Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Plunge It......
"When it comes to what is ultimately important, the Muslim community's sense of
commitment to the poor is exactly in tune with where Jesus is in the 25th chapter of Matthew. That is the description of judgment day. And if that is the description of judgment day what can I say to an Islamic brother who has fed the hungry, and clothed the naked? You say, "But he hasn't a personal relationship with Christ." I would argue with that. And I would say from a Christian perspective, in as much as you did it to the least of these you did it unto Christ. You did have a personalrelationship with Christ, you just didn't know it. And Jesus himself says: "On that day there will be many people who will say, when did we have this wonderful relationship with you, we don't even know who you are. . . " "Well, you didn't know it was me, but when you did it to the least of these it was doing it to me."

Tony Campolo
An Interview with Tony Campolo by Shane Claiborne
HT: Crosscurrents

"One of the great dangers of crowds in the blogosphere is that people tend to
say things in an online or anonymous setting that they would not otherwise say. The relative safety of blog commenting, at least as it compares to face-to-face communication, leads people to say things they would never have the courage (or good sense) to say in other situations. And when this kind of comment piles up, it can create a mess of confusion and anger. It damages the church’s witness to the world, can cause one Christian to hurt another, and can disrupt the fellowship we are to enjoy with one another. Perhaps the biggest danger is that we allow majority not only to speak, but to rule. Though there may be wisdom in crowds, there may not always be. Nowhere in the Bible would we learn that truth exists with the majority. Society seems to regard it as a given that poll results point to truth and that the greatest wisdom lies with the mind of the masses. Yet ultimately we are responsible before God for what we believe and we must be willing to cede to a biblically-informed conscience, even in the fact of controversy." [Emphasis mine]

Tim Challies on the dangers of crowds in the blogosphere

HT: Tall Skinny Kiwi

Monday, January 7, 2008

From the new book by Collin Hansen, Young, Restless, and Reformed: A Journalist's Journey with the New Calvinists (Crossway, April 2008)
"While other movements have been making a bigger splash in the headlines, a number of strategic ministries have been quietly (and sometimes not so quietly!) upholding the doctrines of grace, planting churches, seeing people converted, teaching the whole counsel of God. These are now beginning to coalesce in a variety of mutually encouraging ways. It is a pleasure to recommend Collin Hansen's survey of some of these movements. This is not the time for Reformed triumphalism. It is the time for quiet gratitude to God and earnest intercessory prayer, with tears, that what has begun well will flourish
beyond all human expectation."
—D. A. Carson, Research Professor of New Testament, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School
HT: Between Two Worlds - Justin Taylor

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Plunge It......

"HOWEVER, i think it should be pointed out that ALL things spiritual/religious are someones interpretation. [Rob] bell’s message is just another path toward spritual discovery and relationship with God. if people connect with his message and it assists them on their personal journey forward, then that’s really all that matters in the end. fear and ignorance keep people from questioning and searching. rob bell wants to see people free to explore the vast love and beauty of God. he encourages people to ask questions and seek answers, but also to be okay with the fact that there is NEVER one interpretation… being open to this makes us more educated, empathetic individuals. no one’s going to hell for searching… and no one’s going to hell for thinking the bible might not be entirely literal or completely inerrant. to take it a step further… i don’t believe anyone’s going to hell for not being SURE that there’s only one way to heaven. faith is full of doubt and confusion. we choose to believe and we allow ourselves to become comfortable with all that we can’t know. a wise person
once said, “the instant we believe we know everything is the instant we stop
learning” (and growing)."
Comment on discussion of The Reformed Evangelist's review of Rob Bell's "The God's Aren't Angry" Tour

"Compass Point is a missional church. We help single mothers afford childcare, we embrace former skinheads and we pass out free water to thirsty people all over town. We have always operated under that overused slogan…”Love Wins”. Here is my problem…I no longer believe that anymore. Love doesn’t win…truth does!!! Christ said…”I am the Way, and the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Love wasn’t mentioned. God can love us a bunch…but that love won’t get us into Heaven. We can love God a bunch…but that love won’t get us into Heaven. We can love people a bunch…but that love won’t get them into Heaven. Only true repentance of our sinful nature and total acceptance of Jesus Christ as the Savior will get us into Heaven. There is no other way. It is not love that wins…it is solely the knowledge and total acceptance of truth that wins.

Love can’t be truth..and therefore can’t win…because it is based off of feeble human emotions and feelings. There are days that I don’t love people. There are even days when I don’t really love God all that much. There are times when the love fades and a struggle emerges. It is then that the knowledge of absolute truth takes root…and it’s application in my life takes over. True love beyond ourselves can only come through knowing the Truth. It is only through knowing and applying Biblical truth that lets me love on people…and God…when I emotionally, spiritually, mentally or physically don’t feel like. That doesn’t come from a cheap fickle thing like love…it comes from a life-encompassing thing like truth.

I guess my basic problem with “love wins” is that…it is not working. It may work elsewhere, but it isn’t working in America. For all of the loving on people that the church is doing today…not many are coming to Christ. The United States has become the second largest mission field in the world. Third World countries are sending missionaries to us these days. That just sucks! The church…shouting “love wins” to the rafters…has become more concerned with loving on the prostitute with conversation at the local watering hole…and less concerned with telling her about “living water”.

We’ve become more concerned with building community with people that sharing the truths of the Bible. Love…and community…has become the tail that wags the dog. Community without God as the center…is a inferior imitation to true relationship. Love without truth…is useless in the Kingdom of God!!! Authentic love…and community…doesn’t happen unless truth is first there.

I have also become completely disenchanted with the Emergent definition of love. Love is patient and kind…at times. Love can also be a trip to the spiritual woodshed for a Biblical butt-whooping. Love isn’t just handing out food and blankets to the homeless. It is also saying “I’ve given you fourteen cans of food and two blankets this week…and none of it is going to do you any good when your heart finally stops ticking…let me tell you about something called Truth that I’ve found.” The love in “love wins” is always defined these days as some kind of hand-holding, hippie-looking, Democrat voting, everyone-smiling-like-a-Coke commercial ritual. There is definitely evidence of loving kindness in the Word…but there are also many examples of loving toughness in Scripture. In contrast…truth is the one constant throughout the entire inspired writings found in God’s Word. I also find it funny that some Emergent leaders argue over the reality of absolute truth. Without absolute truth…there is no absolute love. A “chicken or the egg”conversation is pointless…read Genesis 1:1…the Truth came first.

Does this mean that Chris Elrod will stop being missional? No. Does this mean that Compass Point will stop being missional. No. It just means that spreading the Truth will be a little more important in the coming days…than trying to make everyone like us through love. The Bible says the world will hate us if we truly follow Him…what the heck…we might as play off of that. We’re going to continue to embrace skinheads, take in ex-inmates, give out warm clothes to the homeless and help single moms pay for childcare. However, it will no longer be done without any verbal presentation of truth. Faith without works is dead. Works without
truth…is pointless. I’ve read the back of the Book…Truth wins!!!"

Chris Elrod is the Lead Pastor of Compass Point Church in Lakeland, Florida


Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Sunday - Matthew 5 - Continued

Paul Washer

Sunday – Matthew 5 – Continued

“New creatures must do new things but the working out of that takes a lifetime.”

This session I frantically took down 8 ½ pages of notes because I didn’t want to forget anything. There was SO much that made me think hard and in new ways about the truth of God’s word and I wanted to be able to come back to it and spend some more time interacting with what I had heard.

When we arrived in the Chattanooga Choo Choo meeting center this morning we were very surprised to hear rather loud rap music pouring forth from the speakers. This was quite a change from the subdued praise music we had been accustomed to at previous sessions! When Paul began to speak, he explained that a year ago, he would have asked to have that music turned off – that he had little regard for Christian rap. That was until he met these guys from inner-city Chicago – a group called “Flame.” They are rappers fighting “easy believism” and rap the Westminster Confession, and doctrine. When he got together with them they sat around and discussed supralapsarianism (I had to look that one up!). They call him “P-Dog” and they like “Johnny Mac” (figured that out yet?).

He never did make it through the Beatitudes. Unfortunately, he left 28 pages of notes untouched. There is such urgency to this man. You sense, when he gets to the end of his allotted time, that it hurts him physically to leave the podium because he has so much more to say. It’s like he wants to take ever person in the room by the shoulders and look them in the eye and say, “Pay attention to what God says in His word! Quit fooling around! We’re wasting time!” He tells stories of his time as a missionary in Peru and of his time of work in the inner city. But there is a sense that his personal “1040 window” is now the American Evangelical church. As he said yesterday,

“People are going to hell not because of Hollywood, but because of Evangelicalism in America.”

He wants to wake the sleeping American church that has embraced easy believism; that wants to start with regeneration and skip right to glorification without passing sanctification along the way. He says,
“If you look like a world that hates God, do the math.”
At the same time, he wants to balance that with a deep, deep love for Christ and his word. He said if he could re-do his Christian life he would spend more time knowing God and being like his son and less time in Christian activities. He also had strong words about self-righteousness:

"A godly man never looks at a fallen brother and says 'how could you?' He says, 'Why didn't I?"

This is not a man who says things to spare your feelings – he is blunt and says the hard things. Ryan, my 16-year-old, put it this way,

“He doesn’t hide the pill in the peanut butter.”

Exactly. He speaks with a clarity that is very rare in the times we live in. I’m sure in some circles it would not be appreciated and perhaps it would seem harsh to some. But let’s be honest - being obtuse is not a virtue for a pastor. Someone expositing God’s word and claiming to speak His truth should never be unclear or “hide the pill in the peanut butter.” When a preacher utters, “Thus saith the Lord,” he should not follow it with, “Did God really say…?”

So when Paul Washer says,

“At age 17 some young men have conquered nations or put on backpacks and gone
over the mountains and preached the gospel. And you sit there with your video
and he proceeds to tell them how dumb he thinks that is, it is a harsh rebuke, but not inappropriately so. He says,
“No one has had the privilege to serve Christ like we do. Now do you want to keep playing with your X-Box and going to the mall or do you want to grow up?”
Harsh? Yes. Self-esteem building? No. I mean, yes. I mean, conforming you to the image of Christ if you take it to heart, which is Christ-esteem building, which is better than “self”-esteem building, right? Is self-esteem even biblical?

I think the point of his rant against X-Boxes and “boys with flippy hair” and girls trolling the malls for “fishing lure earrings” was not to say that any of these things in and of themselves are bad. The message wasn't legalism, but rather dying to self. He was admonishing the kids in the audience to examine their lives and telling them to “man up.” Is there anyone who thinks that the 20-year adolescent period that is now common in America is healthy or pleasing to God? I think that he is echoing what John Piper is saying in Don’t Waste Your Life,

“I will tell you what a tragedy is. I will show you how to waste your life. Consider this story from the February 1998 Reader’s Digest: A couple ‘took early retirement from their jobs in the Northeast five years ago when he was 59 and
she was 51. Now they live in Punta Gorda, Florida, where they cruise on their 30-foot trawler, play softball and collect shells. . . .’ Picture them before Christ at the great day of judgment: ‘Look, Lord. See my shells.’ That is a tragedy."

Same message, different generation. Much better to hear it at 15 than at 59. My kids play video games and they weren’t offended by it (except to the extent that the Holy Spirit may have pricked their consciences). I know it made me think about how I spend my time. It's good to evaluate how much time we are about our father's business and how much time we are about......absolutely nothing of value.

I think one of the most valuable aspects of a conference like this, in contrast to a traditional youth conference, is that it didn't have the huge emotional appeal and "mountain top experience" that you often get. That may not be a huge selling point to some who seek that out or think they need that kind of experience on an annual basis, but to me, this seems much more healthy. In my nearly 20 years being involved in youth ministry I've seen "mountain top experiences" come and go with little lasting fruit. Kids come back so pumped up and "high" from some of these ramped up conferences and more often than not, come crashing right back down when they get home to "reality." Because this conference was more subdued in nature and more contemplative (in the thoughtful sense, not the medieval sense), the effects and the fruit will be more lasting. It was based on solid expository teaching of God's word rather than appealing to entertainment and emotion.

I also appreciated that although it was billed as a "youth" conference, none of the speakers talked "down" to the kids in attendance. I think it was on Voddie Baucham's site I read that in our culture we tend to treat teenagers like "large children" instead of the young adults that they are. There was none of that here. It was clear that all of the speakers expect a lot out of these kids - have confidence that they can do great things through and for Christ - and they shouldn't wait until the are 30 years old to do. I think that is a great and worthy message for teenagers to hear.

"But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What
is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of
knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider
them rubbish, that I may gain Christ" (Philippians 3:6-8)

I did come away from the conference with a sense of hopefulness about the American church. When you start putting the pieces together of groups that are calling for solid biblical reform in the church such as Anchored in Truth (with their True Church conference), IX Marks, T4G, NA, etc. you can’t help but have a great sense of anticipation to see what God will do through these men.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Reality Check Conference - Paul Washer - Session 6

I dropped by Tim Challies book table to buy his book and hoped to meet him, but unfortunately, he's under the weather and missed the session tonight. Praying that he'll be better in the morning! Ryan was feeling unwell today as well. He stayed in the room and napped while we explored Chattanooga. We brought him back a "Sausalito" which is a turkey sandwich with salsa and pepper jack cheese. He ate it and by 10 PM was working out in the fitness center. Oh to be 16 again!

Paul Washer:

When he began, the big question on everyone's mind was, "Will he get through the Beatitudes?" "Will he even get through the first three?" Unfortunately, we were left in suspense as he mentioned how we had been feasting on God's word through Jono Sims' talk and he asked, "Did your heart burn within you?"
"Did justification excite you?"
"Is glorification music to my ears?"
"Is this what I long for?"
"Do you Need Him now more than ever?"
"Have you changed since your conversion?"

Or have we taken the flu shot of American Christianity and been inoculated into apathy and boredom over these precious doctrines?

"Blessed are those who mourn..." Matthew 5:4

"Lives [of true converts] are marked by mourning over sin." This is written in present participle tense - it is ongoing. Confession of sin is not just giving a laundry list of our sins to God. It is saying, when convicted of sin by the Holy Spirit, "Lord I hear you and I speak back the same thing - I agree."

"We want you to see your sin because God wants you to see it so he can deliver you from it."

Examples of Biblical mourning:

  • Ezra 9:5: Oh God, I am too ashamed and disgraced to lift up my face to you.
  • Luke 18:13-14: The tax collector: God have mercy on me a sinner.
  • James 4:9-10: Grieve, mourn and wail; turn your laughter into mourning.
  • 2 Corinthians 7:9-10: Made sorrowful to the point of genuine repentance according to the will of God.

In contrast, Judas was an example of unbiblical "worldly sorrow brings death" (2 Cor. 7:10).

There is what seems to be a paradox in the life and sanctification process of the sinner. Washer says that those who complain about (and even teach against) those who preach sin and repentance don't understand this:

The more you see of God's holiness, the more you see the poverty in your life (Matthew 5:3) the more you mourn, the more you see his grace and the more indescribable is your joy.

As the Christian matures, there is an exchange. For the immature Christian, his joy is in his performance of works for God. As the years go by, his focus becomes the finished work of Christ (see indescribable joy above). We can't be the source of our own joy. We must embrace poverty of spirit and his all-sufficiency and exchange our works for His joy. Woah!

He then shifted gears to our response to the sin of others.

"Streams of tears flow from my eyes, for your law is not obeyed" (Psalm 119:136).

"Go throughout the city of Jerusalem and put a mark on the foreheads of those who grieve and lament over all the detestable things that are done in it" (Ezekiel 9:4).

Our response should not be to tear sinners apart, but to pray for them and to mourn over the lost condition of our generation.

In Jonah 4:11 the Lord says to Noah, "But Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, and many cattle as well. Should I not be concerned about that great city?"

"God was more concerned for animals than we are for the souls of men!"

"The world does not want to mourn, and because of that, it will never be happy."


Flying through the Beatitudes.....

Blessed are the meek....

We are to have a mild disposition before God and bend to His will. "...they will inherit the earth."

Psalm 37:11 "But the meek will inherit the land and enjoy great peace."

The rest of Psalm 37 describes those who will inherit the land as:

  • Not envious of those who do wrong
  • They trust in Him
  • They do good
  • They delight in the Lord
  • They commit to the Lord

"The greatest offense against God is not to believe in Him. Has he ever failed you? Has one of his words ever fallen to the ground undone?"

OT sidebar to teenagers:

The most beautiful thing to a godly man is simple and faithful woman.

The most handsome man bears joyfully the yoke of his master and submits to his will.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness...

Hunger and thirst = crave ardently; to painfully want.

Do you feel that? Are you desiring to be more righteous? Does it even enter your mind? One of the greatest evidences of conversion is that you find righteousness only in him and grow in righteousness for his glory [emphasis mine] (Phil. 3).

Blessed are the merciful......

Those who are the most zealous about righteousness tend to be the most critical. Note the order of these two: righteousness - mercy. "A godly man never looks at a fallen brother and says 'how could you?' They say, 'Why didn't I?" (see mourning and poverty above).

Who are we to be merciful to? Those who refuse the Gospel.

Matthew 23:37: Jerusalem, Jerusalem,....how I have longed to gather your children together but you were not willing.

Mark 6:34: Jesus had compassion on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd.

We must pity the lost and have compassion on them.

Washer said we are living in the "greatest moment in human history." [I think he meant in terms of the spread of the gospel....I might have missed something here.]

"Don't sit there filled up with self. Go preach the gospel. Don't wait to be "called." Ask God to send you. Go find a country and preach the gospel. Woe to us if we do not go and have mercy on the lost. If that doesn't fit into your theology, then your theology is demonic!"

He said people are going to hell not because of Hollywood, but because of Evangelicalism in America. [yes...he's very subtle :)].

He closed by saying if he could re-do anything in his Christian life he would know God more and be more like his son and spend less time on "activity."

"Give yourself to being like Christ as he manifests Himself in this book [Bible]. "

He closed in prayer and called Jesus the "Rock so infinite that we cannot fall off thee but that we can only fall into thee."

Gary and I were really challenged by these two messages tonight - spurred to action even. Some things God is telling us to do - that it would be easier not hear. Paul Washer said something yesterday about how God can't fill buckets that are already full. He needs to empty them before he can begin to fill them. He alluded to that tonight - something he said to the young people - telling them that God would put them through a lot of pain and challenges in order to conform them into his image. It sure doesn't stop when you get older, does it?