So I am convinced, from many experiments, I could not study, to any degree of perfection, either mathematics, arithmetic, or algebra, without being a Deist, if not an Atheist: And yet others may study them all their lives without sustaining any inconvenience. None therefore can here determine for another; but every man must judge for himself, and abstain from whatever he in particular finds to be hurtful to his soul.So Wesley would say that we are not intellectually responsible for dealing head on with every issue that might challenge our faith, but even avoiding things that might possibly produce doubt. This is a new way of looking at things for me.
Friday, September 29, 2006
Thursday, September 28, 2006
"All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work."The phrase "breathed out by God" is often translated "inspired by God."
I recently came across some literature that offered four different ways to believe that the Scriptures are inspired by God.
1) God chose and inspired the very WORDS found in the Scriptures. This means the words found in Scripture are exactly the ones that are supposed to be in there. There are no words that snuck in that God would have preferred be left out.
2) God chose and inspired the WRITERS of the Scriptures. This means that God's Spirit moved the writer to write the Scriptures but that he didn't micromanage. So in this view the words themselves are the words chosen by writers, not the words chosen by God.
3) God inspired the IDEAS expressed in the Scriptures.
4) God guided and inspired the COMMUNITY that pieced together/produced the Scriptures.
When I saw these different explanations it seemed like all of these might be reasonable ways of understanding how the Scriptures are inspired by God. Then I realized that all but the first one reject the authority of the words themselves. If we can say that God motivated or inspired the writers, ideas, or community, then we can reject certain words that Paul or Peter wrote as not being inspired by God.
More than that, these last three views allow us to say that Paul or Peter didn't even write books that claim to be authored by them, but that God just inspired a "Petrine community" to produce material that sounded Peterish and to put his name on it.
The first view is known as the verbal inspiration of Scripture. When we say that the Bible is the "inspired and inerrant word of God," we're saying that he inspired the words themselves. This is what I believe.
Wednesday, September 27, 2006
Hindu activists attacked Loreto Convent School in Lucknow Sunday, prompting Catholic officials to close 16 schools and other institutions—both as a sign of protest and for safety concerns. The attacks came after Indian newspapers reported that a "séance" had occurred at the school. "A visiting spiritual healer claimed Jesus Christ had entered his body to bless those present," the BBC summarized. "Many of the students later said they were scared, and some of the girls even fainted during the session." School officials say students just passed out from heat during a prayer session and that there was nothing resembling a séance.For more information on this, here are some links.
Tuesday, September 26, 2006
Father, Let me have a confidence that does not come from pleasing men, but that comes from serving a mighty, sovereign God.
Monday, September 25, 2006
Open Hearts: Developing a Church Growth Mindset
1- If a church isn't growing, it's dying.
2- A healthy church must be multi-generational.
3- It is about the numbers.
4- People need God.
5- Church should not be a safe place.
I'll be candid about a struggle that I have with church growth.
First, I believe in church growth. I agree with Shane completely on all these points. I think it is the right evangelical perspective to take.
Second, I struggle with the relationship between being an effective pastor and church growth. I spoke with my District Superintendent about this at my last consultation. I've really struggled with whether or not I'm called to be in pastoral ministry, because the church where I serve as Associate Pastor is not growing. I've come up with some great excuses for why its not growing that could make it not be my fault. But at the same time, I believe that a church should grow and a pastor should help it grow. If its not growing, whose fault is it? Passing the buck does not feel like the responsible approach to take, but if I accept the buck, what should I do? (That's assuming that I'm doing all that I personally can to help the church grow. If I'm just lazy, then that could be the problem.)
About 5:45pm, we were almost home and I felt a pain in my chest. When we got home it was still there and had moved through my chest to my back. It wasn't severe, but I was alarmed. As I was lying down on my bed for a moment, I was remembering the funeral I did a couple of years ago for a 30-year-old man who had dropped dead while playing ice hockey with some friends. I remember the shock and pain in the eyes of his wife and two little children.
I called my brother the medical doctor to get his advice. He said it could be heartburn or gas, but that there was no way to be sure without going to the doctor. After a few minutes, I decided to go to the E.R. We called a friend of ours who dropped everything and came over to stay with our kids for the next 3.5 hours.
As my wife was driving me to the hospital, I was thinking about a number of things. I thought, if I'm having a heart attack what do I need to say to her right now? If I died I know the words said in the next few minutes would be remembered for years. I told her that if anything happened to me I wanted her to tell the kids how much I loved them and how proud I am of them. I told her I loved her and that I was so thankful she was my wife.
As we were driving, it also occurred to me that I could die right now. I could pass from this life to the next at this moment. I was questioning myself, Am I confident that I am going to be with be with Jesus? I felt comfort and even a little bit of excitement at the thought. I did trust Jesus for my salvation.
The Emergency Room was very busy. After a wait, I got my first EKG and chest X-Ray. The doctor came in and told me that my heart was OK, that the pain I was experiencing was the result of bruising that occurred during my bout with Bronchitis a few weeks earlier.
Upon returning home, I had immense feelings of love for my lovely children and my wonderful wife. I had incredible gratitude for the friendship of the woman who stayed with our children on the spot. I was also thankful for the calm and caring attitudes of the nurses and doctors at the hospital in Pontiac. I also realize how incredibly blessed to have not only the world's greatest big brother, but also a big brother who can give me free medical advice at the drop of a hat.
The strongest impression that this experience left with me is this: I am going to die. Whether it be today or 50 years from now, it will happen. I will be a name written on a tiny tombstone in some graveyard.
You are going to die too. In America we live in denial of death. It's coming. After death we'll either go to heaven or hell, either to be with Jesus or to be apart from Jesus. If you were to die this moment, would you go to be with Jesus for eternity or to be apart from Jesus for eternity?
Why did you answer the above question the way you did? If you say, I would go to be with Jesus because I've been a pretty good person, you probably wouldn't go to heaven. If you say, I would go to be with Jesus because although I'm a wrecked sinner he died for my sins, you have a firm grasp on your condition and God's grace.
If you're not sure you would go to be with Jesus if you were to die right now, take a moment and consider your sinfulness. Then believe that Jesus died for your sins and was raised from the dead, proving himself to be God and the Giver of Life. Ask him to forgive you of your sins and send the Holy Spirit to dwell in your heart. Do it today. I'm going to die and so are you.
Saturday, September 23, 2006
- II Chronicles 20:17
What battle are you currently fighting? Might as well let God fight it for you. He's a lot stronger than you are.
Friday, September 22, 2006
"If you really understand Reformed theology, we should all just sit around shaking our heads going, 'It's unbelievable. Why would God choose any of us?'" Harris said. "You are so amazed by grace, you're not picking a fight with anyone, you're just crying tears of amazement that should lead to a heart for lost people, that God does indeed save, when he doesn't have to save anybody."
For me this naturally leads to the question, Is my heart completely His? You might want to ask the same question. The promise is to good not to.
Thursday, September 21, 2006
"He wasn't present emotionally, even if he was present physically. To hear him speak, you just get the impression this is such a warm and intimate person, but the closer you got to him, the more you'd realize he really didn't have those intimacy skills."I don't say this to criticize Smith, for his contribution has been immense. However, this is a criticism that I have heard from other people who have worked with large church pastors. They are a more loving people from the pulpit than they are in the lives of the people that should matter the most to them. A little reminder for all of us: the best and hardest place to exercise extreme sacrificial love is in the home.
Wednesday, September 20, 2006
Junk your notes and go with the Ghost . . . sometimes. Some years ago I have up trying to manuscript or outline my sermons. Now, I focus on knowing the Scriptures I am preaching, spending many hours in prayer, meditation, and repentance through the Scriptures, and being filled with the power of God the Ghost. Then, I just get up and with a few scribbled notes in my margins I preach as God leads and trust that God will direct my words and He always does. Sometimes I may use a brief outline, but I am not tied to any one way of being ready to preach and just do whatever seems like it will do the job best.
Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.
Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be employed by thee or laid aside for thee,
Exalted for thee or brought low for thee.
Let me be full, let me be empty.
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and heartily yield all things
To thy pleasure and disposal.
And now, O glorious and blessed God,
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
Thou art mine, and I am thine. So be it.
And the covenant which I have made on earth,
Let it be ratified in heaven.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Tuesday, September 19, 2006
Why do I think psychics are probably demon-possessed? Its because of an episode in the book of Acts, chapter 16:16-19. Luke writes...
16 One day, as we were going to the place of prayer, we met a slave-girl who had a spirit of divination and brought her owners a great deal of money by fortune-telling. 17 While she followed Paul and us, she would cry out, ‘These men are slaves of the Most High God, who proclaim to you a way of salvation.’ 18 She kept doing this for many days. But Paul, very much annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, ‘I order you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.’ And it came out that very hour.Notice a few things here:
19 But when her owners saw that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the market-place before the authorities.
1) This girl had a spirit - There aren't a lot of different options for what this could be. A spirit is either the Holy Spirit, an angel, or a demon. Context tells us that this isn't the Holy Spirit, and there's no place in the Bible that an holy angel ever takes possession of a human being. This girl is demon-possessed.
2) The spirit allowed her to tell people's fortunes - When we think about fortune tellers, spirit mediums, psychics or whatever, unless they are phony, they are receiving information from somewhere. This girl was receiving it from a demon, and obviously some of what she predicted actually happened if she was able to continually make money doing it.
3) When the spirit left she couldn't perform this ability any more.
4) She appeared to be offering a service that helps people, even though she was granted her ability by the father of lies.
5) The spirit had accurate knowledge of who God is - You might think from this woman's proclamation that she was a prophet of God or servant of God. She was trying to discredit their message by associating herself with it. Often psychics will speak about Jesus as if they know him. They can have right knowledge of God without loving him and submitting to him as Lord.
My advice is this: stay away from psychics, pet psychics, spirit mediums, and anyone who does not point specifically to Jesus Christ. For "even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light" (II Corinthians 11:14). Ask: Does this person aim to glorify Jesus with her/his ministry? Does this person openly and frequently acknowledge Jesus is Lord (See I Cor.12:3)? A psychic or false teacher will appear attractive, wise, and may even speak of Jesus and heaven. Unless they say that Jesus is Savior, God, and Lord, they're most likely either phony or demon-possessed.
PS. Psychics and spirit mediums are most likely not intentionally doing harm, but rather have been taken captive by Satan to do his will. It would be appropriate for a person to repent of his/her admiration for a psychic's abilities and begin praying that the psychic would be saved through faith in Jesus Christ.
Monday, September 18, 2006
Lest we overlook the obvious: The bleach blond hair and little black glasses look is working! However, GG4 may in fact be a natural blond.
1. View of the Bible as inspired and not inerrant.While I am not one who believes liberal theology, but rather orthodox, evangelical theology, I believe this statement by Thomas to be somewhat true:
2. An understanding that some passages in the Bible are metaphorical or “myth based.”
3. An emphasis on the need to apply human reason, experience and tradition in interpreting the Bible.
4. Application of insights from the social sciences (which are also not inerrant) is crucial to interpreting the Bible. As the social sciences are themselves God’s revelation of truth, they complement rather than compete with Scripture.
5. An emphasis on Biblical criticism and literary analysis.
6. Scripture must be viewed through the lens of time and culture.
7. Doctrines, church authority and Scripture cannot be divorced from subjective personal experience.
8. Community wholeness in relation to God is as important as a personal relationship to God through Christ. (“Shalom” creation.)
9. An understanding that the Bible contains “all things necessary for salvation” but not necessarily all things related to salvation.
10. A refusal to make creeds a test of faith.
11. Openness to “finding Christ in the culture.”
12. Doubt is not inherently the enemy of faith, but can be used by God to engage that very faith.
13. A strong commitment to social justice.
14. The idea that self-reflection is a necessary component of faith.
15. Acceptance that the Bible incorporates an intentional tension between “universal” and “exclusive” salvation. (To remind us that God alone judges?)
16. The possibility that not only may we acquire new understandings of God’s revelation but that it is possible that God is still revealing.
17. Humans, while tending toward depravity, are capable of responding to divine grace.
18. As “imitators” of Christ, we must engage the essential unity of faith and works.
19. That Christian existentialism is criticized but effectively practiced by the “orthodox” and fundamentalists but honestly admitted to by many liberals.
20. Rejection of an over-emphasis on a “personal relationship with Christ” that fails to adequately place faith in the context of community.
21. A strong emphasis on “corporate sin” as being as evil and destructive as personal sin.
22. That while miracles happen, God does not ordinarily suspend the laws of nature.
A frequent complaint about liberal theology is that it doesn’t accept the Bible as authoritative. I dispute that idea. While conservatives/fundamentalists/traditionalists/orthodox may give greater lip service to the Bible’s authority, I find little evidence that they live their lives as if it is more authoritative. Christ calls us to radical obedience where the proof is in the pudding and not in the words... All of us struggle with being “doers of the word” which is the real test of how we view the Bible’s authority.I know that I find it easier to study God's word than to live it out on a daily basis. God, grant me the grace to be a doer of your word.
Sunday, September 17, 2006
Come to find out, all this talk about the UMC declining is simply a matter of how you look at the numbers. Sure we've lost millions of members over the past 40 years, but we've made up for it in personal growth.
According to a study conducted by Purdue University sociology professor Kenneth E. Ferraro, the UMC is now the fourth fattest denomination in America. Our brothers & sisters in the African Methodist Episcopal Church are right behind us in fifth place.
While no specific numbers are available, perhaps rather than being upset and worried about our numerical decline, we should be celebrating that our gross tonnage is on the upswing. However, even with this method of counting, we still find ourselves behind the Baptist, Catholics and even the Pentecostals.
The most obvious solution to this problem is more potlucks. We may not know how to evangelize, but we do know how to make a wicked casserole. And after all, aren't potlucks commanded in the Bible "Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die." (1 Corinithians 15:32)?
Saturday, September 16, 2006
Here's a great post called Breathing the Scriptures about how we should approach reading the Bible.
And here's a great post called The Danger of Labels.
I thinks its awesome that members of academia are expanding their influence for Christ through the use of the blogosphere.
Israel has just come through a war with Hezbollah in Lebanon and no one there seems to think it went well. There is no confidence that any lasting peace will result from this war. Israelis prefer peace, but most felt that this fight was a necessary defence against terrorist attack. When the much-celebrated Israel Defense Forces did not perform as well as expected, the resulting sense of vulnerability seemed to create a collective sense of depression among the population. Many blame the current government. I met with five different pastors from Haifa, where much of the shelling took place, and several said that worship services seemed subdued and the people discouraged. This is a time for the people, especially the believers, to remember the promise of Scripture, "Behold, He who keeps Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep" (Psalm 121:4). Please pray for the nation to turn their eyes to Him and look to the Lord for help through Y'shua.
Friday, September 15, 2006
Do you not know?
Have you not heard?The Everlasting God, the LORD,The Creator of the ends of the earthDoes not become weary or tired.His understanding is inscrutable.He gives strength to the weary,And to him who lacks might He increases power.
Though youths grow weary and tired,And vigorous young men stumble badly,Yet those who wait for the LORDWill gain new strength;They will mount up with wings like eagles,They will run and not get tired,They will walk and not become weary.
- Isaiah 40:28-31 NASB
Thursday, September 14, 2006
Wednesday, September 13, 2006
Tuesday, September 12, 2006
Here's a quote:
Driscoll, in a charming tale about filling his young son's heads with ridiculous stereotypes of mainline-church Christians, wrote about driving by a mainline church with his son, age 7:Mark Driscoll, I say to you: that hurts and you're wrong.
"He asked me what that church believed and I told him they do not believe people are sinners, do not believe the Bible is to be taken literally but is more like a fantasy video game, do not believe you need Jesus to go to heaven, and do believe that being gay is cool with Christ."
Jesus knew that God's kingdom would not expand by "pleasing all of the people all of the time." Instead the Kingdom expands as the relative minority of people who hear the gospel, live it, and in turn, give it away. Our task is to keep scattering the seed.
Article XII—The Judgment and the Future StateWe also have Wesley's sermon The Great Assize which is about the final judgment. All of Wesley's sermons are included in the Doctrinal Standards of the United Methodist Church.
We believe all men stand under the righteous judgment of Jesus Christ, both now and in the last day. We believe in the resurrection of the dead; the righteous to life eternal and the wicked to endless condemnation.
Monday, September 11, 2006
It hit me how wide spread Rob's influence is. These videos are being shown in church services, youth groups, Sunday school classes, and small groups all over the world, and now they're being shown to thousands of men at Promise Keepers rallies. And the video was very good too.
This weekend was very good for me and challenged my heart in a number of ways. One of the things that occurred to me is that I have spoken against Rob Bell's theology and message on this blog and among friends. But the truth is that I have done this out of envy rather than integrity and love.
I have been jealous of Rob's great success. He is only a few years older than me. I have measured myself against how God has used him and wanted his success for myself. Since I don't have it, I chose to speak evil of one whose ministry has influenced me and blessed me.
I have gained insight about preaching from listening to his sermons and workshops. I have gained insight about Jesus from his book and videos. Don't think I'm worshiping Rob Bell right now. I'm just confessing that I have spoken against someone who has been a blessing to me.
John Wesley's sermon A Caution Against Bigotry began convicting me about this sin a couple of weeks ago. And now I need to publically repent of my covetousness. Rob and everyone, I'm sorry. I ask your forgiveness. May God continue to use Rob Bell's ministry to bless thousands as he has used it to bless me.
Sunday, September 10, 2006
Last night I returned from my first Promise Keepers Conference. It was incredible. The first night the aisles were jam-packed as men came forward to commit their lives to Jesus Christ for the first time. They announced that there were 522 first time commitments to Jesus. I can only imagine the families, homes, and businesses that will be effected by God's outpouring in these dude's lives. There were great speakers and the whole thing was emceed by this wildman-of-God Reggie Dabbs (pictured above).
I attended this event in Milwaukee at the invitation of my older brother who lives in Wisconsin. I hope to return with men from my church and men who don't yet know Christ in the coming years.
Friday, September 08, 2006
On another note, my book is done and Wednesday I sent it off to a publisher to be considered. It felt great to stick it in the mail. Thanks to everybody for your encouragement and suggestions.
Thursday, September 07, 2006
Wednesday, September 06, 2006
I've always been frustrated with my youth group and youth groups in general. Am I completely knocking the youth group model of ministry? No. But, I do believe that it too often and too easily becomes a place to entertain. Youth group morphs into a social club disguised verbally as "fellowship time", exclusive cliques form, and God ceases to be the obvious focus. Once this happens, it's terribly difficult for the people deeply invested in the group to acknowledge.I feel bad for the girl in her dilemma. As a former youth director, I have tried the discipleship model, the entertainment model, and everything else under the sun. I have found nothing that works for keeping teenagers interested. Either its not fun enough or its not spiritual enough. I can't figure out how to do it. Sorry mam!
Tuesday, September 05, 2006
I read Psalm 36 this morning. I love verses 5-6 which I have often shared with people when they are mourning the loss of a pet.
5 Your steadfast love, O Lord, extends to the heavens,
your faithfulness to the clouds.
6 Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains,
your judgements are like the great deep;
you save humans and animals alike, O Lord.
Will we see our pets in heaven? Many people say that animals don't have eternal souls, which may be true. I'm not sure. They definitely aren't made in the image of God as human beings are.
We do know that there will be animals in the new heaven and the new earth of eternity. We see in the Old Testament that the lion will lie down with the lamb. We also know that there were animals in the Garden of Eden.
Then we have to ask if all pets go to heaven. Some animals are obviously mean. Do they go to hell or just cease to exist? Its also possible that our personal pets are not eternal, but that they cease to exist when they die. But there might be new pets for us in heaven that are even better than our pets here.
By the way, it should be noted that neither dogs nor humans become angels when they die. Angels are an entirely different species altogether.
Monday, September 04, 2006
If you or someone you know is looking for a job, I heartily recommend taking a day or two and quickly reading Dan Miller's book, 48 Days To The Work You Love. This book is so motivating and intensely practical that while reading it I felt like I wanted to go out and find a job just because he laid out the steps so clearly. It deals with everything from resume writing to generating job leads. I'm not kidding. If you need a job, read this book soon.
On another note, Phil Icenogle, the Directing Pastor at my church, preached yesterday on some biblical principles that relate to work in his sermon More Than Laborers. You might want to check it out.
If you have friends who are jobhunting, pray that God will guard them against Satan's attacks on their sense of self-esteem and self-worth, and that they'll resist the ever-present temptation to become depressed.
If you have any job at all, whether you are satisfied or not, thank God tonight that you are able to support yourself and your family. Many people don't have what you have.
Saturday, September 02, 2006
1) We never know when our last day on earth will be. So often we live today as if tomorrow is a guarantee. It's truly not. Because we may meet our Maker at any moment, there is an imminent need for us to always live knowing that we will soon stand before God.
2) We should treasure every moment we have with our loved ones. I know one of Ali's cousins very well. I asked her Monday morning what her last words to Ali were. She said on Friday they hugged one another and said, "I love you," because they knew they wouldn't see each other that weekend. The terrible thing was that they wouldn't see each other again. I'm so happy that my friend will always remember her parting words to her cousin. I was also reminded of another person who died in a driving accident whose funeral was held at our church. He was arguing with his wife on his cell phone when he ran a stop sign, hit another automobile, and then died.
3) We should be humbled by all the times we have been preserved by the grace of God. When I think back to all of the numerous times I drove while intoxicated, I'm blown away by the way I never received what I deserved. As someone who has since become a Christian, I thank God that my life didn't end before Jesus saved me. If you have been living a life of partying and getting drunk, stop today. Acknowledge you've been spared. Repent of your sin. Turn to God. Receive forgiveness through Jesus' death for your sins. Commit yourself to a life of sober dedication to God.
4) The pain of those left behind never goes away. When my father died, I told a group of friends that I thought I had gotten over the grief, only to find myself once again overwhelmed by the loss of my Dad. A friend who had lost her husband a few years before said, "The pain never goes away. You just learn to live with it." The rest of us will feel the pain of the loss of our own loved ones. Ali's family will feel the pain of her absense at every family gathering they ever have and many times in between .
Whoever you are, turn to Jesus today. You never know which day will be your last. Your choices will follow you into eternity.
Please say a prayer for Ali's family and friends who carry with them the incredible pain of their loss.
Friday, September 01, 2006
1) The earliest church fathers were primarily, if not totally, futurists, with regard to the way that they interpreted Revelation. This means that they believed in a literal Great Tribulation and Anti-Christ, the details of which are given in Revelation.
2) That these same men believed in a post-Tribulation Rapture of the Church. He is disputing the pretribulation premillenialism which is very common today via Tim LaHaye's writing. He also disputes the view of Revelation which is characteristic of Reformation Theology, which states that there will be no 1000 year earthly reign of Christ upon his return at all.
This is a good scholarly yet readable, and well-documented book. Here's an excerpt from the first chapter which give the nature of the rest of the book:
The question of the relationship of the Rapture to the Tribulation may be set in proper perspective if we first survey the history of prophetic interpretation. The hope the Church throughout the early centuries was the second coming of Christ, not a pretribulation rapture. If the Blessed Hope is in fact a pretribulation rapture, then the Church has never known that hope through most of its history, for the idea of a pretribulation rapture did not appear in prophetic interpretation until the nineteenth century.(19)