- D.A. Carson
So, remember several years ago when the Emerging/Emergent church was emerging?
Well, what happened? Did it finally finish emerging and do we now just call it "church"? Or are the days long gone when church could consist of a faith maze, a fourth-century latin chant, followed a peace-ripple and then a response time in which you would finger-paint your desire for covenant membership on the worship-wall?
All kidding aside, I'm actually curious and not trying to be snarky. What happened? Back in that day the Christian blogosphere - which was a smaller pond where even a shoestring blog like ours could make a splash - was exploding with emerging/ent talk. The watchbloggers were out in force, newspaper in one hand and MacArthur in the other, and the emergers were dredding themselves up spectacularly and getting their left calves cross-tatted. Those were indeed heady days.
I kind of miss them.
Pastor Steve Bezner writes on hospitality here. An excerpt:
So about ten years ago we decided to make the table a significant place in our home. We put Sharpie markers in the drawer of our table and invited each of our guests to sign our table.I love the idea of guests signing the table. I've long thought that it is significant that meals together play such a large role in the narrative of scripture. From Abraham preparing a meal for his three heavenly visitors to the solemn, hurried, dark and awe-filled feast the night the angel passed over, to Elijah and the widow with her never-ending handful of flour and cup of oil, to all the meals our Lord attended with the sinners, tax collectors, and national leaders he befriended, to his Last Supper, to fish on the beach, to the love-feasts of the vibrant early church and finally to the wedding feast of the Lamb. Scripture is replete with meals.
Yes, that's right, they sign it.
Not on top, but underneath. They get on the floor and sign whatever they want.
This created quite a stir for the first few guests. People honestly believed we were playing some sort of practical joke. But, eventually, we would coax them under the table and they would see other signatures.
And so they would sign.
Ten years later that good table gave up the ghost. Sadly, we didn't think to take pictures of the bottom of the table. But we're on our second table now, a table that once belonged to my grandmother. JB [Steve's wife] has reupholstered the chair cushions and we have moved the Sharpies to a new home.
And our guests are now signing here.
When you sit across the table from someone, there is an inherent sense of community immediately fostered. Inhibitions drop quickly. Laughter ensues. I almost always ask new friends, "What is your story?" You'd be amazed at the answers that question brings. Some answers are short, but most are twenty or thirty minute stories that tell us more than we might ever gain in a year of Sunday school classes or social get-togethers.
I think they are more important than we believe. And that is one reason why our culture, our flesh, our ancient enemy, our schedules, our fast-food appetites and our sloth war against the beauty of a simple meal and fellowship.
It is of such things that the Kingdom is built.
John Piper's first and last sermons as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church:
Audio: The Wisdom of Men and the Power of God - July 13, 1980
Video: God Raised Your Great Shepherd from the Dead
- Easter Sunday, March 31, 2013
Yancey Arrington provides good guidance to young church planters on naming their church. Observing how styles come and go, that what sounds cool and edgy today might sound horribly dated tomorrow, Yancey gives two words of advice:
1. Clear beats cool.
2. Use the word "church".
- If the name of your church sounds better on the album cover of a 90′s metal hair band than your bulletin, you might want to consider renaming it before you go to press.Bonus track: here's a Lark News article from a few years ago about student ministries forgetting what their name means:
- If the name of your church would only work for people who majored in Ancient Near East Languages or know how to work Google Translate, you might want to consider renaming it before you go to press.
- If the name of your church leads people to think you’re more likely a cult instead of a church, you might want to consider renaming it before you go to press.
- If the name of your church doesn’t use the word church because you are a church but not a church because church today isn’t church but the church you lead is a church because…[sigh] you might want to consider renaming it before you go to press.
SYRACUSE — When Rhett Wilson became youth pastor at LifeWay Church, he inherited a youth group name nobody could explain: GetReady 7:35. The youth group had been using it for five years, but almost the entire pastoral staff had changed and nobody could remember what it meant.
“We know the youth used to have prayer early Saturday morning,” says Wilson. “Maybe it means 7:35 a.m.”
Others surmise the 7:35 refers to a Bible verse, or to the time on Wednesday nights when the group used to meet. Wilson tasked youth group members with looking up all chapter 7 and verse 35s in the Bible. They didn’t come up with anything that fits.
Youth groups across the country are finding themselves in the same predicament: sometimes their names outlast their leaders and memories.
Get Wi’dit 4:11 in Ft. Lauderdale doesn’t know if their name refers to 411, as in where to get critical information, or a Bible verse.
“I think it’s Ecclesiastes 4:11,” cracks the associate youth pastor. That passage reads, “And on a cold night, two under the same blanket can gain warmth from each other. But how can one be warm alone?”
Two youth groups — The Call 5:16 and Higher 37 — have posted online requests asking former youth group members what their names mean, so they can retire them with dignity.
At Youth Group 720 in Seattle, the current youth pastor confesses he doesn’t know what exactly it means.
“The previous guy explained it to me one time, but I forgot it,” he says. “It may mean two full revolutions, or maybe it’s a Bible verse. Maybe it was his membership goal.”
“We still use it because it sounds skateboard-y,” he says.
"Our souls have shriveled to the size of a TV sitcom." - John Piper
"If you keep your hand off that mouse, guys, the world will open up to you." - John Piper
I'm speaking to the church here.
I don't hide my past, but rather glorify God in it. When one has been freed from the chains of sexual sin it's something you generally want to talk about. When you're "out there" with your past, people tend to gravitate toward you with questions about freedom from sexual sin. The big question is always the same, "How can I be free?" The answer is in Romans 12:2, a complete transformation -- a renewal -- of one's mind. That renewal only comes through persistent mediation on the word of God. Soak yourself with the the water of the word, because the oily taint of sexual sin can't mix with living water.
"Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body" (1 Corinthians 6:18).
This week I had the privilege of talking to two men who are wanting to be free. The first man I talked to, a stranger who I got connected with through a mutual friend, said his wife walked out on him two weeks ago (in no small part due to his pornography problem). He said he has since had a revelation of God's goodness, and he's a changed man. What I say to that brother is, "Work out your salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God who works in you ...". Two weeks of sobriety is wonderful, but the real proof of repentance is humility fused with time. The narrow way is a way of pressure: glorious, catharsis-inducing pressure.
The second man I talked to, a friend, wants to stay pure online. He's struggled. He's flirted with adultery. He's played with a double life. I sensed so much humility when he confessed his sins. He didn't shy away from tough questions; in fact, he asked for tough questions. He doesn't care who might find out about his problem; he simply wants to be free, no matter what humiliation may come. To him I feel confident claiming the promise that "He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus."
The reality of sexual sin is a reality every Christian man must face because our culture demands our lust and Christ demands our holiness. What's the exchange? You get to lay down the burden of constantly fleeing, even when no one pursues (Proverbs 28:1). What's more, you get to abandon the seedy websites, the late-night porn binges, the constant high-seeking of self gratification, and the illusion of "life." What do you get in return? As C.S. Lewis said, "Christ. And with him, everything else thrown in."
Nevertheless I [Jesus] have a few things against you, because you allow that woman Jezebel . . . to teach and seduce My servants to commit sexual immorality. . . . And he who overcomes and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations.
- Revelation 2:20, 26
I don't know if you've heard of or been to a Passion conference before. Passion 2013 is going on right now at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, and we've been able to see quite a bit of it on live streaming video. The focus for the week has been on the eradication of international slavery. Eye opening.
Session 7 was tonight and it included, among other things, LeCrae, and a truly incredible rendition of Revelation Song sung by Kari Jobe. Then John Piper got up and spoke on suffering . . . words fail, it was a fantastic message.
You can see Session 7 here (I think it's only available for a day or two more): http://live.268generation.com/session/session-seven.
Some semi-random reflections on the morning after the re-electing of our President.
- I do hope in 4 years the GOP can do better. Much better. I think we can. I thought we could. I was one of those "undecideds" many of my conservative friends were dogging the last many weeks, although I never publicly revealed it. Now, I wasn't undecided about who I wouldn't vote for. I was undecided about if I'd vote at all. I've become increasingly discouraged by the pragmatism necessary in the political endeavor to the point of my conscience being troubled. This is laughed at over in some blog-quarters, but I wasn't going to be cowed by somebody's derision into choosing "Not Obama." I was hugely dissatisfied with the Republican nominee. In the end, I made peace with voting for him anyway. I believe I did the right thing. But while you're making fun of conservative undecideds realize it's largely you who've put us in this position.
- Most people pushed into this corner like me decided either not to vote at all or to vote third-party, which of course ensured the President's re-election. We have nobody to blame but ourselves. In the end, I liked voting for a milquetoast bore -- b/c I think we need more of them in charge of things -- but milquetoast bores don't win elections. And if Republicans couldn't win in the middle of this gigantic mess we're in, we have to realize that campaigning a "Not Obama" isn't good enough. We need a strong, compelling conservative candidate next time around, and preferably a Hispanic/Latino one.
- We now have another four years of the most dangerous President in history for unborn children. It's clear that a more missional way for the pro-life passion is all the more necessary.
- Our President campaigned vigorously on a platform of progressive social issues: same-sex marriage, abortion rights, institutionalized class warfare on the wealthy, entitlements. I believe this is a clear case of calling evil (killing of the innocent, exploitation of the vulnerable and distressed, approval of sexual immorality, theft, and exploitation of the poor) good. I cast my vote as an echo of the woes of Isaiah 10:1-2. This resulted in a clear-conscience vote for Romney as a man unwilling to call evil good.
- I don't think that by and large most African Americans voted for Obama because he's black. I think they voted for him because he's liberal. This is proven by their reception of African American conservative and Republican candidates. When pressed, the greater African American community will choose a white liberal over a black conservative every time. And the stuff found funny about Obama, calling him white, becomes utterly inexcusable for conservative black candidates. Acting "white" is a liability, cause for derision and hate. Change the politics, however, and it's endearing. This isn't racism so much as hypocrisy.
- All along I did hope our evangelical conservative brethren understood that quoting Old Testament statutes to support the idea that Mitt Romney would return our nation to its "Christian foundations" was problematic given that the man would have been executed for heresy under the same statutes. I believe the Scriptures ought to guide our civic responsibilities, including voting, but I am always troubled by how readily we spiritualize our pragmatism and conflate empire with heaven. We help mainstream Mormonism as a Christian movement -- and therefore compromise the gospel -- when we mash up a Mormon candidate with Christian dominionism. But Glenn Beck has been helping evangelical political junkies do that for the last several years anyway.
- Another four years of this Presidency likely means four more years of accumulating crippling debt, increasing unemployment, growth of the welfare state, decline of the middle class, infringing of religious freedom and violation of free speech. As we give freer official reign to sexual immorality we will eventually see more spiritual and emotional anguish bubbling up in systemic and cultural ways. The time will (may?) come when the progressives will discover their shackles. That will be no time for the Church to play "I told you so." It will be a massive opportunity to proclaim and embody the difficult rest of the gospel of Jesus.
- Similarly, there will be more and more opportunities to stand up and be counted. I minister in perhaps the most liberal state in our nation. If trends outside the US are indicative, it is not impossible that our nation will see "hate speech" laws levied against public profession of biblical teachings or the refusal to officiate same-sex weddings (threatening fines, imprisonment, o or simply tax exempt status or whatever). Things will get tougher for conservative evangelicals. Perhaps a separation of the men from the boys is on the horizon. It is crucial that even now evangelical churches all over America stop playing stupid games and offering entertainment and Christianity-lite and start prepping the people of God for devotion to the gospel and taking up of their cross.
I used to hate Oct. 31st. (I'm just not into death and gore.) Until I discovered that something AWESOME happened on Oct. 31, 1517. Now I look forward each year to Reformation Day, and I'm so excited that I get to be the first to wish you a Happy Reformation Day! Please watch this video and celebrate with me.
Seriously, I thank God for Martin Luther. I really do. But the glory doesn't go to Martin Luther. The glory goes to God who saves us by grace alone.
Soli Deo Gloria!
I don't know when I first noticed it...
Maybe in the last twenty years or so, "In your name I pray, Amen" became the closing of choice in generic prayer settings like school events or city events or football games or whatever. It occurred to me the first time I heard it that if someone is trying to pray to the generic "God" of Jews, Muslims, Sikh's, Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, Christians or whoever, without offending anyone in the crowd, that "In your name I pray" works well for that.
After all, whose name is being prayed in? It depends on who you are addressing. If your prayer is addressed to the generic common-denominator God that fits the hearer's own belief system, then "your name" is perfect for that purpose. Because anyone listening can just put their own god in there. "In your name I pray" becomes a fill in the blank closing. "In __________________'s (insert your god here)name I pray."
Does that mean that a public prayer like this addressed to common denominator god, but being echoed by different adherents is actually being "sent" to many different gods? I think that's a lot of wrong addresses. :-) Those prayers are just going to come back, "Return to Sender. There is no one at this address by that name or fitting that description."
I suppose that's why it bugs me when actual Christians, who know and trust in Jesus Christ, the only begotten son of the Father, eternal and divine; the God of the New Testament, close their prayers with "In your name I pray, Amen." I guess they know who is being addressed, and God knows who is being addressed, but do their hearers know? Why not say "In Jesus' name", if you are a Christian? Why do Christians use the generic "In your name"? Is it because that's what they've heard so much they are just echoing it without thought? (Like the standard opener, "Thank you for this day") Or is it because they are addressing the triune Godhead, and don't want to limit their prayers to just Jesus?
What do you think?
I'm beginning to develop a theory that a lack of modesty among Christian women in a church culture is directly related to a lack of sexual purity among the men in that particular church.
At church on Sunday I was disturbed to see a missionary's daughter -- probably no more than 16 -- dressed like a woman of ill repute, right down to the spiky high heels. She was fully "covered up," mind you, but her clothes were so tight they may as well have been painted on. I kid you not, I thought to myself, If this little girl were out alone at night, could she be mistaken as a prostitute? The answer was yes.
It's good for a woman to be sexy ... to her husband behind closed doors. In like manner a man's eyes are reserved for one woman, his wife. I see time and time again, at least in my evangelical circle, a standard of purity that isn't much different from the world's. The missionary's young daughter was a case in point.
As I was struggling with frustration, I looked out at a sea of nearly 500 men and had another thought, How many of these men looked at porn last night? Then the correlation hit me: There's got to be a connection between a lack of purity among men and a lack of modesty among women (within the context of a church culture). If men are not sexually pure, how can we expect our women to be marked by prudence of dress? What's more, if men are not pure, why would they even want their women (and daughters) to be modest?
Am I wrong?
I'd love to hear anyone's thoughts on this.
Warning: The following post speaks bluntly about sexual issues, but not as bluntly as your average sitcom.
Some sources are claiming that as many as 60 percent of Christian men and 30 percent of Christian women are addicted to pornography. Not dabblers. Not "social users." Addicted.
Twenty years ago you needed Showtime, a dirty magazine subscription, or the audacity to walk into a porn shop in order to access the stuff, now the majority of you carry around a potential pornographic movie theater in your pockets. What's more, that little beloved screen can be accessed in private, virtually any time we choose. No longer do we need to sit with our finger on the remote, ready to change the channel if someone walks toward the living room. Public compulsion has morphed into private addiction. I know. I was there.
A testimony is a powerful thing. When I share mine I get excited, jacked up really, thinking about the glory that's magnified in Him through the grace He's given to me. If I'm speaking to a man, my testimony involves sharing how many years I've been free from pornography (and all sexual sin* for that matter). What I find interesting is how many men respond to my testimony by not saying something like, "Man, I'm free too. I got free from that junk on such and such date." Honestly, most men I share my testimony with simply smile and say something like, "That's awesome."
I'd guess that 75 percent or more of men in our churches are consistent porn users (if perhaps not addicts). When I say "consistent," I mean they can't stay off the stuff for more than, say, a month or two at a time. Of course, that's based purely on anecdotal observation, but with an iPhone in virtually every hip pocket, and with ambient, soft core porn on virtually every grocery checkout aisle, does anyone really think I'm overstating the problem?
The good news is the Good News. The gospel is powerful enough to defeat the works of darkness in anyone's life, but the gospel isn't about a passive mental acknowledgement -- it's about a violent overthrow of all the idols in your life, beginning with the idol of self.
So if you're a wife reading this, ask your husband, point blank, this simple question: "When was the last time you viewed pornography?" If communication is good in your marriage, as it should be, he'll answer your question directly and honestly. If your marriage needs help, he may hem, haw, stall, look away, get defensive, or act offended. If he says he's never in his life looked at pornography, he's probably lying. If things come to light, and you realize your marriage needs help, get with your spiritual authority (e.g., a pastor) and get your husband into counseling with you right away. If he refuses to go to counseling, go by yourself. The Porn War is just that -- a war. Passivity and apathy will not bring victory in this war.
If you're a husband reading this, stop looking at porn and make a commitment to only let your wife satisfy your visual desires. If you need help, man up, repent, and seek spiritual counsel. If you want to continue to be a dishonorable man with no character, continue to hide your sin and think about what you'll say when you're in front of the Almighty one day.
1 John 2:13 says, "I have written to you young men because you have overcome the evil one." In our society the primary way a spiritually young man overcomes the evil one is by stomping the head of the devil, and allowing Christ to triumph over him in victory over the flesh (Col. 2:15). If you're a young person reading this (man or woman), know that Christ bought your freedom, so walk in it. Your problem with pornography will not go away when you get married; on the contrary, it'll kill your marriage and leave you spiritually dead.
And everyone remember, again, there's good news, and it's the Good News. One man lived perfectly, never yielding to temptation, so that you can live perfectly in Him.
"For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him" (2 Cor 5:21).
*A la 1 Corinthians 6:18 & Ephesians 5:3
Why is it that it's always the prosperity "gospel" types that have to end up making excuses for why they get arrested, sued, or called to task for various malfeasances?
I am not by any means a cessationist. (In fact, my church would be construed as "charismatic" by most people, though I don't really think it is a classical charismatic church.) I am, however, becoming more and more disenchanted with the vast majority of what falls under the big umbrella of the charismatic movement these days.
I recently received a free copy of Charisma, and I was disgusted by the infiltration of the prosperity "gospel" (which is no gospel at all) within the pages of that magazine. The pages were littered with advertisements paying homage to the satanic "gospel" -- always with a smile, accompanied by a $2,000 suit, jewels befitting a queen, or any other number of worldly measurements of success and prosperity.
The prosperity "gospel" is damned heresy, a load of sensual trash that preys on the weak, feeble, and desperate. The prosperity preachers are wolves who willingly and greedily devour tithes, offerings, and other gifts from their disciples, just to prove that -- as Joyce Meyer once said in order to explain why her house was so nice -- "the Word is working!"
That "word," Joyce, is not the Word of Jesus.
May the very foundations of the prosperity "gospel" be shaken. May the monolith of health, wealth, and prosperity crumble to the ground, and be made but dust under the finger of Yahweh. May the beautiful Bride of Christ know what it means to be "killed all day long," and yet be "more than conquerors through Him who loved us" (Romans 8:36, 37).
"That I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His suffering. Being conformed to His death." -- St. Paul
Part of the reason I love John Piper so much is he's not afraid to tweet something like this:
You don't want to hear God speak these final words: "Fool, how did all that pointless play put my glory in display?"
What's more, he's one of the few (only?) mega-popular preachers out there who would even have the courage, or inclination, to say such a thing.
This post by Ray Ortlund is inspiring and rare. I'm reprinting it in its entirety below.
"[G]ospel eyes choose to observe the many excellencies divinely invested in another Christian." Amen x infinity.
Gosh, this is refreshing.
“As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones, in whom is all my delight.” Psalm 16:3
As for the saints in the land. They are in Christ. That is what distinguishes them. It is all they need to be distinguished. Not their own talents or attainments, but what God has done. God has set them apart to himself. It changes everything.
They are the excellent ones. There is much to admire in every Christian. Just start asking questions. About thirty seconds into the conversation, the excellence will become obvious. Rather than rate them, grade them, scrutinize them, to see if they are up at our level, rather than say, “Well, they aren’t perfect,” which is condescending and insulting and irrelevant, gospel eyes choose to observe the many excellencies divinely invested in another Christian.
In whom is all my delight. This the final step. It is personal. It is emotional. It is wholehearted. It is so bold that it might be misconstrued as idolatry (“all my delight”). But the gospel allows for no aloofness, no “wait and see” attitude, no standoffishness. We move toward one another with intense joy.
The world doesn’t think this way. We must think this way. The gospel demands it and provides it.
If we will rejoice in one another for the Lord’s sake, we might live down Anne Rice’s assessment that “Christians have lost credibility in America as people who know how to love.”
Nothing is more urgently needed, in my opinion.
Here is a real-life scenario of a friend of a friend of mine. I'll call the young lady Laura. She has been dating a Baptist guy for a year (I'll call him John). Her parents are Church of Christ and pretty hard-core about it.
John talked to her parents last week to ask for Laura's hand. The parents told him that the only way they would give their blessing is if he becomes CoC. He told them that was going to be a decision they would make as a family, but neither he nor Laura have a desire to become Church of Christ (or, in her case, to remain Church of Christ). They have been attending a non CoC church together. Laura has expressed that she has learned more about God's grace from her friends, John, and her new church than she ever did from her parents or their church.
Her parents have made remarks to Laura that John is leading her to hell, and they are worried about her soul. The parents want to sit down and talk with them both.
What advice would you give this young couple? They are both believers. I am not familiar enough with the Church of Christ to know how to approach this.
John and Laura gave me permission through my friend to post this on Thinklings. Any help will be greatly appreciated. I'd especially love to hear from those of you in the Church of Christ or who have CoC friends or family, but if you have any advice or knowledge at all on this your insight will be greatly appreciated.
From Think Theologically: How to worship when you think the songs suck. Some excerpts, below:
And that my friend, brings us to the point. “How do I worship when I think the songs suck?” you might ask. Well first off, you don’t express that you think the songs suck to anyone else. You may ruin a genuine worshipful experience for them by your complaining. While they were perfectly fine worshipping to that particular song, your comments could forever taint it for them. You are certainly free to mentally critique the artistic and theological merits of the songs you sing each Sunday. But when you decide one or more are duds, don’t rain on everyone else’s parade.Yes.
The church has enough people complaining about enough things.
I am guilty of ruining songs for other people. And I'm not talking about songs that have bad theology. I'm talking about songs that don't float my boat, or have an emphasis problem or metaphorical turn that I find slightly troubling.
I hadn't thought of it this way: I may be ruining a worship experience for someone else when I do that. I may be stealing worship from God, and replacing it with confusion or cynicism.
This still leaves the question though of “how do I worship when I think the songs suck?” The answer, in short, is that the worship set wasn’t picked for you, and part of being in community of believers gathered to worship is forfeiting your preferences in deference to others. A prime example of this is theologian John Frame. While a classically trained organist who doesn’t like contemporary worship music, Frame nonetheless argues for its legitimate place in worship services. I’m sure he might cringe as well at some of the current praise choruses that are popular out there, but out of love for his brothers and sisters in Christ, he lays down his preferences and worships alongside those who sing songs he might not particularly like.Amen.
I think this is the ultimate answer to the question. When you think the songs suck, you can still, and should still worship God as fervently and freely as you would when its your absolute favorite song being sung. You may however need to mortify your critical spirit and get over yourself first, but you should still strive to worship God through song each Sunday whether you particularly like the selections or not.
Jesus didn’t die on the cross so you could sing your favorite songs every Sunday. He died so that you might learn to die to self as well. Part of doing that might just be singing songs you don’t like, and singing them as genuinely as the songs you do.
[H/T Parchment and Pen]
Born this day 1703 was (arguably) America's greatest theologian-pastor. Here is an excerpt from the sermon of his that most resonates with my soul:
If you are a poor, distressed sinner, whose heart is ready to sink for fear that God never will have mercy on you, you need not be afraid to go to Christ, for fear that he is either unable or unwilling to help you. Here is a strong foundation, and an inexhaustible treasure, to answer the necessities of your poor soul, and here is infinite grace and gentleness to invite and embolden a poor, unworthy, fearful soul to come to it. If Christ accepts of you, you need not fear but that you will be safe, for he is a strong Lion for your defense. And if you come, you need not fear but that you shall be accepted; for he is like a Lamb to all that come to him, and receives then with infinite grace and tenderness. It is true he has awful majesty, he is the great God, and infinitely high above you; but there is this to encourage and embolden the poor sinner, that Christ is man as well as God; he is a creature, as well as the Creator, and he is the most humble and lowly in heart of any creature in heaven or earth. This may well make the poor unworthy creature bold in coming to him. You need not hesitate one moment; but may run to him, and cast yourself upon him. You will certainly be graciously and meekly received by him. Though he is a lion, he will only be a lion to your enemies, but he will be a lamb to you. It could not have been conceived, had it not been so in the person of Christ, that there could have been so much in any Savior, that is inviting and tending to encourage sinners to trust in him. Whatever your circumstances are, you need not be afraid to come to such a Savior as this. Be you never so wicked a creature, here is worthiness enough; be you never so poor, and mean, and ignorant a creature, there is no danger of being despised, for though he be so much greater than you, he is also immensely more humble than you. Any one of you that is a father or mother, will not despise one of your own children that comes to you in distress: much less danger is there of Christ's despising you, if you in your heart come to him.If that don't ring your bell, your clapper's broken.
And now, O sons, listen to me,and do not depart from the words of my mouth.
-- Proverbs 5:7
As we cling doggedly to the theology our fathers fought for and passed down to us in good faith, the doctrinal dilettantes of the day nag, "What ever happened to semper reformanda?", positing evolving boundaries, a flexible orthodoxy, working on the assumption that our position in history gives us a better understanding of what the Bible really says.
The way we play with the shape of evangelical theology today arises from straight-up chronological snobbery.
In the New York Times last April we find this historical item related to the recent tsunami and devastation in Japan:
The stone tablet has stood on this forested hillside since before they were born, but the villagers have faithfully obeyed the stark warning carved on its weathered face: “Do not build your homes below this point!”Their ancestors knew what they were talking about. They had learned the hard way. And they erected markers: Don't build past this point. But we post-postmoderns are arrogant. We know better. We are smarter, more enlightened. And we have to accommodate more and more people. So we ignore the markers. We want to grow!
Residents say this injunction from their ancestors kept their tiny village of 11 households safely out of reach of the deadly tsunami last month that wiped out hundreds of miles of Japanese coast and rose to record heights near here. The waves stopped just 300 feet below the stone.
“They knew the horrors of tsunamis, so they erected that stone to warn us,” said Tamishige Kimura, 64, the village leader of Aneyoshi.
Hundreds of so-called tsunami stones, some more than six centuries old, dot the coast of Japan, silent testimony to the past destruction that these lethal waves have frequented upon this earthquake-prone nation. But modern Japan, confident that advanced technology and higher seawalls would protect vulnerable areas, came to forget or ignore these ancient warnings, dooming it to repeat bitter experiences when the recent tsunami struck.
We must be reminded that semper reformanda does not mean "always morphing." It does not mean that the faith is ever changing, progressing into something better. In many respects, to be always reforming is to be always returning to the gospel. It is to be continually sloughing off the baggage of doctrinal add-ons and distractions, cutting out the ever-rising innovations, theological and otherwise. To be always reforming is to keep going back to the ancient markers in the face of constant temptation and taunting from those who'd have us play with heterodoxy ever-newly. Let us keep contending, keep trusting, keep returning.
Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you.
-- 2 Timothy 1:13-14
From Christianity Today:
Rob Bell is reportedly working on a television drama called Stronger with Carlton Cuse, executive producer and screenwriter for the show Lost, according to New York magazine and Deadline.
New York's Vulture site reports that the show will be loosely based on Bell's life story as a musician and eventual founder of his church, Mars Hill Bible Church. The show will feature a musician named Tom Stronger who ends up becoming a benefactor and spiritual guide, the site reports. Josef Adalian writes:While based on biblical principles, Bell's brand of spirituality is not about hard-core evangelical, fire-and-brimstone teachings. Instead, his goal is to service folks' spiritual needs without the overlay of religious dogma (see also: Oprah). Stronger is similarly expected to explore spiritual themes but without being as on-the-nose as other recent series that have tackled these issues, such as 7th Heaven and Touched by an Angel. There's also expected to be a narrative twist to the project that will make it a bit unconventional, but for now, that detail is being kept secret (this show is from a Lost-ie after all).. . .
The author of controversial Love Wins announced last week that he would leave his church to move to Los Angeles and launch a tour. Shane Hipps will take over preaching at Mars Hill Bible Church in the spring after Bell leaves.
"There are two kinds of grief. One is the grief you feel when someone dies or you ﬁnd out you have cancer. The other is kind of grief you feel when your child goes off to college," Hipps said in a statement to Christianity Today. "The second grief is mingled with joy, and hope, and gratitude. Our grief is clearly the second kind. Rob is graduating, and we send him with sadness and joy into a big world."
[tip o' the hat to our friend Phil over at Brandywine Books]