Friday, August 31, 2007
Some sins are worse than others. Yes they are. They are worse in what they do. They wreck you faster and more completely. They damage others more severely. They reach out further and make it harder for you to come back to God. Oh, His hand isn’t so short it cannot save you, but the further you are away, the more it is going to hurt you to get back, that is for sure.Amen. And J.D., by the way, gives examples worth considering.
Thursday, August 30, 2007
7. What are the greatest perils that preacher must avoid?Amen.
Failure to relate every Scripture to the centrality of the Lord Jesus Christ and His Cross in God’s revelation
Pride – unconsciously perhaps seeing preaching as a means of gaining praise for oneself rather than seeking the praise and honour of God and His Son
Failing to feed the flock – forgetting the Lord Jesus’ words, ‘Feed my lambs…Feed my sheep.’
Wednesday, August 29, 2007
Isn't it even odd that we would have an American flag in a place of worship? If we went to China and found the Chinese flag prominently displayed in a place of worship what would we think? Would we think that such a church was obviously registered with the state and therefore probably compromised in their commitments? What if we went into a German church in the 1930s and found a Nazi flag draped over the communion table (it actually wasn't unusual, by the way)? Would we have been repulsed? Didn't the Nazis have the support of the German church? Is it somehow different in America simply because we say, "one nation under God?"
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
In Romans 12 the apostle Paul tells us that we are transformed by the renewing of our minds. Spiritual transformation does not come about primarily by going on retreats, singing worshipful songs, inner excitement about God or profound religious experience. Spiritual transformation primarily comes about when we "think God's thoughts after Him."Amen. Along similar lines, David Phillips offers helpful insights on study as a spiritual discipline.
Spiritual transformation is not a microwave process. It is more like a crock pot. In our day and age we want the quick and easy fix. But God will not do the work of transformation on our terms. He has already set the terms. It is our task to place ourselves under his care and in obedience to follow the path he has given us. Otherwise, we are doomed to failure. And study, which is the ongoing process of renewing our minds, is one of the primary means God has given us.
Monday, August 27, 2007
There is a special blessing attached to the proclamation of the Word of God. The Word is powerful and is able to bring about profound and pervasive change as it is used by God in the lives of his people. I have never been able to understand preachers and teachers who abandon the proclamation of the Scriptures for the proclamation of anything else, like the latest findings of the social sciences, or clips from the latest Hollywood movies. While all of life needs to be discussed in light of what the Scriptures teach, there is no power like the power of God's Word brought home to the human heart by the power of the Holy Spirit. No amount of cleverness or contemporary relevance will make up for the absence of the faithful proclamation of the Word.
Friday, August 24, 2007
Thursday, August 23, 2007
Of course, there are churches today that do not compromise on this important biblical doctrine. But a vast number of churches have decided that repentance is too offensive a message. In fact, entire denominations have de-emphasized it.Thanks to Sista Cala for the link.
In such churches, you can hear all about God’s love, his blessings, his precepts for coping with life, but not a word about godly sorrow for sin. You can hear messages on loving others and being a good, kind person. All of that is indeed scriptural. But you won’t hear a repentance message like the one Peter preached at Pentecost. His sermon led thousands to freedom in Christ.
Update: Eric Jones shares related thoughts here.
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
It seems obvious that we preach with a goal of transforming lives with God’s Word. Yet I see so much focus given to the very different issue of ensuring recollection. This is why people take notes or preachers produce fill-in-the-blank handouts (so listeners will have a record of the points); this is why some preachers would rather die than not alliterate or perfectly parallel or absolutely assonate the main points of a message; this is why outlines are publicly projected by powerpoint. All to achieve the goal of recollection. The logic is clear – if people don’t remember the points, then they will not be able to carefully apply what they have heard in the realities of life.Peter's three comments on this mindset are very much worth reading.
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
One thing seems to be that they include church in the gospel. There's none of the it's just about me and Jesus stuff that thrives in an individualistic culture. The future has a church - God's plan is to gather a people. It always has been that way since he gave Adam & Eve the cultural mandate on page 1 of the Bible.That sounds right.
Monday, August 20, 2007
Most people understand how material stuff has a way of keeping you from God. Well it is the same with ministry stuff. We go from one bad thing to another, we trade one love of stuff for another, we feel like we have licked the covetousness bug concerning material things, just to turn around and find that bug right back on us regarding ministry things. Instead of acquiring material we acquire ministry, and we are blind to the fact that God still doesn’t have our heart, not in that area, at least.Ouch.
If this is you, you need to realize that this isn’t the way to please God, by doing more stuff for God. Just as your money doesn’t buy influence with God, neither will that big plan you have. What God wants, and requires, of you is that you stay humble, and worshipful, repentant, and submissive, and in order with your family life, loving your wife or husband and respecting them, giving to your children’s lives before you give to your church life, building your personal and family spiritual life before you build your ministry life, and so forth. That is Christian success. No amount of ministry success will change that.
Friday, August 17, 2007
Years ago, I was at a point of growing our church big. I was concerned about how fast we could get there. We relocated, and the church started going to pot; it was doing badly. I was embarrassed; I was humiliated. But I'd made a public commitment that I would stay at the church forever, because I heard Rick Warren say that! That's a fun thing to say when things are going good. But when the church is going in the crapper, when you've got First Baptist of Israel in the middle of the desert, you want out of there. And I wanted out bad.Am I the alone in this sensation, or did that one sting?
I was walking in a pasture behind my house one day. A pastor not far from me had had affairs with five women; he crashed and burned. Another guy north of me had a megachurch, but he was going to the pen for embezzlement. I told God, "God, I've got my pants on. I've got my hands out of the offering plate. You've got these guys over here doing all this stuff. Why aren't you blessing me?"
All of a sudden this little question came to my mind: When will Jesus be enough for you? Sometimes, I think that's when I became a Christian. I just began to weep, because I realized he wasn't.
Thursday, August 16, 2007
Persecution is largely done by religious people to spiritual people. It was the religious leaders who crucified Christ. It was the religious Jews who chased Paul all over the place.Mmm.
If you were to get persecution for being a follower of Christ today it would be by all those who think they are persecuted by the ACLU, the Pledge, and bad documentaries.
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
To be a teacher of any kind is to allow the past to have its way with us. And that’s powerful stuff. One reason I think our culture tends to be a-historical, tends toward a kind of studied amnesia, is that the past is our greatest accuser. Not only our greatest teacher, but also a revolutionary force. As G.K. Chesterton said, one of the difficulties of modernity is that we keep talking about how free we are. We’ve freed ourselves from our past. All that does, said Chesterton, is that we’ve become slaves to that arrogant oligarchy of those who just happen to be walking about at this moment. Chesterton also said that being a “traditionalist” means a determination not to automatically dismiss any man’s opinion outright just because he happens to be your father. I worry about the church. So much of our worship today, so much of current church life, about the worst thing you could say about it is…it’s contemporary. It is no more than with the times.Amen.
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
Are our sermons filled mostly with advice — strategies for spiritual growth, helps on dealing with this issue and that, ethical exhortations, etc. — or do they begin with the Great News of what Jesus has accomplished? The gospel enters our life with the good news that, although we cannot live out the life we know we should, Christ has accomplished victory on our behalf, and now we can respond with life by grace.That approach sounds like the one the Apostles Paul and Peter used in their letters: reminders of the wonderful love God has shown for his people, followed by exhortations to live the new life. Mr. Rush's whole article is well worth reading. Thanks to Eucatastrophe for directing me to the link and to Stammered Life in general.
Update: Tom stopped by to point out that he's now blogging at Promises Kept. I've updated the links.
Monday, August 13, 2007
Some things i learned from church that didn't prove true:Amen, especially to Cindy's conclusion. And thanks to Dan Horwedel for the link.
1. at church (and with church members) I can be myself because those folks love Christ and will exemplify that love in relation to me
2. i can trust the church with my heart
3. the church will be honest with me
4. i become who i was meant to be when i'm with the church and involved in church activities
5. the more i surround myself with church people, the better
What I have learned since:
1. It isn't safe to be myself with the church
2. Church folks can be some of the most viscious, unforgiving people around.
3. never, ever expect to be given the benefit of the doubt by the church
4. the church will not be honest with me
5. i can't fully be who i was meant to be within the church walls, because fear changes me
6. it is quite detrimetal to surround ones' self only with church people. when they abandon you, they do it in mass
What i'm currently learning:
1. i can be guardedly myself, on rare occasions, with carefully chosen church folks
2. not all church folks are viscious and unforgiving
3. sometimes some church folks are sincere in their dealings with me
4. as long as i guard my heart, i don't have to always be afraid at church
5. when i tell my non-church friends how involved i am with church, they immediately become guarded and a little suspicious of me.
6. in spite of all this, God seems to still want me to be part of church.
(now I'm crying and it's time to stop.)
Sunday, August 12, 2007
If people leave my preaching confident in the rules and principles I have given them, I have preached a false Gospel. If they leave the room confident in the faithful grace and power of the Savior to work in them as they seek to obey -- I have preached the Gospel.
Friday, August 10, 2007
Jesus’ injunction not to be afraid when linked to our money is curious. In last Sunday’s gospel, Jesus warned us against “greed.” Yet I daresay that most of us do not accumulate wealth due to our greed, or even for the fun of it. Our main motivation for our acquisitiveness is fear. It is as if today, in his teachings on wealth, Jesus has at last gotten to the heart of the matter.
The whole essay is worth reading, especially when Dr. Willimon reflects on the image Jesus gave us of God as a thief.
Thursday, August 09, 2007
… unless they are Americans, of course."
I have for a while believed that the generic Osteenish faith of popular Christianity is really just legalism warmed over. That seems counterintuitive, because the smiling face that self-help "Christianity" puts on evangelicalism claims to be setting followers free from rules and judgmental religion. But really, by making discipleship about helpful hints and positive power for successful living, it's really just making a works religion in our new image. In an odd twist, the Oprah-ization of the faith is really just optimistic legalism. Because what is Pharisaical legalism, really, but self-help with bad p.r.?That's Jared Wilson, and he's really hit a long ball with that one. Thanks to Promises Kept for the link.
And people love this stuff. They want to be told religion is not about rules and regulations while at the same time being told each week which four steps (with helpful alliteration) they need to do in order to achieve maximum what-have-you. They want to be reassured that works don't merit salvation while at the same time convinced salvation is about trying really hard to do things that unlock the power or secret of God's such-and-such. (And I've never seen what is such Good News about following a list of instructions in order to button-push God into granting me His favor.)
Wednesday, August 08, 2007
The Gospel calls us to stop trying to improve ourselves. Americans are secular (we do not think of God that much) and practical (we like things to do). We tend to hide our self-reliance behind well intentioned self-improvement schemes. What can be wrong with self-improvement?
The church, in parts, has adopted itself to this message -- we have cultivated a practical version of Christianity that helps people -- gives them things to do. We think we are being relevant. In reality, the self-help versions of Christianity are denials of the Gospel.
Tuesday, August 07, 2007
Jesus gets in your business. To welcome him is to invite agonizing and self-demolishing life-change. For the average church-goer, the conviction is almost too much to bear. So we look for someone who might take his place in order to construct an easier form of Christianity.
Enter the pastor.
Monday, August 06, 2007
To all appearances two people can be doing almost identical things as parents or making identical decisions as leaders -- but their lives can be totally different in heart. The difference is that one person can obey out of fear. The other can obey out of faith. And that is a huge difference. The difference ties to the interceding savior.Good stuff. I recommend the whole article.
Friday, August 03, 2007
Why does the majority of most churches' resources get funneled back into Sunday morning (facilities, staff, programs)? And, in a culture growing increasingly suspicious of “razzmatazz” is a spectacular worship production still the best way to draw people to God? (Has it ever been the best way?)
Thursday, August 02, 2007
This quote from J.D. Hatfield is long, but his whole essay is worth reading:
We all have a part in helping others, like those who rolled away the stone and removed the grave clothes of Lazarus. We must help one another, after we have been born again, to come out of the dark and stop being hindered by the old dead life. We didn’t initiate this process, Jesus did, but we move ahead and live in it. The new man or your new self could have come into being without the need for preaching, teaching, fellowship and the church community, it could have come with a full set of new clothes, but it didn’t. Oh, there is a full set waiting, but it must be put on, and you have to go to the place where you find it, in the new man section, the local church.
It isn’t dressing up the old man for his best life now; it is puting on the new man who lives as Jesus would now. It isn’t trying to find your purpose in life; it is within Christ and the church is where you discover your purpose and you live as a light to the outside world.
When we find ourselves putting on these good qualities and putting off those bad ones, and we are doing this in the context of community, it is then that we can say that the Spirit is leading us. As our local community develops into a fully orbed and fully ordered unit, then we can be said to be full of the Spirit, in a sense. Of course all of this is predicated upon the fact that this unity is formed in and around Truth, specifically the truth of the Word of God.
Wednesday, August 01, 2007
Theolog has another strong post from William Willimon on this Sunday's Gospel text from the Revised Common Lectionary:
And isn’t Jesus loving and compassionate? And doesn’t he care?
Well, not always, at least that’s what this Sunday’s exchange suggests. Jesus must be about more important matters even than meeting my needs. He is also judge of my need. The questions that consume me may not consume Jesus. The matters in my life that I consider to be my biggest, most pressing problems may not interest Jesus in the least.
The whole essay is worth reading.