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Busyness Intersecting with Purpose

October 13, 2015
13 Oct 2015

 

spinning-plates2

Spinning multiple plates is as American as it gets. Productivity is often measured in how many extracurricular activities one commits to.

I have had a concern for Christians in this issue for some time, particularly as it relates to the years of child-rearing for Christian families.

I currently have the privilege of coaching youth soccer and it has been standing out to me again how willing families are to revolve every resource they have around the here-and-now. Certainly there is a place for extracurricular activities. However, I wonder if as Christians our ultimate purpose is actually defining our earthly decisions.

This has been particularly on my heart as I have been working through John 6 at our church. Especially when Jesus makes statements such as:

John 6:35

35 Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.

Which would compel us to heed His command…

John 6:27

27 Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.”

This week God brought this podcast across my path. I encourage you to listen to it and prayerfully consider it. May God help us to prioritize the stewardship of our resources in a way that truly pleases Him!

 

Mowing with Meaning…

June 2, 2015
02 Jun 2015

This past week I was able to listen to some sermons while I was mowing the lawn. (I was unable to attend the conference this year at which this sermon was preached during a past year). I am thankful to God for the wealth of spiritually enriching resources that are available to us while we accomplish daily responsibilities!

The particular sermon  that I listened to renewed some commitments that have been rattling around in my brain for several years. (If you click the link, feel free to listen to other sermons from this annual conference).

It is a burden of mine to see Christians grow in Christ as we are rooted in sound theology. It is also a burden of mine as a pastor to be a window of sound theology to my people.

In the many blessed years I have enjoyed in local churches, I have often been troubled when pastors and teachers painted theology or doctrine as an evil that would extinguish spiritual growth. Scripture actually teaches the opposite as there are many passages appealing to growth in knowledge connected to growth in Jesus Christ (e.g. 2 Peter 3:18).

I am thankful for some pastors that have urged me to grow in learning sound doctrine and commensurately to grow in loving God. One pastor would often say, “The goal is not merely an informed intellect, but a transformed personality.”

To this end, we have been using our Sunday School hour to seriously consider the major doctrines. We are currently looking at perhaps the most important doctrine (if we could separate them for analysis), the doctrine of God. I invite you to join us.

Paul encourages us to aspire to the meat of the Bible and to not be content with milk (1 Cor 3:2). It’s not my desire to force t-bones where we are not ready. But it would be sin to spend our entire existence sipping baby food.

May God grow our knowledge to greater theological accuracy as He grows us in grace to greater spiritual fervency.

 

Reading OT Narratives Well

April 1, 2015
01 Apr 2015

Story (as a genre) is extremely popular.  Story vividly conveys truth, causing it to be memorable.

Much of Scripture is Story. God, in His infinite wisdom, deemed this best. We can all be grateful to Him for providing so much Story or “narrative” in the pages of His Word. A danger, however, is that story / narrative can be easy to abuse. I am indebted to many who have informed my handling of story / narrative so as to help me be more careful in the wonderful task of striving to understand God’s Word, especially story / narrative.

The following are reminders particularly useful when studying OT story / narrative:

1. OT Narrative does NOT directly teach doctrine; it usually illustrates doctrine taught directly elsewhere.

Narratives have great value because they flesh out doctrine and jump into a story that picturesquely makes a simple point (e.g. don’t be stingy and selfish is all taught in Dickens’s A Christmas Carol), but we should be careful not to think of narrative as primarily didactic, academic, or doctrinal. It isn’t.

This is not to say that narratives are less Scriptural (they are certainly not moralistic fairy tales beginning with “Once Upon a Time”)—just lest propositional and direct than explicitly doctrinal genres.

Narratives teach a lot less information than Law and Epistle for example, but they teach it much more memorably.

 2. Narratives record what happen (descriptive) not necessarily what should or should not have happened (prescriptive); they often contain  examples we should NOT follow.

 Their descriptive nature (they describe events they do not always comment on whether they’re right or wrong; hence the silence on polygamy e.g.). Even the prescriptions (or imperatives) that they contain are often said by a character in the story who may or may not be a trustworthy source. For example, if the queen in Alice in Wonderland says “OFF with his head” ; that’s a prescription, an imperative, but following it would miss that she’s the BAD guy!

 Often, then, “self-help” sermons like “10 Lessons from Joseph on How to Grow Your Self Esteem…Finances…Personal Victory…” stretch the text – AT BEST, abuse it at worse, and nearly always make us the center of life rather than God and his plan the center of life

So, for example, when Joseph’s story from pit, to prison, to palace is presented as a sort of “rags to riches recipe” for us to follow in order to have it all in this life, the text is being strained and is severely missing the teaching of the rest of Scripture!!

 3. Narratives do not always tell us at the end what was good or bad. We are expected to be able to discern this on the basis of God’s clearer teaching in the rest of Scripture.

 Read them in light of clear commands, teaching, NT principles and precepts. Recognize the context and larger purpose of the narrative

 4. Narratives are selective and incomplete. Furthermore, the entire narrative may teach one major life lesson.

Disconnecting them from the larger story-line will cause us to misunderstand the narrative. We don’t want to confuse “Scene 1” with the entire play because often even fairly lengthy narratives impress upon the reader a single point.

 5. In the Final Analysis, God is the Hero of every narrative (as He is of all of life).

Remember that Scripture stories should ultimately point us to Jesus Christ and His Gospel.

KEY: This of course does NOT mean that we ignore MORALS in the text or that we READ INTO every verse Jesus (behind every rock and corner), but it does mean that we recognize our NEED for Jesus in every passage of Scripture.

 6. OT Narratives are NOT allegories or stories filled with hidden meanings!

Unfortunately they are often preached that way. As an example, I’ve heard a number of preachers share what was going on in Joseph’s mind when he was in the pit (Gen 37). To this I respond, “Since the text does not tell me what was going through Joseph’s mind, only two people could actually know this—Joseph and God. Which one are you claiming to be?”

This is NOT to say that we cannot use some “sanctified speculation” but we must be careful to note when we are speculating.

*Remember—even though it’s not popular to say this—the goal in preaching (especially narratives!) is NOT to be creative, it’s to be faithful to simply saying what God has already said.

If we really believe that we can spice it up better than God can, we have an inflated view of self and a low view of God and His Word!

God’s recorded Word is wonderful, vibrant, and what we need for life and godliness. May we learn from Story / Narrative–even from the OT. (You can listen to me expound on this further here.)

Romans 15:4 “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.”

On the Importance of Regular Bible Reading

February 23, 2015
23 Feb 2015

Stacked Bible

 

The regular discipline of Bible reading should not be underestimated. The Word of God is pictured appropriately as sustenance, guidance, and even life. Certainly this is true. We should remember that the benefit of this discipline occasionally yields accelerated growth, but more typically is a gradual work of growing grace.

 

“Do not think you are getting no good from the Bible, merely because you do not see that good day by day. The greatest effects are by no means those which make the most noise, and are most easily observed. The greatest effects are often silent, quiet, and hard to detect at the time they are being produced.

“Think of the influence of the moon upon the earth, and of the air upon the human lungs. Remember how silently the dew falls, and how imperceptibly the grass grows. There may be far more doing than you think in your soul by your Bible-reading.” (J. C. Ryle, Practical Religion, 136)

 

Some hear the word “discipline” and immediately conjure connections to “legalism.” We should be cautioned before jumping to that conclusion.

 

Three reasons this is not legalism:

1. You are confessing your lack of desire as sin, and pleading as a helpless child for the desire you long to have. Legalists don’t cry like that. They strut.

2. You are reading out of desperation for the effects of this heavenly medicine. Bible-reading is not a cure for a bad conscience; it’s chemo for your cancer. Legalists feel better because the box is checked. Saints feel better when their blindness lifts, and they see Jesus in the word. Let’s get real. We are desperately sick with worldliness, and only the Holy Spirit, by the word of God, can cure this terminal disease.

3. It is not legalism because only justified people can see the preciousness and power of the Word of God. Legalists trudge with their Bibles on the path toward justification. Saints sit down in the shade of the cross and plead for the blood-bought pleasures. (John Piper)

 

So may God help us to discipline ourselves to read His Word with care even–especially–when we are least inclined to do so.

In fact, these readings (and much more that is available) were part of a devotional study I enjoyed as a result of this app:

 

Click, download, pick up a physical book, listen to the audio–etc., just get in the Word 🙂

 

Sermons

February 4, 2015
04 Feb 2015

Current Sermon Series:

 

I just thought that I would take a moment to point out the sermon series that we are currently going through.

In our Sunday School group study hour we have been learning about The Church: What it Is and Why it Matters. It’s been a systematic approach to the combined teaching of Scripture passages mostly regarding the local church. It has been helpful to interact with one another over this important topic.

 

 

In our Sunday AM gathered worship hour, the sermons have been a verse-by-verse exposition through the book of Philippians. The theme of the book being “Unity in the Gospel’s Advance,” the book of Philippians points us to Christ and His Gospel, and the implications of this for our purpose and mission in daily practice.

 

In our Sunday PM gathered worship hour, we have merely laid the foundation for an exposition of the chapters of Genesis that focus on Joseph.

Of course, I have been reading multiple books to prepare for each study 🙂 but there are some that I think make for great reading in relation to our Sunday PM study of Joseph.

I am very much looking forward to going deeper with this study. I have found the following books helpful reads:

 

     7468137

 

May God work through His Word in our lives (Romans 15:4).  

Loving the Local Church

January 29, 2015
29 Jan 2015

I was re-reading this book last week. It is a very simple, helpful reminder of the priority of committed Christian relationships in a theologically rich local church for spiritual vitality.

It may be even more needed today than when it was originally written.

On our Purpose and Mission at CBC

January 27, 2015
27 Jan 2015

CBC Logo

Mission Statement

Our mission is to fulfill the Great Commission that our Lord Jesus Christ left to all of His followers for the establishment of the church (Matt 28:18-20), which He promised to build (Matt 16:18).

 

The Local Church exists for a shared overarching purpose and a specific objective:

The Why of All Things:

  1. The shared overarching purpose of all things and also of the local church is to glorify God.

The ultimate reason and result of all things is the glorification of God (this is ultimate purpose).  The ultimate reason for the existence of the believer individually and the church collectively is the glorification of God (Eph 3:21, Col 1:18; cf. 1 Pet 2:9 and 4:10-11).

It can be difficult to differentiate these two, but if we did so for the purpose of examination, the Bible teaches that the glory of God is the purpose for the individual believer’s existence (or what I will call the “church dispersed,” Eph 1:6a, 12a, 14b; cf. 1 Cor 10:31) and for the collective or corporate existence of believers in the local church (or what I will call the “church gathered,” Eph 3:21).

This means that all the church strives to accomplish must be defined and determined in accord with its ultimate purpose/result, namely, God’s exaltation and glorification.

 

The How for the Church (and all Church-Age Christians):

  1. The shared overarching objective that the church has been commissioned with is to gather and grow strong disciples of Jesus Christ.

The ultimate shared labor of the Church is the Great Commission given from Jesus Christ, making and maturing disciples (Matt 28:18–20) (this is ultimate mission).

Gathering and growing disciples occurs for the purpose of seeing them follow Christ and glorify God (1 Chron 16:24f; Ps 96:3f; Luke 24:47; Acts 1:8).  Of course, this is all for the ultimate purpose, His name’s sake (Num 25:11, Ps 79:9, 106:8, Isa 48:9-11, Ezek 36:21-23, Rom 1:5, 3 John 7).  His desire, which He will surely ultimately fulfill, is that the knowledge of His glory would cover the earth, as the waters do the sea (Hab 2:14). God’s mission is the manifestation of His magnificence. His mission is glory. In this way gospel growth brings God glory.

The existence of our local church, then, can be summarized in the following succinct mission statement: Glorifying God through Gathering and Growing strong Disciples of Jesus Christ.