Crucify Him

For our Good Friday service tomorrow I’ve put together a video that I found here. Feel free to use it at your Good Friday services!

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Gay Marriage – My Continuing Thoughts

I found two very good articles on this issue today, and combined with an interesting discussion on a friends Facebook wall I thought it was time to get some of my thoughts written down on what the Supreme Court is deciding now. The first article is by Barnabas Piper. You may recognize his last name, and yes, he is the son of John Piper. The title of the blog is ‘Tired of the Gay Marriage Debate?‘ The main point I most appreciated from this post is his thoughts on the government:

Why are we putting so much hope in the government?
Governments are, and have always been, broken systems run by broken sinners. We benefit greatly from good ones but ought not make the mistake of putting our hope in them. The hope we put in the government is evidenced by the energy we pour into influencing it, as if this is the means through which victory will be gained. But what I see is Christians doing what Jesus’ disciples did – hoping in the overthrow of the Romans rather than the establishment of Christ’s Kingdom. We cannot see government as the ultimate decision makers or ultimate law makers. We live in a monarchy, and our king is perfect. Put more faith in Him than in the Supreme Court or any other governmental body.

Too many people think that we live in a “Christian” country governed by “Christian” values. While this country may have been founded on principle that are found in Scripture, until Christ comes back to rule and reign we will never have a truly Christian nation.

Tied into that is that so many people seem to be surprised at the culture’s push against biblical values and beliefs. This has been happening since the fall! Jesus said in Matthew 24, “they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake.” Not just disliked, we will be hated! It shouldn’t surprise anyone in the church that culture pushes back so forcefully to Scriptures commands.

The second article I really appreciated is from Kevin DeYoung on ‘Why the Arguments for Gay Marriage are Persuasive.‘ He goes through a list of why the arguments are persuasive and does a great job of interacting with them. One of the ones that stuck out to me is that it’s about love. In our culture today, people equate love with making love to someone else. Kevin says, “But hidden in this simple reasoning is the cultural assumption that sexual intercourse is necessarily the highest, and perhaps the only truly fulfilling, expression of love. It’s assumed that love is always self-affirming and never self-denying. It’s assumed that our loves never require redirection.” 1 John 4 says, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” Added to that is 1 Corinthians 13, the love chapter. No where in either of this lists is love making equated with love, in fact it’s the opposite, throughout Scripture love is meant to be self-sacrificing.

So what should we do? As one of my friends put on facebook, “With the Supreme Court hearing the arguments for and against the constitutionality of CA Prop8, I would make the argument that the government needs to get out of the business of marriage. Allow the church to handle it and honor the unions that churches create. I understand that it’s a matter of national importance, but let’s be honest, the government hasn’t been doing so well with it (Divorce rates are at over 50% according to the CDC). So why not leave it alone?” (Thanks, AMill) I too think that the government should back off of this issue and leave it to the churches to determine. There are plenty of churches today that will marry same-sex couples and plenty that will not. Finally, I think Kevin DeYoung has some very helpful applications to this issue:

1) We need to go back several steps in each argument. We’ll never get a hearing on this issue, or a dozen others issues, unless we trace out the assumptions behind the assumptions behind the arguments behind the conclusions.

2) We need more courage. The days of social acceptability for evangelicals, let alone privilege, are fading fast in many parts of the country. If we aren’t prepared to be counter-cultural we aren’t ready to be Christians. And we need courage not to just say what the Bible says, but to dare say what almost no one will say–that gay sex is unnatural and harmful to the body, that abandoning gender distinctions will be catastrophic for our society and for children, and that monogamy and exclusivity is often understood differently in the gay community.

3) We need more creativity. Statements and petitions and manifestos have their place, but what we really need is more than words and documents. We need artists and journalists and movie makers and story tellers and spoken word artists and comedians and actors and rappers and musicians who are galvanized by the truth to sing and speak and share in such a way that makes sin look strange and righteousness look normal.

4) We need a both-and approach. In the months ahead I imagine we’ll see Christians wrestle with whether the best way forward is to form new arguments that appeal to people where they’re at, or whether we simply need to keep preaching the truth and trust God to give some people the ears to hear. I’m convinced we need to do both. Let’s keep preaching, teaching, and laboring for faithful churches. Let’s be fruitful and multiply. Let’s train our kids in the way they should go. Let’s keep sharing the good news and praying for revival. And let’s also find ways to make the truth plausible in a lost world. Not only the truth about marriage, but the truth about life and sex and creation and beauty and family and freedom and a hundred other things humans tend to forget on this side of Adam. The cultural assumptions in our day are not on our side, but if the last 50 years has shown us anything, it’s that those assumptions can change more quickly than we think.

I pray that we will not do one of two things:

  1. Distance ourself from the culture. We are to be culture changers, the church has too often withdrawn into our own safe bubble instead of interacting with what is going on in the culture at large.
  2. Become like the culture. Too many Christians want to be just like the world, neglecting Christ’s command to fight against sin and the culture of the world.

Maranatha: Lord come quickly.

This is a very good article praising a mother for the way she shaped a young man’s theology. This is very similar to how I feel about my mom, who instilled a love for prayer and Scripture into my life from a very young age!

Reformedish

On a whim last week I stopped to try and think about who, out of the various books, pastors, and theologians I’ve been shaped by, has most shaped me theologically. I started rifling through the names–Calvin, Vanhoozer, Horton, Wright, Barth, Newbigin, Kreeft, Lewis, Kierkegaard–and came up with a surprising answer: my mother, Arliett. This is no joke, or even my attempt at a heart-warming post about dear old mom (who really isn’t old anyways), it’s just a practical point. For all the Calvin or Vanhoozer or Horton I quote, the deepest roots of my theological instincts can probably be traced back to my mom’s early instruction in the faith.

I’ll be straight with you and say Mom doesn’t have what most would consider formal theological training. She was raised in a Catholic school and got saved in a Calvary Chapel Bible study a couple of years before I was born. There was no…

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Who Is My Family?

One topic I’ve touched on before is the concept of the church as a family. Today I’m going to expand that thinking just a little bit as we explore what the church says about the family.
In 1 Timothy 5, Paul expands upon this idea, starting in verse 1, “Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, in all purity.” Plenty of things have been written about that last part, “in all purity,” but not as much has been written about the rest of those two verses. My Bible (ESV) describes this section as “Instructions for the Church.” We can already see the family ties beginning to connect in the church as we are to treat everyone in the church as our family. I would even extend this thinking into treating those who are considerably older as grandparents, and those who are considerably younger as grandchildren. I have some people like that in the church I serve now. Godly men and women who have taken me under their wing and give me a hug every time they see me. I’m so grateful for their influence in the church and my life.
So then if the church is to be one big family, what is the purpose of your immediate family? Paul has some very strong words to say about your immediate family in verse 8, “But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” Wow! Worse than an unbeliever! Paul clearly expects people to provide for their families. I’ve heard stories of pastors who have had the children of older people in the church come to them and expect the church to help their parents out. I’m sorry, but that’s NOT what the church is called to do! The church is called to help those who have no other family to help them out, as Paul says in verse 4, “if a widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn to show godliness to their own household and to make some return to their parents, for this is pleasing in the sight of God.” Again, we see immediate family is called to provide for their immediate family. So now, how does the church fit in to that?
Acts 2:42 provides a picture for us of what this should look like, “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of break and the prayers.” When your blood family is provided for, then out of the overflow of God’s blessing in your life, use it as an opportunity to help those in the family of the church. Just a few verses later in Acts 2 it says, “They were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.” How can you be helping those in your church family as they have needs? This isn’t always physical! I wrote last week about the importance of prayer, and just yesterday had the opportunity to pray with a dear friend at church who is today having surgery. How can we spiritually, physically and emotionally care for both our family through blood and our family through water.
“It’s been said that blood is thicker than water,
But in the church, the opposite is true
Water is thicker than blood.”
My Dad

Hospitality

Hospitality seems to be a dying art today. People are increasingly moving toward being more private and reserved, and this is especially seen in the life of the church. Throughout the New Testament you see regular exhortations to meet together and spend time together (Hebrews 10:25, 1 Peter 4:9, Acts 2:42, etc.). Many people don’t realize that to be a believer is to be a part of a larger body. This is something that has been very enjoyable for the small group I’ve been a part of. This past weekend a number of them came over to my house to play Settlers of Catan (unfortunately, I wasn’t able to play because there were too many, but it was still an enjoyable time). These get togethers are a regular occurrence for our small group, and each time is very enjoyable!

Randy Alcorn recently addressed this issue in a blog titled ‘What Happened to Hospitality?‘ In it he says, “Beyond the service and the feeding of the meal, there’s something wonderful about the conversations that can come out of having people over. Some of the greatest discussions are centered around meals.” I couldn’t agree more! I think having someone over to your home breaks down some of the barriers people have and is a great way to get to know others. So when is the last time you had someone over for a meal?

This is a very helpful article-yes, ALL Christians are hypocrites! It doesn’t make God any less good or true, but it does show how much everyone, even believers need Gods forgiveness on a minute by minute basis. Praise God for his forgiveness and grace!

Marc5Solas

One of the unexpected results of my “Top 10” post going viral is that it’s given me the opportunity to interact (via email and comments) with hundreds of people who are either atheists, anti-theists, agnostics, or skeptics.

I listened and I’ve attempted to answer as accurately, honestly, and transparently as possible.  To that end, I took inventory of the basic comments, complaints, and objections of Christianity.  I’ll address them over the next several articles, but it didn’t take long to identify the one major problem non-christians had with christianity…

 

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Christians!

Here are a few of many, many responses and comments I got:

“The subject isn’t why people leave Christianity, it’s why young people leave the church. Many young people leave because the people they are surrounded by are unpleasant, egotistical, and judgmental at best and hateful, criminal and hypocritical at worst.” – Tim

“Many “religious” people are hypocritical, they…

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Working Hard or Hardly Working?

One of the things I’ve learned in my past 16 months of working as a pastor is that there are a lot of things that can come up in a week! From funerals to small groups to weddings to church work days to a movie night at church, it seems there’s no shortage of events you can attend. As a pastor it can be difficult to know how much work is too much. One of the things I’ve heard is that a pastor should work around the same amount of time as the average person in their congregation. As some push back to that is this blog, ‘How Many Hours Should Pastors Work?‘ Early in the article he says,

Here’s the truth in the advice: pastors should work hard. The pastorate is a place where lazy people can hide. I’ve met some lazy pastors, and they do need a kick in the posterior. And yes, we shouldn’t expect more of others than we ourselves are ready to give. And for some, they will be able to work 50-65 hours and still live healthily. Imposing this advice across the board, however, is less than helpful.

Just so you’re aware, he doesn’t give a solid number. In my experience, a typical week in a church is going to be more than 40 hours, but rarely go over 50. One of the things I try very hard to do is to guard my day off. Right now my day off is Tuesday and I try to keep that day to myself both to get some things done around the house and just spend some time relaxing reading and thinking. I’ve found this to be very helpful to my life as a whole, spiritually emotionally and physically. Removing myself from my regular duties has been necessary for me in my regular life. I encourage those of you who are pastors to do the same.

Traits of False Teachers

In light of yesterday’s article, Colin Smith has written a very helpful article on The Gospel Coalition titled ‘7 Traits of False Teachers.’ Rob Bell has had quite the audience over the years through his preaching, Nooma videos and books. Yet through each of these books he has slowly chipped away at the foundation of what is true-Scripture.

The seven traits listed in the article are:

  1. Difference source
  2. Different message
  3. Different position
  4. Different character
  5. Different appeal
  6. Different fruit
  7. Different end

This is a good reminder that until Christ comes back there will always be false teachers among us who are trying to lead us away. May we continue to search the Scriptures for truth.

Rob Bell Comes Out

Rob Bell has moved in some pretty drastic ways away from the Evangelical church. With his book Love Wins last year he questioned the existence of hell, to a “tweet heard ’round the world” from John Piper saying, “Farewell, Rob Bell.” Rob has made quite a name for himself, started by planting a successful church (in terms of numbers) in Grand Rapids, MI. He has since stepped away from the church and moved to LA where he is apparently working on a TV show about his life. In a more recent move, Rob Bell has now come out in support of same sex marriage saying, “Yes, I am for marriage. I am for fidelity. I am for love, whether it’s a man and a woman, a woman and a woman, a man and a man. I think the ship has sailed and I think that the church needs to just … this is the world that we are living in and we need to affirm people wherever they are.”

This shouldn’t come to a surprise to anyone. As soon as one questions the authority of Scripture the rest of their theology will come crashing down around them. This also happened to Brian McLaren, who in September of last year married his son to his son’s boyfriend.

I continue to be grateful for the Evangelical Free Church in dealing with some of these very important and timely issues. I live blogged their most recent theology conference titled ‘Sex Matters’ and you can now listen to every message here. A more appropriate view, in both the biblical and historical sense, is found in Wesley Hill’s book Washed and Waitingwhich I encourage anyone interested in this issue to read. This issue isn’t going to disappear anytime soon and Christians need to continue to be willing to take a stand that many people view to be unpopular and passe. Christians will regularly need to be counter cultural and pray for the strength to stay strong no matter what those around us are saying.

Praying for Your Church

One of the things I’ve learned in my past year of ministry is that it’s not very much a job in the typical sense of the word. My last job I worked from 7 until 4 and then left my job there and tried not to think about it until the next day when I would begin work again. Now when I go home I’m generally thinking about issues related to church, reading books about church or spending time with people from church. This bothered me at first-even my personal times of prayer were dominated by praying for the church. God has recently been revealing to me that this should be the pattern for everyone in the church. We all should be praying for the church.

Many of Paul’s letters have this theme in them, “without ceasing I mention you always in my prayers,” Romans 1:9-10, “I give thanks to my God always for you,” 1 Corinthians 1:4, “I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers,” Ephesians 1:16, “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy,” Philippians 1:3-4, “we always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you,” Colossians 1:3, “we give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers,” 2 Thessalonians 3:1, “I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people,” 1 Timothy 2:1, “I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day,” 2 Timothy 1:3, and finally, “I thank my God always when I remember you in my prayers” Philemon 4. Reading trough this list I think it’s safe to say that Paul both modeled and encouraged prayer among the disciples for the body.

How can we pray for the body around us? The most obvious answer to that is to pray that God will keep us from sin. The world is constantly bombarding us with temptations to give in to sin (2 Corinthians 13:7, Hebrews 13:18). The second thing we can pray for the body is for physical healing (James 5:14). A third thing we can pray for in the body to grow in the wisdom and understanding of God, which means maturity (Colossians 1:9). One thing I don’t always see people understanding is that this also needs to be prayed for pastors and leaders in the church.

Paul repeatedly asks for prayer for where God is leading him (2 Thessalonians 3:1, Colossians 4:2, 1 Thessalonians 5:25, 2 Thessalonians 3:1). And the most explicit example is in 1 Timothy 2 where Paul writes, “I urge that supplications prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way,” (italics mine). Pray for the pastors, elders and deacons who are in your church that we may faithfully lead the people that God has entrusted to us. May all of us remember to pray for our churches that God’s name may be made great and He would get all the glory.

“Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.”

Romans 8:26