Crosswalk.com aims to offer the most compelling biblically-based content to Christians on their walk with Jesus. Crosswalk.com is your online destination for all areas of Christian Living – faith, family, fun, and community. Each category is further divided into areas important to you and your Christian faith including Bible study, daily devotions, marriage, parenting, movie reviews, music, news, and more.

Dr. James Emery White Christian Blog and Commentary

Dr. James Emery White

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, North Carolina; President of Serious Times, a ministry which explores the intersection of faith and culture (www.serioustimes.org); and ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture on the Charlotte campus of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. Dr. White holds the B.S., M.Div. and Ph.D. degrees, along with additional work at Vanderbilt University and Oxford University. He is the author of over a dozen books.

One of the challenges in any sphere of life, particularly ministry, is staying creative. And it’s an important challenge. We need creativity in our messages, children’s programs, outreach strategies and so much more.

So what is the solution to becoming more creative in your output?

It’s simple.

Become more creative in your input.

Here are five easy ways to increase your creativity input and, as a result, increase your creativity output.

1. Read – There is no substitute for a steady stream of good books that will fill your mental tank with ideas.

2. Travel – Exposing yourself to new places, and ideally, different cultures, will expand your creative vision exponentially.

3. Capture – When you have a creative idea, capture it immediately. Write it in a journal, take a note on your phone, jot it down on a scrap of paper. Anywhere ideas tend to come, make sure you have something you can capture them on.

4. Explore – The internet allows a wealth of opportunities for immediate exploration to what others might be doing in your field. Take advantage of it.

5. Think – If you don’t have times when you simply meditate on things, reflect on things, you aren’t giving your creativity a chance to function at full capacity.

Here are three more thoughts on creativity that may be helpful:

First, if you want to be creative, then strive to be creative. Not emulative. Some people mistake creativity for borrowing someone else’s creativity. In other words, they need a new idea for a video, so they look around at what others have done and use their work or copy it. That’s not creating, that’s copying.

Second, I find it helpful to have someone in mind as you create. For example, if you are writing a talk, have an actual person you know in mind who you are writing it for. Maybe two or three people. Think about how you would need to say it for them.

Finally, remember that excellence is doing the best you can do; creativity is about the best God can do through you. 

And that’s a lot.

James Emery White

 

Editor’s Note

This blog was originally published in 2014, and the Church & Culture Team thought you would enjoy reading it again.

About the Author

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunct professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he also served as their fourth president. His latest book, Meet Generation Z: Understanding and Reaching the New Post-Christian World, is available on Amazon. To enjoy a free subscription to the Church & Culture blog, visit ChurchAndCulture.org, where you can view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world. Follow Dr. White on TwitterFacebook and Instagram

sunset silhouette of man sitting with head bowed, praying

Questions. Our lives are filled with them. And many of them, particularly the ones we ask of God, go unanswered. It’s not that they are unimportant to Him; they are terribly important to Him. It’s just that we are even more important, and He is waiting for us to ask the right ones. The New Testament is filled with such misdirected requests – “Show us the Father,” “Save us!” and “Who among us is the greatest?” – that Jesus declines to answer, opting instead to reveal more intimate, more significant insight into the character of God. 

But one question was answered—immediately, clearly and with care:

“Teach us to pray!” (Luke 11:1)

They’d finally asked the right question.

The breath of spiritual life is prayer. Physically, we can live 40 days without food and three days without water but only seconds without breathing. Spiritually, we can do no better. A life without prayer cannot be spiritually alive, no matter what else may be present. It is, as Evelyn Underhill has written, “breathing the air of eternity.” This is how strategic and critical prayer is for anyone who desires to be in a personal relationship with the living God.

There is a specific prayer God wants to hear and that we most need to express. It is not the prayer that makes us feel a certain way or that attempts to gain a particular advantage. It is the prayer that seeks out God and then experiences Him. This experience is supernatural, even mystical, but not in the way most would think.

When we pray, we open the inner recesses of our life to the stirrings of God. There, His transformational energies are released and Spirit encounters spirit. As Moses maintained, “the Lord our God comes near when we pray to him” (Deuteronomy 4:7, NCV). And he knew this well for the Bible tells us that “the Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks with his friend” (Exodus 33:11).

So prayer is not simply a matter of words but also relationship. This does not make prayer easier, but more complex. If it was simply about skill or exact verbiage or words, then prayer could be approached as a competence to be mastered. Instead, it is deep calling to deep. For this reason, the disciples implored Jesus, “teach us how to pray” (Luke 11:1). They had the rote formulas and pat routines; they knew of the times and patterns, postures and positions. They were interested in how they might relate to the living God the way Jesus did. So they asked Jesus to teach them how to have the relationship with God through prayer they saw Jesus enjoy.

But there was more behind this request. Religious groups and sects were often marked by how they prayed. Almost as if a denominational distinctive, how you prayed defined your religious identity. The disciples wanted to know what the defining prayer for their band would be. Perhaps this prayer would be best termed the Disciple’s Prayer rather than the Lord’s Prayer (For the true Lord’s prayer, see John 17.). Intriguingly, Jesus did not say, “You will not be known by a prayer.” Instead, His answer suggested, “Here is the prayer that will mark you.” And it would define them.

Authentic prayer is deeply molding and transforming, making its content decisive for the life of the Christian. The Latin tag lex orandi, lex credendi (literally, “law of praying, law of believing”) suggests that what is prayed indicates what may be believed and, conversely, what is believed should govern what may be prayed. No wonder the early church considered the importance of the Lord’s Prayer to be second only to the Lord’s Supper, and one of the most precious possessions of the Christian to steward, taught only to converts at baptism.  

Yet somehow, we have lost this knowledge, or lost touch with its importance. Some of us never had it, coming to faith in Christ late in life without a spiritual heritage or memory to draw from. Others have lost the deep meaning of Christ’s words. Even among those who recite it as a part of their weekly worship, the words can often become a matter of rote recitation or liturgical comfort. We need to return to Jesus and ask what His original followers asked: “Teach us to pray.”   

Because we don’t know how. 

James Emery White

Sources

James Emery White, The Prayer God Longs For. Now available as an ebook on Church & Culture found HERE.

Evelyn Underhill, “Breathing the Air of Eternity,” Weavings 17, no. 3 (2002), p. 8.

T.W. Manson, “The Lord’s Prayer,” Bulletin of the John Rylands Library 38 (1955-1956), pp. 99-113, 136-148.

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunct professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he also served as their fourth president. His latest book, Meet Generation Z: Understanding and Reaching the New Post-Christian World, is available on Amazon. To enjoy a free subscription to the Church & Culture blog, visit ChurchAndCulture.org, where you can view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world. Follow Dr. White on TwitterFacebook and Instagram

Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/kevron2001

25 Truths (2019)

After outlining “25 Myths” in Monday’s blog, I thought it equally important to follow it up with “25 Truths” to address why each of them is considered a myth.

So here we go with a few thoughts on each that can be used in general conversation, not attempting to offer an entire apologetic (though that could certainly be done).

1. Christianity is clearly anti-intellectual.

If Christianity is true, it will stand up to any amount of intellectual scrutiny. Many intellectuals have applied such scrutiny and chosen to believe. Jesus Himself said our devotion to God should not only include our heart, soul and strength, but also our minds.

2. To be a Christian is to be judgmental and intolerant.

You can be a Christian and be both judgmental and intolerant, but it doesn’t come with the territory. No religious figure went out of their way more to condemn both of these things than Jesus. So you can be a judgmental Christian, but not judgmental and Christ-like.

3. If you’re going to follow what the Bible says about sexual ethics, you have to apply everything it says about diet and dress and custom in the Old Testament, too.

The law provides us with a paradigm of timeless ethical, moral and theological principles, but some laws no longer have validity because they have been completely fulfilled in Christ. We obey the laws of sacrifice by trusting in Christ as our once-for-all sacrifice, not by bringing sheep or goats to be slain. The kosher laws were designed to set the Israelites apart from the other nations; now we obey this principle when we morally separate ourselves from sin. Here’s the overarching principle: all of the Old Testament applies to Christians, but none of it applies apart from its fulfillment in Christ.

4. Jesus never claimed to be God the Son, the second Person of the Trinity, in human form.

In all four biographical accounts of Jesus preserved in the Bible, Jesus made His identity known, including claiming the name of God for Himself. Quick cross-references: Exodus 3:14 and John 8:58.

5. A loving God could never send anyone to hell, so either He’s not loving or there’s no hell.

You will never find a reference to God sending anyone to hell. At the end of our life, the verdict is either that we said to God “Thy will be done,” or God’s broken heart having to say to us, “Thy will be done” (C.S. Lewis).

6. The apostle Paul was a misogynist.

Christianity was actually the great liberator of women, evidenced in countless ways by Jesus and the early church. For his part, the apostle Paul heralded women as teachers and leaders in a day when the testimony of women was not even accepted in a court of law.

7. The New Testament accounts of Jesus were written so long after His life that there’s no way of knowing what He really said or did.

The four gospels were written quite close to the time and life of Jesus. What has become known as the “Magdalen Papyrus” from Matthew dates as early as A.D. 25. Most of our earliest copies of the original manuscripts date within a generation of Jesus. 

8. Everybody knows you can interpret the Bible any way you want.

Hermeneutics, which is the science of interpretation, does not support such interpretive anarchy. There are rules that govern the interpretation of any document, such as grammar, context, historical background and authorial intent.

9. Any and every fellowship or association of Christians is “the church.”

In the Bible, the local church was a defined, purposeful gathering of believers who knew they were coming together to be a church. There were defined entry and exit points to the church, clear theological guidelines navigating corporate and community waters, the responsibility of stewarding the sacraments, specifically named leadership positions, and, of course, a singular mission.

10. David and Jonathan of the Old Testament were clearly gay lovers.

To believe that two men can’t be intimate friends without it being sexual is more a reflection on our culture than on the biblical story of David and Jonathan. Reading a homoerotic byline into their relationship is not exegesis, but eisegesis.

11. The Bible is so riddled with errors you can’t believe any of it.

Name a single, true contradiction in the Bible that isn’t readily explained through an understanding of the biblical text itself. The vast majority of supposed contradictions are easily cleared up through proper biblical interpretation, knowledge of the original language, historical context and biblical context.      

12. The Genesis account forces you to believe that the earth is only about 6,000 years old.

The sun and the moon were not created until the fourth day, so the idea of each “day” being a 24-hour solar day is far from a necessary reading of the genre of Genesis. Further, the Hebrew word for “day” is yom, which can mean any manner of time periods. The Bible never tells us how God created, only that God created.

13. There is no way to reconcile a good God and a screwed-up world.

That’s right, but it’s not an indictment on God. He had nothing to do with it. Our world is not the way it was meant to be, and we’re the ones to blame. Nonetheless, the love of God continues to seek its redemption… and ours.

14. The early Christian movement was almost entirely political.

Any reading of the gospels shows how clearly Jesus attempted to avoid those who sought to make His message and mission political or put Him into a political position of power or authority. His followers followed suit. Any politicization of Christianity came much later and was ushered in through human sin.

15. The God of the Old Testament is a God of wrath and the God of the New Testament is a God of love.

The God of the Old Testament shows equal amounts of love, and the God of the New Testament does not shy away from matters of judgment. In truth, the two testaments are balanced in their presentations of a God bringing both grace and truth to bear on the human condition.

16. There are lost books of the Bible that were suppressed by the early church that contradict the Bible we have.

This usually refers to the writings of the Gnostics – a group very intent on undermining Christianity – that were published long after the time of Christ. Scholars are unanimous in labeling them forgeries.

17. A hypocrite is evidence that Christianity in general, and Jesus in particular, are false.

If you spend a day with me, I have no doubt I will fail to live up to your expectations. I am a sinful man. But that has nothing to do with Jesus. Like a middle-school garage band’s butchered cover of a U2 song has little to do with the worth of U2’s music, so the sin and failure of a Christ follower has little to do with Christ Himself.

18. The four gospels of the New Testament contradict each other.

Again, name a single, true contradiction in the Bible that isn’t readily explained through an understanding of the biblical text itself. There is a vast difference between the inclusion of different details (e.g., John including something that Mark doesn’t) and a contradiction.

19. The Bible and science are in direct conflict with each other.

If something can’t be examined in a tangible, scientific manner, then it cannot be known or explored through science. Science can point to the existence of a God, and many believe it does, but science will never be able to prove – or for that matter disprove – many of life’s ultimate realities. For its part, the Bible itself doesn’t often speak directly about science. It doesn’t even try to answer most of the questions that science is asking. You only have a conflict when science tries to speak outside of its realm, or when people try to make the Bible speak outside of what it is intending to.

20. You have to get your act together before coming to Christ.

The message of the Gospel is that you come as you are and God begins there. If you had to get your act together before coming to Christ, no one in history would have ever been able to come to Christ.

21. You can’t harmonize archaeology with the Bible.

There has never been a single archaeological discovery that has ever contradicted the Bible, but countless that have supported it. That is simply the record.  

22. All that churches care about is your money.

There is little doubt that there are some imbalanced churches and some sketchy ministries that seem to care about what’s in your wallet more than you. But they are the exception, not the rule, and when evidenced have nothing to do with the directive of Jesus.

23. There are so many translations of the Bible that there’s no way of knowing what it really says.

Don’t confuse translations with “versions.” All ancient manuscripts that we read today are offered as “translations” into English. We know exactly what the Hebrew and Greek manuscripts said; it’s the English language that keeps changing that demands continual updates.

24. None of the four gospels in the New Testament were first-hand, eyewitness accounts.

To say this is to call the four gospels either forgeries or written by liars, as all four clearly maintain they are eyewitness accounts. Further, the textual credibility of all four is among the highest of all ancient texts, validating both their authorship and era.

25. Jesus never meant to start a church.

Here’s a quote: “… I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it” (Matthew 16:18, NLT).

James Emery White

 

Sources

If you would like to go deeper on many of these myths/truths, see James Emery White, A Search for the Spiritual: Exploring Authentic Christianity.

On Old Testament issues: Klein, Blomberg and Hubbard, Introduction to Biblical Interpretation.

On having a Christian mind, see James Emery White, A Mind for God.

On matters of evil and suffering, see James Emery White, Wrestling with God.

Editor’s Note

This blog was originally published in 2013, and the Church & Culture Team thought you would enjoy reading it again.

About the Author

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunct professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he also served as their fourth president. His latest book, Meet Generation Z: Understanding and Reaching the New Post-Christian World, is available on Amazon. To enjoy a free subscription to the Church & Culture blog, visit ChurchAndCulture.org, where you can view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world. Follow Dr. White on TwitterFacebook and Instagram

Follow Crosswalk.com