Monday, May 28, 2007

the new addition...

9lbs. 14 oz. 22 inches long.

everyone is doing well

thanks for your prayers... keep 'em coming.. particularly if you are awake at 4a.m.!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

membership requirements

from a recent news article on a study of over 1,000 12- 19 year olds:

While many teens believe they will go to heaven
because of their belief in Jesus Christ, one-quarter
trust in their own kindness to others (27 percent)
or their religiosity (26 percent) as their means to
get to heaven.

Out of the 69 percent of the teens who strongly or
somewhat agree they will go to heaven because
Jesus Christ died for their sins, 60 percent also
agree that they will go to heaven because they are
religious and 60 percent also agree they will go to
heaven because they are kind to others.

That leaves approximately 28 percent of
[those surveyed] who are trusting only in
Jesus Christ as their means to get to heaven.

as i have stated frequently in several recent posts, i affirm and embrace the command and privilege to share the gospel. the gospel of the lord jesus christ is good news, indeed.

but what worries me is the content of our gospel presentation. not the content of the gospel, but the content of our presentation of it.

does our gospel include the fact that all men are sinful from birth and are in need of a savior? that without that savior, people will die and spend an eternity enduring the wrath of god in hell, and that is what everyone deserves?

does our gospel include the real jesus, who said:

"if you love me, then obey my commands" (john 14:15)

Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and
the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are
many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the
way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find
it (Matt 7:13-14)

Many will say to Me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy
in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name
perform many miracles?'
And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you;

(matt 7:22-23)

does our presentation make clear that true repentance is more than being sorry for sin and fearing consequences, but results in a turning away from sin... not a mere one time 'decision'?

does our presentation make clear that it is only by faith alone in christ alone that we are saved, and that it is entirely possible to walk an aisle, sign a card, or recite a prayer and still ***not*** be a christian?

the gospel is a gift beyond words from our lord, and it is a gift that is freely offered to all. but it is a gift that is meant to be accepted in its entirety.

a man centered shallow presentation of "how to be successful" or "how not to go to hell" is insufficient.

if this is the bulk of our gospel presentation, then our churches and families will continue to produce people who are sure that they are going to heaven while having no clue what it takes to get there.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

change your name or change your ways...

there is an old story passed down about alexander the great, who conquered most of the known world by his early thirties in the 4th century b.c.
alexander was known for his bravery and courage on the battle field.
the story goes that a traitor was brought before alexander to be tried for desertion. looking at the man who had been caught in the greatest of cowardly acts, alexander asked the man,

"what is your name, soldier"

"alexander, sir", said the coward, his eyes to the ground

at this, alexander stood up in a rage. he grabbed the soldier by the neck and picked him up off the ground and glared at him saying...

"how dare you say to *me* that your name is 'alexander'!!!. no coward will share my name!"

he then threw the soldier to the ground, stood over him and said,
"you change your ways, or you change your name.!"

this story has stuck with me since i first heard it many years ago. i have often told it while speaking or preaching in various places in regards to our behavior even as we call ourselves followers of christ.

the story has taken a more personal spin as of late. after reading that a certain church would be protesting at jerry falwell's funeral, i visited the website of the westboro baptist church in topeka, kansas.

notice that i said that they were baptist, like me.

on their website, the theology and heroes that they list are similar to my own.

and it infuriates me.


because though we share the names of christian and baptist, though they name a certain theology and fathers of the faith as examples of beliefs, we are not the same.

how so? you can go to their website and browse around...

the web address to the westboro baptist church is

yes... that's what it says.

it is a site full of the most disgusting perversions of the truth i have ever read and it makes me furious, and it makes me want to weep.

they dishonor the name of christ with what they say and teach. it breaks my heart to think of how many people will refuse to listen to the gospel because of what these "christians" and "baptists" have said, which is neither baptist nor christian.

yes homosexuality is a sin, but so is the hate and vitriol that they have made the cornerstone of their ministry. the death of homosexuals need not be picketed and jeered with such repulsive signs and slogans. rather we should reach out with compassion and extend the offer of grace even as we demonstrate the grace shown to us.

this is one example of why we must be clear about what we believe. this is why we must define our terms. this is why we must know doctrine and theology. if we dont, then what do we say to someone who's only encounter with christianity is with these hatemongers who spew false teachings and venom through their website, picket signs and their church? what do we say when they ask what is different from us and these other christians (and baptists)?

this church disgusts me and it saddens me. i pray that the lord would grant for them repentance and for me a heart that wants to pray for grace rather than judgment on them.

praise god that he is in control and no one, no matter how outrageous and contrived can thwart his will.

if there are any homosexuals who read this blog, please hear me.
this church and their teachings are *NOT* an accurate representation of christianity or more specifically, of baptists.

the bible does teach that homosexuality is a sin. but all men are sinners in need of the grace of god. true christianity will never insult you, or ridicule you, or rejoice in your death. jesus taught love and compassion as well as repentance.

as a christian and baptist pastor i would say to you as a homosexual, that i am in as much need for grace as you are. i am no better than you. we are all in need of the grace of god that is available only through faith in jesus christ.

i do not hate you. i want to share with you how to experience the greatest love imaginable, not so that you would be like me, but so that you can know god. please contact me at anytime and i would love to share with you how. please do not reject christ because of those who wrongfully go by his name.

a royal "waste" of time...

a book i would encourage anyone to read is marva dawn's,
a royal "waste" of time. she asks amazing questions about how we do worship and comes to some fantastic conclusions.

i read it for a class this semester, and here are some thoughts about
two chapters in particular from a review i did for class (hence, the capitalization...)

[Dawn, Marva J. A Royal “Waste” Of Time. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999. 377 pp. $19.00]

In A Royal “Waste” of Time, Marva dawn explores what it means to worship God intentionally in every aspect of the Christian life. Writing as a scholar and preacher in the Lutheran tradition, Dawn explores the impact of compromise and ingenuity on our worship as well as the status of the heart condition of worshippers in our services.

In the chapter five, “Worship for Postmodern Times”, Dawn writes the following:

Why does so much of the new and old music used in
many congregations lack theological depth, biblical
images, motivation to be about God’s purposes of
witnessing, justice building, and peacemaking in the world?
What kind of people are our worship services forming?

I cannot think of a more important question that is not being asked in many of our churches today. In all of the discussion of worship styles, worship planning, and worship philosophy, this is the first instance I have encountered where the question was asked “What kind of Christian is our worship forming?”

The fact of the matter is people are shaped by the worship that they participate in every week. If the only songs they sing are so ambiguous that they could be played on secular radio and everyone would presume it was about a boyfriend or girlfriend, then there is a problem. Our worship is a response to who God is and what he has done. If the only imagery we can muster is focused on exploring and describing our own emotions, then we have greatly malnourished our congregations.

Worship is not only a means of expression, but also a time of instruction and edification. Does our worship content prepare our congregations to deal with hard times and rely on Christ when nothing goes right for long periods of time? Do we learn more about the character and attributes of God beyond what could be described as physical attributes (lovely, beautiful, etc.)?

One major area that would be impacted if this question were taken seriously would be in the area of worship planning. Rather than planning a service based on a set number of fast songs to bring them up and a certain number of mid tempo songs to contemplate, and a few slower songs to get everyone in the mood (whatever that means) for the sermon, what if our main question was, “What kind of Christian will this service form?” This is not the same as planning a service for worshippers rather than God, but it takes into account that whatever happens in worship, those participating are being shaped and formed. Whether or not they are being shaped and formed into believers with a greater understanding of God and who he is, what he has done and how we are to live in light of this is up to the content of our worship. The stakes are much too high to leave this formative aspect of the Christian life up to aesthetics.

Dawn’s chapter entitled “Don’t Let the People Cop Out of Witnessing” was one of my favorite chapters. In it, Dawn addresses an issue that has become somewhat of a preoccupation with me recently. She addresses the conflict and confusion between evangelism and worship. With Dawn, I stand loudly to proclaim the great need to witness and as a pastor, I embrace evangelism and its rightful place in the life of a believer. I do not think, however, that it is justifiable to create our worship services in a way that their aim is evangelism. Dawn says it better than I:

If we choose a certain music style or other elements simply
to appeal to those outside our walls, then we are forcing
worship to bear the brunt of evangelism, which is instead
the task of all believers. Don’t misunderstand: good worship
will be evangelistic, but that is not its primary purpose, for
it is directed toward God, not toward the neighbor. No
passage in scripture says “Worship the Lord to attract the
unbeliever.” Rather, in countless texts we are commanded,
invited, urged, wooed to worship the Trinity because God is
worthy of our praise. As stated in the beginning of this chapter,
worship can actually be done only by those who recognize that

Dawn has articulated a concern I have had for a long while. While we should expect that there will be unbelievers in our midst each week, the purpose for gathering together is for the worship by and edification of believers. The New Testament church was a gathering of believers. This is why it perplexes me when churches will completely alter the way that they “do church” in the hope that more unbelievers will come. By doing this, churches fail in their purpose of being a church. While it is true that we are commanded to evangelize, and we should do so joyfully, the Great Commission says “as you go on your way make disciples…”[3] not “get them into your meetings and hope they 'get it'.”

When our worship services and worship content become geared toward the unbeliever, we are neglected the growth needs of the believer. While it is true that singing and teaching on the nature and character of God is and can be evangelistic, the believer needs to move beyond (though not forgetting) the basics of the gospel so that he or she may grow into maturity.[4] As long as our services are planned with an unbelieving target audience, the needs of the growing believer will go unmet in the long run.

[1] p. 69
[2] p. 123
[3] Matthew 28: 16-20
[4] Hebrews 5: 11-13

Monday, May 07, 2007

coffee vs. god

about a year ago, i wrote a couple of posts about some quotes on the back of starbucks coffee cups. (you can read those here and here).

i came across another one via a news story on the radio that i thought merited mentioning.

"Why in moments of crisis do we ask God for strength and help?
As cognitive beings, why would we ask something that may
well be a figment of our imaginations for guidance?
Why not search inside ourselves for the power to
overcome? After all, we are strong enough to cause
most of the catastrophes we need to endure."
- Bill Schell, Starbucks customer from London, Ontario, Canada


Wednesday, May 02, 2007

my very own prayer cloth

i have in my possession my very own prayer cloth. (its actually a piece of paper)

all i have to do, is write jesus' name and my name inside of the heart drawn on the cloth (paper) and sleep with it under my pillow after carrying it inside of my clothing.

then, i can open the prophetic word sealed by the holy spirit (actually sealed by some glue) and read said prophetic word before mailing the prayer cloth (paper) back to this organization with a faith seed.

and by faith seed... i mean money.

i can even check a box that says " i want to be saved and go to heaven".

why wouldn't i? after all, after reading the testimonials that came with this cloth (paper), people have done as instructed, sown a faith seed of who knows how much money, and now they have cars and riches and are disease free!

there are people in our towns, in our circles of friends, and possibly in our families who encounter such lies and heresies on a regular basis.

and so often we say " i don't need doctrine.. just give me jesus!"

if we do not teach and know doctrine, how do we convince someone who receives such a letter, who sees a similar sales pitch on television that not everyone who says "praise jesus" and cries when they say his name can be trusted?

there is a difference between genuine christianity, and those who look, act, and talk a lot like "church people", but whose teachings result in many believing things that are outright lies.

people we love, and people we don't even know (but are still called to love) fall victim to these lies because we too often settle for sermonettes that too closely resemble stand up comedy or aesop's moral fables rather than sound biblical teaching.

whether it is st. matthews churches , the mormons, jehovah's witnesses, or the ridiculousness of most of the programming on t.b.n, there are false teachers whose gospel is no gospel at all, and they are coming after (aggressively) anyone who will listen.

what are we doing to protect ourselves, families, friends, and neighbors?

But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron... -1 tim. 4:1-2

I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed! - gal. 1:6-9

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you - 1 peter 1: 3-4

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. Make sure that none of you suffers as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler; but if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name. - 1peter 4: 12- 16

nowhere in god's word are we told that being a follower of god equals money or possessions. god may choose to bless us with those things, but not as a measure of our faith. there have been and are countless believers with incredible faith who have lived in poverty and sickness, have been persecuted, tortured, maimed and killed for being an obedient follower of christ.

the gospel is that there is only one god who created all things. he is a holy god. and we are sinful mankind who deserve death by virtue of being sinners. the only way for us to avoid that punishment is by placing all of our hope and faith in jesus christ, who took the punishment for all who would believe in him.

there is no promise of fame, wealth, or even health.

but there is the promise of eternal life, and the blessings of every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, where moth and rust do not destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal.

do not believe the lie that blessings equal health and wealth.

blessings equal grace, mercy, and eternity with god.