John Piper on Game of Thrones and growing in godliness

Watching TVOver the last few months, I’ve written a couple of posts encouraging Christians to think more deeply about their ‘entertainment choices’, especially with reference to shows like Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones, or films like The Wolf of Wall Street. In my view, it’s an urgent issue facing Christians everywhere. So I was really pleased to come across these reflections from John Piper – 12 Questions to ask before you watch Game of Thrones.

It’s an article packed with great insights and quotable quotes. Among my favourites: “Jesus has blood-bought power in his cross. He died to make us pure. He ‘gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession’ (Titus 2:14). If we choose to endorse or embrace or enjoy or pursue impurity, we take a spear and ram it into Jesus’s side every time we do. He suffered to set us free from impurity.”

And as one who has written about the violence in a show like Breaking Bad, Piper gives me food for thought by noting that, unlike murder or other forms of violence, nudity cannot be faked: “Violence on a screen is make-believe; nobody really gets killed. But nudity is not make-believe. These actresses are really naked in front of the camera, doing exactly what the director says to do with their legs and their hands and their breasts. And they are naked in front of millions of people to see.”

It’s well worth taking five minutes to read the whole article. It may very well help you to grow in godliness.

From obscure peasant and condemned criminal to King of the World

Cross HillHe was born in an obscure village as the child of an unmarried teenage peasant. He grew up in another obscure village, where he worked as a carpenter until the age of 30. At the age of 33, after a brief public ministry during which he gathered a small band of followers, he was betrayed by one of them, abandoned by them all, arrested, tried, and sentenced to death. He died in the most humiliating, painful form of execution that humanity has ever devised, hanging on a cross between two common criminals on a hill just outside a small town. He died homeless and destitute – executed as a criminal, mocked by his enemies, abandoned by his friends, buried in a borrowed grave.

And now, over the next few days, countless millions of people all over the world will gather to worship Jesus of Nazareth as the Creator of the universe, the King of the world, and the Saviour of humanity. His life, death and resurrection will be proclaimed as the central events in human history.

“Today Jesus is the central figure of the human race and the leader of mankind’s progress. All the armies that have ever marched, all the navies that have ever sailed, all the parliaments that have ever sat, all the kings that ever reigned put together, have not affected the life of mankind on earth as powerfully as that one solitary life.” (James Francis, ‘One Solitary Life’)

It’s worth asking Why.

Creating a Culture of Evangelism – Mack Stiles Podcast

Mack Stiles PortraitMack Stiles, author of Evangelism: How the whole church speaks of Jesus and Marks of the Messenger, on promoting the gospel and creating an effective, Christ-centred culture of evangelism in your ministry.

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Mack may be the most passionate and naturally gifted evangelist I’ve ever met. He’s the author of five books, including Marks of the Messenger and Speaking of Jesus. This week, at the Together For The Gospel (T4G) Conference in Kentucky, Mack will launch his latest book - Evangelism: How the whole church speaks of Jesus. Born and bred in America, he now lives with his wife Leeann in Dubai, UAE, where he is CEO of Gulf Digital Solutions and General Secretary for the Fellowship of Christian UAE students. Read more of this post

Ten Resolutions of an Introverted Christian


Reading TogetherI will define myself as a Christian, not an introvert
Myers-Briggs may say that I’m an INFJ. Gallup may think they know my Top Five Strengths. There are all kinds of ways to categorise ‘me’. But what truly defines me? What goes to the heart of who I am? I’m a Christian. I’m a follower of Jesus, and a new creation. I’m saved by the grace of God through the death and resurrection of Jesus – being conformed to the image of Jesus by God’s gracious work in me.

We can say lots of true things about ourselves, but personality tests or traits will never ultimately define any follower of Jesus. Our identity is found in him. We are Christians first. Read more of this post

Why You Must Always Exaggerate

MegaphoneOver the years, many teachers and preachers of God’s word have shaped the way I understand the Bible, the world, and myself. Easily the most important have been those who pastored me personally – who led the churches or ministries of which I was a member. People who knew me, invested in me, and shared their lives with me.

But there have also been many teachers and preachers outside my local ministries – authors, conference speakers, and various other leaders – who have played an enormous role in shaping my thinking and my life. Some are people I’ve come to know well; some are people I’m yet to meet. Some are the ‘big name’ authors and speakers that everyone knows; some serve in relative obscurity.

As I look back and consider why people I barely know have influenced me, a number of factors emerge. But for now, I want to mention one common characteristic among those who’ve impacted my thinking: a willingness to state the truth in bold and challenging ways. Put another way: a willingness and ability to exaggerate. Read more of this post

Getting Things Done, God’s Way

What's Best Next Cover

What’s Best Next
b
y Matt Perman
Zondervan, 352 pages
Amazon | Book Depository

I admit that I’ve always been a bit skeptical about books on productivity. I don’t really know why, but I think I just assumed that reading a whole book and developing a comprehensive system for ‘time management’ was overkill. Surely all it needs is a bit of common sense, right? After all, I already make to-do lists, I have a diary and a basic weekly schedule, and I take time out to make sure that what I do gels with my overall goals.

Still, in the back of my mind, I knew I should get around to reading one of the books that everyone recommends. I’d seen the way books like Getting Things Done (David Allen) or First Things First (Stephen Covey) had helped my friends. I’d just never been quite motivated enough to make the time for it myself. Read more of this post

I Wish I’d Said That (and I’m glad someone else did)

Man writing on the paper in the officeAs a blogger, every now and then I come across a post that leaves me channeling my inner Oscar Wilde and thinking, ‘I wish I’d said that’. Sometimes, though, my feeling is closer to, ‘I’m glad I didn’t have to say that, because someone else has already said it much better than I ever could.’ I have both of those feelings today.

One of the items on my to-do list for the week ahead had been to write an open letter to Scott Morrison and Tony Abbott, addressing their government’s policies on asylum seekers and their appalling treatment of and attitude towards those seeking asylum in my country of birth. But it looks like someone has beaten me to it, and they’ve done a brilliant job. Read more of this post

Is your church really welcoming?

The startling adventures of ‘Jack Pagan’ and his post-earthquake ‘church crawl’

Welcome MatThree years ago, when the February 22 earthquake hit Christchurch, the church I worked for at the time (St Stephen’s Anglican in Shirley) lost the use of its building. In the scramble to find an alternative venue, we decided that our three congregations (which had met at 8.30am, 10am and 7pm) would have to combine into one. On top of that, we couldn’t find a large enough venue that was available on Sunday mornings or evenings, so we spent the better part of a year meeting at 2.30pm on a Sunday afternoon. Read more of this post

Coming soon: The ETC Podcast

Podcast I’m really excited to let you know that Every Thought Captive is about to launch its very own podcast. I’m planning a series of ministry interviews – one-on-one conversations with a range of Christian men and women who are serving Jesus in a variety of contexts. Our guests will talk to us about their areas of expertise, while also sharing their wisdom and insights on living the Christian life, talking theology, and helping us all to continue serving Jesus in our own lives and ministries. The interviews will be designed to encourage and stimulate any Christian who wants to think about gospel-centred, biblical ministry.

I’m really thankful for the fantastic line-up of people who have already agreed to be part of the interview series – a wonderful mix of godly Christian leaders from a range of backgrounds and experiences – and I’m hoping to keep adding to the list. I’m looking forward to announcing the first of my interviewees really soon, and I trust the podcast will be a great help to you – whoever you are, wherever you are – as you seek to live for Jesus and make him known.

Engaging our culture, or selling our souls?

Have evangelicals fallen into the trap of validating all sorts of entertainment choices in the name of ‘cultural engagement’?

LeoLast year, I shared some thoughts on how Christians ought to engage with and consume popular culture, based around the final episode of Breaking Bad. It’s a perennial question, one that will continue to confront Christians for a long time to come.

The latest incarnation of this issue centres around the film The Wolf of Wall Street, the Oscar-nominated film starring Leonardo DiCaprio and directed by Martin Scorsese. I haven’t seen it, but I greatly appreciated Trevin Wax’s insights over at The Gospel Coalition. For me, here is the big question: “I never subscribed to the fundamentalist vision that saw holiness in terms of cultural retreat or worldliness as anything that smacked of cultural engagement. I don’t subscribe to that position today. But sometimes I wonder if evangelicals have swung the pendulum too far to the other side, to the point where all sorts of entertainment choices are validated in the name of cultural engagement.Read more of this post

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