Friday, June 30, 2006

stoooopid americans

I know my non-American friends will like to read this several different ways. Feel free to comment ...

"... are we really that frightened of somebody’s willingness to go out and be stupid? In the United States of America, you have a right to be stupid.” - John Kerry

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Thursday, June 29, 2006

how does "getting saved" really work?

Here's the "post of the day" by Frank Turk at Pyromaniacs.
Jesus’ work is not a consequence of anything but God’s intervention to save men who will otherwise be lost.

You are not saved if you can now find your own way: you are saved if you are actually taken out of the way of danger. Standing outside a burning building and shouting the names of those trapped inside does not make one a savior; even running through the halls of that building shouting names and “follow me!” does not make you a savior: going into the flames, and breaking down the doors, and searching under the bed for the scared child who doesn’t know how to save herself, and then carrying her out through the flames makes you a savior. A savior is who who actually saves, who does the saving and has saved someone when it’s all over.
This one is worth reading.

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Wednesday, June 28, 2006


Wow - what can be said except "super colossal"!!! I have to say that while I enjoyed the Eric Clapton and Robert Cray show last month, Joe Satriani was out of this world! Simply an excellent concert.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

no condemnation

"Jesus looks outward to the cosmos and to the sweep of human history before and after. He tells us we have no need to be anxious, for there is a divine life, the true home of the soul, that we can enter simply by placing our confidence in him; becoming his friend, and conspiring with him to subvert evil with good. He also shows us how we can be renewed in the depths of our soul, stepping 'beyond the goodness of scribes and Pharisees' to become the kinds of persons who are genuinely at home in God's world." - Dallas Willard

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reviving a plateaued church

A recent post at MMI, Reviving a Plateaued Church Without Ticking People Off, should bring in a lot of interesting comments. Rhoades simply asks readers to comment on the following statement from Rick Warren.
If your church has been plateaued for six months, it might take six months to get it going again. If it’s been plateaued a year, it might take a year. If it’s been plateaued for 20 years, you’ve got to set in for the duration! I’m saying some people are going to have to die or leave. Moses had to wander around the desert for 40 years while God killed off a million people before he let them go into the Promised Land. That may be brutally blunt, but it’s true. There may be people in your church who love God sincerely, but who will never, ever change.
I like Rhoades' approach because he clearly knows that many of us will be influenced knowing that this came from Warren so he asks that we not first look up the origin before commenting.

My experience on this topic is that Warren is correct. People tend to build inertia. Those that have invested the most and have been around the longest can be the biggest barrier to moving on. Sadly the majority leave rather than change. More sadly, they don't leave early and they make it miserable for all around until then. I find this to be a lack of real maturity. And that's hard since it often comes from those that appear the most mature.

The wilderness experience is part of our journey - individually and corporately. God’s overall intent is not to kill off a million people. His intent is to kill the thing inside that holds us back from Him.

We have to die to ourselves. Those that leave are those that resist death. I am learning to like having the junk in me killed but it is not easy. The faster we do that, the less time we spend in the wilderness.

Bottom line, God does not want us to leave, He wants us to transform. Unfortunately we often find leaving easier.

I encourage you to head over to MMI and leave a comment on this. More importantly, I encourage you to lay down your life and live all out for what God is doing. We need to let go of our forms and more closely hold on to Him - the giver of life.

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rising oil prices

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Monday, June 26, 2006

celebrating what you value

I read an article at MMI regarding the key elements of an externally focused church. The first point caught my eye.
Externally Focused churches are convinced that good deeds and good news can’t and shouldn’t be separated. Just as it takes two wings to lift an airplane off the ground, so externally focused churches couple good news with good deeds to make an impact on their communities. The good deeds, expressed in service and ministry to others, validate the good news. The good news explains the purpose of the good deeds.

Engaging the community with good news and good deeds is not just a tactic or even a foundational strategy of externally focused churches, it is at their very core; it is who they are. These churches have concluded that it’s really not ‘church’ if it’s not engaged in the life of the community through ministry and service to others. Ministry and service are not programs reserved for a few extraordinarily dedicated individuals but are woven into every aspect of life. This is certainly not the only thing these churches do, but to stop ministering and serving in the community would be to end their very existence. An external focus is embedded in their DNA.
The points I got from this are not limited to "externally focused churches". The first point is one of integrity. We ought not be sharing good news if there is really not good news to share. I see too many people talking about the great meeting they had that frankly wasn't so great. Or the wonderful small group program that truthfully barely exists. Etc.

In our excitement, we tend to focus on positives and end up distorting the real truth. This is not right, nor is it helpful. If we are doing the right stuff, there will be plenty to tell about without making things up.

The other point is that people celebrate what is important to them. Their "DNA" is visible in all that they do.

I've been to churches, listened to sermons, etc. where even though a core value is not explicitly mentioned, it is visible in everything. Sadly, I've been to other churches, listened to sermons, etc. where at the end of it all there was still no clear underlying message.

Our message must be clear and it must be consistently present. This is true for high level values such as the Gospel as well as for the distinctives of our local community. When I go to a church that understands the value of small groups, even without explicitly promoting them, they are in the forefront. I recently listened to a sermon about ministering to those with emotional issues. In that the speaker read a testimony from someone relating how her small group demonstrated the key points included in the sermons. It wasn't about small groups, yet it was evident that small groups were important - and helpful.

I attended one church that valued "inviting". Every time someone joined the church, part of the testimony the new person gave included mentioning the people that first invited them.

And then I go to other places and I'm left wondering ... or I see printed material indicating value X but I hear a lot more about Y in the announcements. Someone is kidding themselves.

So what about you? Do you celebrate what you value? The answer is "yes you do". So the real question is are you really valuing what you want to value?

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good-bye carrie and greg

Carrie and Greg are moving to Indiana. I understand they are considering raising Indiana bird dogs.

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Saturday, June 24, 2006

under-reaching v. over-reaching

Many church leaders are frustrated. I know I am. And it seems we are mostly frustrated with other leaders within our own church. The ironic part is I think that those leaders we are frustrated with are also frustrated with us. Why is this?

It seems to me that we have a few fundamental issues.

First, many of us overstep our call. Perhaps I'm called to really sow the life of Christ into a handful of people via small groups but because I'm a smart guy, I've been around the block a few times, etc., I notice some things at the church that are not going as well as they could be. What happens? I fool myself into thinking that is what God has called me to do. It starts out innocently. I have the talent. It shouldn't take too much time. Others ask me to do it and praise me for some short term results. Etc.. Initially the scope is low. But with every "success" comes more opportunity. Soon I'm overwhelmed - and by the way, that hand full of people that I could have really effected through the Holy Spirit, I haven't spent any real time with them in weeks. Certainly I am not praying for them daily, calling them to ask how their sick kid is, organizing a little celebration on their birthday, etc..

Nope, now I am completely focused on the "bigger" issues like what format should serving communion take? Should we let this group use our facility or not? Is it ok to park our cars over there? And so on. You know - real Bible stuff [sarcasm]. Sometimes it actually is Bible stuff. Like we really need to deal with so-and-so on some sin issue. But of course we are discussing it and working it by committee rather than by the people in our community that have real relationship with the person. And so on it goes.

And worse, those guys that once seemed to be great spiritual leaders, they don't share my passion for the car parking issue, they would rather talk about the curriculum used in grade 2 Sunday School. And that other guy, he's still going on about the size of the Christmas tree while I didn't think we should have one at all.

Frustration is growing. Tension increases. I do not even have to wait any more for them to fully explain themselves. I know where they are going and why - and more importantly, that they are wrong and that I have a better way. Sometimes contempt sets in.


God called me to care for that hand full and Satan deceived me with good works, recognition by man, etc.. I stepped out into more than God called me to. I need to be quiet. Allow those that are in other areas of leadership to lead with the grace God has given them and I need to do the same in what He has called me to.

But they are doing it all wrong. They really need my help. Right? No - wrong. I will make a more real, bigger, and longer term impact by effectively handling only what God has put on my plate. And while doing that, I need to demonstrate real submission to other leaders. It's easy to submit when we agree. It's time to submit when we do not.

The other problem is that sometimes we are called to more. And when that happens we will bump into others that are frankly not heading in the same direction. Or they are but they do not yet have the capacity for it. Certainly we should hang in and work what God is leading us to but we need to do so respectfully and lovingly. Without bitterness and frustration. When these set in we must ask (1) is my heart right? (2) oops, am I overstepping again? or (3) is it time to step out?

Time to step out? Yes, in addition to over stepping what God calls us to, some of us "under-step". At some point a person needs to stop expecting to be taught and start to teach. To stop critiquing the preacher and to preach. Etc.. I know a lot of guys like me who have received so much grace but we continue to hang in with our full time jobs thinking we are going to support and mold the guys that were obedient enough to go into full time ministry.

I think that some of the tension I feel is that we are just not obedient and willing to step out into all that God is calling us to.

So bottom line, there's too much frustration. It is sin. We need to get our own heart's right regardless of the direction. And then we need to decide if we are over reaching what God has given us or if we are under reaching. It is not ok to be under someone else's authority for the long term thinking that we are there to shape them while harboring a complaining, bitter, etc. spirit.

Next week we start in a new church in Cincinnati - let's see how well I do. Pray for me.

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Wednesday, June 21, 2006

members of the body

This cartoon is far too accurate. No wonder we have problems. We too often do not understand our calling and try to do the work of other members of the body.

Eph 4.11-14, And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.

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cat worship

Post on NextReformation an anecdote by Mike Riddell.
There was once a teacher of great faith and insight. Several disciples gathered round him to learn from his wisdom. It so happened that each time the small community met in prayer, the cat would come in and distract them. The teacher ordered the cat tied whenever the community prayed. Eventually the great one died, but the cat continued to be tied up at worship time. When the cat died, another cat was bought to make sure that the teacher’s wishes were still faithfully observed. Centuries passed, and learned treatises were written by scholarly disciples on the liturgical significance of tying up a cat while worship is performed …
Sadly, that is an accurate picture of so much of what we do in church these days. God grants us a wonderful gift/talent and we do one of two things. We reject it due to fear, or perhaps we reject the person or way He brings the gift, or perhaps it doesn't fit our "theological grid", etc.. Or we are at the other extreme. We embrace it but move quickly to package it and ultimately completely lose sight of what the gift was about.

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left behind v. the rapture

If you liked Left Behind, you are going to love The Rapture ...

CPH to Compete with Left Behind Series

Concordia Publishing House, attempting to capitalize on the success of the Left Behind series, has announced its own series of books based on End Times prophecy. The new Lutheran series will be based on the historic, traditional understanding of Christians about the last days of the world.

"The Bible tells us a lot about Judgment Day and the End Times," said Wilken. "I think we might have a problem fitting it all into just ten books." [more]

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Tuesday, June 20, 2006

church is a pain?

These quotes of Jason Clark were posted on NextReformation.
…Church takes place when groups of people get together with other people and do something outside of [their] own interests…[and in doing that] what we start to find is that community, church, fellowship is inconvenient, it’s costly, it’s about other people, it is organised, it is planned, and it’s intentional – some [of] the things that we’re all allergic too…

One of the reasons 55,000 Christians [across Europe] are leaving church every week is because – the problem is with the church, but [it’s] also because we will not pay the price of orientating our lives around following Jesus together…
While I cannot speak to the accuracy, I certainly think Clark has the right understanding. We still have the club mentality. We must understand that we exist for missions. The church represents the Kingdom of God breaking into the world. It's out of that understanding and passion that then springs right living, discipleship, etc.. Until we grasp that and our utter dependence on God to do that, we can only try in vain to polish and recycle our programs. Some of us are unfortunately pretty good at that. This only delays the time it takes to fail and subsequently increase the pain we feel when we fail.

For a bit more on the topic, see Tod Bolsinger's NT Wright quote.

the world is crazy

It' s good thing that we got to read the end of the Book. If not, I would be real nervous about the signs of the times ...

The Presbyterians are moving to gender neutral worship [read here] while Australia's faithful have gone to the dogs [more here].

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the church and the kingdom

Got this from someone who got it from someone who got it from Liberating the Church by Howard Snyder.

The church gets in trouble whenever it thinks its in the church business rather than the Kingdom business. In the church business people are concerned with church activities, religious behavior and spiritual things. In the Kingdom business people are concerned with Kingdom activities, all human behavior and everything God has made, visible and invisible. Kingdom people see human affairs as saturated with spiritual meaning and Kingdom significance.

Kingdom people seek first the Kingdom of God and its justice; church people often put church work above concerns of justice, mercy and truth. Church people often think about how to get people into church; Kingdom people think about how to get the church into the world. Church people worry that the world might change the church; Kingdom people work to see the church change the world.

When Christians put the church ahead of the Kingdom they settle for the status quo and their own kind of people. When they catch a vision of the Kingdom of God their sights shift to the poor, the orphan, the widow, the refugee 'the wretched of the earth' and to God's future. They see the life and work of the church from the perspective of the Kingdom.

If the church has one great need it is this: to be set free for the Kingdom of God, to be liberated from itself as it has become in order to be itself as God intends ...

Sunday, June 18, 2006

the kingdom of god and leadership

We can learn how the Kingdom of God relates to leadership recruiting through Mt 9.35-11.1. In the narrative section, Jesus showed his disciples what they would do if they chose to follow him and perform the works of the Kingdom.

Model - He taught, proclaimed the good news and healed, that is He demonstrated the presence of the Kingdom.

Mission - He saw and had compassion on the harassed and helpless. He was moved with compassion. The crowd were sheep in need of a shepherd. Into this Jesus proclaimed the Kingdom. His disciples are instructed to pray that God would provide workers to gather the lost.

Means - He commanded his disciples to pray for workers. Jesus saw the task at hand and knew that God had initiated that these people be reached through him. He was placing a call to the disciples to fall in line with and be faithful to what God had begun.

Ministry - Jesus commanded the them to pray for workers and the disciples were they themselves were the answer to the prayer. They were called and commission (10.1) and sent out (10.5).

The call to these first disciples is the call to us. Workers are needed and workers develop into leaders. Jesus provides the model to identify leaders. He started with the workers who were called to him. They were not hired; they were developed. It took time but when they were ready (perhaps a little sooner then we today may feel is "ready"), they were released.

Developing and releasing leaders is risky but that is the business we are called to. As disciples of Christ, our lives are going to be marked by a level of discomfort or risk taking. In fact, to the world, we will look foolish. We will be called to invest in people that the world may not think is worth it. But if they are called by God, they are of infinite worth.

Ep 4.11-12 gives the clear model. First leaders are appointed by God and their role then is to equip saints for doing the work of the ministry. Out of that group of workers will come more leaders. This is a never-ending, ever-developing task.

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blaise on fire

Richard read a great quote today from Blaise Pascal.

When he was 31 years old, less than eight years before his death, Pascal had an overwhelming experience of the presence of God. He apparently made hasty notes, during the vision or immediately afterwards, so that he might always have at hand a reminder of what had happened to him. He transcribed these onto a piece of parchment and sewed it into the lining of his coat, where his servant found it after his death. There is no evidence of his having mentioned the experience to anyone while he lived. The parchment reads as follows (translation by Emile Caillet and John C. Blankenagel, Great Shorter Works of Pascal, Philadelphia, Westminster Press, 1948):

God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob,
Not of the philosophers and scholars.
Certitude. Certitude. Feeling. Joy. Peace.
God of Jesus Christ.
"Thy God and my God."
Forgetfulness of the world and of everything, except God.
He is to be found only in the ways taught in the Gospel.
Greatness of the Human Soul.
"Righteous Father, the world hath not known Thee,

But I have known Thee."
Joy, joy, joy, tears of joy.
I have separated myself from Him.
"They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters."
"My God, wilt Thou leave me?"
Let me not be separated from Him eternally.
"This is eternal life,

That they might know Thee, the only true God,
And Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent."

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chili peppers

I know this is stupid stuff but since I was already posting video, here's the Red Hot Chili Peppers' Dani California. I saw it a few days ago for the first time (hey I'm old and we don't have TV). I laughed my head off.

more satch

Joe Satriani - The Extremist ... with hair.

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satriani - super colossal

The packers come tomorrow and there is a risk of reduced blogging until we settle in Cincinnati. BUT - between now and then, Isaiah and I will go with a few friends to see Joe Satriani in Saarbrucken. Ɯberaffengeil!!!

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Saturday, June 17, 2006

piper on worship

Jn 4.23-24, "The hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for such the Father seeks to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth."

In Desiring God, chapter 3, Worship: The Feast of Christian Hedonism, John Piper writes:
Sometimes spiritual sleepers need to be shocked. If you want them to hear what you have to say, you might even need to scandalize them. Jesus is especially good at this. When he wants to teach us something about worship, he uses a whore!

"Go call your husband," he says to the Samaritan woman.

"I don't have a husband," she answers.

"That's right," Jesus says, "But you've had five, and the man you sleep with now is not your husband."

She is shocked. We're shocked! But Jesus simply sits there on the edge of the well with his hands folded, looking at the woman with razors in his eyes, ready to teach us about worship. The first thing we learn is that worship has to do with real life. It is not a mythical interlude in a week of reality. Worship has to do with adultery and hunger and racial conflict.

Jesus is bone-weary from the journey. He is hot and thirsty. He decides: "Yes, even now, just now, I will seek someone to worship the Father-a Samaritan adultress. I will show my disciples how my Father seeks worship in the midst of real life from the least likely. She is a Samaritan. She is a woman. She is a harlot. Yes, I will even show them a thing or two about how to make true worshipers out of the white harvest of harlots in Samaria."


"Worship is a way of gladly reflecting back to God the radiance of his worth. This cannot be done by mere acts of duty. It can be done only when spontaneous affections arise in the heart."


The real duty of worship is not the outward duty to say or do the liturgy. It is the inward duty, the command-"Delight yourself in the Lord!" (Psalm 37:4). "Be glad in the Lord and rejoice!" (Psalm 32:11).

The reason this is the real duty of worship is that this honors God, while the empty performance of ritual does not. If I take my wife out for the evening on our anniversary and she asks me, "Why do you do this?" the answer that honors her most is, "Because nothing makes me happier tonight than to be with you."

"It's my duty," is a dishonor to her.
"It's my joy," is an honor.

There it is ! The feast of Christian Hedonism. How shall we honor God in worship? By saying, "It's my duty"? Or by saying, "It's my joy"?
Worship is a way of reflecting back to God the radiance of his worth. Now we see that the mirror that catches the rays of his radiance and reflects them back in worship is the joyful heart. Another way of saying this is to say

The real duty of worship is not the outward duty to say or do the liturgy. It is the inward duty, the command-"Delight yourself in the Lord!" (Psalm 37:4). "Be glad in the Lord and rejoice!" (Psalm 32:11).

The reason this is the real duty of worship is that this honors God, while the empty performance of ritual does not. If I take my wife out for the evening on our anniversary and she asks me, "Why do you do this?" the answer that honors her most is, "Because nothing makes me happier tonight than to be with you."

"It's my duty," is a dishonor to her.
"It's my joy," is an honor.

There it is ! The feast of Christian Hedonism. How shall we honor God in worship? By saying, "It's my duty"? Or by saying, "It's my joy"?

Worship is a way of reflecting back to God the radiance of his worth. Now we see that the mirror that catches the rays of his radiance and reflects them back in worship is the joyful heart. Another way of saying this is to say:

The chief end of man is to glorify God BY enjoying him forever.

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dividing evangelical pastors

Mark Dever, in Assumptions and Pursuits, writes "the most basic practical division among evangelical pastors today may be between those who pursue faithfulness and assume relevance and those who pursue relevance and assume faithfulness." This excellent article is a must read. Dever describes how we all fit on a continuum. None of us desire to be on the extreme. In fact we all probably think we are somewhere nicely centered.

Probably none of us have have perfectly found that "sweet spot". And worse, when we see someone skewed one way or the other from where we perceive ourselves, we focus on the difference and what is wrong with the other's position.

As fellow believers, we should probably spend more time celebrating what we have in common and then allowing healthy discussion of our differences to find out where both of us have room for adjustment. We can actually benefit from our differences.

Too often we seek first to find the difference and then attack as if we control the Holy Spirit to change the other. Wrong.

Let's learn to love more - come along side brothers to help them rather than viewing them as enemies. I think this is more pleasing and glorifying to God.

Dever closes with this excellent reminder:
Consider what you and I will do to the Gospel message in our churches if we continue to change the "presentation" of the Gospel until we begin to get a response.

Pursue faithfulness and relevance. Know that the Gospel is always relevant. NEVER assume the Gospel.
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world cup photo

I see now why the Europeans love the sport ...

what kind of church is needed?

"What the world needs today is not a better program church. It does not need a more technologically savvy church. Nor does it need a better marketed church. It needs a church that is filled with the power and presence of the Holy Spirit." - Rich Nathan

God is giving gifts by His grace. Some can grasp the concept of grace relative to justification. Some can grasp the concept of grace relative to glorification. But few grasp the concept of grace as it applies to everyday living. God uses ordinary people. Charismata flows from the word for gifts which has at its root grace. This not something we can earn.

The church needs to be supernatural. Actually, we must be "naturally supernatural". We must demonstrate the power of the Kingdom of God in the whole of our life. This should lead to righteousness, that is, holy living. We should have a bond of love between us. We move in unity under the headship of our one Lord and King. And when God wants us involved in signs and wonders, we must do that too.

When John Wimber was asked what the secret to his preparation for demonstrating the power of the Holy Spirit, his answer was the much maligned, "I drink a diet coke." Those that don't like John or what he stood for heard a disregard for the Word of God and spiritual disciplines. This of course ignores the reality of this great man's life. John was very big on these. What he was saying was that being righteous, living holy, performing miracles, etc., is not something one "conjures" up - it is all an outflow of life in the Spirit. The study of God's Word, prayer, fasting, meditation, simplicity, worship, etc.. This is what we do. Acting out a life of Christlikeness is a lifestyle. We need no special preparation for some big show. It's not about that.

Naturally supernatural - life in the Spirit - day in and day out - it beats all programs, systems, etc. that we man can think of. It's what the world needs from the church.

Friday, June 16, 2006

enjoying god's grace

In cleaning up for our move to Cincinnati, I found a pile of papers that I intended to transcribe into an electronic format. Apparently they made a lot of sense at the time I wrote them but now they look like a lot of scribbles. As I go through them, if they make sense and seem meaningful, I will blog them for posterity. Here is the first of those ... it is apparently from something I heard or read from Terry Virgo.

Ro 5.12-21; this is past tense. Those who have it have already "received" the abundant provision. We have it now. We need not make plans to go get it.

Ro 6.14
; sin does not have dominion over us. We are not under the law but under grace.

Gal 5.4; Christ is the end of the law - getting back under it alienates us from Him.

Ro 7.1-6
; the law has jurisdiction as long as we live but we died to the law so that we might be joined to another, Christ Jesus, that we then might bare fruit.

The law tells us what not to do but doesn't provide help. Worse, we cannot argue with it because it is always right.

You cannot marry another as long as you are married to the law.

Jesus said the law will never pass way therefore it is you that must die. Only through death are you released or discharged from that bond.

In the military, we react to what the seargent says. When discharged, we may still have instinctive reactions if someone barks out an order but we are no longer obligated.

We are joined to Christ for the purpose of bearing fruit.

Gal 3.21; life comes only through marriage to Christ - the law was an impotent husband.

We should not try to impress our new husband by keeping relationship to our old husband. We do not need a way to "the Way".

Ro 3.20; through the law comes the knowledge of sin. The conscious tries to tell us right from wrong but the conscious can get muddled. The law draws the line and then provokes reaction. The problem however is not the law but rather our own sin. Then when our sin is held up to that which is holy and pure, it looks all the more bad. Man is not basically good. Adding rules do not bring life, only death. Man is so bad off that when you add something good, he gets worse. That's why religious people are miserable, all they have is the law.

Christians cannot go back to the law. The law has done its job. It revealed our depravity. The law is not our teacher. it is a collector - it collects us and delivers us to Christ. Once we have been delivered, we don't need the law, we need relationship with Christ.

Jesus is our righteousness. We cannot add to nor subtract from that. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. All this is a free gift from God.

Eph 1.3; He has blessed us - it's done.

Paul doesn't simply say do not commit adultery. He tells us that our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit. We are not under law, we are partakers of a divine nature. We are new and therefore should live out our newness.

Ex 11-13; The blood was on the outside of the door. Although residents were not perfect but the house was under covenant. Then they left slavery rich but didn't realize they were free. The slave master pursued them but they were in fact free. At the crossing they got through but not the slave owners. Then they get to the promised land. They were free, they saw their former owners drowned, but they were still locked in a slave mentality and did not "enter in". This angered God.

Ro 6.6-7; We are to know who we are. A dead person cannot be hurt. We are dead to Sin.

Ro 6.11; Because it is true, we must think it is true (not visa versa). When you move to a different time zone, you can get confused by looking at your watch and compare to the clocks around you. You do not change your watch because of how hard you think about the time. You change it because it is in fact a different time. Your body may not have adjusted but you are in a different time zone. Fact.

When in Christ, you have entered a new sphere. Renew your mind by His Word. Change your thinking. It's fact.

Ro 6.13; And now let righteousness rule your mortal bodies.

Phil 3.21; 2 Co 5.1; We have a new heavenly house. These hands which once were used to carry out sin, now need to carry out the righteousness of our new nature. In this new nature, the house has a new main door which says, "He is faithful and just to forgive." It is in us to be righteous. We now desire this. This is our new slave master.

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bible knowledge

"A thorough knowledge of the Bible is worth more than a college education" - Teddy Roosevelt

"It is better to have a knowledge of the Bible without a college education, than to have a college education without a knowledge of the Bible." - Woodrow Wilson

To show ourselves to God as one approved after being tested, we must rightly handle the word of truth (2 Ti 2.15). Have you read your Bible today? Have you lived out what you read?

Thursday, June 15, 2006

i'll drink to that - or not?

Our local congregation recently had to wrestle with the question of alcohol as we hosted live broadcasts of the World Cup here in Germany. The eldership decided serving alcohol at these events was appropriate but some members did not. Apparently the SBC is on the side of those members in that they promote total abstinence.

John Piper, as usual, brings a balanced and Biblical perspective - 25 years ago. Piper himself abstains from alcohol and encourages all to do the same. Shortly after moving to Bethlehem Baptist he successful led a campaign to change the churches constitution to not require abstinence.
... The amendment before the church this Thursday is to replace the sentence about total abstinence from alcohol with a such broader commitment that would require a good deal of heart searching and Biblical self-examination. It would read as follows: "We engage … to seek God's help in abstaining from all drugs, food, drink and practices which bring unwarranted harm to the body or jeopardize our own or another's faith." I wish I could help everyone see that the reason I support this amendment so strongly is not to encourage, but to avoid a great evil. Alcohol abuse is a great evil in our land. And no one can reasonably construe the proposed amendment to countenance such abuse. Not only that, I regard total abstinence generally as a wise and preferable way to live in our land today. It's the way I live, and the way I will teach my sons to live. The proposed amendment is not designed to encourage anyone to drink alcoholic beverages. It is designed to drive us to Biblical, spiritual self-examination in view of the stupendous fact that we are God's dwelling and are called to love one another and to build up faith wherever we can. The requirement of total abstinence, on the other hand, is heeded by millions of unbelievers and unspiritual church attenders. It is a regulation that requires no inner love to God or love to the church. The proposed amendment, however, drives us to God because it makes us ask, why abstain. It makes us face the deep issue of whether we are following a tradition or whether we love with all our heart the holiness of God and the spiritual welfare of our fellowmen.

... the main reason the proposed amendment will help us avoid evil and the chief reason I support the amendment is that it helps guard us from an unbiblical legalism and exclusivism. ... First, legalism means treating Biblical standards of conduct as regulations to be kept by our own power in order to earn God's favor. In other words legalism will be present wherever a person is trying to be ethical in his own strength, that is, without relying on the merciful help of God in Christ. Simply put, moral behavior that is not from faith is legalism. The legalist is always a very moral person. In fact the majority of moral people are legalists because their so-called Judeo-Christian morality inherited from their forefathers does not grow out of a humble, contrite reliance on the merciful enabling of God. On the contrary, for the legalist, morality serves the same function that immorality does for the antinomian, the free-thinker, the progressive, namely, it serves as an expression of self-reliance and self-assertion. The reason some Pharisees tithed and fasted was the same reason some German university students take off their clothes and lie around naked in the park in downtown Munich. The moral legalist is always the elder brother of the immoral prodigal. They are blood brothers in God's sight because both reject the sovereign mercy of God in Christ as a means to righteousness and use either morality or immorality as a means of expressing their independence and self-sufficiency and self-determination. And it is clear from the N.T. that both will result in a tragic loss of eternal life. So the first meaning of legalism is the terrible mistake of treating Biblical standards of conduct as regulations to be kept by our own power in order to earn God's favor. It is a danger we must guard against in our own hearts every day.

The second meaning of legalism is this: the erecting of specific requirements of conduct beyond the teaching of Scripture and making adherence to them the means by which a person is qualified for full participation in the local family of God, the church. This in where unbiblical exclusivism arises. There is no getting around the fact that the church does not include everyone. We do exclude people from membership because we believe worship should imply commitment to the Lordship of Christ the Head of the church. But exclusion of people from the church should never be taken lightly. It is a very serious matter. Schools and clubs and societies can set up any human regulations they wish in order to keep certain people out and preserve by rule a particular atmosphere. But the church is not man's institution. It belongs to Christ. He is the Head of the Body, and he alone should set the entrance requirements. That is very important!

... I want to hate what God hates and love what God loves. And this I know beyond the shadow of a doubt: God hates legalism as much as he hates alcoholism. If any of you still wonders why I go on supporting this amendment, after hearing all the tragic stories about lives ruined through alcohol, the reason is that when I go home at night and close my eyes and let eternity rise in my mind I see ten million more people in hell because of legalism than because of alcoholism. And I think that is a literal understatement. Satan is so sly. "He disguises himself as an angel of light," the apostle says in 2 Corinthians 11:14. He keeps his deadliest diseases most sanitary. He clothes his captains in religious garments and houses his weapons in temples. O don't you want to see his plots uncovered? I want Bethlehem to be a place Satan fears. I want him to be like the emperor in "The Emperor's New Clothes." And we will be the babes (not in thinking! 1 Cor. 14:20) who say, "Look, he thinks he is clothed in white, but he is naked and ugly."

Listen as I uncover one of his plots. Legalism is a more dangerous disease than alcoholism because it doesn't look like one. Alcoholism makes men fail; legalism helps them succeed in the world. Alcoholism makes men depend on the bottle; legalism makes them self-sufficient, depending on no one. Alcoholism destroys moral resolve; legalism gives it strength. Alcoholics don't feel welcome in church; legalists love to hear their morality extolled in church. Therefore, what we need in this church is not front end regulations to try to keep ourselves pure. We need to preach and pray and believe that "Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision, neither teetotalism nor social drinking, neither legalism nor alcoholism is of any avail with God, but only a new creation (a new heart)" (Gal. 6:15; 5:6). The enemy is sending against us every day the Sherman tank of the flesh with its cannons of self-reliance and self-sufficiency. If we try to defend ourselves or our church with peashooter regulations we will be defeated even in our apparent success. The only defense is to "be rooted and built up in Christ and established in faith" (Col. 2:6); "Strengthened with all power according to his glorious might for all endurance and patience with joy" (Col. 1:11); "holding fast to the Head from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together … grows with a growth that is from God" (Col. 2:19). From God! From God! And not from ourselves.

He then sums up Col 2.16-23 in five wonderful observations ...
First, "Let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink." The consumption of food and drink is in itself no basis for judging a person's standing with God or standing in God's family. To be sure Paul had to deal with the abuse of food and drink; the problem of eating meat offered to idols and the problem of drunkenness (1 Cor. 8, 11:21; Rom. 14). But his approach to these abuses was never to forbid food or drink. It was always to forbid what destroyed God's temple and injured faith. He taught the principle of love, but did not determine its application with regulations in matters of food and drink. This is also the aim of the proposed amendment to the Church Covenant.

Second, verse 18, "Let no one disqualify you insisting an self-abasement and worship of angels etc." The false teaching at Colossae had two parts: it called for angel worship on the one hand and strict ascetic regulations on the other. Both of these were erected as requirements for those who wanted to qualify for "fullness of life" (2:10) or full participation in the spiritual community. Paul denounced both requirements. Their theology is wrong because all the fullness of deity dwells in Christ (2:9) not angels. And their ascetic regulations regarding food and drink are useless because they are only shadows of reality and lead to being puffed up.

Third, the source of life and purity and growth is not through religious visions (2:18) and regulations about food and drink, but as verse 19 says, through "holding fast to the Head (Christ) from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God." The only hope for spiritual growth and health in the body of Christ (Bethlehem Baptist Church) is personal cleaving to Christ the Head, not exclusivist regulations.

Fourth, verses 20 and 21, "If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the universe, why do you live as if you still belonged to the world? Why do you submit to regulations, 'Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch' (referring to things that all perish as they are used) according to human precepts and doctrines?" The implication of these verses is that a church which erects regulations about food and drink as a means of judging or disqualifying, does not yet know what it means to die with Christ and be freed from the powers of the world. It seems to me that this is exactly what I said earlier: wherever authentic, joyful, confidence in Christ diminishes, regulations are brought in to preserve what the power of Christ once created. If you erect enough regulations and build a big enough endowment, an institution can endure for decades after the spiritual dynamic that brought it into existence is gone.

But, and this is the fifth and final point, (verse 23), "These regulations though they have an appearance of wisdom in promoting vigor of devotion and self-abasement and severity to the body nevertheless are of no value in checking the indulgence of the flesh." The entrance requirement of total abstinence at our church may secure for us a membership with one common attitude towards alcohol, but it is no help in making us a pure people who do not live according to the flesh (Rom. 8:13). On the contrary, by imposing a restriction which the N.T. never imposes this entrance requirement in principle involves us in a legalism that has its roots in unbelief. It is a sign of the faded power and joy and heart righteousness that once was Bethlehem, and, God helping us, will be again.

Amen! I'd like to see this heart applied more broadly.

HT: Vince

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the potty ipod

Vince just tipped me off that the Potty iPod is now available.

Potty iPod holder puts relief on the playlist

For those of us who can't even part with our iPods long enough to take care of bathroom business, Atech Flash Technology has come up with the perfect little gadget.

The iCarta is a toilet paper dispenser and iPod player in one. Never again will iPod lovers face the discomfort of choosing between their potty and their portable music ...

Four high-performance, moisture-resistant speakers make the iCarta durable enough to withstand bathroom emergencies induced by even the spiciest of foods.

When nature calls, simply respond by plugging your MP3 player into the $99.95 iCarta. Easy-to-use controls allow for one-handed navigation, ensuring you never have to listen to Shakira, when the potty break is really calling for Nelly.[more]

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hope is emo; the words are dying

We need to care about the words we use. A message of hope from Hope Is Emo.

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diet coke and mentos

Where do these people come from?

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more on truth

As we present this truth of Christ Jesus and His Kingdom, we must remember we are not selling anything. That is, we do not persuade, the Holy Spirit does.

We need to push aside our personal desire to be right and correct others (especially the trap of being "successful" at it).

“As for you, son of man, your people who talk together about you by the walls and at the doors of the houses, say to one another, each to his brother, ‘Come, and hear what the word is that comes from the Lord.’ And they come to you as people come, and they sit before you as my people, and they hear what you say but they will not do it; for with lustful talk in their mouths they act; their heart is set on their gain. And behold, you are to them like one who sings lustful songs with a beautiful voice and plays well on an instrument, for they hear what you say, but they will not do it. Ezk 33.30-32

I think Dallas Willard understands this rightly.
Whatever our position in life, if our lives and works are to be of the kingdom of God, we must not have human approval as a primary or even major aim. We must lovingly allow people to think whatever they will. We may, if it seems right, occasionally try to help them understand us and appreciate what we are doing. That could be an act of love. But in any case we can only serve them by serving the Lord only.
The goal of our conversation is to change lives for the Kingdom. Without the initiation of the Holy Spirit, these are at best well reasoned arguments. If we are motivated by true love, prayer and compassion will mark our lives more than persuasive talk.

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cute prayer anecdote

From Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy;

The story is told of a man who lost his composure and cursed in the presence of his pastor. After an embarrassed silence, he looked sheepishly at the pastor and said, "Oh, it's all right, pastor. I cuss a little and you pray a little, but neither one of us means anything by it."

The challenge to our faith in the Kingdom is to mean something by our talk of it.

present the truth but do not argue

Building on my last post, it is becoming clearer and clearer that while we need to sharpen our skills to present the truth (both in word and deed), we have to stop arguing.

The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ. 1 Co 2.14-16

We who have the mind of Christ will not only see His Kingdom, we will enter it. Those that do not, cannot. So here is the tough question for me; is it possible for two people to see the same event and one claim it was an intervention of the Kingdom of God and the other claim it was not? This disagreement happens all of the time covering a wide range of issues. Not just "miracles" but in Scriptural debate, life decisions, etc.. Does that mean that at least one of the parties involved does not have the mind of Christ?

I'd like to think the disagreement does not mean that one is fallen. But too often it is that the effort to persuade or resist that seems to come for a source other than the mind of Christ. I think the phrase "hell bent" is appropriate. Sometimes we are hell bent on proving something is right or wrong. I think it is this that demonstrates who has or does not have the mind of Christ - often more so that the position on the specific issue.

So for me, I am learning (far too slowly) that in the end, it will be the Holy Spirit that reveals truth. My role is to present it clearly and consistently.

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Tuesday, June 13, 2006

witnesses to salvation

He 2.1-4; For this reason we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. For if the word spoken through angels proved unalterable, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense, how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? After it was at the first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard, God also bearing witness with them, both by signs and wonders and by various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will.

Who are the witnesses of this great salvation of ours?
  1. God the Father - it is He who spoke "through the Lord"
  2. Christ Jesus - He is the mediator, the go-between
  3. The eyewitnesses - that is the apostles and those who had spent time with Jesus
  4. God again but specifically through signs and wonders and gifts
So how do these witnesses cause belief? In and of themselves, they do not. That is, while they certainly confirm the reality of God's great salvation, there is another side of the equation. This other element is the heart and mind of the observer to receive that witness.

The god of this world is at work to blind those that are his (2 Co 4:4-6). BUT - God the Father, through the power of the Holy Spirit, creates in the hearer this ability to see rightly what the witnesses are revealing (Mt 11:27; 16:17).

In a recent small group study we looked at Lk 11.14-23. We noted that although the people were eyewitnesses to the same exact event, their reactions varied greatly. It wasn't a matter of burden of proof, it was a function of the condition of their heart. I noted that while I am sure that not all claims of miracles in the Name of Jesus today are true, I was sure that no amount of evidence would convince someone to believe different than the precondition of their heart would allow. Except the Holy Spirit reveal the truth, the person receiving the witness will not be swayed.

Remember that we are to live Kingdom lives thereby fulfilling our portion of the role of witness but we must pray that the Lord of the harvest open the heart of those He has called to receive the Word of Life - Jesus Christ, Our Lord and King.

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Saturday, June 10, 2006

christian perspective on zarqawi death

While I had a sense of relief with the death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, I have found myself repulsed by some of the "humor" sent my way on this topic. I think Reid Ferguson perfectly articulated the Christian response.
There is place for sighs of relief and genuine gladness that the threat is gone - but no place, I repeat NO PLACE, for wicked gloating over the sin-bound life and violent death of one of Adam's sons made in the image of God as much as you or me. None.

Did he deserve to hear the Gospel? As much as you or I. Was he more sinful than you and me? Only in manifestion, not in state. There but for the grace of God go I - and you. And the pictures of his wounded, dead corpse only make me grieve over the horror of sin's claim on our lives apart from God intervening grace.

Yes, al-Zarqawi is a threat I am glad no longer exists. But dancing on his grave, is as depraved as excusing his crimes. [more]
If you're still not sure, see God's Word (Pr 24.17-18).

HT: Pyromaniacs

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Friday, June 09, 2006

great canadians

Since several of my friends are Canadians (no laughing), I need to share this post on Canadian humor by A. I can support him because at least spelled he "humor" correctly (other friends insist on "humour" - what are they thinking?).

Yes - Canadians are the GREATEST! Without them, we would not have Frozen Fish. You'll need to do a search of that page but yes, they are taking credit for frozen fish. As cold as it is there, I wonder why it took them until 1926 for that one?

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opportunity maximizers

I finally finished Brian McLaren's The Church on the Other Side: Doing Ministry in the Postmodern Matrix - bottom line, while it had some nuggets and I had no significant issues with it, I'd put this low on my "Books You Gotta Read" list.

I think both the highlights and lowlights are contained in pages 169-184. The highlight is a list of opportunity maximizers most of which are good and a few are excellent. I recommend reading these.
  1. We have to distinguish between genuine Christianity and our versions of it.
  2. We need to see truth and goodness where they exist in postmodernism.
  3. We need to magnify the importance of faith.
  4. We ought to be more fair.
  5. We need to be more experiential.
  6. We need to address the postmoderns' existential predicament.
  7. We need to listen to the postmoderns' stories.
  8. We need to tell our stories.
  9. We need to address issues we have never even thought about before.
  10. We need to avoid coercion and pressure.
  11. We need to see the postmoderns in here, out there, and everywhere.
  12. We need to use music, literature, drama, and other forms of art to communicate our message.
  13. We must believe that the holy Spirit is out there at work.
  14. We must become seekers again.
  15. We must reassert the value of community and rekindle the experience of it.
The lowlights are contained in a couple of anecdotes McLaren tells.
One day, not long ago, a woman who was a fairly new Christian came to see me in my office. She had developed into one of the best Sunday school teachers in our church; the children relished her energy, enthusiasm, love and creativity. She said, "Brian, I think we have a problem. I think I believe something different from the other teachers. I don't want to cause trouble, so I thought I should talk to you about it."

I thanked her for this uncommon courtesy and asked her what the problem was. She replied, "I think most of the teachers here believe that Jesus is the only way. I have a real problem with that."

Her problem was a classic postmodern dilemma. Resisting the temptation to address the issue of pluralism versus the uniqueness of Christ, I asked another question: "Why is this a problem for you?"

Her answer illustrates one of the delightful paradoxes of postmodernism: "My two best friends are not Christians. There is nothing I want more in my life than for them to discover what I've discovered these last few years. But if I tell them that I believe they are going to hell because they don't believe in Jesus, they will never listen to another word I have to say."
Wow! On the bright side, I see the proper priority of wanting to build a relationship over forcing a truth. However I cannot accept how this led to the questioning of an absolute truth - "that Jesus is the only way. I have a real problem with that".

McLaren points to this as irony and as being a pastoral dilemma. He does not tell us his response to this women but the way he writes does not lead me to believe that he confronted her. It seems that the proper response would be to recognize her dilemma. We should acknowledge that coercing her friends to understand this truth may not be appropriate at this time. But I think as this woman's pastor, he should confront her for her false conclusion and help her be aware that if she really cares for her friends and her Lord, they also at some point will see that truth (either on this side of eternity or the other). Then coach her on how to help them see this fact through the power of the Holy Spirit.

The second one is more theological in nature. I wanted to gloss over it but couldn't resist. In his point that we must believe that the Holy Spirit is at work, McLaren quotes Ni To-sheng (Watchman Nee) from What Shall This Man Do?
I always believe that the Holy Spirit is upon a person when I preach to that person. I do not mean that the Spirit is within the hearts of unbelievers, but that He is outside. What is He doing? He is waiting, waiting to bring Christ into their hearts. He is like the light. Open the window-shutters even a little, and it will flood in and illuminate the interior. Let there be a cry from the heart to God, and at that moment the Spirit will enter and begin His transforming work of conviction and repentance and faith.

Perhaps the biggest condition for success in bringing people to Christ is to remember that the same Holy Spirit, who came to our help in the hour of darkness, is at hand waiting to enter and illumine their hearts also, and to make good the work of salvation to which, in crying to God, they have opened the door.
Nice story. Good conclusion. But wreaks of Armenian theology which runs counter to his point. Who is McLaren and Nee crediting for the opening of the "window-shutters even a little"? Based on the point they are trying to make, if story telling were important, they could have told the story about the power of the Spirit to penetrate even the hardest of hearts to break open those shutters.

Anyway, ok book but definitely not great.

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Thursday, June 08, 2006

missions first

In his series on Romans in a Week, NT Wright offered a clarifying view of the place of missions in the church.
So often in the church we seem to think that first the church has to get its own act together, i.e., the church has to become more perfect than it is, and then if we have time and energy left after that, we engage in mission. But for Paul, mission is the thing that the church is here for. And the critique of the church and the getting of the church's life together is the reflex of the call to mission.
Quoting William Temple, Archbishop of Canterbury in the mid 1900's, "the Church is the only society that exists for the benefit of those who are not its members".

Driving programs which include missions or even to build missions is backwards. We must have a heart to be ambassadors of Christ and His Kingdom to the world. From that all else falls into place.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

community and obedience

I love this great little quote brought to my attention by A.

"Wherever you are in obedience, you are part of the community." ~ Catherine de Hueck Doherty, in Poustinia

I was just telling friends that it is so easy to act as one under authority when we agree with things. It's another story to do so when we disagree. But, when we do so, we demonstrate community and in that, we demonstrate the power of Christ. Now go be obedient.

physical expressiveness in worship

I recently listened to a friend share their unhappiness with instructions given by a worship leader for physical participation during the song service. I couldn't help but think where we have failed as spiritual leaders since we clearly have some number of people offended by this kind of direction.

Bob Kauflin provides some excellent tips in his blog "WorshipMatters".
  1. Teach on the appropriateness of physical expression in worshipping God. [more]
  2. Teach that physical expression should flow from a heart that desires to bring God glory, and that outward expressions are no sign one way or the other that someone is offering God acceptable worship. [more]
  3. Address the different reasons people might be reserved in their expression and teach on preferring others. [more]
  4. Preach and sing the Word, works, and worth of God, centered on the Gospel, to raise the affections of people for God. [more]
Great stuff Bob - thanks - now I'm off to worship God for a bit ...

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Saturday, June 03, 2006

righteous boldness

John Piper said that in Phil 1.27-28, Paul is saying,
Let your life be an advertisement for how valuable the gospel is. And then Paul said that one of the effects that the gospel has on the life of those who believe it is fearlessness. "Lead a life worthy of the gospel so that when I come I may find that you stand firm, unafraid of any of your opponents." In other words, one of the ways that our lives show the worth of the gospel is when the gospel makes us bold and courageous and unafraid.
What does it mean to be bold and courageous. Here is Piper's message on Pro 28.1.
"The wicked flee when no one is pursuing (because their conscience--the echo of God--condemns them), but the righteous are bold as a lion" (because their conscience is made clean by the righteousness of God imputed to them through faith in Jesus Christ, and there is no condemnation). May the gospel of God's free righteousness (2 Cor. 5:21; Rom. 1:17; Phil. 3:19) take us captive ..., and radically free us from fear, so that we can be as bold as a lion for the sake of the gospel!
This is stuff we can live by.

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responsibilities of the church to its leadership

Steve Camp wrote, Holding Pastors Accountable. As with most of his writing, I found it a little long but it's worth skipping down to the 5 responsibilities of the church to its leadership.

Edify through prayer - you cannot hold someone accountable if you do not love them enough to constantly lift them up in prayer.

Examine their message
- what message is this leader bringing? Camp focused on "preaching" but I would expand this the overall message of the man's life. Does it stem from Scripture and a passion for Christ and does it hold up to examination. More - is he open to or better, inviting examination?

Encourage godly character
- encourage balance. Do not be pleased with leaders who excel in one area of the Christian life but fail in others.

Entreat their shepherding
- are your leaders watching over the souls of those that God brings to the community? How are they building you up? How are they encouraging and challenging you but in and out of times of trouble? If they are not, they are missing the mark of spiritual leadership. Camp uses this anecdote.
I asked the head of the elder board to tell me about their senior pastor... what is he known for in his ministry. Without hesitation he said two things I have never forgotten: 1. he is faithful expositor of God's Word; and, 2. he smells like sheep. What a great way to identify that this man was ministering faithfully among God's people-he smells like sheep. He didn't smell like a board room, a class room, a golf course, etc. He smelled like the ones he was ministering too. That's it friends. Oh for leadership that will invest pro-actively in the care, discipleship, and needs of the flock of God.
Exhort the unfaithful - our leaders must confront sin through the power of the Holy Spirit. Many have adopted a pattern of allowing sin for the sake of love. I think this is a misunderstanding of true love. When face with sin, we must confront it if we truly love our brother and want to help his growth. We should expect this from our leaders and we should do the same for them.

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Friday, June 02, 2006

national doughnut day

Today was a little tough for me as an American living in Germany. As I'm sure most of you are aware, today was National Doughnut Day.

National Donut Doughnut Day was established in 1938 by the Chicago Salvation Army to raise much-needed funds during the Great Depression and to honor the work of World War I Salvation Army volunteers who prepared doughnuts for thousands of soldiers. National Doughnut Day is celebrated annually on the first Friday in June.

To make things worse, Krispy Kreme celebrated by offering customers a free doughnut. The only consolation is that I prefer Dunkin' Donuts who sadly missed out on this opportunity to bless those of us loyal to their doughnut tradition.

I like Dunkin' Donuts because of childhood tradition (we didn't have Krispy Kreme in New Jersey), they are heavier like a doughnut ought to be, and I prefer the spelling better - Donut versus Doughnut ... the latter seems too British ... of course the Brits don't have anything as wonderful as this no matter how it is spelled.

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more cray

Sorry - I'm too psyched about this concert ... in preparation I had to watch these Robert Cray videos.

Here he is with Clapton on the David Sanborn (check out the hair) show in '89 playing Old Love.

More with Tina Turner in '86 singing (sorry, no guitar) 6345789.

He's here with Jimmie Vaughan, Buddy Guy, B.B. King, and others playing a tribute to SRV. And here with Buddy Guy and Eric Clapton playing Sweet Home Chicago.

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slowhand and cray

Tomorrow is the long awaited day. No, we are not moving yet. But Isaiah and I are joining a couple of friends to go to the Eric Clapton concert here in Frankfurt. The bonus is that Robert Cray will open. I would have been happy just with Robert Cray. Cool stuff!

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the minus 5 campaign

This just in from the guys at LarkNews ...

Presb. Church USA launches ambitious plan to lose only 5% of members

LOUISVILLE — The Presbyterian Church (USA) has launched a campaign to slow the rate of decline to 5 percent, according to the denomination.

"People at the grass roots need hope and motivation," says a spokesman. "This is a positive goal we can all get behind." [more]

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Thursday, June 01, 2006

does the bible contain all that i need?

In Pyromaniacs, Dan Phillips (I love so much of his stuff) wrote an extremely thought provoking article, Unanswered Bible questions and the need to know. I wanted so much to agree with him but in the end I couldn't.

His propositions are:
  1. The Bible tells us everything we need to know, as Christians.
  2. The Bible does not tell us everything we want to know.
The focus of his post was on point 2 but I couldn't get past point 1 just as he predicted, "If you're Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Mormon, or some kinds of Charismatic, you won't agree...". Is Dan prophetic?

Perhaps my disagreement lies in the defining of "need" versus "want" but in the end, that statement of the Bible telling us everything we need to know just didn't seem right. A "fellow trekker", Jim Meredith, just wrote ...
... I am writing about discipline ... however, discipline is not so much something to mediate or write about, as it is something to put into practice, much like prayer! Discipline is a principle of life to be implemented. It is not a rule, it cannot be broken. It takes diligence, attention to detail, and accountability (another principle of note), if we are to experience its positive effects. The need for it does not disappear … ever.

Like any principle, the challenge is if and how we practice it. True practice stems from “where the heart is.” Let me explain. The word ‘discipline’ and 'disciple’ not only look and sound alike, they are brothers! A disciple is literally, in the Greek language, a learner. Discipline is learning through obedience. Jesus “learned obedience by the things he suffered.” Today’s disciple loves his subject (Jesus), listens, learns and puts into practice truth in order “to
please him who chose him to be a soldier” (a disciple), according to Paul’s encouragement to his young brother Timothy.

The purpose of discipline is not to become a fanatical keeper of the law, but rather to “exercise oneself to godliness” and then live out loving God fully, with heart, mind, soul, body and spirit. We please Jesus as He pleased His Father.

Discipline is not then, imposed by others. That only yields righteousness like that of the Pharisees, not a righteousness from the heart. And, unless we get beyond righteousness of the law, we don’t get it and Jesus says, “we won’t see the Kingdom”. No, all discipline at the core must be self-discipline, and self-discipline only takes root when we fall in love with Jesus and desire to bring every thought captive to Christ.

Strange how much our generation, which some say ‘has forgotten God’, devotes far more attention to the exercise (discipline) of the body, to the neglect of the soul. The apostle Paul sets before us right priorities in life and the need for personal discipline and self-control.

Over the years Paul’s words in his first letter to Timothy have been favorites of mine: “Do not waste time arguing over godless ideas and old wives’ tales. Spend your time and energy in training yourself for spiritual fitness. Physical exercise has some value, but spiritual exercise is much more important, for it promises a reward in both this life and the next.” (NLT)

Dallas Willard, a Christian professor of renown and proponent of spiritual formation, states the following: “…we become like Christ by doing one thing, by following him in the overall style of life he chose for himself. If we have faith in Christ we must believe he knew how to live. We can, through faith and race, become like Christ by practicing the types of activities he engaged in… such things as solitude and silence, prayer, simple and sacrificial living, intense study and mediation upon God’s word and God’s ways, and service to others.”
I learn to live Christ-like not only through studying the Word but by living it. The difference is approaching the Bible as a narrative versus as a textbook. I think Phillips leans toward the latter.

As I've noted many times, John Wimber rightly understood the Bible as the menu not the meal. The proposition by Phillips seems to be one coming from a worldview of the Bible as the meal. So it's not so much that I think the statement is wrong but rather that it is a wrong statement to make. I would rather say that the Bible tells us all that we need to know to live a life which in turn will teach us all we need to know.

For example, God will speak to me and tell me things I need to know. Suffering will speak to me and tell me things I need to know. The community of believers will speak to me and tell me things I need to know. Etc. If I do not root these "revelations" in the objective written Word of God, I am in danger. But these revelations often may not be explicit in the Bible and they are things I need to know to please my Saviour and to live the life He died for me to live.