Wednesday, July 22, 2009

TCB #3

Have you ever seen a building that never got finished, or your parents start working on something that gets abandoned halfway through? The Sagrada Familia is a church in Spain where construction began in 1882 and has never been completed. The target date is somewhere in the 2020’s, but even that is optimistic at best.

Think of your spiritual life as a building, that will not be truly completed until death when we are with our Lord Jesus forever. Until then, you are under construction! You start with the foundation, your salvation and early days of being grounded in Scripture. And each floor is built on top of your foundation of being saved and being a child of God. Sure there are some bumps and construction delays, but that is because you are under attack from Satan (just like how a building is delayed by weather, funding, etc.).

Here’s the awesome part though…. Unlike the Sagrada and the hundreds of buildings around the world that will never be finished, God will finish your construction! He didn’t lay a foundation and those early floors to abandon you and the project when it gets tough. He will see it through until the very last brick is laid, at which point He will call you home and say “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Paul says it best in Philippians 1:6 “And I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ”

God is faithful to His word, and you can rest in the fact that He is the master builder who is overseeing the entire construction process, fixing the cracks and working overtime to make sure that what He is building is good in His sight. As a Christian, YOU are His “masterpiece” and He will not let His great work go to waste or be destroyed. Thank God He is not like us, that abandon projects when they get difficult or costly.

TCB #2

Tonight, I want to draw your attention to the Old Testament, Psalm 73. This psalm is about the difficulty in seeing how God can be good to His people when those who hate Him seem to prosper. Asaph talks about their satisfaction in food, possessions, and wealth; as well as their seeming lack of hardship, suffering, and attack. Asaph even goes as far as to suggest that all his efforts and attempts to live righteously in his time were in vain.

I wonder how many of us have struggled with that temptation. We live in a world where the most sinful and godless people seem to have the happiest and best lives. We are bombarded with shows like Cribs that take us into a world of wealth and luxury. We see Christians put down in public, ridiculed in universities, and put on TV to look like fools against a society of worldly wisdom and selfish effort.

Jesus told us to carry our cross, and to expect the world to hate us. He told us to stand firm against the hardship of life, and to persevere to the end with His help. Around verse 18 though, we see the footholds based on the world start to slip, and for those who love the world instead of God this is the beginning of the end. Their worth, possessions, pursuits, and dreams are gone in an instant when the reality of Christ is seen. Only one life, will soon be past; only what’s done for Christ will last

And then, we see Asaph reminded of the goodness of God, to carry us through the hardest of times. We are reminded that He guides us, and that He holds us up when the waves surround us. God is all we need, He is the strength of our heart. When everything around us falls apart, He is all we need.

Depend on God alone today, and depend on Him in a way you never have before. Trust Him with the details, and focus on the cross. Let the Bible be your blinders, to keep you focused on Him.

Taking Care of Business

So, this sounds crazy but... I've been putting devotional thoughts in the bathroom in our youth area. Before you move to have the deacons meet, let me explain... I call it "Taking Care of Business With God" meaning that we all have business to do with Him in prayer and devotion, so what better prompter for one to do such business but in the restroom. It's an attempt to be clever, which is not one of my spiritual gifts.

So I will be posting them on here as well, for your reading pleasure (or scorn)

You’re in here taking care of business, but have you thought about taking care of your business with God?

I know this is a very odd place to think about your spiritual life, but the Bible tells us in John 4 that we worship God in Spirit and Truth. This goes against the thought at the time that God could only be worshipped in the Temple.

Here is the passage for you to read:

But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and d truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”

Jesus tells this woman that we worship in Spirit and Truth. How do we worship in Truth? We worship in Truth because of the statement Jesus makes at the end here, that He is the promised Messiah. The object of our worship is Christ, and we worship Him because He is who He says He is. He is not something we designed, and we did not assign to Him the position of Messiah. He is Truth, and all He says is Truth. We worship because of this Truth. Any other worship not found in the Truth of Christ is idolatry.

We worship in Spirit because we do not have to go to a specific place to worship our God and Savior. We come to church to worship with other believers, but worship is a lifestyle and a pattern for everyday. God can be worshipped in school, in the car, by yourself, at the beach, on a mountain, and dare I say it, in a restroom.

Take a moment and pray, thanking God that you can worship Him where you are. Pray that God would make you more like His Son Jesus, and that you would have the boldness to share Jesus with others.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Raising the Bar

I have been challenged lately by a book called Raising The Bar, a book about student ministry. For years accepted practice in student ministry was fun and games, with a big outreach event that you would spend "giraffe money" to put together in the hopes of generating some hype for Christ and getting some kids saved.

I realized that was not for me when I realized how uncreative I am. I actually believe that preaching/teaching the Word of God is sufficient to draw people to Christ, I actually believe that the Gospel is best carried by individual believers bringing others to Jesus, and I actually believe that students are more than just sugar-crazed energy machines. I believe they are warriors who can and will do amazing things for God.

Raising the Bar encompasses all these things. It says that giving students the Bible and hitting them with Truth does more than any pizza night and goofy game ever could. Goofy games and pizza have their place, but the ministry is a teaching ministry. Games are because well, we like to do them too :)

It also means that we don't rely on gimmicks and promotions to bring people to Jesus, but we take the TIME to invest in students to build them into little Andrews who bring people to Jesus, their friends, neighbors, and even parents. It gives them Holy Spirit power many have never felt before, and it prepares them to do battle with Satan in a way that "Jesus Jam" can't.

It also means we expect students to do something, to attempt great things for God and expect God to do some amazing stuff. It doesn't settle for mediocrity, but calls for students to go on the mission field, to live dangerous for God, to stand against the weight of culture that teaches them there is no sin, no absolutes (which is an absolute in itself), and that there are numerous paths to God (however you define him/her). I expect more from our students, who have been called out of darkness and into wonderful light.

Raise the bar, and if it means I have people say "this is different" then I must tell them that my goal is not to be a babysitter, but a military trainer preparing soldiers for war. I do not have time to waste on goofy stuff, but that doesn't mean there won't be some times where shaving cream, baby food, and lock-ins aren't in use. They will just have a purpose, to make students dangerous arrows in the quiver of God.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

500 Years Later

This week was the 500th birthday of John Calvin. Now when I said those words, you had an instant reaction. You reacted with either admiration for the man and his work as a theologian/pastor, or you reacted with utter disdain over his work as a theologian/pastor.

We live in a day in the SBC where the idea of Calvinism has become a polarizing doctrine, in many cases splitting churches and driving pastors and churchmen away from the fold of God. This was evident at the 2009 Convention when the rising surge of Calvinism (Young, Restless and Reformed) was used to counter the Great Commission Resurgence. I was saddened to see many of my friends and spiritual heroes pigeonholed, with their beliefs misrepresented. I do not consider myself a full-out Calvinist, but my Reformed tendencies and leanings are no surprise and I am not shy about voicing them. I feel Scripture promotes a mystery in the Gospel that election and freedom are not mutually exclusive. Placing one over the other (on both sides) does a disservice to the other.

So what to make of the man who was the reformer of Geneva? Should we take all his life's accomplishments and efforts and label them with a flower (TULIP) or should we look at his life and work as a whole and be thankful that he lived and worked for the Gospel. I think when we look at this we have to remember we will not always agree with everything someone says or believes. Differences and disagreements do not automatically disqualify someone from being respected and be a teaching authority. People who dismiss those they disagree with are arrogant, foolish, and should not be in ministry.

Calvin labored in the local church, and perhaps his greatest work is probably his most misunderstood. His Institutes provided a systematic approach to theology, grounded in a deep knowledge of Scripture. If we do not have this, we do not have Grudem, Erickson, Frame, Stott, Henry, or any other work of systematic theology. We have in Calvin a true theologian, who came after the work of Luther and Hus, and was able to devote his time and energy to the pursuit of the knowledge of God. His preaching schedule was intense, and he battled illness during most of his life while keeping his marriage and ministry intact.

This is not intended to be a defense of the man, it does not need to be. His life, his work, and his legacy speak for themselves. I for one am grateful for the man, and it pains me to hear his name and legacy slandered in pulpits, blogs, and convention halls. I wish he wasn't a paedobapist, but that doesn't disqualify his entire life and work. His emphasis on election and divine sovereignty is only a part of his theology.

I like that there is a younger generation of pastors and students who appreciate those that came before them, and that can look back on the giants of the past who were imperfect and made mistakes and had flaws in their theology. I do not agree with Luther on everything but his work on imputed righteousness and faith-based salvation is noteworthy. I do not agree with Calvin on everything, but his legacy as a theologian is still shaping minds and hearts. We are indebted to his work, and we must celebrate the legacy and not allow ourselves to be narrow-minded when it comes to looking at a doctrine.

Thank God for men like John Calvin, Martin Luther, CH Spurgeon, RC Sproul, and others who have seen that the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. I am grateful to Reformed thinkers because of their emphasis on making God great and praising Him for the sovereign Lord He truly is.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Michael Jackson, Billy Mays, and the Cult of Celebrity

I think the Michael Jackson circus (aptly now that Ringling Brothers is occupying the Staples Center at the same time... how ironic) is evident proof that we as a culture are so fascinated by our celebrities and identify ourselves with them in such an unhealthy way. I was struck at the absolute lunacy people were exhibiting when they were being interviewed at Neverland. Many of them came just to get on television (another great product of reality TV, people who are famous simply because they are on TV - Speidi, this means you too), or to deal with their phantom grief over someone they never met, never knew, and only seen through binoculars.

The ancient world used to have paid mourners who would wail behind funeral processions, and the grief exhibited by many of the passers-by in LA is about as superficial. This is different from when Elvis died, and even as recent as Princess Diana. People came out by the throngs, but the cult wasn't quite as established as it is now surrounding celebrities.

Which brings me to Billy Mays, whose passing is probably indicative that Americans love everyday guys. He wasn't a flashy celebrity, and his claim to fame was a beard rivaled only by Chuck Norris. He was loud, he was excitable, and most of his products probably didn't work. But there was an appeal to Billy not there with MJ. Michael commanded attention because of how off the wall he was (Steve Harvey comments here), and his musical genius and talent was only surpassed by how just weird he was!

Our fascination with celebrities and being identified with them simply because they're famous is interesting. What if the church held as tightly to Christ as the throngs in LA have held on so tightly to MJ? What kind of message does it send to the world when tickets to the funeral are going for $20,000 on EBay and our churches are in serious decline. America has its god, and it lives in Hollywood and walks on red carpet. We chose fame over holiness, and excess over self-denial.

Finally, a Chance to Breathe!

Well, this has been a most interesting first week settling in Murray. I will go through, in good Western fashion (tribute to my father in law) the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

The Good
  • We have a wonderful church family, they have graciously opened their lives to us. We have already been blessed by a wonderful reception, and have enjoyed great fellowship over a meal with some church families.
  • We sit under biblical preaching. In a day of confused Christianity, the model of a man standing on the authority of Scripture and proclaiming Truth rooted in grace and love is a dying breed. We are grateful for Bro. Glynn and his ministry to us, and to his people.
  • The church has afforded us the opportunity for me to focus exclusively on ministry. We have been blessed to receive this, and we are no longer dependent on Carrie's earnings or another job for me. We are truly excited about what God has in store for us.
  • Our students seem to have a hunger for Scripture, and I see a great mission field ahead of us in Murray and the whole region.

The Bad
  • The timing of things caused Carrie and me to be separated for a brief time until the house closed. She was also finishing up her job in Memphis and wouldn't be able to join me for a couple weeks.
  • Coming up with event ideas is a little harder when you're in a small town. Larger cities like Memphis and Louisville afforded many different opportunities. Now, to do anything big, we must consider travel logistics and lodging.
  • I am a displaced city boy living in the heart of rural America. I have no idea what I am doing, and I have no clue what to do. Please guys, no snipe hunts :)

The Ugly
  • Full time ministry = Full time warfare. We know full well going into this that Satan will attack our marriage, our health, and our ministry. Sadly, it is a result of the Curse. Carrie and I must be vigilant to ensure that what happens around the country does not happen to us.
  • We are living in an interesting place. Many people see Murray as Mayberry. But upon closer look, there is much darkness around here. From a powerful state university that has pockets of very anti-Christian resistance, and also an increase in the occult and other cultic religious expressions (even among Christian teens), and the impact of Bible-Belt Cultural Christianity. BBCC is one of the most dangerous and devastating things for Gospel ministry.
  • Ministry is messy - We are going to be dealing with very different challenges than what you may find in a typical urban setting. Drug use, family dysfunction, and apathy towards education and churchmanship are prevalent. Carrie and I are praying that we would be a model of Christlikeness to our students and to the community.
Stay tuned for further updates about what is going on. Until then, soli Deo gloria