Saturday, May 31, 2008

Have You Noticed This Too?

I do not mean this question to be loaded by any means; I simply wonder if you have noticed this too. I was reading an article the other day by a very respected Christian leader. In this article he very inaccurately sums up the emerging church movement. It caused me to wonder whether or not this man has even studied much of anything about the emerging church. From his summary statement it appears that he has read an article or two and now feels he fully understands all the intricacies of the movement.

In the past I have also read very ridiculous arguments against Calvinism. I say ridiculous not because I am a Calvinist and what the author said got me thinking. I say ridiculous because the Calvinism the author argued against has absolutely nothing in common with what I believe. Keep in mind this is not some amateur theologian, this is a guy with a Ph.D. and plenty of papers on his wall.

Here is my question. Have you noticed that at a certain point many "big-name" (celebrity) leaders in Christendom rest on their name and no longer engage in scholarly research? I understand that often renowned secular authors and philosophers will do much the same. I don't have a point, I am just wondering if I am off the wall or if somebody else has noticed this?

Friday, May 30, 2008

Should Student Ministry Be About the Students?

What do you think? Is ministry about the person you are ministering to? Should the student ministers focus be on the students?

Lifeway has discovered what youth pastors have known for awhile; we don't keep students after they graduate high school. The statistic being thrown around now is 70% of students will not stay in church. How do we fix that? The Lifeway solution is their new program: Know, Own, Known.

On the back of a promotional pamphlet for the product I found this statement:

"By focusing on students and helping them become all God wants them to be, student ministry leaders, coming alongside of parents, can help students know God, own their faith, and make their faith known"

So, what do you think? Good idea? Great idea? Not so good of an idea? I plan to discuss this (as well as start talking more about student ministry) on Monday.

Compromise is Stupid When Truth is Known

Compromise can be a good thing. Compromise is especially necessary when partners have conflicting desires in marriage. However, compromise can also be synonymous with selling out the gospel. A quote that Steve Camp referenced made me think of this. Campi quoted Jay McInerney as saying, "The good life is the middle way..." What a wonderful summary of postmodern thought. In one sense I actually agree with the quote. In another sense I disagree with it from the core of my being.

I agree that compromise (or the middle way) can be a good thing. When no clear answer is spelled out in Scripture then compromise is a wise way to go. If my wife wants Burger King (and enjoys their slow service and gross food) and I want Taco Bell (with its luscious Chicken Bacon Ranch chalupas) then a compromise (you decide what that would be) is a good option. Theologically speaking, if there are issues in Scripture that are somewhat unclear and not very close to the gospel then perhaps compromise is a good idea. There are quite a few hills that are not worth dying on.

On the other hand when truth is known compromise is stupid and morally repulsive. Christians believe Jesus is the only way to God. Nobody else does. Compromise in this regard would not be a virtue but tantamount to abandoning the faith. Now, the pomo will tell us that truth cannot be known, therefore, the "good life is the middle way..." As believers in the God that calls believers to worship Him in spirit and truth, we cannot sell out to such garbage. God has clearly revealed Himself in Scripture. There are things that can be known, and known absolutely. On these matters refuse to compromise.

Compromise can be appealing. After all is it not easy to be "unified" when we all seek the middle ground? But, unity for the sake of unity is no virtue. If unity is not unified around the truth of Christ then it stands just as opposed to God as the people in Genesis 11. Brothers and sisters, there are things that we must NOT compromise on. The good life is not the middle way, it is the narrow way.

One last thing. There is a difference between compromise and cooperation. Take the debate in the SBC over those darn Calvinists. I would consider myself on the Calvinistic side of the debate. To me compromise is not an option. My Arminian friends would probably say the same thing. The truth is compromise for either side would be (in the opinion of each) a sell out. Therefore, in these situations the call is not to compromise it is to cooperation. It is having a "self-sacrificing conformity to a shared vision" and cooperating despite our differences. Compromise is stupid, cooperation is not.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Who Said Puritans Can't Be Poetic?

"All the delights in the sensual life are but as the putrid waters of a corrupt pond where toads lie croaking and spawning, compared to the crystal streams of the most pure and pleasant fountain." --John Flavel, The Method of Grace

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

One Reason a Testimony is Not as Powerful as Jesus

Suppose that a man has heard of a great physician who understands his complaint? He has traveled a great many miles to see this celebrated doctor. But when he gets to the door they tell him that he is out. “Well,” he says,“then I must wait till he is in.” “You need not wait,” they reply,“his assistant is at home.” The suffering man, who has been often disappointed, answers, “I do not care about his assistant. I want to see the man,himself—mine is a desperate case, but I have heard that this physician has curedthe like. I must, therefore, see him. No assistants for me.” “Well,” they say, “he is out, but there are his books. You can see his books.” “Thank you,” he says, “I cannot be content with his books. I need the living man and nothing less. It is to him that I must speak and from him I will receive instructions.”

“Do you see that cabinet?” “Yes.” “It is full of his medicines.” The sick man answers, “I dare say they are very good, but they are of no use to me without the doctor. I want their owner to prescribe for me, or I shall die of my disease.” “But see,” cries one, “here is a person who has been cured by him, a man of great experience, who has been present at many remarkable operations. Go into the inquiry room with him and he will tell you all about the mode of cure.” The afflicted man answers, “I am much obliged to you, but all your talk only makes me long the more to see the doctor. I came to see him, and I am not going to be put off with anything else. I must see the man, himself, for myself. He has made my disease a specialty. He knows how to handle my case and I will stay till I see him.”

Now, dear Friends, if you are seeking Christ, imitate this sick man or else you will miss the mark altogether! Never be put off with books, or conversations. Be not
content with Christian people talking to you, or preachers preaching to you, or the Bible being read to you, or prayers being offered for you. Anything short of Jesus will leave you short of salvation! You have to reach Christ and touch Christ, and nothing short of this will serve your turn. -C.H. Spurgeon, Christ in You, Preached May 13, 1883.

Monday, May 19, 2008

How do you interpret Colossians 1:24?

"Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church..."

There are quite a few different ways of looking at this text. What is it that is "lacking in Christ's afflictions"? And, how exactly is Paul "filling up" that which is lacking?

Sam Storms does a great job of narrowing the discussion, you can read the full thing here.

The six options are thus:
  1. Redemptive: Paul is somehow filling up what is lacking in Christ's redemption
  2. Glorifying: Paul is giving more glory to Christ through his suffering
  3. Typological: Paul's suffering is corresponding to the suffering of Christ
  4. Eschatological: There is a set amount of suffering that Christians will endure, Paul is filling up that bucket of suffering with his suffering.
  5. Extending: Ministers, like Paul, extend the message of the suffering servant to others through their suffering in ministry. Christ is not lacking in propitiation but in presentation. Therefore, Paul is extending the presentation of Christ, through suffering, to the nations.
  6. Union Suffering: Paul is suffering where Jesus would have as an example and encouragement to benefit the Colossians.
Maybe you have a seventh or a combination of a few of these. I would be interested to hear your suggestions. Read Storms' article first.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Review of Alex Montoya--Preaching with Passion

Author: Alex Montoya

Pages: 160 pages

Publisher: Kregel

Price: 11.04

Genre: Preaching/Christian Ministry

Quick Summary:

In the 1600’s John Flavel proclaimed, “it is far easier to study and press a thousand truths upon others, than to feel the power of one truth upon our own hearts...” Some 400 years later Alex Montoya has detected the same problem; preachers are often trained for exegetical study but not preaching with passion. This short book offers principles to combat lifeless preaching. As Montoya says, “The fact is many of us simply preach sermons, not the Word of God. We preach the exegesis, not the divine oracle. We preach crafted, alliterated manuscripts instead of the living Word. We are biblical, but the Word has been deadened by a lifeless delivery or a hampering style.

Montoya proffers his suggestions on restoring passion to preaching. He hopes to teach us how to preach with spiritual power, conviction, compassion, authority, urgency, brokenness, the whole being, and the imagination.

What I Liked:

I have noticed, and even fell victim to, the type of passionless preaching that Montoya is combating. If nothing else this book will serve as a wake up call to pastors that merely being exegetically sound is not true expository preaching. Montoya helps us wake up to the reality that how we say something has a bearing on what it is we say. It will serve pastors well to heed the advice given in this book.

Montoya does a good job of reminding us where passion comes from and that it is not simply something that can be conjured up once you get in the pulpit. Passionate preaching is not yelling as you preach. It is, as Martin Lloyd-Jones said, “theology coming through a man who is on fire”. I appreciate that Montoya follows the mold of such men as Lloyd-Jones. It is rare to find a chapter on brokenness in a preaching book, hopefully Montoya’s words will be heeded and will as John MacArthur says in his recommendation, “start an epidemic”.

What I Disliked:

In an effort to stimulate the preacher and spur him on to action our author at times seems a little too anthropocentric for my taste. In Montoya’s defense I do not think he intends to be. There are a few other dangerous statements in the book as well: such as, “preaching needs to be constantly adapting itself to the changing face of culture”. I get what Montoya is saying but it could be potentially misunderstood. However, the overall tenor of the book is solidly biblical (and for my Reformed readers—it is of the Reformed persuasion) and not a major dislike with the book.

Should You Buy It:

Most certainly. The truth of the matter though is that a book cannot create a passionate preacher. This book will not fix all. It will define the problem and give a few suggestions for laboring to become a more passionate preacher. However, it takes a lifetime of boldly broken fellowship with the Almighty to create a passionate preacher.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Agree or Disagree?

"Preaching needs to be constantly adapting itself to the changing face of culture."

Let me give a little more context:

"The message will never change, but the way we deliver it will change--yes, must change--or we will cease to be a bridge between two worlds."

Of course an preacher that hopes to be biblical has to say, "the message will never change". My question, however, is twofold: Do you agree that preaching needs to be constantly adapting itself? And will doing so inadvertently affect the unchanging message?

By the way the quote is from Alex Montoya--Preaching with Passion, p.138

Where Have I Been?

I realize that I have not posted for about two weeks and my last post was only a short statement expressing my thankfulness for Jesus. That still stands true today. The last couple of weeks have been very busy, and since I am not Tim Challies , when things get excessively busy I find it difficult to blog.

One of the things that has caused me to be busy is substitute teaching. This is my way of trying to get the gospel into Mark Twain High School and build rapport with students. That has taken a couple of days out of each week. That puts me behind schedule in my other duties. Since blogging is lower on my list it gets neglected.

Another reason that I have not blogged in awhile is because I am a little discouraged with it. My discouragement is on a few fronts...and honestly they all have a root in not practicing the gospel. 1) I am not as good of a writer as many others. My punctuation skills are horrible. And my ability to convey significant thought pales in comparison to others. Therefore, until I learn to be a better writer I feel like shutting down. 2) Abraham Piper's suggestions on blogging discouraged me. I question whether I have anything unique to say. 3) Why continue throwing so much time into something that only a handful of people will read? 4) Some of the really fun things that I want to do requires more readers--so I feel stuck.

So, I am looking for direction and praying for a heart that treasures Christ and the proclamation of his glorious truth more than my stupid pride and drive for notoriety. I frequently pray perish my honor...I guess I should believe that God answers that prayer. From now on I want to blog for the glory of God and to display His worth and honor and not my own. With that being said, I hope to blog more, even though a busy summer may make that difficult.


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