If you draw people using carnal means, you will have to keep people using carnal means

This mes­sage giv­en by Paul Wash­er to the Way of the Mas­ter Con­fer­ence real­ly speaks to a lot of the things that have been on my heart and mind recent­ly, and it echos very close­ly a state­ment of Ravi Zacharias that first put some of these thoughts into focus for me.

But the more you depend upon the arm of the flesh, and the more church­es attempt to grow, not by being bib­li­cal, but find­ing the lat­est thing to appeal to the great­est num­ber of peo­ple, as long as we are doing that we will nev­er see the pow­er of God.

And the church, in its desire to become rel­e­vant, makes itself look like a fool in the midst of its ene­mies.

The church today in Amer­i­ca looks like a 6-Flags-Over-Jesus; because if you draw peo­ple, using car­nal means, you will have to keep peo­ple using car­nal means.

Internal dichotomy of dealing with Sin and receiving Solace: “You cannot have it both ways.”

ThePilgrim'sRegressBookcoverI missed this rather incred­i­ble por­tion the first time or two around.

John is close to the end of his Jour­ney; a jour­ney phys­i­cal, men­tal, and spir­i­tu­al. All the expe­ri­ences, refine­ments, inputs and guid­ance; good, bad, evil, sense­less, sound, are cul­mi­nat­ing into a true real­iza­tion of the nature and per­son of “The Land­lord” and his rela­tion­ship to Him. It final­ly takes just one more bit of input, a tiny cat­a­lyst of truth for it to crys­tal­lize into true, pro­found, and com­plete knowl­edge.

He had been will­ing to trust God to aid him when he cried out for help, but not to trust Him enough to sur­ren­der con­trol.

How like that we all are. We can­not have it both ways.

For a while he went on cau­tious­ly, but he was haunt­ed by a pic­ture in his mind of a place where the path would break off short when it was too dark for him to see, and he would step on air. This fear made him halt more and more fre­quent­ly to exam­ine his ground: and when he went on it was each time more slow­ly: till at last he came to a stand­still. There seemed to be noth­ing for it but to rest where he was. The night was warm, but he was both hun­gry and thirsty. And he sat down. It was quite dark now.

Then I dreamed that once more a Man came to him in the dark­ness and said, ‘You must pass the night where you are, but I have brought you a loaf and if you crawl along the ledge ten paces more you will find that a lit­tle fall of water comes down the cliff.’

Sir,’ said John. ‘I do not know your name and I can­not see your face, but I thank you. Will you not sit down and eat, your­self?’

I am full and not hun­gry,’ said the Man. ‘And I will pass on. But one word before I go. You can­not have it both ways.’

What do you mean, sir?’

Your life has been saved all this day by cry­ing out to some­thing which you call by many names, and you have said to your­self that you used metaphors.’

Was I wrong, sir?’

Per­haps not. But you must play fair. If its help is not a metaphor, nei­ther are its com­mands. If it can answer when you call, then it can speak with­out your ask­ing. If you can go to it, it can come to you.’

I think I see, sir. You mean that I am not my own man: in some sense I have a Land­lord after all?’

Even so. But what is it that dis­mays you? You heard from Wis­dom how the rules were yours and not yours. Did you not mean to keep them? And if so, can it scare you to know that there is one who will make you able to keep them?’

Well,’ said John, ‘I sup­pose you have found me out. Per­haps I did not ful­ly mean to keep them — not all — or not all the time. And yet, in a way, I think I did. It is like a thorn in your fin­ger, sir. You know when you set about tak­ing it out your­self — you mean to get it out — you know it will hurt — and it does hurt — but some­how it is not very seri­ous busi­ness — well, I sup­pose, because you feel that you always could stop if it was very bad. Not that you intend to stop. But it is a very dif­fer­ent thing to hold your hand out to a sur­geon to be hurt as much as he thinks fit. And at his speed.’

The Man laughed. ‘I see you under­stand me very well,’ He said, ‘but the great thing is to get the thorn out.’. And then He went away.

— Clive Sta­ples Lewis, The Pilgrim’s Regress [empha­sis mine]

I sup­pose you have found me out. Per­haps I did not ful­ly mean to keep them — not all — or not all the time. And yet, in a way, I think I did. It is like a thorn in your fin­ger, sir. You know when you set about tak­ing it out your­self — you mean to get it out — you know it will hurt — and it does hurt — but some­how it is not very seri­ous busi­ness — well, I sup­pose, because you feel that you always could stop if it was very bad. Not that you intend to stop. But it is a very dif­fer­ent thing to hold your hand out to a sur­geon to be hurt as much as he thinks fit. And at his speed.’

I need to make this gel and cohere in my own life and fig­ure out how to move for­ward pos­i­tive­ly in such a way as to have it always affect my think­ing and doing. This applies to so many of my own per­son­al strug­gles. I am deter­mined to rely on my own gump­tion and under­stand­ing to over­come my vices and addic­tions because I don’t want to give over con­trol to the sur­geon. I want to retain the abil­i­ty to stop if I chose. I know friends in their same own lone­ly, lame­ly list­ing cor­a­cle in an end­less sea.

The por­tion If its help is not a metaphor, nei­ther are its com­mands., serves as absolute con­vic­tion of pros­per­i­ty gospel and the social gospel I’ve heard preached in post-mod­ern church­es. You can­not preach a won­der­ful hap­py warm-fuzzy God who wants you to have joy and peace and hap­pi­ness w/o also acknowl­edg­ing that this self­same God has also made require­ments of us. Imper­a­tives we can­not ignore. We can­not have it both ways.

Orig­i­nal­ly post­ed to Face­book July 27, 2011 at 3:43pm

In Christ Alone” shall remain true to biblical gospel

http://www.abc2news.com/dpp/lifestyle/hymn-writers-wont-change-lyric-for-presbyterians

The pop­u­lar hymn “In Christ Alone” won’t appear in the new hym­nal of the Pres­by­ter­ian Church (U.S.A.) because hymn writ­ers Kei­th Get­ty and Stu­art Tow­nend refused to change the lyrics.

Mary Louise Bringle, who chairs the Pres­by­ter­ian Com­mit­tee on Con­gre­ga­tion­al Songs, writes in “The Chris­t­ian Cen­tu­ry” that some com­mit­tee mem­bers object­ed to the line that says, “On that cross as Jesus died, the wrath of God was sat­is­fied.”

She says they asked Get­ty and Tow­nend if the lyric could be changed to say “the love of God was mag­ni­fied.”

The hymn writ­ers wouldn’t allow it.

Get­ty has said they wrote “In Christ Alone” to tell “the whole gospel.”

Bringle writes that most com­mit­tee mem­bers didn’t want the new Pres­by­ter­ian hym­nal to sug­gest that Jesus’ death on the cross was an aton­ing sac­ri­fice that was need­ed “to assuage God’s anger” over sin.

Out­stand­ing. I appre­ci­ate their hold­ing firm even though it means loss of roy­al­ties and expo­sure. Hard choice and they put faith over oth­er con­sid­er­a­tions. How does dc Talk put it? “Is this one for the peo­ple? Is this one for the Lord? Or do I sim­ply ser­e­nade for things I must afford? You can jum­ble them togeth­er. My con­flict still remains, holi­ness is call­ing In the midst of court­ing fame.”

I only recent­ly became aware of the debate over “removal of wrath”, pro­pi­ti­a­tion and expi­a­tion, and so on and so forth. I haven’t even grasped the scope of the posi­tions, the ter­mi­nolo­gies, and I haven’t yet even begun to under­stand the argu­ments peo­ple put forth, but I am moti­vat­ed to explore it. For now, I remain firm in belief that Christ died to sat­is­fy our debt and remove God’s wrath from us.

First impres­sions are that this whole issue is going to end up in the box I’m keep­ing of doc­trines that have led to the present-day church that cre­ates false-con­verts and feels that the gospel needs to be giv­en a facelift to make it more palat­able… that has led to Word of Faith teach­ing, Pros­per­i­ty Gospel, Sales Pitch Evan­ge­lism, and the Bud­dy Jesus. First impres­sions are only use­ful if they lead to refine­ment and sec­ond and third and even­tu­al­ly firm impres­sions.

I just don’t under­stand the men­tal­i­ty that strug­gles with the idea of an awe­some God who is holy and thus capa­ble of anger, wrath, pun­ish­ment, cor­rec­tion, say­ing ‘no’, tak­ing away priv­i­leges, and judg­ing sin from obe­di­ence. What an awe­some God, wor­thy of wor­ship! It makes His love for us all the more fan­tas­tic and worth­while and joy-pro­vok­ing… He keeps reach­ing down to us and giv­ing us chances to become obe­di­ent instead of writ­ing us off as a bad job. The scope of this blows my mind… He cre­at­ed an entire uni­verse for us. He cre­at­ed us. He cre­at­ed a gar­den and in order to give us true free-will, gave us only one instruc­tion to which we must be obe­di­ent… and we did not, and thou­sands of years have now passed with exam­ple after exam­ple of His try­ing to redeem us and give us anoth­er chance to be obe­di­ent… If He were to tal­ly the bill for all the redemp­tions of all the Gomers across all the years and put that quan­ti­ty of sil­ver and bar­ley on the sur­face of the earth, I sus­pect we’d be nudg­ing the moon out of orbit before the account­ing even reached the birth of Christ.

Hooray, Liv­ing Waters has weighed in!

My Testimony

Begin­ning July 31, 2013 — Work in Progress.

Notes:

And it begins. It hit me this morn­ing that the only way to get this done was to start. Then I had a clever bit of insight which I repeat­ed in my head sev­er­al times to make cer­tain that I wouldn’t for­get it before get­ting to a com­put­er to write it down. I’ve for­got­ten what it was. Utter­ly.

And yes, some­thing that will only fill half a page will be some­thing that requires me to write out ran­dom thoughts as I have them and slow­ly grow the prod­uct. This is not prose… it is ran­dom ram­bling, out­pour­ing of heart that hope­ful­ly may be refined lat­er into some­thing of sig­nif­i­cance… because that’s my sto­ry… a process of refin­ing to become some­thing that may be of some significance…while slow­ly real­iz­ing that I have always been sig­nif­i­cant… to God.

One thing I do remem­ber was that the urge to write it out came to me while lis­ten­ing to a Liv­ing Waters pod­cast “Wel­come to the Most Annoy­ing Hour on Radio”. They were dis­cussing some British pas­tors who were big in the Emer­gent Church move­ment and break­ing down those pastor’s respons­es to inter­view ques­tions about what makes for a good ser­mon and such. The one thing that was the­mat­ic through­out was that the EC pas­tors were all about ‘me’. They were the sort to like the quote, “Preach the gospel always, if nec­es­sary, use words.” [From mem­o­ry, I’ll get it prop­er lat­er when I have more time]. Todd “Freak­ish­ly Tall” Freil real­ly turned the light of clear think­ing on this phrase and iden­ti­fy it as “Me” based… He was clear that it should be words, the gospel first, and then our lives to sup­port our words.

So… that made me won­der… A per­son­al tes­ti­mo­ny. Is that not a “Me” spread­ing of the gospel? I don’t know. I’m not going to pon­der it right now… I’m going to write out my tes­ti­mo­ny, and if at some point I firm up one way or the oth­er, I’ll either share or not share my tes­ti­mo­ny, or share my tes­ti­mo­ny only after I’ve shared the gospel… or some­thing…

I think my thought that I can­not remem­ber was some­thing to the effect of open­ing with a ques­tion such as, “Does this per­son­al tes­ti­mo­ny -have- to be some engag­ing tale of a life of unre­pen­tant sin and pain and then a come to Jesus moment (com­plete with date, time, loca­tion and what one was wear­ing at the time), and then a tale of a life changed, or would some­one find it just as hon­est and engag­ing to hear a sto­ry of a per­son who was blessed to be born into the faith… a per­son who epit­o­mizes Romans 3:23… a per­son who, is a sin­ner and has had the truth all along but has always warred between his sin-nature and the sanc­ti­fi­ca­tion of being in faith­ful rela­tion­ship with God? Is that not more tru­ly a tale that every­one can relate to… even those who don’t know God and will have, or do and have had a Come-to-Jesus expe­ri­ence? Do not those expe­ri­ences fall entire­ly with­in this venn dia­gram? I think I want my tes­ti­mo­ny to focus on a life being refined… of growth and back­slid­ing, of sin and repen­tance of a God who keeps tak­ing me back and a life that I believe is grow­ing in the right direc­tion… I am a stub­born arro­gant intractable guy who trusts in him­self and takes FOREVER to be shown some­thing and repeat­ed beat­ings about the head and neck to get my atten­tion and maybe whap a few new bits of truth in… and those bits often have to be whapped in sev­er­al times before they get absorbed with­in. If Philip­pi­ans 1:6 is my most per­son­al­ly sig­nif­i­cant verse, then wouldn’t that be the sto­ry of the truth of that verse? God’s sto­ry of love and patience and redemp­tion and grace was spread out over 66 books and gen­er­a­tions of Jews… my life is sim­ply a con­densed ver­sion of the same sto­ry… falling away, com­ing back on my knees, being tak­en in, grow­ing a bit, grow­ing com­pla­cent, get­ting dis­tract­ed, falling away or get­ting my think­ing out of whack, com­ing back, repent­ing, being tak­en in, being bro­ken, being grown, falling away.… I’m final­ly to the point where I think I may be -glad- that I don’t have a “Dread­ful­ly-dying, Application/acceptance of won­der-drug, heal­ing and health” sto­ry. I strug­gled with not hav­ing one and won­der­ing, “How can some­one who was blessed to be fed truth with his bot­tle pos­si­bly have a sto­ry that some­one who has nev­er been fed that truth is able to relate to and feel impact­ed?” I think I’ve just real­ized… what about all those peo­ple who are lost who aren’t going to have the Come-to-Jesus/Road to Damascus/Moment of Clar­i­ty… It seems there are more of them than the oth­er… what if my sto­ry is one that a raga­muf­fin who real­izes his bro­ken­ness and empti­ness and that he’s inca­pable of find­ing the right way on his own, hears the story/offer, pon­ders, and then, in a qui­et moment… not even sure exact­ly when, comes to Christ on his knees, bro­ken and con­trite and begs for­give­ness and sin­cere­ly repents… so aware of his deprav­i­ty that he almost can’t accept the gift that’s offered because he knows that jus­tice is for him to die and to him the moment is not about receiv­ing sal­va­tion, but final­ly come­ing to the end of him­self, drop­ping the self-lies and the excus­es, and hum­bling him­self before God… he would take the death if only he could know that, just before pun­ish­ment was met­ed out, that he had found for­give­ness and approval from his heav­en­ly father… he would die to have it… qui­et­ly… While Angels REJOICE in all the heav­ens that yet anoth­er pil­grim has come to the foot of the cross and laid down his bur­den… and for that, he is picked up off his face and embraced and brought into God’s fam­i­ly, into fel­low­ship, made clean, sanc­ti­fied, endowed with the promise of ever­last­ing life with his heav­en­ly father and the sanc­ti­fy­ing seal of and indwelling by the Holy Spir­it… all to con­tin­ue the jour­ney onward from the cross… a jour­ney that may only slow­ly begin to look dif­fer­ent as refin­ing begins.

For the first time I feel, “I can do this.” “I have some­thing worth­while to offer.” I always have, but I had to real­ize it. I’m stoked… but I’m also at the point of weep­ing after gush­ing out the pre­vi­ous into words. I need to get back to work… but I want to come back to this. Want to refine, define. But I also real­ly want to read A Pilgrim’s Progress and let Bun­yan again show me how incred­i­ble my sto­ry is… the sto­ry of every Chris­t­ian who ever was. Show me and once again put it on my heart not to take it for grant­ed, not to think that I’ve arrived, to trust God and not myself, to press onwards.

[End 20130731a]

Have you invited Jesus into your heart?

It’s recent­ly been the focus of David Platt and Ray Com­fort et. al., that we use the phrase, “Invite Jesus into your heart.”, and they sug­gest that the phrase and con­cept isn’t scrip­tur­al. It’s a great metaphor that helps under­stand­ing of the rela­tion­ship we begin when we repent with con­tri­tion and acknowl­edge Christ as Lord and sav­ior and accept the gift of sal­va­tion.

Legal­ism? Or some­thing to con­tem­plate when we choose our words when explain­ing the gospel? What bib­li­cal lan­guage would fill the role if it were to be retired?

Part of this con­cern is in response to a change in how we explain/spread the gospel in the “Evan­gel­i­cal” Chris­t­ian Church that’s occurred over the last half-cen­tu­ry or so that Ray and oth­ers believe has actu­al­ly result­ed in a great many false-con­verts who, instead of becom­ing Chris­tians with con­trite repen­tance and sin­cere giv­ing of Lord­ship to Jesus Christ, are instead becom­ing inoc­u­lat­ed against ever mak­ing such a conversion/repentance/confession of faith. I see direct links to this giv­ing rise to Pros­per­i­ty Gospel, Word of Faith teach­ing, and the Emer­gent Church move­ment where folks like Rob Bell of Mars Hill write books explain­ing that there real­ly is no such thing as Hell.

I’m not talk­ing about Hell­fire Preach­ing. Hell­fire Preach­ing will pro­duce Fear-Filled con­verts. Using God’s law will pro­duce Tear-Filled con­verts.” — Ray Com­fort “Hell’s Best Kept Secret” @43:47

Are our words real­ly so very impor­tant? I was uncon­vinced at first, but over the last month, I’ve real­ly begun to pon­der that ques­tion and become con­vinced that in try­ing to reach peo­ple and make Chris­tian­i­ty palat­able and ‘hip’, we’ve watered down the gospel to some­thing per­haps less strong than the prover­bial church punch/le­mon-aid.

This def­i­nite­ly qual­i­fies as pon­der­ings and won­der­ings as I don’t know where I stand entire­ly, let alone what to do about it once I do.

He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again

Annie J. Flint
He Giveth More Grace

He giveth more grace as our bur­dens grow greater,
He sendeth more strength as our labors increase;
To added afflic­tions He addeth His mer­cy,
To mul­ti­plied tri­als He mul­ti­plies peace.

When we have exhaust­ed our store of endurance,
When our strength has failed ere the day is half done,
When we reach the end of our hoard­ed resources
Our Father’s full giv­ing is only begun.

Fear not that thy need shall exceed His pro­vi­sion,
Our God ever yearns His resources to share;
Lean hard on the arm ever­last­ing, avail­ing;
The Father both thee and thy load will upbear.

His love has no lim­its, His grace has no mea­sure,
His pow­er no bound­ary known unto men;
For out of His infi­nite rich­es in Jesus
He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again.

— Annie J. Flint — 1866–1932

Today rep­re­sents pos­si­bly the third or fourth time I’ve heard Ravi Zacharias quote this hymn, and in his usu­al man­ner, I find his deliv­ery [ lis­ten ] to give prose far greater impact than when I ren­der with my own phras­ing when read­ing or recit­ing. He includ­ed this in part two of his most recent Let My Peo­ple Think mes­sage, “What answer for the wicked human heart?”. Pt 1, Pt 2

Jesus Christ — the youngest minichurch pastor in history

Bare­bones min­i­mum, yes?
Does the gospel need a $300,000 sound/lighting/video sys­tem to reach hearts?

Is the gospel rel­e­vant to the heart of some­one today, or must it be made rel­e­vant with pithy grit­ty angst, a rock-con­cert atmos­phere, and the Holy Spir­it rid­ing the back of the mega-church smoke machines?

I dis­cov­ered that I have a mail­box at church last week, or rather that the A/V Min­istry does. This is appar­ent­ly a fix­ture estab­lished for two rea­sons. The first is for the mem­ber [dear­ly loved] of the con­gre­ga­tion who reminds me near­ly every week that our 87dB wor­ship ser­vice is too loud and pro­hib­i­tive to wor­ship. I found a col­lec­tion of pho­to­copied jour­nal arti­cles and even jour­nals them­selves with bits cir­cled and notes paper-clipped to pages out­lin­ing the dan­gers of expo­sure to heavy sound pres­sure lev­els. *chuck­le* I feel bad because there were some con­tri­bu­tions that had sat there lan­guish­ing unread for a long while. The sec­ond pur­pose is to serve as a place to stick all the adverts and cat­a­logs from sound/lighting/video/production sup­pli­ers.

In perus­ing the pages of these full-col­or glossy tomes, I ran across tes­ti­mo­ni­als from church­es that had been helped by the catalog’s com­pa­ny. It was appar­ent that the answer to these ques­tions was indeed, ‘yes’. The pho­tos from these installs showed booths and stages that a pop-record­ing mega-artist and their sound-tech would feel quite at home with­in when per­form­ing.

I am a crea­ture of ADD extremes, flights of fan­cy, bursts of strong (some­times unwar­rant­ed, often­times inad­vis­able) emo­tion. I know this. God knows this. My friends and fam­i­ly bless me (Thank you. I love you. Thank you God) with an atti­tude sim­i­lar to that which we Mis­souri­ans express towards our capri­cious weath­er… “If you don’t like it, wait five min­utes.” That’s not to say that I’m an unteth­ered kite being blown by a storm with no emotional/intellectual anchor. Quite the con­trary… I just have a heart that rush­es on ahead and a mind that labors to catch it up and remind it that has again run away with­out a prayer con­sult, and left all the notes and lessons learned behind, sit­ting use­less­ly in a dis­card­ed back­pack. The teth­er and the anchor are there, there’s just a regret­table amount of slack in the line that usu­al­ly runs-out with a semi-painful ‘snap’.

I had a few hours of per­son­al cri­sis. Despair, dis­gust, sor­row. I just want­ed to turn in my mon­i­tor­ing phones along with my 2 weeks notice. This last­ed, for­tu­nate­ly, only a few hours, before rea­son reassert­ed itself and I was able to view my own goals to repair, expand, and oth­er­wise meet the mod­est ‘needs’ of our Sun­day ser­vice, with a peace­ful con­fi­dence that our answers to those ques­tions, if asked, would be a sim­ple, ‘no’, and if ever we stray into that men­tal­i­ty, we have only to reeval­u­ate and tell our­selves ‘no’.

It helped to have the clear words of Ravi Zacharais from a few days ear­li­er to remind me that the peo­ple that I turn to and trust for good teach­ing and insight into mat­ters of faith aren’t caught up in this trou­ble­some church mindset/trend:

The Lord’s affir­ma­tion of the phys­i­cal and spir­i­tu­al tells me there’s a place for my body to be used right­ly… and there’s a place for my spir­i­tu­al depth… and when those two con­verge, you’ve found the beau­ty of wor­ship. You’ve found it. …and a church that thinks we can only wor­ship if we get our­selves all hyped-up in music is an extreme. It’s not going to work. What you win them with is what you win them to.

Here’s the bot­tom line I want to make for you: The ratio­nal­ist had an angle at truth. The Exis­ten­tial­ist had an angle at truth. The Empiri­cist had an angle at truth. The prob­lem was in tak­ing this sin­gle line, they blocked off all the oth­ers… and the church that only goes for the intel­lect is going to send out dry peo­ple… that only goes for emo­tion… is going to send peo­ple bounc­ing around with no mind. You’ve got to bring all of these real­i­ties and con­verge into a com­pos­ite whole. That’s what the Chris­t­ian ought to do best in this world.”

Ravi Zacharias, “Engag­ing Cul­tures with Con­ver­sa­tions that Count, part 2″ @15:39 Pre­vi­ous Arti­cle

David Platt described his real­iza­tion thus in his book “Rad­i­cal: Tak­ing Back Your Faith from the Amer­i­can Dream”

The youngest megachurch pas­tor in his­to­ry.”

While I would dis­pute that claim it was nonethe­less the label giv­en to me when I went to pas­tor a large, thriv­ing church in the Deep South — the Church at Brook Hills in Birm­ing­ham, Alaba­ma. From the first day I was immersed in strate­gies for mak­ing the church big­ger and bet­ter. Authors I respect great­ly would make state­ments such as, “Decide how big you want your church to be, and go for it, whether that’s five, ten, or twen­ty thou­sand mem­bers.” Soon my name was near the top of the list of pas­tors of the fastest-grow­ing U.S. church­es. There I was… liv­ing out the Amer­i­can church dream.

But I found myself becom­ing uneasy. For one thing, my mod­el in min­istry is a guy who spent the major­i­ty of his min­istry time with twelve men. A guy who, when he left this earth, had only about 120 peo­ple who were actu­al­ly stick­ing around and doing what he told them to do. More like a minichurch, real­ly. Jesus Christ — the youngest minichurch pas­tor in his­to­ry.

So how was I to rec­on­cile the fact that I was now pas­tor­ing thou­sands of peo­ple with the fact that my great­est exam­ple in min­istry was known for turn­ing away thou­sands of peo­ple? When­ev­er the crowd got big, he’d say some­thing such as “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.” Not exact­ly the sharpest church-growth tac­tic. I can almost pic­ture the looks on the dis­ci­ples’ faces. “No, not the drink-my-blood speech! We’ll nev­er get on the list of the fastest grow­ing move­ments if you keep ask­ing them to eat you.”

By the end of that speech, all the crowds had left, and only twelve men remained. Jesus appar­ent­ly wasn’t inter­est­ed in mar­ket­ing him­self to the mass­es. His invi­ta­tions to poten­tial fol­low­ers were clear­ly more cost­ly than the crowds were ready to accept and he seemed to be okay with that. He focused instead on the few who believed him when he said rad­i­cal things. And through their rad­i­cal obe­di­ence to him, he turned the course of his­to­ry in a new direc­tion.

Soon I real­ized I was on a col­li­sion course with an Amer­i­can church cul­ture where suc­cess is defined by big­ger crowds, big­ger bud­gets, and big­ger build­ings. I was now con­front­ed with a star­tling real­i­ty: Jesus actu­al­ly spurned the things that my church cul­ture said were the most impor­tant. So what was I to do?

I’m still trou­bled, but I think that’s a good thing. As Lewis says in Mere Chris­tian­i­ty, “We have cause to be uneasy.” and ” And I think if you look at the present state of the world, it is pret­ty plain that human­i­ty has been mak­ing some big mis­take. We are on the wrong road. And if that is so, we must go back. Going back is the quick­est way on.”. I want to stay uneasy. I don’t want to fall asleep. I want, at the very least, when I get excit­ed and think, “This would be so cool for our sound sys­tem.” to ever have a voice that reminds me to ask myself (and God), if the Gospel needs my tech, or even my tech­nique. Am I help­ing, or would I help more just by get­ting out of the way?

The sin­gle great­est cause of athe­ism in the world today is Chris­tians, who acknowl­edge Jesus with their lips, then walk out the door, and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbe­liev­ing world sim­ply finds unbe­liev­able” — Bren­nan Man­ning

What you win them .with. is what you win them .to.

Ravi Zacharias

The Lord’s affir­ma­tion of the phys­i­cal and spir­i­tu­al tells me there’s a place for my body to be used right­ly… and there’s a place for my spir­i­tu­al depth… and when those two con­verge, you’ve found the beau­ty of wor­ship. You’ve found it. …and a church that thinks we can only wor­ship if we get our­selves all hyped-up in music is an extreme. It’s not going to work. What you win them with is what you win them to.

Here’s the bot­tom line I want to make for you: The Ratio­nal­ist had an angle at truth. The Exis­ten­tial­ist had an angle at truth. The Empiri­cist had an angle at truth. The prob­lem was in tak­ing this sin­gle line, they blocked off all the oth­ers… and the church that only goes for the intel­lect is going to send out dry peo­ple… that only goes for emo­tion… is going to send peo­ple bounc­ing around with no mind. You’ve got to bring all of these real­i­ties and con­verge into a com­pos­ite whole. That’s what the Chris­t­ian ought to do best in this world.”

Ravi Zacharias, “Engag­ing Cul­tures with Con­ver­sa­tions that Count, part 2” @15:39

Engag­ing Cul­tures with Con­ver­sa­tions that Count, Part 1 — Mp3
Engag­ing Cul­tures with Con­ver­sa­tions that Count, Part 2 — Mp3

Pearls Before Swine

To give truth to him who loves it not is but to give him more mul­ti­plied rea­sons [plen­ti­ful mate­r­i­al] for mis­in­ter­pre­ta­tion.”

George Mac­Don­ald, Min­is­ter, poet, and nov­el­ist (1824 — 1905)

I am com­ing to believe that this quote suf­fers from the same symp­toms with which Jim Elliot’s “He is no fool” quote is beset, in that there are many vari­a­tions float­ing around out there and lit­tle to sug­gest which has greater verac­i­ty. Anoth­er pos­si­bil­i­ty is that the author may have com­mu­ni­cat­ed, in print or per­son, the same mean­ing­ful phrase mul­ti­ple times and per­haps not the same way every time. The first time I heard Ravi Zacharias relate this quo­ta­tion it was with the “more mul­ti­plied rea­sons” word­ing and that remains my favorite, but I’ve sub­se­quent­ly heard him quote it as “more plen­ti­ful rea­sons” and so I am left in doubt if one or the oth­er is real­ly more accu­rate. Search­ing the inter­webs I find both ver­sions in sim­i­lar abun­dance.

Words of a skeptic…

The char­ac­ter of Jesus has not only been the high­est pat­tern of virtue, but the strongest incen­tive in its prac­tice, and has exert­ed so deep an influ­ence, that it may be tru­ly said that the sim­ple record of three years of active life has done more to regen­er­ate and to soft­en mankind than all the dis­qui­si­tions of philoso­phers and all the exhor­ta­tions of moral­ists.”

— William E. H. Lecky, “The His­to­ry of Euro­pean Morals from Augus­tus to Charle­magne”.

Him­self not a believ­er (Ravi describes his as a skep­tic) but unable to draw any con­clu­sion but this.

~ “Let My Peo­ple Think: One God Among Many, Pt 2 of 2”, Ravi Zacharias, April 20, 2013

The Way of Wisdom-James MacDonald-WitW

Excel­lent ser­mon series that cov­ers the premise of “Deci­sion Mak­ing and the Will of God”.

These are the pod­casts, cre­at­ed of seg­ments of the orig­i­nal mes­sages, so there is a lot of rep­e­ti­tion.  I am mix­ing down a sin­gle cohe­sive resource.  To be added lat­er.

  1. WalkInThe­Word-20091127-Way­OfWis­dom-Does God Have a Will for Me Pt 1
  2. WalkInThe­Word-20091130-Way­OfWis­dom-Does God Have a Will for Me Pt 2
  3. WalkInThe­Word-20091201-Way­OfWis­dom-Does God Have a Will for Me Pt 3
  4. WalkInThe­Word-20091202-Way­OfWis­dom-Does God’s Will for You Pt 1
  5. WalkInThe­Word-20091203-Way­OfWis­dom-Does God’s Will for You Pt 2
  6. WalkInThe­Word-20091204-Way­OfWis­dom-The Way of Wis­dom Pt 1
  7. WalkInThe­Word-20091207-Way­OfWis­dom-The Way of Wis­dom Pt 2
  8. WalkInThe­Word-20091208-Way­OfWis­dom-Deci­sion Time Pt 1
  9. WalkInThe­Word-20091209-Way­OfWis­dom-Deci­sion Time Pt 2

Singleness, Marriage, and Wisdom

Should I or shouldn’t I?

Indeed, if the coun­sel sin­cere­ly offered by Pas­tor Thomp­son is cor­rect, the impli­ca­tions for Ted’s mar­riage deci­sion are very sober­ing:

  1. In all the world, there is either no per­son or only one per­son who is eli­gi­ble to be his wife.
  2. If God wants him to remain sin­gle and he mar­ries any­one at all, he is out of God’s will.
  3. If God has a par­tic­u­lar wife cho­sen and he mar­ries some­one else, he is out of God’s will.
  4. If the woman God has select­ed for him mar­ries some­one else, he can­not enjoy God’s will not mat­ter what he does.
  5. If either of the pair mar­ry out of God’s will there is noth­ing they can do to reverse the deci­sion and return to the cen­ter of His will.  They are per­ma­nent­ly strand­ed in the bar­ren ter­rain of God’s “sec­ond (third, fourth,…) best.”

 

Chap­ter 17: Sin­gle­ness, Mar­riage, and Wis­dom — Pg 283–284, Deci­sion Mak­ing and the Will of God, A Bib­li­cal Alter­na­tive to the Tra­di­tion­al View, 1980, Gar­ry Friesen with J. Robin Max­son.

Spiritualizing Words — “Who are you…?”

Clive Staples Lewis

Peo­ple ask: “Who are you, to lay down who is, and who is not a Chris­t­ian?”: or “May not many a man who can­not believe these doc­trines be far more tru­ly a Chris­t­ian, far clos­er to the spir­it of Christ, than some who do?”

Now this objec­tion is in one sense very right, very char­i­ta­ble, very spir­i­tu­al, very sen­si­tive. It has every ami­able qual­i­ty except that of being use­ful. We sim­ply can­not, with­out dis­as­ter, use lan­guage as these objec­tors want us to use it. I will try to make this clear by the his­to­ry of anoth­er, and very much less impor­tant, word.

The word gen­tle­man orig­i­nal­ly meant some­thing recog­nis­able; one who had a coat of arms and some land­ed prop­er­ty. When you called some­one “a gen­tle­man” you were not pay­ing him a com­pli­ment, but mere­ly stat­ing a fact. If you said he was not “a gen­tle­man” you were not insult­ing him, but giv­ing infor­ma­tion. There was no con­tra­dic­tion in say­ing that John was a liar and a gen­tle­man; any more than there now is in say­ing that James is a fool and an M.A.

But then there came peo­ple who said — so right­ly, char­i­ta­bly, spir­i­tu­al­ly, sen­si­tive­ly, so any­thing but use­ful­ly — “Ah but sure­ly the impor­tant thing about a gen­tle­man is not the coat of arms and the land, but the behav­iour? Sure­ly he is the true gen­tle­man who behaves as a gen­tle­man should? Sure­ly in that sense Edward is far more tru­ly a gen­tle­man than John?” They meant well. To be hon­ourable and cour­te­ous and brave is of course a far bet­ter thing than to have a coat of arms. But it is not the same thing. Worse still, it is not a thing every­one will agree about. To call a man “a gen­tle­man” in this new, refined sense, becomes, in fact, not a way of giv­ing infor­ma­tion about him, but a way of prais­ing him: to deny that he is “a gen­tle­man” becomes sim­ply a way of insult­ing him. When a word ceas­es to be a term of descrip­tion and becomes mere­ly a term of praise, it no longer tells you facts about the object: it only tells you about the speaker’s atti­tude to that object. (A ‘nice’ meal only means a meal the speak­er likes.) A gen­tle­man, once it has been spir­i­tu­alised and refined out of its old coarse, objec­tive sense, means hard­ly more than a man whom the speak­er likes.

As a result, gen­tle­man is now a use­less word. We had lots of terms of approval already, so it was not need­ed for that use; on the oth­er hand if any­one (say, in a his­tor­i­cal work) wants to use it in its old sense, he can­not do so with­out expla­na­tions. It has been spoiled for that pur­pose. Now if once we allow peo­ple to start spir­i­tu­al­is­ing and refin­ing, or as they might say ‘deep­en­ing’, the sense of the word Chris­t­ian, it too will speed­i­ly become a use­less word. In the first place, Chris­tians them­selves will nev­er be able to apply it to any­one. It is not for us to say who, in the deep­est sense, is or is not close to the spir­it of Christ. We do not see into men’s hearts. We can­not judge, and are indeed for­bid­den to judge. It would be wicked arro­gance for us to say that any man is, or is not, a Chris­t­ian in this refined sense. And obvi­ous­ly a word which we can nev­er apply is not going to he a very use­ful word. As for the unbe­liev­ers, they will no doubt cheer­ful­ly use the word in the refined sense. It will become in their mouths sim­ply a term of praise. In call­ing any­one a Chris­t­ian they will mean that they think him a good man. But that way of using the word will be no enrich­ment of the lan­guage, for we already have the word good. Mean­while, the word Chris­t­ian will have been spoiled for any real­ly use­ful pur­pose it might have served.

We must there­fore stick to the orig­i­nal, obvi­ous mean­ing. The name Chris­tians was first giv­en at Anti­och (Acts 11:26) to ‘the dis­ci­ples’, to those who accept­ed the teach­ing of the apos­tles. There is no ques­tion of its being restrict­ed to those who prof­it­ed by that teach­ing as much as they should have. There is no ques­tion of its being extend­ed to those who in some refined, spir­i­tu­al, inward fash­ion were ‘far clos­er to the spir­it of Christ’ than the less sat­is­fac­to­ry of the dis­ci­ples. The point is not a the­o­log­i­cal or moral one. It is only a ques­tion of using words so that we can all under­stand what is being said. When a man who accepts the Chris­t­ian doc­trine lives unworthi­ly of it, it is much clear­er to say he is a bad Chris­t­ian than to say he is not a Chris­t­ian.

— C.S. Lewis, Mere Chris­tian­i­ty, Pref­ace