer pulled this star aside as she was headed into an entertainment award show. What held me on that channel was the reporter’s first question.
Who are you wearing?
The question sounds a bit odd. However, we can discern the intended meaning of the question from the context. Who designed that dress? Who are you representing by wearing that dress? See, the name of an elite designer communicates status, importance, meaning, and worth. Most of us cannot afford custom designer clothing. Most of us are not invited to televised award shows to be displayed before the watching world. Yet we are on display to those around us.
Nakedness and the Search for Meaning
We are all searching for value and meaning in some sense or another. And we are all judged, and judge others, on these grounds. So we clothe ourselves in cultural signifiers that communicate worth and status. Why?
Immediately following the fall of mankind our first ancestors were found naked and ashamed. Adam and Eve rejected their covering under the Lordship of God and grasped for worth and status in and of themselves. Ashamed of their nakedness they grasped for new covering. And we have tried to clothe our shame and find significance in our coverings ever since. There is only one covering that will sufficiently clothe our nakedness and give us true rest.
One of the Apostle Paul’s favorite metaphors describes “putting on” or “clothing oneself” in Christ (Gal. 3:27; Rom.13:12; Eph.4:24; Col.3:12f.). Paul likens Christ to a garment. The idea of “putting on” Christ implies 3 very important gospel truths. (These truths were outlined similarly in Tim Keller’s study on Galatians)
- Clothing Communicates Our Identity
Our clothing communicates to the world who we are. Clothing shows others that we are identified with a particular gender, social class, or national group.To say that Christ is our clothing is to say that our ultimate identity is found in him and not in any other classification.
- Clothing Shields Our Nakedness
Clothes are kept closer to you than any other possession. We rely on clothing for shelter every moment of every day. To say Christ is our covering is to call us to continual dependence and awareness of Him. Clothing ourselves in Christ should remind us of his presence.
- Clothing Adorns Us
Clothing is also worn as adornment. To say that Christ is our clothing is to say that in God’s sight we are loved because of Jesus’ work and salvation. The metaphor of “putting on Christ” is a comprehensive metaphor for the entirety of life. In Christ we have his Spirit and are imputed his record. This should permeate everything we think, say, and do.
As Christians we are covered by Jesus, “wearing Christ” before God. But if your neighbor or friend were to ask you – who are you wearing? – what would you say? More importantly, who would they say?
Strategic Pastoral Counseling is a model developed by David Benner described as a brief, structured counseling approach that is explicitly Christian and that appropriates the insights of contemporary counseling theory without sacrificing the resources of pastoral ministry. There is much debate about the uses and differences of secular counseling and biblical counseling. I will not examine those here. My purpose is to give a brief account of Brenner’s work. There are a few characteristics of Strategic Pastoral Counseling (SPC) that I found helpful for pastoral ministry.
SPC is brief and time-limited, working within a suggested maximum of five sessions. Both the pastor and the parishioner are encouraged to work continuously at maintaining focus and direction. One of the benefits of this model is that is presupposes that the counseling relationship is a partnership, which increases the participation and expectation of change in the counselee.
The use of written materials is central to SPC. The Bible as well as a variety of other devotional, inspirational, and practical books and booklets could be assigned to the client. The literature should be integrated within the counseling session, not simply offered as a supplement to them and serve as a support and extension of the counseling. Moreover, it also seems that Benner advocates a holistic approach to pastoral counseling that aims at the behavioral (action), cognitive (thought), and affective (feeling) aspects of the personality – with a focus on spirituality.
Lastly, the SPC process is very structured. Each of the sessions has a clear focus and each builds upon the previous ones in contributing to the accomplishment of the overall goals. SPC involves three stages:
- The encounter stage, where boundaries are set, the central concerns and history are explored, a pastoral diagnosis is conducted, and a mutually agreeable focus is achieved.
- The engagement stage, where the problem is explored holistically and resources are identified for coping or change.
- The disengagement stage, where progress is evaluated, concerns are accessed, referrals are arranged, and counseling is terminated.
Overall I found this little book helpful and would encourage pastors who are developing their counseling philosophy to read it. Counseling in a Christian context can be highly effective when it maintains narrowly focused goals in a time-limited setting. The details of this model of pastoral counseling are outlined well in this little practical guide.
At this year’s Southern Baptist Convention in Houston The Gospel Project is hosting a discussion panel on Christ-Centered Preaching and Teaching. Ed Stetzer will moderate the panel with Trevin Wax, Eric Hankins, and Jon Akin. We are working with several publishers to give each attendee free resources on Christ-Centered preaching and teaching. There will also be a free breakfast. We only have room for 350 so sign up soon!
Here are the details;
Christ-Centered Preaching and Teaching: A Discussion Panel
Tuesday June 11, 2013
George R. Brown Convention Center
Room 351A-F on Level 3
6:30 a.m. to 8:00 a.m.
To beard, or not to beard? This has become a popular question. And it would seem that many men are choosing to let their beards grow. You might notice the style experts reporting on the dominance of beards in popular culture over the clean-shaven perfectly smooth face. Not too long ago a campaign for Gillette starred three cultural icons sporting facial hair – yes, remaining facial hair in a razor commercial. Why? Because the beard is a phenomenon. And the beard phenomenon is not only growing in popular culture but also in Christian culture.
One might argue that the recent popularity of beards in Christian circles is a demonstrative protest against the decline of gender differences in our society. Maybe the growth of beards in Christian circles is cultural or contextual mimesis of hipster trends. Perhaps the popularity of the beard is simply an appreciation for it as a masculine ornament. At least one thing is clear, beards are continuing to grow in Christian circles. Perhaps you’ve seen the website Bearded Gospel Men? In case you missed it, Leadership Journal recently ran an article titled The Beards of Ministry in which they proclaim, “the beard is back in a big way. Along with celebrities, bike messengers, and your local barista, pastors are no exception to the glories of facial hair. The ministry beard has a long and glorious history among preachers, theologians, and everyday men of the cloth.” (Don’t miss their graphic)
The beard does have a long and rich history. For the Ancient Israelites in the Old Testament a full rounded beard was an ornament signifying manhood, a source of pride. The Hebrew men carefully maintained their beards. For the more affluent men beard care was ceremonial. While we don’t find too much in the Bible concerning beards, there are a few descriptive passages to read while twirling your chin hair;
- For the Israelites in the Old Testament the beard was never to be shaved, only trimmed (Lev. 19:27; 21:5). The only time a beard was to be shaved was in the circumstance of an infectious disease (Lev. 14:9).
- As a sign of lament, men in mourning would often shave or even pull out their beards (Ezra 9:3; Is. 15:2; Jer. 41:5, 48:37).
- The prophet Ezekiel was instructed by God to shave his beard as a sign of desecration and shame, pointing to the coming destruction on Jerusalem (Ezek. 5:1).
- Since the beard was a symbol of masculinity in ancient culture it was a grave insult to damage someone’s beard. Once on a mission, David’s men suffered grave humiliation when their beards were half shaved by the Ammonites. They didn’t return to Jerusalem until their beards had grown back (2 Sam. 10:4-5).
- Isaiah depicts the pulling out of a man’s beard as emasculative and shameful (Is. 7:20, 50:6).
There is not much in the Bible concerning beards. Even so, theologians and preachers have taken up the subject of beards. Augustine once argued that “there are some details of the body which are there for simply aesthetic reasons, and for no practical purpose—for instance… the beard on [a man’s] face [which is] clearly for a masculine ornament.” Similarly, Charles Spurgeon contended that growing a beard is “a habit most natural, scriptural, manly, and beneficial.” So, what are we supposed to do with all of this? I am not sure. This post was written for fun and theological novelty. Clearly, God does not command all men everywhere to grow their beards, nor are beards the quintessential mark of masculinity. But maybe the thought of a beard will grow on you…