Monday, August 30, 2010

Monday AM Prayer

Most gracious heavenly father,
The Heavens declare your glory
and the earth your great richness.
The Universe is your temple,
your presence fills all eternity.
In your great love and pleasure,
you created us for yourself.
You have given us life and everything therein.
In you we live and move and have our being.

In your divine providence you establish boundaries
and administer the affairs of all humanity.
We thank you unceasingly for the richness you bestowed upon us in Jesus,
and for the clear revelation of Him in your Word;
where we behold his person, character, grace,
humiliation, sufferings, death and resurrection.

May we constantly be reminded of our great need for our great Savior.
May the first words on our lips always be, "May mercy on me, a sinner."

We come to you this morning in great humility,
knowing that we have nothing to offer, no words, no works, no worthiness.
But only the unsurpassed glory and greatness of being found in Him
who was, and is, and is to come;
the mighty name above all others,
through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Taken from "God the Source of All Good," in The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers. Wording adapted by Aaron Elmore.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Why is Being a Pastor so Unhealthy?

Found this interesting article Death By Ministry: Why is Being a Pastor so Unhealthy? Please read this if you are currently in vocational ministry (not just pastors, much of this will apply to ministers of any kind) or if you are currently pursuing or thinking about going into vocational ministry, or if you are simply a church member who would like to learn more about why it is so important that you support, encourage and pray for your pastor.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

How Piper Learned to Preach

You might be getting the idea that I am obsessed with John Piper since several of my last few posts have included content from him. Well I assure you I am not and don't agree with him on everything. However, I do love the emphasis of his preaching. 

The following is an excerpt from an interview question with John Piper on, "Where and how do you learn how to preach?" This was posted today on the blog at How Piper Learned to Preach. Go there to read the entire transcript, or you can watch the video below.

"I think the way that I became a preacher was by being passionately thrilled by what I was seeing in the Bible in seminary. Passionately thrilled! When Philippians began to open to me, Galatians open to me, Romans open to me, the Sermon on the Mount open to me in classes on exegesis (not homiletics, but exegesis), everything in me was feeling, "I want to say this to somebody. I want to find a way to say this because this is awesome, this is incredible!"

So for preachers today that go everywhere but the Bible to find something interesting or something scintillating and passionate, I say, "I don't get it. I don't get that at all!" Because I have to work hard to leave the Bible to go somewhere to find an illustration, because everything in the Bible is just blowing me away. And it is that sense of being blown away by what's here—by the God that's here, and the Christ that's here, and the gospel that's here, and the Spirit that's here, and the life that is here—being blown away by this, I just say, "That's got to get out."

Monday, August 23, 2010

God is the Substance

"The enjoyment of God is the only happiness with which our souls can be satisfied. To go to heaven, fully to enjoy God, is infinitely better than the most pleasant accommodations here. Fathers and mothers, husbands, wives, or children, or the company of earthly friends, are but shadows; but God is the substance. These are but scattered beams, but God is the sun. These are but streams. But God is the ocean."

From, The Works of Jonathan Edwards, (1834, reprint edition, Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1974), "The Christian Pilgrim," 2:244. Quoted in The Supremacy of God in Preaching, by John Piper.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Death by Love

It sat on my shelf for about a year, but I finally picked up Death by Love the other day and started working on it. Here are a few of my favorite quotes so far:

"It is at the cross of Jesus that the love of God for us is most clearly seen."pg. 12

"The depth of our sin and the depth of God's love cannot be fully known apart from Jesus' cross."pg. 12

"It was our sin and our condemnation, but it was Jesus, the sinless one, who took our place and in so doing took our sin and condemnation so that we could live a new life with a new nature by a new power free from sin and condemnation."pg. 27

"Of all the world's great religious writings, only the Bible presents God acting out of his love and power to come and redeem humans from bondage. This unique theme of redemption portrays humanity helplessly entrapped in sin and reveals a God whose love moves him to intervene." pg. 70

All quotes from, Mark Driscoll and Gerry Breshears, Death By Love: Letters from the Cross (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2008.)

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Why famous quotes can be dangerous

St. Francis of Assisi is often credited with the following quote:
“Preach the gospel at all times. Use words if necessary.”

The first, and less important issue, is whether or not St. Francis actually wrote or spoke these words. Most scholars agree that this phrase does not appear in any of his writings, although the spirit of this quote is very Franciscan in nature. Thus, it is likely Francis said and demonstrated many things in his life that were consistent with the idea portrayed in this quote.

Regardless of where this quote originated, it is a very popular quote and can be quite misleading. It is true that the fruit of our lives should point people to Christ and the gospel, but we must use our words as well. This quote implies that you could preach the gospel to your neighbor by mowing his yard. This is simply not true. Now, I am not saying that you shouldn't mow your neighbor's yard. This is a great example of the humility and service that should characterize the life of Jesus' disciples. But doing a good deed for your neighbor will not bring him or her to faith if they do not know Christ. It might open the door to a relationship, or the opportunity to share the gospel, but at this point words must be spoken.

To imply that we can preach the gospel without words is as ridiculous as saying, "Tell me how to spell your name, use letters if necessary."

Most of the time this quote becomes nothing more than an excuse for Christians to not share the gospel with others. I understand, because I too find it difficult to share Christ in a one-on-one setting. I am afraid of awkwardness, rejection, pushing someone farther away, being too is much easier to hide behind a quote, an idea that if I just keep being a nice person this might in some way help people find their way to the cross.

"How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, 'How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!' But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, 'Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?' So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ." Romans 10:14-17 (ESV)

What do you think? Have I misunderstood the quote? Can we preach the gospel with our actions?

Monday, August 9, 2010

Monday AM Prayer

"Grant, O God, that no false teaching may ever have any power to deceive us or to seduce us from the truth. Grant, O God, that we may never listen to any teaching which would encourage us to think sin less serious, vice more attractive, or virtue less important;

Grant, O God, that we may never listen to any teaching which would dethrone Jesus Christ from the topmost place; Grant, O God, that we may never listen to any teaching which for its own purposes perverts the truth.

So grant that all our lives we may know, and love, and live the truth;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."

From Prayers for the Christian Year by William Barclay (Harper ChapelBooks, 1964), emphasis added.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Preach the Gospel - Video by John Piper

Please find the time to watch this short 5 minute video. I have some thoughts that I will follow up with in a few days after people have the chance to watch it. This is so important.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

What is the primary role of a Pastor?

It seems that in our churches today Pastors are asked to do way too many things. I believe that this multi-tasking, CEO mentality is destroying the biblical role of Pastor/Shepherd. What is the primary role of a pastor? If you surveyed 100 people, I would almost guarantee that a majority would say preaching. While preaching is a very important aspect of the pastoral calling, it is only a piece of a larger, more important role.

The primary role of a pastor is to teach and train disciples. This involves preparing God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up (Ephesians 4:12). Many pastor's today are great at what they do, but they are not preparing others to do what they do. If the saints are not being equipped to do the work of the ministry, they do not have a true pastor. The goal of every pastor (and church) is to generate disciple-making disciples. The goal is not to grow your attendance, increase participation in programs, make the budget, preach the best sermons or anything else. We must shift our mindset away from growing churches and towards growing disciples.
Click on the following link to read a short blog post about Billy Graham's approach to discipleship: If Billy Graham Had Been a Pastor

If you are interested in this topic, consider reading:

The Trellis and the Vine, by Colin Marshall and Tony Payne
The Master Plan of Evangelism, by Robert E. Coleman
Missional Map-Making by Alan Roxburgh

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Supremacy of Christ in Colossians 1:15-20

Last semester, I did an in-depth study on Colossians 1:15-20. I would like to share some of the application I found at the end of my study. It is such a beautiful passage that I will include it here:

"He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross." Colossians 1:15-20 (NIV)

If Christ is Lord over everything in the universe, I must ask myself whether he is Lord over every area of my life? I acknowledge that nothing I can do will change the fact that Christ is Lord of my life. But at a functional level, we all have to make the choice to submit each area of our life to Christ on a daily basis. For most people it is probably easier to submit to the Lordship of Christ when things are going well. But when something goes wrong, our tendency is to resort back to self-reliance. We must be reminded daily that it is in Christ that all things hold together and not in us. This assurance will not prevent the inevitable storms of life from coming. It will give us a strong foundation to stand firm and weather the storm.

Another area of life that this passage speaks to is the stewardship and dominion of God's creation. If all things were created in Christ, and through Christ, and for Christ, this ought to change the way I treat creation. This applies most obviously to my relationship with others humans, but I think it also applies to how we treat animals, plants and all the resources of the earth. Unfortunately, many Christians have been very critical of recent trends to take better care of the environment. Anyone who shows concern for the environment is immediately labeled a "tree hugger" or something worse. If anything, it seems that Christians ought to be leading the way in environmental efforts. (Maybe this line will elicit some fun comments) This does not mean that we have to put the rights of animals or care for the earth above the needs of fellow humans. A commonly cited critique of animal rights activism is that we should advocate for the rights of unborn babies rather than the rights of animals. Must we choose one or the other? Is Christ not Lord over all creation? Is he not concerned to see justice abound in every aspect of life and creation?

Finally, this verse is a strong exhortation that we must continue to preach that Christ is the only source of human redemption. This is no longer a popular belief in America. This passage highlights the unique role of Christ on several levels. Christ is the one through whom all creation came into existence. He reigns supreme over all that exists. He also reconciled us to God through the work of the cross. This is the way that God has chosen to redeem the broken relationship between humanity and Himself. This role of reconciliation was a role ordained by God, for Christ alone, since the foundations of the world. We must not attempt to displace Christ from this position by trusting in our own good deeds or any other source. It also must be noted that the redemption of Christ is not universally applied to all humanity; rather, only to those who place their faith and trust in Jesus.

Paul knew that many false philosophies and teachings were present in Colossae. Is our current situation any different? One of the major problems at Colossae was not an outright rejection of Christian beliefs, but rather their "apparent inability to see anything wrong in combining faith in Christ with their previous religious practices." {1}This same problem is prevalent in the religious landscape of America today. It is becoming popular for people, including those who claim to be Christians, to pick and choose various religious beliefs and practices to assemble a "create your own combo meal" version of Christianity. This passage has a strong word of correction for such a practice. Christ will not share his throne as supreme Lord with anyone or anything. He alone is the Lord. He alone reigns supreme. There is nothing that comes above him in the entire universe. If we take away nothing else from this study, it should be a reaffirmed commitment and holy boldness to hold fast to our convictions about Christ. Not only in our own hearts, but as we share the gospel of Christ with those around us.


Works cited:
1. Teresa Okure,  “‘In Him All Things Hold Together’: A Missiological Reading of Colossians 1:15-20.” International Review of Missions 91 (2002): 62-72.