Well, to the point of this post. With a new year comes the usual end of year preparation for a pastor. I've hammered out most of my preaching schedule for the upcoming year. But also, one of the end of year New Year preparations for most pastors is brainstorming as to what the church can do "different" this year to serve the community and engage more lost people with the Gospel.
Now, before I make this point please do not interpret this to mean that I think we shouldn't work to adapt to the changing times in regards to finding new and appropriate ways to communicate the Gospel. But with that being said, I have wondered recently that if in the midst of all the "What if we..." thoughts that run through pastors heads as we approach a new year, if God doesn't look at our brainstorming with the response, "What's wrong with My plan?"
I mean is there really anything better than "By this shall all men know that you are My disciples, that you love one another?" Is there really anything more effective than the Church simply being the Church in its community. I just tend to believe that if a church in any community would get serious about being the Church in that community, reaching people with the Gospel will be a natural outflow of that. What can be more of a witness in a community of lost people who are dead in their sins and trespasses before God and who continually supress the truth they clearly see about God than a group of people in their same community who are distinctly different than them. What an impact a Church could have on a community if it simply treasured Christ above all things and let that treasuring of Christ affect every aspect of their life: how they raise their children, how they love their spouse, how they spend their money, how they spend their time, how they serve their community, what they talk about to each other and to their lost neighbors, how they have a yearning for a people half-way around the world to know Christ and they are sacrificing immensely to see that take place.
Do you know what will happen as a church like that lives a radically agressive and distinct life as the Body of Christ in their community? Well, not only will they naturally be talking to people about the Gospel "as they are going," but those around them (family, neighbors, co-workers) will begin to ask "for the reason for the hope that lies within them." And as the Church begins to answer that question, the Gospel finds a natural path to travel down and hearts will begin to be changed by that Gospel and communities will begin to be changed by that Gospel.
You see, it's not that God's plan of the Church being the Church in its community has failed at reaching that community with the Gospel and changing it, but rather that God's plan of the Church being the Church in it's community just simply has not been attempted.
So, "what if we" just started being the Church this New Year!
Oh, the Bible.
I'm sure it maybe could have been handled better at some places along the way, but at least the elders of this church are attempting to handle it biblically.
Yay for biblical faithfulness!
The crowds were astonished when they heard Jesus, "for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes." Congregations are starving for the astonishment of hearing the preacher teach and preach on the authority of the Word of God. If there is a crisis in preaching, it is a crisis of confidence in the Word. If there is a road to recovery, it will be mapped by a return to biblical preaching.
Our hope and prayer is that you will go forth from here to fulfill a ministry of astonishment. To preach and teach and minister so that commas as turned back to periods, and question marks into exclamation points. Congregations long to have the thunderbolts brought down from the attic and loosed in their midst. They are starving for a word from God.
Go and astonish a church. Go and astonish the nations. Go and astonish sinners and saints alike. Go and astonish your generation. Go and astonish those who no longer even believe that they can be astonished.
Go and preach as one who has authority. Just remember always that the only true authority for ministry is biblical authority. May we always be mindful that the only authority that matters is God's authority, and that God's thunderbolts are what we must fear . . . and what we must seek.
If you go out and preach as one who has authority, you will be constantly amazed by what God does through the preaching of his Word. You will see those who hear you astonished -- and no one will be more astonished than yourself.
But the need for newness is not the primary need of the hour. The problem is not that most people need a new way of hearing the Gospel, but that most people have never heard it all. My goal each week is not to give what the people in front of me will perceive as a "new approach" to the Gospel, but simply to explain the really old Gospel in as clear a way as possible to them.
The desire to be new can also keep you from the one task God has given the church... not the discovery of something new, but the revelation of something old. Sticking to clear explication of the old will make you relevant. As G. K. Chesterton said, "If you marry the times, you'll soon become a widower." Or, H. D. Thoreau, "Read not the times, read the eternities."
"Obey your leaders adn submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning. For that would be of no advantage to you."
In that admonition, the writer of Hebrews lays out to emotional environments in which a pastor continually finds himself in--joy and grief. The life of pastoral ministry is always to be a ministry of joy even in the midst of grief because our joy is always to be in Christ and his worthiness of being enjoyed is never diminished or changes. And so even in the midst of grief in pastoral ministry, there should always be an abiding joy in Christ.
However, there are undoubtedly experiences within the life of a pastor that illicit great joy and great grief. There is nothing like the joy that a pastor experiences when he sees evidences of God's grace in the life of God's people, a biblical understanding of the Gospel which naturally produces a biblical living out that understanding of the Gospel.
On the other side of the spectrum though, there are times of great grief. There is grief that is do to the death of church members or the loved ones of church members, sickness, and other tragedies that come our way in a fallen world. However, the grief that the writer of Hebrews has in mind is, like the joy mentioned above, directly connected to the church members' response (obedience/submission) to those who have been given charge to care for their souls. It is indeed a time of great grief for a pastor when he sees division or rebellion or outright disobedience to the Scripture in the Body of Christ.
There is something very important implied by the reality of this joy and grief in the pastor's life. And it is a reality that should humble the pastor before God in the face of God's amazing grace to him. That reality is that the presence of joy and grief in the pastor's life over what is happening in the church and among the people of God is evidence that the pastor takes his calling from God seriously. He is serious about equipping the saints for the work of ministry until we all attain to a unity of the faith and a knowledge of the Son of God. He is serious in his calling to exhort in sound doctrine and refute those who contradict. He is serious about his calling to keep watch over the souls of these sheep that have been entrusted to his care.
Why should this reality produce humility in the pastor and awe before God? Because it is evidence of God's amazing grace that has been lavished upon him. The pastor knows better than anyone his own sinfulness and the change that Christ has made in his life, bringing him from darkness to light, exchanging his heart of stone for a heart of flesh, and creating this new creature in Christ. And with that knowledge of who he once was, who Christ has made him, and the ongoing struggle to become in practice what he already is in position, the pastor is reminded that a seriousness and a caring that produces joy and grief over the spiritual state of those within the church is only a reality in his life because of God's grace to him in Christ that has produced such a change and that continually is changing him more and more into the likeness of Jesus Christ.
And so welcome not only the joy in pastoral ministry, but also see the evidence of God's grace to you even in the grief of pastoral ministry because it indicates that by God's grace, and only by God's grace, do you take your calling from God as a pastor with life and death seriousness.
Thank you Jesus.
“There are not even words to talk about what this night means,” Oprah said of Obama's inauguration. “Everybody keeps using the word historic — there’s never been a night like this on the planet earth… Nothing can compare to this.”
I'm thinking the day God said, "Light, be" and light was was a little more historic.
I'm thinking the day that God formed Adam from the dust of the ground and breathed the breath of life into him was a little more historic.
I'm thinking the day that God took a rib from Adam and fashioned it into a woman was a little more historic.
I'm thinking the day that all the first born in Egypt were killed by the Angel of the Lord was a little more historic.
I'm thinking the day that God parted the Red Sea was a little more historic.
I'm thinking the virgin birth of the Son of God, the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, the Root of David, and the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world was a little more historic.
I'm thinking the day that the Son of God, the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ was crucified on a cross for sin He had not committed on behalf of those who did committ it was a little more historic.
I'm thinking that three days later when the Son of God, Jesus Christ, rose from the dead for thejustification of sinners was a little more historic.
I'm thinking that forty days later when the Son of God ascended back to Heaven was a little more historic.
I'm thinking that the day He returns in clouds of glory and every knee bows and every tongue confesses that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of the Father will be a little more historic.
Maybe Oprah should be a little more careful with her history.
As always, the food was wonderful and I had a great time sharing God's Word with them and celebrating God's triumph in the coming of His Son Jesus Christ. But the greatest blessing was just being there and being with them. There were a couple of moments where I just about had to get up and walk outside and have a good cry.
Being around that many elderly people is in a way difficult for me. It just reminds me of my Granddaddy and not being able to just "be around" with him anymore. But while it was sad in some ways, it was also a blessing. It reminded me of how precious our granddaddys and grandmas are and how important they are to our lives and the lives of our children.
And so next week during Thanksgiving and a month later with Christmas will be very difficult for me and my family. In some way it has been an advantage being away from "home" and so not having to face my granddaddy's absence everyday. But I imagine that once we go back for Christmas I will see how much of a disadvantage it has been not having to face his absence every day.
But in the midst of the sorrow, I will be thankful to God for all the years He allowed me to "be around" my Granddaddy. He will be appreciated and I will be thankful and appreciative for the time He has still given me with my Grandma.
If you have Grandparents who are still alive, appreciate them because in them you will find the most unexpected blessings. And if you don't have grandparents who are living, then find an elderly person nearby and just find a way to show them the appreciation they deserve.
Many church leaders today think that with the right poll-tested methods, just about anyone can grow a church. If ambience sells coffee, why not use it to sell...Jesus? If music sells clothing, why not use it to market the church?
But think about this: What does it say about God if we need to market his glory and gospel using the same tools we use to sell toothpaste and laundry detergent?
God is so much more glorious. His Son came with a mighty gospel and now his Spirit is backing up the Son's work and words by actually changing a group of
There's the church's appeal--the wisdom of God, the might of God, the love of God on display in the lives of a gospel-created people for all the world to see!
Join as we pray and labor for a supernaturally attractive church, a worshipping church, a church that is distinct like salt and bright like light.
Could it be that in the most important election in the history of our nation, that the citizens of this country just elected a man president based more on his personality and less upon his policies, which they either do not care about or of which they haven't got a clue?
I cannot commend to you enough Justin Taylor's series of guest posts today. Justin's blog is about the best that is out there for the believer, but it is exceptionally helpful today in working through the issues we are facing as followers of Christ and keeping things in the right perspective.
You can go here to read a great series of posts.
Also, Ligon Duncan has written a great post as well here. Here's how he ends his reflections:
Without doubt and whatever our particular views may be, we face hard days ahead. Realistically, we must all expect to be frustrated and disappointed. Some now may feel defeated and discouraged. While others may all-too-soon find their audacious hopes unfounded and unrealized. We must all keep ever in mind that it is God who raises up leaders and nations, and it is God who pulls them down, and who judges both nations and rulers. We must not act or think like unbelievers, or as those who do not trust God.
But, as a follower of Christ I have hope and it is as hopeful as it was on November 3rd and as hopeful as it would have been on Nov. 4th if the election had gone differently. Psalm 146:3-5 says,
"Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation. When his breath departs, he returns to the earth; on that very day his plans perish. Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God.”
Or as the hymn writer wrote,
"My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus' blood and righteousness. I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus' name. On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand. All other ground is sinking sand."
Psalm 146:3-5 says,
Put not your trust in princes,
in a son of man, in whom there is no
When his breath departs, he returns to
on that very day his plans perish.
Blessed is he whose help is the God of
whose hope is in the Lord his God,
who made heaven and earth,
the sea, and all that is in them,
who keeps faith forever;
who executes justice for the oppressed,
who gives food to the hungry.
No matter what happens on November 4th, God will still be God and His Son will still be King of all the nations and He will still be our certain hope.
Remember these words of John Piper from a recent article as we approach election day and its outcome:
So it is with voting. We should do it. But only as if we were not doing it. Its outcomes do not give us the greatest joy when they go our way, and they do not demoralize us when they don’t. Political life is for making much of Christ whether the world falls apart or holds together.
So it is with voting. There are losses. We mourn. But not as those who have no hope. We vote and we lose, or we vote and we win. In either case, we win or lose as if we were not winning or losing. Our expectations and frustrations are modest. The best this world can offer is short and small. The worst it can offer has been predicted in the book of Revelation. And no vote will hold it back. In the short run, Christians lose (Revelation 13:7). In the long run, we win (21:4).
So it is with voting. We deal with the system. We deal with the news. We deal with the candidates. We deal with the issues. But we deal with it all as if not dealing with it. It does not have our fullest attention. It is not the great thing in our lives. Christ
is. And Christ will be ruling over his people with perfect supremacy no matter who is elected and no matter what government stands or falls. So we vote as though not voting.
Tim Challies in an abortion related post, recently commented:
Abortion is so awful, so despicable, so abhorrent that I have to think it will, indeed, be abolished some day. It is my hope and even my conviction that we will someday regard it as we now regard slavery. We will shake our heads and wonder how we could ever have lived in such a society. Children will learn in school of society's ambivalence to so great an evil and express proper shock and disgust. And I hope and pray that Christians will lead this fight and ascribe all glory to God when the battle is finally won.
I know the economy is a huge issue in the minds of the voters right now and so is national security and foreign policy and the socialist policies that Senator Obama would bring to our nation if he is elected President. (Don't believe the pundits--the polls are much closer than they keep telling us and with all the money Senator Obama is spending, he should have had clinched this thing weeks ago, but instead is only 6 points ahead after losing two points in the latest summary of polls). However, the biggest issue of this election is what it always has been and should be--the potential of putting a man in the office of President of the United States who is the most pro-abortion political candidate in the history of American politics and who voted against a bill that would have provided care for infants who survived an abortion, not to mention who says that the first thing he will do as President is sign the Freedom of Choice Act (see below) which would essentially wipe out any gains that have been made in the pro-life movement and prevent any future steps to restrict abortion.
I encourage you to read the entirety of all the articles mentioned below, but here are the important excerpts. This man may be cool, but he is also deadly. God help us and have mercy on us if he becomes the next President of the United States and keeps his promises on this issue.
Here is Senator Obama's response in the debate Wednesday night concerning his vote against the Born Alive Infant bill:
''There was a bill that was put forward before the Illinois Senate that said you have to provide lifesaving treatment and that would have helped to undermine Roe v. Wade. The fact is that there was already a law on the books in Illinois that required providing lifesaving treatment, which is why not only myself but pro-choice Republicans and Democrats voted against it.''
Here are the facts from George and Levin's article:
Obama's case against the bill did not revolve around existing state law, as he seemed to suggest last night. The law Obama referred to in the debate was the Illinois abortion statute enacted in 1975. But at the time of the debate about the Born Alive Act, the Illinois Attorney General had publicly stated that he could not prosecute incidents such as those reported by nurses at Christ Hospital in Chicago and elsewhere (including a baby left to die in soiled linen closet) because the 1975 law was inadequate. It only protected ''viable'' infants-and left the determination of viability up to the ''medical judgment'' of the abortionist who had just failed to kill the baby in the womb. This provision of the law weakened the hand of prosecutors to the finishing point. That is why the Born Alive Act was necessary-and everybody knew it. Moreover, the Born Alive Act would have had the effect of at least ensuring comfort care to babies whose prospects for long-term survival were dim and who might therefore have been regarded as ''nonviable.'' As Obama and the other legislators knew, without the Born Alive Act these babies could continue to be treated as hospital refuse. That's how the dying baby that Nurse Jill Stanek found in the soiled linen closet got there.
Some of Senator Obama's supporters are now making one last, rather desperate-sounding attempt to defend his votes against protecting infants born alive after unsuccessful abortions. Their argument goes this way: Permitting children who survive attempted abortions to be abandoned is so heinous, so barbaric, that for someone to accuse Senator Obama, a decent man who is himself the father of two daughters, of supporting what amounts to legalized infanticide is too outrageous to merit an answer. There is a problem, though. In light of the documentary evidence that is now before the public, it is clear that the accusation against Senator Obama, however shocking, has the very considerable merit of being true.
Below is President Obama's promise to sign the Freedom of Choice Act as President:
"We know that a woman's right to make a decision about how many children she wants to have and when— without government interference—is one of the most fundamental freedoms we have in this country. . . . I have worked on this issue for decades now. I put Roe at the center of my lesson plan on reproductive freedom when I taught constitutional law. . . So, you know where I stand. . . The first thing I'd do as president is sign the Freedom of Choice Act. That's the first thing that I'd do."
Justin Taylor has given a good summary of what the Freedom of Choice Act is and what it will effectively do if passed. Here's a summary:
The 2007 version of FOCA (for the House bill, see H.R. 1964; for the Senate bill, see S. 1173) includes the following provision:
A government may not
(1) deny or interfere with a woman’s right to choose –
(A) to bear a child;
(B) to terminate a pregnancy prior to viability; or
(C) to terminate a pregnancy after viability where termination is necessary to protect the life or health of the woman; or
(2) discriminate against the exercise of the rights set forth in paragraph (1) in the regulation or provision of benefits, facilities, services, or information.
Section 6 adds: This Act applies to every Federal, State, and local statute, ordinance, regulation, administrative order, decision, policy, practice, or other action enacted, adopted, or implemented before, on, or after the date of enactment of this Act.
So to summarize this act--which again, Barack Obama has promised to sign as his first order of business in the White House--abortion on demand will become codified, all regulations and restrictions will be stripped away, Christian hospitals and physicians will not have a choice regarding the performance of abortion (since their accrediting agencies are approved by the federal government), teenagers will not have to tell their parents about an abortion, and prolife taxpayers will be forced to pay for abortions at any stage of the pregnancy for any reason.
Below is Randy Alcorn's take on this issue of Obama and abortion:
The blood of weak and needy unborn children is precious in God’s sight. Please don't tell me abortion isn't the only issue. Of course it isn't. Treatment of the Jews wasn’t the only issue in 1940 Germany. Buying, selling and owning black people wasn’t the only issue in the United States of 1850. Nonetheless, both were the dominant moral issues of their day. Make no mistake about it. In our own day if we support a candidate who defends abortion, who is dedicated to that cause, we are supporting the killing of children. Yes, even if he’s the coolest candidate to come along in decades.
Planned Parenthood is the largest abortion provider in America. Obama standing in front of them and promising he's 100% on their side is the equivalent of a presidential candidate 160 years ago addressing an assembly of the owners of the slave ships, and saying, “If you elect me, the first thing I will do is sign an act that will insure slaves won’t be freed, and that nullifies any and all voter-approved state legislation that restricts slavery.” (And sadly, yes, even hearing this, some Christians would have campaigned for and voted for him.)
We may want to show the world that we Christians are cool enough to support the coolest political candidate who’s come along in decades. I really wanted to. But I just can’t get past child-killing. That's a price for coolness that's just too high.
Finally, Russell Moore recently gave what many in the blog world are calling a "must-listen to" message in chapel at Southern Seminary on the issue of abortion. You can find a link to that sermon here. Below is a good concluding excerpt:
There are churches, and there are pastors, and there are young evangelical leaders who are saying to us, ‘We ought not be single-issue evangelicals. We ought to be concerned about more issues than simply abortion.’ Which means that we ought to be willing to join ourselves and to vote for and to support candidates who will support legalized abortion, who will deny the personhood of children who are still in the womb, because we are able to support them on other issues . . . Many of them are in a desperate quest to say to their congregations and to people potentially in their congregations, ‘I’m not Jerry Falwell.’ And many of them believe that it is missional to speak to people while blunting or silencing a witness about the life of children so that you can reach them with the gospel. . . Some will tell us there are many other issues: economics, global warming—issues I’m very concerned about too. Previous generations have said that as well. Previous generations of preachers have stood in the pulpit and preached until they were red in the face about card-playing and movie-going and tax-policy and personal morality and tobacco-smoking and a thousand other issues, but would not speak to the fact that there were African-American brothers and sisters of the Lord Jesus swinging in the trees! And there is judgment of God upon that. And there is here too.”
Church, don't be silent and ignore this. Speak and speak loudly with your vote.
So do go out and buy your pastor a card that expresses your appreciation and whatever else God might lead you to do, but remember the most effective way you can appreciate your pastor and encourage him is by following these extremely accurate sentences:
Few things are more discouraging or dishonoring to such men than a congregation inattentive to the Word of God. Faithful men flourish at the fertile reception of the preached Word. They're made all the more bold when their people give ear to the Lord's voice and give evidence of being shaped by it. As church members, we can care for our pastors and teacher and help to prevent unnecessary discouragement and fatigue by cultivating the habit of expositional listening.
Justin Taylor has a great post which links to a recent article by Robert P. George on Senator Obama being the most pro-abortion political candidate in American history. You can read the entire article here and I suggest you do, but the blurb below is a good snapshot and spot on.
What kind of America do we want our beloved nation to be? Barack Obama’s America is one in which being human just isn’t enough to warrant care and protection. It is an America where the unborn may legitimately be killed without legal restriction, even by the grisly practice of partial-birth abortion. It is an America where a baby who survives abortion is not even entitled to comfort care as she dies on a stainless steel table or in a soiled linen bin. It is a nation in which some members of the human family are regarded as inferior and others superior in fundamental dignity and rights. In Obama’s America, public policy would make a mockery of the great constitutional principle of the equal protection of the laws. In perhaps the most telling comment made by any candidate in either party in this election year, Senator Obama, when asked by Rick Warren when a baby gets human rights, replied: “that question is above my pay grade.” It was a profoundly disingenuous answer: For even at a state senator’s pay grade, Obama presumed to answer that question with blind certainty. His unspoken answer then, as now, is chilling: human beings have no rights until infancy—and if they are unwanted survivors of attempted abortions, not even then.
In the end, the efforts of Obama’s apologists to depict their man as the true pro-life candidate that Catholics and Evangelicals may and even should vote for, doesn’t even amount to a nice try. Voting for the most extreme pro-abortion political candidate in American history is not the way to save unborn babies.
For years I have joined with other believers at Wednesday night prayer meetings, National Day of Prayer rallies and any number of other venues and prayed that God would revive the church in America. A question every Christian ought to be asking is: Could God be using these uncertain economic times as a wake-up call to see where our trust really lies? It does not take a perceptive soul to see that many American Christians are far more concerned about the collapse of their investment portfolios than they are about the spiritual collapse of the nation. One is suddenly a crisis to be fought off at all costs; the other has hardly elicited a yawn for decades.
“God calls the man to love by sacrificing his immediate desires for those of her overall well-being and happiness. He calls the woman to submit her more immediate desires to his overall well-being and happiness. They are like two people running to get out of the rain and arriving together at the door. ‘You first.’ ‘No, you first.’”
“There is also a complementary way we submit to one another. In a marriage of two equals, the way a husband shows his reverent submission to Christ is in submitting to the burden of leadership. The way a wife shows here reverent submission to Christ is in respecting her husband’s obligation to lead and submitting to it in spite of his weakness and inadequacies.”
“Our part, as men in this, is to serve and sacrifice, not swagger and sound off.”
Thou art the blessed God, happy in Thyself, source of happiness in Thy creatures, my maker, benefactor, proprietor, upholder. Thou hast produced and sustained me, supported and indulged me, saved and kept me; Thou art in every situation able to meet my needs and miseries.
May I live by Thee, live for Thee, never be satisfied with my Christian progress but as I resemble Christ; and may conformity to His principles, temper, and conduct grow hourly in my life. Let Thy unexampled love constrain me into holy obedience, and render my duty my delight. If others deem my faith folly, my meekness infirmity, my zeal madness, my hope delusion, my actions hypocrisy, may I rejoice to suffer for Thy name.
Keep me walking steadfastly towards the country of everlasting delights, that paradise-land which is my true inheritance. Support me by the strength of heaven that I may never turn back, or desire false pleasures that will disappear into nothing. As I pursue my heavenly journey by Thy grace let me be known as a man with no aim but that of a burning desire for Thee, and the good and salvation of my fellow men.
“Pump iron if you wish, but pump integrity more.”
“Sisters, if the only charm you have is your physical appearance, beautiful as it may be, you are foolish and will come to rue the day you scoffed at the value of inner beauty. You will find a man for whom physical beauty is also the main thing. What then happens as you age? You will grow more insecure with every birthday. In vain you will subject yourself to chasing cosmetics like a dog chasing a meat wagon. You will become one of the empty, frighteningly sad women who submit to face lifts, breast surgery, and Botox injections (if you escape the deadly grip of anorexia). By midlife, you will be popping antidepressants.”
This current crisis should also remind Christians that we are not called to be mere economic actors, but stewards. Everything we are, everything we do, and everything we own truly belongs to God and is to be at the disposal of Kingdom purposes. This world is not our home and our treasure is not found here. We are to do all, invest all, own all, purchase all to the glory of God.
Finally, this current economic crisis just might help Christians to focus on another issue -- retirement. Where in the Bible are we told to aspire to years and decades of leisure without labor? There is nothing wrong with saving for what the world calls retirement. Indeed, that is just good stewardship. Furthermore, there is nothing wrong with workers enjoying the fruit of their labor. But Christians should think of retirement as an opportunity to be redeployed for Kingdom service.
Today's crisis in the financial system should not be a threat to the long-term health and vitality of our economic system. There is cause for concern, but no justification for panic. Rather than hit the panic button, spend that energy thinking about how Christians should glorify God in our economic lives. We should watch the developments and debates in Washington and New York with interest, but we should investigate our own hearts with even greater urgency.
1.What is the gospel? Meaning, what does a person have to believe to be saved.
2.What is the gospel? Meaning, what is the entirety of the Good News of the Kingdom.
Very well done and highly recommeneded. Read the whole serires of posts here, but here is a great excerpt from the final installment,
I think we can get at an answer to all those questions by realizing that the Gospel of the Cross (that is, the narrow sense of “gospel”) is not just any part of the Gospel of the Kingdom (that is, the broad sense of “gospel”).* Rather, the gospel of the cross is the gateway, the fountainhead, even the seed, so to speak, of the gospel of the kingdom. Read the whole NT, and you quickly realize that its univocal message is that a person cannot get to those broad blessings of the Kingdom except by being forgiven of sin through the death of Christ. That is the fountain from which all the rest springs.
“My point, and that of the apostle Paul, is that unmet sexual desire is the means by which God takes a young man who hasn’t given two minutes of his whole life to think about marriage and prompts him to consider it, prepare for it, and then take the plunge.”
“Unmet sexual passion is like carrots: it helps a man see better what he really wants in life. Unmet sexual passion brings into focus a vision for being a husband and potentially a father. Unmet sexual passion drives him toward removing all the obstacles, whether they are inner fears and doubts or the need to work hard toward preparing him to know her family, to talk about their future, and to finish up what needs to be done in order to be able to make a living. It drives us to solve problems and get ready. It matures us.”
“For women, waiting is their reward. They find a good man by waiting. They are rewarded for waiting a short time when later they dong wait endlessly for him to work out all his stuff.”
“Unmet sexual desire is a gift, a disturbing gift, but nevertheless a gift. Receive it well, and until the day comes when it is time to set it aside for the better gift, use the time to make sure that when it comes, you have already set in place the marks of a healthy, tender, passionate, enduring, mutually fulfilling relationship.”
That then leads to the question, "If there is nothing morally wrong with abortion, then why would we make the argument of reducing it?" You don't need to reduce something unless that something that you want to reduce is a moral wrong.
And so in making the argument to reduce abortion, you must agree that there is something morally wrong about abortion. That something is that it is the murder of a human life.
Then this leads us back to the point of a previous post. If you want to reduce abortion, then you must see that abortion is wrong and what is wrong about it is that it is obviously the taking of a human life. How then is it logically, much less a morally defensible position to say that a person should have the right to choose to end that human life?
Josh Harris, pastor of Covenant Life Church recently received a letter from a Christian couple who humbly took issue with a recent sermon preached that focused too much, in their opinion, on the issue of abortion as the principle issue in this election. You can read the whole letter here, as well as Josh's response. They wrote at one point in the letter:
While we do view abortion as an egregious sin, our experience is that such an unbalanced focus on abortion as a single hot button issue, especially within the church, not only does harm to our political process, but weakens the capacity of congregants to think for themselves about how to reflect the character and heart of God in the midst of a world that has far more going on than just abortion.
I tend to agree with Josh's response to this concern. Yes, there are certainly other issues in our world that we as Christians need to voice our position more frequently and more loudly. However, there is no issue that we should speak to more frequently or more loudly then the issue of protecting the life of the unborn. At one point, Josh responds in humble disagreement with this couple:
First, I agree that there are other important topics that Christians should consider. And I would even say that Robin could have done more to highlight these other issues. Neither I, nor Robin, would want to try and argue that it was the perfect message on this complicated topic. But what I would argue for is the view that few other issues in our generation rise to the same level of moral urgency as abortion. When we’re talking about millions of innocent lives being taken, and I’m just not aware of another issue where Scripture speaks so clearly. If this were an issue of a candidate supporting human trafficking or the sex trade, would we say that other issues were just as important?
The Bible speaks clearly on this issue, more clearly than on any other issue on the table during this election season. For that reason, I will always be a single issue voter in regards to seeing the day when the right to end the life of an unborn at any stage of pregnancy is no longer an option in this country. This one issue automatically disqualifies a man or woman from public office--murdering the life of the unborn.
Would we say that the support of slavery should not be a single issue through which we filter our vote for public office? Would we really think it ok to place a man or woman in office who supported the right of a person to buy and sell another human being and to rob them of their freedom? Why then do we think that it is acceptable to put a man or woman in office who supports a person's right to choose to end a human life?
When the issue is the life of the unborn, that is the only issue that matters above all the rest.
"Men protect women by their chastity. Women, by their chastity, test the maturity and character of the man pursuing them.”
“Brothers, practice sexual self-control out of a desire to protect her from sin, guilt, shame, embarrassment, pregnancy, and the fallout that all women bear so disproportionately from sex outside of marriage.”
“The immature, self-centered, ungodly man will test negative in a matter of weeks. The deceitful and cunning predator will test negative in a matter of days. Men willing to wait, and wanting to wait, will test positive. It is not a lack of sexual interest: it is a healthy fear of God. It is love, which at this point rightfully expresses itself as protection from sin and shame. If he weakens, help him succeed. If all else goes well in the development of the relationship, you know you are marrying a godly man, one who has self-control and a clear sense of his calling as a man.”
“I’m prepared as a matter of faith to accept that life begins at the moment of conception. But that is my judgment. For me to impose that judgment on everyone else who is equally and maybe even more devout than I am seems to me is inappropriate in a pluralistic society.”
As a matter of faith, Sen. Biden believes that at the moment of conception human life begins. However, he is not prepared to force that view on someone else, but rather support there right to murder that human life. Wow! What if we followed that line of reasoning concerning the abolition of slavery.
Is a VP candidate qualified to be VP, much less President, who believes that murder, of what he believes to be a human life, is a matter of personal choice and completely acceptable in a pluralistic society?
“Mature manhood carries with it a sense of protecting women and children.”
“Suppose there is a fire—do women really think it makes no difference who is the last one to scurry out the window? Do wives really practice egalitarianism in such moments? ‘We are equal, so it’s simply a first-come, first-out situation. If he gets to the window first, I want him to go first. We’ll have no gender-biased fire-escaping around here!’ Women don’t think like this. Women are honored by men who look after them as the weaker sex and therefore help them and serve them first.”
“Women do not like egalitarianism; they are better than that.”
Is that not what the modern day church growth movement tells us? People just will not sit down and listen to a preacher preach for an extended period of time. Twenty minutes is the longest a sermon should last. The preacher should not be standing up behind a podium. He needs to be sitting on a stool. He needs to move around and be flamboyant. He needs to be creative and use a bunch of stage props to get his point across.
Well, how do we explain the strategy of the national political convention speeches we just witnessed over the last two weeks, much less their enormous success. I mean more than 80,000 people listened to Barack Obama stand up and give a speech behind a podium for at least an hour. This week more than 30,000 sat/stood at attention to listen to Gov. Sarah Palin and Sen. John McCain speak for over an hour a piece. All three were effective in what most church growth strategists will tell you is an outdated method that needs to be discarded in churches today.
Maybe Paul and the rest of the NT writers knew what they were talking about in regards to the growth of the church. Preach the Word.
Eric Raymond has written an excellent post on this whole issue called "I Thought Preaching Was Outdated." Be sure to read the entire post in context, but here are some great excerpts:
Does this not sound a bit old fashioned to the sophisticated evangelical pastor? After all, we are told by many ‘experts’ today that talking to people in large chunks of time is not effective. Furthermore, it is often said to be arrogant and archaic to stand up behind a podium and have people sit down while you talk.
Think of how out of place it would have looked last night for Governor Sarah Palin to sit on a stool or on a couch to deliver that speech. She didn’t even walk around! She just stood there and talked. And she talked for quite awhile.
The ‘experts’ would have you to believe that Americans (those in or out of church) cannot sit and process information in this format; we have changed, we are a culture that feeds on the narrative. However, if we listen to the political crowd they tell us that the speech is where the candidate actually connects with the American. It seems to me, in looking at what politicians do, that we actually do have the ability to process information over an extended period of time. These conventions become a helpfully instructive social study.
Pastors need to stop trying to be innovators and belly up to be expositors. If guys would just start studying, practicing and teaching the truth their lives would change and so would there congregations. Instead of becoming irrelevant in an attempt to become relevant, pastors would actually be relevant by meeting real needs with real solutions.
I’m tired of hearing pastors complain about preaching when they do not do it in the first place and while the public craves answers to real problems. We have much to say and there are many needs to be met. And at the end of the day the needs will be far better met and God will be far better glorified through exposition rather than imagination.
I especially enjoyed Keller's realistic advice that some people are always going to mad at you over something in the church. If you choose not to drop some things that people expect you to do or be in the church and sacrifice your family for those things, people are still going to be mad at you over something. Therefore, you might as well put your family first, which will mean that some people will be unhappy with you because you are neglecting certain things because it is much more pleasing to God that you minister to your family like you are supposed to and have people mad at you rather than neglect your family and have people mad with you.
Piper's clip reminds us as parents to aim at the heart of our children.
“Mature manhood carries with it a sense of protecting women and children.”
“Suppose there is a fire—do women really think it makes no difference who is the last one to scurry out the window? Do wives really practice egalitarianism in such moments? ‘We are equal, so it’s simply a first-come, first-out situation. If he gets to the window first, I want him to go first. We’ll have no gender-biased fire-escaping around here!’ Women don’t think like this. Women are honored by men who look after them as the weaker sex and therefore help them and serve them first.”
Commenting on 1 Peter 3:7
“But taken in context, men are being taught here to think of their wives as better by showing them honor, and weaker by providing them strength. The aim of this passage is the enhancement of womanhood by means of godly manhood. In this my wife can find no offense.”
“Women do not like egalitarianism; they are better than that.”
“Some men wear a seatbelt more out of a desire to be safe for their wife and kids than for the obvious safety to themselves. Some men like to take the lead in driving for the same reason. They feel more able to protect from behind the wheel than riding passenger-side.”
I'm on my own.
No one looks out for me or protects me.
I experience a continual sense of need. Nothing's quite right.
I'm always restless. I'm easily frustrated and often disappointed.
It's a jungle — I feel overwhelmed. It's a desert — I'm thirsty.
My soul feels broken, twisted, and stuck. I can't fix myself.
I stumble down some dark paths.
Still, I insist: I want to do what I want, when I want, how I want.
But life's confusing. Why don't things ever really work out?
I'm haunted by emptiness and futility — shadows of death.
I fear the big hurt and final loss.
Death is waiting for me at the end of every road,
but I'd rather not think about that.
I spend my life protecting myself. Bad things can happen.
I find no lasting comfort.
I'm alone ... facing everything that could hurt me.
Are my friends really friends?
Other people use me for their own ends.
I can't really trust anyone. No one has my back.
No one is really for me — except me.
And I'm so much all about ME, sometimes it's sickening.
I belong to no one except myself.
My cup is never quite full enough. I'm left empty.
Disappointment follows me all the days of my life.
Will I just be obliterated into nothingness?
Will I be alone forever, homeless, free-falling into void?
Sartre said, "Hell is other people."
I have to add, "Hell is also myself."
It's a living death, and then I die.
Here's the real deal.
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside quiet waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil, for you are with me.
Your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil.
My cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
In matters of the heart, men are to work to win and women are to wait and be won.
“Sisters, this means reclaiming the power of modesty and chastity. Nothing will make a man work harder at wooing and preparing himself to wed than modesty and chastity. Men work when women wait.”
“How do women transform immature men into mature ones? Through the power of their modesty and chastity. Such women understand not only the moral clarity of, God’s Word, but they also see the wisdom in his commands to abstain. When women wait, the impatient male predator will go elsewhere, which protects them from the wrong man. The immature man, however, is forced to consider what changes in his life need to be made. He asks, ‘What are the terms and conditions under which I may turn your “Not now” and “Not yet” into “Let my beloved come to his garden and eat its choicest fruits!” (Song of Solomon 4:16) Then he gets to work and grows up in the process.”
“Sisters, there is power in waiting. If you give away this God-endowed power and simple act, as the apostle Paul said, ‘like the Gentiles who do not know God’ and satisfy his lusts, you undermine God’s work of maturing manhood. So part company with the crowd. Become a nonconformist.”
“Simple women end up sacrificing the best years of their fertile lives on men who will never make themselves ready for marriage. Why? Because such women only wish rather than require that the man in their lives will marry. They hope for marriage with their “partner” when instead, if they followed God’s will in this matter, they could be planning for it.”
Below is Larry King's reflections on the interview. Pray that the "leap of faith" he cannot seem to make will be given to him by God--that his heart of stone would be replaced with a heart of flesh that repents of sin, and believes in the Gospel. Pray that God would shine the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ into his heart that he might see and believe! Pray that he will repent of his sin and turn in faith to the Savior.
Below is also a video on Youtube that contains the testimony of Jill Stanek who is a nurse who has witnessed babies being left to die who survived abortive procedures. She testified before the Illinois State Senate in support of this bill that Barack Obama opposed three times.
A couple of caveats about the video. One, I don't support everything that the authors of this video support or believe--I don't even know all of what they support or believe. Two, the baby shown at the end was not a real situation, just depicting what happens in hospitals.
Now, churches are reaping what has been sown and sold. Those methods may have drawn a crowd, but they did little to build a church. They sound like the words of Hezekiah when told of the coming judgment that would ravish his people and even his family in 80 years: "Why not, if there will be peace and security in my days?" (2 Kings 20:19) It didn't seem to matter to Hezekiah about the consequences of his actions or the writing on the wall as long as things were fine in his day.
As we make decisions about how to grow a church, we must not just be content with what it will look like in our time or if it will mean a comfy existence for us or if it will bring in a crowd now. We must think about what these decisions will mean 20 years from now. What do we want the church to look like in 20 years and how does this decision we are about to make impact the church for the far future, not just the immediate future? Let's commit to building solid biblical churches which strive for lasting gospel growth which will impact the church and the home positively 20 years from now and not be content with a quick shot in the arm of superficial growth that does not stand up to the trials of life and cares of the world.
One of those liberal media, Jack Cafferty, made this recent comment in light of the Civil Forum and his obvious disdain for both our current President and potential President to be.
It occurs to me that John McCain is as intellectually shallow as our current president. When asked what his Christian faith means to him, his answer was a one-liner. "It means I'm saved and forgiven." Great scholars have wrestled with the meaning of faith for centuries. McCain then retold a story we've all heard a hundred times about a guard in Vietnam drawing a cross in the sand.
Jack, in a nutshell, that is what it means to be a Christian. You are saved and forgiven through repentance from sin and faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Christ dies in the sinners place bearing the wrath of God against sin on the cross and now through faith in that perfect and sufficient sacrifice, all who will repent of their sin and cast their souls on Christ, are saved and forgiven.
I imagine Jack would think Paul was intellectually shallow when he said,
"Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved..." (Acts 16:31)
Peter, intellectually shallow:
"Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of the Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins..." (Acts 2:38)
The Word of God continues to show itself reliable:
Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to
us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:20-31)
Pray for Jack Cafferty the words of Paul:
"In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God...For God, who said, 'Let light shine out of darkness,' has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." (2 Corinthians 4:4-6)
Commenting on 1 Peter 3:7—“I take this to mean we ought to lead with questions rather than conclusions. It means we ask about what she thinks is best, and we consider how she will be affected by the matter. Following this directive casts our whole leadership into the mold of tenderness and thoughtfulness.”
“Sisters if you repeatedly attempt to control the man in your life, and if you disrespect him and the decisions he makes, you will get nothing for it but neglect and emotional abandonment…But here is the thing: men naturally chafe and eventually flee from direct instruction from their wives. They do not change when you tell them to. And they never will. When you turn up the volume, you tune the man out.”
“Instead, try indirect instruction…This is the way of a woman with a man. She teaches him primarily by example. When needed, she may appeal to his thoughtfulness and ask for his consideration, but she will not go further. He will be far more apt to give consideration to her words when they are heard as an appeal or a suggestion rather than as a directive. Think of it as the difference between casting a flashlight down the path versus pointing it in his face. Direct light causes us to close our eyes. Indirect light, pointed away from our eyes, causes us to strain to see.”
“So let God, in his providence, bend the stiff neck of your husband, beat down his rebellion, soften his sharp edges, and fan into flame a vision for what it means to be a husband, father, and entrepreneur in the things of God. Until then, shut up about it in his presence. Turn it over to God, ‘casting all your anxieties on him, for he cares for you.”
“It is for me (men) to make the final decision when we are both uncertain or in disagreement about what is right. My wife will provider her best judgment and guidance: ‘Here is what I think…”or “We have to think about this factor or that.” Then when she’s done, she will add, ‘But you decide. God holds you accountable for it.’ Sounds a bit harsh, but it’s true.”
The Word of God gives comfort in all the "afflictions" we face. But in a strange and unique way it is in "afflictions" that we learn the Word of God. I take great comfort in the promise from God to believers, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." I take great comfort from "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine; or nakedness, or danger, or sword?...No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord."
But it's only in the experience of affliction that I "learn" the preciousness of these promises and comforts and in a real way how they become such a comfort and so precious to me as a follower of Christ. The Word of God comforts us in affliction and the affliction is used by God to teach us the Word of God that brings us comfort in affliction. Beautiful!
Ephesians 4:1-3 is critical. “I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Whatever the person sees that may need to be changed, they should not forget their calling and the manner in which they should walk: humble, gentle, patient, forbearing, and eagerly maintaining unity.
If the church is preaching the gospel, then I think most other aspects of church growth and change should be viewed with both eyes toward grace and love--which means the speed of the change isn’t the main criteria for progress or joy in the church. There are no perfect churches, and becoming frustrated with the pace of change suggests at least one of three things: pride; ignorance about what it takes to change a church and Who actually changes it; and/or an approach to the church that views the church mechanically, almost like a model car project/hobby requiring a little glue and finesse to put all the pieces together.
The church is not a project to be “fixed,” but a people to be loved (Eph. 5:1-2). We need to keep that in view as we look out on our various imperfections. And we need to keep the evidence of God’s plentiful grace in view as well. The frustrated person might be helped to find a couple friends in the church who are doing well piritually, who seem to be pleased with the church, and sit with them listening to all the evidence of grace they see and are encouraged by. A little more perspective is
probably in order in most cases.
How can we as mothers compete for the minds and hearts of our daughters with a world that shows (as one author put it) “a disdain of domesticity and a contempt for housewives”?
The answer: We must pay close attention to what captures our daughter’s heart. For, as it says in Proverbs 4:23, “from [the heart] flow the springs of life.”
We must ask “What is my daughter most excited about? What captures her imagination? What are her desires and dreams for her future? Is she more eager to be with friends than to be with family? Would she rather pursue activities outside of the home rather than endeavors in the home? Who does she admire more—faithful homemakers or worldly women?”
As moms it is our job to carefully monitor our daughters’ hearts. If we sense their enthusiasm for family and home waning, we must skillfully reorient their affections back toward family and home.
In the Winter Olympics, figure skating events are the hottest ticket in town. Pairs figure skating has occasionally been the highest-rated event among viewers. At its best, it displays the strength and beauty, the power and grace, of true unity. The gold medal is awarded to the couple who has most mastered the skills of male leadership and female support.
He leads her onto the ice and initiates each part of their routine. She receives that leadership and trusts in his strength. His raw physical strength is more on display than hers; he does all the lifting, twirling, and catching. She complements his strength with her own – a more diminutive and more attractive strength of beauty,
grace, speed, and balance. His focus as the head, or leader, is to magnifying her skills. Her focus is on following his lead and signaling her readiness to receive his next move. He takes responsibility for the two of them, and she trusts his leaderships and delights in it (p. 88).
If he makes a mistake, she pays the larger physical price while he pays the larger emotional price. She falls, but he fails! So he has to learn to initiate and risk. She has to help him understand her moves and to endure his learning curve.
They do not fight for equality on the ice; they possess it as a given. Each has a role to play and they are not jostling or fighting about fairness. They are after something far more rewarding. No one yells, ‘Oppressor!’ as he leads her around the arena, lifting her up and catapulting her into a triple spin. No one thinks she is belittled as she takes her lead from him, skating backward to his forward. No one calls to her for them to be egalitarian: ‘She should get to throw him into a triple lutz half the time!’ They complement each other in their complementarian approach to becoming one majestic and powerful whole. No one, least of all he, minds that the roses and teddy bears, thrown onto the ice when they have collapsed into each others arms at the end, are for her. It is his joy.
O Fountain of All Good,
Destroy in me every lofty thought,
Break pride to pieces and scatter it to the winds,
Annihilate each clinging shred of self-righteousness,
Implant in me true lowliness of spirit,
Abase me to self-loathing and self-abhorrence,
Open in me a fount of penitential tears,
Break me, then bind me up;
Thus will my heart be a prepared dwelling for my God...
Let angels sing for sinners repenting, prodigals restored,
backsliders reclaimed, Satan's captives released,
blind eyes opened, broken hearts bound up,
the despondent cheered, the self-righteous stripped,
the formalist driven from a refuge of lies,
the ignorant enlightened,
and saints built up in their holy faith.
I ask great things of a great God.
Lord, let it be so.
Brothers, it falls to us to be the initial risk takers in matters of the heart. Headship means being the one to go ahead and ask. It is ours as men to suffer the embarrassment of rejection if need be. It is our role to initiate. It is hers to respond with a signal of reception or rejection. Get to it merrily. We are the hunters . They are the quarry. It is for men to strike out into the forest and look. It is for women to crack the twigs, and stir the leaves so we know where to find them.
Sisters, all the advice from Vogue, Glamour, and Cosmopolitan that talks about going after and getting your man, all the blather about how in this day and age it is just as acceptable for you to initiate as for him—is just that—blather. The proof is that it feels wrong. Be confident and trust your feelings on this matter. Be confident that if he is the man you hope and wish him to be, he will play the man. You crackle the leaves a bit when he is in the area and let him know you are there. Then wait for him to initiate, or not. In the long run, you will be well served either way.
I love to watch the guys and gals early on Sunday morning, doing their thing... it's like a car wreck that you can't look away from. I don't know whether to laugh or cry.
You can read the entire review here.
Wow, this guy has one message -- Jesus is going to make you and everyone you know rich. I'm really amazed at the brazenness. Is anything more obviously untrue? Seriously, the people in the audience do not seem to be able to afford an orthodontist, let alone a BMW. As Dr. Phil would say... how's this working for you?
BTW -- 8/8/08 is the day that now becomes infinity (8 is the sideways symbol for infinity, of course). Mr. Parsley also informs us that 8/8/08 is "D-Day for the Devil". I trust Mr. Parsley isn't saying that thousands of Christians are going to die at Normandy on Friday.
If you sow a seed of $88.08 by Friday, God will cure your cancer and make you rich.
Did you know they sell DVD's of these "teaching series"? As if you might have missed something! I've been watching for 15 minutes and he's only said one thing, "Send me money!".
Homiletics lesson #3 -- If you lack the authority that comes with the truth, garner authority by screaming and then staring into the camera like a serial killer.
This old nun is just saying "Haily Mary" after "Hail Mary". Seriously, for like 10 minutes. I have to admit, after Rod Parsley, this is kind of refreshing.
I do not get the appeal of this religion. It's like none of the fun of the Prosperity Gospel and none of the truth of the real gospel.
And finally, Ed Young TV
After all the prosperity gospel stuff, Ed Young, Jr. seems like Charles Spurgeon.
We're talking sex today on Ed Young TV. At one point he said, "When you make love to your spouse, you are like the Trinity. You can't tell where one ends and another begins." Those, gentle reader, are the two least sexy sentences ever uttered.
If When I become the old guy dressing twenty years younger than I am, please tell me. I don't blame Ed Young for dressing like he's a 25 year old with a perma-tan. I blame the people around him who enable it. It's not OK. Ed, I say this as a friend... it's time to rock the distinguished professor look.
People Who Can vs. People Who Are Called
In every church, it seems like there is always a lack of needed volunteers to do the ministry of the church and so you have a small handful of volunteers who serve in many different capacities in many different areas of ministry. There is a temptation to just "fill the need" with anyone who is willing to do it. I just don't know if that is the most productive course of action or if that should be our expectation as pastors or churches. More times than not, there are always "people who can." But I think as pastors and churches we really should have as our expectation not just "people who can" but rather "people who are called."
When ministry is done only by "people who can" who are not also called to that ministry, I don't believe it is fair to the one serving or the one being served. How many parents would rather have someone teaching their child in school who is fully educated to do the job, but who really doesn't want to be there doing it as opposed to someone who feels called to that profession, thus has equipped themselves to be successful in that profession, and is enthusiastic and passionate about doing it? Obviously the latter. Why then do we tend to settle for less than that in our churches with issues that are of much greater importance than math, english, and science?
"People who can" equals programs. "People who are called" equals ministry. Ministry is our focus and so "people who are called" should be our expectation.
Filling the Church vs. Building the Church
There are a lot of ways pastors can fill a church building. Personalities will fill a church. Glitz, gimmicks, and glamour will fill a church. But, there seems to be only one way in Scripture to build a church, the body of Christ. That is Jesus Christ building it through the faithful preaching of His Word, particularly the Gospel of Jesus Christ. As pastors we need to focus on Christ building His Church through His Word in His time and not us filling the church in our time and way. That does not mean that we neglect things like evangelism and outreach, though there may be some forms of evangelism and outreach that are probably not the best use of our time, resources, nor our conviction about the power of the Word of God. As pastors, we will have to do what is sometimes very hard: trust the power of God's Word and sovereignty of God.
James Grant speaks of the cultural sins which pastors and churches must lean against in worship and I would say as well in the growth of the church:
- Individualism-we are known as rugged individualists, and we must make decisions in our worship that lean against that individualism. What should we do? Emphasize corporate worship and congregational singing. Frequent communion will also help to guard against individualism in our churches.
- Pragmatism-the main philosophical tradition of our country is pragmatism; whatever works is best. How to we lean against this? Perhaps we should remind each other that worship is not always what is popular, but sometimes what is different and hard. Entertainment-television, movies, and multi-media are being adopted by churches without critical evaluation. Is it urgent, in a situation like we face in our culture with technology, that we highlight the preaching of the word? I think so. God revealed himself through the written word, and we are called to study and teach that word.
- Urgency-we can get almost anything we want right now. If we need something to eat, we can pull into a fast food restaurant and eat, or we can throw something in a microwave. In many cases, we have lost a sense of patience. Perhaps we should slow our worship down and be more reflective and meditative at times, and by doing that we will be leaning against the tyranny of the moment.
What People Look For Is What They Come For
This is a thought that is more really in regards to church members and their spiritual growth and contentment with where they are in their spiritual life and in association with that their contentment with the church they are attending. What a person looks for in a church is what they will come for. If they do not find what they are looking for, they will stop coming. If they are looking to be entertained or to feel better about themselves or if they are looking for a dynamic personality in a preacher, then that's what they will come to see and "feel." If they don't find what they are looking for, they will stop coming.
If they are looking for a body of believers to join with and worship with and serve the community and the world together in through the Gospel, while growing in the likeness of Jesus Christ through the faithful preaching/teaching of the Word of God, then they will stay at the church where they find that. They will come when they find what they are looking for. Pastors and churches: as we serve and minister to see the lost come to faith in Christ through the Gospel, let's make sure that the kind of church we are building is a place where they will find the latter and not the former. When people stop coming, a lot of times its an indicaton of what they were looking for in the first place and therefore why they stopped coming. You cannot control what people are looking for or why they are coming, only what they will find and see and hear when they get there.