Solus Christus Sola Scriptura Sola Gratia Sola Fide Soli Deo Gloria Solus Christus Sola Scriptura Sola Gratia Sola Fide Soli Deo Gloria Solus Christus Sola Scriptura Sola Gratia Sola Fide Soli Deo Gloria Christ Alone Scripture Alone Grace Alone Faith Alone Glory to God Alone Christ Alone Scripture Alone Grace Alone Faith Alone Glory to God Alone Christ Alone Scripture Alone Grace Alone Faith Alone Glory to God Alone

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Well, Hopefully I'll Look Distinguished

Yesterday I took my oldest daughter with me to the eye doctor. We both had appointments. That's something a bit unusual for me since I have't seen an eye doctor in...ohhh... 33 years or so.

We went into each other's appointments. Her vision actually improved greatly from her previous annual visit, now it was my turn. As the doctor turned me into a robot as my daughter termed it (from the huge "thing" they put ofer your face, I sat wondering what was to happen.

The doctor told me that my vision was "normal for my age." Um... "for my age?" She said that most people need glasses between 38 and 42. Well, I'm 38...

She told me that it was due to all of the wisdom that I had stored up and although I knew she was kidding, it still made me feel good :)

What had happened was that I was getting farsighted and my eyes couldn't focus properly between looking at objects up close and then in the distance. She said that this was normal and due to strain.

I'd love to tell you its from hours and hours of in-depth exegetical Bible study, but it's more probably from my current profession as a Computer Network Engineer and the long hours that I have to stare at the screens.

Anyway, my sweet daughter and I will be going for glasses soon. I'm hoping that it'll make me more "distiguished looking" and not "dorky" as Meg says.

I'm Not Sure What To Say

On the list of things that I don't understand, I've just added "herchurch", a San Franciscan, Lutheran "church" that incoporates idolatry and pagan mysticism wrapped up in a package that calls itself a church. The site claims...

The Lutheran Feminist Movement exists to celebrate the feminine persona of God/dess and dimensions of the sacred as expressed in worship, learning, mutual care, and acts of justice.

They go on to blaspheme by proclaiming "another" Christ, not our risen Lord and Saviour.

..out of renewed insights into the nature of the Gospel empowered by the risen Christ-Sophia.

I mean, I understand that we all have a spirital hole in us that is longing to be filled. It's been oft-quoted that everyone has a "Jesus shaped hole in them. " That's true to a certain extent. people are looking for something to believe in, the problem is that in looking, we often fall into snares such as this one.

In retrospect, I'm not sure if I'm more angry by the blatent disregard for the Biblical God and Jesus or am more sad for the people that fall into this kind of trap. These people I pray will wake up before they live out their days and finally realized too late that all they were believing in was a lie.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Spritual Health of a Church

I was reading an article (actually, I think that it was a Barna survey) on the spiritual health of churches and what counts as "spiritual health".

Some people point to attendance numbers; others to numbers of people who make confessions of faith or baptisms. I've compiled a list that I believe shows a way to accurately gauge the spiritual health of a Bible-believing church.

In no special order, these areas are:

  • People involved in volunteer ministry (internally and in community service)
  • Church attendance
  • Life change (commitment to Christ/growth spiritual maturity)
  • Accountability (lifestyle led)
  • People involved in Evangelism
  • Growth in Christian knowledge
  • Money donated to church
  • Comments to the pastor
  • People who feel as if they have experienced the presence of God
What are your thoughts and experiences?

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Only One Life

I was doing some studying for a lesson that we are going to have in class this weekend. It's on Romans, chapter 12. It talked about "Supernatural Living" and how each of us has a gift and how we should use that for God. It not only spoke of gifts, but of love and mercy.

Man consists of body and soul and we must surrender ourselves to God. Our bodies must be presented as living sacrifices to His dedicated service.

Later last night, I was doing some recreational reading. I was reading the latest Left Behind book and I came across a section of a book where the saints of God are in Heaven after the Rapture. Let me go on to say that I know that this is fiction, but it does make you wonder.

Anyway, Jesus was speaking to Irene, telling her "...well done, good and faithfull servant." and it made her reflect on how short our life on this Earth really is when compared to "The Big Picture" of eternity.

I know that this life is just a vapor; that it will all seem so short in the grand scheme of things, but sometimes that's hard to see from this side of eternity.

It's little things like these readings and the following poem that really help me to reflect on the more, or I should say, the most important things in life.

Only One Life

Two little lines I heard one day,Traveling along life’s busy way;
Bringing conviction to my heart, And from my mind would not depart;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Only one life, yes only one, Soon will its fleeting hours be done;
Then, in ‘that day’ my Lord to meet, And stand before His Judgement seat;
Only one life,’twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Only one life, the still small voice, Gently pleads for a better choice
Bidding me selfish aims to leave, And to God’s holy will to cleave;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Only one life, a few brief years, Each with its burdens, hopes, and fears;
Each with its clays I must fulfill, living for self or in His will;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.

When this bright world would tempt me sore, When Satan would a victory score;
When self would seek to have its way, Then help me Lord with joy to say;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Give me Father, a purpose deep, In joy or sorrow Thy word to keep;
Faithful and true what e’er the strife, Pleasing Thee in my daily life;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Oh let my love with fervor burn, And from the world now let me turn;
Living for Thee, and Thee alone, Bringing Thee pleasure on Thy throne;
Only one life, “twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Only one life, yes only one, Now let me say,”Thy will be done”;
And when at last I’ll hear the call, I know I’ll say “twas worth it all”;
Only one life,’twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Author Unknown

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Graced Again (and again)

Do you ever wonder about what God thinks of us as we try to do things of our own accord? This seems to be an issue that God has been dealing with me about.

I have felt the call on my life to ministry and am in lay ministry in our current church, but know that the Lord has called me to preach. I know that I'm supposed to attend school and I have been trying everything in my earthly power to do just that.

Did you get that? "I have been trying everything in my earthly power..."

Yesterday the Holy Spirit spoke to me through a broadcast by Adrian Rogers about Joshua and Jericho. An intersting aspect is that I normally wouldn't have heard Dr. Rogers at that time, but I was running late in getting home from work.

This morning, I was running late in leaving my house for work (see a pattern?) and heard a message on Gideon and doing things according to God's power and for His glory.

This morning in my e-mail inbox was a message from Graced Again stating:

I'm convinced that if the gospel of grace (that God in Christ has forgiven you of all your debt with Him and that He has given you all His 'rightness') doesn't take your breath away, something else will. And this world has lots of 'something else's.' I used to think that what God wanted for me to do was try harder, get more committed, deny myself and keep my sin under control and then I would begin to see change. But I am learning that the fight in the Christian life is the fight of faith; to believe the Gospel of grace really is true; to get the Wow of the Gospel.

~Tom Wood

It takes me a while because I'm thick-headded, but I'm starting to see a pattern of faith and depending on God.

This is not to say that I don't depend on God, but I think a lot of times I try to push and "help", when I should just "trust and obey"

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Why Some Churches Thrive and Others Decline

According to this article in The Christian Post, Congregations that are willing to change to meet new challenges experience greater growth than those less up to the challenge. According to the Faith Communities Today 2005 survey, 46 percent of congregations that said they "strongly agree" with willing to change experienced the highest level of attendance growth.

Congregations that are willing to change to meet new challenges experience greater growth than those less up to the challenge. According to the Faith Communities Today 2005 survey, 46 percent of congregations that said they "strongly agree" with willing to change experienced the highest level of attendance growth. Among those that said they "somewhat agree," 37 percent are growing strongly. And among those who disagree on any level, only 15 percent have the highest level of attendance growth.

Geographic communities also affect congregational growth. Congregations located in newer suburbs are more likely to experience growth than congregations in any other type of location. The second best area for growth is in the downtown or central city of metropolitan areas. Those in rural areas and small towns are least likely to grow.

To me, this makes sense. A higher concentration of people means a better chance of people connecting with a local church. It would be my guess that people in newer suburbs are looking for a sense of community or fellowship; so that could draw them to the church. The fact that the majority of the new communities that are popping up are densly populated probably helps as well.

The composition of the congregation plays a major role in church growth as well. Congregations that are most likely to grow are younger ones, consisting of those founded from 1975 to the present. The survey revealed that the older the congregation is, the least likely it is to experience growth. Additionally, the more older adults a congregation has, the more unlikely it is to grow. And a larger proportion of younger adults also lead to growth opportunities.

"The mere presence of older adults is not problematic in and of itself," the report stated. "But a congregation where a large proportion of the members are older tends to have a cluster of characteristics that inhibit growth."

If this is true, it's truely a sad fact. A lot of younger people often view older people as irrelevant, when they should be looked up to for their wisdom and spiritual maturity.

Such characteristics include no children being born to members, a lack of a clear sense of mission and purpose and a lack of vibrant worship or involvement in recruitment.

Another composition makeup affecting growth is racial diversity. Congregations that are multiracial are most likely to have experienced strong growth in worship attendance. Congregations least likely to grow are predominantly white, non-Hispanic ones.

The survey further found that a higher proportion of women in the congregation is associated with decline rather than growth in the church. Congregations that are able to attract larger proportions of men are more likely to grow.

Declining attendance numbers among mainline denominations is nothing new. But the study noted a surprising finding – a lack of growth among Catholic congregations despite continued increases in the overall Catholic population.

While some say theological differences account for the declining attendance in mainline churches compared to evangelical churches, the survey found that there is very little relationship between growth and theological orientation.

Less conservative churches are also most likely to grow.

"More important than theological orientation is the religious character of the congregation and clarity of mission and purpose," the survey highlighted. "Growing churches are clear about why they exist and about what they are to be doing."

Well, all churches should be clear about why they exist and about what they are to be doing. They should be about the work of God.

Spiritual vitality is also key to growth with 45 percent of congregations that "strongly agree" with being spiritually vital and alive experiencing growth compared to 15 percent who "strongly disagree to unsure."

Additionally, the character of worship largely affects growth. Congregations that describe their worship as "joyful" is more likely to experience substantial growth. At the same time, those that described their worship as "reverent" were more likely to decline. And churches that more often use drums in their worship services have experienced substantial growth from 2000 to 2005. That also applied to the use of electric guitars.

Furthermore, the study found that institutional change including change in worship services is necessary for a congregation to adapt to a changing environment.

Other factors for substantial growth are developing recruitment plans, church members actively involved in recruiting new members, maintaining a website, having support groups, conducting follow-up with visitors, and being in excellent financial shape.

All this is fine in itself as long as the church remains closely tied to the Truth and the Word of God. A lot of churches stray in this regard and almost sell themselves for the opportunity of "guaranteed" growth such as is seem in the emergent and purpose driven movements.

Results from the survey are based on 884 randomly sampled congregations of all faith traditions in the United States. The survey is the latest in the series of trend-tracking national surveys of U.S. congregations sponsored by the Cooperative Congregational Studies Partnership.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Gimme that Showtime Religion

I recently came across this article by John MacArthur that I wanted to post. It's a really good one that sums up the frustration that a lot of us are feeling regarding the seeker-sensitive movement.

Can the church fight apathy and materialism by feeding people's appetite for entertainment? Evidently many in the church believe the answer is yes, as church after church jumps on the show-business bandwagon. It is a troubling trend that is luring many otherwise orthodox churches away from biblical priorities.

Church buildings are being constructed like theatres. Instead of a pulpit, the focus is a stage. Some feature massive platforms that revolve or rise and fall, with colored lights and huge sound boards. Shepherds are giving way to media specialists, programming consultants, stage directors, special effects experts, and choreographers.

The idea is to give the audience what they want. Tailor the church service to whatever will draw a crowd. As a result pastors are more like politicians than shepherds, looking to appeal to the public rather than leading and building the flock God gave them.

The congregation is served a slick, professional show, where drama, pop music, and maybe a soft-sell sermon constitute the worship service. But the emphasis isn't on worship, it's on entertainment.

Underlying this trend is the notion that the church must sell the gospel to unbelievers. Churches thus compete for the consumer on the same level as Frosted Flakes or Miller Lite. More and more churches are relying on marketing strategy to sell the church.

That philosophy is the result of bad theology. It assumes that if you package the gospel right, people will get saved. The whole approach is rooted in Arminian theology. It views conversion as nothing more than an act of the human will. Its goal is an instantaneous decision rather than a radical change of the heart.

Moreover, this whole Madison-Avenue corruption of Christianity presumes that church services are primarily for recruiting unbelievers. Many have abandoned worship as such. Others have relegated conventional preaching to some small group setting on a weeknight. But that misses the point of Hebrews 10:24-25: "Let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together."

Acts 2:42 shows us the pattern the early church followed when they met: "They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer." Note that the early church's priorities clearly were to worship God and to edify the brethren. The church came together for worship and edification; it scattered to evangelize the world.

Our Lord commissioned His disciples for evangelism in this way: "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations" (Matt. 28:19). Christ makes it clear that the church is not to wait for or invite the world to come to its meetings, but to go to the world. That is a responsibility for every believer. I fear that an approach emphasizing a palatable gospel presentation within the walls of the church absolves the individual believer from his personal obligation to be a light in the world (Matt. 5:16).

We have a society filled with people who want what they want when they want it. They are into their own lifestyle, recreation, and entertainment. When churches appeal to those selfish desires, they only fuel that fire and hinder true godliness. Some of these churches are growing exponentially while others that don't entertain are struggling. Many church leaders want numerical growth in their churches, so they are buying into the entertainment-first philosophy.

Consider what this philosophy does to the gospel message itself. Some will maintain that if biblical principles are presented, the medium doesn't matter. That is nonsense. Why not have a real carnival? A tattooed knife thrower who juggles chain saws could do his thing while a barker shouts Bible verses. That would draw a crowd. It's a bizarre scenario, but one that illustrates how the medium can cheapen and corrupt the message.

And sadly, it's not terribly different from what is actually being done in some churches. Punk-rockers, ventriloquists' dummies, clowns, and show-business celebrities have taken the place of the preacher--and they are depreciating the gospel. I do believe we can be innovative and creative in how we present the gospel, but we have to be careful to harmonize our methods with the profound spiritual truth we are trying to convey. It is too easy to trivialize the sacred message.

Don't be quick to embrace the trends of the high-tech superchurches. And don't sneer at conventional worship and preaching. We don't need clever approaches to get people saved (1 Cor. 1:21). We simply need to get back to preaching the truth and planting the seed. If we're faithful in that, the soil God has prepared will bear fruit.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Happy 19th Anniversary!

Wow, it's hard to believe that Diana and I have been together for 19 years. I can remember the sweet girl that used to come visit me where I worked at a skating rink. She has grown into the wonderful woman that I married a few years later.

Little did I know that she would make me the happiest guy in the world and provide me with an awesome family.

I thank God for His love and plan for providing such an awesome person like my sweetheart.

I love you, Diana!

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Give me, I mean my opinion

I recently visited, Tony Morgan's blog. He's one of the pastors at Grainger Community Church in Granger, IN. People were commenting on Granger's recent U2 series as well as their recent "My Lame Sex Life" series. For those who aren't aware, they recently had a Christmas program that used the songs from U2 to look at generosity. Previously, they had a series that looked at sex and rented billboard space with provocative images on it.

I had commented about using worldy methods to evangelize and had my post deleted.

I also commented on a second topic that asked,

"What do you think? Should Christ-followers use music to "speak a bit of life" into those that are unchurched? And, is it acceptable to use that type of music in church services? In case you're wondering...I do."

Well, he asked, "What do you think?" I commented on that one, just to have that one deleted as well.

I tried to go back to the blog this morning and post a clarification that nothing malicious was meant by my posts. When I submitted it, I received a message that said, "You are not allowed to post comments."

It appears that Pastor Morgan is OK with opinions as long as they agree with his. I wrote him an email trying to clarify that I was speaking in brotherly love. So far, I haven't received a reply.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

New Year's Resolutions (Jonathan Edwards style)

A recent article from Pulpit Magazine maintained that the resolutions "we make as Christians (whether for the New Year or sometime else) ought to be profoundly deeper, and thus categorically different, than the resolutions made by unbelievers."

What they did was to look at a list of 70 resolutions that Jonathan Edwards made. In looking at these, they are remarkable, especially if one takes into account that he made these in his late teens and early twenties.

Another thing that should be mentioned is that, according to the article, "...the commitments he made were lifelong pursuits; they were not limited to just the next year (as our New Year’s resolutions often are)."

Here are the primary areas in which Jonathan Edwards was resolved:

1. To live for God’s glory (see resolutions #s 1, 4, 27)

2. To make the most of this life, in terms of eternal impact (see #s 5, 6, 7, 9, 17, 19, 23, 52, 54, 69)

3. To take sin seriously (see #s 8, 24, 25, 26, 37, 56, 57)

4. To become theologically astute (see #s 11, 28, 30, 39)

5. To be humble (see #s 12, 43, 68)

6. To exhibit self-control in all things (see #s 13, 14, 15, 20, 21, 40, 44, 45, 59, 60, 61, 64, 65)

7. To always speak with grace and truth (see #s 16, 31, 33, 34, 36, 38, 46, 47, 58, 66, 70)

8. To constantly develop an eternal focus (see #s 10, 18, 22, 50, 51, 55, 67)

9. To be a faithful Christian, in prayer and dedication (see #s 29, 32, 35, 41, 42, 63)

10. To daily pursue a fervent love for Christ (see #s 48, 49, 53, 62)

* Edwards also committed himself to keeping his other resolutions (see #s 2 and 3)

As we consider the resolutions that we make for 2007, we can definitely learn something from the man widely recognized as America’s greatest theologian.

Even when Edwards resolved to use his time wisely (see #5), to eat properly (see #20), or to maintain healthy relationships with others (see #31)—resolutions that seem to coincide with the secular “top ten” list—his resolve flowed out of a God-focused perspective that was eternal in its scope. Thus his resolutions were not merely temporal lifestyle adjustments designed to solve a perceived bad habit. Instead, they were earnest spiritual decisions made for the purpose of combating sin and living a God-glorifying life.

Moreover, Edwards did not solely rely on his own willpower or clever scheming to stay true to his resolutions. To be sure, his resolutions required a tremendous amount of personal discipline and hard work. Yet, unlike the self-made commitments of the world, Edwards ultimately relied on God’s grace to help him accomplish what he knew to be humanly impossible (cf. Php. 3:12–13). In the preamble to his resolutions, he wrote: “Being sensible that I am unable to do anything without God’s help, I do humbly entreat him by his grace to enable me to keep these Resolutions, so far as they are agreeable to his will, for Christ’s sake.”

So what kind of resolutions will you make this year? Will they be those that accord with biblical priorities? Will they be those that necessarily depend on divine grace to accomplish? Will they be those that accord with the will of God and the glory of Christ?

I for one hope to follow Jonathan Edwards’s example and answer “yes” to those questions. If I can’t, then what makes my resolutions any different than the good intentions of the unbelieving world? But, if my perspective is eternal and my priorities are biblical, than my resolutions will be categorical different than those of the world—even if both of our lists include things like better time management, greater self-discipline, and more love for others.

After all, as a Christian, good intentions aren’t enough … only godly intentions will do.

Wow... what incredible insight he had. I especially like the last like in the article, "After all, as a Christian, good intentions aren’t enough … only godly intentions will do." Amen.