Thursday, January 31, 2013

Church Coffee

I have no idea what this sign is all about, but it's almost guaranteed to be good.  How can you go wrong with two great things like church and coffee?

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Thou Shalt Not Commit Logical Fallacies

Let's face it: we all tend to commit logical fallacies on a regular basis. This happens frequently as we discuss issues of deep importance to us like, say, the church. When emotions sneak into arguments, logic has a way of flying out the window and fallacies thrive. Well, I've stumbled upon a website that can help us with this problem. Your Logical Fallacy Is provides succinct definitions and descriptions of twenty-four of the most common logical fallacies. We would all do well to be aware of the various fallacies, search them out in our own thinking, and dare to make changes where needed. I hope I dare.

Thanks to Twenty-Two Words for sharing the link.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Starry Night in Domino

I share this simply for fun (and because this is one of my favorite paintings):

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Buy This Book

I've only read about 2/3 of Finding Church so far, but I'm already recommending it. Jeremy Myers has done an excellent job of compiling different Christians' stories of leaving, switching, and reforming church. It is fascinating to find out about people's struggles, journeys, and discoveries as they ask and answer hard questions about church. I'll write a more thorough review later but just wanted to give a quick recommendation prior to completing it.

You Might Want to Turn Off That Phone...

Friday, January 25, 2013

Today's Marching Orders

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20

Our orders are clear: we are to be disciple makers wherever we are.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Alan Knox and Me at Seminary Graduation 2006

I was looking through some old photos the other day when I came across these two. In the first, I'm hanging with my good friends Alan Knox (the famous blogger) and Roy Sams. This is taken just a little while after the ceremony.

In the second picture I'm receiving my diploma from President Akin of SEBTS.

As I think back on that time I continue to have such mixed emotions. I suppose that will never go away.

I made great friends, learned a lot about scripture, and got to travel to the other side of the world while in seminary. However, seminaries are not necessary for the church (only for the institution). The existence of seminaries actually perpetuates the clergy-laity divide.

In the end, I'm really glad for the friends I made while at SEBTS. I just wish seminaries didn't have the institutional side effects that they automatically do.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Priesthood and Intimacy

Being part of God's priesthood is an undeserved gift. This gift demands responsibility for action on our part. Also required are self-sacrifice/service and reciprocity.

As a final thought on this topic for a while, let me include intimacy as critical for priestly living. I'm referring to both intimacy with God and intimacy with our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Of primary importance is our own relationship with God. By definition, priests to God are close to God. Priests offer daily sacrifices of themselves to their Creator and Savior as part of communing with him. God desires and demands intimacy with his children.

Secondary, but still critical, are our relationships with other believers. We show our love for God through how we interact with other Christians. As we look in the bible, we see an expectation that we, as priests, will have close relationships with other priests. There is much more scriptural support for having close relationships with other believers than non-believers. Of course we ought to be friends with both groups, but Christians are to be the priority.

Intimacy requires time. This may be the toughest part. In our ultra-busy society, we often don't have much time to spend with Christian friends. I know I suffer from this with having to work about 60 hours per week. Regardless of our situation, we must do the best we can.

I'm sure there are some believers who are intimate with God who have very few if any Christian friends. This could occur overseas or here in the USA. The general pattern, however, for Christians seems to be that God wants us to live out our intimacy with him by being intimate with Christian brothers and sisters.

As we think about being priests, let's not ignore intimacy.

Friday, January 18, 2013

"Finding Church" is in the House!

Specifically, Finding Church is in my house.

This is a book that I've been interested in ever since I first heard about it. I had every intention of purchasing it until Swanny decide to have a contest on his blog with the prize being a copy of this book. Thanks to Swanny's wife, I won the contest.

The book arrived today.

Finding Church, which is edited by Jeremy Myers, is a compilation of short essays by different Christians who have asked some hard questions about the church. The book's 36 chapters fall into three primary sections: Leaving Church, Switching Church, and Reforming Church.

As a bonus, my good friend Alan Knox is one of the contributors.

I'm looking forward to reading and eventually reviewing this book. Thanks Swanny!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Question: Is This a Joke?

Answer: No, but it should be. When "churches" desire above all else to attract people, this is an example of what occurs. It is the business model gone wrong. Yucky.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Priesthood and Reciprocity

As priests to God, our primary duty, responsibility, and joy is worship of our Lord. It is the reason we exist. We are called to be active in this pursuit.

One of the main ways we worship God is through our self-sacrificial service of others. God desires that we help our brothers and sisters to live more effectively as the priests they already are. One primary way we accomplish this is by carrying out the multitude of one-anothers in scripture.

The one-anothers are, by definition, a two way street. We love others; they love us. We serve others; they serve us. We admonish others, they admonish us. In light of this, we must be careful to give others opportunity to act as priests toward us. We must be willing to accept service.

There is a tendency (and I'm not sure why this exists) among some Christians to be always serving but not receiving it. If you ask them if they need help, they almost always say no. I think they do this because they don't want to cause any work for anyone else; therefore, their motives seem pure. However, in doing this they actually stunt the growth of their brothers and sisters. This is because they are keeping them from serving.

The one-anothers have a reciprocal nature. We all grow up together in Christ as we serve one another. We help others grow by one anothering together. This involves both giving and receiving. If we only focus on the giving, we end up inadvertently hurting both ourselves and others.

The New Testament is plural not singular. The authors intend body life to be full of reciprocal one-anothering. When this happens, the body grows in both health and maturity. Even more importantly, God is worshipped through back-and-forth priestly service.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Priesthood and Self-Sacrifice/Service

Living as priests to God is a mind-blowing reality. God looks to each of his children as living sacrifices. This, in turn, requires responsibility on our part. Unlike the passive (dead) sacrifices of the O.T. system, we are sacrifices who are very much alive.

As sacrifices, it is not surprising that God's expectation is that we will live lives of self-sacrifice and service. This is almost always in relationship to other people. Even a cursory reading of the New Testament shows us that Christ's expectation is that his followers will think of others before themselves.

For example, Paul writes in Philippians 2:3-4, "Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others."

Paul then provides his readers with the greatest example of service and sacrifice: Jesus Christ himself in the Christ Hymn of 2:5-11.

I love the irony in the bible. Jesus Christ is both our High Priest and our sacrifice. In turn, as Christ-followers, we are priests who are to live sacrificially as sacrifices to God (that sounds redundant but is not intended to be).

As priests, we have been given great responsibility. As sacrifices, we are to live sacrificially. That would be a burden except that Christ has gone before us. He is the ultimate priest and sacrifice. We just follow along is his blessed footsteps.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Priesthood and Responsibility

All Christians are an equal part of the priesthood of all believers. This is both a great privilege and a great responsibility.

It is a stunning privilege to have direct access to the God of the universe. We've been given the gift of being able to communicate with our Lord whenever we want to do so. No individual stands between us and God. This is a unique aspect of Christianity among the world's religions.

Along with the privilege, we have the responsibility to live it out. This requires action on our part. We cannot sit back and wait for someone else to do priestly things for us. We all, as individual Christians, have the responsibility to live as sacrifices to God.

"I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship." Romans 12:1

Paul's appeal is for us to take action. Each one of us.  Once we understand this, we need to ask what this looks like. It can probably be summed up best in the Great Commandment.

But what does this responsibility look like in practical terms? James helps us in 1:27, "Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world."

Along with living holy lives and caring for the needy, other aspects of priestly living include sharing our faith with the lost and carrying out the one anothers within the church.

All of the above require activity on our part. Christ does not expect his special people to be passive. Rather, his expectation is that we will go and do in this world.

Responsibility is one aspect of the priesthood. There are several more. I'll be covering these in the next few posts. In the meantime, what other key components of priestly living can you think of?

Saturday, January 5, 2013

The Three Marks of a Successful American Church

If you spend some time looking at American church websites you will see several themes. One of those themes is that three marks exist for successful churches in this country. They are as follows:

1. A logo

2. A short motto

3. Scrolling graphics

These must be keys to success in American churches because almost all large churches have all three on their websites (see for example here, here, here, here, and Savannah's own mega-ish church here). Denomination doesn't seem to matter.

The interesting and troubling thing is that if you look at successful business websites you will see logos, short mottoes, and scrolling images and/or graphics. The business sites look startlingly like the church sites, and vice versa. Since when did churches begin copying the business model? Clearly, this has been happening for a while.

When we think about what we see of Christ's church in scripture, it becomes clear that the above "Three Marks" are absurd. I'm glad to say that I don't know of any churches that would claim that these three marks are critical for success. Despite this, many churches follow a business pattern in many of the things they do.

If the above three marks are to be rejected, then what might three true marks of Christ's church be? I'll suggest the following:

1. Making disciples

2. Caring for the poor and needy

3. Suffering graciously

These three marks describe a special people set apart by God for his good works. This is not based in a business model, but in an other-worldly model. It attracts unbelievers not through flashy websites but through loving service. It honors God by being different from the world instead of trying to emulate it.

I'm sure that there are churches that both have the first three and the second three marks. They are not necessarily mutually exclusive. However, we must be careful to understand that the world's model for doing things is rarely anything like God's model for doing things.

Let's make sure we know which marks are most important.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Mutual Edification and the Priesthood of All Believers

Mutual edification is the primary reason for the gathering of the church. Although various activities may occur as the body comes together, the goal of the assembling is that the church family be built up together.

The priesthood of all believers describes what the church is. The moment a person surrenders to Christ in faith, he also becomes a priest to God. The challenge is living out this priesthood.

As we think about these two things (mutual edification and the priesthood of all believers), we see a link between the two. The priesthood, in fact, helps us define what mutual edification actually is.

What is mutual edification? Here's my definition: Mutual edification is helping each other live more effectively as the priests we already are.

We don't try to help other believers become priests. That would be like trying to help believers get saved. All believers are positionally priests. God makes it happen.

The challenge and great privilege for all of us is actually taking responsibility to live out being the priests we are. As the body gathers, we encourage and exhort one another in ways that assist all present in both growing closer to Christ and becoming more like Him.

Paul, among others, addresses these issues in familiar passages. In Romans 12:1 the apostle appeals for the church in Rome to live as the priests they are, saying, "I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship." How do the believers get to the point of doing this? One way is through mutual growth. I Corinthians 14:26 tells us, "What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up." When the church congregates, everything is for edification.

It's a wise thing to give thought to how we will edify others when we come together. This does not mean that we plan it all out, but rather that we just be prepared. In order to do this, it's good to know what the goal is. One good way to think about the goal is that it's helping priests live more priestly.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Shallow Small Group Bible Study

I know this has been around for a while, but it still makes me laugh.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Resolved: To Help Others More in 2013

First a disclaimer of sorts: I realize that New Year's resolutions are somewhat hokey in nature.

Despite the above disclaimer, I'm going ahead with a resolution for 2013. There's not anything special about doing this on January 1st; it could happen any day. That said, I'm going to try, with the Holy Spirit's assistance and power, to do something more in the new year. That new thing is to help others more.

This may not seem very deep or complicated. It certainly doesn't sound very seminary-ish. However, when I dwell upon the life of Christ, I see a divine man who traveled around helping others. He helped them by meeting their unique needs and by proclaiming the truth. Matthew 4:23 tells us, "And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people."

I have no desire or ability to be divine (obviously). Rather, my hope and desire is to be more of a helper. I don't think this is as complicated as we sometimes make it out to be. All we have to do is ask God for opportunities and then act on them when God gives them. My guess is that it will always involve helping someone in need of some sort. That might be accompanied by gospel proclamation, but many times it might not. It may also lead to a friendship, or not. I really have no idea.

I just know that as Christ-followers we are to love others. One tangible way we do this is by helping them. It's that simple (if not necessarily easy). When we help, we give of self. We think of others first. We at least sometimes relieve suffering. These are all Christlike activities.

So there's my resolution. I want to help.