Sunday, January 20, 2008

upcoming concert with Matthew Smith!

Funny story I’m about to tell.

I took a bold step and emailed recording artist Matthew Smith (of Indelible Grace and solo artist of “All I Owe” and “Even When My Heart is Breaking”) because I saw he has an opening in his tour schedule when he comes through North Carolina, my newfound home state for the last 1.5 years. Turns out he does his own booking, so he called me in person the next day to my surprise. We talk about the possibility of a solo concert at my church here in North Carolina and he gives me information to relay to the leadership of the church. The first person I call next is my pastor to discuss it all. He is in disbelief that the guy called me in person and excited to the point of geeking out because he’s a huge fan of Matthew Smith and Indelible Grace. We talked about it today after our morning service and discussed why our church needs to do this and any concerns, mostly which were financial. It gets voted on officially in a few days but the majority has already voiced their support for it, so it looks like we are hosting a concert and I’m the appointed ringleader of this whole event- putting up posters and promoting it, lining up volunteers, lining up accommodations for Matthew Smith, setting up and possibly running sound or introducing him. This is huge.

To give some background as to why this is a big deal; I have to say that I go to a really small Presbyterian church. We have like….. maybe 50 people on Sunday mornings when our sanctuary could seat 250, or maybe 300. Some pews sit completely empty. And to make matters even worse most are retired, or near retirement age, with hardly any families, children, or college age people. Due to this, it is in fact somewhat….. sleepy and lethargic. Why do I attend and why did I join? Well I love the PCA (Presbyterian Church in America), I love our pastor who is solidly Reformed and preaches with a lot of Biblical integrity, the fact that it’s a fairly loving congregation, and that I have hope for this church. (It has actually existed in some form or another for over 200 years through 4 or more different buildings.) Lately we’ve had some issues in the congregation, and even more recently some budget problems. I need to either help this church with whatever gifts I’m inclined to believe I have, in what areas God enables me….. or I have no business being there. I’ve spent time being ministered to greatly by other men in my old church, now is my time to step up and be on the other side of the table, so to speak. I’ve become the youth Sunday school teacher, and lead music on Sunday nights on guitar with our pianist where we’ve even tackled some new songs by incorporating Indelible Grace tunes into our worship!

Also, literally just yesterday before the elders approved of this, I found out the only other couple under the age of 30 is seriously considering leaving our church. That leaves my wife and I along with a couple guys in their early twenties as the only members between 18-35 years old. We have a private Catholic college a mile down the road from us which drives me to reach out to college students and young people in their 20’s but that’s kind of hard when you lack young people to begin with!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Some Classic Charles Spurgeon for you...

"I have my own private opinion, that there is no such thing as preaching Christ and him crucified, unless you preach what now-a-days is called Calvinism. I have my own ideas, and those I always state boldly. It is a nickname to call it Calvinism. Calvinism is the gospel, and nothing else. I do not believe we can preach the gospel, if we do not preach justification by faith without works; not unless we preach the sovereignty of God in his dispensation of grace; nor unless we exalt the electing, unchangeable, eternal, immutable, conquering love of Jehovah; nor, I think, can we preach the gospel, unless we base it upon the peculiar redemption which Christ made for his elect and chosen people; nor can I comprehend a gospel which lets saints fall away after they are called, and suffers the children of God to be burned in the fires of damnation, after having believed. Such a gospel I abhor. The gospel of the Bible is not such a gospel as that. We preach Christ and him crucified in a different fashion, and to all gainsayers we reply, "We have not so learned Christ."

I hope we can all say "amen" to that. I have recently informed my wife that if we have another male child in the future his name will be Haddon, and I will personally see to it that when he is old enough he will sport some manly muttonchop sideburns and beard of his own in honor of the old bloke. (just kidding)

Sunday, January 13, 2008

teaching opportunity

Apparantly I am now the official Youth Sunday School teacher at my church, along with my wife since its not kosher for me to go it solo when teaching girls, which is pretty much the entire youth group at our small church. On any given Sunday day our youth group could actually fit in a minivan or even a small car. Ha.

Anyway, its a good opportunity to try and learn to relate to younger people. I know I'm only 25 years old but I'm still more comfortable debating the eschatalogical positions of the ante-nicene fathers, or the soteriological quandries of the 2nd Great Awakening with my pastor than trying to relate Biblical lessons to bored high schoolers whose parents make them come.

I guess if anything, it is a challenge. I need to try and make the Bible come alive to these kids like it has for me. Today we talked about suffering. I tried to address the three types of suffering, being:

  • Suffering directly from sins we have committed. (David, Soloman, King of Babylon)
  • Suffering indirectly as a result of sin being in the world (genocides, wars, etc etc)
  • Suffering as a result of serving God through faithfullness and obedience. I had to leave this last part of the lesson for next week but that is great because we will get to talk about it in detail instead of rushing through it. Examples include: Job, the OT prophets, Peter and John rejoicing after being flogged for preaching Christ (Acts), Paul suffering imprisonments and floggings, John being exiled to Patmos, and the general persecution of the early Christian church. Ultimately these, like our own suffering; all point toward Christ and direct us to His sufering in obedience to the Father by laying down his life as a substitution for his beloved after a life of sinless obedience.

    “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.” Luke 9:22

    “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.” Isaiah 53:3

    “Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by Him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our inequities, the punishment that brought us peace was upon him. And by his wounds we are healed.” Isaiah 53:4-5

    and to point us to the life to come in glorification...

    “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” Romans 8:18

    Chew on that.
  • Thursday, January 10, 2008

    Confessions of a Reformission Rev.

    I’ve been reading Mark Driscoll’s Confessions of a Reformission Rev. lately, right alongside my lovely wife. Mark’s writing style is frank, brutally honest, sometimes even crude, but the book is full of humor. Some parts are downright hilarious, like the chapter entitled "Jesus, Could You Please Rapture The Charismaniac Lady Who Brings Her Tambourine To Church?", as well as his observations of local churches he visited:

    From the printed material and sermon, it was readily apparent that this church was into the bling Christ, who will make you rich and cure all your diseases, except for the epidemics of consumerism and eighties charismullet hair, of course. They even taught that Jesus was a rich man and that only people who lack faith get sick, presumably like the junior varsity Job and Paul. For them, Jesus was a pinata, Christianity was a whacking stick, and their mission was to teach people how to get goodies to fall out of heaven.

    At many points in Mark's chronicle of events and experiences in building his church and sorting out life as a pastor; I simply could not put the book down. He regularly shows himself to be one with a burden for his people and a devotion to their spiritual well-being:

    The young urban arty type God had burdened me to build a church for generally came from jacked-up homes, which they wanted to overcome in hopes of one day having a decent future for themselves and their kids. But they had no idea what a decent Christian family looked like. So what they needed was a friendship with godly older families to learn about marriage and parenting. The last thing they needed was a mono-generational church.

    Some good points Mark touches on in the book
  • Being Missional or Attractional?
    Does your church act as missionaries into your culture and community, or do they focus on attempts to bring seekers into the church to hear the gospel? Or worse, does your church do neither?

  • Church leadership
    It was interesting to see Mark early on in the building of Mars Hill Church come to realize Elder-led church government is both practical and the biblical model of government. He rejected congregational government. In fact, he compared the idea of using congregational government within his own church early on to ”lunatics taking over the asylum”. He had similar rejection of Senior Pastor ecclesiology (used in many mega churches today) because it did not take into account that pastors can actually make mistakes and sin, and needs peers to hold him accountable. And although he takes elder led government and expands it a bit by mixing in some Rick Warren Purpose-Driven Church hoodoo, which I won’t explain; it was still reassuring to see him come to same fundamental conclusion of elder leadership that the Reformers believed strongly in.

  • Church Vision
    I was impressed with the boldness of Mark’s vision for his church early on. Even in the early days when his church, as he says; “could not fill a bus”, Mark had plans for it to “plant multiple churches, run a concert venue, start a Bible institute, write books, host conferences, and change the city for Jesus.”

    On a very personal note, Mark’s words struck at my heart while reading his book concerning being burdened for lost people. I wonder if in my growth as a Christian I have forgotten what its like for those who are truly ignorant to the Gospel that the church preaches. Seeing the clueless young people Mark came in contact with on a daily basis in very secular Seattle, people enslaved to sin, worldviews perverted by postmodernism and humanism, people from broken homes, people with no functioning view of Biblical manhood, or Biblical family values... was eye-opening. I imagine most cities are not much different in this respect. And just because we believe in the sovereignty of God in salvation doesn’t exempt us from being active missionaries into our community in a personal way.
  • Thursday, December 20, 2007

    Integrity Crisis

    I recently read an old book; The Integrity Crisis that’s been on my shelf, boxed up and moved through 4 zip codes, and reshelved in the last 3 years without ever being read. It was written in 1988 right after the Jim and Tammy Faye Baker PTL scandal and the Christian/financial controversy that ensued. I found it odd that 20 years later the author’s words speak to a new generation of Christians making the same mistakes. Take a look:

    “I certainly have no case against learning from the other fellow. After all, why reinvent the wheel? But I do have a case against any philosophy that turns ministry into mechanics and hands me a book of formulas that are guaranteed to succeed. I also have a problem with publishers that sign up “famous men” to write these books but don’t first find out whether or not these surefire methods are based on good theology. If the medical profession followed this approach, we’d all be dead!” pg. 46

    If only Christian publishers operated with the integrity the author speaks of, books like The Purpose Driven Church wouldn’t be on shelves today. Theology has become second to statistics and methods in many churches, and by spilling into the publishing industry has contaminated even more churches.

    “God has every right to pronounce judgment on those who preach a false gospel, because the message of the gospel cost Him His Son! Jesus shed His blood to satisfy the holy law of God so that lost sinners might be forgiven and reconciled to God. Jesus didn’t die to make us healthy, wealthy, and happy; He died to make us holy. To turn Calvary into a sanctified credit card that gives us the privilege of a hedonistic shopping spree is to cheapen the most costly thing God ever did.” Pg. 53

    Exactly. The Word of God is too precious to mess with, or impose our worldviews on, like the postmodern, egalitarian, liberal worldview many emergents like Brian McLaren view scripture through, or the carnel, materialistic, worldly success driven worldviews of Robert Schuller and Joel Osteen. ANY Gospel that takes the emphasis off of God’s Holiness and His work to make sinners holy more than misses the mark.

    Later in the book the author compared the walls of Jerusalem (that the prophet Nehemiah set out to rebuild before anything else) to the church’s nonconformity to the world as its “walls” of defense; he had this to say:

    “When the church, trying to reach the world, became like the world; she lost her impact on the world. How tragic that we cooperated with the enemy in breaking down our own walls! We lost our own distinctiveness and destroyed our own defenses.” Pg. 81

    What strikes me the most is that this book was written practically 20 years ago!

    Monday, December 17, 2007

    Getting the Gospel Right

    I recently finished reading R.C. Sproul’s Getting The Gospel Right, in which he examines the statements Evangelicals and Catholics Together (ECT it’s now known as) and The Gift of Salvation. The overall focus of his investigation is “Has the Roman Catholic Church finally bowed to the doctrine of Justification by Faith Alone (sola fide), or have Protestants conceded their own hard fought battle for the doctrine of sola fide from the Reformation to the Roman Catholic position?” Sproul’s consensus: neither party actually forfeited their doctrinal views, though Protestants conceded some ground due to vague wording.

    Here is how:

    Sproul notes that when speaking on Justification (article 7); the “Gift of Salvation” certainly SEEMS to point toward a Reformed view of Justification by the imputed righteousness of Christ: “…God, on the basis of Christ’s righteousness alone, declares us to be no longer his rebellious enemies but his forgiven friends…”

    But sadly it falls short as a result of the RCC’s view of Justification, which it believes is on the grounds of “infused righteousness” at baptism (rather than being imputed to man from Christ by faith alone as the Reformers demanded it). So it still enables Roman Catholics to consider Justification as based on the righteousness of Christ, all the while still believing the congruent MERIT OF MAN is involved in maintaining this “infusion” of righteousness which is necessary for Justification before God. Basically the RC signers of this declaration could in good conscience subscribe to what the statement said as long as the nature of Christ’s righteousness (imputed or infused) is left unspecified. Tricky, tricky.

    When speaking on Faith (article 8) the statement declares that justification is “received through faith”, is “a gift of God”, and “issues in a changed life” but as Sproul adeptly notices that “received through faith” does not equal “received by faith alone” and thus sola fide is not accomplished. The framers of the statement have completely sidestepped the issue altogether of “justification by faith alone” vs. “Justification = Faith + Merit”

    When speaking on An Assured Hope, the statement falls short of declaring a person capable of having assurance of their salvation, but only being able to “….have assured hope for the eternal life promised to us in Christ.’ An “assured hope” is not the same as actual assurance at all as Sproul notes, but rather a “hope or desire without actual assurance of the outcome”. The RCC has not departed at all from its historic position from Council of Trent that declares that ”no one can know with the CERTAINTY OF FAITH, which cannot be subject to error, that he has obtained the grace of God”.

    Its a very good book, I definitely recommend it. R.C. Sproul trudges through both statements “Evangelicals and Catholics Together”, and “The Gift of Salvation” with a fine-toothed comb and an eye for what each party was actually willing to “put on the table”, so to speak theologically, shows the emptiness of the "unity" that was believed to be reached,and wraps it up with a solid articulation for what the Gospel IS, and summed up some key points:

  • Justification is by faith alone, but never by a faith that is alone.
  • Justification requires mental understanding of Christ’s vicarious atonement, but never merely mental assent to this fact. (cheap grace)
  • Doctrine does not save, but essential elements of the gospel cannot be rejected without harm.
  • Sanctification must be distinguished from justification, but never divorced from it, as neither exist or can stand apart from the other.

    With the exception of some advanced theological terms some newbies would need clarification of; this book would be a great read for even the immature Christian, especially since R.C. spells out everything he says so succinctly and to the point. A lot of the book would probably be redundant if you have already read Sprouls Faith Alone though, thats the only negative I can think of. His closing remark sums up the thrust of the whole book; "To be faithful to the Great Commission," Sproul concludes, "we must get the gospel right." Hopefully we can all say amen to that.
  • Saturday, December 8, 2007

    Puritan Prayers and the Valley of Vision

    I just received a copy of this in the mail; Valley of Vision: Songs for worship inspired by the classic book of Puritan prayers. It was a birthday gift from my mom that I had opened early. I've been geeking out over this cd since I had read portions of the prayer book "Valley of Vision" and found out some people had gotten together to write music inspired by the prayers. I had to have it. Its a good mix of understated electric-guitar and full band type tunes, to piano-driven ballad type songs heavy with strings such as violin and cello. I'm a sucker for string sections in any kind of music. Some of my favorites musically are "Let Your Kingdon Come", "Only Jesus", and lyrically one of the best is "Thy Precious Blood"

    Before the cross I kneel and see
    The measure of my sin
    How You became a curse for me
    Though You were innocent
    The magnitude of Your great love
    Was shown in full degree
    When righteous blood, the crimson spill
    Rained down from Calvary

    Seriously, if there were ever an era or group of Christians to admire, it was the Puritans, the Calvanist Separatists from England who settled here in America and strived to create their "'city on a hill', a productive, morally exemplary colony far from the corruption of the Church of England."(wikipedia's word, not mine) . All Amish-like stereotypes aside, they were a people that truly did everything, from the great to the most mundane task; unto the Glory of God and applied the Bible to every aspect of life sincerely. They spawned some of the greatest religious thinkers this side of the Atlantic including John Owen, reknowned Bible commentator Matthew Henry, Jeremiah Burroughs, and Great Awakening preacher Jonathon Edwards as a later heir.
    If you want to know more about the cd project, check out: