Monday, December 30, 2013

Reflect, Refocus, and Repent

The end of a year and the beginning of a new one always gives us an opportunity to take a pit stop in life. We can take time to reflect on the previous year. We can look back on the joy of victories and the agonies of defeat. We can look back at times where we trusted God and times where our faith was lacking. We can look back at the times we obeyed the Lord and times when we did not.

And, as we reflect, by God's grace, we will be driven to refocus.. To refocus on those things that are most important. Those things that are worthy of our time, energy, and pursuit. The most important thing to refocus our attention on is Jesus (Revelation 1:1-20) and our relationship with him.

In Revelation 1, there are at least 15 reasons to refocus on Jesus and our relationship with him at the end of 2013. Jesus is:
  • The faithful witness (5)
  • The firstborn from the dead (5)
  • The ruler of the kings of the earth (5)
  • The one who loves us (5) 
  • The one who freed us (5)
  • The one who made us a kingdom of priests (6)
  • The one who reigns w/ his Father in dominion & glory (6)
  • The one who is coming again (7)
  • The one who is the alpha and omega (8)
  • The one who was and who is and is to come (8)
  • The one who is the first and the last (17) 
  • The son of man (12-16)
  • The one who has died and is living forevermore (18)
  • The one who has the keys of death and hades (18)
  • The one who is Lord over the church (20)
After we reflect and refocus, there is the grace of repentance. In 5 of the 7 letters to the churches in Revelation 2-3, the way for each of the churches to return and refocus is through repentance. Some people don't like to talk about repentance. However, Jesus says to the churches and to us personally, that the way to life is through the door of repentance. 

So, as we begin 2014 in a couple of days...reflect, refocus, and repent.

Happy New Year!

Friday, November 29, 2013

Articles for Edification on November 29, 2013

Delayed Adolescence in the Church - this is a very good article about the lack of spiritual maturity in the church today, even among those that have been "Christians" for many years

There may some more later...

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Articles for Edification on November 27, 2013

Sabbath Rest and Moral Limits of Consumption

Time to Recalibrate - helpful article as this year comes to a close very soon to evaluate the past and anticipate the future

"Risky Gospel" - new book will probably be on my reading list soon

What kind of legacy will you leave? - this is something that I am constantly thinking about

"What's down in the well comes up in the bucket" - make sure you click through to read the whole article

The importance of biblical theology to the health of a local church

Are church leaders responsible for church members?

"11 minutes, 100 commercials" - this is very eye-opening and crazy!

Why is so critical that we sing together? - maybe we will all sing a little stronger this coming Sunday


Thursday, October 24, 2013

Reformation Sunday

On the Liturgical Church Calendar, this Sunday is Reformation Sunday. It is the Sunday commemorating the beginning of what is affectionately known as the Protestant Reformation. The official unofficial start date is October 31, 1517. This is the day that Martin Luther nailed the "95 Theses" to the door of Wittenberg Cathedral. These "theses" were points of discussion that Luther wanted to have with the Roman Catholic church at the time. He had been studying his Bible (imagine that) and found much of the teaching that was being espoused by the Roman Catholic church did not line up with what was actually in scripture. So, he wanted to have a conversation about those items. Well, it wasn't much of a conversation. The Church branded Martin Luther a heretic. They wanted him to recant what he came to believe by studying the bible (again, imagine that) and "come back" to the Roman Catholic church. His now famous reply was, "I cannot choose but adhere to the word of God, which has possession of my conscience; nor can I possibly, nor will I even make any recantation, since it is neither safe nor honest to act contrary to conscience! Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise, so help me God! Amen.” 

And, so was born a return to the Bible, the Protestant Reformation. Out of that movement in Christian history, several streams of the river of Christianity have flowed. Of which, we baptists are one. The Protestant Reformation is our spiritual heritage. And, while we may not agree with every itty bitty detail or teaching that came from this movement, we cannot deny that it is our heritage. 

As historians have studied this movement in Christian history, 5 pillars have been identified as foundational truths for the continued success of the Protestant Reformation. Over the next five weeks, we will study each one of them as they are demonstrated and taught in the Bible. These five pillars are: sola scriptura, sola gratia, sola fide, sola Christus, and sola deo gloria. In English, they are scripture alone, grace alone, faith alone, Christ alone, and Glory to God alone. 

May the fires of revival and renewal and reformation be stoked in our souls over these five weeks.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Finding God's Perspective in Difficult Situations

Do you think Job was confused at the circumstances in which he found himself? Have you ever felt confused about your circumstances? I'm sure we all have been there. Our study group on Monday nights is going through the study Experiencing God by Henry Blackaby. In one of the lessons this past week, we are learning about seeing our circumstances from "God's perspective", seeking to gain his viewpoint on what is happening to us. In that lesson, Blackaby proposed some helpful principles that can aid in gaining God's perspective on our situation, especially if we might be confused. Here they are:
  1. Settle in your mind that God has forever demonstrated His unfailing love for you on the cross. That love will never change.
  2. Do not try to understand what God is like from the middle of your circumstances.
  3. Go to God and ask Him to help you see His perspective on your situation.
  4. Wait on the Holy Spirit. He may take God's Word and help you understand your circumstances.
  5. Adjust your life to God and to what you see Him doing in your circumstances.
  6. Do all he tells you to do.
  7. Experience God working in and through you to accomplish His purposes.
Maybe these principles will be helpful when you are in a confusing situation.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Inertia

Inertia. This is Newton's first law of motion. It can be summarized like this: "An object at rest tends to stay at rest unless acted upon by an external force OR an object in motion tends to stay in motion in the same direction and at the same speed unless acted upon by an external force." The external force that acts on that object has to be greater than or applied for a period of time long enough to overcome the current force acting on the object and the momentum of that object.

Do churches have inertia? Certainly not physical inertia, but maybe spiritual inertia? Churches moving in a particular direction will continue in that particular direction. Is your church "at rest"---plateaued or declining? Is your church "in motion"--moving forward for the Great Commission? Your church will continue in that direction unless acted upon by an "external force".

Except...the church is not an object. The church is people. She is the people of God indwelt by the Holy Spirit of God brought together and commissioned for the purposes of God in the redemptive plan of God for the whole world. The "external force" (I know the Holy Spirit is not a force; just go with the analogy please) has already acted upon us when He gave us spiritual life. We need Him to act on us again; to wake us up from our spiritual slumber, to break us out of our "at rest" position, to change our direction with such a magnitude that we are "swept up in the flow" of the river of God's grace and power!

Many churches and Christians are "at rest". You are comfortable, you are satisfied with the status quo, you are content to watch everyone else do the work or you complain about the ones who are doing the work because they didn't ask you about it.

Ephesians 5:14 says, "Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you."

Friday, August 23, 2013

Articles for Edification on August 23, 2013

The Holy Spirit - excellent description of the ministry of the Holy Spirit

Discernment - this is essential for all Christians to cultivate in his or her life

Structured for Mission - this is a very good article about how the structure of the church must help the mission, not hinder the mission nor become the mission of the church

Not Many Were Wise

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Separated Unto God

Read this today from FB Meyer:

"In every great religious movement there always have been and always will be a number of individuals who cast in their lot with it, without knowing the power which inspires it. Beware of them! They cannot stand the stress of the life of separation to God. The mere excitement will soon die away from them; and, having no principle to take its place, they will become hindrances and disturbers of the peace. As certainly as they are harboured in the camp, or their principles are allowed within the heart, they will lower the spiritual tone; allure to worldly policy; suggest methods which would not otherwise occur to us; and draw us toward the Egypt-world.

Nothing but supreme principle can carry any one through the real, separated, and surrendered life of the child of God. If you are prompted by anything less, such as excitement, enthusiasm, fashion, contagious example--you will first be a hindrance, and end by being a failure. Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith. Prove your own selves. And, if you are consciously acting from a low and selfish motive, ask God to breathe into you his own pure love."

Articles for Edification on August 22, 2013

What does it mean to fear God?

Child Brides

Preaching in the Valley (good article) - oh, and by the way, dads, you need to go with your son(s) to see "Man of Steel"

The Universe (cool video)


Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Articles for Edification on August 7, 2013

Well, it's been a good while, but here are some interesting articles from today's reading

Death of the Sunday night service - this is an interesting article

Difficult People Expose our own Hearts


Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The Word and Music

Reading Mark Dever's little book What is a Healthy Church, I came across this:

"During a day-long seminar on Puritanism that I taught at a church in London, I remarked at one point that Puritan sermons were sometimes two hours long. A member of the class gasped audibly and asked, "What time did that leave for worship?" Clearly, the individual assumed that listening to God's Word preached did not constitute worship. I replied that many English Protestants in former centuries believed that the most essential part of their worship was hearing God's Word in their own language (a freedom purchased by the blood of more than one martyr) and responding to it in their lives. Whether they had time to sing, though not entirely insignificant, was of comparatively little concern to them. Our churches, too, must recover the centrality of the Word in our worship. Music is a biblically required response to God's Word, but the music God gave us was not given to build our churches upon. A church built on music--of whatever style--is a church built on shifting sands."

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Paganism

In his commentary on Genesis, Walton defines paganism in this way: "The heart of paganism is not found in the perversity of rituals but in the degradation of deity." That is to say that paganism is trying to bring "the gods" down to humanity's level.

Then, he goes on to make this powerful statement.

"By nature we are all pagans caught in the Babel syndrome (Genesis 11:1-9). When we think we can manipulate God by praying in Jesus' name to achieve selfish purposes, our paganism is showing. When we "claim promises" as a means of making God do what we want him to do, our paganism is showing. When we come to think we are indispensable to God because of the money we donate, the talents we have, the ministries we engage in, or the worship we offer, our paganism is showing. When we treat God as a child to be cajoled or a tyrant to be appeased, the Bable syndrome is surging in our veins. We want a manageable "God-lite." We want to be able to harness his power for our own benefit, no strings attached."

Monday, June 24, 2013

Articles for Edification for June 24, 2013

Is a pastor a leader?  - Interesting thoughts here with much to ponder

Why you can't see your biggest flaws - very good article

4 things every man needs  - this is a great article!

Inerrancy is a good word - deep, but good

A quick guide to family worship

9 things you should know about the bible

Celebrity Status and the Kingdom of God

Yesterday with our church family, we spent our time in God's Word looking at 1 Corinthians 3:5-9 and Paul's corrective reminders to the church in Corinth about elevating the servants of God beyond measure to a status that was unhealthy for the church.

The five corrective reminders are these:
  • We are all just servants
  • We all have a role to play
  • God is the decisive worker
  • We are all on level ground in Christ
  • We will receive rewards based upon our labor (going to tackle this subject this coming Sunday)
Within the kingdom of God, we are all servants. There is not one servant who is more important or significant  than another. We all have a different role to fulfill within the work of the Kingdom of God.

The work of the Kingdom of God is the spreading of the reign of King Jesus by fulfilling the Great Commission. We are all responsible and privileged to be part of this grand story of God's grace. There are no elite Christians or super Christians based upon the world's standards of "celebrity". Jesus said that the greatest among is slave of all (Mark 10:35-45). 

May we all feel the pull of responsibility in kingdom work (not relegated to the "professionals") and the joy of the privilege of kingdom work.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Developing the Christ-like Mind, part 3

While we are given the "mind of Christ" at conversion, developing the Christ-like mind is a process that takes places over time as God works in us through his Word and by his Spirit.

This process is best summarized in Romans 12:1-2. It is the renewing of our minds toward God and his will that provides the basic blueprint of this process. 

"Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed (indicates change & development in a particular direction) by the renewing of your mind (indicates the way this happens) so that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God (indicates the purpose for this renewal)".

Two corollary principles that are present in this process are the "setting" principle and the "filling" principle.

Colossians 3:2 says, "set your minds". This is the setting principle. It expresses a continual & consistent focusing & re-focusing of one’s mind to having a kingdom of God mindset. It refers staying in tune w/ our Heavenly Father and his desires for us.

The "filling" principle refers to the filling of our minds with the Word of God. It is consistently thinking and meditating on the Word of God. Since the Bible contains the very thoughts & words of God, our development of the Christ-like mind is directly related to our exposure to and engagement with the God’s word.

As we apply these principles in our walk with the Lord, we will begin to see the transformation of our character toward that of Christ. In so doing, we will be developing the mind of Christ.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Developing the Christ-like Mind, part 2

Last time, we looked at what the Christ-like mind and some of the characteristics of the Christ-like mind. Now, what is(are) the effect of possessing and developing the Christ-like mind? What does it look like in practice?

It seems the best place to find this is Philippians 2:1-11. Part of this passage is often called the "Christ Hymn", yet the whole passage gives us a picture of the Christ-like mind in practice. We can take note of several things that reflect a Christ-like mind in action from this passage with respect to its effects among the congregation of God's people:

  • being of the same mind
  • having the same love
  • being in full accord 
  • of one mind
  • no rivalry or competition
  • humility
  • counting others more significant than ourselves
  • looking out for the interests of others
  • servant lifestyle
  • obedience to the Father's will
How do you see these effects of the Christ-like mind being lived out among your church family?

Next time, we will look at the process of developing the Christ-like mind. Stay tuned.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Developing the Christ-like Mind, part 1

Yesterday during the Sunday morning gathering, we dove into Paul's declaration in 1 Corinthians 2:16 where he says that "we have the mind of Christ". That is stunning declaration for us because many times we don't think of ourselves as having a Christ-like mind. Yet, having the Christ-like mind is kind of like having muscles in our body. When we are born, we have muscles. Those muscles are weak and undeveloped, but they are present. Similarly, when we are born from above by the Holy Spirit, by virtue of the Spirit's indwelling presence, we "have" the mind of Christ. It is undeveloped and immature, but it is present within us. This is one of the reasons why Paul rebukes the Corinthian congregation (1 Cor. 3:1-4) about their spiritual immaturity; they have not developed the Christ-like mind as Paul had expected of them.

What is the Christ-like mind?

The Christ-like mind encompasses the thought patterns, attitudes, lifestyle, and habits of Jesus. It includes the carrying out of the instructions that Jesus has given to us as his followers. The Christ-like mind is all about doing the will of our Heavenly Father. Jesus was oriented to the will of the Heavenly Father; he took his direction from his Heavenly Father.

What are some characteristics of the Christ-like mind?

TW Hunt and Claude King summarize the Christ-like mind in their study, The Mind of Christ. They use the following to describe the Christ-like mind: alive, single-minded, lowly, pure, responsive and peaceful.

The Christ-like mind is alive to the things of God and awakened to them.
The Christ-like mind is single-minded, pursuing with loyalty and devotion the will of the Father at all times.
The Christ-like mind is lowly; it is humble and meek.
The Christ-like mind is pure, free from those things that would contaminate it.
The Christ-like mind is responsive, responding to the voice of the Heavenly Father as He speaks through His Word, through prayer, through His people, and through circumstances.
The Christ-like mind is peaceful, resting in the hands of the Heavenly Father even when the circumstances are not "peaceful".

In view of a larger picture of the Christ-like mind, three passages of scripture would be helpful to study in greater detail:

  • Galatians 5:22-23 - The Fruit of the Spirit
  • Matthew 5:3-12 - The Beatitudes (really the whole Sermon on the Mount)
  • James 3:13-17 - The Virtues of Godly Wisdom
Coming later this week, part 2



Articles for Edification on June 17, 2013

Do we have a weak vision?

Dealing with Criticism - constructive or otherwise

20th Century Slide (very interesting article) - I hope that all churches will catch a vision for future generations rather than our own comfort

3 Things that churches rather than mission - tough words here, but in many cases, true

11 Traits of Churches that will Change the Future - these are some interesting thoughts

10 Reasons why Churches stay small (part 1)

10 Reasons why Churches stay small (part 2) - Both of these articles have good food for thought. How does your church match up with these points?

Monday, May 13, 2013

Articles for Edification - May 13, 2013

Prayer - this is great challenge

The Pastor's Heavy Happy Heart - this brought tears to my eyes

Prayerlessness is Selfishness

Jesus is coming soon! - good article

The Body, the Mind, and Medications - This article is a little heavy, but I found it very helpful in the on-going discussion of mental health and the Bible

Thursday, April 25, 2013

CJD

CJD stands for Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease. This coming Saturday, my sisters and I will be walking/running in a 5K in Clemmons to help bring awareness to this disease and help raise money for research. Unfortunately, I've learned more about the disease than I ever wanted to know about 5 years ago. CJD is the disease that took the life of our mama in June of 2008. It's really hard to believe it has been almost 5 years. Can't even write this without tearing up. God has been so gracious in helping us along the journey since mama died.

At the present time, there is no cure for the disease. You can read more about the disease here. It is a neurological brain disease where bad proteins begin to eat the good proteins. Some have compared it to mad cow disease because some of the symptoms are very similar.

If you are so inclined, you may check out the CJD Foundation and give a donation to the research. Or, you could give a donation to the Gideons in her memory.

There is no pressure here whatsoever; it's just been on my mind ever since we decided to run/walk in the race and I thought I'd share a bit.

Thanks for listening.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Articles for Edification - April 22, 2013 Edition

The Secret to becoming Awesome  - don't let the title turn you away; there are some good points here taken in the context of "calling"

Keeping Church Members from dropping out

Spiritual Maturity tied to strong Doctrinal Beliefs - interesting article

When is it time to leave

What's in a name - Should a church have a denominational label in its name? - good research here

Assurance of Salvation

Good Nutrition

20 Hidden Ministry Killers - interesting take on this

Is Your Church Stuck? - food for thought


"Do Your Best and Jesus will take care of the rest"

I have traveled by this sign on several occasions, and it always puts something in my crawl when I read it. "Do your best and Jesus will take care of the rest". It's really hard to give the benefit of the doubt on this one. However, I am not sure of the context in which the phrase it meant to be taken. I am wondering, what is "the rest"? How does this phrase line up with our declaration that "Jesus paid it all"? Also, my mind thinks toward Philippians 3:1-7, and Paul's litany of "his best". When he finishes listing his "best", he doesn't then cry out to Jesus to take care of the rest. Rather, he calls "his best" all "dung" (think cow manure) when compared to the righteousness he received from Christ's perfect and sinless life through faith. His "best" wasn't good enough and never would be. So, when it comes to righteousness before God, our best is never good enough and never adds anything to the imputed righteousness we receive from Christ through faith.

A better sign post might be the words from a recent hymn:

In Christ alone my hope is found, he is my light, my strength, my song
This cornerstone, this solid ground, firm through the fiercest drought and storm

Thank Jesus today, he gave his best and it was better than good enough!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

God's Grace

Here are some quotes I came across studying on Ephesians 2:1-10 today:

James Montgomery Boice: "When the Reformers spoke about grace alone, they were saying that sinners have no claim upon God, none at all; that God owes them nothing but punishment for their sins; and that, if he saves them in spite of their sin, which he does in the case of those who are being saved, it is only because it pleases him to do it and for no other reason.”

The New Hampshire Confession of faith reads: “We believe that Repentance and Faith are sacred duties, and also inseparable graces, wrought in our souls by the regenerating Spirit of God; whereby being deeply convinced of our guilt, danger and helplessness, and of the way of salvation by Christ, we turn to God with unfeigned contrition, confession, and supplication for mercy; at the same time heartily receiving the Lord Jesus Christ as our Prophet, Priest, and King, and relying on Him alone as the only and all sufficient Savior.”

Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals: “We reaffirm that in salvation we are rescued from God’s wrath by his grace alone. It is the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit that brings us to Christ by releasing us from our bondage to sin and raising us from spiritual death to spiritual life. We deny that salvation is in any sense a human work. Human methods, techniques or strategies by themselves cannot accomplish this transformation. Faith is not produced by our un-regenerated human nature.”

Friday, February 15, 2013

A Brick

William Barclay commenting on 1 Peter 2:1-12

"So long as a brick lies by itself it is useless; it becomes of use only when it is incorporated into a building. So it is with the individual Christian. To realize his destiny he must not remain alone, but must be built into the fabric of the church."

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Better

Just read this by JI Packer:

"As Hebrews 7-10 explains, God brought in an enhanced version of his one eternal covenant with sinners---a better covenant with better promises based on a better sacrifice offered by a better high priest in a better sanctuary, and guaranteeing a better hope than the former version of the covenant ever made explicit, that is, endless glory with God in "a better country---a heavenly one.""

What a great summary of our redemption---better!

As mama would say, "praise the Lord and bless his good name"

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

"Read the Bible for Life" by George Guthrie - Summary, Chapter 2

Since we did not meet last Wednesday evening for chapter 2 of the book Read the Bible for Life, I waited until this week to post the summary.


RTBFL - Chapter 2 - Reading the Bible in Context - January 29, 2013
Interview with Dr. Andreas Kostenberger

  1. Introduction
    1. Theme of our WBS: Reading the bible well for understanding, application, worship, obedience, and transformation into the image of Christ
    2. Last week: reading the bible as a guide for life
    3. Tonight: reading the bible in “context”
  2. What is “context”?
    1. “Context refers to the circumstances that form the setting for an event, a statement, or a written text, by which that event, statement, or text can be rightly understood.”
    2. In conversation with someone, we can understand rightly what someone is saying by the context of the conversation.
  3. Why is “context” important?
    1. The bible was not written in a vacuum. Written in a particular time, place, culture to a particular audience; yet, the bible is timeless truth for every time, place, culture and people.
    2. “Our understanding of the contexts in which God spoke His Word has a profound impact on the way we hear what God wishes to say to us through that Word.”
    3. Example: “hand” - use the word in different ways; context helps us understanding the meaning that is conveyed by the word
  4. What are the 4 types of “context” that are important in our reading & studying of the bible?
    1. Literary context
      1. words make up sentences; sentences make up paragraphs; paragraphs make up books; books make up the whole bible
      2. God chose to speak through words & sentences and through various types of literature------all of which is truth rightly understood, interpreted, & applied
      3. What kind of literature is it? Where does it fit? How does it function?
      4. Specifically it is looking at the words, sentences, and verses before and after a passage we are studying
      5. Example: Mark 4:35-5:1
    2. Cultural
      1. “Culture has to do with attitudes, patterns of behavior, or expressions of a particular society; and these are aspects of the ancient world that have an impact on our understanding of the bible”
        1. Ex: John 2 - the wedding at Cana - Jewish customs of weddings
        2. Ex. John 11 - Lazarus
    3. Historical
      1. Historical events, whether recorded in the bible (i.e., census at Jesus’ birth) or events outside that which is recorded in the bible (i.e., Emperor Nero) that form the backdrop for the biblical story
      2. importance of the broad sweep of “biblical history”
        1. Josephus; Apocryphal books (intertestament period)
    4. Theological
      1. How does a verse, passage, book fit into “the tapestry of theological themes in the story of the Bible”? How does the “part” fit into the “whole of the bible”?
        1. theological concepts in the NT almost always have a theological background in the OT (i.e., Passover lamb = Jesus)
      2. What does the story of the bible tells us about God, ourselves, and the world we live in-----all centered and flowing from God.
  5. Caution - be careful not to impose or read our “context” back into the bible; start w/ the bible and bring the biblical principles to bear into our culture; adjust ourselves to the scripture rather than seeking to adjust scripture to fit our culture
    1. i.e., defining marriage
  6. Objection to growing in our reading of the bible better (i.e., reading in context)
    1. “Why can’t I just read the bible and let the HS speak to me?” OR “Do I really need to go to the extra trouble?” “Isn’t that the pastor’s job?”
      1. “God gave His Word in particular times, places, and ways; and learning about those times, places, and ways helps us read the bible better.”
    2. Scriptural exhortations
      1. 2 Timothy 2:15
      2. Hebrews 5:11-14
  7. Tools to help us in our study
    1. Reading the bible regularly
    2. Asking questions about context while reading, listening to a sermon, etc.
    3. Get a good study bible - devotional study bibles; more theological study bibles; MacArthur Study Bible; ESV Study Bible; HCSB Study Bible)
    4. Bible dictionary
    5. Commentaries
    6. Internet (careful)

Thursday, January 31, 2013

"Elite Quarterbacks" and "Elite Pastors"

The other day on ESPN, they were discussing whether or not a certain NFL quarterback was to be given "elite" status. For one of the commentators, the defining element to receive the "elite" status from the gods of the sports world was winning the Super Bowl. While the long-enduring faithfulness and steadiness of solid performances week after week leading the team to some victories and obviously enduring some losses, in-season & off-season, played a minor role in the discussion, the tenor of the conversation among the commentators was whether or not the "quarterback" won the Super Bowl.

(Sounds like a weird conversation especially since there are 10 other players on the field at any given time who must know their role and play it well just as much as the quarterback must play his. Anyway, I digress.)

As I listened to the conversation, the subject turned to coaches as well. Coaches were being fired left and right after 1 or 2 seasons, some after 5 seasons having not won the Super Bowl even though they "led" their team to winning seasons, the playoffs, and were a solid & steady & faithful captain along the way.

Then, the thought hit me: have we done the same thing in the "pastoral ministry" world? I know the overall & current pastoral system and church structure in my denomination is broken. But, the message that seems to be sent (probably unintentionally) by Christendom's culture gods is that to obtain "elite pastor" status in this world, one must "grow" your church to a certain "super bowl" size. Poor Jeremiah (never had a convert, never had a backslider repent). And, the unintended consequences for the "peons" out there? Pressure----because we do want our churches to grow, we do want more people introduced to Jesus and follow him faithfully. Pressure----because church members see this stuff and some begin to think, "if we get 'superpastor', our church can be like that". Pressure----temptations are triggered toward jealousy and envy.

Back in seminary I was privileged to read "Liberating Ministry from the Success Syndrome" by Kent & Barbara Hughes. And, it still stares at me everyday I walk into my study reminding me that faithfulness to Jesus, His gospel, His mission, and His people in feeding them, leading them, and loving them over the long haul is the definition of success in pastoral ministry.

Those are my ramblings for today.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

"Read the Bible for Life" by George Guthrie - Summary, Chapter 1


At our church on Wednesday nights, we are studying through George Guthrie's book Read the Bible for Life. Each week, I'll be posting a summary of one chapter of the book along with a few comments from me.

Read the Bible for Life, Chapter 1
Reading the Bible as a Guide for Life
Interview with David Dockery, President of Union University

Note: February, 2008 an F4 tornado devastated their campus; rebuilt dorms in approximately 6 months; news people from major networks thought they would find people in despair, but rather found people with hope; Dr. Dockery credited this to the students and faculty of Union University’s lives being “oriented” to and “centered” on the bible

Primary passage of scripture: Psalm 25
  • Key verses: 25:4-5 - “make me, teach me, lead me”
  • Reading the bible as a guide for life is about following a person, the one who is the way, the truth, and the life------Jesus
  • Parallel: John 14:6

Chapter Summary
  • “To read the bible as a guide for life, we must first embrace the Bible’s view of reality”
  • “Reading the Bible as a guide for life is not primarily about methodology but rather an approach to living all of life from the standpoint of a biblical view of the world”
  • “They are reference points by which we understand life and the things that go on around us.”
    • the gospel
    • Cf. “The Chair” by Frank Perretti
  • “We learn to interpret the bible, but we also learn to let the bible interpret us in light of what it says is true about the world”
  • “The Bible really is at the center, providing an orientation to life, which directs us in all we do and helps us face the challenges of life”

“How can we cultivate a life oriented to the bible?”
  • “Develop a habit of reading the bible on a regular basis, reading it with an openness to what God would say to us”
  • “reading the bible with a view of studying it more seriously”
    • Hebrews 5:11-14, exhortation to all Christians
    • article: “Being Discipled” by James Emery White, not a passive lifestyle

“Problems to Avoid”
  • Mistakes in interpretation (author’s intended meaning)
  • Mistakes in application
  • Reading out of context (different kinds of literature in the bible)
  • Forgetting the big picture & our part in it

JA Bengel - “Apply yourself wholly to the scriptures, and apply the scriptures wholly to yourself”

Reading the bible as a guide for life is “really a lifestyle, lived in relationship with the Lord by his Spirit, lived out with other people in the community” of believers.

“the bible-oriented building of lives over time, lives oriented to the Bible’s way of seeing and responding to life”

Reflection:
  • What is the area in which you need God’s guidance the most right now in life?
  • In what difficult situation or important life decision has the bible been helpful to you or someone you know?
  • What do you think are the 3 most important truths in a biblical worldview and why would you point to those three?

Monday, January 21, 2013

"Make me, teach me, lead me"

Psalm 25 is a prayer of the psalmist filled with a variety of requests and offering declarations of God's goodness and grace and mercy. Two significant verses in this Psalm are vv. 4-5. There are 3 requests in these two verses, and there are two corresponding reasons why the psalmist believes those requests will be answered based upon the character of God.

First, he says, "make me to know your ways, O Lord." The psalmist desires to know the ways of God, how God works in the world, particularly in his life. Second, he requests that the Lord "teach me your paths." The psalmist desires to know the path, the road that God is taking him down in life, how to follow God through life. Third, the psalmist requests that the Lord "lead me in your truth". He desires to know the truth, that which corresponds to reality. But, his request is not for intellectual knowledge of facts, but that he might follow and live according to the truth of God that is revealed to him, hence the word "lead". It is the truth of God that provides the framework for decision-making and obedience to what God has revealed.

Now, there are two corresponding reasons why the psalmist believes the Lord will answer these requests. First, the Lord will answer because "you are God of my salvation". All of the psalmist's hope is in the Lord. In v. 1 of this Psalm, he declares, "to you, O Lord, I life up my soul. O my God, in you I trust." Then, because his hope is in the Lord, he believes the Lord will answer because he "waits all day long" on the Lord. It is in the Lord that he hopes and waits because the Lord is always faithful to come through. Both of these declarations are evidence of faith.

There is an interesting thing to notice about these two verses. They have a parallel in the New Testament. That parallel is found in Jesus' words in John 14:6. There, Jesus says, "I am the way, the truth, and the life". Knowing the ways of the Lord, learning the paths of the Lord, and being led in the truth of the Lord is really about following a person; that person being Jesus, the one who is our teacher, guide, and our leader, the one who is the way of the Lord, who is the truth of the Lord, and who is the life of God in us.