Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Who are the ministers?

The following is an excellent discussion concerning the nature of ministry. what should we mean when we say, "Every member a minister?" What about the offices of ministry prescribed in the New Testament?

People Want a Pastor from The Gospel Coalition on Vimeo.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Was the apostle Paul ever married?

Denny Burk makes a compelling case that Paul was a widower.

His points are as follows:
1. Paul puts himself in the category of being “unmarried” in 1 Corinthians 7:8.
2. The word “unmarried” translates the Greek word agamos.
3. Paul uses the term agamos to refer to those who have been married but now are no longer married.
4. The context of agamos in 1 Corinthians 7:8 is dominated by Paul’s instructions to those who are married or who have been married.
5. The Greek word for “widower” was not in use during the Koine period.
6. The word for “unmarried” appears to be the masculine word for someone who has lost a spouse.
7. As a good Pharisee, it is highly unlikely that Paul would have been single his entire life.

Read the entire article HERE.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Take and Read

One book I enjoy reading every year during both Christmas season and Holy Week is Donald Macleod's oustanding little volume From Glory to Golgotha. Highly Recommended.

Deconstructing Adam?

The most recent edition of the Southern Baptist Journal of Theology includes a fine article by Dr. Ardel Canaday. Dr. Canaday offers a compelling critique of the efforts of Biologos to "deconstruct Adam to fit evolution."

Take time to read the article HERE.

Indelible Grace

Indelible Grace Documentary Trailer: Roots And Wings from Kevin Twit on Vimeo.

We will be welcoming Indelible Grace to Church of the Saviour on October 16th in all three a.m. services.

There's Religion and then there's religion...

For Hitchens to point out all the problems in the world and blame them on 'religion' is like writing a book attacking 'medicine,' that well-meaning endeavor which has killed its untold millions. But to get this result we have to define medicine as 'anything that comes, promising relief, in bottles or any other container.' That kind of categorization positively promises to blur vital distinctions, like the difference we might want to acknowledge that exists between penicillin and Cousin Bob's Joo Joo Beans Cancer Therapy.
Doug Wilson from God Is, p. 19

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Sunday's Sermon

On Sunday I preached part 5 in our series through Ruth. It is entitled There Is A Redeemer and is taken from Ruth chapter 3. You can listen to or download it HERE.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Business Practices and the Church?

To what extent should the church adopt business practices from the world?

Is it wrong to market the church?

These are some of the questions Mark Dever asks John Harden in this interview.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Read this before attending corporate worship...

From Greg Gilbert:

It's always seemed to me that Satan must take a peculiar pride in the tactic of taking music---which God intended to be a beautiful means of worship to Him---and turning it into a line of division and battle among His people. So a couple of thoughts hit me, and I decided to share them with our church. Maybe they'll be helpful to you, too.

First, it fills my heart with joy (no kidding!) that the success or failure of our music on Sunday mornings depends on whether our congregation shows up ready to sing. It's amazing, really. When we as a church show up prepared to engage in the service, excited to worship Christ and hear from his Word, our music succeeds in a big way---the voices fill up our sanctuary like a flood, and it's beautiful to hear. When we as a church don't show up, though, when we're distracted, down, and thinking about anything and everything but the worship of God, our music is really bad. It's quiet, empty, and completely without energy. I realize it might be a strange thing to say, but I'm glad that's how it works! I actually think it's a very good thing that our congregation bears a good deal of responsibility for how our services go each and every Sunday. When I feel that kind of weight---that my attitude and state of mind affects not just me but the entire congregation---it makes me pay more attention to my heart and engage more with the service.

Second, and closely related, I think we ought to encourage every member of our churches to sing every song in the service with gusto, even if they don't particularly resonate with the song. Every Christian has a certain set of hymns and songs that deeply resonate with them---the melody, the words, an experience they had when they first heard it---and our natural tendency is to give those favorites everything we've got . . . but then sort of check out when the next song is one we don't particularly like. But here's the thing: When you sing in a congregation, you're not just singing for yourself; you're singing for every other member of the congregation, for their edification and building up in Christ, too. In I Corinthians 14:26, Paul tells us that when we come together, everything we do--including our singing--is done for each other. Singing hymns is not just an opportunity for each of us, as individuals, to worship God in our own way. It's an opportunity for the church, as a whole, to worship God together. That means that even if you don't like a particular song, it's likely that someone else in the congregation resonates with it deeply---they feel about it the same way you feel about your favorites---and so you have a responsibility to love that person by singing that song with all the heart you can muster. In other words, don't check out on songs that aren't your favorites; sing them! And sing them loud and heartily, not because you particularly like them, but because you may be helping to edify another brother or sister whose heart is engaged deeply with those songs. Worship isn't finally an individual experience; it's corporate. And everything we do--everything, Paul tells us, including our singing---should be done for the building up of the saints.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Some euphemisms speak a thousand words...

A recent article in the New York Times Magazine explores a little talked about trend in the abortion industry - baby reduction. It is the practice of aborting one or more babies of a multiple pregnancy. It is difficult to find words to describe such wickedness. This dastardly practice is wrapped up in the most banal language of consumerism. It is truly chilling. I am reminded of Robert J. Lifton's disturbing book The Nazi Doctors.

Al Mohler comments:

As Ruth Padawer reports, obstetricians were at first reluctant to reduce twins to a single pregnancy on moral grounds, and many doctors who perform reductions refuse to reduce below twins. But the practice is growing, reflecting a shift in medical practice. She profiles Dr. Mark Evans, who at first refused to reduce twins on moral grounds. In 1988 he co-authored ethical guidelines for reducing pregnancies that declared reductions below twins to be unethical. Evans wrote that doctors should not allow themselves to become “technicians to our patients’ desires.”

And yet, in 2004 Dr. Evans reversed his position on the issue. Padawer explains his rationale:

For one thing, as more women in their 40s and 50s became pregnant (often thanks to donor eggs), they pushed for two-to-one reductions for social reasons. Evans understood why these women didn’t want to be in their 60s worrying about two tempestuous teenagers or two college-tuition bills. He noted that many of the women were in second marriages, and while they wanted to create a child with their new spouse, they did not want two, especially if they had children from a previous marriage. Others had deferred child rearing for careers or education, or were single women tired of waiting for the right partner. Whatever the particulars, these patients concluded that they lacked the resources to deal with the chaos, stereophonic screaming and exhaustion of raising twins.

Note carefully that the justification offered for killing an unborn baby is clearly identified as “social reasons.” The medical rationale he cited cannot be taken seriously, even as he cites “recent studies” that “revealed that the risks of twin pregnancies were greater than previously thought.” As this article makes abundantly clear, the main risk of a twin pregnancy these days is the risk that one of the twins will be intentionally aborted.

“Ethics,” Dr. Evans told Padawer, “evolve with technology.” That is a foundation for murderous medical ethics. The Culture of Death has worked its way into the logic of modern medical ethics to the extent that these obstetricians justify killing healthy babies just because the parents do not want the burden of twins.
Read the entire article HERE.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The blessedly passive act of worship...

The latest issue of Themelios carries an excellent reflection by Carl Trueman on one of the key purposes of the church's corporate gatherings. It may well be that with all the emphasis on what we are supposed to be doing in our corporate praise we have neglected that most important reality - what God does.

Trueman writes:

At some point prior to the sermon each Sunday in my church, the minister or elder leading the service will read a passage of Scripture designed to expose the moral failure of fallen humanity before God. Then he will lead the congregation in a corporate prayer of confession. Finally, when he closes the prayer, he will read a short passage (often just a verse or two) which speaks of the forgiveness of sins in Christ. The dramatic theological movement of the service at that point is profound: the congregation goes from being reminded and convicted of their sin, to calling out to God for forgiveness, to being reminded that in Christ God has acted in a startling and decisive way to cast our sin as far away as the east is from the west. We are reminded of the entire gospel, from fall to redemption to consummation, in the space of just a few minutes.

This moment in the church service has come to mean much to me. This is the point where, after a week of failure—of not living up to the standards I set myself, let alone those set for me by my Creator—I am reminded once again that all is well: Christ has dealt with my sin; my failings were placed on his shoulders on the cross; and my heavenly Father has annihilated them there. It is not, of course, that I do not know this Monday to Saturday; it is not that I do not read the gospel every day in my Bible; it is not that I do not confess my sins during the week and look then to Christ. But this is a word from outside, God’s work spoken to me by another human being, which lifts my head once again and assures my conscience that I am clean despite the filth I so often choose to wade in. So often I enter church weighted down with care; when I am once again reminded of God’s rich forgiveness in Christ, the weight is wonderfully lifted from my shoulders.

So often Christians can tend to think of the church worship service as something we do: we sing praise to God; we respond to the gospel; and we rejoice in our Saviour. Further, much discussion in the church focuses on what we need to be doing in order for church to be effective. Yet church is, first and foremost, something which God does. It is primarily and in origin an act of his grace, not an act of human response. He calls us out to be his people; he gathers us through his Spirit; he speaks to us through the reading and the preaching of his word. There is far more passivity in worship than we care to imagine, a passivity that is often belied by our concerns to make sure ‘everybody is involved.’ When the law is read, sins are confessed, and forgiveness declared, we are all involved because we are all included under the words of condemnation and the words of promise and mercy.

Of course, this is not an appeal for some form of mystical quietism. We do need to do things for and in the service, from the most trivial (someone, for example, needs to make sure the church door is unlocked) to the most serious (singing songs of praise in response to the declaration of the gospel). But, to put a new—and, I think, biblical—twist on the current consumer mentality, I think we need to go to church to expect it to do things for us. Not to provide us with a good social network or a context where the kids can have wholesome friends and stay out of trouble or where I can find the best coffee after a sixty minute worship session; but rather to provide us with the oxygen of our spiritual lives—those words of rebuke that cut down our pride and self-sufficiency, those words of brokenness that allow us to call out to God for his mercy, and that word that comes from outside that assures us that all of our sins have been dealt with in Christ and that we are thus liberated to give ourselves in lives of service to our brethren and to our neighbours because our own debt has been paid.

That word which should be spoken in every church service is still what gives me the energy to get out of bed in the morning. Praise God for the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ.
Read the entire article HERE.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Great Price on new booklets from The Gospel Coalition

There are six new booklets available from The Gospel Coalition in this very helpful series.

The Kingdom of God by Stephen Um

Sin and the Fall by Reddit Andrews

Justification by Philip Graham Ryken

Baptism and the Lord's Supper by Thabiti Anyabwile and J. Ligon Duncan

Christ's Redemption by Sandy Wilson

About the Gospel Coalition: We want to generate a unified effort among all peoples—an effort that is zealous to honor Christ and multiply his disciples, joining in a true coalition for Jesus. Such a biblically grounded and united mission is the only enduring future for the church. This reality compels us to stand with others who are stirred by the conviction that the mercy of God in Jesus Christ is our only hope of eternal salvation. We desire to champion this gospel with clarity, compassion, courage, and joy—gladly linking hearts with fellow believers across denominational, ethnic, and class lines. (Excerpted from their Preamble)

Monday, August 15, 2011

A Vision for Church of the Saviour (pt. 1)

You can read my introductory notes on a nine part vision for COS HERE.

1. God’s glory will be our chief end and highest value.

Perhaps the first issue we should settle is whether or not we can be sure that God’s glory ought to be our chief end.

When Jesus taught his disciples to pray he said, “When you pray, pray like this: ‘Our Father who is in Heaven,…” (Matt 6:9ff). These words are not just a sensible prelude to a generic prayer. Notice that Jesus directs our attention heavenward. This is not “Our Father” the invisible helper. This is not “Our Father” the kindly, magical grandfather. This is the glorious Creator and King of the Universe. This is the One encircled by praise from all the inhabitants of heaven. Even now the Father is surrounded by strange and holy beings who call out day and night, “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is, and is to come!” (Rev 4:8). In teaching us to pray, Jesus invites us to begin by acknowledging what all of heaven already recognizes about his matchless worth.

The second clause in Jesus’ prayer is, “hallowed be your name.” Jesus invites us to pray that God’s name will be recognized throughout the world as holy. In other words, Jesus is saying, “When you pray, what ought to be uppermost in your mind is that God’s name be hallowed, revered, reverenced in all the earth.” And when Jesus says, “hallowed by your name” he is using the word “name” as a summation of all the perfections of God. We are to pray that God, in the totality of his being will be recognized and praised for being holy.

In Ephesians 1 we read that God’s purpose in election is His glory: “He predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace…” (Ephesians 1:5-6). In other words, the reason for God’s election of His people before the foundations of the world (Eph 1:4) is that He might be praised for His glorious grace. Certainly there are innumerable blessings that accrue to the people of God because of the Father’s electing grace. But the chief end of God’s gracious saving of His people is His own glory.

How does Jesus motivate us toward greater obedience? “…let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16). This same theme is echoed in 1 Peter 2:12 where we are told to keep our conduct before pagans pure so that the day will come when they too might glorify God. Paul sums it up nicely in 1 Corinthians 10:31: “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” No matter what we do, whether washing dishes, commuting to work, or declaring the Gospel; all these are to be gathered up for the purpose of magnifying the greatness of God.

The writers of the Westminster Catechism saw the priority or God’s glory throughout Scripture. What is more, they understood the interconnectedness of the glory of God and the joy of mankind. The first question of the Catechism is “What is the chief end of man?” The answer is, “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.”

Treasuring the glory of God above all else guards us from the idolatry of self. We are to pursue the glory of God precisely because God is the highest good and chief treasure in the universe. We do not pursue the glory of God as our chief end because we imagine that God will then make us His chief end. John Piper rightly concludes, “Teaching God’s God-centeredness forces the issue of whether we treasure God because of his excellence or mainly because He endorses ours.” Stephen Nichols has written, “The glory of God is the compass that keeps all our theologizing, pastoring, and Christian living oriented in the right direction – toward God and not toward ourselves.”

So how does the Gospel drive this? How does the Gospel ensure that our chief end will be the glory of God? It begins with the fact that the Gospel is, above all, a God-glorifying reality. That is, the content of the good news, the dying and rising of Christ, is primarily about the glory of God. This is a necessary corrective for many of us raised in a brand of evangelicalism to think that we are the primary reason for the death and resurrection of Christ. We hear songs and sermons proclaiming that as Jesus hung upon the cross He was thinking of me “above all.” But is this true? I would suggest that this sentiment is a grave misunderstanding of Jesus’ primary motive in dying for sinners.

In what Martin Luther called the chief place in all the Bible (Romans 3:21-26), we learn that Jesus died to vindicate the righteousness of God:

“But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.”
Before He died for sinners, Jesus died for the Father. He died to show forth God’s righteousness because in His patience with the sins of His saints under the Old Covenant, God opened himself up to the charge of injustice. “How could a holy God forgive such a one as David?” “How can a righteous and just God forgive such a duplicitous man as Jacob?” Over and over again these challenges to God’s character could be raised. But the cross answers all these challenges. For it was on the cross that God punished the sins of all His people, past, present, and future. This is why Paul tells us that in the Gospel, “the righteousness of God” is made known.

God put forth His Son as a propitiation (a substitutionary sacrifice satisfying his wrath) in order to “show His righteousness.” God crucified His Son in order to remain just even as He chose to be the justifier of sinners.

Do not misunderstand. Jesus certainly died for sinners. He was crucified and raised that sinners might live. But even this is a means toward the greater end of magnifying the glory of the One who saves sinners through the sacrifice of His beloved Son.

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9) The fruit of God’s redeeming work through Christ, to make for himself a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, was ultimately for the purpose of showing forth His glorious light. God saved us for the sake of His praise. He saved us for the magnification of His glory.

The Gospel communicates just how good God is, not how good we are. The Gospel shows off the righteousness of God, not the value of man. The Gospel puts on display the holiness of God who will not fail to judge the unrighteous and the merciful God who saves the unrighteous at the cost of His own Son. The Gospel is saturated with the glory of God and therefore Gospel people will have about them the aroma of God’s glory. Gospel people will love the glory of God. Therefore, a church that is driven by the Gospel will treasure above all else the magnification of the greatness of God for that is what the Gospel does.

Is he really seeing things?

Mark Driscoll has famously said that God has spoken audibly to him. Driscoll reports that God gave him audible commands to become a pastor, marry his wife, and plant a church. There are a lot of things I appreciate about Mark Driscoll. He has been a stalwart champion of sound doctrine, expositional preaching, evangelism, and biblical sexual ethics. However, I have also been frustrated by some of his very public missteps. And, this may sound harsh, but I do not believe that Mark heard the audible voice of God. This is where I believe his doctrine begins to stray.

The idea of a man receiving direct revelation from God during our time of redemptive history is, I believe, a denial of the sufficiency of Scripture and a gateway into various dangers.

Recently, Driscoll told his congregation that he "sees things." It goes down hill, drastically, from there.

Phil Johnson explains quite well the problems with Driscoll's theology of direct revelation HERE.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Real Manhood...

Some thoughts worth reading from Phil Johnson:

Biblical manliness is about authentic character. It’s not about bravado, and it’s not about boyishness. Going out into the woods with a bunch of other men, putting on war paint, making animal noises, telling scary stories around a campfire, and then working up a good cry might be good, visceral fun and all, but that has nothing to do with the biblical idea of manliness.

Real manliness (“mature manhood”—Ephesians 4:13) is defined by Christlike character. Not just the Gentle-Jesus-meek-and-mild-style character, but the full-orbed fruit of the Spirit rounded out with strength, courage, conviction, and a stout-hearted willingness to oppose error and fight for the truth—even to the point of laying down your life for the truth if necessary.

When the apostle Paul writes about the characteristics of true Christian manhood in Ephesians 4, he focuses on one vital mark of spiritual maturity: “That we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes” (v. 14). You want to be a man as opposed to a little boy? Grow up in your grasp of the truth. Get a grip on sound doctrine and quit being influenced by every new trend and every undulating breeze that blows across the evangelical landscape. Quit chasing the evangelical fads. Get anchored in the truth, and learn to defend it.

That’s the main mark of true manhood Paul singles out: doctrinal stability—and along with that are some clear implications: you need to be certain of what you believe. You need to understand it. You need to be able to defend it against everything—ranging from the changing winds of whatever happens to be in style at the moment all the way to human trickery and the cunning craftiness of Satan himself. Because the enemy will offer all kinds of counterfeit doctrines that look good and sound OK—false doctrines where the error is so carefully nuanced it's hard to put your finger on what's wrong with it. He will tempt you to set aside what is precise and carefully defined in place of dumbed-down doctrinal formulas that don't necessarily sound dangerous—but are.

Compare the apostle’s vision of manly maturity with John Eldredge’s famous “sine qua non of manhood.” Eldredge says, “Deep in his heart, every man longs for a battle to fight, an adventure to live, and a beauty to rescue.”

That is a little boy’s lie. That’s the stuff of children’s fantasies. You simply won’t find a description of manliness like that in Scripture. Instead, Scripture says what motivates real men is a love for the truth; a contempt for error; and a passion for being used by God in the work of snatching people from the grip of the father of lies...

If you want a taste of what real manhood looks like, do some gospel ministry in a hostile environment. Stand up for the truth in some venue where it is under attack. Get a solid, manly grasp on the Bible and stand up and teach its hard truths in a way that helps make the truth clear to people who are struggling to get it. Contend earnestly for the faith when some nice-sounding heretic wants you to sit down and have a friendly dialogue about it. Be the kind of man Paul describes here: someone who is steadfast and sure, with a solid grasp of classic biblical truths that have gone out of vogue. Stand against popular opinion when you know you should, and do it every time the opportunity arises.

That’s the real gauge of “mature manhood” as Paul describes it in Ephesians 4:13-14. A grown-up man is firm and steadfast in the truth. That means he is disciplined, knowledgeable; anchored; he understands the truth well and is devoted to it. He has his senses trained for discernment.

A Vision for Church of the Saviour

In the days ahead I will be posting some articles based upon my sermon and vision presentation on Vision Day at Church of the Saviour.

I presented a nine point vision that will guide Church of the Saviour in the days ahead. It is as follows:

1. The glory of God will be our chief end and highest value.
To say that the glory of God should be our chief end is to say that everything we do ought to somehow magnify the greatness of God. To make the glory of God our highest value means that as a church there is nothing that trumps God. There is nothing that supersedes Him. Therefore, our approach to corporate praise, preaching, education, and evangelism must be God-centered.
Let us routinely ask three questions:
A) “How does this magnify the greatness of God?”
B) “How will this increase the people of God’s joy in the greatness of God?”
C) “How will this spread to as many people as possible a joy in the greatness of God?”
God’s glory must never be assumed. In fact our assumption should be that we will tend to neglect the glory of God. Beginning with the glory of God will help guard us from pragmatism because our first question will not be, “Does it work?” but “Does this glorify God?”

2. The beauty of the Gospel will be our defining characteristic.
We will live out the indicative/imperative pattern of biblical obedience. Our love for one another, our acts of mercy and forgiveness will be seen in light of the love, mercy and forgiveness demonstrated on the cross. Our preaching and praise will be Christ-centered. We will sharpen each other not out of guilt or legalism but with the power and freedom of the Gospel. Righteousness and Love will be seen as complementary values not to be pitted against one another just as those two realities were magnified simultaneously on the cross. The Bible will be taught as a Christ-centered revelation and not a collection of inspiring stories.

3. The advance of the Gospel will be our defining mission.
COS has a great legacy of evangelism. It was founded by a handful of people who were passionate to see the lost come to Christ. Without thinking that COS should be just as it was in 1975, let us celebrate and seek to capture that founding zeal for evangelism in our own time and context. “His last command, our first concern” will drive continue to drive us. In September of 2011 I will launch a 9 week intensive series of messages examining the Great Commission and its implications for Church of the Saviour.

4. The pursuit of doctrinal clarity will be highly regarded.
We will know the difference between what Al Mohler calls 1st order, 2nd order, and 3rd order doctrines. Evangelicalism has become so broad and ill-defined that the importance for doctrinal clarity is more important than ever. And instead of those efforts being seen with suspicion they ought to be welcomed. Pastors and elders are called by God to guard the church from error and those who teach it. So the guarding of doctrinal boundaries ought to be viewed as a God glorifying labor and something for which the church should be grateful. So we need to know those doctrines which are essential if we are to call each other ‘brother and sister,’ those doctrines we need to agree on if we are going to serve together in a church, and those doctrines that are ‘in house’ debates among fellow church members.

5. We will welcome with joy the challenges and opportunities of an increasingly diverse context.
The Mainline of 2011 is not the Mainline of 1972 – economically, culturally, racially, etc. The suburbs are become less exclusively white/western European. In Philadelphia 1) African Americans are increasingly fleeing the city and moving to the suburbs and 2) the Asian population is exploding. COS will look for opportunities to identify with and reach out to increasingly racially diverse communities. This ought to be celebrated by COS – a suburban church. This must be understood as a “Gospel opportunity” for us. That is, will COS be ready to demonstrate that, because of the Gospel, there is no Jew or Gentile, black or white, Asian or European?

6. We will equip a body of lay counselors who are able to competently minister the Word of God.
We are excited about the vision of CCEF which is to return Christ to counseling and counseling to the church. With that in mind we are having conversations with leadership at CCEF to see how COS can embody that vision for a body of lay persons whose knowledge of and confidence in Scripture is such that they are able to effectively minister to the church in the power of God’s Word.

7. We will foster a culture of community life which will significantly raise participation in small groups.
One of the things we want to be able to say to people who come to our church is “The longer you stay at COS, the smaller it becomes.” What we mean is that, if you take advantage of the opportunities to connect in community you will find that COS is not an impossibly unwieldy organization. You will find that COS is not a cold mega-church but a place of warmth and care.

8. We will foster a culture of “ordinary” disciple-making.
It will become unthinkable to leave new believers as infants. We will view our educational ministries as means by which we make disciples. Disciple-making will not be seen as the responsibility of a few professionals. But, beginning in the home, parents will be trained and equipped to disciple their children. There will also be a growing number of men and women in the church equipped to disciple adult converts.

9. We will address the increasingly apparent needs of our facility.
We have an aging facility and the age is showing in many places. We will seek to maximize three things about our facilities:
A) An aesthetic of Worship
B) An aesthetic of Joy
C) An aesthetic of Hospitality

Friday, August 12, 2011

Polemical Praise

Good stuff from Carl Trueman:

To ascribe glory and honour to this God and to no other is to put to the sword the claims of all other pretenders to the throne. Debates about worship which focus primarily on aesthetics may be important - form and content are never neatly separable. Far more important than reflection on aesthetics per se is reflection upon who God is.

Ultimately, to praise God is to make a theological and doxological protest against the claims of all pretenders to his throne. When the church gathers on Sunday morning, what we have is a protest meeting, a gathering of those who simply will not put up with the arrogant claims of the world any more. That should be the starting point of any discussion about seeker sensitivity, about worship style and about how the church relates to the culture around it.

Make no mistake: praise is protest. If it is not protest, it is not praise.

Biblical Interpretation and Authority

From an article by J.I. Packer:

1. The inspiration of the Bible is an activity of God, who providentially rules over the utterances of men and is binding upon us.
2. There is a subjectively recognized and objectively inspired canon. In other words, not all inspired words are canonical, but all canonical words are inspired, and God causes his people to recognize them as such.
3. The Scriptures authenticate themselves to Christian believers through the convincing work of the Holy Spirit.
4. The Scriptures are sufficient for the Christian and the church in the realm of belief and behavior.
5. The Scriptures are clear and interpret themselves from within, standing above both the church and the Christian in corrective judgment and health-giving instruction.
6. The nature of Scripture is a mystery—that is, there is a human and divine involvement, where a particular book or letter is written by Paul, John, or Isaiah, yet all of Scripture are God’s words.
7. Finally, evangelicals hold that obedience by the Christian, individually, and the church, corporately, consists in the conscious submission, both intellectual and ethical, to the teaching of the Bible.

HT: Online Source

Where are the men?

First Day of Classes: Where Are the Men? from The Gospel Coalition on Vimeo.

Mohler, Akin, & Platt at the SBC

IX Marks at 9 - 2011 SBC Annual Meeting from Southeastern Seminary on Vimeo.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Mission of the Church OR Why the Gospel is not "escape from social oppression"

Dr. Albert Mohler and Jim Wallis will be debating each other soon on the question of whether social justice is a necessary part of the mission of the church. It is an important debate because it has direct implications upon the nature of the gospel. Again, the question is not whether it is good for the church to be engaged in matters of justice when it can, but whether it is integral to the mission of the church to do so.

From Denny Burk:

Oftentimes the differences between progressives and evangelicals on this question are not only about the mission of the church, but also about the nature of the gospel itself.

Tony Campolo’s recent critique of the Southern Baptist Convention’s immigration resolution is a case in point. He felt that the resolution did not go far enough and focused too narrowly on “spiritual salvation.” Embedded in his critique, Campolo offers what he thinks the gospel is:

Salvation for the soul is important to Southern Baptists, as it should be for all Evangelicals, but most of us call for a more holistic gospel that not only explains the way of salvation from sin, but also explains the way to escape from social oppression. To simply tell the undocumented immigrants in this country that we want to save their souls, but we have nothing to say about the fears they have of deportation is a cop-out. The Jesus that they love offers deliverance from both spiritual and social oppression, and the Southern Baptists should do the same.

I do not think that Campolo has a fair characterization of the resolution or of Southern Baptists, but that is not the main point here. The item I want to highlight is Campolo’s definition of the gospel. For him it is not merely “the way of salvation” but also “the way of escape from social oppression.” In other words, the gospel is not merely the promise of eternal life rooted in Jesus’ death and resurrection for sinners. The gospel is also the promise of deliverance from poverty, from social inequality, from racial injustice, etc. on this side of the new heavens and the new earth.

Campolo’s view of the mission of the church is decisively shaped by what he thinks the gospel is, and that is why the aforementioned debate is important. We draw our view of the church’s mission in part from our understanding of what the good news actually promises. This no doubt is a part of what the Mohler-Wallis debate will be about.
Read Denny's entire post HERE.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

How To Pray For Your Pastor...

From R.W. Glenn:

About nine years ago I developed the following list of prayer requests that I gave to every willing hand. I haven't passed them out in at least four years, but I decided to resurrect them. Why? I need prayer...badly! And so does your pastor. As leaders in the church we have unique and often more intense temptations ("Strike the shepherd and the sheep will scatter"). So will you consider praying for your pastor the way I ask my people to pray for me?

1. That the gospel would be the focal point of my life and identity - not manhood, not being a husband, not being a father, not being a pastor, but who I am in Christ.

2. That I would not fear man by desiring the admiration of people; that the Lord's "Well done" would be ever before my eyes.

3. That the Lord would not allow me to go long between repentances; that I would keep short accounts with him and be sensitive to and ruthless with my sin.

4. That I would continue to grow in the character qualities of the man of God (1 Tim 3:1-7; 2 Tim 2:22-26; Titus 1:5-9).

5. That I would have a consistent, powerful, diligent life of private prayer; that I would grow in my dependence on the Holy Spirit.

6. That the Lord would give me great diligence in study and sermon preparation, making the most of my time.

7. That my preaching and teaching ministry would be empowered by the Holy Spirit; that the Lord would effect real change in our lives through it; and that by it we would be more endeared to Christ.

8. That I would boldly and faithfully and humbly and joyfully and intentionally share the gospel with the non-Christians in my social orbit.

9. That I would see Jesus as supremely valuable, my greatest treasure, and as my dear friend.

DeYoung Reviews Smith

Keving DeYoung has posted a helpful review of Christian Smith's new book The Bible Made Impossible. Smith, a professor from Notre Dame has previously written the thought provoking volumes Soul Searching and Souls in Transition. They are studies of the religious beliefs and practices of younger Americans. I recommend both titles. However, in his latest book Smith offers a heavy handed critique of evangelicals who hold to the inerrancy and clarity of Scripture. In his review, DeYoung offers a compelling reply.

Be known for God's Word

Make God's Word Your 'Thing' from The Gospel Coalition on Vimeo.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Colonized and Displaced - The State of American Evangelicalism

"We have come with some confidence to believe that a significant part of Christianity in the United States is actually only tenuously Christian in any sense that it is seriously connected to the actual historical Christian tradition...It is not so much that U.S. Christianity is being secularlized. Rather, more subtly, Christianity is either degenerating into a pathetic version of itself or, more significantly, Christianity is actively being colonized and displaced by quite a different religious faith."
- Christian Smith & Melinda Denton
Quoted in Almost Christian by Kenda Creasy Dean

Sunday's Sermon

Yesterday I preached part 4 in our series through Ruth. It is entitled "Right Man, Right Time" and can be listened to or downloaded HERE.