Friday, December 29, 2006

What About New Years Resolutions?

With the new year upon us and many people making some type of resolution. The truth is that instead of making a set of resolutions on one day that are quickly lost we should be constantly striving to reform our life to that of Christ’s and thus seeking out to resolve everyday to do so. In that vein here are some of the resolutions made by Jonathan Edwards of which he read once every week. Thanks to A Puritans Mind for these. I have listed the first 10 and you can get the rest from the site:

Resolutions 1 through 21 were written by in one sitting in New Haven in 1722.

The Resolutions of Jonathan Edwards (1722-1723)

Being sensible that I am unable to do anything without God's help, I do humbly entreat him by his grace to enable me to keep these Resolutions, so far as they are agreeable to his will, for Christ's sake.

Remember to read over these Resolutions once a week.

1. Resolved, that I will do whatsoever I think to be most to God's glory, and my own good, profit and pleasure, in the whole of my duration, without any consideration of the time, whether now, or never so many myriad's of ages hence. Resolved to do whatever I think to be my duty and most for the good and advantage of mankind in general. Resolved to do this, whatever difficulties I meet with, how many and how great soever.

2. Resolved, to be continually endeavoring to find out some new invention and contrivance to promote the aforementioned things.

3. Resolved, if ever I shall fall and grow dull, so as to neglect to keep any part of these Resolutions, to repent of all I can remember, when I come to myself again.

4. Resolved, never to do any manner of thing, whether in soul or body, less or more, but what tends to the glory of God; nor be, nor suffer it, if I can avoid it.

5. Resolved, never to lose one moment of time; but improve it the most profitable way I possibly can.

6. Resolved, to live with all my might, while I do live.

7. Resolved, never to do anything, which I should be afraid to do, if it were the last hour of my life.

8. Resolved, to act, in all respects, both speaking and doing, as if nobody had been so vile as I, and as if I had committed the same sins, or had the same infirmities or failings as others; and that I will let the knowledge of their failings promote nothing but shame in myself, and prove only an occasion of my confessing my own sins and misery to God.

9. Resolved, to think much on all occasions of my own dying, and of the common circumstances which attend death.

10. Resolved, when I feel pain, to think of the pains of martyrdom, and of hell.

At A Puritans Mind – Jonathan Edward’s Resolutions there are another 60 of his resolutions.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Blogs to Check out in the New Year

Some Blogs to check out for the New Year, these are in no particular order:
The Shepherd’s Scrapbook
Worship Matters
Strange Baptist Fire
The World from Our Window
Biblical Theology
The Founders Ministries Blog
Between Two Worlds
Slice of Laodicea
Grace and Truth to You
Together for the Gospel
Alpha and Omega Ministries
Calvinist Gadfly
Reformation Theology
Reformation 21

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

When has someone gone too far?

I would say this is an example of someone going to far:

During a search I came across a letter written at the Fundamental Baptist Fellowship International (FBFI) web site with regards to Vision Forum and the Family Integrated Church, entitled: The Integrated Church Movement: Viable Church Polity or False Teaching?

Once you get through all of the rhetoric in the beginning you get to the crux of their beef when they say:

When one examines the underlying theology of the movement, the answer must be no. The FBFI is without apology committed to a dispensational understanding of Scripture. It is clear that the postmillennial teaching of Vision Forum is in contradiction with the doctrinal statement of the FBFI and would be incompatible with the ministries represented by members of the FBFI.”

This shows that while they may disagree with the method of “doing” church they are in the end making their eschatology a high priority, even one to separate over.

It is their prerogative to separate over particular doctrines; however they also go on to say:

“These churches are classified according to their particular theological, hermeneutical, or traditional distinctive, but the one thing that unites them—that litmus test for fellowship—is their integrated church philosophy. Scripture is clear that fellowship with unbelievers and false teachers is sin. Fundamentalists cannot violate the doctrine of separation by allowing ICM to infiltrate our local churches. Fellowship with Vision Forum, IUCAH, or similar groups—or so-called Fundamentalists who adopt such an errant theology and practice—should be condemned, not condoned.”

Wow, it is good for people to hold firmly to their convictions but when one begins to label others outside their belief system as unbelievers and worse because they do not believe exactly the same or do church exactly the same they have crossed the line. It sure would seem that of utmost importance to them is eschatology and thus eschatology has been made their “litmus test” of fellowship. I always thought the litmus test of fellowship was whether one was a believer or not and not ones understanding of end times.

I would pray that this group, who by the way I had never heard of until I read this letter, would see the folly of their ways and repent. Calling others in the family of God unbelievers simply because they dislike their “hermeneutical principle” is uncalled for and in the end dishonoring to God.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Amazing Grace Movie Trailer

Below is a trailer for a new moving coming out in February called Amazing Grace about William Wilberforce.

If you want to read some more on Wilberforce you can do so in John Piper’s The Root of Endurance. As well as listen to an MP3 on him by John Piper here.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Dr. Sailhamer to Teach at GGBTS Southern Campus

Dr. John Sailhamer was elected by the trustees of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary as the new professor of Old Testament for the Southern California campus.

Here is the school's press release

I am looking forward to being able to sit in on some of his classes, especially since I am so close to the school.

Reading through the Bible in a Year.

Do you have a plan for reading through the Bible next year? Well, if you would like to see various Bible reading plans go to the ESV Blog. They actually have charts that let you visualize how the different plans look as well as links to various plans.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Some Random Thoughts on The Church

Before I delve into what I feel is the structure a church should have, and I do feel that the church or Ekklesia of God does require a structure I thought I would just share some thoughts I have had recently upon some articles I have read and some MP3’s I have listened to.

- When we see the word church and realize the Greek word used is Ekklesia we need to realize God had a purpose for choosing that word for both its use in the New Testament and the Septuagint. The reason being that it carried with it a meaning already that God desired to be carried over to its use with regards to the people of God. One of those reasons is to show that those in the church are not only called out, to be holy, but the called out ones are also to be gathered together with some manner of organization as the word would convey to the original listener/reader.

- I find it interesting how so often the church seeks to be current on the cutting edge but in reality they, in general, simply just copy the world. By this I mean as I read through stuff on the internet I find that the idea of actually having a church that did not have a youth group as it is commonly conceived of is balked at. There are usually some scripture thrown around but it seems that the common reasons for having such a group are built more around secular teaching and humanistic understandings of youth than around God’s desires for youth

- The above also applies to the whole concept of having an age integrated church. People seem to immediately question how a child or youth can get anything out of the regular service but again this is based on humanistic findings about learning and such. This creates a tension that should not exist if people could only see where their understanding truly come from.

- The hesitancy of the church to change is not just in the area of how to do ministry as it also extends even to the structure of the church. It seems to me that it is hard not to read scripture and come to the conclusion that the church is called to be structured around “biblical” Eldership (a plurality) and “biblical” Deacons. But when this subject is broached in many churches it is avoided like the plague. The probable reason is that the church for all too long has chosen its leadership for all but biblical reasons and standards and if one is to have biblical leadership things have to change drastically.

- While some may see the benefit, even the biblical call, of a family integrated church structure they struggle with what to do about those that will not see things the same way and not stay. The issue here is that it begins to be people that dictate how one does church rather than God’s word. If one truly believes God is sovereign over all things then we should not be afraid to move forward and structure church as God calls for. We simply need to trust more in God than pragmatism and salesmanship and move forward with the goal of glorifying God and making true disciples and not simply filling seats and taking in bucks.

- I was listening to a talk the other day and it struck me that in focusing simply on evangelism without a means to disciple we are not being the best stewards of God’s resources we could be. For example if we do not disciple those that we share with in foreign countries there may be many converts in this generation but because they have not been discipled on discipling future generations we will be back in that same country not too many generations later. We can see this in countries such as Germany and England where the generational discipleship was lacking and the generations slowly drifted from being God centered. The issue of not discipling the next generation and it leading to future generations “not knowing God” is not new. If you read Judges 2:10 and the context around it you see a nation that strayed form the Lord and see the disastrous effect on future generations. By the way unless things are not changed soon in America we will be in the same place as others are now.

- Ones view on end times may drive how they see the function of the church. It is my opinion that if one holds to the dispensational view of end times they will tend to focus simply on evangelism and add on discipleship if there is time and resources. However this misses the goal of Matt 28:18-20 which is not simply to make converts but to make disciples and to make disciples that not only know but obey the commands of Christ.

These are just some thoughts that I need to work through but definitely do see a need to address these issues. I have been more convinced by scripture and other reading that the church has to change and not in the way it is currently being changed. So over the next few months I will continue to work through how I think that God desires the church, the local church, is to look like.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Master of Divinity, Finally!!

We just got back from San Francisco and graduation ceremonies for the fall graduating class of Golden Gate Theological Seminary. We had a great time as a family and went all over San Francisco the day before graduation and got to see quite a bit, even in the fog that was around for most of the day.

It has been a long and unconventional road to my Master of Divinity but even the path to the degree speaks volumes of God’s grace and providence. I am not sure what He has in store for my family and me but if it is anything like the road to my degree it too will be unconventional and winding. Serving God is anything but boring and we have to simply keeping moving forward so as to be used by God to accomplish His plans, and not ours.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

What Jesus Demands from the World

I have been reading through John Piper’s new book: What Jesus Demands from the World as a devotion for the last few weeks and it has been a very worthwhile time. Piper does a great job of balancing the concept of demands with the truth that not only is it God that makes demands on us He is also the one that enables us to follow those demands. This follows much in line with the great quote of Augustine who prayed: “give what you command, and command what you will.”

I think to have a correct understanding of the law and its place for the believer can only be seen as it should be when we come to the understanding that we are incapable of doing anything pleasing to God without His enablement.

So when Jesus commands something there is an essence where we do need to feel helplessness so that we rightly fully realize we can do as commanded by Christ but only under His power. Once we understand this then and only then can we do as we are commanded without it being legalistic or simply doing for the sake of doing.

As I read Demand #33 - Love Your Neighbor with the Same Commitment You Have To Your Own Well Being – Piper goes away from the usual seeker friendly interpretation of Matt 22:39 which is to use this as a reason to love oneself so that one can love others. Piper revels what is true of all human nature and that is we do not need to learn to love ourselves as we all do that no matter what. The call of this passage is to take that self love we already have and turn it on its head by instead loving others as we love ourselves. Of course as I said above all of this is predicated on us being children of God as this is where the power comes to love as Christ commands us to love.

I suggest this book to everyone and not simply to read it as a book that you read all at once, even tough you can do that, but take it bit by bit and ponder all that is revealed. If you can not afford the book or simply want it in electronic form here is a link to the book in PDF format.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Mr. Bean goes to Church

This is probably my favorite Mr. Bean. I am not sure if this says more about the church or more about Mr. Bean but it has always struck me as funny.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

More on Family Integrated Church

As I continue to think over what a family integrated church looks like I think it is imperative that the “Family Integrated” part is seen as how one does ministry. I was listening to the recent Uniting Church and Family Conference and a talk by Voddie Baucham where he made a good comment with regards to a regular objection he hears. That objection deals with people saying that if one focuses on families it will alienate those not in families or what are perceived as families. Well first of all the focus of the church, as it is with any church, should be the equipping of the members through the preaching of God’s word. Thus, not every sermon or teaching will be on the family. Where families come into things is in how ministry is done. So one could walk into a service and things may seem no different that in some other services. What would be different is that families will be worshiping together and people would not be segregated by age. There will probably be more activity in the service with children there but apart from this the teaching is to revolve around God’s word as it comes up in the text.

Another thing is that while there may be Family Integrated churches that, as Voddie mentions, are cloistering themselves from the world this is not to be the norm. No, the Family Integrated church is to seek first to be steeped in God’s word and then seek to worship in a biblical manner which involves people worshiping as a family, a household of households. The single person in the congregation is adopted into an existing family so they can see how a family is to function. Those that are single mom’s are mentored by other women in the congregation and thus are seen as a family and helped in areas they need help in. Other men in the congregation can help to mentor sons of single moms just as women can help with girls of single dads. So I hope you can see that the idea of a Family Integrated church is to be seen as a biblical model of doing ministry in church and does not take away from the word which is to remain central to all that is done.

So the focus of a Family Integrated church is to seek to do what is necessary to equip the members to understand God’s word more clearly. Included in this is for families to see how they are to function as families so as to best glorify God. I suppose this model of ministry is far from the norm today but as one of my past posts showed it is not new. In the past the family was seen as God’s means of discipling and ministering but as the world has changed the church has also changed, and I say for the worse. But it is not too late to reverse course and seek to have biblical congregations that seek out the Lord as a Household of Households and thus build up not only strong families but stronger believers better equipped to glorify God,

I have found that the church today, even those that say they desire and are not afraid of change, are wary of following a model (I really do not like the word model) of church that is so different but should not a church look different than the world? If we do ministry as God calls for us to do in His word we will look different. Our goal should not be to look like the world but like what God desires. As I have said before a church that wants to move toward this model will have to do it through the preaching of God’s word and to do it slowly as change is often difficult for most people. But, through the Spirit of God change can occur and the Church of Jesus Christ can return to the the biblical moorings it is called to have.

I will be continuing to work this all out and look at some more particulars about how Family Integrated church functions.

Here are some churches that are Family Integrated that have info on their sites in reference to how their particular churches function:

Grace Family Baptist Church - Spring, Texas
Baptist Church- Wake Forest, NC
Community Church - Magnolia, Texas

Thursday, November 30, 2006

DIY: Jonathan Edwards Blank Bible

Here are some cool instructions from The Shepherd’s Scrapbook on how to make a Jonathan Edwards Blank Bible. This is a bible that leaves you lots of room to take notes:

DIY: Blank Bible (part 1)
DIY: Blank Bible (part 2) Cut, Rip, Clamp, Saw
DIY: Blank Bible (part 3) Slicing and Stuffing

DIY: Blank Bible (part 4) Punching and Binding

Not only do you end up with a great bible for note taking but you get to use a table saw in the process.

Here is a video on the blank bible from The Jonathan Edwards Center at Yale University:

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Family Integrated Church is not new

The idea of Family-Integrated church is not something new and Scott Brown writes on this in his article: My Top Four Favorite Family-Integrated Church Pastors: Richard Baxter, John Bunyan, Matthew Henry, Jonathan Edwards.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

More on Youth Ministry

It is my fear that when one encounters those, as myself, that think that youth ministry needs to be radically redone there are vast misconceptions. One of the major misconceptions is that the goal of a family integrated model of church is doing away with youth even gathering together. The second concern is that youth that are not part of a Christian family will not be evangelized. I believe that the people with these concerns are truly concerned about youth. However their concerns are unfounded and even their concerns are not being met with youth ministry as it is presently configured.

With a family integrated youth ministry the fathers are in charge of the discipling of youth with their primary concern being the discipleship of their own youth. Youth can gather together but it would be with the supervision and leadership of the parents, primarily the fathers. Now, one argument regards what does one do with parents that do not disciple their own children? This issue is where church discipline and leadership comes in to help. Simply because parents do not do as they are called we should not assume it is our responsibility to jump in and take over. So there is an important aspect of discipleship of parents that also needs to take place to make this all work. So while there are difficulties in accomplishing the correct method of discipling youth this is true of any ministry that deals with fallible people.

As far as the argument of not evangelizing un-churched youth the family integrated youth ministry model can accomplish this as well. If the youth of the church are discipled as they should they will in turn be able to evangelize the youth they meet daily. Youth that do become believers from an unbelieving family can for the time being be ministered to by a family in the church. Should the family of that youth become believers they would then be discipled so they take over the discipleship of their children. The other aspect of this is that in our corporate model of church we have come to see the role of the church to evangelize as an organization but scripture seems to show the individuals of the church being the ones that evangelize. The church seems to have decided to take this over because of the failure of its individuals to do so but this only perpetuates a continual decline in personal evangelism and reliance on a more corporate model. So, youth leaders see the need to put on events to try and evangelize because their youth and the parents of the youth do not do as they should. As with anything there are issues that may arise but this is also true of the current model of youth ministry.

While I see this model of youth ministry as the best one I also realize that unless one starts a church with this model it will take much teaching and patience to accomplish this. We are a people of habit and changing a model of age segregated ministry that has developed and taken hold over the last 100 years or so does not change overnight. There are issues such as the role of youth ministers and how they function in the church. There is also the need to change parent’s views of seeing youth ministry as the ones in charge of discipling their children and helping them to see it as their responsibility. So how one gets to youth ministry being the job of parents and not a professional youth minister may be difficult but will be well worth it for the spiritual health of the youth and families.

More to come on family integrated ministry.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

New Sovereign Grace Ministries Christmas CD - Savior

I just got Sovereign Grace Ministries new Christmas CD – Savior: Celebrating the Mystery of God Become Man. It is very good in many ways and along way from the usual Christmas CD;

Here are some verses from the CD:

Christ the Lord is Born Today
Verse 3:
God has sent His greatest Treasure
Shown His love in greatest Measure
Sending Christ to bleed and suffer
Purchasing our joy forever
Let the earth rejoice
O come and lift your voice

Glory to God in the Highest
Verse 2:

See the One who spans the heavens with His hand
With fingers so small
See this babe so poor all of heaven adores
He’s the ruler of all
Let us worship our humble King
Adoration we humbly bring

The Son of God Came Down
Verse 1:
The Son of God came down and laid aside His crown
Born without great renown, the Sovereign One
All holiness and might, all glory shining bright
Have come top earth this night in Mary’s son
O come, let us adore

Not only are the songs well written from a theological sense but the music is great as well. I am thankful that those at Sovereign Grace are using their gifts to glorify God in word and song. So much of what is put out at Christmas is so shallow but here we have songs that truly proclaim the eternal Son of God who came to suffer and die for His children so that we can truly rejoice at Christmas.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Biblical Theology at 9Marks

This month’s newsletter at 9Marks is focused on Biblical Theology (PDF Version of Newsletter) . There are contributions by : Michael Lawrence, Thomas Schreiner, James M. Hamilton Jr. & Jonathan Leeman. There is also a Pastor’s Forum with contributions by: Andrew Davis , Graeme Goldsworthy , Phil Johnson and others.

Monday, November 13, 2006

What to do with Youth Ministry?

I have long had concerns about Youth Ministry but could not quite put my finger on it. I thought it may have been that we did not teach enough doctrine or maybe we did not connect with kids on their level or some combination of things. But, the bottom line was that I saw an issue in that we would take kids and get them all excited about God, or that is what we thought they were excited about, and then watch as they grew in to latter teen-hood and then adults and simply disappear from the scene.

Having been a youth leader for a few years I can say I did see a few kids truly changed and remain on course but the large majority simply strayed and were seen no longer no matter how much I tried. I could read the latest youth ministry book and see so much success, based on numbers, and not be able to reproduce those results. I could try and be as entertaining as I felt comfortable with but that was not enough. The issue with being entertaining is that we need to follow what I would call the “Madonna Principle.” I read an interview once where they asked Madonna why she kept doing what she did and continued to push the envelope, even stepping outside the envelope. Her answer was that she had to do things that were more and more out there because what she had done simply became the norm or not exciting enough. This is how Youth Ministry goes as Youth leaders continually seek ways to not only excite the youth but compete with the world.

Well, I think today we are seeing the results of the last twenty years plus of Youth Ministry and one of those results is called the Emergent church. The other thing that I think all of the focus on youth ministry has created is a segregated church. By raising children, and parents for that matter, to see that everything has to be done by age this has progressed into the church as a whole. We now have generation this and generation that churches, unlike what we see in scripture, that are less and less age integrated. While the church is intent on trying to make multicultural churches we are ignoring multigenerational churches.

Over the last year or so I have been more convinced that Youth Ministry needs to change and that change needs to revolve around households so that they care for the youth. We have taken the job of discipling children away from the parents and institutionalized it in the church and made it the job of the church. How we get back to where we need to be is difficult but it needs to be done. To simply put up our hands and say it is too late is not the answer.

If one stands up and says we need to dismantle the Youth Ministry and start again with an entirely, yet biblical, model will for sure get people up in arms. Children’s and Youth Ministry are two aspects of the local church that have become so ingrained that to think of changing them drastically is frowned upon. But we need to do something before it is too late and so we need to start now.

Voddie Baucham wrote an article, Answering Objections on the YM Issue, on his Blog that speaks to some of the common objections to stopping Youth Ministry as it is presently done. Those objections are things like:

1) We need youth ministry for parents who do not disciple their children

2) We need youth ministry for kids who don’t have Christian parents.

3) Why not let children be leaders in the youth group and disciple other Kids?

4) What about youth evangelism?

Mr. Baucham does a good job of showing that it is not a matter of continuing down the same road we have been on, because we are afraid to leave it for fear we will look different, but we need to get back to seeking God’s word for how to disciple and raise our children. If we care for our Youth we should be willing to do what is best for them and not best for our numbers. We should seek to do what is best for them from God’s perspective even if it is not popular. To simply seek to have a large youth group is not the answer as it is not the answer for the church in general but we are to seek to have spiritually healthy youth and the present method of Youth Ministry is not the way.

While the Family, or Household, Integrated Church flies in the face of how things are done today I am more convinced than ever that it is the correct path to head down. Not every church can head down it at the same speed and the same way but the goal at the end should be the same; Churches that worship together both corporately and in their everyday lives. The first step will be difficult and probably met with resistance but that should not deter one from the path.

Other articles on Youth Ministry by Voddie:

Youth Ministry Part 1
Youth Ministry Part 2
Youth Ministry Part 3

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Compassion Permanence

How often do we as Christians speak to the need to care for the poor but even without realizing it we do little because our daily lives take up so much room? Over at New Attitude there is a good article entitled: Suburbia vs. Social Justice that deals with how all too often without even realizing it we simply forget the poor and the downtrodden that Jesus told us to care for. This may not be true of all and the article even articulates that this is not a call for everyone to move to urban areas but is instead a call to make sure that we do not forget those God tells us to care for.

What is wrong, as with most things, is we have come to rely on government to care for people when we are the ones that are called to do it. The problem is that when government gets involved they are in general wasteful but more importantly it separates the care from the Gospel. We are to care for the needy so as to shed the light of the Gospel to people that are in need of more than just food and necessities. This does not mean we ignore the physical needs but we need to care for both and letting government care for the physical will take away our opportunity to be a light.

I personally need to see how this relates to me but the article was a call to spend time in prayer and contemplation on a part of scripture that is often ignored or implemented wrongly. My encouragement is to read and then pray as to how God would have you cultivate compassion permanence.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Pre-Election Thoughts

As election time approaches here are some thoughts:

Do those that feel they environmentally conscious send out flyers that needlessly kill trees?

How much of the poverty in the US could we deal with if the candidates were made to give the money they spend on campaigns to help with it?

If campaign ads told the truth would we vote for anyone?

Why when one speaks out against stem cell research are they are said to be leading to the death of many, but people can promote abortion and it is seen simply as a choice?

When will people stop being so gullible when they hear politicians speak?

On the same note, are people blind to seeing that most politicians say what the people they want to vote for them want to hear?

When will the math skills of those voting improve – One can not say that there will be more things paid for and at the same time say they will not raise taxes?

When will Christians begin to vote by biblical standards, all of them, rather than what most benefits them?

When will Christians see through being used by both parties?

When will Christians see that while we can work within the system the political system will not save anyone?

So if you read this before you vote – I pray you pray before you vote and then you vote as scripture would lead you.

Remember that at the end of the day God is still sovereign and no matter who wins what and what laws are passed God is still ruler of all. Not only is He ruler of all, all that happens is in His will.

Preaching: Doctrine AND Application

I have often wondered if when people look at what the content of preaching should be if we miss the obviousness of scripture. It seems that people either preach nothing but application, or the “What to do” and How to do” sermons, or they are simply preaching nothing but doctrine. More reformed minded churches tend to fall on the doctrine side of the fence and I think that much of this is in reaction to the doctrineless preaching of much of evangelicalism. Many in Evangelical churches in a need to try and be relevant and less doctrinaire stick to simply handing down how to tips. Both sides of this spectrum are missing the point of scripture, that of lives being changed by the Word of God leading to God glorifying lives.

When one looks at the letters Paul writes, for example, he often starts with the state of affairs that he is addressing and gives a context that he is writing from. From there he goes on to give a doctrinal stance on the situation and in so doing fashions this doctrine around the cross. He then goes on to give application or how this doctrine will look in real life. We see this even in a highly doctrine laden letter such as Romans as well as in a letter such as Galatians.

From the example of Paul I think that preaching should reveal all three aspects for the listener to leave with a correct understating of scripture. If the preaching is wholly about application then the listener, Christian or not, will probably leave trying simply to follow a set of guidelines they were given. If the preaching is simply doctrinal the listener will leave with lots of head knowledge but no idea of how to use that knowledge. I am sure there are those that may argue for either side as being correct but I think that there is a better way.

That better way is to show the passage of scripture in light of the cross and the power of it for the believer. This is not some mystical power but the actual power that Christ delivers by the renewing of the mind and heart for the believer. From the cross we then move to the place the passage holds in a believer’s life from a doctrinal perspective. This can take many forms with some passages being more doctrinal and less applicational while others are the other way around. Once the foundation of doctrine has been laid the message should then move to how this will look in the life of the believer or how the doctrine is to be applied.

There may be some that would see telling people how to live as being legalistic. Now this would be true if we stray from scripture but if we stick to scripture then the claim of legalism is not valid. Paul often told people how they were to live and the eternal consequences of not living as he claimed, by the inspiration of God, they should. The issue here is not about rules and regulations but about how God’s word is displayed through the Christians lives. I agree that there is a danger of people ignoring the fact that we can do nothing apart from Christ but the fact that people may take things wrong is not a reason to avoid the subject. If we are diligent to constantly help people see the hopelessness of trying to do anything apart from the power of Christ we will in the end help them rely more on Christ and less on self and at the same time help those we lead to live God glorifying lives.

If the goal of preaching is to glorify God then it needs to do so in more than just words but in the lives of those we preach to. Application without the cross is legalism but the cross with out works is no better. Actually, can there be the cross without works, not if you read James?

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Unstoppable Live @ Bethlehem Baptist

While I am not the biggest fan of Rap check this out as I do not think I have heard the "Doctrines of Grace" and Election" spoken of in too many songs before let alone a Rap song. This is at Bethlehem Baptist, the church John Piper Pastors.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

How Britain is Turning Christianity Into a Crime

I was reading an article over at The Banner of Truth Trust, How Britain is Turning Christianity Into a Crime, by Melanie Phillips (the author of Londonistan ) about Christianity in Britain.

Although Britain is small we in the US do not seem to be far behind them in many cultural aspects and if this is true are we far behind in Christianity being a crime.

In speaking about what is happening in Britain she says:

“How long will it be before Christianity becomes illegal in Britain? This is no longer the utterly absurd and offensive question that on first blush it would appear to be. An evangelical Christian campaigner, Stephen Green was arrested and charged last weekend with using threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour. So what was this behaviour? Merely trying peacefully to hand out leaflets at a gay rally in Cardiff”

She then says at the end of the article:

“It is a process before which the Church of England has long been on its knees, going with the flow of moral cultural collapse in accordance with the doctrine of multiculturalism — and then wondering why its churches are so empty, while those of uncompromising evangelicals such as Stephen Green are packed to the rafters.

As a result, Christianity is being steadily removed from the public sphere. Various councils have banned Christmas on the grounds that it is “too Christian” and therefore “offensive” to people of other faiths, and are replacing it with meaningless “winter festivals”. This attack on Christianity is not merely something that seems straight out of Alice in Wonderland. It is not merely a threat to freedom of speech and religious expression. It is a fundamental onslaught on the national identity and bedrock values of this country — and as such will destroy those freedoms which Christianity itself first created.”

While what is happening there is disturbing it is good that we see that the idea of Christianity being a crime in so called civilized countries is not all that far fetched. All too often we equate this sort of issue to third world countries but it is not just in underdeveloped countries that Christians are being looked at differently.

Friday, October 20, 2006

The Works of Jonathan Edwards Online

The Jonathan Edwards Center at Yale University has made available approximately 25,000 pages of his writings. You can check them out at The Works of Jonathan Edwards Online.

Jonathan Edwards Is My Homeboy T-Shirt

You can now get your Jonathan Edwards Is My Homeboy T-Shirt as seen in the Christianity Today article called Young, Restless, Reformed.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

What I'm Reading and Listening to

What I'm reading:

What Jesus Demands from the World - John Piper

I have started reading this book and so far it is very good. While many may step back at the idea of "Demands" the principle that Piper shows is that as believers and indwelled with the Holy Spirit we should not see these demands as burdensome but as a delight.

The Last Disciple - Hank Hanegraaff and Sigmund Brouwer

This book did not appear to get much press as it is definitely the antithesis to the Left Behind series. I even heard there was some controversy with some stores carrying it as it was in its own way showing the faults in the Left Behind books. I think this is a good read and it does show how people would have read the scriptures in the first century.

What I'm listening to:

This is a debate between Gene Cook, Jr. and Dwight Nave concerning The Relationship Between Israel and the Church. So far it has been good. There is an MP3 at the site that you can download. Ihave not finished listening yet but did notice that Dwight Nave uses as one of his arguments that since Martin Luther came to hate the Jews and since he believed in the covenant theology then covenant theology is not only wrong but bad. I also saw that one of the comments on the Fide-O site also used this argument. Why is it that people seem to infer that since people can misuse theology that makes the theology incorrect. It is not the actions of individuals that make theology correct or incorrect but the words of God. Does not the world use this argument against Christianity and I am sure Mr. Nave would argue against using such logic.

I am also listening to the MP3s from the Desiring God 2006 Conference

The Gathered Church - Pt 3

As I continue to contemplate how I feel the gathered church should function, I continually come up against issues that are less about the bible and more about culture and tradition. Such issues as having Sunday School, Youth groups and other such programs are often taken as a given even though I think there is little, if any, biblical grounds for many of these programs.

I have found that since I take more of a “Regulative Principle” view of the church it becomes more restrictive in what I see we can do in the church. I feel scripture reveals that God has the right, and does, regulate how He is to be worshipped so we are not free to do whatever it is we feel like when it comes to worship. I think it is a danger to take the stand that as long as a certain activity is not forbidden one can go ahead and do it. This is where I think many programs of the church have gone down a wrong path. We have often taken a world view, rather than a Christian view, that sees a certain way of doing things and integrated it into the church. One example is the way we often design how we teach people that says we must separate people by any number of characteristics with age being the most prevalent.

When one looks at scripture about the only criteria for separating people may be by gender but that is about it. While the bible may not explicitly restrict age segregation it does not call for it either. So I would see the desire to segregate by age or even social factors as being more of a humanistic view than a biblical one. People see it as working, or appearing to work, in the world and the pragmatic side of our brains takes over and then tries to Christianize the whole concept. This said, none of this says that people may not meet around some common issue but I think it is detrimental to do this artificially and to do this as the prime gathering point of the church.

This whole concept of segregation also appears to show itself in how churches are designed to reach certain types of people. While there may be reasons given I again do not see this concept in scripture. While Paul may have spoken differently to Jews than he did with Gentiles this is not how churches were formed. It is when we realize that it is God who changes hearts and makes the Gospel understandable that we can then see what we need to do in the gathering of the church is to be consistent in preaching the word and living out the word and leave the results to God.

So next, I think I will try and show what I would see as an example of how the gathered church should gather. In doing this I fully understand that how one changes the way the church functions in an existing church is much different than how one would do things if just starting a church. For the existing church the main way to change things is through preaching, teaching, and prayer. If the concepts that are sought after are taught and shown from scripture people will gradually see what needs to be done.

The new church needs to start with a core group that has a common vision so that they can deal with other issues while the basic structure and vision of the church does not become and area of contention. This may mean a new church may not actually function as a biblical church in its start up phase while the leadership is formed and the direction is formed.

More to come.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

The Love of God

This last Lord’s Day we were talking about love in Sunday Morning Bible Study as we went through 1 John. The issue was that simply saying “God is Love” needs to be explained as the word “Love” itself has so many meanings with the most prevalent today having to do with feelings and emotions more than anything. So as I was looking at Steve Camp’s site, Camp on This, he had a section out of A.W. Pink’s book The Attributes of God dealing with the love of God. I have reprinted the section on the “The Love of God” below. You can read the entire book on line: The Attributes of God.

A.W. Pink

There are three things told us in Scripture concerning the nature of God. First, "God is spirit" (John 4:24). In the Greek there is no indefinite article, and to say "God is a spirit" is most objectionable, for it places Him in a class with others. God is "spirit" in the highest sense. Because He is "spirit" He is incorporeal, having no visible substance. Had God a tangible body, He would not be omnipresent, He would be limited to one place; because He is spirit He fills heaven and earth. Second, God is light (1 John 1:5), which is the opposite of "darkness." In Scripture "darkness" stands for sin, evil, death; and "light" for holiness, goodness, life. God is light, means that He is the sum of all excellency. Third, "God is love" (1 John 4:8). It is not simply that God "loves," but that He is Love itself. Love is not merely one of His attributes, but His very nature.

There are many today who talk about the love of God, who are total strangers to the God of love. The Divine love is commonly regarded as a species of amiable weakness, a sort of good-natured indulgence; it is reduced to a mere sickly sentiment, patterned after human emotion. Now the truth is that on this, as on everything else, our thoughts need to be formed and regulated by what is revealed thereon in Holy Scripture. That there is urgent need for this is apparent not only from the ignorance which so generally prevails, but also from the low state of spirituality which is now so sadly evident everywhere among professing Christians. How little real love there is for God. One chief reason for this is because our hearts are so little occupied with His wondrous love for His people. The better we are acquainted with His love—its character, fulness, blessedness—the more will our hearts be drawn out in love to Him.

1. The love of God is uninfluenced. By this we mean, there was nothing whatever in the objects of His love to call it into exercise, nothing in the creature to attract or prompt it. The love which one creature has for another is because of something in them; but the love of God is free, spontaneous, uncaused. The only reason why God loves any is found in His own sovereign will: "The Lord did not set His love upon you, nor choose you because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people: but because the Lord loved thee" (Deut. 7:7,8). God has loved His people from everlasting, and therefore nothing of the creature can be the cause of what is found in God from eternity. He loves from Himself: "according to His own purpose" (2 Tim. 1:9).
"We love Him, because He first loved us" (1 John 4:19). God did not love us because we loved Him, but He loved us before we had a particle of love for Him. Had God loved us in return for ours, then it would not be spontaneous on His part; but because He loved us when we were loveless, it is clear that His love was uninfluenced. It is highly important if God is to be honored and the heart of His child established, that we should be quite clear upon this precious truth. God’s love for me, and for each of "His own," was entirely unmoved by anything in them. What was there in me to attract the heart of God? Absolutely nothing. But, to the contrary, everything to repel Him, everything calculated to make Him loathe me—sinful, depraved, a mass of corruption, with "no good thing" in me.
"What was there in me that could merit esteem,Or give the Creator delight?‘Twas even so, Father, I ever must sing,Because it seemed good, in Thy sight."

2. It is eternal. This of necessity. God Himself is eternal, and God is love; therefore, as God Himself had no beginning, His love had none. Granted that such a concept far transcends the grasp of our feeble minds, nevertheless, where we cannot comprehend, we can bow in adoring worship. How clear is the testimony of Jeremiah 31:3, "I have loved thee with an everlasting love, therefore with loving-kindness have I drawn thee." How blessed to know that the great and holy God loved His people before heaven and earth were called into existence, that He had set His heart upon them from all eternity. Clear proof is this that His love is spontaneous, for He loved them endless ages before they had any being.
The same precious truth is set forth in Ephesians 1:4,5, "According as He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him. In love having predestinated us." What praise should this evoke from each of His children! How tranquilizing for the heart: since God’s love toward me had no beginning, it can have no ending! Since it be true that "from everlasting to everlasting" He is God, and since God is "love," then it is equally true that "from everlasting to everlasting" He loves His people.

3. It is sovereign. This also is self-evident. God Himself is sovereign, under obligations to none, a law unto Himself, acting always according to His own imperial pleasure. Since God be sovereign, and since He be love, it necessarily follows that His love is sovereign. Because God is God, He does as He pleases; because God is love, He loves whom He pleases. Such is His own express affirmation: "Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated" (Rom. 9:19). There was no more reason in Jacob why he should be the object of Divine love, than there was in Esau. They both had the same parents, and were born at the same time, being twins; yet God loved the one and hated the other! Why? Because it pleased Him to do so.
The sovereignty of God’s love necessarily follows from the fact that it is uninfluenced by anything in the creature. Thus, to affirm that the cause of His love lies in God Himself, is only another way of saying, He loves whom He pleases. For a moment, assume the opposite. Suppose God’s love were regulated by anything else than His will, in such a case He would love by rule, and loving by rule He would be under a law of love, and then so far from being free, God would Himself be ruled by law. "In love having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to"—what? Some excellency which He foresaw in them? No; what then? "According to the good pleasure of His will" (Eph. 1:4,5).

4. It is infinite. Everything about God is infinite. His essence fills heaven and earth. His wisdom is illimitable, for He knows everything of the past, present and future. His power is unbounded, for there is nothing too hard for Him. So His love is without limit. There is a depth to it which none can fathom; there is a height to it which none can scale; there is a length and breadth to it which defies measurement, by any creature-standard. Beautifully is this intimated in Ephesians 2:4: But God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us: the word "great" there is parallel with the "God so loved" of John 3:16. It tells us that the love of God is so transcendent it cannot be estimated.
No tongue can fully express the infinitude of God’s love, or any mind comprehend it: it "passeth knowledge" Eph. 3:19). The most extensive ideas that a finite mind can frame about Divine love, are infinitely below its true nature. The heaven is not so far above the earth as the goodness of God is beyond the most raised conceptions which we are able to form of it. It is an ocean which swells higher than all the mountains of opposition in such as are the objects of it. It is a fountain from which flows all necessary good to all those who are interested in it (John Brine, 1743).

5. It is immutable. As with God Himself there is "no variableness, neither shadow of turning" (James 1:17), so His love knows neither change or diminution. The worm Jacob supplies a forceful example of this: "Jacob have I loved," declared Jehovah, and despite all his unbelief and waywardness, He never ceased to love him. John 13:1 furnishes another beautiful illustration. That very night one of the apostles would say, "Show us the Father"; another would deny Him with cursings; all of them would be scandalized by and forsake Him. Nevertheless "having loved His own which were in the world, He love them unto the end." The Divine love is subject to no vicissitudes. Divine love is "strong as death ... many waters cannot quench it" (Song of Sol. 8:6,7). Nothing can separate from it: Romans 8:35-39.
"His love no end nor measure knows,No change can turn its course,Eternally the same it flowsFrom one eternal source."

6. It is holy. God’s love is not regulated by caprice passion, or sentiment, but by principle. Just as His grace reigns not at the expense of it, but "through righteousness" (Rom. 5:21), so His love never conflicts with His holiness. "God is light" (1 John 1:5) is mentioned before "God is love" (1 John 4:8). God’s love is no mere amiable weakness, or effeminate softness. Scripture declares, "whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth" (Heb. 12:6). God will not wink at sin, even in His own people. His love is pure, unmixed with any maudlin sentimentality.

7. It is gracious. The love and favor of God are inseparable. This is clearly brought out in Romans 8:32-39. What that love is from which there can be no "separation," is easily perceived from the design and scope of the immediate context: it is that goodwill and grace of God which determined Him to give His Son for sinners. That love was the impulsive power of Christ’s incarnation: "God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son" (John 3:16). Christ died not in order to make God love us, but because He did love His people, Calvary is the supreme demonstration of Divine love. Whenever you are tempted to doubt the love of God, Christian reader, go back to Calvary.

Here then is abundant cause for trust and patience under Divine affliction. Christ was beloved of the Father, yet He was not exempted from poverty, disgrace, and persecution. He hungered and thirsted. Thus, it was not incompatible with God’s love for Christ when He permitted men to spit upon and smite Him. Then let no Christian call into question God’s love when he is brought under painful afflictions and trials. God did not enrich Christ on earth with temporal prosperity, for "He had not where to lay His head." But He did give Him the Spirit "without measure" (John 3:34). Learn then that spiritual blessings are the principal gifts of Divine love. How blessed to know that when the world hates us ,God loves us!

Friday, October 06, 2006

Around the Blogosphere

The Desiring God 2006 Conference Messages are available for download.

Cindy Swanson interviews Justin Taylor about the book Suffering and the Sovereignty of God which he and John Piper edited.

Over at Old the question is asked: Should Church Services Ever Be Evangelistic?

Christianity Today has put out their list of: The Top 50 Books That Have Shaped Evangelicals
- I have never heard of the #1 choice while I have heard of many of the others

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Sports and the Christian

Steve Camp over at CampOnThis has a good article by David Cunningham called: SPORTSOLOGY: SPORTS AND THE CHRISTIAN. Being one who does enjoy sports it is always difficult to see where sports and faith fit together. My fear is that in all too many instances sports takes precedence and one deals with faith issues with what time is left which is often little or none. With so many things going on in the lives of people today I truly find it hard to see how sports can be as big a part of believers lives as it is. This is not to say that sports are to be done away with, even though for some that may be the answer, but it for sure needs to be put in the correct perspective.

If we remember that the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever then maybe we can get sports to where it should be. Until that time sports will be the altar that all too many people worship at.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

The Gathered Church - Pt 2

As I continue to work at what I think a healthy gathering of believers looks like I realize that not everybody sees things the same way. This is one of those areas that seems too often gets to be divisive when it should not, if one is to lead a church then those leading should be fully persuaded in how they will do things. This does not mean they will have everything figured out but why would one do something they are not persuaded is correct. So if I put forward a model, and I really hate the word model, I believe is both biblical and correct it is because I am persuaded by scripture that it is so. When it comes to church I really do think that too much that is done today is done based on the world’s desires and not God’s.

We do need to deal with the results of sin in people’s lives, but how much of what we do in church is a direct result of wrong actions of the congregation and the world around us? We have children’s ministry and nursery because parents feel that on the one day that a family should be together they want to just be alone so they ship their children off to the care of others thus really making children’s ministry more of a day care than anything else. We allow our children to be taught by others because we do not do so ourselves. So in the end, the result is that children are separated out and segregated from the rest of the congregation. Some churches do not even allow children below certain ages into the main worship of the church, which I am not ashamed to say is wrong. What boggles my mind on this is that this in essence bars the children, the ones Christ said to bring to Him (Matt 19:14 and others), from the corporate worship. This is all done, in my opinion, out of some individualistic feeling of needing to have their alone time with God at corporate worship.

We have youth groups because parents do not disciple their children or do not feel comfortable doing so. I am sure that many may deny this, but the concept of sending off youth to be discipled by others, often youth themselves is detrimental to the family rather than helpful. The whole idea of a Youth ministry is a new thing and to be truthful the grand Youth Ministry experiment should be deemed a failure (by the way I have been a Youth Minister). The result of allowing youth be shipped off to their own classes and even services is that parents continue not to disciple their children and instead leave that to the youth department and youth leaders. Young people already often feel uncomfortable being around those older than them so we have separate groups for them and keep them separated so that we even here foster still more separation and distance between cultures.

We continue to do this with basically every age group out of what is often a desire to help, but the end result is a hindering of the healthy growth of the church as I think God would want it to be. As long as we segregate the church, it will forever continue to splinter. I find it interesting that if we did the same segregation around ethnicity in churches there would be an uproar so why do we allow it around ages? I will flesh this out more as I go along.

All of this leads me to a view of church that is a multi-generational/intergenerational church that is in many ways 180 degrees away from how many churches function today. This idea is expressed in many ways such as family-integrated, a household of households or a family of families. In the end, names are just that and they often carry connotations that are incorrect. For example, if one calls their church a family-integrated church people will think it is not a place for singles or those that do not fit the perceived model of a family. However, this is incorrect since the concept is that the church itself is a family and it is made up of families. Singles that are not part of a family that is in the church are incorporated into existing families. So in the end this form of church gathering and congregation can fill the needs of all kinds of people and while it may seem unorthodox I do feel it is biblical. As I have said before, so much of how we do church and how we feel church should be done is taken from the world and not scripture. If we truly are to be a people of the Word should we not look more at God’s word for direction than the world?

So, over the next weeks and months I will try and see if I can flesh out how this all works and come up with how I would do church. I realize that where I would like to be in the end may not look like where I am now. Moving a church from the form it is in now to a age-integrated model takes time, patience, and vision, but I do feel it can be done and done to the glory of Christ. In all of this what needs to be kept at the forefront is that the church is here to worship God and to be Christ Glorifying and Cross Centered.

For some resources on this as well as I think a good scriptural basis here are 3 talks by Voddie Baucham that were given at Union University in 2005. The first one on “The Nature of the Family” is one of the best talks on a scriptural basis for the Bible calling for churches to be households-of-households I have heard. The others are very good as well and I encourage you to listen to them all.

Faith in Practice Conference: Voddie Baucham
"The Nature of the Family" Oct 26th, 2005

Faith in Practice Conference: Voddie Baucham
"The Two Skills a Pastor Must Have" Oct 27th, 2005

Faith in Practice Conference: Voddie Baucham October 28th, 2005

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Redeem, Reform or Remove

I have heard lately much talk about “redeeming culture”. What I often hear from this is that because we are to take culture and redeem it, or make it acceptable, we can then take what a culture deals out and make it Christian. My question is whether that is truly our mandate since simply because a culture does something are we to redeem it or make it acceptable to God? I speak of this as it relates to the church as a body of regenerate people and not to an organization. While the legislation of morality can help society it can not be changed unless the hearts of that society are changed. So, when I speak of culture I speak of the people of God who live within culture and what they do with regards to culture.

Is it not possible that we are to work at reform (which is what some probably mean by redeem) or even work at removing aspects of culture from the life of the church? I am not here advocating what those things are but to simply ask if we are to redeem all of what culture provides us. The truth is I see much of culture coming from sin rather than from God. My biblical reasoning for this is that we often see culture revolving around languages and peoples. If we go back to the Tower of Babel we see that God confused the languages and in many senses created these cultures. But, we must remember that the reason for this change, or confusion of languages and thus culture, was due to the sin of the people. We can then see at least that some aspects of culture are a result of sin.

Now I realize that culture is a loaded word since even in the Garden before sin there was what may be called culture and in heaven there will be some form of culture. I do not think there is clear biblical evidence that in heaven there will be multiple cultures as Mark Driscoll has said. His reasoning is that since there will people from every tribe tongue and nation there will be every kind of culture but this is a big leap for me. Just because there will be all kinds of people in heaven does not mean there will be all kinds of culture. Simply because there will be differing languages reconciled to God and in heaven does not necessarily mean we will speak those languages there. While we may do I am not convinced that scripture is clear that this is how heaven will be.

This whole idea of redeeming culture leads churches to change everything they do to look like the culture but to Christianize it and in the end the culture subsumes the church and not the reverse. I actually do not know exactly where I stand on this with regards to many parts of culture but I just think that we do have to ask ourselves before we just jump into trying to redeem, or clean up, an aspect of culture if we should work at ridding ourselves of those aspects.

None of this relates to communicating the Gospel in understandable language depending on the prevailing culture. But this is a far cry from also assuming the culture. People use all kinds of words when they speak of this such as contextualize and such but all too often it simply means we are to look like the world and some how Christianize what we do. Again this is all a work in my head but I am just concerned that too many, even so called conservatives, in an effort to reach a dying world begin to look like the dying world. We are so worried about looking out of place that we seek the world’s means to accomplish God’s work.

So the end result of all of this is that I advocate looking hard at scripture to see what it says not simply about a certain aspect of culture but about that aspects effect on the church and the world and then ask if that aspect of culture should be redeemed, reformed or even removed from the life of the church (the church as the body of regenerate believers and not a building). There is for sure a danger of legalism in this but that should not be a hindrance to us obeying God. If one stays cross centered I think legalism can be kept at bay. Our goal should be to glorify God and that will in many cases lead to hard decisions for the believer when it comes to culture but being a believer is never said to be easy. If it was easy we would try and do it ourselves but instead we are forced to rely on the Holy Spirit for the power to do what God desires us to do. I firmly believe that one can do this, deal with culture, and not remove themselves from the world so as to be the light we are called to be.

Friday, September 22, 2006

A Display of His Glory

Well we just got back from 5 days of camping in Yosemite National Park. We stayed at Toualome Meadows and did a little hiking and a lot of realizing the grandeur of God's creation.

I was up here on a hiking trip once and it was asked why we feel closer to God in the wilderness. First is that God's creation is so obvious when you are surrounded by it. Another reason is that there are so many less distractions that one has a greater amount of time and concentration to just marvel at all God has done and continues to do.

Anyone that thinks that places like Yosemite are a result of chance just does not see it for what it is. Of course that is what Romans 1:18-23 is all about. Those that hold to the theory of evolution truly do miss out on what they are looking at. To see places like Yosemite and realize that the God of the universe created this for His glory and that we can, and should, understand it for what it is: A Display of His Glory.

Here are few examples of His work:

Friday, September 15, 2006

The Cross

I was listening to what is presently my favorite CD, Valley of Vision by Sovereign Grace Music, and was struck by the line in the song “How Deep”that reads; “Crushed by Your Father to call me Your own.”

The depth of that line is so great, to think the Father did not simply sacrifice His son but crushed Him (Is 53:5) so that those that would believe could be reconciled to God. That line hit me as all too often we see the horror in the cross but not to the extent that we should. I was at the Ligonier conference this last weekend and with regards to the Cross, which was the theme of the conference, the comment was made that we so often focus on the physical torture of the cross but in reality many people had much the same torture on the cross. What we need to realize is that the weight and depth of sin Christ took on was infinitely worse and no one has taken on that kind of punishment. This in the end should give us hope that the God who would do such a thing for His people would not abandon us. So when things seem out of sorts we can be confident and comforted in God not having abandoned us, when we reflect on the cross in a correct manner.

Since the songs on the CD are based on the Puritan Devotional: Valley of Vision I went and read the devotion it was based on, “Love Lustres at Calvary”. The devotion itself is great as it is so clear from what is said that we really do take the cross too lightly. I have put the words to both the song and the devotion below.

How Deep
You were broken that I might be healed
You were cast off that I might draw near
You were thirsty that I might come drink
Cried out in anguish that I might sing

How deep is Your love
How high and how wide is Your mercy
How deep is Your grace
Our hearts overflow with praise
To You

You knew darkness that I might know light
Wept great tears that mine might be dried
Stripped of glory that I might be clothed
Crushed by Your Father to call me Your own

Love Lustres at Calvary
Enlarge my heart, warm my affections,
open my lips,
supply words that proclaim ‘Love lustres
at Calvary.’
There grace removes my burdens and heaps them
on thy Son,
made a transgressor, a curse, and sin for me;
There the sword of thy justice smote the man,
thy fellow;
There thy infinite attributes were magnified,
and infinite atonement was made;
There infinite punishment was due,
and infinite punishment was made.
Christ was all anguish that I might be all joy,
cast off that I might be brought in,
trodden down as an enemy
that I might be welcomed as a friend,
surrendered to hell’s worst
that I might attain heaven’s best,
stripped that I might be clothed,
wounded that I might be healed,
athirst that I might drink,
tormented that I might be comforted,
made a shame that I might inherit glory,
entered darkness that I might have eternal light.
My Savior wept that all tears might be wiped
from my eyes,
groaned that I might have endless song,
endured all pain that I might have unfading health,
bore a thorny crown that I might have
a glory-diadem,
bowed his head that I might uplift mine,
experienced reproach that I might receive
closed his eyes in death that I might gaze
on unclouded brightness,
expired that I might ever live.
O Father, who spared not thine only Son that thou
mightest spare me,
All this transfer thy love designed and
Help me to adore thee by lips and life.
O that my every breath might be ecstatic praise,
my every step buoyant with delight, as I see my
enemies crushed,
Satan baffled, defeated, destroyed,
sin buried in the ocean of reconciling blood,
hell’s gates closed, heaven’s portal open.
Go forth, O conquering God, and show me
the cross, mighty to subdue, comfort and save.

Monday, September 11, 2006

The Gathered Church - Pt 1

As I continue to look at the church and the meeting of the church I need to make sure that you know I am in a process of seeing what I envision church to be like. The reason this is important is that my personal views that I am working through may or may not be exactly those of the church I presently serve. We all, or at least we should, need to step back often to see what it is God has given us a vision of and while in that process the vision we have may even conflict with how we presently do ministry.

I do not know if it is just me but when I talk with others about the gathering of the church it seems very hard for people to give up what has become so ingrained. By this I mean if one is to say that the gathering of the church is to be for believers the first thing that some complain about is that they will not be able to invite their unsaved friends because they will feel uncomfortable. Where I am confused by this mindset is that Paul in 1 Corinthians lets us know that the message of the cross is foolishness to an unbelieving world. This will also mean that how we as believers worship and relate to each other will in all probability seem foolish or at the least different. For many people the role of the church in its gathering is evangelism and little else. There may be offerings towards discipleship but they are so minimal that they accomplish little. How one changes this mind set is not an easy endeavor and in all likelihood is going to be uncomfortable.

I, personally, have been thinking about how I would “do” church based on scripture and it is not as easy at it may seem as we all struggle with tradition. Tradition is not necessarily bad but the goal is to weed out tradition based on pragmatism and such and those either blatantly contradictory to scripture or at the least not supported by scripture. One such tradition is the idea of age graded Sunday School. While there may have been good that has come from this system, as well as bad, we have to admit that it is not something dictated by scripture but is a human derived system of education. While the Sunday School system may have had success in numbers and apparent conversions it should not be something that is held onto as if ordained by God. Success in numbers does not make something correct. I say “apparent” success in conversion because it would seem that the great numbers we may see in Sunday School does not always mean those same people persevere to the end. This is seen especially in the youth ministry movement where all too often once a youth leaves the ministry they no longer attend church and simply disappear. As a side note, I personal feel that it is youth ministry that has fostered much of the Emergent Church errors, because the youth ministry has raised children that are unsure of what they believe and are simply in search of an experience. Most youth ministry, just check out a youth ministry site some time, revolves around activities to entertain and even the teaching is designed to be entertaining. So what that in the end develops is a group of people constantly seeking an experience and if the experience is missing or not what they expect they leave. I think if you check out scripture the idea of teaching via entertainment is non-existent. If one feels they have gotten conversions through entertainment means the number of young people leaving the church would say differently. By the way I have been a youth leader so this is not an area that I have not had experience with.

Over the next few weeks I am going to move from simply seeing what the church is to how it should function and what that functioning looks like. This is also an area where toes often get stepped on because once one puts forth a model of ministry it in many ways says other methods may not be as biblical and it also can rattle traditions. Above all my desire is to see the church and especially the gathered local church to be as biblical as possible even if it does of looking out of place. While our culture may direct the words we communicate with, since words do change meanings over time, an unbelieving culture should not dictate how a believing community gathers and interacts.

Previous Posts on the Church:
The Local Church Pt1
The Church Pt 2 - Ekklesia
The Church Pt 3: Church Local or Universal
The Church, Where – Pt 4
The Church – Pt 5

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Around the Blogosphere

I have not done this for awhile but here are some items from around the blogosphere:

Tom Ascol at The Founders Blog has some wisdom, in the form of questions, from Isaac Watts to young ministers, or for that matter any minister: Part 1 & Part 2.

Steve Camp writes on church discipline in: "Stop Dating the Congregation" ...pastors who love the Lord, care to discipline sin.

Here is an Article from the Wall Street Journal on the “Purpose Driven” model of church growth: A Popular Strategy For Church Growth Splits Congregants

While I have read and been edified by A.W. Pink’s writings I did not know much about his life. Wade Burleson writes on Pink in: A.W. Pink and Spartanburg, SC.

Mark Dever at Together for the Gospel writes a good piece on evangelism and making sure we are clear with the message we convey: A good offense

Thursday, August 31, 2006

How does your church rate?

Tim Challies has a blog entry called, Fantasy Church, and while it is quite funny there is a side of it that is very sad. Some times what we joke about has more truth than we may want to admit.

How does your church rate?

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

The Importance of Preaching and the Sufficiency of Scripture

While reading through some articles on “Family Integrated Churches” I found the following two articles by Scott Brown to be very good: Preaching the Word in the Family Integrated Church and The Sufficiency of Scripture at Work in the Family Integrated Church.

In the first article it is stressed that while the family is of great importance it can not be what we, in the end, worship. We as the people of God need to keep the Word of God central to all we do. Scott Brown relates that family integrated churches need to be “God-centered, Word-saturated, Christ-exalting churches.” This is so true, while I think that all too many churches have strayed from dealing with families as God desires them to be treated the main cause is that the church has strayed from God being the central focus of church. I am sure that most churches would deny this but what has happened over time is that while we say that worship of God is the central purpose for meeting the reality is that the worship of God is only part of what is done and everything else has become the focus. Whether the focus is the incorrectly labeled concept of “family friendly” or the church being totally designed around evangelism the issue is that the people of God are going to church for all the wrong reasons and often do not even realize it.

The antidote for this is not just to change what we do but to change what we focus on. Once the word of God becomes central and the preaching of that word is done correctly then the direction of the church will change. We can focus on families correctly but if God’s word is not central to what is done then in the end we will do as Mr. Brown is concerned can happen, that the family (or any other thing for that matter) can be come the center of the church as a replacement for Christ.

The second article deals with the idea that the scriptures are sufficient for us to “examine, regulate and reform the church.” Many claim the sufficiency of scripture but then look to everywhere else but scripture to see how the church should function. In today’s culture one of the main places we seem to look for guidelines for the church are the unbelieving world and the culture that it lives in. I do think that if we read scripture we will find principles and practices that are more universal than we may like to admit. What usually happens is that the culture decides that some practice is undesirable and the church in an effort to be “relevant” and “contextualized” changes what is to be done. As the article speaks of , preaching is one of those practices that scripture is very clear is to be central but since preaching is not in vogue today many have either done away with it in an real sense or have minimized it to a place that makes it not preaching at all.

Since the Word of God is unchangeable it should be the one thing we as a church should turn to. This does not mean we are to preach unintelligible sermons but it does say that preaching needs to convey the true meaning of God’s word no matter how offensive and do so in a consistent manner that shows the people of God it’s sufficiency for the church. This also entails us as preachers not only to preach the sufficiency of scripture but to live it. If we proclaim its proficiency but then turn to every thing else when directing the church what have we communicated to the people we lead.