Saturday, April 30, 2011

Worth a read...The Missional Manifesto

The framers of this document include:
Ed Stetzer   |   Alan Hirsch   |   Tim Keller   |   Dan Kimball   |   Eric Mason   |   J.D. Greear   |   Craig Ott   |   Linda Bergquist   |   Philip Nation   |   Brad Andrews

I'll read it with a fine-tooth comb later; for now, I like what I read.

Friday, April 29, 2011

What hurts, isn't dead yet. -C.J. Mahaney

Writer CJ Mahaney explains in his book on dealing with criticism that when someone speaks a jarring word toward us, the main reason the word is jarring or painful is that it has attacked an area that is trying to thrive.

Though Christians are to be dead to themselves and alive to Jesus Christ (Galatians 2:20), there are often parts of my soul that want to live apart from Jesus. I still want to look good. I still want to be thought smart, winsome, and talented. But the Gospel of Jesus Christ is meant to cut the legs out of all human posturing. The Gospel tells me that I am an undeserving sinner, far worse than I ever could admit, but the one person who did not deserve to die (Jesus) died for me (and unimaginable act of love on the Cross). So, why am I still trying to live the old life? Answer: there's still more of me that needs to die (see Romans 6). Upon reflection, here are some of the areas where Christ still needs to kill me:

1) Finding satisfaction in my work. I grew up in a home where everyone works. I started to help mow the lawn when I was 6 and got my first job at 13 (and have had a few weeks off here and there now for 17 years). I can remember that 3 of the hardest times in my life were when I was seeking employment and no one seemed like they wanted me (just married, looking for part-time work in grad school, and pursuing my first senior pastor position). And if I couldn't work, then I wasn't valuable. It's as if Jesus isn't enough. I need a job and Jesus.
2) Seeking joy in the praise of others. When I work on something (a sermon, cleaning the house, doing a good deed, etc.), I want the world to lift up my name in praise. I want them to love me and slap me on the back. But why am I not serving to find my joy in Christ? And as important, why would I want people to find their joy in me when I know full-well that others will be broken and empty unless they find their joy in Jesus as well (Jeremiah 2:12-13)?

God disciplines those he loves (Hebrews 12). I expect, hope (with fear and trembling), and desire the Lord to root these thriving parts of me out.

The end of the world . . . May 21, 2011?

A group of "fundamentalist Christians" have pinpointed the end of the world. The Des Moines Register reports: "Ken Bushman of Newton wakes up each day and inks a new number on his left hand in black magic marker - his personal daily countdown until May 21. It's a constant reminder of his fundamentalist Christian conviction that the rapture will arrive that day, heralded by massive global earthquakes as God sweeps 2 or 3 percent of the world's population up to heaven. Then those left behind will face 153 days of hell on Earth until the Oct. 21 apocalypse." (see the entire article,

I find this incident humorous in light of our church's family Sunday School class studying Matthew 24 this week and next. In Matthew 24, we read something that Ken Bushman must have missed: NIV Matthew 24:36 "No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 37 As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 38 For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; 39 and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.

No one knows the time . . . well except this guy I guess.

No one knows the timing of Christ's return (not the hour nor the day). Christ's return is certain, but this is another mystery that God reserves for himself. Then at the end of Matthew 24 and all of Matthew 25 contain parables that offer implications for Christ's return, they are as follows:
24:42-51 – How we serve in X’s absence, reveals our desire to please Him. (Are we seeking to please God or ourselves?)          
25:1-13 – How we wait during the delay, reveals our commitment to Christ. (Are we eager for Christ to return and faithful during the wait or are we apathetic toward Christ?)        
25:14-30 – How we use our resources reveals our heart for God. (Do we love our stuff or the One who gave us stuff to be used for His glory?)
25:31-46 – How we love our Christian brothers and sisters in need before Christ's return reveals our love for Christ. (Do we care for those in need or do we care for to meet more of our wants?)

I preached a sermon a few weeks ago on both chapters Matthew 24-25. If you are interested, you can download and listen to it here:

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Because He (Jesus) Lives

1 Corinthians 15

 1 Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. 2 By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.  3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance[a]: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,

Lyrics to a hymn that stirs my soul on Easter morning:

God sent His son, they called Him Jesus
He came to love, heal, and forgive.
He lived and died to buy my pardon,
An empty grave is there to prove my Savior lives.

Because He lives, I can face tomorrow.
Because He lives, All fear is gone.
Because I know He holds the future,
And life is worth the living just because He lives.

How sweet to hold a newborn baby,
And feel the pride and joy he gives.
But greater still the calm assurance,
This child can face uncertain days because He lives.

Because He lives, I can face tomorrow.
Because He lives, All fear is gone.
Because I know He holds the future,
And life is worth the living just because He lives.

And then one day I'll cross the river,
I'll fight life's final war with pain.
And then as death gives way to victory,
I'll see the lights of glory and I'll know He lives.

Because He lives, I can face tomorrow.
Because He lives, All fear is gone!
Because I know He holds the future
And life is worth the living just because He lives!

Words: Bill & Gloria Gaither

Friday, April 22, 2011

The priorities for critical thinking...

Here is a summary of John Stott's approach on thinking and engaging the world in his classic book The Cross of Christ (pp. 17-18)-

The Cross of Christ1)  First, engage in careful study, observation and then explanation of the Biblical text. Stott writes, "There is no alternative to careful exegesis of the text."
2)  Second, read those who have gone before us. Stott continues, "... one cannot ignore the great works of the past.  To be disrespectful of tradition and of historical theology is to be disrespectful of the Holy Spirit who has been actively enlightening the church in every century."
3) Finally, after following careful Biblical study and listening to the wisdom of past centuries, then one must use what is learned to engage the contemporary world. If we start "solving" problems before critical thinking of said problems, we will only make problems worse.

NIV Philippians 4:8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-- if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-- think about such things.

If you have not read (or reread recently) Stott's book The Cross of Christ, please take the time to do so. Meditate on why Jesus had to die on the Cross. Those who hope to think and engage their contemporary world with as much vigor and success as John Stott, should also be willing to submit to a similar method of reasoning... listen to God's Word, then listen to God's people, and then be driven to honor God in God's world.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Why Easter Matters: Adolf Hitler vs. Dietrich Bonhoeffer

From a recent Fox News article by Eric Metaxas:

How is it that one man [Adolf Hitler] slunk to his death defeated and is today despised by the whole world, while another man [Dietrich Bonhoeffer] went to his death with God's peace, and is today everywhere hailed as a hero, as one of the few Germans with the courage to see what was happening and to speak against it and act against it, even at the cost of his own life?
There's much to say by way of an answer, but since the Easter season is upon us, let's start there.
Bonhoeffer believed the Easter story. He actually believed the unbelievable story of God's coming to earth and dying and then rising from the dead to defeat death forever. He believed that because this was true, he need never fear death. All he needed to worry about was doing the right thing and trusting God with the results. And that he did.
Because Bonhoeffer believed these things he had the courage to do what almost no one else around him could do. He stood up for the Jews of Europe and today he is celebrated and cherished, while Hitler, who condemned him to death and who only believed in himself, is reviled as a monster.

If you're interested in reading the whole article, click HERE! Eric Metaxas is the author of "Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy"

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Matthew 26:31-35--"The Desertion Begins..."

During the last supper, Jesus warns that he (the shepherd) is about to be struck, and as a result, his disciples (the flock) would disperse. Not only is this going to happen, but Jesus shows that it had been foretold centuries earlier by the prophet Zechariah (cf. Zech. 13:7). There's yet hope, "But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee" (Mt. 26:332). Peter in his infamous speech vows to never deny Jesus and to be with Jesus until the bitter end. Jesus warns that Peter he is only a few hours away from denying Jesus 3 times. We read in v. 35 that the other disciples made similar acts of devotion. And yet, soon all would run and hide, and apparently only John returned to show his face in public upon Golgotha, weeping beside the women.

I wonder if this complete desertion is connected to upholding the Biblical doctrine of justification by faith in Christ alone through grace alone. If any of the disciples had felt they shared in any way in assisting in or supporting in Jesus' meritorious death, would they have missed out on the necessity that Christ had to die for them too? Or worse yet, we might end up believing the disciples assisted in the provision of salvation to humanity and we might end up venerating them and stealing glory from God. A sinful human being of any sort cannot add anything to their salvation or to someone else's. We know from Isaiah that our most religious deeds are like filthy rags (Isa. 64:6). We must remember the atonement had to be made by a worthy sacrifice. Only Christ was the perfect atonement and mediator, the God-man (1 Tim. 2:5), who alone bore the sins of the world on the cross. He alone took God's wrath and bore humanity's punishment (Isa. 53:6).Maybe by God's sovereign grace, he allowed these disciples to desert Jesus so that in due time, godly sorrow would lead them to repentance, believing in justification by faith alone in Christ alone through grace alone (and us too).

Regardless, we're like the disciples in every way. We've betrayed Christ; we've denied Christ; we've deserted Christ, and we've chosen the easy way of faithlessness to save our own skin. The Biblical story (God's sovereign ordering of history) shows us that just as the first disciples could later return to Christ and trust in Him for forgiveness and salvation despite their wickedness toward Him, we too can come and believe in Jesus Christ for salvation. Glory, hallelujah!

An email from an engineer . . . paraprosdokian

This is what happens when you have the privilege of pastoring a church full of engineers . . . you get emails like this (I love it!):

A paraprosdokian is a figure of speech in which the latter part of a sentence or phrase is surprising or unexpected in a way that causes the reader or listener to re-frame or reinterpret the first part. It is frequently used for humorous or dramatic effect, sometimes producing an anticlimax. For this reason, it is extremely popular among comedians and satirists.

Ø   I asked God for a bike, but I know God doesn't work that way, so I stole a bike and asked for forgiveness.

Ø   Going to church doesn't make you a Christian any more than standing in a garage makes you a car.

Ø   The last thing I want to do is hurt you, but it's still on the list.

Ø  If I agreed with you, we'd both be wrong.  (I have to remember this one)

Ø   We never really grow up, we only learn how to act in public.

Ø   War does not determine who is right - only who is left.

Ø   Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit; Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.

Ø   Evening news is where they begin with 'Good evening', and then proceed to tell you why it isn't.

Ø   To steal ideas from one person is plagiarism; To steal from many is research.

Ø   A bus station is where a bus stops. A train station is where a train stops. On my desk, I have a work station.

Ø   Dolphins are so smart that within a few weeks of captivity, they can train people to stand on the very edge of the pool and throw them fish.

Ø  I thought I wanted a career, turns out I just wanted pay checks.

Ø   A bank is a place that will lend you money, if you can prove that you don't need it.

Ø   Whenever I fill out an application, in the part that says "In an emergency, notify:" I put "DOCTOR".

Ø   I didn't say it was your fault, I said I was blaming you.

Ø   Why does someone believe you when you say there are four billion stars, but check when you say the paint is wet?

Ø   Why do Americans choose from just two people to run for president and 50 for Miss America ?

Ø   A clear conscience is usually the sign of a bad memory.

Ø   You do not need a parachute to skydive. You only need a parachute to skydive twice.

Ø   The voices in my head may not be real, but they have some good ideas!

Ø   Always borrow money from a pessimist. He won't expect it back.

Ø   A diplomat is someone who can tell you to go to hell in such a way that you will look forward to the trip.

Ø   Money can't buy happiness, but it sure makes misery easier to live with.

Ø   I discovered I scream the same way whether I'm about to be devoured by a great white shark or if a piece of seaweed touches my foot.

Ø  I used to be indecisive. Now I'm not sure.

Ø   You're never too old to learn something stupid.

Ø   To be sure of hitting the target, shoot first and call whatever you hit the target.

Ø   Nostalgia isn't what it used to be.

Ø   A bus is a vehicle that runs twice as fast when you are after it as when you are in it.

Ø  Change is inevitable, except from a vending machine.

O Lord, hear our prayer...

"I am not what I ought to be, I am not what I want to be, I am not what I hope to be in another world; but still I am not what I once used to be, and by the grace of God I am what I am."
-John Newton, author of "Amazing Grace"

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Prayer Day

2 Big Surgeries Today:

1) Carrie's sister, Sarah, just got out of 4.5 hour surgery to remove a (Lord willing) benign tumor from her back. Please pray for her and the lengthy recovery she has before her (several weeks on her back and several more unable to lift over 10 lbs., including her adorable toddler). Pray that the tumor is benign. Pray for hearts to lean on Jesus and to trust that though these mortal bodies will one day fade and die, all who trust in Christ for salvation from sin will one day receive bodies that will never decay!

2) A dear son of Cornerstone Church, Jeff Erlacher, is in a cancer-removal surgery in Houston as I write (only the 2nd time this operation has been done in the USA); he's about 6 hours into a surgery that could take up to 24 hours to remove the cancer and infected bone mass and to put in a pelvic prosthetic. Pray for Jeff's wife and son. Pray for Jeff's parents. They are posting updates on this blog:

Friday, April 15, 2011

The Gospel Coalition 2011

I returned yesterday from my 3 day trip to Chicago for The Gospel Coalition Conference to learn, worship, and fellowship with others who love the Gospel of Jesus Christ. After spending a week being reminded of the precious truths of the Gospel of Salvation, I realize the main reason I do not share the Gospel regularly is that I am not overwhelmed by the truth of God's wrath for sin and God's remedy in Jesus Christ. When we rejoice in our own salvation from sin deeply, truly, profoundly, then and only then, will we delight (yes, delight!) to share this message with others. I'm praying for my own heart to delight in the Gospel so that I will delight in sharing it with others.

If you are interested, all the main session sermons are available for download already:  The various workshops will be posted in due time. My personal favorites were from Tim Keller, Matt Chandler, and Don Carson.

In addition, you can download the panel discussion entitled, "God: Abounding in Love, Punishing the Guilty" on hell, Rob Bell, and the fate of the lost here:

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Review of "Total Church" by Tim Chester and Steve Timmis

Total Church: A Radical Reshaping around Gospel and Community (Re:Lit) I want everyone in my church and everyone who loves the church to read Total Church: A Radical Reshaping around Gospel and Community (Re:Lit) by Tim Chester and Steve Timmis.

I rarely recommend a book written in the last 5 years with this kind of support, but this 2008 book on "A Radical Reshaping around Gospel and Community" receives 5 out of 5 stars. In fact, other than a few disparaging remarks they make about solitude and silence in chapter 9 (did they forget that Jesus modeled these spiritual disciplines [Mark 1:35; Luke 5:16]?), I find 85% agreement on every page.

A quick review:

From the early pages to the end, Chester and Timmis breathe Gospel and community. They write, "Christians are called to a dual fidelity: fidelity to the core content of the gospel and fidelity to the primary context of the believing community." Without the centrality of knowing and proclaiming God's Word, the church does not grow and the Kingdom does not advance. Likewise, they write, "to fail to live out our corporate identity in Christ is analogous to the act of adultery; we can be Christian and do it, but it is not what Christians should do." Christians must be united to a church family. It is possible to be a Christian and not be in community, but it is also possible to be married and not live with your spouse. Both are unnatural and unhealthy.  Chester and Timmis are right on, when they argue, "Church is not another ball for me to juggle but that which defines who I am and gives Christlike shape to my life." The center of our life should be the Christ and the Church (wedded together) . . . out of a relationship with Christ and the church, I interact in my family, workplace, neighborhood, etc. Chapters 3-13 are what they describe as Gospel and Community in Practice. They discuss a key area of the church (theology, apologetics, evangelism, etc.) and apply it through the rubric of Gospel and Community.

In their closing chapter they give a helpful word:

But our proposals should not be viewed as a recipe for success nor a guarantee of authentic ministry. Christianity is not a strategy or a set of principles. It is a relationship of love with the Triune God. The gospel word and the gospel community must be central to Christian practice. But our hearts should be fixed on the grace of God, the love of God, and the glory of God. The only true center of Christian existence is God Himself.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

The Church's Strategy

2 quotes I've been chewing on the past months:

1) "Discipleship is done by people, not programs." Sunday School does not raise up kids to walk and follow Jesus. But passionate, loving, Word-centered, Christ-exalting Sunday School teachers can. Small groups do not make disciples. But thoughtful, intentional, lovers of God and lover of people can encourage and train others to walk with Jesus. Mentoring does not make disciples. But mentors who invest in the lives of others, remaining in Christ (John 15:5), can overflow with rich spiritual fruit to those under their care.

2) "Church planting is all the craze right now and every 'cool' church is supposed to be doing it, but most people are simply planting services and styles, not churches." If you take 20-200 people from you church and put them in a different location, you are not church planting. All they'll do is sing the same songs, preach similar sermons, and study similar books. But if you take 20-200 Christ-adoring disciples who are trained to make other disciples of Jesus, you are planting a church. These people can reach non-Christians and raise them up to walk with Jesus and then grow into disciple-makers themselves.

It behooves me as a pastor to be a disciple-maker myself. All programs, styles, and services are subservient to the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20).