Monthly Archives: February 2006

The Collapse of the Church Culture

“The current church culture in North America is on life support. It is living off the work, money, and energy of previous generations from a previous world order. The plug will be pulled either when the money runs out (80 percent of money given to congregations comes from people aged fifty-five and older) or when the remaining three-fourths of a generation who are institutional loyalists die off or both.

“Please don’t hear when I am not saying. The death of the church culture as we know it will not be the death of the church. The church Jesus founded is good; it is right. The church established by Jesus will survive until he returns. The imminent demise under discussion is the collapse of the unique culture in North America that has come to be called “church.” This culture has become confused with biblical Christianity, both inside the church and out. In reality, the church culture in North America is a vestige of the original movement, an institutional expression of religion that is in part a civil religion and in part a club where religious people can hang out with other people whose politics, worldview, and lifestyle match theirs. As he hung on the cross, Jesus probably never thought the impact of his sacrifice would be reduced to an invitation for people to join and to support an institution.

“We are witnessing the emergence of a new world. The church of Jesus is moving into the postmodern world. Its expression is going to be more different than most people realize or may want to imagine. The scale of the shift will rank along with the epochal transitions of ancient church to medieval, from medieval to modern.

This phenomenon has been noted by many who tag the emerging culture as post-Christian, pre-Christian, or postmodern. The point is, the world is profoundly different than it was at the middle of the last century, and everybody knows it. Even the church culture. But knowing it and acting on it are two very different things. So far the North American church largely has responded with heavy infusions of denial, believing the culture will come to its senses and come back around to the church. This denial shows up in many ways. Many churches have withdrawn from the community. An alternate form of denial has been the attempt to fix the culture by flexing political and economic muscle. Still another form of denial shows up in the church’s obsession with internal theological-methodological debates designed to determine who the true believers are while the world is headed to hell in a handbasket.

(By Reggie McNeal, The Present- Future Church: Six Tough Questions for the Church. Jossey-Bass, San Francisco. 2003. pp 1-2.)

Categories: Church Life | 1 Comment

Anthony Burger dead at the age of 44

Whether or not you are a fan of the Bill Gaither Homecoming Series of videos and CDs, you still have to appreciate the piano stylings of one Anthony Burger. I have played piano since I was six years old and had the privilege of being classically trained both on a bachelor’s and graduate level academically, but when I would see and hear Anthony Burger play I’d almost give up the instrument. He could play some throw-down Southern Gospel then turn right around and play Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue or Debussy’s Clair de Lune flawlessly.

But alas, the shortness of our life and the fact that our life is a mist and a vapor — here today and gone tomorrow — is now in the forefront of everyone’s mind that enjoyed Burger’s piano work. As Janet Parshall sang at so many Gaither Homecoming Concerts, “Another soldier’s coming home.”

Click on the blog title to read the USA Today’s account of Burger’s passing.

Categories: Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Puritans — Physicians of the Soul

J.I. Packer, currently on Board of Governors Professor of Theology at Regent College in Vancouver, British Columbia, tells of why the Puritans still matter much in our 21st century culture. I love the Puritans — they minister to my soul better than any of the religious writings of today.

Click on this blog’s title to read the article.

Packer has written many books, my favorite of which is Knowing God. You would do well to purchase this book. It is a gem!

Categories: Devotional, Theology | 1 Comment

Bruce Wilkinson to Leave Africa

Bruce Wilkinson, an exceedingly gifted teacher in the evangelical world whose main ‘claim to fame’ was his work on “The Prayer of Jabez,” has entered into retirement from active ministry. Wilkinson was the founder and longtime president of Thru The Bible Ministries. His “Seven Laws of the Learner” teaching curriculum changed my life in how I teach and is highly regarded by those inside and outside of the church.

But after Wilkinson penned “The Prayer of Jabez” and found it to be a monumental success and long-time best seller, he used the fortune made from those sales to leave Thru The Bible to go to Africa in 2002. He felt God calling him to wipe out poverty in Africa — so he began the ministry “Dream For Africa.”

I agree with Josh Harris’ assessment that this article from Christianity Today (click on the title of this blog entry) is very balanced in commending Wilkinson for his desire to spread the Kingdom in a hands-on way, but also outlines some rather serious oversights in accomplishing this on the African continent. The lessons shown in this must not be missed.

I have gone on record in saying that I am not a Prayer of Jabez fan. It expanded a bit too much into a good luck charm. If you want what I believe is a better treatment of the Prayer of Jabez is found in a sermon by none other than Charles Spurgeon (click here).

Please keep Dr. Wilkinson in prayer. Here are two short paragraphs from the CT article that puts Dr. Wilkinson’s feelings in perspective:

“Bruce was quite broken at this time,” a source who requested anonymity told CT. “[DFA] had physically, emotionally, spiritually, and financially taken a serious toll.” … Like many missionaries, he burned out. Wilkinson, who admits that his Jabez-like prayer for the audacious project did not work, told The Wall Street Journal, “I’ll put it down as one of the disappointments of my career.”

 

Please keep him in your prayers and the orphans in Africa ravaged by AIDS as well.

Categories: missions | 1 Comment

Timely Exhortation From the Prince of Preachers

The Prince of Preachers, Charles Spurgeon, gives a very timely exhortation for preachers. Thanks to Phil Johnson of PyroManiac for posting this. Click here to read it.

Categories: For Preachers/Pastors, For Seminary Students | Leave a comment

Membership, Glorious Membership (Mark Dever)

I am a strong advocate for church membership. Not that church membership does anything to save, but it is key for growth and maturity. Just as a child says, “Mine, mine, mine!” so too do many Christians who feel that their spiritual life is all about me, my, and mine! I believe Scripture is clear: there is no true Christianity, no true Christian walk apart from being a part of a local church. Read Acts — every city had a church that Christians were to belong. Hebrews 10 speaks of not forsaking the assembling of yourselves together (10:25). It’s part and parcel of the Christian walk. Proverbs 27:17 says, “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” We as followers of Christ definitely need that sharpening!

Having said that, please read this great article by Mark Dever on his Together For the Gospel blog (thanks to Mark Combs of Reformation Underground for sending this my way).

Categories: Church Life, For Preachers/Pastors, For Seminary Students | Leave a comment

A "Serve Us" Rather Than a Service Mentality? by Bob Russell

Click here to read this article from Church Health Today. Really good!

Categories: Church Life, For Preachers/Pastors, leadership | Leave a comment

Who’s Afraid of an Argument? The Insecurities of the Abortion Rights Movement

by Albert Mohler, President
The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, KY
Monday, February 20, 2006

“Don’t waste time talking to anti-choice people.” That is the straightforward instruction provided by NARAL Pro-Choice America in its “Campus Kit for Pro-Choice Organizers.” The director of the Pro-Choice Action Network answered a question about why his group does not engage in conversation with pro-life advocates with this statement: “Along with most other pro-choice groups, we do not engage in debates with the anti-choice.” In other words, they are scared to death of a genuine argument.

This point is made abundantly clear in a recent article by Jon A. Shields of the Center on Religion and Democracy at the University of Virginia. Shields’ article, “Bioethical Politics,” is published in the March/April 2006 issue of Society, one of the nation’s most influential social science journals.

“If the conventional wisdom is correct, the religious right is once again corrupting American democracy by pushing religious dogma over and against science and reason,” Shields asserts. Nevertheless, he goes on to prove that the “conventional wisdom” is anything but wise.

(Click the title of this entry to read the full article.)

Categories: culture | 1 Comment

Forwards and Attachments Warning — Please Read

One of emails biggest irritants is the world of attachments. Attachments are the easiest way to get a virus. One of our friends just got another virus by assuming that if an attachment came from a friend, it is OK to open it. WRONG! Attachments are frequently forwarded and re-forwarded – you never know where they’ve been and what kind of crud they picked up. If you want to be safe, never open an attachment. You won’t get a virus from an email with an attachment UNLESS you open the attachment. If you don’t have virus protection, go to www.avast.com and download their excellent free virus control.

Another attachment irritant is getting attachments that are too big. The other day I got one that was almost 5000 K.B. (normal email is 5 K.B.). It took 20 minutes for the email to come in. If you feel you have to send someone a picture, you need to reduce it to 1/3 of its size before you send it. If you don’t know how to do that, don’t send it until you write me and ask how to reduce it. To be a good emailer, don’t send an attachment unless it is a picture you took yourself, have reduced it to one-third and have saved it in jpg. format. If you don’t know how to do all three of those things, it would be better if you didn’t send the picture. If I send an attachment with an E-Cheer, I’ll tell you in advance that I’m sending it and that it is OK to open it.

Some folks think they have to forward every cutesy thing that comes along. They don’t bother to check the KB size – they just blindly send it. That’s not good email netiquette. Please resist the urge to forward all the cutesy stuff you get by email. Number one, it may irritate the recipient who has to wait for the download; No.2, it has probably been forwarded many times and there is a good likelihood that it carries a virus; No. 3, you have no idea whether or not the recipient has a good virus protection program; No. 4, most people who forward don’t bother to eliminate all those forwarding addresses. That should be declared illegal, because you are sending people’s e-addresses to all kinds of people without their permission.

I know I’ve talked with you about these issues before, but some folks still refuse the advice and send you and me attachments that ignore all of the above issues. I rarely open attachments, so please don’t send them.

If you have problems with frequent unwanted forwards, send this email to the sender.

— Dave George, Citrus Springs, FL, who is a stroke victim who sent daily pieces of encouragement via e-mail.

Categories: Uncategorized | 1 Comment

"Don’t Waste Your Cancer" by John Piper

February 15, 2006

I write this on the eve of prostate surgery. I believe in God’s power to heal—by miracle and by medicine. I believe it is right and good to pray for both kinds of healing. Cancer is not wasted when it is healed by God. He gets the glory and that is why cancer exists. So not to pray for healing may waste your cancer. But healing is not God’s plan for everyone. And there are many other ways to waste your cancer. I am praying for myself and for you that we will not waste this pain.

1. You will waste your cancer if you do not believe it is designed for you by God.
It will not do to say that God only uses our cancer but does not design it. What God permits, he permits for a reason. And that reason is his design. If God foresees molecular developments becoming cancer, he can stop it or not. If he does not, he has a purpose. Since he is infinitely wise, it is right to call this purpose a design. Satan is real and causes many pleasures and pains. But he is not ultimate. So when he strikes Job with boils (Job 2:7), Job attributes it ultimately to God (2:10) and the inspired writer agrees: “They . . . comforted him for all the evil that the Lord had brought upon him” (Job 42:11). If you don’t believe your cancer is designed for you by God, you will waste it.

2. You will waste your cancer if you believe it is a curse and not a gift.“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us” (Galatians 3:13). “There is no enchantment against Jacob, no divination against Israel” (Numbers 23:23). “The Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly” (Psalm 84:11).

3. You will waste your cancer if you seek comfort from your odds rather than from God.
The design of God in your cancer is not to train you in the rationalistic, human calculation of odds. The world gets comfort from their odds. Not Christians. Some count their chariots (percentages of survival) and some count their horses (side effects of treatment), but we trust in the name of the Lord our God (Psalm 20:7). God’s design is clear from 2 Corinthians 1:9, “We felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.” The aim of God in your cancer (among a thousand other good things) is to knock props out from under our hearts so that we rely utterly on him.

4. You will waste your cancer if you refuse to think about death.
We will all die, if Jesus postpones his return. Not to think about what it will be like to leave this life and meet God is folly. Ecclesiastes 7:2 says, “It is better to go to the house of mourning [a funeral] than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart.” How can you lay it to heart if you won’t think about it? Psalm 90:12 says, “Teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.” Numbering your days means thinking about how few there are and that they will end. How will you get a heart of wisdom if you refuse to think about this? What a waste, if we do not think about death.

5. You will waste your cancer if you think that “beating” cancer means staying alive rather than cherishing Christ.
Satan’s and God’s designs in your cancer are not the same. Satan designs to destroy your love for Christ. God designs to deepen your love for Christ. Cancer does not win if you die. It wins if you fail to cherish Christ. God’s design is to wean you off the breast of the world and feast you on the sufficiency of Christ. It is meant to help you say and feel, “I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” And to know that therefore, “To live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 3:8; 1:21).

6. You will waste your cancer if you spend too much time reading about cancer and not enough time reading about God.
It is not wrong to know about cancer. Ignorance is not a virtue. But the lure to know more and more and the lack of zeal to know God more and more is symptomatic of unbelief. Cancer is meant to waken us to the reality of God. It is meant to put feeling and force behind the command, “Let us know; let us press on to know the Lord” (Hosea 6:3). It is meant to waken us to the truth of Daniel 11:32, “The people who know their God shall stand firm and take action.” It is meant to make unshakable, indestructible oak trees out of us: “His delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers” (Psalm 1:2). What a waste of cancer if we read day and night about cancer and not about God.

7. You will waste your cancer if you let it drive you into solitude instead of deepen your relationships with manifest affection.
When Epaphroditus brought the gifts to Paul sent by the Philippian church he became ill and almost died. Paul tells the Philippians, “He has been longing for you all and has been distressed because you heard that he was ill” (Philippians 2:26-27). What an amazing response! It does not say they were distressed that he was ill, but that he was distressed because they heard he was ill. That is the kind of heart God is aiming to create with cancer: a deeply affectionate, caring heart for people. Don’t waste your cancer by retreating into yourself.

8. You will waste your cancer if you grieve as those who have no hope.
Paul used this phrase in relation to those whose loved ones had died: “We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope” (1 Thessalonians 4:13). There is a grief at death. Even for the believer who dies, there is temporary loss—loss of body, and loss of loved ones here, and loss of earthly ministry. But the grief is different—it is permeated with hope. “We would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8). Don’t waste your cancer grieving as those who don’t have this hope.

9. You will waste your cancer if you treat sin as casually as before.
Are your besetting sins as attractive as they were before you had cancer? If so you are wasting your cancer. Cancer is designed to destroy the appetite for sin. Pride, greed, lust, hatred, unforgiveness, impatience, laziness, procrastination—all these are the adversaries that cancer is meant to attack. Don’t just think of battling against cancer. Also think of battling with cancer. All these things are worse enemies than cancer. Don’t waste the power of cancer to crush these foes. Let the presence of eternity make the sins of time look as futile as they really are. “What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?” (Luke 9:25).

10. You will waste your cancer if you fail to use it as a means of witness to the truth and glory of Christ.
Christians are never anywhere by divine accident. There are reasons for why we wind up where we do. Consider what Jesus said about painful, unplanned circumstances: “They will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors for my name’s sake. This will be your opportunity to bear witness” (Luke 21:12 -13). So it is with cancer. This will be an opportunity to bear witness. Christ is infinitely worthy. Here is a golden opportunity to show that he is worth more than life. Don’t waste it.

Remember you are not left alone. You will have the help you need. “My God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).

Pastor John

©Desiring God

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way, you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, and you do not make more than 1,000 physical copies. For web posting, a link to this document on our website is preferred. Any exceptions to the above must be explicitly approved by Desiring God.

Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: By John Piper. ©Desiring God. Website: http://www.desiringGod.org. Email: mail@desiringGod.org. Toll Free: 888.346.4700.

Categories: Devotional | 2 Comments