Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Busy Week

For those of you who are faithful readers of this site, I want to apologize for the lite posting as of late. Many of you are aware that I am moving this weekend to Wichita, KS. to be the Student Pastor at Metro East Baptist Church. This is a big change for me and my family. First, it is a move to a place where to be sure where it was we had to pull out a map. Second, we are leaving the PCA, a denomination we love but can no longer minister in because of my convictions on baptism. I will post more on this in the next few weeks. Third, we are leaving behind an amazing group of friends and a youth ministry I have enjoyed leading. Tonight is our last Wednesday Night Bible Study and it is going to be hard to say "good-bye" to these kids. Fourth, I will be leading a much larger youth ministry at a much larger church. However, I am nothing but excited about ministering to and getting to know these kids. Actually thanks to facebook I have been able to get to know some of them already.

O.K. enough of that...How about some short posts...

I have been listening to a lot of different music lately including but not limited to Duffy, Peggy Lee, Van Morrison, Lena Horne, and Daughtry.

I have been reading Sex, Sushi and Salvation by Christian George and also before going to sleep at night I have been reading The Magician's Nephew.

Alot of my time is spent playing with my new toy which I still look at and stand in complete disbelief that I own such a thing. Worlds would have been conquered for such a thing not too long ago. I am still very pleased with it. It is easy to use and I am still learning all that it can do.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Music on Monday: Duffy

Last night one of my students was talking about a song she heard that she liked. Now usually I have little trust in the musical palette of any of my students. But she kept talking about this song called "mercy." Well, since I am always looking for an excuse to use my iPhone, I looked it up on itunes and listened to the sample.


I was blown away by the sounds of Duffy. All at once I was hearing the sounds of Aretha Franklin, Dusty Springfield, Norah Jones, Amy Winehouse and Van Morrison.

Duffy is 23 years old and from Wales. She knew nothing about music outside of the top 40 till just a few years ago but she sings like she was steeped in soul, jazz, Motown and R&B. She has already had a #1 hit in the UK and is just now making a splash over here though she has only played a handful of dates here in the states.

I love hearing something so new with a sound that is about 40 to 50 years old. My student who introduced me to her also noted while watching her videos that she has never so much cloting on a young female singer. Duffy us more than a little refreshing.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

My New Toy

I want to thank all the students and others who contributed to make a dream come true. I love all of you and will miss you terribly.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Worldliness: Resisting the Seduction of a Fallen World

C.J. Mahaney has a new book coming out.

My Take on the "Evangelical Manifesto"

There are a number of you who will wonder why I am commenting on the Evangelical Manifesto. First, some will wonder what it is and their wondering will last no longer than the time it takes to read this post. That is fine with me because I have no reason to believe the EM will have much lasting effect. It will cause bloggers like me to blog and it will get more than a few pastors and theogians talking over lunch for the next week or so. But beyond that it will get lost in the heap of so many other "manifestos." Cynical? Maybe, but certainly realistic. Second, I'm a student pastor and the EM seems tailor made for my ilk as far as such documents can be made for those who do what I do. Hopefully, I am so not so unusual a student pastor in my theological and ministerial concerns that I am alone in being concerned about those attempts to define what it means to be "evangelical."

So, for those who might care, allow me a few moments to state in bullet point fashion what I thought about the document. Why bullet points? beacuse they are easier to read and to write and I do not have too much time to invest on a document that will be most likely forgotten in a few weeks.

1. It does say a lot of really true things.

2. It says nothing new.

3. It is a PR move intended to put a respectable face on the signatories who want to be deemed evangelical but without the bad press.

4. It claims that Evangelicalism should be defined theologically but is not a very theological manifesto. A theological manifesto would have spelled out the specifics of those theological points which offend the most (the depravity of man, sin, hell, etc.)...after all it is a manifesto.

5. I frankly am unconcerned if someone thinks I am a fundamentalist weirdo who cares nothing about Kyoto. If anyone needs a PR firm to shore up respect for me as an evangelical it is me. I am a white, male, southern Pastor. Geez, I can't win for losing. But I have no confidence a document such as this, if I carried it around or posted a link to it in the sidebar of my blog, would help me be better understood as an evangelical.

6. Jim Wallis, Jack Hayford and Dallas Willard signed it.

Ok, so for really good analysis go to these places: JT, Al Mohler and Denny Burk.

Monday, May 12, 2008

The Happening

A new film from M. Night Shyamalan.

Music on Monday

Sorry blogging has been so light lately. Last week my wife and I were in Wichita looking for a house. We found one and have a contract on it is the inspection so pray that all goes well. I was also sick this weekend...I hate being sick. And being sick on Mother's Day is terribly unfair to my sweet wife.

Alright, well I am right now listening to The Boss's debut album, Greeting's From Asbury Park, NJ. It's agreat album and you can really hear the influence of Van Morrison on this one. Nebraska will always be my favorite. It's got songs that stick with you and you can't get rid of even if you try.
The following is one of my favorites from his debut, its called "Growin Up"

And the following is "This Hard Land"...easily one of my favorites.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

What Is the Most Crying Need of the Church in America Today?

From JT:

I noticed tonight on the Gospel Coalition website that a number of the council members answered that question. Here are some of the answers:

D. A. Carson:

Much depends on the context of the question. If the context is hunting for a universal need, such that the phrase “in America today” assumes that whatever the local phenomena we should focus on human needs that are found everywhere (including “in America today”), then we must return to fundamentals: the most urgent need is to know God as he has disclosed himself, by the means he has given to know him, and thus be reconciled to him, both for this life and for the life to come. That means a focus on Christ Jesus, on the full-orbed gospel of which he is the center. But if the context of the question focuses on “in America today,” such that there is an implicit comparison with other places (e.g. Rwanda, France) or times (e.g. America in the nineteenth century), then one thinks of the sweep of challenges particularly characteristic in America at the beginning of the twenty-first century: rising biblical illiteracy, relativism steeped in the more extreme forms of postmodernism, formulaic forms of “evangelical” belief characterized by neither delight in God nor obedience to him, the seductive power of the strange mix of secularization and assorted “spiritualities,” the perennial invitation to live in fear or be snookered by visions of imperial strength, the world awash in an astonishing diversity of entertainments to fill up all the moments when we are not being seduced by either power or sex, and much more of the same. And finally, if the question becomes distributive — “in America today” demanding that we think through the various sectors of American life — then there are peculiar challenges in different geographical parts of the country (e.g. north versus south, coasts versus Midwest, etc.), in different racial sectors of the country (not only traditional black/white divisions, but the newer alignments triggered by recent immigration patterns), in different social arrangements in the country (especially rural/urban), in different theological loci in the country (e.g. Arminians attracted to “open” theology, Reformed people attracted to theonomy or the new perspective, and cultural conservatives, in a pendulum swing, to the “emerging” movement). Faithful pastoral ministry demands that we think through all of these contexts simultaneously.

John Piper:

One could answer at different levels of ultimacy. I choose to assume the urgency of the two ultimate levels (heart-felt passion for Christ, and radical obedience to Christ), and move one level down: To the end of pure and passionate lives of Christ-exalting mercy and world evangelization, the greatest need of the church is to know and understand the full biblical witness of God’s love (including the grace that raises the spiritually dead, Ephesians 2:4–5; and justifies the ungodly by faith alone, Romans 4:4–5; 5:8–9), the full biblical witness of God’s wisdom (including the knowledge of all future events, Isaiah 41:23, 26; 42:8–9; 44:7–8, 26–28; 45:21; 46:10; 48:3), the full biblical witness of God’s power (including his rule over every bird that dies, Matthew 10:29, and every role of the dice, Proverb s 16:33, and every act of man, Jeremiah 10:23), and the full biblical witness of God’s justice (including his everlasting wrath upon the impenitent, 2 Thessalonians 1:9). “My people go into exile for lack of knowledge” (Isaiah 5:13); “The ox knows its owner, and the donkey its master’s crib, but Israel does not know, my people do not understand” (Isaiah 1:3); “A people without understanding shall come to ruin” (Hosea 4:14); “Let us know; let us press on to know the LORD” (Hosea 6:3). The assumption here is that American Christianity is plagued by truncated views of all God’s attributes. And a truncated view of God will give raise to truncated Christian living and truncated awakenings. Therefore the awakening and revival that I pray for will be not just for the fullness of the Spirit’s power, but for the fullness of the Spirit’s illumination of God in the word.

Ron Sider’s recent article in Books and Culture, “The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience,” contains the too familiar stats on how evangelicals and born-againers live lives a millimeter above the pagans in America, or sometimes below, in the Bible belt. Nine percent of born again people (who say they have made a personal commitment to Jesus which is still important in their lives) have biblical world view (absolutes exist, God is the all-knowing, all-powerful, Creator who still rules the universe; Jesus Christ lived a sinless life; Satan is a real, living entity; salvation is a free gift, not something we can earn; every Christian has a personal responsibility to evangelize; and the Bible is totally accurate in all it teaches). However, this group of people stand out with significantly different behavior from the worldly “born-againers” and “evangelicals.” Here is Sider’s comment:

"Barna’s findings on the different behavior of Christians with a biblical worldview underline the importance of theology. Biblical orthodoxy does matter. One important way to end the scandal of contemporary Christian behavior is to work and pray fervently for the growth of orthodox theological belief in our churches” (Jan/Feb, p. 42).Indeed, orthodoxy was the only factor the article pointed out correlated with a significant difference in Christian behavior.

Truncated theology > truncated lives.

C.J. Mahaney:

The greatest need in the American church today is the recovery of the church’s central message, the gospel. Far too often in evangelical churches the gospel is simply assumed and, being so assumed, its voice is muffled, its entailments are ignored, and its power is drained. More significantly, when the gospel is assumed it is in grave danger of being displaced. The church is, therefore, in great need of a thoroughgoing return to gospel-centrality. The measure of such centrality will be the extent to which the gospel is functional, determining the nature of the church’s life, the substance of its teaching, the content of its worship and the core of its proclamation.

Mike Bullmore:

Not just a biblical/theological literacy but a functioning biblical/theological literacy, especially a functioning gospel. I believe a local church is healthy to the degree that: 1) its pastor-teachers are able—accurately, effectively and broadly—to bring the gospel to bear specifically into the real lives of the people; and 2) its people have a deep personal understanding of and a deep personal appreciation for the gospel so as to be able to live in the good of the gospel daily and thus call attention to the glory of God. “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” One of the greatest challenges, yet one of the most important tasks, of pastoral ministry is to help people actually see the connections between the gospel and the thinking and behavior that make up their everyday lives. We know well the centrality of the gospel message but in order for it to have a functional centrality it must be clearly, carefully and consistently connected to the real issues—issues of thought and conduct—of people’s lives. This kind of ministry is most greatly needed.

Mark Dever:

For pastors to know and understand what a local church should and can be and for pastors to teach this to their congregations. Much of the blessings and benefits of good teaching in evangelical churches in America goes into the hearts of individuals and then perhaps into the lives of their family and friend but is then largely lost in the sands of American individualism. If the preaching of the gospel and expositional preaching are the glorious founts of life, the local church is to be the bowl, the container, in which that life is caught and held up for display to a thirsty world. That pastors should know and understand and teach this is the most crying need in evangelical churches in America today.

Ligon Duncan:

There are many ways this question could be legitimately approached and answered. Furthermore, the condition of the Christian church in various parts of our nation and world would dictate different responses corresponding to the local situation. However, for this local church pastor, the biggest need is for a biblical doctrine of the church to be lived out in the local churches, and for a theological center to be restored in evangelicalism, under the steadying influence of Reformed pastor-theologians with a high doctrine of Scripture.

To elaborate on the first point, the church needs to what God says the church is to be in Scripture. That is, we need to be what God intends us to be, rather than what the world wants us to be (or what the latest evangelical fad or “model” tells us we need to be). For instance, the church is called (among other things) to be salt and light in the world. Yet in order to do this, in order to have a beneficial impact upon the world and an effective witness to the world, we have to be different from the world, we have to love something more than the world, we have to march to the beat of a different drum. However the American church is worldly (in our methods and membership), and that is the single greatest defect in our witness to Christ in this ailing culture.

So what’s our need? To think Christianly. To live Christianly. To be transformed by the renewing of our minds according to the Word of God and no longer be conformed to this passing world and its way of thinking and living. How can we be this way? By God’s grace, of course. By desiring Christ more than anything. And by following God’s plan for the church, where there is (1) Expositional Preaching – preaching which expounds what Scripture says in a particular passage, carefully explaining its meaning and applying it to the congregation; (2) Biblical Theology – the people of God must be committed to know the God of the Bible, as he has revealed himself in the Bible, rather than to worship a god of our imaginations. There is a god we want and the God who is, and the two are not the same, says Pat Morley; (3) Biblical Understanding of the Good News – the Gospel is the heart of Christianity, not just an additive to give us something we naturally want (i.e. joy or peace); (4) Real Conversion – the spiritual change each person needs is so radical, so near the root of us, that only God can do it. We need God to convert us. Conversion need not be an emotionally heated experience, but it must evidence itself by its fruit if it is to be what the Bible regards as a true conversion. (5) Christian Discipleship – the only certain observable sign of growth is a life of increasing holiness, rooted in Christian self-denial. These qualities are increasing rare in American churches. Recovered for today, true discipleship would build the church and promote a clearer witness to the world.

Tim Keller:

I’m throwing in with Jim Boice on this one (cf. his Two Cities: Two Loves.)

The evangelical church must stay true to its biblical foundations, and it must maintain and enhance the effectiveness of its expository preaching, the holiness of its members, the ‘thickness’ of its counter-cultural community, the fervor of its evangelism. But if it doesn’t learn how to do this in our biggest cities then we don’t have much hope for our culture.

If our cities are largely pagan while our countryside is largely Christian, then our society and culture will continue to slide into paganism. And that is exactly what is happening. Christians strengthen somewhat away from the cities and they have made some political gains, but that is not effecting cultural products much. It is because in the center cities (NYC, Boston, LA, Chicago, Seattle, San Francisco, Washington DC) the percentages of people living and working there who are Christians are minuscule.

Jim Boice proposed that evangelical Christians need to live in the major cities at a higher percentage than the population at large (See Two Cities, p.163ff.) Currently 50% of the U.S. population live in urban areas (and 25% lives in just the 10 largest urban areas.) Boice proposes that evangelicals should be living in cities in at least the same percentages or more. As confirmation of Boice’s belief consider how much impact both the Jewish and the gay communities have had on our culture. Why? Though neither is more than 3-4% of the total population, they each comprise over 20% of the population of Manhattan (and in other center cities. )

So we have two problems. First, evangelicals (especially Anglos) in general are quite negative about U.S. cities and city living. Second, you can’t ‘do church’ in exactly the same way in a city as you do it elsewhere, not if you want to actually convert hard-core secular people to Christianity. There are churches that set up in cities without adapting to their environment. Ironically, they can grow rather well anyway in cities by just gathering in the young already-evangelicals who are temporarily living in the city after college. But that is not the way to make the cities heavily Christian—which is the crying need today.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Skipping the Cross

The Senior Pastor at the church where I am headed has a great post on 'Christian Living.'