Sunday, August 31, 2008

Jazz Gets the Blues?

Here's an update at Christianity Today Magazine on the proposed movie version of Donald Miller's book Blue Like Jazz.

See Interviews: Jazz Gets the Blues | Christianity Today Movies


Everyone should say some prayers tonight and tomorrow for the people of New Orleans and the entire Gulf Coast.

The Glories of Jesus Christ in Revelation

In a follow up to the post I linked to on Friday, Justin at Cross-Eyed posted this: 25 Glories of Jesus Christ in Revelation

25 Glories of Jesus Christ in Revelation 1
Rejoice in the glory of your Savior today!

1. Jesus is the faithful witness (v. 5).
2. Jesus is the firstborn of the dead (v. 5).
3. Jesus is the ruler of kings on earth (v. 5).
4. Jesus loves us (v. 5).
5. Jesus has freed us from our sins by His blood (v. 5).
6. Jesus made us a kingdom, priests to His Father (v. 6).
7. Jesus deserves all glory and dominion forever (v. 6).
8. Jesus is coming and every eye will see Him (v. 7).
9. Jesus contains the patient endurance (v. 9).
10. Jesus is in the midst of His churches (v. 13).
11. Jesus is the Son of Man (v. 13).
12. Jesus is clothed with a long robe (v. 13).
13. Jesus has a golden sash around His chest (v. 13).
14. Jesus’ hair is white like snow (v. 14).
15. Jesus’ eyes are like a flame of fire (v. 14).
16. Jesus’ feet are like strong bronze (v. 15).
17. Jesus’ voice is like the roar of many waters (v. 15).
18. Jesus holds the church’s messengers in His hand (v. 16).
19. Jesus’ words are a sharp two-edged sword (v. 16).
20. Jesus’ face is like the sun shinning in full strength (v. 16).
21. Jesus is the first and the last (v. 17).
22. Jesus is the living One (v. 18).
23. Jesus died (v. 18).
24. Jesus is alive forevermore (v. 18).
25. Jesus has the keys of Death and Hades (v. 18).

Good to remember that the hero of the Book of Revelation is Jesus, not Satan, or the Beast or False Prophet! The book begins with a vision of the Ascended Jesus Christ, proclaims the Lamb in the center of the Throne, and ends with the sword-wielding Warrior King on His white horse.

As the book says, "And he said to me, “These words are trustworthy and true. And the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, has sent his angel to show his servants what must soon take place. And behold, I am coming soon. Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.” (Rev. 22:6-7 ESV). Most Christians need to read the Revelation more, but with more focus on Him and lees effort trying to identify the Beast with some current politician or dictator.

Making Gospel Connections

Joe Thorn at the Sub*Text blog on ministry in suburbia has a great post on how to have authentic conversations leading to the Gospel - see Gospel Connections in Suburbia : subtext. Some excerpts:
8 topics that can naturally connect to the Christian faith.

1. Corruption, evil and sin......Conversations about corruption and evil are pretty common in my experience. Murderer’s go unpunished, children are exploited, racism continues on in more polite forms, mayors are busted smoking crack, etc. These conversations can naturally connect to the biblical issues of justice, judgment, forgiveness and redemption....

2. Community.... Conversations about community naturally lend themselves to the reality that we are made for community, that God himself dwells in eternal community (Father, Son and Holy Spirit), and that a central component of God’s saving work is the establishment of a community, a family, made up of every tribe, tongue and nation.

3. Politics....Political discussions are a great opportunity to relate the second greatest commandment (love for neighbor) to the management of power.

4. Environment..... This too is an easy topic to connect to the Christian faith. God as creator and the cultural mandate in Genesis can make the leap shorter.

5. War. ....“War is a terrible thing, but if we are going to seek to the good of others and protect the innocent, sometimes war is an unfortunate necessity. That doesn’t make the issue easy. In fact it makes it more difficult. And my concern for justice is rooted in God’s love of it.…

6. Family....It is a shared interest between our church and culture, so this point of connection can serve as an opportunity to move right into the Christian faith - and even the gospel itself as we emphasize grace-based parenting that aims at the heart, not just behavior.

7. Church....Anytime I find out someone goes to church we have a great discussion about their faith, the differences between Roman Catholicism and Evangelicalism, the words of Christ vs church/religion in general. Obviously, once this conversation is underway there is virtually no leap to make.

8. Art/pop-culture. Everyone watches television, goes to the movies and listens to music. Many of the forms of art in pop-culture provide excellent entry points to get to the greater themes that the gospel addresses. This is often an easy connecting point that gets to the issues of sin, justice, forgiveness, redemption, etc.

I have done some editing (shown with "...") so you should follow the link and read the whole thing. It's really thought provoking and well done.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Katrina: Three Years Later

Oh, Yeah - I well remember it.

On Sunday morning, August 28, 2005, the forecasts were frightening. I called my daughter in Hattiesburg -only a one hour drive from Gulfport- and begged her to come home before the storm hit. I warned her that a powerful storm like this would have a large impact on her so close to the shore. She resisted, but finally came home Sunday afternoon. 

Monday morning the storm hit just west of Gulfport. Biloxi and Gulfport got the 30 foot high storm surge on the eastern side of the storm. Many of the hotels and restaurants we have enjoyed over the years were gone forever in just a few hours. New Orleans on the west side of the storm got the heavy rain plus the winds over Lake Pontchartrain, resulting in the breaking and overflow of the levies.

Here is what I wrote to a friend in Maryland on Tuesday, August 30, 2005, the day after the storm:
We just got our power back about 3:15 after more than 24 hours without electricity.

The Jackson area got at least tropical force winds, possibly higher. Most of the area lost power. There are trees down all over our neighborhood, including one across our next door neighbors driveway. We drove through the neighborhood last evening and saw many trees down, some broken in half and some torn up by the roots. We have no damage that I can find, but still have a lot of limbs and branches to clear and dispose of. One very large branch bounced off our roof over the kitchen, but I don’t think we were damaged.

We are so thankful that Michelle took our advice and came home on Sunday. Her home in Hattiesburg is less than 100 miles from Gulfport. Hattiesburg got Category 3 hurricane force winds. The entire city is without power and has no water. There are trees down on every major street in Hattiesburg. All routes from Jackson to Hattiesburg or the coast are closed and impassible. A friend checked on her house and said there are trees on the roof but it does not look like the roof was penetrated.

You probably know more about conditions in New Orleans, Biloxi and Gulfport than I do. What a horrible mess and a great tragedy! Keep praying

I've been to New Orleans twice since Katrina. There is still a lot of damage there. The Mississippi coast communities were devastated and will never be the same. Landmarks that survived Hurricane Camille in 1969, and all the other storms for over 200 years, are gone for good.

Storms are a fact of life on the gulf coast. My brother and his family in Tampa, Florida have certainly seen their share of them. Now, according to current forecasts, Hurricane Gustaf might be heading right for the Louisiana coast. Hurrican Hanna threatens Florida. Here we go again!

Please pray for us, and for all the residents of the Gulf Coast.

Interpreting Revelation

From Justin at Cross-Eyed: 7 Interpretive Helps for Revelation

1. Revelation focuses on Jesus Christ. The point of this book is to make known the power, might, glory, and victory of the Lamb.

2. Revelation is given to reveal (make known). The purpose of this book is not to confuse, but to reveal. Revelation is not trying to hide something. Its intent is to show something clearly.

3. Revelation must be interpreted in light of the rest of Scripture (particularly the OT). MacArthur says 278 of its 404 verses allude to the OT Scriptures.

4. Revelation must be interpreted with humility. Godly scholars vary in their interpretations on this book. Being dogmatic about something that is not clear is unwise. Humility demands that we use words like, “most likely,” “possibly,” “sometimes,” “could,” “may,” and “probably.”

5. Revelation has an original audience (like every other Biblical book). Revelation is a letter written to real churches. Real original readers were supposed to hear the content of this book and be encouraged. Thus, interpretations that neglect the original readers should be suspect.

6. Revelation was written to suffering Christians. The purpose of this letter is to encourage persecuted Christians to hold fast to the gospel. It is written so that Christians could know with certainty that the Lamb will triumph. “God gave us Revelation not to tickle our fancy, but to strengthen our hearts." - Poythress

7. Revelation is about Jesus Christ. Since this is Revelation, I had to have a list of "7." So, I just restated the first one to make the most important point again.

Very well said. I could not say it better. I agree with every single point.

Christianity in a Nutshell

C. Michael Patton has done something I would have though t impossible (and wish I could have done). He has summarized the message of the Bible in one concise post at Parchment and Pen » Christianity in a Nutshell. Read the whole thing, from:
In the beginning, God created man. When he was created, he was pure and holy. He was created for a purpose. God, the one true sovereign and benevolent being, created man in order to give of His loving nature. But man was deceived by evil and fell into sin. This sin affected man and all of his offspring to the point that he was no longer able to serve God as he was created to. He hated God by nature. . .
Five hundred years later, God sent the One whom He had covenanted to send, and this One, as it turned out, was His own Son. He was both everything that God is and everything that man was, yet without sin. To the dismay of many, He did not set up the Kingdom as they thought He came to do, but He first set up a Kingdom in the hearts of His people by dying on a cross and purchasing their redemption from sin and betrayal. After His death, He rose again, showing that the redemption was accomplished. He undid what Adam had done.

After His resurrection, He sent the Holy Spirit, the third Person of the Trinity, who is also everything that God is, to indwell all those who believed and followed the Redeemer, so that they would have power to spread the message of redemption. He entrusted to them the Gospel message, as it came to be known, and called them the Church.

The Church, made up of both Jews and Gentiles, is now the bearer of the Good News of God’s covenanted redemption. They are His representatives here on the earth. God the Son told the Church to tell others about Him until He comes back. When He comes back, He will then set up His Kingdom and destroy all evil and death, the final foe. The Church now eagerly awaits His coming, as they fight for the Kingdom.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Yea, God!

There's a young man in our church for whom we have been praying regarding throat cancer. He has already battled addiction in our 12-Step ministry, and now faced a battle for life over cancer. He went to Birmingham for surgery this week. Yesterday the following announcement went out to our e-mail prayer chain.

D______ went to Birmingham to have surgery to remove a cancer in his throat. There was only a 15% chance that he would even be able to talk again after the surgery. The doctors put him to sleep, but they didn’t operate …. because there was NO CANCER !! They said there were lesions where the cancer had been, but it was totally gone. To be safe, the doctors will probably continue chemo-therapy.

God also restored his relationship with his young daughter that he hadn’t seen in years. He now has visitation rights too.

Thanks for your prayers. They are working.

Yea, God!

Update- more good news via e-mail:

I just spoke with D_____. He's still trying to process everything. He's on his way home with his family from Birmingham to Memphis. When I called him he answered the phone "Hello, this is miracle boy"!He said when he started to come out of the anesthesia he thought he was dreaming because he wasn't in any pain and didn't find any cuts from surgery. Then he thought oh no, they haven't started the surgery and I've already awakened! Then he heard his dad saying "son, you don't have cancer" you've been healed. As I'm sure you all recall, the tumor was so large that he was not able to even swallow water. He got his nourishment through the feeding tube in his stomach. Are you all ready for this............D_____ ATE STEAK LAST NIGHT!!!!! Not mashed up or pulverized or "blenderized"!!! He ate actual chunks of steak!

Nancy Pelosi - Patristics Scholar?

Rep. Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the US House of Representatives, had this exchange on TV (Meet the Press on NBC) last weekend.

MR. BROKAW: Senator Obama saying the question of when life begins is above his pay grade, whether you're looking at it scientifically or theologically. If he were to come to you and say, "Help me out here, Madame Speaker. When does life begin?" what would you tell him?

REP. PELOSI: I would say that as an ardent, practicing Catholic, this is an issue that I have studied for a long time. And what I know is, over the centuries, the doctors of the church have not been able to make that definition. And Senator--St. Augustine said at three months. We don't know. The point is, is that it shouldn't have an impact on the woman's right to choose. Roe v. Wade talks about very clear definitions of when the child--first trimester, certain considerations; second trimester; not so third trimester. There's very clear distinctions. This isn't about abortion on demand, it's about a careful, careful consideration of all factors and--to--that a woman has to make with her doctor and her god. And so I don't think anybody can tell you when life begins, human life begins. As I say, the Catholic Church for centuries has been discussing this, and there are those who've decided...

MR. BROKAW: The Catholic Church at the moment feels very strongly that it...

REP. PELOSI: I understand that.

MR. BROKAW: ...begins at the point of conception.

REP. PELOSI: I understand. And this is like maybe 50 years or something like that. So again, over the history of the church, this is an issue of controversy. But it is, it is also true that God has given us, each of us, a free will and a responsibility to answer for our actions. And we want abortions to be safe, rare, and reduce the number of abortions. That's why we have this fight in Congress over contraception.

Cardinal Egan of New York responded as follows:

Like many other citizens of this nation, I was shocked to learn that the Speaker of the House of Representatives of the United States of America would make the kind of statements that were made to Mr. Tom Brokaw of NBC-TV on Sunday, August 24, 2008. What the Speaker had to say about theologians and their positions regarding abortion was not only misinformed; it was also, and especially, utterly incredible in this day and age.

We are blessed in the 21st century with crystal-clear photographs and action films of the living realities within their pregnant mothers. No one with the slightest measure of integrity or honor could fail to know what these marvelous beings manifestly, clearly, and obviously are, as they smile and wave into the world outside the womb. In simplest terms, they are human beings with an inalienable right to live, a right that the Speaker of the House of Representatives is bound to defend at all costs for the most basic of ethical reasons. They are not parts of their mothers, and what they are depends not at all upon the opinions of theologians of any faith. Anyone who dares to defend that they may be legitimately killed because another human being “chooses” to do so or for any other equally ridiculous reason should not be providing leadership in a civilized democracy worthy of the name.

All I can say is it is about time that a high-ranking American Catholic official put one of the outspoken pro-abortion Roman Catholic politicians in his/her place on this issue. Kudos to Tom Brokow for asking the question, and good for the Cardinal for his clear and firm response!

Hat Tip: RedState,

See also The Anchoress. Take Your Vitamin Z

Small Churches - the 99 and the 1

From Steve Murrell at the reluctant leader in a post about church size, and the fact that most churches are small.
Warning: controversial statement coming…

Jesus seemed to put evangelism, not worship, at the top of the spiritual priority pile.

I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents (that sounds like EVANGELISM) than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent (that sounds like a CHURCH MEETING). Luke 15:7

Wanna make heaven happy? Wanna please God? How about occasionally skipping the non-stop 24/7 worship/prayer/revival meetings that only involve the “99” and instead, engage your community and culture so you can find “1” who is not currently a “99” and introduce the “1” to Christ.

That should ruffle some feathers.

Yep. But he is right.

God's Presence in Unique Ways

Michael at Charismatica reports on a revival in California : San Francisco: "Golden Gate Outpouring" Nice to hear about something and some place other than Lakeland. I also like his comment:
This is what I am looking for to break out all across the nation in hundreds of churches. No superstars, no TV cameras, just God showing up in a unique way that fits the character and needs of the area where the congregation is serving.
Amen to that! I'm glad what God is doing in our church looks like Jesus in us, rather than a cookie-cutter copy of what others do.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Rick Warren on Evangelicals and the Election

Read this interview by Naomi Schaeffer Riley at the Wall Street Journal Commentary: The Weekend Interview - to learn what Rick Warren really thinks about politics.
'Overhyped." That's how the Rev. Rick Warren describes the notion that the evangelical vote is "up for grabs" in this election. But what about the significance of the evangelical left, I asked the pastor of Saddleback Church after his forum with the presidential candidates last weekend. "This big," he says, holding his thumb and forefinger about an inch apart.

Sitting on a small stone patio outside the church's "green room," I question him further -- has he heard that the Democratic Party is changing its abortion platform? "Window dressing," he replies. "Too little, too late." But Rev. Jim Wallis, the self-described progressive evangelical, has been saying that the change is a big victory. "Jim Wallis is a spokesman for the Democratic Party," Mr. Warren responds dismissively. "His book reads like the party platform."

So why is most of the press under the impression that Rick Warren, a Southern Baptist, is so different from, say, Focus on the Family president James Dobson? "It's a matter of tone," says an amused Mr. Warren, who seems unable to name any particular theological issues on which he and Mr. Dobson disagree.

Speaking at the Aspen Institute a few years ago, Mr. Warren was asked by a member of the audience whether he believed that she, a Jew, would be going to hell after she died, since she had not accepted Jesus as her savior. "Yes," he answered, honestly.

But Mr. Warren, a large man whose paunch is emphasized by his penchant for untucked Hawaiian shirts, generally leaves fire and brimstone out of his public statements. He is on a mission to bring civility back to America, he says in the sermon the morning after the presidential forum. He believes that people can disagree about the issues without demonizing each other. "We are all created in the image of God."

In our interview, he recalls that tolerance used to be the idea that you "treat others with respect." Now, he laments, it has come to mean that "all ideas are equally valid." And so you can begin to understand why some people today are not happy with the idea of tolerance. But Mr. Warren aims to return Americans to that old view. Despite his calm demeanor, his easy laugh and his casual dress, there doesn't seem to be a relativist bone in Mr. Warren's body.

Read the whole thing- It's well worth it.

Hat Tip: Between Two Worlds

Monday, August 25, 2008

The Word of the Cross

This post from Michael Spencer's Jesus Shaped Spirituality is too good not to post in it's entirety. I liked the image he used too - so I borrowed it.

The cross is a word. It speaks.

That is why the communication God most values about the cross is the preaching and proclaiming of the Gospel in words.

The cross is, as Paul says elsewhere, an “appeal” from God to reconciliation. It is an announcement that contains an offer. It is a proclamation that has ultimate relevance. It is a word that divides the world into cross appreciators and cross enemies.

The word of the cross is foolishness to a religious world that demands God respond with a miracle when they pull the string. The God of the cross is not a performer. He is not a cosmic servant or entertainer there when religious people insist he show up and do what is necessary to convince the sleeping and the bored.

God has spoken his Word in Jesus, and we now speak that Word in the power of the Holy Spirit.

The word of the cross is foolishness to the wise of this age for whom God must present his case in order to win their approval. Because the cross does not play to the wisdom of the world or to the world’s applause, it earns the contempt of those who demand intellectual fashionability for truth.

Do not miss this: God has purposely chosen to reveal himself in such a way that the demands of religion and worldly wisdom are utterly humiliated. The cross is the moment of contempt and degradation. There is no beauty about the cross that we would want to be associated with it. It cannot play on the world’s stages or earn the admiration of the elites.

The wisdom of God is the God/man nailed to the tree, the sins of the world placed on the crucified one, the wrath of God poured out in the midst of the cruelty of human execution, the forgiveness of God a finished sacrifice that we neither deserve nor ask for.

The cross speaks of God, of his son, of his Gospel. To the ones who are being saved, it speaks the pearl of great price, the priceless treasure in a field, the one thing valuable. To the world, the cross speaks nothing but a fantasy.

There is no way to make the cross anything other than what it is. Every artistic portrayal of the cross must ask if it points beyond itself to the cross that saves, the cross where sin is condemned and the blood of the lamb purchases a people for God.

We live in a time when evangelicals and many protestants shun the cross for another Gospel. I thank God that so many of our Catholic brothers and sisters continue to value the cross. Even as we may disagree on its meaning, there is little doubt where one is more certain to hear the word of the cross these days. Luther and Calvin would be ashamed.

The word of the cross, proclaimed in scripture and placed at the center of a living faith, does what the cross does.

“If I am lifted up, I will draw all men to myself.”

The world of the cross, if obscured, will be as powerful as ever, even in its humiliation at our hands.

The word of the cross is the power of God.

In the words of Jeremy Riddle- "To the Cross I look. To the Cross I cling." Amen.

Sunday, August 24, 2008


It's raining. And raining. And raining. And raining.

Did I mention that it is raining?

Fay, Fay, go away. Don't come again another day!

Update: 8:30 pm. Guess what? It's Raining!

The Takeover of Conferences & Technology

From Thinking Out Loud, a tongue-in-cheek letter from a pastor:

To the members of our church…

After carefully weighing my options as your pastor, I have decided to devote all of this coming season to attending conferences in various places around the world.

During the past few years there has been an exponential increase in the number of such events, symposiums, conferences, etc. that are available to people in vocational ministry, to the point where there is now one each and every week. To be honest, to continue in effective ministry, I can’t afford to miss a single one.

While this means I will no longer be present in the office, I will continue to provide you with weekly video teaching. The largest and fastest-growing churches in the nation are multi-site congregations, and even in the ones where the pastor is actually in the room, it’s been shown that about 85% of the people are watching the screen anyway. As we move forward into the future, we need to recognize that this is the way preaching takes place across North America.

I thank you for your continued support of our church, and on a personal level, I am grateful for any Air Miles of Frequent Flyer Points you wish to donate.

For those wishing more personal contact, remember I can be reached on Facebook, Twitter, and several other social networking sites that haven’t been invented yet, but please remember that due to the high volume of incoming messages, I may not be able to get back to you as promptly as I would like.

Remember, at our church we care about each and every one of you.

Your Pastor.

This is funny. But like most truly funny jokes, the humor is enhanced by how close to the truth it gets.

Hat Tip: The Thinklings

Saturday, August 23, 2008

How to Apologize

I'm not a NASCAR fan (shocking for a Southern boy, I know) but I am a Joe Gibbs fan, which is why this story at The Point grabbed my attention. The former Redskins coach and his sons own and run a racing team, and apparently some of their employees were caught cheating on some NASCAR rules. Chuck Colson commented:

While the cheating is not surprising, the name of the team is: Joe Gibbs Racing. It is surprising because Gibbs is an outspoken Christian who has gone into prisons with me. I know Joe well and respect his character and integrity—they are unimpeachable.

That is why I was not surprised at what followed: While neither Joe nor his son J. D. had any clue as to what their employees were doing, they took "full responsibility" for their employees' actions.

Joe said that the incident "goes against everything we stand for as an organization." He added that "we will take full responsibility and accept any penalties NASCAR levies against us."

That's it: no evasion, no excuses, no spin.

That's the way to do it. No "if anyone was offended." No "mistakes were made." Character and integrity matter.

Good for Joe.

He Gives and Takes Away

One of my favorite theologians is Sam Storms. From a post at Already Not Yet I learned that Sam went through a scare this month when his 23 year old daughter miraculously survived a horrible traffic accident. She's fine. However, the incident apparently had a strong spiritual impact on Sam the following Sunday.

You may wonder, then, why Sunday would have been a difficult day for me. I was filled with such indescribable gratitude for what God had done. My heart was flooded with joy and delight as I reflected on how close she had come to death and how wonderful it was that she emerged without serious harm.

The tears of thanksgiving and profound appreciation and worship flowed freely and unashamedly. My hands were lifted high in adoration and praise ....

Suddenly, my hands began to tremble ever so slightly. The tears dried up. Without warning, giving me no chance to prepare my heart, this horrifying thought raced through my mind: “Would I be lifting my hands in love and adoration of the Lord if Joey had died last Wednesday? Or would my raised and open hand be a clenched and defiant fist? .....

I was spiritually paralyzed. A shiver of raw fear ran down my spine. No words can adequately explain the emotional terror that gripped my soul. Was I the sort of person who would only worship and honor and love God so long as he saved my daughter’s life? Was I the sort who would happily and profusely speak of the mercy of divine providence only if it shined on me favorably?

If Joey had not survived the wreck, or if she had been severely injured or paralyzed, would I have declared God to be beautiful, or would I have seen him as ugly and uncaring and indifferent? Was my faith the sort that flourished only in fair weather, or would it withstand the storm of tragedy and loss of the worst imaginable kind?

I couldn’t answer my own questions. I froze in fear. Would I have cursed God instead of extolling him had my precious little girl died?

What a question! How would I react in a similar situation? I don't know. I hope I could sing a song of trust to God even in a time of great pain and sorrow. Sam continued:

I wish I could tell you that I reassured myself by saying, “Hey, Sam, don’t worry. Of course you’d still love God. The pain would be unbearable, but your faith would withstand the test. You’re strong. After all, you’re a Calvinist. Your whole life and ministry are built on the stability and strength of divine sovereignty.”

I wish I could tell you that’s what passed through my mind. But it didn’t. Maybe I would still have praised him. I certainly hope so. Oh, God, please let it be so! But I felt vulnerable in that moment in a way I never have before. I felt weak and frail and terrified that my faith was only as good as were the circumstances of my life.

I have many times glibly and proudly quoted the words of Job: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21). It’s always been easy, because the Lord has not as yet “taken away” anything of great value to me. He came close, but he gave her back. If he hadn’t, could I have honestly and sincerely said, “Blessed be the name of the Lord”? I don’t know. That’s what scares me.

Scares me too, Sam. Scares me too.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Book Shelf

I just discovered the web site "Shelfari" which allows me to show the bookshelf you see in the right column (below my profile). All the books shown are ones I have read and benefited from. Many of them I have read many times.

What a cool new toy for a book geek like me!

Strange Obituary

According to Snopes.Com the Dolores Aguilar Obituary is for real. It appeared August 16 and 17, 2008 in the Vallejo California Times-Herald.

Dolores Aguilar 1929 - Aug. 7, 2008

Dolores Aguilar, born in 1929 in New Mexico, left us on August 7, 2008. She will be met in the afterlife by her husband, Raymond, her son, Paul Jr., and daughter, Ruby. She is survived by her daughters Marietta, Mitzi, Stella, Beatrice, Virginia and Ramona, and son Billy;..... I apologize if I missed anyone.

Dolores had no hobbies, made no contribution to society and rarely shared a kind word or deed in her life. I speak for the majority of her family when I say her presence will not be missed by many, very few tears will be shed and there will be no lamenting over her passing. Her family will remember Dolores and amongst ourselves we will remember her in our own way, which were mostly sad and troubling times throughout the years. We may have some fond memories of her and perhaps we will think of those times too. But I truly believe at the end of the day ALL of us will really only miss what we never had, a good and kind mother, grandmother and great-grandmother. I hope she is finally at peace with herself.

As for the rest of us left behind, I hope this is the beginning of a time of healing and learning to be a family again. There will be no service, no prayers and no closure for the family she spent a lifetime tearing apart. We cannot come together in the end to see to it that her grandchildren and great-grandchildren can say their goodbyes. So I say here for all of us, GOOD BYE, MOM.
Imagine being remembered like this! Lord, help me to so love my wife, kids, other family and friends so that when I am gone they will remember love, forgiveness and a testimony of God's grace and mercy.

Hat Tip: Tim Chailles

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Lakeland Outpouring - Sober but Hopeful Thoughts

From Carl Thomas at Revival Blog: Todd Bentley - Lakeland Outpouring Thoughts.

For the record, I support Todd Bentley. I support the move of God. I support healing. I support miracles. I support prophecy. I support the Bible and every ministry that it contains.

I also support testing fruit. I support seeking the scriptures. I support oversight. I support testimony. I support accountability. I support all of these things.

I do not support demonizing things we don’t understand. I don’t support demonizing people we do not agree with. I do not support “the end justifies the means.” I don’t support the ministry justifies the man. I do not support slander. I do not support gossip. (and i won’t approve comments that slander or gossip)

Since I have been a public supporter of Lakeland and Todd I feel I need to comment on the latest goings on. Indeed there have been moral failings. And this is a big deal.

At the end of the day, God used a man in sin. He has done it before. He will do it again.

I don’t judge Todd. Not because I am looking past his faults, but because of Gal 6:1. I am fearful of falling. I mean, I really am fearful of falling and I have found pride and judgment the 1 - 2 knockout combination for that.

Kathryn Kuhlman was restored and Todd Bentley can be as well. I hope he is able to get to the root of the issues, get it dealt with and move forward.

But while Todd is looking at his issues, I hope that along the way, we charismatics can come to grips with the fact that we are willing to look past almost anything if we see the right manifestations. I am not sure that Todd could not start his ministry back tomorrow without a lapse in his schedule as long as he comes and performs. Many people would restore him without repentance.

And in a day when we think it is beneficial to “toke the Ghost” smoke “gloryjuanna” do shots of the new wine or inject the anointing in our arms, we need to “be sober minded” and see if this foolishness has any biblical basis.

There is an extreme lack of reverence for the third person of the trinity. His first name is Holy for a reason.

After his last sabatical, Todd came back with an extreme humility in ministry. It is my hope that all of Fresh Fire ministries comes back with a new sobriety.

Peter Kirk at Gentle Wisdom reports on Todd Bentley's Apostolic Team in Action. Let us all pray that the process will be successful (i.e. repentance and restoration), and also pray that the wider circle of the charismatic world will learn some lessons on the dangers of promoting unstable men into high public visibility, of pushing hype and "weird" experiences over and above the preaching of Christ and expounding of the Scriptures, and of chasing the "next big thing" instead of quit pursuit of and obedience to the Lord.

Cleansing the Charismatic Crackup?

From Dan Edelen at Cerulean Sanctum- a series of questions and suggested answers, and problems revealed with suggest solutions, regarding the condition and future of the Charismatic movement and revivals in light of the Todd Bentley fiasco:

Cleansing the Charismatic Crackup, Part 1

Cleansing the Charismatic Crackup, Part 2

Cleasing the Charismatic Crackup, Final Thoughts

Food for much thought, consideration, and prayer - and maybe some repentance.

A Phony Revealed

This time I am not talking about Todd Bentley!

Zach Nielsen at the "Take Your Vitamin Z" Blog reported this week on Sad News from Australia
A few days ago I did a post about the new Hillsong recording. In passing I mentioned the song, "Healer". The short of it is that the author of the song has terminal cancer and then wrote this powerful song about God being his Healer.

Sadly, it turns out he was lying about the whole thing. 300,000 youtube hits later, with thousands of people inspired, it was all a fake. He does not have cancer.

We need to pray for this man and his real healing from some very serious sin issues in his life.

I was just listening to a White Horse Inn Podcast this morning and they reminded the listeners that our hope is not in a subjective experience tied to a mortal man, but to the historical and factual message of Jesus' death and resurrection that is unchanged in the face of man's subjective experiences.

I pray that the people who listen to the new Hillsong record and all those in Australia who have been impacted by this man's ministry will have put more hope in the historical facts of the gospel and not the personal experience produced by this man.

How sad that someone would think to do this, to commit such a fraud, just to get attention. How great is the hope for all of us that Jesus loves and saves sinners- or we would all be lost. How amazing that God can communicate truth through a phony - but if He can speak through Balaam's Ass (Numbers 22:28-31) then I guess He can speak through anybody.

Update: More details on the story at The Australian.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Core of the Gospel is the Kingdom

This is a great quote! Can you guess who said it? (no peeking)

“The term has recently been translated as ‘good news.’ That sounds attractive, but it falls far short of the order of magnitude of what is actually meant by the word evangelion. This term figures in the vocabulary of the Roman emperors, who understood themselves as lords, saviors, and redeemers of the world…. The idea was that what comes from the emperor is a saving message, that it is not just a piece of news, but a changing of the world for the better.

“When the Evangelists adopt this word, and it thereby becomes the generic name for their writings, what they mean to tell us is this: What the emperors, who pretend to be gods, illegitimately claim, really occurs here - a message endowed with plenary authority, a message that is not just talk but reality…. the Gospel is not just informative speech, but performative speech - not just the imparting of information, but action, efficacious power that enters into the world to save and transform. Mark speaks of the ‘Gospel of God,’ the point being that it is not the emperors who can save the world, but God. And it is here that God’s word, which is at once word and deed, appears; it is here that what the emperors merely assert, but cannot actually perform, truly takes place. For here it is the real Lord of the world - the Living God - who goes into action.

“The core of the Gospel is this: The Kingdom of God is at hand.“

Did you guess who said it?

Pope Benedict XVI!

See Gospel Definitions: Pope Benedict XVI « Kingdom People

Monday, August 18, 2008

Mark Driscoll on Preaching Christ

Adrian Warnock has a partial transcription of Mark Driscoll's message at the London Dwell Conference on Preaching Christ - Excerpts below:

The big idea is this—“It’s about Jesus!” There is always something that churches use to keep people motivated. The only way you will maintain something is if it’s about Jesus. Everything has to be about Jesus, whether it’s counseling or groups or classes or preaching.

Six framing questions to help you in your preparation of sermons:

1. What does Scripture say? Does the Greek work? What exactly does it say?

2. What does this mean, i.e. to the original audience and to us?

3. How can I make it memorable?

It can’t just be true—it also has to be easy for people to remember, to stay in their minds. How does one do that? Use doctrine—e.g. providence with Ruth. God orders her affairs. Big theological issues can sometimes be your hook. Or just a word, like grace—e.g. fifteen aspects of grace. Or an emotion. Naomi said, “Call me ‘Mara’ for God has made me bitterness.” If you’re in the book of Psalms you will have to explain “lament”—worshipfully grieving out pain. Or an image, like the throne. Spurgeon was best at taking images and captivating people with the images of the Bible. He said, “Some men preach heaven. I try to take them there!” Or a person,—sometimes the hook can be a character. Hang your sermon on the hook.

4. The apologetic question—How are people going to resist this?

Assume they are going to fight it. Anticipate the probable objections and answer them. If you do this, you can’t preach for twenty-five minutes. The longer you preach, the younger the crowd if you are any good at it. Forty-five minutes to an hour plus is what many growing churches do. Classic Puritan preaching included this approach to any possible objections: “Some of you are thinking this . . .” It’s not that you are reading minds, just that there will be objections. Hell, sex, pornography, homosexuality, etc. will all raise objections in people’s minds. This is where you will see an angry response. If you say, “This is just my perspective,” it’s fine, but if you say “This is wrong!” there will be conflict. If they have a good reason you did not consider, then it is easy for them to walk out ignoring you.

5. The missional application—What does this mean for our community?

What about our church, our families, our friendships, our city, our town, etc. Live in such a way that the rest of the city sees there is a different way of life—birth, work, sex, death, etc. For example, take sexual sin. It’s not just that you are disobeying, you are hurting the church and you are hurting the mission God has called you to—i.e. you are preaching a false gospel.

6 . The Christological Question—How is Jesus the hero?

Every single sermon needs to talk about Jesus as the hero. This will train the people to look for Jesus in the Bible. Also, if they don't hear Jesus they will make note of that. It will also quietly train people to be evangelistic. People will naturally bring their friends to church because they know you will always be talking about Jesus.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Saddleback Presidential Forumn

Below are some miscellaneous links on the Rick Warren Presidential Forum with Senator Obama and Senator McCain held Saturday night:

Between Two Worlds
Mark Hemingway at The Corner
Jonah Goldberg at The Corner
Katherine Lopez at The Corner
Rich Lowry at The Corner
Christianity Today's Live blog here, here and here.
Denny Burk
Bill at The Thinklings
Gina Dalfonzo at The Point here, here and here
Kingdom People (with video clips)

I did not watch it live, and have only read what all of the above have said this morning. The general opinion seems to be that Senator McCain helped himself a lot and that Senator Obama showed his inexperience. And everyone seems to think the two candidates beliefs on the issue of abortion where shown in stark contrast. What do you think?

More Revival What Ifs

From CHARISMATICA here's another "Revival What If" - What if The Welsh Revival Happened Today–In America?

The entire nation of Wales was touched by the Welsh Revival (1904-1906). It is said that the effects are still felt among some of the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of those who participated in the Revival. Over 100,000 came to Christ, pubs were closed, police had little of nothing to do, and sports had difficulty finding enough members to field a team.

image The revival started with a few unknown young people, including Evan Roberts, 26 who had worked in coal mines and as a blacksmith before receiving a call into the ministry and had just begun his formal training when the Holy Spirit fell. Here’s a good website about the revival if you want to know more.

What if something like the Welsh revival happened today?—In America…

1. Most churches would not know what to put in their bulletins. After all there really is no order to the services. Usually a couple of hymns are sung, a solo or a testimony from the young folks who came along with Roberts, prayer for an hour or so, then Evan Roberts simply declares that everyone should:

1. Confess all known sin

2. Deal with and get rid of anything ‘doubtful’ in your life

3. Be ready to obey the Holy Spirit instantly

4. Confess Christ publicly

Then the holy Spirit falls on the place and folks are there for hours–no one wanting to leave.

2. Some folks will probably want to know what the heck ’sin’ is?

3. Some will observe that getting rid of everything ‘doubtful’ sounds rather ‘religious’ and Old Testament—where’s the Grace in that?

4. Some of the ‘mega’ churches with televised multiple services would want Roberts and his crew to limit the revival services to exactly 55 minutes.

5. Liquor stores and bars would try to sue Roberts and churches for the loss of business and revenue.

6. The Police union would demand that the cities keep all their police on the payroll even though there’s little for them to do.

7. Restaurants near the larger churches would be unhappy because noon rush now hits between 2 and 4 and there is no way to plan for it.

8. What if there was a Sunday baseball game and nobody came including some of the best players?—Ditto for Football?

9. What if hardly anyone went to the ‘R’ rated movies anymore? Wonder what Hollywood would say about it–or do?

10. Adult books stores would have a hard time staying open & porno websites would lose their traffic.

11. State lotteries would go bust and Gambling joints would close.

12. Secularists and atheists would declare that revival is bad for the economy and needs to be controlled–the ACLU and liberal judges would agree.

13. The entire nation would be transformed as 3/4 of the people in the USA would come to Christ and change their lifestyle.

…If something like the Welsh revival happened today—In America!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

This Trekie Can't Wait!

Have I mentioned lately how much I'm looking forward to the new Star Trek Movie?

Summer 2009 is to far away!

Punny & Funny

In a brief escape from politics and world affairs, Jonah Goldberg at The Corner on National Review Online posted a whole bunch of great puns! Just a sample:

1. Two antennas met on a roof, fell in love and got married. The ceremony wasn't much, but the reception was excellent.

2. A jumper cable walks into a bar. The bartender says, "I'll serve you, but don't start anything."

3. Two peanuts walk into a bar, and one was a salted.

4. A dyslexic man walks into a bra.

5. A man walks into a bar with a slab of asphalt under his arm and says:
"A beer please, and one for the road."

6. Two cannibals are eating a clown. One says to the other: "Does this
taste funny to you?"
More Puns at the link.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Lakeland & Bentley Coverage

Below are links to what other bloggers and commentators are saying about the bad news about the Lakeland Revival which I commented on last Wednesday. The reason I am giving this story more attention is not to focus on the failures and pain of one brother in Christ (pray for him!), but to emphasize the lessons we all need to learn on discernment, accountability, humility, priority for marriages and families over work and ministry, and how to shepherd churches and movements during revival times.

Peter Cockrell at Already Not Yet
Dan Edelan at Cerulean Sanctum
John Piper at Desiring God Blog
Rick Ianniello
Peter Kirk at Gentle Wisdom
Michael Spencer at Jesus Based Spirituality
J. Lee Grady at Charisma Magazine
Michael Davis at Charismatica

I think we need to learn the right lessons from this, and not throw out the baby with the bath water. Somewhere, someday, the Spirit of God is going to break out in power and there will be humble leaders who balance experiences with sound doctrine, teach the Word, stay accountable, avoid hype, model good ministry practices and shepherd the thing in such a way as people are permanently changed, the Kingdom is advanced and God gets all the glory. I long to see that happen! It may not be me or my church, but I want to become the kind of person Jesus could trust with a revival if He so chose. How about you?

Competative Churches

In a post entitled One Church Jared Wilson comment on reports that popular singer/song writer Chris Tomlin will be worship leader at a new church in Atlanta, to be pastored by Louie Giglio. Apparently. some other pastors in the area are afraid that the new work with celebrity leaders will draw off some of their members. Jared asks one question and makes one point:
1. Do you really think losing people who are interested in the celebrity factor is a loss?

2. I've said it before: If you treat your church like a business, you will treat other churches like competition.

Very good question. Very good point.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Gospel-Centered Assimilation

Pastor Joe Thorn has an interesting concept on his blog called Gospel-Centered Assimilation.
His concept is to tie all stages and aspects of assimilation of non-believers into new Christians and on into church membership and following Jesus under the Gospel message. He lists four stages:
Gospel Encounter
The first sphere is a gospel encounter. At every event, in all our gatherings and ministries, and in even our homes as we practice hospitality, we expect visitors to encounter the gospel in word and/or deed. This is something we are completely in control of. While we cannot ensure that an individual will embrace the gospel, we can ensure the gospel is demonstrated through works of mercy, preached in our worship gatherings, seen in our parenting, fellowship and dialog with the world.

The unchurched, non-Christian and the mature believer who has walked with Christ for decades will both encounter the gospel. A gospel encounter is not dependent on a particular program, but can use them as appropriate. The point is that in every point of entry to the body (worship gathering, mercy ministry, etc.) the gospel is exalted and people are in some way confronted with it.

Gospel Experience
The second stage of assimilation for us is experiencing the gospel. This is out of our control, but is the aim of all our ministry. By gospel experience I mean people are not only confronted with the gospel, but are in some way affected by it. Conviction of sin, seeking God, and eventually faith and repentance (conversion) are progressive goals. There is overlap between the gospel encounter and gospel experience, for some will have been prepared for this in advance, and some will be Christian. Therefore, some who come into our midst will encounter and experience the gospel immediately. Others will experience it later as they continue with us.

For many of our visitors, the first two stages of assimilation focus on the gospel and them as individuals and families. People are more the recipients of the gospel, rather than the servants of it.

Gospel Service
The second stage in assimilating into the church is gospel service - where people begin to see the gospel as something not just for them, but for everyone. Consequently they begin participating and serving with the church in her mission. It is our goal and expectation that everyone at Redeemer will participate in and serve both the body and the community with the gospel. At some point in this stage covenant membership is expected. How a church moves forward with membership varies greatly, but I like the idea of a class or classes to help in this aspect of assimilation.

Gospel Calling
As believers are growing in grace the church must work to help individuals identify their spiritual gift, mature as followers of Christ, be able to reproduce themselves via discipleship, lead in whatever capacity God has equipped them, and determine what God has called them to (in church life, family, vocation, etc.).
I like Joe's thinking - and also his cool hand-drawn diagrams! This post ties to his earlier one on his Full Church Paradigm ( again with a diagram!) which I wrote about here.

It's about time we all realized that the message of the cross is not just how we get into the Kingdom but where and how we live in the Kingdom. The church is the community of the Cross. The Gospel of the Cross is not just a bridge we cross over but a bridge between heaven and earth where we live.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Todd Bentley Update

If you follow the news about the Lakeland Renewal, by now you've probably heard that Todd Bentley and his wife Shonnah have filed for legal separation in Canada. Details available here, here and here. I've got just five quick comments.

1. I hope everyone who promoted Todd as the next great preacher and this movement as the next great thing will stand by him as much in the pit as they did on the mountaintop. I hope those who publicly laid hands on him to assume responsibility for him will follow up on that commitment with prayer, counsel, love, compassion and loving rebuke where necessary. Let this be one case where the Church of Jesus Christ acts like Him and does not shoot our own wounded. Faults and all, Todd did accomplish some great things and I hope that after some down time and counsel he can be restored to more effective and long lasting ministry.

2. I hope those who have criticised Todd Bentley all along will resist the temptation to say "I told you so," and instead pray for him and his wife. If Todd is your brother, you are required to love him. If Todd is your enemy, you are commanded to pray for him. You don't have to agree with him or endorse him, but we all do have to love and pray for him.

3. This may demonstrate that something was wrong in Todd's marriage relationship, but it does not mean that God was not moving in his ministry and that the Lakeland meetings were phony. The Lord can touch hungry and thirsty people through fallible and sinful instruments (otherwise we are all up the creek without paddles).

4. I hope all of us who are married and in any form of ministry or Christian leadership will take this opportunity as a reminder that our marriages are more important than ministry, and foundational to any effectiveness in ministry, and consider the state of our own marriage. I, for one, am going to go home tonight and tell my wife how much I love and appreciate her.

5. Let's all pray for Todd and Shonnah, for the restoration of their marriage, for healing of broken hearts, and for God to bring good out of what the Devil means for evil. Jesus is large and in charge, and bigger than Todd's sins, my sins or yours.

(Some of my previous comments on Todd Bentley and Lakeland can be found here, here, and here.)

Following Christ or Traditions

Question: Am I following Jesus or following a religious tradition? Trevin Wax asks the question at Following Christ « Kingdom People
One of the greatest realizations a person can come to in the early stages of Christian faith is that Christ’s command to follow him means we should follow him and him alone. His call is one of unconditional surrender and total allegiance to his Name.

Yet, even in the name of Christ, we are often, even unknowingly, influenced to follow another master:
  • Religion may have us follow forms of tradition that we have grown comfortable with.
  • Churches may have us follow charismatic pastors and preachers and the teachers whose words and concepts tickle our ears.
  • Popular culture will court us to follow singers, glitzy stars, and the writers who entertain us.
  • Evangelicalism might want us to buy into the latest fad in the Christian subculture.
Yet, Jesus didn’t say, “Follow them”; he said quite clearly, “Follow me.” The true disciple puts his loyalty, not with a group or another human or a new idea, however good those things may be, but only with his master who has called him by name.

(Yes, I noticed the irony of posting this right after the previous one.)

Our Holy Days of Guilt and Obligation

The Internet Monk has discovered the official list of Baptist Holy Days of (Guilt and) Obligation. I grew up Baptist, but from my experience most of these seem to apply to all southerners and evangelicals in general:
With some help from the Internet Monk Research Division, I’ve found a list of Baptist Holy Days of Guilt and Obligation.

Now these aren’t necessarily days where we must go to church or risk a major sin. No, these are days that we are, as a matter of being Baptist, obligated to do something, which may include church. Or not.

Here they are:

* Opening night/day of high school/college football season. (Depends on proximity of school, relationships to players, etc. Should include tailgating if possible.)
* Mother’s Day. Obligated to go to church with mom and then take her out to a restaurant, which means standing in line at Cracker Barrel for about 2 hours.
* Any church potluck or meal.
* Any Sunday that starts a revival (or any Sunday that begins a 40 Days of Purpose if your church dumped revivals.)
* Any wedding of anyone in your family within 250 miles.
* Any funeral of anyone in your family within 70 miles.
* The opening of any “Christian Film” in a theater, especially if the movie is produced by a church using their actors and cameras, or stars Kirk Cameron.
* The opening and any 5 subsequent showings of “The Passion of the Christ II.”
* Any school board meeting where creationism will be discussed.
* Homecomings at any church you’ve ever attended, even once, within 300 miles.
* Opening week of any buffet or Barbecue restaurant.
* Any Christian music festival held in an open field in August when the temperature is over 105 degrees.
* You must go vote if any conservative is running for anything.
* You must vote if your town is having a “wet/dry” election.
* Ladies: Any Christian Women’s Conference within 500 miles.
* Men: Any Promise Keeper’s Meeting within 500 miles.
* Christmas and Easter.
* Any church sponsored Super Bowl event.
* Any meeting related to voting on a building.
* Any Vacation Bible School “Family Night.”
* Any event involving Bill Gaither Homecomings.
* Any event involving Rick Warren.
* Any Upward Championship game involving your kids.
* Any Olin Mills Church Directory photoshoot.
* Any church softball game against another Baptist church.
* Any youth group fundraisers for the mission trip.
* Any open question/answer with prospective pastors.
* Any church business meeting where there’s a chance of a big fight or someone getting fired.
* Any Billy Graham Crusade within 1000 miles.
Now you have it - the official list. I have to go get ready for football opening day.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

MySpace Prophesies?

From the Christian comedy/spoof site comes this gem: "MySpace gives pastor ‘prophetic’ edge" It's a joke, but I almost wonder how close to reality this is in some places and ministries.

PEORIA, Ariz. — Last Sunday, pastor Irwin Alton, 62, preached against several specific sins during his sermon. Some people in the audience gasped with recognition.

"When he talked about skipping mid-week service to go to the lake, and buying a new boat when you haven’t tithed, I felt nailed to my pew," said one man. "It was like the Holy Spirit was speaking right to me."

But it wasn’t the Holy Spirit — it was the man’s own blog where he had posted photos of himself and his buddies on his new boat on a Wednesday evening.

Pastor Alton, who cultivates a reputation as a computer illiterate techno-phobe, is actually an avid reader of MySpace pages, blogs and personal websites of the people in his congregation. "I appear, shall we say, un-hip," he says. "Therein lies my advantage."

Though he publicly refers to the Worldwide Web as the "Worldwide Waste" and e-mail as "sin-mail," in his home office is a bank of computer screens with more than 170 bookmarked sites — personal web pages, blogs, Twitter, MySpace, Facebook, LinkedIn, Digg, Flickr and more. Each week Alton surfs the sites for hours to find evidence of questionable behavior by people in his church. He jots offenses down and incorporates them into his Sunday sermons.

He even checks the blogs of friends of people in his church. That’s where he found photos of Emily Dotson, 31, at a local sports bar. During the service last week Alton paused mid-sermon to say, "Some of you have been visiting places you shouldn’t be seen in as a Christian, drinking establishments and the like." Emily was taken aback.

"He was speaking right to me," she says.

She came forward and repented for being at the sports bar, even though she’d been celebrating a girlfriend’s birthday.

"I knew I shouldn’t have lingered in that environment," Emily says. "I could have gone in, said hi and left."

When mentioning sinful behavior Alton sometimes intentionally gets small details wrong, or remains vague. "If I bat a thousand they might get suspicious," he says.

He never claims his messages are Holy Spirit-inspired, but many in the church believe they are.

"He’s right so often, it has to be God," says one man. "We all come to church because God is using Pastor Alton to address our particular situations. It’s phenomenal."

One family, the Bixbys, was tolerating their daughter’s college partying. Alton watched the girl’s MySpace for weeks before mentioning from the pulpit that "some parents need to get a lasso around their college-age children — and fast, before they do some real damage."

That week, the Bixbys called their daughter home to "re-establish patterns of good behavior." "We felt that if God was merciful enough to speak prophetically through our pastor like that, we should take action," says the father.

For his part, Alton has no problem not revealing his sources. "If they can’t make the connection between what I’m saying and what they’re putting on the Internet, then maybe God really is speaking to them," he says. "And they sure treat me with a lot more respect now."
Lark News is sort of a Christian copy of "The Onion." What makes their stuff so funny is that it is close enough to reality that you can almost recognize yourself and your church friends in so much of their material - to the point of "ouch!" I've never faked a prophecy, but the temptation to put on airs to look good in front of a congregation is a problem for anyone in church leadership. Ouch, indeed.

Monday, August 11, 2008

The Community of the Cross

I'm glad Trevin Max is back from his blogging vacation- he puts out such good stuff. For example: The Community of the Cross « Kingdom People quoting from Stanley Hauerwas and William H. Willimon, Resident Aliens: Life in the Christian Colony.
“The world, for all its beauty, is hostile to the truth. Witness without compromise leads to worldly hostility.

“The cross is not a sign of the church’s quiet, suffering submission to the powers-that-be, but rather the church’s revolutionary participation in the victory of Christ over those powers.

“The cross is not a symbol for general human suffering and oppression. Rather, the cross is a sign of what happens when one takes God’s account of reality more seriously than Caesar’s. The cross stands as God’s (and our) eternal no to the powers of death, as well as God’s eternal yes to humanity, God’s remarkable determination not to leave us to our own devices.

“The overriding political task of the church is to be the community of the cross.”

Mark Driscoll Conversation with Wayne Grudem

Mark Driscoll recently interviewed theologian Dr. Wayne Grudem at A Conversation with Wayne Grudem | TheResurgence
In my time with Dr. Grudem I asked him a few questions that I thought would be worth sharing. (I informed him that I would blog his answers to ensure that he was respected.) I asked him which doctrines he would encourage young Christian leaders to devote themselves to studying as they prepare for what potentially lies ahead theologically. He said that for such a weighty question he would prefer to thoughtfully craft an answer, but did give two recommendations in the moment:

1. Scripture — He said that every issue ultimately hinges on one’s view of the inerrancy, authority, and truthfulness of Scripture in every way. He encourages all young Christian leaders to make sure that deep within them is a love for and trust in every word of Scripture as God’s perfect revelation to us.

2. Authority — He said that he sees authority as a pervasive problem in our culture. As we talked, it became clear that what he meant is that people profess to be Christians yet refuse to submit to God’s authority, including Scripture, and people God has ordained to be in loving authority, such as godly parents and pastors.

He summarized his points by saying that he aspires for Christians to believe whatever God says and obey whatever God commands.

Grudem has written two of the best theological primers available today: Bible Doctrine and Systematic Theology. The first was one of my textbooks in the Vineyard Leadership Institute curriculum. The Gift of Prophecy in the New Testament and Today is also very good. I highly recommend Wayne Grudem's books.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Understanding Emergers

For good theological writing that is well-presented, shows respect for those with different opinions and convictions, and demonstrates insight and deep thinking, I recommend C. Michael Patton's Parchment and Pen.

He had a post up this past week called Will the Real Emerger Please Stand Up? on the subject of differences and distinctions within the Emerging Church movement. If the term is unfamiliar to you, follow the second link in the previous sentence. His diagrams I have copied above were especially helpful. The ranking in the diagram of various writers by name is his, not mine - so no letters or e-mail please.

If you are interested in this subject, you should read the whole article. A little lengthy (can be printed as a PDF File), but well worth the effort.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

A Little Frog-thusiasm

Hello my baby, hello my darling, .....please read my humble Blog!

Remembering "Jesus Music"

Bill at The Thinklings is remembering the "2nd Chapter of Acts." 2nd Chapter was one of the great pioneer groups in the early days of contemporary Christian music in the seventies. In those days it was known as "Jesus Music" arising out of the Jesus Movement. I saw this brother/sisters trio in concert back in 1977, again in 1979, and I recently rediscovered their concert recording from a west coast tour that year (along with guitar great Phil Keaggy) entitled "How the West Was One." What great music! What great memories!

Bill says:
There are a few moments in my life when music has directly impacted me. Included in these moments is the first time I heard the Beatles' Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and the first time I heard D.C. Talk's Jesus Freak.

I was reminded of another one of those moments tonight. I was on iTunes and decided to download some old 2nd Chapter of Acts songs. Many of you will never have heard of them, but they were one of the pioneering CCM bands of the 1970s.

I remember distinctly the first time I heard their song Last Day of My Life. I was not a believer at the time, but was at the home of some friends of my brother who were. They put the album (yes, vinyl :-) on and this is what I heard, in perfect a capella harmony:

If this was the very last day
of my life
I would not cry
'Cause I've been waiting for it
waiting for it

Instead I'm sure I'd jump for joy
and reach the sky
'Cause I've been dying for it
dying for it

This hit me square in the heart. Who are these people, I thought, who wouldn't be sad if this was their last day? This made no sense to me.

But I knew, somewhere deep down, that I wanted to be like them. I wanted to be like these young people who were singing - and excellently so - for joy.

And I found that, in the bridge of the song, they were also describing me.

And I know that you've tried
Every thing you've done
At least once or twice

And I know there's no joy
Left within you . . .

This moment, which happened about thirty years ago, was one of the impacts that started the kicking away of the supports I had put in my life "protecting" me from falling into the arms of Jesus. Thank God.

I'm listening to that song now, and I've got chills.

Listening to 2nd Chapter still gives me chills thirty years later also. (I also agree with him about Jesus Freak!). I would love to find digital versions of the great music from my younger days - Paul Clark, Larry Norman, Mustard Seed Faith, Love Song, The Way, Children of the Day, Terry Talbot, etc. I will always remember Jesus Music and what it meant to a young guy trying to express his joy in the Lord and to stand for Christ against the cultural tide.

For info on 2nd Chapter, music downloads, etc, here's their web page.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Apostolic Preaching

Also at "In the Clearing" this week, Bob quotes from a book by Dennis E. Johnson entitled Him We Proclaim- Dennis E. Johnson on Apostolic Preaching
There's a little nugget on page 331, where Johnson states that even when sermons are based on New Testament passages, they are not necessarily "apostolic." He defines that term with these four elements:

* Christ-centered
* attentive to redemptive history
* grace-driven
* missiologically articulated

I suspect that those four descriptors, taken together, make for about as perfect a definition of real preaching as one will ever find.
I think it will be a goal for me to preach like that every chance I get behind a pulpit. I may have to read this book.

Itching Ears Report

Earlier this week Bob at In the Clearing posted this Itching Ears Report.
This quote from Lee Grady, editor of Charisma, is in the That's-What-I'm-Talkin-About category:

A prophet stays biblical. So much of what is passed off as prophecy today resembles what you might find in a daily horoscope. The so-called “prophetic movement” in the contemporary church has been tainted by silly fads and charismatic witchcraft. One prophetic e-mail list sent out a word recently saying that dormant angels were being awakened out of the walls of our churches. (That’s not remotely scriptural.) Another predicted that God would begin to speak to people through the names of candy bars and blue jeans.

So much of our prophetic verbiage sounds like warm and fuzzy fortunetelling. This type of “imitation prophecy” can titillate and thrill those with itching ears, but it is pablum designed for babies who don’t want to grow up. What we need is a word we can sink our teeth into—true meat that is the Word of God.

Well, somebody had to say it.
Yeah, somebody needed to say it, and J. Lee Grady is just the guy to do so.

Many years ago now I heard a speaker who was known as a prophet. I'm not gong to give his name; I do think he was and is prophetic, but he also taught clearly from the Scriptures. After his sermon, a woman approached him begging him for a personal word from the Lord. He asked her if she had a Bible. Taking her Bible, he looked at it, then handed it back to her saying; "here is your Word from the Lord." That's keeping the priorities straight.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

What Makes us Charismatic?

UK blogger David Matthias (how do I find these things!) writes about a message he heard that changed his life. The topic was the work of the Holy Spirit. Read it at The Road to "Elder" ado: Sermons that changed my life NUMBER 3. (Love the name of his blog, by the way). He lists some very good questions about the direction of the Charismatic movement and the role of spiritual gifts in church meetings.
- Are we "charismatic" because we have a "contemporary style" or because the "charismata" are present? Is it guitars and PA systems or spiritual gifts that really express the presence of God.

- Are "prophecies" and "words of knowledge" becoming just too fluffy and huggy to bring about any real consequence? God does love and care for us - wonderful - but what about stuff that is more directional, more challenging, even rebuking. Why is that becoming rare?

- Is the full weight of the bible behind the words given? Could we aim for more public reading of scripture as God puts in on our hearts?

- Where are tongues and interpretations? Paul gives instructions for when there are many at one time, not irregular and from the same people every time.

- Do we "perform" worship or do we sing out psalms, hymns and spiritual songs? That is a question for the congregation as much as the worship band. Is it too prescribed, too closed?

- Is the way we "do" worship times too restrictive? When is the last time someone other than a worship leader has started a new song? How can we all be more deeply involved in shaping the time of worship?

- Has our worship become so focussed on "music" that there is less room for other forms of expression?
These are some very good questions, worth considerable thought.
I guess the underlying question is this: Has the thirty five minutes of 1970s "soft rock" songs that so defines many charismatic churches actually become a blockage to the work of the spirit in our meetings? Has the very thing the "new wineskin" of the charismatic movement sought to redefine itself from actually re-occurred but just in a more contemporary way? Are we charismatic because we sing Matt Redman or because we exercise spiritual gifts?
As Matt Redman himself said, "Lord, Take me back to the heart of worship, where it's all about you! I'm sorry Lord for the thing I've made it."

Another Lakeland Report

The "Heat and Light" blogger visited the Lakeland Revival and reports his experience at The Lakeland “Outpouring”: I have gone, and these are my thoughts Excerpt below:
Then came the prayer time. I was very pleasantly surprised to discover that - at least on the nights I attended - though Todd Bentley was present and involved, it was clearly NOT the ‘Todd Bentley show’, as I had originally feared. Maybe in that way that cameras of GodTV have actually misrepresented Lakeland, since he is so captivating - he has such a strong presence. The stage was filled with various volunteers and pastors ministering, speaking, and praying - there was a significant team actively involved, and most of the time I was barely even aware of Bentley. I was very blessed that even the most extreme cases were welcomed to the stage for prayer, and when some of these individuals stood there in need for a touch from God, my heart broke, and I have not petitioned God with such passion in very long-time. I was face-to-face with a Holy, and powerful God, begging Him to intercede - to show His power, and in such an atmosphere of faith it was not hard to be convinced that God can do whatever He wills. Tears well up in my eyes even thinking about it.
.....Personally, I am glad I went. You can proceed to pick your jaw up off the floor now.

Though I still don’t think it’s necessarily Scriptural to chase revivals, I will be praying for Todd more, and criticizing Him far less from now on.
We'd all do better with more prayer and less criticism.