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Saturday, September 30, 2006

McLaren Conclusion

As I stated in my introduction, I wanted to look at McLaren's message because I believed it would give me insight into his ministry and the ministry of Mar's Hill. And to understand the ministry of each would help one understand a large segment of what is deemed the emergent chuch movement (though not the entire thing). I was concerned with how McLaren handled Isaiah 61, Luke 4:16-21, and Mark 10:17-27. McLaren's hermeneutic seem to be the problem in each of those situations.

I certainly understand McLaren's frustration. A faith that makes no impact on the earth is neither biblical, nor attractive to the lost. McLaren attempts to motivate his listeners to care about today. He's clearly passionate about it (as were New Testament authors). With a limited amount of time, McLaren is forced to bypass discussions of justification, or Christ's substitutionary payment. Some may argue that McLaren can afford to assume these topics (possibly some may even blame these doctines for causing "current world apathy"), since they are popularly shared in other sectors of the church. However, without speaking o these doctrines, I found his message:

Bereft of Case--Throughout McLaren's message I couldn't help but feel like strawmen were being constructed just to be torn down. He spoke of a "Christian fatalism" as if it is considered orthodoxy. He painted a picture of those who hope in heaven as those who choose to do nothing about poverty and destroy the planet with wreckless abandon. Then, he tears that view down, presenting his as the more righteous. However, the biblical answer is to care for the poor and the environment AND for our hope to be found in our eternal dwelling. Neither the fatalist extreme (which he doesn't identify) nor McLaren's answer are the actual answer.

[Incidentally, I've heard some who are sympathtic with the emergent movement claim they hate how many in the church today think it is their Christian duty to vote Republican. They long for a faith that isn't corrupted by politics. However, I heard McLaren speak of politics, voting and economic reform more than any other preacher in the last four years or so.]

Bereft of Power--McLaren's entire point is to call the people at Mar's Hill to be on board with what God desires to do now in the environment and among the poor. As he builds his case, I expect him to call the church to bold action. However, when it comes time for application, McLaren's message is rather weak and vague. He asks the people to consider possibly getting on board with God's program and suggests potentially helping out the poor and the environment. In the end, his application seems to just be suggestions for self fulfillment and not a call to obedience to God.

Bereft of the Gospel--It just wasn't found in his message. Not only did he ignore issues of the cross, grace, faith, Christ's substituionary atonement, but he also seems to call the hope found in eternity suspect and speaks in ways that seem to deny the depravity of man. McLaren does not speak of man's need to be made right with God, rather calls people to simply "join God's program." Again, there is nothing wrong with preaching about how the gospel should impact now, but you should atleast identify the gospel.

Bereft of Mission--A couple of weeks ago, I was having lunch with a man who has more years of ministry experience than I have years of life. In the middle of the lunch, the Emergent Movement came up. He said to me, "You know, I hear them talk about being missional all the time. At first, I thought I knew what they meant, but now, since they talk about it like it's some kind of novel idea, I'm starting to think I don't know what they mean." I share in his confusion. What is the point of free trade coffee and driving a hybrid if we do not attach the gospel message to it? Shouldn't our mission be to declare the word of Christ?

I can understand why McLaren would downplay issues of eternity in his preaching. The modern "God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life" gospel, followed by a call to "ask Jesus into your heart" creates a body of people who get their "fire insurance" and then wait to play a harp. There is no motivation to consider things in our present time. However, it seems that a call back to a biblical gospel message (not our mainstream, consumer driven style) would be just the cure McLaren craves. A call to repent from sin calls for a death to self and a life of service. When a saint trusts in Christ, he is motivated to improve current circumstances, for he has a hope that will not fade.

Is McLaren's message a "new kind of sermon?"

Not really. It seems that McLaren is making the same mistake many liberal protestant churches made years ago. At first, you assume people know the gospel, because you do not have time to address it in the midst of your message. Next, you find a people confused about what the gospel is. Lastly, you find people who begin to deny the gospel, for they've constructed something contrary in their hearts. McLaren's motive may be pure (only he knows), but I fear the movement may find itself powerless in a short amount of time.

Friday, September 29, 2006

McLaren's Key Illustration

After listening to a message by Brian McLaren, I decided to review his understanding of the text quoted. I ask you to please read my purpose and intent in evaluating before reading further.

First, McLaren directs the congregation to Isaiah 61:1-4. (You can read my review here.) Next, he turns the group to Luke 4:16-21 (review here.) Lastly, he goes to Mark 10:17-27 (review here.)

McLaren begins his message with an illustration involving puzzles. He tells the audience he's not really a "puzzle guy" (I don't think they're that fun either) but shares he sometimes has the sinister urge to switch puzzle box lids (that actually does sound like a great prank). It can be a struggle to put a puzzle together, even if you have all the right pieces, if you're trying to match the picture from the wrong lid. McLaren therefore, encourages the folks at Mar's Hill to put the box lid away; focussing on the pieces alone. It's a clever illustration that people could easily relate to. It also captures the audience, anxiously waiting to hear what he has to share.

But wait, you're thinking, You said you didn't care about illustrations. You were simply going to evaluate how he handles the Word. You're right. I don't want to evaluate the originality of the illustration, nor the delivery. I believe his illustration reveals much about McLaren's hermeneutic.

I applaud McLaren's desire to let the text do the talking. He is not satisfied to simply accept the traditional understanding of the passage. Obviously, I'm thankful for the Reformers who did not accept the teaching of the Catholic church regarding certain passages, but the key is to let the text do the talking. However, when McLaren "puts aside the box lid" he also seems to cast aside authorial intent.

At best, McLaren pulls themes out of the text that are not primary (in his handling of Isaiah 61 & Luke 4:16-21). At times, he ignores the definition of words, giving them new meaning to support his view (as he does with Mark 10:17-27). But is that really harmful? It's not like McLaren's cause was evil, he's calling people to care for the environment and look after the poor. These are both biblical themes, is it really that big a deal if they aren't primary in the texts he used?

The answer is, Yes it is a very big deal. No mention is made of God's grace despite our sin, though McLaren speaks from Isaiah 61, a passage about God giving the Israelites back the land they lost due to sin. We spend no time identifying Jesus as the ultimate gift from God, though in Luke 4, Jesus says He is the fulfillment of the favorable year of the Lord. There is no mention of God's holiness or man's depravity, though Mark 10 clearly speaks of God alone being good and that no one can fulfill His law alone. Though countless Scriptures tell the believer to find his hope in his eternity, McLaren redefines that to be living for more now. If an unbeliever is present, he did not hear enough of the word of Christ to produce faith (Romans 10:17). And the believer may place social reform and environmentalism as a higher priority than the gospel ministry.

Summary--In the midst of his "puzzle box swap illustration," McLaren shares how he would solve the problem. Confessing that puzzles naturally try his patience, McLaren would solve the problem with a marker and his fist. He laughingly tells the crowd that if the puzzle wasn't matching the box, he would simply use a marker to color the puzzle pieces and bash them together to make them fit. While McLaren was clearly joking, there is sadly some honesty in his humor. It seems that McLaren came to the passages in Isaiah 61, Luke 4:16-21 and Mark 10:17-27 with the desire to preach social reform and environmentalism. He was willing to use whatever tools he needed to make that point. He may have been trying to make the puzzle without looking at the box, but it seems clear that he already had a picture in his mind he wished to make.

What I find most puzzling is that he didn't want to make the picture about sin, redemption, the cross and grace. The gospel certainly does not need to be severed from social reform, but social reform is pointless if we do not articulate the gospel. It's a "box lid" I can't understand why anyone would want to replace.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

McLaren on Mark 10:17-27

After listening to a message by Brian McLaren, I decided to review his understanding of the text quoted. I ask you to please read my purpose and intent in evaluating before reading further.

First, McLaren directs the congregation to Isaiah 61:1-4. (You can read my review here.) Next, he turns the group to Luke 4:16-21 (review here.) Lastly, he goes to Mark 10:17-27

McLaren's Emphasis

McLaren suggests that when the ruler asks what he must do to inherit eternal life, he does not mean heaven. He suggests the man is saying, "Jesus, there is a different kind of life that You are talking about. You call it the kingdom of God. It's life that is on the higer level, it's not just stuck in the mundane. It's life that has an eternal significance. Life in the kingdom of God."

2. Jesus questions why the man would call Him "Good Teacher" since only God is good. McLaren says what Jesus meant here was, "Look, if you're just interested in the opinion of a good teacher, that's one thing. But if you really are interested in what God says about this, let's go back to the commandments in the Bible."

3. The rich young ruler claims that he has kept the commandments. The text says that Jesus felt compassion for him. McLaren understands His compassion was borne out of thinking, "He's [the rich young ruler] is really sincere." McLaren states this man has everything we all want. He is young, he has money, he has influence. Jesus sees all this, but sees a man who wants something greater.

4. McLaren states that if this was about eternity, Jesus gives the wrong answer. But if he's asking a question about higher signficance, life on a higher level, then Jesus' answer makes sense. When Jesus tells the man to sell all he has and follow Him, McLaren understands Jesus to be saying, "You are a really commited guy. You're doing great. But if you really want to be a part of the kingdom of God...[at this point, McLaren references back to Jesus' main point in Luke 4 being social action, even though he acknowledges the ruler wouldn't have been there to hear Jesus read Isaiah 61]...back then I said the reason I am here is to bring good news to the poor. If you want to be a part of My thing, if you think I am more than just a teacher, and that God is really speaking through Me, then what I'm asking you to do is join me in my concern for the poor."

5. When Jesus says it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven, He is not speaking of heaven. He's talking about being a part of His work, that He calls being a part of the kingdom of God now.

6. McLaren states that Jesus could not have been talking to the rich young ruler about eternity, or else He really messed up the Lord's prayer. He says that "thy kingdom come" and "thy will be done" speaks of Jesus' desire to bring God to us, not for us to look forward to escape in heaven.

Some observations

If the rich young ruler did not mean life after death, there are several words that need explanation. First, the ruler asks about inheriting eternal life. He does not say greater life, he does not ask for abundant life, he asks about eternity. If the man sells all he has, Jesus says his treasure will be in heaven. He does not say here on earth, but speaks of life after death, and its reward. The rich young ruler does not correct Jesus for focussing on eternity. The disciples ask who can then be saved. This seems and odd question if Jesus was merely speaking of quality of life.

2. McLaren misses Jesus' emphasis on God's righteousness when He questions the ruler for saying "Good Teacher." Jesus is saying that only God is good. Yet, this is also a moment where Jesus is expressing His divinity. For if God alone is good, and "Good Teacher" is an applicable name for Jesus, then Jesus must be God.

3. See observation 1.

4. McLaren paints Jesus as in oppostion to the Apostle Paul in Romans 1-3. The suggestion seems to come across that man can be good enough to come before God.

5. See observation 1.

6. McLaren gives the listener two options: a) Either care about the present, and improving conditions of life now, or b) focus only on heaven. He does not seem to believe both can be accomplished. I know McLaren has stated his doubts about orthodox doctrines of hell, but he seems to dismiss the eternal so much, I'm wondering if he believes in heaven either. The believer should be able to strive to improve life around him and long for heaven.


McLaren redefines many words in this passage. If you took the literal dialogue in the passage and compared it to what he believes they were really saying, it would not appear to be the same conversation. The gospel continues to be neglected, and comments are even made that appear contrary to the gospel. He does not address God's righteousness, though "Good Teacher" is a great place to do so. He does not present man's depravity, though the commandments are a great opportunity to do so. It even appears to be a bit of a works salvation, that "joining Jesus' social program" is what it means to inherit eternal life. Not only do traditional interpretations of passages go out the window, but many orthodox doctrines seem to disappear as well.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

McLaren on Luke 4:16-21

After listening to a message by Brian McLaren, I decided to review his understanding of the text quoted. I ask you to please read my purpose and intent in evaluating before reading further.

First, McLaren directs the congregation to Isaiah 61:1-4. (You can read my review here.) Next, he turns the group to Luke 4:16-21.

McLaren's Emphasis

Technically, he does not "turn" the group there. He simply summarizes the passage, and actually tells them it is found in Luke 3 (We've all given the wrong reference before.) He concludes the Biblical narrative with, "Today, this day, those words are fulfilled in your hearing."

2. He explains that what Jesus was saying is that what happened in Isaiah's day is happening again today.

3. McLaren warns that we can tend to spiritualize the texts, assuming Jesus is talking about hearts rather than literally helping the poor and the oppressed. He contrasts the caricature of heaven (clouds and harps) with God's desire to rebuild cities in the here and now.

4. In illustrating this point. McLaren describes a boy who wishes to get out of cleaning his room by explaining entropy to his mother. The boy explains that entropy is a law of science and that God has established all of the laws of science. Therefore, attempting to reverse such a law would be rebelling against God. He suggests that some take this attitude when it comes to prophecy or even evaluating our current circumstances. Some look and claim that we shouldn't help the poor or clean up the environment because it's a helpless cause. However, McLaren says this passage shows us, "that God actually cares about this world. God has not abandoned creation. The law of entropy might be a law of physics, but there is a deeper law in the universe, it's the law of God's faithfulness. And that God does not abandon His creation, but that God cares about it being renewed, and restored, and rebuilt."

Some observations

While McLaren is able to summarize the details of Luke 4, I couldn't help but get the impression he was not very familiar with specific details. For one, he stated it was Luke 3 a couple of times. This would not be a major concern (again, we've all missed a reference before) except that he misses something else critical within the text. He tells the audience that Jesus quotes the passage in Isaiah 61 (verses 1-4 is what McLaren read aloud) however Jesus only quoted Isaiah 61:1-2. Why does this matter? Because McLaren spends a majority of his time in Luke 4 telling the audience how concerned Jesus is with cities and ruins, yet Jesus did not find it necessary to read that portion. Instead, Jesus concluded with "to proclaim the favorable year of the LORD." Jesus did not even bother reading the portion about cities and ruins, therefore it seems a stretch to say that was His main point when speaking to those in Nazareth.

2. To say that what Isaiah prophesied (and saw happen) in his day is happening again in Jesus' day seems to put Isaiah's and Jesus' ministry on the same plain. He does not take opportunity to share that Jesus was a greater fulfillment of the prophecy, nor that He had a greater mission than Isaiah.

3. I don't just struggle to see how the text makes McLaren's point, I actually struggle to see how it doesn't contradict his main point. He states that Jesus tells them the prophecy is fulfilled in their hearing and then goes out and actually performs these acts. McLaren warns us not to spiritualize this fulfillment, for Jesus says He will restore sight to the blind and we certainly see that literally fulfilled (thus making his case). However, I am not aware of Him creating release of the captives (actually, He left John the Baptist in prison to be beheaded), or to set free those who had been oppressed (I do not remember Him freeing a single slave and when His political motives were challenged He stated His kingdom is not of this world.) Again, Jesus mentions nothing of restoring cities and buildings, yet McLaren claims that was part of His mission too (even though He spoke of the destruction of the temple of Jerusalem and did nothing to prevent it). John 9 seems to be an important place to turn. Yes, Jesus cared abou the physical nature of things (we are not gnostics) and healed a man born blind. However, He seems to care even more about the man's soul, pursuing the man to reveal Himself as Lord to him.

4. I actually really liked McLaren's "clean your room" example. (I could hear myself trying that kind of approach as a child.) And he is quite right that we should not throw our hands up in dispair, refusing to influence the world. However, I was greatly disappointed to not hear the gospel articulated at this point. Entropy gave him a great opportunity. The law of entropy was not in effect when God said, "It is good," but became a law imposed upon a fallen world. This was a great door for McLaren to introduce the problem of sin. Sin is the reason for entropy, and only if God reverses the problem of sin can He reverse the problem of entropy. Yet McLaren presented entropy as if God created a world full of sin, disease, decay and death. Second, I'm not sure what better suggests that God has not abandoned His creation than to state He was willing to die to reverse the curse. Yet McLaren gives no reference to the cross.


The passage in Luke does not seem to be about the environment or social reform. In fact, the passage does not even contain some of the statements that McLaren draws as his main points. Not only does the listener focus on a point the text does not make, but it also causes the listener to miss the main point of the passage. The first line Jesus quotes from Isaiah is about proclaiming the gospel. The last line He quotes is about it being the favorable year of the Lord. McLaren does not acknowledge either of these points, instead focussing on the environment. By this point in his message, he has mentioned personal sin (acknowledging it is bad), however it is placed right beside social and political injustice. It is not presented as a violation of God's righteousness.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

McLaren on Isaiah 61:1-4

After listening to a message by Brian McLaren, I decided to review his understanding of the text quoted. I ask you to please read my purpose and intent in this exercise before reading any further.

The first text McLaren turns to is Isaiah 61:1-4
The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, Because the LORD has anointed me To bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to captives And freedom to prisoners; To proclaim the favorable year of the LORD And the day of vengeance of our God; To comfort all who mourn, To grant those who mourn {in} Zion, Giving them a garland instead of ashes, The oil of gladness instead of mourning, The mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting. So they will be called oaks of righteousness, The planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified. Then they will rebuild the ancient ruins, They will raise up the former devastations; And they will repair the ruined cities, The desolations of many generations.
McLaren's Emphasis

1. McLaren says this poem was written to people "standing on the ledge of dispair" to tell these oppressed captives that a better day is coming.

2. [Referring to verse 4] "The structures of your civilization will be renewed. The environment of your civilization. Like if it were today, maybe he'd say, 'The toxic waste dumps will be cleaned up. The places that have been paved over by concrete. The places where species are going extinct. Those will be renewed. The cities that are filled with urban blight. The cities that are filled with poverty and unemployment. God cares about them, and you will have a part in rebuilding them.'"

3. McLaren points out that, contrary to our expectation, Isaiah does not point them to thought of eternity for comfort, but the hope is found in a point in history. He does not comfort them that they will leave this earth, but rather that the "poor, broken hearted, captive, prisoners, all who mourn and grieve, and those in dispair are going to be helped."

4. In the midst of discussing this issue, McLaren makes the statement, "Most of us would rather go to heaven later rather than sooner...but that's another story."

Some observations

We are never told these oppressed, downtrodden people are Jews. Why does this matter? It matters because Israel was in captivity as an act of judgment by God. They were not innocent victims. They had rebelled against God and He disciplined them. Yet, we see His grace extended in that He pursues restoration. No mention of this theme at all.

2. Again, McLaren glosses over the importance of the promised land and of Jerusalem in particular. He makes no mention of covenants made to the people, nor that this is even God's chosen nation. Strangely, in a message that is intened to motivate compassion for people, McLaren seems to be more focused on the environment. There is a significance to the "Promised Land" (see Hebrews 3 & 4) that unfortunately seems ignored.

3. I'm not sure I even fully understand McLaren's point here. He is right that the text does not point them to heaven as their solace. But the text does point them to future events. In verse 4, it regularly says "they will" indicating these are future events. In fact, Jesus states that this passage was fulfilled by Him. (Which happens to be the next text we'll examine.) Any immediate fulfillment of this passage seems to be secondary to the fulfillment in Christ, thus pointing us to the future, not Isaiah's present conditions.

4. I do not want to be overly harsh on his sidebar statement, "Most of us would rather go to heaven later rather than sooner...but that's another story." Every pastor occasionaly makes a sideways statement he knows could become a full blown "rabbit trail" and therefore brings himself back to the point without further explanation. This very well could be such a case. However, I do wish he would have articulated that the Scriptures only exhort believers to look forward to the Lord's appearing. Perhaps his facial expression or gestures articulated that not wanting to be with Christ is not the God pleasing heart attitude.


McLaren encourages the people of Mar's Hill to be good stewards of creation. He also encourages them to not fall prey to "escapism," thinking so much about eternity that they do not look to impact the present. These are both good, Biblical concepts. However, it is questionable to say they are themes addressed here in Isaiah 61, and it can certainly be said they are not the main theme of the passage. To this point in the message, there has been no mention of sin, God's judgment, God's holiness, or even His grace in restoring a people who did not deserve it of themselves.

Monday, September 25, 2006

The Thoughts You Don't Preach...

Yesterday, in our second service, something caught my eye. I've been missing my tape measure ever since we rearranged the auditorium a couple months ago. About three sentances into my sermon yesterday, I spotted it in the far back corner of the room. It was so random, and I was so glad to have found it, that it almost interupted my train of thought while I was speaking. Fortunately, I realized there was no benefit in sharing with the Body, and continued on in Joshua.

It may surprise you to hear that other things run through a pastor's mind while he preaches. There are some who believe preaching is simply studying the text and then letting whatever "the Spirit leads" to come out of your mouth. Many imagine this to be a more "Spirit-filled" style of preaching, yet I find the battle is not what to say, the battle is knowing what not to say. Could some of it be Spirit filled (absolutely, I believe He drove me to a text I wasn't planning on sharing yesterday morning), but much of it can come from other sources, ranging from soap boxes to attempts to humor the crowd.

Here are the ten thoughts I remember running through my mind, but not out my mouth, while preaching:

10. Hey, my tape measure! Already explained that one.

9. I know you! About a year ago, I spotted a girl from high school. She clearly recognized me too, and even waved (while I'm preaching). I wanted to stop the message and find out if she knew Christ, it didn't seem she did in high school. But I waited until after the service to talk to her and yes, God had miraculously saved her!

8. I better watch what I say. Around six months ago, Tom Avey (a national fellowship guy) was a surprise visitor at our service. It made me pause and consider my words, which then made me pause again and consider why I care. Which then made me pause and wonder if I am watching my words every week. Which made me pause and ask God for forgiveness for the times I've stood in the pulpit lightly. Which made me thankful to God that He has not killed me on the spot for those times I've taken the gospel proclamation lightly and I asked Him to guard my heart in future times. At the end of this, I paused and wondered, How long have I been standing here silent in front of everyone? Fortunately, when I arrived home, my wife said she didn't even notice the pause.

7. Low neckline, High hemline, probably shouldn't look that way the rest of the message. When this happens, I'm sure the woman does not intend to be a distraction, she's probably not even thought about it. But it does make preaching a bit awkward when there is a section of the room you can't look at.

6. What time does our service end? Yeah, this one still happens a lot. I get up to preach and can't remember how much time I actually have. I've told Jason that maybe I need one of those red digital countdown clocks in the back of the room. When it reaches 00:00, Jason should just get up and begin playing music. I can crazily try to finish my message before I am completely drowned out by the music. It works on those awards shows.

5. Uh, oh--Greek/Hebrew word/City name/Geneology coming up and you're going to botch the pronounciation. Between being Apalachian (and not really learning English), and not paying attention enough in class, I know I mess up most transliterated elements.

4. You want to get up here and try this? One time, while preaching in Richmond, I had a gentleman sitting in the second to last row give me the "get on with it" geasture. I actually remember stopping in midst sentence, fumbling for words. I just moved on and pretended I didn't see it. The man was actually a nice guy and I don't think he realized he made an outward motion of his inward thoughts. I think it was a combination of his fatigue and my preaching a pretty poor sermon.

3. I could embarrass you sooo badly right now. Perhaps it is a greater problem for me than other preachers, but there is usually a person or two that is nodding off each time I preach. This is especially distracting to me when it is a person who either: a) is in leadership of some type, b) finds it necessary to take their nap in the first two rows of seating. It always crosses my mind to either shout, work their name into an illustration, or even shoot them with a squirt gun (unfortunately, I'm never packing). One time, while preaching, I even considered talking the entire congregation into leaving the auditorium, setting the sound system at a gentle buzz and then seeing if the person thought the rapture happened when they woke up.

2. Turn your phone off. It can happen to any of us. Sure, we may forget to turn our cell phone off, or to silent mode when we come to church. But if you forget, and your phone begins to ring, immediately silence it. Several times, I've been in the situation where the person just sits there, as if their denial of the distraction somehow makes it disappear. Trust me, it's much less distracting for you to jump to action and turn the noise off. (I almost considered rumaging through a woman's purse to find her phone and answer it in the midst of my sermon while she sat in her chair pretending it wasn't her's.) By the way, if you are in the room when this happens, use it as a reminder to check your own phone and make sure it is off.

1. Wow, I don't deserve her. It is incredibly encouraging to see my wife while I preach. She supports me fully and will look interested even if I have put the rest of the congregation into a comma. There are times that it is appropriate to commend her for being a godly woman and a wonderful mate from the front. But at other times, it would be a distraction from the text, or the church really doesn't need to hear just how cute I really think she is.

So the next time suggest a pastor loosen up, be prepared for what you are asking for. Often, yeilding to the Spirit is not saying things you weren't prepared to say, but rather NOT saying the things that run through your mind!


Like most outside the Emergent Movement, I struggle to understand it. My struggle is twofold. 1) Since the movement is sensitive to prejudice and profiling, it has been hesitant to quantify or give discernable standards. (Consider even the words "emerging" and "emergent." Most are not sure if these words are interchangable or refer to different things.) If it is difficult to know what something is, it is equally challenging to evaluate it. 2) Of those who try to evaluate the movement, many seem angy and unfair. It is hard to find an objective evaluation that does not assume motive or attack intentions.

Through a blog, I found an mp3 of a McLaren sermon given at Mar's Hill. I decided to download it (it was only 6.8 MB) and check it out. I wasn't concerned with his "stage presence," his illustrations, or his inflection.

Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.--2 Timothy 2:15

If we believe Paul's words to be inspired, then a pastor is not evaluated by God by the size or even response of the congregation. God will evaluate his ministry based on how he handles (I believe that includes personal application) the Word. This was the only standard I wished to evaluate in McLaren's message. How does he handle the Word?

But before I begin, I would like to make sure some things are expressed:
    I'm not looking for a flawless presentation. Any fallible audience is going to hear things and misunderstand, misconstrue or even misapply. Any fallible preacher is going to make mistakes, either through mistatement or because he misunderstands the text. This standard applies to Timothy and his audience. However, Paul says it is possible for a pastor's preaching to be approved by God and free from shame.
So why this message, and why review it publicly:
    Brian McLaren is one man that is at the front of this movement. If we can understand his perspective, we can atleast understand a segment of the emergent.
    By preaching at Mar's Hill, we can not simply say his message is his perspective alone. His message is introduced and concluded by a church leader, without any indication of conflict. Therefore, this message allows us to discern McLaren and the perspective of Mar's Hill...a very prominent emergent church.
    Sermons are public. It was spoken to a large crowd, and has been posted on the world wide web. It is not necessary to evaluate something in private that has been presented publicly. (In fact, if a person publicly declared the movie theatre was on fire, when you knew it was not, it would be inappropriate for you to confront the person privately before dealing with the crowd.)
    [As a side, yes I am open to similar critique. You can find sermons I have given here].
    I want the accountability. I'm asking you to guard my tone, watching that I do not attack motives or character. I simply want to evaluate the message.
If you're interested in hearing the message too, it can be found here. (Week 391, "Renew, Rebuild and Restore")

Thursday, September 21, 2006

St. Jude, D.D.S.

About two weeks ago, I had a denist appointment. Both the hygienist and the dentist made positive remarks. However, near the end of the appointment, someone remembered it had been a while since I had any x-rays. They took the shots, and in a few minutes the dentist was back with some "not so good" news. Apparently, there were some dark spots in some back teeth that suggested something was going to happen eventually. He said I would need to come in again.
Yesterday was that day. I walked into the dentist office, feeling great, with no complaints about my teeth. I sat in the chair and had my jaw shot up with novacaine, felt half my face go numb, took a drill to a couple of teeth (before the novacaine completely set in), tasted latex gloves for an hour, felt poking and proding and prying on my mouth. By the end, I left the office sore, swollen, numb and had a funny taste in my mouth.

(Now my dentist is not only a perfectly capable man, but a godly man too. I have no doubt he would not have performed the procedure unless it was truly necessary. Yet, I could not help but feel like I left the office in worse shape than I entered.)

Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints.--Jude 3

Our common salvation tells us that Jude was wanting to write to believers, celebrating the grace they had already received. No critique, no challenge, just something encouraging about their common bond. However, after examining the situation, Jude felt it was necessary to beg the people to contend for the faith. Did Jude love the people any less than when he first sat down to write? Did his hyper-critical drive take over, causing him to be negative, rather than simply look for common ground?

Or was it that Jude, loving the people he was writing, saw the situation, and knew of the need to contend for the faith. After assessing the situation, Jude realized the most loving thing he could do was expose the problems. People had crept in who turn grace into licentiousness (4), deny the true Messiah (4), reject all forms of authority (8), and flatter the flock (16) all so they can make more money (11). But if these guys are so bad why would Jude need to write about them? Surely, the people would notice? Yet, Jude states they have crept in unnoticed (4) as hidden reefs (12) who look to gain an advantage (16).

Today, if you contend for the faith, you are called divisive, rude and mean. But could I hurl the same accusation at my dentist? I was happy, comfortable and felt healthy. Wasn't my dentist the problem? After all, I'm in more pain now than I felt yesterday?We know that the real problem was my own tooth decay.

In fact, Jude instructs the church that these (false teachers) are the ones who cause divisions, worldly minded, devoid of the Spirit (19). Jude, motivated by the same love that initially prompted his letter, knows he must do the hard work, prying, poking and drilling to extract the destructive teaching.

I'd be angry at my dentist (my jaw is still sore and there is a funny taste in the left side of my mouth) except that I know he saved me a ton of pain in the future. Likewise, contending can sometimes be a painful process, however it allows us to delight more in our common salvation.

Sure, a sensitive nerve may be exposed when error is revealed. But it is the loving thing to attack the problem, not ignore it.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Dan Phillips--Brain Spy

He has done it again. A wonderful article that again seems take the jumbled up mess in my brain, make sense of it, and articulate it like I wish I could.

You really should check it out.

If you're still not convinced. Let me offer my endorsement in these ways:
    I linked to the article three times...just so you'd get the hint.
    I'm not posting anything else today, so hopefully you'll go there.

Enjoy! (Ok, four times)

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Grass Roots Lessons

This summer, we had a tree removed from our front yard. After clearing out all of the wood chips, we were left with a giant hole in the ground. We filled the hole with dirt and proceeded to plant some seed. I went to the store and bought the stuff that's supposed to grow quickly. I spent an entire afternoon trying to develop a yard with grass. (While our driveway, with no effort at all, seems to be overtaken with grass.)

It's been two weeks. I've watered religiously. I've mowed around the green mulchy patches. I'm now starting to wonder, Is grass ever going to grow there? I've read the seed bag about 4 times to make sure I didn't mess it up.

Just last week, while mowing, I was very tempted to just plow right over these patches. They seemed to be just mocking me, my effort, and even my faith that grass would grow. There have been nights where I've questioned whether I should even water. I even thought about how upset I will be if the water bill is higher, yet the yard is still bare.

Then, just this morning, I noticed something. There are small, thin shoots of grass starting to come out of these spots. Evidently, things were happening below the surface that I couldn't see.

Know where I'm going?

Paul reminds us, "I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth. So then, neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth.

About three weeks ago, I started to question some things. I've been trying to share my faith more, and have been having some very solid conversations with people. However, none of these conversations have led to conventional "success stories." I started to hear that whisper: What's the point? No one is changing? Your methods obviously don't seem to be working. I've been telling our church to focus on being faithful to the gospel message, trusting God to do the work, and I was starting to wonder about it myself.

Graciously, God has given me a couple of conversations lately that remind me that 1 Corinthians 3:6-7 is just as true today. I heard about a man tonight who trusted Christ because of a tract. I recently heard about a woman who refused to date a nonbeliever (instead giving him the explanation why she couldn't along with a tract). The man became a believer (and not for the girl, for they never dated) and is walking faithfully with the Lord since. I've had a couple of conversations lately that show that watering has happened, people are thinking. It's generated an urgency in me (one man called it "fire in the belly" this Sunday).

I'm shocked how quickly I want to drop biblical evangelism for something that might generate better results. I know better (I've blogged against it), yet the draw is still there. Perhaps if I pressure them more. Maybe if I don't bring up the sin issue. Could I promise them something that Jesus doesn't really offer them? Yet if Paul can't force an increase, how could I? I pray that God forgive me for ever doubting His Word.

I may never have a thick yard, but I'll keep casting out seed. I pray that I'll faithfully sow The Seed as well.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Delight in the Law

Lost in the disturbing graphic (I got several emails of complaint) was the verse:

Open my eyes, that I may behold Wonderful things from Your law.--Psalm 119:18

Is it really possible to delight in the law? Can that which we've seen as a set of rules, restricting us from the "fun" we've craved really be delightful? It may be easy to consider this just an Old Testament type of thing. However, the Law should do the following in our lives:

Convict of Sin We know what sin is because of the Law. If I am honest, I no longer can consider myself good, for I see how many ways I have made myself guilty.

Expose Grace Next time you go swimming, I challenge you to grab a relaxed swimmer around the neck and drag them out of the water. If they ask what you were doing, simply tell them you were saving them. This is the same response you get from a person who has not confronted God's Law. Tell them they need salvation and they have no idea why. But study the Law until you feel like you are drowning in your guilt, then you praise God for His gracious gift of His Son!

See Righteousness While we all violate God's Law, we should all be aiming for it. The person who knows Christ as Savior should be careful with his words (as one example) knowing that his lips should speak truth and avoid blasphemy. We see the things that please God, and if they please Him, we should strive for them.

See God What is God's Law? Is it a set of rules arbitrarily made up by God just to keep order? Did lying become sin only after God decided it was bad and then made a rule against it? Or, is God's Law an expression of His character and nature? It is wrong to lie, because God is trustworthy. Therefore, anything counter to the character and nature of God, is sin. When we look at the Law, we understand Who God is. What could be more wonderful than that?

You may not find this picture delightful...(Sorry, couldn't resist grossing you out one more time!)...but we should find delight in His Law.

The Commandments: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10]

Book Review

The Book on Leadership by John MacArthur

I received this book Friday night, began reading it Saturday morning, read on and off throughout the day, and completed it at 12:45 AM Sunday morning...that's probably all the review you need.

Instead of borrowing ideas or inspiration from the corporate or military world, MacArthur goes straight to the Word of God. MacArthur establishes that you can't be a leader if no one will follow, therefore, leadership is about influence. Of those born of a man, has anyone had more influence than the apostle Paul?

Biblical--This should not be a surprise to readers/listeners of MacArthur. He does not borrow from business paradigms or from political genius. In fact, he points out that many things like service, humility and selflessness are contrary to many of the worldly strategies. He walks you through texts to help you see God's desire for human leadership.

Practical--However, this book was not written for pastors and missionaries alone. In fact, this book is not reserved just for ministry settings. The principles MacArthur points out are God's desires for leaders, therefore it doesn't matter if that is in a board room, captain of a team, or standing behind a pulpit. MacArthur spells out 26 characteristics of a good leader. These can be applied to any situation, whether you are titled the leader, or if you simply want to influence people.

Passionate--MacArthur loves Paul; it is clearly evident. Many people seem to see MacArthur as this fiery, angry man who only points out everything wrong in the world. This book is not full of critiques of other methods (though that easily could have fit in), but rather a deep admiration of the Apostle Paul's life. Paul intended to be an example, and it is clear MacArthur is trying to follow him. It would be wise for us to follow as well.

Brilliant book. Great read. Go get a copy.

1st Way to Delight in the Lord

As a child, I thought the 10 Commandments were simply a set of rules to follow. Then, I discovered I couldn't keep the rules, leading me to Christ for my righteousness. Then, the 10 Commandments no longer condemn, but show us the character of God. As a believer, I can look to these laws to see how to please the Father. For if Christ never once violated these laws, and my desire is to look more like Him, then these laws help me know Him.

You shall have no other gods before me.

I've had a few atheists suggest to me that this is the problem with the Bible. They claim that in the first commandment, God admits that there are other gods. They paint God as a attention craving being Who must get all the recognition. In effect, they want to claim there must be either no god or many different options. If the problem was God, then they'd be right. But, Isaiah 44 show us the problem is man. We take that which should not be considered a god, and elevate it as an item of worship. It is not actually a diety, but we treat it as if it is. That is why, God says, "You shall not have" instead of "You shall not recognize" or "accept." It truly is not divine, but we worship and obey it over God.

No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.

We naturally set ourselves up to worship and serve. In our fallen state, we quickly place ourselves under the wrong authority. We may not prostrate ourselves to a wallet or to dollar bills, but we can easily find ourselves serving the wrong master. Jesus makes it clear that a split allegience will not work. There is only room in each life for one master. Paul says,

Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness?

Our American ideal of complete freedom and independence is flawed. We are not capable of living our lives freed from all authority and rule. Instead, real joy and freedom is found in being a servant to the right authority. After being freed from the bondage of sin, the believer should not seek to be completely autonomous. Instead, the believer should understand that their freedom comes by living under the authority of obedience to Christ. In reality, there is no sin that can be committed that is not a violation of the first commandment.

For to worship God is to worship God alone.

[Other commandments: 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10]

Friday, September 15, 2006

Bill Gates is Not Post-Modern

That's the title of David Mohler's latest post;
subtitled: "...for the sons of this age are more shrewd in relation to their own kind than the sons of light." (Luke 16:8)

It's a good read. You should check it out!

2nd Way to Delight in the Lord

As a child, I thought the 10 Commandments were simply a set of rules to follow. Then, I discovered I couldn't keep the rules, leading me to Christ for my righteousness. Then, the 10 Commandments no longer condemn, but show us the character of God. As a believer, I can look to these laws to see how to please the Father. For if Christ never once violated these laws, and my desire is to look more like Him, then these laws help me know Him.

You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.

Isaiah 44:9-20 exposes the folly of created gods. Those who are created, fashion a god, and then begin to worship that which they made. They have no hands. They can not move. They must be nailed down to keep from falling over. You must carry it to another room if you want to move its prescence. Yet, we pay homage to it. With half the wood, we make a fire to burn our food over and keep warm. With the other half, we form an idol and begin to worship. Silly middle eastern ancients. We'd never do something that foolish.

Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.

Jesus said we must worship in spirit and truth. He reminds us where we can turn to find the truth about God; His Word. The truth is, we are lazy. The Israelites were tempted to craft their own gods, not because it took more effort, but because it was easier to craft a god in their minds and form a statue to represent it. Things have not changed in a few thousand years. God has gone to great lengths to reveal Himself in the Word, yet we would rather craft Him out of our imaginations. Have a difficult time understanding tragedy? Craft a god who doesn't see the into the future, one who is surprised by the events. Do you struggle with a God who would create hell as a place of punishment? Craft a god who loves everyone and will pardon all. Do you battle the concept of a God who desires His glory above all? Place yourself at the center of the universe!

God transcends us. There will be things we will not be able to comprehend. With our sin-filled hearts, we will naturally craft characteristics of God that are not accurate. There is only one way to keep from crafting our own image. We must dive into His Word. We must work. We must be His craftmanship, not vice versa. We will find ourselves not ashamed, provided we are accurately handling the Word of God. Anytime I begin to craft a perspective of God outside of His revealed Word, I might as well get out a chisel and form an image from the dead tree in my back yard.

And as we rightly present Him, the world rightly sees Him.

[Other commandments: 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10]

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Buffalo Wild Witnessing

Matt and I headed over to the BW-3 in Troy this afternoon for lunch. When the waitress took our order, I gave her a tract, told her to look at it during a break and that we would be around a while and would be willing to talk. She graciously took the tract, but we didn't really see much of her the rest of the meal. I did, however, see the waitress I had last time (whom I also gave a tract). She recognized me and was very friendly and open. She told me she read the tract and had been thinking some about it.

As we went to leave, I got a refill for my to-go cup. I turned from the machine and there sat this waitress. She was sitting with two coworkers and none of them were really working. (We'll call them "Michelle," "Kelly" and "Beyonce." No, that is not there real names. Yes, those are the names of Destiny's Child.) I approached the table and asked her if she'd be willing to talk. She was quite open, and so we began talking about eternity, with her friends listening. Michelle, my initial contact, was still technically working, so she had to jump up from time to time, but the second she sat back down, she wanted to pick up where we left off. Her friend, Kelly, was very intrigued by the discussion. At first, they all considered themselves to be good. We walked through a few laws and they quickly saw their sin. Kelly responded to her guilt by taking the Lord's name in vain, making it easy for her to confess blasphemy as well. They were very open. I took them to the cross and they were riveted, Kelly especially. I then explained that the Bible says a person must repent and trust in Christ alone for salvation. At the point that I began to define "repent," the manager walked up and ended the conversation. She told me I needed to leave her establishment and she didn't appreciate what I was doing. I didn't want to present a bad attitude, so I told her I would respect her choice, and encouraged the girls to think about our conversation.

So why tell you? There are a few reasons:
    Please Pray!
Seriously, these three girls were very attentive. Kelly especially was glued and said she was scared for her soul. (God knows their real names, so you can use their aliases. Besides, maybe it will have a positive effect on the girls in Destiny's Child too!)
    Go get these tracts!
Seriously, they make witnessing so easy, it doesn't even seem like effort. They are perfect for wait staff. You explain that TIP used to stand for "to insure promptness." People used to give tips before the meal to encourage quality service. (Make sure you let the waiter know they will get a real tip from you as well.) Encourage them not to read it while working, you don't want to get them in trouble, but on their break to check it out. If they have questions, you'll be around. It's so easy. I have yet to get a negative reaction from a waiter. (Also, make sure you tip well.)
    My theology matters.
Honestly, I blew it. Two of the girls were off of their shift. The manager told me, "You can do this kind of thing outside, but not in my restaurant." I should have taken her cue and invited the two girls out onto the sidewalk with me. I think they would have followed, and I could have finished. Instead, a little befuddled, I just wrapped up the conversation and left. I didn't want to ruin everything by being disrespectful or rude. However, creativity could have allowed for me to finish outside. (I didn't think of that option until I was on my way home.) Yet, trusting that God is sovereign in salvation, I believe He will give me (or another believer) the privilege of speaking to "Kelly", "Beyonce" or "Michelle" again. Quite honestly, they heard enough of the Word of God that they don't need another believer to share with them. They simply need to repent and trust Christ based on the Word of God they did hear. He controls that anyway. I can be pleased with this afternoon's encounter, even if "my performance" wasn't stellar.
    I'm a bag of hammers.
As I've said before, I'm not really an evangelist, and yes I am a Calvinist. But each of those truths should actually compel me to try harder to share my faith. For too long, I've used my lack of gifting as an excuse for laziness. Quite honestly, the doctrines of grace, easily perverted, can become a license to be lazy as well. I don't want that to be the case any longer. In the past, some of you have made encouraging statements about my efforts. While I appreciate that, understand that I fail far more than I succeed. (Recently, I was not nearly bold enough with a close relative. Instead, wrapping up the visit by giving them a copy of Hell's Best Kept Secret. I'd even asked people to pray for me in advance, and still chickened out.) But I've determined to quit allowing the Accuser's words to be more powerful than My Redeemer's. I will not allow my defeats to continue to stop me, but I pray His victory will compel me.

Please pray for these dear ladies. (And possibly use this as an excuse to go get some wings. Take opportunity to witness to the waitress. It may be the same one!)

3rd Way to Delight in the Lord

As a child, I thought the 10 Commandments were simply a set of rules to follow. Then, I discovered I couldn't keep the rules, leading me to Christ for my righteousness. Then, the 10 Commandments no longer condemn, but show us the character of God. As a believer, I can look to these laws to see how to please the Father. For if Christ never once violated these laws, and my desire is to look more like Him, then these laws help me know Him.

You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain.

Many people mock God's standard regarding blasphemy. They try to paint a picture of a weak, hyper-sensitive God who gets His feelings hurt by mean words. But within this command, God reminds us He will not leave a blasphemer unpunished. Perhaps no other commandment reveals the extreme depravity of man. God gives us life, breath, relationships, and the offer of His Son, and we respond using His name as an expletive. This sin that so many want to dismiss is one of the clearest exposures of our sinful hearts. Once this depravity is exposed, we should take great effort to only use divine names with a desire to glorify God. (We should also rid ourselves of names that come close.) Jesus says

Where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.

What does this have to do with blasphemy? Consider the phrase "in My name." To speak in a person's name means we speak with their authority. His name is not a postage stamp. I can not just paste it onto the end of my prayer to ensure that it arrives to God. To do anything (pray, witness, act, speak) in His name means that I am doing it in His authority. How can I, a sinful, ignorant man, do anything with the authority of Chirst? The context reveals how. If I speak the words of Christ, in a manner consistent with Christ, I am speaking with His authority. Any business person has seen this played out. If management informs us that "corporate" is issuing a new policy, it comes with the authority of the corporation, even though it wasn't delivered by the president. Why? Because we understand that it was corporates words, presented to us in a consistent fashion, and that our obedience is now required. For me to speak, I may not claim the authority of Christ unless I am speaking His words, in the way He desires. That's the only reason a church even has the authority to discipline. The church has no authority except that which has come from Christ.

In one way, this is why I get very nervous when I hear people claim a revelation from God outside of His Word. If they are wrong, they are attributing something to God that is not His (thus using His name in vain). That was the great sin of the false prophet. It wasn't that they made a bad prediction, it is that they credited God with their "vision" and are therefore using God's name where it doesn't belong. But even for us cessationists, blasphemy can be a real possibility. Do we enforce standards that the Scriptures do not? Do we endorse actions that the Scriptures forbid? Do we do either with an attitude contray to that which honors Christ? Perhaps, this is why James says:

Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment. For we all stumble in many ways. If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body as well.

Every word that comes from our mouth is capable of blasphemy, not just our expletives.

[Other commandments: 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10]

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Clean Expressions?

With the death of Steve Irwin, the guys at Way of the Master Radio discussed his life and death. Ray Comfort, a Kiwi, shared that one of Irwin's favorite statements of exclamation was actually a play off Christ's name. Comfort shared, that in the "land down under," the people know that this is just a watered down way of taking the Lord's name in vain.

Ray and Todd then began to discuss the many "options" here in the U.S. One phrase that they covered was, "Oh my word." As my love and appreciation for the Word of God has grown, I too have become increasingly uncomfortable with this expression. What would be the reason for using "word" and not "toothbrush" or "broccoli?" Is it possible that people see the connection between God and His Word, and see them as interchangable. Therefore, to use word instead of God, is simply an indirect attack upon the name of God...but an attack none the less.

Todd then went on to say that he believes "Oh man!" is an attack of The Son of Man. I had always assumed man, used as an exclamation, was actually a pure thing. I figured that people, not wanting to take God's name in vain, were actually using man as an acknowledgement that we are the ones who deserve to be dragged through the mud.

I do not believe the phrase can mean one thing to you and one thing to me. It has a definite origin, and we should be aware of it.

Does anyone have an idea where this phrase comes from? How do we find out?

4th Way to Delight in the Lord

As a child, I thought the 10 Commandments were simply a set of rules to follow. Then, I discovered I couldn't keep the rules, leading me to Christ for my righteousness. Then, the 10 Commandments no longer condemn, but show us the character of God. As a believer, I can look to these laws to see how to please the Father. For if Christ never once violated these laws, and my desire is to look more like Him, then these laws help me know Him.

Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath of the LORD your God; {in it} you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or your female servant or your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day and made it holy.

When the sabbath is mentioned, most people immediately ask the question, "Saturday or Sunday?" While some are legitimately confused by this issue (nothing a little understanding of the apostles actions can't cure, but I digress), others ask this question to deflect attention from their conscience (similar to John 4:19-21). But just how Jesus points the woman to God the Father, this command points us directly to God as well. He rested on the seventh day, therefore we should honor the sabbath.

Jesus explained that the sabbath was created for man, not the other way around. This explains that God did not need to rest, but rather He chose to rest so that it would teach us. But what was the lesson God desired to teach us?

So there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God. For the one who has entered His rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from His. Therefore let us be diligent to enter that rest, so that no one will fall, through following the same example of disobedience.

In this passage (Actually, context is critical, and these are two really cool chapters.), the author explains that "the rest" not only speaks of God's rest from creation, nor the "land of rest" they enter. David himself, experiencing both the day of rest and living comfortably in the land of rest, begs the people not to harden their hearts and to enjoy the rest from God. So what is that rest?

The author says that entering His rest also means resting from our work. Sadly, most see the sabbath command as antiquated. Rarely do we mention it, nor treat it with any relevance. However, on the seventh day of earth's history, God gave a 24 hour lesson that our relationship with Him is not of works, but of rest. God gave Adam life, a wife, a perfect earth and work. Adam earned none of those, but they were given to him. Man's sin does not change the character of God. Therefore, after Adam's sin, God gave them garments, a type of the sacrifice of Christ. The sabbath flies right in the face of open theists, again proving God's plan was established before the foundation of the world.

Therefore, rest is worship. Even our sleep can be worship to God. It reminds us of two things:
    We are not like God. We must rest. He trandscends us.
    Rest is a mirror of the gospel. We can not strive our way to salvation. We must repent and trust Christ's work to enter His rest.
Therefore, a sabbath is not about taking one day off a week, but more about our heart. Why do we work? Do we see that we work because it has been given to us, or do we work believing we are earning something? Do we come to Christ with a heart of rest?

Most see the Law as work, rules we must keep to obtain favor. Yet, right in the heart of these "rules" God demands that we rest...and in sin, we continue to strive.

[Other commandments: 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10]

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

As My Daughter Raises Me...

This Sunday was one of those milestone Sundays. As our church began it's children's ministry, our oldest daughter has now moved beyond nursery age. Our church is offering discipleship for children in our second service, but the kids stay in the auditorium for part of the service and leave halfway through. The consequences of having a 4-year-old really didn't settle in until we walked through the doors of the church. I confess, not just out of habit, but out of preference, I wanted to drop my daughter in the nursery and pray no one noticed.

I'm the pastor, I thought, It's not fair to put her (actual concern was me) under this kind of microscope yet. What if she does something embarassing? What if she distracts me during our worship in song and I get up to preach feeling unprepared? What if she is a distraction to others? What if I lose it in an effort to control her and look like a raving jerk in front of our entire church body?

The feelings only intensified when I realized we were sitting in first service (my wife attends both services so she can see everyone), and there would be no child care at all.

Then IT happened...

As we stood to sing the first song, this sweet gentle hand placed itself within mine. There was my daughter, standing on a chair so she could see, singing and holding hands with her mommy and daddy. I suddenly felt a tremendous rebuke. My attitude had been awful. God grants me the privilege of worshipping with my children around, and I just wanted to farm her off to others so she wouldn't distract. She's not a distraction, she's my calling! I couldn't believe the amazing privilege of singing praises to my God, hoping my daughter senses her daddy's passion for Jesus. Suddenly, I found myself not wishing she was still in nursery, but wishing my other two were old enough to be out of nursery. In a flash, God corrected my errant thinking.

...but that was nothing.

I arrived home for dinner to the typical chorus of "Daddy!" (oh, I love that!!!) But then my daughter quickly turned around and raced back to the kitchen. When she returned, she had a drawing in her hand. She then proceeds to tell me that her drawing is "the cloud that God used to speak to Moses." I quickly try to correct her. You mean the burning bush that God spoke to Moses in, assuming she's heard the famous Bible story. "No daddy," she's adamant, "the cloud you talked about, when Moses and God would talk." My daughter was referring to this message (from this passage) I had just preached yesterday. Not only was she well behaved in the service. Not only did she pay attention during the sermon, but she actually had taken a piece of it with her.

Yeah, Sunday was a milestone Sunday...not for my daughter, but for me.

5th Way to Delight in the Lord

As a child, I thought the 10 Commandments were simply a set of rules to follow. Then, I discovered I couldn't keep the rules, leading me to Christ for my righteousness. Then, the 10 Commandments no longer condemn, but show us the character of God. As a believer, I can look to these laws to see how to please the Father. For if Christ never once violated these laws, and my desire is to look more like Him, then these laws help me know Him.

Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the Lord your God gives you.

We typically do not hear people segregate the commandments for different people. In fact, I rarely even hear the objection from some that the commands were only intended for Jews. We read the commands as God's moral law, despite the person's condition. However, we can tend to look at the 5th commandment as if it only pertains to children. Was God speaking to the entire nation, only to pause for a second to speak to children, then turn His attention back to all the people? Jesus doesn't believe so:

"For God said, `HONOR YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER,' and, `HE WHO SPEAKS EVIL OF FATHER OR MOTHER IS TO BE PUT TO DEATH.' "But you say, `Whoever says to his father or mother, "Whatever I have that would help you has been given to God," he is not to honor his father or his mother.' And by this you invalidated the word of God for the sake of your tradition. "You hypocrites, rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you: `THIS PEOPLE HONORS ME WITH THEIR LIPS, BUT THEIR HEART IS FAR AWAY FROM ME. BUT IN VAIN DO THEY WORSHIP ME, TEACHING AS DOCTRINES THE PRECEPTS OF MEN.' "

In other places, Jesus is very clear that our love for our parents must never get in the way of our love for the Lord. In fact, it is the son who follows the Lord who fills a father with real joy. But we do know that Jesus was speaking to grown men, yet He considered them still responsible to show honor to their parents. Perhaps Paul helps us see why:

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. HONOR YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER (which is the first commandment with a promise), SO THAT IT MAY BE WELL WITH YOU, AND THAT YOU MAY LIVE LONG ON THE EARTH.

The context is critical (when isn't it?). In this series of relationships, Paul explains that each relationship is to be handled in a way that models our relationship to Christ. Not surprisingly then, each of these relationships require elements of submission and obediance. Why respect your mother and father? Because you respect your Heavenly Father.

Regardless of your history, regardless of if you are married, regardless of the kind of parents you had, God calls for us to not only obey them, but to respect and honor them as well. It's a way we show Him honor.

[Other commandments: 4, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10]

Monday, September 11, 2006

Way to Go Rick

Some have been down on me for criticizing some of his methods, but in effort to be fair I want to applaud Rick Warren for the following quote, found in the recent edition of TIME magazine:
"This idea that God wants everybody to be wealthy?" he snorts. "There is a word for that: baloney. It's creating a false idol. You don't measure your self-worth by your net worth. I can show you millions of faithful followers of Christ who live in poverty. Why isn't everyone in the church a millionaire?"
This quote is Warren's response to the question of whether God wants all of His children to experience material prosperity. You can obviously hear Warren's disgust with this movement. I would imagine that his travels to other countries helps him see the emptiness of the prosperity preachers (which only works in properous nations), let alone the deep faith of those who serve Christ with so little in material wealth.

I applaud Warren's boldness and look forward to reading all of the TIME article. So many people fall for this message that Jesus wants us all to live in comfort. I wonder why the church doesn't typically call out very many of the preachers mentioned in this article?

6th Way to Delight in the Lord

As a child, I thought the 10 Commandments were simply a set of rules to follow. Then, I discovered I couldn't keep the rules, leading me to Christ for my righteousness. Then, the 10 Commandments no longer condemn, but show us the character of God. As a believer, I can look to these laws to see how to please the Father. For if Christ never once violated these laws, and my desire is to look more like Him, then these laws help me know Him.

You shall not murder.

While surveying, most people really did not have a hard time seeing that an angry heart toward another is truly a muderer's heart. To picture your hands around someone's neck really isn't that far from strangling them. Very early in Scripture we see the deep depravity caused by uncontrolled anger. This frightening glimpse motivates us to deal with our anger. However, is "venting" the way to control anger?

But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God;
from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way. Does a fountain send out from the same opening both fresh and bitter water? Can a fig tree, my brethren, produce olives, or a vine produce figs? Nor can salt water produce fresh.

When we're told to punch a pillow and pretend it is someone's face, something within tells us that cannot be godly counsel. Yet, somehow we think that angry words spoken about/toward someone are not sinful. Yet, just like Saul's spear, our words can contain poison. Like the severity of attempted murder, we must see that our words, whether they reach the "victim" or not, can be a capital crime.

[Other commandments: 4, 5, 7, 8, 9, 10]

Friday, September 08, 2006

The Face of Calvinism

But aren't Calvinists mean? That's the kind of question I often receive.

If there ever was a Young Calvinist Pastors Union, I would nominate Josh Harris to be our president. Here are some of his quotes from Christianity Today:
I remember some of the first encounters I had with Calvinists...I'm sorry to say they represented the doctrines of grace with a total lack of grace. They were spiteful, cliquish, and arrogant. I didn't even stick around to understand what they were teaching. I took one look at them and knew I didn't want any part of it.
Someone like Louie [Giglio] is saying, 'You know what, it's not about us. It's about God's glory, it's about His renown.' Now I don't think most kids realize this, but that's the first step down a pathway of Reformed theology. Because if you say that it's not about you, well then you're on the road of saying it's not about your actions, your choosings, your determiniation.
If you really understand Reformed theology, we should all just sit around shaking our heads going, 'It's unbelievable. Why would God choose any of us?' You are so amazed by grace, you're not picking a fight with anyone, you're just crying tears of amazement that should lead to a heart for lost people, that God does indeed save, when He doesn't have to save anybody.
Here's my own personal testimony. As I have begun growing deeper in my understanding of the doctrines of grace, I have:

grown in my passion to see the lost reached
become more evangelistic
grown in my passion of the sufficiency of Scripture
become a more accurate preacher
become committed more to expository preaching
cared less about my standing before other men

I am, however, far from the perfect pastor, husband, or man. But I would like to express:

When I ignore the lost, or get lazy in evangelism

Calvinism isn't the problem, but rather my sinful apathy

When I seem smug or arrogant in conversations

Calvinism isn't the problem, but rather my sinful pride

When I preach a message totally void of practical application

Calvinism is not the problem, but my sinful self-suffiency

Praising Him for His grace!

7th Way to Delight in the Lord

As a child, I thought the 10 Commandments were simply a set of rules to follow. Then, I discovered I couldn't keep the rules, leading me to Christ for my righteousness. Then, the 10 Commandments no longer condemn, but show us the character of God. As a believer, I can look to these laws to see how to please the Father. For if Christ never once violated these laws, and my desire is to look more like Him, then these laws help me know Him.

You shall not commit adultery.

Of the people I surveyed, most initially denied adultery, yet were quick to agree with Jesus' words that lust is adultery of the heart. Typically, they follow up with a comment that lust happens to all of us and that it is inescapable. Our flesh allows us to confess sin, see that it significantly violates the standards of God, and then immediately dismiss it as no big deal.

But is a faithful marriage defined as a marriage that avoids adultery and lust? Have we completely pleased the Lord as long as we flee from youthful lusts? Many in the church have redefined a successful marriage simply as a marriage that doesn't end in divorce. But a quick glance at Ephesians 5:22-33 reveals the standard for a God honoring marriage is higher than mere survival. In I Corinthians, Paul speaks that a person can handle sex with their spouse in an unfaithful way:

The husband must fulfill his duty to his wife, and likewise also the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; and likewise also the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Stop depriving one another, except by agreement for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer, and come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.

These words of Paul sound repulsive to many. In a society that celebrates a woman's control of her body, even to the harm of another life within her, how can Paul have the nerve to claim we should consider our spouses even in regard to our bodies? Paul explains just a few verses later why this is true:

But I want you to be free from concern. One who is unmarried is concerned about the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord; but one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how he may please his wife, and his interests are divided. The woman who is unmarried, and the virgin, is concerned about the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and spirit; but one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how she may please her husband.

When God joins two together as one flesh, each member is then called to consider the needs of their spouse. Joining with another person then violates that union God has made. Jesus explained that entertaining thoughts about another violates the union God has made. Paul then challenges that considering self before your spouse also violates the union.

And unfaithfulness to one's spouse is an act of unfaithfulness toward God.

[Other commandments: 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10]