Tuesday, August 31, 2010

"Introverts in the Church" - Free Book Giveaway

 All you have to do to get my attention is say "free book" -

Introverts in the Church Giveaway Today @ Ron Edmondson:

He has this introverted blogger's attention.

Using Facebook for Ministry

Interesting article by Tim Chailles- How (And How Not) To Use Facebook for Ministry
Facebook. In so many areas of life it’s no longer an if, no longer an option. With 500 million users it is quickly becoming a near-essential tool for families, for businesses and yes, even for churches.
The good news is that Facebook has a lot to commend it; there many things it does very well and thus there are many ways in which Facebook can assist pastors and other ministry leaders. The bad news is that there are also (and inevitably) ways in which it can hinder ministry if not used well....
Read it all at the link above. There is a lot of good material and wise counsel for pastors or other church leaders in the article.

And his concluding comment is priceless!

Don’t Play Farmville

Just don’t. It’s stupid and it will make you stupid.


If You Enjoyed the Tim Keller Quotes...

If you have enjoyed and profited by the quotes from Tim Keller's book Gospel in Life: Grace Changes Everything, which I have been posting the past week or so, you might also check out the following books and web pages.

The Reason For God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism

The Prodigal God: Recovering the Heart of the Christian Faith

Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex and Power, and the Only Hope that Matters

Redeemer Presbyterian Church's web page

Reformissionary's Tim Keller Resources Page
New York Magazine Profile on Tim Keller and Redeemer Church
Redeemer Presbyterian Church: Why Is It Thriving? - Mark D. Roberts

Give Me the Strength to Be Weak

“Contrary to cultural opinion, it’s okay to admit that you’re weak, God’s grace is sufficient, but it’s not okay to fake strength!”

           - Paul David Tripp, Twitter post
Hat Tip: Of First Importance

This quote reminded me of the words to an old song called Give Me the Strength to Be Weak, recorded by Pam Mark Hall way back in 1980.
Most people hide from their weakness
And pretend they just never do wrong
But I'm beginning to see as you are working in me
When I am weak then you are strong

So give me the strength
Lord, won't you give me the strength
Give me the strength to be weak
Maybe others will see that You're working in me
So give me the strength to be weak

Monday, August 30, 2010

The Same Way

“We become Christians by faith in Jesus, we stay Christians by faith in Jesus, and we grow as Christians by faith in Jesus.”

- Tim Chester, You Can Change (Wheaton, Ill.; Crossway, 2010), 43-44.

Hat Tip:  Of First Importance

Sunday, August 29, 2010

If You Have Enjoyed the Tullian Tchividjian Quotes...

If you have enjoyed the quotes  from Tullian Tchividjian's book Surprised By Grace which I have been posting during the past week, you might also enjoy his other books.

Do I Know God: Finding Certainty in Life's Most Important Relationship

Unfashionable: Making A Difference In the World by Being Different

Pastor Tullian blogs at On Earth as It is in Heaven, hosted by the Gospel Coalition. His blog bio describes him as follows:
William Graham Tullian Tchividjian (pronounced cha-vi-jin) is the Senior Pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. A Florida native, he is a visiting professor of theology at Reformed Theological Seminary and a grandson of Billy and Ruth Graham. Tullian was the founding pastor of the former New City Church which merged with Coral Ridge in April of 2009.

Pointers to What We Really Long For

"...all our desires for acceptance are really just pointers to what we really long for.  They point to the one place, the one person, where we find real acceptance that can be experienced forever.

If you are a Christian, you're forever, unchangeably accepted by God, the only one who matters.  When we grasp this, we realize that all those other things where we've searched for acceptance ultimately don't matter.They were never intended to be our saviors, our source of significance.  They're too limited.  All gods but God are too small."

      - Tullian Tchividjian, Surprised by Grace, page 158

Saturday, August 28, 2010

The Steel Behind the Cutting Edge

A while back I mentioned a book on the doctrine of the Trinity that I was interested in reading called The Deep Things of God: How the Trinity Changes Everything, by Fred Sanders.

I saw a blog post by Justin Taylor on Friday entitled How Emphatic Evangelicalism Becomes Reductionist Evangelicalism which had quotes from that book.  Justin's point is that emphasis of certain cardinal points of Christian Theology for simplicity's sake,without an understanding of the complete Biblical background, can be unintentionally misleading. In his words,  "emphasis,.. can quickly become reductionism." Then he uses the doctrine of the Trinity as an example of his point.

The relevant quotes from Sanders' book are:
When emphatic evangelicalism degenerates into reductionist evangelicalism, it is always because it has lost touch with the all-encompassing truth of its Trinitarian theology....
...What is needed is not a change of emphasis but a restoration of the background, of the big picture from which the emphasized elements have been selected....
...A blade is not all cutting edge. In fact, the cutting edge is the smallest part of the knife. The rest of the knife is the heavy heft of the broad, flat sides and the handle. Considered all by itself, the cutting edge is vanishingly small—a geometric concept instead of a useable object. Isolated from the great storehouse of all Christian truth, reductionist evangelicalism is a vanishingly small thing. It came from emphatic evangelicalism, and it must return to being emphatic evangelicalism or vanish to nothing....
...[The doctrine of the Trinity] constitutes the hefty, solid steel behind the cutting edge. We do not need to use the T-word in evangelism or proclaim everything about the threeness and oneness of God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in every sermon. But the Trinity belongs to the necessary presuppositions of the gospel.
                  From pp. 15-19 of The Deep Things of God.

Now I really want to read this book!

God-Centered Repentance

“There are two different ways to go about repentance – religious repentance and gospel repentance.  In ‘religion,’ the purpose of repentance is basically to keep God happy so he will continue to bless us and answer our prayers.  So, in religion we are sorry for sin only because of its consequences.  Sin will bring us punishment – and we want to avoid that, so we repent.

The gospel, however, tells us that as Christians sin can’t ultimately bring us into condemnation (Rom 8:1). Its heinousness is therefore what it does to God; it displeases and dishonors him.  Thus in religion, repentance is self-centered; the gospel makes it God centered.  In religion we are mainly sorry for the consequences of sin, but in the gospel we are sorry for the sin itself.”

Friday, August 27, 2010

What If Acts Chapter Two Was Written Today?

From: The Blazing Center » If Acts Was Written Today

And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. (Acts 2:44–47)

And all who believed joined the same Facebook group and freely shared their status updates with one another. And they were selling their Farmville property and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, listening to online sermons and posting inspirational quotes on Twitter, they drank their Starbuck’s with glad (LOL!) and generous hearts, praising God and getting lots of “likes”. And they got more and more followers every day.

The Way We Make Spiritual Progress

"Martin Luther set off the Reformation by nailing the 'Ninety-five Theses' to the door of Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. The very first of the theses stated that 'our Lord and Master Jesus Christ...willed that the whole life of believers should be repentance.'

On the surface this looks a little bleak. Luther seems to be saying Christians will never make much progress in life.  That, of course, wasn't Luther's point at all.  He was saying that repentance is the way we make progress in the Christian life.  Indeed, pervasive all-of-life-repentance is the best sign that we are growing deeply and rapidly into the character of Jesus."

    - Tim Keller, Gospel in Life: Grace Changes Everything, page 28.

(There are gems like this on every page of this book!)

He is More Interested in You Than In What You Do

"God is more interested in the worker than he is in the work the worker does.  He's more interested in you than in what you can accomplish.... And one expression of God's amazing grace is that he pursues our rescue even though we cannot do one thing for him.  God doesn't need you and me to increase his value and esteem.  In and of himself he is already of infinite value and worth.  The reason he seeks sinners, saves sinners, and sends sinners like Jonah (and like you and me) is that God loves sinners."

   - Tullian Tchividjian, Surprised By Grace, page 89

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Escaping the Performance Treadmill

"That’s why we need to intentionally bathe our minds and hearts in the gospel every day. Remember, we need the gospel not only as a door into an initial saving relationship with Christ, but also . . . to keep our daily lives from becoming a performance treadmill. As we rely on Christ’s righteousness in this manner, far from leading to a license to sin, it actually motivates us to deal with the sin we see in our lives."

–Jerry Bridges and Bob Bevington, The Bookends of the Christian Life (Crossway 2009), 39-40

HT: Dane Ortlund and  Already Not Yet

Antidote to Neediness

"The gospel, if it is really believed, removes neediness - the need to be constantly respected, appreciated, and well regarded; the need to have everything in your life go well; the need to have power over others.  All of these great, deep needs continue to control you only because the concept of the glorious God delighting in you with all of his being is just that - a concept and nothing more.  Our hearts don't believe it, so they operate in default mode,  Paul is saying that if you want to really change, you must let the gospel teach you - that is to train, discipline, coach you - over a period of time. You must let the gospel argue with you.  You must let the gospel sink down deeply into your heart, until it changes your motivation and views and attitudes."

   - Tim Keller, Gospel In Life, pages 26-27, commenting on Titus 2:11-15

Open Arms

"When those who've fled from him are finally turned around, God always welcomes them back.   The cross is God's greatest statements of that.  He always welcomes - with open arms - those who realize that their only hope is to turn from themselves and race toward him."

    - Tullian Tchividjian, Surprised By Grace, page 84

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Dead People Alive

"Only the gospel can truly save you.  The gospel doesn't make bad people good; it makes dead people alive.  That's the different between the gospel of Jesus Christ and every other world religion. All the others exhort their followers to save themselves by being good, by conforming their lives to whatever their worshipped deity is.  But the gospel is God's acceptance of us based on what Christ has done, not on what we can do."

   - Tullian Tchividjian, Surprised By Grace, page 56 (italics in the original)

Escaping Default Mode

"Christians who know the gospel in principle and who have been changed by it nevertheless continually revert to works-righteousness and self-salvation in a myriad of subtle and not so subtle ways. A basic insight of Martin Luther's was that 'religion' is the default mode of the human heart.  Your computer operates automatically in default mode unless you deliberately tell it to do something else.  Luther says that even after you are converted by the gospel, your heart will go back to operating on the religious principle unless you deliberately, repeatedly set it to gospel-mode.  This then is the basic cause of our spiritual conflict, lack of joy, and ministry ineffectiveness.  We believe the gospel at one level, but at deeper levels we continue to operate as if we are saved by our works."

    - Tim Keller, Gospel in Life: Grace Changes Everything, pages 18-19

(Have I mentioned lately that I love this book?)

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Reports of Muslims Coming to Christ at Historic Rates: Many From Dreams and Visions of Jesus

From an article in Charisma Magazine by Sarah Stegall- Evangelists Say Muslims Coming to Christ at Historic Rate:
Christians ministering quietly in the Middle East say Muslims are coming to Christ at an unprecedented pace despite intense persecution of those who leave Islam.

"Probably in the last 10 years, more Muslims have come to faith in Christ than in the last 15 centuries of Islam," said Tom Doyle, Middle East-Central Asia director for e3 Partners, a Texas-based missions agency.
A former pastor, Doyle has been to the Middle East around 80 times and last week returned to the U.S. from a trip to Jerusalem, where he said both Muslims and Jews are turning to Christianity.

Earlier this month, more than 200 former Muslims were baptized during a training conference in Europe led by Iran-born evangelist Lazarus Yeghnazar. Brenda Ajamian, a former missionary to the Middle East who partners with Yeghnazar's 222 Ministries International, said the event was unlike anything she'd seen during her years ministering in Egypt, Lebanon and Jordan....

...But many Muslim-background believers have said they came to Christ after having dreams and visions of Jesus.

"I can't tell you how many Muslims I've met who say: ‘I was content. I was a Muslim, and all of a sudden I get this dream about Jesus and He loved me and said come follow Me," Doyle said.

Doyle notes that the supernatural is an important part of the Islamic faith. Through the course of his life, Mohammed claimed to have had visions and encounters, particularly of the angel Gabriel.

"God is going into their context," said Doyle. But instead of finding guidance from Allah, Muslims are finding Jesus.

Hat Tip:  Charismatica

Mugged By God

"Among the helpful lessons Jonah's story offers at this point is the obvious one: you can't outrun God. It's futile to try. it's impossible to outpace his pursuing affection... God's love has a mugging nature to it.  We can run, but we can't hide."

   - Tulian Tchividjian, Surprised by Grace, pages 50-51 (Italics in the original)

The Future of CCM - A Dying Industry?

Interesting article by Shawn David Young at Patheos -The Future of Contemporary Christian Music. His conclusions are:
Many young Christian musicians now avoid being pigeonholed by the CCM category. As inheritors of the culture war, these are skeptical persons of faith (if even evangelical) who hope to offer their own voice in the midst of millions -- though not confined by what are viewed as the trappings of an industry built on false dualism and money.

CCM was once needed as young Jesus freaks set out to change the world -- one that would not offer them record contracts. The result was a parallel universe that has outlived its reason for being. In the end, the future of CCM is linked to the future of two monoliths: the music industry and evangelicalism. What we see developing are nascent models of artistic expression (inspired by faith) that may very well be classified by style and not worldview.

Comprehend Fully, Live Deeper

"..the spiritual poverty of so much of our Christian experience is the result of inadequate understanding of the gospel's depth.  The answer isn't to try harder in the Christian life but to comprehend more fully and clearly Christ's incredible work on the cross, and then to live in a more vital awareness of that grace day by day.  The main problem in the Christian life, in other words, is not that we don't try hard enough to be good.  It's that we haven't though out the deep implications of the gospel and applied its powerful reality to all parts of our life."

- Tullian Tchivijian, Surprised By Grace, page 17

Calling All You Introverts

There is a book I've been wanting to read called Introverts in the Church ('cause I is one). Therefore, I loved this humorous list.
Top 10 Rejected Titles for Introverts in the Church:
10. The Purpose Driven Introvert
9. Introverts in the Shack
8. Girl Meets Introvert, and Keeps Looking
7. Eat Pray Introvert
6. I Kissed Introverts Goodbye
5. Good to Introvert
4. Blue Like Introverts
3. Three Cups of Tea...By Myself
2. The Life You've Never Wanted
1. We Wish to Inform You that Tomorrow You Will be Killed with the Rest of the Introverts
Some Alternates:
The Secret of Introverts
If You Want to Walk on Water, You've Got to Step on an Introvert
One commentor's suggestion: Left Behind...And Happy About It
Funny list!

From:  Introverted Church: Top 10 Rejected Titles

Monday, August 23, 2010

At the Center is a Cross

“In the center of the kingdom of God, you do not find a gargantuan palace inhabited by an unapproachable king. No, in the center of the kingdom of God is a bloody cross, on which hung a broken King, who welcomes us as we are.”

             - Paul David Tripp, A Quest for More (Greensboro, NC; New Growth Press, 2007), 158

Hat Tip: Of First Importance

Doing It Deep

..Deep repentance, that is.
"To become a Christian is, therefore, first to admit the problem: that we have been substituting ourselves for God either by religion (trying to be our own savior by obedience to God's law) or by irreligion (trying to be our own lord by disobedience to God's law).  This means we change not so much the amount but the depth of our repentance.  We have to "repent," but the repentance that receives Christ is not just being sorry for specific sins.  It is not less than that, but it is more. 'Saving repentance' is also admitting our effort of self-salvation, our effort at trying to be our own savior."

     -Tim Keller, Gospel in Life: Grace Changes Everything, page17

More Lost Than Imagined, More Accepted Than We Dared Hope

"...all our problems in life stem from our failure to apply the gospel.  This means we can't really move forward unless we learn more thoroughly the gospel's content and how to apply it to all of life.  Real change does not and cannot come independently of the gospel, which is the good news that even though we're more defective and lost than we ever imagined, we can be more accepted and loved than we ever dared hope, because Jesus Christ lived, died, and rose again for sinners like you and me. God intends this reality to mold and shape us at every point and in every way.  It should define the way we think, feel, and love."

       -Tulliam Tchividjian, Surprised by Grace, pages 16-17 (emphasis mine)

Sunday, August 22, 2010

A Present Place of Subjective Execution

"The gospel isn't simply a set of truths that non-Christians must believe in order to become saved,  It's a reality that Christians must daily embrace in order to experience being saved. The gospel not only saves us from the penalty of sin (justification), but it also saves us from the power of sin (sanctification) day by day.  Or, as I once heard John Piper say, 'The cross is not only a past place of objective substitution; it is a present place of subjective execution.'  Our daily sin requires God's daily grace - the grace that comes to us through the finished work of Jesus Christ."

- Tullian Tchividjian, Surprised by Grace, page 154

Overlapping Themes of Grace

I've been reading two books this past week - with some overlapping themes.

Surprised by Grace: God's Relentless Pursuit of Rebels, by Tullian Tchividjian. I just finished this book by Billy Graham's grandson, who is also the successor to D. James Kennedy at Coral Ridge Presbyterian in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida,  This is an exploration of the grace of God as shown in the Old Testament Book of Jonah. I've never read or heard any material on Jonah that made the book relevant like this, or that integrated it with the entire Bible and especially Jesus' message of grace.  I was highlighting on almost every page.

Gospel in Life: Grace Changes Everything, by Tim Keller.  I just started this one, which is not really a book, but a study guide to go along with the video series by the same name produced by Keller's Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City. It explores some of the same themes as Keller's first three books, but does have some original material (including some wonderful illustrative charts!). He also has some great Luther and Calving quotes. If anyone has seen the video series I would love to hear your comments. I posted some quotes from this book yesterday.

What overlapping themes, you ask?

Grace:  God's grace and mercy are bigger than our sin and moral rebellion- big enough to encompass a wicked city like Ninevah and a sinful man like Jonah (or me). "..for I knew that you are a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.." (Jonah 4:2)

Idolatry:  The human heart is an idol factory, constantly manufacturing false saviors as sources for fulfillment, purpose and identity. The Gospel confronts all idols with the message that salvation is of the Lord.  "Those who pay regard to vain idols forsake their hop of steadfast love." (Jonah 2:8)

Repentance:  Biblical repentance founded in the gospel of mercy and grace is not just turning from sins, but from sin - rejecting all self-salvation schemes and false savior idols and throwing oneself on Christ and His work alone. "Salvation belongs to the Lord" (Jonah 2:9)

Jesus:  I am a great sinner, but He is a great Savior!

I am not doing either book justice with this summary.  Expect a lot of quotes from each book in the coming days to illustrate these themes better than my humble words can. Oh, and in case I haven't made myself clear, I really recommend these two books! 

The Faith as Explained to a First Century Pagan

How did the early Christians see themselves and describe themselves?

This quote is from The Epistle to Diognetus, a little known piece of early Christian literature written to a high-ranking pagan, Diognetus.
“Christians are not distinguished from the rest of humanity by country, language, or custom. For nowhere do they live in cities of their own, nor do they speak some unusual dialect, nor do they practice an eccentric lifestyle….While they live in both Greek and barbarian cities, as each one’s lot was cast, and follow the local customs in dress and food and other aspects of life, at the same time they demonstrate the remarkable and admittedly unusual character of their own citizenship.
They live in their own countries, but only as aliens; they participate in everything as citizens, and endure everything as foreigners. Every foreign country is their fatherland, and every fatherland is foreign. They marry like everyone else, and have children, but they do not expose their offspring. They share their food but not their wives. They are `in the flesh,’ but do not live `according to the flesh.’ They live on earth, but their citizenship is in heaven. They obey the established laws; indeed in their private lives they transcend the laws.
They love everyone, and by everyone they are persecuted. They are unknown, yet they are condemned; they are put to death, yet they are brought to life. They are poor, yet they make many rich; they are in need of everything, yet they abound in everything. They are dishonored, yet they are glorified in their dishonor; they are slandered, yet they are vindicated. They are cursed, yet they bless; they are insulted, yet they offer respect. When they do good, they are punished as evildoers; when they are punished, they rejoice as though brought to life….Those who hate them are unable to give a reason for their hostility…”
If we still believed like this, lived like this and acted like this, perhaps we would have the same world-changing results that they had.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

What Do You Repent Of?

"The religious only repent of sins. The irreligious don't repent at all. Christians, however, repent of both their sins and of their self-righteousness."

Tim Keller, Gospel in Life: Grace Changes Everything, page 15

Three Ways to Relate to God

"People tend to think there are two ways to relate to God - to follow him and do his will or to reject him and do your own thing - but there are also two ways to reject God as Savior.  One is the way already mentioned: by rejecting God's law and living as you see fit.  The other, however, is by obeying God's Law, by being really righteous and really moral, so as to earn your own salvation.  It is not enough to simply think there are two ways to relate to God.  There are three: religion, irreligion, and the gospel.

In 'religion,' people may look to God as their helper, teacher, and example, but their moral performance is serving as their savior.  Both religious and irreligious people are avoiding God as Savior and Lord.  Both are seeking to keep control of their own lives by looking to something besides God as their salvation.  Religious legalism/moralism and secular/irreligious relativism are just different strategies of 'self-salvation.'"

           - Tim Keller, Gospel in Life: Grace Changes Everything, page 15

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Forget about God’s Will for Your Life?

Are you seeking God's ultimate destiny for your life? Ever asked yourself if that search is fruitless, or even if it is what you are supposed to be doing?  Or maybe we should Forget about God’s will for your life!
“I think a lot of us need to forget about God’s will for my life. God cares more about our response to his Spirit’s leading today, in this moment, than about what we intend to do next year. In fact, the decisions we make next year will be profoundly affected by the degree to which we submit to the Spirit right now, in today’s decisions. It is easy to use the phrase ‘God’s will for my life’ as an excuse for inaction or even disobedience. It’s much less demanding to think about God’s will for your future than it is to ask Him what He wants you to do in the next ten minutes. It’s safer to commit to following him someday instead of this day. To be honest I believe part of the desire to ‘know God’s will for my life’ is birthed in fear and results in paralysis.” (120)

God wants to listen to his Spirit on a daily basis, and even throughout the day, as difficult and as stretching moments arise, and in the midst of the mundane. My hope is that instead of searching for ‘God’s will for my life,’ each of us would learn to seek hard after ‘the Spirit’s leading in my life today.’” (120)

“The Spirit who raised Christ from the dead is not someone we can just call on when we want a little extra power in our lives. Jesus Christ did not die in order to follow us. He died and rose again so that we could forget everything else and follow him to the cross, to true Life.” (122)
Quotes from Forgotten God: Reversing Our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit by Francis Chan

What do you think?

See also Seeking an Unmessianic Sense of Non-Destiny

The Deep Things

This sounds like a book I will want to read - The Deep Things of God: How the Trinity Changes Everything by Fred Sanders. Andrew Farris did An Interview with Fred Sanders on The Deep Things of God  - excerpts below:
What is the main point of The Deep Things of God?
The main point is that the gospel is trinitarian, and the Trinity is the gospel. That is, the things that Christians already know and experience as the core of their lives in Christ, those are the things that make the Trinity make sense. I spend time unpacking salvation, Bible study, and prayer to show what’s trinitarian about them.

Who are you hoping will read it?
It’s for evangelical Christians, and I’m hoping to re-introduce them to themselves. This interdenominational movement, this strange family of believers that has named itself after the gospel (the evangel), has been a rich source of trinitarian life and thought. In this book, I call forward as many evangelical witnesses as I can to the deep trinitarianism that has animated the movement. Other Christians, believers who aren’t evangelical Protestants, are welcome to read it as well, but they need to know that they’re listening in to a discussion for evangelicals.

I suspect you get into this in the book, but what are some ways that today’s churches can be more explicitly Trinitarian?
Well, the key word is “explicitly,” because my argument is that we’re already very trinitarian, implicitly. So the first step is to do nothing, just reflect on the trinitarian character of our salvation, our Christian lives, our fellowship. That should give rise to an insight about the character of God as the Father, Son, and Spirit who saves us in this way. From there, I think a whole new dimension of depth opens up that enriches all the things we are already doing. It only takes a little bit of work to sensitize a congregation to the reality of the Trinity, and once they’ve got the clue, they start to see the three persons all around them: passages of Scripture that used to seem to be talking about “God in general” now come alive with trinitarian specificity. A prayer that starts out with a vague calling on “God” is transformed into a prayer to the Father in the name of the Son by the power of the Holy Spirit. In this book, I really do concentrate on drawing back the curtain and showing what’s already trinitarian about life in the gospel, and I leave out the practical suggestions for how to improve. That may be naive, or I might not be the right person to write the very practical “what to do in church this Sunday” book, but the message to the evangelical church is to be who we are. We’re too trinitarian to let ourselves be un-trinitarian.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

To Outlive the Universe

"The structural position in the church which the humblest Christian occupies is eternal and even cosmic.  The church will outlive the universe; in it the individual person will outlive the universe. Everything that is joined to the immortal Head will share his immortality...As mere biological entities, each with its separate will to live and to expand, we are apparently of no account; we are cross-fodder. But as organs in the Body of Christ, as stones and pillars in the temple, we are assured of our eternal self identity and shall live to remember the galaxies as an old tale."

- C. S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses.

(If you can read this quote without falling down in worship, then something is wrong with you!)

Living for Something Thicker

"Daily Christian living means daily Christian dying- dying to our fascination with the sizzle of this world and living for something bigger, something thicker, something eternal."

 - Tulliam Tchividjian, Unfashionable, page 19

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Where Do You Wear Your Belt of Truth ?

Where do you wear your Ephesians 6: 14 "Belt of Truth"?

From: Belts of Truth - The Sacred Sandwich

Serious Preaching- Serious Worship

Love these comments from Trevin Wax on the Theology of Worship - Steak on a Paper Plate: A Reflection on Worship
When it comes to worship, we are frequently told that form doesn’t matter. Style is not what’s important. I get that. I’m not downing contemporary music or advocating a return to liturgy, organs and hymns. I’ve been in contemporary worship services that have put me on my knees before the holiness and majesty of God. Cultural forms adjust and adapt.

But in worship today, there is a tendency toward casualness. The emphasis on feeling God’s closeness in worship may short-circuit the possibility of being transformed by a glimpse of the Transcendent One. There’s hardly any room for feeling awe in worship, and I can’t help but think that part of our problem is the form.
Form and content mirror one another. A church with serious Bible preaching is going to have a serious worship service (contemporary or traditional isn’t what matters, but serious it will be). A church with a feel-good preacher is going to have peppy, feel-good music.

Christians need to sense the weight of God’s glory, the truths of God’s Word, the reality of coming judgment, and the gloriousness of God’s grace. Trying to package the bigness of this God into most casual worship services is like trying to eat steak on a paper plate. You can do it for awhile, but at some point, people will start saying, “I want a dish.”
 I want to emphasize again something he said:  The issue is not contemporary vs traditional styles or music. The issue is not even formal vs. casual dress or atmosphere.The issue is whether a "worship service" is God centered or people centered. Do the songs focus most on our feelings, or on God's nature and actions? Who is the center of the service?

Those are the important questions.

Update on 8/18/10 - "Vitamin Z"'s helpful comments on the original post

More Piper on Spiritual Gifts: How Should Miraculous Gifts Be Used in the Church?

In follow up to this post from last Saturday, here's more from John Piper on Spiritual Gifts - How Should Miraculous Gifts Be Used in the Church? 
I'm amazed by these comments and his openness to the gifts of the Spirit!  Guess I didn't know as much about Piper's beliefs and practices as I thought I did.

Where would you say the place for gifts like tongues, healing and prophecy is in the life of the church today?

I will tell you what I do, whether it is the right thing or not. I'm not going to die on this hill, but I will tell you what I do.

I think that these kind of gifts are most effectively and appropriately ministered in smaller groups rather than on Sunday morning. Sunday morning meaning the large gathered body of lots of people with lots of strangers and the need for some kind of movement in the service, rather than the whole thing being devoted to individual expressions.

So when I think of trying to do whatever elements of 1 Corinthians 12:13-14 are appropriate for today, I would want my people to know that I believe in those things and that I want them to flourish in those things.
I think that we should, spontaneously in relationships and especially in smaller groups, take the time to ask people, "Did you bring anything from the Lord tonight that you think we need to hear?" You could use whatever language you want. You could say, "Do you have a word of knowledge for us. Do you have a word of prophecy?" And If you are scared to use that kind of language you could say, "Has God impressed upon you in some way something that you think another person in this room, or all of us, need to hear from your walk with God?" And open yourself up to that.

Someone might say something that just penetrates right through to the core of another person. Or maybe they will minister a healing, or whatever. So, that is my answer.

Now I know that there are groups today—reformed groups—that try to fold certain prophetic elements into Sunday morning. They have a little microphone at the front where people can come up, and they have an elder or two standing there. The words that people want to share are first tested by one of the elders who judge whether the Scripture they are going to read or the poem they are going to read or the word they are going to deliver is appropriate. And while there is music playing in the background, during the interlude in between songs, the person can give whatever they are going to give at the microphone in front. And where this is done I've seen it done with decency and order the way Paul would like. But we've never gone that route at Bethlehem.
 At the link aboe there is video of him saying this.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Warning Against the Idol of Theological Pride

I agree with (and am challenged by) Rick Ianniello's warning in his post heads-up to prideful calvinists:
Dustin Neeley wrote a great piece entitled Justification by Theology. In it he reminds us that Satan can deceive us by helping us fall more in love with our theological systems than with our Savior. For us Calvinists, here are some warning signs, the root cause of which is not new at all, it's pride.
  • If there is a disagreement, we defend Calvinism before we seek unity in the Gospel.
  • When asked to describe our theology, we define ourselves as a Calvinist more quickly than as a Christian.
  • And perhaps the worst of all...when our hearts are more captivated by the points of TULIP than with the person and work of Jesus.
Why do we fall for it? Many reasons but the cure is the same:
  • Repent of theological idolatry
  • Believe the gospel is enough
  • Be on guard in the future (1 Cor 8.1 and therefore engage the humility of Christ in Philippians 2)
Thanks for the warning, Rick! As Dustin Neely said at the source post:
While theology is a great thing, it is not an ultimate thing. It is a means to an end to know God and make him known. In what ways have you made it an ultimate thing? Confess them to God. Claim gospel promises. Ask God to help you not make a means an end.