Saturday, October 31, 2009

Missions rummage sale

This weekend, our church is hosting a rummage sale to raise money for missions. Every penny will go to support global missions and disaster relief. It's been such a blessing to watch the Body of Christ come together and support the Great Commission.

The rummage sale idea began to take shape a few months ago. I remember meeting with our missions committee to discuss different fund-raising ideas. I felt burdened that we needed to do something this fall to help our International Missions Board get families on the field who are ready and just waiting for support.

We tossed around a lot of fund-raising ideas like bake sales, car washes, and sponsorships, then finally agreed a rummage sale would probably be best. It involves no overhead costs and has allowed us to tap into an income pool outside our own church. As an added benefit, it has drawn many unchurched people to set foot in our sanctuary, thus raising awareness and making initial contact with our church. (Plus, it's given some of us an excuse to clean out our closets!)

Today is the second day of our sale. Praise the Lord, we've already raised $800, and would be thrilled if we could break a thousand. There will be a lot of clean up needed this afternoon to get the sanctuary back in order and ready for worship tomorrow morning, but all the labor has been worth it if more people around the world are hearing the good news of Jesus Christ.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Moral tailspin

Al Mohler writes an alarming piece today on the "Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act" that President Obama signed into law yesterday.
The bill, named for two men killed in vicious attacks, extends the definition of federal hates crimes to include attacks “based on a person’s race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or mental or physical disability."
What sounds good on the surface is actually one more step toward eliminating all moral and sexual boundaries in society. If God does not send revival soon through our nation, we may be seeing only the beginning stages of moral decay. This new hate crimes law is another tumble down the slippery slope. Mohler observes,
The logic that leads to the celebration of gay, lesbian, and bisexual relationships cannot stop with those sexual categories. In an age that elevates “consent” as the only meaningful moral and legal issue, any effort to refuse similar recognition to any consensual sexual relationship, lifestyle, or practice is doomed to eventual failure. It is all just a matter of time.
Think polygamy, incest, polyamory, and bestiality, just to name a few. Who has any "right" to say any of these are wrong if parties consent? Such a hate crimes law is bound to affect what children's textbooks will teach; what lifestyles TV and advertising will present as normative; what churches and pastors can legally say, etc. We are in a moral tailspin. And this is precisely the decline and judgment promised by God in Romans 1.

For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error. And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper... (Romans 1:25-28)

How should Christians respond to people with "degrading passions" and a "depraved mind"? Certainly, the answer is not to spew anger and threaten violence. It's so sad that a "hate crimes act" is even deemed necessary. Hate will never draw a person to Christ.

We must speak the truth in a context of love (Eph. 4:15). Gays, lesbians, and bisexuals, like all other sinners, are tasting the bitterness of sin and are being held captive by its will (Acts 8:23). Through our words and actions we need to show compassion and convey the gospel -- that all of us are sinners who can be saved by grace.

We are not here to "judge" sinners, if by "judge" we mean condemning or persecuting them for their immoral thoughts and behavior. We should show others the same patience God has shown us. But God's patience should not be misunderstood as tacit approval of immoral behavior. His patience is temporary, and it is for the purpose of repentance.
The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9)
We should be patient and loving toward those with degrading passions, calling them to repentance and forgiveness, while celebrating a biblical view of sexuality (Heb. 13:4), and avoiding laws that will endorse immorality.

While it is never right to commit a hate crime toward someone with a different gender, religion, ethnicity, or "sexual orientation," this law is built on a false premise and is a dangerous step in the wrong direction.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Protestant Reformation

410px-Martin_Luther_by_Lucas_Cranach_der_Ältere Everyone knows that October 31 is Halloween, but there’s another, much more significant holiday that takes place on the 31st also. It’s Reformation Day, in memory of Luther’s posting his 95 theses against the Catholic church on October 31, 1517.

Last Sunday, known as Reformation Sunday, our church learned about the history of the Protestant Reformation and its significance for us today.

  • Problems with the church. Things looked pretty bleak by the beginning of the 16th century. The church suffered from serious doctrinal error, superstition, corruption of leaders, and ignorance of lay people. One pope, Alexander VI, was notorious for skipping worship services, mutilating a priest, setting houses on fire, committing homicide, adultery, and rape, drinking to the health of the devil, and turning the papal palace into a brothel. No wonder these were called the Dark Ages.
  • Major Reformers. This included men like the converted monk Martin Luther (1483-1546), the Swiss reformer Huldreich Zwingli (1484-1531), and the brilliant theologian John Calvin (1509-1564). God raised up each of these men “for such a time as this” to draw people back to the Word of God and bring reform that continues to impact us today.
  • Main Protestant Doctrines. Five doctrines stand out as the banner cries of the Reformation: sola Scriptura (Scripture alone), sola fide (faith alone), sola gratia (grace alone), sola christus (Christ alone), and soli deo gloria (glory to God alone). Each of these stand at the very heart of the Gospel we cherish and defend.

Questions for thought and discussion:

  • According to Ephesians 5:25-27, what is Christ’s purpose for His bride, the church?
  • Is Christianity is in need of another “Reformation” today? Why or why not?
  • Singing songs, praying to God, and reading the Bible in our own language are all blessings of the Reformation. Am I taking full advantage of these forms of worship?
  • While I may never have the global influence of a Reformer, what has God called me to do? How can I pray, give, teach, serve, etc. to make an eternal impact in someone’s life?
  • What are the greatest threats to the Gospel today? Am I faithfully guarding what has been entrusted to me? (1 Tim. 6:20-21)

Sunday’s message has been uploaded to our podcast site and is now available for free download.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Supporting the GCR Task Force

Last night at our annual meeting, the Inland Empire Southern Baptist Association unanimously adopted a resolution to pray for the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force and its work; to pray for an outpouring of God's Spirit in reviving churches; and to recommit ourselves to the comprehensive work of making disciples according to the Great Commission.

It was a joyful moment that made me thankful and proud to be part of our association.

While we don't know what recommendations the Task Force will bring to Orlando next summer, I expect they will be truly bold and innovative. Still in the research phase of their discussion, Dr. Danny Akin has penned a number of helpful articles to dispel some of the more popular "Task Force myths." He concluded his series this morning. Here are links to all the articles:
Akin concludes his series by saying,
One more time the bottom-line is simply this: the nations need to hear the gospel. Without it they are eternally lost. We have the gospel and God has graced us with the personnel and resources to get the good news of Jesus to them. The question we all must ask and answer is this: what will I do to see this happen? Let’s not live wasted lives. Let’s not be a wasted Convention of churches. Jesus deserves better. Those who have never heard the gospel deserve better. I believe, by God’s grace, we can step up and be better. Dear Lord, please make it happen!
Related Posts:

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Breaking free from sexual sin

Tim Challies is writing this week on pornography and sexual sin. Excellent counsel so far. Here's an excerpt...
Every Christian guy who looks at porn wants to stop, but many of them want to stop just a little bit less than they want to keep going. And so sin prevails. The only way you will stop is if you begin to see the monstrous nature of the sin you are committing.
And then, this advice which I totally affirm:
If you truly want to overcome pornography, go to your pastor. There is not a pastor in America who is not helping someone deal with the fight against pornography (says I with only a small measure of hyperbole). Take your willingness to talk to somebody about your problem as a sign that you are actually, finally, willing to deal with it. The local church is the ideal context for battling this kind of sin since in the local church you will find the authority and the support to help you fight and, ultimately, to help you win. If you want to overcome pornography, truly overcome it, you will be willing to humble yourself and talk to someone about it.
You can read the whole thing here.

Related post:

Friday, October 23, 2009

An unforgettable meal

Christ’s appearances after the resurrection strengthen our faith and also help us understand His new role in the life of the Church. In John 21:1-14, Jesus appears to His disciples along the Sea of Galilee, performs a miracle, and then shares a meal with them. It’s a fascinating story that teaches us three things:

  1. A proof that Jesus is alive. This is the third time Jesus appears to His disciples after rising from the dead. Jesus did not appear once or twice, but many times, to many people, showing many convincing proofs that He was really, truly alive in the flesh (1 Cor. 15:3-8; Ac. 1:3; Ac. 10:40-41). The resurrection of Jesus is at the very core of the gospel and is what makes Christianity unique from all other religions. It is what gives us the hope that Mary Jo (a dear member of our church who just passed away) is now in heaven with the Lord, and that we will all one day rise up together with new bodies, free from sin and defect.
  2. A promise that Jesus will provide. As Jesus had done once before early in His ministry (Lk. 5:1-10), He once again causes a huge number of fish to swarm into the net. It was a vivid way for God to promise He would continue to provide for His disciples, even after Jesus ascended back into heaven! (cf. Phil. 4:19)
  3. A picture that Jesus is tender. Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances can seem pretty strange at first. He appears suddenly in a room with the disciples, but then is gone. He walks incognito with two disciples toward Emmaus, but then He vanishes. Revelation 1 describes His eyes like a flame of fire, and a voice like many waters. These accounts should not frighten us or lead us to think He has become distant or unreliable. Sharing breakfast with His disciples reminds us that Jesus is still full of love, tenderness, and meekness toward His disciples. He has a ‘holy tenderness.’ He cares for us as our Good Shepherd, and prays always for us as the Great High Priest (John 10:3, 14-15, 28; Heb. 7:25).

Questions for thought and discussion:

  • How can I know for sure Jesus is alive?
  • Why is the resurrection so foundational to our faith?
  • What is a fear or need I have right now?
  • How can this passage help me?
  • Do I need to re-evaluate some of the ‘needs’ in my life and admit they are actually just ‘wants’?
  • Am I exploring all the different ways God might be offering to meet my needs?
  • What does it mean that Jesus has a ‘holy tenderness’?
  • What should we expect Christ to be like in heaven? Does this make me excited to go there?

Sunday’s sermon will be uploaded soon to our podcast site for free download.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Care packages for soldiers

Freedom comes at a price, and we need to remind our service members often how thankful we are for the job they're doing.

One small way to honor them is by sending a care package. And with Thanksgiving and Christmas just around the corner, there's no better time to share a little taste of home and let them know how much they're loved.

Maybe you'd like to send a care package, but aren't sure what to send. One Marine's View shares a list of items that will most benefit our troops on the ground.
These are a few items that will give us the biggest bang for the buck vs. sending this and that. I can tell you from receiving all kinds of things, it's better you know WHAT we really need instead of sending things that may seem good to have vs. need to have.
See the whole list here.

Photo credit: DVIDSHUB

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Discussing the Great Commission Resurgence

Southern Seminary will host a very interesting discussion panel on the GCR at 10 am EST (7 am PST) tomorrow morning. You can listen along here.

Below are details from the Baptist 21 blog:
On Thursday October 22nd at 10:00 am, Southern Seminary will be hosting a panel discussion titled “Southern Baptists and the Great Commission Resurgence” during chapel. At the request of Dr. Albert Mohler, Baptist21’s very own Jonathan Akin and Nick Moore will be on the panel representing younger pastors in the SBC. Other panelists include Dr. Chuck Lawless, Dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions and Evangelism at Southern and Dr. Russell Moore, Senior Vice President for Academic Administration and Dean of the School of Theology at Southern. Dr. Mohler will be moderating the panel discussion.

We want to encourage every pastor and seminary student who is in the Louisville area to make this chapel service a priority. For those of you who cannot attend, you can live stream the Southern Chapel services at Jon and Nick, along with the rest of the panel will address important issues about the future of the Southern Baptist Convention. We are grateful to Dr. Mohler for allowing us to be apart of the conversation, and our hope is that in a small way this panel will further the conversation about change within the SBC. Please pray for the panelists and ask God to grant them grace and wisdom.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Eschatology of the early church fathers

Pastor David Squyres asked a great question in response to last Friday's post on premillennialism:

"Do you think this is a view the Church fathers held? I ask because it seems relatively new to me, and would help if I could see it in a more historic sense."

The early church fathers did not all hold to one millennial position. Their theology of last things, like every other area of theology, was in infancy and still developing. Though the coming return and judgment of Christ were clearly defined in the early creeds, no specific mention was made of the millennium. However, it is very interesting to note how "premillennialism" developed and then declined in the first few centuries. These men were much closer to the ministry of Christ and the apostles, and were experts in the Greek language, so their testimony should not be dismissed lightly.

Church historian Philip Schaff observes:
The most striking point in the eschatology of the ante-Nicene age [i.e. the era prior to the Council of Nicea in AD 325] is the prominent chiliasm, or millennarianism, that is the belief of a visible reign of Christ in glory on earth with the risen saints for a thousand years, before the general resurrection and judgment. It was indeed not the doctrine of the church embodied in any creed or form of devotion, but a widely current opinion of distinguished teachers, such as Barnabas, Papias, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Tertullian, Methodius, and Lactantius; while Caius, Origen, Dionysius the Great, Eusebius (as afterwards Jerome and Augustin) opposed it...

...the crushing blow [against chiliasm] came from the great change in the social condition and prospects of the church in the Nicene age. After Christianity, contrary to all expectation, triumphed in the Roman empire, and was embraced by the Caesars themselves, the millennial reign, instead of being anxiously waited and prayed for, began to be dated either from the first appearance of Christ, or from the conversion of Constantine and the downfall of paganism, and to be regarded as realized in the glory of the dominant imperial state-church. Augustin, who himself had formerly entertained chiliastic hopes, framed the new theory which reflected the social change, and was generally accepted. The apocalyptic millennium he understood to be the present reign of Christ in the Catholic church, and the first resurrection, the translation of the martyrs and saints to heaven, where they participate in Christ’s reign. (Philip Schaff and David Schley Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Chapter XII, Section 158. Logos users can view here).

Monday, October 19, 2009

Worship wars

Ed Stetzer has a must-read article on worship. Here's an excerpt:
In many churches where a worship war is brewing or is in outright conflict, one group perceives themselves to be pushing forward toward the next generation (relevance) while another is trying to pull back to a once-honored method (reverence). One group thinks contemporary music or a more casual style will suit the modern generation and appeal more to the lost. Meanwhile the other group thinks all of that is just worldly compromise and, furthermore, arrogant to casually dismiss the styles that have served the church well, in some cases, for hundreds of years.

When either of these scenarios occurs it is usually because we have elevated our preferences to the level of principles. We are "taking a stand" for something important: our own comfort, convenience, and concerns. And all the while we're trying to give God his due or the lost people in the pew it turns out we're really just making worship about us.
He calls for both sides to do a heart check. You can read the whole thing here.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Why I'm pre-millenial

While many friends and most Reformed scholars today hold to the amillennial view of eschatology, I continue to find the dispensational premillennial position most attractive and convincing.

Here's an excellent summary of premillennialism and why it is to be preferred over other views:
Premillennialism is the view that Jesus Christ will return to this present earth prior to the establishing of His millennial kingdom. Jesus will reign supreme in power and great glory and will be the object of worship for all mankind. The kingdom will be on an earth where the curse has been removed and where righteousness, peace, and prosperity are universal. Prior to the millennial kingdom there will be a resurrection of believers, and following the kingdom there will be a resurrection of unbelievers. The primary purpose of this period of time is to fulfill completely the covenant promises made to Abraham and his descendants. When this kingdom is over, the next phase of God's kingdom, the eternal state on a new earth, will commence.

The premillennial position is based squarely on a consistent, literal hermeneutic. A literal approach to the prophetic Scriptures leads one to believe that the promises made to Israel have not been fulfilled in the past and are not being fulfilled today. This mandates that they be fulfilled sometime in the future to national Israel, which means that the nation of Israel and the church of Jesus Christ must be kept distinct. This contrast between Israel and the church is a key to the premillennial position, and it is one of the primary ones that sets it apart from other systems of theology. (Paul Benware, Understanding End Times Prophecy, 100-101).
It's unfortunate that the sensationalism of some pre-millennialists (setting dates, ranting about the rapture and tribulation, endless speculation about the mark of the beast) has caused Christians to "throw out the baby with the bathwater," returning to an Augustinian eschatology that spiritualizes God's promises, misunderstands Christ's present fulfillment, and replaces Israel with the church.

I'm not interested in dueling with other Christians over this issue. It is not a hill to die on. I have much more in common with my Reformed brothers than I have in disagreement. But I do believe many Christians are depriving themselves of a truthful hope because of their misunderstanding of eschatology. I'm doing my best to keep an open mind, but the more I search the Scriptures, the more I favor premillennialism.

Related post:

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Factors in a church facility

Mark Driscoll recently finished a series of posts on 23 factors that church planters should consider when finding a church facility.

Many of these factors are important not only for new church planters, but also for established churches with existing facilities...
  1. Sight
  2. Time Flexibility
  3. Set-up and Tear-down
  4. Smell
  5. Comfort
  6. Lighting
  7. Acoustics
  8. Power
  9. Location
  10. Children's Space
  11. Room for Fellowship
  12. Cost
  13. Storage
  14. Public Perception
  15. Parking
  16. Additional Space
  17. Additional Use
  18. Cleanliness
  19. Accessibility
  20. Signage
  21. Conflicting Dates
  22. Contract Length
  23. Facility Options
Where is your facility the strongest? Weakest? Are there any glaring problems? Easy fixes? Not every improvement has to be a multi-million dollar renovation. Some of these factors can be radically improved with a simple change in lighting, paint, greenery, decor, fixtures, furniture arrangement, or room assignments.

We all need to continually ask how we can make our facilities welcoming to visitors and conducive for worship and fellowship. No space will be ideal. There will almost always both positives and negatives to any building. But Driscoll raises some excellent thoughts on an issue we often overlook.

You can download all four of Driscoll's posts here as one pdf article.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Purpose of John's Gospel

After spending two and a half years in the Gospel of John, I feel something of a bittersweet emotion nearing the end of the book. I hope for our people that as we have traveled along verse-by-verse and chapter-by-chapter, that it has increased our love for John's Gospel, but more importantly, that it has increased our love for Jesus Christ, who is the focus of the book.

I believe there is great value in studying the Word of God carefully, line upon line and precept upon precept. But there's also a danger of "staring at the trees and missing the forest."

In John 20:30-31, John helps us get the "big picture" of his Gospel, finally explaining why he wrote the book. We saw four points as we studied it together last Sunday:
  1. John's Gospel is a record of signs. There is no way he could have recorded them all (Jn. 21:24-25), so John hand-picked seven of them and arranged the first half of his gospel around them: turning water into wine (Jn. 2:1-12); healing the nobleman's son from a great distance (Jn. 4:46-54); healing the man who had been paralyzed for 38 years along the Pool of Bethesda (Jn. 5:1-17); feeding over 5,000 people (Jn. 6:1-14); walking on water (Jn. 6:16-21); healing a man blind from birth (Jn. 9:1-34); and raising Lazarus from the dead (Jn. 11). Every one of these was astounding. And the pinnacle of them all was Christ's own resurrection in John 20. What were these signs for?
  2. The purpose of a sign is to point you to something. In this case, to Jesus Christ. A sign is a marker, a proof, an authenticating work. Jesus made seven bold "I AM" statements in the Gospel of John: I am the Bread of Life (Jn. 6:35); the Light of the World (Jn. 8:12); the Door (Jn. 10:7-9); the Good Shepherd (Jn. 10:11, 14); the Resurrection and the Life (Jn. 11:25); the Way, the Truth, and the Life (Jn. 14:6); the True Vine (Jn. 15:1, 5). Every one of these was a bold and exclusive claim that Jesus was equal with Yahweh, the Great "I AM" of the Old Testament (Exodus 3:14). What proof did Jesus give? In addition to His own testimony (Jn. 5:31-32), Jesus called forward four other witnesses: John the Baptist (Jn. 5:33-35), Jesus' miraculous works or "signs" (Jn. 5:36), the verbal testimony of God the Father (Jn. 5:37-38), and finally, the Old Testament Scriptures themselves (Jn. 5:39-40). What more proof could Jesus have given? The evidence is overwhelming that He is truly the Messiah, the Son of God. The only reasonable thing to do is believe.
  3. The result of these signs should be faith. This is not a mere intellectual assent, but a complete trust, a total surrender. It is pictured in a variety of ways throughout the Gospel (drinking of the water He gives, eating His flesh and drinking His blood, entering through the door, etc.). Everyone must make a choice. Either you choose to believe in Jesus, or you choose to reject Him (Jn. 3:36). There is no middle ground. Not choosing to believe is actually choosing not to believe.
  4. The result of true faith will be eternal life. By trusting in Jesus, we can have eternal life (Jn. 3:15-16; 20:31). What a promise! This is John's desire for every reader of His gospel. He has written primarily that unbelievers will put their trust in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and receive the free gift of eternal life.
Questions for Thought and Discussion:
  • Do you believe Jesus is the Christ (the Messiah, Anointed One)?
  • Do you believe Jesus is the Son of God (making Him equal with God, according to Jn. 5:18)?
  • Are you living as though these statements are true? James tells us that faith without works is dead and useless, and will not save anyone (James 2:17-24)
  • According to John 20:31, what is the result of genuine faith in Jesus Christ?
  • How should this comfort us as Christians?
  • Are you inviting and calling others to believe in Jesus?
  • How does the world view Jesus today?
  • How does this contrast with John's testimony?
  • Give a one sentence summary in your own words of John's Gospel
  • What is one key lesson you have learned in our study of this Gospel?
Sunday's sermon has been uploaded to our podcast site and is available for free download. I apologize for the audio cutting in and out during the message. We will try to resolve this problem before next week.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Jump, I'll catch you

Here's a beautiful picture of faith, from a sermon by John Piper...
Your daddy is standing in a swimming pool out a little bit from the edge. You are, let’s say, three years old and standing on the edge of the pool. Daddy holds out his arms to you and says, “Jump, I’ll catch you. I promise.” Now, how do you make your daddy look good at that moment? Answer: trust him and jump. Have faith in him and jump. That makes him look strong and wise and loving. But if you won’t jump, if you shake your head and run away from the edge, you make your daddy look bad. It looks like you are saying, “he can’t catch me” or “he won’t catch me” or “it’s not a good idea to do what he tells me to do.” And all three of those make your dad look bad.

But you don’t want to make God look bad. So you trust him. Then you make him look good–which he really is. And that is what we mean when we say, “Faith glorifies God” or “Faith gives God glory.” It makes him look as good as he really is. So trusting God is really important.

And the harder it seems for him to fulfill his promise, the better he looks when you trust him. Suppose that you are at the deep end of a pool by the diving board. You are four years old and can’t swim, and your daddy is at the other end of the pool. Suddenly a big, mean dog crawls under the fence and shows his teeth and growls at you and starts coming toward you to bite you. You crawl up on the diving board and walk toward the end to get away from him. The dog puts his front paws up on the diving board. Just then, your daddy sees what’s happening and calls out, “Johnny, jump in the water. I’ll get you.”

Now, you have never jumped from one meter high and you can’t swim and your daddy is not underneath you and this water is way over your head. How do you make your daddy look good in that moment? You jump. And almost as soon as you hit the water, you feel his hands under your arms and he treads water holding you safely while someone chases the dog away. Then he takes you to the side of the pool.

We give glory to God when we trust him to do what he has promised to do–especially when all human possibilities are exhausted. Faith glorifies God. That is why God planned for faith to be the way we are justified.
HT: Justin Taylor

Monday, October 12, 2009

10 ways to cultivate fellowship

Donald Whitney shares ten ways to cultivate fellowship (Greek koinonia) in your conversations with other Christians. These are great questions to get beyond the superficial and really take an interest in other people.
  1. How is your ministry going? What do you enjoy most about it?
  2. Where have you seen the Lord at work lately?
  3. What's the Lord been teaching you recently?
  4. Have you had any evangelistic opportunities lately?
  5. Have you had any obvious answers to prayer recently?
  6. What have you been reading? How has it impressed you?
  7. Where in the Bible have you been reading lately? What impact has it had on you?
  8. How can I pray for you?
  9. What's the growth point in your life right now?
  10. What are you passionate about right now?
Read the whole thing here.

Friday, October 9, 2009

2009 CSBC Pastors Conference

This year's Pastors Conference for the California Southern Baptist Convention will be Monday and Tuesday, November 9-10. From early information I'm hearing, I think this year's conference will be the best yet. Here's the itinerary:

First Session - Monday, November 9, 2009
The People of God: Defined and Engaged

6:45 pm MusicFBC Norco Music Team

7:00 pm Opening Prayer, WelcomeJeff Mooney

7:05 pm The People of God:

A Theologically Defined Worshipping Community
Mark Dever
Senior Pastor Capitol Hill Baptist Church
and Founder of 9 Marks Ministries
7:45 pm Break

7:50 pm The People of God and the Mission of God:
Engaged against Oppression
Larry Martin,
Senior Vice President of Education & Dean of the IJM Institute

8:35 pm MusicFBC Norco Music Team

8:45 pm The People of God and the Mission of God:
The Supremacy of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the Nations
Jeff Lewis
Assistant Professor of Intercultural Studies

9:30 pm Closing Jeff Mooney

Second Session - Tuesday, November 10, 2009
The People of God: Defined and Engaged

8:45 am MusicFBC Norco Music Team

9:00 am The Persecuted People of God
Tom Wright
President, Voice of the Martyrs

9:45 am Break

10:00 am Election of Officers

10:15 am Round Table discussion

11:00 am Special Music CBU Small Group

11:15 am Closing Session

The 2009 Conference will be located at Magnolia Avenue Baptist Church in Riverside. For more information, you can visit the conference website and blog, and also become a Facebook fan.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Is it really OK to look?

So, I clicked on this morning to check the sports headlines when suddenly **BAM** I was hit with a photo of a male and two female athletes, apparently in the buff with legs and arms cleverly positioned. The photo caption:

"It's OK to look: A lifetime of athletic ambition makes some bodies better than others. See for yourselves."

Apparently, this is a preview for the "Body Issue" of ESPN Magazine (presumably their alternative to the annual "Swimsuit Issue" in Sports Illustrated).

So is it really OK to look and admire these sleek, ripped, and oiled bodies? It's no accident that two athletes in the cover photo were female, despite the fact that most sporting events on TV feature male athletes. My flesh wanted to look, but my spirit (conscience) was screaming out, "Whoa, hold on there just a minute. This isn't cool. It's a lie. Don't even think about clicking on that link!"

I am reminded of the sermon I preached on sexual purity at last Saturday's Exposing the Heart men's conference. The world is sending a message loud and clear: "Come. Look. Enjoy. Drink your fill. Don't let anyone else stop you from being happy." Today's headline at ESPN only confirms this. But God sends a very different message of purity - for His glory and for our joy.

In Matthew 5:27-30, Jesus gives three dimensions to sexual purity:

1. The External (Matt. 5:27). Quoting from the Ten Commandments, Jesus reminds us of God's command "You shall not commit adultery." Sex is not bad in itself. After all, God invented it. Satan can only twist and distort it. But God created clear sexual boundaries for our protection and joy. As Hebrews 13:4 says, "Marriage is to be held in honor among all, and the marriage bed is to be undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers God will judge." Adultery is not merely an "affair" to be shrugged off and laughed at like David Letterman. It is a serious breaching of the marriage covenant, an offense that will be reckoned by the Holy Judge Himself.
2. The Internal (Matt. 5:28). As awful as adultery is, Jesus says there is a sin perhaps even more dangerous, because it is far more subtle. It is a sin we face every day: lust. Christian counselor Stuart Scott defines lust as "nothing more than evil desire looking for fulfillment. It is only looking for self-satisfaction … Lust is welcoming and continuing in the evil desires of the flesh, rather than resisting them and fleeing from them by turning to God and what is right.” ESPN says, "It's OK to look at these photos." Jesus says, "Looking is adultery of the heart." As difficult as it may be, we must fight every day not to look with lust. We must develop pure relationships (1 Tim. 5:2) and avoid every form of evil (1 Thess. 5:22). God's will for us is sanctification (1 Thess. 4:3).
3. The Eternal (Matt. 5:29-30). Jesus puts lust in perspective for us with a call to radical action. Searing your conscience and giving in to sin is a dangerous sign that you may not be saved. Sin may be pleasant for a while, but it only leads to death and eternal torment in hell. It doesn't deliver what it promises. Far better to give up your pet sin and change your lifestyle (alter your commute, cancel that subscription, cut off that relationship, miss that TV show, or whatever it takes) rather than stumble into sin and jeopardize your soul. Stop making excuses. Know your sin, and fight it to the death. Cast yourself on God's grace, and take extreme measures.

As Solomon said, "I have discovered more bitter than death the woman whose heart is snares and nets, whose hands are chains. One who is pleasing to God will escape from her, but the sinner will be captured by her" (Eccl. 7:26). In this life under the sun, opportunities for lust abound, but Solomon reminds us they are all mere traps, set to kill.

Thankfully, we have a pure and sinless Redeemer, Jesus Christ. Never once did Jesus have a lustful thought. He was tempted to lust (Heb. 4:15), but He never, ever gave in. Because Christ was sinless, He was qualified to become the spotless Lamb of God and take away the sin of the world. God punished Him for our lust, and gave us Christ's righteousness in its place. (2 Cor. 5:21) What an exchange!

So before you decide it's "OK to look" at the ESPN Body Issue or any other occasion for lust, remember the trap. Remember the marriage covenant. Remember that eternity is at stake. Remember what Christ did for you.

As our love for God grows, may we begin to see sin for what it really is, and stop finding it so attractive. May we instead see that God's glory and His moral boundaries alone can offer true joy.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

A disciple-making church

From the Life2gether blog:

What does it take to become a disciple-making church? Dr. Thom Rainer’s research shows these common traits:

  • The church has an entry point class that all new members attend
  • Members are expected to attend an open group Bible study
  • Members are expected to be involved in one or more deeper studies throughout the year
  • Members are expected to attend a corporate worship service each week
  • Members are expected to be involved in at least one ministry or mission activity a year
  • Members are expected to read and study the Bible daily

Rainer says,

It is not unusual to hear objections when we present this research.“If I led my church to have these high expectations of members,” the argument goes, “we would have a mass exodus.” But our research shows just the opposite. Higher expectations get more positive behavioral patterns. People want to be a part of something that makes a difference.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Are You a Doubting Thomas?

Everyone would agree things don't often go our way. My family was reminded of this just a couple weeks ago during our trip to Big Bear, when both kids got sick and our cabin getaway was cut short. It was tempting to think, "This isn't fair! We've waited so long for this!" But God had other plans. He helped us to trust in Him and remember "man plans his ways, but the Lord directs His steps" (Prov. 16:9).

A big question in life is, do we still trust in God, even when things don't go our way, and when life doesn't seem to make sense? As it turns out, our hearts are still full of unbelief. During the worship service yesterday, we studied John 20:24-29. We used the apostle Thomas as a case study in unbelief, so we can better understand our own hearts and learn to trust Christ more fully.

1. Thomas doubts (Jn. 20:24-25). Instead of rejoicing with the other ten disciples, Thomas insists, "I've got to see it to believe it. I absolutely will not believe that Jesus rose from the dead unless I see it for myself!" His response is wrong of course, but really isn't much different from the other ten (cf. Mk. 16:14). If you've ever had someone doubt your word, questioning your integrity or constantly checking up on you, then you know how painful it can be not be trusted. Christ is always worthy of our trust. Our doubt grieves and dishonors Him.

2. Thomas believes (Jn. 20:26-29). A full week later, Jesus appears to the disciples again, and this time Thomas is with them. He shows His omniscience and His love by granting Thomas' request and letting him touch the scars from the nails and spear. Finally, Thomas exclaims with full conviction, "My Lord and my God!" The key lesson of the passage appears in verse 29: "Blessed are those who have not seen, and yet have believed" (ESV). Unlike Thomas, we do not get to see and feel Jesus for ourselves, but we are blessed if we trust in Him anyway. True faith is the "assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen," as Hebrews says (Heb. 11:1).

We concluded our time Sunday with several application questions:
  • Do I doubt Jesus' death and resurrection? Jesus died and rose again on the third day (1 Cor. 15:3-4). But do I really believe that? Do I believe it was necessary for Him to die for me - that my sin was that bad? Do I believe He alone could fully pay the price, and that none of my good works earn any favor with God? Do I believe He is alive today and has conquered sin and death?
  • Do I doubt His total sovereignty? God does whatever He pleases, and causes all things to work together for good to those who love God (Ps. 115:3; Rom. 8:28). But do I really believe that? Or do I have to see it to believe it? When things don't go my way, do I question God's control? Do I believe He is in control of my health? Of my job? Of our government? Are there any areas of my life where I need to think afresh about God's total sovereignty?
  • Do I doubt His great love? God is love (1 Jn. 4:8) and has shown His love for us in the greatest way possible: by sending His only Son to die for us (Jn. 3:16; 1 Jn. 3:16). There is nothing greater He could have done to show His love! But do I really believe that? When my family suffers, when disaster strikes, do I still believe that Jesus loves us (Rev. 1:5)?
  • Do I doubt His immanent return? Jesus is coming soon, and will come to judge every one of us. But do I really believe that? Am I living a life of holiness and anticipation (Titus 2:12-13)? Does my schedule and prayer life show that I am focusing on eternal things? Does my checkbook and credit card bill reflect that I am laying up treasure in heaven? Many of us have grown too earthly minded and need to begin living in light of Christ's immanent return. If I had only one more week left on this earth, how would I spend it?
None of us would probably deny these four truths. But when it comes to our thoughts, attitudes, and actions, we often fail to live as though they are true. We give lip service to these things on Sunday, but they often do not change our lives Monday through Saturday. In all of these areas, and every other area of God's character, Jesus would say to us today, "Do not be unbelieving, but believing...Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."

Sunday's message will be uploaded soon to our podcast site for free download.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Desert Area Bible Study Workshop - October 4

The "church" is not only a local assembly, but also one body of believers from across the world and all generations.

On Sunday night, October 4, we'll have a rare opportunity to worship and partner with other brothers and sisters in the larger body of Christ at the "Desert-Area Bible Study Workshop.”

This is a community-wide event sponsored by all the local Southern Baptist Churches. Everyone is welcome. The speaker will be Jeff Mooney, professor from Cal Baptist University.

A free BBQ will begin at 4 pm, followed by a workshop “Christ in the Old Testament.” Ice cream will be served following the meeting.

The workshop will be hosted by Palms Baptist Church at 5285 Adobe Road in Twentynine Palms.

Friday, October 2, 2009

How to do inductive Bible study, part 2

Last week, I showed that inductive Bible study is one of the best ways to understand and teach a passage of Scripture. The first three types of questions you should ask are observation, meaning, and doctrine questions.

Relying on God's Spirit, by the time you've addressed these questions, you're well on your way to understanding a passage. But there's another essential step to Bible study: application.

It's not enough to understand what the Bible says. We must let it penetrate our hearts, reveal our sin, and transform our thoughts and behavior. We don't want to be hearers of the Word only. We need to be doers also. This brings us to a second set of questions: principle, application, and implementation questions. This chart helps show the relationship of these three questions:

Notice first the horizontal line at the bottom. This represents time. The Bible was written "then," but we live "now." Some customs and practices have changed dramatically, but some things remain exactly the same, like God and human nature. Now look at the vertical line to the left. This represents the specificity of action. The more specific a command or action in the Bible is, the more cautious we should be before applying it to every age, situation, and culture.

Let's look now at the last three types of questions. Principle questions ask, "What broad and timeless truths are found in this passage?" Application questions ask, "How does this passage relate to me now?" And finally, Implementation questions ask, "What is my specific plan of action?" As you can see in the diagram, with each type of question, we're moving closer to specific and contemporary applications of the text.

Psalm 119:105 will serve again as our example. "Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path."

Sample principle questions: How does it feel to be blind or lost? What are the dangers? What are the benefits of a lamp? What are the benefits of God's Word? How important should God's Word be in our lives? What should our attitude be toward the Word? What happens if we ignore His Word? What competing sources of light do people sometimes rely on? According to 1 Cor. 2:14, what is necessary for us to properly understand God's Word? What are some different ways we can "turn on" the lamp of God's Word in our lives? Written as part of a psalm or "song," what does this verse teach us about praise and worship?

Sample application questions: How could I re-write this verse in today's language? How is my time in the Word right now? Do I have a grateful, attentive attitude toward God's Word? What is competing with the time or quality of my Bible intake? How can I get more out of God's Word? What decisions do I face right now in life, and what does the Bible say about these things? (Try using the S.P.E.C.K. method -- Sins, Promises, Examples, Commands, Knowledge -- to help find application questions).

Sample implementation questions: Is there any specific sin I need to confess right now? What needs to change immediately? What are specific goals and steps I can take this day, week, month, and year? When am I going to carve out time in my schedule for God's Word? What do I need to stop doing to make time for God? What friend could keep me accountable and help me better understand the Bible?

The Inductive Bible Study method helps us dig deeper into the text and discover the immeasurable riches of Scripture. May God make us all people like Ezra, who "set his heart to study the law of the LORD, and to practice it, and to teach His statutes and ordinances" (Ezra 7:10). For even more information on preparing an Inductive Bible Study, check out Dr. Jack Hughes' class, "Preparing and Delivering Bible Studies and Sermons."

Related posts:

Thursday, October 1, 2009

New Blog

Today I'm closing up shop and launching a new blog called Pinch of Clay. You can visit it by clicking here . Please stop by and...