Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Bible is Always Relevant

The Bible is like no other book.  Although it is ancient, it still relevant.  Some people call it unrealistic, but it’s as real as it gets.  On occasion, it is downright raw as it speaks the unvarnished truth to us.

Though politically incorrect, it is absolutely true and reliable.

On top of being relevant, realistic, and reliable, it is the only piece of literature that can claim the inspiration of God.  It is literally God-breathed.

All of this is incredibly helpful to anyone in my position.  As a messenger of God’s Word – I am not responsible to make it relevant.  My job is to help others see how relevant it already is.  I am not permitted to dull its edge or blunt its sharpness just because some find its message offensive.  And because it is God-breathed and living, I can count on it to speak for itself and touch people in their life wherever they are and however then need to hear it….

…. And then I need to just get out of the way so that God’s Word can accomplish what it is intended to accomplish.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Rob Bell & the Irrelevant Church

Rob Bell, former pastor and now host of the “Rob Bell Show” on Oprah Winfrey’s OWN network, is now maintaining that a church that doesn’t support same-sex marriage is irrelevant.  Bell had earlier questioned the existence of hell in his 2011 book, “Love Wins.”

He called the church’s acceptance of gay marriage “inevitable,” and that it should be accepted because loneliness “is not good for the world.”

Bell continued, “I think culture is already here, and the church will continue to be even more irrelevant when it quotes letters from 2,000 years ago as their best defense.”

So let me get this straight…

For a church to be relevant, it must not only embrace homo-erotic behavior, but must also jettison the Scriptures as any kind of authoritative guide to this or any other cultural issue.  The new apologetic today is personal fulfillment.  In this case, no one should be lonely, so whatever fills the loneliness gap should be affirmed.

I don’t know where to begin.

But I’ll give it a try….

First, if the Bible is to be abandoned as mere “letters from 2000 years ago,” then Jesus has to be abandoned too.  Here’s why:  if you relegate the Bible to less than a revelation of God, then you are relegating Jesus to be less than He is, for He embraced the teachings of Holy Scripture.

Second, to adopt self-fulfillment and self-satisfaction as the ultimate apologetic of Christianity, is to make “self” central to all things.  This was, of course, the temptation put before Adam and Eve that led to the fall of humanity.  Pursuing whatever I desire is not always good for me. 

What is "good for me".... is best determined by God.

Third, the “relevance” of a church is not found in its identification (capitulation) to culture, but in its faithfulness to Scripture.  Here’s why:  God’s Word is always relevant… just as it is… in any culture or generation... because its truths are timeless.

We do not gain the world’s attention through a compromised voice, but through a prophetic one.
For the record, I think the church should be relevant in today’s society.  But if we follow Bell’s strategy, the church will continue to be even more irrelevant than it already is… because it will cease to be the church. 

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Just Preach "The Bible"

Pastors today face relentless pressure to do everything except teach the Bible.  They are encouraged to be storytellers, comedians, therapists, or motivational speakers.  They are warned to steer clear of topics that people find unpleasant.  Many have given up Biblical teaching (or preaching) in favor of shallow talks designed to make people feel good.  Some have even replaced preaching with drama, skits, or other forms of staged entertainment.

But pastors have only one option:  “Preach the WORD; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction” (2 Timothy 4:2).

When Paul (the elder pastor) wrote those words to Timothy (the younger pastor), he added this prophetic warning:  “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will heap to themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth” (v.3-4).

Clearly there was NO ROOM in Paul’s philosophy of ministry for the “give-people-what-they-want” theory that is so prevalent today.  He was no “man-pleaser” (Galatians 1:10; Ephesians 6:6).  He did not urge Timothy to conduct a survey to find out what his congregation wanted.  He commanded him to PREACH THE WORD – faithfully and patiently.

In fact, Paul was not telling Timothy to be “successful”; he was encouraging him to FOLLOW THE DIVINE STANDARD.  He was not advising him to pursue prosperity, power, prominence, popularity, or any other notions of worldly success.  He was urging the young pastor to BE BIBLICAL – regardless of the consequences.

Preaching the Word is NOT EASY.  The stringent discipline required to interpret Scripture accurately is a constant burden, and the message we are required to proclaim is often offensive.  Christ Himself is a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense (Romans 9:33; I Peter 2:8).

No preacher or teacher of God’s Word is permitted to trim the message, blunt its edge, or tailor it to people’s preferences.  The WHOLE COUNSEL OF GOD’S WORD is to be taught AS IT IS WRITTEN without fear or favor (Acts 20:27).

The goal of a preacher is not to entertain people with his charisma or rhetorical style, or to amuse them with his cleverness, humor, novel insights, or sophisticated intelligence.  He is to simply preach Jesus Christ crucified.

“I must decrease so that He may increase” (John the Baptist).

Frankly, I do not understand any preacher who is not willing to do this.

Faithful preaching and skillful teaching of the Word must be at the very heart of any ministry.  Any other approach replaces the voice of God with human wisdom.  Philosophy, politics, psychology, homespun advice, and personal opinion can never accomplish what the Word of God does.  No human message comes with the stamp of divine authority - only the Word of God.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

"Fifty Shades of Grey" and a Brief Theology of Sex

This weekend – Valentines Weekend nonetheless – will be marked by the release of the movie Fifty Shades of Grey. 

It tells the story of literature student Anastasia Steel and her sexual encounters with the young and handsome entrepreneur Christian Grey.  Dubbed by some as “mommy porn” because of its escapist appeal to working mothers and bored suburban housewives, sexual practices such as bondage, domination, sadism, and masochism are featured throughout.

No, I have not read the book.  Neither will I watch the movie.  But I have read enough reviews and descriptions about the plot to know what it’s about… and it is one of the most salacious things a person could read.  

I believe there is a place for sex in literature, especially when it's key to the story.  Even the Bible gives vivid descriptions of love and intimacy in the Song of Solomon.

But Fifty Shades of Grey is just one sex scene after another, almost as if the point is to glamorize and promote bondage, domination, sadism, and masochism.  Sorry, but it’s just a dirty book and it will be a dirty movie.

But sex isn’t dirty.

In the book of Genesis we read that humans were made in the image of God, both male and female.  Sexuality is God’s design.  Which means sex is not only a good thing, it’s a God-thing.  It’s part of His design for our lives and bodies.

Christian author Phillip Yancey, in his book Rumors of another World, writes, “the human body is beautifully endowed.”

But why?

The Bible gives us two reasons (1) Procreation (Genesis 1:27-28) and (2) Intimacy (Genesis 2:18, 22, 24).  There is more to sex than just skin on skin.  Sex is as much a spiritual mystery as it is a physical act…. “the two become one flesh”  (I Corinthians 6:16).

Tragically, when the fall of mankind took place in Eden, sex was affected by the fall.  Adam and Eve suddenly realized they were naked, they were ashamed, and tried to cover themselves.  Intimacy was damaged as they tried to blame each other for their sin.

So sex fell with the rest of creation.

And… it… has… kept… falling.

Hebrews 13:4 is very clear about the beauty of sex in God’s design…. “Marriage is honorable in all, and the bed undefiled:  but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge.”

The marriage bed is undefiled…. Let that sink in.

Sex is a beautiful, wonderful thing.  And the Bible looks upon it as a beautiful thing.  So beautiful, in fact, that it teaches us to honor and preserve sex in all its power, and wonder, and intimacy, and mystery. 

All that to say, enjoy and celebrate sex this Valentine’s Day.  Every day for that matter.  But NOT the fallen kind.  NOT the Fifty Shades of Grey kind.

Sex is very much like fire.  In the proper place and setting it is beautiful.  But if it gets outside of your fireplace (outside of where it belongs), it can burn down your house and everything you have.

Proverbs 6:27-29 reminds us:  Can a man scoop fire into his lap and not be burned?  Can a man walk on coals and his feet not be scorched?  So is he who sleeps with…… (I’ll let you look it up yourself to read the rest).

The same fire that warms and brings comfort… can also burn you.

So no, you won’t see me at the theater this weekend…. I’m staying away for my sanctification.

PS - Amelia Warner, wife of lead actor Jamie Dornan, has stated she will not be watching the film either.  She doesn't want to watch her husband having bondage sex with another woman.  

I get it.

Purity Banquet for PCC Teens

At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, 
'Come, for everything is now ready.' (Luke 14:7)

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Chitting Potatoes

No, that's not a typo.

Chitting potatoes means to stimulate new growth before actually planting them in the ground.  It's risky to plant potatoes before the danger of frost (or freezing temperatures) is over, so a way to get them growing early is chitting.

This process means to put them in the sun, rose side up, about 4-6 weeks before planting to encourage new growth (shoots).  Then when planting time arrives, you've got a six week jump-start... which also translates into an earlier harvest.

This year I am planting Red Pontiac, Red LaSoda, White Kennebec, and Peruvian Blue.

If you look closely you can see sprouts just beginning to emerge.  I've been chitting them for 2 weeks... but will continue to do so for another 3-4 weeks.

This is (about) 80 pounds of seed potato.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Parents, Children, and Church.... and In That Order

As a father and grandfather, I can fully appreciate the importance of taking children into consideration when choosing a church home.  But let’s be very clear, the spiritual formation of children is the duty of parents.  You can’t outsource that.  It is the most important vocation a parent has, and no church or program can do that for you. 

Children need to hear and see Christianity modeled in the home. And the good news is, when it’s happening at home the parents are free to choose a church (based upon its Biblical content) without having to consider whether or not the kids’ ministry offers a bouncing house for Jesus.  

For the record, I want my children and grandchildren to love church.  I just want them to love Jesus more. 

Spiritual formation in children can happen without the bells and whistles, or big splash events.  In fact, sometimes those things get in the way!

Furthermore, if shopping for the best kid’s program in town is our primary motivation for choosing a church, we are modeling a consumer approach to church that may very well shape our kids more than any curriculum or program ever will.

For me personally... 
  • I want my children and grandchildren to know the Bible
  • I want them to love God with all their heart, which is the Greatest Commandment
  • I want them to understand that loving God is not shallow emotions of sentimentalism; rather, Biblical is agape, which means sacrifice, selflessness, service, and doing acts of kindness
  • I want them to know God hears their prayers and wants to make a difference in their lives
  • I want them to live their lives surrendered to the sovereignty of God
  • I want them to be changed by the simple Gospel of Jesus Christ… 
And I want them to belong to a church - not a religious machine with a consumer orientation - that teaches and practices the same simple Gospel... personal faith and devotion to God.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

The Security of God's Sovereignty in an Unsafe World

A few excerpts from today's message at PCC....

The LORD has established His throne in the heavens, and His sovereignty rules over all (Psalm 103:19 NASB).

Whether we accept it or not, God is calling the shots.  He's running the show.  Nothing falls outside of His jurisdiction. Everything is under His control.

Get that straight and the rest of your life will get easier.  More things will begin to make sense too.

Admittedly, we'll never be able to grasp all the ramifications of God's sovereignty.  The finite can never plumb the depths of the infinite.  If we could figure it all out, we would qualify as God's adviser.  Scripture, however, makes it clear He does not need our counsel.  Instead, He wants our trust and devotion... even when we don't understand the "whys" of our circumstances.

Rather than fearing the truth of God's sovereignty, it has become my favorite attribute of God.  I think about it every day.  In fact, it influences my view of everything:
  • Brokenhearted situations are calmed by the sovereignty of God
  • Difficult circumstances are accepted by embracing God's sovereignty
  • The outcome of our prayers is determined by the sovereignty of God
  • Even our successes are fulfilled by nothing less than the sovereignty of God.
As I've grown in my understanding, I have come to rest in God's sovereignty and the sense of security and safety it gives me (in this unsafe world) is beyond words.

I have learned to loosen my grip on things.  I worry a lot less. I am less stressed out.  After all, since God is in control of all things... then I don't have to be  (as if I ever were!).  It's liberating to loosen ones grip and just let God be God.

When believers simply rest in God - when they have a steadfast spirit... a sense of inner peace... and a quiet confidence knowing that He is always at work...  in us, through us, and around us - we reach a place where almost nothing can shake our faith... because we know "God's got this."
  • When you live without the assurance of God's sovereignty and providence, it is a self-inflicted poverty
  • When you live with it... at the front edge of your mind... it will make all the difference in every day of your life.
I can sleep at night because I know He who watches over Israel never slumbers or sleeps (Psalm 121:4).

God's got it.