Monthly Archives: February 2009

Vermonting

Gonna be in Vermont the next four days and will likely have little to no time for the Interwebs.

I will be preaching Sunday morning at Middletown Springs Community Church. Them’s good people, far as Yankees goes.

See ya sometime next week, blogosphere.

Don’t forsake the privilege of gathering with a local church this weekend!

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Before the Throne of God Above

The video handling is not great, but the song, audio, and the voices of corporate worship are thrilling.

I hope this will drive you to worship right where you are:

This is Shane & Shane with Bethany Dillon singing that great hymn. Lyrics here.

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What Gospel Wakefulness Does to a Church

Many modern communities, many of whom call themselves “missional,” are doing their best to follow Jesus without worshiping him.But this phenomenon is partly attributable to decades of churches committing the opposite error: trying to worship Jesus without following him.

But you can’t follow Jesus without worshiping him alone, and you can’t worship him alone without following him.

A community that is awake to the gospel does both.

May their tribe increase.

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Faithfulness = Success

From Mark and Maki:

“I also find that one of the things we don’t preach well is that ministry that looks fruitless is constantly happening in the Scriptures. We don’t do conferences on that. There aren’t too many books written about how you can toil away all your life and be unbelievably faithful to God and see little fruit this side of heaven.”– Matt Chandler

He brings up the examples of:1. Jeremiah2. Moses not going into the promised land3. John the Baptist not seeing the fulfillment of Jesus’ work

Will you be faithful to your call, even when it seems fruitless? Are you committed to Jesus and His glory in your ministry, and not towards numbers? God is in charge of the results as long as we are simply obedient.

I recall my good friend and mentor as a college student, Jim Luebe, saying, “I just want to be a faithful laborer over time.”

(HT: Vitamin Z)

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The Gospel is the Antidote to Everything

Once there were two brothers. You know their story, more than likely. One was wasteful, exploitative, wanton, licentious. One was rigid, moralistic, uptight, legalistic. Two brothers with two personalities and two sets of attendant sins. But their father loved them both and all that he had belonged to both of them equally.

This is how staggeringly awesome the gospel of Jesus is.

Two sisters. One is a busybody, the other kinda poky. One rarely Sabbaths; the other makes every day a Sabbath. The prescription for both is focus on Jesus.

Two Americans. One is a practicing homosexual and proud of it. The other is a practicing Baptist and proud of it. One trusts his feelings, the other trusts his actions. Both are in desperate need of Jesus for pretty much the same reason.

This is how wonderful the gospel of Jesus is. It’s the skeleton key for all of humanity.

Medicine doesn’t work this way. You don’t treat spina bifida with drugs for leukemia. (At least, I don’t think you do.) You don’t give a decongestant to a kid with athlete’s foot. For every condition, there is a specific treatment. Different symptoms, different fixes.

But the gospel isn’t like that. It fixes everything.

We all exhibit a multitude of symptoms for our conditions, running the gamut from self-indulgent immorality to self-satisfying morality. Opposite ends of the spectrum and everywhere in between. Whatever your symptoms, the gospel is the answer.

There is no problem, pain, or perniciousness outside the universe-spanning scope of the gospel.The gospel carries with it resurrection …

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Stop Complaining About Your Job

I’m not sure I can hear one more person whining about their job right now. With thousands of people out of work and thousands more in danger of losing their job, you likely know somebody who’s already been affected by our troubled economy.

If you have a job, you should be thankful. Even if there’s an annoying person there, even if they expect you to work harder than you want to, even if it’s boring and doesn’t make you feel “fulfilled.” Grow up.

Next time you’re complaining publicly about how lame your job is or how irritating so-and-so is at your job or how you wish you had some other job, think about who might be listening. These days it’s highly likely somebody who’d love to have a job is within earshot.

We talked about this at our small group last night, and one of our guys, a hard worker at a local gas and water company put it bluntly but beautifully: “Shut your mouth and get back to work.”

Amen.

Philippians 2:14 and all that.

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Gospel-Centered Community

Ben Reed has written some really good stuff on Gospel-focused small groups. An excerpt:

Are your groups structured so that basic Gospel questions and concerns can be brought to the table? Or are you so laid back that the Gospel is never discussed? Or are you so “holy” that you jump to “deeper” questions (as if there is anything more life-changing and “deeper” than the Gospel!) Are you group leaders ready and willing to ask these questions?

Do you or your group leaders make the mistake of assuming that, just because a person is attending your church and frequents your small groups, he or she is saved? How are you giving your group members the freedom to explore faith?

Good stuff there.

Elsewhere, Steve Timmis, co-author of Total Church, argues for calling our groups “gospel communities”.

The idea of missional communities has become trendy. This enables larger churches to devolve the routine stuff of church life to smaller groups throughout the week while retaining a central teaching session, usually on a Sunday. But why call them “missional” when we have a perfectly good word at our disposal in “gospel”? Gospel communities is exactly what they are: communities that are all about the gospel because they are formed by the gospel and exist for the gospel.

Here are my four practical tips for centering your small group, life group, community group, cell group, home group, Sunday School class, Bible study, or whatever you call it on the gospel:

1) Look for …

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Everything Must Culminate in Christ

“If Christ is risen, nothing else matters. And if Christ is not risen — nothing else matters.”— Jaroslav Pelikan

My thesis is that everything we do either culminates in Christ or in hell. Which will you have?

If we are not fixated on Christ, I fear for what our words, our efforts, our good intentions are leading us toward. If we are not fixated on Christ, I fear for what our spiritual words, our “Christian” efforts, our “loving” intentions are leading us toward.

I am writing to my fellow pastors. Some think I am too critical. If I am, it is only because a) the situation is so dire, and b) Jesus Christ is so precious.

You who are so keen on your people “self-feeding”: How can you expect people to self-feed if you aren’t demonstrating to them week in and week out how savory Jesus Christ is, how delicious the gospel is? You treat the Bible like Bartlett’s Quotations in support of your practical tips and then expect people to eagerly find in its revelation a well of living water?

As long the faith, hope, and love you preach is all about realizing our dreams, achieving our potential, or being nice to each other, you are feeding people manna. Good for a day, and eaten, still ends up in death.

What we preach, instruct, and reflect must culminate explicitly in our incomparable, supreme, sovereign Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

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You May Not Be a Church If . . .

We want to go to a place with ample parking that hands us a latte for free as we enter the doors. We want to sit in a comfortable chair that vibrates. We want a poppin’ band. We want to see fog. And a laser light that draws the shape of a cross in the fog. We want a good singer to sing comforting things to us as we listen admiringly. Then we want an energetic speaker to alleviate our fear of the bad economy and inspire us in no more than 20 to 22 minutes. Then we want to leave without being bothered, have our retinas scanned to pick up our kids, and watch them slide down the slide out of the Kidz Playz having heard a lesson from no less than SpongeBob SquarePants himself on obeying parents and not lying. And if we feel like it, we want all that all over again in a week. That’s evangelicalism.

That’s my paraphrase of a Matt Chandler rant from a recent message to his Village Church.

Element’s worship pastor visited a local church yesterday morning, one I have quite a bit of respect for. He said he didn’t hear the name Jesus in the message. At all.

We already know that a lot of what passes for evangelicalism has minimal, if any, evangel in it. Is it possible that a lot of what passes for “church” … isn’t?

Borrowing from Jeff Foxworthy, then, here’s some signs your church may not actually be …

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Exponential E-book: Leadership Learnings

The good folks at Exponential have released a free e-book of Leadership Learnings culled from the blogs of some top pastors and church thinkers. Ed Stetzer, Craig Groeschel, Perry Noble, Gary Lamb, Tullian Tchividjian, Mark Batterson, Michael Hyatt, Jud Wilhite, Tony Morgan, and others. Including yours truly, oddly enough.

Read or download it here.

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