Monday, July 31, 2006

more on willow creek

This weekend, I got to hang out with a good life-long friend who is very active at Willow Creek Community Church in Barrington, Illinois. I shared a couple of links that discuss the issue of their primary ministry to twenty-somethings being closed down for lack of interest. My friend shared with me that the "Axis" worship service, though once 2000+ strong had gotten down to around 200 people.

Apparently, the service was having a difficult time getting the folks who had outgrown the target age group to move on. So there were a lot of thirty-somethings there, but not many twenty-somethings coming into the worship service. Then the leadership publically told the thirty-somethings that they really needed to move on and quit attending that worship service. My friend said that may have been the straw that broke the camel's back for the declining service.

My friend also said that it feels to him that Willow Creek is going through a slump. He senses a lack of energy and lower moral among some of the ministry leaders that he knows.

I gain a few important points from this situation at Willow Creek.
1) Even the big churches go through tough times.
I know its easy to feel that church life is euphoric and continually blessed with excitement at those churches, whereas most of us are just slugging along trying to hang in there.

2) Its OK to shut down a ministry that is no longer meeting its original need.

I don't think God intends us to put ministries on life support after they fail to be effective. I applaud Willow Creek for being bold enough to say, "Its just not working anymore." May we follow their example whenever the need arises.

3) The megachurch movement is yet to come of age.
History tells us that every movement (except the Kingdom of God) that experiences explosive growth will at some point slow down. Why do we think that any movement can perpetuate continual explosive growth? There comes a time when faithfulness of believers needs to be cultivated by the long haul of steadfast discipleship. Excitement-based conversion must evolve into maturity or its not real.

I foresee that this is just the beginning of the slowing down of many of our adolescent-aged megachurches. Thanks be to Jesus for the role that they have had and do have in furthering his glorious kingdom. May we also be faithful in our callings regardless of the excitement level at our churches.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Scriptural Christianity

I've been reading some of John Wesley's Sermons. Today I read this awesome, intense, and stinging sermon called "Scriptural Christianity". John Wesley worked as a fellow at Oxford University in England for a number of years. However, after this sermon, he was never to preach there again. Check it out.

Friday, July 28, 2006

the man in black

My wife and I watched Walk the Line the other night. It's about Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash. What a great movie. I also just found johnnycash.com where you can listen to his songs for free.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

can i believe anything i want and be a united methodist?

I read this book today. A friend gave it to me about eight years ago, and it took me this long to read it. This is a great little book that discusses the fact that the United Methodist Church does have specific doctrinal standards. Abraham puts forth that in the last generation we've become a pluralistic denomination, holding to no specific doctrine. He brings out the fact that our Disciple and our Constitution do have clear doctrinal standards which tie us permanently to classic orthodox historic apostolic Christianity. He calls for the teaching of these doctrines and ifor holding our clergy and members accountable to them. Abraham says we need to stop acting like we're not a confessional church when we actually have a Confession of Faith!

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

exodus

"That sweaty, bloody, tear-stained labor of the Cross bears new life. Our mother Jesus gives birth to a new creation—and you and I are his children."

The above quote from Episcopalian Bishop Jefferts Schort was the last straw for evangelical Episcopalians, who are making a mass exodus from the denomination. Read more.

the killing must stop

I stumbled across these pictures of Lebanese children killed by Israeli bombs. My heart just sank, seeing as I have kids about this age. Is this the way to peace? I'm not trying to make a political statement as much as acknowledge the shock I feel when my eyes are forced to look beyond my sheltered existence.

good quote

About once every year or so, I come across a quote that is so good that I'll tape it inside the cover of my Bible. I used Joan of Arc as a sermon illustration a few weeks ago. As she was burning at the stake for political purposes under the charge of heresy, she was given the chance to recant. Instead, she said this:
Every may gives his life for what he believes. And every woman gives her life for what she believes. Sometimes people believe in little or nothing and yet they give their lives to that little or nothing. One life is all we have. We live it and it is gone. But to live without belief is more terrible than dying, even more terrible than dying young.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

prophecy fulfillment?

"[The second beast] causes all, both small and great, both rich and poor, both free and slave, to be marked on the right hand or the forehead, so that no one can buy or sell who does not have the mark, that is, the name of the beast or the number of its name."
- Revelation 13:16-17

Some people are wondering if the verichip phenomenon will eventually turn into the fulfillment of the above prophecy. It doesn't seem completely consistent with the prophecy to me, but who knows.

Monday, July 24, 2006

why some churches grow

I was thinking this morning while driving to work about why some churches grow and others don't. I know that there are a number of "growth factors" to consider, which can be addressed by a church that desires to grow. But, in my heart, I think that there are really only two reasons why a particular church would grow.

1) God wills it.
I really believe that many churches have seasons of numeric growth because in God's sovereignty, he pours out his Spirit and moves the hearts of people toward unity and mission. Of all the factors that pertain, God's will has got to be the thing that pulls them all together.

2) The people are passionate about bringing others to Christ.
Personally, I believe that any local church could grow if the people believe deep down in their bones that there are the eternal destinies of others at stake, and they are willing to do whatever it takes to see those others come to Christ. If bringing pre-Christians to Christ is the organizing and driving force through which all activity is filtered, there will be great flexibility in how that's carried out.

NOTE: When I say "the people," the pastor is included.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Greek

I've decided that I want to go through the New Testament Greek text book that we used in seminary. I didn't learn Greek very well, but wish I had. Our text book was written by J. Gresham Machen. He was a stud. I hope to do a chapter a week and get through it by March.


Chapters Completion Deadline
1 -------Saturday, July 29, 2006
2 -------Saturday, August 5, 2006
3 -------Saturday, August 12, 2006
4 -------Saturday, August 19, 2006
5 -------Saturday, August 26, 2006
6 -------Saturday, September 2, 2006
7 -------Saturday, September 9, 2006
8 -------Saturday, September 16, 2006
9 -------Saturday, September 23, 2006
10 ------Saturday, September 30, 2006
11 ------Saturday, October 7, 2006
12 ------Saturday, October 14, 2006
13 ------Saturday, October 21, 2006
14 ------Saturday, October 28, 2006
15 ------Saturday, November 4, 2006
16 ------Saturday, November 11, 2006
17 ------Saturday, November 18, 2006
18 ------Saturday, November 25, 2006
19 ------Saturday, December 2, 2006
20 ------Saturday, December 9, 2006
21 ------Saturday, December 16, 2006
22 ------Saturday, December 23, 2006
23 ------Saturday, December 30, 2006
24 ------Saturday, January 6, 2007
25 ------Saturday, January 13, 2007
26 ------Saturday, January 20, 2007
27 ------Saturday, January 27, 2007
28 ------Saturday, February 3, 2007
29 ------Saturday, February 10, 2007
30 ------Saturday, February 17, 2007
31 ------Saturday, February 24, 2007
32 ------Saturday, March 3, 2007
33 ------Saturday, March 10, 2007

Saturday, July 22, 2006

blueberry


My 15-month-old daughter "picking" blueberries in Essex, Illinois.

Friday, July 21, 2006

i hate to bring it up again, but...

This article in the latest Christianity Today asks the question, "Whatever happened to the idea of rescuing people from hell?"

verichip

should we be scared?

the Lord of hoses

I just found some old sermon notes that I handed out when preaching one time. I had included a Scripture from Malachi that refers to God as "the LORD of hosts." In my notes, I had mistyped and it came out "the LORD of hoses." My wife argues that if he's Lord of all, hoses are by no means excluded.

the new face of Southern Baptist

Pontiac native, Steve McCoy, just may be the wackiest Southern Baptist preacher ever. It's good to know that we United Methodists aren't the only weirdos!

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Proverbs 30:5-6

I really like the promises of these verses. Notice it comes with a warning too.

5) Every word of God proves true;
he is a shield to those who take
refuge in him.
6) Do not add to his words,
or else he will rebuke you, and you
will be found a liar.
- Proverbs 30:5,6 NRSV

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Rob Bell and hell

I just watched Rob Bell's Nooma video, "Bullhorn." In the video Rob is speaking out against Christians who stand on the street corner and use a bullhorn to tell people that they need to repent or they are going to burn in hell. Rob seems very concerned because people like this are misrepresenting God. He says Jesus never talked that way and that he would never do that. Rob talks about the centrality of love in Christianity. Loving those who are different than us and who don't believe the same thing as us. He says that when we do so, we are actually loving God. Agreed.

It seems to me that Rob is largely reacting to bad Christianity by presenting a half gospel. He's right about the centrality of love. He's right about the fact that some people on street corners don't seem to be loving. But it seems that Jesus really did believe in hell. I had an openly liberal New Testament professor in seminary. I once asked him if he thought Jesus believed in a literal hell of fire. He said that he thought Jesus did believe in the hell of fire.

Jesus did warn people about hell. In Matthew 5:29-30, he said, "If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away, it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. If your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away, it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to go into hell." And that's only one place that he talks about it.

I don't think our whole message should be hell-centered, or that we should use the bullhorn in an unloving way. But if hell is real, it seems like its incredibly important that we help people avoid it, in a loving way. I wish that we got to pick the doctrines of the Bible that were the most attractive to us and then those would be the ones that were true for us. Unfortunately, we didn't create the universe, we don't make the rules, and we can't be more loving than Jesus.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Jews for Jesus in NYC


Read this update of the Jews for Jesus massive evangelism campaign in New York City. As of this update, 288 people have received Jesus through their efforts.

Click here to see pictures of them sharing their faith on the streets of New York. Please pray for their frontline ministry.

an important Scripture in the pretrib position.

24"Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sin, to make atonement for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy place.
25"So you are to know and discern that from the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; it will be built again, with plaza and moat, even in times of distress.
26"Then after the sixty-two weeks the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing, and the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary And its end will come with a flood; even to the end there will be war; desolations are determined.
27"And he will make a firm covenant with the many for one week, but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering; and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate."
- Daniel 9:24-27 NASB

This is an important Scripture for understanding the pretrib, premillenial position. I offer you my understanding of it for the sake of the discussion.
1. In vs.24, the idea of 70 weeks is presented. It is generally accepted that "weeks" refers to weeks of years, or a term of 7 years. So the 70 weeks equals 490 days.
2. In vs.25, it says that between the time the issue was given for Jerusalem to be rebuilt until the time of the Messiah will be a period of 483 years (7 weeks and 62 weeks). The issue occurred in in or around 457BC. If you add 483 years to 457BC you get the year 26AD.
3. In vs.26, it talks about the Messiah being cut off and the "people of the prince who is to come" destroying the sanctuary. After Jesus died, things between the Jews and Rome got worse and worse until the Romans had destroyed Jerusalem by 70AD.
4. In vs.27, it says he (the prince who is to come, or the Anti-Christ) will make a covenant with many for 7 years, but in the middle of the 7 year period he will renig. This 7-year period is the time of the Great Tribulation. After the Church is raptured, the Anti-Christ will make a covenant with the Jewish people and offer them protection and peace, and they will be able to make sacrifices in the temple in Jerusalem once again. After 3.5 years, he will renig on the covenant and begin persecuting the Jews like crazy, and demand that he be recognized as god.
5. In vs.27, it talks about the utter destruction of Antichrist ("the one who makes desolate") which will occur when Christ returns with his saints and destroys him at his Second Coming.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Methodist eschatology

If you are not comfortable with the pretribulation premillenial viewpoint of the Left Behind series of novels, check out the new The Last Disciple series. Its written by Hank Hanegraaff from the Christian Research Institute. Its based on the preterist view of Revelation which says that Revelation was written before 70AD, that the Beast is Emperor Nero of Rome, and the Great Tribulation was actually taking place during the first century as Nero was persecuting Christians. Although there are some good points of persuasion to this viewpoint, the main problem with this is that practically no scholar, liberal or conserative, dates Revelation before 70AD. It is almost universally accepted that it was written around 95AD.

I have been frustrated to find that Methodists have basically no interpretation of eschatological events. We affirm that Christ is coming back, but that's it. Other than that, we've pretty much dismissed the pretrib premillenialists as fanatics, but offer no coherent alternative.

The more I study that Scripture and read differing viewpoints on my own, the more I'm coming into agreement with the pretrib premillenial view. I'm not sure where I'll end up, but for now, it seems the most convincing.

who i want to be

My life would be much easier if I were more like this man described in Proverbs 16:32. May God make it so some day!

He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty,
And he who rules his spirit, than he who captures a city.
- Proverbs 16:32 NASB

Friday, July 14, 2006

even Willow Creek has to stop and refocus every now and then

Willow Creek is shutting down its Axis service for young people in their twenties.

good reminder

I read this proverb this morning:

There is a way which seems right to a man,
But its end is the way of death.
- Proverbs 14:12 NASB

It reminds me of the need to prayerfully check motives and decisions by the Word of God, so as not to miss the mark.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

pastors put people before tasks


I'm reading a book called "Compassionate Leadership". Here's a good quote:
Peter's first exhortation to Christian leaders was to shepherd the flock of God entrusted to their care (see I Pet. 5:2). The term "shepherd" is used synonymously with that of "pastor." And certainly the apostle's original readers were quite familiar with the imagery he was using in his exhortation.

In the early twenty-first century, we use this imagery to reflect the compassionate servant leader who seeks to shepherd God's people. The entire concept of serving as a leader in Christ's kingdom relates to people more than tasks. Whatever the ministry might be to which God has entrusted us, we are directed to shepherd the poeple whom God is calling us to lead. (p.30)

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Rick Warren and Christians in North Korea

Read this incredible interview in Christianity Today Direct about Christianity in North Korea. The persecution is incredible.

uses of the tongue

There is one who speaks rashly like the thrusts of a sword,
But the tongue of the wise brings healing.
- Proverbs 12:18 NASB

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Jesus loves porn stars

I found this link to a video clip about the new "Jesus Loves Porn Stars" Bible at Steve McCoy's website .

soul-winning

When I was reading Proverbs 11 this morning I was struck by this convicting verse:

The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life,
And he who is wise wins souls.
- Proverbs 11:30 NASB

It reminds me also of Daniel 12:3:
Those who have insight will shine brightly like the brightness of the expanse of heaven, and those who lead the many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.

Monday, July 10, 2006

today

This is the verse that God has been speaking to me today:

Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.
- I Peter 4:8 NASB

Sunday, July 09, 2006

job description of methodist preacher

I recently began reading Frederick A. Norwood's book, The History of American Methodism. On page 40, he shares the first written job description of a Methodist preacher. Notice the combination of evangelical purpose with obedience to heirarchy. Wesley wrote,

You have nothing to do but to save souls. Therefore spend and be spent in this great work.... And remember! A Methodist Preacher is to mind every point, great and small, in the Methodist discipline!... Act in all things, not according to your own will, but as a son in the Gospel. As such, it is your part to employ your time in the manner which we direct.... Above all, if you labour with us in our Lord's vineyard, it is needful that you should do that part of the work which we advise, at those times and places which we judge most for his glory.

The above was stated in "The Twelve Rules of a Helper," and recorded in "Minutes of Several Conversations" (1789), in Works, VIII, 310.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

update on the book i'm writing

In a comment on my last post, Bookworm asked for an update on the book I'm writing.
Here's where I'm at. Thanks for your interest! By the way if anyone would like to read one of the chapter drafts, email me and I'll be glad to send you one.

Time Line for Completion
Due Dates--------------Goals
Wednesday, 5-10-06 Outlines of Chapters 1-4*
Wednesday, 5-17-06 Draft of Chapter 1*
Wednesday, 5-24-06 Draft of Chapter 2*
Wednesday, 5-31-06 Draft of Chapters 3 & 4*
Wednesday, 6-7-06 Outlines of Chapters 5-8*
Wednesday, 6-14-06 Draft of Chapter 5*
Wednesday, 6-28-06 Draft of Chapter 6*
Wednesday, 7-12-06 Draft of Chapter 7
Wednesday, 7-19-06 Draft of Chapter 8
Wednesday, 7-26-06 Draft of Chapter 9
Wednesday, 8-2-06 Rewrite of Chapter 1
Wednesday, 8-9-06 Review full manuscript
Wednesday, 8-16-06 5 Publishing Options
Wednesday, 8-23-06 Publishing decision
Wednesday, 8-30-06 Publishing in progress

Here's a list of the chapters again:

“Staying Steadfast in an Unsteady World”
(Whatever You Do, Don’t Give Up)
by Jason Woolever

Chapter 1: Staying Steadfast in the Storms of Life
(Good reasons to never give up!)

Chapter 2: Staying Steadfast in Your Relational Life
(Don’t give up on your friends and family!)

Chapter 3: Staying Steadfast in Your Vocational Life
(Don’t give up on your life’s calling!)

Chapter 4: Staying Steadfast in Your Financial Life
(Don’t give up on managing your money!)

Chapter 5: Staying Steadfast in Your Emotional Life
(Don’t give up in the midst of depression!)

Chapter 6: Staying Steadfast in Your Physical Life
(Don't give up when your body is wasting away!)

Chapter 7: Staying Steadfast in Your Transitional Life
(Don’t give up in the midst of grief!)

Chapter 8: Staying Steadfast in Your Spiritual Life
(Don’t give up on loving God with all your being!)

Chapter 9: The Steadfast Love of God
(The reason why you need never give up)

the invisible war


I got back from a great week in Texas with my in-laws last night. While I was there I finished reading this terrific work about spiritual warfare. Its written by Chip Ingram. It talks about the armor of God, how to identify spiritual attack, and how to stand fast in the midst of spiritual battles. I highly recommend it. It gave me a lot to think about.