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Puritan Reformed Seminary Conference 2012
This year’s theme is “The Glory and Beauty of the Father.”

How to become a better leader
Miscellaneous challenging thoughts from Justin Buzzard.

How we die in America
Not the cheeriest of posts, but interesting nevertheless.

How should a full-time pastor prioritize his time?
Brian Croft lists three priorities in order.

The Unfortunate Link between Cultural Castigation and Pitiful Preaching
Strong but necessary words from Ed Stetzer.

How to turn a nightmare into a dream

Let me break the first rule of writing, by starting with a dream. With a nightmare, actually. In it, one of my daughters was riding a scooter along a path, lost balance, stumbled over a low fence, and plunged over a cliff edge – you know, the ones that suddenly appear from nowhere in our dreams.

Dream heroism
With “dream heroism” I stripped off my loose clothing and threw myself over the cliff to rescue her. At that moment, thankfully, I woke up with popping eyes, desert mouth, thumping heart, and a strange mixture of gratitude and regret.

Obviously I was thankful that it was only a dream, and that my daughter was warm and snug next door, rather than fighting for her life in a cold and deadly sea. I was also grateful that I was still alive; as I don’t think my daughter’s chances were much improved by my Superman impersonation.

Happy ending?
And amidst the gratitude, one regret – I’d like to have known if the dream had a happy ending. Did I reach the water or was I smashed on the cliff wall? Did I survive the 100+ mph water contact? Did I rescue my daughter? Did I win Superhero of the year?

But there was also that nagging question: in real life, would I really have jumped? Would I have calculated the risk, the probabilities, the chances of either of us surviving, and decided, “Eh, let’s phone 911!”

I mean, what if my daughter is maybe already dead. Even if I found her, could I get us both to shore? A bird in the hand is worth two in the sea, surely?

Will I? Won’t I?

Wide awake in the early morning, my mind drifted to the Lord’s Supper that I would soon be enjoying in a few hours time. I pondered Christ’s own heart and mind as from His heavenly vantage point He saw millions of sinners jumping over the cliff edge of sin, being smashed on the rocks of disobedience, drowning in the sea of guilt, and being carried away by the current of justice.

Will He? Won’t He?

Advantage Jesus
There’s no question is there? He will. He did. But there are two main differences between Jesus and me, apart from dream v reality.

First, unlike me jumping over the cliff in relative ignorance, Jesus jumped with full knowledge of every blow, laceration, pain, and sorrow that He would experience. Whatever terror I dreamed, His terrors were real and far worse. Yet, still He jumped.

Second, He knew that despite all the terrifying suffering He would endure in the rescue, He would succeed. What greater motivation to take the plunge into pain than to know that He would live; and that drowning sinners would live also.

That knowledge of certain success made Him all the more willing to endure the greatest pains. If an athlete knows that he’s certain to win gold, he’s more willing to push through the searing pain of the final bend to win. So, Christ’s assurance of ultimate victory enabled Him to push through the greatest pain and worst death ever, without which all of us would be sunk without trace.

The guaranteed rescue of millions, and the certainty of His own resurrection, made up the joy that was set before Him, as He despised the cross and endured the shame. With that sure knowledge He plunged, He sank, He fought the Serpent, He grabbed His drowning people, and swam to shore with every last one of them.

That’s how to turn a nightmare into a dream! And faith in Christ turns it into a reality.

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Are sin and sickness linked?
“Those who are sick among us are very gracious. They hear lunacy from the body of Christ but usually take it in stride.” Ed Welch provides samples of “helpful things said to a sick friend of his.

How to create more margin in your life
Your life is probably not like Michael Hyatt’s. Yet I’m sure most of us can learn something from this transparent post.

The first day of the rest of my life
Poignant post from Kim Shay on her youngest son finishing up High School.

Awe puts us in our place
Paul Tripp: “It is hard to overstate the importance of functional awe of God to your ministry. Awe of God is one thing that will keep a church from running off its rails and being diverted by the many agendas that can sidetrack any congregation.”

The Blackenthorn defection on Gay Marriage
Like Denny Burk, I haven’t given up, but as the ultimate argument against gay marriage is Scriptural, there is less and less hope of successfully opposing it in a society that has become untethered from the Scriptures.

5 Problems with Unconditional Forgiveness
I’m amazed at how few Christians really get this. No excuses if you’ve read this excellent short post.

Victory? The Triumphant Gay Revolution

If you just saw the subtitle, “How a Despised Minority Pushed Back, Beat Death, Found Love, and Changed America for Everyone,” you might think that you were about to read a book about Christianity. Sadly, Linda Hirshman’s book Victory is actually describing “The Gay Revolution’s Triumph” over Christianity.

No point in Christians reading about that, right? Well, I certainly wouldn’t recommend it for most Christians; it’s like watching a slow-motion replay of a loved one being murdered. However, as we tend to learn more from our defeats than our successes, it’s worth using this book to conduct a post-mortem on why the Church has lost so many battles in this fight.

Premature hubris?
Maybe, however, Hirshman’s terminology of “Victory” and “Triumph” is premature. Even a gay activist, like Democratic strategist Richard Socarides (who also served as Special Assistant to President Clinton), thinks so. Just before publication, he pled with Hirshman, “But there’s so much that has not been done. People will think you’re saying it’s over and everyone should go home.” With gay marriage still in the “To-do” column, Socarides probably fears public perceptions of hubris that tend to be punished. He may also be wary of history’s numerous examples of mistimed victory laps.

And notice, while accepting that the Church has lost many battles in this arena, I’m not conceding ultimate defeat in this war. There are many worrying signs, and the momentum seems to be against us. However, who knows, perhaps the title and message of this book might be a (metaphorical) “Haman” moment that stirs up many Christians at such a time as this to take a last glorious stand for the biblical definition and institution of marriage. As we examine Hirshman’s analysis of “The Triumphant Gay Revolution” let’s pray that God will use it to teach us and to stir us to action.

Well-defined Strategy
Hirshman’s basic thesis is that while there are some similarities between the black rights and the feminist movements in terms of tactics, the gay rights movement had a far superior strategy, and therefore achieved much more than these other movements.

She argues that while blacks and women sought tolerance and equal rights, they failed to achieve all they could have because they made the great mistake of merely trying to defend their difference. Gay activists’ aims were much higher; not just tolerance, but approval of their difference; not separate but equal, but rather integrated and admired.

Moral certainty
To achieve this strategy, gay leaders had to make a staggering moral claim: “Gay is good.” Not just acceptable, not just OK, but a moral good. Few Christians have grasped this essential element of the gay agenda. Gay men and women are not like most adulterers and fornicators who know their immorality is bad, but still do it anyway. Gays have convinced themselves that they are not only moral, but that their morality is superior to Christian morality, and therefore should replace it.

As Hirshman says: “It is the moral certainty of the gay revolution that explains why, unlike the racial and feminist movements, it has been able to stand up to that powerful counterforce [the morally driven religious right] and, slowly but surely, prevail.”

Identify your enemies
Standing firmly on this “moral foundation,” gay activists identified four major obstacles to achieving their strategic objective: (1) The churches considered them sinful; (2) The state criminalized their sex acts; (3) Doctors – mainly psychologists – thought they were crazy; and (4) The military feared they would be traitors to the nation.

For gays, conformity with mainstream norms was not an option. The accepted versions of sin, crime, sanity, and loyalty were mortal enemies that had to be taken down and replaced.

Select your primary targets
Hirshman provides a stunning wealth of detail about how the gay movement worked to overcome these “four horsemen of the gay apocalypse” – Sinful, Criminal, Crazy, and Subversive.” However, their core moral claim – “Gay is Good” – required a ruthless focus on the two traditional institutions of heterosexual morality – marriage and the military.

Same-sex marriage guru Evan Wolfson saw that marriage was “the central social and legal institution in any society.” Barring gays from marriage focused “on the core of what makes them different: their sexual and emotional relationships. Challenging marriage discrimination would challenge the core of gay exclusion.”

And as the ban on gays in the military was also based upon a moral belief that “gays were more likely to be unreliable and disloyal” that too had to go.

Collective identity
Although the aim was individual rights, “for a despised and marginalized minority, individualism is never the way to equality. Its members must recognize themselves as an oppressed class and act collectively.”

One thing that comes across in the book is the powerful unity of the multiple diverse strands of the gay movement, although Hirshman admits that a lot of that powerful unity was based on the unifying power of sex – “It’s hard to take the sex out of homosexual.”

Refusal to compromise
Despite many political and judicial victories over the years, the gay movement would not stop short of victory over the military and the church. “Don’t ask, don’t tell” (DADT) was the unacceptable sop that President Clinton offered to the many gay supporters he had cultivated by over-promising during the 1992 presidential campaign.

But tolerance of secret conduct was nowhere near enough to achieve the longed-for moral approbation. Repeal of DADT was finally accomplished in 2011, together with the removal of the ban on gays serving in the military.

And we can expect the same no-compromise approach to the one remaining bulwark – the prohibition on Gay Marriage. We need to understand that no amount of “Civil Partnership” compromises will satisfy the demand for moral approval.

Never give up
Many thought that AIDS would be the end of the gay movement. However, in what is the most stunning claim in the whole book, Hirshman says, “AIDS was the making of the gay revolution.” And when you read of how the gay community leveraged this setback to secure massive funding not just for medical treatment, but also for educational and community initiatives (in a way that blacks and women never did), you cannot but agree with the claim.

Hirshman says that gays benefited from the legal profession’s “nostalgia for the heroic role it played during the racial civil rights movement…For young lawyers aspiring to be the next Thurgood Marshall, the gay revolution was the civil rights movement of their generation.”

In a section that goes a long way to explaining why the legal culture is so anti-Christian, Hirshman points out that law firms have “become among the best places in America for gay and lesbian employees…The legal sector has the largest number of top-scoring companies in HRC’s Corporate Equality Index, an annual measure of how equitably large private businesses in the United States treat their lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender employees, consumers, and investors.”

The Last Battle
So, it all looks rather grim for Christians. We are facing opponents with a well-defined strategy, and an energizing moral certainty. Their “kill-list” has three out of four successes and they are pursuing the last, “the most resilient horseman of the gay apocalypse—sin” with a united, uncompromising, never-give-up, laser-like focus on gay marriage. And many lawyers – including our President – are out to make a great name for themselves in this final “Triumph.”

Is there anything we can do? I believe there is. We can repent. Yes, lets begin with ourselves, the Christian church, and our own sin: our apathy, our cowardice, our defeatism, our pragmatism, and our inconsistency. Let’s confess it and seek the empowering pardon that Christ alone can give.

We can also pray. Despite our failings, we can pray for God’s mercy to His church and the nation. We can plead, “For your Name’s sake, for your glory’s sake, intervene for your beautiful and blessed institution of marriage. Lord, this is the first and last bastion of Christian morality. If we lose it, we are unlikely to ever see it restored.”

And we can love. Although the majority of the gay movement hold us in contempt – and make no mistake, they do – let’s not return evil for evil. In our personal relationships with gays, and in our public words, while holding firmly to biblical morality, let’s do all we can to smash the caricatures of Christians as gay-haters. Gays have declared themselves our enemies. As such, they are entitled to our love – especially the love of evangelism.

Lastly, let’s not give up on the legal and political avenues open to us. Let’s prayerfully and practically support courageous Christian individuals and organizations who can speak truth to power.

Who knows, maybe in God’s providence Hirshman might have to write another book before too long: “Debacle: How I helped the gay revolution snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.”

This review was first published at The Gospel Coalition.

For Christians and churches struggling with explaining the Biblical position on Homosexuality, here’s a short briefing paper on Homosexuality and the Bible.

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Depression and your internet usage
And if you are depressed, Brian Croft highlights two ways to fight for joy.

Honoring God in an unequally yoked marriage
We should probably pray more for men and women in such relationships.

Harsh anti-gay preaching alarms Christian conservatives too
Good reminder that the offense of the cross is not the same as offensiveness.

Definition of marriage
What do you think of Mike Leake’s definition? I like it, but I’d like to see something explicit about children in it too.

Why your leadership must be social
“It’s imperative that you are “social” in your leadership and influence today. A new reality exists, and as leaders we have to be not only aware of this, but also willing to jump in and embrace a new reality of Social engagement like never before.” (HT: Zach Nielsen).

You don’t need a PhD to innovate
And if you want proof, what about Steve Saint’s flying car!