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Friday, January 26, 2007

THAT'S What I Meant to Say

In recent years there have certainly been plenty of options for books concerning Ministry Models. Works promoting The Emerging Church, The Purpose Driven Church, and pop psychology models which stress meeting the "felt needs", rather than the "spiritual needs" of people, have left a bad taste in my mouth. They are just NOT biblically based, NOR do they have a biblical view of God. I have often attempted to articulate this to enthusiasts of such models, but usually feel I just haven't made the point well enough. Thankfully, Mark Dever and Paul Alexander have articulated my concerns quite nicely in their recent book, "The Deliberate Church". I haven't finished reading it yet, but so far I find myself jumping up and down and yelling, "YES! YES!" Thanks, guys, for saying what I have been thinking for some time! Let me give you their 4 "P's" for a strong, vital, godly local assembly.

1. Preaching
"God's Word has always been His chosen instrument to create, convict, convert, and conform His people...Pastors must give themselves over to preaching, not programs...because God's power for building His people is in His Word. God's Word builds His church."

"...My word...will not return to Me empty, without accomplishing what I desire..." Isa.55:10-11
"...the the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes." Rom.1:16
"So faith comes from hearing, and hearing from the word of Christ" Rom.10:17
"...the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe" I Thes.2:13
"In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth" James 1:18

2. Praying
"Prayer shows our dependence on God. It honors Him as the source of all blessing, and it reminds us that converting individuals and growing churches are [ultimately] His works, not ours." 1 Cor.2:14-16; 3:6-7

a. Let Paul's prayers for the churches he planted be an example to us.
b. Pray that the preaching of the Gospel would be faithful, accurate & clear.
c. Pray for the increasing spiritual maturity of the local assembly.
d. Pray for growth in corporate love, holiness and unity.
e. Pray for opportunities to engage in personal evangelism.

3. Personal Discipleship
"and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. " 2Tim.2:2

4. Patience
'Make sure the changes you want to implement are biblical; then patiently teach people about them from God's Word before you expect them to embrace the changes you're encouraging."

"preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching." 2Tim.4:2

"If [Pastor/Elders] define success in terms of size, their desire for numerical growth will probably outrun their patience with the congregation, and perhaps even their fidelity to biblical methods...They will trip over their own ambition. But if they define success in terms of faithfulness, then they are in a position to persevere... Confidence in the Christian ministry does not come from personal competence, charisma, or experience; nor does it come from having the right programs in place, or jumping on the bandwagon of the latest ministry fad... Much like Joshua, our confidence is to be in the presence, power, and promises of God." Joshua 1:9

Amen, brothers! Thanks for saying it.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Cause and Effect

"What is the major error of Christianity through the centuries? Confusing cause with what is effect. You have to get these two straight or you will drift into moralism." Dr. John Hannah

This has been a concern of mine for some time. I believe a recent contributor to this error has been the promotion of Christian "self-help" books & out-of-context Bible studies, which put a heavy emphasis on application and outer "doing", instead of having the focus be on dealing with our inner, heart attitude. I can feel good about my "progress" if I can check off a list of outward actions. It's a lot harder to consistently deal with the sin in my heart.

I've also noticed a trend in some conservative Christian Internet sites placing more and more stress on the outward "dos" and "do nots" of being a good Christian, instead of on our inward sin attitude. These are becoming increasingly vitriolic, and while I admire the desire to be godly and to be holy, I don't admire the spirit in which they are presented, nor the over-emphasis on extrabiblical notions of what makes you godly or ungodly. There's enough of a challenge obeying everything in God's revealed Word, without adding our own extra list of "dos" and "do nots"!

Jesus taught that sin begins in the heart [Mt.15:19]. And that's where we need to deal with it FIRST. When we do that, then godliness is the EFFECT of having a right heart. In Jesus' day the Pharisees were tithing down to the least spice, but their hearts weren't right. [Mt.15:8]

Eph.6:6 says we are to be "...DOING the will of God FROM THE HEART". If I focus on repenting and turning from pride, impatience and an unloving attitude (changing my heart's attitude) - then righteous acts will be the natural EFFECT of having gotten my heart right. But if I focus on outward actions, "dos" and "do nots", thinking they will CAUSE me to be more righteous, then I will be continually frustrated at my inability, and I will fall short.

As Paul reminded Timothy in 1Tim.1:5, "The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith."

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Loss of Words = Loss of Thought?

I was pretty zonked out on New Years Day after making a very, very, veeeery early airport run. So after watching The Rose Bowl Parade [yes... all entry and exit ramps particular to my offspring's life were duly noted, as was his city's float entry], I watched (off & on) a day long "Twilight Zone" retrospective on SciFi.

I was pretty excited to see a few episodes that had loomed large in my childhood. I had loooved this show as a child! My friends and I used to actually sit around "story-telling" favorite episodes. [Do kids "story-tell" with each other any more?] We were forever writing and producing plays, "story-telling" and publishing newspapers constructed from our own stories. We were "wordy" kids. We played with language.

Anyway, after a while I caught myself beginning to squirm half way through an episode. I would become impatient and want them to "get on with it". I began to analyze WHAT was making me so squirmy. And then it hit me - it was the abundance of words and the absence of action and visual stimulation!

What incredibly dense, wordy scripts were written back then! They were full of questions and ideas to get you thinking - which is why I think my friends and I spent so much time discussing them. I realized that after years of having been exposed to "action" movies, special effects and witty one-liner TV comedies, I couldn't hold still any more to listen... to consider... to imagine... to think.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Children + "Disposable Income"

Being a new grandmother and grandmother-to-be has uncovered a side of me I never knew I had. I find myself salivating in places like "Baby Gap" as I plan my grandsons' current and future wardrobes. I look longingly at all the adorable child-themed china from the Emma Bridgewater catalogue... even though I know it will cost me an arm and a leg to have it all shipped from Great Britain. I enter the children's section of Barnes and Noble and pour over all the picture books, savoring each illustration and turn of phrase. [OK... I've always done that...]

I recently came across a quote saying, "It costs more to amuse a child than it once did to educate his father."

That got me thinking back to my own lean childhood and the days when my children were little. I've noticed that the homes where small children live on TV makeover shows are just inundated with toys. But I have yet to see a child actually playing with any of them. They're usually off in a corner tearing up a magazine or banging on a pot.

Beth was discussing her plan to think about toy choices ahead of time, planning her approach to toys rather than letting the advertising industry dictate what she needs to "buy" in order to qualify as a good parent. That sounded wise to me. What I remember playing with most when I was little is an old tablespoon (sans silver plating) and an empty cocoa tin (that always smelled a little bit chocolaty). My Nana took care of me while my Mom worked and I didn't have a lot of toys. But I remember how she played board games with me multiple times a day, how she taught me to play Canasta when I could hardly hold all those cards [I could "meld" before I could write!], how she introduced me to art by taking me regularly to the museum home of the sculptor Augustus St. Gaudens, how she let me "help" with her perpetual puzzles laid out on a specially crafted "puzzle board", how her glass-fronted bookcase always held Nancy Drew books for me, and when I was 13 and "Beatle-crazy", how she cut out every article concerning them from the daily paper and let me make a scrapbook [which I still have!].

Wouldn't it be nice if kids learned to be creative, enjoyed spending time interacting with adults and knew how to entertain themselves with the resources at hand? It's worth thinking about in advance.