Creative Biblical content at the intersection of life and faith.

The "Me" Monster Church Has Become (from David Prince)

David Prince has posted an article to the ERLC website that I think needs to be seriously considered. The longer I am in pastoral ministry the more I feel like an event planner instead of a  minister of the Word (Acts 6:2).  My week looks less and less like that of the apostles and more and more like that of a cruise ship director.  The staff spends more time choosing whether the next fellowship meal will be chicken or burgers than it does in prayer.  I think this is only symptomatic of the mindset of today's consumer driven, Me-centric church.  I am appreciative of David for sharing his thoughts on how this mindset is especially impacting church ministry and preaching.  


A morally Christianized narcissism has invaded many churches where congregants read the Bible and hear sermons in a pursuit of individualized self-improvement. Corporate worship is often understood as a matter of convenience in assembling individual Christians who seek individualized answers to individualized questions. The result is a malformed expression of Christianity in which the church is seen simply as a tool to help each individual grow spiritually. Thus, the church exists to provide us the support we need for our personal discipleship.

Read the rest at: http://erlc.com/article/the-me-monster-unleashed-in-todays-churches.

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How Should Same-Sex Marriage Change the Church’s Witness? (From Russell Moore)

The Supreme Court has now ruled on two monumental marriage cases, and the legal and cultural landscape has changed in this country. The court voted to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act and remand the decision of the Ninth Circuit in the Proposition 8 case, holding that California’s Proposition 8 defenders didn’t have standing. The Defense of Marriage Act decision used rather sweeping language about equal protection and human dignity as they apply to the recognition of same-sex unions. But what has changed for us, for our churches, and our witness to the gospel?
In one sense, nothing. Jesus of Nazareth is still alive. He is calling the cosmos toward his kingdom, and he will ultimately be Lord indeed. Regardless of what happens with marriage, the gospel doesn’t need “family values” to flourish. In fact, it often thrives when it is in sharp contrast to the cultures around it. That’s why the gospel rocketed out of the first-century from places such as Ephesus and Philippi and Corinth and Rome, which were hardly Mayberry.
Read the rest at Russell Moore's, Moore to the Point.
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VBS at Liberty 2013!!!

High night of 447!  Way to go crew!!!
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Raising Wimps

Maybe it's the cyclist in the park, trim under his sleek metallic blue helmet, cruising along the dirt path... at three miles an hour. On his tricycle.

Or perhaps it's today's playground, all-rubber-cushioned surface where kids used to skin their knees. And... wait a minute... those aren't little kids playing. Their mommies—and especially their daddies—are in there with them, coplaying or play-by-play coaching. Few take it half-easy on the perimeter benches, as parents used to do, letting the kids figure things out for themselves.

Then there are the sanitizing gels, with which over a third of parents now send their kids to school, according to a recent survey. Presumably, parents now worry that school bathrooms are not good enough for their children.

Read the rest at:  http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200411/nation-wimps
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For the Girls, For the New Year, For All of Us

Here is a great article via The Gospel Coalition Blog by Jen Wilkin on cultural expectation and the gospel in light of the pressures of the new year.  The primary audience is women, but there is a good message here for all of us.


A new year is upon us, and unless this one is much different from others, our conversations will be laden with talk of fitness goals and holiday diet missteps. The new year is traditionally a time for resurrecting our self-control, so this is no surprise. But this new year I have a different form of self-discipline in view---one with potentially longer-lasting effect than dropping a dress size.
Last year about this time I came across an article showing ads from the 1930s and 40s selling products to help people gain weight. The ads made claims that sounded completely comical to our modern ears: "Add 5 lb of solid flesh in a week!" "Since I gained 10 lb . . . I have all the dates I want!" I showed the ads to my daughters, who responded, "Mom, I don't think those are real. Have you checked that on Snopes?"
But they're real, all right, despite how preposterous they seem. My first reaction, I am ashamed to admit, was that I was born too late. How great would it be to live during a time when well-padded women held the glamour-girl title? (As long as I'm being honest, I had a similar reaction to learning that in South America women get implants in their bottoms to achieve their culture's ideal shape. By some cruel twist of fate, had I been born on the wrong continent? Why couldn't I live where hips were hip?)
But of course, to seriously entertain these thoughts is to drink the Kool-Aid served up to women since the dawn of time: the belief that ideal physical beauty exists and should be pursued at all costs. For much of human history, the curvy beauty has prevailed. Statues of women from ancient Greece and Rome, much like Renaissance art, celebrate a body type we would call "plus size" today. Historically, padded women were considered beautiful, because only the rich and idle could achieve such a figure, and because curviness indicated fertility. For women of past generations curviness was extremely hard to achieve unless you had the money to eat well and work little. Thanks to trans fats and high-fructose corn syrup, this is no longer the case. Ironically, the rich and idle of today strive to look undernourished and overworked. And the rest of us rush to follow suit.
So would it have been better to live during a time when well-fed women were hailed as beauties? I doubt it. Because the issue is not "fat versus thin"---it is "perfect versus imperfect." Women have always defined themselves by (enslaved themselves to?) some ideal of physical beauty. Though its definition may change across the centuries, one element remains constant: it is always a definition of beauty just beyond our reach. We want what we cannot have. If curvy is hard, we want curvy. If thin is hard, we want thin.
The expectation of physical perfection hits modern females early and often. In middle school, girls cut themselves to deal with the pressures of conforming to the ideal. In middle age, women do, too---but allow the surgeon to hold the knife. We carve the record of our self-loathing into the very flesh of our bodies---a self-marring, a literal carving of an idol. Increasingly, physical perfection is the legacy of womanhood in our culture, handed down with meticulous care from mother to daughter, with more faithful instruction in word and deed than we can trouble to devote to cultivating kindness, peacemaking, and acceptance that characterize unfading, inner beauty.
In this as in all things, there is hope and good news for the believer: one day we will be free of our self-loathings and live in harmony with our physical appearance. We will be given new, incorruptible bodies---bodies that are no longer on a collision course with the grave. We dare not reduce this future hope to that of an eternity with thinner thighs or a smaller nose. We must celebrate it as the day when vanity itself is dealt a fatal and final blow.
But how should we live in the meantime? By all means, we should steward the gift of our physical bodies---but for the sake of wellness, not beauty. Two women can step onto two treadmills with identical fitness goals and widely different motives. Only they will know the real reason they run.
January is typically a time when we talk a great deal about calories, work-outs, and weight loss. What if we didn't? What if we didn't talk about body sizes at all? What if we made it a point not to mention our own calorie sins or victories in front of our girlfriends and daughters? What if we started living in right relation to our bodies now, instead of waiting for the resurrection? What if every time we looked in the mirror and were tempted to complain we said, "Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven," laying claim to the future hope that our bodies will one day celebrate function in right relation to form, living in the glorious truth of that future hope now?
What if in 2013 we decided to fast not from food but from body-talk? Sure---hit the gym, eat the Paleo diet, run six miles a day, wear Spanx from neck to knee. Just stop talking about it. Stop telling your friend she looks skinny---instead tell her you love her sweet spirit. Choose compliments that spur her to pursue that which lasts instead of that which certainly does not. If someone comments on your own shape, say thanks and change the subject. Banish body-talk to the same list of off-limits topics as salaries, name-dropping, and colonoscopies. Apply the discipline you use to work out to controlling your tongue. Do this for your sisters, and by the grace of God, we could begin a legacy of womanhood that celebrates character over carb-avoidance, godliness over glamour.
Sister in Christ, physical perfection is not within our grasp, but, astonishingly, holiness is. Where will you devote your energy in the new year? Go on a diet from discussing shape and size. Feast on the Word of Truth. Ask this of yourself for your sake, for the sake of your friends and daughters, for the sake of the King and his kingdom. On earth as it is in heaven.
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Louis Zamperini Story

Here is the video I shared Sunday night.

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Things You WILL NOT Hear at the Liberty Men's Fall Retreat (Jimmy and David)

">Mens retreat ad 3 Jimmy and David from Brian Branam on Vimeo.
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Why So Many Men are Hooked on Porn and Video Games

Below is an excerpt from an excellent article by Russell Moore at Moore to the Point:

Satan isn’t a creator but a plagiarist. His power is parasitic, latching on to good impulses and directing them toward his own purpose. God intends a man to feel the wildness of sexuality in the self-giving union with his wife. And a man is meant to, when necessary, fight for his family, his people, for the weak and vulnerable who are being oppressed.

The drive to the ecstasy of just love and to the valor of just war are gospel matters. The sexual union pictures the cosmic mystery of the union of Christ and his church. The call to fight is grounded in a God who protects his people, a Shepherd Christ who grabs his sheep from the jaws of the wolves.

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Things You WILL NOT Hear at the Liberty Men's Fall Retreat (KC and Curtis)

">Things You Will NOT Hear at the Liberty Fall Men's Retreat (K.C. and Curtis) from Brian Branam on Vimeo.

Things You Will NOT Hear at the Liberty Fall Men's Retreat - After you see these ads, you'll know why we need this!!! August 17-18 @ The Summit, Ft. Payne, AL $100 Sign Up This Sunday Liberty Baptist Church of Dalton, GA — with Kendrick Willey and Curtis Carson at Liberty Baptist Church of Dalton, GA.
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Things You Will NOT Hear at the Liberty Men's Retreat (John D.)

">Things You Will NOT Hear at the Liberty Men's Retreat (John D.) from Brian Branam on Vimeo.
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The Grand Story of Scripture

Great video from The Gospel Project.

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8 Points that Killed Me on Calvinism Plus 1

Mike Leake at Borrowed Light, in reviewing Greg Dutcher's book Killing Calvinism lists 8 ways Dutcher says Calvinists are killing the movement from the inside.  I have always said that there are two things that have kept me from toting TULIPs, the "L" and the attitudes of several (not all) Calvinists I know.  Here are the eight ways listed by Dutcher:

  1. By loving Calvinism as an end in itself
  2. By becoming theologians instead of disciples
  3. By loving God’s sovereignty more than God himself
  4. By losing an urgency in evangelism
  5. By refusing to learn from non-Calvinists
  6. By tidying up the Bible’s “loose ends”
  7. By being a bunch of arrogant know-it-alls
  8. By scoffing at the emotional hang-ups others have with Calvinism

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How the Gospel Changes Our Heart - Tim Keller

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Obama, Gay Marriage, The Manhattan Declaration Response


I received this email this morning from The Manhattan Declaration concerning President Obama's support of gay marriage.  There are some good links to resources one should consider.
Today, for the first time, President Obama publicly affirmed his support for same-sex marriage, a calculated political maneuver intended to energize his base in the months before the November presidential election.  http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304070304577394332545729926.html?mod=WSJ_hp_LEFTTopStories
At a time when most Americans’ primary concern is their ability to work to provide for their family,  as crippling debt, record deficits, and fragile global markets loom over the economy, the President seems intent on having a national conversation about life, love, and religious liberty.
So be it.
The Manhattan Declaration is a coalition of the historic Christian faiths united in support of the sanctity of every human life, marriage as the conjugal union of a man to a woman as the bedrock of society, and religious liberty as the cornerstone of freedom. We promote a culture of life, love, and liberty in many ways. One is to equip you, our advocates, with the best resources on these issues.
Below is a list of ten articles and videos on the subject of marriage. Take an hour to skim them. Don’t try to memorize the data or recite the arguments verbatim; rather, reflect on them. Allow your mind to absorb the broad principles. As the national conversation on this topic reaches a fever pitch in the next few days, you will be primed as a witness to the truth.
One final thought: this is not a war to be won in the blogosphere or on Facebook. We are teachers, co-workers, family members, and friends in relationship with those who have yet to see. Be gracious, be patient, and be kind.
 Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven. (Matthew 5:11)
What is Marriage?
by Sherif Girgis, Robert George, and Ryan T. Anderson
Why I'm Optimistic About Natural Marriage
by Andrew Walker
Why Is Marriage Important? (video)
by John Piper
Who Needs Marriage?
by Chuck Colson
Marriage in Society: The Generation Clash (pps. 47-57)
by Matthew Lee Anderson
What Would Bonhoeffer Do?
by Eric Metaxas
Dennis Prager Debates Perez Hilton on Same-Sex Marriage (Warning: YouTube contains objectionable content)
Religion, Reason, and Same-Sex Marriage
by Matthew J. Franck
A Marriage in Full
by Gary A. Anderson
On Marriage and the Moral Limits of Human Sexuality
by Metropolitan Jonah
There is a lot of great stuff I have failed to include in my list. Share your favorite articles, blogs, and videos with us on our Facebook page.
Eric Teetsel
Executive Director, Manhattan Declaration
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Weekend Update, May 5 Edition

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Weekend Preview

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Egg Hunt at Liberty 2012

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The God Walkers

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Georgia Lottery Players Are Nation's Biggest Suckers

Here is an excerpt from an article published today on Bloomberg passed on to me by David C.  $1 wins you 63 cents!  I'll give you 75 cents for your $1 if you still want to play!


Georgia (STOGA1)’s lottery players are the biggest suckers in a nation buying more than $50 billion a year in tickets for state-run games, which have the worst odds of any form of legal gambling.
Players in Georgia, whose per capita income is about 10 percent below the U.S. average, are doing the most damage to their personal finances. They spent the second-highest chunk of their income on the lottery, which funds college scholarships and pre-kindergarten, according to the Sucker Index created by Bloomberg Rankings.

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James Canupp Coming to Liberty

I know many people in the congregation at Liberty are Southern Gospel music fans.  I know I have only been your pastor for a day and a half, but I wanted to get things rolling quickly.  Therefore, I give you James Canupp!  I hope you enjoy and I would like to know, which Sunday you would like for us to schedule him?

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