Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Pop Culture & Church Music

Todd Wilken of Issues, etc. interviewed Dr. T. David Gordon on the subject of Pop Culture & Church Music.  The broadcast is 35 minutes in length and worth the listen.  His thesis is that worship music is not a matter of taste but of aesthetic absolutes in view of a holy God.

Mentioned in the interview is Dr. Gordon's book, Why Johnny Can't Sing Hymns: How Pop Culture Rewrote the Hymnal

Monday, June 28, 2010

Every Party Needs a Pooper

In a prior post, I had mentioned how I was chafing because my job had been changed without my input or consent.  This is the second time something like this has happened in my career, and suffice it to say, corporate America leaves me cold.  If not for reasons not disclosed here, I might gladly pursue full-time ministry in a local church.  For instance, there are two Baptist churches within 30 miles of me who are advertising for a pastor.

Then I read the book mentioned in my last post.  Contained therein was a section dedicated to worshiping regardless of circumstances (p. 65ff).  Just who is this guy anyway?  He's interfering with my pity party. Paul and Silas' imprisonment is brought out as an example of getting completely unfair treatment for telling the good news of Christ.  And they worshiped instead of pouted.  Then there is Joseph who was wrongly enslaved for 13 years, who was faithful to God and thoroughly blessed.  Compared to these, I have nothing—barely inconvenienced. And he could have gone on in the book with more examples.

What will my ongoing response be?  I told a coworker that I just need to get over this hump.  Perhaps the better direction is to worship God for who he is and how he has led me to this place for my good.  Thank you, Mark Batterson for being a party-pooper.  Thank you, Lord, for your faithful work in goodness and love toward me.

In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day by Mark Batterson - Book Review

Mark Batterson has written a book that stirs the soul and has readers longing to face impossible odds in order to seize an opportunity and attempt something great for God.  This is a man's book.  Wives beware: your husbands will either be cliff-diving, moto-crossing, unashamedly ministering, or unabashedly discipling not long after completing this book.  Perhaps the last two in that list are preferable, but I make no guarantee.

All the fathers at Maranatha Bible Church received a copy of this book on Father's Day.  When first looking at it, I assumed it was a gimmicky devotional or motivational exercise to get Dad pumped up to lead his family.  It does that, but there is more meat on the lion's bones than appears.  The author uses the biblical account of Benaiah in 2 Samuel 23:20-21 to demonstrate how the Lord will place before us difficult, sometimes extreme, circumstances where we actually chase after the difficulty in order to overcome it.  This was a good read, stirring both heart and mind.

To be honest, the author pushed the theological envelope a little too much in places.  And I would have enjoyed knowing more about the preparatory work God did in the modern men Batterson used as examples.  Still, this is definitely worth the time spent—particularly the chapter on worshiping despite the circumstances.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Being a Son Sometimes Hurts

Sometimes life is just difficult.  Take for instance my recent manager-mandated job change back to testing software.  (I am still chafing over that one.)  With no warning adversity strikes leaving us dazed and confused, wondering how to orient ourselves to the change.

Christians are supposed to know the proper response top this.  Repeat the verse with me:

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.  (Romans 8:28)
I will be honest.  That is not always comforting.  The sting of those things is sometimes fresh enough to be painful to the touch.  We do not appreciate the fit of the yoke and want to be doing something else.  (Did I mention that I am still chafing over that job change?)  So what does a guy do if he feels unjustly treated and served undeserved grief?  He learns that it happened before, and the recipient came through it for the better.

Moses reminded the nation of Israel to obey the commands being delivered (Deut 8:1).  There was good reason to do so.  The people had spent almost 40 years in the wilderness, suffering the consequences of their parents' sin.  What can be more unfair than that?  As well they were humbled and left to go a little hungry, but for a very good reason.  God wanted to make the point that dependence is solely from him.  In the face of hunger, there was manna.  There was no way to make new clothes, but non were needed.  Physically, they were up to the task for the entire journey.  It was a difficult journey, but the needs had been supplied.  Entrance to the abundant life now lay before them as reward for endurance.  The overflow of God's goodness was to be realized.

Still, there was a warning.  In the midst of abundant life, we can become lax and satisfied in the blessings, forgetting who provided them.  When that happens we pat ourselves on the back, congratulate ourselves, and join mutual admiration societies.  Idols made in our own image begin to appear, and eventually God is replaced, though he may be given lip-service.1

The thing to remember in all this is that the Lord purposely puts his children through the wringer in order to squeeze out the impurities and the furnace to refine.  By holding fast to his word of promise, we will make it through.

Does anybody have some liniment to ease that chafing I mentioned earlier?

1 If things ever get that far in your life, look out.  The discipline becomes more severe, sometimes fatally so.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Exponential by Dave Ferguson and Jon Ferguson - Book Review

The brothers Ferguson have given the church a book with the singular aim of demonstrating as the sub-title states: How you and your friends can start a missional church movement. Much of the book is their own experience in the Chicago area of developing a missional movement of local churches.

The book is divided into four parts as the authors broaden the intended sphere of influence as a movement grows and to explain the "Reproducing Principles" for building a successful movement according to Acts 1:8.

Movements Start with 1 – The authors claim a new paradigm is needed to reach the ends of the earth and requires a three-fold vision: impact others for Christ; plan on reproducing, not growing large; be a catalyst to reproduce churches.

With that in mind, understand the leadership path in order to increase momentum:

Individual – Apprentice – Leader – Coach – Director – Campus Pastor/Church Planter – Network Leader

The plan is to reproduce leaders and is based on Christ's calling and sending disciples in Mark 3:13-15.

The authors move on to explain the necessity of apprentices.  They acknowledge that the word disciple is biblical but has poor or suspect connotations in modern culture (i.e., use relevant terms).  A part of apprenticeship is the big dream.  Big dreams (like going to the ends of the earth with the gospel) are stimulating and contagious.  Use that to motivate the three aspects of being spirit-led, missional, and reproducing.

The last two chapters of the section deal with reproducing leaders and artists (read musicians). The chapters are similar in direction and intent and vary only in how to balance excellence in reproducing with excellence in execution.

Reproducing Tribes of 10-100 – The focus of this section is reproducing small groups and implementing coaches to help the group leaders effectively lead.  The biblical basis given is Acts 2:42-47 where the early church was made up of 3C Christ-followers: Celebrate, Connect, and Contribute.

The authors are correct to point out the strengths of this group size.  The 3 C's can be easily practiced and the body edified.  For certain, new groups are somewhat stilted and not have the free flowing of spiritual gifts and expression.  Connections are easy enough, but celebration and contribution need to be built up.  As a group matures, these areas level out.

After reading the three chapters for the section, I wondered why the authors bothered to continue writing about larger groups.  Obviously, they had tapped into and described the most effective unit of measure for a local church.   Sadly, it appears the need for size and influence of a central body wielding power and/or influence under the guise of furthering the gospel.

Also, it is apparent that the authors understand worship to be only singing led by a polished band singing pop-church material so the congregation can sing and raise their hands and not think about what the lyrics are, and nothing else.  This is apparent because what happens in Acts 2:42 is perceived no more than a celebration.  While it is indeed that, much more was going on between heaven and earth in those meetings than sharing "high five" types of things.  Messieurs Ferguson both need to get their Bibles out and study what worship is.

Reproducing communities of 100-1,000 – Here is where these men really stumble.  This section is dedicated to reproducing church communities based largely on Paul's example in Acts 19:21-23.  Notice this is not reproducing churches.  That may come later.  This is setting up multi-site churches.  And since multi-site is the current wave in evangelical circles, it must be worthwhile.

Where exactly can we actually find this model in Scripture?  We fail in the search.  Here the book fails miserably, as there is no place for this.  What should be the natural division into separate entities is instead artificially held together.  There is no natural fellowship or worship operating at this level.  Essentially, there are separate churches with separate under-shepherds hearing the same message and singing the same songs via video feed.

The last chapter does get around to reproducing whole churches with some tips for the church planter and leader.

Reproducing movements of 10,000s – This section is further growth and setting up whole new networks. There is really nothing new.  The prior applications are reworked for larger numbers.

The authors make good points in developing people.  The apostle Paul did the same.  Discipleship is key (Matt 28:19-20).  Also the general warnings of waiting on the Lord are worthwhile.  Many of these concepts are applicable to the local church and have merit in that setting.

Negatively, much of what is proposed is identical to business marketing material I have read.  It is good when scriptural principles are used effectively in business, but what we have here is more the opposite—modern business practice defining how the church should operate.

Take the good out of the questionable or bad, and there is usable material.  Proceed with caution and discernment.

A Church Without Patristics

Paul McCain at Cyberbrethren has a post quoting Hermann Sasse that is worth reading.  I enjoy the point Sasse makes that (in my own words now) the church needs to understand orthodox doctrine is historically based in the Savior and the apostles' faithful teaching which the church fathers labored over to properly understand and maintain as pure.  Any church wanting to sever its moors to that past is nothing more than a cult.

Having said that, I understand that because a church or denomination claims apostolic and patristic understanding of doctrine does not make that later doctrinal understanding correct.  There is a continual need to weigh an understanding of the biblical text with patristic, medieval, reformation, etc. teaching to examine where I or past teachers may have gone astray.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Roofing - Day 2

I have been busy with various things and have not updated the roof progress. With Tuesday's rain halting work, we picked up once again on Wednesday.  Ed brought his son Adam, plus we hired a worker, Nate Lampe, to help.  Adam began tearing off shingles at 7:00 while I took Ed over to drop his truck at the shop.  When we returned, Adam had a good start.  Nate showed at 8:00, and the work began in earnest.

The view at 10:00

By 10:00 AM the entire roof had been stripped.  That was a full three hours prior to Monday's time.  It just goes to show what a couple of teenage boys can accomplish in simple manpower above the efforts of an equal number of over-the-hill men.  Nate and Adam worked on putting down the felt paper and fanfold insulation while Ed did trim work on the end of the house from which this photo was taken, and I helped from the ground.  At 12:30 we broke for lunch.

Roof: Ed, Nate, and Adam
Ground: Sandi and Steve

After lunch we started screwing down the steel panels.  Sandi and I worked below marking screw holes and passing up the sheets to Nate and Adam.  Ed worked on the trim for the gable end on the back right while the boys squared and fastened the steel.  The two exhaust pipes in the picture were a bit tricky.  Thankfully, only one hole was required in each of two adjacent panels which Ed skillfully measured and cut.

Left to right: Marian Bricker, Evie Petersen, and Sandi

Our mothers wanted to come up and see how things were moving along.  They were able to help by picking up trash around the house.  Afterward, they visited with our neighbor to the south, Jean Claflin, who was sitting on her porch.

Karen Fisher


Ed's wife Karen came with their daughter Amanda to help as they could.  Karen took the rolling magnet around the property to pick up screws and nails that had fallen.

At 6:30 we had everything finished and cleaned up for supper.

Finished product by Thursday morning's early light

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Authentic Christianity

This past weekend found our family at our old church in Davenport.  In God's good providence, they are doing a series on Colossians though further ahead in the book than Maranatha.  The speaker that morning is short-time acquaintance, Bill Schwegler, whose company I have come to enjoy.  The passage was Col 3:1-4.  I commend his message as worthy of a listen.  Here is the outline with my notes in italics.  I need to listen again to catch all the content.

In contrast to the counterfeit spiritualities that threatened the Colossian believers, this is the real thing.

Review: Three counterfeit forms of spirituality (Col 2:16-23)

1.  Legalism is false: You do not become spiritual by works. (2:16-17)
     Legalism attempts to keep biblical (and unbiblical) standards by works. The works become a means of grace.
2.  Mysticism is false: You do not become spiritual by intuition or supernatural manifestations. (2:18-19)
     Mysticism forms false spirituality.
3.  Asceticism is false: You do not become spiritual by not working and not having experiences. (2:20-23)
     Ascetism seems genuine but actually comes from our sin nature.

Three requirements for believers to manifest authentic Christianity (v. 1-2)
1.  You must rest in your position in Christ. (v. 1a)
2.  You must desire to be a fruitful, mature believer (v. 1b)
3.  You must be mentally occupied with the Lord, or abide in Christ.  (v. 2)

Three motivations for the authentic Christian life (v. 3-4)
1.  Your past death has eliminated barriers to fruitfulness. (v. 3a)
2.  Your present life provides eternal security and the ability to live by the new nature. (v. 3b)
3.  Your future glory gives encouragement to remain faithful (v. 4)

Conclusion and application
God's plan of sanctification – The Christian life is occupation with Christ.

What am I occupied with?

Roofing - Day 1

As opposed to our president, we were actually on top of the task from day one.  (Did I say that out loud?)

Ed Fisher's truck and Trailer

Monday's weather was perfect for the occasion—cool a partly cloudy.  Ed Fisher showed first with his tools and dump trailer.  We have known his family for years, and having his own construction business, he was able to supervise and do the work to make this go correctly.

Steve Bricker, Ron Telecky, Ed Fisher, Mike Moore

Somewhat later, Mike Moore and Ron Telecky arrived to help tear off the old shingles.  Sandi did as well, but she had other things to do inside so came out later to help.

Ron had to leave somewhat early since it was his wedding anniversary.  That sounded like a legitimate excuse.  The rest of us broke for lunch about 1:00, after which Mike left.  Ed and I continued the work laying down the tar paper and fanfold insulation.  Spotty rain moved in, but we were able to continue until a steady light shower came through about 3:00.  We took a break and waited for Ed's son, Adam, to arrive and help.

Adam came and a few minutes later, Ed's wife, Karen, and younger daughter, Amanda, arrived as well.  Ed and Adam did the work of attaching the steel to the roof with enough screws to keep them in place while Karen and I lifted the sheets from the ground up to them.  Sandi and Amanda were in charge of marking where the screws were to be placed on the steel panels.

After the panels were fastened down, Ed, Adam, and I fastened down the steel with the rest of the fasteners.  By this time, I was exhausted and moved quite slowly.  We finally quit for supper at 8:00.

Today we have a much needed rest day since we have rain.  Wednesday we start anew.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Who's Afraid of Church Creeds?

One of the men with whom I have 1-on-1 study is a former Roman Catholic.  This past week as we were talking, my friend asked in a tangentially manner, as is his wont, if I had learned any of the church creeds, e.g., Apostle's Creed, in my lifetime.  Indeed I had while in the Methodist church growing up.  He then pressed the question, "Why don't they get taught now?"  Though generated from naïveté, the question had some history as he had already had a conversation with someone at our church about creeds and was surprised that some listening had no idea what they were talking about.

For context, this topic centers on those creeds developed as a result of or during the period of first four ecumenical councils convened at Nicea (A.D. 325), Constantinople (A.D. 381), Ephesus (A.D. 431), and Chalcedon (A.D. 451).

Apostle's Creed
Methodist version
Nicene Creed
I believe in God the Father Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth;

And in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord:
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, dead, and buried;
the third day he rose from the dead;
he ascended into heaven,
and sitteth at the right hand of God the Father Almighty;
from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.
We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.

And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father;
by whom all things were made;
who for us men, and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, and was made man;
he was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate, and suffered, and was buried, and the third day he rose again, according to the Scriptures, and ascended into heaven, and sits on the right hand of the Father;
from thence he shall come again, with glory, to judge the quick and the dead;
whose kingdom shall have no end.

And in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of life, who proceedeth from the Father, who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified, who spoke by the prophets.

In one holy catholic and apostolic Church; we acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins; we look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.
Definition of ChalcedonAthanasian Creed
We, then, following the holy Fathers, all with one consent, teach people to confess one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, the same perfect in Godhead and also perfect in manhood; truly God and truly man, of a reasonable soul and body; consubstantial with the Father according to the Godhead, and consubstantial with us according to the Manhood; in all things like unto us, without sin; begotten before all ages of the Father according to the Godhead, and in these latter days, for us and for our salvation, born of the Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, according to the Manhood; one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, only begotten, to be acknowledged in two natures, inconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably; the distinction of natures being by no means taken away by the union, but rather the property of each nature being preserved, and concurring in one Person and one Subsistence, not parted or divided into two persons, but one and the same Son, and only begotten, God the Word, the Lord Jesus Christ; as the prophets from the beginning [have declared] concerning Him, and the Lord Jesus Christ Himself has taught us, and the Creed of the holy Fathers has handed down to us. Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the Catholic Faith. Which Faith except every one do keep whole and undefiled; without doubt he shall perish everlastingly. And the Catholic Faith is this: That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity; Neither confounding the Persons; nor dividing the Essence. For there is one Person of the Father; another of the Son; and another of the Holy Ghost. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, is all one; the Glory equal, the Majesty coeternal. Such as the Father is; such is the Son; and such is the Holy Ghost. The Father uncreated; the Son uncreated; and the Holy Ghost uncreated. The Father unlimited; the Son unlimited; and the Holy Ghost unlimited. The Father eternal; the Son eternal; and the Holy Ghost eternal. And yet they are not three eternals; but one eternal. As also there are not three uncreated; nor three infinites, but one uncreated; and one infinite. So likewise the Father is Almighty; the Son Almighty; and the Holy Ghost Almighty. And yet they are not three Almighties; but one Almighty. So the Father is God; the Son is God; and the Holy Ghost is God. And yet they are not three Gods; but one God. So likewise the Father is Lord; the Son Lord; and the Holy Ghost Lord. And yet not three Lords; but one Lord. For like as we are compelled by the Christian verity; to acknowledge every Person by himself to be God and Lord; So are we forbidden by the Catholic Religion; to say, There are three Gods, or three Lords. The Father is made of none; neither created, nor begotten. The Son is of the Father alone; not made, nor created; but begotten. The Holy Ghost is of the Father and of the Son; neither made, nor created, nor begotten; but proceeding. So there is one Father, not three Fathers; one Son, not three Sons; one Holy Ghost, not three Holy Ghosts. And in this Trinity none is before, or after another; none is greater, or less than another. But the whole three Persons are coeternal, and coequal. So that in all things, as aforesaid; the Unity in Trinity, and the Trinity in Unity, is to be worshipped. He therefore that will be saved, let him thus think of the Trinity.

Furthermore it is necessary to everlasting salvation; that he also believe faithfully the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ. For the right Faith is, that we believe and confess; that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God and Man; God, of the Essence of the Father; begotten before the worlds; and Man, of the Essence of his Mother, born in the world. Perfect God; and perfect Man, of a reasonable soul and human flesh subsisting. Equal to the Father, as touching his Godhead; and inferior to the Father as touching his Manhood. Who although he is God and Man; yet he is not two, but one Christ. One; not by conversion of the Godhead into flesh; but by assumption of the Manhood into God. One altogether; not by confusion of Essence; but by unity of Person. For as the reasonable soul and flesh is one man; so God and Man is one Christ; Who suffered for our salvation; descended into hell; rose again the third day from the dead. He ascended into heaven, he sitteth on the right hand of the God the Father Almighty, from whence he will come to judge the quick and the dead. At whose coming all men will rise again with their bodies; And shall give account for their own works. And they that have done good shall go into life everlasting; and they that have done evil, into everlasting fire. This is the Catholic Faith; which except a man believe truly and firmly, he cannot be saved.

The Nicene and Chalcedonian statements in particular were developed in response to heresy in order to encapsulate the orthodox faith in unequivocal language.  The four represent clear systematic theology concerning God in Trinity, the person and work of Christ, the church, and the future kingdom.  Every believer would do well to know these.

Should these creeds be taught today?
Mainline and confessional denominations already teach these in some capacity.  Unfortunately, congregants take a lazy approach to the Bible.  They have some understanding of a concept, but the scriptural proofs are missing.  Dead theology ensues.  On the flip side, pietistic and restorationist churches take more of a position of "no creed but the Bible."  This is spiritual-sounding but has led to a divorce from the sound theology of the past.  Because the foundation is missing, centuries-old error is brought back into the church and rehashed once again.  Inaccurate theology ensues.

Granted, the two scenarios are generalizations of the extreme.  The solution is to stay in the center of orthodoxy by teaching these creedal formulae with their proofs, so that God's people have a rudimentary systematic understanding of what they purport to believe.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Pray for Spiritual Maturity in Others

Aaron Telecky continued his series in Colossians by covering 1:9-12.
And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.  May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.
Below are the outline and some sermon notes.

Three prayer requests made by Paul on behalf of the believers in Colossae
1. Genuine wisdom (v. 9b) filled with the [all-consuming] knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding
With this wisdom we should be asking the following in any decision
Is there a scripture text that addresses the situation?
In the absence of some specific text, is there a scriptural precedent for the situation?
Even with a text or precedent, is there a potential that I am being deceived?
2. Exemplary walk (v. 10a)
The intent of gaining discernment is to live it out correctly
The well-balanced Christian life has equal input and output
3. A vivid witness (10b-12)
Christian witness has these characteristics
Fruitful – bearing fruit in every good work
Purposeful – increasing in the [all-consuming] knowledge of God
Powerful – strengthened with all power
Having the outcome of all endurance and patience with joy
Grateful – giving thanks to the Father

Aaron's adjective to convey his understanding of the Greek word ἐπίγνωσις (epignosis).

My random thoughts
Prayer must be intentional.  Paul understood what God deemed most profitable in a believer, and he prayed it unceasingly.  Over and over, the apostle went before the heavenly throne on behalf of this local church with the sole purpose of interceding for their spiritual welfare according to God's desire as revealed in his word.  There is a long-range goal in view.

Those living in a soundbite culture have difficulty with this, as they are being programmed by images and messages in such a way as to bypass the cognitive processes and interact with the subconscious in order to engender certain feelings.  As a result our lives are governed more by how we feel about something rather than the facts.  People will pray for peace, joy, contentment, etc.  There is nothing wrong for asking these things, but believers often pray that the individual would just be feeling good or at least better about things without considering the spiritual needs concerning Christian walk or growth.  Sometimes the prayer should not be, "Lord, please make it stop hurting" but rather "Lord, let it hurt so she might be perfected in you" or possibly "Lord, make it hurt more so that he sees what's needed."

Life must be lived so the Lord is seen.  There are good works prepared for us (Eph 2:10) requiring diligence and effort.  Our walk and witness work together in proclaiming the gospel ahead of the words we will eventually use.  The testimony of a well-lived, abundant existence points to the work of redemption working in us, so that people will ask (sometimes in veiled ways) about the hope in us.

We are qualified to share in what the Father has.  There are many measures of qualification, whether academics, certification, licensure, or inspection.  Each individual, product, or process requiring some statement of qualification has standards in place to properly measure whether or not that being measured has attained to the requirement.  As pertains to the Christian life, the maturing process does not result in qualification.  Believers have already attained it and as a result are empowered to mature into Christ-likeness.

Is something preventing you from praying for another's spiritual maturity? Is there something preventing you from maturing spiritually? The job of removing the stumbling block can and should begin today.