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Archive for May, 2007

Worship-palooza


In one of his Reform & Resurge addresses, Ed Stetzer talked about a church planting-palooza.  He lamented that most speakers only got a few minutes.  He joked that it took Mark Driscoll more than 10 minutes to warm up.

But we want to hear from everyone.  The more big names the better.  So now there is what I am jokingly dubbing Worship-palooza.  There are SO MANY big names in the area of worship that I can’t conceive how they’ll have time to say anything meaningful.  But they’ve got Paul Baloche, Don Moen, Lincoln Brewster, Jack Hayford, Brian Doerksen, Robin Mark, Todd Proctor, Bob Kauflin, Hillsong London and so many more people it will melt your freakin’ mind.

The traveling show will appear in places like Columbus, Portland (OR), Springfield (MA), Buffalo, Pittsburgh, Lancaster, Atlanta, Chicago, West Palm Beach, Indianapolis and more…..

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(circa 2000, interacting with a section from the book I mention)

If you are in relationship with people, whether at home, church or work, it is impossible to avoid betrayal.

“Essentially, betrayal is the breaking of an implied or stated commitment of care” (Dan Allender, The Healing Path).

This means that betrayal involves a broken commitment to guard your well-bImage result for the healing patheing.  It can come from a friend who shares your darkest secret.  Or a co-worker who steals your work.  Betrayal opens the door for us to grow in faith, if we do not avoid all it brings with it.

Betrayal comes on different levels.  The damage caused by a break of confidence is less than that caused by a parent who abuses their child emotionally or sexually.  But the relationship intended to bring blessing has now brought harm.

The betrayal does not remain a private affair, but soon spreads to the community.  There is no way to keep a fight between two people isolated– others inevitably become involved.  This could be as simple as hearing one’s complaint, or as complicated as taking up one’s cause against the other to repay the damage.

Betrayal forces us to make choices.  We can deny the damage done to us.  Many choose this path.  Others recognize the damage, and use it as an excuse to justify their sins against the perpetrator.  The best option is to recognize the damage, and then marvel at the faithfulness of God in contrast to our instability.

What damage is done?  First, our sense of identity is taken apart.  As relational creatures, our identity is composed of our various relationships.  When one is broken, it casts a shadow of doubt upon the rest of them.  Will they betray me too?  This doubt eats away our relationships because the life we thought existed, doesn’t.

Our initial response is to blame ourselves.  We should have seen it coming.  Or perhaps we failed first, prompting this person’s sin.  We enter a period of self contempt or blame.  I was there when (an ex-)girlfriend left.  “Am I so stupid that I couldn’t see this coming?  The signs were all there, why did I give her my heart?”

Image result for fish called wanda revengeFor better or worse, we do not stop there.  We soon move to believing that someone must pay.  We desire revenge for the wrongs done to us.  I always think of Kenny, the stuttering thief from A Fish Called Wanda, clearly crying “REVENGE!” as he drives a steamroller over his tormentor Otto.

Since our hearts are deceptive, we do not always direct our rage at the one who hurt us in the first place.  It could be easy for me to make my next girlfriend pay for the wrongs of past girlfriends.  Severely abused people often don’t recognize how they harm those around them, or themselves.  This is particularly true with sexual abuse.  The victims often become perpetrators themselves, or destroy themselves through eating disorders or promiscuity.  The initial betrayal is not an excuse of later sinful choices, but we begin to understand why.  Then we address the broken parts of a person to bring restoration as well as repentance.

Then, at last, comes numbness.  We no longer care.  This is where most of us end up.  Life, so to speak, goes on hold.  We stop caring about just about everything.  “Yeah, sure.  Whatever you want.”  The pain overwhelms us, and we go on autopilot.  We stop living, but not functioning.

It is here that we lose faith.  God no longer seems faithful and true.  We forget the abundance of times He has been good to us.  Our legitimate desires go unmet, and our faith shrinks.  We enter into autopilot with God as well.  We don’t stray outwardly, but our hearts are numb towards him.  We become legalistic and distant.  “God failed me.  It doesn’t pay to pursue him.”  We become stuck; powerless and ambivalent.

This is the place where God invites us to see our idolatry.  We expect others to be what only God can be for us.  No one, and nothing, has the ability to perfectly meet our needs (much less our desires).  When forgiveness can’t be extended, I must recognize I have not given them the freedom to fail.  I expect them to be perfect– and only God is perfect.  I have also made God into something He is not.  He does not exist to meet my every desire.  He’s no genie in the bottle to grant my wishes.  I worship a false god, which is also idolatry.  In my idolatry, I make myself an enemy of God (James 4:1-4).

I never ceased to be amazed at how God orchestrates circumstances to reveal myself to me.  It happened on the way back from GA.  A “quick” stop for gas turned into a nightmare.  I was angry and petty.  The next day I could see just how demanding I was.  I saw my need to having things go the way I want them to go.  In short, I was humbled by a glimpse of my utter sinfulness.  This was my invitation to repent of my idolatry.  Part of me hates that I am powerless to “keep” a girlfriend (whatever that means), prevent an elder from resigning, etc.  My longing to be god is exposed.

This is good!  For God gives grace to the humble, but opposes the proud (James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5, 6).  This humbling brings me to the throne of grace, where I can find mercy, strength and grace from a faithful God.  One faithful enough to wound me and then heal me.  I walk what Allender calls the “healing path”, the road of sanctification.

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I lost all respect for A-Rod in the 2004 ALCS when he tried to cheat and got caught all while declaring his innocence.  Since then I have called him A-Fraud.  Some recently called him April-Rod for his hot start.  He cooled off, and the Yankees are in a very bad stretch of baseball (which I hope continues until after their visit to Fenway this weekend.  btw: Francona is putting up our best pitchers, having reshuffled the rotation with the off-day.).  He didn’t improve his stature with me by a lame, but successful, attempt to break up a double play with an elbow to Pedroia’s groin.  The slide was lame, the elbow a cheap shot.

Yesterday The NY Post pronounced to be Stray-Rod with a pic of him supposedly outside a strip club with an attractive woman who wasn’t his wife.  He refused to address the issue (it’s private) before the game.

During the game A-Fraud was the center of controversy as he shouted while passing the 3rd baseman who was lining up a fly ball.  The Toronto player, thinking the SS was calling for the ball backed off and it dropped for a single.  A-Fraud again protested his innocence in the matter.  The Toronto manager called him “bush league” and the umps had to make sure a verbal altercation didn’t turn physical.   Not all press is good press.

This morning, the NY Daily News Gossip page has C-Rod leaving their apartment with 2 suitcases (destination unknown) in a rush, and tales of Strip-Rod.  He is alleged to be quite the frequenter of strip clubs (both with Cynthia, and with other women when he travels).  The Post followed up their story with additional developments.

It’s all coming apart for A-Fraud.  It’s a sad story precisely because he doesn’t seem to care about his reputation as a player or a husband.  This is what sin can do- make us think we are right and everyone else is wrong.  It convinces us we “deserve” or “need” what we seek.  Unfortunately, with the ever-present press and the advent of camera phones, the private aspects of A-Fraud’s meltdown are now public.  We don’t know the truth, but nothing here looks good for the highest paid man in baseball.  What will be interesting is how this unfolds this weekend in Boston (where I am glad he didn’t end up- the Wade Boggs affair was bad enough).

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            Enter the Gospel.  Part of the Good News is that God becomes our Father.  The doctrine of adoption is one of the most neglected doctrines in the Church.  The Westminster Confession of Faith says the following in chapter 12.

 

All those that are justified, God vouchsafeth, in and for his only Son Jesus Christ, to make partakers of the grace of adoption, by which they are taken into the number, and enjoy the liberties and privileges of the children of God, to have his name put upon them, receive the spirit of adoption, have access to the throne of grace with boldness, are enabled to cry, Abba, Father, are pitied, protected, provided for, and chastened by him, as by a Father: yet never cast off, but sealed to the day of redemption; inherit the promises as heirs of everlasting salvation.

 

Our heavenly Father’s not afraid to give us the good stuff we need to become healthy people.  What does our Father do for us?  He gives us access to Himself in prayer (Matthew 6:9-13; Ephesians 2:18), and promises not to abandon us (Hebrews 13:5).  In the movie Anna and the King, court stops when the King of Siam’s daughter enters the room.  He grants his beloved child all of his attention.  The perfect Father gives attention to all of His children.  He takes time to listen to them.  His ear is not cold toward us in distress, but we are pitied.  He empathizes with us.  There is no “big boys don’t cry” or “take it like a man”.  Rather, He pities us in our weakness and distress. 

In addition to pity, He provides protection. In his great treatise on adoption, Paul declares, “If God is for us, who can be against us” (Rom. 8:31)?

Not only that, but He provides for us.  Our daily bread is His gift to us.  Lastly, He disciplines us as sons (Hebrews 12:5-11).  He wants us to bear the family likeness, and works to conform us to the likeness of His unique Son, Jesus (Rom. 8:29).  So we find a strong, but neglected, theology that addresses the situation of many Christians under our care. 

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(I wrote this in around 2000)

If I were to say the word “father”, what image would come to your mind?  A man who appears around 6 PM to sit in a recliner, too tired to do anything but watch TV?  A person who is verbally or physically abusive?  Someone who rolls on the floor with young children, laughing out loud?

            We’ve all had fathers (or father-figures in their absence), but too often we don’t realize the impact they have had on our lives.  For better or for worse, they are our primary models of masculinity.  Little boys learn what it means to be a man from their fathers.  Little girls learn what to expect of men from their fathers.  Our fathers are God’s gift to provide many of the things young children need.  They help us learn about limits; that I cannot have all I want, and I must respect the rights of others.  Fathers should also encourage their children, helping them cultivate the talents and abilities God has granted. A good father shows appropriate affection.  In short, a father is a living incarnation of God.

If our fathers are healthy (not perfect), then we are usually well prepared for life.  But when they aren’t, then we miss out on something fantastic.  We all know abusive parents can create emotional scars, but how often do we recognize the abuse of neglect or abandonment?  When a father is uninvolved in his children’s lives a void in the soul is created.  In his book Life Without Father, sociologist David Popenoe details for us what happens to children who grow up without fathers.  One study found them twice as likely to drop out of school. Girls are more than twice as likely to be teen mothers.  They are more involved in violent crime.  Without their father’s protection, they are more likely to be the victims of physical and sexual abuse.  Boys, in particular, become out of control, abusing self, others, alcohol, and sex.  In the case of abandonment or divorce these problems are much more severe than in the death of a parent.  This is of great importance as a result of the increase in divorce and the bearing of children out of wedlock.  This crisis affords the church a great opportunity, if we are willing to accept the challenge.

Absent fathers are not the only problem, however.  The situation is similar if the father is emotionally unhealthy.  The good things they should receive from their father are missing.  The lack of health is passed down to the next generation.  Larry Crabb’s book, The Silence of Adam, wrestles with the way ungodly manhood is passed from one generation to the next.  I’ve found that children often walk in their father’s sinful footsteps..

            The song “Father of Mine” by the band Everclear wrestles with this issue.  It is the story of a man whose father abandoned his family (“you gave me your name, and you walked away”).  Now that the boy has become a man, he realizes he feels “weird inside”.  As he tries to raise his own children, he realizes this is more difficult than it should be.  He struggles mightily to be a better father than the one he had.  He wants to give his children more than just a name.

            They are on to something even though they don’t share our faith.  Having a bad father does not doom you to being a lousy person.  But it does make it more difficult to sustain healthy relationships.  This is  because you didn’t have one with one of the most significant people in your life.  Relating to your spouse and children is more difficult (often near impossible until you face up to the reality of what you received, or didn’t, from dad).  This problem is growing with the increase of single parent families.  Many young people have no long-term experience of healthy masculinity.  This increases their own tendency to pursue and remain in unhealthy relationships.  Many long for something better, but do not know how to go about pursuing it apart from changing partners periodically.

            Worse than societal issues however, are the effects upon how such a person views God.  This was most clearly, powerfully and brutally portrayed in the movie “Fight Club”.  Tyler, played by Brad Pitt, lectures his alter ego. 

 “Our fathers were our models for God.  They bailed.  What does that tell you about God?  Listen to me; you have to consider the possibility that God does not like you.  He never wanted you!  In all probability he hates you.  It’s not the worst thing that can happen.  We don’t need him! … F— redemption, we are God’s unwanted children!”

            Brutal and offensive to our ears, but it is a sentiment heard in pastors’ and counselors’ offices all around the world.  There is a natural and understandable connection between our experience of our fathers, and our understanding of the Father.  Just as husbands speak well or poorly of Christ by how they treat their wives (Ephesians 5), fathers speak well or poorly of God the Father by how they treat their children.  When our fathers abandon or abuse us, we live in fear that God will also abandon or abuse us.  We become self-reliant rather than depend upon God, since He won’t come through for us.  If dad was an absent provider, we tend to think of God that way.  He meets our physical needs, but don’t ask Him to be there and love me.  Others wrestle with a lack of dignity because their fathers put them down and mercilessly criticized them.  We do the same things to get God’s attention that we did to get dad’s attention.  Our relationship with God is unhealthy because our relationship with our father is unhealthy.  For the younger generations of Christians, there will be more and more distortions about who God is and how He normally treats His children.  We must have theology and praxis to answer this challenge.

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I didn’t hear about this until late morning.  Patriots defensive end Marquise Hill was missing after a jetski incident on Lake Pontchartrain in Louisiana Sunday.  The young woman he was with says he saved her life.  She was rescued yesterday.  Apparently the area is known for some strong currents.

Sadly, search teams found his body today.  Although not a well known player, he was loved by family, friends and teammates.  They will all miss him.

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0875525628(this is the 3rd & final installment on Covenantal Worship by R.J. Gore)

Characteristics of Covenantal Worship

Simple– this is in distinction to the Old Testament pomp and circumstance.  Synagogue worship (upon which most early Christian worship was based) was simple.  The buildings were not extravagant, and the service was simple (not simplistic).  “New Covenant worship is preeminently worship in the Spirit, under the guidance of the Spirit, by the power of the Spirit (pp. 144).”  It is simple in that it is clearly understood, and reveals a progression in its parts that moves us from the presence of God to proclaim the message of grace to the world. 

 

Orderly– there is a structure to biblical worship.  Paul issues the command that worship be done “decently and in order” (1 Cor. 14:40) because God is a God of order.  Order is not to be mistaken for conformity.  Within the Created Order there is a great diversity of plants, animals, environments, sights, smells, tastes and… people.  Structure provides the boundaries for the exercise of creativity.  It does not stifle creativity, but prevents it from being chaotic.  As a result, our worship should be thoughtful (in preparation and execution).

 

Free– the conscience of the individual worshiper is guarded, so they are not coerced into participating in anything against their will.  People must not be chastised for not singing or participating in particular types of prayer.  Parents must not be forced to baptize their children.  Education and encouragement are not ruled out.  Leadership must also help them to not participate decently and in order.

 

Glorifies and Edifies– biblical worship must do both.  Congregations tend to gravitate toward one or the other.  God is the primary audience (though not the sole audience), and should be honored and glorified.  “Significantly, we serve a God who delights in blessing us (pp. 149).”  Those who faithfully worship will receive grace and encouragement.  Faith should expect this, but not make it the primary goal of worship.

The reality of community must be accounted for.  We do not worship as individuals, but as part of the Body of Christ.  “It is not enough that I am transformed by worship; I must also help to transform others, and I should allow other to be used by God to transform me (pp. 149).”

 

Catholic– as in universal (not Roman).  This means that “there must be a willingness to learn from others, a willingness to be taught by the entire breadth of the Christian tradition (pp. 151).”  As a result, the past is not to be totally discarded.  We can learn from the past, and incorporate some elements from the past.  The same can be said about the present.  “Worship that is catholic requires the willingness to hear the truth contained in other traditions, even when that truth has been obscured by non-biblical accretions (pp. 152).”

 

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(this is the second in a series on Covenantal Worship by R. J. Gore, pulled from my past.)

Argument Against the Puritan Regulative Principle

 

Gore argues that Jesus, our model, violated the Puritan Regulative Principle!  His argument is summarized here.

 

  1. Jesus regularly worshiped in the synagogue.   The origin of the synagogue is speculative (during the Babylonian captivity).  There is no command by God to form synagogues.  There are no directions as to how to carry out synagogue worship.  As a result, synagogue worship itself would violate the norms of the Regulative Principle (it is neither explicitly commanded, nor is the result of good and necessary inference).  However, Jesus regularly participated in the synagogue.  If it was sinful, Jesus would not do it.
  2. Jesus celebrated Chanukah.  John 10 tells us that Jesus went to the Feast of Dedication in Jerusalem.  This was the feast of dedication of the temple celebrating the victory of the Maccabees against the Greeks.  There is no biblical command to celebrate this feast (unless we include the Apocrypha), nor any good and necessary inference since this is the result of extra-biblical history.  To celebrate this feast would violate the Regulative Principle.  Jesus did celebrate it.  Therefore, it cannot be sinful. 

 

In light of the weakness of the Puritan view of the Regulative Principle, we must articulate a better principle for regulating the worship of God’s people.  The last section of Gore’s book is to lay out what he calls Covenantal Worship.  Here is what he means.

 

Covenantal Worship “implies responsibility and certainly provides no room for any notion of simple, mechanical conformity.  Indeed, the obligation of the covenant requires faithful, responsible, and intentional obedience to covenant precepts and principles (pp. 138).”  Covenantal Worship is an attempt to honor the Biblical commands concerning worship while offering freedom for those areas in which Scripture is silent.  This would actually be in keeping with the WCF 1.6 which reads “that there are some circumstances concerning the worship of God, … which are to be ordered by the light of nature and Christian prudence, according to the general rules of the Word, which are always to be observed.” 

In other words, Scripture tells us what to do, but does not tell us how to do it.  We are to sing, and make music to the Lord.  Scripture does not regulate which instruments may or may not be used, or which styles may or may not be used (if it did, our hymns would not meet that criteria since they are products of 16th-19th century European culture).  We are commanded to pray, but there is freedom concerning how we pray (prepared prayers, spontaneous prayers, silent prayers etc.)  We find Jesus using culturally understandable illustrations when he preached.  It may be appropriate to use culturally understandable illustrations such as film clips in the worship service.  “The covenantal principle of worship says that whatever is consistent with the Scriptures is acceptable in worship.  Here is where the major difference with the Puritan formula appears (pp. 140).”

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Seems that My Name is Earl is making a big impression on America.  The pop Bhuddist show is all about karma- thru the eyes of poor white trash.  And I am weary of hearing bloggers and reporters toss out the term.

I do believe in the God of providence.  There is a connection between reaping and sowing, though it is imperfect.  It is not impersonal forces that bring about what comes to pass, but God who works all things out according to His purpose.  Some might say, who cares about basketball.  A friend once asked that just before Kevin McHale improbably hit a 3 pointer to win a game.  McHale took about 3 in his career.

If not a sparrow falls apart from his will, neither does a ping-pong ball drop.  Where these men will live, and whom they will meet etc. are important matters.  They depend upon the drop of a ping-pong ball.

Karma is driven by a sense of justice.  Providence certainly includes justice.  But God determines what shall come to pass based on His wisdom, love, mercy, etc. as well. 

For fun, here is Bono on Karma vs. Grace:

Bono: You see, at the center of all religions is the idea of Karma. You know, what you put out comes back to you: an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, or in physics—in physical laws—every action is met by an equal or an opposite one. It’s clear to me that Karma is at the very heart of the universe. I’m absolutely sure of it. And yet, along comes this idea called Grace to upend all that “as you reap, so you will sow” stuff. Grace defies reason and logic. Love interrupts, if you like, the consequences of your actions, which in my case is very good news indeed, because I’ve done a lot of stupid stuff.

Assayas: I’d be interested to hear that.

Bono: That’s between me and God. But I’d be in big trouble if Karma was going to finally be my judge. I’d be in deep s—. It doesn’t excuse my mistakes, but I’m holding out for Grace. I’m holding out that Jesus took my sins onto the Cross, because I know who I am, and I hope I don’t have to depend on my own religiosity.

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John Piper’s Don’t Waste Your Life is a great book.  And it makes a great gift for graduates (the gift edition w/DVD is an even better deal!).  Apparently I’m not the only one to think so.  I has just been recognized with the Gold Book Award from the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association for selling over 500,000 copies.  Sadly Christians buy many more copies of complete garbage.  This is one of the times people choose wisely.

Currently I’m wasting my life while my daughter watches Little Einsten.  My daughter knows all these words- because we actually talk to her.  She doesn’t watch much tv at all.  This morning she asked to watch it to see the kitty cat.  I need to get to the office and get work done.

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(I’ve been swamped, so I’m pulling stuff out of archives.  Enjoy!)

T0875525628he “world” of Presbyterian worship is in disarray.  There is no longer any such thing as “Presbyterian worship.”  Many congregations cling to a more traditional style of worship.  Others, particularly church plants, have embraced contemporary or modern worship styles.  Others have tried to balance them, blending the best of both (they hope). 

Being Presbyterians, we tend to think the way ‘we’ do things is the right way.  This has meant that various groups criticize one another.  One positive has been an increase in the discussion of the Regulative Principle and how it should and should not determine our worship practices.

R.J. Gore Jr., dean of Erskine Seminary, wrote Covenantal Worship: Reconsidering the Puritan Regulative Principle to facilitate our understanding of the principle and perhaps change the tone and direction of our discussion.  After tracing the history of the Puritan Regulative Principle as expressed in the Westminster Directory of Public Worship and the Westminster Confession of Faith, he examines Calvin’s view.  Gore then argues that the Principle as expressed by the Puritans is not in harmony with Scripture.  He develops the concept of what he calls “covenantal worship”.  This maintains the use of Scripture as the guide for worship, while allowing for greater latitude in “unclear” matters.

The Regulative Principle is found in the Westminster Confession of Faith and the Directory of Public Worship which have guided Presbyterians since the 17th century.  Before we see what the Confession says about worship, let us remember that the Confession itself reminds us that Scripture is the only authoritative rule for faith and practice.  If the Confession departs from the teaching of Scripture, we should not follow it at that point.

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Apparently yes.

1. Portland

2. Seattle

3. Atlanta (perennial lottery team)

4. Memphis

5. Boston

This was the lowest possible seeding for the Celtics.  I can’t remember anything like this happening.  The lottery is a big, stinking joke.  So… the Blazers who drafted Roy & Alderidge last year will get either Oden or Durant this year.  Unless they find a way to completely botch this, they should be contending for the next 10 years.

The Celtics?  Not contending.  They should have a playoff team next year.  But not a contender, unless they trade Pierce and #5 to get a top 2 (which won’t happen).  I …. am …. disgusted.

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There have been two positive developments for Rebecca St. James’ career.  First, she spent time at L’Abri.  Second, Tedd T. has been producing her work.  The first results in some more mature lyrics.  The second has a good corporate rock sound with some crunchy guitars. 

I haven’t purchased a Rebecca St. James album in years.  I went thru my chick rock phase in the late 90’s (I am ashamed to confess this) since I was weary of classic rock, not into grunge and the only station in Orlando playing anything remotely interesting to me was WSHE.  My sister-in-law sent If I Had One Chance to Tell You Something to CavWife.  And I enjoyed it (yes, I just lost serious cool points with some of the younger reformed evangelicals).  Perhaps it is where I am existentially.  Here is I Can Trust You, written when she was wrestling with God.  It sums up the pain of submission and trust when life makes no sense:

Yes, I know that You have paved a path for me

Yes, I know that You see what I do and don’t need

But when it comes to the deepest things

I have a hard time relinquishing control

Letting go

 

God, it hurts to give You what I must lay down

But when I let go, freedom’s found

God, it hurts to give You what I’ve held so dear

Because of Your love it’s clear

I can trust You with this

I can trust You with me

I can trust You.

 

Lord, I know that You are worthy of my trust

For You have shown me time and time again

You’re faithful and yet

I’m so scared of letting go of this

Afraid of what You might do with it

How could I forget who You are like this?

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(I originally wrote this in 1999/2000 or so.  I’m pulling out some old work that I found interesting)

I grew up watching professional wrestling.  It was a reflection of our nation’s experience.  The good guys reflected the oppressed groups in our nation (Chief Jay Strongbow, Pedro Morales, Ivan “Polish Power” Putski), or our allies.  The bad guys were from our political enemies (the Iron Sheik, Nikita Koloff), or deranged lunatics (George “the Animal” Steele).  The good guys were actually good.  They tried valiently to wrestle by the rules and display good sportsmanship.  But the bad guys were really bad, breaking all of the rules and eventually provoking the good guys to take matters into their own hands because the ref usually missed the infractions or was powerless to do anything about it.

It was a morality play, pure and simple, teaching us that sometimes good people are forced to fight fire with fire, but only if provoked.  The US saw itself as the good guy forced to take action to counteract plots by the Communists or dictators because the UN refused to act.  On an individual level, most Americans were seen as basically good, law abiding citizens who could strike back if provoked.  We tried to do the right thing, but those darn bad guys made life tough for us.           

“It’s the morality play of the 90’s” declared wrestler “Chris Jericho” on an ESPN special.  He spoke the truth.  In the 90’s there are no longer good guys in wrestling.  There are only not-so-bad guys.  Everything has turned to shades of grey instead of being black and white.  People cheer according to charisma, theme music, alliance or success.  If a wrestler is successful, he is worthy of a following.           

This is the epitome of post-modern, and post-Christian (though modernity and Christianity are not the same), ethics.  The point is gaining power.  Those in power have free reign to do as they please.  If you can outwit those above you, you are to be cheered.  We only boo the horrible authority which tries to oppress the freedom of the individual to make his/her own way.  Success is all that matters.  If a President is successful, he is worthy of a following regardless of his personal and legal conduct.  Charles “Please Quote Me” Barkley has made it known, “I am not a role model”.  He rightly points to parents and teachers, but refuses to accept personal responsibility for being a good citizen.  That’s for “other people”.  Celebrities are somehow exempt from moral standards, even if they are parents and teachers (politicians or pastors).           

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I feel like I’ve been reading Faithfulness and Holiness for a lifetime.  I usually read a book more quickly, but taking on the church history instruction made my reading grind to a near halt.  I had brain gridlock.  So, this is no reflection on the book, but merely my circumstances.  I am assured of God’s love for me, despite feeling like a complete slacker.

The final chapter in J.C. Ryle’s book is Assurance.  This is a much mis-understood doctrine- at least by those who deny it.  Ryle begins by discussing this, and the charge of presumption.  If our assurance were based on our performance, that charge would be true (the Council of Trent therefore calls it a ‘prime error of heretics’).  But assurance is based on the completeness of Jesus’ work on our behalf, which we partake of with even the least faith.

“There never yet was a Scriptural truth without abuses and counterfeits.  God’s election- man’s impotence- salvation by grace- all are alike abused.  There will be fanatics and enthusiasts as long as the world stands.  But, for all this, assurance is a reality and a true thing; and God’s children must not let themselves be driving from the use of a truth, merely because it is abused.”  Ryle then goes on to give lots of Scripture that points to the reality of assurance for the believer.  The point being, we lean upon Jesus our Mediator, and God’s Word. 

However, a “believer may never arrive at this assured hope, which Paul expresses, and yet be saved.”  It is not necessary to have assurance of salvation to actually be saved.  Many Christians have struggled with doubts and depression.  However, there hope is in Christ and they are saved.  Assurance is not infallible.  Nor is it a test of salvation.  “Faith, let us remember, is the root, and assurance is the flower.”  The root can be present, and lively, even if there is no flower to show it.

Why should we desire assurance?  First, it grants us some peace and comfort about our spiritual condition.  It helps us to stand firm under trial and loss.  It removes the fear of abandonment in the midst of great suffering.  This is no small thing (written as one experiencing trial at this time).

Second, it “tends to make a Christian and active working Christian.”  Assurance provides us with the safety to act, not the luxury of leisure.  We act because we believe we have new life, not to earn or maintain new life.  A Christian without assurance tends to become preoccupied with introspection.  This makes with a very unproductive, and counterproductive Christian life.  Such a person is often paralyzed.

Third, it makes a Christian a “decided Christian”.  I think decisive might be a better word choice today.  Lack of assurance creates a great deal of uncertainty and instability in our pursuit of God. 

Fourth, it tends to make the holiest Christians.  “He that is freely forgiven by Christ will always do much for Christ’s glory, and he that enjoys the fullest assurance of this forgiveness will ordinarily keep up the closest walk with God.”  Think the forgiven prostitute versus Simon the Pharisee.  They prize their assurance, and keep a close watch on their own hearts as a result.

“Now, has it never struck you that your neglect of assurance may possibly be the main secret of all your failures- that the low measure of faith which satisfies you may be the cause of your low degree of peace?” 

Why is assurance so seldom attained?  First, a defective view of justification.  People think it some combination of Christ’s work and their own.  It is all Christ’s- his active & passive obedience.  He completely obeyed the law & He endured God’s wrath as our substitute.  We affirm “simul justus et peccator”- at the same time we are just and sinners.  We are justified sinners (Romans 3-5). 

Second, we are slothful in seeking growth in grace.  We misunderstand assurance as an opportunity to be spiritual slackers.  Not seeing progress in sanctification, we certainly lack assurance.

Third, we are inconsistent in our walk.  We vary in our pursuit of Christ by faith.  This inconsistency destroys a peaceful conscience. 

I found this to be a sound & encouraging book.  I hope it won’t take you quite so long to read as it took me- may your circumstances be different.  Click the link, buy, read and apply to the glory of God.

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Sunday Sounds


Actually, this happened on Saturday.  But…

One of our family “traditions” is to have family breakfast on Saturdays.  Often, while cooking breakfast, I’ll crank up some music.  I’ll often dance with the CavChild.  This weekend, I had a hankering for some old Deep Purple.  So, my daughter got her first Deep Purple experience.  CavWife would say she was ‘subjected’ to Deep Purple.  CavWife doesn’t “get it” and found them obnoxious.

Made in Japan has long been a favorite of mine, filled with those early 70’s self-indulgent solos I love.  The early Deep Purple lyrics had remnants of a biblical worldview.  Strange Kind of Woman uses the terminology for a prostitute found in Proverbs 5 (the strange or foreign woman).  Lazy sounds like it was ripped from Proverbs again, talking about the sluggard.  The Mule talks about becoming a fool because he listened to the Mule (Satan).

Hopefully I did not damage my daughter by exposing her to this classic live album from a classic band.

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Objective: To equip God’s people to expand God’s kingdom through shepherding and discipleship. 

Pastoral Skills

• Stabilizing a congregation after a bitter split, allowing the wounds to heal.

• Restarting the congregation in a more visible, accessible location for growth.

• Building a foundation of biblical & theological knowledge that also focused on life change.

• Creating discipleship curriculum to mature and equip members.

• Spearheading the transformation of our worship.

• Organizing and leading two one-week mission trips to Mexico City.

• Mentoring and supervising a pastoral intern. 

Relevant Experience

Pastor   Good Shepherd ARP              Winter Haven, FL          1998-2004                       

Restarted as Cornerstone Community Church        2005-Present

Committee Chair   Minister and His Work    Florida Presbytery (ARP)  2003- Present

Committee Member Minister and His Work    Florida Presbytery (ARP)   2001-2003

Committee Chair    Stewardship                    Florida Presbytery (ARP)    2001-2003

Member                 Presbytery Council          Florida Presbytery (ARP)    2001-Present

Pastoral Intern      Hope ARP                     Lakeland, FL                       1998

Resource Consultant   Ligonier Ministries     Lake Mary, FL                   1995-1998

Desk Attendant      Orlando Union Rescue Mission       Orlando, FL         1992-1995

Production Operator   Xerox Business Services            Waltham, MA    1989-1991 

Education and Training

Reformed Theological Seminary (Orlando)            Masters of Divinity       1994

Reformed Theological Seminary (Orlando)            MA in Counseling        1999

Boston University              BA in Economics w/minor in Business             1988

World Harvest Missions                                  Sonship Conference          2002

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Take a Guess


What type of web site will this lead you to:

www.jeanswelcome.com

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(This is the 3rd in a series on Open Theism)

Review and Summary

Pardon my polemics as I sum this up.  The god that Open Theism offers you and me is a diminished deity.  Much of his power and glory have been sacrificed at the altar of human pride.  People want genuine human freedom; a freedom from God’s control.  They strip him of sovereignty so he resembles rabbi Harold Kushner’s very good but essentially powerless deity.  This is the god who can’t help you very much.  This is the god who can’t really keep his promises because he cannot control all of the factors necessary to keeping his promises.  This god might not be able to save you.  You will get a warm fuzzy because he loves you, but this is a teddy bear against the things that terrify you by night.  This god’s will is altered by prayer, but he can’t necessarily fulfill his will.  The god Open Theism offers in clearly not the God of the Bible.  Therefore he is not a God worth worshipping.

The God who presents Himself in the Bible is one who rules nature.  He rules all of creation.  He is the One who knows the end from the beginning.  He is the One who works out everything according to His purpose.  He is the One who chose who would be saved by Christ before the creation.  He possesses a freedom far greater than ours.  He involves Himself in the affairs of life to accomplish those purposes.  He is actively engaged with us, but is not at our mercy.

I hope that we don’t have to learn this the hard way, as Nebuchadnezzar did.  In his arrogance he exalted himself.  God opposed and humbled him.  When he came to his senses he declared that no one can thwart God’s will (Daniel 4:34-35).  If we continue to exalt ourselves (particularly at His expense), God will oppose and humble even His church.  To embrace this doctrine is to place ourselves under God’s curse.  Indeed, “no one can deliver us from His hand”.

 For More Study:

God at War: The Bible and Spiritual Conflict.  Gregory Boyd (IV Press)

God of the Possible.  Gregory Boyd (Baker Books)

God’s Lesser Glory: The Diminished God of Open Theism.  Bruce Ware (Crossway Books)

No Other God: A Response to Open Theism by John Frame (P&R Publishing)

The Case of Freewill Theism: A Philosophical Assessment.  David Basinger (IV Press)

The God Who Risks: A Theology of Providence.  John Sanders (IV Press)

The Openness of God: A Biblical Challenge to the Traditional Understanding of God.  Pinnock, Rice, Sanders, Hasker and Basinger (IV Press)

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