An Award I'll Never Win

In the bowels of our church office was found this amazing (read: horrible) little book called, Church Bulletin Bits, #1.  Apparently it is intended to help you fill your empty bulletin space with wise little nuggets like this one:
Pastor of the Year - the one who pleases all the people all the time.
That is so biblical!  Embarrassingly, it appears to have been used...

The Forgotten Discipline

Craig Larsen reminds us:

There are at least nine characteristics that separate sound, biblical preaching from Bible reading, memorization, and meditation:

1. Good preaching rescues us from our self-deceptions and blind spots. Left to ourselves, we tend to ignore the very things in God's Word that we most need to see. Preaching covers texts and topics outside of our control.

2. Preaching brings us before God's Word in the special presence of the Holy Spirit as he indwells the gathered church.

3. Good preaching challenges us to do things we otherwise would not and gives us the will to do them. God has given speakers a remarkable power to spur others to take action.

4. As our church communities listen to good preaching, it brings us into the place of corporate — rather than just individual — obedience.

5. Good preaching causes humility by disciplining us to sit under the teaching, correction, and exhortation of another human. Relying on ourselves alone for food from the Word can lead to a spirit of arrogance and spiritual independence.

6. Good preaching gives a place for a spiritually qualified person to protect believers from dangerous error. The apostles repeatedly warned that untrained and unstable Christians — as well as mature believers — can be easily led astray by false doctrines. Christians are sheep; false teachers are wolves; preachers are guardian shepherds.

7. Preaching and listening are embodied, physical acts. Good preaching is truth incarnated through a person who can translate its meaning from an ancient setting to today. Good preaching is truth we receive sitting shoulder to shoulder.

8. Good preachers do what most Christians are not gifted, trained, or time-endowed to do: interpret a text in context, distill the theological truths, and apply those truths in a particular time and place to particular people in a particular church. This is a challenging task for well-trained preachers who have access to 2,000 years' worth of the church's resources; how much more so for those who are not trained?

9. Listening to preaching has a low threshold of difficulty. While many spiritual disciplines sound like exercises for the spiritually elite, both young and old, educated and uneducated, disciplined and undisciplined can listen to a sermon. It is the equal-opportunity spiritual discipline.

It's often all in how you listen...

New Bible for a New Gospel?

Time Magazine announces the Green Bible.

Now there is a Bible trying to make gardeners of us all. On Oct. 7, HarperCollins is releasing The Green Bible, a Scripture for the Prius age that calls attention to more than 1,000 verses related to nature by printing them in a pleasant shade of forest green, much as red-letter editions of the Bible encrimson the words of Jesus. The new version's message, states an introduction by Evangelical eco-activist J. Matthew Sleeth, is that "creation care"--the Christian catchphrase for nature conservancy--"is at the very core of our Christian walk."

Using recycled paper with soy-based ink, The Green Bible includes supplementary writings by, among others, St. Francis of Assisi, Pope John Paul II, Desmond Tutu and Anglican bishop N.T. Wright. Several of these essays cite the Genesis verse in which God gives humanity "dominion" over the earth, a charge most religious greens read to mean "stewardship." Others assert that eco-neglect violates Jesus' call to care for the least among us: it is the poor who inhabit the floodplains.
I like the environment.  I really do.  But I love the gospel, and that is what the Bible is about.


Mark Driscoll on John Piper

I enjoy both of these very different guys and it's cool  to hear of their interactions.  Be sure to check out the interview at the bottom of the link; there's some good info in there about realistic struggles in marriage.


Wrong Answer

Prominent emergent-church leader Brian Mclaren was recently asked the question, "What is the good news?" As Michael Krahn reports, this was his answer: 

I think this is where it gets interesting because one of the ways that what we do becomes colonization, when we’re going to represent a religion and trying to make converts to a religion… but the good news isn’t the good news of Christianity, it’s the good news of the Kingdom of God.  And I think that Fatmire [Muslim peace activist also present at conference and sitting next to him on the panel] working for peace, is an agent for peace, and I’d much rather her be working for peace being who she is than… becoming a person in a church worrying about the list over there on that wall.  [on “the list” are things non-essentials like speaking in tongues, etc.)

So, to me there’s something we really have to grapple with about whether the border of a religion is the border of the kingdom of God.  And I think that’s a question we’d be wise to raise.  I liked what you said about there not being despair when you’re among the extremely needy people.   Wouldn’t it be interesting if we found out that God is present wherever there’s suffering because God is there bringing healing and God is really present wherever people are working against injustice because that’s the work of God, wherever people are working for peace. And then the we find that the place that God isn’t is where you have a bunch of affluent people who are self-absorbed… and that wouldn’t surprise me why they would get depressed, because, in some way, it’s not that God isn’t present but they’re snoring through the presence of God.”

In answering, Mclaren did expose certain things that are not the gospel.  But his answer is horribly wrong (It didn't include the person and work of Jesus!).  Here's a better one.  Compare the difference:

1 Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. (1 Cor. 15.1-8; emphasis mine)

HT: Tim Challies

Hopeless - But Not Enough

An important lesson from Bob Kauflin in his book Worship Matters.

Stay with it - we have much to learn from his story (pages 22-25).
I spent most of my early years seeking my own glory.  Popularity, music, and academic excellence were my idols of choice...When God saved me at seventeen, my sins were completely forgiven.  But I had deep-rooted sin patterns that weren't going to die easily.

When we moved to North Carolina to help start a church, my cravings for admiration and control were constantly challenged...No one know it at the time, but God was using these situations and others to expose the long-standing sins of idolatry in my heart.  I wanted everyone around me to share my high opinion of myself.  My life was one extended attempt to draw attention to my gifts, my abilities, and my efforts.  But it wasn't working.  I wasn't getting the praise I craved, and that was affecting my soul.  I increasingly struggled with feelings of anxiety, fear, and confusion.  I felt like my life was about to fall apart.

Over the next three months I experienced a variety of symptoms.  Hallowness and tightness in my chest.  Buzzing in my face.  Daily thoughts of death.  ITching on my arms.  Panic attacks.  Sleeplessness.  Shortness of breath.  I woke up each morning to this thought: Your life is completely hopeless.  And things went downhill from there.

I confessed [to pastor/friend], "Gary, I don't know what to do.  I feel hopeless all the time.  Completely hopeless.  I expected Gary to say something like, "You'll be okay, Bob.  God is faithful.  He's working all things for your good."  Instead he looked at me with compassion and stated, "I don't think you're hopeless enough...

"If you were really hopeless, you'd stop trusting in yourself and what you can do and start trusting in what Jesus accomplished for you at the cross."

As I considered Gary's response in the coming weeks, the fog began to lift.  I started seeing a reality that dominated my life - the reality of my sinful cravings.  My problems - emotional, physical, and otherwise - stemmed from battles within my heart of which I'd been largely unaware.  Yes, I wanted God to be exalted through my life, but another agenda was ruling my heart.  I wanted people to approve of me, admire me, applaud me.

To be honest, I wanted people to adore me.  I had an incessant passion to steal God's glory.  I was lover of myself rather than a lover of God.  And it was killing me.  

I was striving to gain the approval of those whose approval was of no eternal significance.  I'd failed to see that the only approval that matters - God's - is impossible to earn but is offered as a gift through the gospel.  And it was the gospel that set me free.

Today the gospel - which I so frequently assumed but so often failed to apply - is the center and foundation of my daily life.


What the Conventions Remind Us About Preaching

Eric Raymond has a good point.
But what do you see at the National Conventions? A speaker, a podium, a crowd seated, an appeal to action, and even propositional statements! What’s more, we have panels of talking heads dissecting everything about the speeches with the tenacity of a hyper-calvinist in a Methodist church.


Wisdom For Women

Carolyn Mahaney's book Feminine Appeal is a classic.  Here's the her teaching series on Titus 2, links included.

  • A Fresh Look at Titus 2 (Carolyn Mahaney)
  • Loving My Husband
  • (Carolyn Mahaney)
  • Loving My Children
  • (Carolyn Mahaney)
  • Being Self-Controlled
  • (Carolyn Mahaney)
  • Being Pure
  • (Carolyn Mahaney)
  • Being Busy At Home
  • (Carolyn Mahaney)
  • Being Kind/Doing Good
  • (Carolyn Mahaney)
  • Being Subject to My Husband
  • (Carolyn Mahaney)


    Are Large Families Dangerous?

    Prince Phillip and Paul Ehrlich think so.  
    Ehrlich, a professor at Stanford University argues that "it is immoral and should be illegal" for couples to have "very large numbers of children."  


    Pastor Harris on Voting, Abortion, and the Christian

    I hope that reading this interaction serves you as you think about your role as a citizen of both the United States and the Kingdom of God. Regardless of whom you vote for in the upcoming election, let’s all pray for God to have mercy on our nation and to give us leaders who will lead with wisdom, integrity and a commitment to justice and mercy.


    Palin, Feminism, & Hypocrisy

    Justin Taylor has chronicled how Sarah Palin has been called a hypocrite for having her son, Trig, and, almost unbelievably, (and this by a professor of history and religious and the University of Chicago) for her
    ...pretense that she is a woman.
    The conclusion: It seems that some of the liberal bent find homosexuality to be biologically determined but womanhood to be a matter of choice.  Now I'm really confused.

    The Examined Life

    Justin Buzzard asks some great questions in examining his own life.  His thoughts are worth considering and participating in yourself - man or woman, and whether you're chasing or leaving the age of 30.  
    For me, turning 30 comes down to one word: change. I'm turning 30 and I want to change. I'm thankful that by God's grace I've become the man I am today. And I'm thankful that by God's future grace I'll become the man I desperately want to become, the man God is calling me to become.

    Born Alive Truth


    Hungry, Day One (Ps. 18.29-30)

    The Psalm reads:
    29 For by you I can run against a troop,
    and by my God I can leap over a wall.
    30 This God—his way is perfect;
    the word of the Lord proves true;
    he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him.
    Our calling in life is different from David's.  He was God's chosen King who fight God's enemies and lead God's people theocratically.  He used a real sword and fought real people and ruled a real nation under the explicit rule of God.  Most importantly, David prefigured the REAL KING, David's biological descendant who is also the Son of God, Jesus Christ.

    And yet David's Psalm is for us.  It is for you.  And though we better not be using any weapons for the Kingdom of God, there are real battles we fight and enemies to face.  Our own sin is against us (Romans 8.13).  The devil and his minions are against us (1 Peter 5.8).  There are people and circumstances that bring serious challenge (2 Timothy 4.13-18).  What's more, the responsibilities of our life's calling God has given to us can be overwhelming (2 Timothy 2.1-7).

    The amazing reality is that through faith in Jesus Christ, with David we can whisper, "With God I can do it.  I can chase the enemy.  I can jump the obstacle."  Listen: God enables that which He calls.  If He calls you to something, He will enable you to do it if you will trust in and rely upon Him.  

    Lock and load with these 3 truths:

    1. "His ways are perfect."  God has you where you are and who you are.  He's not surprised.  He knows.  It's on purpose - for your joy and His glory.  So you can hope and take courage from Him.

    2. "His Word proves true."  God will keep His Word.  Always.  Perfectly.  Completely.  And all of His promises are "Yes" to those who are in Jesus (2 Corinthians 1.20).  Know His promises for you and rely upon them.  Cling to them.  Live by them.  He will keep them.

    3. "He is a shield for those who take refuge in Him."  Hide in Him (trust His promises) and He is a shield.  A shield from His wrath - you are saved through Jesus' life, death, and resurrection. A shield from your sin - you have been forgiven and are being changed.  (2 Corinthians 5.17).  A shield from the evil of the world - all things are for your good, nothing can separate you from His love, (Romans 8.28 - end) and there is no one to fear (Psalm 118.6).

    His ways are perfect, His Word is true, and He is a shield for those who take refuge in Him.  Hide in Him and be courageous and confident in the truth that God enables that which He calls.  Properly understood, our enemy will be routed, our obstacles overcome, and our victory won.


    Worship Is Not A Hobby

    A. W. Tozer:
    If you will not worship God seven days a week, you do not worship Him one day a week.