Sunday, July 31, 2011


Gotta love committees ...

more than sin management

From Al Mohler on, "Do we want homosexuals to find heterosexuality?"

Yes, as much as we want liars to become tellers of the truth and adulterers to be faithful; as much as we want the disobedient to become obedient to parents and the proud to be humble. God’s glory is in seeing that God’s command is accompanied by God’s provision so that we, by his grace, can be transformed so that we will even desire what he wills for us to desire.

This is what the church is all about. We are the people who gather together to exalt in the grace of God and to proclaim the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ as the answer to human sinfulness. We come together to hold each other accountable to the Word of God and to rejoice in what God is doing in us until the very day that we die. We come together in the assurance of the resurrection that is to come and the glorification that will be God’s gift. Like the apostle Paul, we are convinced that “he who began a good work in [us] will bring it to completion at the day of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 1:6).

facebook and ignorance

I love/hate Facebook. While the whole of the internet can be a place for people to freely (nearly) share wisdom and ignorance, Facebook is a bit of a caricature for the ignorance aspect.

Today I read read from a Postmodern Innovator. I think these folks are for the most part unregenerate and as such, lack among several things, simple logic and truth. Here's yesterday's brilliance:
If a church doesn't accept women in leadership it would be a very unreasonable expectation to expect them to accept homosexuals.
This individual uses purposeful deception. First he would like us to think this position is not held for Biblical reasons but for cultural bias - more so, hatred and bigotry. He doest acknowledge the Biblical base or that these stem from very different issues. He simply plays to the emotions of his audience.

Second he is mixing gender role questions with sin. Again, he plays to emotions. He'd like the reader to think those that believe homosexuality is sin also see women as something less than a man. He knows full well that those holding these positions see men and women as equal but as having different roles and he knows that we see identifying as a homosexual is less than Kingdom living.

And finally, he confuses verbs. He purposefully plays to emotions with the word accept. In the case of male/female gender roles, it's not that women aren't accepted, it's that there are rules regarding roles. In the case of homosexuality, this is a sin issue. No sin is accepted. That does not equate to love for individuals. In fact, those in this position understand the helping of another to be free from sin to be much more loving than the those condoning it. But this of course is not what interests the Postmodern Innovator. This person is like a politician tossing around sound bites. He wants the reader to equate church governance and hatred of sin as unaccepting even while he himself has a family with rules, is part of a community with rules, and so on. Is he unaccepting of those he loves if he imposes any requirements or expectations or offers any help to change? Of course not, but when playing to emotion, it doesn't matter.

And as with most Postmodern Innovator thinking, there's always the faithful willing to pile on. The original status is followed by further genius:
It's not sin. God created homosexuals.
Ok ... so nothing is a sin because God created everyone. And here you have the quintessential Postmodern Innovator.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

some emotion needed

"Let us take heed that there is some feeling in our religion. Knowledge, orthodoxy, correct views, regular use of forms, a respectable moral life–all these do not make up a true Christian. There must be some personal feeling towards Christ. Feeling alone, no doubt, is a poor useless thing, and may be here today and gone tomorrow. But the entire absence of feeling is a very bad symptom, and speaks ill for the state of a man’s soul. The men and women to whom Paul wrote his Epistles had feelings, and were not ashamed of them. There was One in heaven whom they loved, and that One was Jesus the Son of God. Let us strive to be like them, and to have some real feeling in our Christianity, if we hope to share their reward." ~ J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on the Gospels: John, volume 3


classic stott

Some great John Stott quotes from Richard Hanner ... I think they speak for themselves.

“Good conduct arises out of good doctrine.”

“Persecution is simply the clash between two irreconcilable value-systems.”

”In expository preaching the biblical text is neither a conventional introduction to a sermon on a largely different theme, nor a convenient peg on which to hang a ragbag of miscellaneous thoughts, but a master which dictates and controls what is said.”

“These then are the marks of the ideal Church – love, suffering, holiness, sound doctrine, genuineness, evangelism and humility. They are what Christ desires to find in His churches as He walks among them.”

keith green story

Wow - has it really been 29 years?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

got rules?

we don't have to sin

That's right, it's not a simple switch. It's like any other sin issue any of us wrestle(d) with. Al Mohler writes:

First, we face the fact that the Bible clearly, repeatedly, consistently, and comprehensively reveals the sinfulness of all homosexual behaviors. This truth is set within the larger context of the Bible's revelation concerning the Creator's plan and purpose for human sexuality - a context that is centered in the marital union of a man and a woman as the exclusive arena for human sexual activity. This flies in the face of the contemporary demand for the full normalization of homosexuality. As the joint statement of the "Just the Facts Coalition" declares, "both heterosexuality and homosexuality are normal expressions of human sexuality."

The normalization of homosexuality simply cannot be accepted by anyone committed to biblical Christianity. The new secular orthodoxy demands that Christians abandon the clear teachings of Scripture, and Christians must understand that the sinfulness of all homosexual behaviors is not only a matter of biblical authority, but also of the Gospel. To deny that sin is sin is to deny our need for the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Christians cannot accept any teaching that minimizes sin, for it is the knowledge of our sin that points us to our need for atonement, salvation, and the forgiveness of that sin through the cross of Jesus Christ.

Second, we must recognize that every human being is a sinner and that every sinner's pattern of sexual attraction falls short of the glory of God. There is no sinner of physical maturity who will be able to say that he or she has never had a sinful thought related to sex or sexuality. Taking the Bible's teachings about sin and sexuality with full force, we understand that every sinful human being is in need of redemption, and that includes the redemption of our sexual selves.

Actually, the Bible speaks rather directly to the sinfulness of the homosexual orientation - defined as a pattern of sexual attraction to a person of the same sex. In Romans 1:24-27, Paul writes of "the lusts of their hearts to impurity," of "dishonorable passions," of women who "exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature," and of men who "gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another." A close look at this passage reveals that Paul identifies the sinful sexual passion as a major concern - not just the behavior.

At this point, the chasm between the biblical and secular worldview looms ever larger. The modern secular consensus is that an individual's pattern of sexual attraction, whether heterosexual or homosexual, is just a given and is to be considered normal. More than that, the secular view demands that this pattern of sexual orientation be accepted as integral to an individual's identity. According to the secular consensus, any effort to change an individual's sexual orientation is essentially wrong and harmful. The contemporary therapeutic worldview is virtually unanimous in this verdict, but nothing could be more directly at odds with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

The New Testament reveals that a homosexual sexual orientation, whatever its shape or causation, is essentially wrong, contrary to the Creator's purpose, and deeply sinful. Everyone, whatever his or her sexual orientation, is a sinner in need of redemption. Every sinner who comes by faith to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and be saved knows the need for the redemption of our bodies - including our sexual selves. But those whose sexual orientation is homosexual face the fact that they also need a fundamental reordering of their sexual attractions. About this, the Bible is clear. At this point, once again, the essential contradiction between the Christian worldview and the modern secular worldview is clear.

Third, Christians understand that sinners are simultaneously completely responsible for their sin and completely unable to redeem themselves from their sin. Sinners may improve themselves morally, but they cannot mitigate to any degree their need for redemption. Indeed, moralism is a false gospel that suggests that we can please God by moral improvement. As Isaiah warns, the only righteousness of which we are capable amounts to "filthy rags." [Isaiah 64:6] The law reveals what is good for us and what is sinful, but the law is powerless to save us. [Romans 8:3]

The law of God reveals our sin, and our sin reveals our need for a Savior. Paul's own testimony about the law, his knowledge of his own sin, and the redemption that was his in Christ is clear when he writes to the Romans: "Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!" [Romans 7:24-25] This is every Christian's testimony.

Thus, we recognize that, without redemption, there is no eternal hope for the sinner. Even in terms of moral improvement in this earthly life, the non-Christian lacks union with Christ, the indwelling Holy Spirit, and the means of grace that alone can conform the believer to the image of Christ. Thus, for the non-Christian, the most that can be hoped for is a responsible determination to cease practicing an immoral behavior. The Bible holds no hope for the sinner's ability to change his or her heart.

In other words, a biblical Christian will have no fundamental confidence in any secular therapy's ability to change a sinner's fundamental disposition and heart, and this includes every aspect of the sinner's life, including sexuality.

This is where the Gospel-centeredness of the Christian worldview points us to the cross of Christ and to the sinner's fundamental need for redemption, not mere moral improvement. The Bible offers no hope for any human ability to change our sinful desires. As the modern secular worldview generally acknowledges, the alcoholic who stops drinking remains an alcoholic. The secular world affirms that this is so. The Bible explains why it is so.

Fourth, the Christian cannot accept any argument that denies what the Bible reveals about the sanctification of believers - including the sanctification of our sexuality. The believer in the Lord Jesus Christ receives the forgiveness of sins, the gift of eternal life, and the righteousness of Christ imputed by faith. But the redeemed Christian is also united with Christ, indwelt by the Holy Spirit, and given means of grace through, for example, the preaching of the Word of God. The Bible reveals that God conforms believers to the image of Christ, doing that work within the human heart that the sinful human himself or herself cannot perform. The Bible reveals that believers are to grow into Christlikeness, knowing that this is a progressive process that will be completed only with our eventual glorification at the end of the age. In this life, we know a process of growing more holy, more sanctified, and more obedient to Christ. In the life to come, we will know perfection as Christ glorifies his Church.

This means that Christians cannot accept any argument that suggests that a fundamental reorientation of the believer's desires in a way that increasingly pleases God and is increasingly obedient to Christ is impossible. To the contrary, we must argue that this process is exactly what the Christian life is to demonstrate. As Paul writes, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come." [2 Corinthians 5:17]

The Bible is also honest about the struggle to overcome sin and sinful desires. Paul writes about this in Romans 7, but the exhortations of the entire New Testament also make this clear. Christians with same-sex sexual desires must know that these desires are sinful. Thus, faithful Christians who struggle with these desires must know that God both desires and commands that they desire what He wills for them to desire. All Christians struggle with their own pattern of sinful desires, sexual and otherwise. Our responsibility as Christians is to be obedient to Christ, knowing that only He can save us from ourselves.


I loved Biblical Eldership by Alexander Strauch. Today my friend Peter Cockrell posted this from Bridgeway Church on their rationale for How We Are Governed.

At Bridgeway, we believe the Bible teaches that each local church should be governed by a plurality of male Elders. Numerous texts support this conclusion, such as Acts 11:29-30; 14:23; 17:17, 28; Phil. 1:1; 1 Thess. 5:12-13; 1 Timothy 3:1-7; 5:17-20; Titus 1:5-9; Hebrews 13:17; James 5:13-14; and 1 Peter 5:1-5.

There is no indication in Scripture that a local church was to be governed by a single elder or pastor. The consistent NT witness is that each church was under the oversight of a plurality of elders/bishops.

The English word “elder” is the translation of the Greek presbuteros, from which we get “Presbyter” and “Presbyterian”. Our English word “bishop” comes from the Greek episkopos, from which we get the word “Episcopal” and “Episcopalian”. “Elder” and “Bishop” are two different words that describe the same office or authoritative function. “Elder” focuses on the dignity and gravity of the person who serves while “Bishop” focuses on the practical function of the office (literally, one who exercises oversight).

Why do we believe they are interchangeable? There are four passages that justify this conclusion.

First, according to Acts 20:17 Paul called for the elders of the church to come to him. But later in v. 28, in referring to these same elders, he says that God has made them overseers (ESV) or bishops in the church.

Second, Paul left Titus in Crete to appoint elders in every town (Titus 1:5). When Paul then turns to list the qualifications for this office he says, “For an overseer (i.e., bishop or episkopon) . . . must be above approach,” etc. Clearly these two terms refer to the same office.

Third, “in 1 Timothy 3:1 Paul says, ‘If any one aspires to the office of bishop/overseer, he desires a noble task.’ Then he gives the qualifications for the overseer/bishop in verses 2-7. Unlike the deacons, the overseer must be ‘able to teach’ (v. 2), and in v. 5 he is said to be one whose management of his own household fits him to care for God’s church. These two functions are ascribed to elders in the fifth chapter of this same book (1 Timothy 5:17) – teaching and governing. So it is very likely that in Paul’s mind the bishops/overseers of 1 Timothy 3:1-7 are the same as the elders of 5:17” (John Piper).

Fourth, 1 Timothy 3:1-13 clearly indicates that there are two primary offices in the NT: Elder and Deacon. Yet in Philippians 1:1 Paul directs his epistle “to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers (episkopoi) and deacons.” Since Paul’s practice was to appoint elders in every church (Acts 14:23) it seems reasonable that the overseers/bishops in Phil. 1:1 is a reference to the elders in that city.

The Greek word (poimen) translated “pastor” is used only once in the NT in Ephesians 4:11. The related verb form (poimaino) has the meaning “to shepherd” or “to feed” with the idea of nurturing and sustaining the flock of God. When we put together Ephesians 4:11, 1 Timothy 3:2, Titus 1:9, Acts 20:28, and 1 Peter 5:1-2, it would appear reasonable to conclude that all elders exercised pastoral responsibilities.

It would also appear that whereas all elders are to be able to teach, not all teachers are elders. Although being “able to teach” (1 Timothy 3:2 and Titus 1:9) is clearly a requirement for all elders, it is entirely conceivable that one may be gifted to teach but not qualify for the office of elder (or perhaps they do qualify but have not yet been appointed to that position).

Our conclusion is that the local church is to be governed by a plurality of individuals who are described in the New Testament as elders, insofar as they hold an office of great dignity and importance (perhaps even with an allusion to age or at least spiritual maturity), or bishops, insofar as they exercise oversight of the body of Christ, or pastors, insofar as they spiritually feed, care for, and exercise guardianship over the flock of God.

But why do we believe that this ruling or governmental office is restricted to men? We would appeal to three arguments in defense of a male eldership.

First, we appeal to the NT two-fold description of the function of elders. (1) They are those who govern or rule the church (1 Timothy 3:4-5; 5:17; Acts 20:28; 1 Peter 5:2; 1 Thessalonians 5:12; Hebrews 13:17). (2) They are those who are primarily responsible for teaching the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:11 [assuming the words “pastor” and “teacher” refer to one function or office of “pastor-teacher”; the best grammatical analysis would indicate this is true]; 1 Timothy 3:2; 5:17; Titus 1:9). Since we have determined from 1 Timothy 2:11-15 that Paul restricted teaching and exercising authority to men, it follows that the office of Elder or Bishop is restricted to men.

Second, we would appeal to the qualifications for the office of Elder that are found in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1. An Elder must be “the husband of one wife” (1 Tim. 3:2 and Titus 1:6). Note also that an elder “must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church?” (1 Tim. 3:4-5).

Third, there is no reference anywhere in the New Testament to a female elder. Some point out that this is an argument from silence. Yes, it is. But it is a deafening silence, especially when taken in conjunction with the two previous points. The bottom line is that we simply have no biblical precedent for female elders nor anything in the text that describes their nature, function, and qualifications that would lead us to believe that this could ever be a possibility.

We believe that women can serve as deacons (1 Timothy 3:8-13; Romans 16:1-2; although this is disputed by others), that they can assist and support, as “co-workers”, someone such as the apostle Paul (Phil. 4:2-3), that they can evangelize, lead worship, and that they can possess and exercise in biblically appropriate ways every spiritual gift (except that of “apostle”). In summary, women can serve and minister in virtually every capacity aside from what might be called “senior governmental authority”.

sin's essence

"The essence of sin is man substituting himself for God, while the essence of salvation is God substituting himself for man. Man asserts himself against God and puts himself where only God deserves to be; God sacrifices himself for man and puts himself where only man deserves to be. Man claims prerogatives which belong to God alone; God accepts penalties which belong to man alone." ~ John Stott, The Cross of Christ


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

bad church plant sign

One indicator that your church plant may not go well.

planned parenthood kills

In case there's any doubt regarding the objective of Planned Parenthood, read here.

proper view

"All inadequate doctrines of the atonement are due to inadequate doctrines of God and man. If we bring God down to our level and raise ourselves to his, then of course we see no need for a radical salvation, let alone for a radical salvation to secure it. When, on the other hand, we have glimpsed the blinding glory of the holiness of God, and have been so convicted of our sin by the Holy Spirit that we tremble before God and acknowledge what we are, namely ‘hell-deserving sinners’, then and only then does the necessity of the cross appear so obvious that we are astonished we never saw it before." ~ John Stott, The Cross of Christ


we are one in worship

From Gary Parrett's 9.5 Theses on Worship, thesis 9.5; In its services of public worship, the church must obey such Scriptures as Philippians 2:3-4: "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others more important than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others."

When my first church home divided over musical issues and other aspects of our public worship, many hearts were broken. I remember the final act of our final service together. We were asked to form a circle around the sanctuary and join hands. Together, we sang the chorus, "We Are One in the Bond of Love." Then we closed the service with prayer; many hugs and tears followed.

It was very emotional. It was also very hypocritical. We were not, of course, one in the bond of love. We were the victims of self-seeking from all sides. We had not obeyed the admonition of Philippians 2:3-4, nor that of Ephesians 4:3 to "make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace," nor Christ's new commandment to "love one another as I have loved you" (John 13:34).

My earnest prayer is that such scenes will occur with far less frequency as the people of God think more deeply about the nature and purposes of worship, and that a renewed approach to music and hymnody will lead us all to greater love of God, love of one another, and love for all our neighbors.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

who is the seeker

From Gary Parrett's 9.5 Theses on Worship, thesis 9; The Seeker that we must serve in our worship services is, first and foremost, God himself.

One of the more obvious "worship trends" in the past three decades has been the emergence of "seeker services." In some instances, these have been Sunday services totally redesigned with "seekers" in view. Surely being "seeker friendly" is a better option than being "seeker hostile" or "seeker indifferent," as too many congregations seem to be. But there are problems.

For one thing, while attempting to reach the unchurched, churches may actually be "unchurching the churched" (as Michael Horton argues) or otherwise "dumbing down" for the sake of evangelism (as Marva Dawn puts it). I know of a church, for example, that has printed the Scripture text in the bulletin or projected it on screen each week for the seekers who might be attending without a Bible in hand. An unintended consequence, however, has been that the believers have stopped bringing their Bibles and the sound of pages rustling as the saints move from passage to passage during the sermon is seldom heard.

The more significant issue is that our worship services should not be people-centered at all, but be first and foremost for and about our awesome God. This should affect our music and hymnody as well as every other aspect of the service. Our emphasis should be on content that serves the rhythm of revelation and response, not on pleasing guests with particular musical or stylistic choices. Worship should not be designed to suit unbelievers' tastes; nor should we shape it to suit our own. We are to worship God according to his requirements and for his own sake.

The good news, however, is that when we do so, we find that other wonders follow: The saints are well formed and unbelievers who may be present in the assembly are challenged by the presence of the living God. The fact is, we cannot outdo God in serving seekers, for he is the first and truest Seeker of all. There is no one who seeks God (Rom. 3:11). But from his asking, "Where are you?" in the Garden (Gen. 3:9), to seeking worshipers who will worship him in spirit and truth (John 4:24), to sending his only Son "to seek and save what was lost" (Luke 19:10), our God is the great Seeker of lost sheep. When he is first in the formation and conduct of our public worship, much good will surely follow.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

but i like it loud ...

It's the congregation not the band ...

From Gary Parrett's 9.5 Theses on Worship, thesis 8; Those who lead the church in song are called to assist the congregation in its singing, not to replace it—technologies such as amplification must be used with theological and pastoral sensitivity.

On many Sundays, nowadays, it seems that it does not matter if I sing during worship, for I cannot hear myself even if I do. Nor can I hear the brothers and sisters sitting near me. In fact, we can only hear those few people standing up front with their microphones. Sometimes, we barely hear even them, because their voices are also drowned out by the amplified instruments that are supposedly accompanying all of us as we sing.

When I mention these things to song leaders today, I am often told that this is a generational matter, that younger people simply like it louder than do older people (like me). But I don't buy it. Israel's praise was no doubt often lively and loud. But throughout the history of Judeo-Christian worship, if the volume was loud, it was the sound of the people themselves, or the glory of our great God, that made it so. But in our day, our volume comes mostly from amplifiers. We simply have not sufficiently wrestled with how to use the host of new technologies. We need, among other things, a theology of electronic amplification!

The Bible commands us to "speak to one another" in songs, hymns, and spiritual songs (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16). I find myself longing for such experiences today. I need to hear my sisters and brothers confessing the faith into my ears, and they need to hear me. Surely it is not only the professionals or the gifted who believe the things we are singing. Those who lead us in song must do precisely that—lead us, not replace us or overpower us. Let the amplifiers provide for a volume level loud enough to help us do our job, for it is the congregation, and not the band, that is the true "worship team."

Friday, July 22, 2011

unpalatable truth

‎"God has not sent us into the world to say the most plausible things we can think of; to touch men with what they already believe. He has sent us to preach unpalatable truths to a world lying in wickedness; apparently absurd truths to men, proud of their intellects; mysterious truths to men who are carnal and cannot receive the things of the Spirit of God. Shall we despair? Certainly, if it is left to us not only to plant and to water but also to give the increase. Certainly not, if we appeal to and depend upon the Spirit of faith." — B.B. Warfield (from: Faith and Life: ‘Conferences’ in the Oratory of Princeton Seminary, 1916)

Posted by Eric T. Young in The Society of Old Princeton Theology

now this is faith

"Faith is the acceptance of a gift at the hands of Christ…It is a very wonderful thing; it involves a change of the whole nature of man; it involves a new hatred of sin and a new hunger and thirst after righteousness. Such a wonderful change is not the work of man; faith itself is given us by the Spirit of God. Christians never make themselves Christians; but they are made Christians by God…that is clear…But it is quite inconceivable that a man should be given this faith in Christ, that he should accept this gift which Christ offers, and still go on contentedly in sin. For the very thing which Christ offers us is salvation from sin—not only salvation from the guilt of sin, but also salvation from the power of sin." ~  J. Gresham Machen, What is Faith


big body

From Gary Parrett's 9.5 Theses on Worship, thesis 7; The body of Christ is far bigger than what we see in the gathered community—and our songs should reflect this.

There is only one church—"one holy, catholic, and apostolic." When my local assembly gathers for worship, we join ourselves with "the communion of saints" (Apostles' Creed), those who have gone before us and those who will come after us, and with the millions upon millions who fill the Earth today. This reality should also be reflected in our corporate worship. This means we must move beyond the chronological snobbery that insists that "newer is better" when it comes to our songs of worship. Likewise, we must move beyond a narrow vision of a church based on nationality or ethnicity. Incorporating songs, confessions, and other liturgical resources from around the globe and from other eras is an enriching commitment. It brings us closer to the beautiful vision of worship in passages like Revelation 7:9-10, where we read of an innumerable throng of worshipers from every nation, tribe, and tongue praising God in one accord.

christ's glory

"No man shall ever behold the glory of Christ by sight in heaven who does not, in some measure, behold it by faith in this world. Grace is a necessary preparation for glory and faith for sight." ~ John Owen, The Glory of Christ


serving god

Scripture is clear, if we are new in Christ, we will serve with a gladness (Eph 5.21-6.9), we will love His Word, etc... All that to testify of His greatness.

“As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15). What does that mean?

  • It means to do what he says in a way that makes him look supremely valuable in himself.
  • It means to submit to him in a way that makes him look thrilling.

There are ways to submit to God that only make him look threatening, not thrilling. There are ways to do what he says that only call attention to the fact that he is an authority not a treasure.

That kind of service is not the service God commands.

What’s the difference?

The difference is that God has told us not to serve him as though he needed anything.

“He is not served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything” (Acts 17:25).

“The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).

Both these texts put all the emphasis on God’s giving to us when we serve.

So the kind of service that makes God look valuable and thrilling is the kind that serves God by constantly receiving from God. The key text to describe this is 1 Peter 4:11 —

“Whoever serves, [let it be] as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ.”

God is seen as glorious when all our serving is moment-by-moment receiving from God’s supply.

We receive this supply by faith. That is, we trust moment-by-moment that what we need, in serving him, he will supply (“life, breath, and everything”). This is the opposite of being anxious. Such serving is happy. And it makes God look no less authoritative, but infinitely more desirable. This is the glory he means to have. The giver gets the glory.

Therefore, “serve the Lord with gladness” (Psalm 100:2).

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

want dignity?

"As the image-bearer of God, [man] is called upon to reflect and mirror the holiness of God. When we fail to honor the glory of God it's inevitable that the dignity of man suffers. Our dignity flows out of the fact that we are created in the image of God. If the image of our God is soiled and destroyed and defaced, that defaces us." ~ R.C. Sproul

Monday, July 18, 2011

paul wasn't ignorant

Symphony of Scripture quotes Edward, T. Welch in dealing with this misleading argument.

The arguement goes like this: “No doubt Paul was unaware of the distinction between sexual orientation, over which one has apparently very little choice, and sexual behavior, over which one does.” (Walter Wink)

Edward T. Welch, Blame in on the Brain?, p. 158-159: “Is it possible that the biblical texts were ignorant about homosexual orientation and were thus prohibiting only ‘unnatural’ homosexual practice by participants of heterosexual orientation? This would suggest that the practicing homosexuals in the Bible were involved in homosexuality against their natural inclinations. Yet the nature of sin is that people sin because they want to sin (James 1:13-15). It comes from our desires. No one is dragged into sin kicking and screaming. Homosexuality existed in biblical times because people enjoyed it; they were drawn to it by their own hearts (Mark 7:21-23). An artificial distinction between (sinful) homosexual practice and (justifiable) homosexual orientation contradicts the Scripture’s constant connection of desire, orientation and deed. If the deed was prohibited in Scripture, the desire was too.”

broken, really?

Randy Newman writes:

I’m concerned with the reduction of the full and multifaceted concept of sin, as it is described in the Scriptures, into a buzzword that feels more at home in our therapeutic culture than in God’s Word. My concern is twofold.

For believers, the word doesn’t go deep enough to move us forward in sanctification. God describes our sin many ways—almost all of which are far worse than “broken.” We’re rebellious, idolatrous, lost, enslaved, disobedient, adulterous, and—in case the point wasn’t pressed far enough—dead. If we see our sin as mere brokenness, our repentance and abhorrence at sin won’t push us in the opposite direction hard enough. And our appreciation of the cross as the only cure will be replaced with self-effort and legalism.

For non-believers, when they hear us speak of our brokenness, there is common ground, to be sure. But we fail to convey the dire straights that only the gospel overcomes. Most people in our world today hear “brokenness” as something that is done to us, something we are victims of. But the Bible’s description of sin is far more active than passive, more something we do—willingly, rebelliously, idolatrously, and knowingly—rather than something perpetrated upon us by others against our will, contrary to our nature, or different from our cravings. When people hear that our biggest problem is that we’re broken, the gospel seems like a strange fix. Jesus’ death on the cross seems extreme and unnecessary, the maniacal overreaction of an overzealous deity.

sins removed

"... the Bible regularly uses language about the depth of God’s forgiveness for our sins. He forgets them; He washes us thoroughly from them; He removes them as far from us as the east is from the west. Does this mean He has no knowledge of these sins? Of course not. God knows all things. He knows all things immediately. That is, God never has to compute an answer, nor recall one. All information is immediately before Him.

That we ask this question, however, gets at precisely why God uses this kind of language. We want to know if He really does remember because we are really ashamed and wish He didn’t. We want to be really, really sure we are really, really forgiven. We know that when some humans says after we confess our sins, “I’ve already forgotten it” that they have instead filed it away for later use. Not so with God. There is no later use. There is no secret, hidden grudge.

The glory of the gospel is not that God, just because He’s a nice guy, decides not to hold our sins against us. The glory of the gospel is that my sins are already dealt with, already punished. There is no grudge not because He has forgotten, but because He remembered our sins at Calvary. Our sins are not forgotten but forgiven, because Jesus received their due punishment. Our Father in heaven loves us as if we had never sinned at all. Our sins have no part in the equation. They simply don’t count because they were cancelled on the cross."

R.C. Sproul posted here.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

thesis 6

It's hard for me to judge these days whether Parrett's observation below is still true. I can say that at one point it matched my experience - we kept adding folders for the "I" songs. Like Parrett, there's nothing wrong with the "I" songs but the Church needs improvement in the concept of "we".

From Gary Parrett's 9.5 Theses on Worship, thesis 6; The body of Christ in worship is more than an assembly of individual worshipers—we need more we songs.

Not long ago, the practice in churches I attended was to project songs onto a screen with overhead transparencies. These were stored in some sort of file-folder system in alphabetical order, based on the first line of the song. But we had one problem: We continually needed to add more folders to accommodate songs that began with the letter I.

When I attend services that feature "contemporary" worship today, it seems that 80 percent to 90 percent of all the songs sung by the congregation prominently feature that familiar trinity of I, Me, My. Rarely do we sing songs that remind us of our identity as the body of Christ, the people of God. There are simply too few we songs in our congregational gatherings. It seems that many songwriters have taken songs directly from their personal devotional life into the assembly, without considering the possibility of adapting the songs for congregational use. In cultures that are already dominated by narcissism, this is unwise and dangerous.

From Jesus' teaching about praying to our Father in secret, to Paul's admonition that tongues without interpretation should be kept to oneself, we are reminded that a distinction should be drawn between personal worship of God and worshiping him in the assembly of the faithful. It is not that I songs are unhelpful or unnecessary, it is simply that we are badly out of balance here, and we need a corrective. Our hymnody must play a part in this. In many cases, a song can be easily adapted for such purposes by changing a few pronouns. Better by far, however, is composing songs with a true vision of the church and rediscovering those great songs that already feature such a vision.

on fire

I love Christianeese ... are you 'on fire for the lord?'

knowing christ

We desire to know Christ fully.

"Let us take care that we know for ourselves in what light we ought chiefly to regard Christ. It is right and good to reverence Him as very God. It is well to know Him as Head over all things–the mighty Prophet–the Judge of all–the King of kings. But we must not rest here, if we hope to be saved. We must know Jesus as the Friend of the poor in spirit, the Physician of the diseased heart, and the Deliverer of the soul in bondage. These are the principal offices He came on earth to fulfill. It is in this light we must learn to know Him, and to know Him by inward experience, as well as by the hearing of the ear. Without such knowledge we shall die in our sins." ~ J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on the Gospels: Luke volume 1


Friday, July 15, 2011

treasure of righteousness

"Washed from sin, we escape just wrath; but we need more than the absence of guilt to constitute a claim for entrance into the purity of heaven. In Jesus we have a Treasure of righteousness.

In our nature, as representative of man, He thoroughly obeyed the law, and fulfilled to the uttermost its requirement of perfect love. This work is perfect, because wrought by the God-man, Jesus. In it He arrays the whole company of the redeemed. He is the Lord their Righteousness.

In His work the piercing eye of omniscience can discern no flaw. It is pure as God is pure. It is bright as the eternal day. It is glorious as the heaven of heavens. And it is ‘unto all and upon all those who believe.’ Is not such righteousness a Treasure? We bless You, O our precious Lord, that You are this Treasure to us!"

— Henry Law, Gleanings from the Book of Life


love is not vague

"My love of you, O Lord, is not some vague feeling: it is positive and certain. Your word struck into my heart and from that moment I loved you. Besides this, all about me, heaven and earth and all that they contain proclaim that I should love you, and their message never ceases to sound in the ears of all mankind, so that there is no excuse for any not to love you. But, more than all this, you will show pity on those whom you pity; you will show mercy where you are merciful; for if it were not for your mercy, heaven and earth would cry your praises to deaf ears." ~ St. Augustine, Confessions


church photos

If you like photography, if you like architecture, if you think your church building should look cool - then you'll like this site of 50 Most Extraordinary Churches of the World. My favorite is this one ...

schaeffer's turning point

The following is a fantastic post by Dane Ortlund; The Turning Point of Francis Schaeffer's Life and Ministry.

“. . . so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior.” Titus 2:10

In 1951 Francis Schaeffer’s life and ministry were turned upside down, despite already having walked with the Lord for many years and having seen much fruit in ministry. He was 39.

In the introduction to his book True Spirituality, Schaeffer recounts what happened.
I faced a spiritual crisis in my own life. I had become a Christian from agnosticism many years ago. After that I had become a pastor for ten years in the United States, and then for several years my wife, Edith, and I had been working in Europe. During this time I felt a strong burden to stand for the historical Christian position and for the purity of the visible church. Gradually, however, a problem came to me—the problem of reality. This has two parts: first, it seemed to me that among many of those who held the orthodox position one saw little reality in the things that the Bible so clearly says should be the result of Christianity. Second, it gradually grew on me that my reality was less than it had been in the early days after I had become a Christian. I realized that in honesty I had to go back and rethink my whole position.
We were living in ChampĂ©ry [Switzerland] at the time, and I told Edith that for the sake of honesty I had to go all the way back to my agnosticism and think through the whole matter. I’m sure that she prayed much for me in those days. I walked in the mountains when it was clear, and when it was rainy I walked backward and forward in the hayloft of the old chalet in which we lived. I walked, prayed, and thought through what the Scriptures taught, reviewing my own reasons for being a Christian. . . .
I searched through what the Bible said concerning reality as a Christian. Gradually I saw that the problem was that with all the teaching I had received after I was a Christian, I had heard little about what the Bible says about the meaning of the finished work of Christ for our present lives. Gradually the sun came out and the song came. Interestingly enough, although I had written no poetry for many years, in that time of joy and song I found poetry beginning to flow again.
Three things are striking here, and worth considering for our own time.

1. Right doctrine matters.

Schaeffer says that he spent many of his early Christian years working for “the historical Christian position.” That means orthodoxy. Right belief. And nowhere in this autobiographical reflection does Schaeffer go back on the importance of such orthodoxy. On the contrary, he says that after going back and rethinking his foundational reasons for believing, he identified his lack of vibrancy as due to something other than his theology. The problem was not his doctrine. It was something else—the absence of “reality.”

2. Right doctrine exists not ultimately for correct thinking but for beautiful living.

True doctrine, as Paul tells Titus, is to be “adorned” (Titus 2:10). To lack grace in our lives is to deny grace in our theology. We can unsay with our lives in the living room what we say with our lips in the pew. The doctrines of grace generate a culture of grace. If they don’t, the doctrines of grace are not truly believed. We may say we believe them. We may even think we do. But we don’t. Not really.

A man who says he believes his treasure is in heaven as he drives a Bentley, owns five homes on three continents, and refuses to give any resources to the church or anyone else doesn’t really believe what he says he believes. You can see what he believes.

And if a man says he believes the doctrines of grace but does not exude what Schaeffer calls the “reality” of those doctrines, such a man does not really believe those doctrines. He might align himself with the doctrines of grace creedally. But he has not adorned the doctrines of grace.

“Dead orthodoxy,” Schaeffer once preached, “is always a contradiction in terms.”

3. The crucial doctrine that fuels beautiful living is the gospel.

“I had heard little,” Schaeffer says, “about what the Bible says about the meaning of the finished work of Christ for our present lives.”

Francis Schaeffer came to discover, many years after his conversion, that the finished work of Christ mattered—mattered tremendously—for his present life. Not just for his past moment of conversion and not only for the future moment when he would stand before God. For today. As he says elsewhere, “I become a Christian once for all on the basis of the finished work of Christ through faith; that is justification. But the Christian life, sanctification, operates on the same basis, but moment by moment.”

The gospel is a home, not a hotel. We pass through a hotel; we reside in a home. And it was when this washed over him—note this, now—it was when his heart came to dwell in the finished work of Christ that his soul began to live again. “Gradually the sun came out and the song came.” Poetry flowed once more. Vitality returned. Orthodoxy had never left; life, however, had.

Doctrine matters. But doctrine is meant to fuel some thing else—beautiful, radiant living. Standing immovably on the finished work of Christ will get us there.

what's in a song

When I was young in Christ I remember joining a movement known for its worship - in particular in the form of songs. In those days I became prideful because we sang songs that were "to God" rather than being limited to songs "about God" like those other guys. I later learned I was wrong. We need songs (for that matter preaching, life, etc.) that run the full spectrum of what it means to worship. We need songs of intimacy, of adoration, of confession, of proclamation, etc... Thank God for His revelation.

From Gary Parrett's 9.5 Theses on Worship, thesis 5; Faithful response to God involves more than praise—we need a much broader range of songs available for congregations.

The Psalter—Israel's prayer book and hymnal—provides a good model for us. In the Psalms, we find that the songs of praise take their place alongside songs and prayers of lament, confession, adoration, complaint, spiritual warfare, thanksgiving, and more.

A couple years ago, I felt compelled to compose a hymn based on Psalm 88, which is generally acknowledged as the darkest of all the psalms. It begins in confusion and ends, it seems, in utter frustration. Searching through the Scripture indices of the hymnals in my office, I could not find a single hymn based on this psalm. Yet is it not a God-inspired prayer for people of God who find themselves in a dark season of life? Do we not ask such people to stand alongside us in our congregational worship and join us in singing the triumphant songs of praise? Are we unwilling to join them in crying out to God for mercy? In our churches, sadly, it often does not go both ways—we rejoice with those who rejoice, but seldom do we weep with those who weep.

The other side of this coin, of course, is that what God has revealed about himself is not always what we would like to acknowledge. Do our songs address the full range of his attributes and actions, or only those that we delight in? We sing often of his love and kindness. But what of his wrath, his jealousy, his inscrutability—do we sing honestly of these things? Surely we should.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

symbolic hell

From R.C. Sproul on hell, "If we take the New Testament’s descriptions of hell as symbolic language, we have to remember the function of symbols. The assumption is that there’s always more to the reality than what is indicated by the symbol, which makes me think that, instead of taking comfort that these images of the New Testament may indeed be symbolic, we should be worrying that the reality toward which these symbols point is more ghastly than the symbols."

worshippers deserve good theology

From Gary Parrett's 9.5 Theses on Worship, thesis 4; Those who lead the congregation in song must be theologically equipped for this important task.
Many in our churches have their theology formed principally by our hymnody. When we recognize young men and women in our congregations as gifted in the areas of musical composition, performance, or leading, we should encourage them to pursue theological training and support them to do so. This may mean sending them off to seminary, Bible college, or some other venue.
Others, for whom such training seems inaccessible, should be mentored by those in the congregation who are more biblically literate and mature. Pastors must not relinquish "worship leading" to a theologically unequipped person simply because that one is musically gifted. Song selection and composition can be conducted in partnership with those who are, or ought to be, teachers in the flock.
And with that, interestingly Dan Kimball asks if the church accountant should be called the 'worship pastor'?

oscillating strings

I thought this was cool ... via an iPhone using rolling shutter.

bob's can of worms

I like Bob Hyatt's thinking ... he asks, "If the best thinking on sexuality today describes it as somewhat fluid, and it's okay for a therapist to treat someone who, say, feels they have been born the "wrong" gender and would like help in changing, why is it now so controversial or wrong for a therapist to treat someone who says "I've become unhappy with my orientation (for religious or other reasons) and would like help in changing"?"

The world demonstrates its falleness all around us and if we don't pay attention we can easily get caught in the sweet sounding tones of its false intentions. When sin gets a grip on a person or society, even simple logic fails its victims.

wrong concept of love

I've said it a million times; the post-modern innovator has wrongly defined love, applied it as the sole or primary attribute of a god they have created in their own vision. They discard the rest, if not many, of His other glorious attributes. Rob Bell is only one of many victims of this deception. Bell's depiction of hell and the God behind his re-invention is simply not credible.

Thirty-two years ago Richard Lovelace wrote these words in Dynamics for Spiritual Life.
“The cross is the perfect statement both of God’s wrath against sin and of the depth of his love and mercy in the recovery of the damaged creation and its damagers. God’s mercy, patience, and love must be fully preached in the church. But they are not credible unless they are presented in tension with God’s infinite power, complete and sovereign control of the universe, holiness, and righteousness. And where God’s righteousness is clearly presented, compassionate warnings of his holy anger against sin must be given, and warnings also of the certainty of divine judgment in endless alienation from God which will be unimaginably worse than the literal descriptions of hell. It is no wonder that the world and the church are not awakened when our leadership is either singing a lullaby concerning these matters or presenting them in a caricature which is so grotesque that it is unbelievable.
The tension between God’s holy righteousness and his compassionate mercy cannot be legitimately resolved by remolding his character into an image of pure benevolence as the church did in the nineteenth century. There is only one way that this contradiction can be removed: through the cross of Christ which reveals the severity of God’s anger against sin and the depth of his compassion in paying its penalty through the vicarious sacrifice of his Son. In systems which resolve this tension by softening the character of God, Christ and his work become an addendum, and spiritual darkness becomes complete because the true God has been abandoned for the worship of a magnified image of human tolerance.”
Amen! And thank you Timmy for the tip.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

love the word

Erik quotes J.C. Ryle from Expository Thoughts on the Gospels: John, volume 2.
There is a devil! We have a mighty invisible enemy always near us–one who never slumbers and never sleeps–one who is about our path and about our bed, and spies out all our ways, and will never leave us until we die. He is a murderer! His great aim and object is, to ruin us forever and kill our souls. To destroy, to rob us of eternal life, to bring us down to the second death in hell, are the things for which he is unceasingly working. He is ever going about, seeking whom he may devour. He is a liar! He is continually trying to deceive us by false representations, just as he deceived Eve at the beginning. He is always telling us that good is evil and evil good–truth is falsehood and falsehood truth–the broad way good and the narrow way bad. Millions are led captive by his deceit, and follow him, both rich and poor, both high and low, both learned and unlearned. Lies are his chosen weapons. By lies he slays many.
This is serious and while not the only implication, it reinforces the urgency to properly deal with false-teachers. Satan's ways are subtle. How does he recruit and build these false-teachers? DesiringGod blog just reposted this from John Piper 1989.
Let me just mention one feature to watch out for in the recognition of wolves. As I have watched the movement from biblical faithfulness to liberalism in persons and institutions that I have known over the years, this feature stands out: An emotional disenchantment with faithfulness to what is old and fixed, and an emotional preoccupation with what is new or fashionable or relevant in the eyes of the world.
Let's try to say it another way: when this feature is prevalent, you don't get the impression that a person really longs to bring his mind and heart into conformity to fixed biblical truth. Instead you see the desire to picture biblical truth as unfixed, fluid, indefinable, distant, inaccessible, and so open to the trends of the day.
So what marks a possible wolf-in-the-making is not simply that he rejects or accepts any particular biblical truth, but that he isn't deeply oriented on the Bible. He is more oriented on experience. He isn't captured by the great old faith once for all delivered to the saints. Instead he's enamored by what is new and innovative.
A good elder can be creative. But the indispensable mark when it comes to doctrinal fitness is faithfulness to what is fixed in Scripture—disciplined, humble submission to the particular affirmations of the Bible—carefully and reverently studied and explained and cherished. When that spirit begins to go, there's a wolf-in-the-making.
But the Bible is hard right? Well, yes and no. In some points, yes at least initially. And at these points many of us think it wise to admit that while we mentally agree with the Bible we don't always like what it says. I fall into that trap but I think it's wrong and it is a potential first step to the trap outlined above.

Kevin DeYoung speaks to what we want our attitude to be:
Christians should not only believe what the Bible teaches, they should like what the Bible teaches. All Scripture is not just tolerable, but profitable and breathed out by God (2 Tim. 3:16).The law should be our delight (Psalm 1:2; 119:77; Rom. 7:2). We should love the commandments of God (Psalm 119:47; 1 John 5:3).
This means perfunctory obedience is not the goal. We don’t want to submit to our husbands out of duty, or sacrifice for our wives because we have to do, or refrain from sex because God’s a meanie and he must be listened to, but because we want to. God wants more than begrudging obedience or external conformity, he wants us to delight in the law of God in our inner being. So pay attention not just to your wills, but to your affections.
This also means that we should do away with the pseudo-spiritual language of “I don’t like what the Bible says about this, but I still believe it.” Poppycock. While I suppose, all things considered, its better that someone embrace complementarianism kicking and screaming rather than not at all, why are you kicking and screaming at God’s word in the first place? I understand that we may all have periods of struggle where we wrestle to fully understand and embrace some element of biblical teaching. But as an indefinite attitude, begrudging acceptance is not a good option. Don’t we trust that God is good? Is not the law of the Lord our delight?
Believing but not liking what the Bible says is also a common refrain when it comes to the doctrine of hell. Obviously, none of us should be gleeful to think of sinners suffering in eternal torment. After all, Paul was pretty torn up about the plight of his kinsmen according to the flesh. But anguish over the souls of the lost is different than wholesale ambivalence about the existence of hell. When we say things like “If it were up to me I wouldn’t have a hell, but God’s word teaches it so I believe it” we are not being extra pious, only extra insulting.
First of all, it’s not about to us. It never has been and never will be, so let’s get that off the table. Second, when we put things this way it sounds like we consider ourselves better than God, like we’re trying to be “good cop” to God’s “bad cop.” Third, and most importantly, we are missing the point of hell. God is glorified in the judgment of the wicked. That’s a big gulp for postmodern (or modern) ears, but it’s true. Were it not for hell, God’s justice would not be upheld and the glory of his name would not be vindicated. If we accept the doctrine of hell only begrudgingly, we have not learned to delight in the glory of God above all else. We have not yet learned to pray as our first and foremost request, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.”
The Bible is true and the Bible is good. When we accept its truth without actually liking it, we have only come half way to mature faith. We are like kids saying “I’m sorry” while rolling our eyes, like a husband getting flowers so his wife won’t be ticked, like a lover skimming through a letter from her beloved when she should be cherishing every word and every truth in her heart. Read the Bible. Believe the Bible. Delight in all that it affirms. Anything less is not good for your soul.
DeYoung applies this point nicely to the recent conversation of hell.

revelation and response

From Gary Parrett's 9.5 Theses on Worship, thesis 3; Worship involves a rhythm of revelation and response: God graciously reveals himself to us, and we faithfully respond—all the elements must help worshipers participate in this rhythm.

God initiates the worship experience by graciously revealing something of himself—his character, his mighty deeds, his will for our lives. Our obligation, having received this revelation, is to respond appropriately. The pattern is evident throughout the Scriptures: God, the Lord, is one; therefore, we must love him with all that we have (Deut. 6:4-5). God has demonstrated profound mercies to us; in view of these mercies, we must offer our bodies as living sacrifices (Rom. 12:1).

One of the most striking examples of this rhythm of revelation and response is recorded in Isaiah 6:1-8. There, the prophet has an amazing encounter with the living God. First, God's character is revealed: God is high, lifted up, and holy, holy, holy. The prophet's response is exactly right: "Woe to me, I am ruined!" But God graciously reveals more. He is loving and merciful. This is revealed by atoning action and explanatory speech. Isaiah's response, again, is the right one: He humbly receives God's grace and believes God's word. Finally, God's work and will are revealed as the Lord himself asks, "Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?" Isaiah faithfully responds: "Here am I. Send me!"

As we read this account, we are reminded of Romans 12:1—"in view of God's mercy, offer your bodies as living sacrifices." Indeed, the Isaiah passage provides a wonderful example of a pattern that could, and perhaps should, mark all of our worship gatherings. First, we are reminded of God's awesome and holy character. In light of this, we are moved to humble confession. Next, we are reminded of how God has intervened on behalf of us sinners, by sending his Son to be an atoning sacrifice for us. This good news we humbly receive and believe. Finally, God charges us to be engaged in his ongoing work in this broken and defiant world. We respond by offering our lives afresh for his service.

Like other elements in our worship gatherings—preaching, sacrament, offerings, Scripture readings, prayers, and more—our songs should aid us either in clarifying what God has revealed to us or in guiding us toward faithful response, or both. Sadly, many of our songs are deficient on both counts. They do not speak clearly of God's character, deeds, or will. Nor do they speak substantively of the response God requires of us. We should encourage those who lead us in song to select songs of substance, and we must pray that a new generation of songwriters will rise up to compose such songs for the saints. The church must retain those songs of old that were most helpful in terms of revelation and response. In some cases, new melodies or arrangements can be employed to help younger generations access these treasures of the church. Thankfully, there have been encouraging developments in these areas of late. Perhaps a new wind of theologically sensitive songs will blow some of the chaff out of our sanctuaries for good.

Monday, July 11, 2011

body fat

oh my ... this hits home ...

it's not just singing

From Gary Parrett's 9.5 Theses on Worship, thesis 2; The word worship, when applied to public gatherings of the saints, must not be reduced to a synonym for singing praises to God.

For many today, especially in evangelical churches, worship is only that portion of the service that we devote to singing praises. This represents a significant and recent shift in our worship vocabulary.

In 1985, I attended an evening service of a large church. The service began with about 20 minutes of chorus singing, accompanied by guitars, with lyrics projected on a screen. After the guitars were put down and the projector switched off, a pastor came to the podium and announced to the assembly, "Now we will begin our worship." Naturally, I wondered what we had been doing for the past 20 minutes. But I came to understand that in this church, at that time, worship was what happened after the guitars were put down and the projector turned off.

Fifteen years later, I returned to the same church to speak in an evening service, with many of the same people present. The opening of the service was familiar—singers, guitars, projector, choruses of praise. But this time, when that singing had ended, a pastor stood before us and said, "That was a wonderful time of worship. And now …" The "And now …" was pregnant with meaning. It was clear that the definition of worship had changed.

Almost every time I hear the word worship used by believers today, it is clear that they are referring to singing praises. Many, of course, if pushed on this matter, would confess that worship involves far more. But words matter, and our language betrays our misperceptions. When we call those who lead us in song our "worship leaders," our true convictions are revealed. It is imperative, then, that we work diligently to reform the vocabulary of worship.

small group principles

From Ian Prichard, key principles for leading a small group.

  1. There are five essential parts to a successful small group.
    • Worship – worshipping God is central to all we do and key to what we stand for. It builds unity and brings healing; releases faith and ushers in the presence of the Lord.
    • Application of the Bible - we are interested in more than just getting Bible knowledge. We want to know how the truth is going to make a difference in daily life.
    • Sharing of Life - there is nothing like a life-centered testimony to motivate and encourage the group, or to illustrate what is being taught. When a person shares with the group, he/she feels more a part of the group.
    • Ministry – we’re looking for changed lives – i.e., lives transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit. Time for ministry is essential to the live of our groups.
    • Outreach/Evangelism – having an open hand to others adds dynamism, purpose, and vision to the group.
  2. Participation is the key to success.
    • The goal of the leader is not to be the authority or the teacher, but to be the facilitators or guide.
    • The arrangement of people will make a difference in the way people participate. The best is a circle with only one empty chair.
    • Rule - don't pressure anyone to pray, read, or speak. Help even the most timid person to see that they also have something to offer.
    • Pose questions in such a way that they engage discussion.
    • Involve as many different people as possible in the meeting.
  3. Bring the group into the presence of God.
    • Set aside times (or occasionally most of the meeting) for prayer.
    • In closing, respond to the teaching and help each other make application of it in our lives. Minister to one another. Encourage the use of spiritual gifts.
  4. Respond lovingly to a need expressed ... Immediately. There is something very unloving about letting a person hang, when they have just shared a deep concern of their life. Love does not respond tomorrow, but immediately.
    • How to Teach People to Share Their Needs. - James 5:16
      • Admit your faults one to another.
      • Pray for each other.
      • Become a healing fellowship.
    • Teach People by Example. The Leader opens up and shares areas of his own life and requests prayer.
    • Other Ways a Group Can Respond to a Member's Needs.
      • Sometimes a chair can be placed in the middle of the circle while the people gather around the individual and lay their hands on the person.
      • One on one ministry.
      • Practical help.
      • Ongoing prayer (make them the group prayer “target” for the week).
  5. The bible is our authority and guidebook. We believe the Word of God contains everything necessary for our salvation and Christian walk, so we can be successful in every area of our lives.
  6. Encourage everyone in the group.
    • Each person must be made to feel that his/her ideas and questions are important.
    • Dialogue is what we are after. However, the group is not a therapy session and the Leader is not a psychologist. People with deep emotional problems must be referred to competent council.
  7. Do not allow excessive doctrinal discussion that is divisive or argumentative. Sometimes people would rather discuss doctrinal differences than to give attention to what really needs to happen in their own lives.
  8. Practice mutual edification. (Romans 14.19) An small group is to be a team, helping each other be everything they can be for God. We want to help build healthy self-esteem in one another.
  9. Lead in love.
    • John 13.34 “A new command I give you: love one another. As I have loved you so you must love one another.”
    • Love, acceptance, and forgiveness are a way of life.
  10. "Follow-up" of members between meetings is essential. Those who are absent are called and encouraged. New people are called in friendship and invited to participate. Regular members are called and given words of appreciation.
  11. New members brought into the group will keep it alive and growing. We want our groups to have an empty chair at each meeting for the new person who will come next week to sit in. New people will help keep a group from becoming ingrown and too comfortable.
  12. Handle problem people away from the group on a one-on-one basis.
    • A disturbed person cannot be allowed to become the center of attention in the group. The Leader must lead, making it clear that they are loved, but "no dumping is permitted."
    • EGR, which stand for Extra Grace Required, people will kill the group so you’ve got to have a system for handling them quickly.
  13. Do not allow anyone to confess the faults of others. If this happens, the Leader must lead by reminding the group of this principle.
  14. Do not allow anyone to do all of the talking. If this situation persists, perhaps a statement is needed such as, "Thank you for your comments, now let's hear what someone else has to say." Or, "Let's continue with our topic of discussion."
  15. Be tuned in spiritually yourself. The Holy Spirit will be hindered if the Leader is spiritually indifferent or troubled with personal sins that have not been confessed. Be a Spirit filled Christian.
  16. Be constantly learning. Leaders are not expected to know all of the answers, but they do need to be learners. Good learners make the best Leaders.
  17. Maintain a relaxed spirit in the group.
    • If the Leader is honest and open, he need not be afraid to discuss or consider other points of view. Trust the Holy Spirit to lead ultimately to truth.
    • It is a tremendous asset when a Leader accepts himself as a person of worth and can reach out to encourage others.
    • A good Leader learns to be shock proof: not judgmental, harsh, or overly opinionated - not overly reactive when someone says something that goes against the grain.
    • Creating a loving atmosphere, the Holy Spirit will do His work.
  18. A good sense of humor is a valuable asset. (Proverbs 17.22)
    • Releases tension.
    • Relaxes our bodies.
    • Rests our spirits.
    • Renews our hearts.
    • Reorients our life perspective.
  19. When you have a personal need, ask your group for help. We never outgrow our need for the help of other Christians. The best Leaders are those who keep admitting that they need the help of others.
  20. When you have problems or need help, quickly go to your Cluster leader. All of us are learning none of us have arrived. There are times when we will need help. We don’t have all the answers. Only the foolish individual acts like he does.
  21. Remember ... It is Christ who does the leading, not us. A good Leader is a good follower of Christ. No more, no less.