Celebrating Reformation Day in Style

Tonight my church is celebrating Reformation Day. My good friend at TheWardrobeDoor.com posted some graphics that should be spread like wildfire through social media on Oct. 31st!  One of my favorites: When did your blog post earn a Papal rebuttal?

Enjoy!

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Raising the Next Generation – Proverbs 22:6

1410655386Proverbs 22:6 – Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.

Familiar words but a heavy implication. Are we training the next generation in the truth and passing on our faith? I was able to preach on just this issue to our congregation.

Listen to it here.  .

We must pass along something solid. The bedrock of our faith is: 1.) Who God is, and 2.) What He has said:

  • In a generation losing its grip on right and wrong we must train them in morality, because God is Good.
  • In a generation accepting relativism we must train them in absolutes, because God is unchanging.
  • In a generation rejecting the Bible as authoritative we must train them in Truth, because God has spoken honestly.
  • In a generation slipping into desperation we must train them in Hope, because God has sent Jesus Christ.

Who are you training up? Are you passing along bedrock? Remember the next generation needs us to put Proverbs 22:6 into action.

Run with Passion, Purpose, and Perspective

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“Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls.”
—Hebrews 12: 1–3

Run with Passion, Purpose, and Perspective

Hebrews 12 develops the theme of endurance. The first three verses teach us that the key to persistence is passion.

All the men and women of faith in Hebrews 11 “made it” because they felt passionate about their cause. The writer compares our lives to a race and tries to convince us that we must run with endurance if we plan to finish well.

The text also suggests that if the key to persistence is passion, then the key to passion is purpose. We must run with purpose, not aimlessly.

And the key to purpose? Perspective. The writer of Hebrews admonishes us to consider three things that will help us to finish well:

1. Consider them (12:1)
Since a great cloud of witnesses has gone before us, we must get serious about finishing well.

2. Consider ourselves (12:1)
It is now our turn to run the race and watch for pitfalls. We must lay aside every encumbrance that would prevent us from finishing well.

3. Consider Jesus (12:2–3)
Jesus ran His own race and endured hardship by fixing his eyes on the rewards; we must follow His example.

Drawn from an article in The Maxwell Leadership Bible.

Mission Trips and other Humbling Experiences

Each year I lead a High School Senior International mission trip over spring break. I am always captured by the personal and group growth that takes place during these weeks. I am humbled by God.

  • That we can serve Him
  • That the Gospel has reached me and reaches around the globe
  • That we live with so much blessing without saying thank you often enough
  • That those with so little can love so much
  • That God is the God, and He moves when, where, and in whom, as He sees fit

This year we are going to Belize.  Here is a quick video of the people and places we will encounter.

I am blessed to have met and worked with this pastor before. Pastor Mark is a man of God, full of grace, passion, and a big smile.

Me and Pastor Mark

 

I encourage you to go on mission trips and engage in other experiences that remind us of the truth of scripture, that we are all equal before the cross, that God does not show partiality, that we are brothers in sisters in christ.

In a different cultural environment we get to see a new perspective, yet the same God. He is at work all around us. Let’s join Him as He offers hope through Jesus Christ.

Mark 9:35 “Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.”

Philippine 2:3 “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves.”

Matt 28:19-20 “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

A Response to “Worship is More Important than Your Small Group”

A title like “Worship is More Important than Your Small Group” is nothing more than Christian click-baiting. For this assistant pastor to make this nearsighted-misleading remark is ridiculous, meant for nothing more than shock value. It’s equivalent to a blog/sermon title of “Why Men are Better than Women”. The more I read it the more ridiculous it sounds.

I am a fan of Gospel Coalition, but I think “Worship is More Important than Your Small Group” missed the mark.

This blog seems to drive a wedge between two things the bible doesn’t separate. Yes, we need corporate worship. I fully agree with this. But just as essential to the Christian life as corporate worship is the need for real relationships. The bible does not place a value scale on these things, they are both essential in their own way. Just because corporate worship is unique (Heading 1) does not equate it being more intrinsically valuable. I’ve heard a pastor in my own church say, and rightly so, “people may come because of the preaching, but they stay because of relationships.”

If the author says several times throughout his blog, “But as much as you and I may love small groups…” “I love small groups. Don’t misunderstand me…” I take note. If you don’t want to be misunderstood, then say clearly what you mean. And here is an idea, don’t title your article something you aren’t trying to say.

No church is perfect, but to value corporate worship more than personal worship or real relationships, or vice versa, neglects the full counsel of God. When all the emphasis centers on one aspect of worship, you are missing the fullness of the Church the way God intended. If you only engage in small groups to the neglect of corporate worship, you are wrong. If you only engage in corporate worship to the neglect of small groups, you are wrong.  

The church is community, both in its corporate setting and in its relational setting. It is the Body of Christ with multiple pieces and functions. Each piece needs to work the way it was intended, without saying this function is more important than that function. Eph 4:15-16 “Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.”

In this blog, Jason Helopoulos addresses four problems with corporate worship services, not four legitimate reasons why worship is “more important” than small groups. His title is misleading and of an arrogant tone.

Lets look at his four “points” in support for the greater value of Corporate Worship. (please re-read the original points as I am dealing directly with their content.)

Too “pastor-centric” – This point seems to imply that God speaks only in the corporate context! God speaks in many ways, one of those being in the corporate worship setting, but there are many other ways! YES we need to listen. That happens in my private worship time, my small group time, and my corporate worship time! Since when did Job’s hand over his mouth in 40:6 refer to being attentive to the public sermon of a pastor? Wasn’t this a private encounter between God and Job? And to use the NT reference of Mary as choosing the best thing in Luke 10:38-42 as a support for corporate worship being more important than small groups is preposterous. The article says, “Mary was commended by the Lord because she chose what was best. She knew that when the Lord speaks, we are to listen, absorb, and delight in hearing His voice.” Umm, wasn’t this a small group meeting in Mary’s house, of Jesus teaching to believers? Seems pretty clear that God does speak in small group setting just as easily as the corporate setting. God speaks when He wants, we need to listen. WE NEED BOTH ENVIRONMENTS!

Too Passive/ Too Boring – These points are basic Discipleship 101, not support for corporate worships being of greater value than small groups.  In any setting – my personal bible study, my small group, my corporate worship experience – if I come to the table passive and bored, it is my sin problem. It is not the problem of the environment. What about the environments Helopoulos uses as examples? Is there a corporate emphasis in Romans 12:1-2? No, in fact it the pronouns are pretty personal: “present your bodies” “your spiritual act worship, “renew your mind” “that you may discern what God’s will is”. In Hebrew 4:12 is “our soul pierced” expressly in a corporate setting? NO, it is a general statement about the active nature of God’s word in ANY setting. Was Isaiah’s experience in a corporate setting in Isaiah 6? NO. Was John’s experience in a corporate setting in Revelation 1? NO, he was under house arrest on an island. Are any of these references lending support to the arrogant claim that “Corporate Worship is More Important than Your Small Group”??? Give me a break, NO.

Too Impersonal – The author points to the communal prayer, singing and participation in the sacraments as aspects of real fellowship within a corporate context. Has anyone said it is not? Do vibrant small groups somehow diminish these? Fellowship happens in a variety of contexts and modes. Is one form of fellowship more valuable and one less valuable?

What about the Lord’s Supper? Didn’t the early church do this in homes? Wasn’t it based around a real meal, aka the love feast? How are these first century house churches not more akin to our small groups of the modern age than the modern corporate worship service? Helopoulos says, “And nothing declares that louder than our partaking of the Lord’s Table together in worship” – This is one piece of the puzzle, yes. But a very biblical idea is not how often you receive the elements but rather as Jesus says in John 13:35, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” When Jesus had his small group in the upper room and ordained the Lord’s Supper, he did so with acts of service within intimate relationships. How well does that characterize our corporate worship services today?

I’m not calling any church out, but I am calling for a holistic well-rounded view of the Christian life, one in which the corporate worship experience is just as vital to the growing Christian as the intimate relationships within small groups.

Here comes the big bait and switch. The main point of the title is directly changed in his closing paragraph. Helopoulos says, “I love small groups. Don’t misunderstand me. They serve a real purpose in most churches, but their importance cannot and does not supersede our gathering together in corporate worship.”  So all of a sudden this article is about small groups superseding corporate worship? It sure seems that the title and opening lines say clearly this article is about how the importance of corporate worship supersedes small groups.

The title is not even really discussed in this article. As a whole it represents a shortsighted view to its readers about what the Body of Christ look like in a modern American, context.  To pit the two environments against each other is not healthy, as both are integral to Christian development.  Why this author feels the need to make such superficial claims is probably an extreme reaction to an equally extreme position, namely “my small group is more important than your worship service”. In trying combat the error he errors in the same manner. I believe he is does a disservice to a generation that is seeking Truth in the context of authentic community.

My prayer is the Church would see the need for both sides of the coin; engaged corporate worship and intimate Christian relationships. One is not “more important”, both are essential.

*** side note: I am sure Jason Helopoulos is a great guy and if we were able to hang out we would have tons in common. My blog is addressing the ideas (both stated and implied) within his content. Grace and peace to you Jason and may your ministry be fruitful.***

Discipleship Over Coffee

Discipleship is the key to the Christian life. One of the best “disciplers” I know and look up to is my friend and co-worker, Duane Geib. He has an undeniable passion for connecting people to Jesus, for the long haul, not just for a moment. If you are looking for a good blog that will challenge you to take that next step in your faith, and probably a few laughs along the way, check out Let’s Do Coffee.

coffee

What are currently the most popular Bible Translations?

“Which bible translation should I use?” This question is asked to me often by people just beginning to get serious about studying God’s Word. This is an important question to take some time thinking through. I believe there are some translations that are better than others.

(FYI, here are some of my tips on How to Study the Bible.)

Here are the top sellers of 2015 according to Evangelical Christian Publishers Association.

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So are there differences between these translations?!?

Yes and no.

While the main heartbeat of the Biblical message is consistent in all these reliable texts, the nature of language translation allowing for a range of meaning in individual words, and the ongoing advances in ancient language understanding, create a scale of wording choice as seen by different translators/editors who publish these varying translations.

When looking at the original ancient languages imagine all those words are square pegs. Then imagine all modern words are round holes. It is impossible to get a perfect fit of the ancient meaning of a word into a modern word format.

Therefore you must choose, do we match as best we can word for word or do we translate the larger thought more smoothly thus loosing some connection to individual words? Here is the scale of where modern bible translations fall on this question. (click the photo for a larger view.)

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For some textual comparisons of this challenge, see my Bible Translations Handout.  It may help you make an informed decision as you dig deeply into God’s Word.

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Romans 8 – Solid Ground When All Else is Sinking Sand

Romans 8 is a lighthouse of encouragement when the fog of life rolls in confining our view to immediate circumstances. In it we find perspective. In it we find Hope. Despite the pain and heartache we may encounter on our journey, Romans 8 reminds of us of truth.

Sometimes we need to be reminded of what we already know. 

Sometimes we need to rehearse to ourselves the truths we already claim.

Sometimes we need to stop focusing on how we feel, and focus on what we know.

Romans 8 is a proclamation of the one and only Solid Ground. All other ground is sinking sand.

“My Hope is Built on Nothing Less”

by Edward Mote, 1797-1874

1. My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand.

2. When darkness veils His lovely face,
I rest on His unchanging grace;
In every high and stormy gale
My anchor holds within the veil.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand.

3. His oath, His covenant, and blood
Support me in the whelming flood;
When every earthly prop gives way,
He then is all my Hope and Stay.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand.

4. When He shall come with trumpet sound,
Oh, may I then in Him be found,
Clothed in His righteousness alone,
Faultless to stand before the throne!
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand.

Five Steps of Prayer

prayerWhen we pray, the Father aligns us to His heart. We acknowledge our dependence on Him. Prayer is communion and communication. Through the Bible we breathe in God’s words, through prayer we breathe out our response.

Prayer is essential to the Christian life.

Our church is taking a class though Tim Keller’s recent book, Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God. In it we find five helpful steps. At times all we can do simply cry out “Abba” and we must depend on the Spirit to intercede on our behalf. But at other times, we can be more mindful of our prayer life, and these steps can help bring order to this essential area of growth. Why would we not maximize effectiveness and fruit of our prayer time if intentionality is all that is required? Let these steps be a guide to a vibrant relationship with God.

1) Evocation. To evoke means “to bring to mind,” though it also can includeinvocation, calling on God. Keller says that there is almost, “universal agreement that prayer should be started by ‘thinking over who it is that you will be addressing, what he has done to give you access to himself, and how you stand related to him …” Think before you pray.

2) Meditation. To respond to God in prayer, we must listen to his Word. This means taking some time to meditate on some portion of the Bible as a bridge to prayer. Meditation is a form of reflection and self-communion. Take a verse or two, or an entire section, and meditate on it as a way of fueling your heart to prepare you to pray.

3) Word prayer. Keller received this insipiration from Martin Luther. And this is a step that is often overlooked. After meditating on Scripture, Luther takes time to “pray the text” before moving on to more free-form prayer. Luther advises that we take the Lord’s Prayer and paraphrase each petition in his or her own words, filling it out with the concerns on his or her heart that day. Keller advises that we do this at least once a week.

4) Free prayerFree prayer, as Keller explains, means simply to pour out your heart before the Lord in prayer. This is where we bring on all the supplications, petitions, prayer-lists, and anything on our heart that we want or need. This is the kind of prayer that we’re probably most familiar with. Helpful — indeed, God is our Father and we are his children and he loves it when we ask him for things — but J.I. Packer would warn us that this kind of prayer is only life-changing if it is not merely running down a “grocery-list,” but instead lifts each cause to God with theological reasoning and self-examination.

5) Contemplation. Here, Keller points us to Jonathan Edwards who points us to the Lord: “Edwards described contemplation as times when we not only know God is holy, but when we sense — ‘”see’” and ‘”taste’” — that he is so in our hearts. Luther would say that this is like getting “lost” in some aspect of God’s truth or character. Either way, prayer is always enhanced when we end with praise and contemplation.

“Don’t be intimidated by these plans,” Keller adds at the end. He finishes with saying, “Follow the steps … without feeling the need to do all the specific proposals or answer all the questions within each part. Prayer will grow and draw you in.”

Free Resources from Southern Seminary

Southern Seminary has made some of it’s best content available for free download.

Go to the SBTS Press for access to these seven free pdf e-books, or just click the links provided here.

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God and the Gay Christian? A Response to Matthew Vines 

GGC Book Cover 2

Edited by R. Albert Mohler Jr.

Christians and homosexuality is a hotly debated topic in today’s evangelical world, and Southern Seminary continues that conversation in this publication. Matthew Vines’s new book, God and the Gay Christian: The Biblical Case in Support of Same-Sex Relationships, argues that homosexual orientation and committed same-sex relationships are consistent with a “high view” of the Bible and evangelical Christianity. Southern Seminary president R. Albert Mohler Jr. and four other seminary faculty members refute this claim in the new SBTS Press e-book, God and the Gay Christian? A Response to Matthew Vines.

Each chapter refutes Vines’s claims from six specific Scriptural references to homosexuality. Mohler’s chapter provides an overview critique of Vines’s book. James M. Hamilton Jr., professor of biblical theology, addresses the Old Testament claims; Denny Burk, professor of biblical studies, addresses New Testament claims; Owen Strachan, assistant professor of Christian theology looks at the church history assertions; and Heath Lambert, assistant professor of biblical counseling, answers whether there is such a thing as a “gay Christian.”

Download the free e-book or PDF

 


The Call to Ministry

by R. Albert Mohler Jr., Donald S. Whitney and Daniel S. Dumas

This is a different sort of book. Or workbook. Or journal. Whatever it is, this resource from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary is meant to help you discern whether or not God has called you to ministry. And it’s meant for you to use and devour. You’ll notice pages with blank space; those pages are for you to respond to questions, react to the quotations and reflect on the Scripture references you’ll find throughout. So, open your Bible, get out your pen and discover whether God has called you to this most noble and weighty task. Watch the promotional video by Dan Dumas here. 

                                                   Order Now:

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                                                   Download the Free PDF


A Guide to Evangelism

 

by Dan DeWitt

A Guide to Evangelism, edited by Dan DeWitt, will equip Christians and churches with the tools they need for more faithful evangelism. With chapters focusing on the role that a church’s preaching and polity can play in the task of evangelism, as well as chapters with practical advice for Christians engaging different groups, such as Muslims, skeptics and nominal Christians, this book will help Christians fulfill their role inspreading the gospel so that grace extends to more people to the glory of God.

 

                                                 Order Now:

                                                 Print Version | E-book   

                                                 Download the free PDF


A Guide to Expository Ministry

 

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by Dan Dumas, Ed.
Expository preaching is a call to deliver from the pulpit what has already been delivered in the Scriptures. A Guide to Expository Ministry, edited by Dan Dumas, calls for the recovery of this kind of preaching in local churches. The book also encourages faithful, qualified pastors to apply the demands of expository preaching to their lives and to their preparation. Lastly, the book provides practical help for all of God’s people to become more effective sermon listeners, Bible readers and church members.

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Una Guia Para El Ministerio Expositivo

 

THUMBNAIL_IMAGEDan Dumas, Ed.
La predicación expositiva es una llamado a entregar desde el púlpito lo que ya ha sido entregado en las Escrituras. Una guía para el ministerio expositivo, editado por Dan Dumas, hace un llamado a recobrar este tipo de predicación en las iglesias locales. Este libro también exhorta a los pastores fieles y calificados a que apliquen las demandas de la predicación expositiva en sus vidas y su preparación. Por último, este libro provee ayuda práctica para que aquellos que componen el pueblo de Dios sean más efectivos como oidores de sermones, lectores de sus Biblias y como miembros de sus iglesias.

Ordene Ahora:

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A Guide to Adoption and Orphan Care

 

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by Russell D. Moore, Ed.

The current adoption culture among Christians is a necessary and welcomed movement. Many people, however, don’t understand how the Bible directs and informs adoption. A Guide to Adoption and Orphan Care, edited by Russell D. Moore, seeks to help adoptive parents and churches better think about and practice adoption.

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A Guide to Biblical Manhood

 

altBy Randy Stinson & Dan Dumas
How to serve your wife, how to mold men through baseball, how to make men in the church and more practical theology for cultivating men of God who are doers of the Word for the sake of the Gospel.