Wednesday, July 30, 2008
Check out this helpful post written by Dan Phillips over at Pyromaniacs.
Of particular interest to me was Neuhaus’ interaction with an article published in Christianity Today by Os Guinness entitled “A Gentle Plea for Civility.” Neuhaus writes:
“‘A Gentle Plea for Civility’ perhaps, although ‘A Poignant Plea for Acceptance’ might be more accurate. The posture is that of presumably more-sophisticated evangelicals coming hat in hand to their cultural betters, humbly requesting that they be exempted from the opprobrium heaped on their vulgar and unruly cousins, the ‘religious right’ and the ‘fundamentalists.’ To prove that they have earned an exemption, they eagerly join in the heaping of opprobrium on those in the evangelical family from whom they so desperately want to distinguish themselves. This is unseemly. It is also futile. The bid to be accepted as full participants in a ‘civil and cosmopolitan public square’ on the terms by which their secular betters define civility and cosmopolitanism is precluded by the very fact of being evangelicals.
“The document cannot plausibly present itself as evangelical without affirming the belief that Jesus Christ is the only way of salvation, that the Bible is the inspired Word of God, that marriage is between a man and a woman, the homogenital sex is morally wrong, and a host of other things that Christians traditionally believe and that secularists condemn as narrow, fanatical, and dangerously bigoted. The affirmation of liberal political pieties will not earn the signers and exemption from the disdain in which evangelicals, along with other serious Christians, are held by those whose approval these evangelicals so earnestly seek…”
“There are many and complex dynamics involved in the production of something like ‘An Evangelical Manifesto.’ Its theological affirmations are largely unexceptionable. Its call for cultural engagement and the cultivation of honesty and civility in argument is admirable and is always needed in our typically raucous public life. Whatever the good intentions of many of its signers, however, the manifesto is finally an appeal for the good opinion of the cultural despisers of evangelicalism. It is an election-year invitation for evangelicals to demonstrate, by embracing what is depicted as a more comprehensive and nuanced political agenda, that they are not that kind of evangelical.
“I have no doubt that some who signed the statement simply wanted to affirm the important truth that evangelical Christianity is defined by the lordship of Christ and not by political partisanship. Issuing what is inevitably perceived as a politically partisan manifesto is an ill-chosen means for achieving that purpose. Only the naive or disingenuous among the signers will express surprise that the media depicted the manifesto as an election-year effort to drive a wedge between conservatives and what is portrayed as a more authentic evangelicalism. Whatever the good intentions of some signers, the reporters got the story right.”
One of the things that confounded me about the Manifesto was the author’s need to distant themselves from those mean ole fundamentalists. Don’t misunderstand. I will not be an apologist for some of the aberrations within fundamentalism. (Although, anyone who has ever gotten on the wrong side of a liberal can make an equally compelling case for mean ole liberals.) Nevertheless, I am puzzled as to why an manifesto that is presumably evangelical is so egregiously thin theologically speaking. My only conclusion is that it less about theology and more about politics and public relations. That is why An Evangelical Manifesto will disappear with the passage of time.
Monday, July 28, 2008
Check out this article by Al Mohler on the subject.
"The African bishops leading the charge for orthodoxy are indeed fighting a courageous battle. They are fighting for the soul of the Anglican Communion and for the integrity of the church and the Gospel. They refuse to bend the knee to modern idolatries and they understand the transforming power of the Gospel and the bedrock of biblical authority far better than those who oppose them."
- Al Mohler
Pollster extraordinaire George Barna has for years tried to make the church more relevant. He has called pastors to see themselves as marketers even calling Jesus a master marketer. He has told pastors to place the “felt needs” of people at the forefront of their sermon preparation concluding that, as far as the sermon is concerned, “the audience is sovereign.”
Most recently, in his book Revolution Barna concludes that the days of the institutional church are nearing an end. Barna celebrates this reality, calling Christians who separate themselves from the church “Revolutionaries.” These Revolutionaries, according to Barna, “have moved beyond the established church and chosen to be the church instead.” Of course, this begs the question, “What’s the difference?” Throughout his writings, which have influenced many thousands of pastors, Barna demonstrates a deeply flawed doctrine of the church.
Barna writes: “Ours is not the business of organized religion, corporate worship, or Bible teaching. If we dedicate ourselves to such a business we will be left by the wayside as the culture moves forward. Those are fragments of a larger purpose to which we have been called by God’s Word. We are in the business of life transformation.” Barna believes that the only valid spiritual practices are those that can be done individually. But, as Michael Horton observes, this trajectory robs us of the great banquet that God has set before His church and places us instead at the self-serve buffet.
There is no salvation outside the church. That does not mean that the church saves. But when Jesus saves He grafts us into His body. We become a part of a community of people called the church made up of many local congregations around the world. This is the pattern set for God’s people since the apostolic period. The apostles did not plant local congregations in order to emphasize that the church was unimportant. They did not give themselves to build up local churches for the purpose of emphasizing the spiritual autonomy of the individual believer.
The church does not exist as a platform for my gifts and talents. The church does not exist primarily as a means for my own personal transformation. Certainly God gives gifts to the church and changes us deeply in the context of His church. But these are not ends in themselves. I am not placed in the Body of Christ so that I can merely become a better me.
In an article in the latest edition of Modern Reformation Michael Horton writes:
“Before long, it will be easy for churches to imagine that what happens on the Lord’s Day is less important than what happens in small groups or in the private lives of individual Christians. In fact, this is explicitly advocated today.
“In a fairly recent study, Willow Creek – a pioneer megachurch – discovered that its most active and mature members are the most likely to be dissatisfied with their own personal growth and the level of teaching and worship that they are receiving. From this, the leadership concluded that as people mature in their faith, they need the church less. After all, the main purpose of the church is to provide a platform for ministry and service opportunities to individuals rather than a means of grace. As people grow, therefore, they need the church less. We need to help believers to become ‘self-feeders,’ the study concluded…
“The individualistic emphasis of evangelicalism stands in sharp contrast to the covenantal paradigm that we find in Scripture. We are commanded not to become self-feeders who mature beyond the nurture of the church, but to submit ourselves to the preaching, teaching, and oversight of those shepherds whom God has placed over us in Christ.”
Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. (Hebrews 10:23-25)
Friday, July 25, 2008
A few of my recommendations:
The Literary Study Bible
Things That Cannot Be Shaken
Engaging the Doctrine of God
The Devoted Life
Breaking The Idols of Your Heart
What Jesus Demands of the World
Morning and Evening
Thursday, July 24, 2008
Jeff Harlow, the senior pastor at Crossroads Community Church, broke his wrist when he lost control of the motorcycle at the start of Sunday's second service, driving off a 5-foot platform and into the vacant first row of seats. He underwent surgery on the wrist Monday.
"Jeff has already laughed a lot, so he's OK. I think his pride was bruised," said his wife, Becky.
Becky Harlow said her husband had recently attended a motorcycle race in Buchanan, Mich.
"He had this idea that he would bring this bike out onstage and show people how the rider would become one with the bike," she told the Kokomo Tribune. "He was going to just sit on it and drive it out. He was just walking the dirt bike out onstage and somehow it got away from him. It was not intended." No one else was hurt.
Jeff Harlow had performed the demonstration at earlier services Saturday night and Sunday morning without incident.
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
Here is a portion:
I think the driving reason that Osteen is hugely popular is that he sells hope. Books like Your Best Life Now and Become a Better You provide a message of hope that my life does not have to be the way it is right now; that God is powerful and able to change my life; that God is profoundly interested in my life and is near to me. And while that message of hope is packaged in the code language of the prosperity Gospel and positive psychology (like the phenomenally successful book by Tal Ben-Shahar, Happier), at the end of the day, people leave Lakewood feeling as though there is a greater meaning and purpose for their lives.
As I thought about all this, though, I couldn't help but think about John Piper's question from God is the Gospel (and other places): do you delight more in the fact that God makes much of you in the Gospel or that the Gospel frees you to make much of God? The fault in Osteen's message is that it overplays and wrongly prioritizes the fact that God makes much of us (and God does make much of us: as I read in my morning worship today, God cried out to a wayward Israel, "How can I give you up, O Ephraim?...My heart recoils within me; my compassion grows warm and tender" Hosea 11:8).
Read the entire post HERE.
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
- John 17: 20-21a
Jesus makes it very clear that He is praying for all those who do and will believe in Him. This is important to remember because there is within evangelicalism a movement to downplay the importance of belief. What matters, we are told, is not doctrine or belief but ethics and action. I know of no one who disputes the importance of action. Faith without works, after all, is a dead faith. However, it is by grace through the means of faith (belief) that God saves His people. So belief is of supreme importance in the matter of our salvation. Jesus said in John 3, “Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because He has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.”
So, Jesus is not praying for those who will merely find his ethics appealing or think highly of him as a teacher. He is praying for those who believe. Specifically, He is praying for those who will believe “their message” the message of the disciples – the Gospel. The ground of our unity, the only ground of true spiritual unity is faith in Christ; belief in Gospel.
I can and should be a friend and a good neighbor to a Buddhist or Muslim. I should work to be a blessing to them and make efforts to share with them to the Gospel of Christ. However, I cannot have spiritual fellowship with them in any way. We live in two different kingdoms. We have two entirely different allegiances. We follow different Lords.
Referring to the unity for which Jesus prayed, D.A. Carson writes, “It is a unity predicated on adherence to the revelation the Father mediated to the first disciples through His Son, the revelation they accepted and then passed on” (p. 568). The unity for which Jesus is praying is not achieved by our hunting around for the lowest common theological denominator. It comes about only after we have fully embraced the Gospel of Jesus Christ as it is revealed in the Scriptures.
“Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am…” (v. 24). Jesus prays to the Father specifically for those that “You have given me.” In verses 2, 6, and 9 Jesus refers to those who are saved as those whom the Father has given Him. Everyone who believes is a gift from the Father to the Son. Jesus makes reference to this reality in John 6 when he says, “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me. And whoever comes to Me I will never cast out” (v. 37). In chapter 10 Jesus is referring to His own sheep when he says, “No one is able to snatch them from out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all, and no one can snatch them from out of My Father’s hand” (vv. 28-29).
Four times in John 17 Jesus makes it clear that he is praying only for those that His Father has given Him. He is not praying for the world. He is not praying for the mass of humanity. He is praying for His own which, incidentally are those who will come to believe through the instrumentality of the disciples. Some way or another we have all come to know Christ through the means of another believer in Christ. Salvation is entirely God’s doing but He uses the means of people just like you and me. What a humbling thought that the Father gives to the Son His precious people through the instrumentality of you and me. What a privilege. God will use our faithful witness as the primary means by which He brings the lost to faith in Christ.
Monday, July 21, 2008
Saturday, July 19, 2008
Friday, July 18, 2008
Gene Robinson the openly homosexual Episcopal bishop of New Hampshire was publically denounced recently in London. The slow clapping you hear in the background is not support for the protestor but a way to drown out his calls for repentance.
Thursday, July 17, 2008
3. The Principles
a) Issues of unity must be dealt with immediately and sensitively.
I love the fact that the apostles did not try to cover up the problem. Neither did they try to solve it behind closed doors. When the unity of the body of Christ is threatened it ought to be dealt with immediately. Notice also that the apostles are sensitive. They don’t immediately try to assign blame. In THIS case there was plenty of blame to go around. We must not sit idly by while the unity of Christ’s body is threatened.
b) The church’s shepherds must give priority to the ministries of God’s Word and prayer.
Those charged with the task of shepherding the church must not be taken away from their primary calling. The shepherd is not the church’s CEO. He is not the top manager. His job is to feed God’s flock; to intercede for God’s flock. When Jesus re-instituted Peter into service He asked him three times, “Do you love me.” Jesus’ response to Peter’s thrice affirmation was not to say, “Manage my sheep” or “Make a name for yourself.” Jesus’ charge to Peter was “feed my sheep.” It is the same call that all pastor’s must follow.
c) The church must follow Scripture’s guidelines in selecting its leaders and servants.
The church needs godly leaders and servants. Scripture tells us what is expected in both life and character from the church’s leaders and servants.
d) The church must not divide along cultural lines.
The vast majority of churches in our day seem to be unable to transcend cultural differences. There are churches that are predominantly blue collar, while others are predominantly white collar. There are white churches and black churches and Asian churches and Latino churches. There are urban churches and suburban churches. These are not legitimate theological lines being drawn. These are divisions based upon the fact that we simply want to be around people who are just like us.
The Jewish Christians that were Hebrew in cultural outlook didn’t want to mix much with the Hebrew Christians that were more Greek in cultural outlook. Perhaps we need to think of our corporate gatherings as times when we are learning to be comfortable being uncomfortable.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, “Christian brotherhood is not an ideal which we must realize; it is rather a reality created by God in Christ in which we may participate.”
4. The Result
Because the threat against the church’s unity was addressed…
Because the shepherds did not allow themselves to be distracted from their calling to be men of the Word and prayer…
Because the entire congregation was engaged to work together toward a God-honoring solution…
“The word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.”
Even Jewish priests were being converted to Christ. The unlikeliest of people were coming to Christ.
The church is a community formed around a message. That message is the Gospel. That is why the ministry of the Word of God is the primary responsibility for the church’s shepherds. It is through the proclamation of the Gospel that the church is formed and built up. We must continually preach the gospel to ourselves and each other because it is not only the message that saves but it is the message which continues to shape our lives a Christians.
Where there are divisions we must hear the Gospel – the message of how God, through Jesus has broken down the dividing wall between us.
Where there have been offense we must hear the Gospel – the message of how God, through Jesus has forgiven us of the offense of our sin and rebellion.
Where there is estrangement between brothers and sisters we must hear the Gospel – the message of how God, through Jesus has reconciled us to Himself.
2. The Solution
a) The apostles maintained their committment to their primary calling.
The apostles were very clear about their calling: “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables.” Later they add, “We will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” The apostles are not asking permission. They are instructing the congregation that their primary tasks are preaching and prayer.
Wisely, the church agreed that the apostles must give the bulk of their attention to the ministries of prayer and the Word of God. There is no hint here that the apostles regarded meeting the physical needs of the community as somehow beneath them. It was, rather, a question of calling and priorities. The apostles were not at liberty to quit the primary task that God had called them to.
Commenting on these verses the great Puritan Matthew Henry writes:
“The apostles engage to addict themselves wholly to their work as ministers…What is the great business of gospel ministers—to give themselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word; they must still be either fitting and furnishing themselves for those services, or employing themselves in them; either publicly or privately…They must be God’s mouth to the people in the ministry of the word, and the people’s mouth to God in prayer. In order to the conviction and conversion of sinners, and the edification and consolation of saints, we must not only offer up our prayers for them, but we must minister the word to them, seconding our prayers with our endeavours, in the use of appointed means. Nor must we only minister the word to them, but we must pray for them, that it may be effectual; for God’s grace can do all without our preaching, but our preaching can do nothing without God’s grace.”
b) The church entrusted responsibility to godly men.
I don’t necessarily see the birth of the office of deacon in this text. The word diakonoi is used but I think in the more generic sense of “ministry” rather than office. I think that something very practical is going on. Seven men are selected on the basis of their godly character to oversee the meeting of some very specific needs.This is not a popularity contest. Look at how Luke describes these men: “men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom.” It was not good business sense that made these men qualified. It was evident godliness.
These seven men are brought before the apostles who lay hands upon them and pray over them. This isn’t business. There is a weightiness and solemnity to the whole thing which bespeaks the seriousness of their ministry.
c) The church displayed cultural sensitivity.
The apostles did not select the men. The church did the choosing and they chose well. All seven of these men had Greek names. The church seemed to understand that there was an issue of trust. It is not only possible but likely that the Greek widows were being intentionally neglected. After all, these were saved sinners after all just like you and me. So by placing Greek men in this position of responsibility the church was demonstrating sensitivity to the “minority party” within the congregation.
In Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream, Lysander says to his beloved Hermia, “The course of true love never did run smooth.” What is true of love in this case is also certainly true in the church. Life in the body of Christ never does run smooth. After the formation of the church at Pentecost we read those wonderful words at the end of Act 2 where the church’s commitment to God’s truth, their deep fellowship, and participation in corporate worship and prayer is so beautifully described. The text ends with that wonderful statement, “And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved” (2:47).
It isn’t long however before problems begin to arise. In chapter four, Peter and John, the church’s most important leaders at this time are hauled before the authorities and arrested for preaching Christ crucified and risen. In chapter five we are told the story of Ananias and Sapphira. Their lying and hypocrisy resulted in God striking them dead. Later in chapter five persecution increases and the apostles are arrested yet again.
Think about it. In a relatively short period of time the young church has had to deal with persecution from without and hypocrisy from within. These are the enemy’s incursions into the King’s territory. But through it all Luke continues to point out that the believers still held everything in common and the Word of God continued to spread. In fact, the way the first six chapters of Acts are written seem to indicate that there was a problem that posed a greater threat to the young church than persecution from the civil and religious authorities. And that’s where I want us to begin unpacking this text.
1. The Problem
This particular text begins with what are certainly encouraging words – “In those days…the number of disciples was increasing.” Who among us is going to not be excited about such a thing? Wouldn’t it be great if when the history of our city is written that during our days “the number of disciples was increasing”? But we ought not to be naïve. Hand-in-hand with the increase of the church numerically was also the increase of problems. In any organization, as the number of people involved increases so too does the complexity and the number of problems. How much more true is this in the church where the powers of Satan are arrayed against us? Where the souls of men and women are at stake?
The problem is that a complaint arose between two groups within the church. Now, the fact that two separate groups are being mentioned here is a subtle but profound clue to the real problem.
This is the first mention of division and grumbling within the ranks. Prior to this moment we have been told that there was glad and sincere fellowship; that all the believers held everything in common. It was an extraordinary work of God’s Spirit acting through the Gospel to unite. So this verse is heartbreaking, really.
For the first time, this young and vibrant church is not “one.” The two groups were, literally, The Hellenistai and The Hebraioi. The Hellenistai were Jewish Christians steeped in Greek culture. Some of them were also Gentiles who converted to Judaism and were then converted to Christ. They came from outside Jerusalem. They spoke Greek and had been shaped by Greek culture. The Hebraioi, on the other hand, were Jewish Christians born and raised in Jerusalem. They spoke Aramaic and had been shaped by Jewish culture.
Although both groups were Jewish converts to Christ those born and immersed in Hebrew culture would have been seen as just a little more pure. Do you see how explosive this could be? The problem is that the Hellenistic converts were observing that their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution of food. Can you imagine how this would make you feel?
As one shaped by Greek culture you already feel like a second-class citizen in this church. You’re living in Jerusalem now which is a new place to you. The others in the church speak the predominant language in the city and understand the culture much better than you. What is more, you a pretty sure that the Hebrew group sees you as maybe just a little unclean – baggage from their former Judaism.
You now see that your widows are getting short-changed in the distribution of food and you can’t shake the feeling that it must be intentional neglect. The Roman army had a strategy that they called divide et impera – “divide and conquer.” And this is exactly what the enemy is doing to the church. And why not? It works doesn’t it?
The language is interesting. The complaint arose against the Hebrews. The complaint did not arise concerning the issue. The complaint arose against the other group. This was personal. The church has already begun to split. It’s becoming tribal. It’s becoming “us and them.” And to make it even more touchy is the fact that there is a racial / cultural dimension to it. There are long-held religious sentiments in operation: Which group is more pure? Which group is just a little unclean?
How are the apostles going to shepherd this church through these dangerous waters?
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
Here is a portion:
Simeon’s main goal in all his preaching was to emphasize what God wanted emphasized, and he did this by putting the stress on what Scripture stresses. Every time he went to Scripture, his goal was to see what the author of that book was particularly insisting on, and then to insist on that in his exposition of it. Simeon’s own words for this: “I love the simplicity of the scriptures … I wish to receive and inculcate every truth precisely in the way and to the extent that it is set forth in the inspired volume … My endeavour is to bring out of Scripture what is there, and not to thrust in what I think might be there. I have a great jealousy on this head; never to speak more or less than I believe to be the mind of the Spirit in the passage I am expounding.”
Check out the entire essay HERE.
SIGNED, SEALED, DELIVERED
From the website of You've Been Left Behind, a service that for a $40 fee provides customers who expect to be raptured the chance to send messages to loved ones on earth.
We all have family and friends who have failed to receive the Good News of the Gospel. The unsaved will be left behind on earth to go through the tribulation period after the Rapture. You remember how, for a short time, after 9/11/01 people were open to spiritual things and answers. (We are still singing "God Bless America" at baseball's seventh-inning stretch.) Imagine how taken aback they will be by the millions of missing Christians and the devestation at the Rapture. They will know it was true and that they have blown it. There will be a small window of time where they might be saved for the Kingdom of God.
We have made it possible for you to send them a letter of love and one last plea to receive Christ. You will also be able to give them some help in living out their remaining time. Our system will allow you to send documents by email, to addresses you provide, six days after the Rapture. This occurs when three of our five team members scattered across the United States fail to log in over a three day period. Another three days failsafe any false triggering of the system. In the encrypted portion of your account, you can give them access to you banking, brokerage, hidden valuables, and powers of attorney (you won't be needing them anymore, and the gift will drive home the message of love). There won't be any bodies, so a probate court will take seven years to clear your assets to your next of kin. Seven years, of course, is all the time that will be left. So basically the Government of the Antichrist gets your stuff, unless you make it available in another way. You can also send information based on Scripture as to what will happen next. Each fulfilled prophecy will cause your plea to be remembered and a decision to be made. This is one last chance to bring the unsaved to Christ and snatch them from the flames!
Monday, July 14, 2008
"The second problem area is ethics, which became very apparent tonight when Rob Bell was asked about homosexuality. His answers was evasive in part, and disturbing in other parts, and clearly unBiblical in other parts and in this he sounds like some other leaders in the Emergent Church movement. Some specifics should be mentioned.
"First of all, Rob made the blanket statement that you have no moral authority to speak on this issue unless you have gay friends and understand their struggle. While I am all for having pastoral empathy with people and their struggles, on that showing, Paul should never have spoken on this issue at all. This comment by Rob is simply an unhelpful way of silencing important voices in a divisive conversation, and its not helpful. Indeed it goes against the whole M.O. of Rob himself, which is to honor other people's views and beliefs and questions.
"Secondly, Rob then makes an argument from silence which is in fact misleading. The argument is this--- "Jesus never said anything about homosexuality". This is not quite true. Jesus took all sorts of sexual sin very seriously, even adultery of the heart, as Rob admits, and so it is no surprise then that we find Jesus telling his disciples in Mt. 19 that they have only two legitimate options: 1) marital fidelity (with marriage being defined as a relationship between one man and one woman joined together by God which leads to a one flesh union), or 2) being a eunuch for the sake of the Kingdom.
"The term 'eunuch' here whether taken literally (as in a castrated person who is incapable of normal sexual intercourse), or simply morally (as in a person who never engages in sexual intercourse, remaining celibate in singleness, though he or she is capable of such an act), makes very evident that for single persons, any single persons, celibacy in singleness is the standard Jesus holds up for the unmarried.
"Nor, in view of the way Jesus talks about marriage in the context with the discussion of the original Genesis story about the creation order-- the creation of woman for man (and their interdependency), could one ever imagine Jesus redefining marriage to include same-sex sexual partners. Jesus is not silent on such matters at all-- fidelity in marriage and celibacy in singleness are his standards, and indeed they are standards by which Jesus himself lived when we are thinking about the celibacy in singleness issue. He is likely talking about himself when he speaks of persons who have chosen to be eunuchs for the Kingdom. Chastity was considered a great virtue in that honor and shame culture.
"Rob then raises the issue of hypocrisy. Of course he is right that all sexual sin should be taken equally seriously, and in view of the abysmal record of heterosexual Evangelical Christians when it comes to issues of marital faithfulness he is right that one should not single out homosexual sin for special attention and ignore the seriousness of heterosexual sin. True enough-- but the proper response to such a situation is be an equal opportunity critiquer of all such sexual sin, while honestly admitting one's own failures and shortcomings.
"Rob then raises the point that the Bible says nothing about sexual orientation. This is true, but irrelevant. It says plenty about sexual behavior, including same sex sexual activity between consenting adults in Romans 1, 1 Cor. 6 and Gal. 5, to mention three texts. It is simply not true that the Bible is just opposed to pederasty or male prostitution, though certainly both of those forms of same-sex sexual expression are prohibited. The terms used in 1 Cor. 6 refer to males who play the role of 'malakoi' or the soft or effeminate role, and those that play the aggressive more male role called 'arsenokoites'-- which literal means a male who copulates with another male (and the word certainly does not imply copulation only with under aged males). On all of this Rob really needs to read Rob Gagnon's definitive work The Bible and Homosexual Practice (Abingdon).
"Of course it is true that we all are sinners who fall short of the glory of God, so there is no basis for finger pointing on such issues, and everyone must in all humility deal with their own sins rather than focusing on other people's sins. A Christian approach must be that everyone is welcome to come to Christ and come into the church as they are without pre-conditions. But no one is welcome to stay as they are--- no one. They all must change, repent of their sins as needed, and strive to live in newness of life whether gay or straight."
"One of the reasons God rarely gives micro reasons for his painful providences, but regularly gives magnificent macro reasons, is that there are too many micro reasons for us to manage, namely, millions and millions and millions and millions and millions.
God says things like:
a) These bad things happened to you because I intend to work it together for your good (Romans 8).
b) These happened to that you would rely more on God who raises the dead (2 Corinthians 1).
c) This happened so that the gold and silver of your faith would be refined (1 Peter 1).
d) This thorn is so that the power of Christ would be magnified in your weakness (2 Corinthians 12).
But we can always object that there are other easier ways for God to accomplish those things. We want to know more specifics: Why now? Why this much? Why this often? Why this way? Why these people?
The problem is, we would have to be God to grasp all that God is doing in our problems. In fact, pushing too hard for more detailed explanations from God is a kind of demand that we be God."
Friday, July 11, 2008
Tullian Tchividjian (Billy Graham's grandson) has written a very helpful post on this issue. Among his observations, he writes:
"Most churches would agree that racial or economic segregation runs contrary to the very nature of the Gospel. Most would also acknowledge that any sort of class bigotry is antithetical to the Gospel and should therefore not be tolerated. But there’s another, perhaps more subtle, type of segregation that many churches today have actually adopted and embraced. Following the lead of the advertising world, many churches today (and more specifically worship services) are targeting specific age groups to the exclusion of others. For years now churches have been organizing themselves around generational distinctives: busters, boomers, Generations X, Y, and Z. Many churches offer a “traditional service” for the tribe who prefers old music and a “contemporary service” for the tribe who prefers new music. I understand the good intentions behind some of these efforts but something as seemingly harmless as this evidences a fundamental failure to comprehend the heart of the Gospel. When we offer, for instance, a contemporary worship service for the younger people and a traditional worship service for the older people, we are not only feeding tribalism (which is a toxic form of racism) but we are saying that the Gospel can’t successfully bring these two different groups together. It is a declaration of doubt in the reconciling power of God’s Gospel. Generational appeal in worship is an unintentional admission that the Gospel is powerless to “join together” what man has separated. Plainly stated, building the church on age appeal (whether old or young) or stylistic preferences is as contrary to the reconciling effect of the Gospel as building it on class, race, or gender distinctions. Negatively, when the church segregates people according to generation, race, style, or socio-economic status, we exhibit our disbelief in the reconciling power of the Gospel. Positively, one of the prime evidences of God’s power to our segregated world is a congregation which transcends cultural barriers, including age."
In this month's edition of Modern Reformation (to which I would encourage everyone to subscribe) features an interview with Dr. Packer that is well worth the read. I found the following statement to be very insightful and encouraging:
"I’m a great believer in the importance of trinitarian thinking in discipling. A lot of what has weakened discipling is the result of thinking of only one person of the godhead at any one time–think about the Holy Spirit and what he does; think about Jesus and his death on the cross for us; think of the Father and of his love and goodwill. But you’re not thinking, you see, of the three together: the divine team which works in the unity of a single program and plan, each person in the team fulfilling his part in our salvation, so that the gospel is much less “what a friend we have in Jesus”, but “what a team of friends we have through Jesus”–it’s the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Our discipling instruction will be infinitely strengthened if we present it that way. Sometimes people say, “I’ve never heard it put like that before.” People will be deistic unless they are taught the Trinity.”
- J.I. Packer
Thursday, July 10, 2008
From Why We're Not Emergent (by two guys who should be)
"Nobody can tell a Southern Baptist what to do."
"That’s the comment by Darrell Orman, chairman of the Resolutions Committee, speaking to Christianity Today after the passing of the resolution on regenerate church membership.
Tom Ascol’s response:
“That’s a sad reality. Even Jesus can’t tell some Southern Baptists what to do.”
"Am I the only who finds it odd that the chairman of a resolutions committee is on record asserting, ‘You can’t tell us what to do!”? Why, pray tell, does the SBC have such a thing as a Resolutions Committee?
Incoming President Johnny Hunt, when discussing about purging membership roles, said that “few church members are in worship every single Sunday.” But is that rationale not an indication of the very reason why we need to practice church discipline that we may uphold meaningful church membership? So we have few people attending church every Sunday; ergo, don’t purge the rolls. How would that work if we said, “Few church members believe in tithing, so we don’t need to receive tithes and offerings anymore.” Instead of being predisposed to the biblical standard, have we not placated to the current standard and sought justification for our negligence? I have stated elsewhere and will state again that I am hopeful that Hunt will lead the way and inspire pastors in pursuing integrity in church membership. Let’s pray for him and the churches of the SBC, that our reporting will be a reflection of honesty and our repenting will be a reflection of humility.
In their report on messengers at the Annual Meeting of the SBC in Indy, Baptist Press reveals that those under the age of 40 accounted for only 16.22% of those in attendance. That means that more than 4 out of 5 were over the age of 40; nearly 1 in 3 over the age of 60. The 7,277 messengers represented 3,142 churches in the SBC–a denomination with over 44,000 churches. Seven percent of SBC churches were represented in Indy at the annual meeting. Seven percent.
"So going back to the first observation about no one telling Southern Baptists what to do. When the SBC bureaucracy wants to legislate a total abstinence position on alcohol regarding church planters, missionary appointments, or denominational servants, remember that no one can tell Southern Baptists what to do. When you hear denominational leaders policing Calvinism in search committees with arbitrary requirements, remember that no one can tell Southern Baptists what to do. And when the increasing number of empty chairs at the annual meeting lead to redoubling efforts for denominational loyalty, remember that no one can tell Southern Baptists what to do."
Wednesday, July 9, 2008
I was deeply touched by Gracia and Mindy's song Sunday morning. I listen to Gracia when she talks about God's goodness and sovereignty because her faith has been tested in ways that mine has not. How good it was to have mother and daughter sing about the watchful care of God.
Today (July 16th) I received a phone message that contained a lightly veiled threat. I know that it has to do with this post. As a result I made the decision to remove the name of the pastor in Wichita that the NY Times writer quotes. I don't know what good that will do since the name appears in the Times. However, I decided that being free of a hassle was better than my freedom of speech. I have been warned numerous times in the past to not speak to the person who called me without witnesses present. I will follow that advice.
David Kirkpatrick contributed an interesting article for the October 28th issue of The New York Times. The article is entitled “The Evangelical Crackup.” (The article can be accessed at http://www.nytimes.com/). Kirkpatrick explores the seeming decline of political unity and influence of American evangelicals. Many of you are old enough to remember the powerful political force evangelicals had become in the early eighties due particularly to the formation of the Moral Majority by Jerry Falwell.
The current presidential race has seen divisions and confounding alliances among evangelical leaders. Wayne Grudem, a leading evangelical theologian has endorsed Mormon and former (?) liberal Mitt Romney. James Dobson, true to his convictions is supporting Mike Hukabee. Perhaps most shocking, arch conservative Pat Robertson has publically endorsed Rudy Giuliani.
Of the current political influence of evangelicals, Kirkpatrick writes:“Today the movement shows signs of coming apart beneath its leaders. It is not merely that none of the 2008 Republican front-runners come close to measuring up to President Bush in the eyes of the evangelical faithful, although it would be hard to find a cast of characters more ill fit for those shoes: a lapsed-Catholic big-city mayor; a Massachusetts Mormon; a church-skipping Hollywood character actor; and a political renegade known for crossing swords with the Rev. Pat Robertson and the Rev. Jerry Falwell.”
Of particular interest to “Wichitans” is the inclusion of an analysis of a local pastor. This particular pastor has been mentioned more than once in local news primarily because of his involvement in political issues. I have often found his methods and rhetoric to be unfortunate at best, unbiblical and at worst. Kirkpatrick ends his article with a quote from this pastor: “Some might compare the religious right to a snake. We may be in our hole right now, but we can come out and bite you at any time.”
The problem revealed in that statement and with much of the political activism on the part of conservative evangelicals is that they wage war with the same weapons and attitudes of the left. In the first three quarters of the 20th century conservative Christians criticized the political activism of liberal Christians. Dismissed as “the social gospel” conservatives saw the left’s politicking as a sad accommodation to culture. It was seen as seeking cultural transformation with worldly weapons rather than the Gospel of Jesus Christ which the liberals had already jettisoned. Ironically, while seeking different ends, conservative Christians have become accustomed to employing the same means as liberals.
What bothers me about this brand of evangelicalism is not that it offends but that it offends for the wrong reasons. The Gospel of Jesus will be a stone of stumbling to both conservative and liberal alike. The problem is that the Gospel and politics have, in many cases, become intertwined and confused. For instance, when a pastor rants about politics for 30 minutes (instead of preaching Scripture) he is said to have “really preached the Gospel.” This example, which I have personally observed in this community, reveals the sad reality that many conservative evangelicals have equated conservative political positions with the Gospel of Jesus.
Perhaps now is the time for a bit of self-disclosure. I am a flag-waving patriot and self-described conservative. I am pro-life and support an amendment defining marriage as being between a man and a woman. I have taught my children about the significance of Veteran’s Day and Memorial Day. We value American history in our home. My wife and I vote and believe it is a privilege and responsibility to do so. I love America and look forward to taking my children on their first trip to Washington D.C. I believe displays of patriotism should be common in the public square. However, God shares His glory with no one. The gathered worship of God’s people is not to be divided between praise for God and nationalistic celebrations. The mixing of worship and patriotism can be a very dangerous thing as Israel has found during her long history.
Be cautious my fellow conservatives. Just as liberal Christians became an arm of the Democratic Party, conservative evangelicals have been, in too many cases, co-opted by the Republican Party. The church must never become an extension of any political party. Politics and the Gospel mix about as well as oil and water. The message that Jesus Christ died for sinners, rose victorious from the grave, and all must turn to Him in repentance and faith or perish is incompatible with success at the polls. How many evangelical politicians have stumbled in articulating the Gospel because they are well aware of the fact that it is a stumbling block?
The bravado and vitriol so common among certain evangelical leaders seems inconsistent for a people who follow a crucified Savior; a Lord who said His kingdom was not of this world. What is more, Jesus resolutely refused to involve himself in the politics of His day. There was much to condemn in the Roman system and yet Jesus resisted the political wrangling so common among many of His fellow Jews. He turned down all attempts to become politically influential. The power that many of His followers hungered for, He rejected. I cannot imagine Jesus saying, “My followers may be down but not out. You never know when they will come out like a snake and bite you!”
Monday, July 7, 2008
As a result it has become all the more necessary to warn those who would come to Christ that they must come to Him as Savior and Lord not life coach, therapist, or guarantor of success. We must warn those who come to Christ for any other reason than forgiveness of sins and justification before God that Christianity does not work. Become a Christian and you may not be healed. Your marriage may not get fixed. Your children may not become well adjusted. You may still lose your job. Of course this will only matter to those who believe that loss of one's carreer is worse than loss of one's soul.
In his book Made In America Michael Horton writes:
"In The Magician's Nephew, C.S. Lewis writes, 'Now that she was left alone with the children, she took no notice of either of them. And that was like her too. In Charn she had taken no notice of Polly (till the very end) because Digory was the one she wanted to make use of. Now that she had Uncle Andrew, she took no notice of Digory. I expect most witches are like that. They are not interested in things or people unless they can use them; they are terribly practical.' This sounds all too familiar when we think of how we view our relationship with God and others. We are all incredibly utilitarian...Like a new bug spray, God has to pass the test of utility for admission into the marketplace. How does God help me get what I want quickly, efficiently, easily, and with minimal cost?...
"In many ways, Christianity doesn't work. It has ruined some crafty businessmen like Zacchaeus, who, by becoming a Christian, ended up giving half of his estate to the poor and paying back those he had cheated four times the amount he had stolen.
"It is this God in whom a woman, Joni Eareckson Tada, placed her trust even though he had included in his mysterious plan a swimming accident that would leave her paralyzed. Without that tragedy, the contemporary Christian witness would be poorer. Not only did God not cancel the accident; he did not heal her, even after she sought healing earnestly."
It is true that Jesus sets us free indeed. It is true that Jesus gives us more than salvation at the end of time. Jesus gives life abundant while we are still south of heaven. But in the ears of the unconverted and, unfortunately, many of the converted this means health, wealth, and pleasant circumstances now. But Scripture and two thousand years worth of faithful Christian witness clearly contradict this. Jesus is not my vending machine nor is He God's customer service representative. He is my Savior. By His own perfect obedience, sacrificial death, and glorious resurrection He has justified me before a holy God. Even now he prepares a place for me where I will dwell with him and the whole host of God's people in unspeakable joy. Whatever other blessings He grants me in this brief life, while certainly welcome, cannot compare to the glory to be revealed in the last day.
Take and Read:
When God Weeps by Joni Eareckson Tada
Too Good to be True by Michael Horton
Deserted by God? by Sinclair Ferguson
Shattered Dreams by Larry Crabb
Thursday, July 3, 2008
I love Paul Tripp's books. Metro East was privileged to host Dr. Tripp for a weekend seminar in April. What a blessing that was! Anyway, here is a "heads up" on his forthcoming book, "Whiter Than Snow" which is a series of meditations on Psalm 51.