Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Church’s Response to Suffering, Part Two

Yesterday, we discussed the church’s need for a robust statement of suffering that fuels a meaningful response to suffering.  We considered the story of Gary.  An abusive recovering alcoholic that is broken because his wife has left him.  How do we respond? 

The typical response is to address the symptoms.  This is one area where the church sadly reflects the cultural response to suffering.  There is an underlying theological reason for the hyper-medication of Americans.  We do not like getting our hands dirty and addressing the root of the problem.  If I can feel moderately better through taking a pill without having to deal with my own anger then keep the meds coming.  The cultural answer to suffering is this: If A hurts you then do B to alleviate the pain of A.  The churches parroting answer to suffering is this: If A hurts then let God do B so that He can fix A.  If your wife is leaving you because you are angry or an alcoholic let God fix your anger and alcoholism so that he can fix your marriage.

Perhaps this is why there are so many “12 step” type of books at your Christian book store.  Christians are hurting.  Christians know hurting people.  We want it fixed so we buy the books that essentially say, “If you are deficient here are 7 things you can do to fix that deficiency, then you will have what you really desire.”  Just read the blurbs on the back of many books and tell me this is not the case. 

If you come from a prosperity “gospel” background then you are all too familiar with this.  Their mantra is that if you are having financial difficulties then plant a seed in God’s kingdom and He will bless you.  If A is a problem do B and fix A.  What I am submitting to you is that many conservative, prosperity “gospel”-hating Christians offer the same formula to hurting people.  We just have a different “do B” than the prosperity gospel.  The problem, though, is not with the numbers in the equation—the problem is that the whole equation is bogus. 

This is what Job’s friends could not see.  They used this same formula.  “Job, you must have be doing something wrong, suffering doesn’t just happen.” They proposed various things to fit into their formula.  “You need to repent, Job”.  “You need to change your theology, Job.”  “Turn to God and you will be blessed, Job”.  If A is a problem do B and fix A. 

Now, lest I be misunderstood there is often a direct correlation between our suffering and the stupid choices we make.  There is an element in which this equation is true.  If Gary stops abusing his wife and if his attitude changes it will create a change in his relationship with his wife.  That is not in question.  The problem is that things are not that simple.  Gary is not a light switch that you can turn off and on.  He is a complex human being.  Even if he stops abusing his wife unless the underlying issues of anger are dealt with given time his angry heart will manifest itself in other destructive ways. 

The typical response to suffering will not cut it for the same reason communism doesn’t work—people are messed up.  You cannot insert a simple formula and then miraculously people change.  Just knowing the right information does not change people.  Knowing what you should do does not change people.  Healing symptoms does not heal a person.  Gary’s suffering is not simply that is wife left him.  Gary’s suffering is that he has an angry heart that desperately needs the gospel to go deep.  If A is a problem do B and fix A is not the robust statement of suffering that I am referring to. 

Next time we will consider a few other unhelpful responses to suffering. 

Monday, December 28, 2009

Monday’s Ministry Musing: The Other “Purpose” Statement a Church Needs Part One

I remember in college being told that every church needs a purpose statement.  In fact this principle extends to even the marketplace.  Wal-Mart has a statement of purpose, your local car dealer probably has a statement of purpose, even my barber has a purpose statement.  However, there is one statement that the Church needs that Walmart, the car dealership, and hopefully your barber does not: a statement on suffering. 

The reality is that we live in a broken world filled with broken people.  We live in a Genesis 3 world and not a Revelation 21 world.  Therefore, people suffer.  And when people suffer people have questions.  We all want answers to suffering.  The church needs a robust statement on suffering.  Better yet, the church needs a robust statement on suffering that fuels a meaningful response to suffering. 

I hate to say it but much of what I have experienced (and even given) as a response to suffering is trite, meaningless, gospel-depleted, and frankly sickening.  We often like to stare suffering in the face and assume that we have the answer:  “If you will only…”  Marry this to our cute little cut phrases and the churches response to suffering is so shallow that it only makes you feel better on Sunday but leaves you wrecked and without a response on Monday. 

Before I go any further I need to confess that I am talking about my own response to suffering.  It is easy for me to look at suffering people, give them a few religious sounding arguments, and then give them a handy little James 2 “go in peace, be warmed and filled” farewell.  It hurts to enter into people’s suffering.  Ministering to broken people might mean that I get even more broken.  It might mean that I have to get a little too close to a lot of the garbage that is buried deep in my own heart.  I don’t really want to do that, so I minister to suffering from a distance.  My advice may seem pastoral but it really doesn’t help on Monday, because my ministry is not incarnational—it’s theoretical.  Now, allow me to make this concrete.

Imagine with me that a man (we’ll call him Gary) comes to you for advice.  Gary is a recovering (yet not recovered) alcoholic.  He was abused as a child.  He looked for love in all of the wrong places.  He’s not only a victim though.  Gary has done the same thing.  He chose to go down the same path that his own father did.  He is abusive.  And now his wife (we’ll call her Jill) has left him.  This was the one thing in his life that he thought he had going for him.  He knows his abuse was wrong.  He wants to change (or maybe he just wants the security of a wife back—you aren’t sure).  Gary is hurting, but the only way he knows to cope is through anger, blame, denial, and Jack Daniels. 

I could come up with a million different scenarios, some not as “difficult” and some with so many twists and turns you are left shaking your head.  Regardless, of the scenario the church needs to have a response to this man’s suffering.  How would you respond to Gary’s suffering?

Feel free to leave a few comments…I’ll do a follow up post on this tomorrow. 

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Where Have I Been?

You have probably noticed that I have not updated this blog since October.  I have a few articles I have been working on but nothing really worth posting at this point.  I thought before I begin regular posting again (hopefully around January 1st) I would update you on my first semester at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. 

I took three classes this semester:  Elementary Greek, Biblical Hermeneutics, and Church History 1.  I really loved all of my classes.  honeycutt-seminary-lawnI have not gotten all my grades back yet but I think I will have an A in Hermeneutics and History and a B+ in Greek.  I am most proud of my B+ in Greek because one thing I learned this semester is that I am NOT good at foreign languages.  The same part of my brain hurts that hurt taking Pre-Calculus (which I failed) in High School. 

Other than my deficiency in learning foreign languages it is really difficult to narrow down the things that I learned this semester.  I know that my hermeneutics class opened up for me a more clear way of viewing the entire canon of Scripture.  Dr. Wellum did an excellent job of showing how biblical theology (the “big story” of Scripture) effects our reading of Scripture. 

Prior to the class I knew the importance of reading a text in its context.  I also knew about the analogy of faith and reading a text in light of other texts of revelation.  But what I had never put together was that each text should be read on three horizons: textual, epochal, and canonical.  Textual is reading a text in light of its immediate context.  Epochal is reading a text in light of where it is in the unfolding of God’s redemptive story.  Canonical is reading a text in light of all of Scripture.  Before this class I had been introduced to biblical theology, but I never really knew how to tie everything together.  Dr. Wellum’s class, I believe, set my on course to read the Bible as it really is—a big story.  I also enjoyed reading Dominion and Dynasty by Stephen Dempster. 

In my Church History class I was really struck by Dr. Wright’s historical humility.  What I really came out of this class with was a realization that history is not as black and white as we would like to think.  You cannot accept everything Augustine said nor throw out everything that other historical figures had said and believed.  I came out of this class with an appreciation for the rich diversity among the people of God. 

My Elementary Greek class will be very beneficial for me for quite some time.  I can now read a decent portion of the New Testament with comprehension.  I look forward to taking syntax and exegesis.  Dr. Plummer is an amazing teacher; not many professors could make an 8:00am foreign language class interesting. 

Next semester, I am taking (at least as of today) Church History II, Personal Spiritual Disciplines with Dr. Whitney, New Testament II with Dr. Schreiner, and Systematic Theology III with Dr. Ware.  I am very excited about next semester.  I hope to get much of my reading done before the semester begins—and I also hope to do a better job of blogging.  Once, we get moved to Jasper, IN and I begin having set office hours again, I should be able to write more. 

Thanks for all of your prayers and support throughout this semester.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Tuesday’s with Robert: Coming to Christ Because I am a Sinner

Resist the urge to skim this.  Feel the weight of sin that McCheyne feels in this first paragraph and then focus on the great truth that I have put in bold. 

“What a mass of corruption have I been! How great a portion of my life have I spent wholly without? God in the world: given up to sense and the perishing things around me. Naturally of a feeling and sentimental disposition, how much of my religion has been, and to this day is, tinged with these colors of earth! Restrained from open ‘vice by educational views and the fear of man, how much ungodliness has reigned within me! How often has it broken through all restraints, and come out in the shape of lusts and anger, mad ambition, and unhallowed words! Though my vice was always refined, yet how subtle and how awfully prevalent it was! How complete a test was the Sabbath—spent in weariness, as much of it as was given to God's service! How I polluted it by my hypocrisies, my self-conceits, my worldly thoughts, and worldly friends! How formally and unheedingly the Bible was read—how little was read —so little that even now I have not read it all! How unboundedly was the wild impulse of the heart obeyed!! How much more was the creature loved than the Creator! 0 great God, that didst suffer me to live whilst I so dishonored thee, thou knowest the whole; and it was thy hand alone that could awaken me from the death in which I was, and was contented to be. Gladly would I have escaped from the Shepherd? that sought me as I strayed; but he took me u in his arms and carried me back: and yet he took me not for any thing that was in me. I was no more fit for his service than the Australian, and no more

worthy to be called and chosen. Yet, why should I doubt? not God's unwillingness, not his ability —or both I am assured. But, perhaps, my old sins are too fearful, and my unbeliever too glaring. Nay: I come to Christ not although I am a sinner, but just because I am a sinner, even the chief.” He then adds, “And though sentiment and constitutional enthusiasm may have a great effect on me, still I believe that my soul is in sincerity desirous and earnest about having all its concerns at rest with God and Christ—that his kingdom occupies the most part of all my thoughts, and even of my long-polluted affections. Not unto me, not unto me, be the shadow of praise or or merit ascribed, but let all glory be given to thy most holy name! As surely as thou didst make the mouth with which I pray, so surely dost thou prompt every prayer or faith which I utter. Thou hast made me all that I am, and given me all that I have.
have.” - Taken from Memoir and remains of the Reverend Robert M. McCheyne - Google Books  http://www.google.com/books?id=eb8LAQAAIAAJ&printsec=frontcover&dq=mccheyne+bonar&ei=oSjfSrCQFYTWNJzJyf8O#v=onepage&q=&f=false

Comments?  What do you think of McCheyne’s view of the importance of the Sabbath?  Is he correct in seeing sin its blackest hue so as to see the beauty of Christ more clearly?  What do you think McCheyne has against the Australian? 

Monday, October 26, 2009

Monday’s Ministry Musing: The Bare Minimum Required

This will be a short post.  It is really simply a question.  I hope I have enough readers to still chime in.  If you are a facebook friend please leave your comment here as well as on facebook. 

I am working on something and I need your help.  If my question is not specific enough or it goes in a wrong direction I will try to be more specific.  Here is the question, please discuss. 

What is the bare minimum required for someone to be saved? 

I know that it is probably not a wise practice to try to figure out the “bare minimum required”.  Before being chided by anyone I want to say that in no way am I trying to discover only the little bit that is required for someone to be saved and then move on, I am working on something much larger. 

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Tuesday’s with Robert: The Truth of Prayer and Our Unfitting Response

How often do you pray?  Today that answer is typically, “not enough”.  It seems that McCheyne also felt that his prayer life was lacking.  After a three week period of sickness, where Robert was laid up in bed, he penned these words about prayer:

“…how reluctant we are [in prayer].  I cannot doubt that boldness if offered me to enter into the holiest of all; I cannot doubt my right and title to enter continually by the new and bloody way; I cannot doubt that when I do enter in, I stand not only forgiven, but accepted in the Beloved; I cannot doubt that when I do enter in, the Spirit is wiling and ready to descend like a dove, “enabling me to pray in the Holy Ghost”; and that Jesus is ready to rise up as my intercessor with the Father, praying for me though not for the world; and that the prayer-hearing God is ready to bend his ear to requests which He delights to hear and answer; I cannot doubt that thus to dwell in God is the true blessedness of my nature; and yet, strange unaccountable creature!  I am too often unwilling to enter in.  I go about and about the sanctuary, and I sometimes press in through the [torn curtain], and see the blessedness of dwelling there to be far better than that of tents of wickedness; yet it is certain that I do not dwell within.” 

This is an amazing reminder of what has been opened for us in prayer as well as a great encouragement to dwell in that blessed state of prayer. 

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Monday’s Ministry Musing: Do People Really Like Jesus and Not the Church?

I keep hearing this phrase, “people like Jesus but not the church”.  The other evening on our local radio station the DJ was expressing his agreement with that statement.  He even went as far as to say something to the effect of: “when you read the NT it is really hard to not like Jesus, who spreads a message of love and peace and hope”.  The problem is that Jesus’ followers often do not match up to his ideals.  The problem that unbelievers have with Christianity is not Jesus but His followers. 

Granted, Christians can be really stupid.  I say that because I am a Christian and I say and do some really stupid things.  lonelybrideThere are many times in my life when I am not accurately representing Jesus.  I could certainly see why someone would like Jesus better than me.  That seems to be a no-brainer. 

But, is this idea of “we like Jesus but not the church” really the whole story?  I am left wondering whether it is the biblical Jesus that they like so much.  After all wasn’t this same Jesus the one that instigated a mob cry of “crucify Him”?  Isn’t this the same Jesus that caused people to turn the other way because He sounded like a weird cannibal?  Isn’t this the same Jesus that said some really harsh things to the Pharisees?  (That’s okay, though, nobody likes the Pharisees, especially closet Pharisees).

While I agree that such a statement may very well  be true, I also have to say that I am not certain that such a phrase is really helpful.  Something tells me that Jesus would not make a statement like this:  “Folks really like me, but unfortunately I cannot gain more followers, because the one’s that I do have are screwed up.”  No!  Jesus really does love his bride.  And can you really say that it is possible to love Jesus and not His bride?  I find it unhelpful to say something about ourselves that the Lord Himself is not willing to say. 

So, let’s be really honest in an era where church bashing is fun: If people are repulsed by the Church they are repulsed by Jesus.  The Church, warts and all, is a product of Jesus.  It is after all HIS Church. 

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Tuesday’s with Robert

Since, this blog is named after a Robert Murray McCheyne quote I thought it may be fitting to feature a McCheyne quote or story.  You have heard of Tuesday’s with Morrie; welcome to Tuesday’s with Robert.

At the age of 20 a young McCheyne heard unwelcome news of a family friend rejecting Christ and embracing the world.  Upon hearing “that she was determined to keep by the world,” he penned the following poem:

Monday, September 7, 2009

Monday’s Ministry Musing: How Important IS a Testimony?

This may be one of those articles that I look back on 10 years (or 10 days) from now and regret.  I think I may be flirting with the idea of tipping over a sacred cow of modern evangelicalism.  I’ll show you my cards up front…I’m not sure a personal testimony is really as important as we make it out to be. 

With every church interview I have ever been a part of this question is inevitable…”would you please share your testimony”.  Granted, it’s a good question.  You want to know that the person you are considering for membership, leadership, or whatever is actually a believer.  The motivation behind the question is a good one.  However, I do not think it is the right question. 

Have you read anything in the New Testament where a person was asked to share their testimony? 

I will grant the fact that Paul shares his story of coming to Christ.  So does John in 1 John 1.  In fact there are many places in Scripture that are personal stories of the work of God in the life of a believer.  My point is not to say that personal stories or “testimonies” are not valuable.  They are immensely valuable.  My point is that personal testimonies are not an accurate criteria for judging a person’s salvation nor is it definitive in proclaiming the truthfulness of the claims of Christ. 

hairclub A personal testimony really is not an accurate barometer as to a person’s relationship with Christ.  Consider the early Gnostics.  They had amazing testimonies.  Think about the Colossian heresy.  They went on and on about the visions and experiences with God that they had.  Surely, you have known people with phenomenal “testimonies” that later forsook the gospel and rejected Christ.  Despite what some evangelism material will tell you a personal testimony (by itself) has no authority.  You can be an unbeliever and have a great story to tell of how you came to a Jesus of your own making.

And honestly, not having a clear testimony is not really all that accurate in telling that a person is not a believer.  Ask Jonathan Edwards of his personal testimony and he’d probably stutter to tell you.  John Bunyan would probably give you several dates.  Do you think Peter would give you the day when he was called by the lake, was it when he professed Christ, or was it at some other point on his journey with Jesus?  There are many people that do not have a S.P.O.T. (Specific Time or Place) that strongly profess Christ. 

I have a challenge for you Bible/church history buffs.  Find me times in Scripture or in the first 300 years of Christianity when someone’s story of coming to Jesus was a determining factor in admitting them into membership or participating in the Lord’s Supper?  I am not saying that you will not find anything.  I am simply saying it will not be a pervasive theme like it is in our day where subjective experience reigns over objective truth.  What you see in the New Testament and the early church is a profession of belief in the claims of Jesus Christ…not a story. 

There is one last sacred cow—maybe THE sacred cow—that needs to teeter.  Your testimony is not really all that definitive in sharing the gospel.  Oprah has a testimony.  Heretical “Christian” groups have testimonies.  A Muslim would have a testimony.  This will sound like heresy…Jesus is not the only thing that can change your life.  A homeless man that inherits a million dollars will have his life changed.  An alcoholic that stops drinking will have his life changed.  A woman whose family leaves her will have a significant life change.  Many things can change your life. 

Your testimony does not prove the truthfulness of the claims of Christ.  Yes, it is true that nobody can argue with your personal testimony.  That’s the problem.  You can’t argue with it because it is subjective.  The claims of Christ are objective truths.  This type of witnessing just leaves the door wide open for the, “well that’s good for you…but as for me…I believe”.  People need to be confronted with the claims of Jesus—not your story. 

In summary, I am not against personal testimonies.  I just think they are not nearly as important as we make them out to be.  They are not all that helpful in witnessing and they aren’t the final answer in determining salvation.  Feel free to disagree and argue your case.  I’m willing to listen.  If you agree with me I have a question for you.  What are testimonies useful for?

Friday, August 21, 2009

Times of Testing

What constitutes a time/season of testing in a Christian's life? Is it always a matter of great sacrifice which calls for painful endurance of such a nature that someone will eventually write a moving story about a super-saint who passed the test of sickness,adversity, persecution, or martyrdom? I think not. I think our American sense of exaggeration and extremism has led us to believe that a test is only a test if the probability of some kind of major harm comes into a person's life. The 'no blood - no foul' mentality has become the measure of a whether something is a test or not.

Throughout my school years (public schools, college, & seminary) I took many, many, many tests. Most of them were not do-or-die. As a matter of fact, I would hazard a guess that the number of tests which would make/break my grade were few in number. By the time I got to seminary, I did have several classes which only gave a mid-term & final so those were certainly major tests. Then again, by the time I got to seminary I had years of experience in taking tests large and small. I was prepared to face the challenge of the mid-term & final. Regardless of whether it was the weekly spelling test of 2nd grade or the Baptist History mid-term that "ate my lunch" the tests were always over materials I knew or should have known.

I wonder how many pop-quizzes and tests God sends our way every single day? How many opportunities has the Spirit given us to strengthen our faith in preparation for the big test that is out there in our future? Perhaps I ought to 'count it pure joy' when I face the daily tests of turning away from that website -- of encouraging instead of gossiping -- of looking the other way when a scantily dressed woman passes by -- of setting aside my routine to help out a neighbor I don't particularly care for in a time of need -- of praying for the person who mocks my faith instead of unleashing a sharp, biting retort -- of singing instead of griping; encouraging instead of cutting; or thanking instead of criticizing. If I were to count it pure joy that God allowed me to do these things, surely I would be better prepared to face the big test that lies before me. I would be better equipped to face trials of many kinds because I know that the testing of my faith will develop perseverance which will finish the work so that I can become mature and complete in Christ? (James 1:2-4)

What constitutes a test, any test in a Christian's life? Is it not fundamentally any situation which calls for us to live by faith in the leadership of our Lord Jesus Christ? Every day is a test. Every day is a day to live by faith. Every day is a day to count it pure joy that through his righteousness in us we can pass the test.

Massive Linkage (Part Two)

Interesting and sad videos on North Korea:

NK:PUSH from Acts1v8 on Vimeo.

North Korea from Acts1v8 on Vimeo. (HT: John)

Here is more to motivate for missions:


(HT: Z)

This is quite impressive:


(HT: Z

Massive Linkage (Part One)

Since I have been so busy lately my links have piled up.  I will give you part one now with all of the regular links and then do a part two in a few moments linking you to several videos.  I intend to get back to regular blogging next week.  I am getting adapted to my new life schedule.  So without further ado here is what I have intended to link to for the past three weeks:

Ray Ortlund gives 6 reasons why he is Acts29.

Piper considers Lewis’ and Edwards’ comments on pride and reflects on humility. 

For Whom Did Christ Die?  Three Views

I always love me some John Newton: Ministry on my Mind.

Tony Reinke offers 5 great Spurgeon quotes.  One of which I love: “preach Christ or go home”

I continue getting FWDs that proclaim Obama as the Antichrist along with several other outlandish claims.  Dan Wallace should be heeded as he tackles a seemingly scholarly video.  Here is the video:

Be sure to check out Wallace’s response.

Dan Phillips provides some helpful thoughts on altar calls (I love how he not only provides rebuke to the Finneyites but also to Calvinists)

An interesting Narrated Bibliography with David Powlison

Ministers print this out and give it for premarital counseling.  All my single folks check it out as well.  Piper gives some great questions to ask when preparing for marriage

Young and old alike should find this helpful: Calvin’s Deathbed charge

Thabiti discusses Pride and Preaching

What is a bloggersation?  Tom Ascol and Alvin Reid have had one…get the details here

This would be a great piece to interact with. Kevin DeYoung tells why he baptizes babies.

Jared Wilson offers 25 Evangelical Myths

I leave you with this…not sure it is meant to be funny…but it is:

(HT: JT…actually Andy Naselli)

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Do You Agree?

I am reading through Graeme Goldsworthy’s book Gospel-Centered Hermeneutics for my Hermeneutics class.  I am wondering whether or not you agree with this paragraph.  If so, why?  If not, why not?

It cannot be stressed too much that to confuse the gospel with certain important things that go hand in hand with it is to invite theological, hermeneutical and spiritual confusion.  Such ingredients of preaching and teaching that we might want to link with the gospel would include the need for hte gospel (sin and judgment), the means of receiving the benefits of the gospel (faith and repentance), the results or fruit of the gospel (regeneration, conversion, sanctification, glorification) and the results of rejecting it (wrath, judgment, hell).  These, however we define and proclaim them, are not in themselves the gospel.  If something is not what God did in and through the historical Jesus two thousand years ago, it is not the gospel. Thus Christians cannot ‘live the gospel’, as they are often exhorted to do.  They can only believe it, proclaim it and seek to live consistently with it.  Only Jesus lived (and died) the gospel.  It is a once-for-all finished and perfect event done for us by another.  (Goldsworthy, 59)

Friday, August 14, 2009

Preparing to Pray

In considering my regular prayer time with God, I must confess that I do not spend the time I ought preparing my heart, my mind, and my spirit to go before Heaven's Throne and commune with him. All too often, my prayers are more akin to a Drive-Thru Order rather than a Sit-down Supper with the One who loves me so.

I've challenged myself to either listen to or read through some hymns or songs to help me settle down...to still my soul....to prepare myself to spend time with my Lord. One hymn that I've started using was not originally at the top of my 'get ready to pray' list. It is the old, evangelistic standard, "Just As I Am."

Read through these words again. This confessional stance of this familiar hymn really speaks to the condition of our lives when we come to him in prayer.

Just as I am, without one plea, But that Thy blood was shed for me,
And that Thou bidd'st me come to Thee, O Lamb of God, I come. I come

Just as I am, and waiting not, To rid my soul of one dark blot,
To Thee whose blood can cleanse each spot, O Lamb of God, I come. I come.

Just as I am, tho' tossed about, With many a conflict, many a doubt,
Fightings within and fears without, O Lamb of God, I come. I come.

Just as I am, poor, wretched, blind, Sight, riches, healing of the mind,
Yea, all I need in Thee to find, O Lamb of God, I come. I come.

Just as I am, Thou wilt receive, Wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve,
Because Thy promise I believe, O Lamb of God, I come. I come.

Just as I am, Thy love unknown, Has broken every barrier down,
Now to be Thine, yea, Thine alone, O Lamb of God, I come. I come.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Our Father

In the midst of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus takes time to instruct his followers how to pray (Matthew 6:5-13). Through this prayer, Jesus gives a model on our approach, attitude, and priorities we having in rightly communing with the Father. Its interesting to note that Jesus begins with the address, “Our Father....” Have you ever noticed that the first person singular is absent from the Model Prayer? We do not pray, “My Father.....give me this day my daily bread....forgive me my debts.....lead me not into temptation.”

In this Jesus reminds us that our approach to God, our obedience to God, even our relationship with God is never solely about "me". It is never separated from “we.” When I sin, we sin. When I grow as a believer, we grow as believers. I cannot rightly seek God’s provision for my life is I’m not seeking it for others.

We live in a wonderful nation that has been blessed by God in so many ways. We ought always express our gratitude for God’s provision and wealth that we so readily enjoy. Yet we need to be aware of our American cultural mythology that elevates rugged individualism to the point that we think we can live isolated from everyone else. Unfortunately, the idea that "I" can be okay with God apart from my relationships with others has crept into the church. This is not the faith God has given his people. We must always keep in mind that throughout the Scripture we see God saving persons to make a people for himself.

As Christians our concern begins with our own relationship with God and personal responsibility before God. However, if we follow the teaching and example of our Savior, we quickly move to a deep regard for the body of Christ and to the world who needs Jesus so desperately. I cannot pray rightly for me unless I pray for us. I cannot pray effectively for my family unless I pray fervently for God’s family. I cannot seek a full and proper relationship with Christ unless I seek to share him with others who live around me. I cannot pray, “My Father....,” and follow the instruction of Jesus in prayer. I must always pray, “Our Father.....” Excuse me, we must always pray "Our Father....."

I Want Jesus THIS Much

35 As he drew near to Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. 36 And hearing a crowd going by, he inquired what this meant. 37 They told him, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.” 38 And he cried out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 39 And those who were in front rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” 40 And Jesus stopped and commanded him to be brought to him. And when he came near, he asked him, 41 “What do you want me to do for you?” He said, “Lord, let me recover my sight.” 42 And Jesus said to him, “Recover your sight; your faith has made you well.” 43 And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him, glorifying God. And all the people, when they saw it, gave praise to God.
The water in the shower is cold.  My son is whining.  The car will not start.  I get stuck in traffic.  I have a bad day at work.  The weight of the world is on my shoulders.  I receive sad news about a former student.  News from home is troubling.  News around the globe is even more troubling.  My day is horrible.  “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by”. 
How often have I focused on my “suffering” or my bad day instead of the fact that Jesus of Nazareth is passing by?  It takes the eyes of faith to see the face of Jesus in a bed-ridden grandmother; the wheel-chair bound teenager; the autistic child.  Yet in the midst of heartache and brokenness is often where Jesus is found. 
I think we assume that where Jesus is it must be neat and tidy.  There must be sunshine and rays of light, not clouds and storms.  Trumpets are playing instead of the moans of suffering.  Pleasant odors abound, not body odor that smells like moldy French cheese.  We forget that Nazareth was the moldy French cheese capital of the world.  “Nothing good can come from Nazareth…can it…?”  SacredHeartJesus3
Yet it is Jesus the Nazarene that is passing by.  Perhaps this is why the blind guy has such confidence.  He not only believes that Jesus has the power to dispense mercy, He also has the gumption to think that He will. 
And this is where we show up with our American cynicism and lack of faith.  The blind guy has no qualms about shouting out the name of Jesus and begging for healing.  He is not ashamed.  He is not afraid to tell Jesus what He wants and needs.  That annoys us.  We want people that are neatly put together and make their quietly make their requests on tiny little index cards.  We don’t like shouting.  We certainly don’t like desperation.  When faced with such desperation we respond with rebuke and a big fat shhhhh…!!!  “Jesus is trying to speak, idiot, shut up with all your suffering and just listen you might learn something”. 
The blind man is not deterred.  He MUST have Jesus.  He is ridiculously desperate and he is not ashamed of that fact.  He is screaming for the help of Jesus. 
I wonder what Jesus was like at this moment.  What did his face look like?  What was in His heart?  Was He reluctantly healing the guy so that he would shut up and let Him get back to teaching?  Is He annoyed by his request?  Is Jesus uncomfortable with such desperate emotion? 
Be honest do you really expect this to be His answer:  “What do you want me to do for you”? 
I want to see Jesus like this blind man saw Him.  TDirtyHandshe blind man was not “blinded” by his inability to see.  He was not lost in the midst of his suffering.  The blind man saw Jesus.  Jesus was passing by and the blind man caught a glimpse.  He was so desperate and filled with unabashed hope that he could not shut up. 
I want to be that guy.  I am not that guy but I want to be him.  I am not yet fully convinced of my desperation.  I would wait until the crowd settled down and try to ask Jesus at a better time.  I would mail in a prayer card.  I would never risk being annoying in my asking of Jesus.  But that is precisely what Jesus wants—annoying, desperate, persistent prayers that expect healing.  It’s not wrong to expect Jesus to meet your needs—it’s wrong NOT to. 

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Q & A with Jared Wilson Author of “Your Jesus is Too Safe”

I am stoked that Jared asked me to review his book as well be a part of his blog tour.  You can check out the rest of the blog tour.  There are some great blogs that are part of this tour; and from what I have seen thus far there are great questions and answers.  Recently I had the opportunity to interview Jared.

1. In chapter 3, Jesus the Forgiver, you say that it’s not true “that you can’t forgive an unrepentant person”.  You then helpfully explain the difference between forgiveness and reconciliation. Would you say that God forgives everyone but is only reconciled to those that trust in Christ through faith and repentance?

No, I don't believe God forgives everyone. I am an old school Calvinist when it comes to the extent of the atonement, so I do affirm the "L" in TULIP. I believe Christ's work on the cross accomplished salvation for the elect. This has less to do with God forgiving all but only being reconciled with some as it does with God's forgiveness being a work begun that he himself is faithful to finish in reconciliation. I guess you could say that when it comes to the elect, I am a universalist. :-) God gets them all.
The logical question from this, of course, is "If God doesn't forgive everyone, why should we?" And there are several answers but the most important one is this: We are not God. We are not perfectly holy and perfectly just. We don't have the right, as God does, to love Jacob and hate Esau. It is our duty to love others as God has loved us: in spite of anything we've done, in the face of constant rebellion, and on the condition of Jesus Christ.

2. Is it possible that your book is the only one in print which contains the word “waaaaambulance”?

Quite possible. Also, I guarantee it's the only Christian book that employs the phrase "burninate the peasants" and suggests one listen to heavy metal when reading the minor prophets.

3. Your book is obviously written for those that are “hip” more so than those that need a “hip replacement”.  How do you speak the language of the culture without being guilty of creating a fad Jesus of your own?  Or to ask that another way: how do I as a youth pastor speak the language of teenagers without creating a Jesus that is merely "safe" for teenagers?

I think there is a line where context becomes content -- the medium becomes the message -- and we just do our darndest not to cross it. I was conscious throughout the book of the danger in the different profiles of Jesus in the chapters of crafting an array of different Jesuses myself, ironically undercutting the point of the book. I address this in the Conclusion. I think what I tried to do is make sure the humor, the sarcasm, the pop cultural references were part of the window dressing, not the furniture in the room. Someone else recently asked me if I was nervous about receiving some of the same criticism Mark Driscoll got from "Vintage Jesus" for being too humorous with Jesus, and while I don't think Mark crossed any lines, I do think my humor steers clear of pushing Jesus buttons.
So to make a long answer short, I think the way we do this is by consciously and conscientiously making sure our language does not obscure or replace our message. And the way you measure this is if your hearers/readers walk way with an unsafe Jesus. If they think Jesus is so cool he doesn't change them, it's cause for concern and evaluation. 

4. What was your favorite chapter to write and why?

My favorite chapters were "Jesus the Redeemer" because I am a storyteller at heart, and I got to play with narratives and the biblical narrative in that chapter, and "Jesus the King" because I got to present some material I have studied a long time and that reflects a paradigm shift in my own understanding of Jesus and the Gospels over the last ten years. I think it's stuff that the Church has neglected for a long time too, so I felt like that one was a really important chapter. (I have since heard that "Jesus the King" is a lot of people's favorite chapter, as well.)

5. The stated goal of your book is to “remove layers of dirt and grime” from twelve different aspects of who Jesus is.  What particular aspect of Jesus do you feel is the most need of “dusting off”?

There's two, and they represent the two extremes the Church vacillates between. Driscoll has been great at speaking against this false dichotomy too, and I quote him from the Piper/Taylor edited collection "The Supremacy of Christ in a Postmodern World" in my book on this subject. It's basically that we either so dwell on Jesus' incarnation -- Jesus' manhood -- that we suffer for lack of enjoying his exaltation, or we so dwell on his exaltation that we lose the joy of the incarnation. I think many churches favor one or the other and lose real pleasure and profit in who Jesus fully is.

I will provide a complete review of the book in late August/early September.  For now, let me encourage you to buy the book.  Thanks for the interview Jared!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Why I am Filled with Joy and Sadness, Tears and Gladness

clinging%20to%20the%20cross I will warn you in advance; you may get no benefit from reading this.  The truth is, I am so flooded with conflicting emotions right now that I thought it may be helpful to write.  I figure that around the 1st of September I will look back and wonder what just happened.  Much of what I know and love will be finished by the end of this week. 

I take great comfort in the fact that I will continue to be with my lovely wife, I will still have the presence of my amazing son, and more than anything I will still have Christ as the center of my life.  Saying it that way really puts it in perspective.  (Yeah, that picture to the right just about sums it up).

At the same time I feel a great loss.  I absolutely love the people that God has placed in our life.  It was all I could do to choke back tears and a dark depression as I peeled quotes off my walls, packed up pictures, and thought about all the amazing memories I have of the students here in New London.  I love my pastor.  I love our staff.  I love our deacons.  I love our church body.  Of course FBC New London is not perfect, but she is part of the Bride of Christ that is married to Jesus and this makes her beautiful.  A big part of my life has now changed.  As of Friday August 7th, 2009 I will no longer be the youth pastor at FBC New London.  That makes me sad.

Yesterday, I was ordained into the gospel ministry.  My good friend Terry preached the ordination service (yes, the same Terry that blogs here).  It was very convicting.  He reminded me that no matter how much education, training, experience, etc. that I have it will be inadequate.  My only hope and my only weapon is the Word of God.  I have known all of this in my head.  Yesterday, I felt the weight of it.  I have been chosen by God to do what a small percentage of people are called to do.  Indeed I am equipped.  But at the same time I am totally inadequate for such a task.  I sense my deep need for Christ and pray that I am continually reminded of my helplessness.  I am but a child, and will be until the day that I die.

Not only am I sad about what we are leaving, I am very nervous about what we are moving to.  I am very thankful that God has supplied a job at Chick-Fil-A.  But I have to be honest and say that it also makes me sad.  I love being a youth pastor.  I am not nearly as passionate about selling chicken sandwiches.  Yet, God will use me even here.  I wonder how stoked Jesus was about being a carpenter?

I am nervous that we will not be able to make it financially.  It will be tight for us to make it through the first year.  At this point it will be impossible for us to even attend a class the second year.  I am confident, however, that God will provide.  If He wants us in Louisville, Kentucky attending seminary the money will be provided.  No clue how.  No clue when.  But I know that God will provide.  Even if we are homeless God will provide abundant grace for us to be joyful in the midst of that.  Jesus knows what it is like to be homeless, He has more than enough grace to get us through.

I am sad to leave my parents and my wife’s parents.  I also am sad about taking Isaiah out of their life (and them out of Isaiah’s).  Granted it will not be permanent.  Granted many have it worse.  Nonetheless, I love both sets of parents.  I am blessed.  I have never been so far away from family.  It’s a new chapter…one I welcome, but still one that is an unknown.  Yet, in the midst I have confidence that Jesus knows what it is like to leave parents.  His grace is sufficient.  Not only for us but also for my parents and Nikki’s parents.

I am worried about how busy I will be.  I love my wife and I love my son.  I want to see them as much as I can.  I also enjoy relaxing with them.  Will this be possible having to work 40 hours a week at Chick-Fil-A, pulpit supplying, studying, going to classes, and maybe even having to pick up an extra job?  We will find the time.  We will plan the time.  Lord, give me the grace to remember that my wife and son come before school, work, etc. 

I get to study under Dr. Mohler and Dr. Schreiner.  Not to mention all the other professors that I am not as aware of that are probably equally amazing.  (Their light is also borrowed).  I hope I am good enough at writing papers to pass the classes.  I always stunk at writing in Turabian style in college.  Super excited about school, though. 

So that in a nutshell is my life and emotional state right now.  There is more I could mention but this will suffice.  I want to cry because I miss my friends, family, and students so much.  Yet I am joyous about the grace we will experience to fill this lack.  I want to wet my pants and run away in fear.  Yet again, I know that His grace is sufficient for my weakness.  I feel ripped to shreds but at the same time I feel more confident in the God of grace than I did this morning.  All in all I pray that I get to know Jesus more through all of this.  Furthermore, I pray that He is working the same grace in your life. 

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Update on Our Busy Life

Nikki, Isaiah, and I will be moving to Louisville on August 6th.  We are extremely busy right now with moving.  Needless to say I am unable to keep up with regular blogging at this time.  Hopefully, once we get moved I should begin regular blogging again.  I do have a few book reviews that I am in the process of completing and may have a few posts within the next few days.  I just wanted to keep the readers updated.  Be sure to subscribe to this blog and add me as a friend on Facebook. 

Here are a few updates that you may be interested in:

  • I am pretty confident that I have a job at Chick-Fil-A
  • Nikki is still pursuing a job as a nanny (prayers appreciated)
  • We have committed to living in an apartment (email me for details)
  • I have signed up for all of my classes and have about 85% of the books
  • I am taking 4 (maybe 3) advanced placement tests on August 12th
  • My last Wednesday here is next Wednesday (August 5th)

Things you can pray about:

  • I have to shave my beard to work at Chick-Fil-A
  • God placing us in the church where He wants us
  • Pray that my relationship with my wife is strengthened in this time
  • Pray that I always am certain to make time for my wife and son
  • Pray that the gospel thrives through our lives
  • Pray that God will provide for us financially (there are still a few holes that are not filled)
  • Pray that God’s will is done and that He is glorified in all that we do
  • Pray that I stop being so stressed out and fearful

Saturday, July 25, 2009

What Year Is This?

The following bullet points where written to express the common hindrances to preaching in this age.  Your assignment is to tell me what year this came from and you get 3 bonus points if you can tell me who said it.  Some of the language has been changed to veil the time period.

  • The expansion of media access…which minimizes dependence on the local preacher and enables less attention to be paid to the preacher’s authority in the community.
  • Skepticism, suspicion and doubt…higher critical skepticism challenging the claims of the Bible…human reasoning becoming more of a trusted authority.
  • Shorter attention spans due to the frenetic pace of culture…
  • A renewed attention to rhetoric, eloquence, and scholarship for respectability in society
  • An increased preference for artistry over sermons…as other forms of art are sought to counteract the decline in church attendance
  • Time demands hindering sermon preparation and communion with God.  Pastors felt that they were spending their time doing everything other than prayer, preaching, and care for the people. 
  • The plagiarizing of sermons arising as a needed relief from the demanding pace of ministry.

I will cite these as soon as someone guesses the correct answer. 

Friday, July 24, 2009

This Week in Blogworld 07/24

John Piper has a new book out.  You can get it for free at DG.  Also check out JT’s interview with Piper concerning the book. 

Jay Younts from Shepherd Press has an interesting article on What Makes Bad Language Bad

Kevin DeYoung helps us young writers learn how to get published.  Check out part one and part two.  DeYoung also gives us a few points from Thomas Sowell On Writing.

Nathan Finn continues a series started a couple weeks ago: 15 Factors that have changed the SBC since 1979, Part 2.

Timmy Brister continues his response to Morris Chapman’s clarification.  In Part 3 Timmy outlines the history of what Baptist believe about saving faith.  I agree with Timmy theologically, but I have to say I think someone could just as easily go through 400 years of Baptist the believe just the opposite.  But the truth is all he has to prove to refute Chapman’s assertion is that there is a strand of Baptist thought that has been decidedly Calvinistic—and this he has done. 

Ed Stetzer interviews Jared Wilson on his book Your Jesus is Too Safe.  Great interview, great book, great responses from Jared.

I love this post by Piper:  The Bible Frees Us From Being Swayed by Overstatements

Enjoy this version of In Christ Alone: 

  (HT: Jared)

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Thinking Through the Deliberate Church Chapter 6

As always, if you are just joining the discussion then please check out the foreword, intro, and chapter one. You can catch up pretty easily. If you have yet to buy the book I would suggest buying it for a paltry 9 bucks, here.deliberatechurch

Quick Summary:

Chapter 6 is a very short and simple chapter.  The goal of this chapter is to introduce the reader to the difference between the Regulative Principle and the Normative Principle.  The regulative principle “states that everything we do in a corporate worship gathering must be clearly warranted by Scripture.  Clear warrant can either take the form of an explicit biblical command or a good and necessary implication of a biblical text.” (77)  The Normative Principle on the other hand states that, “as long as a practice is not biblically forbidden a church is free to use it to order its corporate life and worship.” (77)

Dever suggests that we ought to adhere to the Regulative Principle rather than the Normative Principle.  Again, it is worth noting that there is usually very little difference in content between the two in practice.  And as D.A. Carson has said, “there is no single passage in the NT that establishes a paradigm for corporate worship.”  Nonetheless, the only thing worthy of binding the conscience is Scripture.  Therefore, the regulative principle, Dever argues, is the most viable option. 

The rest of the chapter Dever makes note that “worship is the purpose of redemption” and as such God cares about worship and specifically how He is to be worshiped.  The chapter closes with considering four passages of Scripture and what they say about worship.  Exodus 20:4 shows us that God cares how he is worshipped not simply that He alone is worshipped.  Exodus 32:1-10 helps us to see that we cannot choose how we worship Him, “we are to worship in His way on His terms.”  John 4:19-24 helps us to see that you can only properly worship God when you worship Him as He has revealed Himself to be.  Finally 1 Corinthians 14 helps us to see that worship is regulated by revelation. 

Quotables:

If corporate worship is the goal of redemption, then it only makes sense that God would reveal to His redeemed people how He wants us to worship Him when we gather.”  (78)

Corporate worship—even charismatic worship—is regulated by revelation.”  (79)

Questions:

  • Which do you think is the correct paradigm: The Regulative or Normative Principle?
  • Does your church seem to follow the regulative or normative principle?
  • The following two are from Dever.  Read 1 Corinthians 14.  What do you observe here about the dynamics of corporate worship?
  • Read Leviticus 10:1-3.  What was it that made God angry, according to the text? 

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Ordination Service

This may not be the correct place and I'm not sure that Mike wants me to do this here, but I'm going to do it anyway. Mike Leake will be ordained to the Gospel Ministry on Sunday, August 2:00 at FBC, New London, MO. We appreciate the fine work, research, and labor he invests in this blog and I know you will want to lift Mike and Nikki in your prayers at this time.

I've had the privilege of knowing and growing with Mike the past several years. I am excited as God leads him in this next step of his journey with Christ. As an "old guy" its always a joy to walk beside my younger brothers in ministry and see them take hold of God's call in their lives. Mike brings fresh life into my walk with the Lord as he/I challenge one another to consider the ways of Christ, to use the minds God gave us to thoughtfully consider the Word of God, and to fall in love with Jesus afresh and anew.

God bless you Mike.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Buy INLOW CD online

inlow You may not like Christian Metal.  I have to confess I am not a HUGE fan but it is starting to grow on me.  One band in particular that I love is INLOW.  I might be a tad biased.  Two of the guys in the band the Lord blessed me with the opportunity of leading to Christ.  The other three guys I have also had a great relationship with.  I love these guys.  They represent Jesus really well.  While other Christian metal bands are not as “upfront” about their passion for Jesus, these guys are.  At their CD release show they were heard praying together before they began playing.  Furthermore, their lead singer (Caleb) proclaimed the beauty and gloriousness of Jesus in them getting their CD out…but he did not fail to mention that Jesus would have been glorious had they never cut a CD. 

Did I mention that these guys are not even 20 yet?  I am so proud of these guys and look forward to seeing God receive glory through their life of ministry.  I would like to encourage you to check out their website: INLOW ROCK!  And I would also like to encourage you to buy their CD.  It’s only 5.00 and you will be blessed and be a blessing.  These guys are trying to save up to go on tour and take the glory of God to the nations.  Help them out by purchasing a cd.

Buy INLOW: Prayers for only $4.99

Review of From Eternity to Here by Frank Viola

Author: Frank Violaviola

Pages: 320 pages

Publisher: David C. Cook

Price: 10.19

Genre: Christian Living/Theology

Quick Summary:

I first heard of Frank Viola in 1987 when he was pitching the Twins to the World Series. I was excited to review his book about Jesus. Then I discovered that this isn’t the same guy that pitched for the Twins. Of course I am joking. I had heard of Frank Viola a couple of years ago with his controversial book Pagan Christianity. I never read it. Now I want to.

From Eternity to Here is Viola’s attempt to chart the three overarching divine themes revealed in Scripture. Viola believes that the metanarrative of holy writ is this: “The Father obtains a bride for His Son by the Spirit. He then builds a house in which He, the Son, and the bride dwell together in the Spirit. The Father, the Son, and the bride live in that house as an extended household and they have offspring by the Spirit. The offspring constitutes a family, a new humanity called the ‘body of Christ’.” (19)

The book is divided into three parts. In part one Viola is unveiling the bride, in part two the house of God is explained, and part three is given to the presenting the body and the family. Viola explains it this way, “The first is the story of a God who is an ageless romantic, driven by one consuming pursuit. The second is about a God who has sought since eternity to have a resting place, a habitation, a home. And the third reveals a God from another realm who visits planet earth to establish a heavenly colony that will give Him visible expression.” (17) Every bit of this book is given to telling those three stories (that’s really one big story).

What I Liked:

Viola is a very good writer. He is engaging and though provoking. The chapters are not laborious. This is actually a very fun read. More than all of that, however, I love the fact that Viola is Christ-centered. His “afterthought” gives me chills in its Christ-centered nature. Everything revolves around Christ. If this is the only message of this book and the central theme that it is proclaiming then count me as a fan. But is that really all there is to it…

What I Disliked:

Viola uses phrases and introduces themes that are huge to swallow. This book is subtitled “rediscovering the ageless purpose of God”. If that is the case then I would expect a little more teaching and attempts to prove his point. I am not sure that I disagree with Viola but I am at the same time not certain that I agree. He does not labor to prove his point but merely states it as so. At times I think he is given to far too much “sanctified imagination” and interprets the Bible more like Origen would. Is that wrong? I am not certain. There are times when I would put a question mark over whole sections or write out to the side “sounds more like Gnosticism”. It seems like he has a “spiritual” understanding of things; almost like trying to talk to a “spiritual” person from the Word of Faith movement.

But then again there are entire sections of this book that I underlined and absolutely loved. So, I dislike the fact that I cannot decide whether this book is a 1 or a 5.

Should You Buy This Book?

I have no idea. Perhaps the best advice would be to buy it and use a ton of discernment. But that would go for any book I suggest. Part of me wants to say do not buy the book but rather by Christopher Wright’s book The Mission of God. But then another part of me says buy this book AND by Wright’s book. How about this? You buy it and then explain it to me. Is it weird and borderline Gnosticism or is it biblical and Christ-centered?

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars. (Just because I’m not sure if it should be a 1 or a 5)

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

I have reviewed this book as part of the From Eternity to Here blog tour:

The following bloggers are posting a review or Q & A with Frank Viola on his bestselling book FROM ETERNITY TO HERE today, Tuesday, July 21st. You may order the book at a discount at http://www.frometernitytohere.org/ – it’s also on audio book. Free discussion guide, sample chapters, interviews, and a free audio of the first chapter are available on that site also. Here are the bloggers who are participating:

Jay Becker - http://www.jaybecker.org/

Mark D - http://deadmanstravelog.blogspot.com/

Igniting Hearts - Kimber Britner - http://www.ignitinghearts.blogspot.com/

Karyn - http://tiger-kar.blogspot.com/

Barefoot Preacher - http://thebarefootpreacher.blogspot.com/

Every Day Angels - http://www.weareeverydayangels.com/

FaithEngineer - http://www.faithengineer.com

Kristen Schiffman - http://dancinginthemargins.typepad.com/

CrossPointe: The Church at Bevo - http://churchatbevo.blogspot.com/

Crazy Love for God - crazyloveforgod.blogspot.com

Amazima Ministries - oatsvallteam.blogspot.com

Down to Write Honest - http://downwritehonest.com/

A Beautiful Mess - http://blnorth1105.blogspot.com/

The Blakes on a Mission - http://www.theblakesthailand.blogspot.com/

Words by Jud Kossum - http://judkossum.blogspot.com/

Eric Jaffe - http://www.ericjaffe.org/

Reconnect with God – http://www.reconnectwithgod.org/

2nd Cup of Coffee - http://www.2nd-cup-of-coffee.blogspot.com/

Nolan Bobbitt Website - http://www.nolanbobbitt.com/

Klappyanne - www.xanga.com/klappyanne

Daveingland - http://www.daveingland.com/

Randi Jo Rooks - http://seedsinmyheart.blogspot.com/

Ephesians Five – http://ephesiansonefive.blogspot.com/

Michael Bayne - http://www.michaelbayne.net/

Encounter Church Helena Blog - encounterhelena.org

Thoughts B4 Conviction N2 Action - tsharrison.blogspot.com

Edevotion - http://www.e-devotion.blogspot.com/

Seeking After - http://seekingafter.blogspot.com/

Eric Powell - http://www.encounterhelena.org/

Borrowed Light - http://fbcnewlondon.blogspot.com/

Monday, July 20, 2009

Monday’s Ministry Musing: Hired Shepherds v. Jesus-type Shepherds

I have a young pastor friend that I am extremely proud of. (Not that I’m not proud of my other pastor friends, but this guy takes the cake right now). This is his first pastorate and it has not been a grand experience as of yet. The details do not matter. What pertains to this post is his attitude. The only thing that you need to know is that he is having to endure a dangerous disposition from an influential man in the church. Shepherd_in_Israel From what it sounds like this is the type of guy that could split the church.

My young pastor friend has decided that rather than leave town he is going to take the bullets for the sheep God has entrusted to him. Rather than being a hireling he is willing to lay down his life for his sheep. This guy is modeling the heart of Jesus: “12 He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13 He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.” (John 10:12-15)

I’ve known, and heard stories of, my fair share of pastors that leave when things get tough within ministry. “These people are not ready to follow my leadership”, I have heard. “I no longer am able to serve with joy”, some have said. “There is no future here”, has been offered. “I do not want to stir up anymore strife, for the sake of the church I will leave”, an admirable sounding excuse. I am sure you have heard some of these as well (or maybe even offered them). They all sound pretty good and may even be legit. Problem is they sound more like the hired hand than the Jesus-type shepherd.

If you are in the ministry for any reason other than seeing the glory of God displayed through the spread of the gospel to the nations then you will flee when the wolf comes. The hired hand looks for comfort. You can’t comfortably kill a wolf, you might even die from it. Jesus did but he took the wolf down with him. He destroyed the wolf through his death not through his comfort.

Whether it is money, ease, fame, pleasure, respect, power, notoriety, selfish ambition, pride, a jewel in heaven, a street of gold, or a really cool Pope hat, if this is your reason for being a shepherd you will run as soon as you see a wolf. Worse yet, you might befriend the wolf. Maybe you’ll cut a deal with the wolf. That way you can keep your title, most of your comfort, and only have to deal with a few sheep getting devoured. But that’s the hired hand. The Jesus-type shepherd isn’t satisfied with only 99. He goes after the lost sheep. He doesn’t sit by and let any of his sheep get devoured even if it means losing money, fame, pleasure, comfort, or the really cool Pope hat.

Pastor, you may have seasons where the wolf isn’t bothering with your sheep. You will have days when you can joyously tend to your sheep. And sometimes you might be called to a different sheep pen. But if you leave your sheep because things get tough then you aren’t a Jesus-type shepherd. One example then I’ll stop meddling.

Take the “I’m leaving because I do not want to stir up more strife, for the sake of the church I will leave”. If you are the one causing the strife then you aren’t being a shepherd anyway. That’d be like a shepherd having mutton for lunch and wearing wool underpants. So, yeah, maybe you should leave. But if there is deep conflict and it is because ungodly people are treating you in an ungodly fashion, or even if there are wolves in your midst...you DON’T leave the sheep at this time. This is when they need the shepherd the most. Take the bullet or rather the wolf bites, that’s your job. That’s why I am proud of my young pastor friend.

The hired hand leaves. The Jesus-type shepherd lays down his life. Which are you?

Also, I know this is not as black and white as I’ve presented it. Feel free to disagree and bring out the other side to this. This is called a “musing” for a reason…

Friday, July 17, 2009

This Week in Blogworld 7/17

This will be two weeks worth of stuff…I never got around to posting last week with church camp and everything else going on. 

I’ve never heard of Francis Grimke but apparently Thabiti Anywabile has.  These two things to guard against when taking a stand is worth checking out. 

Morris Chapman has offered a clarification on his words at the SBC Annual Meeting.  Timmy Brister responds…with more to come later.  Timmy also discusses a little about the Clark Logan resignation here.

If I read the post correctly, Rod Dreher asks, “How do we raise kids in a pornified culture”.  Zach Nielsen gives his answer

What a great quote here by Spurgeon about the Bridge of Grace.

Boundless has put together a couple of posts talking about Joshua Harris’ I Kissed Dating Goodbye.  Check out Post #1 and Post #2.  Also check out Josh’s response

Nathan Finn has begun what looks like an interesting series: 15 Factors that have changed the SBC since 1979…that’s part one. 

Tony Reinke’s suggestions on indexing books is very helpful.  If only I had the discipline to listen.

The iMonk assess the Blogosphere’s Spirituality.  Helpful insights here.

Chuck Lawless has written an open letter to Older Southern Baptists.  I didn’t read it because I don’t qualify…that’d be like reading someone else’s mail right?

I’m a huge fan of Christopher Wright.  Recently he wrote for Koinonia a couple pieces on a false dichotomies in mission.  Check out part 1 and part 2.

Denny Burk provides a good commentary on Derek Webb’s new song/album

Good question and sound advice.  When do you begin the structural change toward elders?  Thabiti provides his answer and Michael McKinley offers his answer.

Carl Trueman talks about hurt mail as the new hate mail.

This question makes me laugh but it’s actually quite serious: How do I get black people to come to my church?

Here are three videos for your viewing pleasure.  I have yet to watch them all but they looked good…my internet connection is being weird and I would have to spend about 3 hours to view these 3 short videos.  If something is “off” or needs to be taken down please let me know.

  (HT: Garrett)

  (HT: Z)

  (HT: iMonk)

Thinking Through the Deliberate Church Chapter 5

As always, if you are just joining the discussion then please check out the foreword, intro, and chapter one. You can catch up pretty easily. If you have yet to buy the book I would suggest buying it for a paltry 9 bucks, here.deliberatechurch

Quick Summary:

Chapter 5 covers the issue of church discipline.  Few things are more neglected, abused, and misunderstood as the issue of church discipline.  This chapter (along with a few books) needs to be circulated throughout all churches.  I had read this chapter previously but after reading it again I was blown away by something I had missed the first time: building a foundation. 

Dever begins this chapter by showing the difference between formative and corrective discipline.  Formative discipline is like exercise; it is what you do to keep healthy.  Such things as Bible study, prayer, small groups, worship, are in place to help followers of Jesus to grow.  Corrective discipline is like surgery; it is what you do to regain health.  This can be as “simple” as a loving rebuke or admonishment or as trying as public church discipline.  Both forms of discipline are necessary for a healthy church.

“…before discipline can be productive, there must be a context of both meaningful spiritual relationships and structurally sound leadership.”  This is the part that I missed reading this chapter the first time.  I think my view of discipline was so transformed that I desired us to return to a biblical view of church discipline.  But as Dever says, “loving engagement in each other’s spiritual lives must be normalized in a positive and formative way before corrective discipline can be sustained.”  Furthermore, there should be a solid structure of leadership in place; otherwise it looks like only the pastor is pushing for discipline.  Such a thing prevents an “us v. him” mentality.

We are also given a couple tips to assist us in the process of corrective church discipline.  Dever suggests forming a “care list”.  He suggests presenting such a list verbally at a congregational meeting.  The “care list” does not necessarily mean that you are involved in sin, it only means you need prayer.  Making a person’s name available to the congregation helps in the process.  In such instances we ought to make it open for members to “privately air questions”. 

Another helpful thing is to teach beforehand what excommunication means.  Remind the congregation what it means to remove someone from the membership rolls.  What does it mean to treat someone like an unbeliever?  It does not mean that they are not allowed to come to church.  It just means that we cannot have biblical fellowship with them.  And certainly we would not allow known unbelievers to serve in church positions. 

Dever then closes up not only this chapter but the entire section by again reminding us to patiently teach and preach the Word of God.  Be patient!  And trust in the fact that Jesus is building His church.

Quotables:

“Neglecting corrective discipline can be deadly for a church.  No one likes the prospects of going under the knife.  But sometimes it is the knife that saves your life.”  (68)

“Sin needs darkness to grow—it needs isolation disguised as ‘privacy,’ and prideful self-sufficiency disguised as ‘strength.’  Once these conditions prevail, sin is watered with the acid of shame, which then makes darkness appear more attractive to the sinner than light.  But when we walk in the light by confessing our sins, we realize that we are not alone in our struggles, and we open ourselves to the protective rebukes and loving corrections that function as pesticides to curb the destructive and enslaving potential of habitual sin.”  (68-69)

“Healthy member relationships must be recovered before corrective discipline can be carried out realistically.”  (69)

“Without [a] context of deeply interpenetrating spiritual relationships, corrective discipline will be like walking up to a child whom you see only once a month and spanking him in the street.”  (69)

Questions:

  • What does your church do to create an atmosphere of discipline?  What types of things do you do for formative discipline?  What does your church do for corrective discipline?
  • Dever suggests reading Matthew 18:17; 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15; and Titus 3:9-11, then answering this question: How should we treat disciplined members?
  • What do you think of Dever’s suggestion of a “care list”?
  • Do you have any appropriate stories that you would like to share about church discipline? 
  • What are your thoughts on this chapter?

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