Monday, February 28, 2011

Simple way to explain simple church

This is a new video showing a very easy way to explain simple church in 2 minutes using a napkin.  For 2 short minutes it is very informative.  Check it out.

Looking for Jesus

I've finished reading Finding Our Way Again by Brian McLaren.  I received this book for free from BookSneeze in return for this review.  I'm glad I got it for free.  I read the whole book and didn't find "the way" within its pages.

When I requested this book I expected bad theology and a bad way of spending my time, yet I was hopeful that I was wrong.  Well, I should have gone with my gut.  Brian has a very enjoyable writing style splashed with numerous pithy comments and the book is broken up into short chapters, making it an easy read.  That's about as good as it gets.

The title of the book gives the reader hope that it contains the answer to the question "which way should I go".  Only those who realize they have lost their way or are going the wrong way would be interested in this book and those people would be better off leaving this book in the store.  It does not contain the answer to your questions.

If you're looking for "the way", you will not find it in this book.  In this book you will find a bunch of spiritual activities that are A way to "spirituality" but not THE way to God, His kingdom  andeverlasting life.  Brian tries to convince his readers that the ancient practices are the pathway to God.  He even makes references to following Christ on the way to God.  Brian never once in this entire book points to Jesus Christ as THE WAY.  Rather, Jesus is just on the way and we should follow him.  In fact, there a times in the book when Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are lumped together as being on the same path to finding peace, love and joy.

Don't be deceived.  Peace, love and joy are the results of being united with the man Jesus Christ.  You can be united with Him by believing that he has left his heavenly throne, come to earth, lives a sinless life, died a death he did not deserve, and was raised from the dead.  With Him he brought the kingdom of heaven down to earth through the forgiveness of sin by the shedding of his blood.  He also brought death to our chaotic, unloving, and miserable old selves by crucifying them with himself on the cross.  Now God's kingdom has partially come into the world through this new race of people who dwell in love, joy, peace, selflessness, service, and harmony as long as we walk in the spirit by faith in our indwelling Lord.  This union with Jesus Christ is the way because He is the way.  It is yours if you would become His disciple, follow Him, become like Him because your life and all of creation around you is all about Him.

It's all about Jesus, Brian's book is not.  As much as Brian talks about the sermon on the mount, I am surprised to see he avoids these words of our Lord from that very sermon on this subject:

“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. (Matthew 7:13-14 ESV)

Rob Bell and the power of words

For starters, let me say that while I think it is unwarranted to judge a book by its cover (in this case Love Wins by Rob Bell) it is necessary and expected for leaders to speak against false doctrine.  Since I took a leap and blogged about all the goings on over Rob Bell's upcoming book I thought I would share some thoughtful commentary I read today on the issue. Something I didn't think through before posting previously is the power of words.  Whether those words come in the form of a question or a declarative statement, there is great power in words.

What troubles me is the idea that asking questions regarding doctrine points to heretical views.  Does asking a question make someone a heretic?  Well, no,  but that is not all that we have here.  With Bell we have a skilled speaker and writer putting forth a series of questions that carries implications...heretical implications.  While Bell doesn't say anything heretical as a declaration, the questions he asks and the order he asks them in is enough to lead someone easily to those conclusions.  There is no way of knowing what he actually believes regarding these doctrines without reading the book but that doesn't get him off the hook for being careless with words.  Compounding the problem is the fact that he is such a gifted speaker and it is unlikely that he was careless.  It is much more likely that it was deliberate.
The commentary I'm referring to comes from the blog of Kevin DeYoung.  Here is a small clip:
 "And he is saying something. Don’t think for a second the questions don’t communicate something. These are not “let’s explore together and see what the Bible says about these hard issues” kind of questions. Everyone agrees Bell is a remarkable communicator. He is not unaware of the effect of these three minutes. Words mean something and words do something. Whether the sentences end in question marks or not, these force of these sentences is to undermine—nay, to ridicule—the reality of eternal conscious punishment, the wrath of the God, and penal substitutionary atonement."
Click over and read the rest.  He asks some very good questions.

In conclusion, I don't think that asking questions can reveal if someone is a heretic but one should be very careful how they use words, questions or otherwise.  Especially if that person is in a position of leadership.  otherwise the example he sets is one of carelessness with words and purposeful provocation, neither of which should be emulated.

So for all those who booted me from their feed reader and blogroll or prayed and worried that I E-merged into a heretical superhighway, I apologize for being so quick to speak and not recognizing the power of words in my previous post.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

A glimpse of our gathering

Today (Sunday) we met with a group of families we haven't seen in some months.  It was refreshing to be gathered with so many believers in one place again. I love being with the children of God and today was a special treat.  We arrived at 10:30 in front of the house along with another family at the host's house.  Everyone was very happy to see us.  We received a warm welcome of hugs and offers to help carry our numerous belongings and children into the house.  I liken it to an American version of greeting with a holy kiss.  Once inside and unloaded, the children scattered and I started conversing with the man of the house, admiring the handiwork of his new patio.  We were soon joined by the other father who arrived at the same time as my family and I learned how they had been working together to secure a good running vehicle for him at a fair price.  Before long other families arrived and soon all the fathers were gathered on the back patio.  Inside, moms talked homeschooling and children played together.  Outside, dads talked cars, jobs, theology and mission.

When we entered the house and gathered in the living room (and the dining room) I looked around and saw a lot of new faces.  Families that were not there the last few times we were and it was good to meet them.  We sang a few songs together (one brother plays the guitar very well) mingled with prayers and scripture readings.  As our singing ended and all was quiet for a brief moment, a woman burst forth in beautiful praise to our Lord.  Then the Spirit moved in such a way to bring to mind a scripture or a teaching from many members of the body, each passage or word building on the rest.  It was richly edifying.  Multiple members at work building up the rest of the body.  There was no schedule of speakers, no list of scriptures yet there was perfect order and someone was clearly in control and guiding the participation.  The themes of Christ as our high priest, the preciousness and necessity of his blood, the weight of our sin and unworthiness, and his example becoming our call to serve were some themes that were expounded.  All this before we entered into the next passage of scripture that had been predetermined.

It was marvelous to see Christ at work building his Church.  It was glorious to see Christ manifested through the working of his many members under his headship.  Not tossed to and fro by different doctrines but gathered together with one theme and one song:  Praise be to the lamb that was slain and to the victory that is ours because of his love.

How was your Sunday morning gathering?

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Rob Bell: Love Wins = universalism?

Rob Bell has a new book coming out and many are quick to speak that Rob has fallen off into the error of universalism, I'm not so sure.  If there is anything I know about Rob Bell it is this:  Rob likes to make vague statements that challenge traditional orthodoxy.  He likes to ask questions that make people think.  One example is in his book Velvet Elvis where he describes our orthodoxy or theology as a brick wall and like a brick wall a few bricks can be knocked out without tearing the wall down.  Thats cool, I can see that.  The cannons fired when he said one such brick was the virgin birth of Jesus.  Yikes!  That's a shocker!  Now surely if you "knock out" the virgin birth you knock out Christ altogether, I know that, you know that, and I think Rob knows that.  So why did he say it?  Because that is what he does...he makes you think about what it is you believe.  a kind of meditative catalyst to drive you to believe what you believe because you find it to be true and not just because everyone says it is true.

Now, why do I mention this today?  Because I have seen numerous people jump to conclusions about Rob and universalism over a video teaser that was released for the upcoming book Love Wins.  In the video Rob asks a lot of questions but he doesn't make many statements, typical Bell style.  See for yourself and draw your own conclusions.

LOVE WINS. from Rob Bell on Vimeo.

What do you think?  Has Rob gone off the deep end?  Or even more penetrating:  does questioning traditional belief make a person a heretic?  or unregenerate?

(Update:  follow-up post on the power of words)

Thursday, February 24, 2011

God says we should love our enemies, does God love Satan?

This is the question posed by our five year old during the early morning homeschool hours.  Liberal statists everywhere are going nuts at this point with the knowledge that we talk about God during school hours.  Shocking that we would indoctrinate our children, I know, but this question was a doozy, especially coming from such a young aspiring theologian.  Our son posed the question to their mommy/teacher who in turn shot me an email forwarding the probing doctrinal dilemma. I received the email at lunch.  A perfect time to ponder the deep things and meditate on the depths of God's love.  My mind swirled with weighty thoughts.  Giving an answer to the question was tough enough.  Answering a five year old adds multiple levels of difficulty.  I felt like I a kid snatched away from my flag football game and placed in the pro bowl, the big opponent before me ready to trample me.

I decided to write a response to my wife that I knew was inadequate to read to our son but I hoped it would equip her to handle the answering herself.  Uh, no.  Didn't get off that easy.  She hadn't even read the response by the time I got home and so the ball was back in my court. YAY!  So over dinner we had a string of questions and answers.  That's right, I went catechism style.  I think the boys got it.

Now I'm really afraid. Our boys are five and seven and they are asking us questions that most believers never even consider.  Now I have to figure out how to balance scriptural study with personal discipleship so that I can be ready with answers to their seminary level questions.  Does that balance even exist?  I always feel like I am falling short one way or the other.

Enough of my me out folks.  How would you answer a five year old who asks such a question?

God says we should love our enemies, does God love Satan?  Wow, just, wow.

A modern day parable

So, a couple days ago my wifey posted a parable of sorts that I found very interesting, prophetic even.  Here is a pinch:
Behind Blue Eyes: A short story: "Once upon a time there were two wood cutters. They led similar lives and both had a deep love for both God and their families. They both worked for sunrise to sunset and both avid readers. The first man came home every evening and kissed his wife and hugged his children and then would spend the rest of the evening reading. He read all of the great dead theologians and he read all of the great living theologians."
I don't know where she comes up with this stuff but I dig it.   If you haven't read her blog before you should definitely jump over and check it out.  What she writes is raw and straight-out-of-the-box.  I admire her genuine style.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Looking forward to the 2011 Ligonier conference

My blue-eyed beauty gave me two "big" gifts this year that she was extremely excited about.  The first was a Kindle from amazon which I take everywhere and have enjoyed very much.  The second was an advance ticket to this years Ligonier conference.  I have never been but I have desired to.  In fact, the only conferences I have been to were Promise Keepers conferences, which were edifying and exciting but shallow theologically.

I don't know of anyone else who is going to the conference this year.  I hope that there is someone here locally that would be willing to have me along.  I'm not all that excited about going by myself.  Last year there were three men that invited me personally to join them.  (I wonder if they are planning on going this year?)  This year I haven't heard a word about it.  Nonetheless, I look forward to attending, even if I have to go alone.

What's weird is that this conference comes during such a transition in my convictions.  If I had gotten tickets to the same conference at this time last year I would have had stars in my eyes.  Now, that is not quite the case.  At this point in my spiritual pilgrimage I would much rather be witness to spiritual growth among believers in my own neighborhood than to go to a conference.  Don't get me wrong, I am still looking forward to hearing Piper, Sproul, and Ferguson speak at the conference.  What has changed?  I'm not exactly sure.  I just know that I feel different.  I now see them as gifted men and not like pastoral superstars.  I'm sure they would be glad to hear that.

So, I'm going to Ligonier's 2011 national conference.  Out of the three or four of you who read my blog, do any plan to attend?  Maybe we can meet up!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Suffering with Jesus by serving with Jesus

Something hit home with me today at work.  One of my co-workers confided in me with an issue that was very burdensome for him.  It has the potential to cause a lot of strife and uncertainty in his relationships and finances.  I listened carefully as he shared this burden with me and them we continued with our work (we are both plumbers).  At the end of the day I couldn't get his problem off my mind.  It was like I was carrying his burden with me even though it didn't directly effect me.  Yet, somehow I hurt with him and needed to pray about it.  As I lifted the burden up I was given a strong desire to wait until my co-worker came out to his vehicle and ask him if I could pray with him.  He gave me permission and then laid out some more details of the things he was worried about most due to this new valley in life.  We prayed together.  Actually, I did all the talking, he mostly cried.  I didn't expect that.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Riches come through community, not individualism

God does not reveal the unsearchable riches of Christ to individuals.  Christ is only revealed through his body.  The ministry of one man, for years and years on end will only give a tiny glimpse of God's greatness in Christ.  In contrast, many members, rooted and grounded in love and grace toward one another, will provide a collection of glimpses, resulting in a more full manifestation of Jesus Christ.  This was the prayer of Paul for the Church in Ephesus.

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
(Ephesians 3:14-19 ESV)

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

An endless bloodbath in your honor

I stumbled across a website with a program that calculates the number of animal sacrifices necessary under the Old Testament sacrificial system to atone for sin.  You simply input the day of your birth and it shows you how many animals would have been slaughtered over your lifetime to pay for your sins.  As of today I am up to 53,682.  A lot of sin needs a lot of blood.

The blood still runs.  Today it is no longer the blood of bulls and goats that God requires to atone for sin.  In fact, the sheer magnitude and perpetuity of the slaughtered creatures demonstrates that their blood is inadequate.  Praise be to God that Christ died and shed his own perfect blood for our sins.  Now our great high priest, Christ Jesus, has taken a seat because he finished once and for all the necessary bloodshed.

Believers need to remember the blood everyday the same way the Jews looked upon the blood on the alter everyday.  It is this continual reminder of Christ's finished work that keeps us free from guilt and able to walk in righteousness.

So check out the site and tell us how many sacrifices you would have required under the old covenant.

A review of The Goodness of God

I have finished reading The Goodness of God by Randy Alcorn which was sent to me for free from the blogging for books program for review.

This book is a condensed version of a larger book written by Randy called If God Is Good…: Faith in the Midst of Suffering and Evil.  In The Goodness of God Randy does a great job of quoting and unpacking scriptures that give a firm and solid foundation for having the assurance of purpose in the midst of suffering.  The truths he writes will no doubt be stored up in the heart of his readers for a time of need that can be recalled time and time again as life ebbs and flows.  I highly recommend this book.

I have never read anything by this author before so I did not know what to expect from him.  After reading this work I'm sure I will jump at the opportunity to read something else by Randy Alcorn.  He writes in a way that is easily understandable and the book breaks down into 11 chapters that keep the thoughts and topics well organized and easily accessible for future reference.  Randy successfully uses a mere 115 pages to show how we can have joy through our sufferings in life.  It will no doubt be used as a profitable tool for ministers as we walk with one another through the valleys.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Praising my wife at the gates

I tell her all the time that words can't express how I feel.  That doesn't mean I won't try.   I think about my love for my beautiful bride and the best words I can fathom are those written about Christ's love for his.

My love, my reason for being born, I look with joy toward a future of sharing life together.  There is nothing that could take my eyes off you.  Where I am, you are.  Where you are, I am.  We are one, inseparable.

I am determined to have you no matter what.  If you turn from me, I'll follow you.  If you forget about me, I'll still remain near.  If you leave the warmth of my embrace, I'll pursue you.  If you sin against me, I'll forgive you.  Your sins have been covered by the blood there is no longer any guilt or condemnation.  I could be mocked, cursed, spat upon, beaten, hated, neglected, betrayed, and bruised but it would be woth it if it was necessary to have you near me.  I would die for you, lay my own life down for you because you are worth that much to me.

preaching: one another or 1 to all the others?

With all the conversation over at the gospel coalition blogs about the centrality of expository preaching in our gatherings, a re-post by Alan Knox gives some excellent biblical examples of church gatherings where the model is not monologue but dialogue.

So, there certainly may have been instances where only one person spoke during the meeting of the church. But, Scripture does not give us many of these examples. Instead, we primarily have examples of several people either speaking or having the option to speak when the church meets. Similarly, when teaching specifically about the church meeting, we are not instructed that only one person should speak, but that all should have that option. It seems that in general, even when one person primarily spoke during a meeting, and even when that person was an apostle like Paul, there was the possibility and probability that others would take part.

Click above. You want to read the entire post.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

LeCrae: piercing the darkness

Go check out LeCrae's blog about his plans for Grammy week.  Join us in prayer for him as God uses him to reach the culture forming unreachable.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Look Who's Talking!

I read a blog today that deeply troubled me. To many it may be old hat, but for me...when I see someone coming to these conclusions and publishing them I am deeply troubled. Especially when that someone is a greatly respected leader of mine. I am talking about a post today from Thabiti Anyabwile entitled God's Doing the Talking.

His post is in response to a review of his recent book What is a Healthy Church Member in which the reviewer noted his concern with Thabiti's term "expositional listening" and how the traditional worship service built around the sermon undermines the priesthood of all believers.  (I wonder if he is referring to Eric's blog post ????)

Here is what Thabiti writes:

The fatal flaw in my reviewer’s comments was his tendency to think that the service at its best is a conversation between man and man, a human dialogue, a gathering of people of rather equal status speaking to one another. But is that really what’s happening in preaching and in the gathered worship of the church?
The very structure reflects a running dialogue–not between the people gathered, though we “speak to one another in songs,” etc.–but fundamentally between God and His people.
When God speaks through the exposition of His word there certainly will be many reactions, but as our Sovereign speaks there should not be an interruption in favor of our pooling our comments and sharing our insights.  Our best wisdom is foolishness before God.  Better to first listen to the One who speaks, then talk with one another about it afterward.
These conclusions imply that God only speaks through a well prepared expositional sermon delivered from a pulpit by a professional pastor.  God speaks beginning with the call to worship and ending with the benediction.  Everything else is just "after" talk.

Brothers and sisters, let me encourage you.  God dwells within his body, the church.  There is no part of the body that is not necessary, not needed, or just an afterthought.  We are all servants of Jesus Christ and we are expected to minister to one another as He leads us to when we gather together.  Ministry is for professionals and we are all in the business of doing His business of advancing the kingdom therefore we are all professionals and our reward is in Heaven with Christ.  There is something very special about faithful preaching that is true to the Word of God and we are ALL called to be preaching that word.  We are not all , apostles, evangelists, pastors and teachers but we are something special.  We are members in the body of Christ.  The preeminent, righteous, sinless, soveriegn, benevolent, maker and master of the heavens and earth dwells within you.  Walk by faith in that truth and study God's Word.  God will speak through you.

Monday, February 7, 2011

more on introspection versus faith

Dear friends, if any truth has the effect of turning you in upon yourself, making you introspective, self-occupied in a spiritual way, that truth has been wrongly apprehended.  You may assume the position of the most spiritual, but you are all wrong in your apprehension.  This great work which Christ did in His Cross was never intended to make anybody miserable.  Of course, that goes without saying; yet there are multitudes who are miserable after trusting the Lord, miserable over the sin question in their lives; and the number, I am afraid, is increasing...  

I am certain of this, that nothing will ever come to you, however deep, however mighty, however tremendous, by revelation of the Holy Spirit, that will make you miserable.  The revelation of Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit—and there is no other revelation—will never make a soul miserable.  There is something wrong if a Christian is miserable on spiritual matters, and it is either failure to apprehend the one great, absolute reality that the victory was God’s and that He won it in Christ, fully and finally, and we are not called to share at all in that battle; or the truth which has come subsequently has been misapprehended and has become something that is a burden grievous to be borne.  The Lord Jesus said, “My yoke is easy, and My burden is light” (Matt. 11:30).

And what was the yoke?  Well, listen again; you will get it in various places in the New Testament where the very word is used.  “They bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with their finger” (Matt. 23:4).  What was the yoke, the burden?—the law, ordinances, ‘thou shalt,’ ‘thou shalt not’; the enforcement of this.  “My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.”  He “despoiled the principalities and the powers, He made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in (His Cross).”  How?  He nailed to His Cross the whole list of ordinances against us and took the ground of the enemy’s strength and assurance from him.  You know quite well that the enemy has no abstract power over anybody.  It is always concrete, it is always positive.  The devil must have something to make his power felt.  It does not exist, in effect, unless he has got moral ground, and the thing with which he lashes and drives and harasses is this law of carnal ordinances which was against us, against us, against us!

This is an excerpt from a message I received this morning. I thought I would share with you all. Watchman Nee was the first man I read who God used to reveal this precious truth to me. Now T. Austin-Sparks has joined the chorus of those in praise of the finished work of Christ bringing the end to our self-examination regarding our keeping of he law.

What do you think about what he has written? Agree/disagree?

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Gaining wisdom through criticism

I just read a post on CJ Mahaney's blog about how proverbs teaches that we gain wisdom through criticism, reproof and correction.  Here are a few verses:

Proverbs 9:8 Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you;
reprove a wise man, and he will love you.

Proverbs 19:25 Strike a scoffer, and the simple will learn prudence;
reprove a man of understanding, and he will gain knowledge.

Proverbs 29:15 The rod and reproof give wisdom,
but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother.

This truth is encouraging to me because it means that as I write these blogs I am not only sharing what I am learning with my readers but I am also inviting opportunity to gain more wisdom by putting me thoughts out there to be criticised and corrected.  I rejoice in this.

The trouble is that the only time my comments pile up is when I post something that I already know that many of my readers agree with.  Sometimes I post things hoping to be corrected, criticised, or shepherded in some way and the comments come up empty.

I have not been gracious in every response in the past and I confess, that is a difficult thing for me to do.  I ask forgiveness from anyone whom I have offended previously.  I hope that as you read my blog you would consider how to build up what is good in me and tear down what is not of Christ.  Thank you for reading.  I thank God for you all.

Tim 2:25 correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth,

Col 3:16Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Building up a Spiritual Building

I was reading through my email and I came across a piece with the same subject line as my title above.  It came from one of the pastors I enjoy listening to and given his history of great exposition and exegesis I was excited to read what he had to say along this subject.  I was greatly disappointed.  The entire email conisted of thanks to the many who have been supporting his ministry and then moved into a discussion of their plans to build another structure on their newly aquired property which they plan to begin this year.  He even quoted the verse in which the apostle speaks of the Church being a spiritual building made up of precious stones and then said the "MAIN" way in which this is accomplished is through visiting pastors preaching to the congregation and through the various pastor only conferences that they hold to equip the ministers.

What I hoped for was a testimony of how the assembly of believers was growing and impacting their city.  What I got was more of the same praise for buildings and professionals and a bulwark of the clergy/laity divide.