Me Worship

The foolishness caricatured in this video probably needs no comment. It touches on what is perhaps the most common plague of American Evangelicalism: the notion that life (and Church)  is all about me – what I like, what I want, etc. 

God seems to have other ideas. In Isaiah 48.11 God says:

For my own sake, for my own sake, I do this.
       How can I let myself be defamed?
       I will not yield my glory to another

This problem may nowhere be more evident than in the worship wars that erupt in many congregations. What might worship be like if our primary concern was God’s glory? If we primarily asked ourselves what God enjoys?

Measuring Up?

Do you ever feel that you have to measure up? 

Do you wonder sometimes how  you are grading out in God’s eyes?  I suspect the answer for most people is “Yes”.    Our theology may tell us otherwise, but I think most people struggle with this from time to time – especially when we feel emotionally tired and as if we are coasting in neutral gear spiritually.   

I’m not sure many people are even aware they feel this way. We know our theology well enough, and so we remind ourselves of the truth of the Gospel: That we are declared righteous in Christ.  This is a wonderful truth.  But sometimes we don’t really live in the light of this truth.  This is the difference between our confessional theology and our functional theology.   

In other words there is sometimes (often?) a gap between what we know to be the facts and the way we allow those facts to impact our heart and emotions.  Put mathmatically, the difference between our confessional theology and our functional theology equals frustration.  (F – C = Frus)

A few months ago I posted an excellent article by Paula Rinehart, that had originally been written for The Navigators’ Discipleship Journal.  Because I know the tendency we have toward wandering onto what Jerry Bridges calls a Performance Treadmill, I wanted to post it again.   

If you ever find yourself tired of trying to measure up, or if know others around you who seem to fall into that trap, you will appreciate: 

Good Enough!

Prophets, Priests, and Kings

An important concept to explore and implement in the ministry of the local church is the reflection of the Offices of Christ: Prophet, Priest, and King.  This is known as Tri-Perspectivalism or Multi-Perspectivalism.  I have written and spoken a little about this, but I am still far more a student than an expert when it comes to the implications.

Richard Lovelace, author of Dynamics of Spiritual Life – a MUST READ for those charges with ministry leadership – offers this insight:

“Our union with the Messiah and his desire to continue his earthly ministry by living his life through us are so strong that we may be said to share his three offices of leadership.  We are priests as we pray for those near us and draw them into the sphere of God’s mercy and blessing.  We are prophets as we hold a biblical straightedge against whatever is crooked around us.  And we are kings as we use whatever powers we have to straighten what is crooked, reshaping whatever falls within the scope of our responsibility until it reflects the order of heaven.”  

Beyond the Sick List

It is one of my peeves. And it seems to be one of the most difficult habits to break church members of. I am referring to the common pracactice of praying the sick list.  For some reason it is difficult to get even seasoned Christians to pray for much else.

David Powlison takes up this issue in an article published in ByFaith Magazine.  Powlison writes:

Why don’t people pray beyond the sick list? We want circumstances to improve so that we might feel better and life might get better. These are often honest and good prayers—unless they’re the only requests. Unhinged from the purposes of sanctification and from groaning for the coming of the King, prayers for circumstances become self-centered.

Powlison observes:

[T]he majority of prayers in the Bible focus on other things. As shorthand, here are three emphases of biblical prayer:

1. Circumstantial Prayers

Sometimes we ask God to change our circumstances—heal the sick, give us daily bread, protect us from suffering and evildoers, make our political leaders just, convert our friends and family, make our work and ministries prosper, provide us with a spouse, quiet this dangerous storm, send us rain, give us a child.

2. Wisdom Prayers

Sometimes we ask God to change us—deepen our faith, teach us to love each other, forgive our sins, make us wise where we tend to be foolish, help us know You better, give us understanding of Scripture, teach us how to encourage others.

3. Kingdom Prayers 

Sometimes we ask God to change everything by revealing Himself more fully on the stage of real life, magnifying the degree to which His glory and rule are obvious—Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven, be exalted above the heavens, let Your glory be over all of the earth, let Your glory fill the earth as the waters cover the sea, come Lord Jesus.

They are tightly interwoven when we pray rightly.  When any of these three strands of prayer gets detached from the other two, prayer tends to go sour.

To read Powlison’s insights click: Praying Beyond the Sick List.

Strength Addiction

Here is another insight from our friend, WeakDave:

“Strength addiction is the most unconfessed sin in the church.”

WeakDave elaborates:

Believers today seem barely aware of how much we love strength – even worship it – in others, and in ourselves.   Instead, we focus on the technicolor sins, outside-the-cup sins, like adultery, homosexuality, substance abuse, child abuse, wife abuse, irresponsible debt, and other anti-biblical values.   Why?   So we feel good about ourselves, by comparison.   We don’t see ourselves as huge sinners, because we’ve dumbed down the law to where it’s keepable, doable: keep your nose clean, keep your act together, so you can feel good about yourself, and other believers see you as a good Christian, and you have a good witness to non-believers.

But the devil wants us clueless about our addiction to strength, so we walk around with enormous unconfessed sin, which causes us to minimize Jesus; weirds our enjoyment of Jesus; and motivates us to spend our lives obsessing over our own agendas to be strong, confident, and together

  • so we feel good about self
  • so others admire us, even envy us, maybe even worship us  

Instead, we passionately avoid weakness of any kind, because we do not want to be pitied by others, or even by ourselves.

Why do I like to wear strong clothes, drive a strong car, have a strong house, have a strong spouse, strong body, speak with confidence & strength, write with strength, have strong, successful children/grandchildren, be a fan of a winning sports team?  
  • So I feel good about self.  
  • So I’m not a loser in the eyes of others – or in my own eyes.  
When strength-addiction rules my life, Jesus and His righteousness, is not a big deal.   When Jesus is a big deal, I don’t care about being strong, and I am free to be weak, to fail, to be a loser.   There is power in the Blood: Power to live and love with the kind of reckless abandon – the kind of care-free living that every human desires.   Joyful and peaceful regardless of my circumstances.

“Cheer up,” Jack Miller used to say, “You’re much worse than you’ve ever imagined. And God’s love for huge sinners is far greater than you’ve ever dreamed.”  He who has a sense of having been forgiven only a little feels loved by God only a little, and loves God only a little.   The nicest, sweetest, kindest thing He ever does for us, is to freshly convict us of our sin.

-StrongDave, needing prayer every day, to be freshly captivated by Jesus, so Jesus is the big deal in his life; so non-believers around him are wowed and wants what he has.

To read past posts or to subscribe to WeakDave updates, click: GospelFriendships

6 Words Toward Open Hearts

From Donald Whitney:

Over and over I’ve seen one simple question open people’s hearts to hear the gospel. Until I asked this question, they showed no interest in spiritual matters. But then after six words—only seventeen letters in English—I’ve seen people suddenly begin to weep and their resistance fall. The question is, “How can I pray for you?” …

This question is similar to one that Jesus Himself sometimes asked: “What do you want me to do for you?” (Matthew 20:32). For what we are really asking is, “What do you want me to ask Jesus to do for you?” And by means of this question, we can show the love of Christ to people and open hearts previously closed to the gospel.

I had tried to talk about the things of God many times to a business-hardened, retired executive who lived next door. He was a pro at hiding his feelings and keeping conversations at a superficial level. But the day we stood between our homes and I asked, “How can I pray for you?” his eyes filled with tears as his façade of self-sufficiency melted. For the first time in seven years he let me speak with him about Jesus.

It’s a short, easily remembered question. You can use it with longtime friends or with people you’ve just met. It doesn’t seem too personal or pushy for those who’d rather give you a shallow answer just now, and yet it often leads to a full hearing of the gospel. You can ask it of people nearly every time you speak with them and it doesn’t get old. Just simply and sincerely ask, “How can I pray for you?” You’ll be surprised at the results.

Living Missionally in the Mountain Empire

In this video Tim Keller offers some insights about ministry in areas that still largely hold to traditional conservative values.

This is helpful to me because the place where I live and serve is still largely characterized this way.

While I embrace a missional mindset, how our church lives that out in East Tennessee and Southwest Virginia will look very different from how Keller lives it out in Manhattan and others live it out in places like San Francisco or Seattle.

Externally Focused Quest

Most churches have a subtle, perhaps even unspoken, objective.  It is driven by the question:

“How can we be the best church in our community?”

How a church answers that question determines the approach to membership, staffing, budget, etc.

In a book I am now reading, Externally Focused Quest, authors Eric Swanson & Rick Rusaw ask an entirely different, more poignant, question:

“How can we be the best church for our community?’

The difference between the two questions dramatically influences the way we approach ministry,  approach our community, and relate to other churches.  Those driven by this question are inclined to be highly attractional, may tend to view neighbors as being placed by God so that they can be harvested for the growth and benefit of the church.  And while many people would be gracious enough to realize that there are enough people to go around, and that no one church can monopolize all the people in an area, this question inherently promotes a sense of competion between churches.

Perhaps even more significant, the differences between these two questions radically reveals our view of God and what we believe to be God’s purpose for the church.  The church that wants to know how they can be the best for the community understands that God is on a mission and invites us – even demnds for us – to engage in it.  It is a church that recognizes God has placed His church in the community primarily to benefit the city and it’s people (see Jeremiah 29.7 & Proverbs 11.10), and consequently to draw people to himself.  While some may ask this question and still posess an unhealthy competitiveness, the question itself does not inherently demand competiton.  To be the best for the community means to play the roles needed in the community.  There is room for more than one church to play various roles.

Being Sent


This past Sunday I offered a brief exposition of John 17.6-21 & John 20.21, explaining what it means to be “sent” into our community and world in the same way God the Father sent Jesus into our world.  These texts demand that we understand, as John Stott says: “Our God is a missionary God.”  They also demand that we continually ask ourselves:

  • In what way was Jesus sent?
  • How am I responding to/reflecting being sent?

 While in no way exhaustive, I offered 5 simple observations for us to put into practice:

  1. More Incarnational than Attractional
  2. Focus More on Building Bridges than Building Walls
  3. Prioritize Service > “Serve Us”
  4. Move Beyond Fellowship to Functional Unity
  5. Measure Our Effectiveness More by Our Impact than Our Attendance.

Power of the Cross

Oh, to see the dawn of the darkest day:
Christ on the road to Calvary.
Tried by sinful men,
Torn and beaten, then
Nailed to a cross of wood.


This, the pow’r of the cross:
Christ became sin for us;
Took the blame, bore the wrath—
We stand forgiven at the cross.

Oh, to see the pain written on your face,
Bearing the awesome weight of sin.
Ev’ry bitter thought, Ev’ry evil deed
Crowning Your bloodstained brow.

Now the daylight flees; Now the ground beneath
Quakes as its Maker bows His head.
Curtain torn in two, Dead are raised to life;
“Finished!” the vict’ry cry.

Oh, to see my name written in the wounds,
For through Your suffering I am free.
Death is crushed to death;
Life is mine to live,
Won through your selfless love.


This, the pow’r of the cross:
Son of God—slain for us.
What a love! What a cost!
We stand forgiven at the cross.

On Mission to Cherokee

We just got back from the 38th General Assembly of Presbyterian Church in America last night.  This morning we head out again, on a mission trip.  We’ll be serving the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Nation at the Cherokee Reservation in North Carolina for the next week. 

I won’t have access to a computer while in Cherokee, so I won’t be posting anything this week.   Check out some old posts or check back July 12.  And prayers for our mission team will be greatly appreciated.

How Can We Look Forward to Heaven?

Some time ago someone I encountered posed an interesting question: “How can we look forward to heaven when none of our favorite things are sure to be there?”

C. S. Lewis’ offers a breathtaking answer:

Let us construct a fable.

Let us picture a woman thrown into a dungeon. There she bears and rears a son. He grows up seeing nothing but the dungeon walls, the straw on the floor, and a little patch of the sky seen through the grating, which is too high up to show anything except sky.

This unfortunate woman was an artist, and when they imprisoned her she managed to bring with her a drawing pad and a box of pencils. As she never loses the hope of deliverance, she is constantly teaching her son about that outer world which he has never seen. She does it very largely by drawing him pictures. With her pencil she attempts to show him what fields, rivers, mountains, cities, and waves on a beach are like.

He is a dutiful boy and he does his best to believe her when she tells him that that outer world is far more interesting and glorious than anything in the dungeon. At times he succeeds. On the whole he gets on tolerably well until, one day, he says something that gives his mother pause. For a minute or two they are at cross-purposes. Finally it dawns on her that he has, all these years, lived under a misconception.

‘But’, she gasps, ‘you didn’t think that the real world was full of lines drawn in lead pencil?’

‘What?’ says the boy. ‘No pencil marks there?’

And instantly his whole notion of the outer world becomes a blank. For the lines, by which alone he was imagining it, have now been denied of it. He has no idea of that which will exclude and dispense with the lines, that of which the lines were merely a transposition–the waving treetops, the light dancing on the weir, the coloured three-dimensional realities which are not enclosed in lines but define their own shapes at every moment with a delicacy and multiplicity which no drawing could ever achieve. The child will get the idea that the real world is somehow less visible than his mother’s pictures. In reality it lacks lines because it is incomparably more visible.

So with us. ‘We know not what we shall be’; but we may be sure we shall be more, not less, than we were on earth. Our natural experiences (sensory, emotional, imaginative) are only like the drawing, like pencilled lines on flat paper. If they vanish in the risen life, they will vanish only as pencil lines from the real landscape, not as a candle flame that is put out but as a candle flame which becomes invisible because someone has pulled up the blind, thrown open the shutters, and let in the blaze of the risen sun.

– C. S. Lewis, ‘Transposition,’ in The Weight of Glory, 85-86