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)