Saturday, March 20, 2010
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
Just read this, the latest edition of The Serious Times by James Emery White. We all need a healthy challenge in this direction...
It’s Not the Church’s Job
I love the church.
I have given my life to the church.
I believe, as is often said, that the church truly is the hope of the world.
But that’s not the church’s job.
Sorry, I’m getting ahead of myself.
Here you go: Make me close to Jesus!
It’s not the church’s job.
Save my marriage!
It’s not the church’s job.
Raise my kids!
It’s not the church’s job.
Give me friends! It’s not the church’s job.
It’s not the church’s job.
It is not the church’s job to give you the life you want, or hope for, much less the one that you are expected to forge through a relationship with God through Christ under the direction of the Holy Spirit. The church cannot ensure that all goes well with you. Most of life is your responsibility.
Why do I say this?
To defend the church.
Why do people often come to a church? To get fixed, find friends, renew faith, or strengthen family. All well and good, and the church can obviously be of enormous assistance in all four areas. But the church can’t be held responsible for these four areas of life, nor should you expect it to.
Let’s try and drive this one home:
The parents of a middle-school student drop their child off at a middle-school ministry. The child does not change into a model Christian student. The parents immediately search for a new church with a more effective middle-school ministry.
What is wrong with this picture? What is wrong is the complete absence of any sense that spiritual life is the responsibility of that middle-school student, not to mention that spiritual leadership within the family is the responsibility of her parents.
Instead, we have a mentality of “drop-off parenting,” which is just part of the mentality of a “drop-off church.” We drop our wives off at a women’s ministry to get them to be the wives or mother’s we want; we drop our husband’s off at a men’s Bible study to get them to be spiritual leaders; we drop ourselves off at a service or recovery group to fix our problems, or a Bible study to renew our lukewarm faith.
It reminds me of the sixties and Timothy Leary’s famous line regarding not only the benefits of LSD, but the spirit of the age:
“Turn on. Tune in. Drop out.”
That is not the way to approach the church.
There comes a time when personal responsibility kicks in. The church exists to coalesce and enrich; to coordinate and inspire; to provide order and leadership. It exists to pull together the collective force and will of those who follow Christ in order to fulfill the Great Commission given it by Jesus Himself. Yes, it serves the family trying to raise a child; it seeks to heal those who are broken; it provides the richest of communities for relationships; it offers the necessary resources for a vibrant relationship with Christ.
But it cannot circumvent the choices and responsibilities of the human will.
It cannot do life for you.
That’s your job.
- James Emery White (www.serioustimes.com)
Wednesday, July 1, 2009
Great discussion just now on hell...Think of the Christian view this way: God has created 2 eternal paradises. 1 for those who love & follow Him and 1 for those who hate, feel indifferent, or at least trust in someone/thing else. God lives in the first one with those who want to spend the rest of eternity with Him. This place is called Heaven. God doesn't live in the second place. After all, teh people there don't want anything to do with God. If you think about it, from the perspective of this life, it's actually paradise for those who want to be free from God. No church. No preaching. No Xns. No Jesus. In other words, it's exactly what the people who live there want--the eternity they would choose for themselves. The absense of God and everything having to do with Him. That place is waht the Bible labels "hell." The Bible says says "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from athe Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change." (James 1:17) What we fail to realize is that the source of all love, compassion, mercy, goodness, community, joy, et al. good things is sourced in the person of God Himself. Remove God and you remove all trace of the goodness He gives. The point is that hell is NOT at all about moral behavior. Moral behavior does not factor in at all. Heaven and hell, salvation, our eternal destiny is all about how we relate to the person of the Benevolent Creator God who has soveriegn authority over the earth and those who live in it because He invented it and us. None of this changes the aweful reality of hell, but it does totally change our understanding of why people go there or not.
Thursday, May 8, 2008
I have been so delighted to discover a coalition of pastors who are seeking to raise up a generation of pastors committed to Gospel-basaed ministry. The leadership of this group is an amazing gathering of pastors whose books I read and sermons I listen to for encouragment, stimulation and better understanding of God's Word. Here you have the likes of John Piper, Tim Keller, DA Carson, Mark Driscoll, Mark Dever and others--men committed to God's Word, historic reformed theology and dynamic and relevant Gospel-ministry in our day.
As they say it...
Our desire is to serve the church we love by inviting all of our brothers and sisters to join us in an effort to renew the contemporary church in the ancient gospel of Christ so that we truly speak and live for him in a way that clearly communicates to our age. We intend to do this through the ordinary means of his grace: prayer, the ministry of the Word, baptism and the Lord’s supper, and the fellowship of the saints. We yearn to work with all who, in addition to embracing the confession and vision set out here, seek the lordship of Christ over the whole of life with unabashed hope in the power of the Holy Spirit to transform individuals, communities, and cultures.
The Gospel Coalition site has documentation on their theological positions and ministry vision, audio and video content, articles--historical and contemporary, recommended resources and more. Check it out!
Tuesday, April 29, 2008
Poor little guy--didn't stand a chance against our front window. Matthias keeps telling me "Daddy, I saw the birdie died. He's crash right through the window. He must not to do that otherwise he will get an owie and he will get a tummy ache. He's resting now he died. Right Daddy?"
Part of me marvels at my son's first encounter with death and his processing through it. Such a part of life that we're often more removed from today.
Part of me just resents having to scrape up the remains of this little guy (including the feather scraps he left on the window)--ironic since I've dropped 9 gopher bombs in the last 5 weeks (why do I feel a sudden kinship with Bill Murray?)in the same yard .
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
For all that, I am also convinced that correct doctrine is not the be all end all of the Christian life. I have seen and experienced (yes and led out in) too many bitter disputes over doctrinal issues. I have seen people with fine theology whose spiritual lives are cold. I have talked with too many people hurt by those who see their calling as policing everyone else's doctrine. Even worse, I see in Scripture that correct doctrine, while important, does not a vital Christian life make. How else do you explain James 2:19, "You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!"
I've recently discovered a wonderful article by Francis Schaeffer on this issue called "The Secret of Power and the Enjoyment of the Lord." In a couple short pages Schaeffer helpfully connects the critical role of pure and correct doctrine with a motive of love as a key component of true Christian spirituality. He says, "Purity of self and purity of the church are not ends in themselves. It will not even do to pursue these merely as loyalty to principle. Purity of self and the purity of the church are only worth while when they are based upon love and lead to love." This type of life is a "battle against flesh all the way" according to Schaeffer.
I continue to believe in the importance of ideas and especially doctrine. At the same time, we cannot disconnect our doctrine from its fruit and motive. If the Gospel is the life-transforming news of God's love for the world expressed through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, then love must flow forth from our lives--especially those for whom doctrine matters. After all, Jesus Himself told us (and the world around us!) "By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." (John 13:35)
Saturday, November 10, 2007
As it turns out, this kids Bible is one of the best I've ever seen! For once, here is a Bible written at a young child's level of understanding that doesn't violate the text to turn the Bible into a Christian collection of morality tales. Instead, the focus is on God and His redemptive plan throughout history as revealed in the person of Jesus. AND it's fun to read! As Sally Lloyd Jones says of her book, "I wrote this so children could know that God is for them and loves them with a Never Stopping, Never Giving up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever Love."
I was recently pleased to discover an endorsement on Amazon from another big influence on my life, Tim Keller (pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City) and his wife Kathy. Keller says, "I would urge not just families with young children to get this book, but every Christian." Kathy says, "A unique resource for communicating the gospel to children in all it's fullness."
We try and take a few minutes each evening after bath time to read a section (5 minutes or less, so don't be impressed) and sing a little. It's great time together as a family and I feel I'm understanding Scripture better while David and Matthias are learning the storyline of the Bible and God's Rescue plan in Jesus. I highly recommend this Bible if you're looking for a Bible that "gets" kids and keeps faithful to the intention of the flow of Scripture.
Sunday, October 28, 2007
Here's the deal. As college students it's easy to see yourself as a part of the Church Universal because you are displaced from your home church and the Christian community from which you came. It's easy to see involvement on campus or even in a church's college group as fulfilling the place of of the local church. For some it's even seen as enough to experience multiple churches simultaneously.
The reality though is that Scriupture calls us to something more dynamic and more compelling. We are called to gather together as teh "Body of Christ"--a visible, embodied representation of life in Christ. Our committed love for one another is to testify to the power of the Gospel to change human relationships. Our corporate worship (note the "body" language in that word from Latin, corpus; not corporate in terms of a business corporation) is to show how we prize the God of the Bible above all else. Our common life together with people we wouldnt associate with except our family connection though Jesus, is to show the power of the cross to bring about reconciliation.
We can only do these things through gathering, committing, submitting, opening up, serving and praying for each other on a regular basis. Pastor Tim's series on the Church has been a great overview showing us what God's Word says about these things and what this looks like in practice. If you've missed any of htis series, go back and listen online or even subscribe ("Living the Gospel") on iTunes to catch up. You can also make sure you don't miss if you're ever out of town.
Beyond that, if you call Grace Church your home, I encourage you to put this series into practice--make attending worship service your priority on a Sunday. College Group is a great limb of the church, but we can only experience the Body by gathering with those who aren't just like us. Connect in a Growth Group to go deeper in your relationships with other people and with the Lord. (We'll be starting a new round of Growth Groups in Winter Quarter.) Take advantage of opportunities to serve and learn from all the generations at Grace.
Saturday, October 20, 2007
lots o' friends
dance instructors--our own Gabba & Kaleo
Pie eating contest!
great prizes from local businesses
(Thanks Trader Joe's, Jiffy Lube, Movie Experience, Lisa Leonard Designs, Cold Stone Creamery, Marie Calendars, Albertson's and more!)
is that Jr High Director Ben Collins??
Monday, July 16, 2007
Friday, July 13, 2007
He makes clear from the beginning that these marks aren't an exhaustive list of practices that should occur in churches. He choses these because he believes they are hte oens that are falling more and more out of practice in today's church. I can say that I agree with Dever for the most part. I found his chapter on leadership very practical, the chapter on church discipline has done much to improve my undestanding of that practice and I was stirred by way of reminder as I read the first chapter on Expositional Preaching.
I recommend this book to anyone who wants to better understand God's calling on the Church.
The 9 Marks are:
Wednesday, June 20, 2007
Sunday, June 17, 2007
Monday, March 5, 2007
Friday, February 23, 2007
Wednesday, February 21, 2007
Tuesday, January 30, 2007
Spaces are filling up for our College Winter Retreat on Feb 9-11! Nevertheless, I'm throwing out one last chance to register for the early rate. If you can get your registration in before this Thursday (Feb 1) at 2:oopm, you can still get in for $75 (or $95 if Snowboarding). After that, it will be an additional $20.
Details once again:
- Who: Grace College-Aged Community
- What: College Winter Retreat 2007--Studying Discipleship in Luke and having fun in the snow!
- Where: Shaver Lake
- When: Feb 9-11 Meet in front of the church @ 4:30 a.m. (Snowboard group) / 4:30p.m. (retreat only group) on Friday February 9.
- Why: Go Deep with God and each other
Thursday, January 25, 2007
A number of our college students from Grace went to Urbana over the winter break to explore missions and God's calling on their lives. I've been hearing moving reports of what happened in their lives as a result. One of them, Matt Esswein, sent me this article published in the Wall Street Journal saying, "It was cool for me to here as a business major that one of the nation's top business publications would include an article on the conference. "
Check it out: Meeting in St. Louis
He shared that this conference has been making him think more about doing business for a while and seeing what doors God opened up there. Since we're talking about vocation in college these days I wonder...
Any ways God has been working on your lives specifically with regards to vocation?
Tuesday, January 23, 2007
Check out this column by George F. Will in the most recent issue of Newsweek. A very insightful example of the way Roe v. Wade, genetic disorders, and eugenics come together to discriminate against the very lives of a certain classification of human beings.
Friday, January 19, 2007
In the past few years I have become of devotee of the Mars Hill Audio Journal (a bimonthly audio magazine of contemporary culture and Christian conviction). Ken Myers has, over the years, interviewed many guests who have raised my awareness that abortion is only the beginning of the crisis facing our culture when it comes to the value of life. He has interviewed the likes of Richard John Neuhas, Nigel Cameron (a regular guest), Carlos Gomez, Michael Uhlman, C. Ben Mitchell, Joel James Shuman and others about issues like stem cell research, the relation of God's nature and purposes to our approach to sickness and medicine, the vocation of medicine, the meaning of human life, issues of suicide and euthanasia and many related topics. The take-away that continually resonates in my mind and heart is that the church by and large is behind the times on the variegated issues that surround sanctity of life. In an age of assisted suicide, genetic counseling, eugenics, fertility specialists, a lack of moral moorings, the Church needs to be educated and needs to stand up and fulfill its prophetic role in our culture.
Besides being stirred intellectually regarding these issues, we have faced them personally and deeply in raising a child with special needs. Our oldest son, David, was born with Cornelia deLange Syndrome resulting in small stature, global developmental delay and physical abnormalities. The conventional wisdom in the medical community today seems to be that testing should be performed during pregnancy to investigate the health of the "fetus" (I had a professor at Fresno State who once commented that pregnant soccer moms never have tee shirts that read "Fetus" with an arrow to their tummys!). While it might seem these good people in white lab coats want the best for your "fetus," unfortunately they are more often than not investigating whether they need to counsel termination of a pregnancy gone wrong. "In light of modern medicine, it is ridiculous that anyone should be born today with genetic disorders" is a sentiment I come across often, whether from the likes of Peter Singer or from doctors interviewed in Newsweek and on such programs as 60 Minutes. They don't mean that modern medicine can heal. David and his classmates at Chris Jesperson, in many such people's opinions, should never have been born. They're "quality of life" lacks too much and the financial outlay to our society costs too much. Yet, as I have watched my son over the past 41/2 years, it is offensive that anyone would dare to rob him of his opportunity at life. This kid is full of joy, determination and love. He brings joy to those who get to know him and has challenged many people (including me!) in the way they see others. Beyond that, the Lord, the Creator of life itself, speaks directly to this issue in Psalm 139:
you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there were none of them.
The God of the Bible revealed in Jesus of Nazareth invented life. He is the giver of life. He sovereignly superintends every dimension of our lives.
There are a ton of great resources out there to learn more about the issues facing our culture on the issue of Sanctity of life. I want to recommend just a couple. After David was born someone gave Lisa a copy of Choosing Naia which she found extremely helpful. It is a book about a couple, Greg and Tierney Fairchild, a happily married, interracial professional couple who went for the usual prenatal screenings and came away with some very bad news: the fetus carried a major heart defect that could signal Down syndrome. The Fairchild's are not believers to my knowledge and begin as a couple who are not particularly pro-life. This is the story of their journey coming face to face with these issues in their daughter Naia.
I would also recommend Bioethics: A Primer For Christians by Gilbert Meilaender. As one review on Amazon puts it, Meilaender comes to the point early: "I have tried to say what we Christians ought to say in order to be faithful to the truth that has claimed us in Jesus." Recommended on Mars Hill, I plan to read this book this year to continue my own education on this issue.
Thursday, January 18, 2007
Don't miss out on this year's Winter Retreat. February 9-11 Grace College ministry is heading up to Shaver Lake for a weekend of snow, fun and going deeper with God and each other. Last year was our first Winter Retreat and we had a blast. This year it'll be bigger and better than before--including the addition of an optional day of snowboarding @ Sierra Summit! Our spaces are limited and about a third of them are already gone, so sign up this Sunday Morning.
- Option 1: $75 (retreat only)
- Option 2: $95 (retreat with snowboarding; rentals not included)
- Register by Sunday, Jan 29 in College Group
- When do we leave? Meet in front of the church @ 4:30 a.m. (Snowboard group) / 4:30p.m. (retreat only group) on Friday February 9.
Tuesday, January 16, 2007
Matthias turned 3 this weekend and we had a fun train party down in Oceano at the Rock & Roll Cafe. This picture captures one of Matty's new expressions that I totally love these days. I think it captures his place in life...just beginning to grasp the significance and excitement of special occasions like Christmas and birthdays!
Wednesday, January 10, 2007
I've been wanting to be more intentional about spending time in the Word as a family for a while. A couple years back I met with some guys in our church for breakfast once a week and we memorized a set of verses put out by Desiring God called "Fight Verses." It's great becasue you can get them right off the web sight for free, or you can purchase their resources.
I've been wanting to try it in earnest for so long that I finally bit the bullet and purchased the ESV (my favorite translation for literal/readable combo) set for our family. Lisa and I started memorizing together a couple weeks ago with a verse from the Old Testament that says it all,
who keeps covenant and steadfast love
with those who love him and keep his commandments,
to a thousand generations.
Tuesday, January 9, 2007
I admit I don't know a lot about a lot. However, I just poured "fat free half & half" into my coffee. Isn't that called skim milk?? If only Tim Wheeler were a blog guy, he could log in and clear up the confusion for me...
From the notice I received...
Deborah Dortzbach and W. Meredith Long (both executives with World Relief) take you to the ground floor of the campaign against AIDS, moving from the devastating global perspective to the hope emerging from the grass roots. You can help the church change the course of hte AIDS Crisis.
How We Can Help
- Stop debating whether Christians should repsond to HIV and AIDS. "We must instead repent of our slow response."
- Decide how to resond. "The scope of possible invovement is just as broad as the scope of the AIDS disaster."
- Know with whom to respond. "The fight agaist AIDS brings together many unlikely organizations...sincere in watign to protect and save lives."
- Ask yourself daily: What attitude am I repsoning with? How vulnerable am I willing to become?
Wednesday, January 3, 2007
That's quite a claim for a person to make. In some ways it it strikes me as the Christian version of claiming the hot new band is the next Beatles (Can you believe someone actually claimed that Terrence Trent D'Arby was the next Beatles? If you're asking Who?? my point is made). Nevertheless, as an accomplished author herself and as one whose life was transformed in part by Wright's writing in her journey to faith, I think we can give Rice credit for more than another blurb on the back of a book.
I recently finished reading and enjoying Simply Christian for myself. As a C.S. Lewis fan, I think I fairly say that only a scholar of Wright's stature and broad appeal could even dare to, let alone pull off, the task of writing the Mere Christianity for today's postmodern context. In my opinion, Wright accomplishes his goal. I will say from the start that I don't agree with everything Wright says, while I can only say I'm in process over other issues he raises. (Although, as much as I love Lewis, I don't agree with him on everything either.)
Nevertheless, I would recommend this book as an intriguing introduction to Christianity that leads us into the story of Christianity--the story of Israel and especially of Jesus--through the echoes we hear in life of a voice who tells us there's something more than what we experience. When we examine the world around us and our longings for justice, relationship, spirituality and beauty, we are acknowledging that all is not right with the world. Wright argues this is not because the Christian worldview is false, but rather because it is true! Our world groans because God's good creation has been marred by humanity's rebellion against our creator and needs to be "put to rights." This is where the echoes meet the story and voice of Jesus, come to bring redemption and new creation--to individuals and the world.
Not everyone will resonate with this book, but I think especially those of you in college and into your early 30's will find this book a helpful aid in your own faith and in your conversations with unbelievers.
Tuesday, January 2, 2007
Wednesday, December 27, 2006
These are the questions that are on my mind a great deal of late. Then I thought about some people here at Grace that are lights in the world--examples of this kingdom living--for me. May their lives shine forth as an example for you as much they have for me...
- Scott Morton--I've had the opportunity to hear Scott cast vision for Grace's upcoming Capital Campaign in a number of forums, both public and private. He's the real deal. His life challenges me to personally re-evaluate if we are truly stewarding our material resources for the Kingdom. That doesn't even get into Scott's personal investment into college men, or as an elder, or the way he uses his dentistry practice for the Kingdom.
- Tim & Karen Weaver--I've been impressed watching Tim and Karen serve in many behind-the-scenes ways here at Grace. I think many would be surprised to find out how much they do for our Body Life. Beyond that, their love and commitment to their new boys Nick and Bif is amazing. They embody a picture of Romans 8:15.
- Mike and Katie Allshouse--Generous folks who recently adopted Eli from Ethiopia. They have raised my awareness of ministries such as Engineering Ministries International and Compassion International. They're living life and keeping their eyes open for opportunities to give of themselves to the Kingdom.
- Kevin and Brianna Heldt--This is a couple who regularly challenge me in a number of areas. Keven & Brianna were the first in our congregation to adopt twin boys from Ethiopia (Josef & Biniam) and to open my eyes to this possibility. Brianna blogs about issues like adoption and HIV in Africa (and lots of regular stuff too!) and they are a couple who looks seriously at how to live lives that promote justice, quality relationships and authentic spirituality.
- Kirt Collins--Kirt is the backbone of our ministry to the homeless population here at Grace. He's faithful to recruit volunteers for the overflow ministry and to oversee it's operation for two months each year. He also lives out his faith as a local principle and member of the community. Besides that, he's just a neat guy to be around!
Thursday, December 21, 2006
That said, I'm surprised how often we in the church seem to be disproportionately concerned with the impressions, opinions and desires of the young. I'm surprised that Christian Believers would feel embarrassed by their age. I think of the Proverbs,
but the splendor of old men is their gray hair.
Listen to your father who gave you life,
and do not despise your mother when she is old.
In fact, Paul had to exhort Timothy, "Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers tan example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. " (1Tim. 4.12). It seems youth was the bigger obstacle in their world. Proverbs begins by citing the lack of wisdom possessed by youth.
to understand words of insight,
to receive instruction in wise dealing,
in righteousness, justice, and equity;
to give prudence to the simple,
knowledge and discretion to the youth
Anyway, these are some thoughts on my mind someone encouraged me to blog about--what do you think about this issue?
Sunday, November 19, 2006
1And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. 2For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, 4and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. (1 Corinthians 2:1-5)