Monday, February 23, 2009

Grace for the Week

A little wisdom from the late, great George Harrison


Isn't it a pity
Now, isn't it a shame
How we break each other's hearts
And cause each other pain
How we take each other's love
Without thinking anymore
Forgetting to give back
Isn't it a pity

Some things take so long
But how do I explain
When not too many people
Can see we're all the same
And because of all their tears
Their eyes can't hope to see
The beauty that surrounds them
Isn't it a pity

Isn't it a pity
Isn't is a shame
How we break each other's hearts
And cause each other pain
How we take each other's love
Without thinking anymore
Forgetting to give back
Isn't it a pity

Forgetting to give back
Isn't it a pity
Forgetting to give back
Now, isn't it a pity

What a pity
What a pity, pity, pity
What a pity
What a pity, pity, pity

You can hear it here

Friday, February 20, 2009

Dennis's Story

Excerpt from Recover Your Good Heart by Jim Robbins

Dennis’s Story

A friend of mine, Dennis, is afraid he may be fired from the church where’s he’s a drummer for the worship band. The reason they could ask him to leave has nothing to do with his abilities as a musician or his desire to serve.

The church has instituted the typical church-wide small group mandate, stating that every person on every team needs to be involved in a small group (You have to love mandated relationships. Contrived community always comes up empty.) It’s not enough that everyone on the worship team is being strongly urged to participate in a small group, but they also have to read the same book. Perhaps that means that everyone will be on the same page when they’re done reading the book. (Getting people on the same page usually means that disagreeing with the leadership is discouraged. Can you smell autocratic “unity” here?)

Notice the pressure to conform to standards of religious behavior, even well-intended activities?

Dennis is a deeply committed believer, and tends to think for himself; meaning that he’s not satisfied with an unquestioned approach to faith. What’s more, he’s already strongly involved in a fellowship with people he’s been walking with for years; but that fellowship isn't’ connected to the local church where he’s playing drums.

Dennis is afraid that if he questions the mandate to participate in the worship team small group – with its scripted small group study – he’ll be challenged at best, and asked to leave, at worst. His fears are not unfounded.

He knows how religious organizations conduct themselves, even well-intentioned ones: “Unless you follow Jesus in the way we’ve prescribed, your faith is suspect and your commitment is questionable.”

Uniformity of behavior and conformity to particular benchmarks are modus operandi of many of today’s churches. Conformity makes us FEEL (emphasis mine) as if everyone’s in agreement, pursuing the same path to righteousness: It is control masquerading as discipleship. Uniformity gives us the illusion of ‘church unity,’ when all it does is produce masses of cyborg Christians who have no mind of their own and are reluctant to take responsibility for their own spiritual growth.

End of excerpt

“Dennis is afraid that is he questions the mandate to participate in the worship team small group – with its scripted small group study – he’ll be challenged at best, and asked to leave, at worst.”

Being in the same church for 17 years and in the leadership for the last 10, I can speak firsthand about example after example of this being true – at least in MY experience.

At one time, we had a truly gifted children’s Sunday School teacher who was ultimately asked to step down because he was not “faithful” to all of the services, and was told therefore a bad example to the body as a whole and especially the children he taught. Needless to say, he left the church and the Baptist denomination. His sister considers him to be one of the most spiritual persons she knows, and I would wager that he’s not “faithful” in the Baptist sense of the word.

Coming out of that and now with the perspective of time, I can now see the group-think tactics, however good-intentioned, that were employed there. Not completely knocking that body, but I believe that it is all too common in the Post-Modern American Christian church.

We are spoken of as “faithful” if we attend every service and every activity, never stopping to think what that even means. In other words, (in their mind) using this language, I don’t have” faith” if I don’t do the prescribed behavior that the Pastor expects – in this case, attending every service with an occasional absence – usually only thought of as legitimate if one is going out of town or there is an illness. I understand that us coming together fosters closeness and edifies the body, but saying that one doesn’t have faith if one is not at every service is shameful . Yes, it’s full of shame.

Being spoken of as faithful really massages the ego, especially when spoken by the Pastor in earshot of the one being spoken of.

Also, it will be a cold day in Hell when the phrase “small group” will be used in an Independent Baptist church. We used Bible Study Hour, which itself is most likely frowned down upon from other, more conservative, IB churches.

”Dennis is a deeply committed believer, and tends to think for himself; meaning that he’s not satisfied with an unquestioned approach to faith.”

If one would disagree with the faith statement of the church, or at the very least ask a difficult question, then that person would then become “suspect”. The Pastor’s word has final authority, and anyone that questions that is “sowing discord.”

My Pastor would say that Paul’s prophesy in 2 Timothy 4:3 is being fulfilled in us that have, at the very least least, lost confidence in the IC - For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; or as another version states: A time will come when people will not listen to accurate teachings. Instead, they will follow their own desires and surround themselves with teachers who tell them what they want to hear.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Excerpt from Pagan Christianity?, Part 2

From Pagan Christianity? By Frank Viola

How the Pastoral Role Damages Body Life

The unscriptural clergy/laity distinction has done untold harm to the body of Christ. It has divided the believing community into first and second-class Christians. The clergy/laity dichotomy perpetuates an awful falsehood – namely, that some Christians are more privileged than other to serve the Lord.

The one-man ministry is entirely foreign to the New Testament, yet we embrace it while it suffocates our functioning. We are living stones, not dead ones. However, the pastoral office has transformed us into stones that do not breathe.

Permit us to get personal; we believe the pastoral office has stolen your right to function as a full member of Christ’s body. It has distorted the reality of the body, making the pastor a giant mouth and transforming you into a tiny ear. It has rendered you a mute spectator who is proficient at taking sermon notes and passing an offering plate.

But that is not all. The modern-day pastoral office as overthrown the main thrust of the letter to the Hebrews – the ending of the old priesthood. It has made ineffectual the teaching of 1 Corinthians 12-14, that every member has both the right and the privilege to minister in a church meeting. It has voided the message of 1 Peter 2 that every brother and sister a functioning priest.

Being a functioning priest does not mean that you may only perform highly restrictive forms of ministry like singing songs in your pew, raising your hands during worship, setting up the PowerPoint presentation, or teaching a Sunday School class. That is not the New Testament idea of ministry! There are mere aids for the pastor’s ministry.

The contemporary pastorate rivals the functional headship of Christ in His church. It illegitimately holds the unique place of centrality and headship among God’s people, a place that is reserved for only one Person – the Lord Jesus. Jesus Christ is the only head over a church and the final word to it. By his office, the pastor displaces and supplants Christ’s headship by setting himself up as the church’s human head.

For this reason, we believe the present-day pastoral role hinders the fulfillment of God’s eternal purpose. Why? Because that purpose is centered on making Christ’s headship visibly manifested in the church through the free, open, mutually participatory, every-member functioning of the body. As long as the pastoral office is present in a particular church, that church will have a slim chance of witnessing such a thing.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Excerpt from Pagan Christianity?, Part 1

From Pagan Christianity? By Frank Viola


The pastoral office has a way of chewing up many who come within its parameters. Depression, burnout, stress, and emotional breakdown occur at abnormally high rates among pastor.

Many pastors are expected to juggle sixteen major tasks at once. And many crumble under the pressure.

Unfortunately, few pastors have connected the dots to discover that it is their office that causes this underlying turbulence. Simply put: Jesus Christ never intended any person to sport all the hats a present-day pastor is expected to wear. He never intended any one person to bear such a load.

The demands of the pastorate are crushing; they will drain any mortal dry. Imagine for a moment that you were working for a company that paid you on the basis of how good you made your people feel. What if your pay depended on how entertaining you were, how friendly you were, how popular your wife and children were, how well-dressed you were, and how perfect your behavior was?

Can you imagine the unmitigated stress this would cause you? Can you see how such pressure would force you into playing a pretentious role – all to keep your authority, your prestige, and your job security? For this reason, many pastors are resistant to receiving any kind of help.

The pastoral profession dictates standards of conduct like any other profession, whether it is teacher, doctor, or lawyer. The profession dictates how pastors are to dress, speak, and act. This is one of the major reasons why many pastors live very artificial lives.

In this regard, the pastoral role fosters dishonesty. Congregants expect their pastor to always be cheerful, completely spiritual, and available at a moment’s call. They also expect that he will have a perfectly disciplined family. Furthermore, he should never appear resentful or bitter. Many pastors take to this role like actors in a Greek drama.

Based on the scores of personal testimonies we have heard from erstwhile pastors, many- if not most – cannot stay in their office without being corrupted on some level. The power-politics endemic to the office is a huge problem that isolates many of them and poisons their relationship with others.

…God never intended for anyone to be at the top – except His Son! In effect, the present-day pastor tries to shoulder fifty-eight New Testament “one another” exhortations all by himself. It is no wonder that many of them get crushed under the weight.

Monday, February 16, 2009

The Gospel of Self-Effort

The gospel of self-effort and teeth-gritting has been abolished. We now have come under the strength and effort of the Holy Spirit, who releases our new goodness because it is his own supernatural goodness.

Holiness is not a bearing-down, self-striving drudgery. Rather, it is an "easy yoke" as Jesus calls His life. Holiness becomes "easy" because being yoked to Jesus' goodness is a relief from spiritual pressure to be good.

It is not "easy" in the sense of requiring no action or engagement of our strength. We do engage our heart, soul, mind, and strength as we live from our new goodness.

It's "easy" because goodness can become natural to us over time.

From Recover Your Good Heart by Jim Robbins

Friday, February 13, 2009

Modern Church Translation

From Modern Church Translation

Philipians 4: 4 and 5

4 Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again-rejoice!
5 Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon.

- New Living Translation

4 Always be full of joy in the knowledge of your church. I say it again - rejoice!
5 Let everyone see that you are in church every Sunday morning. Remember, the Lord is coming soon. What better place for him to find you than in an institution that you hold in such reverence that it has replaced him as your God?

- Modern Church Translation

Romans 8:28

28 And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.
- New Living Translation

28 And we know that God will give health, wealth, and prosperity to those who claim to love God and are called to be part of their pastor’s purpose.
- Modern Church Translation

John 3: 16 through 18

16 For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.
17 God did not send his Son into the world to condemn it, but to save it
18 There is no judgment awaiting those who trust him. But those who do not trust him have already been judged for not believing in the only Son of God.

- New Living Translation

16 For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who attends church will not perish but have eternal life
17 God did not send his Son into the world to condemn it. He knew churchgoers like nothing more than condemning the world for every sin they can find, so they would enthusiastically do that job without being asked.
18 There is no judgment awaiting those who attend church every Sunday. But those who do not attend have already been judged because if you don’t attend church there is no way you can be a Christian and it is a sure sign you have rejected God.

- Modern Church Translation

Repost - "This is That"

Since I have some new followers, I wanted to repost one of my favorites for discussion.

"This is That!"

This is a most incredible exposition between an Old Testament and New Testament passage. It is from Watchman Nee's "The Normal Christian Life" and it concerns how the working of the Holy Spirit is going to be different for each believer.

"When the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples at Pentecost there was something quite extraordinary about their behavior, and Peter offered an explanation from God's Word to all who witnessed it. This, in substance, is what he said: 'When the Holy Spirit falls upon believers, some will prophesy, some will dream dreams, and others will see visions. This is what God has stated through the prophet Joel.' But did Peter prophesy? Well, hardly in the sense in which Joel meant it. Did the hundred and twenty prophesy or see visions? We are not told that they did. Did they dream dreams? How could they, for were they not all wide awake? Well then, what did Peter mean by using a quotation that seems not to fit the case at all? In the passage quoted (Joel 2:28, 29), prophecy, dreams, and visions are said to accompany the outpouring of the Spirit, yet these evidences were apparently lacking at Pentecost.

On the other hand, Joel's prophecy said not a word about 'a sound as of the rushing of a mighty wind,' nor about 'tongues parting asunder like as of fire' as accompaniments of the Spirit's outpouring; yet these were manifest in the upper room. And where in Joel do we find mention of speaking in other tongues? And yet the disciples at Pentecost did so.

What did Peter mean? Imagine him quoting God's Word to show that the experience of Pentecost was the outpouring of the Spirit spoken of by Joel, without a single one of the evidences mentioned by Joel being found at Pentecost. What the Book mentioned the disciples lacked, and what the disciples had the Book did not mention! It looks as though Peter's quotation of the Book disproves his point rather than proving it. What is the explanation of this mystery?

Let us recall that Peter himself was speaking under the control of the Holy Spirit. The Book of the Acts was written by the Spirit's inspiration, and not one word was spoken at random. The is not a misfit, but a perfect harmony. Note carefully that Peter did not say: 'What you see and hear fulfills what was spoken by the prophet Joel.' What he was was: 'This is that which hath been spoken by the prophet Joel.' (Acts 2:16). It was not a case of fulfilment, but of an experience of that same order. 'This is that' means that 'this which you see and hear is of the same order as that which is foretold.' When it is a case of fulfillment, each experience is reduplicated, and prophecy is prophecy, dreams are dreams, and visions are visions; but when Peter says 'This is that,' it is not a question of the one being a replica of the other, but of the one belonging to the same category as the other. 'This' amounts to the same thing as 'that'; 'this' is the equivalent of 'that'; 'this is that.' What is being emphasized by the Holy Spirit is the diversity of the experience. The outward evidences may be many and varied, and we have to admit that occasionally they are strange; but the Spirit is one, and He is Lord (See 1 Cor. 12:4-6)

....When the Holy Spirit is poured out upon God's people their experiences will differ widely. Some will receive new vision, others will know a new liberty in soul-winning, others will proclaim the Word of God with fresh power, and yet others will be filled with a heavenly joy or overflowing praise. 'This...and this...and that!' Let us praise the Lord for every new experience that relates to the exultation of Christ, and of which it truly be said that 'this' is an evidence of 'that.' There is nothing stereotyped about God's dealings with his children. Therefore we must not, by our prejudices and preconceptions, make water-tight compartments for the working of the Spirit, either in our own lives or in the lives of others. This applies equally to those who require some particular manifestation (such as 'speaking with tongues') as evidence that the Spirit has come upon them, and to those who deny that any manifestation is given at all. We must leave God free to work as He wills, and to give what evidence he pleases of the work He does. He is Lord, and it is not for us to legislate for Him.

Let us rejoice that Jesus is on the throne, and let us praise Him that, since He has been glorified, the Spirit has been poured out upon us all. As we behold Him there, and accept the divine fact in all the simplicity of faith, we shall know it with such assurance in our own hearts that we shall dare to proclaim once again with confidence - 'This is that!' "

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Some Great Videos

Drive-through church

What if Worship was like an NBA game?

And the classic...

What if Starbucks Marketed Like a Church?

Look at the bumper sticker at about :30 seconds. It shows a Starbucks emblem devouring (a la Jesus fish eating a Darwin "fish") a rival (can't make it out, but I think it's Caribou)!

Thanks Again to Bino

Here is a "legalist" test that Bino has posted on his blog.

Take it if you dare!!!

Old vs New

Not only are we under the NEW Covenant today, WE (i.e. non-Jews) were NEVER under the Old one.

Fundemental churches today mix them together like a good stew.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Command to Witness from The Free Believers Network

I hope Darin doesn't mind, but I wanted to link to the incredible article he posted. Enjoy.

Aslan as a Type of Christ

I like this quote from the movie, Prince Caspian. Lucy (the youngest) is talking with Aslan who is thought of as a type of Christ. She asks him why he (Aslan) didn't come to their rescue the way he did last time.

Aslan: "And why would that stop you from coming to me."
Lucy: "I'm sorry, to scared to come alone. Why didn't you show yourself, why couldn't you come roaring in and save us like last time."
Aslan: "Things never happen the same way twice, dear one."

This is obviously just CS Lewis' understanding about the way Father operates, but I have come to believe this way also . That is, God will never work the same way twice. He is a God of, not chaos, but endless variety.

The Shack describes the Spirit's work as fractals. Beautiful geometrical shapes with incredible complexity.

The way I was taught and used to think was that God always works in a set way for every believer.

That not only is life-killing, but puts God in a box. Perhaps it's what we do to make Him more human.