Sunday, December 31, 2006

snow ball fight

Not quite linerider but still cool - elf attack - online snow ball fighting.

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dan's four faces challenge for a new year

DJP issues this wonderful challenge for the New Year.

What are we doing with the life-situation that God's providence designed for us? Do we really think our obstacles, trials and burdens exempt us from God's call...
  • To "Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer" (Romans 12:12)?
  • To "be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain" (1 Corinthians 15:58)?
  • To give "thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Ephesians 5:20)?
  • Always to be "prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you" (1 Peter 3:15)?
If in any corner of your heart, you are reaching for the "Yes" button, first think about those four faces. Get some perspective.
It's worth going to his post to read about the four faces.

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wright quote

Tod Bolsinger rings in the new year with these words by NT Wright.

There is an old evangelical saying, “If he’s not Lord of all, he’s not Lord at all.” That was always applied pietistically. I want to say the same thing but apply it to the world. We’re talking about Jesus as the Lord of the world—not the Lord of people’s private interiority only, but of what they do with their money, with their homes, with the wealth of nations and with the planet.

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12 days of christmas ... late

It's a little late but still fun ... The Twelve Days of Christmas by Men's A Cappella - Indiana University.

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Saturday, December 30, 2006

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Contra DJP #7

His Article:
Red Herring: Tongues of Angels

His Possible Argument?:
1. Biblical sign-gifts were incredible phenomena
2. Modern day occurrences are “anemic” and at a total disconnect with the Bible
3. Therefore, the gifts are not for today

My Rebuttal:
Once again, Dan’s conclusion does not follow from his premises, unless he could prove (1) that there are no modern day occurrences of the gifts that are on a level comparable to New Testament times and (2) only occurrences that are comparable to New Testament miracles are true spiritual gifts.

He cannot prove that modern day occurrences are anemic because he doesn’t know every modern day occurrence (nor does anyone but God). So I won’t accept his second premise unless he can prove it. Can I prove that a miraculous gift is incredible just by pointing to it? No, which is why I am arguing from scripture. In the same way, he can't prove that the spiritual gifts have ceased just by pointing out their widespread absence from the church today. Arguments from ignorance don’t work.

Second, nowhere does scripture teach that supernatural gifts of the Spirit will always be as awe-inspiring as things that the apostle Paul or Peter or Christ performed (see again verses such as 1 Sam 3:1, Ps 74:9, Amos 8:11,12). Many cessationists will even try to prove cessationism by pointing out that at the end of Paul’s life the gifts were beginning to wane and he could not always heal. But just as Dan has pointed out elsewhere, the Bible is not a mural, it's a story with rises and falls and a climax and a conclusion.

The Bible teaches that signs and wonders occur at the will of God, by his Spirit (Heb 2:4). With this in mind, I don’t see how we can Biblically put minimums or maximums on the movement of the Spirit, is he not like the wind (John 3:8, Ecc 11:5)? All we can do is see his effects and feel his direction. We may ask him to empower us in certain ways, but we certainly can’t see him or predict what he will do next.

So let’s not make ourselves out to be wiser than we really are by saying the Spirit can only move in great and powerful ways and won’t speak in small ways through little means.

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Contra DJP #6

His Article:
Of straw men and slippery slopes part 2 of 2

His First Argument:
1. If anyone puts the word down he is putting down the Word’s self testimony
a. Or, put this in two phrases, the Word’s self-testimony puts itself on the highest of planes
b. To put the Word any lower than the highest is to deny that
2. Charismatics do this by accepting modern-day revelation
3. To deny the Word’s testimony is clearly to deny God’s will
4. This is sinful – you’re wrong/not a Christian

My Rebuttal:
I think this is identical to the first argument that I dealt with. But let me rake Dan over the coals a bit more. Again, I think he is completely correct here in his view of the Bible, but he is mistaken in applying it to charismatics across the board. Putting down the sufficiency of scripture is not an issue of charismatic gifts/no charismatic gifts. The charismatic who judges all experiences and revelations by the Word of God holds the Bible on the same platform (I argue actually a higher platform) as the cessationist who judges all doctrine and practice by the Word of God.

What it is a matter of is pride and humility. Paul himself was incredibly filled with the power of Spirit and received revelation from God, but certainly we would not say that we hold a higher view of Scripture than he simply because we believe that revelation is finished!

In no way does accepting modern revelation necessarily cause one to put down the Word’s self-testimony. I hope I demonstrated this in my first argument and I hope you have seen as I have continued my defense that my only desire is to truly let the Word inform everything that I believe, and were anything to contradict the Word, it would be thrown out in an instant. Unless, of course, I was a proud charismatic then perhaps I would take my own revelations as somehow superior to the written Word of God. Just like a proud cessationist takes his own interpretations as superior to the full-counsel of the word of God.

His Second Psuedo-Argument:
1. Ignorance, laziness, unbelief, or a combination are the sources of continuationism (or, as you say in your article, anyone who rejects sola scriptura, which for you includes continuationists)
2. These things are all bad
3. Continuationism must be bad

My Rebuttal:
I understand that this is not precisely an argument against continuationism, rather an argument against any straw man presentation of sola scriptura, which Dan holds to be equivalent with cessationism. But he does have a steady stream running through his writings that as a cessationist, he must have a more intimate knowledge of the Bible and a closer walk with the Lord because that’s all he has, whereas charismatics can be ignorant, lazy, and unbelieving because they have this personal revelation that trumps the Bible.

I’m sure you have gotten the point by now, but I will just state it again briefly to ensure that it is not missed in this instance. Receiving extra-Biblical revelation demands that you be more informed more proactive in your faith and more believing in God. Why? Because, as I’m sure you would agree, with extra-Biblical revelation there is much more danger to stray from God’s path, therefore we must be even more on-guard and in-step with the Lord in order to rightly discern dreams/visions/prophecies/interpretations of tongues/etc.

The true source for continuationism is simply a belief that the Word of God means today what it meant for the original recipients of the writings and that God’s relationship to his people was established by the death and resurrection of Christ, not by a new law (Gal 3:1,2), therefore, just as it was for the first Christians, so should it be with us.

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Contra DJP #5

His Article:
Of dreams, semi-hemi-demi private revelations, machetes, monkeys and their mystical masters

His First Argument:
1. “God told me so” is a trump card
2. It takes you out of the realm of debate, spiritual principles, and reasoning
3. To be out of this realm is wrong
4. God can’t tell you so

My Rebuttal:
Here I agree with Dan’s chain of reasoning, but I don’t understand why he says that “God told me so” puts you out of the realm of debate (this is also addressed in a previous argument). Hasn’t he noticed that even in the supreme case of God “telling you so” namely – the Bible – no one is out of the realm of debate? For example, a person believes the Bible (read: God) teaches that man has a free will. It is the Bible so God did tell that person so, but then there is that sticky issue of interpretation. Dan and I both know that what God actually said is that he is sovereign over human wills. So saying “God told me so” doesn’t make you automatically right.

If this is the way with the Bible it is even more so the way with “semi-hemi-demi private revelations”. It should never take a person out of the realm of debate, rather, it should throw him or her into it like never before because now he/she has this whole new revelation that must be deemed Biblical or unbiblical, from the Lord or not from the Lord, God actually spoke or God didn’t actually speak, interpretation A or interpretation B, and the need for debate and discussion goes on and on - much further than if a person just starts with the Bible.

“God told me so” does not make anything easier, rather it makes it harder, because now a person is even more susceptible to error, needs an even deeper understanding of the Bible, and must have even more thoroughly integrated wisdom to really judge things of this nature accurately.

To more accurately direct Dan’s accusation: I think what he is talking about here is really pride vs. humility. A proud man, even if he is cessationist, will remove himself from the realm of debate because of his arrogance. A humble man, even if he believes that flies buzzing in his ear speak the oracles of God to him, will subject himself to the wisdom of others and not despise their assessment of his supposed revelation.

His Second Argument:
1. “God told me so” is an inerrant understanding of God’s will
2. To oppose God’s will is to sin
3. To argue with a person to whom God has spoken is to oppose the will of God
4. This is messed-up (removes from debate, makes people bad, makes irresponsible)
5. God can’t speak to people

My Rebuttal:
First, I think Dan will realize that this really isn’t a good argument (being “messed-up” never made something untrue before), but because I agree with him – that it would be messed up (in the sense that it would be unbiblical) I will respond to his premises instead. As you will notice from my previous rebuttal, “God told me so” is certainly not an inerrant form of God’s will. Therefore, to argue with a person to whom “God has spoken” is not sin in any way.

In an extreme situation, consider the Catholic Bible vs. the Protestant Bible. Reformation leaders opposed the Apocrypha as being revelation from God. But it was even in the Canon, many people believed that God had spoken in this instance! Nevertheless, the Reformers knew it couldn’t belong because of its inconsistency with the rest of God’s revelation. If that is okay, then clearly no reasonable opposition to anything that one or two individuals purport to be from God is sinful. On the contrary, God commands us to test prophecies and even revelation given by angels (1 Cor 14:29, 37, 38; Gal 1:8).

So, yes, to oppose God’s will is to sin. And if a person were clearly following the Lord’s command, like giving money to the poor, and you opposed him or her, then you would be sinning. But clearly it is God’s express will that we do oppose those brothers and sisters who are falsely following what they believe to be the will of God. The question we must grapple with Biblically, for both counselors and revelatees, is if a revelation is truly the will of God.

An interesting diversion: I just thought of cases such as Zechariah’s (Luke 1:10-23) where he was actually made mute because he “did not believe” the words of Gabriel. I find that very interesting – perhaps the Bible takes an even more open view to visions than I do! But I digress.

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Contra DJP #4

His Article:
How we “do” Christianity, and the reverse

His Argument:
1. We have fellowship with God by means of scripture
2. Therefore to use any method besides what scripture makes plain is to not have fellowship with God (a.k.a. “do” Christianity)
3. To seek to know God by feelings, opinions, or ideas is not in accordance with scripture
4. Modern revelation is nothing more than feelings, opinions, and ideas. (This was not stated plainly, but Dan pointed me to the article and this is consistent with the rest of his writing. So I assume it is what he is saying.)
5. Therefore modern revelation is no way to “do” Christianity.

My Rebuttal:
I totally agree with Dan’s first three premises, yet totally reject his conclusion. We certainly have fellowship with God by means of scripture. I believe that that is the primary way even for people who are filled with the miraculous power of the Spirit. Furthermore, I absolutely agree that for someone to be guided by feelings, opinions, ideas, and the like is terribly wrong and leads to very weak, shallow, and even wrong faith. However, he really has no place to make the fourth statement. In order to make it, he would have to know all those who have claimed to receive revelation from God in modern times and know the inner-workings of whatever it is they received, or he would have to be able to prove from scripture that revelation has ceased.

But clearly Dan does not know these things and he has not demonstrated from scripture that revelation has ceased, so clearly he cannot make that claim. I agree that most people today who believe that God spoke to them are merely setting their own ideas and opinions on an unacceptably high pedestal, however, that does not mean that no one has received some revelation from God, nor does it mean that we can’t receive revelation from God.

Moreover, even if he could make the fourth claim (without proving it from the Bible), the ultimate conclusion would not follow. Is it not clear that there are times in the Bible when God simply does not speak, then after a long period he again gives revelation (1 Sam 3:1, Ps 74:9, Amos 8:11,12)? I do believe that we are in one such period when the word of the Lord is rare, but I also believe and pray for an outpouring to come when we all once again will fulfill the words of Joel 2:28.

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Contra DJP #3

His Article:
God’s will: the central issue for Biblical Christians

His First Argument:
1. 2 Tim 3:15-17 teaches that scripture is adequate to tell us all that we are morally accountable for
2. If there was revelation besides scripture, then scripture wouldn’t tell us all that we are morally accountable for.
3. Therefore, there can’t be revelation outside of scripture

My Rebuttal:
This argument closely mirrors the very first one that I addressed, although it is stated more precisely here. Dan does raise a good point, however, once again I bring to his attention that the manner in which we interpret signs and wonders and revelatory gifts are clearly defined in the Bible. Therefore, even if we receive revelation besides scripture, the Bible can still tell us how to test the sign and therefore the Bible still teaches us all that we are morally accountable for. The argument fails. See, once again I’ve expanded the power and reach of the Bible, whereas those who claim to defend its supremacy actually end up limiting it by saying it can’t or doesn’t give us guidance concerning extra-Biblical revelation, which it does.

For the best examples in scripture, I think we can use (1) Paul’s vision of the Macedonian man (Acts 16:9-10) and (2) Peter’s revelation that Gentiles are to be included in the new covenant (Acts 10:9-48 and one of my favorite stories about the power and usefulness of extra-Scriptural revelation). Given that God gave these extra-Canonical revelations to these men, the question is then: did he hold them accountable for them? (i.e., if Paul had not gone to Macedonia, would God have been angry?) This is a good question that I would be interested in discussing, but clearly it demonstrates that there can be extra-Canonical revelation that God expects us to follow. Why? Again, I think you will find that the answer is that we should know what to do about our visions, dreams, experiences, etc. because the scripture makes it clear what to do with them. Thus, there is revelation besides scripture, yet scripture still tells us what we are morally accountable for.

His Second Sub-Argument?:
1. Continuationists say there are 3 wills in God
2. The bible says there are only 2
3. Therefore, there is no 3rd, “jus’ sayin” will

My Rebuttal:
This is one of those times when Dan just wants to make continuationists look silly and I don’t think he really means this (or does he?). But for the sake of responding, less you think this is what continuationists actually believe, hear me out.

I, too, believe that there are 2 wills in God: sovereign will and moral will, efficient will and permissive will, secret will and revealed will, will of decree and will of command, decretive will and preceptive will, voluntas signi (will of sign) and voluntas beneplaciti (will of good pleasure). You know the deal. For my sake, I will use the terms “secret will” and “revealed will”. I think you can clearly see by my selection of these terms what I am getting at. God does have a secret will, which no one knows (until it happens). Yet clearly, if he gave some sort of revelation to someone that informed his or her behavior, then it would be categorized under the revealed will. See how that works? Revelation = revealed. Neat, huh?

Consequently, I do not say that there are 3 wills in God, what is “jus’ sayin” will? There are 2, but God’s revealed will is revealed both in the Bible and by whatever other means of revelation God should choose to use. (I recall an article Dan wrote just last week wherein he demonstrated a time when God spoke through ants.)

Now, you may accuse me of being contradictory: “but you said that the Canon is unique revelation from God in that it rules over every other type of revelation – so then you must say that there are three types.” However, just because extra-Biblical revelation is in the same category as Canon, does not mean that there is no hierarchy. Or, to put it more precisely, when one receives revelation that is not a verse in the Bible, the question is automatically, “is this from God, does it accord with the Bible?” If it most obviously does then it would be wise to accept it and obey it just as you would the Bible. If there is any question as to whether it is actually God’s revealed will then it would be wise to say “no” until it is absolutely clear that it is, and if it is clearly not then reject it outright.

But you can see that there must be this period of testing (Acts 17:11, 1 Cor 14:29,32,37) and once the testing has confirmed that it is the will of God, then you may accept it as the revealed will of God, just as Canon is. So – there is no third will, just as the Bible teaches.

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Contra DJP #2

His article:
Of straw men and slippery slopes (part one of two)

His first argument:
1. If you believe that you need more revelation than the Bible then you will not pay as much attention to the Bible.
2. Therefore we should not believe that we need more revelation than the Bible.

My Rebuttal:
Again, I affirm Dan's point that nothing more is needed. And yes, even believing that more revelation is possible, despite the fact that it is not needed, is dangerous. I believe that even if God were to grant me beatific visions of himself, were those to cause me to ignore the scripture or lessen my regard for them, I would pray for the strength to ignore the visions as long as they were replacing my daily portion of the Word. Otherwise there is no telling when error could begin to overtake me.

I remember when I first discovered the charismatic gifts, I noticed that many of the charismatics I was surrounded did not have the depth of understanding of scripture or doctrine as I was accustomed to in reading men such as John Piper, Jonathan Edwards, and Charles Spurgeon. It was at that time that I vowed in my heart that I would believe in the charismatic gifts because the Bible teaches them, yet I would not allow myself to become as the typical charismatic who saw scripture as simply something to go to in order to hear a great story and get one's spirits up. I would be a charismatic who sought Scripture in the detail and intricacy that my otherwise Reformed views dictate.

Furthermore, his line of reasoning in this argument seems to indicate that just because something is dangerous or might possibly produce bad fruit, we should deny it. Yet I think that on reflection, even Dan would admit that that is a poor line of reasoning. Even sola fide, which Dan doubtlessly believes in, is a doctrine, as Romans shows, that is dangerous. Paul had to vehemently argue against many who took it as license to continue sinning. Therefore, sola fide – dangerous? Yes. True? Yes. Belief that revelatory gifts are still active today – dangerous? Yes. True? Yes.

His Second Argument:
1. If revelation is really from God then it should be added to the canon
2. Canon is closed so revelation can’t be from God

My Rebuttal:
I know I already responded to this in my comments on the book review post (that kicked this whole thing off) but for the sake of answering all Dan's arguments in one space, I’ll go over it again very briefly. Canon is unique among all of God’s revelation in that it rules over all other types of revelation. I hope in my saying this everyone can again see that my view of scripture is actually very high (ironically, it is higher than the cessationist who believes that Canon is no different from any of God's other revelation). God revealed many true, inerrant, infallible things to apostles and prophets that were not recorded in scripture, that does not mean Canon is missing anything. If one doubts this, look no further than John 20:30 or 21:25, or how about the true, inerrant revelation from God given to Timothy (1 Tim 1:18, 4:14) that is no where found in Canon. If these examples don't convince you just say so and I'll make more of a laundry list.

I do not know why Canon contains exactly what it does. Does anyone claim to know this? But if I had to define Canonical revelation I would simply define it as revelation for all people at all times. God put enough in Canon to make it sufficient for all our needs, as I previously discussed. He alone could explain why Canon, not plus or minus one iota, is what he gave to all Christians. I think most of us, cessationist and continuationist alike (flesh speaking), would have appreciated a few more chapters or books to clarify a few things for us.

With this said, I hope it is clear how there is no inconsistency in belief that God gives inerrant revelation today and yet Canon is completely closed and is totally sufficient. I abhor any accusation of being a "leaky-Canon" anything. The only way a person could claim this is if they were unaware of all the times the Bible itself points to other instances of inerrant revelation and yet fails to record it. Perhaps we should call them, "incomplete-Canon cessationists" or, better yet, "insufficient-Canon cessationists." Wow, they're really in a tight spot.

His Third Argument:
1. Praying in tongues draws us nearer to God
2. We should stop praying in English altogether
3. This is obviously not taught in scripture, but it’s a logical conclusion of charismatic teaching, therefore that teaching much be wrong

My Rebuttal:
The Bible says that there are benefits for both prayer that is understood and prayer that isn’t. In 1 Cor. 14:15 Paul says, “What am I to do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will pray with my mind also.” In 1 Cor. 14, Paul outlines the benefits of praying in tongues (with my spirit) and he outlines the benefits of praying in the language that the pray-er understand (with my mind). So he says he will pray in both. I think he gives a pretty good, systematic way of thinking about it in 1 Cor. 14, but I don’t think it’s necessary to go into all that for this peripheral argument, unless someone demands it. Suffice it to say - it's good enough for Paul the apostle to pray in both, therefore I shall pray in both also.

Another sub-note: notice how Paul explicitly says that he (with volition) will pray with his Spirit. Just in case any of you cessationists were wondering how one could just stop and start-up praying in tongues.

His Fourth Argument:
1. Ministry without signs and wonders is incomplete
2. All the great men of the past must have had incomplete ministries
3. This obviously isn’t true, comparing them to men today who claim to have miraculous empowerment
4. Therefore ministry can clearly be “complete” without signs and wonders
5. Therefore signs and wonders have ceased

My Rebuttal:
I really don’t know why Dan goes here, some charismatic must have said that ministry without signs and wonders is incomplete. I, for one, greatly revere the ministries (most notable in my own life) of John Piper, Jonathan Edwards, Charles Spurgeon, and George Mueller. None of them had (or have) a ministry that was regularly accompanied by signs and wonders. I do not think their ministry was incomplete by any means. They accomplished all that God laid out for them to do, and in their case they accomplished more than many others who had signs and wonders to accompany their ministry (but who am I to judge the impact of one's ministry?).

I do think that their ministry would have been more effective if they had had signs and wonders, but who doesn’t believe that? Anyone who can call down fire from heaven is going to turn a few more heads. At the same time, signs and wonders are obviously not a wonder drug for any ministry.**(see the note at the bottom of the post) The first and greatest importance for any minister is that they be in accordance with Biblical teaching. Then, if God wills, perhaps they will have signs and wonders as a bonus.

But the conclusion Dan wishes to draw still doesn’t follow from his premises. Just because ministries can be powerful and complete without signs and wonders, doesn’t make any difference in concluding whether or not signs and wonders have ceased. It just means they were really good ministries using only natural giftings, who knows what more possibly lies in the supernatural realm.

His Fifth (and final) Argument:
1. If all the gifts are extant then apostles and prophets must be too
2. Only people who are way out on the fringes would believe that apostles and prophets are for today
3. Therefore apostles and prophets are not for today
4. Therefore the gifts are not extant.

My Rebuttal:
I’m sure Dan can see how this argument is fatally flawed logically. “People on the fringes” are not always wrong. Furthermore, the matter is not who believes what but who is right and who is wrong according to Scripture. This is my purpose in currently responding to Dan. He himself has pointed out the fallacy of guilt by association.

**I am aware that this is a side-topic, which is why it is a note at the end, but since I am sure that my comment confused many Bible-sufficient cessationists, I thought I should clarify. The point is simply this: imperfect people may exercise miraculous gifts of the Spirit. In fact, a person who still has sin in their lives and still has bad theology may receive the gift of prophecy or healing while someone else much more holy, with much better theology may not exercise miraculous spiritual gifts at all. I won’t argue for this here (although I would hope this would be obvious) but I just thought that this may be needed for some of you to understand how I could revere a patently unsupernatural person like Jonathan Edwards above a person whom I believe to be gifted in prophecy or healing. A person’s ability or lack thereof with supernatural gifts is not God saying, “this person is infallible”, it’s simply God saying, “this person is preaching my gospel.” And even the best cessationist knows that a person can preach the gospel yet still have a lot of learning to do.

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I'm not sure what happened to Robert Ivy. I really liked his posts dealing with some of the typical "anti-gifts of the Spirit" arguments. Ivy has not posted since mid-December and I'm afraid he may not make the 6 month average life-span for a blogger. To ensure the Contra DJP series does not get lost, I will repost them in their entirety here and hope that he will not judge me negatively. I also know that some of you are lazy and won't bother to click over to Ivy's site.

Contra DJP #1

His article:
The dangerous vulnerability of discontentment

His argument:
1. God says that scripture alone is sufficient. (Deuteronomy 29:29, Psalm 119, 2 Timothy 3:15-17)
2. Belief in or desire for modern day revelation denies that scripture is sufficient.
3. Therefore there cannot be modern-day revelation

My rebuttal:
First, let me say that for me to really tackle this argument, I desperately need an accurate definition for “sufficient” from Dan. But in the absence of such a definition allow me to propose a definition that I think would be accepted by both of us: that of the Westminster Confession of Faith, which states:

The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for His own glory, man's salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men. Nevertheless, we acknowledge the inward illumination of the Spirit of God to be necessary for the saving understanding of such things as are revealed in the Word: and that there are some circumstances concerning the worship of God, and government of the Church, common to human actions and societies, which are to be ordered by the light of nature, and Christian prudence, according to the general rules of the Word, which are always to be observed (Westminster Confession 1.6).

Now, this says that scripture (with inward illumination of the Spirit of God, which he consistently fails to mention - more to come on this) is totally sufficient, “concerning all things necessary for His own glory, man’s salvation, [and] faith and life.” Amen! I believe that a man could live his whole Christian life, chock-full of hard, ambiguous decisions, uncertainty, suffering, etc., and never ever receive anything more than the Bible in his hands and a little help from the Spirit and could live according to whole counsel of God. I do not see how believing in or desiring God’s modern-day revelation negates this at all.

I’ll put it another way. Scripture is certainly sufficient in the way in which Dan, along with all orthodoxy, describe – that it gives every Christian everything they need to live the life that God calls each one of us to live. We do not need anything besides scriptures (with the illumination of the Holy Spirit) to live a life that magnifies the glory of God in every aspect. But these very scriptures, which are sufficient to teach us everything we need to know, don’t teach that Bible study is all that the Christian life is composed of.

Does sufficiency of scripture mean that we don’t need to pray? (i.e. If we need to pray then examination of Scripture alone must not be sufficient to live a Godly life.) No, it means that scripture is sufficient to teach us how to pray. Does it mean we don’t need fellowship with other believers? No, it means scripture is sufficient to teach us how to have Godly fellowship.
In the same way does it mean we don’t need the power of the Holy Spirit? No, it means scripture is sufficient to teach us how to seek and receive the power of the Spirit. Does it mean we don’t need to seek to hear what God is saying to us today? No, it means that scripture is sufficient to teach us how to seek after, listen to, and test any revelation we receive.

SO! The battle is not on the grounds of whether or not Scripture is sufficient, IT IS! The battle is on the grounds of what Scripture teaches to live a Godly life (which is the very thing we both say that scripture is sufficient for)! And I argue that Scripture teaches that we need to seek to hear the voice of God today (a.k.a. the first step of prophecy) to live a Godly life (1 Cor 14:1 most clearly).

Again, I do not need these things. However, in believing the full counsel of God, I seek these things, which is really all I can do. Should I never receive them, God will not be less glorious and I will not be lacking some necessary part of Christian life, but should I receive them! Oh the joy and wonder of seeing the face of my King! Of hearing that voice that is like thunder! Of being a vessel for that power that nothing in this universe can withstand! That is the passion, the faith, and the hope, that my Scripture teaches.

A sub-note: just as discontentment leaves us dangerously vulnerable to Satan, so does it demonstrate the spiritual health in our lives. The soul that is completely content with its current spiritual state is the soul that knows neither the true sickness of its sinful condition nor the wealth of glory that is in God.

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televangelist sends money

Frank Lockwood has received money from a televangelist. Yes, not a request for money but a gift of money ... but ... well, you have to read it yourself.

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Wednesday, December 27, 2006

sleeping in the spirit

We've tried it all, barking, shaking, laughing, etc.. Now God is moving in a different way and bringing Holy Sleeping.

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Tuesday, December 26, 2006

orthodoxy v. compassion

Francis Schaeffer is credited with saying, "Biblical orthodoxy without compassion is surely the ugliest thing in the world." I'll agree with that. I'd add that compassion without orthodoxy is pretty darn ugly too. Interestingly, when compassion flows out of a right soul renewed by the Spirit in the Word of Truth, this is very, very beautiful.

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piper finishes romans - finally

John Piper began his sermon series on the book of Romans on April 26, 1998. The series ended this past Sunday, appropriately titled, Jesus Christ in the Book of Romans. In the end, it's all about Him.

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the clinton legacy?

William Jefferson Clinton, his legacy lives on ...

Monday, December 25, 2006

my favorite christmas post this year

Thanks to Dan Phillips for this excellent Christmas post. The only way it could be improved on is if Dan was to now announce that he received the gift of tongues this holiday season. That would be so cool.

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neither money nor programs

Spencer Burke, creator of the Ooze and author of A Heretic's Guide to Eternity, said;

There is a lot of money for the postmodern game. Anything can be sponsored and fed money to. The modern church will pump money into church planting, books, and movies. But the sun burns brightest before it sets. They are trying to reach young people. However, they will realize that they were wasting their money and walk away. After this, there will be people who apply the gospel in postmodern cultures.
I've not read Burke's stuff and I've seen a lot of back-and-forth on the blogsphere regarding his teaching. I'm not touching any of that until I've read more of his stuff which will probably be never. But I'd like to tackle the above in a little more detail.

I think the above is an eternal truism and is not a function of postmodern, modern, or any other fade, cultural trend, etc.. Whenever the institutionalized Church throws money at the world the result will be failure and frustration. Whenever the Church of the Living God shows up to the world with the Gospel, the result is miraculous.

In that context, I have can fully support the statement. If however the statement is intended to enlighten the Church to throw off it's history, etc. and move to some postmodern, emergent, or whatever approach, then shame on those propagating this. This issue is not postmodern v. anything else, it is the Gospel v. everything else. The Gospel is the power of God for salvation. Thats it.

Now regarding money. Jesus teaches us in Luke that it is wise to use His possessions to build relationships with the world. Money can be an excellent tool. The "trick" of course is to use it not profit for ourselves, but to build connections with the lost so that the Gospel may be demonstrated and proclaimed where it may not have otherwise have had opportunity. If Burke's intent was to say "money is not the answer, rather the Gospel is" then again, cool. If it was a reaction to things to do with money, than I think he misses that point.

All that we are and all that God has given us to manage is to be used for His glory. We are to go into the world to proclaim the Gospel and make disciples.

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Thursday, December 21, 2006

prepare for church this christmas

If you are a church leader, you need to read this article so you can better understand what C&E Christians go through - you certainly don't want to drive them away - especially if you went through a lot of effort to make that Christmas Celebration an unforgettable extravaganza.

If you are a C&E Christian, then I trust you are preparing yourself and your family. You do not want to feel embarrassed or singled out do you? If not, here are some helps to get yourselves ready. It's not too late.

And then there are the facts.
Well I'd have to say there are many more web sites telling me that Christmas is pagan than there are telling me that it is not pagan. So I guess that settles it. Just be sure you buy me something expensive. You can get me this for Christmas ... not. But seriously, how about an upside down tree?

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a very willow christmas

Christmas06Apparently WillowCreek will out do even themselves this year in a Christmas extravaganza beyond what one could ever imagine. The article states, "Willow Creek will host a series of 10 Christmas services featuring strobe lights, Cirque du Soleil-style acrobats “flying” above the stage, and fake snow falling from the ceiling. The end product is a Disney World-worthy production that Willow Creek founder Bill Hybels says is the church’s most ambitious to date. 'We’re trying things at this service that we’ve never attempted before,' Hybels said."

I can hear the watchdogs howling already. Me personally, my first reaction was that this was "over the top" and I didn't like it. But then I thought, why do I think that? Many of the critics will say it is wrong because it is Willow. Sorry, that doesn't make it so. Many will say it is wrong because it's big and flashy. Sorry, that doesn't make it so. And why would we draw the line at this level. Does it have to be poorly done before we can accept that it may be ok for a church to do it?

I cannot defend what WillowCreek is doing. But whether or not it is over the top doesn't matter. If it is not initiated by God, it is wrong. Since, unlike the watchdogs, I believe God dwells among the people of that community, I wish them a Merry Christmas and pray that God would be glorified in this season.

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Wednesday, December 20, 2006

wireless update

For those of you that know me, while I may know a couple of things technically, I am no technical geek. Regardless, I want to provide an update of a personal and technical nature. Since moving to Cincinnati in July, I have had a horrible time with my home network. The symptoms were innumerable. I've spent hours on help-lines, I've bought and returned no less than four different routers, six access points, and a print server. I even paid a tech-geek almost $300 to come to my home - end result, not good. The tech guy at least got me to the place where I had consistent connection but only if I was within 10 feet of the $200 Airport Extreme. I can extend that using the $130 Airport Express but it had to be within a few feet of the Extreme and I still had to be within 10 or so feet of the Express - net I only gained perhaps 10 more feet - beyond that, connection was hit and miss.

Well good news. Two days ago I bought a Belkin N1 for $140. I could have bought it over the internet to save some money but I needed to protect myself to return it. And I realize that this is pre-N so there is a chance that I may not have the final standard. But I have to announce, I am looking forward to getting my $330 back from Apple when I return the Extreme and the Express. The Belkin is rock solid. I have excellent to good connection through my Casa - and more importantly out on my back deck for cruising the internet while enjoying the great outdoors!

I am very happy and consider this my Christmas gift.

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calvinist romance book

Gse Multipart58457"Baby, your name must be Grace, because you're irresistible." from the metro calvinist.

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Tuesday, December 19, 2006


Rich Nathan recently preached "A Different Way of Living: Servanthood". In that he offered some thought provoking points.

First; when people are asked to define a Christian, the answers will generally fall into one of four categories:

  • Belief; e.g., Christians believe in a Triune God, Christians believe that Jesus died on the cross for salvation, etc..
  • Religion; e.g., Christians celebrate such and such a holiday, Christians attend church once a week, etc..
  • Political; e.g., Christians vote Republican, Christians are pro-life, etc..
  • Negative; e.g., Christians are hypocrites, Christians are rule pushers
This is stands against a proper definition which is those that follow a way of life as taught by Jesus of Nazareth. In Mark 9 and 10, we see that the disciples are following Jesus on "the way". Chapter 10 closes with Jesus healing blind Bartimaeus. In that Jesus tells him to go on his way. Bartimaeus receives his sight and follows Jesus. In Acts 9, Christians are referred to as "the way". Jesus created a way of life.

Everybody follows somebody. All of us make decisions every day about what is important, how to treat people, and what to do with our lives. These decisions come from what we believe about every aspect of our existence. And we got our beliefs from somewhere. We have been formed, every one of us, by this complicated mix of people and places and things. Parents and teachers and artists and scientists and mentors - we are each taking all of these influences and living our lives according to which teachings we have made our own. Some insist that they aren't influenced by any person or any religion, that they think for themselves. And that's an honorable perspective. The problem is they got that perspective from . . . somebody. They're following somebody even if they insist it is themselves they are following. ... Everybody is following somebody. Everybody has faith in something and somebody. We are all believers. - Rob Bell, Velvet Elvis.
Nathan adds;

As a Christian I am trying to orient my way to live a particular kind of way.To be a follower of Jesus is to follow Jesus in the way of life that Jesus taught and modeled. The way of Jesus is different than the way of the world. Our problem is not that we need new political leaders, that we have negative self-talk, or that we have low self-esteem, or that we need to morally improve ourselves. Jesus taught us that our problem is that we are sinners and we need to be forgiven. We are captured by powers that are too big for us and that are too great for us and we need someone else [a hero] to set us free. Jesus came to do for us what we could not do for ourselves. He came to suffer and die to forgive us our sins. Jesus teaches us a different way of salvation than the way of the world. Jesus teaches us a different way of success than the world.
Nathan then notes that in Mark 8, 9 & 10, as Jesus is explaining His sacrifice, the disciples are arguing. Who will be the greatest in chapter 9? Who can sit at your right and left in chapter 10? Interestingly, chapter 10 ends with the healing of blind Bartimaeus. Shortly before Jesus predicts His death in chapter 8, Mark records the healing of the blind man at Bethsaida.

While I believe this is an historic account, I think it is recorded for metaphoric reasons. It's possibly an example of how we can be with Jesus and even follow Him yet still not see clearly. It's amazing how far a man can go, even seemingly following Christ, yet not fully knowing Him. The disciples walked with Him. He's talking about laying down His life. And through this their focus was on which of them was the greatest. They just don't have a clear picture of who He is.

This is how we are. We can go a long way on the road to following Jesus and still be blind to fundamental issues in our lives (Jer 17.9; We all know committed Christians who fall in some deep sin or simple bitterness and gossip, etc.. We speak condescendingly about other believers if they don't hold to some secondary doctrine.

This is not something we can fix ourselves. We need God to come in and heal us of our heart blindness. We need the power of the Holy Spirit to make us sensitive to the big things and to the little things that keep us from seeing Jesus clearly. We need Him to remove the things that cloud our vision.

We, like the disciples, are filled with selfish ambition (Mk 10.37; Jer 45.5). If we could see Christ clearly, we would walk more like Him and count others more significant than ourselves (Phil 2.3).

Bottom line - we are all on our way. Some of us seem to be on the way with Christ. Let none of us be deceived, we need to fix our eyes on Him and by His power see Him more and more clearly if we are to succeed in the journey as He desires.

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Sunday, December 17, 2006

celtic evangelism

0687085853.01.LzzzzzzzI'm reading George Hunter's, The Celtic Way of Evangelism and while not quite finished, I am very positively impressed. The first challenge was for me to stop reacting to some of the Celtic Christian's Roman Catholic practices. My issues with those behaviors tended to block me from seeing the good stuff in what they were doing overall. If you can get past that, this is an excellent, short (121 pages) read.

Hunter identifies five key themes in their approach to missions. First, "they usually evangelized as a team - by relating to the people of a settlement; identifying with the people; engaging in friendship, conversation, ministry, and witness - with the goal of raising up a church in measurable time."

Second, the "community prepared people to live with depth, compassion, and power in mission."

Third, they focussed "on the role of imaginative prayer in all the settings". The imaginative prayer language was one of the key places I had issue but if not taken to the extreme of today's contemplative prayer movement, this seems healthy. Here however is a sample that calms my fears and allows the practice presuming it is not abused. This is from the end of a piece entitled St. Patrick's Breastplate.

Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down, Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through belief in the threeness,
Through confession of the oneness,
Of the Creator of Creation.

For to the Lord belongs salvation,
and to the Lord belongs salvation
and to Christ belongs salvation
May your salvation, Lord, be with us always.
The fourth theme is relative to hospitality. This is found "in ministry with seekers, visitors, refugees, and other guests. ... The Benedictine Rule #53 explains that 'All guests who present themselves are to be welcomed as Christ, for he himself will say: 'I was a stranger and you welcomed me.''"

The fifth and final theme is around the overall model and the seeker's experience within that. The Roman Model is first presentation, then decision, followed by fellowship. The Celtic model is fellowship, then ministry and conversations, followed by belief and and invitation to commitment. In this Celtic model, I would want to be careful not to confuse the fellowship with the unbeliever as the fellowship we enjoy as the body of Christ but certainly in the sense of us going out and living among the world and then inviting them to come and live within our community, this is good.

The goal here is to put disciple-making and a Christian life over the oft too valued "decision for Christ". Hunter emphasized that "Christianity is more caught than taught." I would argue that it is both. But his point here is that we focus on the moment in time that a decision is made rather than the real goal of a life changed for Christ - living for Him every moment of every day. With the right approach, it is not a, "let's think about how to make the alter call easy", it is more, "hey, come see that a life in Christ costs everything and when you are ready to die to yourself, then you are ready to live for Him."

Hunter also provided some tips for speaking.

First, engage and speak as though personally, to individuals, not as to an audience en masse. ... Second, speak concretely, even poetically and imaginatively, rather than in abstractions. Third, speak to yourself as well as to the auditors, so that the speech has the effect of the audience overhearing the speaker addressing the speaker. Fourth, stress the possibility; that is, what a person's lie can become. If you tell stories of heroes of the faith, the goal is not for the people to admire the heroes ... but to glimpse what their own lives can become. Fifth, reject all temptation to pressure people to decide now; respect their freedom and encourage their free response in measurable time.
Hunter then provides some historic examples of miracles. I'll have to accept these at face value and as a Charismatic, they fit my Biblical "grid" fine. Of course others will "pooh pooh" this and then as one of their proofs that spiritual gifts as ceased is that there are no historical record of these. I'm accepting the accounts.

There is a small section on storytelling of which I am a big believer of. I teach small group leaders that one of their key roles is that of storyteller. They must be able to tell His story (the Gospel), our story (that of our community), and their story (how the Gospel and the community is transforming them into Christ-likeness).

These Celtic believers, as should all believers, were devoted, compassionate, and sold-out citizens of Heaven - and they understood that "the Christian faith never exists except as 'translated' into culture!"

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nsv outreach center

Cool stuff today after Sunday Celebration Service at NSV (golovelive). We got a briefing on the new building we are getting close to starting on. Currently corporate services are in a rented high-school auditorium. The new building is the current direction because we have outgrown the auditorium and we are also looking for a way to provide a community service center - a place that is open 24x7 for use for serving the community.

Today's meeting was cool because it was not a bureaucratic, constitution driven meeting but simply one where family came together to exchange ideas with our trusted leaders. That felt good. But more, the ideas were about how can we use this facility to continue to meet the needs of the lost and the marginalized. The main room will be a basketball court that will also serve as our meeting room for weekly services. There is plenty of space for hanging out and various sized rooms that will serve as a free-store, child-care, etc..

I'm looking forward to see how God will use this fellowship to effect the community here.

There was one interesting point that I didn't completely agree with but I'm willing to see if time will prove me wrong - this was around church planting. In its four year history, NSV has already been involved in three church plants. As talking point for the building, the target capacity was around 800 adults. The leaders shared that they didn't see NSV growing beyond that because their intent is to continue to plant new churches. While I fully support church planting, I believe that will cause more church growth rather than limit it. Certainly that has been the case so far here and in my experience elsewhere. So, we will see what happens. Either way, I'm thrilled to be here.

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i am a person of the year

1101061225 400Wow - I had no idea I was even a candidate but it turns out I am one of Time Magazine's 2006 Person of the Year. How cool is that?!? This honor comes to me "for seizing the reins of the global media, for founding and framing the new digital democracy, for working for nothing and beating the pros at their own game, TIME's Person of the Year for 2006 is you." I am truly great!

I now join in the ranks of Bono, Bill and Melinda Gates, George W. Bush, and so on. We've come such a long way since The Computer was Person of the Year in 1982. It is because of The Computer that I have this honor today ... wow!

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Saturday, December 16, 2006

more ivy

Mr. Ivy continues to chip away in an excellent way, Contra DJP#5, Contra DJP#6, and Contra DJP#7.

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a religion of peace?

324289617 E212C2F727

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joseph holding jesus

324287084 97377E63Ea
Today the world is looking for men –
Men who are not for sale, honest, sound from center to circumference, true to the heart’s core.
Men whose consciences are steady as a needle to the pole.
Men who will stand for right even if heaven totters and the earth reels.
Men who can tell the truth and look the world right in the eye.
Men who neither brag nor run, who neither flag nor flinch.
Men who can have courage without shouting it.
Men in whom the courage of everlasting life still runs deep and strong.
Men who know their message and tell it; men who know their place and fill it; men who know their business and attend to it.
Men who will not lie; will not shirk; will not dodge.
Men who are not too lazy to work; too proud to be poor.

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today's outreach

Today's outreach was especially good. Earlier this week, in one of the usual neighborhoods that we serve, there was a suicide-murder. A young mother was killed and then her attacker took his life. It was a horrible tragedy leaving three young boys in foster care and a neighborhood in pain.

Today we passed out Christmas wrapping paper, candy for the kids, and Bibles. Barb and a friend of ours have adopted one of the families so we gave the mother a number of gifts (already wrapped) for her to present to her kids for Christmas.

Normally as we pass out things we occasionally have chances to pray with some of the families. This week, in addition to that, after we finished with the hand outs, we gathered in a public area to pray for the hurt caused by this recent tragedy. Some of the neighborhood came out to join us. Black and white, young and old, there we stood praying to the one living God that His Spirit would come and bring peace and answers to this hurting family and community. Our friend read a poem written by some of the neighborhood children (Kenny McCoy, Keishia Dixon, Ondria Gadsen, and Absalom Frakes).

To Rasheena Davis With Love

Rasheena Davis was our neighbor and friend,
Yesterday, on December 12th, her life came to an end.

We will miss her, we loved her, she is in our thoughts,
She is a woman we respected and admired a lot!

She always looked pretty, her hair was done nice,
When people saw her, they would look at her twice!

She always said, "Hi!",
When people walked by!

She had three sons, TJ, Quez and Joe,
We are so sad that she had to go.

She was a good mom and kind to everyone,
She told funny stories and jokes and was lots of fun!

She had a little store filled with candy,
She gave it lovingly to kids - that was dandy!

We kids saw her in the morning when we left for school,
She had a warm smile ... she was awesome and cool!

If she had a movie that kids wanted to see,
She'd lend it to kids to make them happy!

She was always giving compliments like, "You look nice today!"
We really loved Rasheena Davis in every way!

Even though she is no longer with us, she is still in our hearts,
She is number one on the wonderful "people chart!"

We will keep her in our thoughts and keep her in our prayers,
She will have a special place in our hearts ... always there!

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ivy v. phillips

He looks young but don't let that fool you, Robert Ivy is doing a fair job addressing some arguments Dan Phillips has used to dupe less worthy adversaries. I recommend reading these because they clearly outline the fallacy contained in the logic of so many like Phillips - and I find it such a shame. These guys have so much excellent truth but they lose it in their conclusions or side issues.

Contra DJP#1
Contra DJP#2
Contra DJP#3
Contra DJP#4

Drop by and make a comment.

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no more mr nice group

My dear friend Marlin just returned an email I sent him a year ago. Marlin is very busy planting a church, working two jobs, blogging (but not as much as the past) and making babies so it is ok.

The email was an article I found by John Ortberg titled, No More Mr. Nice Group - 5 practices that take small groups beyond polite "sharing" to the disciplines that change lives. I'm glad he sent this now since I have recently struggled with small group. I heard a group leader say to me that he thought small group should be a "safe place". While I agree with that, this is only part of it. Small group should be safe in the sense that every member must know that they are loved, that they will not be embarrassed outside the group, that we are all in this journey together and no one stands above another, etc.. Where this is not enough is that small group should be safe but not comfortable. Too many group leaders confuse safety and comfort. Under the guise of safety, error is not confronted. Under the guise of safety, growth is not promoted - if it occurs, it is slow and incidental as opposed to deliberate.

Ortberg's opening remarks stress the importance of this.

God has entrusted us with his most precious treasure—people. He asks us to shepherd and mold them into strong disciples, with brave faith, and good character. I would not give my life to any church that was not serious about this calling—the transformation of human beings. God has decided, for his own good reasons, that people are not transformed outside of community.
First, why is community so important, to quote Ortberg more:

... Dallas Willard has said about the Christian life: "Personalities united can contain more of God and sustain the force of his greater presence better than scattered individuals." Think about that. Personalities united—people in community—contain more of God and his transforming power than isolated individuals. We should not be surprised that transformation requires community; it's how God designed us.

When we are alone, it's easy to think, incorrectly, that we are spiritually advanced. I can watch a Hallmark commercial alone and find myself moved to tears. I tell myself that I am a very compassionate person. But when I spend time in community with a person who annoys me, it's amazing how quickly I experience "compassion fatigue."

In community we discover who we really are and how much transformation we still require. This is why I am irrevocably committed to small groups. Through them we can accomplish our God-entrusted work to transform human beings.
The question now posed is what makes a group truly life changing? Ortberg answers this in five points.

Confession: remove the masks. We all wear masks. We hide from each other. It's part of our fallenness. That is why one of the most formative practices in a small group is confession. Confession is the appropriate disclosure of my brokenness, temptations, sin, and victories for the purpose of healing, forgiveness, and spiritual growth. Without confession we are a community hiding from the truth. ... A small group serious about transformation should be moving into ever deeper confession—removing masks to reveal our core feelings and fears, sins we still struggle with, and areas where we're not growing. ... We need to avoid "confession killers" in our groups. These include the inappropriate use of humor. Some people are embarrassed by deep honesty, so they may mock the person confessing or diffuse the atmosphere with a joke. It sends a signal that this is not a safe place to confess, and the masks go back on.

Application: look in the mirror. James 1:23 says, "Those who listen to the word, but do not do what it says, are like people who look at their faces in the mirror, and after looking at themselves, go away and immediately forget what they look like." A small group is a place for people to look into the mirror, discover who they are, and then ask, "How do I apply God's word to my life as it really is?" ... We .. need are small groups to be schools of life. Imagine someone has a problem with anger—a small group leader should ask them: "What kinds of situations tend to get you angry, and how do you respond?" Give them some alternatives to sinful patterns of anger. Roleplay these situations in the small group. Then next week ask, "How did it go?" If they got it right, celebrate it. If they didn't, investigate what happened, and encourage them to do it differently next time.

Accountability: stand on the scale. Small groups are the place for people to get on the scale and reveal how intentional they have been to pursue transformation into the image of Christ. William Paulson writes, "It is unlikely that we will deepen our relationship with God in a casual or haphazard manner." I think he understates it. People do not drift into full devotion to Christ. People do not drift into becoming loving, joy-filled, patient, winsome, world changers. It requires intention and effort.

Guidance: follow the map. The small group is to be where we find guidance, where we help each other learn how to listen to God. Small groups who rely upon God's Spirit serve as a map for us when making important decisions. ... Small groups should be places where people gather to hear God through prayer and listening [and Scripture]. Every small group meeting should include the question, "Is anybody facing a significant decision this week?" And in community the group should seek the Spirit's voice for the person facing the decision.

Encouragement: embrace each other. ... small groups have the privilege of loving and accepting human beings for whom Christ gave his life. In these groups we can supply the love, encouragement, and embrace people need to continue their journey of transformation. ... love is what we ultimately need in small groups to transform lives. We can make small groups so complex and difficult, we can build the perfect small group strategy, but if we do not have the love of Christ present, we are not really engaged in transforming people into his likeness.

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Friday, December 15, 2006

preaching without converting

Jesus Christ Saves Ministries posts these 38 points attributed to Charles Finney on How To Preach Without Converting Anybody:

  1. Preach on every doctrine that centers the attention on man rather than Jesus. Teach every doctrine that makes man the center of God's attention rather than God the center of man's devotion. Tell people only what God will do for them.
  2. Avoid preaching about the necessity of a radical change of heart, through the truth revealed to the heart by the agency of the Holy Spirit.
  3. Let your supreme motive to be popular with all people, then, of course, your preaching will be suited for that purpose, and not to convert souls to Christ.
  4. Avoid preaching doctrines that are offensive to the carnal mind, so that no one should say to you, as they did of Christ, "This is a hard saying, who can hear it?"
  5. Make no distinct points, and do not disturb the consciences of your hearers so that they may become truly alarmed about their souls.
  6. Avoid all illustrations, repetitions, and expressive sentences that may compel people to remember what you say.
  7. Avoid all heat and enthusiasm in your delivery, so that you never make the impression that you really believe what you say.
  8. Make appeals to the emotions, and not the conscience, of your hearers.
  9. Be careful not to testify from your own personal experience of the power of the gospel, so that you never should produce the conviction upon your hearers that you have something which they need.
  10. Do not stir up uncomfortable memories by reminding your hearers of their past sins.
  11. Denounce sin in a general way, but make no reference to the specific sins of your present audience.
  12. Do not make the impression that God commands your listeners here and now to obey the truth. Do not let them think that you expect them to commit themselves right on the spot to give their hearts to God.
  13. Give the impression that they are expected to go away in their sins, and to consider the matter at later time of their convenience.
  14. Preach salvation by grace; but ignore the condemned and lost condition of the sinner so that he never should understand what you mean by grace, and know his need of it.
  15. Preach the gospel as a remedy or a cure, but conceal or ignore the fatal disease of the sinner.
  16. Do not speak of the spirituality of God's holy law (by which comes the knowledge of sin), so that the sinner never should see his lost condition and repent.
  17. Make no appeals to the fears of sinners; but give them the impression that they have no reason to fear.
  18. Preach Christ as an infinitely friendly and good-natured being. Ignore those scathing rebukes of sinners and hypocrites which so often made His hearers tremble.
  19. Do not rebuke the worldly tendencies of the church, so that you should never hurt their feelings, and finally convert some of them.
  20. Admit, either obviously or casually, that all men have some moral goodness in them; so that sinners should never understand that they need a radical change of heart, from sin to holiness.
  21. Say so little of hell that your people will think that you do not believe in its existence yourself.
  22. Make the impression that, if God is as good as you are, He could not send anyone to hell.
  23. Make no disagreeable reference to the teachings of self-denial, cross-bearing, and crucifixion to the world, so that you should never convict and convert some of your church members.
  24. Do not rebuke extravagance in dress, so that you should never make an uncomfortable impression on your vain and worldly church members.
  25. Encourage lots of church socials, and attend them yourself.
  26. Aim to make your hearers pleased with themselves and pleased with you, and be careful especially not to wound the feelings of anyone.
  27. Make sure you avoid preaching to those who are present. Preach about sinners, but not to them. Say "they," and not "you," so that anyone should never take your subject personally, and apply it to their own life, Securing the salvation of their soul.
  28. Preach that the new birth is something God deposits in people, not a fundamental change in the ultimate purpose of our lives.
  29. Never tell people that they must cease from serving self and serve God and do His will.
  30. Never tell them that repentance is man's ability and responsibility to turn from his sin to God! Teach them to delay turning away from all known sin toward God.
  31. Preach predestination in such away that results in fatalism and apathy on the part of all people. Make each person believe that God has already determined who shall be saved, and nothing can change His will. You never want anyone to think that their actions can make any difference.
  32. Preach that man is totally unable to obey God. Teach him that no one can turn to God, but he must wait upon God to turn (change) him. Make sure that no one realizes his true responsibility requiring him to repent in order to be saved. You never want anyone to know that man can turn from sin to God but the real problem is that he will not!
  33. Preach that every one is born a sinner and a criminal. Teach that every baby is born guilty before God. You never want anyone to consider the fact that man is born morally innocent. You do not want anyone to know that he becomes a sinner because, in his rebellion, he has refused to love God with all his heart according to the light and has selfishly sought his own happiness above all else.
  34. Preach that a person can be saved without making Jesus his lord.
  35. Teach that holiness is just an option and not a requirement of the gospel. Teach them that they can be Christian without becoming true disciples.
  36. Preach eternal security in such away that requires no perseverance in faith or continuance in holiness on the part of the believer. Make every person think he has his ticket to heaven that is all paid for so that he will always safely scoff at all calls for repentance and righteous.
  37. Teach Christians that sin is a normal and natural part of their every day life and that they can never truly expect to ever overcome sin through the power of Christ.
  38. Preach that no Christian needs to do anything. Teach them that they are safe and heaven bound even if their lives are disobedient and rebellious.
I'm good with all of these except I'm not sure what he is saying in points 31 and 32. If they are as I think, it seems he missed it.

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crying over the grahams

I'm emotionally fragile these days. I have some struggles with some new friends and I'm identifying with the men with cramps post but this article about the final days of a beautiful couple really tore at my heart.

Billy Graham's family riven over burial plans

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ilona's homegroup

I like Ilona's blog Truegrit because it stirs real thinking on a wide range of topics. Today she is answering someone's question about what to do in small group. Drop by and give her some more thoughts.

My key points are:

  • Worship - some form of remembering that God is God and we are not. That can be singing, it can be poetry, art, reading a Scripture, giving a testimony, etc.. There should be a call to lift up God and tell of His greatness.
  • Word - we need to turn to Scripture. It is ok to learn from other books, videos, etc. from time to time but we want people to know that all they need is found in the pages of God’s written Word.
  • Works - we want to have the above launch us to action. At a minimum this is praying that we would realize in our lives what we got from the above. It ideally leads to practical help and acts of service.
And the reminder that it is about community not the meeting. The meeting is only 2 hours of the week's 168. In the end we must live life together in a way that helps each of us toward Christ-likeness.

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reflections on living

Len at NextReformation summarizes Todd Hunter's thoughts on some of Richard Foster's reflections.

Lesson 1: Always stay light on your feet. Effective ministry does not require huge overheads from the costs of buildings and people. While I understand that Richard is a unique person, few have had his impact and done it “light on their feet”. It really can work.

Lesson 2: Always focus on being a movement: Avoid the forces of institutionalization that depersonalizes or at worst chews people up. Organism is to be preferred over organization; but organization is not “bad”. Just stay dynamic and nimble; only have the minimum structure necessary.

Lesson 3: Always attend to the soul’s growth in grace: Distractions to this abound; even religious distractions. Richard says “we evaluate everything with the simple question: will this help people grow in grace?”

Lesson 4: Always center on life in the Kingdom of God: The advance of Jesus and his Kingdom comes first. Always. We must decrease that Jesus and his Kingdom can increase.

Lesson 5: Always prefer people over programs: What really helps and enhances the lives of people? ... If we are pushing ourselves, or staff or our volunteers too hard we back off. We should never have to disobey the way Christ taught us to live in order to do the work God has given us to do.

Lesson 6: Always trust the Spirit, never the flesh: By “flesh”, Richard means humanly initiated activity without any reference to God. Richard often critiques [our] work by asking “how much of what has happened at a certain event cannot be explained by our skill or brain power, or how was our skill and brain power used in ways that is beyond us”?

Lesson 7: Always follow the passion: Before launching a new initiative, [we] always wait until someone demonstrates passion. This requires discipline and patience. They have at times waited for years for the right person, passion and resources to come together. Then they step out in faith…

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sleep like a calvinist

Mark Driscoll provides 10 cautions and encouragements for preachers. I have issues with most of these or at least with the level of description he gave but I like this phrase in point 10.

Sleep like a Calvinist

Someone reworded it, "preach like an Armenian but sleep like a Calvinist". That is too limiting, I like it just like this, sleep like a Calvinist.

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