Saturday, May 31, 2008

God Is Not On Facebook

People who cannot maintain mental attention cannot know the intimacy of prayer, and God does not maintain a Facebook page. Our ability to focus attention is not just about the mind, for it is also a reflection of the soul. Our Christian discipleship demands that we give attention to our attention.
Dr. Albert Mohler

From: “God does not maintain a Facebook page” Said at Southern Seminary

Lakeland: Preach More Jesus!

Heat and Light blog has some good advice for the leaders of the Lakeland Renewal at Lakeland: current thoughts
If I had one last request it would be this: TEACH JESUS. Thank you for mentioning Jesus more, and angels less (though, in an off-handed way, which I assumed Todd didn’t even realize, he did mention Jesus even more than he knows: in the Old Testament “the Angel of the Lord” IS the pre-incarnate Christ, since He is the only angel which receives worship without rebuking), however - as I mentioned before - if I were a non-believer watching I would have no idea, in reality, who this Jesus was. He could have been merely a miracle worker for all I know. Take time to teach Jesus - explain the Gospel more often, even if in simple terms. Acknowledge the indwelling problem of sin, and show how Jesus is the answer to that, Then the real miracles which may take place will have a larger context: they will make sense in the resurrected life of Jesus working through His Spirit in the church. That would be good news, indeed.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Friday Humor

A Little Friday Humor

My Reading List

My current reading list:

Just finished: Surprised by Hope, by N.T. Wright

In Process: The Kingdom of Christ: The New Evangelical Perspective, by Russell D. More

Next: The Reason for God, by Tim Keller

Coming Soon:
Leading With A Limp by Dan Allender
& In My Place Condemned He Stood by J.I. Packer & Mark Dever

Joining the C.I.A.

Michael Spencer invites us all to join the CIA at C.I.A.: The Jesus Shaped Method « Jesus Shaped Spirituality. He uses the letters as a anagram to describe "Jesus Shaped Spirituality", as follows:
Connection: How does this connect to Jesus? Incarnational and historical, then in all of scripture?

Imitation: In what way is it possible to imitate Jesus (given all the relevant variables)?

Application: How can this be applied in a Jesus connected, Jesus imitating way in the present?
For someone with my warped sense of humor, the jokes just write themselves. Does this mean all Jesus' followers are now secret agents - Code name 777? Is the communion wine now shaken, not stirred? How would 24's Jack Bauer handle a false prophet? Instead of the Man from UNCLE do we have the Man from Father? (If you got that last one you're showing your age - like me).

But putting the jokes aside, he has some very good points. I'll join the CIA if it will help me be more like Jesus!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Having the Best of Both Worlds

Heat and Light blog linked to an old post that I just love at How to Eat Your Cake: having the best of both worlds

An old adage goes, “You can’t have your cake and eat it too.” Old adages are stupid. I eat my cake. I know it may sound radical to some, but it’s true. I want the best of both worlds – the depth of theology, rich history, and deep love for the Word that I have found in Evangelical and “Reformed” churches, and the passionate worship, and the openness to let God be God and do what He pleases, as I’ve found among my Charismatic brothers and sisters. I am a Charismatic Calvinist – an “Empowered Evangelical” - a “Word and Power” Christian. Call it what you will, but I’m out of the closet for good.
Me too, brother! I want some of that cake. Sign me up!

We need the Spirit AND the Truth. Traditional Evangelicals and Charismatics need one another, and both are necessary in the emerging church if it is to faithfully be the body of Christ.

I tried to say similar things here. Let's refuse to choose between alternatives that are not mutually exclusive- things that God intended to stay together.

The Need For Wise Spiritual Veterans

J. Lee Grady from Charisma Magazine has published some more very wise words and counsel on the Lakeland renewal. Some excerpts below:
Why must revival movements be so muddled? Perhaps it is because imperfect people (as well as sinister devils) get involved. Strange things happen when God’s power touches a sinful earth.
When I wrote an article in mid-May calling for scrutiny of some aspects of the Lakeland Revival, I was labeled a Pharisee and a “religious policeman.” People who said they had been deeply impacted by the Holy Spirit in Lakeland used spiritual threats and harsh terms to tell me that I had become the enemy.

I refuse to go on the defensive, and if I need to retract any statement I’ve ever made about this revival I will. But what these nasty exchanges have shown me is that a divisive spirit is certainly at work in our midst—and we need urgent prayer to short-circuit what the devil wants to do.
....I am appealing to the elders in our movement. We need to hear from them in this hour. In a desperate moment we need older, seasoned veterans to release the counsel of the Lord.

Today the charismatic movement has become fractured, and opposing camps have formed. On one side there are those in the apostolic camp who tend to emphasize biblical order, proper church government, spiritual warfare and the reformation of society. On the other side are those in the prophetic camp who focus on miracles, healing, mystical experiences and the reclaiming of all the supernatural manifestations of the New Testament.

Both of these camps are contending for valid, biblical truths. We need the prophetic and the apostolic! We need miracles as much as we need healthy church growth and societal change. Yet if we do not have a holy intervention, we could bite and devour one another—and cancel out our collective impact.
Grady calls for a counsel of leaders to resolve the following issues in the renewal:
1. Biblical guidelines about angels...
2. A proper theology of the dead... Some in the prophetic camp claim they have had conversations with dead Christians—including Paul the apostle. Is this within the bounds of Christian experience, or is it necromancy?
3. Pastoral guidance about exotic spiritual manifestations....
4. Clear guidelines concerning the restoration of fallen ministers.
Grady's stature has greatly risen in my mind with every comment and article he has written since the renewal started two months ago. Thank God for wise leaders like this - and may the Lord raise up more like him.

Courage to Follow Christ

JIm Martin on the need for Christian courage at Having the Nerve to Follow Christ
What kind of courage is needed by believers in general and Christian leaders in particular?

* The courage to keep your marriage covenant even though the present season of marriage may be far from satisfying.
* The courage to be faithful to your husband/wife even when you are traveling and are away from home and enticing opportunities for sin appear.
* The courage to trust God when faced with opportunity to serve and do good instead of yielding to fear and then using your fear to terrify others in the church.
* The courage to model personal holiness and purity in an R-rated culture.
* The courage to challenge believers to move toward risk and sacrifice for the kingdom of God instead of ease and a soft, easy, self-indulgent life.

God grant me the courage to live for you.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Saturday Night, Sunday Morning

Interesting post on the subject of "Johnny Cash, God and America" by Douglas Wilson at BLOG and MABLOG discussing the dualism between "Saturday night" and "Sunday morning" in Southern culture and Country Music.
Not all inconsistency is high-handed hypocrisy. A man who does not believe in Christ at all, and who joins the biggest church in town because that is the best place for business contacts is a hypocrite simpliciter. Someone like Jerry Lee Lewis, who believed in the truth of Christianity with all his might, and who was also driven and possessed by great balls of fire. Someone like Johnny Cash, who knew himself to be a sinner and who repented his great failings, did so as someone who believed that Jesus rose from the dead, and he believed this from the beginning of Saturday night to the end of it.
Sometimes, in the effort to be spiritual, or to follow evangelical sub-culture ideas of holiness, Christians can be practical gnostics.
Those who want their loyalties to be "just to Christ" are not integrationists -- they are upper story gnostics. Those who want their loyalties to remain entirely here below are functional atheists. Integrationism means that our loyalties indwell one another in a perichoretic fashion. When we've been there ten thousand years, bright shining as the sun -- I will still be a man, I will still be an American, I will still be a Wilson, I will still be white, still descended from the Scots, and, if my luck holds, I will still be a presbyterian. Or, if Frank Turk is right, I will be a baptist once again.

In the resurrection, nothing good is lost. Christ redeemed it all. He did not do this so that all of us would then be identical -- no, He did it because He is going to unify all things in heaven and on earth. And unifying them is not the same thing as annihilating them.
I find listening to country music helps keep me grounded, whole and in touch with real life. Wilson quotes a line from the song "Boondocks" by Little Big Town, one of my favorite country bands: "Five card poker on Saturday night, church on Sunday morning." Sounds good to me- but I'm no good at poker.

Intentional Disciple Making

I'm already really liking Michael Spencer's new website:
What was actually happening was an intentional, three year process- a word you’ll be hearing a lot- of becoming disciples. Much of what the disciples needed to know wasn’t available to them until after Jesus’ death, resurrection and the coming of the Holy Spirit, but the disciple shaping process went on throughout Jesus’ ministry as recorded in the Gospels.

In looking at Jesus’ intentional actions of “disciple-making,” we need to be clear that the central revelation about the Kingdom of God, Jesus’ mission and purpose were only available in the light of the cross/resurrection. But Jesus’ time with his disciples was not a waste. Everything he did was intentionally designed so that when they were given complete understanding/sight (Mark 8: 22-26) they would know how to begin to live and operate as Jesus-shaped followers.

The cross, resurrection and arrival of the Holy Spirit are the critical center of the discipleship process, but the intentional ministry of Jesus to and with his disciples provides much of the raw material we need to examine to answer questions about what does it mean to be a disciple.

More Lakeland Links

More Lakeland Renewal Links from Charismatica Blog.

Pray for the Lakeland Leaders

More reporting from Adrian Warnock's site on the Lakeland Renewal:

Todd Bentley and the Lakeland Florida Revival Meetings

Worship at the Lakeland Revival

What is Happening in Lakeland, Florida, by Jesse Phillips

Terry Virgo Continues His Reflections on Todd Bentley and the Lakeland, Florida 'Revival'

Jesse Phillips Reflects on the Lakeland, Florida 'Revival Meetings'

Whatever criticism we all may have on this movement, I hope we can all agree to pray for the Lakeland Renewal leadership. As Warnock quotes Terry Virgo from the next to last post above:
We should pray for 32-year-old Todd Bentley, whose high profile through exposure to daily television broadcasts circling the world would frighten the most experienced preacher. Some of his references to angelic visitations are at least vulnerable to misunderstanding and, tragically, stories of shipwreck associated with previously high profile ministries who spoke frequently of angelic visitation are well documented.

Thanks to Adrian Warnock for providing these informative reports.

Chapman Memorial Service

Read a beautiful account of the memorial service for Stephen Curtis Chapman's five-year-old daughter Maria at House Mix: Maria's Memorial Service

Let's all keep praying for the Chapman family in their time of pain and grief.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

T-Shirt Choice

Which version of the T-Shirt would you wear? How about both!

Where & What

“The main reason we aren’t making more of a difference in our world is not that Christians aren’t where they should be, but that they aren’t what they should be right where they are.”
Os Guinness

Hat Tip: On Earth as it is in Heaven

Monday, May 26, 2008

Happy Memorial Day

Here's a Memorial Day thank you to all American veterans. Your service and sacrifice are remembered and appreciated!

Jesus Shaped Spirituality

Michael Spencer, aka The Internet Monk, has started a new blog site called Jesus Shaped Spirituality
What is Jesus Shaped Spirituality?

Here’s my working definition: “Jesus Shaped Spirituality is the discipleship, character change and community that are produced by following Jesus as he was revealed in his historical, fully human incarnation, as recorded in the New Testament, especially the four canonical Gospels.”

In shorthand, Jesus Shaped Spirituality stands on the corner between the study of Jesus- especially the historical Jesus- and the formation of discipleship on every level.
I have benefited a lot from hsi past blogging ministry, and wish him well in the new endeavor.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Act to Be

"Do not waste your time bothering whether you 'love' your neighbour act as if you did. As soon as we do this, we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him. If you injure someone you dislike, you will find yourself disliking him more. If you do him a good turn, you will find yourself disliking him less."

- C. S. Lewis

Hat Tip: Blogotional

Unicorn Songs

From Stuff Christians Like:
The unicorn hymn or worship song

Depending on what type of church you attend, this idea can go completely different directions.

The unicorn song is when out of nowhere, from the shadows of the stage at church you start to hear the first few notes of a song they never play. At a traditional church, you realize that someone has finally learned how to play Chris Tomlin's "How Great is Our God" on the organ. And although at first it sounds a little like a raccoon has broken into the organ, you don't care. Something newish and fresh is happening and you are so excited. Your church has now entered the year 2003 and you are proud and happy and singing as loud as you can in celebration of this moment.

If you go to a contemporary church, the unicorn song is when you notice in the bulletin that one of the numbers you'll be singing today is a hymn. With a suspicious feeling you look down and read, "How Great Thou Art" and try not to get too excited. "Is that really the hymn version or has a pop/punk/acoustic/funk duo rewritten that song and I'm about to hear the contemporary version?" But then it starts, and it's the old fashioned version and for just a second, despite the goatees, despite the lasers and the mocha lattes sitting next to you, you're back in your old church, the one you grew up in and you're a kid again, for at least one song.

The unicorn song is fleeting though. For as soon as it ends, the spell that transfixed your worship leader is broken. He/she launches right back into the kind of music you always sing and for a few more months, the unicorn fades into the background.

Hat Tip to Vitamin Z: I Can Relate Well To This One

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Duct Tape Rules!

Releasing my inner Redneck...

Discerning Doctrine & Practice in Revival

More comments and observations from various blogs I read on the Lakeland Florida renewal meetings:

From Adrian Warnock:
* We should not rush to either wholeheartedly reject or accept everything that is happening. I suppose I am taking something of a Gamaliel approach, at least for now.

* It strikes me that if it weren't for TV, we might not even be hearing about these events yet. Time will demonstrate if this is just a localized event or truly something more significant.

* If we hear reports of God healing and people becoming Christians, it would be wise for us to rejoice, even if we may reserve the right to be discerning about the practices and beliefs of the teachers involved. Paul rejoiced whenever the gospel was preached, even if he knew that the motivations of the preacher were bad.

* We should resolve to think the best of others as much as we can, without foolishly swallowing everything we see as being all right.

* We should remember that, as I heard someone say recently, God does not distribute his anointing as a reward for good theology or good behavior. If God can use a donkey in the Bible, we should not be surprised if he uses somebody of whom we do not approve. Fortunately for us, God is much more gracious than we are!

* The faith and expectancy of others should challenge us to dare to believe that God can act today, and as John Piper recently put it, be “desperate for the supernatural.”
From Heat and Light:
I suppose my own conclusions for now on what little I know of these events would be as follows:
I can look beyond unorthopraxy in those attending the Lakeland Revival, but what grieves my Spirit is that so many of those allowed to take the pulpit aren’t orthodox in what they teach or practice, both of which are important to genuine, full-orbed Christian faith.....

Sound doctrine and correct practice should accompany the Spirit-filled, Spirit-guided man of God, as the Holy Spirit not only teaches us the Scriptures, but even more-so, applies them to our hearts and lives. To claim to have come in the name of God, and to claim to be led by His Holy Spirit, yet to not teach Cross-Centered sound doctrine, and to not practice Biblical orthopraxy - well, of that person we should at least set our ‘discernment’ on ‘high’, and be very careful to ‘test the spirits’ in every thing we hear them say or see them do.

Please don’t leave your brain at the door in exchange for an experience. If you do so, there is no promise that the experience you have will be one from God, no matter how good it may make you feel at the time. Be blessed.
From CeruleanSactum:
Whenever the emphasis gets off Jesus, a revival’s focus is off target. The Holy Spirit always pulls people to Jesus. He doesn’t pull them toward angels, canny preachers, or displays of spiritual gifts. He doesn’t need gold teeth, gold dust, and angel feathers to point people to Jesus. (Those are illusionist and occultist tricks.) He just needs himself because He is sufficient to do the pointing. Real revival isn’t about what you or I want, but what Jesus Christ wants.
Update: From Peter Cockrell, after some negative comments there is this positive note:
These opening remarks therefore seem to be couched in negative terms. However, a friend of mine who actually attended the Lakeland meetings for several days felt ‘I hate this … I want to get out of here’ but actually went on to be blessed and, as he watched more closely, felt that he saw remarkable compassion and mercy, particularly being expressed to large numbers of poorer people who were flocking to the meetings.

Since his return to the UK, he has witnessed a number of healings, as indeed others have. It is claimed that what is happening is ‘transferrable’, and perhaps this is what makes these developments so fascinating and, for some, magnetic in their appeal.
My previous posts here and here.

How to Be a Real Jesus Freak - wikiHow

More from wikiHow: How to Be a Real Jesus Freak
A "Jesus Freak" is a popular term for a believer in Christ who is committed, enthusiastic and continuing to grow. Read further to learn some great ideas on how to have a fulfilling relationship with God.

1. Read your Bible..,
2. Pray...
3. Praise Him....
4. Tell the world, or at least your part of it....
5. The Church is the body of Christ....

Friday, May 23, 2008

Reading and Meditating

Remember, it is not hasty reading, but serious meditating upon holy and heavenly truths, that make them prove sweet and profitable to the soul. It is not the bee’s touching of the flower that gathers honey, but her abiding for a time upon the flower that draws out the sweet. It is not he that reads most, but he that meditates most, that will prove the choicest, sweetest, wisest, and strongest Christian.

Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices by Thomas Brooks

(Quoted by Tim Challies at Hasty Reading and Serious Meditating )

Ebenezer Stones (Part 4)

(Part 3 Here)

The members of my home congregation (Vineyard Church of Jackson, MS) have a special Ebenezer Stone. In fact, it's the building we have met in since 2004. The Lord had twice in the previous three years provided us with almost miraculous provision of a new place to meet. In June of 2002 we saw God’s provision of a location in an old grocery store. An opportunity came to share space there with an arts school, giving us the larger size meeting room necessary to allow us to grow. Then, just a few months later, we found ourselves in sole possession of the building, able to expand and grow as God blessed our church. We more than doubled in size during those years. We grew as a church in our faith for God’s provision. And we grew in financial capacity to pay the larger lease payments.

Then, in 2004 we saw the miraculous provision of our current building. What a surprise - a letter in the mail from the landlord saying get out in 6 weeks or be evicted. I well remember the questions? Where would we go? Were we about to be kicked out in the street? Would we have to meet in homes? But in less than six weeks we moved into a lovely new church building. We negotiated a lease here with an option to buy this building.

The very building in which our church meets today is an Ebenezer Stone. It reminds us that “thus far God has helped us.” We know that it is a miracle that we are here. That miracle then raised our faith to so that we were able to raise the funds to complete the purchase of the building within one year. The miracle of the move was a call to active faith. And with that active faith we responded with action - donations to the building fund for completion of the purchase of the building. We saw that God was interested in using that challenge to strengthen our relationship with him. This was the right response to the Ebenezer Stone. One year later we had paid for the down payment on the building.

In summary, we should work hard to remember the past acts of God in our lives, not so we can live in the past, but to motivate us to active, overcoming faith now and in the future. If we obey, if we show the active faith he is calling for, I believe we will see, in the words of the hymn, streams of mercy never ceasing, which call for songs of loudest praise.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Pray for Steven Curtis Chapman and Family

Please pray for Christian singer/song writer Steven Curtis Chapman and his family, who suffered the tragic loss of their daughter yesterday. From an article in The Tennessean:

Steven Curtis Chapman’s youngest child died Wednesday evening after being struck by a car driven by her teenage brother in the driveway of the family’s Williamson County home. Maria, one of the Christian singer’s six children, was taken by LifeFlight to Vanderbilt Hospital, which confirmed the death, according to Laura McPherson, a spokeswoman for the Tennessee Highway Patrol. The 5-year-old was hit by an SUV driven by her teenage brother, she said. Police did not give the driver’s name. The teen was driving a Toyota Land Cruiser down the driveway of the rural home at about 5:30 p.m. and several children were playing in the area, McPherson said. He did not see Maria in the driveway before the vehicle struck her, she said. “It appears to be a terrible accident,’’ McPherson said. No charges are expected, she said. The accident was witnessed by two other children; the entire family was home at the time, McPherson said.

Hat Tip to Denny Burk » Pray for Steven Curtis Chapman and Family

Teach us to Fear

I wish everyone hungry for revival would read J. Lee Grady's latest article "Whatever Happened to the Fear of the Lord?"
If we want the same level of supernatural anointing that was evident in the New Testament church, we should also pray for a higher level of holiness....

Do we want that level of God’s presence? The fear that came on the early church is also called a “sense of awe” in Acts 2:43. We often downplay the fear of God by saying that it really means “reverence.” But the Greek word used in Acts 5:11 and Acts 2:43 is phobos, which can be translated “exceeding dread, alarm or terror.”

We love the ecstatic joy and the goose bumps that accompany revival meetings. But revival is not fun and games. Are we ready for the terror?
There is entirely too much frivolity and silliness going on in charismatic circles, not to mention the sexual sin and financial offenses. Lord, teach us to fear you again!

How to Be a Charismatic Calvinist

I discovered this week that Wikipedia also has a "How To" site called WikiHow. Check out this intriguing topic: How to Be a Charismatic Calvinist
Realizing that God is front and center, that He should be uppermost in our affections, in the words of Jonathan Edwards is one of the first steps toward embracing the view of God's sovereignty found in scripture and in Calvinism.
Some tips:
  • Listen to John Piper, C J Mahaney, R T Kendall, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Tim Keller, Wayne Grudem or any other reformed third wave/charismatic that you can find.
  • Listen to reformed worship artists like Shane & Shane, Watermark, Sovereign Grace Music, or Caedmon's Call.
  • Read the Puritans. Read guys like Richard Baxter, John Flavel, John Bunyan, William Perkins, John Owen, Thomas Watson, and Matthew Henry. Also, read later theologians, pastors and Bible commentators such as Jonathan Edwards, Charles Spurgeon, George Whitefield, J. Gresham Machen, and J. I. Packer.

And a warning:

Try not to give an undue amount of focus to Calvinism as people around you often get tired of hearing you.

Not bad advice!

Ebenezer Stones (Part 3)

(Part 1 Here. Part 2 Here.)

Now let us draw forth and develop some action steps from the core truth of this story.

First, we should review Gods’ past deliverances. Samuel wanted the Israelites to remember their past, their national spiritual heritage. “Remember the Exodus,” he was saying. “Remember the manna in the wilderness. Remember crossing the Jordan. Remember Jericho. Remember Deborah, Gideon and Samson.”

We can remember our salvation story. We can remember the time God healed us, or healed a loved one. We can remember when we were lonely, hurting, needing friends. Then we found this church. We found family. We found acceptance. We can remember being bound in addiction, trapped in darkness, captive to chains we could not break. And then came Jesus. He became our deliverer. He became our champion. He became our savior. We have a lot to remember.

I remember the Lord's work in my life the year 1991. God spoke to us, to my wife Colleen first and only slowly to me, that we were to pull up our family and leave our church and friends in Maryland to move to Mississippi, my family's home state. It took a lot of faith to take that step. But I felt the Lord speaking to me from the story in the Book of Joshua where the Jordan River would not part until after the priests first put their feet in the water. Unlike the crossing of the Red Sea in Exodus, God required them to act first before the deliverance as a test of faith. In our case, we decided to obey and made the decision to move with no money to finance the move and no job awaiting me in Mississippi. Only after we made the decision to go and stated it publicly did the miracles of provision and opportunity start to happen. Our house sold for full price in less than a week. There was enough profit from the sale to finance the move, buy a new car, and purchase our present home in Mississippi. Then I found a good job immediately after we got here. There was a new and better relationship with my family. I remember what God did for us - this is one of my Ebenezer Stones.

Second, we should memorialize these deliverances. This might take the form of keeping a spiritual journal, writing a poem, creating some form of artwork, even building an actual monument. Many believers of great faith testify to the benefits of journaling, of writing out the stages of your spiritual and life journey. There are books you can buy to help you get started. If you can’t think of anything else, pile up some rocks in your back yard. Thus far God has helped me! I have a notebook of prophecies and letters from our friends in Maryland. Our friends wrote down their memories of each of us, and visions for our futures. That book is an Ebenezer Stone, reminding me of God’s deliverance then, and encouraging me to believe him now.

Next, we should meditate to strengthen your faith. Mediation, in this context, means 0chewing over the events of your experience. What was God after in you when he allowed certain things to happen? Remember, relationship is what God is really after. What response from you is he looking for? Reading that memorial book from 1991 helps me and strengthens my faith. It almost forces me, by remembrance of the adventurous faith we had then, to confront my sometimes lack of faith in the present.

Finally, we should act on that faith now. Faith equals actions. This is where we move from living in the past, to carrying the lessons learned into our futures. What does God want you to do in your present situation? He wanted Israel to trust him, to honor Samuel as Gods’ prophet and their judge, and pray for deliverance. What does he want you to do? Are you willing to do it?

I have to bring the lessons for me and our family forward from 1991 to now. God calls me to have the same faith and willingness to take risks now that I did then. Am I willing again to put my feet in the water before he opens the way. Maybe he has a similar desire for you.

(Part 4 Tomorrow)

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Heat & Light

Discovered a blog this week called "Heat and Light," self described as " an online resource for Reformed Charismatics, Pentecostal Calvinists, & Empowered Evangelicals." Here is how the blog's mission is described:
A new reformation is on the horizon. A reformation of Charismatics/Pentecostal/3rd Wave Christians tired of being blown here and there by every new fad and fashion, and discovering the solid foundation of the Scriptures, and the beauty and depth of the historic traditions of the faith. A reformation of Reformed/Calvinist/Evangelical Christians tired of cold academic sermons and passionless worship discovering contemporary music, and the power of the Holy Spirit. The new reformation is a merging of Spirit and Truth, Heart and Mind, Passion and Intellect - the freedom of the Spirit, and the solid foundations of the Word of God. ........Whether you find yourself in a Charismatic Church yet becoming aware of the ‘doctrines of grace’, a Calvinistic church growing more open towards the gifts of the Spirit, a ‘Reformed Charismatic’ fellowship, or someplace inbetween, please - join in the discussion! Your fellowship is welcome!
I think I'm going to like this site!

Revisiting The Shack

Last month I posted comments about the popular book The Shack. I had linked to a review of the book by Tim Challes. After many requests, Tim has posted an updated and more through look at the Theology of The Shack. Read it at A Review of The Shack (Download it Here)
Despite the book’s popularity among Christians, believers are divided on whether this book is biblically sound. Where Eugene Peterson, Professor Emeritus of Spiritual Theology at Regent College in Vancouver says it “has the potential to do for our generation what John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim Progress did for his,” Dr. Albert Mohler, President of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary says, “This book includes undiluted heresy.” While singer and songwriter Michael W. Smith says “The Shack will leave you craving for the presence of God,” Mark Driscoll, Pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle says, “Regarding the Trinity, it’s actually heretical.
If you have read the book, or are interested in reading it, I recommend Challies' good, thorough and I think fair review. He does conclude that the books theology is deficient, but is fair and honest in his coverage of themes and examples.

To let the author of The Shack, William P. Young, speak for himself, you'll find his website here.

Ebenezer Stones (Part 2)

(Part 1 Here)

We begin our story in 1 Samuel, Chapter 4, verses 1-11. The leader of Israel at this time was the elderly judge and priest, Eli. Israel's spiritual life as at a historic low. The sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were seducing Israelite women in the very Tabernacle itself. There was no clear prophetic voice in the land. Israel was under attack by the Philistines. Eli’s sons thought that Israel would surely win if the Ark of the Covenant was brought forth into their camp. They brought out the Ark with much shouting and rejoicing. The noise in the Israelite camp was so loud that even the Philistines were scared. But guess what? God did not deliver Israel. They were defeated, the Ark was captured, the sons of Eli were killed, the worship center at Shiloh was destroyed, and the Scripture says the glory departed from Israel.

Hophni and Phinehas, and the people they led, had a magic view of God - repeat the words, say the incantations, and God must come through for you. But God was more interested in his people being in right relationship with him, even more so than He was interested in their deliverance. He wanted his people to know and trust him, not just use him. Therefore he let them be defeated, even to the point of allowing the Ark to be captured.

Now turn with me to chapter seven. It is now years later, and Israel is again under Philistine attack. Samuel gathers the people together at Mizpah to rededicated themselves to follow the Lord. As the Philistines came to attack again, this time God intervened.

Just as Samuel was sacrificing the burnt offering, the Philistines arrived for battle. But the LORD spoke with a mighty voice of thunder from heaven, and the Philistines were thrown into such confusion that the Israelites defeated them. The men of Israel chased them from Mizpah to Beth-car, slaughtering them all along the way.

Samuel then took a large stone and placed it between the towns of Mizpah and Jeshanah. He named it Ebenezer - the stone of help- for he said, Up to this point the LORD has helped us, So the Philistines were subdued and didn’t invade Israel again for a long time... 1 Sam. 7: 2-14
Israel was forced to trust God, and seek his presence, by their perilous circumstances. Now they were not dealing with magic at a distance, but with the very present Lord proclaimed by his prophet Samuel. They had to repent, cast away their idols, and get into right relationship with their Lord.

Samuel raised up a memorial stone he called Ebenezer - which means "the Stone of Help." I know that most of you, when you hear the name Ebenezer, expect to hear about Tiny Tim and the Ghost of Christmas Past. But this is where the name originally came from. The stone memorial was set up to remind the people of all God’s acts of deliverance in their national history, and of his renewed deliverance that day. Thus, “Up to this point, the Lord has helped us.”

Have you figured out what Hymn I was referring to a while ago? These words can be found in the hymn entitled “Come, Thou Fount” by Robert Robinson and John Wyeth. The song begins with the words:

Come Thou Fount of every blessing, Tune my heart to sing They grace;
Streams of mercy never ceasing, call for songs of loudest praise.

Then in verse two the hymn writers say:

Here I raise mine Ebenezer; Hither by Thy help I’m come;
And I hope by Thy good pleasure, Safely to arrive at home.

Most people who sing these words have no idea what the mean. This is a direct reference to this story in 1 Samuel. To raise up an Ebenezer is to memorialize God’s deliverences in your own life. It can mean an actual memorial, or just acts of remembering. But it is a remembrance that leads to acts of obedient faith.

Which brings us to the point of the message today. We should work hard to remember the past acts of God in our lives, not so we can live in the past, but to motivate us to active, overcoming faith now and in the future. That is the contemporary application and meaning of the Ebenezer Stone.

(Part 3 Tomorrow)

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

From Disobedience to Spiritual Maturity

Here's some good stuff from Eric Jones' blogsite "Transformed Daily" (worth reading daily!):

Monday's post - Disobedience = Unbelief
Ongoing sin and disobedience reveals a hardened heart that is turned from God. As much as someone wants to think they love God, if they are living a life characterized by disobedience and littered with sin, then they are fooling themselves.
Tuesday's post - All We Need in Him:
Because spiritual maturity begins with Christ, and is based on His powerful grace, we have no excuse for not growing in our faith. God’s provision of power and truth is available to all of us. The fault rests solely on us if we do not appropriate it.

Ebenezer Stones (Part 1)

(This multi-part article is adapted from a sermon I preached in 2005.)

People love to memorialize significant events in their individual and group experiences with physical monuments or mementos. It seems to be a part of our common human nature to do this.

I can remember as a teenager standing on the USS Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, leaning over the railing and looking down through the oil slicked water at the rusting hulk of the great battleship. I could almost hear the bombs falling and feel the fear of the dying sailors. Most of us have stood amidst the monuments and remains of the fortifications at the Civil War or Revolutionary War Battlefield Parks. And, although I have not been there since 9-11, I can imagine the emotional effect of gazing at the site of Ground Zero in New York City.

Why do we keep Wedding Albums full of pictures and mementoes of those special days? Why do mothers wear charm bracelets containing the birth stones of their children? Why do men mount trophy fish or bucks? It seems to be a universal human trait. The message of these places and things is sometimes “Never Forget.” Sometimes the message is “Remember and be thankful.” Or they can mean “Remember, and keep on praying.”

Bible people were just like us in that regard. Many times the significant acts of God were memorialized by physical monuments.

For example, in Joshua 4:1-9 the Israelites were told by Joshua to make a pile of twelve stones to memorialize the miraculous crossing of the Jordan River. They were told that in future generations their children would see the stones and ask “What do these stones mean?” That would be the time to tell them the old story again, and remind them of their spiritual heritage. That memorial became an opportunity to teach the children the ways of God. In Judges 22 the 2 ½ tribes who inherited land on the east side of the Jordan built an altar of remembrance by the banks of the Jordan. Its purpose was to remind their brethren in the other tribes that “We also have a share in the Lord.”

In this article we will look at another such story in the Book of First Samuel. This story also is the background for a well known old hymn. Many of you may have sung this hymn as a child growing up in church while never knowing what it meant. If that description applies to you, as we tell the story today, see if you can figure out what hymn I am referring to. For everyone else- It’s still a great story. When we finish the story I will tell you what the hymn is, and what the point of the message is.

(Part 2 Tomorrow)

Jeremiah for Church Planters « Church Planting Novice

The "Church Planting Novice" has an interesting post up with a study from Jeremiah entitled
Jeremiah for Church Planters. Here are some lessons from Jeremiah he sees for church planters:
* Like church planters, Jeremiah was asked to do counter-cultural things (prophesy judgment and exile, carry a flask around, bury a loincloth, speak of God’s righteousness and holiness). For a planter, things like church discipline, God-centered preaching, gospel-focused counseling, contextualized ministry, and so on can be very counter-cultural, counter to prevailing secular and Christian sub-cultures.
* I am reminded of how utterly opposed our God is to our sin. Jeremiah has been prophetic in my life, calling me to repent of “seeking broken cisterns that can hold no water and forsaking the God of living waters” (2:13). The broken cistern of church planting is no place to find significance or refreshment. Only the God of living waters can satisfy my soul.
* I am refreshed by the breathtaking promises offered by God in the midst of struggle with sin. God has not left me to broken cisterns, but promises living water (2), a healing balm (8), knowledge of God (9), a new heart (36), the Spirit of God (36)....
* I am reminded of the gravity of shepherding the flock of God and the consequences of poor shepherding (chps. 2,4,11,17, 23). God has not called me to planting; he has called me to pastoring. This is eternally weighty. I am not responsible for producing culturally savvy Christians, but for leading God’s people to cherish him above all things and to love others with radical, Jesus love.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Dancing Calvinists

From a great article in Christianity Today entitled Teaching a Calvinist to Dance, quoted by Rick Ianniello:
"The heart and soul of that Pentecostal spirituality is not the manifestations, but rather the courage and openness to see God in those unexpected manifestations, and to say, 'This is what the Spirit promised.' ... I long for a kind of 'Pentecostalized' Reformed spirituality that expects the sovereign Lord to show up in ways that might surprise us. If we take our Reformed convictions about God's sovereignty seriously, then we can, with Peter, be boldly open to the Spirit's surprise."

Friday, May 16, 2008

Brief Blog Vacation

Gone camping for the weekend.

Back to blogging on Monday.

Tax Stimulus Checks Explained

Josh Harris offers "a helpful explanation" on tax rebate checks from the great Dave Barry.
Q. What is an Economic Stimulus Payment?
A. It is money that the federal government will send to taxpayers.

Q. Where will the government get this money?
A. From taxpayers.

Q. So the government is giving me back my own money?
A. Only a smidgen.

Q. What is the purpose of this payment?
A. The plan is that you will use the money to purchase a high-definition TV set, thus stimulating the economy.

Q. But isn't that stimulating the economy of China?
A. Shut up.

The Lakeland Revival - My Thoughts

Continuing yesterday's post on the Lakeland Revival, here's my poor two cents.

After watching some of the meetings on the Internet, hearing what others have said and reading what other bloggers have written, I have concluded that I do not like, approve of or agree with: (a) The ministry model used in the meetings, (b) Todd Bentley's personal or ministry style, (3) the doctrine taught about angelic revelations and the content of some of those revelations, and (4) many other incidental practices. I do not like ministry models emphasising one man ministry and featuring hype, cheer-leading and exaggeration. It would be so much better, in my opinion, if an outpouring occurred in a church where the leaders had better theology, better ministry models, and were more protective of sound doctrine and practice. I would also like to see more preaching of the Cross and the Kingdom along side the emphasis on experiences and healings - They should go together as a package deal.

But, you know what, God doesn't ask my approval of stuff like this before He uses people or movements.

I cannot deny that something spiritual and real is happening in Lakeland, as it did in Toronto and Brownsville. I cannot reject this move as satanic or false, even though (like J. Lee Grady in yesterday's post) I have warnings and cautions about its theology and practice. I would class this more as a renewal than a revival. For it to become a true revival I believe the spiritual energy in transformed lives of renewed Christians must be channelled into proclaiming Jesus to sinners outside the church, resulting in mass repentance and conversions. I hope and pray the move continues and that it leads to a true revival. I also hope that some wise authority figures can come in and prune the wild branches on this vine so that better fruit will be produced.

I may write some more later on discernment regarding physical manifestations. For now, I'll just say that physical actions like failing, shaking, etc. should not be used judge the reality of the Spirit's activity. Those things are neutral. In some cases they are physical reactions to the activity of the the Spirit. In others they are learned responses, copying what everyone else is doing. In some cases those activities can be carnal attempts for attention. What matters is changed lives. As an old saying goes, it is not how high you jump that matters but how straight you walk after you hit the ground.

Here's a question for all who don't like the way Todd Bentley leads a renewal movement (myself included) - What if we spent more time and energy praying for God to move mightily in our lives, churches and ministries than we spend criticising another's ministry? If we think to ourselves "if God moved in my church I (We) would do so much better a job shepherding the movement and guarding doctrine and practice;" then let's pray harder for God to move in and with us. Amen, Lord, do it in me, do it in us!

Another nagging question also looms: Could it be true that the fact that I think I am (we are) better than, smarter than, wiser than Todd Bentley is the reason why God is using Todd Bentley to lead this move and not me (us)? After all, He is the one who resists the proud but gives grace to the humble, and who uses the foolish things to confound the wise. And watching what I've seen of this movement I feel totally confounded!

For what it is worth, that's my two cents.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

The Lakeland Revival

I've been putting off commenting on the revival meetings in Lakeland, FL under evangelist Todd Bentley. I wanted some time to think and wait for fruit to be revealed, good of bad. Video of the daily meetings is all over the web and Christian television, and there is a lot of buzz on the internet, pro and con (mostly con).

Jared Wilson at Gospel Driven Church is quite negative. He writes:
I'll start being fair when this stuff produces: a) prophetic pronouncements with 100% accuracy and quantifiable results, not loud animal sounds and crippled people falling down because you yelled "Bam!", b) an understanding of the Holy Spirit as a comforter and healer who evokes awe and wonder because he is God, not as a magical pixie dust you can throw around on people like Rip Taylor's confetti, and c) actual, reformational revival in the land, not arenas full of people whooping and hollering. That's not revival. That's . . . well, I don't know what that is, but it's not revival.

So yeah. That's my opinion of the goings on in Florida.
Bob at "In the Clearing" writes:
I've been wondering if I should say something here about the "revival" going on down in Lakeland. Some of my friends are just way excited about this stuff. Me, I don't want to be a wet blanket or something, so I've been operating under the Grandma rule: If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all.

Well, but the problem with that is, people sometimes mistake a smiling reticence for approval. Furthermore, I just read Jared's post on the same subject, and I just want to say, Yeah. Me too.

I've watched a little of the video, listened to and watched some of the impresario's preaching, and read a few pro and con bloggers, etc. All I can tell you is, if feelings are worth anything at all, this guy gives me the creeps. This whole thing give me the creeps.

That's all. I just had to get it out.
Michael Davis at Charismatica is positive:
Can’t help but wonder if this is the beginning of the ‘big one’ or only a ‘foreshock’. I live in earthquake country and every time a large earthquake hits (5.0 or above) we wonder if it is the main event or only a large foreshock of the ‘big one’ to come latter. What ever it is it is God and it is good. Lord, let it spread across the whole country from shore to shore. Amen.
J. Lee Grady at Charisma Magazine supports the revival but after visiting the meetings and weeks of prayerful consideration he offers cautions and warnings here:
But I would be dishonest if I told you that I wholeheartedly embraced what I saw in Lakeland. Something disturbed me, but I kept my mouth shut for three weeks while I prayed, got counsel from respected ministry leaders and searched my heart to make sure I was not harboring a religious spirit. The last thing we need today is more mean-spirited heresy hunters blasting other Christians.

I am not a heresy hunter, and I support what is happening in Lakeland because I know God uses imperfect people (like me and you) to reach others for Jesus. At the same time, I believe my questions are honest and my concerns are real.
Grady's cautionary warnings include "Beware of bizarre manifestations," "Beware of hype and exaggeration," and "Beware of strange fire" (specifically referring to Bentley's teachings about angels). His comments are very well thought out and I recommend that interested parties read the whole thing. Grady concludes.
I am rejoicing over all the reported healings at the Lakeland meetings. Miracles are awesome. Crowds are great. But miracles and crowds alone don’t guarantee a revival. Multitudes followed Jesus during His ministry on earth, but many of the people who saw the dead raised or ate food that was supernaturally multiplied later crucified the Son of God.

It was the few disciples who followed Jesus after Calvary who ushered in a true revival—one that was bathed in the fear of God, confirmed by signs and wonders, tempered by persecution and evidenced by thousands of conversions, new churches and the transformation of society. We should expect nothing less.
I'll post my thoughts and comments tomorrow.

Language of Lament -Can A Christian Sing The Blues?

The IMonk teaches us about the Biblical language of lament at Can A Christian Sing The Blues?

Lament is a form of language used THROUGHOUT THE BIBLE (excuse the shouting) when human beings respond to their experience of God seeming to not keep his covenant promises to them. Lament is “Where are you Lord? What are you doing? Why are you against me? How could you let this happen? I did what you commanded, and now this? My life is miserable. Where is God?” If you’re like most Christians, you know this stuff is in the Bible, but your pastor never gets near it at the risk of a deacons meeting to ask why he’s lost his faith.

Lament is a kind of mourning, and it’s a very legitimate and common Biblical form of prayer. It’s part of how the Bible teaches us to pray and worship. It sounds radical in the Bible, and it sounds downright dangerous in contemporary usage.
Read the whole thing- He has some great examples and paraphrases of Jeremiah's laments. Jeremiah, "the Weeping Prophet," knew how to lament!

For more on this topic read C.s. Lewis' book Reflections on the Psalms.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

There Are No Mere Mortals

It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would strongly be tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal.

— C. S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory, HarperOne, pp. 14-15.

All of Life is Repentance

Darryl Dash writing on Repentance:
One of the best things I learned in the past year is repentance. I suppose I always knew about repentance, but the learning that's recently taken place is about the continual nature of repentance: that, as Martin Luther said, all of life is repentance. Repentance is not occasional and traumatic. Instead, it's continuous and joyful, because I'm not surprised by my sin, nor am I overly discouraged by it. My acceptance isn't based on my worthiness or how badly I feel, but on what Christ has done for me.

This has allowed me to look at myself with much greater honesty. There's less to hide and less to prove. I'm still learning this, but it's made a huge difference in my life. It changes everything. As I say, I knew this before, but it's really become clear in this past year, and much more part of my life.
We sang a song last Sunday that had a strange contrast between tempo and theme. I joked with the worship leader about singing a "schizophrenic song." The tempo was fast and upbeat, like you would expect from a happy song. But the words were "God, we have sinned, we repent!" The conjunction of happy and repentance seemed very jarring to me at the time. However, the more I thought about it, and after reading the quote shown above, I've decided that the seeming tempo/language contrast in that song is really quite appropriate.

Luther was right that the Christian life is one of continual repentance. The comment above is also correct; true repentance is ultimately joyful. If we value being right with God, repentance is a joyful thing.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Blogging Trend

This blogging trend is getting out of control! - See Pearls Before Swine comic strip.

More on "Two Gospels"

“When all is said and done, ‘the gospel’ for [some preachers], and others on the theological right is that Christ made the ‘arrangement’ that can get us into heaven. In the Gospels, by contrast, ‘the gospel’ is the good news of the presence and availability of life in the kingdom, now and forever, through reliance on Jesus the Anointed”

-Dallas Willard

(See Post below on Two Gospels)

Two Gospels or One?

Tullian Tchividjian has a great post up quoting from a book entitled This Beautiful Mess by Rick Mckinley, pastor of Imago Dei Community in Portland (Pastor to Donald Miller, author of Blue Like Jazz). Read the whole thing at Two Gospels? He quotes Mckinley as saying the following:
Sometimes it seems as though we find two gospels in the New Testament–the gospel of Jesus and the gospel about Jesus. The gospel of Jesus is usually taken to mean His announcement of the kingdom and the life He embodied in His loving actions toward the world. The gospel about Jesus refers to his atoning work on the cross and His resurrection, through which we can receive the forgiveness of sin through our faith and repentance.

I believe, however, that the two are actually one gospel and that when we lose the tension that comes from holding both together, we experience an unhealthy and unbiblical pendulum swing in our faith.

If all we value is the salvation gospel, we tend to miss the rest of Christ’s message. Taken out of context of the kingdom, the call to faith in Christ gets reduced to something less than what the New Testament teaches. The reverse is also true: if we value a kingdom gospel at the expense of the liberating message of the Cross and the empty tomb and a call to repentance, we miss a central tenet of kingdom life. Without faith in Jesus, there is no transferring of our lives into the new world of the kingdom.
I agree with every word of this. There is only one Gospel - the Gospel of Jesus and the Kingdom. Paul
ended his ministry "proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance" (Acts 28:30). The Gospel is both from Jesus and about Jesus - with no conflict.

(For more on this topic see my previous posts Tripod of the Gospel and Response to the Good News.)

Bible Filtration Systems (Part 3)

Part 1 Here; Part 2 Here.

So how can we bypass our mental filters to get at what God is saying through Scripture?

1. Remember that the Bible cannot mean now what it never meant then. All meaning is context dependent. Hermeneutics the name for the art and science of interpreting Scripture. The hermeneutical process requires trying to understand what the human authors (speakers) of Scripture were saying to the original readers (hearers) in that context, that culture, that historical period. Only after grasping the context dependent meaning can we then translate (apply) the meaning to now. Good study Bibles that have material on historical background can be a great help. I also recommend Fee and Stuart's great manuals on Biblical interpretation for non-scholars - Here and here. Check out C. Michael Patton's chart on Biblical Interpretation here.

2. Read widely in other traditions, theological traditions, and historical periods. I was raised Baptist and attended a Baptist college. My adult life has been spent in charismatic circles. Yet I have benefited greatly by reading authors from Anglican, Reformed and Catholic backgrounds. They broaden my horizons, and help me see things in the Bible I had filtered out.

Yes, they also have or had filters through which their understanding of the Bible was colored, but the filters are or were different than mine or yours. They would therefore see things I do not see. I may see some things they missed. We all need each other. As C.S. Lewis said:

"Every age has its own outlook. It is specially good at seeing certain truths and specially liable to make certain mistakes. We all, therefore, need the books that will correct the characteristic mistakes of our own period. And that means the old books." God in the Dock, page 202.

3. Let the great ecumenical creeds of the church act as a boundary box around your understanding of Scripture. The Apostle's Creed and Nicene creed are especially important. If you go outside that box you are probably wrong. Here's a link to the old creeds.

4. Be always open to God confronting and correcting your sins. If every time you read the Bible it seems to be your friend, you are probably not reading very clearly. Sometimes we eat the Word and, although sweet in our mouths, it goes down sour in our throats and bellies! (Rev. 10:10)

5. Be humble; that always helps!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Experimentally Speaking....

Those are best able to bear witness for Christ that have themselves been with him, by faith, hope, and love, and by living a life of communion with God in him. Ministers must first learn Christ, and then preach him. Those speak best of the things of God that speak experimentally. It is particularly a great advantage to have been acquainted with Christ from the beginning, to understand all things from the very first, Luke 1:3. To have been with him from the beginning of our days. An early acquaintance and constant converse with the gospel of Christ will make a man like a good householder.

- Matthew Henry, A Commentary on the Whole Bible, Volume 5, on John 15, p. 1133.

Hat Tip: Reformed Catholicism

Kingdom Consensus

I've ordered and am anxiously awaiting the new book The Kingdom of God: the New Evangelical Perspective by Russell Moore. Dr. Moore is Dean of the School of Theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. My appetite was further whetted last weekend by an article in the Southern Baptist Journal of Theology by him in entitled "The Kingdom of God and the Church: a Baptist Reassessment." Moore is saying stuff like this:
Indeed, evangelical theology has moved toward a virtual consensus of the Kingdom as both “already” and “not yet,” with the church as the initial manifestation of the Kingdom of God, thus eschewing such ideas as, on the one hand, the concept of the church as synonymous with the Kingdom, and, on the other, the concept of the church as a parenthesis in God ’s Kingdom program.
See my previous post on Kingdom Theology here.

Bible Filtration Systems (Part 2)

(Part 1 Here)

So many Christians claim "I don't need any theology, doctrines or creeds. I just read the Bible." Some denominations claim "We are people of the Book, and all our beliefs come solely and directly from the Bible." Neither claim is ever simply true,

We all have filtration systems through which we read the Bible. When reading Scripture, the words go through many mental filters, among which are: (1) our personal religious experiences (or lack thereof); (2) the beliefs of the church/denomination we grew up in; (3) the beliefs of the church/denomination we are currently a part of; (4) the wider culture (including unrecognized assumptions and presuppositions) into which we were born and live in; (5) the current zeitgeist (spirit of the age); and (6) justifications raised up by sinful hearts to preserve our independence from God and personal favorite sins.

Filters 1 & 2 above are why I used to reject charismatic gifts. We must be careful both that experience not determine our theology and that experience not limit our theology. Although I now believe differently on that question, I have to be careful that number 3 isn't the only reason. John Wimber wrote in Power Evangelism that the worldview assumptions (number 4) of western culture hinder us from expecting God to act miraculously in our day, and color our understanding of Scripture. That last two are primary reasons why so many try to reinterpret clear Bible teachings against homosexual behavior.

We all find it so much easier to acknowledge that we sin than to face the truth that we are sinners by nature. Our hearts are naturally in rebellion against God and His authority. Is it any wonder that we try to twist the meaning of scripture to excuse our favorite sins and errors?

So how do we get around these barriers to hear God speak through the Scriptures?

See Part 3 tomorrow.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Yeah, God!

At church this morning we had a testimony from a recovering drug addict who had been diagnosed with Hepatitis C. She had been prayed with and over for healing many times by our prayer teams. Today she waved before us written documentation from a doctor that she no longer had any sign of the disease.

Hallelujah! Yeah God!

Refuse to Choose

Some choices should not be made.
  • Some choose good theology and doctrine, some choose personal experience; I refuse to choose.
  • Some choose the Spirit, some choose truth; I refuse to choose.
  • Some choose individual spirituality, some choose community; I refuse to choose.
  • Some choose knowledge about God, some choose knowledge of God; I refuse to choose.
  • Some choose orthodoxy, some choose orthopraxy; I refuse to choose.
  • Some choose commitment to a church family, some choose openness to all believers; I refuse to choose.
  • Some choose ministry models open to all believers, some choose gifted and trained leadership; I refuse to choose.
  • Some choose catholicity, some choose evangelicalism; I refuse to choose.
  • Some choose charismatic gifts, some choose fruit in changed character; I refuse to choose.
  • Some choose loving God, some choose obeying God; I refuse to choose.
  • Some choose ministry within the church, some choose ministry to the world outside; I refuse to choose.
I refuse to make choices where God did not intend me to choose. I refuse to say yes to one and no to the other, when God says yes to both. I refuse to separate things God put together. I refuse to divide things God wants held in tension.

What God has put together, let not man put asunder!

Bible Filtration Systems (Part 1)

The Jolly Blogger (David Wayne) had a good post this week on how we all read the Bible through filters at Just Reading the Bible, eh?, quoting from Michael Spencer at Internet Monk. The IMonk said:
If I ever tell you that all I do is just read the Bible, then believe and do what it says, you have permission to laugh at me. Pay a small fee and you can smack me and say “What’s the matter with you?”

I’m an iceberg, an onion, a mystery. I’m complex and rarely insightful into myself. Thousands of experiences co-exist in me at the same time. I’m a library of presuppositions and passively accepted versions of the truth. When I write a post, preach a sermon, respond in a conversation or give advice to a student, I am anything but simple. I’m complex and only partially aware of that complexity.

This doesn’t mean I can’t understand the simple statements of the Bible or believe and act on them with integrity. It does mean that I need to stop talking about myself as if I am a blank slate, and begin accepting myself as a human being.
David the Jolly Blogger lists reasons why our brains filter Scripture as we read it.
1. The noetic effects of sin..... This means that sin affects our minds, thus our ability to comprehend truth is marred by sin.
2. The finiteness of man
3. The blur (1 Corinthians 13:12)
4. Perspectivalism
He concludes :
So if the process of writing scripture is influenced by the personal experience of the author, why should it surprise us if we insist that the understanding of Scripture is influenced by the experience of the reader?

This doesn't negate the truthfulness or trustworthiness of the Scripture in any way, but it does negate the pride of the "Scripture reader" who thinks he comes to the Scriptures with a blank slate and is thus more "pure" than the rest of us.
See Part 2 tomorrow for my further thoughts.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Jesus 24/7/365

My pastor often says that Jesus is the answer to almost all questions. Jared Wilson's blog says "It's all Jesus" - See The Gospel-Driven Church: Jesus 24/7.
It's all Jesus, all the time. He's the point of everything and the one who holds it all together. He's the answer to every question, the interpretation and application.

Okay, I'm exaggerating. Except I'm not

More on Charismatic Gifts

Here's a follow up to the Cerulean Sanctum post I linked to last Wednesday regarding the gift of Speaking in Tongues. - More on Charismatic Gifts Cerulean Sanctum

Dan Edelen has more to say on the subject, including a list of his beliefs on spiritual gifts ( which correspond pretty closely to mine!):
In a nutshell, here’s what I believe about the charismatic gifts:
  • The gifts are still for today.
  • Some of the gifts are more rare than what we see expressed.
  • Not all people will have all gifts.
  • A person who lacks a particular gift is not a lesser Christian for that lack because he or she may possess other “compensatory” God-given talents and anointings.
  • We should always ask God for empowering through the gifts yet be
  • satisfied should He elect not give us a particular gift on our timetable.
  • Sometimes there is a long delay between asking for and receiving a gift.
  • As the Lord sees fit, some gifts may only be given for a time or season.
  • Because the Lord gives to us according to our measure of faith, He will not give charismatic gifts to people who don’t believe that they are still in operation.
  • While a person may appear to have a gift, it may indeed be nothing more than a well-developed talent and lack the full nature of a genuine charismatic gift.
  • As with all spiritual abilities, as we grow in the Lord we better understand how to use the charismatic gifts He has given us.
  • The Lord may remove gifts from people who fail to properly use them.
  • Yes, sadly, some people fake gifts.
  • People who fake gifts should be exposed immediately and not tolerated.
  • Yes, the Enemy does mimic some gifts and empower deceived people with ungodly versions.
  • All gifts must be tested.
  • Churches that support the gifts must do a better job policing those who use them in public.
  • Church leaders are responsible for encouraging and discouraging the use of the gifts by their congregants.
  • We are a poorer Church if we fail to use the gifts.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Soaking in the Gospel

"Avoid a sugared gospel as you would shun sugar of lead. Seek the gospel which rips up and tears and cuts and wounds and hacks and even kills, for that is the gospel that makes alive again. And when you have found it, give good heed to it. Let it enter into your inmost being. As the rain soaks into the ground, so pray the Lord to let his gospel soak into your soul."

- Charles Haddon Spurgeon

Kingdom Already But Not Yet

On Monday Peter Cockrell quoted some good stuff from D.A. Carson on Kingdom Theology at
Carson on the Kingdom « Already Not Yet.
Indeed, that is the third arena where errors about the kingdom are not uncommon: tensions between the biblical descriptions of inaugurated eschatology (the kingdom has come) and futurist eschatology (the kingdom comes at the end). On the one hand, Jesus tells certain parables of the kingdom in order to get across that the expected ‘big bang’ is not yet. For instance (if I may use the formula much loved by the rabbis when they told their parables, and used by Jesus himself), it is the case with the kingdom as with the soils: there is varying receptivity to the word that is sown, and varying degrees of fruitfulness. The kingdom did not come in instantaneous and utterly effective division. It came slowly, with varying responses. Elsewhere we are told that this side of Jesus’s resurrection and exaltation, all authority in heaven and on earth is his: in other words, Jesus Christ reigns, even though we do not see everything and everyone cheerfully submitted to him.

What Carson speaks of separately as inaugurated and futurist eschatology, I like to call "down-payment" eschatology. In Christ we receive now a down payment on our future kingdom inheritance. It is real kingdom life, just not all of it now. Understanding and living in the tension between the "Now" and the "Not Yet" of the Kingdom enables us to avoid both a defeatist "pie-in-the-sky" mentality on one hand and a phony triumphalism on the other.

Rudolf the Red Nosed Chrsitian

This one is worth linking to just for the title alone -"Are Your A Rudolf the Red Nosed Christian?" at TRANSFORMED DAILY!
You see, when we come to Christ in repentance, everything changes. In fact, so much change occurs that people who knew us before Christ think we have gone nuts and have become freaks. They start to laugh and call us names because we won’t join in on their reindeer (worldly) games. Christians should understand what Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer went through.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Happy Birthday

Wishing a blessed and happy birthday today to Colleen, my lovely bride of 28 wonderful years.

Love you, Sweetheart!

The Emperor of Self

"I am more afraid of my own heart than of the pope and all his cardinals. I have within me the great pope, Self."

"I more fear what is within me than what comes from without. "

- Martin Luther

We sang a song at our church last Sunday that began with the words "Your Kingdom rise, my empire fall." God save me (us) from the empire of self!

What God-Hungry People Do With Pain

Jim Martin at "A Place for the God-Hungry" has an arresting quote up from Gordon McDonald at What God-Hungry People Need.
“After listening to stories for many years, I can tell you this: almost without exception, every person’s story is marked with pockets of deep, deep sadness and tragedy. Lots of stuff that never gets surfaced in the course of normal church life.” (Leadership Journal, Spring 2008, p. 94)
Jim goes on the say:
When I read these lines in the article, I paused and then read them again. These words are very, very true. Within us all, there are places of sadness. For some that sadness is associated with a deep disappointment of some kind. Others have experienced a significant moment of humiliation or shame. Others have experienced a tragedy, sometimes due to the behavior of others.

The question that I want to keep before me is: "What am I doing with this sadness?" Far too many people "act out" in various ways in order to somehow lessen or mask the pain. Others may act out in ways that result in a trail that is littered with hurt feelings, broken friendships, and burned bridges.

What do God-hungry people do? (This is the question I want to always be wrestling with.) God-hungry people know that what we need more than anything is God himself. ....
That's a good question. If we accept the premise, and I think it probably is true, what are Christians to do with their deepest sadnesses? Our culture is full of individuals who medicate their sadness with alcohol, drugs, pornography, recreational activities, work-o-holic activities, etc. Some even medicate with religious activity - and what a sour medicine that can be!

The hole in our hearts cannot be filled, the pain cannot be healed, by any activity or medication. We were made to know, experience and worship God. What if He allows us to be hurt, to experience this sadness, to draw us to the only ultimate fulfillment which is God himself? What would be the result if we learn to run to god in our pain, rather than withdraw? What if we learned (as the psalmists did) to take and express all our sadness to Him?

Isn't that what God-hungry people would do?

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

It's All About Jesus

Phillip at The Thinklings said some great words on the subject "It's All about Jesus." I can't say it better.
The Old Testament is all about Jesus. The New Testament is all about Jesus. I also believe that all of history is about Jesus. (I like to think of history as HIS story.) And so I also believe that the story of your family, the story of your church, the story of YOU, is all about Jesus.

Jesus should be on our lips, our minds and our hearts. He should be a part of all we say, do, think, and plan. But not just a part. He should be the basis for all that we do.

Every now and then a new Christian book or Christian teacher takes the churches by storm. (Just a few names I've observed: C.S. Lewis, Francis Schaeffer, Hal Lindsey, Billy Graham, Max Lucado, Henry Blackaby, Bruce Wilkinson, John Eldredge, Joel Osteen, Rick Warren) When one of these authors gets influential we hear Christians saying their name a lot or quoting their books. What a certain author thinks will be cited in committee meetings and Sunday School classes. There’s nothing wrong with learning from another Christian or quoting an author but every time it happens, I wonder if we shouldn’t be more influenced by Jesus. We should be referring to Jesus, saying his name, talking about what he would think and quoting him.

Amen, Brother, Amen!

Ministerial Improvement

“Once in seven years I burn all my sermons; for it is a shame if I cannot write better sermons now than I did seven years ago.”

- John Wesley

A Plea for Booring Preaching

Thabiti Anyabwile at Pure Church has an interestingly titled post-"Be Careful How You Build: A Plea for Boring Preaching." Taking off from the whole Dr. Jeremiah Wright controversy in the presidential campaign, he commented on the dangers of preaching to entertain a congregation and building a church on the preacher's personality. He is particularly focusing on the African-American church environment.
First, it traps the preacher in the entertainment expectations of so many churchgoers. If we entertain rather than edify, we're not far from becoming the little monkey in the red suit that does tricks on the street corner for his owner. And it's awfully difficult to escape that arrangement once you start building the pulpit on an exaggerated personality like that. The pressure to "perform" is already great in many African American contexts. A man can "preach" if he can excite emotion and response. But if he calmly and clearly opens the text, then he is "a good teacher." Culturally, African Americans have always placed great value in oratory. So much so, emotional oratory has become to litmus test for preaching.
Another danger he mentions is teaching congregations that feelings are the end of worship.
And a congregation accustomed to being entertained will be a spiritually lazy congregation. Entertainment increasingly puts the cookies on the bottom shelf (actually the floor). It makes everything easy to reach, requires little/nothing of the one entertained, and encourages comfort and ease. In short, today's entertainment generally makes people lazy. The same is true in a church if entertainment is the dominant philosophy. People are not made into Bereans, searching the Scripture to verify the truth. They're reduced to blank-faced popcorn and goober eating moviegoers, taking in whatever glimmers on the silver screen. Except the silver screen is increasingly the church service.

So here's a plea. Please, please Lord build your church on "boring" preaching and "regular" personalities owned and fired by your Holy Spirit, so that your people will find excitement and emotion that comes from the truth and their affections will rest on You rather than the earthen vessel that proclaims your Name.

And please, please brothers, let us be "weak" in the pulpit that Christ might be seen as strong. Let us preach in the personality the Lord gave us, only careful not to build the church on it.
Good words for all of us -not just the African-American churches. My great hope in ministry is to combine Spirit and truth- good doctrinal teaching and Scripture exposition combined with experience of God's presence and joy in the Spirit. But joy does not equal entertainment.