Sunday, October 31, 2004

October 31, 1517

I'm sure there are thousands of Reformation Day celebrations and worship services being held in the US and across the globe on this date. But was the 95 Thesis enough, and how many people today have actually read it?
For the social context of the 16th century, the 95 Thesis and the Reformers in general provided a good wakeup call for the people, the Church, and governments. Looking back nearly 400 years later, we like to critique and judge some of the actions which took place during this time period by both Protestant and Roman Catholic leaders and figures, but we must understand that this time period was something entirely foreign to anything we could comprehend, just as Martin Luther or Erasmus would be unable to comprehend someone in London, England, being able to read this blog right now.
But for today, how should we view the Reformation? Was it something that happened into the 16th century only, or is it something that should be continuing today?
I believe the latter is most preferable. The Church should always be reforming, and always working for purity in doctrine and practice, which is something that was not fully attained in the 16th century, and it is something which is not attained in the 21st century. While, I do not believe we will experience a perfect Christianity, or Church before Consumation, I do believe that the Church of Jesus Christ should be actively seeking to model Christ and expand His message across the world, and while we are here, it is our duty to strive for a Biblical Christianity on earth.

Book of the day Back To Basics, Rediscovering the Richness of the Reformed Faith.

Friday, October 29, 2004

hmmm....

It's been a few days and I really don't have an inspirational thought in my head today.

I went trout fishing with my good friend Otis, and we only caught one nice rainbow, but that was about it.

My wife and I will be preparing for our 2nd annual costume party which will be fun because it'll be a bunch of seminary students in silly costumes talking about theology and pastoral ministry. Kind of weird if you ask me, but I promised all my friends I won't show pictures of their costumed selves at their ordination exams.

Maybe later tonight or tomorrow I'll have something interesting to say.

BTW, is this a great rabbit or what??






Book of the day Redeeming Halloween by Kim Wier and Pam McCune.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Confessional Christianity

In Philippians 2:6-11, according to numerous commentaries and scholars, the Apostle Paul is apparently quoting from an early Christian hymn. If this is so, then what are some of the ramifications? Well, for one, it is apparent that the post-ressurection Church in its infancy was a confessional Church. And throughout the Scriptures, there are other examples of confessing God as the True God, or Jesus as the Christ.
This trend moved passed the closing of the Canon and was carried, as we can find in early Baptismal confessions where adults were asked specific questions, confessing a statement very similar to the Apostle's Creed, which later became a standard baptismal confession for entrance into the Christian community.
As the Church developed throughout the early centuries, more confessions were written to combat heresies which crept up. These were designed to provide consice statements into the views of the Church catholic, as short summaries of major doctrines.
Take for instance the Apostle's Creed.

I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.
And
in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord; who was conceived by the Holy
Ghost,
born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was
crucified,
dead, and buried; he descended into hell; the
third day he rose again from the dead; he ascended into heaven, and sitteth
on
the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence he shall come
to judge the quick and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Ghost;
the holy catholic Church;

the communion of saints; the forgiveness of
sins; the resurrection of the body;

and the life everlasting. AMEN



This is an excellent summation of basic Christian doctrine, and is profitable for use within the context of worship. Why? Because all of those statements are true. Sometimes people have a problem with two phrases, "he decended into hell" and "the holy catholic church". That is unfortunate because the term hell is hades in Greek, which means "the dead". It does not mean that the early church thought Christ literally went to hell for sins. It is better rendered in a more modern version, as "he decended into the dead", meaning that when Christ died, he really died. He came under the power of death, and overcame the power of death when he rose again on the third day.
The second problem statement is "the holy catholic church", and that is unfortunate as well because it does not mean the Roman Catholic Church. It means the Church universal, of whom Paul says he persecuted in 1 Corinthians 15:9 & Galatians 1:13, and for whom Christ died Ephesians 5:29.

Anyway, back to my rambling. Throughout church history, Christians have publicly confessed their faith, and I believe that part of the problems we have in today's church settings is a disconnect from our roots. We, as Christians, have confessional roots, and I believe it is a disservice when we neglect those roots. Sometimes, the argument is that confessions and creeds, are dead liturgy and really offer nothing to the worship of God because it is vain, overused repetition.
That's too bad to see it that way because as Christians, we should be willing to confess our faith in a public fashion. It may not always be in the forms referenced previously, but I do believe there is some wisdom in the confessions of the old creeds.
Here's why:
It provides a connection to the past, which is important.
It provides a good summation of Christian doctrine. "Christian what is it you believe?" is the ancient question to start the recitation of the Apostles Creed.
It is Biblical to confess our faith. As I mentioned before, there are many places within Scripture where God's people confess their faith in Him, and given that precedent, confession is something that Christians must be doing with and in their lives.


Book of the day Eccumenical Creeds and Reformed Confessions.


Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Whose worship?

Let's cut to the chase. We all know that one of the leading debates among conservative churches is what style of music to incorporate, whether to exclusively sing hymns in the traditional styles of the past 200-400 years, or to mix it up with more contemporary meters and beats and newer style lyrics, or to sing exclusively in a more modern style, or a million other hybrids.
We argue, debate, divide and separate over this time and time again, as if the entire efficacy of the Gospel is at stake.
What's the problem with this?
Besides the obvious problem of context, there is something I blatently left out that you may not have noticed, whose style? Are we talking about Anglo-American/European styles, Latino styles, Afro-African styles, or Afro-American styles of worship? Who sets the standard of so-called traditional worship music and who is the definitive person to decide what has been fized in the musical canon so to speak? WHO MAKES THAT DECISION?
Is one culture superior to another in the way it worships God, as long as the lyrical content of worship is Biblically based? Does God enjoy Fanny Crosby, or Matt Redman more? Does God like the sound of a pipe organ more than a lyre or tamborine? Is His majesty proclaimed more greatly by a congregation singing acapella and clapping in Zimbabwe, or by a congeration chanting in Yemen?
The fact is that the Bible does not tell us and to make an argument based on silence is unBiblical, and can be considered to be culturally offensive from the standpoint of the Gospel.

Two illustrations.
Last week at chapel, we sang an African praise song and a Spanish praise song both performed in their respective styles. I must confess that I was uncomfortable, but then it hit me that my preferences were not the only preferences to God in a cultural sense, and that my discomfort was not because my enjoyment of American styles of worship is better to God, but that my discomfort was derrived from my thinking that I "had it all together" since I am a traditional American Protestant in my worship preferences. Believe me, I had and still have much to repent of in that respect.

The second thing was something I read last night which bothers me greatly. Mind you I am quoting from someone who claims to be a Biblically grounded believer, who is a pastor of a church. When discussing the validity of incorporating Afro styles of worship in a racially mixed American context, two things he said made me want to weep:
#1 My objection to African music has nothing to do with racism and everything to do with paganism. Africa is the Dark Continent.
And when speaking of Black American Churches
#2 Their churches also promoted ungodly African music that appealed to the flesh instead of the spirit, and I am convinced that it contributed to the immorality of their members.
The man continued to qualify his statements with the notion that he is not a racist. And he may not be, but the fact remains that there is a notion within our culture, and I am sure within all cultures, that somehow one culture is superior to all the rest with regards to how God is worshipped. For me, it was some inner superiority because I would verbally confess to anyone that I would not take American style of worship and impose it on someone in Mexico, or Nigeria, but in my heart, I unBiblically did not believe this.
For the person I am quoting, it is an outward confession that African culture is bad because it is pagan, therefore the redemption of African culture is not possible without an American type context. As an aside, I do find it interesting that many project more confessing Christians in Africa within the next 50 years, than in the United States. Also, there have been more martyrs in Africa, due to Muslim fascism than the US has ever experienced.

Back to the heart of the matter, what do we do with all this?
I think the great divider in all these matters is the Gospel. The Gospel cuts across racial and social barriers and provides a true unity among those who are Christian. I firmly believe that the Gospel can take a pagan in American and cause him to praise God, and I firmly believe that a pagan in Africa, or anywhere can be changed by the Gospel and will be drawn to praise God. This leads me to this, if their praise is God centered, I believe that God is just as pleased if it is acomponied by accomplished musicians, as in my church context, or done with clapping and tamborines as it would be in an African context.
The bottomline is this: our cultures are not the cultures of the days of the Bible, but the Gospel is still the same and the Gospel has the power to redeem our hearts and our cultures.

Book of the day America's Worship Wars by Dr. Terry York.




Monday, October 25, 2004

The three C's of interpretation

In commercial real estate there are three L's that a potential location must possess in order to give a better chance for a business's survival, location, location, location.
In Biblical interpretation, especially sermons, there are three C's which must be considered in order to proper a passage properly, context, context, context.

Why?
Well, if you don't know why a particular passage is written how will you be able to interpret it properly. Context is crucial. A person who is responsible for expounding upon the Word of God must understand the prompting behind the writing of the passage. This is important no matter what text you are approaching. Why is Moses telling a particular story in Genesis? Why is Jude quoting from the Book of Enoch in his epistle? Why is Paul dealing with disunity in the Church in First Corinthians? Without a good understanding of the immediate audience, it can lead to moralistic intepretation, or even interpretation that the original audience would have never recognized from the text.

Dealing with a passage from this framework will lend toward a better understanding of that particular scripture and how it fits within the entire conext of the whole scripture, as well as the history of redemption. This opens up more avenues than just moralism or a 21st century superiority interpretation because it connects the modern audience with original audience and also will allow the preacher to derrive application that is relevant in all ages, even though the situational specificity may be different.

This is the key to preaching and teaching, that is, understanding the context of Scripture.

Book of the day Let the Reader Understand: A Guide to Interpreting and Applying the Bible by Dan McCartney and Charles Clayton.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

More cool stuff on preaching...

I have had to read a lot this semester on the redemptive historical approach for interpreting scripture and I find it to be quite helpful. But I will talk about that another time.
I think the one thing that I have found to be the most helpful, however, is the fact that preaching is to derive its authority from the scripture. The Westminster Directory of Publick Worship does an excellent job conveying this notion when the Divines discussed what the sermon was to contain. At the time they were wrestling how to overcome the doctrine heavy, light on application, Puritan model of preaching, the allegorical medieval style, and the complicated French style of preaching.
What was their solution? Speak the message plainly, rest on the authority of the Word and use illustration and application. Yes, they even used the term "illustration", but it was not used as an aid for explanation, but rather, an aid for the listener to see how they fit into the message. And their treatment of appication was quite powerful and they explained the need of application. This was genius for that day and this day as well. I think, and rightly so, that people can be exposed to so much good doctrine and content in sermons, and many conservative churches are good at teaching doctrine, but until you explain how that doctrine affects the daily life of the listener, you're just giving a doctrinal lesson, it's not really preaching, in the sense that preaching should be done.

Here's an interesting link to a Billy Graham story about resting in the authority of Scripture.

Book of the day, Christ Centered Preaching by Dr. Bryan Chapell.


Thursday, October 21, 2004

What a busy past couple of days, but good Preaching Lectures

The past couple of days have been the annual preaching lectures at Covenant Theological Seminary, and combined with 13 hours of coursework and 25-30 hours a week of working, and it makes a busy week.

A few good things though. I got to see my good friend and mentor Carter, from Oklahoma, and it was just an excellent time to catch up on life and share what's going on in both of our families and how good God has been to us.

The lectures were great this year despite the fact that Allistar Begg was unable to attend due to illness. If there was a theme, I guess it would be contextualization of preaching and how preaching should engage the culture around us.

This morning though, Dr. Tim Keller of Redeemer Church in New York City, gave a most excellent message from 1 Corinthians 3:1-23 about divisions in the church and basically broke it down to the local church level and the broader church level.
The most striking thing he said on the local level was this, when Paul is discussing the various parties within the Corinthian church, Paul, Apollos, Cephas, etc, what that stemmed from is likely the people within the church who were affected by the respective ministries, so they were loyal to those people like we are today when in a church you have people who are still loyal to the pastor who passed away 15 years ago, and you have people who were brought in under the man after him and so on and so on. What Dr. Keller said was that the Corinthian church had layers, like our churches sometimes do, and this is a result of the church being influenced by the culture and not the church influencing the culture. Why? Because secular society follows this model. You are typically loyal to those who made an impact in your life and you value them more than other people who may not have impacted you as much. But here's the rub, Paul tells them in verse 21 that all things are yours, and then lists the names of the influential leaders again. Why? Because Paul, Appolos, Cephas, and so on, all their ministries belonged to the Corinthian church because of the Gospel. The Gospel isn't about status, it's about what Christ did.
It just blew me away as I was sitting in chapel and I hope that I will be able to remember this in the future.

Book of the day is Christ and Culture by H. Richard Neibuhr

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Covenant Seminary Chapel 10/19/04

Today at chapel, we had Scotty Smith from Christ Community PCA in Franklin, TN as the chapel speaker and he was simply amazing. I had heard that he was a good preacher and that many people such as Steven Curtis Chapman and others in the Christian music community attend worship at the church he pastors, and let me tell you he was as good as advertised.

It wasn't necesarrily because of his abilities, and he has them, but I think it was his methodology. He used a redemptive historical method to his preaching. His sermon was from the last chapter of Jonah and he showed how in the last verse where God questions Jonah about not pitying Ninevah that there is a great truth to be seen. God's compassion extending beyond the borders of His Covenant people, Israel, and embracing the nations so that His people would be as the sand of the sea.
I think the most interesting thing that Rev. Smith pointed out was that God specifically mentions the cattle of Ninevah, which is something I would have overlooked. It seems that God's interest in Ninevah extended to all of Ninevah and not just the people. This is not saying that the cattle needed redemption, but was showing that God still loves His creation.

The point of application though, that hit me the hardest, was this: where is the Ninevah in my life? Jonah did not really want to go to Ninevah because it made him uncomfortable and there are places and people in my life that I do not want to go or see because they are out of my comfort zone. Sadly, I too am like Jonah far too often. But there's hope, and that is such a beautiful thing because it's not because of me, but the grace of God.

Book of the day, The Reign of Grace by Scotty Smith.

Monday, October 18, 2004

When Churches head left.

I thought this to be an interesting opinion piece found at The Oklahoman's website.
http://www.newsok.com/article/1336806/?template=news/main

It basically dicussed the political views of the more liberal or mainline denominations in the US toward Israel and how that the more left leaning the denomination, the more anti-Israel the policies of the denomination, despite the atrocities which occur in places like China or North Korea.

I think the big question which the editorial is getting at is "why", and it's a good one, but I don't believe it can be answered in one editorial, or blog entry, but it gives much to think about.

Why do these things happen when Churches become more theologically and socially liberal? Answers can be found in a few areas.
One, being the way truth is viewed. The more liberal, or mainline groups, do not view truth as objective or authoritative, but rather subjective and different based upon the situation. I think that is the heart of the matter because how one views truth shapes their entire worldview.

The second, which is a derrivative of the confusion of the nature of truth, is the loss of connectiveness to the past. Mainline denominations such as the Presbyterian Church in the United States (PCUSA) and the United Methodist Church (UMC) have a good historical background in what most could safely call Historical Orthodoxy in their theology. But the problem is that this connection to Historical Orthodxy is lost once truth is viewed as subjective. The founders of Presbyterianism and Methodism actually believed in the absolute, objective truth of Scripture, but today the direction of mainline Presbyterianism and Methodism
does not seem to hold Scripture in as high regard as those they claim link to in their past. Even the most liberal Presbyterians will acknowledge John Calvin as a forefather, and even the most liberal Methodist will happily acknowledge John Wesley as a forefather, but if one were to take a look at Calvin and Wesley's own writings and sermons, they would get the sense that Calvin and Wesley would not be comfortable with some of the people who claim them.

A few things come to my mind when I think about this.
One, there is a decline in the membership of the PCUSA and UMC denominations, and it is interesting to read the literature of these denominations, particularly the PCUSA, because they cannot understand why their numbers are declining. Well, they are, and it seems that a lot of it has to do with this: people by nature are looking for "truth". Granted, we cannot understand truth fully apart from Christ's Redemption, but theological liberalism is unable to answer the most basic questions of humanity when it comes to truth and redemption.

Two, there is a decline in general popularity of the writings of theological liberals. This can be proved by looking at the Christian themed, or theological books which are being sold on places like amazon.com or christianbook.com. You don't see Bultmann flying off the shelves, but you do see a resurgance in classical Christian teachings. To prove that just look at the reprints being offered by christianbook.com; Calvin, Luther, Spurgeon, Turretin, Hodge, Warfield, and many, many others, but those people who we would call theologically liberal do not enjoy the same amount of reprint status. Look at the Christian living books being sold. You have people buying books from the likes of Warren, Lucado, Piper, Chapell, and others, but no one seems to be buying liberal Christian living books. Why? It is my honest opinion, that theological liberalism does not have the answers it claims.


Book of the day. Holiness By Grace, by Dr. Bryan Chapell.







Sunday, October 17, 2004

No cell phones in church

They couldn't do this where my wife and I attend because our steeple hosts a cell phone tower.

http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&ncid=738&e=1&u=/ap/20041017/ap_on_hi_te/cell_phone_jammers

Test

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