Monthly Archives: February 2008

 

Feb

29

2008

Jared C. Wilson|5:05 pm CT

It is a Cry: "Abba! Father!"

More Mahaney goodness.

So good.

“That cry assures us of God’s love for us.”

How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!
– from 1 John 3:1

How great! Lavished! Children of God!
Exclamation point!

I hope you taste and see how good God is this weekend as you gather to worship with your brothers and sisters.
I hope you taste and see how good God is every day.

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Feb

29

2008

Jared C. Wilson|3:37 pm CT

Five For Friday: Desert Island Books

I’ve hesitated doing a list like this, because I’m terrible at them. Picking just five books to be stranded with on a desert island is as bizarre a hypothetical as it is common. When you boil it down, it’s essentially My Five Favorite Books. Except, it isn’t.

Assuming I can really take 6 (in order to exclude the Bible) and neglecting the requisite “smart” choice of How to Survive on a Desert Island, here are the five books I’d take with me:

1. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

2. John Calvin’s Complete Commentaries on the Bible
(I’m going to list this multi-volume set as one book. Because I can. This will likely be the cause of sinking the boat anyway.)

3. The Pleasures of God by John Piper

4. The Confessions of St. Augustine

5. C.S. Lewis’s Space Trilogy

How ’bout you? Deserted island. Five books. Bible’s a given. Blah blah blah.

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Feb

29

2008

Jared C. Wilson|3:31 pm CT

Keller: "In that sense we’d be a seeker church."

The extended First Things interview with Tim Keller is great.

One of the more interesting bits, for me anyway, was this exchange:

KELLER: [T]he seeker church is a church in which you have sort of low participation, there’s a talk, there’s good music—but it’s not really a worship service. You’re not trying to get people engaged. You are targeting nonbelieving, skeptical people as the audience. That’s considered a seeker church. And I would have always said that Redeemer is the kind of church in which we’re trying to speak—it’s a worship service, but we’re trying to speak in the vernacular. We’re trying to speak in a way that doesn’t confuse or turn off nonbelievers. We want nonbelievers to be there. I think that a lot of ministers would never say, “We expect nonbelievers to be constantly there, lots of them there, incubating in the services.” And we do. We do expect that. In that sense we’d be a seeker church. But now I’m afraid I don’t think it’s a good word to use, because when people hear “seeker church” they’re thinking something else.

I found that if you define megachurch as anything over two thousand people, then yes, then we are. But here’s four ways in which we’re not a megachurch, or we don’t do things people associate with megachurches. One is, we do no advertising or publicity of any sort, except I’m trying to get the book out there so people read it and have their lives changed by it, but Redeemer’s never advertised or publicized. And the reason is, if a person walks in off the street just because they’ve heard about Redeemer through advertising, and they have questions or they want to get involved, there’s almost no way to do it unless you have all kinds of complicated programs, places where they can go. But if they come with a friend who already goes there, their questions are answered naturally, the next steps happen organically, the connections they want to make happen naturally . . . We do not want a crowd of spectators. We want a community.

Secondly, we do almost no technology. We don’t have laser-light shows, we don’t have Jumbotrons, we don’t have overheard projectors, we don’t have screens. We don’t have anything like that. Thirdly, we have a lot of classical music, chamber music—we are not hip at all. We don’t go out of our way to be hip.

FT: There’s praise music in the evening services.

KELLER: Yeah, but it’s jazz. It’s toned down. It’s much more New York. It’s certainly not your typical evangelical contemporary music. We actually pound into people that we’re not here to meet your needs but to serve the city. So we pound that into them, that we’re not a consumer place, that we’re not here to meet your needs but to serve the city.

So no publicity, not at all hip, almost no use of technology, definitely consider it a worship service, do not do much in the way of pat answers and how-tos in the sermons but really have people wrestle with the issues—but we do it in such a way that the interests and aspirations and hopes and doubts of non-Christians are constantly addressed. When a person who doesn’t believe comes they’re often surprised at how interesting, intelligible, nonoffensive the thing is. So it’s relatively subtle at this point.

(HT: Rob H.)

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Feb

29

2008

Jared C. Wilson|3:06 pm CT

Real Preachers of Genius

I couldn’t save this for Tuesday is for the Ha Ha.

There’s another one (Mr. Really Bad Preacher) that is just as funny here.

HT: Scott W. Kay

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Feb

28

2008

Jared C. Wilson|4:34 pm CT

Crucify Success and Say What Jesus Said

If we entertain people, our church will grow. If we lead in worship, our church may shrink until it is composed of a group of people who want to worship. Then the church has a chance to grow based on the precedent of worship. The church that worships will have many visitors who never come back, and a few who cannot stay away.
– David Hansen, The Art of Pastoring

If Jesus had a church in Simi Valley, I betcha mine would be bigger. I betcha if the Apostle Paul had a church in Simi Valley, mine would be bigger. In fact, I betcha people would be leaving their churches to come to mine. Because I don’t call them to the same commitment that Jesus called them to. Jesus would have a crowd of thousands of people, and by the time he’s done preaching, there’s, you know, a few left and he goes, “You guys wanna leave also? ‘Cause I’m gonna walk out here and you gotta leave your father, your mother, your wife, your kids, and there might be a bunch of crosses out there, and we’re just all gonna get crucified together. You wanna come with me?”

That wasn’t real popular. I think, man, I’m more popular than Jesus. I can keep a crowd. I can keep ‘em interested. I can say some interesting things. I can make ‘em laugh. I can keep ‘em coming. And it just bugged me, because I think, wait a second, that’s not right. Am I really willing to say whatever Jesus called me to say?

Francis Chan

If you follow the link, watch the whole thing to the end. Chan closes with a dramatic challenge based on his refusing a building campaign proposal. The crowd applauds, but I hope that translated to actual take-home-to-church resolutions.

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Feb

28

2008

Jared C. Wilson|4:11 pm CT

Blessed are the Cynical

. . . for they will be reassured.

“Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher. “Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.”
– Ecclesiastes 1:2

The Altar of Cynicism is a good article by John Sartelle in this month’s Tabletalk.
A taste:

This is where cynicism takes hold: with our realization that nothing or no one can be totally trusted, and we can’t even point the finger of accusation at others because we ourselves cannot be trusted. We must number ourselves among the unfaithful and untrustworthy. Cynicism is the temple to which we finally come after stopovers at the houses of all the other gods. It is the temple at the end of “temple row.”

At the last, Solomon was saved from his cynicism. Ecclesiastes did not end [cynically]. Solomon did not sail out of the harbor into an endless ocean of emptiness. He did not end his story with the words, “To hell with it, to hell with it all.” He came to the sanctuary of a changeless God — a God who made incredible promises of grace and then kept His word. He came to a God who forgave unfaithful and untrustworthy people. He came to a God who said, “I will be faithful to my covenant with you. I will be faithful even though you have not been faithful to Me.”

Don’t expect more from your deities than they are able to deliver. Money will fail you, pleasure will fail you, power will fail you; friends, wives, husbands, fathers, mothers, and children will fail you. Solomon was right about that. And when they do, many of us are devastated. In our bitterness and resentment we go to the temple of cynicism. But there is a gospel for cynics. There is a gospel that says to us, “Of course, all of these will fail you. Of course, they are unfaithful and untrustworthy, and so are you.” So, in the words of Solomon, let’s hear “the conclusion of the matter.”

Don’t give up; there is one more temple. It is the temple that welcomes the unfaithful and untrustworthy. Above the door are words of grace: “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy?” (Isa. 55:1-2).

Our churches will fail us too.

But the Church will prevail because Jesus Christ is Lord.

Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe.
– Philippians 2:14-15

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Feb

28

2008

Jared C. Wilson|3:49 pm CT

Pastoral Pitfalls

To be sure, the minister of the Gospel is vulnerable to trials and temptations distinct to his calling:

jealousy (“Why are his gifts more esteemed than mine?”)

bitterness (“Why does the congregation criticize everything I do?”)

fear (“Will they leave the church if I teach particular redemption?”)

depression (“Will this church ever grow?”)

grief (“Why have there been so few conversions?”)

frustration (“Why does the board appear to distrust my motivations?”)

doubt (“Why has God caused such suffering in the life of this family?”)

anxiety (“How will we ever afford to send our children to college?”)

sexual indiscretion (“Why does it seem that my wife is not as responsive to me as other women in the church?”)

despondency (“Why doesn’t the congregation love Jesus with greater fervor?”)

desperation (“Have I rightly discerned my call to ministry?”)

It is imperative, then, for pastors to structure their lives in order to insure that ample time is given in prayer for the protection and promotion of their own spiritual condition.

– Arturo Azurdia, “Reforming the Church Through Prayer.” In Reforming Pastoral Ministry

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Feb

27

2008

Jared C. Wilson|7:36 pm CT

Child Victims of Nigerian Witch Hunt

I first posted on these atrocities against children by so-called “evangelicals” here.

Children of Nigeria is a relatively new blog that is chronicling the atrocities and the stories of victims.

Online petitions are worthless. But the exposure is not.

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Feb

27

2008

Jared C. Wilson|3:49 pm CT

No Credential but Christ

When God called Moses to demand release of the Israelites from Egyptian captivity, Moses felt inadequate and unqualified. He asked, “Who am I to do such a thing?”

Now, when I ask this question of God, I usually ask in false humility. What I really want is God to reassure me of my qualifications and giftedness. What I really want is God to pump up my self-esteem. “Please remind me how awesome I am so that I’ll be confident enough to do this,” I ask God. And I fully expect God to respond, “Jared, you’re good enough, smart enough, and doggone it, people like you.”

This not what God said to Moses. In fact, he really didn’t even answer the question “Who is Moses?” He answered the question “Who is God?”
The answer, of course, is God.

But Moses said to God, “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”

And God said, “I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.”

Exodus 3:11-12

“Who am I?”

“Never mind who you are. You’re right; you’re a nobody. But you are called. I will be with you. And the sign of your success will not be a gold watch and a plaque and a place in Superduper Church Magazine’s 100 Most Awesomest Churches and Pastors with Mad Leadership Skills, but worship of me.”

“Oh.”

Moses’ “oh” consisted of more questions.

Moses said to the LORD, “O Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.”

The LORD said to him, “Who gave man his mouth? Who makes him deaf or mute? Who gives him sight or makes him blind? Is it not I, the LORD ? Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.”

Exodus 4:10-12

You’ve likely heard the dictum “God doesn’t call the qualified, he qualifies the called.”

This is why God uses shepherds, fig farmers, youngest sons, prostitutes, widows, etc.
This is why he uses sinners. Not so that they will realize their potential. Not so that they will finally see how inherently awesome they are.
But so that God gets the glory and so that he gets the glory in the vivid, repeating imagery of turning ashes to beauty.

God made man out of dirt. We — you and I — are dirt.

We only need to read a little bit of Paul to see how little he cares about human credentials and qualifications. And Paul actually had them.

The gospel is not the power to save because of our knowledge, our techniques, our systems, our innovations, our preaching style, our music style, our creativity, our conferences, our degrees, our viral marketing, our evaluations and efficiency, or our selves. None of those things is bad, but we make all of them idols so easily. They take so much effort, and yet we make them idols so effortlessly.

“Who are we? We’re awesome!”

But the gospel is the power to save because of Jesus’ work. Because God is with the gospel.

For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.
– 1 Corinthians 2:2

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Feb

27

2008

Jared C. Wilson|3:33 pm CT

Feelings, Nothing More Than Feelings

So, let’s not fall off the horse on the other side.

Is the average evangelical worship gathering becoming too emotion-driven in its entertainment-minded attempt at satisfying the customers? Yes.

Is it wrong to feel something at church? Scratch that: Is it wrong to want to feel something at church?
No.

If we are actually dealing with the unlikely connection between the God of the Universe, infinitely and perfectly holy, and his creation, finite and sinful, a connection that is made in steadfast lovingkindness and perfectly redeeming grace, shouldn’t that move us?

We clearly shouldn’t base our worship or our comprehension of God and his salvation on our feelings. Feelings change, feelings shift, feelings ebb and flow. But there’s nothing wrong with feelings, even intense feelings, in the midst of corporate worship any more than there is at any other time in the normal Christian life.

God made our emotions same as he made our brains. Emotions are good.

We shouldn’t use them as a barometer of our spiritual state and our standing before God, but we shouldn’t discount them as sinful or fleshly when they come.


On a related note, as a counter-warning, I must share this ironic moment from a recent Bible study. We were discussing the disappointing periods in our lives when it seems as if God is unresponsive to us — “hiding from us,” as it was described at one point. We all agreed, generally, that God doesn’t really hide from us, and we all agreed, generally, that we were talking about not feeling God’s presence for an extended period of time. It’s like God is being silent.
And the irony was, we were discussing this with open Bibles not six inches from our noses.

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