Wednesday, February 23, 2011

"Bible interpretation isn't really the point"

The title of this post is a quote (p. 101) from Christopher Ash's excellent little book The Priority of Preaching. I cannot recommend this book enough! Here is a little excerpt on the goal of the Bible (found in chapter 3, on page 101):

The point of the Bible is to shape a people under grace who will be people of grace. That is to say, the goal of the Bible is Bible performance, not Bible interpretation... Our challenge is not simply to understand the word we hear preached but to do it. Our business is not Bible interpretation but Bible performance. We need to be a community who interpret the word; but the kind of interpretation we are to aim at is much more than agreeing what it means. We are to interpret the word in the sense of becoming a living visible interpretation of the word, a community in which the word of Christ is lived out and made concrete. We will only do this if we understand that out gatherings as whole local churches under the preached word are the defining context for the church.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Tuesday Hodge-Podge (2-22)

Monday, February 21, 2011

Pray Now for Sayed Musa

You don't know this man but we all need to pray urgently for him. Read more HERE.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Grin and Bear it?

Grin and bear it. I heard that more than a few times as a boy. It is right up there with "rub some dirt on it". These are well-intentioned but inadequate pieces of counsel when someone is hurting. Over the last few weeks I've been dealing with nagging soreness in my shoulder. It is the product of poor conditioning and rough-housing with my son. We wrestle and he likes me to pick him up and play "superman" among other things. Of course he is 27 pounds and that can take it's toll on a sore shoulder. Unfortunately there's not much I can do except rub some "Icy-Hot" on it, take a vicodin, and try to limit our wrestling matches. It will eventually get better.

There are some things you just have to "grin and bear". There are some things you just have to endure. The folk adage is "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger" but Scripture has a more profound word for this kind of endurance. Paul was struggling with a "thorn in the flesh". He is vague about this thorn probably to widen the application. Was it an internal struggle like pride? Was it an external struggle like pain from all those beatings he endured? His response holds application for all such struggles (2 Corinthians 12:8-9 ESV), "Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But HE said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.'"

Are you struggling with hurt, with pain, or with despair? There are some struggles the Lord removes (James 5:13-15) but there are others that must simply be endured until they are complete so that the Lord's power might be perfected in us. Grin and bear it isn't adequate counsel but James 1:2-4 is, "Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing."

Now my son is up from his nap so its time to get off the computer and test that shoulder...wrestling time!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Blame Game

Every morning after I get to the office one of the first things I do is peruse the headlines so that I'm at least mildly informed of the happenings of our world and culture. Two stories struck a nerve with me today. First, I saw (but didn't read) a story about actor Charlie Sheen whose headline-grabbing alcohol/ drug abuse and philandering have at least temporarily scuttled his career and the hit CBS show he stars on. His show (which glorifies hedonism) has been put on hiatus due to his most recent addiction and legal issues. Naturally when Sheen finally gives a public response he blames the producers of the television show for the show not going on- which has put many people out of work. Of course as far as Sheen sees things, it is not his fault.

Next I read the story about poor ole Billy Ray Cyrus. He of early 90's one-hit-wonder fame who got a second "15 minutes of fame" by riding his daughter Miley's meteoric rise to kiddie-pop sensation. Billy Ray went from a "whatever happened to that guy" story to overnight millionaire all over again thanks to his daughter's hit Disney Channel show "Hanna Montana". She has parlayed that gig into mega-stardom and a multi-million dollar brand. All this fame has led to increased scrutiny on Miley Cyrus and her family. Fame and fortune ain't free! There have been continual stories (with photos) about Miley's partying and promiscuous ways. Not only that but it seems the pressure of celebrity has caused tension in the Cyrus home and Billy Ray is now divorcing from his wife and Miley's mother. Billy's take- It is Disney's fault!! He blames the television show for all his troubles.

Note that he doesn't blame his choices regarding that show... as in, I should have guarded my daughter's heart better and kept her from doing that show. He blames Disney. Now I get no joy from the break-up of a marriage or the destruction of a life like Sheen's. These people were created in the image of God and are meant to glorify and enjoy Him forever. It is tragic and it is the result of sin. Unfortunately they are not willing to admit that. This "blame game" problem is as old as human history. When the first man sinned and God confronted him, the man's response was, "The woman whom YOU gave to be with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate." The first woman followed her husband's lead in playing the blame game, "The serpent deceived me, and I ate." The woman blamed the snake. The man blamed the woman... and ultimately God, since God gave her to the man.

When was the last time you joyfully received rebuke or confrontation regarding sin? Let's be honest. We like to think of ourselves as victims so we don't have to face the reality that we participate in the ugliness of sin every day. You may have actually been a victim of an offense but don't make that wound the object of your obsession-- you'll begin ignoring other areas of your life where you have been equally offensive by sin. Guard against the blame game. Rather heed the words of the Apostle John in 1 John 1:8-9, "If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. Is we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." To the lover of sin this spiritual confrontation will only produce anger, bitterness, and retaliation. We naturally like thinking highly of ourselves. To the true believer who loves the Lord this spiritual confrontation will ultimately be to our joy as we experience the freedom of exposing and putting to death our sin. The blame game is just another of the enemy's tricks to keep those chains heavy and tight around your heart and mind.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

12 Books Every Church Leader Should Read

1. Humility: True Greatness by C.J. Mahaney

2. When People are Big and God is Small by Ed Welch

3. The Holiness of God by R.C. Sproul

4. Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God by J.I. Packer

5. The Unquenchable Flame by Michael Reeves

6. Nine Marks of a Healthy Church by Mark Dever

7. Total Church by Tim Chester and Steve Timmis

8. The Trellis and the Vine by Colin Marshall and Tony Payne

9. The Supremacy of God in Preaching by John Piper

10. Tell the Truth by Will Metzger

11. Christian Beliefs by Wayne Grudem and Elliot Grudem

12. Let the Nations by Glad: The Supremacy of God in Missions by John Piper

Friday, February 11, 2011

Four Targets

There are four things I am aiming for this year and hope to build on in the coming years as I lead Memorial Baptist Church. These are four very necessary things if we want to be a healthy, vibrant, and effective church for the glory of Christ.

#1- I'm aiming to have a more diligently praying church. The need for fervent, yielding-to-God prayer cannot be underestimated. We've got to stop going through the motions in our prayer meetings, get honest about needs, and get praying for the work of God. You look at the level of zeal in the prayer meeting of the church and that is a great indicator of that church's present health and future relevance.

#2- I'm aiming to train men in our church to be leaders in their home, their community, and among their church family. I realize this is a slow process of identifying those who are willing to grow in Biblical manhood and who will labor in the Word toward the kind of example that will blaze a godly trail in our church. It is a slow process but a worthy and joyous one.

#3- I'm aiming for us to put more "boots on the ground" and take the gospel to our community. We've had some success over the last three years in motivating our members to participate in church-wide efforts to introduce ourselves to the homes surrounding our church buildings. We've tried putting the gospel in their hands (tracts) and ears (actually sharing the good news). We'll keep at some of these methods but I hope this will spur on "lifestyle evangelism".

#4- I'm aiming to build bridges between the different age and social groups in our church. We cannot have cliques in a family. It doesn't work. We need to practice hospitality and deepend genuine fellowship. The Lord has put us on a mission and dividing our forces will certainly spell defeat.

Now the dreaming is the easy part. It is the doing that tests our mettle. Anyone can pick a target but hitting it takes patience and persistence. There are plans at work already toward hitting these targets and some plans will develop along the way. Start praying and let's get moving!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Warrior Within

It seems like overnight my baby turned into a little boy and he is definitely all boy. He has these foam swords that he has shown no interest in until a few days ago. Last Sunday morning as we were waiting on his mom to finish getting ready for church (she kindly gets us ready before she gets herself ready) Asher noticed these toy swords. From the far end of the dining room he picked the swords up and charged into the living room to "stab" me with these swords. He let out a "Braveheart"-esque scream as he brought these swords down on me. He then ran out of the living room back to the far end of the dining room and repeated his battle cry. It was quite hilarious watching him play warrior.

Now I need to say here that Asher doesn't watch TV. He's not interested in cartoons at this point. Even when Blair and I are watching TV we don't watch violent stuff- at least not around Asher. So where does he get this desire to sword fight? Why does he now chase the dog around the house with these swords? I suppose it is just the warrior within. Of course now comes the parenting part... channelling that little warrior heart in the right direction. I pray the Lord will one day call Asher out to contend for the faith. I pray he will be a virtuous man and he will fight to preserve his integrity. I pray he will fight sin, will guard the honor of whatever young woman the Lord sets apart for him to love, and will be courageous in obeying the will of God.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Tuesday Hodge-Podge (2-8)

  • Multnomah is releasing the 25th anniversary edition of Desiring God but here is a link to John Piper's sermon series on Christian Hedonism that the book was developed from.
  • Here is a simplified explanation of the difference between Reformed theology and Roman Catholic theology (HT: Challies).
  • Need some encouragement? Chuck Swindoll reminds us to endure.
  • Why doesn't God save everyone? Sam Storms offers an explanation.
  • Check out the video below to see an excellent church commercial (HT: Trevin Wax)

Monday, February 7, 2011

Six years Later...

Today is my wife's birthday. It is also an anniversary of sorts. Five years ago today Blair agreed to marry me. I'll never forget that day. The day before I was at seminary and sick as a dog with an allergy attack. I had to leave class it was so bad. By the time I got home that night I was miserable. We had planned to go to Kemah for her birthday and Blair was telling me we could cancel. Under normal circumstances I would have but I had a diamond ring burning a hole in my pocket and I could not wait another day to ask this amazing woman to be my wife. So I loaded up on allergy meds- it is a miracle I even woke up and was able to walk the next morning- and we headed for Kemah. We got there for lunch and I could hardly eat- which is rare for me. My lack of appetite had nothing to do with feeling bad (the meds had thankfully kicked in and the Lord gave me much needed energy) but I was as nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs!

Here was this girl who the Lord had so graciously put in my life and we seemed to fit together so wonderfully. I didn't want to mess this up. Well after lunch, on a quiet stretch of the boardwalk, we sat down so I could give the birthday girl her gifts-- the final one being the ring. I'm not sure if I fumbled my words or not but I know she said yes... and a year later we were man and wife. So today I am thankful to be celebrating the birthday of the most supportive, most encouraging, most loving, funniest, kindest, most beautiful, and most godly woman I know. Yes it is Blair's birthday but I get the best gift... she is my wife.

Friday, February 4, 2011