I want to share some thoughts on this article.

The Evangelicals who deny that the gifts of the Spirit are for today are living in a false world, like Ostriches with their heads in the sand.

That is a bold statement, but said with conviction. I am undeniably reformed. I am surprised that there is so much literature available on Charismatic Calvinists; that is, Reformed thinkers who are also continuationists. Such is the author of the above statement.

To say that a person, who clearly praises the Lord, and who uses the spiritual gifts is demonic is coming very close to the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. Remember if there is a counterfeit there has to be the real thing too.

This is why I am careful not to take a dogmatic position against the “sign” gifts being exercised today. I cannot be confident that they are not manifested in the power of the Holy Spirit; so I therefore simply remain silent (at least until now).

This article was not as in depth and as exhaustive as others, but I was thankful for its list of links and resources to both cessationist and continuationist positional documents.

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Until this year, I had felt very secure in my cessationist positions (meaning that the “sign” gifts such as tongues and prophecy had ceased).  I had studied this previously, and fairly in depth; however, I always came to the text with my cessionist views in mind.  It was not truly inductive study.

Today, I have come across 2 astounding facts that have shaken the foundations of my theological positions.  The first was finding out that C.J. Mahaney was not a cessationist.  I highly respect Mahaney and his contributions to the kingdom and modern evangelicalism.  I would have thought that surely, as reformed as he is, that he would hold a more puritanic view of spiritual gifts.  Besides, the circles that he runs in with the group from Together For the Gospel, include the likes of John Piper….

This brings me to fact number 2.  John Piper is not a cessationist.  I am a Piperist.  Just as Piper is a Calvinist.  In the past 7 years, I have read more books by Piper than any other single author (except maybe John Grisham).  My theological framework has been developed much on my study of the Word through the lens of Christian Hedonism and the theology of John Piper.

Never in any of his writings can I remember him addressing spiritual gifts, so I was surprised when I discovered that he was a continuationist.  This is apparently not a new position for Piper.  I read a sermon of his from 1984 today that clearly articulated this position, then there is the paper on Spiritual gifts that is found in the Desiring God topical index.

I am always rethinking my theology.  There are certain things that I will not budge on, but others that I do not yet fully understand (nor do I ever anticipate to).  Mark Driscoll speaks of this as the two-handed theology.  One hand is closed, and represents the things that you are dogmatic about (e.g. The Trinity, inerrancy of Scripture, Total Depravity, Virgin Birth).  The other represents the positions that are not convictions (e.g. spiritual gifts, worship style, women deacons).

One of my goals for this year (as of today), is to know what I believe in relation to all the gifts of the Spirit.  I seek to not only know what, but know why.  So that I might “always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks [me] to give the reason for the hope that [I] have; but do this with gentleness and respect.” (I Peter 3:15 NIV)

11,700 sleepless nights

February 16, 2006

“Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s insomnia.”

Since that statement is not Biblical, maybe I should not feel guilty for wishing I were plagued like this guy.  Some would debate whether this was a disorder or a blessing.  I am a tremendous advocate of sufficient sleep, but only as necessary.  If I thought I could function as effectively without sacrificing any mental acuity while not having to give up the hours to rest, then I would hope that I would.  However, this man’s line of work is more labor intensive than it is mentally exhausting.  I wonder why watching TV isn’t as effective as sleeping.  You should be able to get both the mental and physical rest while watching the evening sitcoms as you do while sleeping.  In fact, I believe that with the creativity of dreams, that your mind is actually much more engaged in the middle of the night than in the middle of Seinfeld.
The friend that sent me the link for this article mentioned that he wouldn’t mind giving up eating as a necessity.  I, on the other hand, am much more fond of eating…moreso to my detriment.

WhenPeople.gifI picked this book up about 6 years ago.  I came across a few top # lists this year in which this book was featured.  I decided I would pull it out of the box (I have no current shelves) and give it a read.  I had previously knocked out about half of it, and I spent an hour refreshing myself on what I had previously read (I had also marked it up considerably), and then set out to finish it.

When People are Big and God is Small is a good book.  It is not a social argument, but it is very scripturally based.  Our culture turns to often to pop-psychology, when God has “given us everything we need for life and godliness.”  The author, Edward T. Welch, calls us to find our self-worth in God.  God loves us and that can be all that matters.  If we do what is right, we do not need to fear what man can do to us.  We can find our security in solely the opinion of God.  He demonstrates many symptoms of fearing man and gives practical steps to overcoming this sin.

This is a useful book, and a wonderful resource to anyone involved with counseling.  I will certainly keep it close as I am faced with different life challenges or encounter others who are.  It is not the most entertaining and dynamic book, but it has tremendous content.  I recommend this book to anyone who may struggle with Peer Pressure, Codependency, or self-esteem.

The Barbarian Way

February 11, 2006

the barbarian way.jpgErwin Raphael McManus (what a cool name) serves as lead pastor and cultural architect at Mosiac (what a cool church name). He has written a few books, but I just finished one of his most recent, The Barbarian Way.

I was not sure what to expect when I started this book. Its size is somewhere between a “gift” book and a “real” book. I thought it was going to be a glorified version of the former, but it ended up being closer to the latter in content.

The Barbarian Way is a challenge to live differently. Why is it that the lives of Christians is often indistinguishable from the life of the heathen. He calls us to dream big and follow our dreams (in a Christian realm). Sacrifice is necessary; love is imperative. There is little in the book that I did not know, but it was written to make me realize that what I know with my head can be known in my life.

This was an excellent read and I recommend it to all (whether in leadership or not). You will just wish that you could live the life that he writes about. In the end, I hope you are changed, and are at least one step closer to the life God wants you to live.

Liberty Heights Church

February 11, 2006

In our church-hopping, we dropped in on Liberty Heights Church this past weekend.  Liberty is among the largest Southern Baptist Churches in the state.  However, they have had a recent string of setbacks.  They are currently without a pastor, as Terry Fields (the previous pastor) has taken a job with the North American Mission Board.  Their are without a Worship Pastor, since Rick Melson (with whom I have had lunch) left to join the staff of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis (and who would not want to go work with John Piper).

The church has moved into a new facility within the past year.  This property is at least 8 or more miles from their previous location.  A church is bound to lose some of its membership in moving that distance.  With the hits of losing all the platform staff, and the move, the attendance is considerably down.

In spite of all this, we really enjoyed the church.  The facility is gorgeous (of course a price was paid for it).  The kids programming seems to have remained strong.  The teacher for the day was a professor from Southern Seminary.  I did not realize in coming that I would know the worship leader, but the layman who was leading the worship did a great job under the circumstances.  I have been in his position, and I know some of the pressures involved with maintaining a full-time day job and coordinating a worship program.  The music was well presented, well led, and sincere.  The homily was well-formed with tremendous content and delivery (by an experienced teacher).

I would not be surprised if we ended up at Liberty.  For me, there is a little selfishness to it in that we can choose the level of involvement that we will take.  We can be a part of something that is dynamic, and we won’t feel pressure to do more than we want at present.  I have to test and try my motives if we choose to make this our home; but I think we could be happy here.  As with any of those visiting now, we would like to see who the pastor will be before we settle permanently.

Wednesday we returned to let the kids enjoy the children’s programming and so that we could visit the choir.  Choir is something that I have always loved.  I do not know that if I were to plant a church today that we would attempt to form a choir, but as an established ministry, it is something I love when done right.  They do it right at Liberty.  The music is dynamic and strong.

We will continue to pray for God’s direction in leading us to a new home of worship.  I have enjoyed the ability to visit around and see what other churches are doing; but at the same time, we really want to get settled.  It is not that I desire a place of attention in the service, but I know that God has gifted me, and I do not want to neglect those gifts.

A Leave of Absence

February 11, 2006

Hopefully I will catch up on some posts today.  I have been very busy with work.  There are certain pros and cons of working in front of a computer all day.  Unfortunately, one of the negatives is that when the day is up, you don’t always want to come back and catch up on all your personal stuff.  Then, when I do feel like it, I am torn by the desire to help and spend time with the family.  This week, for the good of all, my family has won and this explains my absence for a week.  I know that I have thousands of subscribers out there (ok, maybe 1 or 2) who have grieved my absence, but I am sure you will find much more interesting stuff out there to read.  Truth is, I do this more as a discipline to myself than any other reason.

When time does permit, my choice is read or write, and this week I have read more than I have written.  Today, I hope to blog about another book or two that I have completed.  Hang around, if I really think people might read this, I will be more motivated to continue to cultivate the discipline of writing.

searching_for_god_cover.jpgToday I finished Don Miller’s Searching for God Knows What.  I had read one of Don’s previous books, Blue Like Jazz, and was rather looking forward to this new volume.  I have to admit that I like Blue better than Searching; however, do not assume that I did not like the latter.

Don has a unique writing style.  He has been compared to Anne LaMott and Frederick Bueschner, which may be helpful for those familiar with their writings.  Don is extremely honest.  His honesty about his own short-comings and sinfulness humbles me as I read.  It is not that Don is more of a reprobate than the rest of us, it is just that he is willing to admit it.  It brings me to the point of confessing that I am like he is, only probably much worse.  You cannot mistake Don for the hypocritical one who prayed, “Thank God I am not like….”

Searching is a collection of stories and analogies.  Many of them are from Don’s life and others are historical.   Don may be a theologian, but this is not a systematic theology.  In the afterwards, he admits that he was not heavy on the theology, and that lightness was not for lack of concern; rather, he hits you more where it hurts…everyday life.

What Don has taught me through these two volumes is to…
…not be afraid to ask questions.
…don’t assume I am always right.
…question the why as much as the what .
…as well as many other lessons.

Some highlights for me include chapter 10, “The Gospel of Jesus: It Never Was a Formula.”  Within this chapter he tells a story of a presentation made to a group of seminary students.  He went through multiple aspects of the gospel with the class, only to come to the end and say “Have I missed anything?”  The students could not think of anything he had overlooked.  “None of the forty-five students in the class realized I had presented a gospel without once mentioning the name of Jesus.”  Why is it that He is so often left out?

“The hijacking of the concept of morality began, of course, when we reduced Scripture to a formula, and a love story to theology, and finally morality to rules.” (pg. 184)

“I realize there are people reading this who will automatically dismiss me as a theological liberal, but I do not believe a person can take two issues from Scripture, those being abortion and gay marriage, and adhere to them as sins, then neglect much of the rest and call himself a fundamentalist of even a conservative.  The person who believes the sum of his morality involves gay marriage and abortion alone, and neglects health care and world trade and the environment and loving his neighbor and feeding the poor is, by definition, a theological liberal, because he takes what he wants from Scripture and ignores the rest.” (pgs. 193-4)

Finally, the final chapter, “The Gospel of Jesus: Why William Shakespeare Was a Prophet,” was a tremendous conclusion.  He took many of the pieces presented and brought them together as a whole to create a beautiful mosaic.  Furthermore, he brought historical context and a theological eye to the story of Romeo and Juliet in such a way that you would consider Shakespeare a prophet.

This was a good read.  I recommend it.  It would never make one of my top ten lists, but it was certainly not time wasted.  If you are looking for something more challenging than traditional fiction, or a break from thick theology, you will find relief in the pages of a Don Miller book.

EDITOR’S NOTE: At the time of this notation, this post is pushing 5 months old. Because of recent comments, I feel it is necessary to clarify the context of this post. As you read this post, please note that I have only visited Turtle Creek Community Church once, and that was for their very first (launch) service. There has been no attempt to typify what TCCC’s ministry looks like today. If you have questions or concerns about TCCC, please contact them directly and do not use any comments made here as an excuse to not worship with them. The majority of this post is just opinion and is not intended to distinguish between a right way and a wrong way. I continue to have concerns with TCCC’s doctrine, but this is assuming that they hold to similar doctrines as the denomination that they have aligned themselves with. None of the comments thus far, however, have ventured into this disucssion. With that, I invite you to read and respond as necessary.

This is a belated post. Last Sunday My family and I visited Turtle Creek Community Church. This was their “launch” Sunday. They had some Christmas related services in December, but this was the official kick-off. As we are on our “sabbatical” we really wanted to see what other churches are doing. Since I am interested in church planting, I was very interested in how they pulled off the first service.

We received a very nice mailer that told us of the event. We arrived in a hailstorm at the elementary school in which the services were being held. It was actually rain when I dropped the family off at the curb, but by the time I looped the parking lot, “all hail broke loose.” It was confusing finding the nursery for lack of signage and guidance, but we eventually dropped both kids (1 and 3 years old) in the same classroom (We were slightly disappointed at this point that they had nothing more stimulating for our 3 year old, but our expectations were likely too high anyway.). We found a few friends to sit with that we had not seen in a while. They have been in the area for a few months and have yet to find a church home in which they would be happy.

The service was ok. I hate to be judgmental, because I doubt I would do it any better in foresight. However, the pastor was not as smoothe or polished as I had hoped. The music was good, but there was no interaction. The congregation did not sing at all. I recognize that they are trying to reach unchurched people, and unchurched people might not yet feel comfortable in participating, but I still think this was a poor choice.

The message was poor (in my not-so-humble opinion). It was 20 minutes into the message (after having incorporated 2 movie clips) before the Bible was even opened. Again, I am in favor of the multimedia, but the Bible has to come out strong, because it is the gospel (found in the Word) that is our only hope at change.

I have labeled this post “Another ‘Community Church,'” because this is the 3rd “Community Church” that we have visited within a month’s time (see prevous post). I must reiterate here that you never know what you are going to get. In this case, the plant is part of the Church of God (Anderson) denomination. This is a major strike mark against them from my perspective. Here are some of the beliefs from my COG brethren (I would disagree with the majority of these statements):

The Church of God, as well as other Holiness Churches, as well as the Methodist Church they came out of, teach a salvation by grace thru faith in the Lord Jesus Christ initially, but one must maintain good WORKS and remain faithful to the Lord in order to remain saved, as do all other Holiness Churches. Thus many outside observers would say this is a salvation of grace plus works. Instead of receiving the free gift of Eternal Life, Holiness Churches teach one receives PROBATIONARY LIFE when one trusts Christ as Saviour.

The Church of God, as other Holiness Churches, believes that a person who has been saved and born-again can achieve SINLESS PERFECTION in this lifetime. In an act subsequent to trusting Christ for salvation, which some call the Baptism of the Holy Spirit or SECOND BLESSING, one is said to be cleansed at that moment from ALL inward sin…and it is ‘eradicated’ when one is baptized with the Holy Spirit.

The Church of God and other holiness churches believe that once a person has become a born-again Christian that he can ‘Sin willfully and SEVER his relationship with Christ’. Thus, the Church of God believes that Salvation can be LOST after one has been truly saved, and that person can end up in hell after all. Wesleyans reject the doctrine of Once Saved, Always Saved, otherwise known as ‘Eternal Security’. All other Holiness Churches, as well as the Church of God itself, believe Salvation can be LOST and reject the Baptist doctrine of ONCE SAVED, ALWAYS SAVED teaching of Eternal Security. This is known as ‘Arminian theology’ and is a tenet of Holiness Churches.

The Church of God also sees a third ordinance as FOOT WASHING. They believe Jesus’ example of washing the disciples feet was meant to be repeated as an ordinance in local churches today amongst believers, but none of these ‘ordinances are considered mandatory conditions of Christian experience or fellowship.’

The Church of God does allow and ordain WOMEN PREACHERS. In fact, the first women preachers in America began in the Holiness Movement of the later 1800’s.

(these quotes were excerpted from http://www.gospelcenterchurch.org/churchofgod.html, this site is not related to, nor sponsored by the Church of God. It is a church’s site that shows the difference from Baptist’s and other churches’ beliefs.)

I can hope that God will use Turtle Creek to reach some with the gospel, but the gospel is not good news unless it is eternally secure. This will not cause me to cease from fellowship with these brothers and sisters in Christ. I can only lovingly encourage them to the truth. However, it is unlikely that I would revisit this new plant.

Ancient-Future Evangelism

January 28, 2006

ancient-future ev.jpgThis book was a worthwhile read.  It is not so much about evangelism (as the title would indicate) as it is about “Making Your Church a Faith-Forming Community” (subtitle).  It is more aboud discipleship (as if evangelism does not include discipleship.  This is not my first Robert Webber book, and it will not be my last.  Dr. Webber is probably around 72 now and he is still using his mind for the glory of God and the betterment of the kingdom.  You will find the “Ancient-Future” theme throughout much of his thought and writing.  Specifically, take a moment to drop by Ancient Future Worship.  There is certainly many articles on the web that are a better introduction to what ancient-future really means (such as the aforementioned site).  I will deliberately be brief in my description.

In this current volume, Dr. Webber responds to the International Consultation on Discipleship and a statement published by them in 1999.  He uses the premise of what evangelism is and what it should be as a means to point us to the past.  The future of discipleship should be a gleaning of the ancient practices.  What is laid out is a possible structure to be used in a church in the process of spiritual formation.  The actual curriculum is not presented as much as recommendations.  The structure can be adapted to each church’s unique situation.

I do not believe that I would be ready to convert entirely to his methodology, but I would consider incorporating many of the ancient traditions as far as they were useful in the context I found myself.  I do not see myself adopting the liturgy of the church calendar; however, I would on occasion use it as a guide.

I would recommend this book to anyone involved in planning a church’s worship or discpleship.  There are many good ideas and tools within this resource.  Furthermore, Dr. Webber (or his editors and research assistants) does a fantastic job in adding charts and conclusions.  One can tell that the author is an experienced teacher and that he wishes to maximize your learning.