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Dealing with Sexual Abuse as the Church

[The following, which may be disturbing to some readers, is mostly from a sermon preached recently at Immanuel RPC in West Lafayette. You can listen to the whole thing here.]

For reasons beyond my understanding, there is a sea change happening in our nation regarding sexual abuse. It has become difficult to go a day or two without hearing new accusations and recriminations. In areas where sexual harassment and abuse has long been winked at – Hollywood and the media – it’s now being taken much more seriously. For this we ought to thank God. In other areas – politics and the church – we could still use some more work. Thankfully, God’s Word is not silent on the subject of abuse. So while we hear accusations and see the results of wickedness, we can turn to the Bible to help us understand how God intends for the church to understand and deal with abuse. 

The Importance of Giving Thanks

This post is not a week late. Most of our readers in the United States celebrated Thanksgiving last week and are perhaps all turkey-ed out and ready to move on to another holiday season. Which makes now the perfect time to remember that the giving of thanks isn’t something a follower of Jesus can relegate to one time of year. Rather, a quick tour through the Bible will show us that giving thanks is part of the very fabric of what it means and looks like to be a Christian.

Praying for more reformation

In her article How the prosperity gospel is sparking a major change in the world’s most Catholic country, Sarah Pulliam Bailey records the changes taking place in Brazil, where Catholicism still reigns but is scheduled to hit minority status within thirteen years. The main force behind the change is the rise of Pentecostalism, with major cities in Brazil being marked by extravagant and gigantic buildings, home to preachers who promise health and wealth to all those generous with God.

While Brazil isn’t the only place in the world being molded simultaneously by Catholicism and Pentecostalism, it does present a unique snapshot of both the ongoing worldwide influence of Christianity and the ongoing need for Reformation.

Benefits of Singing Psalms

Every now and then I get a call or email from my insurance agent. He wants to check in on me, make sure I’m still paying my bills and all that. But what I especially appreciate is he also wants to make sure that we’re taking advantage of the all the benefits of our insurance policies. Turns out you can have something that’s pretty good but not really realize and enjoy all the benefits. So it is with singing Psalms.

To be clear: this is not an air-tight argument for exclusive Psalmody. It’s not really about that at all. It seems to me that when we consider why we ought to sing God’s Word in worship, we tend to spend so much time on debating the question that we neglect the joy and benefits of actually doing so. So let’s skip the exegetical arguments for just today and consider some of the benefits of God’s gift of the Psalms. 

Difficult but important reading: Hugh Hefner

[Please note: for those not already aware, some content in the following articles may be disturbing.]

It’s difficult to imagine a way for someone to do more damage to souls, families, churches and societies than Hugh Hefner. I remember the first time I was shown a Playboy at a friends’ house. Sadly, the image remains burned in my brain. Although I don’t know him personally, I detest and condemn his life’s work. I must take the blame for my own sins, but those who set poisoned candy before children surely stand under Jesus’ judgment (Mt. 18:6). 

Bigger Thoughts

“Shorter! Simpler! More punchy!” Whether you’re a journalist or a teacher or a pastor, there is a constant pressure to consolidate our communication. Pastors are taught that our sermons need to have a theme that can be easily expressed in one, simple sentence. Many people don’t read past headlines, so we strive to make those headlines catchy and clear. Twitter’s 140-character limit protects us from rambling.

While these are not negative things in and of themselves (most pastors still need to work on simplicity and clarity in their preaching!), it is part of a bigger cultural force making deep thought and deep communication more difficult and foreign. The technological and societal pressures to communicate simply often lead to simplicity and facileness. By and large, we don’t read deeply, so we don’t think deeply and cannot communicate deeply. And the cycle continues. As someone who favors brevity over profundity, I freely acknowledge that I write as a culprit more than a solver.

Thankfully, Scripture shows a better way.

Romans 16, A Model of Encouragement

Everyone loves to be encouraged and praised and valued. We all know instinctively that “Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down, but a good work makes him glad.” (Pro. 12:25) Yet many of us struggle to build habits of regularly encouraging others. Perhaps many are worried that too much praise and honor will result in big-headed pride, so the best thing to do might be to keep our compliments to ourselves. Certainly complimenting and praising aren’t the only ways to encourage others (Scripture often shows us how to encourage with good and hopeful theology), but they should be tools we use often for the good of others.

Paul’s example in Romans 16 has always stood out as a great way to show honor and pay compliments in a way that continues to glorify God even while lifting up his servants. Here are just a few observations from the “farewell” chapter in Romans to get us started on showing others how much we value them.

Grace Is Always Better

This guest post comes to us from Maria Rockhill, who has recently relocated to one of the wetter parts of Texas to be part of the Living Way church plant in Bryan along with her husband Steve.

It isn’t coincidental that our opening exercise scripture passages the last few soggy, academic days have focused on the discrepancy between God’s power and man’s. For it got me to thinking about the harsh, beautiful disparity between legalism and grace.

Easy Lies to Believe

A few days ago, our Sunday school lesson was centered on the first chapter of the Westminster Confession and its emphasis on the necessity of Scripture. In discussing how wonderfully God provided for our need to be certain about Him and about salvation, we also spoke about how often we feel certain but we shouldn’t. Along those lines, I’d like to take a stab at naming and disarming several lies often spoken to us through social media, especially in understanding the world around us. In naming these lies, I’m not necessarily advocating giving up on #facetagramsnaptweeting, but encouraging us to wise, careful and limited use.