Friday, September 22, 2006

New Website

I just finished revamping my church website. Check it out here.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Can We Judge Faithfulness by Results?

The modern test for the success of anything is results. The stock market goes up or down based on the profit results for a company in a given quarter. Promotions and raises in the workplace are based on whether or not the employee produces results. Schools are given a certain level of federal and state funding based on results. I could go on and on. Everywhere we turn in the modern world the usefulness and value of something is based on results.

That may not be a bad thing in dealing with the things of the world, but we must be vigilant not to allow it to spill over into how we evaluate the work of the church. We must constantly remind ourselves that the church is not to work according to the ways of the world. A church should long to be faithful, and faithfulness cannot necessarily be measured by results.

There are two biblical examples that show this kind of worldly thinking cannot apply to the things of the Lord; Jereboam, king of Israel, and Jeremiah. 2 Kings 14:27 says that the Lord “saved them by the hand of Jereboam the son of Joash.” In today’s world, one may read this and think that Jereboam therefore must have been a faithful person, but that is not the case. Verse 24 says, “and he did what was evil in the sight of the Lord.” In other words, the Lord used Jereboam to produce results, but by no means was Jereboam a faithful servant.

Then there was Jeremiah. In Jeremiah 7:27 the Lord tells Jeremiah, “So you shall speak all these words to them, but they will not listen to you.” So, here one may argue that Jeremiah was not faithful because he did not produce results in the lives of those to whom he prophesied. The reality is, however, that Jeremiah was faithful. He faithfully communicated God’s message whether people were listening or not. Of course, the Lord did bless Jeremiah with results long after his time. Many now read the book of Jeremiah and are changed by it. But, those results were not seen in his day.

So, let us be sure to measure faithfulness by whether or not a person, or a church, is faithful, not by the results they may produce.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Two Different Worlds

The contrast pointed out in this post at Slice of Laodecia gets to the heart of the problems with much of American Christianity.

Scripture Does Not Exaggerate

When reading Scripture, on this we must be clear on: it does not exaggerate. It uses poetry, analogy, metaphor, and many other literary devices, but it does not use them to cast an inaccurate picture. Why do I say this? 1 Peter 2:1-3 tells us that we are to long for the pure milk of the Word like a newborn infant. A newborn infant screams and cries and will not be satisfied with anything else until it has its satisfaction in milk. Peter says in the same way we are to long for the Word.

Now, it would be easy to dismiss this as an exaggeration and excuse away what, by these standards, would be a callous indifference to the Word. Now, it doesn't mean that we have to cry and scream if we don't read our Bible. But, it does mean that we should be satisfied by nothing else. It means that our deepest and most immediate craving should be for God's Word. May we be satisfied by nothing less!

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Rick Warren: A Reformation Without Theology?

"Inclusive Christianity means that we don't argue over the minor parts; for instance, Catholics and Protestants . . . I believe that we need a second Reformation in the church and the second Reformation is not about Theology, I think we know what we believe . . . now, we're never going to agree on all the minor doctrines . . . but we do agree on purpose." - Rick Warren

These are Rick Warren's exact words from his recent interview with Charlie Rose. Let me begin by saying that I have no desire to attack Rick Warren as a person. I truly appreciate the attention he is bringing to the AIDS crisis in Africa, though I profoundly disagree with some of the means he is employing in that effort.

That being said, to pretend as if the differences between Catholics and Protestants are minor reveals one of two things. He is either historically and theologically ignorant or he is willing to compromise for the sake of efficiency and expediency. I will give him the benefit of the doubt and assume that the latter is the case, especially since he indicates that "purpose" is what should bring us together. Catholics do not believe that we are saved by faith alone through grace alone on the basis of Christ's work alone. This is not "minor." Heaven and Hell hang in the balance.

Furthermore, to call for a reformation absent theology also reveals an unfortunate misunderstanding of what theology is. Theology is not just academic study consisting of musings over the nature of God. Theology is the basis for everything we do as Christians, including reaching out to alleviate the AIDS crisis. That sort of love is based on the loving character of Christ and the common grace of the Father, which are both part of theology (Christology and Theology proper). Additionally, the questions Warren is asking concerning the responsibility of the church is included in the study of theology as well. It even has its own name, Ecclesiology.

Doctrine will always matter in every area of our faith, including our practice.

I pray that the Lord will grant Warren repentance for his indifference to the Word of God and the theology that it teaches on every page.

"All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work." - 2 Timothy 3:16-17

Friday, August 18, 2006

The Conviction of the Word

"Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you." Matthew 5:42

As I read through the Sermon on the Mount last week I stopped to reflect on this verse. We often have people coming to the church asking for money for all kinds of different things. I even had a gentlemen come in, ask for $3,000, and request that we take up a love offering to cover it. (This man has refused to get a job of any sort because he says they don't pay enough.) Needless to say, not every request is a valid one.

What I found, however, upon reading this verse is that my heart had become jaded by those who abuse the generosity of the church. There are many among those who come who genuinely need help. The Lord blessed me immensely by allowing me to act on the conviction of the Holy Spirit the very next day. Eddie, a man whom I have talked to before, came by and needed money for gas so that he could get his prescription filled. Though I was rather skeptical at first, I found myself rehearsing Matthew 5:42. God's Word, through the Holy Spirit, won out over my unnecessary and sinful skepticism. "Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you."

As a result of that opportunity I was able to take Eddie to lunch today and share the gospel over a McDonald's cheeseburger and fries. So, why do I share this? Am I boasting in my good works? I pray that I am not. Instead, I want to praise God for using His Word to make a sinful, stubborn, selfish man give to one who was in need. I pray that the Lord would continue to mold me through His Word.

"For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart." -Hebrews 4:12

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Sound Systems Convert the Lost?!?!?

I was doing some research to purchase a portable sound system for my church and I came across this article from an old issue of Christianity Today (May/June 2002, Vol. 48, No. 3). Apparently if you want to see people come to Christ you just need the right kind of speakers (not the human ones!):

The dockable systems are powerful enough to accurately portray rolling thunder across the room and the "voice" of God as he declares victory over sin. The effect is so convincing as to be partially responsible for numerous conversions over the course of the play's yearly run. The church's lead technician says it best: 'We pull them out of the children's meeting rooms, plug them up for the Passion play, watch people come to the Lord, then roll them back the following week to pump out VeggieTales again.'"

It is unfortunate that people think a certain sound effect can produce conversions. This is simply yet another symptom of the emphasis on personal experience instead of the Word of God.

"7The law of the LORD is perfect, restoring the soul;
The testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple.
8The precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart;
The commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes.
9The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever;
The judgments of the LORD are true; they are righteous altogether.
10They are more desirable than gold, yes, than much fine gold;
Sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb. " - Psalm 19:7-10

Psalm 127:3

"Behold, children are a gift of the LORD,The fruit of the womb is a reward."

Al Mohler discusses new neighborhoods where children under 18 are not allowed to live. In some they are not even allowed to visit. Can you imagine a group of 20, 30, and 40 something's building a neighborhood where no one over 65 was allowed to live. This would be agism of the worst sort. Yet, it apparently doesn't count for children. Once again children in our society are seen as an annoyance and not a blessing from the Lord.

See the full articles here.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

The Word of the Lord

"The spoken word of God does not simply describe reality, it creates reality."

Friday, August 11, 2006

Quote of the Day: Making Disciples

"Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ." - Colossians 2:28 (ESV)

"Clearly for Paul and his colleagues evangelistic and missionary outreach was not effected by some superficial presentation of the saving message about Christ to the world, but rather was prosecuted through warning and intensive teaching in pastoral situations."

O'Brien, Peter T., Word Biblical Commentary on Colossians (pgs. 87-88)

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Sermon on the Mount and Prayer of Confession

On Sunday mornings I lead our church in a prayer of confession. This past Sunday we started working our way through the Sermon on the Mount as a guide for our corporate confession. We only did Matthew 5:3-6 and these are the sins we confessed:

We confess that:

We have demonstrated arrogance by thinking that we are rich in spirit and that we have goodness within ourselves. (v. 3)

We have not mourned with those who are hurting. Instead we have been caught up in our own lives and have not taken the time to weep with those who are weeping. (vs. 4)

We have been harsh and stinging in our conversations with others and in our demeanor. Instead of demonstrating the gentleness of Christ, we have demonstrated the bite of selfishness. (vs. 5)

We have hungered and thirst, but it has been for unrighteousness. We have longed for those things which You despise. (vs. 6)

Father, we thank you for the cross on which these, and the multitude of our other sins, have been forgiven. May Jesus Christ be exalted as our righteousness.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

An Unfortunate Trend

Our church receives Home Life magazine every month for members to pick up, take home, and read. Lifeway publishes this magazine and is the resource arm of the Southern Baptist Convention. So, I thought I would look through the August issue of this magazine, which says that in its pages you will find "biblical ideas for family living." Here are the "statistical" numbers I discovered (Unfortunately, I was not surprised by my findings):

68 - Number of pages in the magazine

14 - Number of Scripture references found in the entirety of the magazine

24 - Number of articles or informational pieces in the magazine

7 - Number of articles in which those 14 references appear. (that's only about 30% of their articles)

8 - Number of references that are used simply as proof text. In other words, these are simply quoted at the end of the article with no explanation as to their meaning.

It is hard to understand how a magazine can give "biblical ideas for family living" with these numbers. Admittedly, maybe they were having an off month, so I will track this in the coming months as well. It will be interesting.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Quote of the Day

"[Paul's] apostolic work did not rest with the conversion of his hearers. That was a beginning; the end would not be reached until the day of Christ, and the quality of his ministry would then be tested by the quality and maturity of those whom he could present as his spiritual children. What joy would be his if they were genuine and worthy believers; what shame if they were not!"

- F.F. Bruce, The Epistles to the Colossians, to Philemon, and to the Ephesians
, (p. 88).

Book Review: The Tipping Point

I know full well that I am a latecomer to this book. It was first published in 2000, the momenteous millenium that is now 6 years in the past. So, this review is not so much to tell about a new book on the market as it is to discover what we as Christians can learn from the information found in this book.

The Tipping Point was written by Malcom Gladwell, also the author of the more recent Blink. In Tipping Point he seeks to discover exactly what it is that turns an everyday event into an epidemic. In other words, how do trends move in our culture from a small, relatively insiginificant group to the larger population in a short amount of time. He is seeking to discover the "tipping point" at which something becomes a trend of epidemic proportions.

His point is not to study epidemics of the disease variety, but he does pull from that field to make illustrative points about how epidemics and tipping points operate in general. His main concern, however, is with human interaction and why some things "catch on" and others don't.

He argues that there are three main types of people that are key figures in an epidemic. Connectors, Mavens, and Salesman. (You'll have to read the book to understand who these people are. It is quite interesting.) He then goes on to argue that these figures also have to operate within a given context. But, when you put the right combination of these together you have an epidemic on your hands.

Perhaps the most interesting parts of the book are the asides where Gladwell probes into the reasons why people make decisions. He cites experiment after experiment that have been conducted which reveal rather odd influences on human decision making. Anything from simple head movements, facial expressions, to grafitti on the wall of a subway. The human mind is influenced to action in ways you and I perhaps have never considered.

I think this is where we can find value from this book as believers. We need to be aware of the ways in which sin can infiltrate our actions. The disturbing truth of the matter is that many times that influence in unknown to us. We are clueless that there are so many subtle inuendos that have dramatic affects on our decisions and actions. Therefore, we must be vigilant and strive to be aware of every possible influence that can lead down a path of unrighteousness.

So, while Gladwell obviously did not intend this to be the point of the book; he is simply describing his understanding of reality, we can learn from it nonetheless. May we study our hearts and minds well and flee from those things that lead us from communion with our Savior.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Quote of the Day

"The stream of historic orthodox that once watered the evangelical soul is now dammed by a worldliness that many fail to recognize as worldliness because of the cultural innocence with which it presents itself."

- David Wells, No Place For Truth (pg. 11)

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Without Blemish

I am teaching through 1 Peter on Wednesday nights and Colossians on Sunday mornings. In the providence of God I covered 1 Peter 1:17-19 and Colossians 1:21-23 the same week. These two passages came together to remind me of God's incomprehensible grace.

1 Peter 1:19 describes Christ as a lamb "unblemished," of course in reference to his perfect and sinless life. Then in Colossians 1:22 it says, "yet he has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach."

What jumped out at me as I studied and prepared these two passages was that the word that is used to describe Christ, "unblemished," is the exact same word, in the Greek, that is used to describe how Christ will present us. We will be holy, unblemished, by the grace of God. He will take that which He cannot look upon and, through Christ, make us that which He loves to look upon.

"He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." - 2 Corinthians 5:21

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Who defines leadership in the church?

Willow Creek is having their annual Leadership Summit . It is troubling to know where the church is looking for advice on leadership. While I have known for some time that this sort of thing exists, it is disconcerting to actually see it in print . . . read for yourself!


HT: Slice of Laodecia

Friday, July 21, 2006

Are We Facing the End Times?

I thought that title would get your attention! In the recent week and a half I have heard this question more than a few times in light of the current conflict in the Middle East. So, let me go ahead and answer it as best I can: I have no idea. Sorry to let you down. I am not able to answer such questions. And, if anyone else were being honest, they would have to say the same thing.

Now, I suppose there is nothing wrong with speculating. It makes for interesting conversation and intrigue. But, I fear often that is exactly what the conversation is all about: intrigue. I think that there are deeper questions we need to be asking ourselves. There are two in particular that come to my mind: Do I long for the return of Christ? Am I living in preparation for His return?

These two questions get to the heart of the issue. Revelation 22:20 makes the plea “Come, Lord Jesus.” How many of you make that plea on a regular basis? I fear that many, if they were being honest, would say that they would prefer He wait just a little longer until they were able to accomplish a certain something, get something, or see something. Whatever those “somethings” may be in your life are idols. Your desire for them has trumped your desire for your all-satisfying savior. Trust me, no, trust God’s Word, He is more glorious than whatever that “something” may be (Col. 1:15-20).

Of course the second question is related to the first. If you are not longing for his return, then you are probably not preparing for it either. In Matthew 25:1-13 Jesus, through a parable, makes it clear that we are to be sure that we are prepared for His return. It is our joyous obligation. It should be our joy and privilege to order our lives in such a way that when Christ returns we are ready. You don’t want to be frantically getting your house in order and picked up while Jesus is figuratively waiting at the door. He will not wait. His patience will have been expended at that point. Those who are His will be ready. Those who are not will be left saying, “Lord, lord, open up for us.’ But he answered, 'Truly I say to you, I do not know you.' Be on the alert then, for you do not know the day nor the hour” (Matthew 25:11).

So, instead of speculating, start examining your life. The truth of the matter is that the culmination of history could be upon us at any moment. The real question is: Will we be ready?

Come, Lord Jesus we long to see your face!

Thursday, July 06, 2006

A Helpful Resource

The World eBook Fair is offering free access to their collection of 300,000 e-books. From July 4th to August 4th you can view and download the books for free. They have a section of Christian classics in their collection here.
I just downloaded a collection of the poems of William Cowper, its 394 pages long! I don't think I'll print that one off!

God's Sovereignty, Man's Responsibility

The issue of God's sovereignty man's responsibility is a conundrum that has caused many to stumble for centuries. People run to the extremes, only to find that they have fallen headlong into nonsense. Those who ignore man's responsibility refuse to pray or evangelize because they believe that if God's does it then they don't need to. Others, ignoring God's sovereignty, act as if they control the fate of the nations depending on whether or not they "release" God to work.
As I was reading through 2 Samuel I came across a verse that puts both into a healthy perspective, 2 Samuel 10:12, "

"Be strong, and let us show ourselves courageous for the sake of our people and for the cities of our God; and may the LORD do what is good in His sight."

These words find themselves on the lips of Joab as the Israelites are preparing to enter the battlefield. He makes it clear that they are to put forward their best effort, yet in the end he acknowledges that the results will be God's.
May this be the battle cry of our lives as well. Let us show ourselves courageous in the work of the gospel, but in the end leave the results to God and give Him the glory, not ourselves.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

For the Children Too

I have never noticed this before, but it was in front of my face the entire time. In Ephesians 6:1 Paul says, "Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right." Did you catch that? This verse assumes that the children were among the rest of the congregation when the letter was being read. Not only does it assume that they were present, but that they were listening. This is astounding in our culture where most don't expect children to be able to sit down and listen for more than 5 minutes. Yet, apparently, Paul fully expected that the children would be listening to the entire letter; so, he addresses them also. He isn't talking about children, he is talking to children. (this also occurs in Colossians 3:20)

Remember, Ephesians (and neither is Colossians) is not a lightweight book and I doubt they used puppets to read it to the children. Nor did they take a break from reading the epistle, call the children down front, and do an object lesson. It is sad how far our church culture has strayed from the historic church and its expectations for children. They were expected to know by heart lengthy catechisms and, in the early church, to listen to the entirety of Paul's letters. It is time the American church raises the bar in its expectations for children and their knowledge of the Word of God.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Your Sandal Has Not Worn Out

I was recently watching The Making of the Ten Commandments. In that show the director stated that they wanted the clothing to be as accurate as possible. They even had the native artisans in Morocco, where the movie was filmed, make by hand many of the costumes. They also handmade the sandals that the cast wore, including the 800 extras (who were supposed to represent over 1,000,000 Israelites).

The costume director recounted how they destroyed over 1,000 shoes for the 800 extras. When I heard that I immediately thought of what Moses said in Deuteronomy 29:5:

"And I have led you forty years in the wilderness; your clothes have not worn out on you, and your sandal has not worn out on your foot."

I don't know how long it took them to shoot this movie, but it was nowhere in the neighborhood of 40 years! Imagine, after all, having the same pair of shoes for forty years and never having to replace them. This should cause us to praise our powerful God. Even in something as mundane as sandals He shows Himself to be majestic.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Intentional Parenting

I wanted to share with you all a post by C.J. Mahaney on how he encourages godliness with his son concerning sports. What a great example Mahaney is to us all concerning our need to put God at the center of everything and not just pretend like we do!

Here's an excerpt:

"Playing sports holds great potential for growth in godliness for our sons, but only if we as fathers lead our sons theologically and strategically. I fear that all too often our sons devote significant time to playing sports with little growth in godliness. Here is where the example and leadership of a father can make all the difference. It is our responsibility as fathers to teach and prepare our sons with biblical priorities prior to a game (or practice) and not to assume that we have fulfilled our fatherly responsibility simply by attending the game."

Trust me, you will want to read the rest of this here

Friday, January 20, 2006

Why Pray? Reflections on the Search for Isaac's Wife

As a pastor I am often asked the question, “Why pray if God is in control anyway?” There are many ways to answer that question, but as I read in Genesis 24 the other day I saw the answer right there in the account of the search for Isaac’s wife. You are probably familiar with the story. Abraham sends one of his servants to search for a wife for his son from among his relatives. So, the servant goes to the land of Abraham’s relatives and prays that God would make it clear to him who Isaac’s future wife is to be, “now may it be that the girl to whom I say, ‘Please let down your jar so that I may drink’ and who answers, ‘Drink. And I will water your camels also’; may she be the one whom thou hast appointed for Thy servant Isaac” (Gen. 24:14). As you know, this prayer is answered in the positive and Rebekah fulfills this criterion exactly.

The intriguing part of this narrative, however, comes in Genesis 24:15 which says, “And it came about before he [the servant] had finished speaking, that behold, Rebekah . . . came out with her jar on her shoulder.” So, you see what is so amazing about this. Before the prayer had even come off the lips of Abraham’s servant God was already answering it. Furthermore, it was an answer to a prayer that was prepared before the prayer was ever uttered. After all, Rebekah would have had to leave her house a long time before the servant ever got to the spring. Also, Rebekah could have gone anywhere that day, but she went to the spring. Yet, the narrative account makes it clear that Rebekah coming to the spring was an answer to prayer. I think it is quite clear that God was already answering before the prayer began. So, God can ordain the answer before the prayer is spoken, ordain the prayer itself, and respond to the prayer. It all works out in His good providence!