Month: October 2010
Currents of Repentance
“If all we do in our meditations is to repent of a few petty acts called sins that have accumulated over the last day (and this is not to belittle the importance of doing that), we have not known the deep power of purifying grace that repentance is supposed to offer. Israel and its stories help me to understand the deep underlying currents of evil response and intent, the tragic aquifers far beneath my conscious life that will continually feed my daily life with impurity unless they are identified and replaced with alternatives of the kind of character God built into Abraham.”
Passing the Baton
This past spring my wife and I would spend a few afternoons each week attending the track meets of our junior high daughter and our high school Senior son. While each child has different specialties, both particpated on relay teams. Few things offered as much pleasure as sitting out in the Spring-time sun, and watching our kids receive, run, and pass their batons.
Bob Kauflin uses that analogy, the passing of a baton in a relay race, to express the importance of ministry to the next generation. For those of us who now see more sand in the botton half of our hour glass than is reamining in the top, Kauflin offers some important thoughts.
Click: Receiving the Baton.
Some truths really are stranger than fiction.
The Heidelberg Catechsim is one of the oldest confessional expressions of Faith in use. Developed in the 16th Century, it is one of the Standards of the Dutch Reformed Tradition. The Dutch Reformed, with their “Mecca” in Grand Rapids, are often caricatured (perhaps unfairly) for their stoicism, stuffiness, and for being sticklers for the old traditions.
But now there is a Rap song celebrating the Heidelberg Catechism. It’s by a guy named Curtis Allen, aka Voice. Who would have ever thought?
To listen, and to get the background, watch this video:
I Want Change
Change is inevitable, but it is not always pleasant. But perhaps even less pleasant than unexpected change is the lack of change when it is desired and needed – particularly change in ourselves and in our spiritual development. The questions are common: How Can I Change? When Will I Change?
C.J. Mahaney & Robin Boisvert have written a helpful little book that addresses these very questions. Here is an excperpt from the Foreword:
“In a day when quick solutions to longstanding problems are too easily offered, we wish to recommend the old paths, having found them tried and true. There is no short course to Christian maturity. There is no cross-less way to follow Christ, no instant secret to the Christian life. But like distance running, if the way of the cross is not easy, neither is it complicated. God presents us with a pathway that is narrow yet straight. He makes his ways plain to those who are sincerely interested in following him, and he will show himself strong on behalf of all whose hearts are fully his.
Although our vigorous effort is required, all growth is by his grace. With that wonderful truth as our starting block, let us press on toward the mark, each confident that ‘he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.’ (Philippians 1:6).”
Thanks to Sovereign Grace Ministrires, this little book is available in .pdf for FREE. Click on the Chapter Titles to read or download:
- Caught in the Gap Trap
- Where It All Begins
- United With Christ
- The Battle Against Sin
- Tools of the Trade – Part 1
- Tools of the Trade – Part 2
- Living for That Final Day
- Appendix A – Different Roads to Holiness
- Appendix B – The Old Man and the Flesh
How to Plant a Church
Can We Get Along Together?
One of my ecclesiastical/theological heroes, John Piper, came under a slew of criticism earlier this year for inviting “Purpose Diven” Rick Warren to be one of the speakers for the Desiring God 2010 Conference.
I like the way Collin Hansen introduces the controversy, in his article, Piper, Warren, and the Perils of Movement Building:
You only thought junior high was over. But lately the evangelical blog world has been abuzz because John Piper invited Rick Warren to speak for his Desiring God National Conference… You see, a lot of folks who like John don’t like Rick. So now some of John’s friends aren’t sure they want to hang out with him anymore. They may not come to his party in Minneapolis. And they aren’t sure that you should either.
I’ll admit I was a little surprised when I heard about it. But I really gave it no thought, until these past few days. There was nothing specific that compelled me to reconsider the issue. I stumbled upon a few articles that made reference to the matter. And as I began to think about it I wondered to myself: “What is the real problem here?”
Frankly, I see only possible benefits. I am no Warren proponent. But honestly, I find much admirable about the guy and his ministry. I may have concerns about some aspects of his ministry style, and I do have some theological differences with him. But then again, I have theological differences with many people I admire – Piper included. Nevertheless I gain insights from many people in areas where I do agree. And I am challenged to think more deeply by thoughtful expressions with which I disagree.
Some time ago I posted The Jesus Pledge, authored by my friend, Paul Miller. Those embracing that pledge declare a willingness to “learn from all types of Christians”. That is something that I don’t think we Evangelicals do enough. And it is something that Piper appears to be attempting to explore. At least that is the sense that I get from him in a video he did explaining and defending his reasons for inviting Warren to his party. (Click: Why Rick Warren?)
Two final thoughts:
First, do we implicitly endorse what someone from another Christian tradtion, or with a different ministry methodology, believes and practices simply by entering into conversation and fellowship? I don’t think so. Without such conversations, though, how would we become acquainted with anyone outside our own circles? We can maintain our own convictions, even distinctions, without isolating ourselves from others.
Second, I wonder if there is a possibility of synthesizing Piper’s Christian Hedonism and Warren’s Purpose-Driven Life/Church. I don’t know what that would look like, and I am not sure I would embrce it, but I know I would not ignore it. In fact, I am intrigued by the possibility.
Like many churches throughout the land, our church is entering into a season of officer nominations. As a presbyterian congregation, specifically, we are inviting the members of our congregation to submit the names of fellow church members who they believe fit the Biblical requirements, found in Titus & 1 Timothy 3, for the offices of Elder and Deacon.
Also, like many in other congregations, some of the members of our church are not quite sure what exactly these offices mean, nor what those who serve them are responsible to do.
In a post on Coram Deo, Bob Thune offers a brief but helpful explanation, dispelling one of the more common misconceptions about Elders…
Click: Elder vs. Board Member
5 Questions to Connect With Your Kids
Ever stumped about what to talk about with your children? I am. The following are 5 great questions from the National Fatherhood Initiative that will help connect parents to their children and their children’s world:
- What Is The Most Important Thing That Happened Today? This is a great way to get more than a yes or no answer when you ask about your child’s life and day.
- How Are You And Your Friends Getting Along? You’ll get to know your child’s social circle and may get a heads up on drama that could be brewing and may cause some later problems.
- What Is Something I Should Know About You? This question is great for growing any relationship – and you’re guaranteed to learn something surprising. Just be prepared to have an answer, too!
- What Should We Celebrate Today? Make it a goal to have fun with your kids and bring joy into your family’s life on a regular basis. It can be as simple as popsicles on the back porch, a good grade on a quiz, or your favorite show being on TV. Savor the little things together.
- Do You Know That I Love You? You can never say this too much. Always tell your kids you love them – and for who they are, not just for what they do.
Gently Down Which Stream?
Collin Hansen, Justin Taylor, and Owen Strachen discuss the re-emergence of Calvinism, the streams of the Reformed tradition, and the different faces of Evangelicalism.
Related post at Gospel Coalition: One Movement, Many Streams
Here is a beautiful description of prayer from my friend John Smed:
“In believing prayer, we learn to connect our present troubles to the good and perfect will of God. We refuse to believe that chance rules our lives. We withstand the temptation to imagine that God is capricious or malicious. We know he has a higher purpose and that he is not dealing with us as our sins deserve. As we bring our troubles to Jesus in prayer—asking his will to be done—we approve the will of our Father in heaven. We see our sufferings in the greater reality of his good, acceptable, and perfect will. In prayer we “turn crisis to Christ.” Our heart becomes tuned to his heart and we sing the song of grace.”
– John Smed is Senior Pastor of Grace – Vancouver. He is also a Consultant/Trainer with Global Church Advancement (GCA).
Ways We Can Pray for Christ’s Church
J.E. Eubanks, Jr writes:
“One of Jesus’ most frequent teachings was His desire for the unity of His followers. In fact, Jesus and the apostles make it clear that the primary way that the world will know the truth of the gospel of Christ is through our unity and love for one another. We should therefore make praying for the union of the church a priority and one of our most frequent petitions.”
Jesus did. ( John 17:22–23)
This is the theme of the second in a three part series by Eubanks, in ByFaith magazine. And it is a theme that resonates with me. I have often wished (and prayed) that our church would develop a more conscientious effort to pray for the health of the church, and not just focus primarily on the health of the individual members and a few peripheral friends.
In this article Eubanks both encourages and cautions his readers about praying for Christ’s Church:
“When we pray for unification, we must first look in the mirror and ask, “What must I pray for regarding my own failure to strive for unity with my brothers and sisters in Christ? How have I made it difficult for others to be united with me? How ought my union with Christ change my attitude, actions and heart toward others?”
“As we pray for the church to grow in oneness, we should consider our tendency to prioritize minor issues and our failure to allow major agreements to be places where we find singularity. We should pray that our hearts—and the hearts of believers everywhere—would be broken about our discord, that Christ would give us a capacity for love that would overcome minor distinctions and disagreements, and that He would reveal opportunities for unification and give us the necessary humility and bravery to pursue them.”
“We must pray for the solidarity of our leaders because they will lead us into either greater harmony or dissonance. Pray that they too would overcome pettiness and seek to be bound together more fully rather than highlight their distinctions. Pray that even their disagreements would be handled with love and humility and that unity might be preserved. Pray that Christ will use them as ambassadors throughout the worldwide church to cultivate togetherness as His return approaches.”
I appreciate Eubanks’ thoughts. I also suspect that incorporating these things in our local congregations would strengthen us immensely.
To read the entire article click: Ways We Can Pray for Christ’s Church
To read Part 1 in this series click: Partnering Thru Prayer
Explosive Power of the Gospel
“The Gospel is God’s explosive power that changes everything.
The gospel makes us Christians…. God forgives your sin, declares you righteous in Christ, gives you eternal life, adopts you as His child, and ushers you into an intimate relationship with Himself, through the Holy Spirit.
Secondly, the gospel grows us. The gospel is not merely the way we enter, it is the way we make all progress…it is the ‘way of righteousness from first to last.’… Since the gospel not only makes us Christians, but also grows us as Christians, the most desperate need of both unbelievers and believers… is to hear and appropriate the Gospel to their lives.
Thirdly, the gospel empowers us to serve…with a whole new motivational structure…setting us free to love and serve unconditionally in response to God’s grace in Christ”.
In this short video Paul Tripp challenges the common conception of our culture concerning love. He rightly roots genuine love in one historic event. That event is both our model and our motive for love.
Serving as Senders
There are no by-standers enlisted in the Great Commission. Everyone called by Christ is called both to Christ and to engage in the Missio Dei – the Mission of God in this world.
That is not a new concept. I suspect few who have spent even the minimalist time in an Evangelical church would be able to honestly say that they have not heard the above statement, or at least something very, very close. The question, however, that people seem to stumble over is: What is MY Part?
While there are several ways this can be answered, for the sake of simplicity in this post I will divide the roles into two categories:
- Some people are Goers
- Some people are Senders
Obviously some people will do both. But never should a Christian do neither. Some go on short-term mission trips, and in that way, at least, many are goers. But in the strictest sense of the roles, most of us short-termers cannot consider ourselves actual “Go-ers”. That should be reserved for those who commit to long-term cross cultural service.
The role of the typical church member, and of local church missions committees, is to be Senders. But while that may be easy enough to understand, what seems to stump many people, and many committees, is a clear definition of what it means to be a Sender.
Missiologist Neil Pirolo has penned a very helpful book: Serving as Senders. In this book Pirolo outlines the parameters of being a Sender. You get the idea even by simply thinking about the outline of the Chapters:
- The Need for Senders
- Moral Support
- Logistics Support
- Financial Support
- Prayer Support
- Communication Support
- Re-Entry Support
- Your Part in the BIG Picture
While the book is short, and certainly not exhaustive even on this subject, Pirolo’s thoughts are a great starting point. I plan to provide a copy for members of the missions committee at our church.
Serving as Senders is also available as a free e-book. Click the link above, or click: Senders.