Wednesday Word: Defending Rights and Suffering Wrong (1 Corinthians 6:7)

To have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded?

As Americans, we take our rights pretty seriously. The right to free speech, the right to practice religion, the right to bear arms, the right to get married, the right to life, are all issues that folks fight to defend in our culture. But what about Christians? Where do we land on the topic of defending our rights?

Truth is, it depends. As citizens in this country we should defend certain rights and fight to ensure justice (especially for those who cannot fight for themselves). We should be thankful for the freedoms that we enjoy and do our part in protecting those freedoms for the next generation.

Yet, this is not our only approach to rights as Christians. The followers of Christ must lay down their rights at the cross. As those who follow the One who freely chose to give His life in our place, we must recognize the implications of His sacrifice. If our Savior was willing to suffer unjustly for the sake of others, then we must too. Taking up our crosses means laying down our rights.

This is the heart of the argument that Paul makes against one brother taking another brother to court. Apparently, some in Corinth were not ready to lay down some of their rights. We don’t know the details of the case, or cases, but we do know how Paul felt about them: “To have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you.” Nobody wins when Christians take each other to court.

Yet, what are they to do? How are they to handle these grievances between brothers? How are we to respond when we are perhaps wronged by a fellow Christian? Paul’s answer: “Why not suffer wrong? Why not be defrauded?” The hope is that the issue can be resolved in the Church with the help of other brothers (see 6:1-6), but if that fails, then Paul asks: ‘Wouldn’t it just be better to suffer wrong than to go to court and defend your rights?’ Take the hit, swallow the injustice, suffer wrong, be defrauded.

If I am honest (and I don’t want to be), I struggle with such a solution. When I am in those situations with a brother (maybe not in regards to court, but similar situations where I feel my rights have been violated), I want to answer Paul: ‘Suffer wrong? Be defrauded? Why should I suffer wrong, I am in the right on this one! Why can’t they suffer wrong? Why can’t they pay the price? After all, that is justice and God is a God of justice.’ I might not ever voice it, but I have entertained such thoughts.

But in those harsh moments when everything in me tells me to defend my rights, I have to remember the cross. I follow the King who laid down His life for His rebellious people. I serve the Landowner whose Son was murdered when He came to collect the crop He deserved. I worship the Creator who took on flesh, wore a crown of thorns, and died naked on a tree for my sins. Oh, how He suffered wrong for me!

If we are loved by such a Savior (and we are!), then surely we can suffer wrong for the sake of His Bride. Surely we can love the brethren enough to lay down our rights when the need arises. It may seem unAmerican and counter cultural (because it is), but it will be precious to our crucified King. O brother, O sister, may we lay down our rights, take up our crosses, and follow Him.



Tuesday books: ‘Jayber Crow’ (Wendell Berry)

Wendell Berry is a great poet, novelist, and author. I was introduced to him in college while taking a poetry class and since that time have seen many people talk about his work. It seems that Justin Taylor is doing a series over at The Gospel Coalition site on ‘Novels every Christian should read’ and when he asked Andrew Peterson (one of my favoirte singer/song-writers) about a novel that changed his life, he answered with Berry’s ‘Jayber Crow.’ This book is one in the series that takes place in the fictional town of Port William (now that is a good name for a town). Peterson gives a good review of the book and makes me want to read that series. And the good news, I know they have a few volumes of Berry’s work at my local library, including this book I believe (guess what I will be checking out next). You can read Peterson’s review here (and keep an eye out for more of these posts from Justin Taylor):

Andrew Peterson on Jayber Crow

(my copy of one of Berry’s books of poetry)


Monday Music: Top Albums (pt. 1 secular)

Any sort of listing of ‘greatest this’ or ‘greatest that’ when it comes to music is always subjective. So here is a list of my favorite secular albums that is totally based on my opinion and two criteria:

First, the album has to be good from start to finish. This is not about greatest song or even greatest few songs. Rather, these albums have only a few ‘filler’ songs. Most albums have one or two (or at most three) great songs, while the rest are just ok (if not outright bad). But the really good albums by really good artists minimize these tracks (mostly because they are just good musicians writing good songs). When you get an album with 9-12 good songs, and a few great ones, then you have a good album.

Second, the album has to stand the test of time. There were many albums that in their day were good, but as time went on, they became less and less appealing (I loved MC Hammer back in the day, but I can honestly say that I never pull out any of his old albums to reminisce). All of the albums on this list are ones that I still enjoy listening to (some more than others).

Alrighty then, with the criteria out of the way, here are my top 5 secular albums:

5. Bon Jovi “Slippery”
I remember getting this tape for Christmas when I was just learning to enjoy music. I listened to it over and over again. I think I memorized not only the lyrics to every track but also the guitar solos (I could play a mean air guitar). Jon and Richie were at their best on this one and I still turn it up loud when ‘Wanted dead or alive’ comes on. In honesty, I don’t listen to this album much anymore but that has a lot to do with the fact that my wife is no fan of 80’s hair bands. So much for living on a prayer.

4. Van Morrison: “Moondance” Morrison had some great songs (‘Brown-eyed girl’ always comes to mind), but I think this was his best album. The title track is probably my least favorite (a little too jazzy for me), but the rest of the songs are great. ‘Caravan’, ‘Crazy Love’, ‘Into the Mystic’, ‘Brand New Day’, are all really good songs.

3. U2: “Joshua Tree” I was never a huge U2 fan, but this album was great. They got everything right musically and their song writing is at its best.

2. Pearl Jam: “Ten” Pearl Jam got big while I was still in high school. Everyone was recovering from the hair bands of he 80’s (see above) and the grunge scene blew up overnight. And even though many of the bands came and went, Pearl Jam was unique from the beginning. Truth is, it seems like so many male vocalists for the past 20 years have been trying to sound like Eddie Vedder and most have failed. They are still putting out albums all these years later, but this was their best.

1. Counting Crows: “August and Everything After” I am a pretty big Counting Crows fan. Adam Duritz is one of my all-time favoirte song writers.  I got to see them live at the Ryman in Nashville and they put on a great show. And I love their first album. There is not a bad song on the whole thing. I can’t tell you how many times I have listened to this album on a long road trip. The songs that made it to the radio were good (‘Mr. Jones’, ‘Round Here’, ‘Rain King’) but some of the best songs did not (‘Sullivan Street’, ‘Omaha’, ‘Raining in Baltimore’). The skip button is not needed when listening to this one.

So there you have it, my subjective list of my top favorite secular albums. Obviously so many others could be listed, but these pass the test of having few filler songs and still being great today.


Friday Sports etc: END THE STREAK! (Vols vs. Gators)

I have lived in the great state of Missouri for the last 10 years. In that time the Cardinals have won the World Series like four times, the Tigers have one the SEC East three times (meh), and the Sikeston Bulldogs won a state championship in basketball! Awesome.

And yet, there is one win in my world of sports that has escaped reality: Tennessee over Florida in football. 10 years of futility. 10 years of getting close or getting destroyed. 10 years of 0-1 to start SEC play. It is not encouraging.

For most of that time the Vols have been struggling to right the ship. Fulmer got forced out, Kiffin ran away in the night, and Dooley’s best accomplishment as the head coach at Tennessee involved his wardrobe (opportunityisnowhere). But we have hope in Butch Jones and that hope is based on more than the coaching ability of his dad (I’m looking at you Kiffin and Dooley). He has recruited well and we are at least as talented, if not more talented, than the Gators this year. We have more experience at the skill positions and have looked better than them on offense and special teams. Yet, they have a strong defense that shut down Kentucky last week (that sentence makes me laugh). Seriously though, the defense is good and our offense is still suspect, so anything could happen when we have the ball. Hard not to be nervous about that.

All in all, I think we can win and believe we should win. But we still have to actually do it (unlike the past 10 years). Come on Vols, my son Isaiah (who is seven) would like to see his first UT victory over Florida. I hope this is the year! END THE STREAK!


(Photo: the irony is not lost on me that I chose to display my Vol doormat on this post)

Thursday Links: ‘Slow to type, Slow to anger’ (BJ Maxwell)

I was thinking the other day about all the reasons that Satan loves social media. I was considering doing a post on it (not sure where it would fit into the routine). Until then, read BJ’s excellent article on refusing to vent on social media:

Slow to type, Slow to anger

Maybe I will get to that post at some point!


Wednesday Word: Judge the Church (1 Corinthians 5:12)

Did you know that you are commanded to judge the church? If you have repented and believed in Jesus and joined with a local Body of Believers, then you are commanded to pass judgment on those within your fellowship who refuse to repent of their sin.  Needless to say, in a culture that demands tolerance, such an idea is not popular. But is it biblical?

Paul writes: “For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? (1 Corinthians 5:12)

In this chapter, Paul is telling the Church at Corinth to remove a man from their fellowship because of his  sexual relationship with his step-mother (his father’s wife, v. 1). Paul tells them to remove him (v. 2), to deliver this man to Satan (v. 5), to cleanse out old leaven (v. 7), to not associate with him (v. 11), and to purge the evil person from among you (v. 13). Paul commands them to take action in regards to this man’s sin no less than six times in this chapter. He tells them to remove him from their fellowship.

Paul might not get a lot of ‘likes’ on Facebook for this particular instruction. I mean we all know that such action is unloving and judgmental. And Jesus tells us not to judge, right? Maybe this is just one of those cultural situations that we never face. Or maybe Paul is just overly harsh toward this man.

Or maybe Paul understands how to truly love a man and the local church. Maybe tolerance is unloving and we are wrong to believe that it is an apporopriate response to destructive behavior, or what the Bible calls sin.

Why does Paul tell the Corinthians to remove this individual? He tells them to do it for the salvation of his soul and the sanctification of the church. They are to tak action so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord. Paul loves this man greatly. So much so that he is willing to do the hard thing for the sake of his eternal salvation. Tolerance is easy, confronting sin that may lead to Hell is not. But how do you want to be treated in that situaton? Do you want someone to tolerate your sin at the expense of your soul? Or do you want them to do the hard thing and love you enough to fight for your repentance? I would hope you would want the latter.

Not only is removing the man hopefully good for his soul, it is also good for the souls of the other believers (and potential believers) in Corinth. When sin is tolerated in a community of faith, then repentance becomes unnecessary. When repentance becomes unnecessary, then Jesus’ death on the cross to pay for our sins becomes unnecessary. When the death and resurrection of our Savior becomes unneccassary, then the gospel has been lost. Tolerance of sin can destroy a local church because it distorts the good news of the gospel. By His grace we are not saved to sin, but from sin! We are not perfect while we await His return, but we are quick to repent when confronted by our brothers and sisters in Christ. Removing the man is best for him and the community of faith (as well as the watching world, consider v. 9-13).

If you are a part of a local Body of believers then I encourage you: judge the church and be judged by the church. Welcome your brothers and sisters into your life and invite them to, nay beg them, to confront any sin they see in you. Instead of tolerating that which destroys and calling it ‘love’, may we learn to love each other enough to do the hard things. May we say to one another as Christians, as blood bought followers of Jesus: ‘Will you love me like that?’


photo credit: <a href=”″>3D Judges Gavel</a> via <a href=””>photopin</a&gt; <a href=””>(license)</a&gt;

Tuesday Books: ‘Desiring God’ (John Piper)

I  was introduced to the idea of ‘God-centered’ theology listening to John Piper preach at the second Passion Conference in Texas. He was expounding on Romans 3:21-26 and explaining the differences between a man-centered view of the gospel and a God-centered view. Essentially it comes down to how you answer this question: Why does God do what He does? Growing up, my answer would have been something like: ‘God does what He does because He loves me and loves the rest of the world.’ Truth is, that is not a terrible or unbiblical answer. It is just not enough. Yes, God loves the world and He is motivated by His love for humanity. But the primary reason God does what He does is for His own glory, His own praise. Such a statement may sound odd or even egotistical, but it is the best news we have ever heard. Why? Because we want God to be about that which is most important and most significant and how could that be anything other than Himself? Piper explained from Romans 3 that Jesus died for the glory of God, thereby eternally connecting my redemption to God’s glory. His glory and my good are forever entwined. This is good news! This is God-centered theology.

Yet, how do we know that God does everything for His glory? As Piper pointed out from Romans 3, the Bible repeateadly teaches us this truth, which is what leads me to my book for the day…

I don’t think I could do a good job summarizing Piper’s book ‘Desiring God’ and its impact on my life in one post. I’ll just say this: the Lord used this book to help me think rightly about God and what it means to live for His glory. Instead of trying to sum up the book, I really just wanted to post today about Appendix 1 in my version of the book (1996). You have to know that if the Appendix is good, then surely the rest of the book will be as well!

The purpose of the chapter is to give the biblical evidence for the truth that God does what He does for His glory. So Piper walks through the events of redemptive history and shows God’s purpose in them all: the exaltation of His great Name! From Creation to the Exodus, the monarchy to exile, and Jesus’ death to His return, all happen for the glory of God according to the Bible. This Appendix is so helpful because in just a few short pages you see the sweeping grandeur of redemptive history and how God’s glory is the reason for every event. It was writing like this that convinced me of the truth and importance of God-centered theology.

So buy the book for at least Appendix 1. And while you are at it, you should go ahead and read the rest of it as well!


Monday Music: ‘Stay away from Jesus’ (Matt Papa)

I was talking with a friend (HT: Jeff Polk) the other day and he asked me if I had ever heard of Matt Papa. I told him that I knew him as the guy who blogged about Christian music and was not too big on Christian radio (a sentiment that I share). He asked me about the song ‘Stay away from Jesus’ and since I have not listened to much of Papa’s music, I told him I had never heard it. So he pulled it up on his smart phone (ahh technology) and let me hear some of it. Next time I was in front of my laptop I looked it up on Spotify to hear the whole song. It is good song with a biting message, with lyrics like these:

  • “He’ll say, ‘Take your cross and die,’ so if you want a comfy life, then stay away from Jesus.”
  • “If your happy in your stuff and 10%’s enough, then stay away from Jesus.”
  • “Let the children come and let the prideful run, The Lord, The Lord is His Name.”
  • “If you think you are the way and in control you’ll stay, then stay away from Jesus.”

Papa is taking the strong words of Jesus about being His disciple and setting them to music. It is a great idea for a song, with an obvioulsy grab-your-attention title. Give it a listen here:

Stay away from Jesus

Thursday Links: ’20 More funny and strange things church members said to pastors and staff’ (Thom Rainer)

Thom Rainer took submissions from pastors/ministers of crazy things that folks had said to them over the years. He picked 20 to share (actually I think these may be the second set of 20). They are funny (and a little bit sad). Give them a read here:

20 Things said to pastors and staff


Wednesday Word: Bible Reading Plans

Most people don’t think too much about Bible reading plans unless it is December (for those who plan ahead) or January (for those who don’t, like myself). But, perhaps it is a good thing to be thinking about this time of year, in the Fall. The Summer is over, most are getting back to some kind of school routine, so why not start a new Bible reading plan now? You can go the traditional route and find a plan to read the Bible through in a year, or you could find one that takes you through the New Testament for the rest of the year, or one that focuses on the Gospels, or one that follows the book that your pastor is preaching from (like say 1 Corinthians). Whatever plan you chose, now might be a good time to start.

For 2015, I have been using the app ‘ReadingPlan’ (pictured above) for my personal Bible reading. I love the app. It lets you pick your plan (they offer many options with various approaches), pick your translation, and pick when you want to start and finish. It keeps track of what you have read and lets you know what you need to read each day, or each setting. So for example, I have been reading ‘The 5 day plan’ for 2015, which has a reading for Monday-Friday. There are no readings for the weekend (which provides good time for me to catch up when I get beheind!) I read 4-6 chapters each day (about 20 min.) and I should finish the Bible this year (if I keep with the plan). You can get the app on your phone or iPad or computer, and if you can’t find it, there are many others that you can use as well.

The truth is, most of us struggle with regular, consistent Bible study. We may do well for a while and then we get sidetracked. Having a plan is one way to try and fight these struggles. If you have tried reading the Bible through in a year in the past and failed, then try something different. Read through a book. Read through the Gospels. Read through the New Testament. Take as a long as you need. Find a plan that is realistic (maybe not 15 chapters per day) and get started. Then, when the struggle comes and you get off plan and you don’t know what to do: pick up where you left off and keep going. Who cares if it takes you two years (or more) to get through the one year plan! Just don’t listen to the enemy or to your flesh when they tell you to stop, give up, start over in January, or whatever. Just keep trying, keep reading, keep asking the Spirit for understanding and desire. I believe He answers such prayers.

Maybe now is a great time for you to start reading the Word again!