13 Letters

There is no stretch of an imagination that would cause anyone to classify where I live as Urban.  BUT I still appreciate what the folk at Reach Life have developed.

13 Letters is a curriculum designed with Urban Youth in mind.  Taking the substance of the Paul’s letters, this curriculum applies Sound Doctrine to the lives of Urban Youth.  There is also an accompanying HipHop album that serves as a survey of the Pauline Epistles. Listen to the songs:

  1. Romans
  2. 1 Corinthians
  3. 2 Corinthians
  4. Galatians
  5. Ephesians
  6. Philippians
  7. Colossians
  8. 1 Thessalonians
  9. 2 Thessalonians
  10. 1 Timothy
  11. 2 Timothy
  12. Titus
  13. Philemon

Each of these songs is a remarkably faithful and in-depth exposition of the respective letter.  In addition to those songs written to reflect each of the Pauline Epistles, there are a handful of additional songs:

These songs can be purchased or downloaded from Amazon: 13 Letters

Questions of Prophets, Priests, and Kings

Some time ago I introduced the concept of Tri-perspectivalism, the recognition that every Church ought to reflect the three offices of Christ: Prophet, Priest, and King.  Each person, or Christian leader, has a natural inclination toward one of these perspectives, but all three are equally necessary to reflect Christ in our Body.

There are many questions that can be, and have been, asked. Perhaps among the most practical is: How do I know which I am?  To answer that question there is no substitute for experience – exprience in service and experience of genuine relationships.  But questions may still remain if we are not certain what we are looking for. 

In an address from the 2009 Acts 29 Bootcamp, Darrin Patrick offers the following questions. Patrick suggests that persons inclined to each perspective tend to ask reflective questions:


  • WHAT does the Bible say?
  • WHERE are we going because of what the Bible says?


  • HOW are we going to do that?
  • WHY are they/we doing that?


  • WHO?  (Priests are all about people and shepherding.)

Do you find yourself frequently asking any of these questions? Perhpas it is an indication of how God has wired you.

Praying for Forgiveness

In the title song of Toby Keith‘s  movie and soundtrack, Broken Bridges, the first line of the chorus is:

Here I am, prayin’ for forgiveness… 

If you’ve seen the movie on CMT it makes sense. It is a story of a guy facing up to his past mistakes and the people he has hurt.  It is a process of reconciling broken relationships.

But this line also begs a question: Why “pray” for forgiveness?

Puritan Pastor Richard Sibbes considered this issue. Sibbes posed the question, then proposed a profound and practical response:

Q. Why do we pray for forgiveness?

A. We pray for clear evidence of what we have.

I don’t know if you have ever wondered about this, but Sibbes’ question is a good one.  If, as we profess, Jesus’ death and resurrection secured forgiveness of sin past, present, and future for all who Believe, then what is the point in asking for it if forgiveness is already granted.  Is this merely a politeness – somewhat like saying “Excuse me” after a burp?

What Sibbes answers makes great sense. The issue is not what we do or do not have. The issue is what we experience.  We do not need to pray to get forgiveness.  Those who are trusting Christ already have it.  What we need is the renewed experience, the realization, of that forgiveness already granted.

Our perspective is limited. Our feeling of assurance is often fleeting.  Like a child momentarily separated from his parents may feel lost, abandoned, and even alienated, the Christian may experience a twinge of anxiety when we realize all over again that, though we have been justified, we are still sinners.  (To not have this “uh-oh” feeling would make me wonder if someone has a conscience.)  

We know the child is not abandoned just because the parents are out of his/her line of sight. And the believer should know that God is faithful to his promise without condition. As   we are told in 2 Timothy:

[Even] if we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself.

What is in view inthis verse is not the person who is not a Believer, but the Christian who is not appropriating faith at a particular moment. In such moments we are functionally like the child who fears the parents are “lost” or gone.  And unless we seriously deceive ourselves, we must admit that we all have these moments – many of them. This is especially true at moments when we are aware of and grieved by our sin and disobedience.

What Sibbes points out at those moments – moments when we reflexively cry out for forgiveness – what we are really asking for is not so much for forgiveness, but a new dose of evidence of our forgiveness that we cling to for comfort and to dry our tears. 

Let me finish with this: All the evidence we need is found at the Cross.  The evidence is the same today as it was yesterday; and it will be the same tomorrow as it is today.

Romans 5.8 reminds us:

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

And John practically applies this to us in 1 John 1:

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

Cutting-Edge Way to Reach the Un-churched

Now the probing question for you and me:

“When was the last time you invited an un-churched person to church?”

We in the church are searcning and agonizing over ways to reach the lost… yet research indicates a simple invitation may be the most cutting-edge approach we can employ.

– Thom Rainer, The Unchurched Next Door

8 Qualities of Healthy Churches

Christian A. Schwarz, head of the Institute for Natural Church Development in Germany, conducted reportedly the most comprehensive church-growth study ever, drawn from more than one thousand churches in thirty-two countries. His study revealed eight qualities in healthy churches.

1. Empowering Leadership

Leaders of growing churches … do not use lay workers as “helpers” in attaining their goals and fullfilling their visions. Rather, leaders invert the pyramid of authority so they assist Christians to attain the spiritual potential God has for them.

2. Gift Oriented Ministry

When Christians serve in their area of giftedness, they generally function less in their own strength and more in the power of the Holy Spirit. Thus, ordinary people can accomplish the extraordinary!

3. Passionate Spirituality

The concept of spiritual passion and the widespread notion of the walk of faith as “performing one’s duty” seem to be mutually exclusive.

4. Functional Structures

Anyone who accepts this perspective will continually evaluate to what extent church structures improve the self-organization of the church. Elements not meeting this standard (such as discouraging leadership structures, inconvenient worship-service times, demotivating financial concepts) will be changed or eliminated.

5. Inspiring Worship Service

Services may target Christians or non-Christians, the style may be liturgical or free, the language may be “churchy” or secular–it makes no difference…. Whenever the Holy Spirit is truly at work (and his presence is not merely presumed), he will have a concrete effect upon the way a worship service is conducted.

6. Holistic Small Groups

[These groups] go beyond just discussing Bible passages to applying its message to daily life. In these groups, members are able to bring up issues and questions that are immediate personal concerns.

7. Need Oriented Evangelism

The key … is for the local congregation to focus its evangelistic efforts on the questions and needs of non-Christians. This “need-oriented” approach is different from “manipulative programs.”

8. Loving Relationships

Unfeigned, practical love has a divinely generated magnetic power far more effective than evangelistic programs, which depend almost entirely on verbal communication. People do not want to hear us talk about love, they want to experience how Christian love really works.

Every Church Missional

Every church is called to be a “missional church”. The fact that we have turned the word mission into an adjective testifies to the American church’s frayed ecclesiology. A non-missional church is not a church in the first place, but in a culture largely devoid of theological vocabulary, this language has become necessary to remind us that the church exists not for ourselves, but for the world.

Kenda Creasy Dean, in Almost Christian