Friday, November 30, 2007
. . .when you sign on to a church or a ministry organization, you don't sign up for the money. You sign up because you believe in the mission. And when you don't whole-heartedly embrace the mission any longer, or the methods that are being used to accomplish that mission, it's time for you to go – regardless of the financial impact.And what makes that dynamic so deadly is that few if any admit what's really happening.
But people don't do that. Why? Because the false security that money provides becomes our God. We worship it. We bow to it. We sacrifice our character and integrity for it. We lose our soul for it. And we get trapped by the big paycheck. And we'll look back at our lives and realize we spent significant chunks of our time here on Earth laboring for a cause we didn't truly believe in. We'll realize we were hypocrites. We were acting. We were playing a part.
Thursday, November 29, 2007
Godblogging has the potential to be the best tool in God's arsenal to turn the church universal around, to bring it to a point where His mission and desire is being fulfilled. But like all things He seeks to accomplish, we put ourelves squarely in the way.
Some examples of words and concepts that are good, that we should protect because they belong to the kingdom counterculture:Amen.
Those are words and concepts that are fuzzy outside their home culture. The mistake we make is when we abandon these words and concepts as "not useful" or "no longer meaningful" rather than to put them to good use and lend them meaning by both teaching them and living them.
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
The kingdom of God within you comes slowly but surely, the blade, the ear, and then the full corn in the ear. It is a progression, you see. And this progress is a process, one where we have a part to play. The farmer doesn’t know how the crop of corn grows but he does plant the seed, water it and cultivate the soil itself. Which type of ground are you?Amen.
There is a process, a molding of our character and will into the image of God. “Don't let the world around you squeeze you into its own mould, but let God re-mould your minds from within, so that you may prove in practice that the plan of God for you is good, meets all his demands and moves towards the goal of true maturity” (Romans 12:2 – JBP).
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
. . . I’ve been trying to stress that the risen Jesus does not say to the disciples, “All authority on heaven and earth is given to the books you chaps are going to go off and write.” He says, “All authority on heaven and earth is given to Me.” So that if we say that Scripture is authoritative, what we must actually mean is that the authority which is vested in Christ alone is mediated through Scripture.Amen.
That’s a more complicated thing than simply having a book on the shelf, full of right answers that you can go and look up. It’s more a way of saying that when we read Scripture and determine to live under it, we are actually saying we want to live under the sovereign lordship of Jesus mediated through this book.
When you say it like that, then all sorts of other things happen as a result, like what is the sovereign lordship of Jesus all about? Is it simply to fill our heads with right answers to difficult questions? Well, right answers to difficult questions are better than wrong answers to difficult questions. But no, the authority of Jesus Christ is there to transform and heal and save the world, to make the kingdoms of the world become the kingdom of our God and of his Christ. So the question then is, how does the authority of Scripture serve that purpose?. And that’s actually much more interesting than simply using Scripture to settle or raise indeed doctrinal disputes within the church.
Monday, November 26, 2007
We must help our people to be immersed in the story of Jesus and allow that story to transform how one sees the world -- e.g., politics, economics, war, justice, at risk people-groups, the environment, ethnic cleansing, and poverty. We must come clean on our prejudicial readings that only reinforce our white, affluent, consumer, nationalistic, market-driven, cultural bias, and learn how to read Scripture through the lens of first century realities. For the most part, Scripture is the product of people who were exiled, enslaved, marginalized, poor, and largely excluded from the ranks of the powerful and the cultural elite. The Bible is one of those rare documents that tells its story from the vantage point of those at the bottom rather than the spin of those with social clout and status. That may be why the faith resonates so powerfully in third world countries.
Friday, November 23, 2007
Update: John Schroeder shares further thoughts on graciousness: "I am convinced that more than any single trait a Christian can have, graciousness is the one that will make converts. Simple acts of human kindness will tell people, particularly in this brusk and rapid world that we are different, and what we have is good." Amen.
At the end of Ephesians 3 Paul tells us that God is able to do immeasurably abundantly more than we ask or even imagine. I suspect that with many Christians, God is not feeling stretched. If we don’t imagine big, then we don’t ask big. God can do more than we ask or imagine, but too often we make fulfilling that Scripture far too straightforward for our Lord. Let’s not only approach the throne of grace with the jaded requests of a tired minister. As preachers who seek to stir the faith of others, let’s take some time and dare to dream big dreams.Amen.
Thursday, November 22, 2007
Many Americans, especially women, are so tired from all the preparations that by the time Christmas arrives, they are completely unable to enjoy it.Too true, especially when we put ourselves under pressure to be jolly. Check out this conclusion:
Holidays also signal another unique kind of stress: The “oh, my god, we have to spend time with the relatives” variety. Sadly, this time of year is all-too-often rife with anxiety, consternation, and emotional upheaval because folks are expected to spend time with their extended families, as well as a variety of friends, neighbors, acquaintances, business associates, and, last but not least, fellow church-goers.
We can all deepen our enjoyment of the upcoming holiday season if we remember that the purpose of Christianity is not to avoid difficulties with our relatives, in-laws, boss, coworkers, neighbors, fellow parishioners, et al., but to produce a character adequate to meet those difficulties when they come.Very true, especially if we remember that for Christians, that character is being produced by, for, and in the image of Christ Jesus.
Thanks to BlogWatch for the link. And thanks, most importantly, to our mighty God for his ridiculously overwhelming grace.
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
". . . in the face of death and existential terror one has a choice to make. You can either move forward into the anxiety with courage and authenticity or you can retreat from the anxiety and clutch at comforting illusions. You can either take the risk of authentic faith along with its accompanying doubts and fears, or you can choose safety and use "faith" as an existential sleeping pill."
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
If this makes me a “mongrel in the Faith,” then I’m a mongrel. In defense of mongrels, I’ll say this much: we aren’t prone to genetic diseases that afflict the purebreds, and we’re certainly not inbred to the point of weakness.Amen. Good to see some Christians don't allow theological sectarianism to hide the truth. And the metaphor is certainly apt.
Monday, November 19, 2007
The kingdom of God subverts every other kingdom. Including America. And that's not a popular thing to say. After saying such a thing in a sermon I was approached afterwards by one who seemed almost ready to argue over the virtues of living in America. I would have likely agreed with most everything that person would have said. In fact, I did agree with everything that person did say that day. But I was left with the distinct impression that if we had to choose between America and the church some would choose America. The fact that we can choose both, but subordinate the church to our country says something profound about our country and where some in the church in our country are in terms of the meaning of faith.Too true, I fear.
Friday, November 16, 2007
"When we try to fit God into our “life movie,” the plot is all wrong—and not just wrong, but trivial. When we are pulled out of our own drama and cast as characters in his unfolding plot, we become part of the greatest story ever told. It is through God’s word of judgment (law) and salvation (gospel) that we are transferred from our own “life movie” and inserted into the grand narrative that revolves around Jesus Christ."
The relevance of the Church to modern society depends on continuation in preaching and teaching its old Message, that is, on what modernists, who are by definition not Christians, and whose relevancies are continually disrupted by the teachings of the Church, condemn as irrelevant. The attraction of the Church rests in its reliability, its deportment of itself in every way as though it believed that Truth does not change, and that one will find it here.Amen. I recommend the whole article.
Yet everywhere we are seeing the death of relevance-seeking churches that profess above all things the desire of speaking to modern people in idioms they understand. The apology for this is, of course, How will they understand the Gospel message if we don't speak it in their language? But behind most of this talk is a lie. I have come to believe that church leaders who say this may be presumed, lacking evidence to the contrary, not to have an evangelical bone in their bodies. Behind it is, in fact, the question, How can I maintain the advantages Christianity has brought me and, at the same time, have the world reward me for playing its game? How can I be at the same time in the pay of God and the King of Sodom?
The Lord's answer to this is clear: one cannot serve two masters. The test of which master is being served is easy: Is the person who professes the desire to speak to the world in a language it understands willing not only to comfort, but offend those who hear him with the ancient faith, as the real Gospel, the old Gospel, always does? This is the Relevance of the Church, and the churches will never know if "religion" is actually on the decline until they test the waters by preaching and teaching the Eternal Gospel that calls men not simply to believe what the demons believe, but also to repent--which is part of believing--with all this implies about opposition to the world, the flesh, and the devil, and about the personal beliefs and behavior of the faithful.
Thursday, November 15, 2007
The kingdom of heaven is where God is glorified, not just a place that happens to be up high. And we too can work very hard at seeking a higher ground and being better, but if our greatest goal is our own betterment, then we are self-worshipers and idolaters.Amen. And thanks to BlogWatch for the link.
And if we strive, the purpose of striving cannot really be to reach God, since He is already here with us.
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
I'm weary of books, blogs, and articles that tell us "how" to live the Christian life. The flesh counts for nothing, people. We are beating a dead horse when we keep trying to look/act like the good little Christian by following Christian principles. We need to be transformed. God's grace alone does that as we go to Him, day after day, for the sustenance of His Living Word.
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
The Christian gospel is a message of liberation to those who are enslaved by sin. In our presentation of the gospel we must not stop with forgiveness because as wonderful as that is, Jesus not only promises to forgive our sins, but to set us free from the power of sin. Even though our experience of complete liberation from sin, and from death which is inevitably attached to it, awaits the new heaven and earth, here and now, in this life, there is power to live a life of faith and repentance in the Lord.
This profound experience of liberation with the promise of complete liberation to come should make Christians sensitive to forms of human slavery that exist in our world today and we should be willing to do what we can to break the bonds of those who are oppressed by cruel and immoral masters.
Monday, November 12, 2007
For the first time in Judges, they get a judge without God's involvement. God had written them off and told them he wouldn't give them another leader. Another leader wasn't the solution. They needed to repent.That's an intriguing take on the Jephthah account. It's debatable whether or not God was actually involved in choosing Jephthah to deliver Israel. Based on Israel's repentance directly before Jephthah's appearance (10:16), I'm inclined to believe that God was, in fact, involved in the process. Nevertheless, Darryl's insights on the church's ongoing preference for skill over Spirit is certainly on target.
Instead of listening to God, they go, "Okay, I guess it's up to us." They go looking for their own leader, instead of dealing with the problems that they know they have.
Jephthah got to be leader because people were looking for a quick fix instead of dealing with the deeper issues, which is still a temptation for us today. We are still looking for Jephthah's - charismatic leaders with track records - to bail us out, but a charismatic leader and a strategic plan is not the answer to every predicament. Sometimes the issues run deeper.
Friday, November 09, 2007
"The key to understanding the laws that govern God’s Kingdom is to realize that the processes of the kingdom are inverted; they are exactly the opposite of what the world teaches, and at first glance, they seem to be counter-intuitive. To obtain what we desire, we have to do the opposite of what we would normally do. When the world says stop, Jesus says go. When the world says go for it, Jesus says no. The laws of inversion are actually the fruits of a Christ-centered life, and this, as Christians know, is diametrically opposed to the world’s views."
I don't believe that the Bible wants to "speak to the modern world." Rather, I think the Bible wants to change, convert the modern world. . . .Amen. I highly recommend Dr. Willimon's whole essay.
Rather than reaching out to speak to our culture, I think our time as preachers is better spent inculturating Twenty First Century Americans into that culture which is called church. There is no way that I can crank the gospel down to the level where any American can walk in off the street and know what it is all about within fifteen minutes. One can't even do that with baseball! You have to learn the vocabulary, the rules, and the culture in order to understand it. Being in church is something at least as different as baseball.
Thursday, November 08, 2007
The temple? Replaced by Jesus.Good stuff. And the parts I don't quote are even better.
The Word of God? Incarnate in Jesus.
The Law? Fulfilled in Jesus.
The prophets? Culminated in Jesus.
The tabernacle? Foreshadowed Jesus.
The glory of the Lord? Present in Jesus. (Hebrews calls him the "radiance" of God's glory.)
Wednesday, November 07, 2007
"I know a lot of Christians who seem never to get beyond the prayer for help and move on to the prayer for holiness."And this, from Monday:
"Christianity as crisis-management, crying out to God when all hell breaks lose, is one thing. But the long labor of building one's house "on the rock" of Christ's righteousness is another."Or this, from yesterday:
How can it be that we have turned the Bible into a collection of encouraging sayings for every occasion rather than the great (and supremely encouraging) story of how God chose to face up to the problem of our sin? Mine. Yours.For nearly three years I've been reading hundreds of blogs each week. At times, a blogger goes into a zone where his posts sizzle with truth and insight. Bob is there right now.
Tuesday, November 06, 2007
"Let us be clear that expository preaching is a philosophy of preaching, not a form of preaching. It is about the authority, centrality and influence exerted by the biblical text in the preaching process and event."
Men have always been spiritually lethargic, but it seems to have reached unusual proportions these days, and lots of people are noticing it.Along similar lines John Piper, in his essay on men's duty to protect women (via), shows that God's purposes are not always socially popular (especially in a sick culture).
Some people believe this is due to the feminization of the church. They say that the overly emotional worship songs and sermons about meek-and-mild-turn-the-other-cheek Jesus are big turnoffs to real guys. In response, they inject their ministries with video clips of sports bloopers, songs about testosterone, and guys on stage who can bend wrenches with their bare hands. I’m not making that up.
Monday, November 05, 2007
. . . baldness is . . . a great gift from the Lord, in that it imposes a certain dignity on the aging process by cutting off the various less dignified options (e.g., ponytails, which shouldn’t be sported by anyone over 30; and mullets which, frankly, should not be sported by anyone, anywhere, anytime. Period.). Of course, there are those, even Christians, who fight against this divinely-imposed dignity. Dreadful toupees abound in the church, along with frightful transplants, and the ubiquitous `comb-over’ or `sweep.’ The latter seems predicated on the false notion that, if you have six hairs to stretch across the barren landscape of your otherwise shiny pate, nobody will notice that you have gone completely bald. Or perhaps there is a belief somewhere that, in the country of the bald, the one-haired man is king. Come on, gents, parade your baldness with pride and accept the dignity which your divinely-imposed hair loss brings with it.Dr. Trueman's conclusions on this condition are brilliant. Please read (and thanks to Theologica for the link).
This brings me to my serious point: what is it with ministers and Christian leaders who seem to feel a compulsive need to talk about youth culture all the time and to adopt the styles of self-obsessed teenagers in order to demonstrate how `relevant’ their ministries are and how hidebound everybody else’s are. . . .
Go around looking like a pony-tailed and soul-patched metrosexual if you must, but bear in mind that you achieve the double whammy of making yourself a laughing stock to your peers and an embarrassment to your children.
Friday, November 02, 2007
The problem that Jim describes is about what we strive for. We strive to build an organization instead of striving to use an organization to build people. . . We lack vision for what the church SHOULD BE.Yes, indeed. If Christians are truly going to move beyond self-centered discipleship, we need to have an idea of what the church should be.
Think about that for a minute. We have a vision for what we as individuals should be, but what should the church be? Aside from "growing"? Come on, don't you think our vision should be a little more radical than that?
Thursday, November 01, 2007
. . . fluff and drivel won't teach us to abide in Christ. It won't sustain us when we're hurting or weighed down in pain. It won't emphasize discipleship, or teach us that life in Him is all about grace. Preaching nowadays gives formula fixes, easy answers, and "steps" to a better life. We eat it up. Not that anyone's ever transformed by these messages. Burned-out, maybe. But Jesus didn't die so we'd keep hammering away. Not until we exchange our life for His, and let Christ finally live through us, will we experience the beauty of a life at peace.Amen. I recommend Vicki's whole article.
A buddhist once said he enjoyed Joel Osteen because his sermons have "something for everyone." That's not quite true. I, for one, get nothing from Osteen's preaching although he's a warm and friendly guy. Even bubble gum causes decay if you chew it long enough. If I want poignant stories, funny jokes, or pop-psychology, there are plenty other sources. I need a minister of the gospel to preach Christ - not entertain me. But the hireling shepherd feeds the sheep what they want, not what they need. Their positive thinking breeds false assurance. This is dangerous. Lives are at stake! The shepherd who denies us the whole truth and nothing but the truth is saying 'peace, peace,' when there is no peace. A good pastor will lead his flock through the narrow gate, to Christ, the Good Shepherd.