Monday, June 30, 2014




Covenant Friendship

From J. Lee Grady - 6 Qualities of A True Covenant Friend. May the Lord grant us more such relationships!

How many covenant friendships do you have? 
The Bible says Christians should experience deep connections with each other because we share the same indwelling Holy Spirit. In fact, the Greek word for fellowship, as used in Acts 2:42, is koinonia, which implies intimate communion and selfless sharing.
Yet as I travel and meet Christians all over the country, I find that the church today is actually a very lonely place. Many people have experienced a total relationship shutdown. Some have walked through painful church splits, others have been betrayed by friends they trusted, and still others have closed their hearts entirely to avoid being hurt. As a result, koinonia becomes a fancy theological word for something they will never experience.
It's as if we forgot how to have true friends. I've even met pastors who've told me they just can't risk building friendships. So they live in isolation. They bear their own burdens. They get no encouragement. Some end up in depression. Something is wrong with this picture!
Recently the Holy Spirit drew me to study the friendship that developed between David and Jonathan during David's early years. It is clear from the biblical record that God put Jonathan in David's life at a crucial time in his journey to the throne. And if it were not for Jonathan's covenant relationship with his friend, David would never have been able to overcome the obstacles he faced during the reign of King Saul.
The same is true for all of us. You will never achieve your maximum spiritual potential without the help of those key relationships God places around you. Yet in order to benefit from these friendships you must open your heart and take the risk of being a friend.
How can you move from being isolated to developing close friendships? Proverbs 18:24 says: "A man who has friends must himself be friendly" (NKJV). You can't wait for a friend to reach out to you. Take the first step and be willing to break the stalemate. British preacher Charles Spurgeon put it this way: "Any man can selfishly desire to have a Jonathan; but he is on the right track who desires to find out a David to whom he can be a Jonathan."
Here are six qualities I see in Jonathan that challenge me to be a better friend:
1. Jonathan nurtured a spiritual bond. After David killed Goliath and moved to Saul's palace, the Bible says "the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David" (1 Sam. 18:1). This is the work of the Holy Spirit. All Christians should experience a sense of family connection, but there are certain friends you will feel deeply connected to because God is putting you in each other's lives for a reason. Don't resist this process. Let God knit you to people.
2. Jonathan showed sacrificial love. Jonathan loved David so much that he risked his life to help him fulfill his mission. Jonathan even dodged Saul's spear in his effort to help his friend. He lived in the spirit of Jesus' words about friendship: "Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends" (John 15:13). The world says we should only care about our own success. But the best way to become more like Jesus is to help someone else succeed!

Sunday, June 29, 2014

The Last Word is Blessing

God’s last and effective word is His blessing:
The secret of the promise is the bearing of the curse so that the blessing may prevail. The gospel is that in Jesus Christ the curse has been set aside and God’s creative purpose for the blessing of his creation is established beyond any possibility of reversal.
God’s last and effective word is his blessing. It is a particular word spoken in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, broadcast by those who like Paul cannot but pass it on, so powerful is its effect, over flowing with blessing from those who, blessed by it, become a blessing to others.

— Richard Bauckham, Bible and Mission, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2003), pages 35-36
HT: Of First Importance

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Crises of Bible Illiteracy

Good article at Biola Magazine on The Crises of Biblical Illiteracy:
Stacey Irvine ate almost nothing but chicken nuggets for 15 years. She never tasted fruits or vegetables. She occasionally supplemented her diet with French fries. One day her tongue started to swell and she couldn’t catch her breath. She was rushed to the hospital, her airway was forced open, and they stuck an IV in her arm to start pumping in the nutrients she needed. After saving her life, the medical staff sent her home, but not before they warned her that she needed to change her diet or prepare herself for an early death.
I’ve heard people call it a famine. A famine of knowing the Bible. During a famine people waste away for lack of sustenance. Some people die. Those who remain need nourishment; they need to be revived. And if they have any hope of remaining alive over time, their life situation has to change in conspicuous ways.
During normal famines people don’t have access to the food they need. But Stacey Irvine could have eaten anything she wanted. She had resources, opportunity and presumably all the encouragement she needed to eat well. Can you imagine what would happen if all of us decided to follow her example and discontinued eating all but non-nutritious foodstuff? If we happened to beat the odds and live, we undoubtedly would suffer in the long run from nutrition-related chronic illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease.
Like Stacey Irvine, we’re killing ourselves. It’s surely not for lack of resources; nevertheless, we are in fact starving ourselves to death.
Christians used to be known as “people of one book.” Sure, they read, studied and shared other books. But the book they cared about more than all others combined was the Bible. They memorized it, meditated on it, talked about it and taught it to others. We don’t do that anymore, and in a very real sense we’re starving ourselves to death.....

Friday, June 27, 2014

Our Dissatisfied Messiah

"The One on whom we wait is a dissatisfied Messiah. He will not relent, he will not quit, he will not rest until ever promise he has made been fully delivered. He will not turn from his work until every one of his children has been totally transformed. He will continue to fight until the last enemy is under his feet. He will reign until his kingdom has fully come. As long as sin exists, he will shower us with forgiving, empowering, and delivering grace.

He will defend us against attack and attack the enemy on our behalf. He will be faithful to convict, rebuke, encourage, and comfort. He will continue to open the warehouse of his wisdom and unfold for us the glorious mysteries of his truth. He will stand with us through the darkness and the light. He will guide us on a path we could never have discovered or would never have been wise enough to choose. He will supply for us every good thing that we need to be what he’s called us to be and to do what he’s called us to do in the place where he’s put us.

And he will not rest from his work until every last microbe of sin has been completely eradicated from every heart of each of his children!"

            — Paul David Tripp,  "Psalm 27: Inner Strength"

Called to Be Uncool

From N.D. Wilson at CT Magazine: "Called to Be Uncool Christians"
Cows like to turn their backs to the wind. At least, all the cows I know do. Slowly, awkwardly, eventually, all that beef will run parallel to the breeze.
People aren't too different. We align ourselves safely into herds, comforted by the hot breath of others breaking on the backs of our necks and ears. Then we huff and we puff and we blow at the fools turned in the wrong direction.
Is there anything more compelling to us than the heavy synchronized breathing of a mob, especially when combined with cocked eyebrows of disdain and curled lips of disgust? This is the zeitgeist, inside the church and out, and it will judge you until you conform and commune. This is cool-shaming, and it will make you squirm and itch to turn your back to the wind, to stand with all the other cows.
The trendsetters and vision-casters in a herd start the movement, motivated by profit or power or personal gain, as well as genuine striving for holiness and righteousness. They target their breath, their words, their media, and their coolness accordingly.
But for the rest of us, the single greatest factor in our decision-making is simple compliance. We turn with the crowd because we want the awkwardness to stop. We want them all to stop looking at us like that. We want to feel the wind of opinion at our backs.
How did otherwise intelligent people go along with the Third Reich, the invasion of Poland, the extermination of Jews? We may assume they were evil, brainwashed, or a bit of both, and in part we're right. But when was the last time you hedged on an opinion because of the hot breathing of those around you? When did you last choose your words based more on the politics of a situation than on truth?
The power of the zeitgeist helped propel the agonies of race-based slavery, and the zeitgeist threw it away in a bloodbath. The zeitgeist gave us institutional racism, and when enough shame had been applied, the zeitgeist (at least officially) struck it down. The zeitgeist set the Medes and the Persians praying to Darius, and threw Daniel in the lions' den (Dan. 6). The zeitgeist can kick up the fervor of ungodly war, and it can hang its head in cowardice when a true challenge comes.
The zeitgeist is a fickle master, because the zeitgeist is us.
It's no wonder that one of the first tasks of any prophet was to make himself shameful. John the Baptist wore camel hair and ate insects. Isaiah had to walk around naked for years. Ezekiel had to cook his food over dung. Elijah ate only food carried by ravens—nasty carrion birds. The first thing God told Hosea to do was to marry a whore.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Reading the Bible With A Missional Perspective

Wrong assumptions in our approach to Bible study
What do you do with an overgrown field if you want to plant? If you’re an avid gardener or a farmer, you already know this. However, for the rest of us, a little instruction might be helpful. You have to clear the ground. Out comes the chain saw (or maybe even a tractor) because trees need to be felled. Better have your stump grinder on hand as well. Then there are rocks and boulders that need to be removed. After that, there’s brush to deal with. Lastly, you’ll want to rototill the remaining plant material into the soil to enrich it with nitrogen and other nutrients.
May I suggest that in some important ways our field of Bible study has become overgrown with assumptions and practices that leave us unprepared to do the biblical reflection necessary for engaging God’s mission in the world? The cultural history of the West is such that we’ve spent centuries reading the Bible with a sense of the Church as chaplain to a world that shared our assumptions. However, that world has changed significantly. Consequently, the ground needs some serious clearing in order for us to engage the Scriptures in new ways in a social setting that is more like A.D. 50 than 1950.
The late South African missionary scholar David Bosch, in his book,Transforming Mission, raises an important question, “Did the New Testament give rise to mission or did mission give rise to the New Testament?”[i] We’re inclined to think it’s the former. Bosch rightly corrects us and says it’s the latter. Post-Pentecost, the church has no New Testament but it moves out in mission – from Jerusalem, to Judea, to Samaria and then beyond to the Gentiles. So where does the New Testament come from?  In what context did it arise? It arose in the context of mission, the mission to the nations. The early Christians did not suddenly find themselves the proud owners of a New Testament, study it in isolation for purposes of in-house edification, and then discover to their amazement that, “Wow, one of the really important themes in the New Testament is the mission of God. Let’s go guys!” Rather, as they took the gospel across geographical and cultural borders, they thought out loud about that mission. One form of that out loud thinking was the New Testament.
Reading the Bible with different lenses
How might that shift to a missional perspective change things? Consider, for example, Paul’s letter to the Roman church.  Often I hear it described as Paul’s systematic theology. What it is, in fact, is a missionary support raising letter. Paul is informing the church about his planned mission to Spain and outlines the reasons the Christian community in Rome should get on board and support him (15:14-33). That has to change how you read this pivotal letter. Take the epistle to the Philippians. Whatever you’ve heard about this apostolic missive, for a new perspective, try reading it as the missionary thank-you letter it really is (4:10-20).
It’s easy to think of a letter like Romans as Paul’s ruminations about theological themes divorced from the day to day concerns of mission from the trenches. We’ve become so accustomed to the notion of theology as the musings of those in the academy and seminary, that we’ve come to think that biblical and theological reflection can be divorced from the big picture of the mission of God, His purpose to recapture a runaway planet. And so we read the New Testament as a rather intra-ecclesial document – to the church, for the church, and about the church.
But consider the pattern we see at the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15. What drives this ecumenical council of apostles and elders to study the Old Testament Scriptures? Mission! God’s mission! Reports from the trenches of Gentiles submitting to the Lord Jesus fill this infant Jewish church with wonder and puzzlement.  “What do we make of what’s happening? How do we respond?” And so to the Scriptures they go, wrestling with questions of mission and cultural engagement (they are Gentiles after all) until James declares, expositing Amos, “This is the rebuilding of the fallen tabernacle of David (vv. 12-18).” What this means is that we don’t simply read Romans or Philippians as missionary documents but every New Testament book as a missionary document. In one way or another each book is reflecting on the mission of God and the life of His people as the agents of that mission.
How Jesus read the Scriptures
Let’s step back for a moment to take in the bigger picture. If Jesus is to be believed in Luke 24:13-49, it’s not only the New Testament that is to be read in light of the mission of God but the Old Testament as well. Speaking of Jesus teaching the disciples on that first Easter Sunday, Luke says, “Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures” (45). What Scriptures? The Old Testament Scriptures! And what did he teach them about the message those Scriptures contained? “ He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day,and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high” (46-49). For Jesus, this is the story told in the Old Testament.
So, how might Jesus’ impromptu Easter Sunday seminar on the Old Testament clear the ground and prepare the soil for better Bible study? Take the Torah, for example. It didn’t exist independently of Israel for decades or even centuries. God didn’t happen to have it hanging around so that when He redeemed Israel out of Egypt, He thought, “Wait, I just happen to have a book that might be useful for devotional purposes.” These are books that arise in the context of God redeeming a people to whom he gives a missional purpose. “This,” He says, “is who you are and this is what you are called to do.”[ii] What if, for example, we read the first five books of the Old Testament as the missional identity documents of the people of God, recently redeemed from Egypt in order to be a light to the nations? What might we see if we read Genesis through Deuteronomy as documents that outline the missional life of God’s people who are blessed in order to be the conduit of blessing to the nations in fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham? Not only would we have a better sense of what Moses actually had to say but we’d have a better sense of how these books fit into the larger Biblical narrative as well as the proper launching point for missional engagement of our own cultural moment....

Home to Your Heart

From "Desiring God" website- Bring the Bible Home to Your Heart:
We all want to be “doers of the word, and not hearers only” (James 1:22).
Who wants to feel the failure or share in the shame of being pegged like one “who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror . . . and goes away and at once forgets what he was like” (James 1:23–24)? It would seem like Bible application is an essential spiritual discipline to consciously pursue every time we encounter God’s word — but that depends on how we define “application.”
The key question we need to answer is what effect should regular Bible intake have on our hearts and lives — and how does it happen?
God’s Word Is for You
For starters, we should be clear that aiming to apply God’s words to our lives is grounded in the good instinct that the Bible is for us. Optimism about life application makes good on these amazing claims that all the Scriptures are for Christians:
“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16–17).
“Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did. . . . [T]hey were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come” (1 Corinthians 10:611).
“Whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Romans 15:4).
The whole Bible is for the whole church. We have good Scriptural warrant to come to God’s words expecting them to be understandable and applicable. We should make good on Puritan preacher Thomas Watson’s counsel,
Take every word as spoken to yourselves. When the word thunders against sin, think thus: “God means my sins;” when it presseth any duty, “God intends me in this.” Many put off Scripture from themselves, as if it only concerned those who lived in the time when it was written; but if you intend to profit by the word, bring it home to yourselves: a medicine will do no good, unless it be applied. (Spiritual Disciplines, 57)
Yes, take every word as spoken to yourself, with this essential anchor in place: Seek to understand first how God’s words fell on the original hearers, and how it relates to Jesus’s person and work, and then bring them home to yourself. Expect application to your life as God speaks to us today through the Spirit-illumined understanding of what the inspired human author said to his original readers in the biblical text.
Specific Applications for Every Day?
So then, is it right to think of “application” as an everyday means of God’s grace? Is this a spiritual discipline to be pursued with every Bible encounter? The answer is yes and no, depending on what we mean by application.
Some good teachers have claimed that every encounter with God’s word should include at least one specific application to our lives — some particular addition, however small, to our daily to-do list. There is a wise intention in this: pressing ourselves not just to be hearers of God’s word, but doers. But such a simplistic approach to application overlooks the more complex nature of the Christian life — and how true and lasting change happens in a less straightforward way than we may be prone to think.....

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The Lower Place

"Seeking the highest place is in direct contradiction to the teaching of the Lord. Christ instructed His disciples, “But when thou art bidden [to a wedding feast], go and sit down in the lowest room” (Luke 14:10). If we are going to do the Lord’s work in the Lord’s way, we must take Jesus’ teaching seriously: He does not want us to press on to the greatest place unless He Himself makes it impossible to do otherwise. Taking the lower place in a practical way (thus reflecting the mentality of Christ who humbled Himself even to death on a cross) should be a Christian’s choice."

 - Francis Schaeffer, The Lord's Work in the Lord's Way (No Little People)

HT: Francis Schaeffer Studies

Humble Boldness

"And here is the source of true kindness. The salvation of Jesus humbles us profoundly – we are so lost that he had to die for us. But it exalts and assures us mightily — we are so valued that he was glad to die for us. Because we are sinners totally accepted by grace, we have both the humility and the boldness necessary to serve others for their sake, not ours. "

        — Tim Keller, "The Grace of Kindness"

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Refuting the Argument

"Unless I believe in God, I cannot believe in thought: so I can never use thought to disbelieve in God." -CS Lewis


Character Over Charisma

All leadership is built on two things—character and competence. Those are the twin values of leadership. Charisma is optional.
Some of the most charismatic people of the 20th century were also the worst. Hitler, Mao, and Marx and Mussolini were all charismatic. Charisma has absolutely nothing to do with leadership. If you possess it, it's merely a bonus and, if you allow it, it can actually get you into a lot of trouble. Real leadership is built on character and competence.
The Bible says in 1 Timothy 3:8-10 (GN), "Church leaders must be of good character and sincere. They should be tested first and then if they pass the test they should serve."One of the realities that has burdened me is the number of young leaders I see starting or moving into established churches who have tremendous talent and charisma, but who often lack the grounding of character. So in the last few years, I've been mentoring and teaching young leaders and addressing the need to put down roots and grow deep in the soil of God's Word and in the history of the church.
And for 30-plus years now, we've been addressing the issue of competence by repeatedly teaching pastors and church leaders how to plant and lead healthy churches that have a great commitment to the Great Commission and the Great Commandment.
You really need both character and skills to be a good leader. If you have character without competence what you have is sincere ineffectiveness. But far worse is when you have competence without character. If you have competence without character you become a menace—a menace to a church, a menace to a small group, and a menace to society.
To gain greater competence, read. Then read some more. I often tell Pastors that 25 percent of their reading should be among contemporary authors. Another 25 percent should be among authors from the immediate past generation of great leaders who are now in heaven—men like D. Martin Lloyd-Jones, Adrian Rogers, and W. A. Criswell. Another 25 percent should be among authors from the Reformation period up until the modern missionary age—from Luther, Calvin, and Wesley up to D. L. Moody's age. And a final 25 percent should be from the early church fathers up to the Reformation—from Athanasius who penned the Nicene Creed to Balthasar Hubmaier, the great Anabaptist contemporary of Zwingli.

Monday, June 23, 2014



Life in Three Circles

 "As I see it, the Christian life must be comprised of three concentric circles, each of which must be kept in its proper place. In the outer circle must be the correct theological position, true biblical orthodoxy and the purity of the visible church. This is first, but if that is all there is, it is just one more seedbed for spiritual pride. In the second circle must be good intellectual training and comprehension of our own generation. But having only this leads to intellectualism and again provides a seedbed for pride. In the inner circle must be the humble heart—the love of God, the devotional attitude toward God. There must be the daily practice of the reality of the God whom we know is there."

~ Francis Schaeffer, The Lord’s Work in the Lord’s Way (No Little People)

HT:Francis Schaeffer Studies

Sunday, June 22, 2014


"Since His resurrection, Jesus has kept His physical body, in a glorified form. Jesus did not have a body before He came to earth; He took on a physical body for one purpose only — so that He could die. He became a man to live the perfect life for us and then to die in our place. But even when all that was over, He kept a physical body for eternity in heaven, with the scars on His hands and feet and side now part of His glory. He has permanently identified with us. This is amazing love".

— Susan Lutz, "Love One Another As I Have Loved You", Journal of Biblical Counseling (Spring 2003) page 10

HT: Of first Importance

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Active Bible Reading

From Bible Study, Five Ways for Active Bible Reading: Stay Active, my friends, stay active!
As you read His Word, God will often use verses and passages to prompt you to action. You’ll see where you've fallen short of His standards, a prayer to cry out, or a promise to claim. Here are five ways to respond to what you're reading.
There are thousands of reasons to praise God each day. And the more you read the Bible, the more reasons you’ll find. When you read about His grace, don’t miss the opportunity to praise Him for it.
God makes many promises in the Bible to those who follow Jesus. Each time you come across a promise, be sure to highlight it or write it down. That way, when you face difficult trials, you’ll have God’s promises right at hand.
Sometimes, we just need to stop and reflect on what the Bible teaches and how we’re living our lives. Are we living the life Christ called us to? Are we straying into the errors that Scripture points out? What does this passage say about who God is?
In the letter James wrote, he explains an important aspect of reading Scripture: “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says” (1:22). God's Word helps us see the areas where we need to make a course correction.
Quite a bit of God’s Word is dedicated to prayer. Whenever you run across a passage that cries to God, let that passage be your prayer, too. Even passages that aren’t explicitly prayers can lend themselves to your conversation with God.
Whatever you do, just be sure to make reading the Bible more than a spectator sport. Respond to the words through confession, praise, believing promises, reflection, correction, and prayer.

Bible Class Clown

From The Sacred Sandwich

Friday, June 20, 2014

Personal and Cosmic

"Jesus is the divine curse-remover and creation-renewer. Christ’s substitutionary death on the cross broke the curse of sin and death brought on by Adam’s cosmic rebellion. His bodily resurrection from the dead three days later dealt death its final blow, guaranteeing the eventual renewal of all things ‘in Christ.’

The dimensions of Christ’s finished work are both individual and cosmic. They range from personal pardon for sin and individual forgiveness to the final resurrection of our bodies and the restoration of the whole world. Now that’s good news—gospel—isn’t it? If we place our trust in the finished work of Christ, sin’s curse will lose its grip on us individually and we will one day be given a renewed creation.

The gospel isn’t only about reestablishing a two-way relationship between God and us; it also restores a three-way relationship among God, his people, and the created order. Through Christ’s work, our relationship with God is restored while creation itself is renewed. This is what theologians mean when they talk about redemption. They’re describing this profound, far-reaching work by God. "

— Tullian Tchividjian, Unfashionable: Making a Difference in the World by Being Different  (Colorado Springs, CO: Multnomah, 2009)

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Bad Enough

Are you too bad to receive grace? How could you be too bad to receive what is for the bad? —David Powlison


What Are Elders?

Interesting - 10 Things You Should Know About Church Elders by Jeramie Rinne. I think I can agree with the whole list.
1. Elders are shepherds.
Both the Old and New Testaments repeatedly employ the metaphor of “shepherding” to describe the spiritual leadership of God’s people. Not surprisingly, the New Testament views elders as shepherds as well (e.g. Acts 20:28; 1 Peter 5:1-4). The elders’ mission is to lead, teach, protect and love their church members the way shepherds care for the sheep in a flock, so that the church members will grow up into spiritual maturity (Ephesians 4:11-13).
2. Elders are pastors.
This second point restates the first, but it bears repeating. The word “pastor” means “shepherd.” We often call paid preachers “pastors” and lay leaders “elders.” This distinction can subtly shape our thinking so that we view pastors as the professional ministers and elders as the church’s board of directors who support the ministers. But a pastor is an elder, and an elder is a pastor. Elders should do those things in a local church that they assume a pastor would do, even if they spend fewer hours per week than the paid pastor.
3. Elders are plural.
We always find elders (plural) in New Testament churches (e.g. Acts 15:4; 20:17Titus 1:5). Each congregation should have a team of shepherds.
4. Elders must be godly.
The New Testament job descriptions for elders focus largely on character qualities (e.g. 1 Timothy 3:1-7Titus 1:5-9). Elders must be self-controlled, sensible, holy, and hospitable. They can’t be drunkards or bullies or money-grubbers. Elders must be “above reproach.”
5. Elders should model godliness.
The elders’ character matters because the elders model Christian maturity for the church (1 Peter 5:3Hebrews 13:7). Church members should be able to see in their elders inspiring, albeit imperfect, examples of the character of Jesus.
6. Elders should teach.
Elders must be able to teach (1 Timothy 3:2) so that they can build up the church in sound doctrine and refute false teachers (Titus 1:9; cf. Acts 20:30-31). Elder teaching can take lots of shapes: one-to-one instruction, small groups, classes, or preaching. An elder doesn’t need a PhD in biblical studies, but he does need to be able to faithfully explain biblical truth.
7. Elders must lead.
Elders have a measure of authority over the local church. That’s why the New Testament also calls them “overseers.” The elders’ authority is not absolute or unquestionable, nor should it be exercised in a domineering manner. Yet God calls his shepherds to provide leadership for the flock, and, in general, God expects the church to submit to that leadership (Hebrews 13:17).
8. Elder leadership starts at home.
If married, an elder should be “a one-woman man” (1 Timothy 3:2Titus 1:6), which at the very least means that he is a faithful husband. If he has children, he must parent them well so they’re not out of control (1 Timothy 3:4). You should demonstrate able leadership of your own household before you presume to lead God’s household.
9. Elders must be men.
Male-only eldership is a hotly contested issue. And yet the Bible seems extremely straight-forward: an elder must be a “one-woman man.” Just as God calls men to be the heads of their households, so he calls faithful men to lead his church.
10. Elders are not Jesus.
Jesus is the Chief Shepherd, and elders are merely his temporary helpers (1 Peter 5:4). At their best, elders model Jesus’ character, teach Jesus’ word, and lead the church by pointing it toward Jesus and his mission. Good elders never lose that awareness that they themselves are still sheep, utterly dependent on the grace of the Good Shepherd.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Be A Church Planting Movement

Most people know me I love church planting.
I've done extensive research on the topic, written books about it and even planted churches. In addition to my love for church planting, however, I also love established churches. I'm as passionate about church revitalization as I am about church planting.
While some may see the two as mutually exclusive, I'm most excited about where the two overlap: churches planting churches. Pastors of established churches should be engaged in church planting. Here are five reasons why.
Church planting reaches lost people.
The first reason is simple. It's one on which, hopefully, all pastors – both planters and established can agree. Lost people need Jesus. This is one that hits me personally, because I grew up in a non-Christian family.
Most of my extended family members are not believers. Recently, however, two of my family members have met Christ through church plants. Their experience is not uncommon.
A few years ago, Christianity Today published "Go and Plant Churches of All Peoples," an article which said church planting has replaced crusade evangelism as the preferred evangelistic method for evangelicals in North America today.
Church planting has experienced so much growth that in some cases, it's harder to find people who want to revitalize churches because there are so many who want to plant. Some of the attraction might be from the entrepreneurial bent in people, but the greatest driving force that I see among church planters is that they want to see people won to Jesus.
I would challenge established church pastors to mother a church plant. You'll see that people will be won to Jesus in the churches you plant and in your church. Some that may be less receptive to your church will be very receptive to your plant. That's why we want to plant churches that plant churches that plant churches.
Church planting follows a biblical pattern.
When we look throughout the New Testament, we see church planting as an established pattern. I will be the first to tell you the Bible never mentions church planting. It never comes out and says, "Plant churches," but it's clearly assumed. It's the first thing the disciples did when they responded to the commissions of Jesus. They planted churches.
Most of the churches recorded in the New Testament were involved in sending people in some form or another to start other churches. Ironically, the Jerusalem Church was an exception. They sent people out to check up on the new churches and to make sure they weren't getting too crazy.
We've got too many Jerusalem churches today. The only time they're heard from is when they believe someone is doing something wrong. We've got to change that truth. Church planting is an overwhelmingly Biblical passion and we need to support it. We were all started at some point. Let's model that spirit again and start more churches.
Church planting is essential for survival.
For any movement to thrive, it has to plant churches. Statistically speaking, if a population just wants to "break even," it has to plant at least at a three percent level—a denomination of 100 churches has to plant 3 to stay even considering attrition. A five percent increase is needed to grow. Ten percent is needed to thrive.
If we honestly believe our movement is the place to land theologically, then we need to support it by planting churches.

Dangerous Success

Do you want to be successful? Who doesn't. But success is dangerous says Jared Wilson:
Not a single one of us wishes, really, for failure. Oh, sure, there are certainly some spiritual masochists out there, Christians who take great pride in the ministry of Isaiah — “I’m losing 90 per cent? I must be doing something right!” — but there’s a reason God provoked Isaiah’s commitment to the mission before giving him his depressing orders. None of us would want to sign up for that.
When we find ourselves in difficult ministries, where the word seems out of season and the soil inordinately hard, despite our sincere and faithful efforts to share the gospel in contextualized ways and love and serve our neighbors with gladness and kindness, many of us battle discouragement, but we at least theologically understand that sometimes God gives and sometimes he takes away.
There is something biblically beautiful, actually, about such littleness. It appears to be the primary mode of thinking of the apostles about themselves. Paul boasts, but he boasts in his weakness. He considers his successes garbage compared to Christ’s glory. It is God’s bigness he is concerned ultimately with, not his own or that of the churches.
So when we are made little, we can find ourselves in the heart of John the Baptist’s prayer, that Jesus would increase and we would decrease. It’s not the ideal place to be in terms of our dreams and ambitions, but relying totally on God’s sovereignty is right where God wants us. It’s not a call to passivity or to excuse-making. But even the most diligent of workers can say that God has called him to be faithful, not successful.
And then God grants many much visible success. Sometimes God’s people succeed greatly at things he hasn’t actually called them to do, but sometimes in his strange wisdom he grants extraordinary, legitimate successes to his children. But with such glories should come many cautions. We all prefer success to failure but, really, success is more dangerous. In failure, we know we rely totally on God’s approval and sustaining arm. In success, it is easy to begin looking around, surveying all the territories claimed, all the peoples gathered, all the ministry renown redounding, and we think, “Well, lookee here. Look what has been built with my talents, my gifts, my skills, my strategies, my visions, my sweat, my sacrifice.”
It is perfectly normal for humans to prefer success to failure. You’d be a weirdo if you didn’t.And yet it is perfectly normal for humans to taint all their successes with the swelling of their big fat heads. You’d be a weirdo if you didn’t.
And so we remember the Holy Spirit, the sovereign breath of God Himself in whom we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28), without whom we could not receive one single stinking thing (John 3:27). It is the Spirit who directs our paths while we’re making our big plans (Proverbs 16:9) and hijacks our mission statements (James 4:13-15). Oh, we can produce some very exciting enterprises, we can get a lot of stuff done if we’ll just have that can-do attitude and take-charge spirit and gung-ho personality and yada yada yada. That Babel tower was pretty tall too.
Don’t run ahead of the Lord God. You may find yourself in the midst of a great, booming success and therefore very, very vulnerable.
And the dirty little secret is that you don’t really need it. If God wants you to have it, that’s great. But you don’t need “more” to be satisfied in God, to be fully justified by Christ, to be fully filled by the Spirit. God does not measure success the way we do. So whether you are struggling or succeeding, the best position to take is always that of prayer so that you know how to have little and how to have a lot, how to do “all things” through Christ — not know-how. Only Christ is inexhaustible.
Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.– 1 Corinthians 10:12

Monday, June 16, 2014

Good and Relevant


9 Facts About Mega-Churches

9 Facts About People Who Attend Mega-Churches from Leadership Network:
But what about the people who attend really big churches? Fellow researcher Scott Thumma and I surveyed some 25,000 of them, with some fascinating discoveries:
  1. Nearly two-thirds of attenders have been at these churches 5 years or less.
  2. Many attenders come from other churches, but nearly a quarter haven’t been in any church for a long time before coming to a megachurch.
  3. New people almost always come to the megachurch because family, friends or coworkers invited them.
  4. Fifty-five percent of megachurch attenders volunteer at the church in some way (a higher percentage than in smaller churches).
  5. What first attracted attenders were the worship style, the senior pastor and the church’s reputation, in that order.
  6. These same factors also influenced long-term attendance, as did the music/arts, social and community outreach, and adult-oriented programs.
  7. Attenders report a considerable increase in their involvement in church, in their spiritual growth, and in their needs being met.
  8. Attenders can craft unique, customized spiritual experiences through the multitude of ministry choices and diverse avenues for involvement that megachurches offer.
  9. In many ways, large churches today are making good progress in reaching people and moving them from spectators to active participants to growing disciples of Jesus Christ.
For more interesting facts about people who attend megachurches, download the free report Not Who You Think They Are: The Real Story of People Who Attend America’s Megachurches.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

The Real New Age

"The present age is in the sunset of dissolution; the age to come is the dawn whose light bathes life, banishes its shadows, and illumines its meaning because this age is moving the people of God to that time when everything has become subject to Christ and he has rendered it all up to the Father (1 Cor. 15:20–28). "

— David F. Wells, The Courage to Be Protestant, (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2008), page 204

Friday, June 13, 2014

Free To Love

How to Actually Like Reading the Bible

Having trouble with your Bible reading? Maybe this piece by Natasha Crain at "The Poached Egg" website can help.
“Americans revere the Bible – but, by and large, they don’t read it. And because they don’t read it, they have become a nation of biblical illiterates.” – Researcher George Gallup
Until about five years ago, I was one of those Americans who revered the Bible but didn’t read it much. Of course I knew it was important, that it was God’s Word, and (fill in the blank with every other thing I was supposed to know after many years of being a Christian). But to actually want to read the Bible regularly? I thought that was a desire only a pastor could possibly have.
Frankly, I thought the Bible was about as interesting as watching paint dry. Seeing as how studies regularly show most Christians are biblically illiterate, I’m probably not the only one who has struggled with this.
Fast forward to this weekend. On Saturday night I was about to turn off the light for bed when I realized I hadn’t read the Bible yet that day. I let out a pleasantly surprised, “oh!” and reached for my Bible with genuine anticipation for the reading minutes ahead.
I love reading the Bible today. I would never have imagined myself saying that just a few years ago. If you struggle to actually like reading the Bible, here are six tips to help you out.
1.    Change your underlying beliefs about the importance of reading the Bible.
It’s well known in psychology that your underlying belief about something drives your attitude toward it, and that attitude drives behavior. If you merely try to change your Bible reading behavior without changing your attitude toward the Bible, you’re setting yourself up for failure; furthermore, you can’t change your attitude toward the Bible without changing your underlying beliefs about it.
So that begs the question: what exactly do you need to believe in order to have a positive attitude toward the Bible that results in regular reading behavior? I suppose there are a variety of possible answers depending on the individual, but I believe this one is the common thread:
You have to believe that reading the Bible actually matters.
Ask yourself if you whole-heartedly believe that. If not, why not? Do you have unanswered questions about the Bible’s reliability? Get answers. Do you not believe regular Bible reading would actually change your spiritual life? Read this research. Do you have trouble understanding what the Bible is saying when you read it (we all do at times!)? Buy a good study Bible.
If you don’t believe reading the Bible matters, you’ll be very unlikely to suddenly start liking it…
2.    Make sure you understand the overarching structure and story of the Bible.
I got through high school English without ever reading an entire book. I hatedliterature and survived on “Cliffs Notes” (book summaries you can buy). This approach to reading carried over into my young adult life. There was no way I was going to actually read a book the size of the Bible, but one day I decided to pick up “The Bible for Dummies.” I hate to say it, but reading “The Bible for Dummies” was a turning point for me. (That’s crazy to think of now – I’ve turned into a voracious reader!)
In 18 years of church, I had never really learned what the overarching story of the Bible was; I had simply picked up bits and pieces with no meaningful understanding of how they fit together. After reading “The Bible for Dummies,” I no longer saw the Bible as one huge, daunting book I had no interest in reading. I finally felt like I had a map and could enjoy visiting the different parts. If you’re fuzzy on what happens between “let there be light” and the resurrection, I highly recommend starting with a summary book.....
Read it all at the link.