Tag Archives: Jesus Christ

Peter Greer of HOPE on “Broken Aid” & the Gospel

My friend Josh Good over at AEI’s fantastic Values & Capitalism project just sent around an interview with Peter Greer.  According to Values & Cap, Peter is President and CEO of HOPE International, a global non-profit organization focused on alleviating both physical and spiritual poverty through Christ-centered microfinance in some of the most challenging places around the world, including Afghanistan, Democratic Republic of Congo and Haiti.

If you like thinking about responsible, church-friendly, gospel-driven social justice work that is friendly to entrepreneurship and aware of the power of the market to affect health for individuals, this will be like catnip to you.  I found Greer’s answers manifestly biblical and helpful.  Here’s a snatch from the broader interview (and see these helpful thoughts on the D’Souza scandal):

What are the economic realities that shape the way that HOPE International conducts its work across the globe?

Aid is broken. Economist Bill Easterly writes that despite a massive increase in aid to Africa over the last 40 years—$568 billion—most African countries are not better off. In fact, many growth rates have plummeted.

We have sufficient data to know that the only way for an economy to grow is through the private sector.

The Brookings Institution reports that since 2005, 70 million people each year are escaping poverty. According to the 58: campaign, between 1981 and 2005, extreme global poverty was cut in half, from 52 to 26 percent. This progress is largely the result of investments and job creation.

Consider China. Thirty years ago, China had more people, percentagewise, living in poverty than every country except four. Today—through economic growth—poverty has been reduced from 84 to 16 percent, according to the World Bank.

Today even Africa is poised for change. Private investments have generated more than 1.7 million jobs (from 2003 to 2010)—bypassing the effect of aid, according to the 2011 report published by Business Action for Africa and Ernst & Young

Job creation and investments, not aid, is what will cause Africa to experience growth, development and a much brighter future.

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Filed under entrepreneurs, missions, social justice

The Finest Young Writer in America: Thomas Lake

Just posted a new piece at the Gospel Coalition on Sports Illustrated sportswriter Thomas Lake:

It may surprise you to learn the finest young sportswriter—perhaps the finest young writer period—in America is a Christian. It’s true: Thomas Lake, all of 31 years of age and currently a senior writer for Sports Illustrated, graduated from Gordon College in Massachusetts.

Lake has drawn major attention for his long-form journalism, which expertly mixes soaring set pieces and ground-level investigation. In most cases a journalist excels at either the craft of storytelling or the labor of research. Lake succeeds in both areas, and a third of far greater importance: writing with genuine moral vision borne of faith in a risen Christ. Readers new to Lake should start with the stunning “The Boy They Couldn’t Kill,” “2 on 5,” “The Way It Should Be,” and “Bad Nights in the NFL.” Be prepared to shed tears as you read these stem-winding articles.

I recently conducted an appropriately long-form interview with this expert writer. Those who enjoy writing and examples of exceptional cultural engagement by Christians (recorded in books like Faith in the Halls of Power by Gordon College president D. Michael Lindsay) will profit from Lake’s commentary. During an exhilarating hour and a half, we covered many things: Lake’s winding background, what it’s like to work at the country’s premier sports magazine, and how pastors can best preach the ultimate story.

Read the whole thing.  This is a two-part interview, and I think you’ll enjoy it if you like writing, the life of the mind, sports, and the way that faith drives and inspires public work.  (Tomorrow I’ll have a revealing bit on Lake’s love of basketball.)

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Filed under sports, sports illustrated, writing

Exceptional Leaders: David Petraeus’s Four Big Rules of Leadership

Anytime a general has successfully led military efforts in both Iraq and Afghanistan, you sit up and take notice when they speak about leadership.  I’m reading Paula Broadwell’s new All In: The Education of General David Petraeus (Penguin, 2012) and am really enjoying it.  Petraeus is a pretty unusual human being and leader.

Paraphrasing Broadwell, here’s how Petraeus sees his four major responsibilities as a leader (13):

1. Get the big ideas right

2. Effectively communicate the big ideas 

3. Oversee the implementation of the big ideas

4. Refine the big ideas through analysis and feedback

Petraeus’s counter-insurgency tactics have been debated by military theorists, and I’m sure they will be in the future.  Whatever you think about all of the aspects of Petraeus’s work–and I personally impressed by him–I would go out on a limb and say that these four principles are profitable for Christian leaders to think about.  In other words, this is a very good grid for leadership, I think.  Not just military leadership–any form.

Pastor/executive/leader: get the gospel and the Word right, studying to know these things well.  Then get out there and communicate well.  Then help others to implement the vision, involving motivation, encouragement, correction, and more.  As you do so, constantly listen so that you can carry out the whole mission–the promotion of Christ in a fallen world–well.

I think you could spend the rest of your life carrying out those four responsibilities and make a major contribution to the greatest warfare mission ever conceived: the subversion and eventual destruction of the kingdom of darkness by the kingdom of light.

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Filed under leadership, war

Be Strong and Courageous (and Not a Boy-Man)

I recently had the opportunity to see The Bourne Legacy, which is way better than the critics had made it sound and totally worth seeing for adults.  The critics, by the way, often don’t like a movie that skews traditional, as Legacy does.  It was a fantastic action film filled with the intelligent intensity you expect from the Bourne series.

No, Jeremy Renner is not Matt Damon, but he’s quite convincing in his portrait of a Bourne-like character.  Go see the film.  It’s a blast.

Anyway, it struck me afresh how impressive the lead character of the Bourne movie is as a man.  He’s in control, assertive, aware of others, physically fine-tuned, and one who meets any challenge in front of him.  This kind of man is strikingly different than another avatar of modern cinema, the boy-man, who pops up repeatedly in the films made or led by Judd Apatow, Adam Sandler, Jonah Hill, Seth Rogen, and many others.

The boy-man is selfish, young, immature, addicted to games, immune to responsibility, foul-mouthed, and weak.  He’s overwhelmed by adulthood, so he chooses to stay in some sort of boyish fantasy.  He doesn’t want to build big things, meaningful things, like a family, a six-decade marriage, a socially and personally profitable career, or a gospel-driven church or missions effort.  He wants to make music, play games, follow sports, flirt with girls, loaf through life, bend the rules so he’s not accountable or inconvenienced in his selfishness, and ignore the need to help others.

I want to suggest that wherever you can as a young man or one involved in any way in training young men, you point them toward manhood, maturity, adulthood, responsibility, ambition, strategy, vision, focus.  Yes, it can be fun to be boyish.  But you know what’s far more satisfying?  Becoming something.  Becoming something greater than you are.  Becoming a man.  Building stuff.

What else is cool?  Winning a woman’s heart and keeping it for years, decades, a lifetime.  Raising children to know the Lord.  Giving tons of energy to a church plant or a church undergoing revitalization.  Leaving everything to go to the mission field as a single young man.  Mentoring at-risk youth.  Creating a company that employs others and advances the common good.  Pushing past laziness and whining and getting yourself in shape, fine-tuning your body so that you’re no longer a boy in the way you eat and take care of yourself.

The Bourne series is of course fictional.  But if you read the stories of real-life elite soldiers, you see that they become something greater than they naturally are.  See the gripping American Sniper, for example.  The stuff that a Navy SEAL must do to enter the program is stunning, frightening.  It’s also awesome.  Emulate that as a Christian.  Become a SEAL follower of Christ.  Become something greater than you are and that this culture trains you to be.

You’re not an idiot by nature as a guy.  You’re not a goofball.  You’re not addicted to silly things.  If you are a boy-man right now, there is tremendous hope for you, and there is forgiveness for your sins.  If you haven’t been trained well, if you haven’t had a father at all, there are gospel-preaching churches led by godly men who will train and help you.  Seek them out.  In the power of the Spirit, leave your boyish ways.

Hear Moses’ words to Joshua as he passed on the mantle of leadership in Joshua 1:9.

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

And, we might say by way of contextualization today, do not be a boy-man.  Be a man, period.

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Filed under film, manhood

Abortionist: “Let Me See You Adopt Those Ugly Black Babies”

The above clip is one of the more horrifying things I’ve seen caught on camera.  In the 38-second video, pro-life Christians confront an abortionist.  I don’t know the circumstances of this conversation, but it is clearly a visceral encounter.

In the course of the confrontation, the abortionist yells at the pro-lifers “I as a taxpayer do not wish to pay for those babies to be born, and brought, and kill those people in Colorado.”  He then identifies the babies, saying “Let me see you adopt one of those ugly black babies.”

This is jaw-dropping on several accounts.  First, the abortionist, Ron Virmani, has the race of the Aurora shooter entirely wrong.  James Holmes is white.  Second, the racism here takes your breath away.  Third, you see the logic of abortion–it’s best to kill in order that others will not be killed (there’s a major logic problem here).

It shows how fallen our world is that something like this can’t galvanize a nation and make it realize the terrible evil of abortion.  As anything but a life-saving device, it’s pure evil on its own terms.  It also is a Trojan Horse for other sins, however, including racism.  In other words, because abortion has been sold to–and bought by–upstanding America as a good and a right, racists can use it to exterminate children they hate.  That’s not some controversial claim on my part, by the way–that was Margaret Sanger’s stated intention in founding Planned Parenthood, to exterminate black children, or “human weeds,” as she so kindly said.

And don’t think that’s not on the abortionist’s mind as he crushes the skulls of little babies with forceps or administers drugs that leave them gasping and clawing for life before they perish.  Racism is the great secret when it comes to abortion.  The man in that video, yelling at Christians, thinks he is performing a righteous deed.  He and others think that abortion is a noble cause, when it is in reality the scourge of our civilization.

How videos like this–and the confrontations faced by courageous pro-lifers like those in this outstanding Louisville ministry, which my church (Kenwood Baptist) is involved with–make us long for the spread of the gospel.  It is the mission of God to welcome all the nations in Christ, not to murder them in the womb. As Christians contend for the gospel and a holistic culture of life–from womb to grave–we remember that we are fighting against principalities and powers that hate children.  Keep fighting.  And keep adopting, as so many of my friends and evangelical peers have.

We love the little children.

And Lord, come quickly.

(HT: Washington Examiner)

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Are Leaves & Twigs Heating Your Inner Spiritual Life?

I recently had the opportunity to publish a short piece on Jonathan Edwards and his seminal Religious Affections in Ligonier Ministry’s excellent Tabletalk devotionalmagazine.  Any magazine, by the way, that is named after something Martin Luther-related is a-okay by me.

My piece focused on how theology is intricately connected to our religious “affections,” the emotions and passions of our spiritual lives.  Here’s a snatch:

Such a vision of a majestic, saving God results in the final sign: “Christian practice or a holy life.” For the pastor-theologian, this is “the chief of all the signs of grace, both as an evidence of the sincerity of professors unto others, and also to their own consciences” (2:406). Three outcomes mark a person as holy. First, “Tis necessary that men should be universally obedient.” Second, they pursue service to God: “Christians in their effectual calling, are not called to idleness, but to labor in God’s vineyard, and spend their day in doing a great and laborious service.” Third, they persevere “in obedience, which is chiefly insisted on in the Scripture, as a special note of the truth of grace” (2:384-89). Here, then, is an elegant summary of what Christian spirituality really is: obedience, constant service, and perseverance in the faith.

And this:

What we might miss, however, is the vital connection between a grand vision of God and a holy way of life. If our hearts would be aflame for God, there must be more than leaves and twigs to heat them. We need a majestic picture of the Lord from texts like Job 38–41; Isaiah 45–46; and Ezekiel 1. When we see God in all His majesty and glory, we find the material we need to sustain holy living.

Here’s the whole piece.  By the way, if you wanted some spiritual heat in your life, some great content, you really should pay the $23/year and get Tabletalk.  

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Filed under jonathan edwards, spirituality

Why Tipping at Restaurants Speaks to Your Walk with Christ

Raymond Johnson, a PhD student at Southern Seminary, just published a very helpful essay on tipping and the gospel at Baptist Press, the official media outlet of the Southern Baptist Convention.  It’s worth reading and considering.  Here’s a snatch:

Whether Christians are aware of it or not, a subpar tip is a stumbling block in communicating the Gospel. It causes unbelieving servers to think that we, as Christians, value money over everything and everyone else (1 Timothy 6:10). So, my coworker, like many other servers, interprets such actions (poor tips from alleged Christian people) as stingy. Tragically, the result — though it may be unfair — is that many servers have identified the majority of Christians as a contingent of people who care little for others. They hear Christians promise them that God is just and fair and that He is a generous King who is lavish with His mercy and kind toward others. Christians promise them that the Gospel they preach is for all people right before they metaphorically clinch their money in their fist and tip poorly; refusing money to laborers who are worthy of their wages (1 Timothy 5:18; Matthew 10:10).

Read the whole thing.

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Filed under ethics

Jonathan Edwards: The Infinite Highness and Condescension of Christ

One of three favorite sermons of Jonathan Edwards is “The Excellency of Christ.”  If you have not read the sermon, print it out and read it over the course of two weeks in your devotional time or your lunch hour.  You won’t be the same afterwards.  Jonathan Edwards was brilliant, but he was primarily a preacher, and an exquisite one at that.

Here’s a snatch to consider.  This is preaching at its best–soaring, richly biblical, bringing you face to face with the Son of God.

1. There do meet in Jesus Christ, infinite highness, and infinite condescension. Christ, as he is God, is infinitely great and high above all. He is higher than the kings of the earth; for he is King of Kings, and Lord of Lords. He is higher than the heavens, and higher than the highest angels of heaven. So great is he, that all men, all kings and princes, are as worms of the dust before him, all nations are as the drop of the bucket, and the light dust of the balance; yea, and angels themselves are as nothing before him. He is so high, that he is infinitely above any need of us; above our reach, that we cannot be profitable to him, and above our conceptions, that we cannot comprehend him. Proverbs 30:4, “What is his name, and what is his Son’s name, if thou canst tell?” Our understandings, if we stretch them never so far, can’t reach up to his divine glory. Job 11:8, “It is high as heaven, what canst thou do?” Christ is the Creator, and great possessor of heaven and earth: he is sovereign lord of all: he rules over the whole universe, and doth whatsoever pleaseth him: his knowledge is without bound: his wisdom is perfect, and what none can circumvent: his power is infinite, and none can resist him: his riches are immense and inexhaustible: his majesty is infinitely awful.

And yet he is one of infinite condescension. None are so low, or inferior, but Christ’s condescension is sufficient to take a gracious notice of them. He condescends not only to the angels, humbling himself to behold the things that are done in heaven, but he also condescends to such poor creatures as men; and that not only so as to take notice of princes and great men, but of those that are of meanest rank and degree, “the poor of the world” (James 2:5). Such as are commonly despised by their fellow creatures, Christ don’t despise. 1 Corinthians 1:28, “Base things of the world, and things that are despised, hath God chosen.” Christ condescends to take notice of beggars (Luke 16:22) and of servants, and people of the most despised nations: in Christ Jesus is neither “Barbarian, Scythian, bond, nor free” (Colossians 3:11). He that is thus high, condescends to take a gracious notice of little children. Matthew 19:14, “Suffer little children to come unto me.” Yea, which is much more, his condescension is sufficient to take a gracious notice of the most unworthy, sinful creatures, those that have no good deservings, and those that have infinite ill deservings.

–Yale Works of Jonathan Edwards, vol. 19, 565-66

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Wait–Happy Marriages Exist? On Webb and Dowd Simpson

You may have seen that Webb Simpson, a devout Christian, just won the U. S. Open.  If you’re like me, you may not know much about him.  From the video above, he seems to be a godly husband and father (HT: Girltalk).  He and Dowd, his wife, seem to have a very happy marriage.

Let me say this: it is a beautiful thing to see a woman who wants to support, strengthen, and even better a man.  There really is something otherworldly about that–a rightly functioning, gospel-driven marriage is showing you a picture of Christ and his church.  There is elegance, aesthetic elegance, in seeing the elements of a godly union serve and encourage one another.

Happy marriages do exist.  The gospel powers them.

(Update: See CT’s coverage of Webb’s victory here)

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