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