Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Excellent House Church Sites

If you are interested in the house church concept, then I encourage you to visit these excellent sites:

*my favorite

Do you know of any others I should add to this list?

"Text-Driven Preaching"

Much that passes for preaching today is at best humanistic drivel and at worst nonsense. The reason for this is that the bible is often essentially ignored while the "preaching" takes place.

If we want God's truths to permeate preaching, then we need the preaching to be driven by the biblical text. Text-Driven Preaching is a book that deals directly with this issue. The book contains eleven chapters that are separated into three main sections. These sections deal with the preacher, the preparation, and the preaching.

I bought this book for the second section (I've read enough books on the other two topics). The reason for this is that I have not found books that deal well with sermon preparation from the biblical text. This section would be beneficial for anyone to read because the principles from it apply to all sorts of biblical teaching, not preaching alone.

In particular, I wanted to read Dave Black's chapter entitled, "Exegesis and the Text-Driven Sermon." Simply put, this chapter was worth the price of the book. Black focuses on issues of historical analysis, literary analysis, textual analysis, lexical analysis, syntatical analysis, structural analysis, rhetorical analysis, tradition analysis, theological analysis, and homiletical analysis. That may sound a bit dull in this blog post, but it isn't. Rather, it's fascinating.

Black continues by walking through the above steps while focusing on Hebrews 12:1-2, finishing with a sermon title, theme, and outline.

I'll admit that I only read a few chapters of the book. They all dealt with sermon preparation.

If you are interested in how to begin with a biblical text and move to a teaching/preaching outline, then Black's chapter will be a big help to you. If you don't want to spend the money just to read one or a couple of chapters, then at least try to find it in your local library.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Nice Remake of "And Can It Be?"

Embracing the Sufficiency of Scripture

As was growing up in the evangelical world, I was taught that the bible was inspired, authoritative, infallible, and inerrant. I'm sure those exact words weren't always used, but the concepts behind them were ingrained in me. There was never any doubt that the bible was a different kind of book. It was very special. It was given by God to us to instruct us in what He has done for us and how we should live in light of this. These truths were drilled into me. I'm glad they were.

There is another truth about the bible that I was never taught about as a child or teen. In fact, I never really thought about it until the last decade or so. The truth I'm talking about is the sufficiency of scripture. Frankly, I only began thinking seriously about this issue when I went to seminary. I suppose that's because our chapel speakers preached about it a lot.

What we are talking about is whether or not the bible tells us all we need to know about what we as Christians should believe and how we should live this out. In other words, is the bible enough or do we need other things?

This got me asking what the bible has to say about itself in this area. Does the bible tell us that it is sufficient?

Below are a few verses that I believe do tell us that scripture is sufficient for us:

Acts 17:25, "...nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything." (emphasis mine)

II Timothy 3:14-17, "But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work." (emphasis mine)

II Peter 1:3, "His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue." (emphasis mine)

These passages seem to tell us that the bible is, in fact, sufficient for us in knowing what we must believe and how we must live.

As I have mentioned before, Protestant churches in this country have been terribly inconsistent in their view of the sufficiency of scripture. These churches typically hold to sufficiency when it comes to issues of salvation, but reject sufficiency when it comes to the practice of the church. They may not admit this, but any quick look at the modern, institutional church will show that it doesn't look much like what we see in the bible. (I've written previously about sufficiency as it relates specifically to the church).

As I look at my own life, I realize that I've been inconsistent, too. My beliefs (virgin birth, deity of Christ, Jesus' literal bodily resurrection, second coming, heaven and hell, etc.) line up nicely with scripture. As far as I know, what I believe suggests that the bible is sufficient.

Like the church in general, where I fall short of sufficiency is in how I live my life. In other words, I live in a way that is not consistent with the teachings of scripture. Let me list for you some verses just from the Sermon on the Mount that I quite simply have not been living out:

Matthew 5:38-44, "You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away. You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you."

Matthew 6:31-33, "Therefore do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you."

Matthew 7:12, "Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets."

These above verses are very convicting to me because I haven't been living them out. I need to do so.

There is a direct connection between the sufficiency of scripture and obedience.

If we say we believe that scripture is sufficient, but we don't live according to this, then we either haven't thought things through or we are just disobeying (or both).

What then should we do?

I'm determined to embrace the sufficiency of the bible. I won't have to alter much of what I believe about the great doctrines of the faith. However, I do need to make some changes in how I treat other people. I know that I need to love others much more than I do now - and that with sacrificial, self-giving love.

As for church practice, I'm determined to look to the scriptures alone as well. These changes aren't so easy to make because they involve more people than just me. It will undoubtedly lead to some interesting conversations.

To sum up, I'm tired of substituting man's ideas into my life in place of God's truths. This applies to how I live individually and as part of the church.

I'm determined to embrace the sufficiency of scripture in a real way. What about you?

You've Probably Already Read This...

This has been circulating for about a day, but if you have not read it please do so.

Russell Moore, Dean of the School of Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, has written an excellent response to the politically-conservative-revival-type-thing that happened this weekend in Washington, D.C. The post is entitled, "God, the Gospel, and Glenn Beck."

Moore concludes his piece by saying, "It’s sad to see so many Christians confusing Mormon politics or American nationalism with the gospel of Jesus Christ. But, don’t get me wrong, I’m not pessimistic. Jesus will build his church, and he will build it on the gospel. He doesn’t need American Christianity to do it. Vibrant, loving, orthodox Christianity will flourish, perhaps among the poor of Haiti or the persecuted of Sudan or the outlawed of China, but it will flourish...And there will be a new generation, in America and elsewhere, who will be ready for a gospel that is more than just Fox News at prayer."

Read the entire piece here.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Strawman Argument: Free-for-All Gatherings

This is the final installment in this series on strawman arguments against house churches. The previous post titles are:

I waited until Sunday to post this one because most of us gather with church families today. We will all be doing something today as we come together.

This strawman argument goes like this, "House church gatherings are similar to a free-for-all."

The primary problem with this argument is simple: it isn't true.

We must remember that those who make this strawman argument have almost always spent their entire lives in traditional churches. When traditional churches come together, what happens is carefully scripted. Certain people ("worship leader," pastor, ushers, etc.) all do certain things. It is planned out beforehand. There is little deviation from the script. This is one of the reasons there is a bulletin. What people experience each week in the big church gathering borders on a performance. There is certainly a ceremonial quality to it.

When a person thinks that what I have just described is normal and "the way it should be," then a more spontaneous, free-flowing, participatory church meeting might seem like a free-for-all. But remember, the problem is with the expectation that the traditional church meeting is normal.

What is fascinating about all this is that we as Protestant Christians rarely ask what the bible models for us about the church gathering. By far the longest and most extensive discussion of the church gathering occurs in I Corinthians chapters 11-14. As Paul deals with various issues, he makes mention of the church gathering again and again.

In I Corinthians 14:26, Paul writes, "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." It is clear that the Corinthian church gatherings were participatory and at least somewhat spontaneous. It is interesting that Paul told the Corinthian church to change many things, but he never told them to stop meeting in this manner. He just wanted to make sure that everything was done for the edification of the church family.

House churches desire to follow this model as they gather. What is important to recognize is that what Paul describes in I Corinthians 14 is orderly. For example, speaking in tongues was regulated. If there was no interpretation, it was not to happen at all. Prophecy was regulated. Only one person was to speak at a time. No women were to judge the prophets.

If house churches attempt to follow what we see in I Corinthians 14, then they are simply following the broader biblical model. For example, Hebrews 10:24-25 says, "And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near." What we read of is group participation.

So we see that there are actually two main problems with this strawman argument. First, it's simply not true. Second, it is based on the traditionalist understanding of what a church gathering should look like. He has based this not on scripture but on his own tradition of a "worship service" where there is little deviation from the script and where no freedom of expression exists.

We must look to the scriptural model for all things. The bible is sufficient for us. Let's strive to emulate what the apostolic writers wanted when they described church gatherings. When we do this, we are in a position for real edification of the entire body to take place.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Strawman Argument: No Growth

Another strawman argument against house churches can be summed up this way, "House churches either do not grow or do not grow enough." This is referring to numerical growth, not spiritual growth.

I'm sure this is true of some house churches. If no one new comes to the house church for an extended period of time, this is most likely a big problem.

However, there are also many, many traditional churches that are not growing. In fact, in this country right now well over 50% of all churches - most of which are traditional - have plateaued or are decreasing in size.

The sad reality is that many Christians do not share their face in Christ regardless of what type of churches they are a part of.

One of the primary goals of traditional churches is to grow numerically. They want to get bigger. They want their sanctuaries to be full. In this country, bigger is almost always better; this thinking has infiltrated many churches as well.

House churches often appear to not be growing when in fact they are. Because they gather in homes, they can only get so big before something has to happen. They obviously are not going to build a new building, so they divide in the good sense. Some of the people begin to gather in another home. In this method, instead of having hundreds of people concentrated in a large, expensive facility, many small churches that don't require special buildings can spread across an entire city.

So the claim that house churches do not grow or do not grow enough is absurd. It does not correspond to the reality of the situation. Traditional churches tend to grow in one place - if they grow at all. House churches grow and divide; therefore, they grow in many places.

Which would be more beneficial to a city? Many Christians in one place or many Christians in many places? The answer seems obvious.

Fair Cautions to House Churches

Yesterday I linked to what I believe is a fair post about house churches. In that post, John Armstrong discussed why he believes house churches will continue to grow in this country. Today, Armstrong has posted (again fairly I believe) about possible cautions/problems that those involved in house churches need to be aware of. Read it here.

Drive-Through Church

This is for fun, but there may be some truth in it. Ouch.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Strawman Argument: Doctrinal Dangers

A second strawman argument against house churches goes like this, "House churches are dangerous because they are susceptible to doctrinal problems."

The problem with the above argument is that it's basically a comparison statement without clearly stating the comparison. What is really being claimed is that house churches are in more danger of falling into doctrinal problems than are traditional churches.

My question in response is simply, "What evidence is there for the claim that house churches are in more danger than traditional churches of having doctrinal problems?"

My guess is that some people who do not like and/or are not comfortable with the house church movement have heard of some house churches that have had doctrinal problems. I don't doubt that the problems exist. When we look in the New Testament in particular, we see many warnings about the problem of false doctrine. It is a sad reality.

The problem with the above strawman argument is that traditional churches also sometimes have doctrinal problems. As with house churches, this often happens when someone with a forceful, charismatic personality starts teaching false doctrine and leads others astray.

This can occur in house churches and it can happen in traditional churches.

One benefit of house churches is that everyone gets to participate in doctrinal discussions. The elders/pastors do not dominate the conversations. Therefore, there are more voices involved to act as a check-and-balance against any false teaching. Since no one person is elevated as the primary teacher, people are less likely to follow that teacher into falsehood if he strays in that direction.

In the traditional church, everything is doctrinally fine as long as the elders/pastors remain solid. We can be thankful that this is usually the case. However, if the pastors begin teaching falsely, many people are likely to follow them down that dangerous path.

Regardless of what type of church we are a part of, we must all be vigilant in our stance against false doctrine.

To summarize: Is it correct to say that house churches sometimes have doctrinal problems? The answer is yes. Is it correct to say that house churches are in more danger than traditional churches of having doctrinal problems? The answer is no. In fact, I'd like to challenge anyone to provide data to show otherwise.

Additionally, the model of the house church actually acts against false doctrine because no one person is elevated to a position where he will be able to easily lead others astray.

In the end, the argument that house churches more easily fall into false doctrine is simply false.

Vote Now for Your Favorite All-Star Pastor!

(WARNING: This post is satirical. Please don't actually vote.)

In light of our obsession with all-stars in this culture, you can now vote for your favorite all-star pastor! Why should the athletes and actors get all the headlines? Vote now to promote those who do the most for Jesus!

There are a few simple rules to follow:

1. The person has to be living (I'm sorry if Jonathan Edwards is your homeboy. You're not allowed to vote for dead people).

2. You can vote for anyone who is a pastor, theologian, seminary president, seminary professor, etc. Don't worry - their theology doesn't matter.

3. You may only vote one time for one person.

4. As in basketball, the top five vote-getters will compose the "starting five." The next seven will make up the "bench."

5. You can vote by calling this toll-free number: 1-888-BEST-PASTOR.

6. Vote for any of the following or feel free to vote for someone not on the list:

Thabiti Anyabwile
Voddie Baucham
Alistair Begg
Rob Bell
D.A. Carson
Francis Chan
Chuck Colson
Mark Dever
James Dobson
Mark Driscoll
Sinclair Ferguson
Norman Geisler
Billy Graham
Franklin Graham
Wayne Grudem
Josh Harris
Johnny Hunt
Bill Hybels
T.D. Jakes
David Jeremiah
Tim Keller
Tim Lahaye
John MacArthur
C.J. Mahaney
Brian McLaren
Joyce Meyer
Albert Mohler
Joel Osteen
J.I. Packer
John Piper
R.C. Sproul
John Stott
Jerry Vines
Frank Viola
Rick Warren
N.T. Wright
Philip Yancey
Ravi Zacharias

Call Now! Let them know how much you love and admire them. Tell them through your vote how much you want to be like them!

If you vote right now, you have a really good shot at receiving a free copy of a hand-autographed book written by your favorite person. Don't wait! Vote now!

Results will be provided in a few days. Thanks.

(Reminder: This post is satirical. Please don't actually vote. Thanks.)

A Fair Post on House Churches

Since I'm thinking about house churches quite a bit these days, I'd like to point to a fair blog post focusing on the home church movement. John Armstrong provides nine cogent reasons why he believes this movement will continue to grow in the USA in the years to come. Read it here.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Strawman Arguments and House Churches

The above icon pretty well describes what a strawman argument is.

The more I study house churches, the more I hear and read strawman arguments against them. Rarely have I heard anyone accurately describe house churches and then have something negative to say about what they really are. Rather, what I read and hear are people inaccurately describing house churches and then attacking their own false descriptions.

Over the next few days I'm going to be pointing out five strawman arguments that I have recently read or heard that go against house churches. I believe these are all unfair characterizations of what house churches generally are. Of course, like with all churches, differences exist between any churches. Therefore, I'm going to be dealing with generalities.

The first strawman argument I've heard/read goes something like this: "House churches are not consistent. They say churches today should look like churches of the New Testament, but today's house churches fail to do this."

The above strawman argument says that house church proponents believe that all churches should look exactly like New Testament churches, including cultural norms. I've heard those writing against house churches say things like, "Why aren't they wearing togas? Why aren't their bibles in scrolls? Why do they have air conditioning?"

The reality of the situation is that house churches do not expect churches to function exactly like those in New Testament times. Of course there will be cultural differences. House churches recognize this.

House churches are not striving to reinvent first century culture. House churches, rather, are trying to follow the biblical model of church life. For example, nowhere in the N.T. is it suggested that wearing togas is important. The issue of scrolls is never mentioned as important. Obviously, air conditioning/temperature in the house wasn't of significance.

What is important to house churches is to be consistent in what matters. So, what matters? What matters is following the practices stated in the N.T. for how churches should function. The reason for this is that since the bible is inspired by God, authoritative, and sufficient, then in order to be consistent, we should follow what we see in scripture.

What is important is things like having participatory church gatherings, celebrating the Lord's supper as a full meal, gathering in homes (or at least places that allow for real community), maintaining non-hierarchical church leadership, keeping families together, and striving for congregational consensus. We can find all of these modeled for us in scripture. Therefore, they are important.

Remember, the strawman argument mentioned above is the claim that house churches are inconsistent because they say churches should look like churches of the N.T., but fail to do so. The reality is that house churches believe that today's churches should adopt the practices of the N.T. church that are seen as important by the apostolic writers. House churches do not believe that all cultural norms must be adopted.

House churches want to be biblical, not first century, in nature. There is an important difference.

What is the Bible Basically About?

Thanks Mike.

Dumpster Diving (Almost)

Isn't it great when God gives us obvious opportunities to serve others? Yesterday I had one of these.

On Monday night we had a Boy Scout awards program at our church building. Yesterday morning (Tuesday) I received a telephone call from a distraught mother of a scout. She had lost her camera's SD memory card. It contained 1,500 photos that had not been backed up anywhere. This mom thought that maybe she had left the memory card at the church and that it had ended up being thrown away into the dumpster.


I quickly figured out that some dumpster diving was probably in order (that's not me in the above photo, but I feared I was facing something like it). I quickly drove to the church building to rescue the trash from the dumpster before the trash truck could come and take it all away. I was very pleased that I only had to reach into the dumpster. No diving was required. Whew.

One reason that I wanted to help this lady is that she is not a Christian but seems fairly open to the gospel. My hope is that by helping her in this way, she will be more open to talking about Jesus later.

After carting about five gross trash bags into the church's fellowship hall, five or six of us picked through the trash together (a family from the church came to help us - kids and all). Looking for an SD card in trash bags full of discarded food is something like looking for a needle in a haystack. We were actually hoping we wouldn't find it because if we had, it would most likely have been ruined by various disgusting liquids.

As we were going through the bags and the smells were permeating my clothing, I was reminded that service is rarely easy. It is often dirty and tiring. However, it is always rewarding.

In the end we didn't find the memory card. We are all hoping she finds it in her house or car (her other guesses). This mom was very thankful to us for the help. I think she saw, whether she realized it or not, the love of Christ in action. We are hoping for future opportunities to share the good news of Christ with her and her family.

The Lord is good to give us opportunities to serve. I need to keep my eyes more open for them.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

A Key Verse for the Life of the Church

When we look near the end of I Corinthians chapter 14, we find a key verse for the life of the church. I Corinthians 14:37 says, "If anyone thinks that he is a prophet, or spiritual, he should acknowledge that the things I am writing to you are a command of the Lord."

I Corinthians is a letter in which the apostle Paul deals with a wide range of issues. He discusses unity, wisdom, immorality, marriage, lawsuits, liberty, idolatry, and several other important topics. Paul also spends a good deal of time speaking about the gathering of the church. It's a shame for the Corinthian church that they had so many problems. However, it is a benefit to us because we see how Paul instructed them to deal with these struggles.

In I Corinthians chapters 11-14, Paul talks in various ways about how the Corinthian church should think and act as they come together. In chapter 11, Paul talks about head coverings and conduct during the Lord's Supper. In chapter 12, Paul writes about spiritual gifts. Chapter 13 is the famous love chapter, in which Paul encourages the church to exercise these spiritual gifts in love. Chapter 14 deals specifically with prophecy/tongues, church order, and edification.

At the end of chapter 14, Paul challenges/rebukes the Corinthians for gathering together in ways that are not God-honoring. He writes in 14:36, "Or was it from you that the word of God came? Or are you the only ones it has reached?" They had been coming together with attitudes and actions that were outside of the word of God.

Paul then writes the key verse in 14:37, "If anyone thinks that he is a prophet, or spiritual, he should acknowledge that the things I am writing to you are a command of the Lord."

Paul is telling the Corinthians and us that what he has written in this letter, and certainly in chapters 11-14 (since that is the context), "are a command of the Lord." Notice the word "command." What the apostle describes for us in these chapters are then commands of God to us for how our church gatherings should look. Certainly we are not expected to do what the Corinthians did incorrectly; rather, Paul expects us to live according to what he has written about what they should be doing.

When we look at our churches today, the gatherings generally don't look much like what we see described in I Corinthians chapters 11-14. This would be fine if what Paul had written was optional. We often seem to act as if Paul wrote in 14:37, "...the things I am writing to you are an option from the Lord." We clearly see, however, that Paul wrote the word "command." This means that we must, out of obedience, do our best to follow the model set forth in chapters 11-14.

I realize that different Christians will probably have different interpretations about what some aspects of chapters 11-14 mean. For example, what are head coverings? What does it mean for women to be silent? Those are not easy issues.

However, we should do our best to faithfully interpret the passages and then live them out. They are commanded. We have no option in this. Now the question is whether or not we will be obedient.

If You Challenge the Status Quo...

Whenever you challenge the status quo, you will receive mixed reactions. Some people will support what you are doing, while others will not. The norm is that those who have the most prestige and/or power in the present will not want things to change. Also, those who feel very comfortable with how things are will not like anyone who "rocks the boat." We certainly know that Jesus was not in favor of the status quo, and the religious leaders wanted Him dead for it.

I'm not equating Christ's death with challenging the status quo in the church. However, we can learn from the hatred Christ faced that when we begin asking difficult questions and pointing out inconsistencies, we will face resistance (I'll also say that the attitude we take in striving for change in the church will help matters immensely).

If you open your bibles and then look at your church, you will most likely see some inconsistencies. In some churches there are few; in others there are almost too many to count. When you point these things out, the following ten things will happen from at least some people:

-You will not be welcomed.

-You will be scorned.

-You will be talked about behind your back.

-You will be ignored.

-It will be labeled divisive.

-You won't be trusted anymore.

-You will face rejection.

-You will be told that you just don't understand.

-You will be told to trust those in authority.

-You will be told that it was that way then, but it is this way now.

I apologize if this post seems negative in tone. I really don't want it to sound that way. It's just that most churches in this country need very significant changes to take place. If we encourage change, we will face resistance in a very significant way. We must be prepared for this. May we be gracious when the time comes.

Cling to the Cross! A Message for Muslims

Thanks to James White for this video. Although this is directed to Muslims in particular, it really is a message for all people. It is the good news of Jesus Christ.

Monday, August 23, 2010

On the Proposed NYC Mosque

I have hesitated thus far to weigh in on the proposed Ground Zero Mosque (or whatever it is called) in Manhattan. However, since I've heard a great deal of bluster about it, I thought this would be a good time.

I am writing as a follower of Jesus Christ to other followers of Jesus Christ.

I'll be honest: the political side of this carries no interest for me. As is typical, political conservatives are generally against the mosque, while liberals are generally for it. No surprise there.

The problem is that many, many Christians have lashed themselves to the Republican party, which at least claims to be conservative. The outcome is predictable. Most Christians at least appear to be against the mosque being located near the World Trade Center site.

What is fascinating, sad, and also predictable is that when Christians state why they are against it, their arguments are based on pragmatic reasoning, emotions, and/or political party affiliation. Their reasons are not constitutional or, more importantly, biblical.

I have yet to hear a Christian provide a coherent, biblical reason for why this mosque should not be located in Manhattan.

As followers of Jesus Christ, we are called to sacrificially love all people. Christ expects us to love as He loved. Because of this, we must love even those who want to kill us. We should expect to be hated and despised by the world. Why would the world love or even tolerate us when it killed our Lord?

Conservative Americans have been giving the Muslim world the message that we despise them. If we stand against this mosque, this will simply add to this message. If our goal is to love Muslims and share the good news of Christ with them, then let's welcome them into our neighborhoods. Let's invite them over for dinner. Let's show them what real, Christlike love is.

Why should a mosque be a threat to us? Are we afraid that we will convert to Islam? I would hope not.

Are we scared that Sharia law might take hold in this country? We shouldn't fear what man can do to us. The worst that can happen is that we get killed, and Paul has told us that to die is gain.

Are we afraid that lost people will increasingly turn to Islam? If that is the case, then we should start sharing the gospel more urgently and passionately.

One key question we need to ask ourselves is whether we are going to be driven in our decision making by American citizenship or heavenly citizenship. Which matters more to us?

In general, we have failed to make the active distinction between being Christians and being Americans. One clear sign of this is the American flags that hang all over our church buildings in this country. We too often try to mix the two. We even still refer to the USA as a "Christian nation."

This is not a Christian nation - whatever that is. We live in a secular state that will always have political arguments.

Jesus Christ did not call us to political involvement. He called us to radical, sacrificial discipleship and servanthood. He called us to love others even unto death. After all, that's what He did for us.

We should be asking how God would have us think of this mosque. Quite honestly, I don't think God cares much about another building. I do think He cares about the Muslims who might attend the mosque. God's plan to reach them is for us followers of Christ to love them, build relationships with them, and share the good news of Christ with them.

They won't see our love if we spend our time protesting against their mosque. As Christians we have better things to do than spend lots of energy on politics. Instead, let's stop worrying about a building, and start figuring out how we can love the Muslims in our communities.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

"Fear Not!"

In our pluralistic society there are many, many different views on what happens when we die. In part because of this diversity (and in part because of biblical ignorance), Christians hold wide-ranging views on what we can expect in death and the life after. Ligon Duncan has written a short book to help clear up this mess of beliefs.

In Fear Not! Death and the Afterlife from a Christian Perspective, Duncan addresses five key questions related to death and eternal life. He deals with these in chapters entitled:

1. What is Death?
2. What Happens After Death?
3. What Happens When Christ Returns?
4. What is the Final Judgment?
5. What is Heaven?

This book is ideal for folks who are confused about what the bible has to say about these issues. Duncan deals strictly with what we can know from scripture. He does not delve into more speculative issues such as the timing of the rapture, the meaning of the 1,000 years, etc. Because of this, Fear Not! is easy to understand for all Christians.

I recommend this book. It is excellent for anyone to read to make sure that what he believes lines up with what scripture teaches. If, however, you are looking for an in-depth study of eschatology, this is not the book for you.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Pakistan Flood Photos

Click here to see photos of the disastrous flooding in Pakistan. Let us help however we can.

"The Gospel for Muslims"

As Christians, the reality is that most of us don't know that much about Islam or Muslims. We know what we hear in the media, but that is no help. So what can we do?

I encourage you, among other things, to read good books about sharing the gospel with followers of Islam. Thabiti Anyabwile, a former Muslim, has written a very helpful little book about sharing the good news of Christ with Muslims. The book is entitled, simply enough, The Gospel for Muslims.

Anyabwile, currently pastor of First Baptist Grand Cayman, has many helpful insights into the world of Islam and how we can reach out with the love of Jesus.

In my opinion, the best chapter in the book focuses on hospitality. This lost art among Westerners is very important in the Islamic world. We must understand this in order to effectively befriend Muslims in our neighborhoods.

Anyabwile writes about the problem of the lack of hospitality in this country, saying, "Passivity is a factor contributing to the decline in hospitality. We can be too nonchalant in cultivating meaningful affection for one another. We wait for the relationship to come to us. We want it to be 'natural' and 'just flow' or 'click.' There is such a thing as trying too hard, but I think many of us are far from that. We try too little. We'd rather enjoy the coziness of being alone with our own thoughts, interests, and friends from some yesteryear like high school or college. We don't like the toil of getting to know others and opening ourselves up (much less 'prying' into their lives) in a substantive, transparent way. But for hospitality to thrive, we must relinquish our passive approach to friendships."

Interestingly, this is true of many Christians. We are often too passive in making and sustaining relationships both within the church and with non-Christians. This book was a good wake-up call to me to be more active in making friends for the sake of the gospel.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Good Map Site

If you like maps, click here for a great variety of nice images.

Authorship of Hebrews

Who wrote the book of Hebrews? I don't know. However, since many other people have stated their opinions, I'll give mine as well.

This may seem simplistic, but here we go:

As I read Hebrews, the themes seem Pauline. The big pictures remind me of Romans, Galatians, etc.

However, the language seems fairly complex, like Luke would write. The wording reminds me somewhat of Luke-Acts.

My guess is this: Paul preached a series of sermons to a largely Jewish-Christian audience. Luke, sitting nearby, took notes on Paul's teachings. Later, Luke went back to his notes and wrote out in full what Paul said. So the themes are Pauline, but the language is more Lukan.

I freely admit that I'm no Greek scholar. Much of my conclusion is based on what I have heard from others. However, it seems to make sense in light of the data.

I'm glad we don't have to worry about the inspiration of Hebrews even though we are uncertain of the author.

"Dad Life"

I think someone wrote this about me.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Impressive: Playing the Piano with No Arms

This video amazes me and makes me thankful for what I've got.

Read more about it here.

Interesting Article on Youth Ministry

You may not agree with everything in this article, but I encourage you to read it nonetheless. The historical information related to the rise of modern youth ministry is fascinating.

Piper on Justification

Justification by faith alone is a critical doctrine in Christianity. However, there seems to be growing confusion in our culture about what this means. In this short video, John Piper provides a clear and straightforward explanation of this great truth.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

My Son Bobby on the News

Most of you know that three years ago our son Bobby was diagnosed with a form of lymphoma. He endured several very difficult months of chemotherapy followed by much more time of recovery. We praise the Lord that today Bobby remains cancer free. We also thank the Lord for carrying us through that trial.

Our local Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) has asked Bobby to be their "hero" for this year as they strive to raise funds for more research into blood cancers. Tonight the LLS held a kickoff for their fundraising. The fun part was that it took place at our local minor league baseball stadium. Bobby was given the honor of throwing out the first pitch at tonight's Sand Gnats game.

On top of all this, some reporters from a local TV affiliate attended the kickoff. They interviewed Alice and Bobby. Read the news article here.

If You're Going to Have a Church Sign...

If your church decides to have a sign, please don't use it to trivialize great scriptural truths.

I took this photo in Savannah today with my phone. Yes, it is hot here in the summer - about 95 degrees most days. I suppose the person who put this message on the sign thought he would be cute with the weather. I get it: hell is hot and heaven is cool (both refreshing and hip, rad, the place to be).

Normally I have a sense of humor. In fact, I love puns. However, this sign, which is located on a busy road for everyone to see, seems to relegate heaven and hell to some sort of cartoonish level. As we know, fewer and fewer people believe in hell as the years pass.

The last thing we Christians need to be doing is in any way trivializing the great truths we hold so dear. I know for a fact that the above church believes that the bible is true and that the gospel of Jesus Christ is the only means of salvation. In light of that, why be cute about it?

For better or worse, our church also has a sign. This is what the two sides say right now:

Psalm 19:1 "The heavens declare the glory of God."

Philippians 1:21 "For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain."

Life is short. Let's tell it like it is.

A Quick Question

Why do we look only to the bible to inform us about salvation, but at the same time we happily have/use all sorts of man-made ideas about the church?

Monday, August 16, 2010

On Church Covenants

My good friend Alan Knox has written an excellent post entitled, "Why Is One Covenant Not Enough?" I encourage you to read it.

Alan's main point is that since all followers of Christ are covenanted together with God, we do not need any other man-made church covenants.

Alan writes, "So, all of those who are in Christ – who have been saved by the blood of Jesus Christ – are covenanted together with God… not based on their (our) ability to keep a covenant, but based on God’s promises (for example, see Hebrews 10:23)."

Alan goes on to say, "If we use a 'church covenant' to include some believers and exclude others, then we are dividing the body of Christ and making distinctions that only God can make. We are trying to choose who to love and who to serve. (Of course, this makes life much easier, but it doesn’t make it a life that is lived according to the gospel.)"

In my (Eric) experience, church covenants are generally written with good intentions. The local church desires to put down on paper how the people of the church intend to relate to one another. It is, obviously, important that we think about how we are to live in relation to our brothers and sisters in Christ.

The problem is that this creates an artificial dividing line (like Alan has said) between those who are in our local church family and those who are out. This is, simply, unbiblical. The bible does not call on us to treat some Christians in one way but others another way.

I have heard of some churches who take their man-constructed covenants extremely seriously. If folks who are part of these churches leave for some reason, they are told that they are "in sin" for breaking covenant. The interesting (and sad) thing about this is that those leaving have not broken God's covenant, but only one created by man. If Christian people leave a church body for biblical reasons, there is absolutely no sin involved - no matter how loudly the church leaders may say they are "in sin."

I'll admit that we have a church covenant at Chevis Oaks. I used to think it was a good idea, but if it is going to separate us from fellow brothers and sisters in Christ then we will need to do away with it.

Let's all strive to be biblical in all things. Thanks Alan for the reminder.

My Favorite Chorus

"All I Have is Christ" by Sovereign Grace Music.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

My Favorite Hymn

"And Can it Be?" by Charles Wesley

Active or Passive?

Today is Sunday, and I'm assuming that you will meet with your church family today. When you do, will you be active or passive? Do you get together with the mindset of edifying others and being edified? Do you plan to be involved or are you more of a spectator? Do you think in advance of things you can bring (such as a scripture, a word of prophecy, a psalm, a hymn, etc.) or do you depend on others for this?

My strong encouragement to you is to be active. When you are actively involved, you benefit and you benefit others. When you are passive, I'm not really sure who benefits.

Let us remember these familiar verses:

"And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near." Hebrews 10:24-25

Stirring up others and encouraging others are surely active. Let's be so.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Good Article on House Churches

Click here to read a good, if somewhat dated, article in Time Magazine about house churches.

Below is a quote from the article. Information like this ought to make us think about how we can best serve the poor and needy in our communities.

"Indeed, house churching in itself can be an economically beneficial proposition. Golden Gate Seminary's Karr reckons that building and staff consume 75% of a standard church's budget, with little left for good works. House churches can often dedicate up to 90% of their offerings. Karr notes that traditional church is fine 'if you like buildings. But I think the reason house churches are becoming more popular is that their resources are going into something more meaningful.'"

Friday, August 13, 2010

The Church's Primary Activity

In the centuries leading up to the Protestant Reformation, the church's primary activity when it came together was the Eucharist.

The Reformers made a significant change to the gathering. Instead of the Eucharist holding primary importance, preaching was elevated to the main activity.

(When I write "primary activity" or "main activity," I'm talking about what the people generally see as the most important aspect of the church gathering.)

In the Protestant realm, preaching is still viewed by most people as the most important part of the weekly gathering. If you ask people what they think of it, they'll often say something like, "The preacher is bringing us a word from God this morning." Mark Dever, who has written a great deal on the church, says that expositional preaching is the first mark of a healthy church.

As I am continuing to discover on a daily basis, the bible can be an inconvenient book when it comes to our traditions. So, let's ask a daring question: When we look in the bible, what is the primary activity during the gathering of the church?

This can be a somewhat difficult question to answer because, as we have seen, the bible gives us small "snap-shots" of early church gatherings, but doesn't fill us in completely. Despite this, we can gain an solid understanding of what happened in early church gatherings.

We need to look at a few key passages:

"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." I Corinthians 14:26

"And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near." Hebrews 10:24-25

These two important passages show us three very important things for this discussion. First, a variety of things happened when the early church gathered. Second, all things were to be done for the edification of the body. Third, everyone has the joy and responsibility of stirring up others (and being stirred) to love and good works.

We know that preaching/teaching was important. For example, Paul tells Timothy, "Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching." I Timothy 4:13

However, other activities seem important, too.

In Ephesians 5:18-21, Paul writes, "And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ." This could certainly apply to the gathering.

It seems that spiritual gifts, which are given in a variety of forms, should be used for the building up of the church during gatherings. We know that there are a wide variety of these. For example, I Corinthians 12:4-11 says, "Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills."

The above passages tell us something that might surprise us - especially in light of modern church gatherings: When the N.T. church gathered, they did not have a primary activity.

It certainly wasn't preaching. It wasn't singing. It wasn't giving of testimonies. It wasn't reading scripture. It wasn't the Lord's Supper. It wasn't any one thing.

This is not what we see today, where preaching has been elevated to primary status in almost all conservative churches. It is ironic that those who would claim to be most biblical are, in fact, giving prominence to preaching when that prominence is not biblical.

So, what is most important? If no one activity is the key activity, is there anything that should be the focus? The answer is yes. Paul tells us very clearly in I Cor. 14:26 that all things should be done for edification. He writes this in the context of the church gathering. So no matter what happens when the church gathers, all must be for the building up of the body.

This indicates that content of gatherings is not nearly as important as the attitude and motivation of those present. If the goal is edification and church people strive for this, then any of a wide variety of things could happen - maybe preaching, maybe teaching, maybe scripture reading, maybe testimony, maybe prophecy, maybe speaking in tongues, maybe the sharing of the Lord's Supper, etc. However, if edification and the sirring up to love and good works is not the goal, then it doesn't matter what we do because it won't be biblical.

As we gather, let our focus be the building up of the body in Christ. Instead of looking to "the preacher," let's look to encourage our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

A Woman Told Me, "Obama is the Antichrist."

This morning I was walking out of Kroger with a Starbucks latte in my hand. Nice. I was looking forward to simply getting in the car and enjoying the coffee on the road. That's when it all went wrong.

A woman who I had never seen before was suddenly approaching me. She seemed to have come out of nowhere, but I think she had just pulled into the parking space behind me. She must have seen the metal ichthys on the bumper. Before I knew what was happening (after all, I was distracted by the desire to drink my latte), she said to me, "Do you know that Barack Hussein Obama is the Antichrist?" That's not exactly what I was expecting.

How do you answer statements like that? I wish I had had time to prepare.

I think I stood there dumbfounded for a few seconds. I'm no Obama fan (I can't think of much at all that I agree with him about. I was hoping he would at least get our troops quickly out of Iraq and Afghanistan, but that doesn't look like it is happening soon). However, I also don't think he is the Antichrist.

To make things more interesting, this lady was of African-American descent. While I was pleased that she didn't support Obama just because of his race, I also think she is at least a little loony for being so sure that he is the Antichrist.

I began to say to her that he could be the Antichrist, but that to be so sure of it seemed strange. She wasn't someone who actually wanted to hear much of what I had to say. Listening was not exactly her strength. As she blathered on, I realized that she never even bothered to introduce herself. She seemed to have some sort of need to get these thoughts out of her head. She may need a social skills class.

She continued by telling me that we will all have to eventually worship Obama because he is trying to control the banks, etc. I responded by saying that I do think he is a socialist, but I doubted that he was going to force worship upon us. She wasn't thrilled with that. She took another deep breath, ready to tell me more things. That's when I decided to bail out. I said I had to go, jumped into my car, drove away, and enjoyed my latte.

This woman seemed almost brain-washed to me. She would not listen at all, seemed absolutely sure of herself, and didn't even appear to really want to have a conversation. When I told my wife Alice about this, she said she thought this lady may have been a Jehovah's Witness. That would make sense in light of her deep desire to get me to agree with her.

Additionally, and significantly, she never mentioned Jesus even once. Her agenda was completely Obama-focused.

This was a total turn-off to me. From the beginning of our interaction, I just wanted to run away. My hope is that she isn't talking to other people who think she is a Christian. Arrgh.

She displayed no love, only a desire to spread her political nonsense.

What can I learn from this? I need to befriend people and love them while I tell them about Jesus. Love is a great communicator. As I didn't want to hear from this lady, others probably aren't going to want to hear about Christ if they think I'm just trying to win an argument.

How Not to Impress Your Girlfriend

Monday, August 9, 2010

Angry About Sola Scriptura

I don't post all of the comments that people leave on this blog. The reason for this is that some are very angry in tone. Interestingly, some of the angriest people are those who oppose the doctrine of sola scriptura (When I use the term "sola scriptura," I'm referring to the belief that scripture alone is authoritative for belief and practice).

I find the whole thing fascinating. I've written several posts dealing with sola scriptura, and almost every time a few folks leave comments that are clearly driven by anger. I suppose the reason for this is that sola scriptura opposes unbiblical traditions. We all know that people, regardless of denomination, do not like it at all when you call their favored traditions into question.

As far as I can remember, the angry commenters have almost all been Roman Catholics. This is no surprise in light of Rome's multitude of traditions that have no biblical basis. The interesting part is that these Catholics have all tried to use scripture to make the case that sola scriptura is not, in fact, biblical. This seems inconsistent to me. If they don't hold to sola scriptura, then why are they basing their arguments on scripture in the first place? It seems like they would refer instead to a statement from the Vatican about scripture and tradition both being authoritative.

The reality is that the bible can be an inconvenient book. It calls us to lives of self-sacrifice and suffering. In general, we don't like this. Instead, we create traditions around ourselves that make us feel comfortable. Roman Catholics are clearly guilty of this; this is why they despise the doctrine of sola scriptura. If Catholics suddenly adopted sola scriptura as true, they would have to immediately jettison many of their dearly held beliefs and practices.

Before we Protestants get too happy with ourselves, we had better be honest. Although we may say we believe in sola scriptura, we also have plenty of traditions that are based more on personal preference than on scripture. One example that I talk about quite a bit on this blog is church gatherings. What we see happen in most churches on Sundays bears little resemblance to what we see in scripture of the gathering of the church. Why the big difference? Traditions have developed over the years that we like. We don't challenge these.

I'll say this for Catholics: they are consistent. They say they don't believe in sola scriptura and act like they don't believe it.

We Protestants say we hold to sola scriptura, but we don't really act like we believe it. If we did, many of our traditions would quickly have to become extinct.

Instead of getting angry, let's be willing to really live according to sola scriptura. Let's compare all our beliefs and practices with what we see in the bible. Let's honestly keep what is biblical and get rid of the rest.

Let's be careful not to be like the Pharisees of Mark 7. In Mark 7:8, Jesus says, "You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men."

Let's reject traditions and instead truly hold to scripture alone.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Football or Basketball?

As your church family comes together, are your gatherings more like football or basketball?

In football, one person (the quarterback) passes the ball to everyone else. One person is responsible for the direction the ball goes. The others do not, except on rare occasions, throw the ball back to the quarterback.

In basketball, all the players pass the ball to all the other players. In fact, on a good team there will be much passing among all team members. Good passing teams are usually very successful teams.

Let's take this sports analogy and apply it to church gatherings. In some churches, the gatherings seem like football. One person (the pastor) does the vast majority of the speaking. The communication flows in one direction, from the pastor to the people. The majority of the people can only receive from the pastor, but cannot give back to him. The mass of folks sits silently for 20-60 minutes, constantly receiving.

Other church gatherings function more like basketball. In these gatherings, everyone sees it as his or her responsibility and privilege to communicate with everyone else. Everyone is giving and receiving. Communication flows in all directions. There is dialog as opposed to monologue. All teach and are taught, exhort and are exhorted, encourage and are encouraged.

In reading the New Testament, we can see that the gatherings of the early church were participatory in nature. We read in I Corinthians 14:26, "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."

We see that there is a connection between participatory gatherings and edification. When each member of the body is involved, the whole body is built up in Christ. Every part of the body is necessary for proper edification to take place (see I Cor. 12:14-25). When one member of the body does the majority of the communicating, the others become passive and the body does not grow in as nearly a healthy manner.

As we gather, let us all strive to both give and receive. Let's think basketball. Let's expect to actively build others up and be built up.

Jonathan Edwards on Heaven and Hell

In our modern age, few people give much thought to heaven and hell. Even most Christians (myself ashamedly included) do not spend significant time pondering what lies ahead after death. We are probably guilty of this because our lives are so posh in the West. My guess is that followers of Christ in places like North Korea, China, and the Arab world actually do give much time to looking forward to heaven with Christ.

Jonathan Edwards, the greatest American theologian, gave much thought to the realities of both heaven and hell. Fortunately for us, Edwards put much of this down on paper.

In Heaven and Hell, Owen Strachan and Doug Sweeney have taken Edwards' writings and put them in a form that is easy to understand for us modern readers. They have not "dumbed-down" the text, but rather have added explanatory notes to assist in comprehension.

Here is a sample of what Edwards wrote about the prospect of hell, "The bow of God's wrath is bent, and the arrow made ready on the string, and Justice bends the arrow at your heart, and strains the bow, and it is nothing but the mere pleasure of God, and that of an angry God, without any promise of obligation at all, that keeps the arrow one moment from being made drunk with your blood." (Works 22, 411).

As for heaven, Edwards wrote, "And when Christ shall bring his church into his Father's house in heaven after the judgment, he shall bring her there as his bride, having there presented her whom he loved and gave himself for to himself, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing. The bridegroom and the bride shall then enter into heaven, both having on their wedding robes, attended with all the glorious angels. And there they enter on the feast and joys of their marriage before the Father; they shall then begin an everlasting wedding day. (Works 9, 508).

Heaven and Hell is a relatively short book (about 140 pages) that is also very readable. If you are new to Edwards, this is a great place to begin. He speaks with a clarity that far surpasses most theologians.

May we all spend increasing time pondering eternity with Christ in heaven. May we also be inspired by the reality of hell to more faithfully share Christ with others.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Homeschoolers Succeeding in College

According to a new research study, homeschoolers are doing very well in college. I'm not surprised by this, but it is nice to see some data in black-and-white. To look at the study yourself, click here.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Able to Admonish One Another

In Romans 15:14, Paul writes the following:

"And concerning you, my brethren, I myself also am convinced that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able also to admonish one another." (NASB)

"Now I myself am confident concerning you, my brethren, that you also are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another." (NKJV)

"I myself am satisfied about you, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able to instruct one another." (ESV)

The word that is translated "admonish" or "instruct" carries the idea of giving instructions in regard to belief and behavior. It suggests warning, teaching, advising, exhorting.

We must keep in mind that this passages falls near the end of Romans. Romans is a letter full of great doctrinal truths about what we should believe and how we should live this out. In fact, if you only had one of Paul's letters, this would probably be the one you would need to have.

In 15:14, Paul tells the Roman Christians that they are able to admonish (instruct, teach, warn, exhort, advise) one another. Based on its location within this letter, it is clear that Paul believes they can effectively teach the great truths of this letter to one another. In fact, the apostle seems to expect it.

Broadly speaking, we see Paul telling the Christians in Rome to admonish one another. They are to spend time teaching and being taught. It is important to see that every Christian is to be admonishing and being admonished. Each is to be exhorting and being exhorted.

This goes along nicely with what we see in Hebrews 10:24-25, where we read, "And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching." The author of Hebrews expects Christians to stir up love and good works. How is this done? It's done through the admonishing/instructing that we see in Romans 15:14.

In order for the above to happen, Christians need to spend time with one another and really know each other. They also need opportunities for this type of communication to take place. In my experience, the best way for this to happen is in informal settings where people are free to talk and relax.

As we think about the 15:14, we should also ask ourselves whether or not the above can happen as our churches gather. In your church family, does one person or a small group of people do most of the teaching/admonishing? Or, is there an expectation that everyone has the responsibility to both teach and be taught?

In your church, is everyone made to feel as if he is the priest he is? Are you reminded that you are, as a child of Christ, competent to instruct others? Or, are only certain people viewed as knowledgeable enough to do the vast bulk of the teaching? If so, who fosters this view?

Paul provides us in 15:14 with another reminder that church life is not passive in nature. As we come together, we need to be prepared to actively edify our brothers and sisters in Christ. This is not an option; rather, it is expected.

The church gathering is not a show. It should not be a ceremony. Rather, the bible describes it as a time when God is glorified through our building one another up in Jesus Christ. This is something Paul tells us that we should do for the good of the body. It is what we all should do.

So, let us actively admonish and be admonished. In doing this, we all grow closer to Christ together.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Another Homeschooling Benefit

I love Chick-fil-A. Now I'm going to get to eat at Chick-fil-A more than ever because our daughter Caroline has been hired at our nearby "inventor of the chicken sandwich."

One of the primary reasons Caroline was hired is that her schedule is flexible. The key is that she is available to work during the day. Many days this coming year she'll wake up, do some schoolwork, head to the restaurant to work from 10-2, come home, and finish her studies. I'm thrilled for her because she will learn how to work out in the world, have opportunities to witness for Christ, and will also be able to save for college.

Homeschooling allows for much freedom of schedule. This is a huge benefit for families. Alice and our kids can "go and do" as they please. They are not tied to a specific building or schedule. Please don't misunderstand; we do have a regular schedule. However, home educating lets us do other things that many other families cannot do.

I'm convinced that Caroline would not have been hired had she only been able to work after three PM. There is simply too much competition for those specific hours. Since she can work when most kids her age cannot, she now has a job. Thanks to homeschooling.

Since we are on the themes of Chick-fil-A and homeschooling, I've included a couple of Tim Hawkins videos for your viewing pleasure:

Philippians 2:5-11 in the ISV

Philippians is one of my favorite books of the bible. In particular, I find the "Christ Hymn" of 2:5-11 to be one of the high points of scripture. In many English translations much of the poetic quality of these verses is lost. I appreciate a great deal the way the International Standard Version (ISV) renders 2:5-11. It sheds even more light on this already profound passage:

5 Have the same attitude among yourselves that was also in Christ Jesus:

6 In God's own form existed he,
and shared with God equality,
deemed nothing needed grasping.

7 Instead, poured out in emptiness,
a servant's form did he possess,
a mortal man becoming.

8 In human form he chose to be,
and lived in all humility,
death on a cross obeying.

9 Now lifted up by God to heaven,
a name above all others given,
this matchless name possessing.

10 And so, when Jesus' name is called,
the knees of everyone should fall
wherever they're residing.

11 Then every tongue in one accord,
will say that Jesus Christ is Lord,
while God the Father praising.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Go to the Small Classics Section

If you are looking for a good book to read, my recommendation is that you head straight to the small classics section of your local Christian bookstore. Amid all the books written within the last five years, you will find a group of books that were mostly written 100-400 years ago. I find it sad that this section is so small; this tells us a lot about what people generally want to read.

The reason you should head to the classics section is that the books there have staying power. Most of the modern books in the store will be forgotten ten years from now. However, if a book remains in print several hundred years after it is first published, then you can almost be certain that it is worth reading.

My good friend Micah Thornton is moving this week to Louisville, KY to attend Boyce College. Since he won't have enough to read while there (ha-ha), I decided to swing by our Lifeway store to pick up a few books for him. I didn't even bother glancing at the "New Arrivals" section. Yuck. I headed straight to the classics. It was easy to find good books there. I purchased these four:

Joy by Charles Spurgeon

The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

I didn't want to only buy books written long ago. There are, after all, some good books penned today. I have found the Jerry Bridges almost always writes great books on sanctification. Therefore, I bought Micah a copy of The Practice of Godliness.

As modern Americans, we tend to think that anything newer is automatically better. This is far from true when it comes to books, especially Christian books. If you want to be certain of buying a good book, try some Christian classics. There is a reason they are called classics.

William Wilberforce

If you would like a quick (80 pages) and enjoyable book about a remarkable individual, then get a copy of Amazing Grace in the Life of William Wilberforce. In this book, author John Piper looks at the life of a man who truly lived out what he believed. Wilberforce is best known for his tireless perseverance in the fight against the African slave trade in the British Empire. I'm struck by Wilberforce's fortitude during the twenty years of struggle in his crusade against slavery. After the slave trade was abolished, Wilberforce went on to push for abolition of slavery altogether in the British Empire. In 1833, three days before he died, slavery was finally abolished.

What I learned from this book was how many other projects Wilberforce was involved in. A common theme of Wilberforce's work was his trying to reduce suffering among the needy of society. He was even involved in overseas missions; he led the fight to allow for open evangelism in Britain's overseas colonies. Because of what Wilberforce did, William Carey was allowed to share the gospel in British held areas of India. Prior to Wilberforce's work, Carey was relegated to a Dutch section of India.

Because Wilberforce really lived his love for Christ, I find him someone worth listening to. In Piper's book, Piper frequently mentions a book written by Wilberforce entitled A Practical View of Christianity. I ordered it yesterday.

Let's all live like Wilberforce. He acted on what he believed.