Monday, January 31, 2011

Expositional Listeners?

A few years ago Thabiti Anyabwile wrote a book entitled What is a Healthy Church Member?  It is a sort of continuation of Mark Dever's thoughts in Nine Marks of the Healthy Church.  As I begin, let me say that I respect Anyabwile a great deal, enjoy listening to him speak, and appreciate his stand for the gospel.

In this post I'd like to take issue with one of Anyabwile's main points in What is a Healthy Church Member?

According to Anyabwile, "The first and most important mark of a healthy church is expositional preaching."  Anyabwile goes on to say that in response to this a healthy church member should be what he refers to as an "Expositional Listener."  He defines expositional listening as, "Listening for the meaning of a passage of scripture and accepting that meaning as the main idea to be grasped for our personal and corporate lives as Christians."

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Watchman Nee on Biblical Examples

According to Watchman Nee, "A word of explanation may be needed regarding the examples God has given us in His Word.  Christianity is not only built upon precepts, but also upon examples.  God has revealed His will, not only by giving orders, but by having certain things done in His Church, so that in the ages to come others might simply look at the pattern and know His will.  God has not only directed His people by means of abstract principles and objective regulations, but by concrete examples and subjective experience." 

The Normal Christian Church Life, Introduction, 1980.

House Church - Teaching

Teaching is an interesting topic when it comes to the church.  There are many questions involved such as who?, when?, where?, what?, how?, and why?  I admit that I don't have all the answers to these, and I certainly don't intend to try to answer them in a single blog post.
Instead, I'd like to take a brief look at elders teaching, gifted people teaching, and everyone teaching.  I'll close by discussing what teaching is and should look like.

First, what abut elders?  Do they teach?  Should they teach?

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Two Part Time Jobs

Today I begin working a second part time job.  It is an office-type position that involves a lot of organizational and people skills, but not a great deal of responsibility.

This means that I'll now be working this job from 1-7 PM, and then the cleaning job from about 8:30-midnight.  My family time will now happen in the mornings and on weekends.

Since time is at much more of a premium, my blogging frequency is about to drop.  I used to post almost every day, but for the foreseeable future it will be more like three times per week.  This should make my blogging more selective which I hope will improve the quality of the posts.

I'd really appreciate your continued prayers about all this.  My desire is to work during the day so that I'd have family time in the evenings.  That would also allow us to gather with friends and reach out to neighbors after most people get off work.


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

House Church - Non-Hierarchical Leadership

I've thought about this particular post for quite some time.  There is so much that could be said.  I'll try to keep this to a semi-reasonable length.

Let's begin with two examples from Jesus' ministry:

In Mark 10:42-45 we read, "And Jesus called them to him and said to them, 'You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.'"

Monday, January 24, 2011

Rotating Helps

When the church gathers in a certain house, the reality is that a greater burden falls on those who actually live in that particular house.

In our fellowship, five families are currently meeting together on a regular basis.  That makes for 25-30 people.  By American standards that is a lot of people under one roof.  Many people equals more stress.  It's just the reality of the situation.

Additionally, when people are coming over to your home, what do you do? You probably pick up the living room, make space in the kitchen for the food, shove various and sundry things in closets and under beds, vacuum, wipe the crust off the bathroom, etc.  This takes time and effort.

Please hear me when I say that these are not bad things.  Hosting a house church gathering is wonderful.  I love it so far and look forward to doing this for the rest of my life.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Shut Up Already!

This is a letter to myself from myself:

"Dear Eric,

When we gather together as a church family, you simply talk too much.  I realize you have good intentions, that you love the people present, and that you want to glorify God through what you say.  Despite this, I need to lovingly tell you that you tend to dominate the conversation.  If 25 people are present, you shouldn't be speaking 25% of the time.

God has gifted us all with the ability to edify one another through our speech.  If you, the former pastor, talk too much it will intimidate others. You may inadvertently be giving them the message that you know more than they do and should, therefore, get to talk more than others.

Be Encouraged to Encourage

My guess is that you probably are taking part in a church gathering today.  My encouragement to you is to encourage someone else.

Life is difficult.  We all have struggles.  Day-to-day functioning can sometimes be simply lousy.  There are the sins we fight but seem to give in to nonetheless.  Many of us have family members, co-workers, and/or friends who are causing us stress.  The list goes on.

Almost all of us could benefit from encouragement.  This is a different kind of encouragement than the world gives.  The world basically provides a pep-talk, Dr. Phil, pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps kind of encouragement.  The reality is that this is not encouraging at all.

We followers of Jesus encourage one another in Christ.  We can't do anything on our own.  But through the grace of God, we can live in such a way that is fulfilling to us and God-honoring at the same time.  God gives us all we need to live in the joy of Christ, through the power of Christ, and for the glory of Christ.

Encouragement is not automatic.  We must actively do it.  So let's do it.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

"He Was A Working Pastor"

I think I've mentioned this previously, but I want to expand on it here.

When I first began serving as pastor of Chevis Oaks Baptist Church, I tried to get to know both the people and the history of the church.  As I was conversing one day with a sweet senior citizen, she began telling me about the first pastor of Chevis Oaks.  I'll never forget one thing she told me.  Her exact words were, "He was a working pastor."  What she meant specifically was that he worked full time at a local paper mill while at the same time serving at Chevis Oaks.  The bulk of his income came from the paper mill, while at the same time he received a small salary from the church.  He remained in this capacity for 25 years.

In contrast to the first pastor, every pastor since (including me) has worked full time for Chevis Oaks.  They have had no other occupation while serving the church.

More on the One Anothers and Body Life

Jon Zens has written an excellent post that focuses on reading the New Testament from a plural perspective. Zens writes:

"As folks listen to local and media Bible teachers, most miss the fact that Christ’s body is missing from their use of the New Testament. More often than not the approach taken is individualistic – 'how can Christ help me live the Christian life?' However, the NT was not written to individuals but to groups of believing people in various cities and regions. This does not come across in English translations for the most part because the word 'you' in the Greek can be singular or plural. For example, the 'you' in 'Christ in you, the hope of glory,' is plural, and has in view the Body of Christ."

Read the entire post here.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Beware House Church Gnosticism

This is as short post to myself as much as anyone else.

I'm currently writing quite a bit about house church life.  My goals are to explain what it is and why I find it both biblical and edifying.  Additionally, it generates a good deal of discussion that I hope can stretch us all.

In the midst of writing about these things, I want to avoid something else.  That thing is what I'll refer to as "House Church Gnosticism."

The original Gnosticism was an ancient heresy that, among other things, taught that secret knowledge exists that is important to spiritual life.  This is nonsense of course because we have all we need within the pages of scripture.  We enjoy both the freedom and the responsibility of reading the bible to see what it says about belief and practice.

In talking about the house church (or simple church/organic church/authentic church), those of us who favor this model of church life must be careful.  We should at all costs avoid even implying that we have come across some sort of special knowledge that others just haven't figured out.  If we suggest that we are somehow smarter than those who disagree with us on this issue, then we have slipped into a sort of gnosticism related to our beliefs about the church.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Fewer Decisions

In keeping with the theme of consensus in decision making, it is important to revisit the fact that some church models require much more decision making than others.  The more decisions a church has to make, the more difficult it is to strive for consensus.

I've heard Christians say that churches must vote; they can't wait for consensus because if they did, "Nothing would ever get done."  The key to this statement is the assumption about what things have to get done.

In the traditional church model, decisions have to be made all the time regarding building and grounds issues, salaried personnel, numerous church programs, planned worship services, various events, and of course budgetary issues.  This combination requires many decisions.  Seeking consensus would be extremely difficult.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

House Church - Striving for Consensus

We all "have issues." In the church this is no different. We all have issues that we need to talk about. There are frequently decisions that have to be made. As in all of life, problems need to be addressed and handled in an appropriate way.

But how are decisions made? How are problems handled? How are issues dealt with in a manner that builds up the body of Christ and glorifies God?

In trying to follow the biblical model in all things, the house church strives for consensus in decision making.  The purpose is to gain agreement by all involved to maintain and improve the unity of the body.  This also encourages all members of the church family to participate.  It avoids the elevation of some members over others, and instead looks to Christ as the only Head of the church.

I Ditched Dish

As you must know by this point, I don't currently have a full time job.

I had an interview scheduled for earlier today with Dish TV, but I just couldn't go through with it. A few years ago Alice and I decided to do away with our cable TV subscription. It was one of the best things we have ever done. Not only do we not waste hours watching TV, but we also don't have unwanted worldly influences invading our house. No more diving for the remote for me!

I don't write this to pat myself on the back. It happened only by the grace of God. I strongly encourage you to pray about whether or not you should have cable TV.

In light of all this, how could I spend my days installing satellite dishes? The inconsistency would have been more than I could have handled.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Nice Missions Resource

Click here to see a helpful missions resource from the IMB. The "Virtual Wall" shows locations, characteristics, and needs of the many unreached people groups.

Video of Varanasi Ghats

In contrast with where we now live, this video shows a glimpse of our home city from late 2006 until early 2007. Varanasi is the holiest city of Hinduism, and therefore is in desperate need of the gospel. The ghats (large stone steps) are the focal point of life and worship along the Ganges River.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Video of Beautiful Savannah

This video shows many sites from Savannah's beautiful historic district. Although the audio can be a bit cheesy at times, the video alone is worth it. Come visit.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Thankful for These Experiences

I'm thankful to God for providing me with numerous experiences that have challenged the way I think about Jesus Christ and His church. It has been quite an array of different people and places that has shaped what I now believe and who I am. I share these not to boast in any way, but to thank God for His great grace in allowing me to be a part of these things:

I was raised in Houghton, NY. Houghton is a small town in western New York State that is home to Houghton College and Houghton Wesleyan Church. In this environment, I met many missionaries serving around the world. Since Houghton College is attended by Christians of almost all evangelical denominations, I was able to talk to many people about why they believe what they believe.

When we moved to Georgia in 1996, we began attending the First Baptist Church of Springfield. This was our first exposure to Southern Baptist doctrine, life, and tradition. After four years at FBC-Springfield, we moved to another local SBC church. That church, Emmanuel Baptist, had a much different worship style (contemporary vs. traditional), but much the same structure and beliefs.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Thinking Outside the Reformed Box

About seven years ago I began to embrace the biblical truth of God’s sovereignty over salvation. Prior to that, I had always believed that man has free will and therefore ultimately makes the decision about whether or not to surrender to Jesus Christ. After searching the scriptures for several months in 2003-2004, I came to see and love God’s sovereign choice in salvation.

I still love the doctrines of election and predestination. I also continue to embrace the Doctrines of Grace and the 5 Solas of the Reformation.

Something else has happened to me, however, during the last few years. I’ve realized that in this country amongst the Reformed there are certain topics that dominate conversations. There are also certain topics that are basically ignored. This is not healthy or balanced (and it's especially dangerous and prevalent among seminary students).

Thursday, January 13, 2011

House Church - The Lord's Supper Feast

I love celebrating the Lord's Supper.

We partake of this ordinance as a key aspect of our weekly meetings. As we conclude our time of sitting together and singing, praying, teaching, exhorting, etc., we all move to the kitchen and celebrate the supper together. We eat of the loaf and drink of the cup as part of our lunch.

The theology behind the Lord's Supper as practiced in the house church is very similar to that in most orthodox churches. We thankfully remember what Christ has done for us on the cross. Some may think of Christ as being more spiritually present at the meal than at other times, but we really don't get into much of that. The theology is best described by Paul in I Corinthians 11.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Reading is a Means to an End

Reading is quite a gift from God. For one thing, we get to read His word. I can't imagine going through life without a bible close by. We also get to read great works of theology and literature. We are particularly blessed as English speakers since so much has been written in the English language within the past 400 years.

Although reading is a blessing, we can fall into a trap. The trap is the assumption that reading is an end to itself. It should not be. Rather, reading ought to be a means to an end.

Those who spend quite a bit of time in theology texts can fall prey to reading as an end. I really don't care how many times someone has read Augustine's The City of God, Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion, or Herman Bavinck's Reformed Dogmatics. When people begin to talk repeatedly about which great theologian they are reading, they may be walking down a dangerous pathway toward pride.

Preparing For Next Sunday

As our house church gathers we try to follow the I Corinthians 14 meeting pattern.

As we do this we invariably discuss scripture a great deal. Our talks are highly bible-focused, usually moving from reading to explanation to application. It doesn't always follow this pattern, but this makes the most sense and is therefore how the conversations go.

During this time we want to be free to turn to any part of the bible that has application to what is being said. However, we also desire to study the whole counsel of God's word. One effective way to do this is to go through books chapter-by-chapter.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

House Church - Keeping the Family Together

The God of scripture views children very positively.

In Genesis 1:28 we read, "And God blessed them. And God said to them, 'Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.'"

In Matthew 19:13-14 we read about Jesus' view of children, "Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people, but Jesus said, 'Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.'"

Why the KJV is the Only Acceptable Version of the Bible

Just kidding

Monday, January 10, 2011

House Church - What About Women?

I almost avoided this issue altogether because it can be an emotional and divisive one. However, I figured that would be a cop-out, so here goes:

We must first be aware of the difference between worth and role. The two are not the same. Regarding worth, God cares for men and women equally. We read in Galatians 3:28, "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." Please keep in mind that this verse falls in the context of salvation, not role in the church.

That women have worth is also clear in that they are part of the church body, and the body needs all parts to function in order for the body as whole to work. Paul writes in I Corinthians 12:14-20, "For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, 'Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,' that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, 'Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,' that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body."

Best. Photo. Ever.

Since Auburn plays in tonight's national championship game, I thought I'd post the best photo ever. Above we see Uga, Georgia's mascot, bravely attacking a frightened Auburn player back in 1996. Good times.

And to show just how smart Uga is, his home is in Savannah.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Going to the Dogs

Something happened today that was a first for me. As we gathered with our church, one of the host family's dogs walked over to me. He apparently wanted me to pet him. This happened as we were all sitting together, taking turns in praying, reading scripture, encouraging one another, etc. Although it may seem like this would have been distracting, it wasn't. I enjoyed it and so did the dog. He ended up sitting by me on the couch.

What I love about this is that it was very real. We meet as families in homes. Dogs live in homes, too. Therefore, dogs are most likely going to find a way to be part of the gathering (especially if there is food - which there always is).

If our Sunday fellowships were ceremonies, then I'm certain dogs would not be allowed. The reality is that dogs, as wonderful as they are, tend to mess up anything ceremonial. Since our gatherings are informal in nature, dogs can be present - as long as they aren't a distraction.

House Church - Mutual Edification

"What is the purpose of the church gathering?" If you ask Christians this question, the majority will answer by saying, "Worship." This is true in general terms. However, for the Christian all of life is worship. It will look different at different times, but in the end all we do is to be done to the glory of God.

It's interesting to look at what the bible says about the purpose of the church gathering. I believe its purpose is the same as its goal. What is the answer? Why do we gather together? Two words: mutual edification.

Hebrews 10:24-25 tells us, "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."

These two verses are extremely important because they deal specifically with the church gathering. As we gather, what are we supposed to do? The author (whoever it was) informs us to "consider how to stir up one another to love and good works" and to be "encouraging one another."

Saturday, January 8, 2011

House Church - Spiritual Gifts

I find it both ironic and disappointing that so much division exists within the church over spiritual gifts. The reality is that God gives all believers spiritual gifts for the up building of His church. Keeping this in mind, spiritual gifts ought to increase rather than decrease the unity of the church as a whole.

Scripture shows us that all believers are needed for the good of the body. No one part is more important than another. By extension, all gifts are needed and beneficial as well.

I Corinthians 12 helps us immensely with this discussion (see also Romans 12:3-8 and Ephesians 4:1-16).

Gifts are to be used with humility for the service of the church family to the glory of God. Peter makes this very clear in I Peter 4:7-11.

Regarding the house church, what makes it unique is that all members of the body are encouraged to use their gifts for body edification throughout the gathering. Another way to say it is that every person who is part of the Christian community is encouraged to exercise his gifts at any time in the meeting to build up the assembly. There is no specific time when gifts are to be employed or are not to be employed. Nothing is scripted. There is no schedule.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Not Publishing All Comments

I don't publish all comments that people leave on this blog. The reason for this is that some comments simply go over the line of what is acceptable.

I'm happy to publish comments from folks who disagree with me. That's not an issue at all. Frankly, it would be a bit dull if all the discussion here was in complete agreement.

The comments I refuse to post are those that are overly-critical and/or mean-spirited attacks. There is no place for this in the Christian blogosphere.

There is a way to critique something without becoming personal about it. We all need to work on this at least a little in our writing.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

House Church - Holy Spirit Guided Participation

I can see that this series of posts on house church life is going to exceed my original plan of ten. So be it. So far I've discussed the attempt to follow the biblical model, gathering in homes, and seeking community.

In today's post I'm discussing some of what happens when the house church gathers together. In particular I'll be talking about the weekly gathering (which for us happens in Sundays). In a later post I'll focus on the purpose of the gathering; for now the topic is the participation of the body.

In keeping with the attempt to follow the biblical model, the house church seeks to follow what we see in the bible of the church gathering. The difficulty is that the scriptures do not speak in bulk about this topic. However, that is not to say that the bible is silent. We can learn a great deal from a few places.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

House Church - Seeking Community

One of the core aspects of the house church is community.

With Jesus Christ as its head, the church seeks to live in community with one another. The people truly desire to share in each others lives. This is much more than surface level relationships; I'm instead talking about Christians acting like family - real brothers and sisters. This, of curse, can get messy because people's lives are messy. However, it is also wonderful because we can know so much better how to build one another up in Christ.

As we look at the book of Acts in particular, we see much community:

Questions on Stewardship

Since it is January, many churches will soon be embarking on a sermon series that focuses on stewardship. I've been told by more than one pastor that giving tends to drop in January (probably due to money spent on Christmas gifts). Because of this drop, the stewardship series becomes a must. Here is one example from a large SBC church here in Savannah.

As I ponder these sermon series, a few questions come to mind:

You Too Can Be a Young, Hip Mega-Church Pastor

This morning Alice was looking at the website of yet another new church plant (sigh) here in Savannah. The church has one of those glossy websites where everything looks pre-packaged and businesslike. As usual, the website makes a big deal of the pastor.

Alice asked me what I thought the pastor looks like. That got me thinking. What do almost all young, hip mega-church hopeful pastors look like these days? It strikes me that there are three aspects of their appearance that are critical to success.

First, the hair must be gelled.

Second, funky glasses must be worn whether needed or not.

Third, facial hair must be present on at least the chin (full goatee is optional).

Even if you are not young, you can still aspire to be a hip mega-church pastor if you will simply follow the above steps.

By the way, when Alice showed me the photo of the new church planter/pastor in Savannah, he met all three criteria.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

House Church - Gathering in Homes

I suppose it should be obvious by the name "house church" that the gatherings generally occur in homes. I use the word "generally" because there may be times when a house church decides to meet somewhere else - like a park, the beach, etc.

In keeping with the main idea of the first post in this series, house churches gather in houses because this was the general practice in the New Testament:

Romans 16:5, "Greet also the church in their house. Greet my beloved Epaenetus, who was the first convert to Christ in Asia."

I Corinthians 16:19, "The churches of Asia send you greetings. Aquila and Prisca, together with the church in their house, send you hearty greetings in the Lord."

Colossians 4:15, "Give my greetings to the brothers at Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church in her house."

Philemon 1:1-2, "Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother, To Philemon our beloved fellow worker and Apphia our sister and Archippus our fellow soldier, and the church in your house."

Monday, January 3, 2011

House Church - Trying to Follow the Biblical Model

I have written a great deal about what I believe is wrong with many of the institutional church practices of today. Frankly, I'm tired of doing this.

A friend of mine has lovingly told me that he knows what I believe the church should not be, but that I haven't been as clear about what the church ought to look like. In light of this, I want to spend some time writing about both what I believe the bible says about the church and how we are currently trying to live this out.

This is the first of a ten-part (gasp!) series that will be two-pronged in nature. My hope for this series is to discuss house church life first from what the bible says, and second from how we are attempting to work this out as the church. I'll use the term "house church" to carry the same meaning as "simple church" or "organic church." Some people use these terms differently, but I basically use them interchangeably.

I apologize in advance for making some over-generalizations. It's almost impossible to avoid this when talking about this issue. There will always be exceptions to the statements I make; therefore, I'm not describing every single house church. Rather, I'm discussing general practices.

Let Us Be Careful About Questioning Motivation

As is obvious by now, I like to ask questions about the church. In particular, I ask questions about pastoral ministry. I read many others doing the same thing.

We must be careful in how we go about this. There is both what we should question and what, I believe, we need to avoid questioning.

We can and should call into question church practices that do not line up with scripture. This obviously applies to pastoral ministry as well as numerous other things. We can see practices. We can read what is in the bible. When these two things do not match up, then we both can and should ask, "Why?"

Where we must be very careful is calling into question the motivation behind the practices. The reason for this is that we cannot see the heart of the person who may be doing something that we believe does not line up with scripture. Concerning pastors, we have no way (other than asking them directly) of knowing why they do what they do.

Let's take an example: the traditional sermon that involves no group discussion. The practice of a pastor preaching a sermon to a church with no discussion involved is foreign to the New Testament. It is fair for us to call this into question. However, it is unfair for us to call into question the motivation of the pastor who does this. Instead of questioning his motivation in the blog-o-sphere, we should ask him why he does this. We may find that he believes this is the best practice for the edification of the church body. We may find that he is trying to gradually move toward opening up a discussion time after the sermon. We may discover that his church is transitioning to evening small groups that will talk over the morning sermon.

I'm troubled by the tendency in the blog world to openly question the motivations of institutional church pastors. I fairly frequently read very broad statements about how these pastors desire power, want the church people to think of them as "an expert," crave Pope-like status, seek domination of all aspects of church life, etc.

It strikes me that when we question pastoral motivation in sweeping brush strokes we are at the same time violating Matthew 7:1-5, "Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye."

I've written about this subject before so I'll stop now. Please let me close by exhorting you (and myself) to ask good questions about any practices we see that do not correspond to biblical standards. In doing this, we do well to begin with self, for we can judge both our own practices and motivation.

We simply do not know the motivation behind most pastoral practices. We have no right to stand in judgment over their motivations. We must avoid doing so.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Resolved: To Read the Bible More Simply

I have made one resolution for 2011: To read the bible more simply. I'd like to read it like a child.

I still desire to understand the great truths of scripture. My hope is that by the end of 2011 I will also have a better understanding of the depths of the bible.

What I'm referring to in this post is the danger of not reading scripture for what it simply says but rather for what we think might lie behind the words on the page. An example of what I'm talking about can be found in John chapter 13:13-17. After Jesus washes His disciples' feet, He says, "You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them."

My tendency in the past has been to read this passage and then try to determine the principle behind it. I've always come to the conclusion that this is an example of servanthood. I'd then think about how I can serve others. What I didn't do was actually do what the passage says - wash others' feet.

My desire this year is to read a passage like the one above and understand it simply. My hope is to come to a conclusion something like this, "Jesus washed feet as an example to us. Therefore, I should also wash feet as an act of service." Of course, it's also appropriate to ask about the broader principle of serving others. I just don't want to miss out on the simple, straightforward meaning.

What I'm not going to do is walk around randomly asking people if they need their feet washed. However, if the opportunity presents itself I'm going to take it. We'll probably do this as a church family sometime.

I have absolutely no desire to engage in the discussion of whether or not foot washing is a third ordinance of the church. I'm tired of arguments that amount to little good. Rather, I simply want to be obedient to the words of our Lord Jesus.

I'm resolved to read differently. My hope and prayer is that this leads to a fuller, more meaningful, more profound, and more accurate understanding of the bible.

May the attempt honor Christ. It will only happen through His grace.

Words of Hope From the Beginning

"In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth." Genesis 1:1

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." John 1:1

Saturday, January 1, 2011

And So It Begins

Most of you know by now that I resigned from a salaried pastoral position at the end of October. The church where I pastored, Chevis Oaks Baptist Church, was gracious enough to continue supporting us financially through the end of December. Well, we all know that the new year has come. As of today my only employment is some part-time janitorial work. That's not going to pay the bills by itself.

So this is where it begins. By that, I mean the test of our faith. So far it hasn't really been that tough. But now I have no idea how we will make our mortgage payment in February, etc. I know I should be thanking God for this trial, but I'll admit that I haven't been too appreciative so far. My prayer is that my attitude will change.

God has made clear that He will provide. The test is to believe and not be anxious.

Matthew 6:25-34 says, "Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble."

Alice and I have chosen to believe that God will provide. We are not able to do this on our own power; even this faith is a gift. We are deeply thankful that God is gracious and merciful because our faith seemingly wavers from day-to-day.

When will this test/trial end? I have no idea. Employers aren't exactly knocking down my front door to get my job application.

I do know that I was supposed to resign from salaried ministry. I don't know where God's provision will come from.

I greatly appreciate your prayers at this time for faith, patience, and guidance.

Thank you!