Monthly Archives: April 2013

Sharpening the Tools in the Toolbox: Why Should Pastors and Christians Keep on Learning?

Today, I will attend a conference conducted by the North American Mission Board and the Send: Denver Strategy Initiative called Churches Planting Churches Training.  While our church may not be planting a church from our church anytime soon (although we hope to at some point in the future), we want to put some new tools in the toolbox and sharpen those already there.

Of all the people on the planet, Christians should be the ones who should continue to learn.  If you find yourself as a follower of Christ believing you have arrived, you are in danger of becoming a pool of stagnant water rather than continually being refreshed by the living water of the Holy Spirit through Jesus Christ.

Why should we continue learning as believers?

First, because Christ is the treasure of all wisdom and knowledge (Colossians 2:3).  This serves as the motivation for all learning in all fields–math, science, geology, etc.–comes from the author of all knowledge!

Secondly, since Christ is the treasure of all wisdom of knowledge, learning helps my worship and living be more informed–and therefore more ready to exalt our amazing Lord.  

Thirdly, we need to continue learning for the sake of the church.  Not everyone in the church has it figured out–in fact, the church is a hospital for sinners and filled with messed-up people trying to understand how to live for Christ.  As we learn and worship and pray and live, we can graciously help others along their journey with Christ.

Fourthly, we need to continue learning for the sake of those around us.  We learn how to witness, we learn about the culture and the varying belief systems contained therein, and we learn about how God is still moving and working in places we never dreamed. Being able to connect with others out of love on their territory, and for the sake of our love for the truth, we help others to learn more about Him and pray they surrender their lives to the one who made them, wired them, and will prayerfully redeem them.

Quick thoughts here.  What are some other ways you as a Christian have benefited from continued learning and sharpening?

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How To Sort Through Why Christians Adhere to Such an Old Book (Part 2: Sufficiency)

“If you abide in my word…” (John 8:32)  The living Word is the Word in which we must live and move and have our being.  In his word we abide, that is, we stand firm.  His word is sufficient for us to stand throughout time and eternity.  His Word is enough!

Some of you may take supplements or the like as part of your daily dietary regimen.  The purpose of these supplements serves as preparation intended to supplement the diet and provide nutrients, such as vitamins, minerals, fiber, fatty acids, or amino acids, that may be missing or may not be consumed in sufficient quantities in a person’s diet.  But doctors also say that if our diet is healthy diet—because all of those supplements are contained in the healthy foods that contain what these supplements ultimately contain.

In Southern Baptist life, we spent a great deal of time dealing with the nature of Scripture.  Words were used such as infallible (it will never fall), inerrant (as God’s Word, it has no error in the original), and authoritative.  But do we see this book as sufficient?  Do we abide it in—or just use it as a dietary supplement to fill in the spiritual nutrients that are missing in our lives?

When God speaks, he never intended the Bible to simply fill in the holes of our otherwise self-constructed life.  Hebrews 4:12-13 says,

“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.  And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.”

Notice that this does not say that a psychologist performs the function of understanding the heart.  A gifted counselor is not the ultimate arbiter of understanding all which we’ve hidden.  Not even preachers can do this.  It’s only the God of the Word and the Word of God that plunges in so sharply.  But the Scriptures pierce us!   Expose us!  Compel us!  Counsel us!  Convict us! And transform us!  We need nothing else!  No wonder the Psalmist could say in 19:7-10:

The law of the Lord is perfect,
reviving the soul;
the testimony of the Lord is sure,
making wise the simple;
the precepts of the Lord are right,
rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the Lord is pure,
enlightening the eyes;
the fear of the Lord is clean,
enduring forever;
the rules of the Lord are true,
and righteous altogether.
10 More to be desired are they than gold,
even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey
and drippings of the honeycomb.

You may say, “Well, the Bible is not sufficient!  The Bible doesn’t tell me how to pass my test in school, where to find work, or even what time church should start.  It doesn’t get into the details of my life.  How can you say it’s sufficient?”

We must remember that the Bible is not about us!  The Bible is not simply a manual for living.  The Bible is about Christ and how we are not living unless we abide in Him.  The Pharisees were not abiding in the Word.  A.W. Tozer once said, “The modern scientist has lost God amid the wonders of His world; we Christians are in real danger of losing God amid the wonders of His Word.”

John Piper helps us understand an aspect of the sufficiency of Scripture:

The sufficiency of Scripture does not mean that the Scripture is all we need to live obediently. To be obedient in the sciences we need to read science and study nature. To be obedient in economics we need to read economics and observe the world of business. To be obedient in sports we need to know the rules of the game. To be obedient in marriage we need to know the personality of our spouse. To be obedient as a pilot we need to know how to fly a plane. In other words, the Bible does not tell us all we need to know in order to be obedient stewards of this world.

The sufficiency of Scripture means that we don’t need any more special revelation. We don’t need any more inspired, inerrant words. In the Bible God has given us, we have the perfect standard for judging all other knowledge.

 

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ESPN’s Chris Broussard Calls Homosexuality a Sin–Will ESPN Call It a Career for Him?

In a recent interview on ESPN which discussed the NBA’s Jason Collins coming out as a homosexualESPN’s Chris Broussard calls homosexuality a sin.

“If you’re openly living that type of lifestyle, the Bible says you know them by their fruits, it says that that’s a sin. . . . If you’re openly living in unrepentant sin, whatever it may be, I believe that’s walking in open rebellion to God and Jesus Christ.”

Chris Broussard has done excellent work covering the NBA for ESPN over the years.  I had never known Broussard’s religious beliefs or worldview until this interview–but now everyone does, or at least will.

I’ve shared before that the same-sex rights movement is the new fundamentalism of our day.  If you agree with this movement, you’re in with the academic, intellectual, and journalistic elite–if you’re not, then consequences await showing that tolerance is only extended to those with whom one agrees.  We’ve seen various interviews like this one that is typical of the nature of the debate.

We shall see how Broussard’s comments are tolerated by ESPN. In the meantime, pray for him. This could get interesting!

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How to Sort Through Why Christians Follow Such an Old Book? (Part I)

The Bible is the very centerpiece of our times of worship together. As a result, the Bible is the very thing that Satan and his followers work to undermine. This scheme is something that Satan works with great skill both inside and outside the church.

The sermon title expresses an oft-asked question: “Why do Christians adhere to such an old book?” One book asked the question, “Why should we believe an ancient book written by dead Jewish males?” Many other pieces of literature were written many moons ago—in fact, some of them we revere in our culture even now. Homer’s The Iliad and The Odyssey. The Magna Carta. The Declaration of Independence spawned a new republic called the United States of America. Some see the Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx as a classic piece of literature that spawned a new worldview of Communism and Socialism. Mein Kampf was Adolf Hitler’s autobiography that laid out his worldview, to the detriment of millions both past and present.

The nature of the Bible is a discussion that is either explicitly or implicitly what the culture and even the church debates. As we think about the Bible upfront, we need to realize that the Bible is just like any other book, but it’s unlike any other book—all at the same time.

How is it like any other book? It uses letters, words, sentences, paragraphs, chapters—and even books within the Book. You see, the Bible is not just a book, but it is a library. It’s like other books in that it contains different literary genres: history and poetry, a unique type of genre called a gospel that gives a bit of Jesus’ life and ministry, epistles (a structure/form of letter during that age), and apocalyptic literature which unveils that which is behind a curtain giving us a peering into heaven. It takes place in history, using times, places, people, events, and the like.

The Bible is unique in that it was written by 40 men over a period of 1500 years and possesses a unity and authority that make it clear that this is a spiritual book. It’s a book not just of information, but God’s revelation for our salvation and transformation through His Son Jesus Christ. Our Baptist Faith & Message 2000 starts off with no question as to where to start with the faith—what God has revealed in the Word of God.

The Holy Bible was written by men divinely inspired and is God’s revelation of Himself to man. It is a perfect treasure of divine instruction. It has God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth, without any mixture of error, for its matter. Therefore, all Scripture is totally true and trustworthy. It reveals the principles by which God judges us, and therefore is, and will remain to the end of the world, the true center of Christian union, and the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and religious opinions should be tried. All Scripture is a testimony to Christ, who is Himself the focus of divine revelation.

We see this priority of the Word of God in John 8:31-47 and all that the Word does. While the skeptic questions the Word, our faith is grounded in it.

As you read through John 8:31-47, you see Jesus making a definitive statement regarding those who are Jesus’ disciples.

1.  They believe that God’s Word is the last Word (authority).

Jesus speaks in John 8:32, “If you abide in my word, you are my disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.” So we to phrases that Jesus uses that apply to the question that many ask regarding the Scriptures. And here, he employs a type of comparative parallelism:

  • If you abide in my word, you are my disciples indeed.
  • And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.

So Jesus says that his word and ‘the truth’ are synonymous. His Word is the last word. And it is at this very point that the majority of the issues against the Bible arise—the issue of authority. What makes this Book the ‘last word’ on the matter? Is the ultimate message of the Bible about slavery or about freedom?

It’s ultimate message is about freedom—but if the Word of God is not ‘the truth,’ then there would be no freedom to be apprehended from there either! 

In 2 Timothy 3:16-17, the Spirit gave to the Apostle Paul these words:

16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God[a]may be complete, equipped for every good work.

All Scripture is breathed out by God. From Genesis to Revelation, we have the Word of God in our hands. If all Scripture comes from God, and we know that God is holy, perfect, righteous, and just, then the Word would follow suit. 

(Tomorrow:  The Bible is the living Word.)

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New YouTube Channel—Gospel Gripped

Check out our new YouTube channel!  Here’s the first video—a trailer of sorts on our sermon series on Apologetics—Not Apologies.  This one speaks for about 3 minutes on the issue of the Scriptures!

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Friday Funny: Jonathan Winters and “The Stick”

Jonathan Winters died last week at the age of 87.  He is one of my top three favorite comedians.  His skill at improvisation spawned the comedy stylings of men such as Robin Williams and Jim Carrey.  Here is a famous routine he concocted called “The Stick,” aired on the Jack Paar Show in April 1964.  Enjoy!

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The Pastor’s Heavy Happy Heart – Pure Church by Thabiti Anyabwile

After a very emotional week on a number of fronts, this piece captures the heart of a pastor who longs to care for His sheep.  A great excerpt:

“The most difficult part of pastoral ministry is keeping a caring heart. The caring heart makes the pastor, and the caring heart nearly kills the pastor. He wouldn’t have it any other way, like Paul. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t a thousand deaths, weeping nights, deprivations, and afflictions.”

via The Pastor’s Heavy Happy Heart – Pure Church by Thabiti Anyabwile.

Pray for your pastors!  The enemy is often only the culture, but even more so.

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There’s a Purpose Behind It: God Identifies With Our Suffering

38 Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it.39 Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.” 40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” 41 So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.” 43 When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” 44 The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go” (John 11:38-44). 

What do we see about this? First, by believing, we see the glory of God.

Secondly, the Father always hears the Son, and Christ intercedes for us and is doing so even now—even if we cannot sense that He is. He makes this clear for the people around him.

Thirdly, Jesus has Lord over death. Death listens to Jesus! If Jesus tells death to go, then death moves because Jesus is God the Son who is over death. Jesus was sent by God (v. 42) to conquer death for His own.

How would he do this? By his own death! Remember that Jesus died, was buried, and was raised. During Jesus death, we see the sky go dark for three days, when his Father turned His back on His Son—the only time they had ever been separated, for God cannot look upon sin. Here, Christ was paying for the penalty of our sin by becoming sin for us, and being separated from His beloved Father.

But when He said, “It is finished,” the Apostle Paul builds on this three word phrase:

54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:

“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
55 “O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”

56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

58 Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

By the Father and the Son identifying with suffering in this way shows that there is a purpose behind the suffering. Malcolm Mudderidge says:

Contrary to what might be expected, I look back on experiences that at the time seemed especially desolating and painful with particular satisfaction. Indeed, I can say with complete truthfulness that everything I have learned in my 75 years in this world, everything that has truly enhanced and enlightened my experience, has been through affliction and not through happiness.

So what are we to think of suffering? That the presence of suffering is the absence of God? By no means, because God sent His Son for the purpose of suffering so that our suffering for His sake might mean something.

C.S. Lewis says, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”  Suffering has a purpose—to show the cursed nature and wickedness prevalent in the world, so that we would recognize there is something for which we long—a hope in which we have only in Christ who saves, sanctifies, and glorifies!

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Why Was Jesus Weeping at Lazarus’ Tomb?

28 When she had said this, she went and called her sister Mary, saying in private, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.” 29 And when she heard it, she rose quickly and went to him. 30 Now Jesus had not yet come into the village, but was still in the place where Martha had met him. 31 When the Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary rise quickly and go out, they followed her, supposing that she was going to the tomb to weep there. 32 Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” 33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved[a] in his spirit and greatly troubled. 34 And he said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” 35 Jesus wept. 36 So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”37 But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying? (John 11:28-37).

Martha said it first, then Mary said it again: “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” This time, she said this, but didn’t go on in regards to confidence in the Lord knowing what He was doing.

Yet, the Scriptures say that Jesus saw her and the Jews who were consoling her weeping, “and he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled.” Why was he troubled?

I will tell you now that it was not because of the conclusion those in verse 37 had come to. What they were basically saying was, “Jesus had some limits. He could give sight to the blind, but raising the dead was above his paygrade.” Was Jesus crying over this? No, not at all!

Was he moved due to everyone else crying around him? Possibly, but not entirely. This does show that the Word made flesh was a human being—who has actual human emotions. The shortest verse in the Bible has one of the biggest impacts: Jesus does care—and He cares about where you are right now. John Piper rightly said, “The soul would have no rainbow if the eye had no tears.”

Why did he weep? He wept over the situation that put Lazarus in the grave in the first place: death. And how did death come about? The apostle Paul reminds us, “The wages of sin is death.” Jesus was weeping because this world is under a curse.

Romans 8:19-23 says:

19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God.20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.

There’s an old story about a man who tried to save the city of Sodom from destruction by warning the citizens. But the people ignored him. One day someone asked, “Why bother everyone? You can’t change them.” “Maybe I can’t,” the man replied, “but I still shout and scream to prevent them from changing me!

Jesus weeps over the curse of sin in the world that man brought in. When Adam and Eve decided to take Satan’s word and their desires over God’s Word, the curse of sin was brought in. “You shall surely die.” Sin and death are connected. And it shows no mercy and does not discriminate.

In Luke 13, a tragedy happened there and some asked the reason. Jesus said, “Unless you repent, you shall likewise perish” (Luke 13:5).  Repent from what? Sin! If you do not, death awaits.  If you do, then a miracle of galactic proportions takes place: a sinner subject to God’s wrath is now a recipient of God’s mercy—all because God chose to identify with our suffering (thus showing that suffering can and often does have a grander purpose). 

But more on that tomorrow. 

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Do You Have a Great Commission Conscience?

Do you have a Great Commission Conscience?  Gary McIntosh and Charles Arn posed this question in a book What Every Pastor Should Know: 101 Indispensible Rules of Thumb for Leading Your Church.  He noted after years of ministry and research that church leaders should answer positively to 7 out of 10 of these statements; and that if a minimum of 20 percent of the congregation responds positively to this, then a church has a Great Commission conscience. 

  1. I see the primary purpose of our church as responding to the Great Commission.
  2. I have participated in an outreach training event in the last year.
  3. I have invited an unchurched friend or relative to a church event in the last six months.
  4. I would support a motion to designate at least 10 percent of our church budget to outreach events and training activities.
  5. I would prefer that the pastor call on nonmembers more often than on members.
  6. I would be willing to take a new member or visitor home for dinner once every six months.
  7. I have intentionally introduced myself to a new member or visitor in the past month.
  8. I have talked with an unchurched person about my faith in the past three months.
  9. I have prayed for a specific unchurched person in the past month.
  10. I would be willing to be a pioneer in a new group or new church fellowship to help reach new people.

How did you fare? 

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