Monthly Archives: March 2010

How I Know I’m Not a Church Planter

In my recent post on Why I Moved to New England, I wrote this:

Despite having planted a church and being passionate about church planting movements, I know I am not a church planter. I’m a pastor. I don’t have the wiring to plant. But I love planters and want to encourage and edify them however I can and I want to attract them and raise them up in my church and support them because church planting is vital and necessary and becoming more so every day.

In the comments, reader Chris wrote:

A blog post discussing the process whereby you realized you are not a church planter would be extremely helpful to many of us.

I am not sure how helpful it could be, actually, and it wasn’t much of a process, but I can share how I know I’m not a planter.

To preface, I should say that I did not learn I wasn’t a church planter by experiencing a failed church plant. I did plant a church, although to say “I” did it is not true, and never is it true for any church planter. We planted a church because we had to. The story of this is somewhat complicated, but I was pastoring a young adult ministry within a larger church, and all parties realized after about a year that we basically had a church within a church. So quite by “accident” — read, “by God’s providential wisdom” — we didn’t set out to cultivate an independent church, but …

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Perspective

Journal EntryMarch 31, 2010

Month 8 of new life in Vermont. Have yet to see a sasquatch. I am not discouraged, however. I plan to be here until I die, so there’s (probably) plenty of time yet.

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How Do You Cure Laziness?

The same way you cure all idolatry — serious, serious nagging.

Just kidding.

Laziness is idolatry. In that sense, it is closely related to its opposite, workaholism. Both sins are sins of self-worship. The behavior looks different, but the root idolatry is the same.

And the problem is that Law cannot do what Grace does. There is no saving power in Law. And there is no sustainable abiding of the Law apart from the Grace compulsion. We can command repentance, but it’s Grace that enables repentance and belief that accompanies it. Repentance problems are belief problems.

When we are set free from the Law’s curse, we are set free to the Law’s blessings. The difference maker is the gospel and the joyful worship it creates. Any other attempt at Law-abiding is just behavior management.

So you don’t cure laziness by pouring Law on it. God turns dry bones into living, breathing, worshiping, working bodies by pouring gospel proclamation into them. When we truly behold the gospel, we can’t help but grow in Christ and with the fruit of the Spirit.

Religious people can’t delight in the law like David did. They have to be set free — and feel free — from its curse first. And people aren’t lazy because they think they’re forgiven for trespassing the Law; they’re lazy because they think the Law doesn’t apply to them.

We worship our way into sin, and we have to worship our way out. When someone is lazy (or restless) they do have a sin problem, …

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Preacher, Sweetly Paint the Blessing of Christ as All

Good word from Henry Law from The Gospel in Leviticus:

You ministers of Christ, behold your theme. So dreadfully denounce the curse, that you and yours may flee it. So sweetly paint the blessing, that you and yours may grasp it. So fully preach the Savior, that you and yours may be forever saved. Blessed are they, who, living, preaching, dying, make Christ their All.

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A First!

I was compared this very morning in a comment thread at another blog to TD Jakes and Joel Osteen.

I guess there’s a first time for everything.

Have your best Palm Sunday NOW!

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Approved!

“. . . we speak as men approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel.” – 1 Thessalonians 2:4

While most self-esteem is idolatry, I think many Christians are walking around joyless and timid because they don’t realize the wonder of the gospel confidence in knowing that God approves of them in Christ. In Jesus, sin is forgiven, past is forgotten, religion is fulfilled, and eternity is secure.

If you believe in your heart and confess with your mouth that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and that he has been raised from the dead, God looks upon you with the approval he has for that Son. Do you know how fantastic that is? I almost didn’t write it because it sounds so heretical! Jesus became your sin so that you could become his righteousness (2 Cor. 5:21). There is no more astounding fact in the history of mankind than that.

God may swipe the card of any of his children at any time, be they happy or sad, victorious or defeated, confident or depressed, and no matter how many charges we have made on it, no matter how many times we have tested debt with it, the report will return every time without fail: APPROVED.

“Christ’s righteousness is so imputed to believers that their justification is not merely the act of a sovereign dispensing with law but the act of a judge declaring the law to be satisfied.” – Charles Hodge

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How Do You Know If Your Jesus is Too Safe?

“What people don’t realise is how much religion costs. They think faith is a big electric blanket, when of course it is the cross.” — Flannery O’Connor

I was reminded of that quote today while reading the comments under this post on Brian McLaren at Matthew Paul Turner’s place.

One way to tell if your Jesus is too safe is if you can’t fathom that he’d come from a God of wrath, from a God who demanded blood atonement to give us his holiness. No, instead the cross was about God “saving us from ourselves.”

I hope one thing God saves us from is our desire to domesticate him.

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The Sharp Edge of the Gospel and the Fruit of Its Implications

This post is an entry in the Prologue to Missional Discussion Synchroblog.

I am late with my entry in the syncrhoblog this week, but I am hoping to redeem my unsatisfactory (to me) entry from last week, especially as this week’s questions seem connected quite closely to last week’s.

The questions posed the synchrobloggers:Should the definition of “salvation” be expanded beyond personal redemption of sins to include social justice? If not, what is the difficulty with the question of personal salvation?Does God save individuals outside of anything other than the proclamation of the gospel through believers who make up the church?

My answer to the first question is simple: No. I believe the gospel is the historical fact of what Jesus Christ accomplished: sinless sacrifice for sin atonement, bodily resurrection for eternal life. This is the basic, non-negotiable truth of the news that God declares good. Notice that it is not advice, not suggestion, not instruction. Nor is it vague spirituality, steps to enlightenment, skills to implement, or precepts to practice. It is information; it is an announcement. It is news. News to be believed, yes, but it is not news of something that has yet to happen or something we can make happen, but rather something that has already happened and was made to happen by God himself.

There may be no need to further distill the gospel; Paul has done not just a good job in 1 Corinthians 15 but an authoritative job. But if we were to summarize his …

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Why I Moved to New England

Is that news to you? It’s probably the worst kept secret in my tiny niche of the Interwebs, but I moved to Vermont late summer of last year.

I know this has been confusing for some people, especially as my profile (such as it is) has risen with the publication of my first book last summer. At the time of publication I was still the pastor of Element, a missional community planted by some friends and I a couple of years ago in Nashville, and that’s what my little bio says on the back of the book. As I was getting inquiries about Element and invites to lunch/coffee in Nash Vegas, I was packing to move to the great green north. But I couldn’t really tell anybody, at least not publicly.

In one of the weirdest experiences of my life, my family has had to basically keep my move off the public radar (for the most part) because my wife works/worked in the tumultuous world of Christian retail, and word of her impending vacancy would have caused some headaches for her and her superiors. Complicating matters was that we still needed her income until our house sold. And our house hasn’t sold. But we wanted our daughters to start the school year in their new home so they and I moved up and Becky stayed behind, and we have been painfully separated for going on 8 months. It sucks.

But that doesn’t tell you where I went and why. In the …

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Despair of Sin, Not Just Guilt, is the Profitable Brokenness

It’s been a while since I shared from my current work in progress, so here is another sneak peek from a chapter on brokenness.

There is a difference between wanting to escape the consequences of our sin and truly feeling the weight of that sin. This difference is often illustrated in being sorry for getting caught doing something, not being sorry for doing the thing itself. What our flesh wants, maximally, is to be rid of guilt, not sin. But gospel wakened people want to be free of sin itself, not just the guilt of it.

The difference between gospel wakefulness and first conversion comes into play here, because many of us express saving faith in Christ for reasons of fire insurance. We don’t want to go to hell when we die. (That alone is a very good reason to trust in Christ, by the way!) But despair not just of hell, but of the sin in us, is evidence of gospel wakefulness. Gospel wakened people want to avoid punishment, sure, but moreso they despair of the reason for punishment. And until we despair of the sin in us, we will not truly rejoice over Christ in us. “Christ is never sweet,” Thomas Watson tells us, “till sin is felt to be bitter.” That is a profitable brokenness.

Previous excerpts from the manuscript I’ve tentatively titled Gospel Wakefulness:Good Gospel EngagementBlaspheme Your Idols

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