Thursday, September 30, 2010

"Think: The Life of the Mind and the Love of God"

(UPDATE: Buy it cheaper here.)

I like to think, but I'm not sure how much time I actually spend thinking about my thinking. This is what John Piper challenges us all to do in Think: The Life of the Mind and the Love of God.

Piper is correct that the use of the mind is directly related to both what we think about God and what we feel for God. He encourages us to think in such a way that honors God by causing us to cherish Him more deeply.

This book is somewhat philosophical in nature. The reason for this is that a good deal of it is thinking about thinking. This may sound dull, but it really isn't. Piper spends a great deal of time using scripture to make his points. Because of this, the book has direct application to how we live and think every moment of the day.

I've read about 25 or so of Piper's books. Quite honestly, some of them have seemed a little redundant. I don't need to read another book about how "God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him." I love that truth; I just don't want to read it another time. The good thing about Think is that it is unique among what Piper has written so far. I don't recall any other book of his that focuses so much on the mind. Because of this, I recommend this book.

On Divorce

Albert Mohler takes an excellent look at the evangelical church's view of divorce as it compares to other political-cultural issues such as abortion, homosexuality, etc. Mohler asks some good questions that should cause us to think.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

God's Glorification Through Mutual Edification

"Why does the church come together?" This is a question that is not asked frequently enough, but when it is asked we know what the usual answer is: "worship." I suppose this is why so many larger churches have labeled the biggest room in their buildings the "worship center." (I wonder what happens in those places if anyone worships outside the "worship center"? Do they face church discipline?)

So, what is the point of the church coming together? When we throw off tradition and look to the bible, we see that mutual edification is the point of the gathering. For example, I Corinthians 14:26 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."

However, we also know that everything the church does, including gatherings, should be for the glory of God. Paul writes in Ephesians 3:21, "To Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen."

So, does the church come together primarily for mutual edification or for God's glorification? The answer is "Yes."

When we come together as a church body, we should (according to Hebrews 10:24), "...consider one another in order to stir up love and good works." When we do this, we are building one another up. This is the essence of mutual edification.

As we mutually edify one another, God is glorified.

I believe the clearest passage dealing with this is I Peter 4:7-11. Peter discusses much "one-anothering" within the church body. We see that fervent love is the key motivator. We are to lovingly exercise our spiritual gifts for the edification of the church. When this occurs, God is glorified in Christ Jesus:

I Peter 4:7-11, "But the end of all things is at hand; therefore be serious and watchful in your prayers. And above all things have fervent love for one another, for 'love will cover a multitude of sins.' Be hospitable to one another without grumbling. As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen."

So from now on when I'm asked why the church gathers together, I'm going to give a simple five word answer:

"God's Glorification Through Mutual Edification"

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Savannah is Due

This says Savannah is due for a hurricane. I'm glad God controls the weather.

Religious Ignorance

Sigh. Although I'm not particularly surprised by this news, I'm still disappointed. According to a recent survey conducted by the Pew Forum, Americans are basically ignorant about religion. What disturbs me, however, is specifically that American Christians generally seem ignorant about Christianity.

Why the ignorance within the church? I believe it is due to a failure of discipleship. Information such as this ought to spur us to ask questions about the effectiveness of the way we disciple others and whether or not we need to make significant changes.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

One Body, One Spirit, One Hope, One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism, One God and Father

Ephesians 4:1-6, "I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call — one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all." (emphasis mine)

The above passage is critical for the life of the church. We read Paul begin to exhort us to "walk in a manner worthy" of our calling. In the preceding three chapters of Ephesians, Paul emphasizes the wonderful things God has done in salvation. In chapters 4-6, Paul instructs us in how to live our lives in light of all God has done. This is walking worthy of our calling.

Paul takes a few verses to begin to explain what this walk looks like as we relate to other Christians. We are to show humility, gentleness, patience, and bear with one another in love. The apostle then stresses the importance of unity within the body. Paul discusses the unity of various aspects of the Christian faith and life. In verses 4-6 alone, Paul uses the word "one" on seven different occasions. Paul's redundancy has a point: to stress the absolute importance of the unity of Jesus Christ's church. He even brings the members of the Trinity into it: One Spirit, One Lord, One God and Father.

As we think about the church, this passage must inform both what we believe and how we act. We make a mistake if our focus falls simply on the unity of our own local church body. It is relatively easy to be united with people we agree with, know, and love. Paul's admonition goes far beyond this. As followers of Jesus, we are to be united with all other Christians. We are to be one with them.

This may seem like a tall order since we may disagree with many other Christians about a great many things. However, since they are Christians were are automatically united in the gospel of Jesus Christ. The things that might seem to divide us (such as the ordinances/sacraments, spiritual gifts, church polity, church structure, view of children, etc.) really should not separate us in any way.

This means that we should always be ready to meet other Christians and rejoice with them over being one in Christ. This may happen when the church gathers, but it may also happen in the grocery store, over the back fence, in the bank, over the internet, in the park, at the office, or wherever. Unity in Christ spans location, socio-economic status, education, income, background, etc.

Let us therefore go out of our way to be united with all other followers of Jesus Christ. This may take different forms on different days. It will, however, always be joyful.

In human terms, it may not seem possible for people who disagree on important issues (for example the meaning of baptism) to be united. In response to this disagreement, we often in reality divide while at the same time giving lip service to unity. We don't gather together, but in theory say we are united. This is simply unbiblical.

If we are in Christ and someone else is in Christ, then we are united in Him. Therefore, we must act like it. Let's then do all we can to foster this unity. Let's meet others wherever they are and encourage them and be encouraged. It should be exhilarating to spend time with with other believers if the aim is to build one another up in Christ.

Let's focus on what unites us (Christ) instead of what may divide us (secondary issues).

Division is disobedience. Division is sin.

Unity in Christ is obedience. Unity in Christ is God-glorifying.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Church Destroyed?

This news article from Voice of the Martyrs is entitled "Church Destroyed." What a poor choice of words.

This local church in India is facing persecution and suffering, but it was only a building that was actually destroyed. This faulty title betrays the common, unbiblical idea that a building is a church.

The church is people.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Fun Geography Quizzes

Go to this excellent site for all sorts of geography quizzes at different levels of difficulty.

If we are going to be knowledgeable about international missions, we need to know the geography of the world. In order to be strategic about sharing the gospel with unreached people groups, we should be aware of the difference between Indiana, India, and Indonesia.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


I'm looking forward to reading this new book by John Piper that arrived at my house yesterday. I know it's trendy to like Piper - so be it. The topic is an important one: how our thinking relates to our love of God.

I'm reminded of what Paul wrote to the Philippian Christians in 4:8, "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things."

Monday, September 20, 2010

Short Memories

Alan Knox has written an excellent post about how our short memories affect the way we think about the church. Read it here.

I think we all agree that we remember what we have experienced (what else could we remember?). We tend to gravitate toward those experiences because we feel comfortable with them. Therefore, we end up thinking that "the way things should be" is what we remember from the past. This is dangerous because our experiences are so subjective and may have been unbiblical. Let's make every effort to look beyond what we can remember and look to what the bible teaches.

"Finding Organic Church"

Frank Viola upsets many people because his views on the church challenge much about the status quo. I don't agree with all he writes, but I appreciate his desire to be biblical.

In Finding Organic Church, Viola gets very specific and practical about organic church life. The book's subtitle explains well what the focus is: A Comprehensive Guide to Starting and Sustaining Authentic Christian Communities.

While Pagan Christianity deals with unbiblical modern church practices and Reimagining Church focuses on the biblical basis for what church life should be, Finding Organic Church lays out more of the nuts-and-bolts of both church planting and how the church should then function.

The aspect of this text that I found most beneficial was Viola's emphasis on the importance of the itinerant church planter. Quite honestly, I had not given this much thought before. Viola makes the case that almost all New Testament churches were founded by or at least connected with a church planter (Paul was obviously one of these). The church planter, according to Viola, is important because he has experience in organic church life and therefore knows how to help/direct in getting a new church started. Also, if the body of the new church looks to the church planter as an authority figure, this is not a significant problem because he will eventually move on, leaving the church to the leadership of the Holy Spirit.

If you are interested in church planting as it relates to organic fellowships, then this book will be helpful to you.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Built Up Together

"Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love." Ephesians 4:15-16

These two verses show us a beautiful picture of church body life. I've been thinking a lot about them over the past few days.

Instead of spiritual immaturity, Paul desires that the church become mature in Christ. This passage makes clear that we do this together. We build one another up instead of building ourselves up.

The above word-picture of the church as a body makes this clear. The body needs every part to be working correctly. This is extremely significant. All parts of the body must be functioning the way the Lord would have them function. This implies that all parts must be actively involved in body life. All are important.

If some parts of the body are doing the vast majority of the work (80% doing 20%), then there is a problem. The problem may be with the 80% or it may be with the 20%. Either way, the church is out of balance when this occurs and this, therefore, impairs the spiritual growth of the church as a whole.

We are not "Lone Ranger Christians." Our own spiritual growth depends at least in part on the healthy functioning of our church body. As the whole grows, we as individuals grow. We are impaired from growing (at least as much as we could) if our church family is not working effectively together.

So what can we do? Let's encourage those who are doing most of the edifying to step back a bit. Let's also encourage those who are more passive to get more involved and try to find opportunities for them to do so. Let's emphasize in the life of the church that we all need each other.

Let's try to find the planks in our own eyes, and then lovingly confront specks in others' eyes.

Let's make it our goal that our church families grow up together into Jesus Christ, who is the head of the church. We do this most effectively and obediently when we all work together in a fully functioning, healthy church family.

The Sacrificial Lamb

Since yesterday was Yom Kippur, this video is especially appropriate. Praise God that Jesus Christ is the once-for-all, perfect sacrificial lamb.

The Sacrificial Lamb from SourceFlix on Vimeo.

Thanks J.T.

Friday, September 17, 2010

"What is the Purpose of Going to Church?"

Lionel Woods has written an excellent essay in which he asks the important question, "What is the Purpose of Going to Church?" I encourage you to read it.

In modern evangelicalism, the answer given to the above question is almost always "worship." That sounds good, but the problem is that it is incorrect (according to the bible). So what is the purpose? One word: edification.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

"Share The Well"

I love this video because it shows glimpses of people from around the world, some who know Christ and some who still need to hear about him. It also shows several photos of missions work being done. As a bonus, the song Share the Well by Caedmon's Call is one of my favorites.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

India in Need

Part of our family's heart still resides in India. We will never forget our short time serving there. We are thankful for it and continue to be deeply impacted by it. India is in desperate need of the gospel message (see here, here, and here). This video shows the physical need in the streets of Calcutta, but it is the spiritual need (sung about by Caedmon's Call) that is even greater.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Thinking About September 11th

I am writing this post to elect exiles and citizens of the kingdom of heaven who also happen to be citizens of the United States of America.

We need to think about how we think about September 11th. Do we think primarily as Americans or primarily as Christians?

If we think about September 11th primarily as Americans, then we are thinking mainly patriotically and politically. What we probably remember most from that terrible day is Muslim extremists high jacking multiple airplanes, flying them into buildings, and killing thousands of people. Our emotional response is likely still one of anger. Our desire may still be what it was nine years ago: payback.

If we think about September 11th primarily as citizens of heaven, then our thinking should be much different. It ought to be theological instead of political. Our focus should be from God's perspective instead of from the American perspective. In thinking this way, what did we see that day? We saw a great deal of sin and death. We saw much killing, like the world has seen for thousands and thousands of years. We saw people (the killers and many who were simply going to work) go directly to eternal Hell. We saw a great tragedy of eternal significance because those who died have no more opportunity to hear and respond to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Our emotional response when we think of September 11th should be sadness. Our desire in light of that day ought to be one of increased fervor in sharing the gospel with all peoples.

September 11th is one of the defining days in all of our lives. That day is imprinted on my mind. I was working as a school psychologist in a public school system at the time. I'll never forget standing in the school office and watching on T.V. when the first tower collapsed.

We all remember it well. The questions now for us Christians are: How will we think about September 11th? How do we feel about it? And, most importantly, what are we going to do about it?

Let's think and respond as citizens of heaven.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Are Roman Catholics Really Christians?

"Are Roman Catholics Really Christians?"

The above question is one that gets tossed around a bit too carelessly in Protestant circles. The answers that are often given - either "Yes" or "No" - are usually stated by people who know enough about Catholicism to be dangerous but not accurate.

Quite frankly, the question is a problematic one because it is too vague. It is not precise.

A better question would be, "If a person follows the stated teachings of the Roman Catholic Church, is he really a Christian?" It could be asked this way, "If a person follows the Vatican's stated doctrine, is he saved?"

The above questions are important, but I still don't find them to be very useful. The reason is this: they deal with large groups of people instead of individuals. We are saved at the individual level, so I'd like to propose a much more useful question.

That question is this: "Is the person who I'm talking to, who is Roman Catholic, really a Christian? Is he saved?"

This question is much more useful because it causes me to have to get to know the person and have an in-depth conversation. Instead of stereotyping what he believes, this makes me listen to what he says.

If we deal with the question on an individual basis, we will find that some Roman Catholics are really Christians and some are not. Some know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and some do not. Some have eternal life and some do not. The key is being in Christ.

Let's be honest: if we have this same type of conversation with Protestants, we will find that some are really Christians and some are not. Some know Jesus Christ and have received the gift of eternal life, while others have not.

Please let me be clear. In this post I am not saying that I believe that the stated doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church are as biblical as the classic doctrines of Protestantism. For example, I believe in justification by faith alone by God's grace alone. I love the 5 solas. I also believe that the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers is biblical.

The point I am making is that instead of saying that someone is or isn't really a Christian based on the group he is a part of, we should actually get to know the person and discover what he really believes. If he is a Christian, then you can rejoice with him that you are brothers in Christ. If he is not, then you may have the beginnings of a friendship that will (hopefully) lead to in-depth gospel proclamation.

To sum up - we need to actually get to know people. This is true inside the church and out.

When we do this, we will find out what they really think instead of assuming something based on what a particular group believes.

(This post obviously applies to those who may be a part of orthodox Christianity: Catholics, Orthodox, and Protestants. I'm not referring here to cults such as Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses. We should certainly befriend those in cults such as this, but we need not think they might already know Jesus as Lord.)

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Koran Burning Called Off

Yes! I'm so glad that the Koran burning has been canceled. I do not know the details or the motivations behind the situation, but I'm just thrilled that Muslims around the world will not watch on TV as "Christians" burn the book they love.

So, what should we do in response to this? First, let's thank the Lord. Then, let's pray that God would give us opportunity to sacrificially love Muslims in our neighborhoods, workplaces, etc. I'll admit that I do not know any Muslims personally. I want this to change. I'm praying that God will bring them into my life. I hope you do as well.

James White on the Koran Burning

Apologist James White skillfully confronts the errors of the would-be Koran burners here. Enjoy.

What Bible Should You Use?

We English speakers have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to bible translations. I part because of this, we often struggle to know which version or versions to use. Dan Wallace offers some helpful advice on this topic. I encourage you to read it.

Personally, I like to have a copy of the ESV and the NJKV close at hand. However, I also enjoy reading the KJV, NASB, ISV, NLT, NIV, and several others. I'm not a big fan of the looser translations and paraphrases such as The Message.

Screwtape and Koran Burning

If you have ever read C.S. Lewis' The Screwtape Letters, then you will enjoy my friend Mike DeBusk's post entitled Screwtape Congratulates Wormwood on the Qu'ran Burning Event. As this post makes clear, Mike is as disturbed and disgusted as I am about what is coming on September 11th. Let's pray that God will convict this "church" in Gainesville to realize that what they are proposing to do actually harms the spread of the gospel instead of furthering it.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Koran Burning and the Great Commission

The Christian life is really not that complicated. It is difficult, to be sure, but not complicated (in the sense of being difficult to understand). God has saved His church to glorify Him. We do this through striving to live holy lives and loving our neighbors, whoever they may be.

Jesus has commissioned His followers - us - to make disciples of all nations. We can do this most effectively when we go to and love people who would hate, harm, and even kill us. This is what Jesus did, giving us His primary example. We certainly cannot die for anyone else's sins, but we can take the good news to people who (at least at first) do not want it.

As we all know, the largest religious group in the world that does not know Jesus Christ is the followers of Islam. Right now, there are many wonderful Christian missionaries from all over the world trying to reach Muslims in some very difficult places. Many of these missionaries have sacrificed greatly to be where they are. Many see little fruit because the soil is so hard. Alice and I personally know several different families and individuals who have left the comfort of the USA behind in order to take the gospel to the people of the Middle East and beyond.

To sum up the obvious: the work is very difficult.

In light of all this, the upcoming Koran burning in Florida is only going to make it more difficult to reach Muslims with the gospel. Please let me be clear: this Koran burning is evil and foolish beyond measure. I write this not because I believe the Koran is true (it isn't). I write it because one Koran-burning-party like this can cause all kinds of damage to the Christian witness here in the USA and overseas.

Let's say a Christian missionary has been living a holy life and loving his neighbors in a place like Saudi Arabia, Iran, Indonesia, or Somalia. Maybe he has been able to build friendships, gain trust, and even explain the gospel to some Muslims where he is. When these Muslims watch on September 11th as "Christians" burn Korans, what will they think of their Christian missionary friend? Even if they are interested in Christ, they may be even more fearful than ever to say so.

It is one thing to preach and teach that the Bible is true and the Koran is not. We must speak the truth. However, we must also do so in love. We tell people the Koran is false out of love for them and in the hope that they will come to know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Burning Korans shows nothing but hatred and, I believe, pushes Muslims farther away from the truth.

I remember about five years ago being on a mission trip to Jaipur, India. Several of us engaged a Muslim man in conversation. He was polite and cordial. He was not a devout Muslim, but he was Islamic nonetheless. We returned to his shop the next day and presented him with a Bible. We told him a bit about what it teaches. This man, who probably does not believe much of the Bible is true, set the Bible on the top shelf in his office. He did this out of respect for us and for the Bible.

What a contrast: A Muslim man showing respect to a Bible compared with "Christians" burning Korans.

I am greatly saddened by what is going to happen on September 11th.

On September 11th, 2001, many people died on a tragic day. However, in God's sovereignty and providence, this seemed to open doors of conversation and ultimately for the gospel. My fear is that the Koran burning on September 11th, 2010 many close doors for the gospel. If nothing else, Christian missionaries may find their mission fields' soil even harder come September 12th.

We followers of Jesus must loudly denounce this Koran burning. Let us speak the truth in love, but let us speak loudly so at least some Muslims will know that not all Christians agree with this sort of hateful activity.

A Reminder

In John 13:34-35, Jesus tells His disciples, "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another."

*Jesus commands us to love.

*Jesus commands us to love one another.

*Jesus commands us to love one another as He loves us.

*Jesus commands us to love one another as He loves us so that everyone will know that we are His disciples.

Let us live out the command to love one another. The wonderful aspect of this is that obedience to this command brings us joy in Christ. Loving others can, at times, be hard work. However, let us not confuse this with drudgery. We are not being told to do something that will harm us. Rather, it benefits both the ones we love and ourselves. Ultimately, we love others to bring glory to God. In the end, our love for others is positive for everyone involved.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Edification at Waffle House

I'll be honest: Waffle House used to scare me. I'm not sure what it was about those restaurants, but there always seemed to be something a bit frightening about them.

Regardless, I've changed my mind. Yes, most of the food can lead to heart attacks, but if you choose carefully you can manage to leave with just a bad case of heartburn. The key is self-control.

To the topic at hand. Today I had a great breakfast with a good friend of mine. We ate at Waffle House. I found that edification can take place even at a restaurant like this. We talked for about an hour and a half while we consumed our breakfasts. I'm pleased to say that I made it home safely. I'm not sure about my friend, but as far as I know his heart is still O.K.

Seriously, we had a great time together. We could have had fun talking about sports, politics, etc. I appreciate this friend because although he will talk about cultural things, he mainly wants to discuss how we can live more fully for Jesus Christ. He is humble and readily admits his faults. He looks to scripture to inform every aspect of his life. He challenges me because he is willing to defy cultural norms and even American church norms in order to be more biblical.

I was glad to be able to encourage him in some areas of struggle/difficulty in his life. He did the same for me. We also exhorted one another to live out what we read in scripture. Much of this particular discussion dealt with how to speak the truth in love.

My hope is that we were living out Hebrews 10:24, "And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works." I think we did. I know I came away from our time together feeling both edified and challenged.

So this thing we call edification can take place anywhere - even at Waffle House. I encourage you to take advantage of any time you have with other believers to edify one another. This is the primary reason for the gathering of the church. Let's strive to make edification be a natural, normal part of our lives.

When we are with non-Christians, let's love them and share the gospel with them. When with brothers and sisters in Christ, let's spend our precious time helping each other strive toward maturity in Christ.

May we grow so close to Jesus that edification becomes a natural activity that is part of our daily routines.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Homeschooling Wisdom

My wonderful wife Alice has posted some homeschooling wisdom that comes from eight years educating our kids at home. It has been a terrific experience and continues to be so. I cannot believe our oldest is a senior this year. I'm getting old! Anyway, if you are interested in some practical wisdom about teaching at home, see what Alice has to say.

Two Verses for Today

In thinking about church gatherings today (or any day), let's live out these two simple verses:

"Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong. Let all that you do be done with love." I Corinthians 16:13-14

We see Paul emphasize the importance of both truth and love. May we strive for these both when we are with the church and when we are out in the world.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

I Saw These in a Bookstore Last Night

I saw these two products in Books-A-Million last night. I realize I wasn't in a Christian bookstore (we mainly went there for the coffee); nevertheless, these two items were disturbing.

The first was some sort of journal that mixes bible and government in a sickening manner. It almost suggests that the President will do the hearing, forgiving, and healing:

The second was even worse. Since the book was enclosed in plastic, I couldn't see if had the real biblical text with heretical "study" notes, or if it was just a regular book that used the word "bible" to catch people's attention. Either way - yuck:

Sermon Memory

I recently read this question somewhere, "How many sermons do you remember from your childhood?"

The answer for me is zero. In fact, I don't think I remember any sermons from the first twenty years of my life. Now that I am nearing forty, I can say that the actual number of sermons I remember from my entire life probably numbers fewer than twenty.

In addition, I'll sheepishly admit that I don't remember most of the sermons I have preached over the past few years.

Why is this? Why is it difficult to remember sermons? The reason is that God did not make our brains primarily for one-way communication. I'm not suggesting that we can't learn this way, but rather that the much better way to learn is through dialog/conversation. I think we would all agree that we retain much more information through engaging, back-and-forth conversation.

How then does this go along with the gift of teaching mentioned in scripture? As a church comes together, there may be a few people gifted in teaching who do most of it (although I hope not all of it). When the teaching takes place, there is no reason for it to be in the monologue/lecture format. Since everyone learns better in multiple-direction conversation, the teachers should ask questions and expect answers. Others ought to be free to add their comments. It should be interactive.

Interestingly, this is the type of communication that does happen in Sunday School classes and small groups. So why do we do this in smaller gatherings, but when it comes to large church meetings, the communication (at least for the sermon) ends up being in one direction? Part of the issue is pragmatics, such as how 500 people can all be involved in a group conversation. That, in turn, says something about the importance of keeping churches relatively small in size (but that is another issue).

Something else interesting about the years past: while I don't remember sermons, I do remember adults who took time to care about me. Some of these adults didn't even spend a great deal of time with me, but I remember when they did. For whatever reason, this really sticks with me.

As I grew up, I'm certain that I spent far more time listening to sermons than I did speaking to adults outside my family who took interest in me. Despite this, it is the adult interaction that made the much larger impact.

What does all this say? I'm not sure. Here are a few things we should ponder:

-Sermons, if they are going to happen, should at least have an interactive component.
-Teaching is much more effective if the conversation is multi-directional.
-As adults, we can have a hugely positive impact on young people.
-As we think about importance of activity, spending time with younger people is equally (if not more) important than listening to sermons.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Can Reformed Theology be a Distraction?

Let me say first of all that I love the 5 solas and the Doctrines of Grace. I fully embrace the biblical teachings of God's complete sovereignty over salvation.

When I use the word "Reformed" in this question, I'm referring to salvation, not the church.

So, the question again is, "Can Reformed Theology be a Distraction?"

I'm sad to say that the answer is, "Yes." That does not mean that it is a distraction. Rather, it can be.

Reformed theology is a distraction when people spend so much time talking about things like election, monergism, predestination, supralapsarianism, etc., that they forget to feed the hungry and share the gospel. This does happen with some people. I have seen folks who are so concerned with having every detail of their doctrine correct that they ignore living out their faith. When this is the case, they actually don't have their doctrine correct because living out our faith for the good of others is correct doctrine.

This is a danger on seminary campuses, but it can infect churches as well. When head knowledge doesn't lead to action, there is a significant problem.

Reformed theology ought to have a positive impact on the way we live in the world. It should be that we are so stunned by the manifold grace of God that we want to share Him with everyone we know. We should be so overwhelmed by our completely undeserved predestination that we joyfully live out the commands of Christ to love the lost by caring for their needs and teaching them about Jesus. Let us take our thrill over God's changing our hearts of stone to hearts of flesh and use that to inspire us to holy living.

In the end, Reformed theology, like many others things, can have a positive or a negative impact on our lives as individuals and as the church as a whole. The impact should be extremely positive. Let's act so it will be.

Simpler Format, Easier to Read

I've been messing around with the look of this blog lately. While doing this, I realized that the most important aspect of the way a blog looks is that everyone actually be able to read it. That seems obvious, but with the plethora of blog styles available it is easy to lose track of the big picture. Anyway, I jettisoned the old look in favor of this more simplistic format. The reason is simple - it's far more readable. Specifically, the "Recent Comments" section is actually decipherable. I suppose I'll leave it like this for a while, or at least until a better format comes calling.

An Awesome Passage for the Life of the Church

Last night during our church gathering, we read the book of I Peter together. Actually, five different people read aloud (one chapter each), while everyone followed along in their bibles. Afterward, we had a time of discussion where everyone was free to speak about what verses stood out to them, what they learned, etc.

As we were reading, one passage in particular caught my eye because of its direct application for the life of the church.

I Peter 4:7-11 says, "But the end of all things is at hand; therefore be serious and watchful in your prayers. And above all things have fervent love for one another, for 'love will cover a multitude of sins.' Be hospitable to one another without grumbling. As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen."

What can we learn from this passage? Let's take a look.

Because of what Jesus Christ has accomplished through His death and resurrection, we as His followers should live serious and watchful lives, abstaining from the lusts of the world while looking for Jesus' second coming. In all this, let us be praying people.

How should we treat one another in the church family? Peter tells us that the most important thing is not just love, but "fervent love." The word fervent suggests stretching and straining. We live this out by putting the good of others before our own and by being ready to quickly forgive.

We can show fervent love is various ways. One is to be hospitable to one another without any grumbling. Another is to minister to each other through the spiritual giftings the Holy Spirit has blessed us with. In all this, let us be careful of our speech, only speaking in line with God's expectations.

At the end of this paragraph, Peter reminds us of what the end goal is. We are to lovingly minister to one another so that God will be glorified through Jesus Christ. After all, glory and dominion belong to our God forever and ever.

In light of I Peter 4:7-11, how should we live? God expects us within the church to show fervent love to one another through the active use of our spiritual gifts in service to each other. When this occurs, the church is built up and, most important, God is glorified.

Let's all ask ourselves if we love the brethren with "fervent love."

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

A Challenging Video About Simple Church

(From SimpleChurch)

While I think this video contains some generalizations and overstatements, I found it primarily to be both encouraging and challenging. Please watch the entire thing and then tell me what you think. Thanks.

"The Jesus You Can't Ignore"

There is a semi-famous song performed by Depeche Mode entitled, "Personal Jesus." In our society today, many of us have created what amounts to our own personal Jesus. This Jesus is not the Jesus of the bible, but instead is a creation of our minds to fit our own felt needs. This man-created-Jesus is a meek, mild, and loving Christ who is emptied of any forceful words, judgment, and wrath.

We need to be careful that we follow the Jesus we read about in scripture instead of one of our own imaginations.

In The Jesus You Can't Ignore, John MacArthur reminds us of who Jesus is. In this book, MacArthur focuses specifically on portions of scripture where Jesus deals directly with the religious leaders of His day. We read of the hard confrontations Jesus had with the Pharisees, Sadducees, Herodians, etc. The Jesus we read about speaks very clearly and forcefully to those who had perverted the message of the Old Testament.

It is always fascinating to read about Jesus. He is the only person who speaks the way He does. This makes sense since He is, after all, God. This book was a good reminder that Jesus does not mess around when it comes to speaking the truth. While He was gentle with the truly repentant and downcast of society, Christ "took no prisoners" when it came to the religious leaders.

I liked this book a great deal and highly recommend it. It served as a stark reminder to me that Jesus speaks the truth in love, but He does speak the whole truth!

In these pages, MacArthur reminds us of the Jesus who is (as opposed to the one so many have created ).

Recent Comments

This falls into the For-What-This-Is-Worth-Category.

I just added a "Recent Comments" function to the sidebar of this blog. Because of the blog format, the comments may be a little difficult to read. If you scroll down so you can see the comments against the sky section of the background it makes it quite a bit easier to read.

Fun and Convicting at the Same Time

Be sure to watch all the way to the end.