Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Savannah's Secret Gardens

I love living in Savannah.

The best part about residing here is visiting the historic district. While many southern cities lost their historic buildings during the civil war, Savannah's remains. When General Sherman concluded his infamous "March to the Sea," he decided that Savannah was too beautiful to burn.

I enjoy wandering around the historic district, gazing at the old buildings, numerous statues, Live Oaks, Azaleas, and multiple parks. Every time I go downtown I see something new.

One aspect of Savannah that is easy to miss is what I'll refer to as "secret gardens." I'm not talking about the movie from the early 1990's. Rather, I'm describing small, highly cared-for gardens that sit quietly between the various historic residences. Today I took the above photo of a garden I had not seen before (I apologize for the lack of picture quality; I took it with my phone).

The gardens add a tranquil, subtle, and beautiful quality to the city. They are areas where people have spent time in cultivating God's wonderful creation. Not only do the home-owners get to enjoy the scenery, but so do the locals and tourists.

Finding these gardens requires qualities lacking in much of our society. For one thing, our loud and crass society no longer appreciates things that are subtle and quiet. Also, in order to find the various gardens, you actually have to walk. Not so many people want to get out of the car anymore. Lastly, since you can't actually enter many of the gardens, most folks won't want to bother.

These gardens are a reminder of a quieter time when society was much more modest. I look forward to discovering new gardens in Savannah.

Come for a visit.

Ravi Zacharias Shows Weaknesses in Atheistic Worldview

Ravi Zacharias is one of my favorite Christian apologists. He is both brilliant and easy to understand. He is gifted in defending the Christian faith, in particular against the attacks of the new militant atheists and their denial of objective morality.

According to Zacharias, "The reality is that the emptiness that results from the loss of the transcendent is stark and devastating, philosophically and existentially. Indeed, the denial of an objective moral law, based on the compulsion to deny the existence of God, results ultimately in the denial of evil itself."

To read more, click here.

A Good Goal

I love the thought and goal of doing all things for the glory of God. This is a very biblical concept.

I Corinthians 10:31 says, "Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God."

As we think about this, we need to be careful what standard we are using. As with "sola scriptura," it is easy to fall into the trap of picking and choosing which parts of the bible we want to follow. I know this is a simple idea, but if we truly want to give God all the glory in our lives, we will live according to all of scripture.

This is less a matter of intellectual understanding than it is a matter of the will. Will we do it or will we not?

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Sola Scriptura and the Church

The Reformers were right to cry, "Sola Scriptura!"

In their focus upon salvation, the Reformers (Luther, Calvin, etc.) looked in the bible and found that sinners are declared just by God's grace based upon their faith. This is what the bible teaches, and therefore they believed it.

The Reformers, sadly, "missed the boat" when it comes to what the bible tells us about the church. While the Protestant church that came out of the Reformation was far more biblical than the Roman Catholic Church, it still had far to go to even come close to following the scriptures.

So, what would the church look like today if we really applied the concept of sola scriptura to the church? Would we even dare to do so?

If exceptionally skilled men like Martin Luther and John Calvin could miss (or purposely ignore) at least some of what the bible says about the church, could we get it right?

I believe we can. Applying sola scriptura to the church is actually quite simple. The real issue is whether or not we'll actually do it.

The bible is not only inspired, true, and authoritative. It is also sufficient. It is sufficient for both faith and practice. This includes the practice of not just the individual, but also the church.

So how do we know how the church should function? We look to the pages of scripture. This is where we must be careful. If we simply follow the commands of scripture regarding the church, we will still have many questions. However, if we will follow both what is commanded and what is modeled, then we won't have many questions at all (if any).

If we will look to the pages, for example, of Acts and I Corinthians, we will see church life modeled for us. We see much that is good and some that is ugly. When we apply sola scriptura to these books and try to function as they did, we will know what to do.

It is when we get away from what is modeled that we begin to have problems. Many modern churches that say they hold to sola scriptura have to deal with problems the bible never addresses because they do not follow its model. For example, a modern, traditional church may wonder whether or not they should add an addition to their church building. How can they know? Well, the bible won't tell them because no churches in the bible ever built buildings.

If we are going to say we believe in sola scriptura, then let's live this out. We do best by following both what is commanded and what is modeled in scripture.

Illogical Reasoning

Pop star Ricky Martin has announced that he is gay. Under normal circumstances, I would find this both sad and boring. However, Martin's incredibly illogical reasoning makes this story at least somewhat interesting.

Martin wrote the following:

"To keep living as I did up until today would be to indirectly diminish the glow that my kids where [sic] born with. Enough is enough. This has to change. This was not supposed to happen 5 or 10 years ago, it is supposed to happen now. Today is my day, this is my time, and this is my moment."

Martin has twin sons. They are one of the reasons he is announcing that he is gay. It is amazing that Martin does not see how illogical he is being. Here's the problem: gay behavior cannot lead to reproduction. Gays cannot have children naturally.

The very existence of Martin's twin sons, therefore, came about through either heterosexual activity (presumably outside marriage; that's a different problem) or through unnatural medical procedures.

How is it that Martin's sons, who could not exist if Martin had been exclusively gay, could motivate him to tell everyone that he is gay? It makes no sense.

This is just another example of how sin can distort the way people think. Martin can no longer even think clearly about this issue. His capacity for logical thinking, at least when it comes to his lifestyle, has been destroyed.

Instead of condemning Martin, we should pray for him. We should also learn from his situation about the terrible power of sin. It even impacts the way we think. Let us live according to Romans 8:13, which says, "For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live."

Monday, March 29, 2010

Implying Preparation

"How is it then, brethren? Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification." I Corinthians 14:26

The above verse is extremely important for understanding the gathering of the early church. Paul tells us that many people were actively involved in what was happening. Instead of only a few people being active, which is what we see today, this verse suggests that basically everyone (notice the word "each") was involved.

This tells me that the early church prepared for their gatherings.

I'm not suggesting that they prepared something specific to say. What I am saying is that they prepared themselves to be ready to be involved. They may have prepared in advance (for example a teaching), or they may have simply been ready for the Holy Spirit to tell them what to say as they gathered.

The point is that the early church seems to have arrived at their place of meeting with a plan for group involvement. Each person was prepared to speak in one way or another. Each was prepared to follow the Holy Spirit in exercising his or her spiritual gifts. As they headed into the gathering, they may have had no idea as to what they were going to say. They were, however, ready to speak.

They knew that what they said had to be edifying. Paul makes this clear.

They knew they would be involved. They were prepared to speak.

We can learn a lot from this. Far too often today many people arrive at the church gathering ready to listen. This is fine - listening is good. However, if we are going to follow the model set forth for us in scripture, we will also come ready to speak.

Let's be prepared.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Seeing God's Glory in My Yard

To know that God is glorious, all I have to do is look at this Azalea in my yard. These blossoms did not occur by accident. They are too beautiful for that. Instead, the majestic God of the bible gives us a peek at His glory through beauty like this. I thank Him for both His general and special revelation.

Friday, March 26, 2010

On the Importance of Imitation

I Thessalonians 2:13-14, "And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers. For you, brothers, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea. For you suffered the same things from your own countrymen as they did from the Jews..."

In the above section of Paul's first epistle to the Thessalonian church, he is commending them. First, Paul writes positively about their acceptance of Paul's message. Second, Paul is pleased that they have "become imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea." This is a statement that is easy to read quickly without giving much thought. We need to think about it.

Paul is telling the believers in Thessalonica that it is a good thing that they are imitating the original churches that came before them. The apostle saw it as a good thing that they were believing and doing the same things as the first churches (those in Judea).

What can we learn from this? Quite simply, yet profoundly, it is a commendable thing to imitate the original churches in Judea. How do we know what those churches were like? In order to know, all we have to do is read the book of Acts. In particular, Acts chapters 2-8 describe in detail the functioning of the first church (in Jerusalem).

So, in reading the scriptures we know what the first churches were like and that it is a very positive thing to imitate them.

This is extremely important as we think about the life of the church today. There is much confusion within the church as to how the church should function. If you visit ten different churches that all believe the gospel, you may find ten different things going on. On what basis do they decide what to do? It appears that personal preference and tradition rule the day.

This confusion is problematic and ironic because the scriptures give us a model to follow. The church in Acts is described in detail. There is little confusion as to what they believed and what they did. It seems obvious that what we do today should emulate the model given us.

I've heard many different people (usually pastors of traditional churches) say that it is important for today's churches to follow the commands of scripture, but that we do not have to follow what is modeled. My question is this: if we do not need to follow the model from Acts, then why was the Thessalonian church commended for imitating precisely this model?

If it was good for the Thessalonians to model themselves after what we see in Acts, then it only makes sense that today's church would be much healthier if it would do the same.

Imitation is important.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


I like this T-shirt (regardless of the fact that I have no idea who is wearing it) because it describes almost all of us.

I imagine that most of the people reading this blog would agree with the Reformation cry, "Sola Scriptura." If you don't agree with it, then you at least would most likely say that the bible is authoritative in our Christian beliefs and practice.

The reality for the majority of us is that we don't really live by sola scriptura. Instead, we pick and choose what sections of the bible to live by. In my experience, it is relatively easy to hold to sola scriptura in what we believe about God (for example, His attributes). It is also easy to live according to sola scriptura in what we believe about the life, death, and resurrection of Christ.

Where it is more difficult to hold to sola scriptura is in how we live our lives on a daily basis. As an example, my life does not live up to sola scriptura when it comes to praying without ceasing, weeping with those who weep, loving my enemies, and visiting orphans and widows.

I'm not suggesting that sola scriptura means perfection. Rather, I'm suggesting that when we say we hold to sola scriptura, our lives should bear this out. If we dare to take a clear look at our lives, we will see that we don't really believe this.

Another way we don't hold to sola scriptura is in how we live out being the church. I have come under increasing conviction of this of late. The bible provides us with a clear model for church life. We see followers of Jesus living in community with one another, sharing with and caring for one another. We see them gather for participatory church meetings. We see the goal of their gatherings as edification of the body. We see them joyfully partake of the Lord's Supper as a full meal. We see them praying for boldness to share the gospel.

Is this what our churches look like?

We all have far to go if we really want to be able to say and mean sola scriptura. Speaking for myself, I feel like the journey has just begun.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Rate Me PG

About six years ago I was exposed to Reformed theology for the first time. In studying the scriptures, I discovered that God is, in fact, sovereign over salvation. I had never been taught this growing up, but was excited to really see it for the first time in the bible.

Since that time, I have considered myself to hold to Reformed theology. A while ago I found the above icon and thought it was funny. I also agreed with it. I suppose my personal rating would have been an "R."

The other day I again read the icon. I now realize that I don't agree with it - at least not all of it. I agree with the above men in their view of salvation. They all believe that God elects some people to salvation while not electing others. He does this according to His own good pleasure. I find this to be biblical; therefore, I believe it.

The above men also believed certain things about the church. This is where my disagreement lies. For the Reformers, while they cried, "Sola Scriptura," they only actually applied this to salvation. When it came to the church, they mixed bible and tradition. Very few of the Reformers (with the exception of the Anabaptists) held to the biblical model of the church.

The wording of the above icon is important. It says, "The form of doctrine and practice set forth by Jesus in the bible..." The stark reality is that the form of Protestant church that came out of the Reformation is not biblical in the sense that the model is nowhere to be found scripturally.

Today we still follow the church model developed by the Reformers. We mix man-made traditions with bible, and then select how we want to "do church." What we find today in this country is church life that is failing to lead to increasing holiness of the saints or salvation of the lost.

The Reformation view on salvation is biblical, and therefore accurate. The Reformation view on the church is unbiblical, inaccurate, and does not work.

Therefore, since I embrace Reformation soteriology but reject its ecclesiology, I'll take a "PG" rating. The PG can stand for "part good," for that is what came out of the Reformation.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Edwards Made Easy

Jonathan Edwards is one of the great theologians who I want to read. However, I find his writing style to often fly over my head. This is no criticism of him, but rather myself.

The general consensus amongst almost everyone is that Edwards is the greatest theologian ever to come out of this country (he lived before the USA came into existence, but I suppose that is an historical technicality). In light of his excellence, I need to find a way to read at least some of his writings.

There is now a way.

Owen Strachan and Doug Sweeney have written a series of five short books that focus on the life and writings of Jonathan Edwards. The series is entitled The Essential Edwards Collection.In the books, the authors both discuss Edwards and quote extensively from him. The great part is that they place his writings in the context of his life and quote him in a way that is easy to understand. Each book is only about 150 pages long. They are written in a format that is refreshing and enjoyable.

I've read the first of the five books and am about to dive into the next.

Right now you can purchase the five book set for about $30. If you haven't read Edwards before but want to learn from him, this would be a great resource for you.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

On the Willingness to Speak

I have spoken with many Christians who say that they are too shy to speak in front of a large group. I understand this completely. It is difficult for most people to discuss what they are thinking if they must do so before a large audience. This fear seems to be normal for most people. It appears to be part of human nature.

When we think about church gatherings, we should keep this fear in mind. People who might speak in front of a small group probably would not do so in front of a much larger group. For example, someone who might share with ten or fifteen others would likely not share in front of 100-150 others.

Most church gatherings in this country have over 50 people. Many have over 100. Most people that I know would not feel comfortable speaking with all those people. Even if churches of this size encouraged multiple people to speak during their gatherings, very few people would do so. Of course, in the typical "worship service," few people actually speak. What I'm stressing is that even if they were given the opportunity to talk, they most likely would not.

What if the gathering was much smaller? What if instead of 100-150 people, the group was only 10-15 people? If this was the case, it is safe to say that many more people would be willing to discuss what they are thinking and feeling with the group. Somewhat ironically, this is how Sunday School classes often work. Many people who do speak in Sunday School do not even contemplate speaking in the much larger worship services.

The bible tells us that all things in the gathering of the church are to be done for edification. This is very clear biblically.

How does this edification happen? The early church seems to have thought it came through mutual interaction as they gathered. Regardless of what people think about today's church gatherings, there is general agreement that when the early church got together, many different people spoke.

So, if edification occurs most effectively when many people speak to one another, then it seems that we should gather together as churches in settings where everyone will be willing to speak. I think we would all agree that small group settings are best for this.

Small groups can meet just about anywhere. The biblical model is the house, but I'm sure that under a tree works well, too. Let us meet together where we all feel comfortable speaking, so that we can all edify one another.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Meeting in Temples? No

Acts 2:42-47: "And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need. So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved." (emphasis added)

I have heard several people use the above passage, specifically the section I have emphasized, to justify the modern church gathering taking place in both large buildings and homes. Those who say this believe strongly that they are following the biblical model. After all, the early church we read about above met in a large building (the temple) and in homes.

There is a problem, however, with suggesting that this is the biblical model for us to follow. The problem is this: nowhere else to we see this model in action. What we see in the rest of the bible is the church meeting in homes only.

For example, as we read Paul's epistles, we see churches that met in homes. On Paul's journeys, he planted several churches. They didn't meet in large buildings. Paul never suggested that they construct a model of the Jerusalem temple or make any other sort of large meeting place. Paul knew that they could gather where people normally gather - homes.

The situation in Jerusalem, then, was a very unique one. The early church was a Jewish-Christian church. Therefore, they still went to the temple. However, once the church spread outside of Jerusalem, the new Christians met only in homes. There is no indication anywhere that they met together in large numbers in big buildings.

So, what can we take from this? Let us avoid taking one example (the Jerusalem church) and using it to apply to all churches. Instead, let us look at the broad picture to see where churches gathered together. It is clear that the home was the place.

I am not suggesting that if a modern church uses a large building it is sinning. However, I am saying that if a church today desires to follow the model set forth in scripture, it will meet exclusively in homes.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Meeting in Houses

All of the below bible passages refer to churches meeting together in houses. I wonder why so few of us gather in homes. What are we missing? Why don't we follow this model?

Acts 2:2 - And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting.

Acts 2:46 - So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart.

Acts 5:42 - And daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.

Acts 8:3 - As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering every house, and dragging off men and women, committing them to prison.

Acts 12:12 - So, when he had considered this, he came to the house of Mary, the mother of John whose surname was Mark, where many were gathered together praying.

Acts 16:40 - So they went out of the prison and entered the house of Lydia; and when they had seen the brethren, they encouraged them and departed.

Acts 20:20 - I kept back nothing that was helpful, but proclaimed it to you, and taught you publicly and from house to house.

Romans 16:5 - Likewise greet the church that is in their house. Greet my beloved Epaenetus, who is the firstfruits of Achaia to Christ.

I Corinthians 16:19 - The churches of Asia greet you. Aquila and Priscilla greet you heartily in the Lord, with the church that is in their house.

Colossians 4:15 - Greet the brethren who are in Laodicea, and Nymphas and the church that is in his house.

Philemon 1:1-2 - Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother, to Philemon our beloved friend and fellow laborer, to the beloved Apphia, Archippus our fellow soldier, and to the church in your house...

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The "Most Reverend"?

I received a letter in the mail today that was addressed to "Reverend Eric Carpenter." I knew right away that the sender did not know me because I despise the title "reverend." As Dave Black has said, the best title for all of us is simply "brother" or "sister."

This reminded me of something I ran into recently on-line. I was looking at the website for the large Roman Catholic Cathedral in Savannah - The Cathedral of St. John the Baptist. As I perused the site, I came across the pictorial page for their staff. At the top of the page is a photo of "The Most Reverend J. Kevin Boland." The obvious question is, "What makes him the most reverend?"

Is he holier than others? Has he done extra-special things that make him extra-special? Is he to be revered because of some special quality?

This is simply another example of the ridiculous practice of church leaders taking made-made titles for themselves. Why does this happen?

The answer is pretty basic: pride.

Church leaders often like the pedestal that others within the church want to place them on. There is often an unstated but agreed upon idea that the church members will look up to the church leaders as authoritative and somehow closer to God.

When this happens, it impedes the spiritual growth of the church. Instead of each Christian living as a priest with full access to God, we too often see (in both Catholic and Protestant churches) leaders get in the way of people's communication with God. Many of the people seem to desire this as well.

Leaders within the church are to equip and disciple (along with being equipped and discipled). They are not to be placed on a special throne or pedestal where they speak to God for the people and speak from God to the people. That was what an OT priest did.

We now have full priestly communication with God because of what our high priest, Jesus Christ, accomplished on the cross. Christ is the only one who deserves to be on a pedestal.

If we are determined to refer to someone as "reverend" of "the most reverend," let it be Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

What Generates the Most Comments...

I find it fascinating that one topic generates the most discussion when Christians start talking. This was the case on my seminary campus. This is the case on blogs. This is even the case on Facebook. What topic generates the most comments? Simple - it's the church.

Yesterday I put this comment in my Facebook status box: "Eric is looking for a church building in the bible. I still haven't found one."

My FB status updates usually generate one or two comments at the most. Well, for the above status, I received 33 comments. Some of them were mine, but over half were from other Christians.

Why is it that the topic of the church generates so much discussion?

I believe the answer is that there is much disagreement about what the church is and should be. In the bible, we see much commanded about the church. We don't tend to disagree on these things. However, we also see much modeled about the church. This is where the disagreement/discussion arises.

In my experience, this is how we handle much of what is modeled about the church in the bible: we point out and emphasize the descriptions of the church that we both like and follow in our modern practices. On the other hand, we tend to ignore and/or de-emphasize those things that are modeled that we do not like and do not practice.

Quite simply, in the modern church we pick-and-choose what things we want to follow that are modeled for us. When it comes to what is modeled in the bible, we act as if we are eating at Golden Corral. We select what we want and leave the remainder behind.

This attitude toward scripture is ironic for Protestants. One of the primary cries of the Protestant Reformation was "Sola Scriptura!" This means, "Scripture alone." ItalicIt applies to our authority in the church. It rejects tradition as being authoritative.

However, if we dare to take a close look at many of our church practices, we will see that these have come from tradition as opposed to scripture.

One healthy thing for a church to do is to look at all the activities that happen in the life of the church during a typical week. These should be written down. Then, the church should look in scripture and write down all the activities of the early church. Finally, the two lists should be compared. Do they line up? Do they look the same? The answer most likely is, "Not even close!"

If we are to really claim that the bible is our authority, we should listen to both what it commands and what it models. If we were to do this, we would most likely find that we would agree on much more related to the practice of the church.

We disagree and discuss so much about the church because we mostly ignore what is modeled for us.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Let's Live Like This Today

Keeping things simple, let's live in this manner:

Jesus said to him, "'You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.' This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets." (Matthew 22:37-40)

This Might Help Me Read John Owen

Finally - John Owen in a way I can understand.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Call Heresy What it is, but Only if it's Heresy

When it comes to heresy, we Christians have a tendency to either use the "h-bomb" too carelessly or not at all. Despite what may be good intentions (or not), we on the one hand declare beliefs and practices to be heretical which are not, or on the other hand we shy away from calling anything heretical at all. Simply put, we either use the word too much or too little.

In one camp, some Christians point out doctrines and practices of other Christians and call those things heretical. This is what happens, for example, when someone who holds to believer's baptism calls infant baptism a heresy. Or, this is what happens when a Calvinist or Arminian brands the other group as heretical. Or, this is what happens when those who favor one type of music or preaching or church or whatever then call the opposing group heretical.

What we have in these situations is basically this: Christians saying that other Christians are actually non-Christians.

This is extremely arrogant and divisive. Who are we to question the salvation of other Christians?

This is not to say that we shouldn't discuss areas of disagreement. For example, I'm a Baptist and a Calvinist. It can be healthy for me to discuss issues of disagreement with non-Baptist and Arminian brothers and sisters in Christ. The point, however, is that they are, in fact, brothers and sisters in Christ.

We should never be calling others who are in Christ heretics.

In a second camp is another Christian group. These folks, also with good intentions (seemingly for the most part), shy away from saying that just about anything is heresy. Desiring to be humble and avoid discord, these Christians will try to avoid taking a hard stance against beliefs and practices that fall outside the bounds of Christianity.

Let me be specific. I'm talking about Christians who will not, for example, say that the denial of the divinity of Jesus Christ is heresy. Or, they will not label the denial of the virgin birth as heresy. Or, they will not label the denial of Hell as heresy. Or, they will not label universalism as heresy.

What we have in these situations is basically this: Christians saying that non-Christians are actually Christians (or at least O.K. in the sight of God).

Refusing to call heresy what it is leads to a lack of perceived boundaries between the gospel and the world. It suggests that everyone is really the same in their relationship to God. It strongly implies that gospel proclamation doesn't really matter.

So, how should we handle this issue? What should we call heresy and what should we not?

First, we must be humble. Let us understand that we are frequently incorrect about things. In fact, we are probably more often incorrect than we even realize.

Second, let's place a permanent moratorium on calling other Christians heretics and their practices heretical. We may disagree with them on biblical grounds, but if the issue is not the gospel itself, then we are not dealing with heresy.

Third, if we are dealing with issues that are outside the bounds of the basics of Christianity, we should humbly but steadfastly call heresy what it is - heresy.

Fourth, if we are dealing with an issue that falls somewhere in between and we are not certain that it is a gospel-centered issue, then shy away from the h-word.

In the end, let us stand strong for the gospel. Let us call heresy what it is, but only if it's heresy.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

What is the Church? Nine Key Characteristics

For the past year or so, I've been preaching through the gospel of Matthew during our church gatherings. Last week, we studied Matthew 16:18-20. Since this is the first time Jesus deals specifically with the church, I thought it would be a good time to look more closely at what the church is. This coming Sunday, I'm preaching on the subject, "What is the Church?"

Unlike what the picture to the left suggests, the scriptures make it clear that the church is an assembly or community of people. But what are key characteristics of the church that make it unique?

The following are the nine characteristics I am going to emphasize. What do you think? Have I left any out that should be added? Are any of the nine unnecessary? Please tell me what you think and why.

1. The church falls under the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

2. The church is guided by the Holy Spirit.

3. The church is built upon the scriptures.

4. The church is made up of followers of the triune God.

5. The church pursues holy, self-sacrificial living.

6. The church practices the ordinances of baptism and the Lord's Supper.

7. The church is committed to unity and edification of the body.

8. The church is on mission to make disciples of all nations.

9. The church strives to do all for the glory of God.

Monday, March 8, 2010

My 15 Seconds of Fame

A few days ago I spent some time walking around several of Savannah's beautiful parks. At one point, a young lady approached me. She was a reporter for the Savannah Morning News (the primary local newspaper). She asked me if she could record me discussing my favorite attraction in Savannah. I answered by blathering on for several seconds about various things I like. Anyway, to see my 15 seconds of fame, click here and then click on the video that says, "What is Your Favorite Attraction in Savannah?" FYI - I'm the first one speaking (and the last).

Saturday, March 6, 2010

I Would Certainly Hope So

According to this story, "top home-school texts dismiss Darwin and evolution." I would certainly hope they do. After all, both the biblical account and the scientific data show that God created this world in an orderly manner. Although Darwinian evolution is promoted by materialists, the reality is that true science does not support it.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Please Be Wise When Watching or Reading FOX News

As far as I can tell, most Christians are wise when watching news broadcasts from ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, BBC, etc. Christians rightly understand that these are secular networks that show the news through a secular lens. In most cases, some facts will be presented along with some bias. Therefore, we must wear a "mental filter" of sorts.

My great concern is with FOX News. Specifically, I'm scared that far too many Christians are watching FOX with no mental filter. For some reason unknown to me, many followers of Christ act as if FOX News is a Christian channel. It is not! FOX is just as secular as the other networks.

Several years ago, FOX News correctly discerned that many conservative Americans (some Christian and some not), were disgusted with the news presented by the other major networks. FOX, then, made an obvious decision to cater to conservatives. While the other networks lean to the left politically, FOX leans to the right. No doubt there.

FOX also understands that there is a large audience of evangelical Christians in this country. Therefore, FOX presents at least some news that will make Christians watch. FOX wants ratings.

I'm not disgusted with FOX. I'm disgusted with Christians who act like FOX is trying to advance the Kingdom of God.

This problem is a symptom of the larger problem within evangelical Christianity today. That problem is the old "God and country!" problem. It is the problem of the cross wrapped in the American flag. It is the problem that is the gospel of the Republican party. And let's be fair: it's obvious that while the other networks cater to the Democratic party line, FOX spews forth the Republican line.

As followers of Christ, we must be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. No matter what news program we are watching, we must remember that the great agenda and goal of the networks is ratings. FOX wins all the time because while the other networks split the liberal watchers, FOX takes all the conservatives.

We are followers of Jesus alone. He alone must have our allegiance. And, He was not a Republican.

That said, let's think smartly no matter what we are watching. Use your mental filter, which should be based on scripture, no matter the channel. If you are reading news on-line, do the same.

FOX News is not the bible. FOX News is not Christian.

Watcher and reader: be wise.


I've certainly felt this way before:

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Reading Scripture Together

Tonight during our prayer meeting, we read scripture together. I simply told our church family that I would like to hear them read aloud passages that held meaning for them, had been encouraging lately for them, had placed them under conviction, etc. We weren't all going to read them together; rather, we would listen as one person read, and then another, and so on.

It was beautiful to see what happened after I said this. People began looking into their bibles. It got fairly quiet as people flipped between pages trying to find particular passages. I could see that they were engaged in what we were doing. They were involved! Different people read from Isaiah 53, Psalm 42, James 1. I read from Leviticus 9-10.

The fascinating thing about this is that our folks seemed more involved than when I simply ask them to turn to a specific passage. When I do all the choosing, our people are less engaged. When they have more responsibility, they are far more involved.

It reminds me of I Corinthians 14:26, which says, "How is it then, brethren? Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification."

It is clear that more involvement means more edification.

Earth's True Colours

Click here to see a couple of beautiful photos of the earth. God truly is the Master-Creator!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

What Paul Didn't Write...

Paul did write I Corinthians 15:3-4. It says, "For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures."

Paul didn't write, "For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: (insert all kinds of other stuff that isn't all that important here).

When a Dumpster is Appropriate

Last weekend I had the wonderful chance to spend some time walking around the historic district in Savannah. If you have never visited this city, you must come.

As I was strolling along, looking at parks, old houses, and church buildings, I once again came to this sign, which I have posted about previously. Arrgh. Why must a senior pastor have a special parking space reserved for only him? Doesn't he know that Jesus is the only real senior pastor of the church?

To make matters worse, I realized that this parking space is located immediately in front of a wheel-chair entrance to the building. This means that the disabled folks of the church have to travel farther to the door than does the "senior pastor"!

After seeing the entrance, I was disgusted. That's when I turned and was pleased to see this dumpster. Some construction is going on across the street, so a large dumpster has been placed right next to the "senior pastor's" parking space. In light of the fact that A) he shouldn't have a special spot, and B) he's making wheel-chair bound people move farther than he does, I'm glad to see that he at least has to park next to a massive garbage container. This is appropriate because garbage is the best way to describe treating a pastor as if he is more important than anyone else in the church.