Monthly Archives: October 2007

Happy Reformation Day

Using the Five Solas to highlight the gospel, I gave my first ever Reformation Day message at Element last Sunday. You can listen to it here.I haven’t listened to it since delivering it, so I may get embarrassed later and remove it.

The service was really a blessing. The expectant vibe began during worship rehearsals and lasted throughout the service. I felt a little bogged down when straying into “history lesson” territory, but every time I get to talk about the sufficiency of Christ and the great grace of God, I experience an exhilaration I can’t explain. That’s not to say I’m super spiritual, but only to say that my suspicion is that the Spirit empowers the undiluted message of the gospel. At least, that’s how I feel.

The message came first and was our “call.” The music came second and was our “response.” Our band was incredible. Their set included:A Mighty Fortress is Our God (Martin Luther, natch)Revolutionary Love (David Crowder)Come Thou FountMighty To Save (Hillsong)

I may be simple, but nothing inspires me more these days than to ponder and then proclaim the glory of God in the love and atoning work of Jesus. We are a people starved for the glory of God, aren’t we?

Here is my piece on the history of today from BCC is Broken last year.

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Just a note to those falling all over themselves to say “I told you so” in response to the Bill Hybels/Willow Creek apology/confession: Don’t be lame.

It is most unhelpful. Okay, you were right all along (as you so gleefully want everyone to know). Now what?

One blog post I read was from a guy who, after pondering whether to credit Hybels for his very difficult announcement, decided “Nah. It’s too late.”

Well, look: Congratulations on your precognition. Now let’s figure out how to be graceful in our right-ness.

Exulting in the confession of failure of someone you expected to fail all along does not seem particularly Christlike to me, and if we’re going to make this about spiritual maturity . . . See where I’m going with that?

A request: If you’re going to rejoice in whatever you perceive someone’s failures to be, at least take a next step and offer some solutions to the problem.

Despite my own concerns with (my perception of) Willow Creek’s planned response to this development, I think Hybels’s announcement took tremendous courage and humility, and that is a success all Christ-followers ought to strive to emulate.

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.– Philippians 2:3

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Busywork is Not "Going Deeper"

Jeff Vanderstelt, Building Teams and Developing Leaders: Part 1:

I’ve found that we fill people’s calendars so full that they don’t have any time to actually grow up. And I think we’ve bought into some things that we think actually make people grow up . . . What if someone come to me and says, “We just want to go deeper”? . . . What we fundamentally realize is that most people just want to fill their schedule with more Christian activities so they don’t have to actually live out the mission. So somehow when they got to the end of the week they went, “Whew, I did a lot of church stuff, man, that was amazing.” They didn’t do a thing for anybody but themselves. Really. So if you’re going to equip people . . . you have to say “How are we helping people make time to actually dwell in their community?” . . . They are so busy doing church work they aren’t being the Church any more.

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What is Spiritual Maturity?

I think that is a really important question.

So much of what so many of us do in the church toward maturing people spiritually presupposes a unified answer to that question. But our answer is generally unspoken.

The REVEAL survey, which is now a bona fide phenomenon, having produced a startling confession from Bill Hybels, asks a variety of questions, the aim of which is to gauge “where churchgoers are.” My church participated in the survey, and I was one of the 500 or so respondents from my church to answer the survey, so I’ve seen the questions personally. They generally come from two angles:a) How involved are you in your church and how satisfied are you with your church?b) How do you feel about the quality of your spiritual life?

Some of the individual questions are quite pertinent to an honest assessment of one’s spiritual maturity. “How often do you read your Bible?” and “How often do you pray?” and “How often do you participate in community service or charity work?” are good questions.

But generally speaking — and here I’m not at all picking on the REVEAL survey but on the evangelical Church’s approach to gauging spiritual maturity in general — our measuring stick amounts to Participation and Feelings.

And here’s where I get hung up: I’m not sure spiritual maturity can be quantified that way.I do think that the more spiritually mature a person is, the more connected and invested in Christian community they are, and I do think that …

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Forgiveness is About Healing

People are messy, so forgiveness is messy. People are radically broken, so grace is radically healing.

By the time we get to the end of Hosea‘s sordid ballad of messy romance, the prophet’s poetry has clearly connected Hosea’s stern love to God’s disposition toward us, and it has clearly connected Gomer’s wanton immorality to our predilection for idolatry. This is the Gospel: the overcoming of a commitment to sin by a commitment to forgive.

Our sin makes a cuckold of God. But the great love of our great God continues to woo us.

Here’s how Eugene Peterson’s The Message renders Hosea 14:1-9b:

O Israel, come back! Return to your God! You’re down but you’re not out.Prepare your confession and come back to God.Pray to him, “Take away our sin, accept our confession.Receive as restitution our repentant prayers.Assyria won’t save us; horses won’t get us where we want to go.We’ll never again say ‘our god’ to something we’ve made or made up.You’re our last hope. Is it not true that in you the orphan finds mercy?”“I will heal their waywardness.I will love them lavishly. My anger is played out.I will make a fresh start with Israel.He’ll burst into bloom like a crocus in the spring.He’ll put down deep oak tree roots, he’ll become a forest of oaks!He’ll become splendid—like a giant sequoia, his fragrance like a grove of cedars!Those who live near him will be blessed by him, be blessed and prosper like golden grain.Everyone will be talking about them, spreading their fame …

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I talked with my friend Chris last night. His parents in California are on voluntary evacuation due to the spreading wildfires in the San Diego area.

Please pray for their safety and for the continued safety of all in the vicinity of disaster, including the men and women working to battle the fires.

Mark Lauterbach — of one of my favorite blogs, GospelDrivenLife — pastors Grace Church in Rancho Bernardo, an area in San Diego, and he has been posting on the fires, as well as Grace Church’s efforts to help those in need.

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Yet More on Joy

A Time to Laugh: John Frye on Joy in Ecclesiastes

A taste:

Behind the wisdom writer’s call to joy is a deep-seated belief in a theology of celebration. The God of Israel called his people to joy. God’s people were to eat and drink and rejoice in his presence (when they brought tithes to the LORD). Even told to buy “fermented” or “strong drink.” What?! Nehemiah told the people not to weep and mourn, but to eat and drink, “for the joy of the LORD is our strength”. Jesus told stories of a joyful, party-throwing shepherd who found his lost sheep, and a celebrating woman who found her lost coin, and a village chief who as a father calls for a city-wide feast when his lost son came home. And there was “music and dancing” (Luke 15)!

We sorely need a theology of joy and celebration . . . For many, there is a religious knee-jerk response of guilt to every experience of joy. “There will be no joy without guilt in this house…in this church!” Years ago I got a call from a local Bible school telling me that their students could no longer attend our church because we held a square dance during the Fall season. Drabness and dullness are next to holiness. I don’t know where these ideas crept into the faith, but they certainly did not come from the Bible or from Jesus.

I think Christian kill-joys perpetuate the ancient heresy of gnosticism. Gnosticism promoted the idea that the …

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Timing is Everything

Just an “fyi” for anybody out there who ever feels compelled to approach your pastor/teacher/worship leader with a critique of the service:

Even if you consider your critique “just suggestions,” two seconds after the service has ended is not the right time.

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How Many Links Does it Take to Get to the Center of a Tootsie Pop?

Hope you had a great weekend. We did. Tennessee Titans kicker Rob Bironas entered the NFL record books for most field goals in a single game while simultaneously winning the game in the final seconds over our hometown team, the Houston Texans. And Element was awesome last night. Got a chance to put a couple of new speakers out front and host some great discussion in a “workshop” setting to kick off our upcoming relationships series.

Here are some quality links to get your week started off right:

Steve Mathewson on application fatigue. A quote:

For me, the challenge is reductionism. By this, I refer to the practice of reducing application to a list of ‘life application points’ at the end of each sermon. Our culture is fond of lists. Number them, or put bullet points in front of them. Either way, listeners are eager to write them down and then, we hope, to work on fleshing them out in their lives.

But one comment I heard a few years ago made me pause. A believer who attended a midwest church known for its pastor’s preaching ministry complained, “If my pastor gives me one more life application point, I’m going to scream. I’m still trying to work on the ones from four months ago!”

(HT: Transforming Sermons)

I actually linked to this a week or two ago, but it’s so dang good, I’m linking to it again:Relational Discipleship: Off the Charts by Glenn LuckePlease read!

Bird highlights a powerful story of forgiveness.Becky and …

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You Don’t Say

More laughs at The Holy Observer.

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