My one-year-old daughter lights up our home every day with her sparkly shoes, pink tutus, and shiny tiaras. She is 100% girl and has her daddy gladly wrapped around her little finger. Of course, I love the way she has fun dressing up, but my main goal is to help her become a godly woman. The world preys upon women, feeding them false beliefs about their appearance non-stop. I want to protect her from the damaging lies she’s bound to hear from the surrounding culture. Billboards, TV ads, and magazines at the checkout line portray photo-shopped models presenting an unattainable, superficial concept of “beauty.” Contrasting this message of “you’re not good enough yet” is Jen Wilkin’s encouraging and helpful post at The Gospel Coalition website. In it, she points out 5 lies that our culture tells us how we should perceive our bodies:
1) Lie #1: Your body is decorative. It should be used to attract the attention of men and the envy of women. What matters most is how it looks.
2) Lie #2: Your body's appearance is flawed but fixable. You are not the right size, shape, or color. But you can (and should) go to enormous effort and expense to change that.
3) Lie #3: Your body is a source of power. It can and should be trained, toned, and preserved from all signs of age. Its level of attractiveness or strength can and should be leveraged to give you dominance over and independence from others.
4) Lie #4: Your body is yours. You are its owner. You may neglect it, obsess over it, indulge it, punish it, pamper it, or alter it as you wish.
5) Lie #5: Transforming the outside will fix the inside. By making changes to your body, you can change the condition of your heart. You can have more self-confidence, better self-esteem, and greater happiness.
Furthermore, Wilkin points out 5 truths from Scripture to correct our perspective and help us to value wellness and usefulness above fleeting attractiveness. These are the truths that we, as Christians, should reinforce in our hearts. And as parents, these are the truths that our children need to see as valuable and lasting. What do you think? Are there lies about your body to which you often fall prey? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
Alex Crain is the editor of Christianity.com
Stories about experiences of heaven have come and gone over the years. But none have so captivated public attention (or stirred so great a cloud of controversy) like Heaven Is for Real. Since its release in 2010, the book relating young Colton Burpo’s account of being in heaven during his emergency surgery at age four has sold millions of copies. There’s an app for it, a DVD study resource, a traveling live event ministry, and (coming soon) a major motion picture.
However, viewpoints are mixed among professing Christians on this topic. Nancy Guthrie, for one, sees accounts like Heaven Is for Real as unhelpful stories that actually diminish biblical faith rather than encouraging it. Her recent article titled, We Don't Have to Read the Book or See the Movie to Know Heaven Is Real asserts that these kinds of stories elevate claims of supernatural experience over the substance of the Scriptures.
Guthrie, who co-hosts the GriefShare video series for couples who have experienced the death of a child, declined Thomas Nelson’s (the publisher) request for her endorsement of Heaven Is for Real back in 2010. While tacitly acknowledging the obvious emotional appeal of such stories, she points out: “Jesus himself spoke [in Luke 16:19-31] of the uselessness of such testimony for generating genuine faith.”
Furthermore, Guthrie asserts that there are only five such testimonies recorded in Scripture that Christians are obligated to believe: Isaiah’s (Isa. 6), Ezekiel’s (Eze 40-48), Stephen’s (Acts 7:55-56), John’s (Rev. 1, 4), and Paul’s (2Cor 12:1-7). About these encounters Guthrie writes,
“These witnesses are clearly captivated by God alone. None of these testimonies focuses on meetings with other people who have died.”
“I certainly don’t see a false gospel in the Burpo’s account of Heaven. I rejoice that Jesus is portrayed as the only way to God, in keeping with John 14:6 and Acts 4:12. I could have wished for a greater emphasis on confession of sin and repentance, but on major biblical issues I don’t think [the book] contradicts Scripture. Yet on some details… I’m just… uncomfortable. I emphatically agree with the title: Heaven is for Real. Not because Colton Burpo [says he has] been there, but because the Bible says so.”
Finally, Michael Hyatt, a best-selling author (and the former CEO of Thomas Nelson) stated on his blog:
“Colton’s experiences are compelling. It is a book of hope that demonstrates this life is only part of the picture. This is a book you will want to read and pass on to others.”
What do you think? Do stories like Heaven Is for Real encourage or diminish biblical faith? Will you go to the movie and encourage others to see it? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
Alex Crain is the editor of Christianity.com
According to Brandon Cox’s recently popular article over at Pastors.com, “5 Ways to Cultivate Authenticity In Your Leadership Culture,” a church leader faces two options:
1) maintain a squeaky-clean, problem-free image and LOSE people from your congregation
2) be real, be “open” and authentically CONNECT with people in your congregation
No Christian rightly advocates being fake, but the question of “how much do I share?” is one that many find perplexing. With the good intention of “being authentic” some develop the habit of oversharing to their own harm (and the harm of others). Others take the route of icy self-protection. Both diminish the gospel.
The Apostle Paul, in Ephesians 4:25 (also see vs 15) says to Christians: “…put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.” While there are no perfect Christians or perfect pastors, there are biblical grounds for exercising discernment when confessing problems and sins to one another. Brandon Cox’s short post is helpful to the extent that he highlights traits and practices that wise leaders model well.
1) Ask “How’s your soul?” not “What have you produced lately?”
2) Model openness
3) Make room for flaws
4) Repeat the language of authenticity often (such as “None of us has it all together…”)
5) Hammer it home (i.e. make it abundantly clear “We’re going to be real here. That’s just who we are.”)
A wise leader will model these traits well. But what about that not-so-wise Christian who takes an undiscerning and less careful approach to “being open?”
Ardel Caneday’s article at CredoMag.com argues that nowhere does Scripture urge Christians or Christian leaders to adopt a policy of complete openness with regards to confession of sin. Such an approach may, indeed, cultivate a more “authentic” church environment, but he states: “Is it not obvious that such practices have several injurious consequences? Is it any wonder that gossip blights churches, that relationships are destroyed, and that reputations are ruined? And some injury to reputation is self-inflicted by confessing secret and private sins to individuals who have no need or right to know.”
He states further:
Evangelicals tend to …privatize publicly committed sins that affect many, especially sins that pastors and leaders commit, and to publicize privately committed sins that should be confessed either to the Lord alone or to one or two individuals against whom the sin was committed.
Evangelicals teach believers to confess secret sinful thoughts to others, not to the Lord alone. They also teach us to confess to others those sins that we have privately committed against a single individual alone.
How seductive it is to fall prey to the therapeutic notion that secret sins should be publicly confessed to “accountability partners” who have neither any right to bestow forgiveness of such sins nor any need to know (cf. Psalm 90:8; 19:12). (Read the whole article here.)
Caneday’s reference to the “therapeutic” aspect of confession means that openness can, at its worst, become a “gospel substitute.” That is, a person can become more dependent on the good feeling that follows “getting it off my chest” instead of trusting fully in the substitutionary work of Christ, which alone removes sin (Hebrews 10). Said another way, a great danger of emphasizing open confession is that can produce a so-called “authentic” church, but might do so at the expense of being a gospel-centered one.
What about you? Do you find it difficult to “be real with others,” or do you sometimes share too much? Does your church model both authenticity and gospel-centeredness? Is it possible to do both well?
Alex Crain is editor of Christianity.com
In his recently popular article Why Evangelism Is Hard, But Necessary (Pastors.com), Greg Stier addressed five common barriers to sharing the gospel:
1) It grates against social norms
2) It leads to awkward moments
3) It heightens our fear of rejection
4) It triggers Satanic attacks
5) It makes us realize how much we don’t know
The strength of the article lay in the way it honestly deals with the hurdles that many Christians face on a personal level when explaining the gospel. While most readers will likely resonate with the obstacles presented, perhaps not every reader will be motivated to action. The reasons Stier presented in the article that make evangelism necessary are right, biblical, and good. However, they come across as being a step removed from the individual reader:
1) “Evangelism, along with prayer, is the primary tool through which God’s kingdom advances on this earth.” (Yes, but doesn’t this assume every Christian has dealt with his lack of enthusiasm for the advancement of God’s kingdom? Practically speaking, that often fluctuates from day to day in the lives of many believers.)
2) “People hang in the balance between heaven and hell. If we really care about them, we’ll do whatever it takes to get the message of Jesus to them…” (Again, doesn’t this assume that every Christian has dealt with his lack of concern for the lives of those who don’t know Christ?)
Perhaps a clearer, more direct piece leading Christian readers to see the necessity of their own role in evangelism is one by a lesser-known writer, Timothy Beougher: Must Every Christian Evangelize? (9Marks Journal, Fall 2013)
In it, Beougher answers two common objections to evangelism based on misguided theology rather than feelings and practical experience:
1. The Great Commission was only given to the apostles and therefore does not apply to us today.
2. Since only some people have the “gift of evangelism,” not everyone is obligated to witness.
Beougher then details four reasons why every Christian needs to evangelize:
1. The commands to witness are given to all followers of Christ
2. The example of “ordinary believers” in the early church
3. The stewardship the gospel imposes on us
4. The “work of ministry” in Ephesians 4
Yes, evangelism is REALLY necessary. And every Christian is called to the task. As Timothy Beougher concludes his article: “Some people run from the idea of evangelism because they assume it means they must be obnoxious and pushy. There are many approaches to sharing the gospel. The only fixed method is the message: telling others about the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
Alex Crain is the editor of Christianity.com