Thursday, August 31, 2006

are you a fundamentalist?

I have been praying and thinking about whether God might be leading me to pursue a PhD. in Bible at some point in the future. I've been looking at different seminaries that offer doctoral programs. As I was looking at the website for Fuller Theological Seminary, in a historical statement I came across a description of the five "fundamentals" of Christianity that began what is known as fundamentalism. It read,
Still later, in 1910, five fundamentals were identified to distinguish evangelicals from the liberalism that threatened the church: 1) the miracles of Christ; 2) the virgin birth of Christ; 3) the satisfaction view of the atonement; 4) the verbal inspiration of the Scriptures; and 5) the bodily resurrection of Christ.
As you can see fundamentalism began as a commitment to orthodox Christianity. Today it is regarded as a more fanatical movement. By these five criteria, most practicing Christians in the world are old school fundamentalists.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

more Jews for Jesus

I recently received my copy of the September edition of the Jews for Jesus newspaper which summarized the great things that happened in their New York evangelism campaign. The info is also available here. Here's a bit:
Last month, throughout the greater New York area, our campaigners handed out 1,872,800 broadside tracts. We received contact information from 11,718 people who want to hear more from us including 3,689 Jewish seekers and 2,712 Gentile seekers. We knocked on 9,430 doors and connected with 2,170 people in their homes. We also connected by telephone with 8,711 of the 25,790 people that we called. We sent 3,396 copies of the “Jesus for Jews“ testimony book free to seekers who requested them through our evangelistic ads and mailings, and prayed with 241 Jewish people and 261 Gentiles to receive Jesus as Messiah and Lord.
On another note, here's a great article by Jews for Jesus Executive Director David Brickner about the Great Tribulation, which outlines their end-times position, which happens to be pretrib premillenialism.

I'm so encouraged by the ministry of this group.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

wiped out

I'm feeling really wiped out today. Yesterday I got the opportunity to hang out with some kids at our local high school who were grieving the death of their friend, Ali Arbogast. In the afternoon I went to the wake at the Roman Catholic Church in town. It was full of young people and old weeping and sobbing. When I left it was pouring down rain and I got soaked. The downpour from heaven on the outside of the church seemed very appropriate considering what was going on inside the church.

When I pulled into my house my little 1.5-year-old daughter was looking out the window, waiting for me. She got excited when she saw me pull in the drive. It was so good to hold her after just speaking with Frank Arbogast who was standing beside the coffin of his beautiful dead 16-year-old daughter at the wake. I can only imagine the pain.

Monday, August 28, 2006

end of the spear

My wife and I watched this great movie Friday night. This is a true story about missionaries in Equador who died trying to bring Jesus to some natives of the area. The natives were later converted by the way the missionaries loved them as they were dying and by the love the missionaries' families showed the natives afterward. This movie is a great example of how desperately unreached people groups need the good news of Jesus Christ. Check it out if you haven't seen it already.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

pray

This tragic accident occurred just outside Pontiac yesterday. Pray for the students at the highschool and the Arbogast family.

Friday, August 25, 2006

good quote

I'm currently trying to go through my Greek textbook from seminary and relearn biblical Greek. It makes my brian get really wound up. I'm about 1/3 of the way through. I thought about this quote this morning and it gave me encouragement:

"If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours."

- Henry David Thoreau

friendship with God

I came across this verse this morning:

The friendship of the LORD is for those who fear him,
and he makes his covenant known to them.

- Proverbs 25:14 NRSV

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Wesley on hell

If anyone wants to know what United Methodists believe about hell, click here and scroll down to "Of Hell" and read John Wesley's official sermon on it. Here's an excerpt:
"As for our pains on earth, blessed be God, they are not eternal. There are some intervals to relieve and there is some period to finish them. When we ask a friend that is sick, how he does; 'I am in pain now,' says he, 'but I hope to be easy soon.' This is a sweet mitigation of the present uneasiness. But how dreadful would his case be if he should answer, 'I am all over pain, and I shall never be eased of it. I lie under exquisite torment of body, and horror of soul; and I shall feel it for ever!' Such is the case of the damned sinners in hell. Suffer any pain, then, rather than come into that place of torment!"

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

corporal evangelism

I came across this proverb this morning. I wonder if this is where the phrase "beat the hell out of him" came from.

Do not withhold correction from a child,
For if you beat him with a rod, he will not die.
You shall beat him with a rod,
And deliver his soul from hell.

- Proverbs 23:13-14 NKJV

I wonder if this principle applies to everyone and not just our children. If it does, we may have found the new form of evangelism that the mainline churches have been looking for: Beat them with a rod to bring their souls to God!

Advice to Preachers

A couple of days ago I shared Wesley's 1747 Rules for Preaching. As I came to the end of Heitzenrater's excellent Wesley and the People Called Methodists last night, I came across some later "advice" for preachers (p.297).
Wesley would have been 83 or 84 at the time which these were written, which may be the reason for the mellowing of the "rules" to merely advice.
Advice to Preachers, August 1, 1786
1. Always to conclude the service in about an hour.
2. Never scream.
3. Never lean upon or beat the Bible.
4. Wherever you preach, meet the Society.
5. Do not, without the utmost necessity, go home at night.
6. Never take part against the Assistant (the earliest form of District Superintendent).
7. Never preach a funeral but for an eminently holy person; nor then, without consulting the Assistant. Preach none for hire. Beware of panegyric, particularly in London.
8. Have love-feasts in more places.
9. Introduce no new tunes. See that none sing to slow, and the women sing their parts. Exhort all to sing, and all to stand at singing, as well to kneel at prayers.
10. Let none repeat the last line, unless the Preacher does.
11. Inform the Leaders, that every Assistant is to change both the Stewards and Leaders when he sees good. And that no Leader has power to put any person either in or out of the Society.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

more on the doctrinal standards

If you're interested in further discussion about the liberal interpretation of United Methodist Doctrine check out this post from John the Methodist about my post and the comments that follow. Especially interesting is this comment from Daniel McLain Hixon:
My own experience has been talking with people at my seminary (Perkins) who are actually planning to lie to their BOM - b/c they come from conferences that are "too conservative." It is beyond me how one can begin one's work as a minister of the Lord (presumably the one from the Bible), by speaking lies, and taking an oath (in the ordination vows) before God and his church to uphold doctrines and discipline that one believes to be wrong and has no intention to uphold. I mean would these same people plan to lie when they take their wedding vows?? (maybe so according to statistics on clergy divorce rates) No wonder so much of our ministry seems devoid of divine blessing. I am also entirely baffled that such people do not join the Unitarians, since they seem so conscientious on other issues of (what they see as) justice.

Monday, August 21, 2006

choosing to cheat


On my ministry and balance post, the Holy Pirate brought up an important work by Andy Stanley that deals with this very issue. Choosing to Cheat is a great little book that every Christian husband or wife who works outside the home should read. Stanley explains that the job we do at work could likely be done many different people in the world, but the job we do at home can only be done by us. You owe it to your family to read this excellent and very short book. Check it out online.

PERSONAL NOTE: Stanley describes in this book how when his kids were young, the time of day his wife needed his help the most was between 4-6pm. He decided that he would leave the office everyday by 4:15pm, and had his staff hold him accountable to this. After reading this, I changed my own hours. I decided to go in early so I could be home by 4:00pm and help my wife with my kids after they got up from their naps. As a result, almost every night I get to spend 3 hours with them before their bedtime, even if I have to be back at the church for meetings from 7-9pm.

the first day of school

This morning as I drove to work a couple of minutes before 8:00am, I passed scores of kids being summoned to the first day of the school.

I passed a couple of kids holding hands, who probably started dating in the summer, surrounded by some strange looking friends. I was hoping that the weird looking kids would continue to have the joy that they seemed to have from being a part of a group. In the summer, when you're away from school, its easy to forget that the rest of your peers see you as strange, ugly, and freakish.

I saw a couple of boys dressed in black. A shorter one with long brown hair under his backward-turned baseball cap. A taller one with short hair had black eyeliner on. I remembered a time in my life when I had long hair and wore black T-shirts. There was even a short stint of time when I wore yellow sunglasses indoors and outdoors, and painted my fingernails.

Finally, I saw two girls who I know are Christians. I'm hoping that they will stand firm in their faith, and let their light shine brightly among the other kids. i hope that they break through the clique mentality and let the outcasts know that Jesus was an outcast too and that he loves them deeply.

Pray for the students who are beginning school today. Pray that those walking in darkness will see the light through Christian teachers and Christian students.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

a good proverb

Here's a cool proverb that I came across this morning. It tells me that the wounds that sting the most may be making me more like Christ.

Blows that would cleanse away evil;
beatings make clean the innermost parts.

- Proverbs 20:30 NRSV

Saturday, August 19, 2006

John Wesley and marriage

For all that John Wesley was good at, being a husband was something he was very bad at. In fact, he didn't even attend his wife's funeral. Above is a painting of him preaching. Below is a picture of a very angry woman.

Friday, August 18, 2006

ministry and balance

My friend Brian Bill posted a link to an article about megachurch pioneer Bill Hybels that recently ran in the Chicago Tribune. It shares a lot of good info about Hybels' journey, plus some revealing stuff about the toll of pushing hard for growth. Here's an excerpt.

But the church's growth also took a professional and personal toll on Hybels, who had married his longtime sweetheart in 1974 and quickly had children.

By 1990 he felt he had to recharge. Piloting a borrowed sailboat, he renewed a lifelong love of the water and spent more of his summers reconnecting with his family and with God.

In 1994 about a quarter of the church's staff and a third of the lay leadership left, saying they were burned out by the church's fast pace and lack of personal touch. The exodus inspired Hybels to further examine his management style and his expectations.
It seems that megachurches are usually created by a certain superdriven personality type, which can drive staff to the point of exhaustion and make family members feel neglected. I wrestle with evaulating balance and motives. What kind of balance does God call us to have between priorities of ministry and family?

John Wesley did not find marriage as a worthy preoccuation. When he got married, he made this statement:

"I cannot understand how a Methodist preacher can answer it to God to preach one sermon or travel one day less in married than in a single state."


And what about motives? Are most superdriven pastors trying to build the kingdom of God or their own empire? This is easy to think about since the church I pastor is not experiencing any kind of explosive growth. It may be that God uses all of our mixed bag of messed up motives and balance for his glory, even though it is often less than 100% pure.

I question if megachurches would even exist if these superdriven pastors were actually living balanced Christ-centered lifestyles. And I in no way deny the amazing amount of good that they have done.

1747 Rules for Preaching

I'm reading Richard P. Heitzenrater's Wesley and the People Called Methodists. Last night I came across some rules for preaching articulated at the 1747 Conference.
1747 Rules for Preaching
1. Be sure to begin and end precisely at the time appointed.
2. Sing no hymns of your own composing.
3. Endeavour to be serious, weighty, and solemn in your whole deportment before the congregation.
4. Choose the plainest texts you can.
5. Take care not to ramble from your text, but to keep close to it, and make out what you undertake.
6. Always suit your subject to your audience.
7. Beware of allegorizing or spiritualizing too much.
8. Take care of anything awkward or affected, either in your gesture or pronunciation.
9. Tell each other, if you observe anything of this kind.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Jews for Jesus update link

For an update on the Jews for Jesus "Behold Your God" mass evangelism campaign in New York City, click here. Continue to pray fervently for their sacrificial evangelistic outpouring of love to the lost, that it might bring many to know and trust Christ as the Messiah.

Here's a sample of what happened in NYC:
Stephen Katz reported, "I was on the phone with a modern Orthodox [Jewish] guy who had called the 'ymos' number [a dedicated number used for the campaign]. We talked for an hour and I wondered for the first half if he could possibly as open as he sounded. In the end, I believed that he was sincere, and he prayed to receive the Lord!

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

what united methodists believe

One might ask, "What do United Methodists believe?" There is no way of saying for sure what all the millions of us believe. However, it can be clearly stated that all those who are ordained as Elders and Deacons must answer the following questions with a "yes," if they wish to be ordained (Found in The Book of Discipline in paragraph 330.4d for Deacons and paragraph 336 for Elders).

8. Have you studied the doctrines of The United Methodist Church?

9. After full examination, do you believe that our docrines are in harmony with the Scriptures?

10. Will you preach and maintain them?

What are "the doctrines of The United Methodist Church?"
They are clearly stated in plain English in Our Doctrinal Standards (Paragraph 103 in The Book of Discipline), which include

The Articles of Religion

The Confession of Faith

Wesley's Standard Sermons

Wesley's Notes on the New Testament

As I examine these doctrines, it seems that it would not be possible for an honest unorthodox, nonevangelical to be ordained as a United Methodist pastor.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

"the very liberal United Methodist Church"?

Yesterday I discovered that I had been quoted at the Apprising Ministries webpage. They referenced a post I had written about Rob Bell. I was glad to have my voice included in the conversation. What struck me though was the way I was introduced. Here's what it said,
Let's consider this bit of testimony from pastor Jason Woolever, who along with Emergent theologian Leonard Sweet, happens to be with the very liberal United Methodist Church.
With all due respect to Apprising Ministries, this is a great example of a couple of things:
1) How The United Methodist Church is misperceived by those on the outside
2) How Christians are too quick to label other Christians as "lesser" without getting all the facts

First, let's consider how anyone would consider The United Methodist Church very liberal. The only legitimate reason they could possibly have from my point of view is the bad press that we have received over the debates concerning homosexuality. What outsiders fail to realize is that the pro-homosexuality Methodists are in the minority. This is why we continually reaffirm our historic stance that "homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching." Sure there are dissenters. But they are not the majority. And they have not effectively changed policy.

The only other reasons I could see why we are considered very liberal would be our acceptance of:
1) Infant baptism
2) Women in ministry
3) Inclusive language Bible translations
4) Non-autonomous local churches

As far as infant baptism goes, if folks don't support this practice, they should take it up with people like Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Wesley, J.I.Packer, R.C.Sproul, John Ortberg, none of whom could be considered very liberal.

If folks don't support women in ministry, they could take it up with Bill Hybels, Jack Hayford (member of the Foursquare Pentecostal denomination, founded by Aimie Semple McPherson), or any number of Pentecostals or evangelicals.

If folks call anyone who uses inclusive language Bible translations liberal, they could take that up with Ted Haggard, Erwin McManus, John Stott, Stuart Briscoe, or any number of other evangelicals listed at the TNIV website as endorsers.

If folks think autonomous local churches are a sign of orthodoxy, they should consider that democracy is an American ideal, not a biblical one by any means. What's autonomous about Paul's instructions to Titus (1:5), "I left you behind in Crete for this reason, so that you should put in order what remained to be done, and should appoint elders in every town, as I directed you." What part of "you should appoint elders as I directed you" sounds autonomous? It's 100% top down.

The second thing that this introduction of me emphasized was how Christians are too quick to label other Christians as "lesser" without getting all the facts. As a solid orthodox evangelical, I am so confused when all mainline churches get lumped into the apostate church category. How are sweeping generalizations biblical? What part of our Confession of Faith is in any way liberal?

My plea is for all of us to quit adding anything to the gospel which causes us to judge or separate from one another. Sure, if someone denies the tenets of faith as spelled out in Apostle's Creed, he's a heretic. But it doesn't mean that everyone who grew up in the same block as him is a heretic!

Click here for a sneak preview of The Rapture. Thanks to John the Methodist for the link.

Monday, August 14, 2006

I found this quote from John Wesley at Eric Berry's blog. If only we had listened. Have mercy on us Jesus!

"Let all preaching-houses be built plain and decent; but not more expensive than is absolutely unavoidable: Otherwise the necessity of raising money will make rich men necessary to us. But if so, we must be dependent upon them, yea, and governed by them. And then farewell to the Methodist discipline, if not doctrine too."

what makes marriages fail?

I was scanning the Focus on the Family webpage and came across this article about 12 things that cause marriages to fail. Here's the list without explanation.

1) Overcommitment and physical exhaustion
2) Excessive credit and conflict over how money will be spent
3) Selfishness
4) Unhealthy relationships with in-laws
5) Unrealistic expectations
6) Personal space invaders
7) Sexual frustration and its partner, the greener grass of infidelity
8) Business collapse
9) Business success
10) Getting married too young
11) Alcohol and substance abuse
12) Pornography, gambling, and other addictions

America, America

Here are some interesting stats from a recent Barna survey about the religious self-perceptions of Americans.

Often described as “the most religious people on earth,” most Americans “feel accepted by God” (88%), see themselves as “deeply spiritual” (62%) and believe they can be accurately described as “a fulltime servant of God” (59%).

Americans describe their personal faith in various ways. While more than eight out of ten (84%) view themselves as Christian, a lesser but significant majority label themselves as a “committed Christian” (60%). Within that framework, people’s self-identity includes 45% who call themselves a “born again Christian,” 42% who claim to be an “evangelical Christian” and one out of four who adopt the label “charismatic or Pentecostal Christian” (26%).

Saturday, August 12, 2006

6 fabulous years


Today is my wife's and my 6th anniversary. Happy Anniversary, Honey. I love you!

the Big Doo rocked Friday night

The Big Doo rocked the Pontiac VFW last night. We were there from around 5:50pm - 6:45pm, before we had to ship the kids home to bed. My 2-year-old son was very sad to go. He kept saying, "Me no want to go yet. The Big Doo's still singing."

Praise Jesus for changing the Big Doo's life and for the ministry He gave him. Pray that God would continue to use him.

Friday, August 11, 2006

billy graham - i love this guy

Wednesday I had been sitting in the doctor's office and I began reading an article about Billy Graham in Newsweek. I got called into the doctor and wasn't able to finish the gripping article about the aging of Graham. Last night, when I checked my email before bed, I found that my older brother had sent me a link to the very same article. .

There are some very thoughtful reflections from the maturing Graham. Here are a couple.

On the Middle East:

"I've been watching the news from the Middle East full time," Graham says. "I think that history began there, and it is going to end there. The whole Bible is centered in the Middle East and so many of the events that are taking place in some ways already have taken place many times, and my heart goes out to all those people who are suffering on all sides ... I pray for those people constantly—they're on my mind, they're on my heart. I pray that somehow they will find a solution. I'm not sure they will ever find a permanent solution. Christ, who I believe is going to come back, will settle all of those things in a great period of righteousness."
(From the last line, it appears that he is a premillenialist. Does anybody know what Billy Graham's end-times perspective is? If you do, I'd love to know.)

On the salvation of non-Christians:

When asked whether he believes heaven will be closed to good Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus or secular people, though, Graham says: "Those are decisions only the Lord will make. It would be foolish for me to speculate on who will be there and who won't ... I don't want to speculate about all that. I believe the love of God is absolute. He said he gave his son for the whole world, and I think he loves everybody regardless of what label they have." Such an ecumenical spirit may upset some Christian hard-liners, but in Graham's view, only God knows who is going to be saved: "As an evangelist for more than six decades, Mr. Graham has faithfully proclaimed the Bible's Gospel message that Jesus is the only way to Heaven," says Graham spokesman A. Larry Ross. "However, salvation is the work of Almighty God, and only he knows what is in each human heart."

Thursday, August 10, 2006

stuck together


Cute girls, huh? These girls were born stuck together. Doctors are going to perform a separation operation. The girls share a liver, kidney, and legs. One of the girls is going to get a kidney from the mother. They'll each get one leg. Pray all goes well. And thank God that you're as healthy as you are! By the way, if you know anyone who is pregnant, pray for the health of the child who is to come! To read more about these girls, click here.

UPDATE: My wife saw on the news that this has already occurred, and that things are going well. Keep praying for these two.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Big Doo evangelism

My friend Mark Dooley is stepping out in faith and performing gospel music and giving his testimony at a completely secular environment this Friday night. Pray that God would anoint him to share the gospel clearly and prepare the hearts of the unconverted to hear the good news of Christ's saving love.

Monday, August 07, 2006

my favorite movie

I had a great weekend with my family. I had the opportunity to perform the wedding of my cousin at Toledo United Methodist Church, in Toledo, Illinois, my mom's home town. We got back late Saturday night. Yesterday, after a good morning at church, a good lunch at the local Chinese buffet, a good nap, and putting the kids to bed, my wife and I watched my all-time favorite movie, The Apostle. It stars Robert Duvall, Farrah Fawcett, and June Carter Cash. I hadn't watched it in over four years. When I first received Christ, I used to watch it over and over, absorbing the enthusiasm of the Holiness Pentecostalism portrayed in the movie. If you haven't seen this movie, watch it and love it. If you live nearby and want to borrow my copy, let me know.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

excursion

i'll be out of blogging range for a couple of days. will be back this weekend. jesus is cool.

online prayer chapel

Hey this is cool. Our district has an online prayer chapel where you can log in and post prayer concerns. I'm impressed that some of that pastors have posted personal things on there. Its for everyone though, not just pastors. Use it!

methodists and war

I just finished reading Francis Norwood's Story of American Methodism. Traditionally, and especially after WWI, Methodists have taken the stance that war is incompatible with Christian teaching. I came across an interesting statement issued by the Council of Bishops in 1940, shortly after the US got involved in WWII, condemning US participation. It read,
"We roundly condemn the processes of war even while accepting the awful alternative, not of our making, forced upon us by the selfishness and perversity of men. From a measure of the guilt of this, none of us is free."
Interesting, huh?

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

new district website

Our district of the UMC has a new webpage. Check it out. Let them know if there is anything that you would like added.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

who is the antichrist?

I found this interesting statement about the identity of the Antichrist at the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod website.
43. As to the Antichrist we teach that the prophecies of the Holy Scriptures concerning the Antichrist, 2 Thess. 2:3-12; 1 John 2:18, have been fulfilled in the Pope of Rome and his dominion. All the features of the Antichrist as drawn in these prophecies, including the most abominable and horrible ones, for example, that the Antichrist "as God sitteth in the temple of God," 2 Thess. 2:4; that he anathematizes the very heart of the Gospel of Christ, that is, the doctrine of the forgiveness of sins by grace alone, for Christ's sake alone, through faith alone, without any merit or worthiness in man (Rom. 3:20-28; Gal. 2:16); that he recognizes only those as members of the Christian Church who bow to his authority; and that, like a deluge, he had inundated the whole Church with his antichristian doctrines till God revealed him through the Reformation -- these very features are the outstanding characteristics of the Papacy. (Cf. Smalcald Articles, Triglot, p. 515, Paragraphs 39-41; p. 401, Paragraph 45; M. pp. 336, 258.) Hence we subscribe to the statement of our Confessions that the Pope is "the very Antichrist." (Smalcald Articles, Triglot, p. 475, Paragraph 10; M., p. 308.)

I don't know what to think of this, but I do appreciate their clear statement of their position.

watch out johnny cash

who will be the next johnny cash? you decide!