Welcome to Carnivorous Caribou

Sunday, July 31, 2005

Firing Back Up

After being at conference for an entire week, I'm finally back on line...with too much (yet not enough) to say:

10. Cedarville's internet was a HUGE TEASE. It would show up in my airport status, it would claim to be connected, it would not let me go anywhere on the web. In fact, for one moment I was connected to 'ichat'. But I couldn't send or receive anything. (Pretty useless when you can't send/receive email.)
9. I LOVE expository preaching...LOVE it. It's pretty much to the point where a topical sermon bores me. It's so thrilling to hear a message directly from the Word of God. Conference was great, but it seemed devoid of expository preaching (of course, maybe it's the same as every year, I'm just more sensitive about it now.)
8. I WILL NOT preach in sweatpants...ever! Seriously, it happened at conference (not me, but a speaker). Brutal.
7. I really love our students (students is what I call teens, i hate when they are called kids, I don't really like the term teenagers or teens). We really have a mature group of students. As one who is generally repulsed by an over-indulgance in emotion (typically at about any conference involving students), I really sensed our students count the cost before making any decision, then develop a game plan to see it through. It is a gracious gift from our Lord to have these students.
6. Fantasy Football is really, really close. We set up our draft for the end of the month! I'm excited about this because I will care about my team for a good 3 or 4 weeks. Then, after that, the NBA season will be upon us and I'll really care. In other words, the NBA season is "fan-tastic" and almost upon us!!!!!!
5. I'm an adequate speaker. I absolutely love preaching, love it. But after listening to Francis Chan, Josh McDowell, Dan Gregory and Jim Brown, I realize I'm really not that good. Hopefully my enthusiasm for the Word, and for God's institution of preaching the Word, will make up for my lack of giftedness.
4. I'm getting old. Some of my students have recently mentioned my gray hairs showing up (which I don't mind. My dad turned gray just out of high school, so it would really be an odd badge of honor to me that says I'm atleast becoming more like my dad in one way). But some of the guys I knew from college are becoming gray too. And we're all starting to have multiple children. Am I actually going to have to start thinking of myself as an adult?
3. If the hardest week of my life wasn't that hard, is it still the hardest week? Here's the scoop. This week brought some of the greatest trials of my life (nothing to do with our home, the church or the youth group), but they didn't seem that tough. We'd heard from Chan about seeing trials as maturing and completing us (James 1). It was surreal. I knew the situation should be tough. The situation made me physically ill to think about and deal with. Yet, it didn't seem like that big a deal. Many people face tougher things. My heart still breaks over the situation, but I'm thrilled to think what the Lord may do with this.
2. Everything reminds me of my kids. It wasn't fun to be away from them for a week. And every speakers' illustration about children just reminds you of your own (Especially when two of Francis Chan's children are named Rachel and Ezekiel...honest, I had no idea, and named our son Ezekiel before he did). It's hard to hear about your kids' week and what developments they are making when you aren't there.
1. My wife is amazing. Eight months pregnant and chasing around a fifteen month old and a 3 year old. I'm gone all week and she totally takes care of them and even takes them around to other places. Talking on the phone just isn't a substitute (though it was nice to have her at the conference for one day). Then I'm home for a day and a half, and she's gone for a day and a half. (Thus the sappy post.)

Also, we potentially have an amazing opportunity to get a bigger house for less money. It certainly has some risk involved, and requires me to make a sales pitch to the bank...but if it works...WOW! Please pray for us and the Lord's leading.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005


Is that word possible? Can one actually look into the context so much that they begin to miss the point?

Probably not. Proof texting has become a bad word, because of it's abuse. I remember studying for licensure and looking at our statement of faith. I decided I was going to find other passages than the proof texts given in the statement, so that I wasn't just memorizing quick answers. It didn't take long before I realized that those passages were listed because they were the best passages to convey the doctrine and were only listed as they were read in their context.

Context is a tricky issue. We must evaluate a word based on the context of the sentence. The sentence based on the paragraph. The paragraph based on the passage. The passage based on the chapter (and sometimes the passage is bigger than the chapter or overlaps the chapter). The chapter based on the book. The book based on the author's writings. The author based on the testament. The testament based on the Bible. Wow! Suddenly, I've gone from one word to needing to examine the whole council of God's Word to make sure I am not in error. No wonder James says that not many should presume to be teachers (James 3).

However, when contextualization goes beyond the Word of God, it becomes a very dangerous thing. My favorite class in college was New Testament Foundations. In that class (by the way, I am one of the few who LOVED studying under Dr. Bateman), we studied the period between the Old and New Testament. It was fascinating to learn details I'd never heard before. When I learned what the Jews were looking for in a Messiah at the time of Christ, it made some of His interactions with others make more sense and come to life. I remember studying Antiochus and realizing that the words in the New Testament about the Antichrist hit closer to home for them because they had seen something similar. (Like how we American understand terrorism a little better since September 11).

However, if Antiochus' existence causes me to doubt the validity of a real Antichrist some day, I've gone too far. There is a fine line between knowledge buiding up and puffing up. When I begin to change the meaning of the text because of an understanding of events in that day, I've gone too far.

This is a tremendous oversimplification of the discussion of New Perspective on Paul (just giving you the warning in advance). But when I listen to NT Wright's discussion of New Perspective, I get the feeling that the man is focussing so much on what we think to be true (how do we really prove what was going through the mind of a first century Jew regarding justification?), that he is ignoring what the Word says to be true. His desire to penetrate the mind of a first century Jew seems to overcloud many of the issues Paul is actually addressing. It's deep stuff. Some of it is helpful and useful. But it also crosses a line that begins to minimize the Word.

Ignored is the issue that much of Paul's writings were about how we can't acheive righteousness on our own. That the law is dead to save. Why is it important that he teach these truths if the people already believed contrary? Why would he need to write Galatians, encouraging the body to find their salvation in Jesus alone if they didn't think works gained them righteousness. These questions are ignored in the quest to know the unknown.

It is so helpful and enriching to our people when we study the times, customs and archaelogy of the time of Jesus. We can help people see beyond our culture to the truth of God's Word. However, when we make contextual leaps based on speculation that cloud the original meaning of the text (the author's intent), then we've gone too far.

Actually, it's not too far. It's just the wrong context. Isn't that the temptation anytime we study the Word of God? To replace the context of the passage with the context of our world. We can never overcontextualize in the Word. We always overcontextualize in if it's in the world.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Can a Vasectomy Ruin an Evening?

We had a blast at our Shake Video Academy Awards. The students did an awesome job of making fun movies, and all the adults that helped make the evening work did a great job!!!!

I had the dubious task of being emcee for the evening. I'd never done that kind of thing before, and really ended up doing it by default (didn't think about that role till it was too late to ask someone else).

In the course of the evening, in making comment about someone's movie involving my wife and I having about 15 children, I mentioned that I really appreciated that their film reminded my wife to call our doctor regarding me getting a vasectomy.

I didn't even think about the comment till later. During the reception I look around and realize their were some children at the program. I started to wonder if the comment was inappropriate or not. A few of my thoughts were as follows:

1) The kids did such a good job of keeping the films clean. They proved that entertainment is possible without inappropriate dialogue or inuendo. Did I ruin all of that with one comment?
2) I used the medical term. It's not like I used some slang. It probably just went over the heads of those who don't know what the word means.
3) I'm a pastor. If anyone should be watching what they say, I should. This also fits into the discussion as I have heard some excuse language lately, that our words aren't that critical...Jesus said so much to the contrary.
4) Is this just a new move in being real? Sure, 40 years ago, no one utters that word in front of a church. Is that a sign of progression (being more willing to talk about whatever) or a sign of regression (nothing is sacred anymore)?

Overall, the evening was tremendous. I just hope I didn't provide the lowpoint. If no one was offended, I don't want to bring it up in a large context (instead, I prefer to learn from it here.). But if people were hurt, I'm certainly willing to apologize and learn from it. I'm just not sure how I find out what people thought.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Knowing the Author

My friend Brian steered me toward some NT Wright messages about Jesus to check out (first four messages listed under "Wright Audio/Video). It was mentally stimulating to listen to them (I had to listen to each message twice just to get the gist of them!). The man is very smart and I do plan on writing about my observations of his messages in the future.

Before I started the first message on my shuffle, I had already begun an interesting thought process. I knew that I didn't agree with NT Wright about his New Perspective on Paul approach. After listening to Wright, I believe he truly desires to hold to orthodox faith, and mysteriously protests that he is (despite the fact that logic would argue he doesn't). I wondered what, and if, I was going to agree with Wright. Here's the things I initially got to thinking:

1.) How much reading do you have to do to know another person's theology? I remember once reading "Seven Deadly Sins" by Tony Campolo. It's actually a great book about sin, focussing on the heart, not on actions. I knew nothing else about Tony C, and began referring him to others. I thought, because his book on deadly sins was so great, that we were probably on the same page about other things...oops.

2.) We all make theological errors. No one's doctrine is completely correct. I know I have doctrinal errors. I just have no idea what they are. I pray that if they were exposed to me, I would be humble enough to change my position. Therefore, I do not require doctrinal perfection from anyone. However, when someone takes a view and yet somehow misses the implications of that view, or comes to that view through a very careless or frivilous approach to Scripture...it makes it hard for them not to lose credibility with me. (Wright's issue regarding New Perspective is not that he handles the Word lightly...if anything, he's digging so deep that he misses the original intent of the author. He's highly intelligent and strikes me as the type that is so smart, he just can't see the practical effects of his view. Like the brilliant mathematician who can't balance his checkbook.) How do I keep my disappointment about a man's approach in one area from killing my openess to his other views?

3.) How much time should we spend looking at other views? I haven't read much by Greg Boyd to understand his open views. I haven't spent much time reading about the Armenian camp. In the same way, I haven't read much about Islam from a Muslim. How do you know when reading another camp's views will help you know your's, or when it becomes a waste of your time?

4.) How easily do you recommend stuff to others then. I remember reading "Celebration of Discipline" by Richard Foster and loving the book...pretty much. His call and practical approach to the Christian Disciplines was eye opening and liberating for me. I recommended it to countless people. However, after referring it to a more discerning friend, he began to ask me questions about some of Foster's views. I looked back and realized that several of the chapters approached some issues in ways I was uncomfortable with. I was willing to overlook those differences because the book overall had been so meaningful to me. But when I thought about referring the book to others, I began to wonder if they may think I would endorse some of his positions. I then began to wonder if my list of books I found beneficial, and the list I would recommend to others would look quite different. Does yours?

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

8 Great Years

Charity and I took off last night to enjoy our eighth wedding aniversary. As we were driving off to "the city" her only statement was "I just don't want us to go anywhere where it involves coloring the menu." (Apparently, she heard that on "Raymond" once and felt like she connected with it.)

We had a great night just getting away (If you don't have kids, enjoy the freedom of going where you want when you want. There's few greater luxuries than waking up in the morning and only having to get yourselves ready, and not a couple of toddlers as well.) We checked out "The Interpreter" (which we both enjoyed, and yes, we FINALLY got around to seeing it) and had a great meal out.

8 is just a weird anniversary. I remember being in college and seeing couples that had been married for eight years and considering them veterans (heck, in the nfl, you're about ready to retire). Yet I still feel like a kid. I still can't believe we're married. I still feel like I'm messing up more than I'm getting it right. But I also can't seem to remember life before being married. It almost feels like another world. This two becoming one thing is awesome (not just physically) but that I really can't see my identity without that Charity Wright aspect of it. Some of our friends would occasionally call us "danity," a reference to the entity that was the two of us. In many ways, I feel like Danny has been replaced with Danity...and I love it.

I wonder what our 16th anniversary will look like. The kids will be 10, 9 and 7. I wonder if I'll still be feeling like a rookie making a ton of mistakes. I wonder if I'll still be waking up amazed that she said "yes."

Friday, July 08, 2005

I Could Use a Hand

We've got a disciplining situation at our house (who with a 3 year old doesn't) which has raised a question.

Yes, we still believe in corporal punishment (I know, that confession will probably have the state removing my children some day). As we've discussed that with other people at times, several have made the suggestion to use a spoon, ruler or other device while spanking. Their thought process is, "that way the child doesn't associate your hand with the discipline."

I greatly love and respect the people who have given me this advice, but I don't get the reasoning. (I do plan to follow up personally with them, to see what I misunderstand.) I want to open this up to other people's thoughts as well. At first glance, the advice sounds right (and again, I really respect those who have given it to me) but I just have a couple thoughts:

1) Will my daughter just develop an abnormal fear of wooden spoons? I know, the question looks silly at first, but if I use an object so my hand is not associated, doesn't that object then become associated. Will she then associate wooden cooking utensils with something painful?

2) Doesn't an object present a colder, less personal approach? I guess I just think of all the friends I knew who had nuns whack them on the knuckles or head with a yard stick. Maybe this is just a bizarre thought on my part, but an object just makes it seem more like punishment than discipline to me. (Granted, the day comes that you move to an object simply because your hand is no longer effective.)

3) Isn't it my discipline that brings some comfort to my children? The father who does not discipline his child does not love his child (Hebrews 12:7-11). If I am to be an image of the Holy Father to my little daughter, shouldn't I be her provider, lavish love on her, be there to hold and comfort her, and yes, be the source of discipline for her. I guess I see my hand being associated with discipline as ok, as long as it's associated with grace, giving, love and protection too.

Of course, I know my perspective can be off. So like I said, if you are reading this and you remember us having this conversation...know I'm going to be looking for you to pick your brain some more. But maybe you and I haven't talked about this before (maybe I've never even met you) or I forget us having a conversation about discipline. Please give me your thoughts.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Spiritual Terrorists

As I type this, I still don't know much about what happened in London today. (I've been tied up all day and haven't checked the tv or cruised the internet yet.) What I saw earlier was that quite a number of people are dead and the injuries were well into the hundreds. It was obviously a case of terrorism, though what group, I'm not sure they know for sure.

Terrorism is such a cowardly act (remember hearing about how armies used to line up facing one another?). When you attack someone who doesn't even know they're was a war, take out innocent lives, and then flee and hide...there's nothing noble about that, no matter what the cause.

Here's the funny thing. Some will oppose any retaliation by England. If like the U.S., England will announce their displeasure and their retribution on the responsible parties, people will protest their efforts. People will call out England for being inhumane. People may disapprove of the terrorists activities, but you won't find anyone picketing or protesting against the terrorists cause.

Reminder, we are engaged in spiritual warfare (Ephesians 6, just to name one passage)! Though much of the terrorism today is rooted in spiritual issues (Can we be honest about that, or do I still have to pretend this is ALL political?), that's not what Paul was talking about. Our battle is not between flesh and blood. We didn't start the war (though before knowing Christ, I was fighting on the enemy's side). The battle was brought to us in the garden when the serpent tempted Eve. Not face on, but with deception through a serpent. It's an ugly war, and the enemy does not play fair.

It's tempting for us to want to become spritual terrorists. We'll fight back for a moment then run and hide. I'll try to win my neighbor to Christ, but work hard so that he never knows my intentions. I resist organizing with others in the fight (the church) thinking instead I'm called to be a maverick alone. That's not the way we were called to fight.

The fight is not even ours. While I raised my sword up toward Christ, warring against Him, He spread His arms wide, and died for me (Romans 5:10). Then as I joined God's army, He clothes me in armor (Ephesians 6:10-20). I don't bring the fight to the enemy, but allow the Lord to do so (Jude 9). Yet I survey the battlefield, looking for those who need to hear about peace, looking to rescue some (Jude 23). But I shouldn't hide this fact. I should be up front about it. I certainly shouldn't be ashamed, or sneaky or deceptive. For I have no reason to hide.

Should I be combative toward people? Certainly not. "Our battle is not against flesh and blood." But as I fight the battle and announce my intentions, I should see resistance. Just like England will receive resistance from some if they look to retaliate (and I pray not only that they do, but that the U.S. shows the same support they have shown us!), we should expect people to be offended at us.

They'll be offended that we are fighting. We'll need to remind them that we didn't start this battle.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Nation's History

Great post on Al Mohler's blog about David McCullogh's address to Hillsdale College, located in that state up north. McCullogh stated:

"Keep in mind that when we were founded by those people in the late 18th century, none of them had had any prior experience in either revolutions or nation-making. They were, as we would say, winging it. And they were idealistic and they were young. We see their faces in the old paintings done later in their lives or looking at us from the money in our wallets, and we see the awkward teeth and the powdered hair, and we think of them as elder statesmen. But George Washington, when he took command of the continental army at Cambridge in 1775, was 43 years old, and he was the oldest of them. Jefferson was 33 when he wrote the Declaration of Independence. John Adams was 40. Benjamin Rush – one of the most interesting of them all and one of the founders of the antislavery movement in Philadelphia – was 30 years old when he signed the Declaration. They were young people. They were feeling their way, improvising, trying to do what would work. They had no money, no navy, no real army. There wasn't a bank in the entire country. There wasn't but one bridge between New York and Boston. It was a little country of 2,500,000 people, 500,000 of whom were held in slavery, a little fringe of settlement along the east coast. What a story. What a noble beginning. And think of this: almost no nations in the world know when they were born. We know exactly when we began and why we began and who did it."

It shocked me to hear the author of the Declaration of Independance was only 33 when he wrote it! That's just a couple years older than me. I always pictured Washington leading the troops, gumming on old bread with his wooden teeth. I assumed that his vast "experience" was one of his greatest strengths.

I guess in many ways I totally feel like I am just winging it too. Maybe being idealistic and young isn't such a bad thing. Maybe we shouldn't let our young age make us feel inferior, but rather we could raise the bar for other believers regarding their speech, life, love, faith and purity. Huh, sounds familiar (I Timothy 4:12).

Monday, July 04, 2005

Jesus Christ and the Church of LCD--Part 5

Let me be the first to say I've hated this series. When I started out, I thought it might be good to articulate different thoughts that were inter-related. Instead, I think it's just become jumbled up thoughts. By doing a series, it only further manifests that I have very little of value to say.

That said, I guess I basically just mean that the pastoral ministry has become largely about religious study and less about theology. The majority of books, seminars and workshops offered seem to be much more anthropocentric. For ministry to have depth and for it to truly minister to the body, it must be theocentric in nature.

That doesn't mean that we don't consider man. If anything, once we understand the transcendance of God, we understand man's great value, that He should choose to reveal Himself to us.

Maybe, in the end, the Least Common Denominator is mankind itself. If that's where our focus remains, we just don't seem to accomplish much.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Jesus Christ and the Church of LCD--Part 4

If LCD can permeate the gospel, does holiness stand a chance?

Without a genuine understanding of the gospel, what use is holiness? It seems to go from underestimated (assuming it is something I can acheive on my own) or is undervalued (seeing it as not worthy of pursuit). Perhaps on the topic of holiness, the pendulum swings the greatest.

For some, holiness is completely found in actions. They deem activities as corrupt and then avoid those activities. Of course, there's nothing wrong in that (doesn't the 10 commandments encourage us the same way?). The problem lies in motivation. They believe actions (or absence) achieve holiness. Can I sin, yet have a good motive and that action be pure? No. But can I do good things and have an impure motive and therefore make the good thing sinful? Absolutely. LCD infects this body by encouraging a standard of actions will achieve holy living. The nature of our heart is ignored. They may talk about righteousness coming from Christ, but contradict that by clinging to law (typically man made law).

Jesus was so adamant that law keeping alone leads to death. If the Law didn't reveal our need for justification from an outside source, then we weren't being honest with the Law. I must see that the Law condemns me. Yet, some see that it is impossible to live up to God's standard, so they never even try. They boast of grace (as we all should) but never allow that grace to transform who they are. They assume that holiness is impossible to achieve and doesn't effect their eternity, so why bother. Anyone who challenges them to this point is a legalist or fundamentalist.

I have not found that sweet spot in the middle. I often feel my heart swinging from one side to the other. Do most people in our churches know that the root of saint is the same root as holy? Do we teach that at the time of salvation, a person becomes holy, being set apart? Do we then explain what is meant by "be holy as I am holy?"

This month I've had a conversation with an individual about salvation. They struggled to believe eternal security for "what would be the motivation for right living if I had it no matter what?". To me, this discussion no longer was about eternal security (for he was quite taken back by the issue of the Holy Spirit being our earnest payment; Ephesians 1:14), but instead became about holiness in the believer. In a study in which I am participating, a minor issue came up (minor, for it was not in any way the author's key point) about the command not to commit adultery. Why not cheat on your spouse? There seem to be a few answers:

You could lose your salvation. That sound you hear in your head is a buzzer telling you that answer does not work in light of about 10,000 verses in Scripture. While this may be a motivation tactic for false religions around the globe, we must not let that be our logic.

I break God's heart. I guess I don't really see that as the whole point. Is God sad when I sin? I don't know that is an accurate description (maybe "greiving the Holy Spirit" could support that). Most of the passages I read suggest sin stirs up the wrath of God, His justice requires His displeasure. For the believer, that wrath is extinguished by the work of Jesus Christ. The anger and punishment is not doled out on the believer, thus reducing the motivation to avoid it (if taking a simplistic approach).

I break my wife's heart. Sure, the effect on others can be a great motivator. However, if I am seriously considering having an affair, I'm already caught in such a trap of selfishness that this is probably not going to be the great motivator I see it to be before entering the seductive spell.

It will kill my witness. While it would make it harder for people to see Jesus, this again does not appear to be the ultimate agenda. First off, most believers aren't being a witness (evidenced by an avoidance of discussing man's depravity or the exclusivity of the gospel message in most discussions). Second, haven't we all heard the amazing story of a man who destroyed his home by his actions, yet Jesus put his family back together? Gnawing inside of us, we rationalize the sin or worse yet, feel like our mistakes only make the gospel of grace that much more visible.

No, the issue goes back to the "why" of the command. Why would God desire faithfulness from me in regard to my wife? Well, for one, Ephesians 5 says I am supposed to be playing the role of Jesus in the gospel drama that my marriage is. At first this goal appears to be gospel witnessed based, but look closer. Ephesians does not encourage the man to display the message of the gospel in his marriage, but rather to display the person of the gospel; Jesus Christ. If I persue being Christ-like, the gospel message will flow from our matrimony. How do we know that faithfulness to our spouse will make us holier? Because God, Himself, is faithful and loyal.

There are actions that can not contain holiness. Because God can not tell a lie, it is impossible for me to do so in a holy manner. Yet, God is not holy because He doesn't lie, but rather, doesn't lie because He is holy. Actions, without the pursuit of God, and the knowledge that He alone is able to make me holy must be kept in front of us.

I must not excuse sin in a brother (the unrepentant person having an affair in a church must come under church discipline) but I must not become the "fruit police" at the same time, only judging a person's walk by my perception of their actions. We have to take the motivation of righteous living off of man, and place it back to God.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Book Review

How Big is a Pig by Clare Beaton.

Just sat down and read this with the kids. The art work is really cool. It looks three dimensional and full of texture.

However, the final line reads: "This pig is my mom, and she's the biggest of them all."

What was Clare Beaton thinking?

A really fun book to read with the kids, just make sure your pregnant wife isn't within earshot.

As children's books go, a "7 point Caribou."

Jesus Christ and the Church of LCD--Part 3

Most people would think that the gospel would be free from Lowest Common Denominator thinking. After all, we come to Christ with child-like faith (Mark 10:15). Members of the church may not understand the difference between creation and evolution. They may not know about Open Theism or have eschatology mapped out...but they understand the gospel, right?

What issue is most critical to the method/message debate? I'm profoundly motivated to present the message in a way that people connect with. If a person were to only hear one conversation from me, or only read one post of mine, I would pray it would be a presentation of the gospel. What could be more important than making sure we present the gospel in an understanding and relevant way?

However, because it is such a critical topic, is there anything else I need to as passionately defend? Because of its urgency, I should find myself zealously guarding the message from dilution. Not just from others mouths, but from my mouth most especially.

Our saving faith is fairly basic. The theif knew he was a sinner and called out to Jesus to deliver him (Luke 23:40-43). However, the work of salvation is anything but simple (Romans 11:33-36). Do we challenge our people to explore the depth and the riches of their salvation? Too often I think salvation is treated as a past act, and our only reason we study about it now is for sharing with those that aren't saved.

Take for instance the discussion of purpose in evangelism. Can a person be saved by asking God to give them greater purpose? If it's that request alone, I don't think so. To stand before God and state that you should have eternal life because you sought fulfillment in Jesus on earth has no mention of Christ's atonement for your sin. It's an incomplete gospel. Now, can purpose be a great springboard to start a discussion with a person about eternity, God, and our values in life? Sure. And if from that discussion we expose a person to their sin, its consequences and our need for justification through Jesus' atoning sacrifice, then purpose can be a great tool. (I'm trying to be neutral about Warren. I really haven't read or listened to enough of him to know if he faithfully moves the discussion beyond just purpose. I am not giving commentary on Rick Warren, but rather on the "gospel presentation" that ONLY revolves around fulfillment. I will say, however, that Warren's book should be labeled as the very basic, and the fact that some see it as a deep exercise of faith only exposes how many are not truly digging.)

How does this happen in our Body? How do people begin to forget or neglect the very center of our faith? I think it's because too many people aren't called to dig into the truths of their faith. They don't understand the entire Bible to be account of God's redemptive solution for man. They know what they need to be saved and then they see the other things in the Bible (Old Testament historical accounts, The Law, parables, New Testament history, eschatology, etc.) as extras; separate issues that have nothing to do with salvation.

I've seen this from the reaction I've received from some when preaching. When the gospel is presented during the sermon, they see it as the section that doesn't pertain to them, since they are already saved. They tune out (which is frustrating, at the minimum they should be begging God to soften hearts of any unsaved present), assuming this part of the service is only intended for an unsaved person that may be in the room. While I want that non-believer to listen (I've been praying that their presence is an indication that Holy Spirit is prodding them!), that is not the primary reason I present the gospel in my sermon. I present it to be Biblically accurate to whatever texts I am preaching. I present it to show the believer that the issue we are discussing is centered in the fact that God has made a relationship possible with Him through His Son. Sadly, I don't think I do a good enough job of articulating that fact.

Take prayer for instance. What is our acceptance of the gospel if not our first genuine prayer to the Father? How would we have a right to enter the throne room if the Son, who walked this earth, has not passed into the heavens (Hebrews 4:14-16)? How do I truly know that God gives me what I need instead of what I want if I don't understand that He offered His Son when I wasn't even asking Him to (Romans 5:10)? Do I need to totally understand prayer to be saved? Of course not. But can I really understand prayer if I only know the basics of salvation? The answer is just as equally no.

Even if Rick Warren is preaching a purpose ONLY gospel (again, I have no clue if he is or isn't), the problem isn't him. The problem is, our people don't understand the importance of justification, redemption, the atonement and other issues well enough to notice their absence from a message. People have got to be encouraged to move beyond the "bare minimum" of what they need to know.

There is a minimum to what needs to be understood to be saved, but we should not allow others to make that our only point of reference regarding salvation.

What things are you seeing done that encourages a deeper digging? We're talking about offering a sunday school class centered around the "Soli's" of our faith. Obviously, that doesn't cure the problem, so other thoughts are greatly appreciated.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Jesus Christ and the Church of LCD--Part 2

LCD (Least Common Denominator) is not meant to be a reference to any person. People are of upmost value. Luke 12 reminds us of our tremendous value. There is no scale of greater and lesser value of persons in the church. James 2 warns us very sternly not to play favorites.

Instead, LCD is referring to our approach. Suppose you place me on a team with Manu Ginobili, Ivan Rodriguez and Ben Rothlisberger. If we are to accomplish some athletic feat, I am certainly going to be bringing the least physical prowess to the table. Does that make me less valuable as a person? Certainly not. But it may mean that for us to accomplish a given task, the load isn't spread out evenly, but that those guys move a little beyond me to get things done. If we all just play at my level, the other guys will actually become stunted. But if they are pushed physically, I may even develope some greater athletic skill in the process.

At times, it appears we fear "leaving others behind" so much that we never call them to advance. I'm intrigued by the words found in Hebrews 5: "11We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn. 12In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God's word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! 13Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. 14But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil." I just don't know that we spend much time on solid food. The author explains that he has more he wants to say, and wants to call people to more, but their stunted growth prevents him. Scary thing is, they've been on milk so long, he says he's going to have to teach them the "elementary truths" all over again. They haven't maintained their position, they've actually regressed. I'm not saying that a person speak beyond the audience or we have no respect of the spiritual maturity of those we minister to. Notice the author says he wants to teach more, but can't really do it. The people aren't ready. But he at least calls them to more.

Have we become spiritual milk men, dispensing simple thoughts every week, and never call people to a deeper understanding of truth? Are we so worried about speaking to the audience, that they are able to listen to a sermon and not be challenged to reach for more? Do we seek to make them so comfortable, we actually allow for complacence?

How do we turn lactose obsessed sheep into carnivores? How can God use us to help them develop a hunger for deeper truths? How do I make sure it's happening in my own life?

Tomorrow: LCD's effect on the gospel.