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Spoken Word Monday: “Consecrated to Jesus” by Braille

Apr 28, 2014 | Thabiti Anyabwile

If you know Humble Beast Records, then you’ve been encouraged by the work of Braille. They produce some of the most creative and solid Christian hip hop and spoken word I’ve heard. Here’s Braille meditating on a theme that’s shrouded in a lot of conclusion these days: obedience. Check it out and let us renew our consecration to the Lord today!

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5 Strategies for Ministry in a Cretan Context, 3: Teach the People How to Live

Apr 25, 2014 | Thabiti Anyabwile

Paul’s letter to Titus is commonly referred to as a “pastoral epistle” along with the apostle’s two letters to Timothy. These three letters provide the New Testament’s clearest instructions on the who, what, when and why of pastoral ministry.

Paul has left Titus in Crete to “put in order” the things that are yet undone in the church. He has left Timothy to minister among a people with a reputation for hardness and immorality. In our day and age, we would call Crete an “inner-city” or a “tough neighborhood.” Of course, such labels do much to misrepresent many, many people living in such places. But they do remind us that there’s a kind of frontier that the gospel is meant to penetrate and claim as its own. Christians, like Titus, are meant to do ministry in “Cretan contexts.”

Paul has called Titus to (1) appoint leaders and (2) instruct those leaders to rebuke the hard hearted. Now he comes to a third instruction: Teach the people how to live. We see this in the opening lines of Titus 2.

But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine. Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness. Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled. Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled. (Titus 2:1-6)

Titus himself is to be a model of such behavior, and his teaching is to have a gravity and soundness that’s unimpeachable (v. 7-8). I find several things fascinating and instructive about this section of Paul’s letter.

First, Titus is not only to teach sound doctrine but also what accords with sound doctrine. He is to have a concern with the life that follows from the truth. The Christian lifestyle needs as much exposition as Christian doctrine. We’re not done with our teaching until we make application to where and how people live. That application ought to be particular to the several categories of people in our churches–older men, older women, younger women, younger men. Ministry requires the pastor know how to insert the truth into life where people find themselves.

Second, I find it instructive that Titus is to teach older women how to be older women. That’s fascinating. I can’t think of a single pastor job description where that was listed as a main job requirement. Not one. Perhaps that helps to explain why many ministries known for their teaching ministries are also sometimes known to be great places for men but not so great for women’s discipleship. There’s a step missing, a link broken between the pastor and the older women who are then responsible to teach younger women. In a Cretan context there tends to be a lot of women around. In most churches there tend to be a lot of women around–usually more women than men. So we miss a vital gospel opportunity and a vital way of strengthening communities if we neglect the older women and by extension the younger women of our churches and the communities we’re trying to reach.

Third, at the heart of “what accords with sound doctrine” is self-control. That’s at the heart of what it means to be a man or a woman, really. It’s a fruit of the Spirit that needs greater emphasis in today’s culture and perhaps particularly in communities like Crete where, as verse 12 puts it, people were “always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.” What’s the remedy to wantonness? Self control. That’s why elders must have it and people must be taught it. And it’s vital on the forgotten frontiers of the gospel.

Fourth, this requires that pastors closely know and live with their people. How else will they be able to make the application of the word of God in such intimate situations? Moreover, this means that the local church must become a surrogate family to many. The local church has a responsibility for raising younger saints into maturity and encouraging the older saints to carry age with respect and dignity.

Finally, teaching people how to live is nothing short of reconstituting, restructuring, and remodeling families and households. Contexts like Crete tend to exert tremendous pressure on male-female relationships and weaken families. Living according to the philosophy of the world tends to pull apart marriages and leave children uninstructed in the things of God. The gospel of our Lord works against all of that by insisting on lives that conform to the truth. It’s slow, difficult work. But the gospel in Crete (and everywhere else!) calls us to what is typically described as “traditional” views of marriage, marital roles, and child-rearing. I don’t mean to say that everything someone puts under the label “traditional” is a good thing. It’s not. A lot of abuse, oppression and privilege hides under that label. But I do mean to say that stressing in a Cretan context the virtues of marriage, of complementarian gender roles, of child-rearing, of respectable behavior and self-control is what “accords with sound doctrine” in this text. As such, it becomes a vital part of how we show forth the gospel with our lives in tough situations.

It’s one thing to preach the gospel in difficult places. It’s quite another to show people how to live in a manner worthy of their calling in such places.

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5 Strategies for Ministering in a Cretan Context, 2

Apr 24, 2014 | Thabiti Anyabwile

A little while back we began a brief look at the book of Titus as a window onto biblical strategies for ministering in a context similar to Crete (see here). As Paul describes the situation, “One of the Cretans, a prophet of their own, said, ‘Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons’” (Titus 1:12). Titus has to plow the hard soil of unregenerate hearts in a culture of dishonesty and fleshly living. How do you labor in such a climate?

First, Paul commands Titus to appoint solid leaders.

Second, those leaders must rebuke people so that they’re sound in the faith. Paul writes:

For there are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision party. They must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach. One of the Cretans, a prophet of their own, said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.” This testimony is true. Therefore, rebuke them sharply, that they may be found in the faith, not devoting themselves to Jewish myths and the commands of people who turn away from the truth. (Titus 1:10-14)

I wonder if we ever hear church plant strategists emphasize the ministry of personal rebuke as an effective strategy? I don’t think I have. But it’s part and parcel to ministry in a difficult context. How else will the corruptions of a fallen culture and fallen heart be addressed?

I suspect most of us are more inclined to finding what seems a softer, gentler, even wider path to acceptance in tough contexts. We tend to be afraid of such locations. That’s partly why we call them “tough” or “difficult” or “hard to reach.” So we don’t want to be confrontational if we can help it.

But Paul’s view of leadership requires courage to confront. The stakes are high. The goal is to ensure that people “be found in the faith.” The Cretan reality is “They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work” (v. 16). For such persons outside the faith there is only damnation, which is far worse than a hard life in a difficult neighborhood. Hell is far more difficult. So, loving leadership leans into the moral, theological and spiritual hardness with a word of correction to bring people into the faith and establish the church on the truth. With the help of the Holy Spirit we are endeavoring to fit people for heaven. That can’t be done with scared leadership or leaders too calloused about people to lovingly correct them.

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Usually I Hate TV Commercials

Apr 23, 2014 | Thabiti Anyabwile

Most television commercials merely interrupt the regularly scheduled programming. When I do watch television, it’s the programming I want to see, not the incessant enticements to part with my money. Usually they bore me or offend me with appeals to sinful desires.

But every once in a while I find a commercial that actually moves me, that edifies me, and maybe even contributes to my life. Then those 30 seconds seem like an investment with big return. The “Unsung Hero” commercials of Thai Life are the latest surprise for me. They’re actually three minutes that are so well done they don’t feel any longer than the typical 30 second slots. Simple. Poignant. Real. Sweaty with life. Hopeful. Surprising.

Take a look:

I love the line, “He witnesses happiness.” Oh, may it be so!

Here’s another one:

This one rocked me:

I was touched by the devotion in this one:

Then I had to go to bed after this one!

You can find a good number of these commercials if you search youtube for “thai insurance commercials.” Usually I hate commercials, but I love these. In an age of entertainment and advertising characterized by either titillation or banality, there are few things that really move us. These 3-minute commercials show that it can be done, on low budgets, with a little honesty about what matters in life.

Of course, there are lessons here for preaching, too. Less very often is more. While the preached work can’t paint a picture the same way video can, we preachers can work to paint more vivid stories and images for our people, who deal with these same kinds of situations. Best of all, we get to paint the Lord Jesus into the picture. Then we’re not just moving; we’re also redemptive.

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2013 Christian-Muslim Dialogue Video Available

Apr 22, 2014 | Thabiti Anyabwile

This past year I had the privilege of participating in my 5th Christian-Muslim Dialogue in the United Arab Emirates. Last year Dr. Shabir Ally, Muslim apologist and president of the Islamic Information & Dawah Centre International in Toronto, Canada, agreed to represent the Islamic perspective.

We took up the question “How Can I Find Forgiveness from a Holy God?”, which in my opinion is the most important question in the universe. The dialogue welcomed over 700 participants in person and hundreds more from at least eight different countries via live stream. It was a gracious, engaging and sometimes funny couple of hours of discussion.

Here’s a trailer:

2013 Muslim Christian Dialogue – Trailer from Dubai Muslim Christian Dialogues on Vimeo.

You can find the full dialogue broken into nice bite-sized segments here.

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Cru Inner City’s Circle of Hope Strategy

Apr 21, 2014 | Thabiti Anyabwile

One of the ministries I appreciate a great deal is cru inner city. Men like John Sather and others like him around the country are seeking to take the gospel into the core of cities across the country. Here’s a 3-minute video describing their partnership initiative with local churches called “The Circle of Hope.” Check it out:

Our Strategy – The Circle of Hope from Cru Inner City on Vimeo.

Check out the cru inner city/here’s life inner city website to learn more.

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Spoken Word Monday: “Forever and Ever” by Miss Terious Janette… ikz

Apr 21, 2014 | Thabiti Anyabwile

All I could say was, “My, my, my!” Sis put her foot in this one! It’s got everything: sports shoes, sports drinks, video games, jazz lyrics, Marvel superheroes… everything! Watch and be blessed!

Truly, this is an example of what makes spoken word and rap so powerful… the metaphors, similes, turns of phrases, timing, drama, passion, Scripture, theology, humor, application, exhortation, correction, rebuke, training and instruction. It’s packed, layered, running over, pressed together, condensed and intense. It really makes the label “poetry” seem so pedestrian. I just love it!

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T4G’ 14 Debrief

Apr 15, 2014 | Thabiti Anyabwile

The every-other-year family reunion called “Together for the Gospel” has come and gone for 2014. Somewhere near 8,000 persons gathered for a week of preaching and teaching on the theme of evangelism. There couldn’t be a timelier theme or a more encouraging group with which to consider it.

As with all edifying events of any length of time, there’s much to give God thanks for and to reflect on. And there’s many way to distill one’s thoughts into a summary of sorts. In fact, there’s probably too much to comment on for any one debrief post. So, I’m going to narrow my thoughts to a series of superlatives. Mark Dever doesn’t like superlatives, but I think they’re the best! So, here goes….

1. Best sermon for my heart

Without question, Lig’ Duncan’s exposition of Numbers 4, “The Gospel by Numbers,” was the best sermon for this often weary, sometimes heavy, frequently wandering heart! As I listened, I felt a new appreciation for the Savior’s words, “If I be lifted up, I will draw all men to me.” Christ was majestically lifted up and extolled as glorious! From Lig’s meditation on sin as defilement to his biblical theological run to Christ as the One who cleanses, my heart mourned over sin and rejoiced in my Lord! Thank you, Lig!

2. Most convicting sermon

That superlative goes to David Platt’s passionate exhortation to prayer, “Relenting Wrath: The Role of Desperate Prayer in the Mystery of Divine Providence” (Exodus 32). I wept listening to this sermon, heavily convicted of my relative prayerlessness. David’s preaching is consistently God-centered, really Puritan-esque (as was the title of the sermon) in its development of the doctrine followed by the exhortation/application. So his sermon’s tend to leave you with the escalating majesty and weightiness of God and a clear sense of what God wills you to do. I found that to be the case with this sermon. Afterwards, I felt we should have spent a season of pleading prayer with God for lost family, friends, and people groups. I was also warmed by this sermon since it’s the text the Lord used to save me nearly 20 years ago.

3. Sermon with the greatest likelihood to help a generation

That’s how I feel about Kevin DeYoung’s address on inerrancy, “Never Spoke a Man Like This Before.” A good 40-50 percent of the attendees were there for the first time and in their 20s or early 30s. In other words, this was a young crowd growing up in the shadow of the last major battle around inerrancy. They’ve grown up taking it for granted and now find themselves on the edge of renewed battles. Kevin’s talk was a piercing exploration of the Lord Jesus’ view of scripture and the view all Christ followers should take. I’ve never seen Kevin better, and I’m not sure any other sermon has led me to treasure the Bible more.

4. Most encouraging evangelism testimonies

I really enjoy the testimony elements that have been a part of the last T4G conferences. This year conference organizers filmed and presented a number of testimonies involving new converts and the Christian evangelists (none of them would like have called themselves that) who shared the faith with them. I loved the stories of God’s powerful grace. But the testimonies I found most encouraging were the two evangelists who shared with the friends who were not converted. It was such an encouragement to be reminded of the privilege and burden of pleading for the unrepentant and unbelieving. Here are the two testimonies:

5. Hymn I’m most likely never to get out of my head

“Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling….” Thank you John Piper!

6. Weirdest piano placement that kinda grows on you

Bob Kauflin in the middle of the arena floor. The singing at T4G is not about the guy up front. Nobody understands that as well as Bob, who serves so faithfully and cheerfully. Bob was his cheerful self leading with his usual joy and skill… from the “piano mosh pit” in the middle of the floor. But it worked. Or at least it stopped feeling weird and I was taken up in the wonderful singing of T4G once again.

7. Funniest line…

“Did I say ‘merely’? I love precision.” You had to be there.

8. Oddest microphone for a person’s skin tone

Mine. My wife says it looks like an ice cream cone hanging from my ear! Think I’m going to have to pull a Chandler and start bringing my own. That’s the price you pay when you have a head the size of mine! :-)

9. Sweetest truth in song during the conference

“He Will Hold Me Fast”

10. Most beautiful woman at the conference

Kristie Anyabwile! Forgive me, but after communion with our Lord, the sweetest part of the week for me was sitting with my lovely wife hearing the word and being built up in the faith we share. Doesn’t get any better than that!

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Spoken Word Monday: “I Will Wait for You” by Janette…Ikz

Apr 14, 2014 | Thabiti Anyabwile

After a couple of years, this is still one of my favorites.

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Spoken Word Monday: “I Am” by David Bowden

Apr 07, 2014 | Thabiti Anyabwile

I guarantee you you’ll be praising God before this is finished! (HT: @isickadams)

Told you!

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