Tuesday, February 4, 2014

All Around the Web - February 4, 2014

John Stonestreet - Casualties in the War on Poverty
Jesus broke the social stigmas of His time by snubbing those who loved riches and fraternizing with the poor and outcast. Because of this, Christians recognize a call to identify with and help those in poverty, and this is one of the great contributions Christianity has made to the world. But there’s much disagreement on how best to do that, especially during the last few generations in the United States.

Beginning in 1964, President Johnson and lawmakers set out to “eradicate poverty as we know it” through a series of government programs such as Medicaid, Medicare, Head Start, and Food Stamps, all of which date back to the Great Society.

But things didn’t go as expected. Not only did poverty remain with us, but as Dr. Jay Richards of the Institute for Faith, Work and Economics explained to me in our latest edition of “BreakPoint This Week,” LBJ’s “war” and subsequent laws passed in the same spirit have done much more to entrench poverty than eradicate it.

In his book, “Money, Greed, and God,” Dr. Richards explains that despite nearly twenty trillion dollars of federal funds directed at lifting Americans above the poverty line, a steady percentage have remained there. What was once a temporary problem for many has become systemic and multi-generational.

Poverty, Dr. Richards says, is more than a financial state of being.

SBTS - The ex-felon and the Gospel
Several years ago, I stood in front of our congregation and introduced a new member. That, in and of itself, was not strange. We regularly introduce new members as we prepare to extend to them the right hand of Christian fellowship – a traditional practice of our 49-year-old congregation.

However, this was different. Not only did I introduce John (not his real name); I also told the congregation about his life story and conversion experience. John was an ex-felon. He served time in prison for a variety of drug and violent-offenses charges. In other words, John had a rough background. But all that was different now. John was a new creation in Christ Jesus and becoming a part of our assembly of God’s people, right?

Back then, I was not sure how members of our congregation viewed the gospel’s power to change a person. Therefore, I took the opportunity to present John as case number one of the gospel’s amazing power. After telling his story, I challenged the congregation to receive John as a brother-in-Christ, with no stigma attached to his membership. Specifically, I asked them to remember (1) the former state of every believer before salvation, (2) our Baptist commitment to regenerate church membership, (3) our Lord’s command to do well to them who are “of the household of faith,” and (4) how we are not to be like the Pharisees, the hypocrites or the ungrateful servant who would not forgive others after he had been forgiven.

Certainly, we had members with concerns. Sadly, many were unfounded. Our congregational sense of “testimony” meant that everyone knew his background. This was great as far as transparency and honesty. Unfortunately, this sometimes led to overreactions. John had committed certain crimes, not every possible crime. Therefore, we should never assume that he would always make a wrong choice in every situation.

Does new life make things new, or not? Now, obviously, we don’t want to tempt a brother in an area of previous sinfulness. Therefore, a former thief can do most things in the church except count money. A former sex-offender can do many things except work with children. Bottom line – we should not be hyper-suspicious of the ex-felon in the alto section of the choir or serving as an usher on the third Sunday.

John Stonestreet - The Root of Sexual Exploitation
Pornography has long been treated as a harmless, personal indulgence. No one gets hurt, no one gets STDs, and no one gets pregnant. But as I said recently on BreakPoint, even secular culture is beginning to wake up to what a lie that is. Studies show that couples are having less actual sex than they did ten years ago, and sexual dysfunction among young men is on the rise.

And like all sin, the damage goes far beyond one person or one family. A startling new film in production from Unearthed Pictures shows how pornography fuels the sex trafficking industry—by creating demand, acting as a gateway drug, and even directly financing exploitation. In other words, porn not only sows seeds of dysfunction in someone’s life; it props up an industry that destroys the lives of countless others.

Russell Moore - Questions & Ethics: How will the Supreme Court’s decision on the Hobby Lobby case affect us?
Russell Moore discusses Hobby Lobby’s Supreme Court case and how the decision could affect us.

Together For the Gospel - Mark Dever Announces John MacArthur to Speak at T4G 2014

Mark Dever Announces John MacArthur to Speak at T4G 2014 from Together for the Gospel (T4G) on Vimeo.

Steve McCoy - John MacArthur: One Second of Priceless

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