Saturday, June 30, 2012

Be Patriotic like the Apostle Paul!

I'm very thankful to be a citizen of the United States of America. I consider myself patriotic. On July 4th (but not only on this day) I'll certainly be thinking and praying especially for our nation's leaders and military, as well as thanking God for the unique freedoms He has provided me- and asking Him to help me not waste those freedoms as it concerns the gospel. However, tomorrow on the Lord's Day we won't be singing about the flag but singing about THE KING. Jesus is an authority higher than the U.S. Government, His battle to secure my freedom infinitely more costly, the freedom He provides infinitely more satisfying, and the Kingdom He has made me a citizen of is everlasting.

I say this not to disparage the privileges God has given us as U.S. citizens nor do I want to disregard the sacrifices our men and women of the armed forces have made to secure that freeom. I love those patriotic songs that remind us of these things but on the Lord's Day, when the Lord's people assemble I want to give the highest honors to Whom it is due.

So if not through replacing songs to Christ with songs about our nation on Sunday, how can the church uniquely demonstrate patriotism? Be patriotic like Paul!

Consider in Romans 13:1-7 Paul's instructions to "be subject to the governing authorities". He also acknowledges, as should we, that human government is an instrument which God uses to execute justice and limit sin. I don't agree with many things the different branches of our government does or believes but I want to be patriotic like Paul by submitting to their authority and being thankful the Lord uses the government for His righteous purposes.

Consider in 1 Timothy 2:1-4 Paul's command to pray for "all who are in high positions". Be patriotic like Paul by praying for your President and other elected officials (whether you voted for them or not). Pray for them that they would receive and heed godly and wise counsel. Pray that they would come to faith and submit to the High King who is over all as God desires that they would (v. 4).

Consider in 2 Timothy 2:3-4 Paul's analogy of the Roman soldiers he was so familiar with to commend the church to "Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him." So Paul sees virtue in a soldier's commitment to suffer for a greater purpose, in his resistance of peacetime luxuries during war, and in his commitment to please his commander. He recognizes the virtue in this so much that he applies it (perfectly) to the Christian life. I think it is fair to say we should be patriotic like Paul by looking to those military men and women and thanking them for their service- not only because the protect us from harm but because they set an example for us as "soldiers of Christ Jesus".

Praise God for the freedoms He has given us in this country. Be patriotic like Paul by not wasting it. Paul said "I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus" (Phil 3:14); and "I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself be disqualified" (1 Cor 9:26-27). He never quit. I like singing patriotic songs but if you really want to honor the Lord and thank him for the freedoms He's given us in the U.S.A. use them to advance the gospel of the kingdom of Jesus Christ to all the nations.

Friday, June 29, 2012

New Hyper-Calvinism?

Okay, so I'm a little tired of hearing all this bashing of "New Calvinism". What is that anyway? I realize Time Magazine coined the phrase but more commonly it is a label given to describe the strawman characterization of anyone who is Calvinistic in their soteriology. It is easier to bash generalizations and attach a label to it. It is un-Christlike and unedifying to the church. One of the generalizations that gets labeled New Calvinism is to assume or accuse all such thinking of being akin to Hyper-Calvinism. A Hyper-Calvinist is one who by conviction does not put the gospel before unbelievers for fear that they might be sharing with the non-elect. I've never met a Hyper-Calvinist much like I've never ridden a unicorn. Perhaps one exists but it is unsubstantiated and highly unlikely.

There is a kind of "New Hyper-Calvinist" out there though. It is one who religiously avoids sharing the gospel or being around unbelievers altogether. This person is not a "NHC" by conviction but either by laziness or pragmatism. I've met many a Christian (on all spectrums of soteriology- some Calvinist, some Arminiam, some who would more agree with this "new traditionalism" making the rounds, and some even semi-Pelagianists*) who are too lazy and self-absorbed to even notice unbelievers who God has put in their path much less share the gospel with them. This doesn't really need a label as much as it needs repentance. If you fit this category do you not love what God loves (John 3:16)? Sometimes this laziness is called fear but in my own life I've realized my fear and anxiety towards sharing the gospel is really rooted in a laziness to have faith in the power of the Holy Spirit and to fight the fear of man.

Some do not share the gospel because of pragmatism. I got a chuckle from a recent rant by a prominent and popular (and very fashionable) SBC pastor accusing Calvinistic pastors of not wanting to reach the lost because they discriminate on who the elect are. Perhaps there are discriminating Calvinists out there but they are not alone. I'm amazed by all these "cutting-edge" pragmatic thinkers who determine a target group based on who is most likely to receive the gospel. It is not chic to do evangelism and plant churches among the poor or ethnically diverse or physically disabled or among the elderly (unless of course you are on a mission trip to another country and you can splice together a video montage to impress everyone back home with your sacrifice). No, it is mainly chic to target the young, wealthy, and white (or whoever it just like you). Urban church planting is more pragmatic now in big cities because that's where the young, wealthy, and white are moving. So we determine who is strategically best to share the gospel with. Is this not an attempt to determine who the "elect" are?

Look, I'm not saying there isn't a need for churches in predominantly white suburbs. I don't hate white people and I realize churches are probably going to reflect their communities, ethnically and economically speaking. However, I am against this pragmatic attitude toward evangelism that is practically no different than the "Hyper-Calvinist". Look around you. Whether they are wealthy or poor, black or white, young or old, they are people created for the glory of God but under the condemnation of their sinfulness. They are spiritually blinded and only the proclamation of the gospel will open their eyes. I trust the work of regeneration (which I believe precedes faith) to the Holy Spirit. God does the work of salvation and He gets the glory but He has chosen the "foolish things of this world to shame the wise" and thus has commanded us to share His gospel as the means to call people to faith. Don't be lazy or let pragmatism take you away from this command. Obey and prepare to experience the joy of God's power working through you!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Cross Point Mission

Here is a video (excellently produced by Jason Jean Productions) that gives a snapshot of what our church plan is about-- our aim, our values, and a community that the Lord has put on our hearts.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Tuesday Hodge-Podge (6-19-12)

  • Jim Hamilton unloads a double-barrel shotgun (bam and boom) to my soul.
  • Here's a link to the original "Desiring God" sermon series.
  • Husbands, need some creative ideas for dating your wife? Try these.
  • Southwestern Seminary is offering some good free e-books.
  • Here's a good article on how the New Testament came together.

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Lord's Day and Pillow FIghts

Sundays are special days at the Bradshaw home. My wife and I put effort into making them special. Sunday is special because it is set apart in Scripture as the Lord's Day. It is the day we are to give special and focused attention on Christ our Sabbath. We set apart Sunday for worship with our church family, for rest as a family, and to reflect on the goodness of God. Blair and I really want to imprint on our children the uniqueness and joy of the day. This starts on Saturday as we try to wind down early, not planning too much that will leave us exhausted Sunday morning. It means early bedtimes. It means Blair usually prepares something for lunch on Saturday- not because we believe we're banned from all labor but because we want to occupy as little of Sunday toward busy work as possible. The crock-pot comes in handy on Sunday (we try to avoid eating out unless it is for a special purpose-- fellowship with believers or ministry to a particular unbeliever).

I want my 2 1/2 year old son to already be anticipating Sunday-- though he doesn't yet grasp the ultimate reason for anticipation. So on Saturday we start to talk up getting together with our church in the morning. We ask him who he's going to see and he names names with a smile on his face. We do this at bedtime to motivate him to go night-night so he can wake up and see his friends... and it works. Because we're a church plant and do set-up every week I find things for him to do... like drag one chair at a time across the floor to set-up. He's daddy's helper. We worship, we fellowship, and then when we get home we eat. After eating comes the nap-- Asher's not a fan-- but after the nap comes pillow play time. It is the one day a week he gets to drag out all the pillows and couch cushions (ALL OF THEM) to play with-- we build things, we wrestle, we crash, etc etc. This goes on until dad can barely move anymore. It is special and I pray that my son grows to love the Lord's Day, ultimately because of the LORD of the day-- Jesus Christ.

Friday, June 15, 2012

What discourages a church planter/ pastor?

To my fellow planters and pastors out there, can you identify with these things? Here are five things that discourage me and a little of what the Lord has taught me through them.

1. When the vision isn’t caught. You try to explain what the church is about and what we’re aiming for and you just don’t make the connection. Sometimes I just have to work on how I communicate but sometimes people just don’t hear you.

2. Complaining/ Whining. Moses dealt with it. David dealt with it. Jesus dealt with it. It comes with the territory.

3. Personal sin. There’s nothing that angers, frustrates me, or discourages me more than my own flesh. Enter repentance and faith.

4. Unmet expectations. Of course the problem is I can often expect what God has not commanded or promised. Here’s the thing, it is okay to dream but God’s will is always better than what you can dream up. Trust Him and when things don’t go as planned remember they may not be His plans.

5. Silence. There’s nothing more deflating than spending your week investing in relationships, praying for people, preparing for a sermon, preaching your guts out, and then there’s no response or feedback. Okay, most of the time, this goes back to #4 and is a pride issue. You also have to remember that people aren’t used to having meaningful conversation or discussing God’s Word. It has to be cultivated and takes time. Sometimes people are just not that talkative before noon on a Sunday morning. Sometimes the sermon may not be the golden-tongued oration you think it is. Listen folks, encourage your pastor and work on talking about more than the game last night or the kids’ poo-poo diapers but pastors… Remember silence does not mean God isn’t working in hearts and in the end aim to please Christ not men.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Next

As a church planter (five months into the work) I often get asked “What’s next?” Sometimes this is difficult to answer. Because of our approach (more incarnational than institutional/ relational missions more than event missions) there is not always some big thing on the horizon, except of course for next Sunday… every Sunday, being the Lord’s Day is a big thing for us. We keep tract of attendance when we gather (to some degree) but that really is not the measure of our mission being accomplished. We’re not just trying to put on stuff to get a crowd. On Sundays my aim is to exalt Christ and equip the saints. My objective is accomplished if our worship was Christ-exalting and if those present were equipped for the work of the ministry in everyday life through the Word of God.

The second arm of our mission is carried out in everyday life as we live by the gospel at home, work, and while at play, and as we cultivate gospel-focused friendships with unbelievers. So the mission is accomplished when married couples go to the gospel to help them overcome conflict in the home, when parents go to the gospel in disciplining and instructing their children, when employees go to the gospel when dealing with stress or the temptation to be lazy at the workplace, when employers go to the gospel in the manner in which they relate respectfully to their employees, when TV or computer monitor gazers go to the gospel as they discern what to view, and when neighbors or shoppers or vacationers or restaurant patrons go to the gospel in how they respond to those people God has providentially put in their paths. That’s hard to quantify but when we’re faithful we’ll see the Lord bring fruit from the labor—disciples are made, worship attendance will probably increase, baptism will be observed, but chiefly God will be glorified.

That is not to say there isn’t a role for a church to have a “next big event”. Events can be catalysts for building bridges into the community, for displaying the gospel, for showing Biblical hospitality, for building the church fellowship, and for meeting people who need to hear the gospel. We’ve got some of those things on the horizon this summer (let me know if you want to help). Really though, the next big thing may not be on the calendar. It may be what God has planned to do through you that you don’t even expect. Will you be faithful and ready?

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Tuesday Hodge-Podge (6-12-12)

Monday, June 11, 2012

Out of the Mouths of Babes

The scene in the Gospels of Jesus entering Jerusalem at Passover is fantastic. Since travelers from all over the Roman world came to participate in Passover in was not financially or logistically possible to bring the entire family but men would bring their 12-year-old sons to participate in their first Passover. Matthew notes that after Jesus purged the Temple the children (mostly these boys) began crying out “Hosanna to the Son of David!” to which Jesus responds quoting Psalm 8:2, “Out of the mouths of babes… thou hast perfected praise.” That Psalm is about the majesty of God in all the earth. Jesus is making a point to show ‘now that’s the kind of worship that should be going on here’.

I pray daily for my children to become worshippers. They are not now. They are ignorant of their spiritual condition that they inherited from the first man Adam and from the guilt imputed on them through his sin. They are also still ignorant of the spiritual condition Christ came to restore them to and of the righteousness that He would impute to them by faith. So I pray that they will come to hear, understand, and love the gospel of Jesus Christ. I want them to first and foremost hear it and see it at work in our home. I pray that they will one day worship Christ as those boys at Passover and follow Him with all their heart.

Do you pray for your children and put intentionality toward this aim? I see a lot of intentionality to get children in the right schools, on the right teams, dressed with the right clothes, and connected with the right friends. These things- to a certain degree- are good aims but they are not game-changers. They do not overcome the spiritual separation from God our sin has created and they do not satisfy the wrath of God our sin deserves. So make an earnest commitment to seek for your children to be those who would proclaim “Hosanna to the Son of David!”

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Through the Life of Christ in Mark’s Gospel

I am nearing the end of my preaching series through the Gospel of Mark. I approached this series differently than most, taking larger sections of Mark’s narrative to teach the central themes of the Gospel. Mark’s Gospel gives itself easily to this approach in how the episodes in the life of Christ are written and connected to one another. It is almost all action with little dialogue. Mark doesn’t include as many details as the other gospel writers and reveals King Jesus on mission for the redemptive of sinners to the glory of God. He is the suffering servant of God and the atoning substitute for sinful men and women whom God has purposed for redemption.

It is bittersweet to finish this series as I feel like I’m saying farewell to a friend. Life is short and there is much Scripture to cover so I doubt if I’ll ever have the privilege of preaching through Mark’s gospel again. There is nothing more compelling than the life and work of Christ. If I could preach only one thing I’d preach from one of the four Gospels. It is so engrossing that I’m itching to preach through Luke and John (having preached through Matthew during my previous pastorate) but I’ll resist and leap over to the Old Testament next to work through Genesis.

If you are wrestling with becoming more disciplined in Bible reading let me recommend you begin with Mark. Take a chapter a week. Read the whole thing on day one then go back through the chapter slowly during the remaining days of the week. Try to identify the common thread or theme that connects all the various episodes covered in that chapter.

What does Mark teach you about Jesus and what does it tell you about following Jesus? Ask those two questions regularly and then pray. Ask the Lord to help you put what you’ve learned into practice. Then watch for opportunity to live out the Word. The Spirit will do the work of conforming you to Christ’s image but anchor down in the Word and get ready for transformation!
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