29 January, 2010

The Gospel According to Rich Mullins

I have been listening to Rich Mullins a lot in the past two weeks. Not a lot of his work. One CD actually, and only about 3 songs on that one CD.

It is amazing to me how much insight Mullins had into the way in which the humanity and the divinity of Christ are seen in the Gospels. Mullins sings one song called 'Surely God is With Us' which wrestles with the way in which the ancient Church related to the person of Jesus. What a struggle it must have been for the Church to be confronted with a Messiah that was so much different than what they expected! It really makes me wonder how we would react in that time. The Lord Jesus Christ went to such depths to come and redeem a people. The God-Man, Jesus Christ- even now, we see through a dim glass, don't we?

Surely God is With Us!

Well, who's that man who thinks He's a prophet?
Well, I wonder if He's got something up His sleeve?
Where's He from? Who is His daddy?
There's rumors He even thinks Himself a king!

Of a kingdom of paupers
Simpletons and rogues
The whores all seem to love Him
And the drunks propose a toast!

And they say, "Surely God is with us.
Well, surely God is with us."
They say, "Surely God is with us today!"

Who's that man who says He's a preacher?
Well, He must be, He's disturbing all our peace
Where's He get off, and what is He hiding
And every word He says those fools believe!

Who could move a mountain?
Who would love their enemy?
Who could rejoice in pain?
And turn the other cheek?

And still say, "Surely God is with us,
Well, surely God is with us,"
Who'll say, "Surely God is with us today, today!"

Blessed are the poor in spirit,
Heaven belongs to them.
Blessed are those who make peace,
They are God's children.
I AM the Bread of Life, and the Way-
You hear that Man, believe what He says!

Tell me, who's that Man? They made Him a prisoner.
They tortured Him and nailed Him to a tree.
Well if He's so bad, who did He threaten?
Did He deserve to die between two thieves?

See the scars and touch His wounds.
He's risen flesh and bone.
Now the sinners have become the saints!
And the lost have all come home!

And they say, "Surely God is with us.
Well, surely God is with us.
They say, "Surely God is with us today!"
They say, "Surely God is with us
Well, surely God is with us"
They say, "Surely God is with us today"

Listen here.

25 January, 2010

Ministry or Busy-stry?

Today's Church is in need of a paradigm shift when it comes to ministry. When we think of the congregation becoming involved in the ministry of the local church- what do we think of? We most often think of 'what' they can do. What committee can they serve on? What Sunday School's need another instructor? What busy work can we assign to make them feel a part of the work of the church?


But how should we answer this question, "Pastor, what could I do to be more involved in the church?" How would you answer this question? I am afraid that most pastors, elders, and church people think in the ways listed above.

"The real work of God is people work- the prayerfully speaking of His word by one person to another- the jobs are never all taken. The opportunities for Christians to minister personally to others are limitless.

So you pause [when asked how one could be more involved in the life of the church], and reply, "See that guy over there sitting on his own?... He's on the fringe of things here... How about I introduce you to him, and you arrange to have breakfast with him [once in a while] and read the Bible together? Or see that couple over there? THey are both very recently converted, and really in need of encouragement and mentoring. Why don't you and your wife have them over, get to know them, and read and pray together once a month? And if you still have time, and want to contribute more, start praying for the people on your street, and then invite them all to a barbecue at your place. That's the first step towards talking to them about the Gospel, or inviting them along to something." (Marshall, Payne; Trellis and the Vine, p.26)

It's interesting to me that replacing the thinking that centers around committees, jobs, and busyness and replacing it with people-centered ministry is a paradigm shift. But it is. Have churches lost the sense of missio ecclesia? Have even Bible believing, Christ honoring Churches replaced Christ exalting people focused ministry with the business model that is so foreign to the Scriptures?

I think we all need to reflect on the purpose of the Church and what God has called the Church to do.

24 January, 2010

How Charismatic Is Your Church?

Why do we always think of speaking in tongues and being prophetic when we think of spiritual gifts? It is clear from the New Testament that spiritual gifts are MUCH broader than these. The charisma of God is more than these super-natural things. There are other supernatural gifts that the Holy Spirit bestows on his church that are much more useful than tongues and other charismatic gifts. Notice from this chart the gifts that the New Testament prescribes. Which are still normative in the Church? (Chart taken from the ESV Study Bible). Which gifts does your church rely on as Christ builds His Church?

Spiritual Gifts in Paul's Letters

Romans 12:6–8

1 Corinthians 12:7–10

1 Corinthians 12:28

Ephesians 4:11

Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us

To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good

God has appointed in the church

And he gave


the apostles




the prophets

the evangelists

ability to distinguish between spirits

utterance of wisdom


utterance of knowledge


the shepherds and teachers


working of miracles


gifts of healing

gifts of healing





various kinds of tongues

various kinds of tongues

interpretation of tongues




20 January, 2010

How To Keep the Sabbath On a Wednesday

As Christians we understand that the moral law of God is perpetually binding. This is God's will for his people. The fourth commandment is to keep the Sabbath Day holy. Many Christians forget that there is another part to keeping the Sabbath Day holy.

"Six days shall you labor and do all your work" is as much a part of the fourth commandment as spending the Lord's Day in private and public worship, acts of mercy, and works of necessity. As God's people, we are called to be a working people first and foremost. It is part of our duty as Christians.

A number of years ago there was a book by Colson and Eckard (Why America Doesn't Work) which talked about the loss of the so-called Protestant work ethic. They gave a number of reasons why the Christian should work; here are some of their conclusions:

1. Work gives expression to our creative gifts and thus fulfills our need for meaning and purpose.
2. Work is intrinsically good when done with the proper motive and attitude.
3. We are commanded to exercise stewardship over the earth, participating in the work of creation that brings glory to God.
4. As citizens of this earth, we have certain responsibilities to our fellow citizens.
5. At the heart of this work-ethic historically lies moral character.

Work is a biblical and God-glorifying act. Idleness does not ever glorify God. Even our recreation should be for the sake of getting back to work. When we work, we should do so knowing that it pleases God to see his children being industrious.

So how does one keep the Sabbath Day holy, even if it's Wednesday? You work unto God's glory out of love for what Jesus Christ has done to secure eternal rest.

Now back to work!

14 January, 2010

Haiti, Jerusalem, and the Tower of Siloam

Yesterday Pat Robertson spoke his 'mind' on the recent earthquake in Haiti. He had two points that bothered me greatly:

1. He said that this may be a blessing in disguise because more buildings are down than standing. That means that the country will be rebuilt. Never mind the thousands and thousands of people who have been killed to get shiny new buildings that Haiti cannot afford.
2. He said that this was the people of Haiti's fault because they made a pact with the devil to get the French out of Haiti. He was referring to some voodoo service that is noted historically.

You can watch his dreadful remarks here.

Here are my thoughts on Haiti:

1. Weep with those who weep. Mourn with those who mourn (Romans 12:15). Now is not the time to talk about shiny buildings or past sins; but to mourn and weep along with this very poor country. When Haiti sees a Christian church that is mourning along side of them; as well as working, it will point toward the compassion of Jesus Christ. Jesus mourned over Jerusalem before it's destruction. We should mourn over Haiti's destruction and call them to be gathered under the wings of Christ as a mother hen gathers her chicks.
2. This was not the people of Haiti's fault. Jesus was asked, in Luke 13:4, about the people that were killed when the Tower of Siloam fell in his day. People were wondering if this tragedy was the fault of the people. "Were they worse offenders than all the others?" What did Jesus say? Jesus said, "No, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish." This event in Haiti is not a time for pointing fingers, but a time for pointing people toward the Gospel of life and reconciliation.

Friends, use this to point men and women to Christ.

13 January, 2010

Break Forth With Celebratory Joy!

What is the best way to serve God? How do we best praise Him? Is God best praised with joyless groanings and non-expressive petitions? Does God regulate the way in which our hearts are to come before God? Charles Spurgeon shows us that the worship of the Triune God is to be different than the praises that men and women give to false gods and idols. He writes,

Gladness and joy are the appropriate spirit in which to praise the goodness of the Lord. Birds extol the Creator in notes of overflowing joy, the cattle low forth his praise with tumult of happiness, and the fish leap up in his worship with excess of delight. Moloch may be worshipped with shrieks of pain, and Juggernaut may be honoured by dying groans and inhuman yells, but he whose name is Love is best pleased with the holy mirth, and sanctified gladness of his people.

11 January, 2010

What Stands At the Center of A Healthy Church?

What affect does the preaching of the Word have on a congregation? Preaching is God's primary means for converting sinners and bringing them into the knowledge of the truth (Rom. 10). Preaching is also the main vehicle for discipleship in the life of a congregation. But preaching is not the only spiritual food that is in the life of a congregation- although it is the main course. Preaching that is nutritious as well as delicious, will cause the congregation to go out and feed others, spread the Gospel, have Bible studies, prayer meetings, and other good spiritual things. A Spirit Filled congregation is the result of sitting under the Word of God in joyful submission. God's people will go out! Joel Beeke says it like this,

Preaching is the hub of all the means of grace. It's the center of it all. And where there's good preaching, you know what you'll discover? You'll discover that your church will get active and your church will start this means of grace and that means of grace, bible studies will spring up, literature distribution will happen, Sunday school, discipleship, pastoral visitation will be multiplied. Where there is good preaching, where the hub of the wheel is there, then spokes will begin to go out, and the means will be used, and the people will want to know what they can do to spread the Gospel.

06 January, 2010

What Does a Protestant Mary Look Like?

Do Protestants have too low a view of Mary, the mother of Jesus? William Chellis, over at De Regno Christi, seems to think so. Join the conversation here.

04 January, 2010

Pray or Do the Dishes? Read the Bible or Swiffer?

We live in a busy city and in a busy society. Often our work is never done. We make many attempts to 'make time' for investing in our own spiritual life, but there is so much to do. Who has time to sit and listen to a sermon when there are dishes to put away? Who has time to read the Scriptures when the laundry is not folded? Who has time to pray and write in your spiritual journal when there is so much else to do.

This is life. It is busy. There is always more to do than hours in the day. But we do make time for what is important to us. In four verses tucked away in the middle of Luke's Gospel we are told about sisters that both love the Lord Jesus Christ. One busily works to make things just right. One takes time to sit at Jesus' feet and learn from his teaching. Again, both Christian woman, both have 'things' that need to get done, both had opportunity to learn from Christ on an afternoon- but only one took the opportunity.

Luke 10: 38-42 Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, "Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me." But the Lord answered her, "Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.

JC Ryle notes four things that we can learn from these two sisters:

1.Christians differ in character: "Martha was active and impulsive. She had strong feelings and gave voice to them. Mary was quiet and contemplative, feeling deeply but saying less than she felt."
2.The cares of the world can be a snare: “Martha's mistake should be a constant warning to all Christians. If wish to grow in grace, we must be aware of the cares of this world. Unless we watch and pray, these cares will eat up our spirituality and bring leanness to our souls. It is not open sin or flagrant breaches of God's commands alone which lead people to eternal ruin. More often, it is an excessive attention to things wihchi in themselves are lawful. We may go down to the pit of hell from the middle of lawful things."
3.The Lord's Rebuke: Martha, you are anxious for many things. Faithful are the wounds of a friend. That little sentence was precious balm indeed. It contains a volume of practical theology in a few words. Only one thing is needed: (This is a good lesson for those who would like to entertain other Christians and practice hospitality but do not because things are not just so!)
4.Commendation of Mary: The true Christian's portion is the grace of God. This is what Mary chose, and this is the only thing that lasts. It holds true through sickness, youth, and old age, in times of adversity and prosperity. It is good in the life and in death, in time and in eternity.

We all do have different personalities and characters- but each of us need to make the time to invest in our relationship with Jesus Christ. Sometimes we need to leave the dishes in the sink to commune with Christ. Sometimes the laundry can get folded the next day- as long as we take time to pray and meditate in that time slot. Sometimes you can vacuum later. Jesus should not have to always wait.

I imagine that 20 years after this event occurred Martha had wished that she sat to hear from Christ. Mary had a wonderful memory of learning from the Lord Jesus Christ. Martha had sparkling dishes and properly ironed tea towels.

The dishes can wait.

01 January, 2010

A Psalm for the New Year

One of our family traditions for the new year is to sing a portion of Psalm 77 to the old Scottish tune, Auld Lang Syne. We have been doing this for at least 10 years (before Lydia and I were even remotely interested in cultivating a relationship- let alone having 4 children!). This tradition started in our college years in Grand Rapids.

May you all consider what God's calling is for you in 2010. Let us 'commemorate his wondrous deeds of old, and meditate upon his works, of grace and power untold.'

Auld Lang Syne (from the 1912 UP Psalter and the 1927 Psalter Hymnal)

I thought upon the days of old, the years departed long
I held communion with my heart, by night recalled my song.
My heart inquired with anxious care, will God forever spurn?
Shall we no more his favor see? Will mercy ne'er return?

Forever shall his promise fail? Has God forgotten grace?
Has he withdrawn His tender love? In anger hid His face?
These doubts are my infirmity, my thoughts at once reply!
I call back years of God's right hand, the years of God most high!

I will commemorate O Lord, thy wondrous deeds of old,
and meditate upon thy works of power and grace untold.
O God, most holy is thy way, most perfect good, and right;
thou art the only living God, the God of wondrous might!

As we meditate on the wondrous deeds of 2009, let us remember that the year that we are now in will be a year of wondrous might! When doubts and confusion enter our heart- mediate on the things that he has done for his people for thousands of years, and pray, "Lord, do it again!"

Happy new year!