Monthly Archives: February 2008

It is a Cry: "Abba! Father!"

More Mahaney goodness.

So good.

“That cry assures us of God’s love for us.”

How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!– from 1 John 3:1

How great! Lavished! Children of God!Exclamation point!

I hope you taste and see how good God is this weekend as you gather to worship with your brothers and sisters. I hope you taste and see how good God is every day.

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Keller: "In that sense we’d be a seeker church."

The extended First Things interview with Tim Keller is great.

One of the more interesting bits, for me anyway, was this exchange:

KELLER: [T]he seeker church is a church in which you have sort of low participation, there’s a talk, there’s good music—but it’s not really a worship service. You’re not trying to get people engaged. You are targeting nonbelieving, skeptical people as the audience. That’s considered a seeker church. And I would have always said that Redeemer is the kind of church in which we’re trying to speak—it’s a worship service, but we’re trying to speak in the vernacular. We’re trying to speak in a way that doesn’t confuse or turn off nonbelievers. We want nonbelievers to be there. I think that a lot of ministers would never say, “We expect nonbelievers to be constantly there, lots of them there, incubating in the services.” And we do. We do expect that. In that sense we’d be a seeker church. But now I’m afraid I don’t think it’s a good word to use, because when people hear “seeker church” they’re thinking something else.

I found that if you define megachurch as anything over two thousand people, then yes, then we are. But here’s four ways in which we’re not a megachurch, or we don’t do things people associate with megachurches. One is, we do no advertising or publicity of any sort, except I’m trying to get the book out there so people read it and have their lives changed by it, …

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Crucify Success and Say What Jesus Said

If we entertain people, our church will grow. If we lead in worship, our church may shrink until it is composed of a group of people who want to worship. Then the church has a chance to grow based on the precedent of worship. The church that worships will have many visitors who never come back, and a few who cannot stay away.– David Hansen, The Art of Pastoring

If Jesus had a church in Simi Valley, I betcha mine would be bigger. I betcha if the Apostle Paul had a church in Simi Valley, mine would be bigger. In fact, I betcha people would be leaving their churches to come to mine. Because I don’t call them to the same commitment that Jesus called them to. Jesus would have a crowd of thousands of people, and by the time he’s done preaching, there’s, you know, a few left and he goes, “You guys wanna leave also? ‘Cause I’m gonna walk out here and you gotta leave your father, your mother, your wife, your kids, and there might be a bunch of crosses out there, and we’re just all gonna get crucified together. You wanna come with me?”

That wasn’t real popular. I think, man, I’m more popular than Jesus. I can keep a crowd. I can keep ‘em interested. I can say some interesting things. I can make ‘em laugh. I can keep ‘em coming. And it just bugged me, because I think, wait a second, that’s not right. Am I …

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Blessed are the Cynical

. . . for they will be reassured.

“Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher. “Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.”– Ecclesiastes 1:2

The Altar of Cynicism is a good article by John Sartelle in this month’s Tabletalk.A taste:

This is where cynicism takes hold: with our realization that nothing or no one can be totally trusted, and we can’t even point the finger of accusation at others because we ourselves cannot be trusted. We must number ourselves among the unfaithful and untrustworthy. Cynicism is the temple to which we finally come after stopovers at the houses of all the other gods. It is the temple at the end of “temple row.”

At the last, Solomon was saved from his cynicism. Ecclesiastes did not end [cynically]. Solomon did not sail out of the harbor into an endless ocean of emptiness. He did not end his story with the words, “To hell with it, to hell with it all.” He came to the sanctuary of a changeless God — a God who made incredible promises of grace and then kept His word. He came to a God who forgave unfaithful and untrustworthy people. He came to a God who said, “I will be faithful to my covenant with you. I will be faithful even though you have not been faithful to Me.”

Don’t expect more from your deities than they are able to deliver. Money will fail you, pleasure will fail you, power will fail you; friends, wives, husbands, fathers, mothers, and children will fail you. …

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Pastoral Pitfalls

To be sure, the minister of the Gospel is vulnerable to trials and temptations distinct to his calling:

jealousy (“Why are his gifts more esteemed than mine?”)

bitterness (“Why does the congregation criticize everything I do?”)

fear (“Will they leave the church if I teach particular redemption?”)

depression (“Will this church ever grow?”)

grief (“Why have there been so few conversions?”)

frustration (“Why does the board appear to distrust my motivations?”)

doubt (“Why has God caused such suffering in the life of this family?”)

anxiety (“How will we ever afford to send our children to college?”)

sexual indiscretion (“Why does it seem that my wife is not as responsive to me as other women in the church?”)

despondency (“Why doesn’t the congregation love Jesus with greater fervor?”)

desperation (“Have I rightly discerned my call to ministry?”)

It is imperative, then, for pastors to structure their lives in order to insure that ample time is given in prayer for the protection and promotion of their own spiritual condition.

– Arturo Azurdia, “Reforming the Church Through Prayer.” In Reforming Pastoral Ministry

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No Credential but Christ

When God called Moses to demand release of the Israelites from Egyptian captivity, Moses felt inadequate and unqualified. He asked, “Who am I to do such a thing?”

Now, when I ask this question of God, I usually ask in false humility. What I really want is God to reassure me of my qualifications and giftedness. What I really want is God to pump up my self-esteem. “Please remind me how awesome I am so that I’ll be confident enough to do this,” I ask God. And I fully expect God to respond, “Jared, you’re good enough, smart enough, and doggone it, people like you.”

This not what God said to Moses. In fact, he really didn’t even answer the question “Who is Moses?” He answered the question “Who is God?” The answer, of course, is God.

But Moses said to God, “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”

And God said, “I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.”

– Exodus 3:11-12

“Who am I?”

“Never mind who you are. You’re right; you’re a nobody. But you are called. I will be with you. And the sign of your success will not be a gold watch and a plaque and a place in Superduper Church Magazine’s 100 Most Awesomest Churches and Pastors with Mad Leadership Skills, but worship …

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Feelings, Nothing More Than Feelings

So, let’s not fall off the horse on the other side.

Is the average evangelical worship gathering becoming too emotion-driven in its entertainment-minded attempt at satisfying the customers? Yes.

Is it wrong to feel something at church? Scratch that: Is it wrong to want to feel something at church?No.

If we are actually dealing with the unlikely connection between the God of the Universe, infinitely and perfectly holy, and his creation, finite and sinful, a connection that is made in steadfast lovingkindness and perfectly redeeming grace, shouldn’t that move us?

We clearly shouldn’t base our worship or our comprehension of God and his salvation on our feelings. Feelings change, feelings shift, feelings ebb and flow. But there’s nothing wrong with feelings, even intense feelings, in the midst of corporate worship any more than there is at any other time in the normal Christian life.

God made our emotions same as he made our brains. Emotions are good.

We shouldn’t use them as a barometer of our spiritual state and our standing before God, but we shouldn’t discount them as sinful or fleshly when they come.

—On a related note, as a counter-warning, I must share this ironic moment from a recent Bible study. We were discussing the disappointing periods in our lives when it seems as if God is unresponsive to us — “hiding from us,” as it was described at one point. We all agreed, generally, that God doesn’t really hide from us, and we all agreed, generally, that we were talking about not feeling God’s …

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“If we honor the Groom, we will love the Bride.”

Ray Ortlund has a blog. A very good one called Christ is Deeper Still.

Here’s an excerpt from a recent post called What are we teaching our children?

I rarely hear pastors today calling their people to unswerving commitment to their church. Maybe we pastors are shy about this for understandable reasons. But let’s be careful. Our people will give themselves to something. Are the alternatives liberating and Christ-exalting and non-oppressive and bright with eternal glory? When was the last time we spent an evening vegging out in front of the TV and came to the end and said, “Man alive, that was awesome! I can’t wait to do that again”? And when was the last time we spent an evening in prayer with our church family and came to the end and said, “Criminey, what a waste of time. And to think I could have stayed home and watched Wheel of Fortune”? My brother pastors, are we leading our people to the fullness their souls long for?

And what kind of foundations are we laying for the next generation? In our present patterns of Christ-intensity and church-laxity (a kind of religion we see nowhere in the New Testament), what are we teaching our children? When was the last time, dads, that we said to our family with tender good cheer, “I know we’re a little tired this evening. But we do wonderful things even when we’re tired. Jesus will give us …

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Confession and Conviction

I don’t pray enough. Not nearly enough. I am awfully unfaithful in prayer. I justify this many ways to myself, but it does not assuage my conviction that my prayerlessness is sinful.

Prayers cause things to happen that wouldn’t happen if you didn’t pray. I wonder if there’s any Calvinists out there squirming. Listen to this: When James 4:2 says, “You do not have because you do not askt,” that does not mean “You’d have anyway even if you didn’t ask because I gotta plan.” The verse doesn’t mean the opposite of what it says. It says you have not because you ask not. That means prayer causes things to happen that wouldn’t happen if you wouldn’t pray. This is why this is a staggeringly glorious privilege . . . If you do not avail yourself of the privilege of bringing to pass events in the universe that would not take place if you didn’t pray, you are acting like a colossal fool.– John Piper, in the audio for the sermon Pray Like This: Hallowed Be Your Name (text version here)

An unlikely message from a man who is relentlessly logical about God’s sovereignty.I heard this incredible message a few weeks ago and it only compounded my conviction. I am that fool. The message has not let me go, and it only exacerbated what I’d been wrestling with before, and I’ve continued wrestling with it, because I am not repentant.

I have prayed and asked God to make me a better …

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The Foolishness of Preaching

It occurred to me yesterday (for the first time — I’m slow :-), that many within the Church today who decry preaching as outdated, irrelevant, and/or ineffective have agreed with Paul that preaching is “foolishness” but disagreed with him that it is God’s prescription anyway.

The foolishness of preaching is a scandal.

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