Welcome to Carnivorous Caribou

Thursday, May 31, 2007

"Prayer of Jabez" Struggle Continues...

Just one more reason the book should never have been printed.

At least it's been rectified!


A Big Mack Attack

My transformation into complete "nerd-dom" was almost completed when I ordered The Complete Writings of Alexander Mack. I've read the biography, First Brethren Tract, Letter to Count August and Basic Questions. It has certainly been some interesting reading.

For those who are not familiar, Basic Questions was Mack's answers (on behalf of the "New Baptists") to local "Inspirationists" concerns. I found the following answers intriguing:

When asked if a direct divine calling is necessary and required for re-establishing baptism:
We do indeed believe that a direct calling and impelling of the Spirit of God is necessary for the practicing of the teachings of Christ. That, however, this calling must be confirmed and manifested before men by signs or miracles, we will not presume to dictate to God. If the calliing is of God, it is sufficient, whether men believe it or not. This must be left up to the individual.
Mack is not motivated by the "shock and awe" that signs and wonders could have accompanied their passion for baptism. He simply states that if the Word says it, that should be enough to compel. And that God would reveal it, and do a work in our hearts to receive it, is miraculous enough.

Mack gives a great answer to works-salvation claims against the Brethren:
It has been testified above that we do not seek to earn salvation with these simple works, but by faith in Christ alone. If it is to be saving faith, it must produce works of obedience. Where that faith is not present which produces obedience (not according to the pope's doctrine and command but rather by the command of Jesus the crucified), then no salvation is promised for a single work done without faith.
Mack's writing is full of the understanding that God sanctifies those whom He justified...a message we Brethren could do a better job reiterating.

I also liked that Mack's "spunk" is pretty visible in a couple of comments:

When asked "Are all of those whom you baptize immediately reborn of God in truth?" Mack answers:
That would indeed be a good baptism...

With one question, the inquisitor concludes his question by stating "see Matthew 12:49-50"

Mack answers that claim and concludes his answer with
see Matthew 12:49-50 correctly

It was interesting to see that many of the 40 questions seemed repetitious, yet their multiplicity allowed Mack to give a full-orbed answer. At times, his answers made me a little nervous. Usually, though not always, he later clarified his thoughts.

Yet I found myself encouraged by the read. For one, some of the vague or concerning answers may come from the translation (though I have no reason to believe William Eberly didn't do fine work). Second, Mack and the church worked from a Luther Bible, it was still rather new that a Bible could even be in their hands. Third, the Brethren showed a humility and teachability in their responses and even within their literature distribution. They admit when they previously understood things improperly.

I haven't finished the book yet, but I'm enjoying it to the point. I'd encourge you to pick up a copy. (Of course, I may be just trying to recruit some fellow nerds so I can feel a bit cooler.)

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Why I Am Glad to be Grace Brethren

I'm working on a study guide to Keith Shearer's Childlike Faith. In an attempt to add visuals to the guide, I came up with this chart to describe our Fellowship. Dr. Shearer thought it was an accurate representation, so I thought I would share it:The four boxes represent four elements. All four should be pursued for healthy faith. The chart also shows three faith systems. The Grace Brethren are unique (at least in my knowledge) in that there is a desire to learn and borrow from all three systems, for the Fellowship formed with all three systems in view. If one pursues an element to an unbalanced proportion, he will also find himself stepping out of balance of faith systems.

I really appreciated Shearer's book, for he provides quotes from Alva J McClain that show it truly was his intent to see the fellowship formed with a balance of ALL THREE systems.

The Grace Brethren certainly aren't perfect, and our church is far from complete. However, it is my desire to place our church right in the center of the chart. To do so is to pursue historic Grace Brethren faith.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Book Review: Cars Style

In honor of my son, I decided to do this book review as a tribute to his favorite movie.

The Book: Breaking the Missional Code by Ed Stetzer and David Putman.

76 Chrysler Cordoba In the 1970's, Chrysler started marketing "corinthian leather." Corinthian leather meant nothing unique, it was just a marketing techique. Most sources say that corinthian leather was actually made in New Jersey.

I was given this book by a dear brother in response to my questions about the use of "missional" in so much conversation today. I started to read this book expecting that it would explain the terms. After reading, I think "missional" means that we view our society around us in the same way a missionary would. The book does much to call the whole church to be on mission (which is great) but uses the same language regularly.

In fact, it seemed that rather than defining any terms, the authors just chose to use them a lot. There is much talk about "breaking the code" sometimes referring to education, sometimes mission, even sometimes general pastoring. "Breaking the Code" seems to just mean "being successful" but success is not really defined. It is assumed that as we keep hearing the terms, we'll eventually understand it.

Chevy MonzaThe Chevy Monza lived a short while. Though some claim it was a new car designed to display Chevy's "Wankel" engine, it seemed quite familiar with its predecessor.

As I read "BTMC," I couldn't help but feel like I'd read much of this before. There were some new ideas regarding our new culture and it definitely had a stronger church planting feel. However, much that I was reading seemed to be built on the same platform as previous books. I have no doubt that Stetzer and Putman want to see souls saved and desire to see vibrant churches. However, I couldn't help but feel a sense of deja vu.

Chevy Vega Perhaps the Chevy Monza failed to take off, because it was too much like the car it replaced...the Chevy Vega. I remember when my dad used to build racecars. We had one man who came in with a Vega. My dad does good work and he did an excellent job righting many of the wrongs a previous builder made on this car. By the timeit left our shop, the engine was well tuned, the chassis was set properly and it generally looked well built. There was just one problem, I remember thinking, "It's still a Vega." No matter what we did to the vehicle, this man was still going to be hauling home a Chevy Vega.

I appreciate that Stetzer and Putman reject a "methods mindset." They very much call out pastors who see one technique work somewhere and immediately try to impliment it in their own church. They want pastors to be intentional, thinking about why they do what they do and whether it really fits their ministry mindset and mission field. However, it seems they could have called pastors to an even higher level of discernment. Some things that disappointed me:

1. Little Divine Dependence--Though I'm sure it was not their intention...the book seems to suggest that some churches fail "to break the code" because they applied wrong technique. That seems to be their only consideration. There is no consideration that God controls the harvest and a church may do "everything right" and still not find themselves "breaking the code."
2. Little Biblical Interaction--Similarly, we just don't seem to go to the Word very often. Claims are made regarding the church's role in evangelism and mission that would have been great to see validated from Scripture. Some claims are easy to assume the reader would know they are biblically based. Other claims? I would have enjoyed seeing where they see the distinction in Scripture.
3. Nonbelievers Serving--Their model calls for nonbelievers to be integrated into the community and given tasks within the church. I just can't get on board with this approach.
4. Ask the Community--Stetzer and Putman both believe we must study the culture around us. I'm not as concerned about that as I am with one process of study. They also recommend the process of asking your neighborhood what they want in a church. Then you attempt to provide these things. The process of asking fallen people what they want in a church seems to be a recipe for disaster to me. The book also mentions that the missional pastor will often take his cues more from successful business practices than from church practices.
5. Paradox, Contradictions, Inconsistencies--Whatever you want to call them, the book seems just vague enough to be able to embrace all of them. I remember at one time reading that a "missional" pastor will "break the code" by seeking the advice and patterns of other churches. They will quickly take all they can from others and use it to their advantage. They seek under every rock to find every possible approach. Of course, the very next bullet item stated that the missional pastor does his own thing and does not depend on the ideas of others.

Ultimately, their approach seems a bit new and improved. It's more contemporary. It's less program intensive. But it still seems to be a rather man-centered approach to the church.

I wouldn't quite call "BMTC" a lemon, but I took it around the block and kicked the tires and I think I'll keep shopping for a different model.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

7 (+ 6) Reasons for Expositional Preaching

Willingdon Church held a conference called reFocus. Willingdon pastor, John Neufeld explained why they were holding the conference. In his message, he announced his desire to plan conferences around teaching expository preaching. He then gave the following seven benefits to expository preaching:
    1. It's not my house.
Either informally or formally, in polite society, the owner of the house gets to set the topic for conversation. Those people you're preaching to have been bought with a price. (When we determine, "I think I'll speak on 'so and so'" and then search the Word for some accompanying text, we are really saying, "I will determine the topic fo conversation!")
    2. I do not presume on the wisdom of God.
I rely on the wisdom of God (Romans 11) rather than my own personal wisdom. (When did it become fashionable for us to think, that if I use my own wisdom , and my own methodology and plan, if I become "seeker sensitive" in my approach...when did we begin to think we would be more successful at reaching out to a lost and broken world than if we relied on God's words?)
    3. For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. (1 Corinthians 1:21)
Expositional preaching saves the lost. (God can use doctrines we consider obscure, for an apparent lack of application, to reach a person for Christ.)
    4. I preach the full counsel of God.
I will follow through line by line, page by page. For only in so doing will I get to stand before Christ on the final day, and I can say, "I am not guilty of any man's blood. I did not hesitate" (Acts 20:26-27).
    5. I can stand behind the Word.
When they leave, don't make them argue with you. Make them argue with the Word.
    6. I will always have something to say.
I don't spend half my week trying to figure out what to preach. I walk into the week already knowing what the Holy Spirit has determined the people need to hear from the pages of Scripture.
    7. Expostional preaching will bring health to our church and unity to the people of God.
I tried to type these words as I listened on my shuffle, so they many not be verbatim. A pretty good list, and Pastor Neufeld didn't even address (some of my additional thoughts):
    1. People learn how to read the Word.
Read it. Understand it. Apply it. The preacher's pattern is very similar. Read it. Explain it. Apply it. Every week we preach, it can be a Bible study methods class.
    2. The Bible becomes less intimidating.
Similarly, people are less intimidated about "the pastor's knowledge." (Could this perhaps be a reason some pastors shy from this method?) You don't have to own a special topical index to be able to read and apply your Bible.
    3. No one can claim you are gunning.
If an issue is addressed from the pulpit, it is not because the pastor has decided to bully people with it. A pastor cannot be accused (nor is he tempted) to use his pulpit to control committee meetings or leadership decisions.
    4. Easier for people to follow up.
Perhaps, eight months after preaching a topic found in the passage, a person goes through the very issue. They may not have that message etched in their heart, but now that they need to review the topic, it is much easier for them to find where the passage was located. (The simply need to remember what book you were in eight months ago.) Once the find the book, expositional method ensures they will not only remember the verse, but by reading the context they can be reminded of the point, and the application!
    5. Silence does not offend.
Perhaps you choose a topic due to a difficult time or specific situation a member of the flock has endured. Many people may be moved by this and find it touching. However, some in the room may wonder why a similar hardship (either current, or in the past) was not addressed from the front. Similarly, if other people continue to endure a similar hardship, will you continue to preach about it every time?
    6. Christ is exalted.
Without doing weird things to the text, we get to see Christ on every page, not just favorite passages.
reFocus messages can be found here.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Some Things Can't Be Blogged About...

Daniel and Teressa Pierce head off for North Carolina/Georgia tomorrow. Charity and I rode our bikes out tonight to say goodbye. I'd write about it...but just don't really feel like it.

Instead, please just take the opportunity to pray...

For Elizabeth Pierce. Her faith has been amazing and God has been gracious to her. Please continue to pray for her healing, doctors' wisdom and her continued faith.

For Dan Pierce. Obviously, Elizabeth's husband can use our prayers too.

For Daniel and Teressa. They will be serving Elizabeth, Dan and Will, however there are a lot of loose ends for them. Pray that their house sells and that Daniel will be able to find employment. Please pray that they connect with a church body quickly. They invested so much into others, it would be great if they could find a local body to support them.

For Greenville Grace. The Lord says He will build His church...but I'd be lying if I said I didn't find all of this a little scary.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Hear the Word of the Lord

Recently, I've been restudying 2 Chronicles 18:1-19:3. It's an amazing passage regarding the word of the Lord and His sovereign working in all things.

I'd encourage you to first check out the passage, and check out my commentary at Perspicuous Perspectives if you like. Then answer these questions:
    1. Am I an Ahab?
That wouldn't be good. Not only was he pretty wicked, he was quite foolish. He surrounded himself with people who said what he wanted to hear, and it enticed him to ignore the one who spoke truth...thus getting himself killed.
    2. Am I a Jehoshaphat?
Though a pretty good king, I never noticed until this most recent study...he messed up big time in this incident. Why would he go to battle? Why would he align with Ahab? Why would he partner with evil? Why wouldn't he defend truth?
    3. Am I a Zedekiah?
Not only was the prophet wrong, he was so shameful about it that he maligned and mocked a real prophet. He may have been creative and may have been saying what his audience wanted to hear, but he was proven dreadfully wrong in the end.
    4. Am I one of the 400 other prophets?
Though not as bold as Zedekiah, am I willing to allow approval and majority voice to sway me?
    5. Am I Micaiah?
I pray that this is the man I imitate.

Myths of Controversy

I thought I'd throw Presby Peppo a bone, and refer you to a quote from his homeboy, J Gresham Machen. (Quote is found on Pyromaniacs.)

Machen answers common objections to controversy in the church:
Let us above all, men say, have no controversy in the Church; let us forget our small theological differences and all repeat together Paul's hymn to Christian love.
His answer:
As I listen to such pleas, my Christian friends, I think I can detect in them rather plainly the voice of Satan.
Other objections addressed:
If you go heresy-hunting for the sin in your own wicked hearts," said the speaker, as nearly as I can remember his words, "you will have no time for heresy-hunting for the heretics outside."
Again, we are told that our theological differences will disappear if we will just get down on our knees together in prayer.
Again, men say that instead of engaging in controversy in the Church, we ought to pray to God for a revival; instead of polemics, we ought to have evangelism.
But men tell us that instead of engaging in controversy about doctrine we ought to seek the power of the living Holy Spirit.
Again, men tell us that our preaching should be positive and not negative, that we can preach the truth without attacking error.
Click the link to read Machen's answers.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Where I have Failed...

Every once in a while (about once every three months), I listen to John Piper's biography on Athanasius. I've found it to be a tremendous encouragement (and have even petitioned my wife that this could be the name of our next son!). As Piper was speaking, he made this point:

Joyful courage is the calling of a faithful shepherd.
Athanasius stared down murderous intruders into his church. He stood before emperors who could have killed him as easily as exiled him. He risked the wrath of parents and other clergy by consciously training young people to give their all for Christ, including martyrdom. He celebrated the fruit of his ministry with these words: “in youth they are self-restrained, in temptations endure, in labors persevere, when insulted are patient, when robbed make light of it: and, wonderful as it is, they despise even death and become martyrs of Christ”34—martyrs not who kill as they die, but who love has they die.

Athanasius contra mundum should inspire every pastor to stand your ground meekly and humbly and courageously whenever a biblical truth is at stake. But be sure that you always out-rejoice your adversaries. If something is worth fighting for, it worth rejoicing over. And the joy is essential in the battle, for nothing is worth fighting for that will not increase our joy in God. Our people must see that.

Courage in conflict must mingle with joy in Christ. This is what Athanasius loved about Antony and what he sought to be himself. This was part of his battle strategy with his adversaries:

Let us be courageous and rejoice always. . . . Let us consider and lay to heart that while the Lord is with us, our foes can do us no hurt. . . . But if they see us rejoicingin the Lord, contemplating the bliss of the future, mindful of the Lord, deeming all things in His hand . . . —they are discomfited and turned backwards.35

So, brothers, even if at times it may feel as though we are alone contra mundum, let us stand courageous and out-rejoice our adversaries.
I confess, I have sought to be courageous, but being joyful can sometimes be the challenge for my sin-filled soul.

Lord forgive me for the times I have called people toward truth but my bitter attitude has made that truth unattractive.

Lord help people see that the reason I fight is because I know no greater love than You!

Fred Meyers Info

Information about Fred Meyers can be found at caringbridge.org/visit/freddyraymeyers.

Sounds like a pretty good report today. Fred has responded to Jessi with a slight smile and has been opening his eyes. Please pray for his continued recovery.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Elizabeth Pierce Blog

The family has now opened a blog where you can keep up to date, as well as send Dan and Elizabeth a note/comment of encouragement.

You can find her blog at: elizabethpierce.blogspot.com

Friday, May 18, 2007

Emergent Ezekiel

Following in a tradition of post modern theologians, this morning, my son asked:

Did God make a band-aid for chocolate pretzels?

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Blogger Empathy?


You ever had that feeling where you have nothing to write...

...because you feel you have about 574 things to write?

I'm there right now. it may be a while until I post. I may end up posting a few over the weekend.

I have no idea.

Pierce and Meyer Updates

Elizabeth will begin radiation and chemo therapy on May 29th. She is back in her own home and will be able to do that locally. She is getting more strength and function in her left arm and has been able to get out of the house some. Please continue to pray for her recovery as well as adapting to parenthood.

Fred Meyer is back stateside. This morning, he entered into surgery to remove a portion of his skull to reduce the swelling and trama upon him. Jess is with him, as are his parents. Please continue to pray for his recovery.

Monday, May 14, 2007

40 Miles North

Our church will enjoy having 40 miles North lead music during the July 22nd church service. That evening, Jeremiah and Marcie will also put on a concert for the church.

They have expressed an interest in doing a concert July 21st in the Miami Valley. They would be available to do a typical concert or even a living room concert. (If you're wondering what a living room concert is, you can read their description here...sounds cool).

Our church loves having Miah and Marcie and I would highly recommend them to anyone. Check with your pastor and see if your church could squeeze in a Saturday night concert (coffee house, college age ministry folk?). Or even plan a get together at your house, inviting some friends.

If you're interested, email me (link on the side).

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Elizabeth Pierce Report

The pathology report came in for Elizabeth today. She has a "grade 3" oligodendral glioma. The "grade 3" report is higher than the family had hoped for, but the doctor assured the family, "We can beat it."

Elizabeth will start treatments (probably some combination of chemo and radiation) next week. She will probably receive treatments closer to home and will not have to return to Durham.

Please continue to pray for Elizabeth as she recovers. Her incisions have not healed enough for the staples to be removed, and the swelling still has her left arm responding weakly. Obviously, she needs prayers for strength and recovery as she prepares for treatment.

Also, please continue to pray for the entire Pierce family. Daniel shared that it has been a privilege to watch his son so affectionately care for his ailing bride. It really has been a picture of Christ loving His church. But obviously, Dan could use our continued prayers for strength and encouragement as he cares for Elizabeth and adjusts to fatherhood.

Certainly, keep praying for Daniel and Teressa too. This has been a trying time, but the Lord has sustained. Pray for them as they continue to care for the family and look for ways to serve. Pray also for the Lord's grace to them, as they look toward ministering to their family.

Teachable Moment

You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.--Deuteronomy 6:7
Every morning, when the kids wake up, they climb into our bed. Usually, part of the conversation is about the dreams the kids had the night before. This morning was no different, although the dream sure was:

Me: Zekers, did you have any dreams?

Zeke: Yes! I dreamed about a little crocodile.

Me: Yikes! A crocodile? Was he mean?

Zeke: No, he was a nice crocodile.

Me: Well, what did you do?

Zeke: We played card tricks and did a soft shoe dance.

I'm just not sure what to do with that.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Spidey Senses and the Gospel

After writing my last article, I began cruising other corners of the blogosphere. I ended up at the site of a Grace Brethren church planter who makes this statement:

SPIDERMAN 3: Yes, I saw it. Yes, I recommend it. Basically tells the whole Gospel.

My heart sunk when I read those words. Shocking to some who think the only connection I have with culture is sour cream, Charity and I actually went to Showcase to catch Spiderman 3 on opening day. I really liked the movie. It was very entertaining. It was even thought provoking.

However, as we were leaving the theatre, Charity asked me the old standby, "So, what did you think."

Seriously, the first words out of my mouth were, "I thought it was really good, but I couldn't help but think, Some hoser is going to try to use this as a whole preaching series." I admit it, I'm sick. As I'm watching a movie about a man who is half-spider (purists will probably ridicule that description), all I can think about is the lack of discernment in the church. All I could think about was that pastors, desperate to impress and entertain congregants (just like movie producers) will desperately try to "change the referent" to teach a lesson. (In fairness to the quoted pastor above, he did not say he'd use it in as a sermon series, but he did claim it tells the gospel.)

But as Dan Phillips points out, We shouldn't do that. (You really need to check the article out. It's spoiler free, but should highten your senses before you enter the theatre.)

Elizabeth Pierce and Fred Meyers

There just isn't a lot to report right now. The pathology report has still not come in, and this is obviously frustrating for the family. Please pray for continued peace and comfort for the family as they wait. Elizabeth was to have her staples removed yesterday, but the doctor opted to leave them in a couple more days to allow the incision to heal even more. She is still dealing with a lot of swelling and has limited strength in her left arm. Please continue to pray for rest, strength, peace and comfort for all the family.

Fred is a former student from my youth group who was serving our country in Iraq. Fred was shot in the head by a sniper last week, but has survived. He is currently in Germany where he has been placed in a drug induced coma until the swelling goes down. Jess (his wife) was able to get into Germany, and Fred's parents are in route as I type this.

I praise God for Fred and Jessi's professions of faith while they were in our youth group. Please pray for the Lord's comfort and healing touch to this young man. He and Jess have spent most of their married life with him serving across the globe.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

The Tense Mood of Lordship

and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority--Colossians 2:10

We've explored nearly every element of "sunegerio." After examining the definition, we evaluated the voice, person and number. These are not silly grammar games, but an exercise in faith...believing that every word is inspired and intentional.

The Tense Mood of Lordship

συνηγερθητε is found in the aorist tense/indicative mood. ntgreek.org explains:
The aorist is said to be "simple occurrence" or "summary occurrence", without regard for the amount of time taken to accomplish the action. This tense is also often referred to as the 'punctiliar' tense. 'Punctiliar' in this sense means 'viewed as a single, collective whole,' a "one-point-in-time" action, although it may actually take place over a period of time. In the indicative mood the aorist tense denotes action that occurred in the past time, often translated like the English simple past tense.
The indicative mood is a statement of fact or an actual occurrence from the writer's or speaker's perspective. Even if the writer is lying, he may state the action as if it is a fact, and thus the verb would be in the indicative mood. It may be action occurring in past, present, or future time. This 'statement of fact' can even be made with a negative adverb modifying the verb (see the second example).
This is in contrast to one of the other moods (see below) in which the writer/speaker may desire or ask for the action to take place.
It is important to note that Paul does not say we are being raised up with Christ, nor does he say we will be raised up with Christ. You have been raised up with Christ.

The Papists miss this critical point. They could not say "you have been raised up with Christ," for they believe it is a cooperative process. Their works must participate with Christ's work as "they are being raised up with Christ." Ultimately, even this breaks down since purgatory is where "you will some day get raised up with Christ."

As protestants, we claim to know better. "You have been raised up with Christ" means the event has happened, it's over, done, finished. We may get that our justification was a past event, but we miss why Paul is making that point. Paul directs our mind to our past justification because he is calling us to present focus on His Lordship. If you have been raised up with Christ, the expectation is that you will keep your eyes on His Lordship. But too often we affirm justification and hope in glorification, yet we ignore sanctification.

Oddly enough, while we treat the unbeliever as if they are a believer, we often treat the believer as if he were an unbeliever. We no longer expect sanctification. We don't call people to speak of Christ as Lord, let alone obey Him as Lord. Who speaks of mortification of sin anymore?
For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.--Philippians 1:6 (emphasis mine)
Now at this point, it is important to again remind us that "sunegerio" is in the past tense, indicative mood. We do not pursue sanctification because we fear losing our justification. We have already been raised up with Christ and that cannot be lost. (A point I am so thankful our fellowship has always clearly stated!) Sanctification is not about keeping our salvation, but is about examining ourselves to see if we are saved.

We may affirm sanctification doctrinally, but deny it practically in a number of ways:

Revision: There are a number of ways a church denies the doctrine of sanctification, but to save space, I'll merely point you here. (You'll notice that justification is distorted, followed by sanctification heading out the window. The list ends with legalism, but just as easily could have said antinomianism...thus bringing us full circle to this series.)

The Discipline of Sunegerio

To this point, I have been relatively soft on my GBC concerns. I made mention, early in the series that I had concerns about our fellowship. I have backed off from that language since, as I was reminded that our fellowship is a group of churches and that many may be acting faithfully without the fanfare and without being noticed. However, from my perspective the following question should make many (possibly the majority) of our churches stammer:

Why do you practice feetwashing if you do not practice church discipline?

I had a brother say the other day, "The first time Jesus used the word "ekklesia" He said, 'I will build My church,' The next time, He stated, 'tell it to the church.'" Why do so many stomp their feet and declare "you ought to wash one another's feet" yet deny Christ's first command to the church? Is not the denial of church discipline the denial of Christ's Lordship?

[Is this why some churches in our past have even dorked around with the idea of feetwashing, either adapting it or removing it? More than likely, it is not an issue of practice and culture, it probably comes down to a deficient perspective on sanctification. Either way, it ends up being a denial of His Lordship.]

Transfer growth is awkward. When a person enters our church from a gospel preaching church, I will always attempt to have them reconcile with their former church before settling in with us. The Body needs commitment and therefore I'd rather see a person stay with their church and work through their differences, rather than scurry over to ours. However, we all have those certain churches in our communities. Churches where the Bible is not being taught and the gospel is not being proclaimed. (Or churches where extra biblical expectations are being imposed on the Body, thus distracting from what God calls us to truly be.) When people walk into our fellowship from those churches, I don't encourage them to go back.

Pastor, I don't care if you wash feet, believe the rapture is coming before the tribulation and dunk people three times forward, if you don't practice church discipline in your church, you are disobeying a command of Christ, diminishing the doctrine of sanctification and denying the Lordship of Christ. You make it really hard for me to send your sheep back to you.

A church that refuses to practice discipline will have a distorted view of sanctification. A church with a distorted view of sanctification will diminish Christ's Lordship. A church with a faulty view of His Lordship will cloud the doctrine of justification and will distill the gospel.

If our eyes are not fixed on Him, seated at the right hand of God are we acurately declaring "you have been raised up with Christ?" Or to move from Paul's words and reflect on Jesus'

Why do you call Me, 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do what I say?

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Elizabeth Pierce Surgery Update

Elizabeth's surgery began early Monday (4/30) and went quicker than expected. The surgery required that Elizabeth have a "horse-shoe shaped" incision on her right side of her head. (The incision was done in such a way that her hair did not have to be shaved, and the longer hair should be able to cover the cut.) Elizabeth was fully sedated during the initial procedure (making the incision and cutting the skull) but was brought out of the sleep for the remainder of the procedure (that way they could continue to monitor her motor skills during the surgery). The doctor did not remove all of the tumor. It was not expected that he would, for removing all of the tumor could risk damage to the brain.

However, the doctor was pleased with the procedure. He speculated that it is an oligodendral glioma (which is preferred) and not a lymphoma glioma. He also rated the tumor as a "low grade" tumor. Of course, all of this is just the doctor's initial observations and is completely speculative. More answers should be available by Thursday's pathology report. Update: The pathology report has not come to the family yet. They have been assured this is not a bad sign, but obviously the delay only adds to stress and tension. Please continue to pray for the family, especially as they wait for answers.

Elizabeth has now been released from ICU and is recovering. She is dealing with some swelling and pain from the procedure...both are normal. Please continue to pray for her recovery and for strength for the entire family. I would encourage you to pray these next couple days will be restful for the family.


What are the odds that Cinco de Mayo would fall on May 5th?

Not only that, but this year's Cinco de Mayo could be listed as 05/05/07.



Friday, May 04, 2007

Greenville's National Day of Error

I had never participated in the "National Day of Prayer" in Greenville. I jumped in my truck and headed for the city circle just before noon. As I approached "the fountain" I could hear the music and noticed a larger crowd than I anticipated (though it wasn't huge). I actually thought it would just be a gathering of a few pastors and local government officials praying quietly together. I had no idea there was a program of sorts involved. I walked up to the edge of the crowd, found a pastor I dearly respect, and stood there to take in the action.

Highlight: Our city's mayor, Greg Fraley, gave the most gospel saturated, Christ exalting prayer. He prayed about our sin, Christ's payment, that He is the Only Way and that salvation can only be known through faith in Him. (A cool side note. While he was praying, a semi pulled through the circle, causing the sound to echo throughout downtown. Almost like God wanted that to be the portion most proclaimed!)

Pastor Gary Ozer led the portion about confessing sin. I was thankful that he did not just vaguely speak about "national sins," but instead dealt with personal sin. He also acknowledged that Christ is our only means of forgiveness from those sins.

Other observations: There was a fairly large group of pray-ers. As far as I know, they were all protestants, but there certainly were a number of styles and topics prayed for. There were many social issues mentioned, with abortion getting the majority of the attention. One pastor prayed that city officials would find ways to improve our economy. One pastor prayed that Zimbawe's +2000% inflation rate would be curbed and that most of the world would start getting more than $2/day income. One representative gave a rather detailed prayer, including mention of bills he had introduced to the state senate. Another pastor prayed with great emotion, from yelling--to crying--back to yelling again (possibly all in one sentence).

Lowpoint: Our city's mayor, Greg Fraley, gave the most gospel saturated, Christ exalting prayer.

[Before I continue, allow me to give the caveats I so hate to have to give, but find necessary. I am not making any assessment of these pastor's hearts or ministries. I am not claiming they are anything but God fearing, Christ loving men (and women--who were not pastors, I might add). I am not stating their intentions were off, nor that they had impure motives. And I am not claiming these men do not know the gospel or preach it.]

While I find it encouraging that our mayor is a believer (his testimony has been made known many times before this day), I find it sad that he and Pastor Ozer were the only two who actually articulated the details of the gospel. There's nothing wrong with praying for justice and wisdom for politicians, peace in our schools and the diminishing effects of poverty. In fact, it is commendable to pray for all of these things. But these things are not just lesser issues than the gospel, they actually do not find their satisfaction in anything else but the gospel. (For instance, I have greater confidence that a judge in our county will find wisdom and justice knowing He has trusted Christ with his life and is in a church that holds him accountable.)

My concern can be summed up by one brother's passionate prayer. This brother prayed that God would send revival to our city, county and country. He poured his heart out to God as he begged the Lord to send down "revival fire." However, no mention of the gospel was given. How do we expect revival to come, if not at the proclamation of the gospel? While I share his desire to see "revival fire," by declaring the gospel before this large crowd, he could have participated in God's desired mode of bringing revival, not just wishing to see it happen. Revival could have begun with a conversion from the gospel being declared during the prayer rally. Fellow believers may have begun revival as they were again reminded that their lives are nothing apart from the gospel. We don't begin revival by talking about revival, we begin it by declaring the gospel.

So what?

If you live in Greenville...write Mayor Fraley a thank you. Seriously, whether you were at the rally or are just hearing about his prayer in this post, write the mayor and encourage him. Let him know you appeciate his clear articulation of the gospel. Also, fulfill you duty to pray for your government, and encourage him that you are doing so.

If you are a pastor...or would have opportunity to ever pray publicly, please take advantage of the opportunity to present the gospel. It doesn't matter what the topic or occasion, the gospel is the core answer. Don't simply pray to Jesus, don't just pray about Jesus, walk through the tenents of the gospel. Lay out that Christ died for our sins and rose again to give us life. Present that man cannot attain favor with God apart from the blood of Christ. Articulate that it is by faith alone that eternal life with Christ can be gained.

[In a nutshell, it is an insufficient prayer if any atheist, Jew, Muslim or Catholic (to name just a few) could hear your prayer and not be uncomfortable. This is counter our "tolerance society" but our allegiance should be to the gospel, not to societal pressures. I'm not saying to be belligerent or rude, yet one can allow the content--graciously presented--to be confrontational. Praying in a way that people do not feel confronted will not transform lives. Praying in a way that presents the gospel could transform a life for eternity.]

If you sit in the pew...be proactive to speak to your pastor about this. Let him know you are not ashamed of the gospel and want to hear your pastor declare it in public venues. Let him know you will stand by his side and support him, even through boos or negative editorials in the paper. In fact, let him know it is your expectation, that as a minister of the gospel, he will present the gospel.

And if your pastor should ever get opportunity, and he fails to clearly articulate the gospel...gently reveal this to him. Do not assume his motive, nor challenge his faith. Simply encourage him to be clearer next time and challenge him to be bold. (Then assess his response, it will tell you volumes.) I have had a person confront me immediately after a message before. I had failed to be clear with the gospel (though I wanted to be). It stung a little, but later it was wonderful to know I have one locking arms with me, wanting the gospel to be boldly declared to the nations.
and My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land.--2 Chronicles 7:14
This verse is often quoted at prayer rallies. But notice, it is not enough for people to gather together and pray. They must turn from their wicked ways and seek the Lord's face. This can only be done through the articulation of the gospel.

While I'm thankful that a group of people want to gather together and pray, I hope next time Greenville does it, we'll take better advantage of the opportunity afforded to us. Maybe next time, instead of just the Mayor's prayer, the entire event will be a highlight.