Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Leadership and Influence - Part Two

"I will begin to exalt you..."- Joshua 3:7

Recognizing the sovereignty of God in leadership is an incredibly freeing idea. There is an end to our ability to influence. When we push beyond, words like "coerce," "Force," and "controlling" become adjectives describing our leadership. Jeremiah was called to faithful ministry, yet warned by God that he would not be successful in leading the nation to repentance, avoiding captivity.
In God's eyes, our faithfulness is more important than our influence. When we put our trust in Christ and render faithfulness, we can win or lose in the world's eyes with no harm to our souls. If we lose influence, we trust God. If we gain influence, we do not become prideful because our faithfulness reminds us that influence comes, not because of our skill, but because of God's purposes in our life and the lives of those we serve.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Leadership and Influence -Part One

"And the Lord said to Joshua, 'Today I will begin to exalt you in the eyes of all Israel, so they may know that I am with you as I was with Moses.'" -Joshua 3:7

E. V. Hill once said, "The leader who has no followers is just out taking a walk." Choice Theory teaches that educators can only begin to impact the life of the student when the student learns to love the teacher or the subject the teacher teaches. Until then, the teacher keeps loving the student and the subject. What causes the disconnect between leaders and followers?

*Mixed Goals- Sometimes the leader is trying to go one way and the followers another. Mutual frustration results. We lost a person once in our church because we were pursuing missions and a country club atmosphere was preferred.

*Different Priorities- Sometimes the goals can be the same, but conflict comes when one person wants to reach the world for Christ and another wants to reach their children first.

*Different Methods- Our church culture is notorious for adopting a method- purpose-driven, seeker-sensitive, homogeneous unit, small group ministry - when all we really want to do is develop relationships in which we can present Christ and grow together in Him.

Yet according to the passage above, God can raise leaders and put them down. He can give them influence and subject their leadership to frustration. Joshua needed the people to follow. The people had promised to fully follow. Now God promises to bless Joshua's efforts with the respect of the people. God would sovereignly exalt Joshua so that the people would learn by the faithfulness of their leader to follow God.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Leadership and Holiness

"Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you." -Joshua 3:5

New job. New responsibilities. New direction to a place you've never been. Tomorrow is D-day. Anxious? Impatient? Are you ready?
I remember heading off alone in a '73 Pontiac Grandville to college 12 hours away. The first six months of college I watched God meet me at every turn. Good room-mates. A job. Money for one bill, then another. One step at a time, God taught me to trust Him.
I remember heading off alone on a Northwest flight to Seoul, South Korea. New job. New friends. New world. I watched God meet me at every turn. Money to cover needs. Friends I count as wonders still. One would eventually become my wife.
The key to risk, diving into the unknown without a net, is consecration. Double-check your relationship with God. Remind yourself of God's faithfulness in your own experience. Separate yourself. Plead for holiness. Prepare your heart. Tomorrow's coming...

Father, prepare my heart. Give me holiness and set me apart for Your service. You have been with me whether I knew it or not. Be with me. It doesn't matter where I'm going as long as I know You're going with me. Amen.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

"You Have Not Been This Way Before"

Leadership texts draw a distinction between crystalized intelligence and fluid intelligence. Both intelligences are essential for leadership. The former is the ability to make decisions based on a lifetime of experiences. The past becomes a resource for current decisions. Fluid intelligence is also the ability to make good decisions, but it has no reference to the past. The leader with fluid intelligence is able to shift direction with rapidly, changing circumstances. On what do you base decisions then?
"You have never been this way before." The people were told to stay close to their leaders, to follow the ark, and to give themselves wholly to God. Joshua would have the responsibility to lead a new generation where they have never been. Protection and provision for more than a million people would be his task.
Joshua will consecrate himself first. He will meditate first, more and often. He will plead for God's presence in all situations as promised. He will hold out the hope to God's people that tomorrow "God will do amazing things among you." And he will be careful to obey as he holds close God's promise of success. "Be strong and courageous..."
Fluid intelligence for the Christian leader is an issue of faith. He will trust his crystalized experiences with God in the past and His word in the present. In a future world where we have never been, only God can pilot a sure course.

Father, we look to You for guidance. Our strength and wisdom are small. We do not know the future or any of the contingencies. Give us faith to trust You even in the dark. We give ourselves to You and ask for holiness in return. We wait in anticipation of the amazing hope of Your presence. Show us the way that we should go for to You we lift up our souls. Amen.

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Irony of a Short-term Memory

It was meant to be an encouragement to a young leader. The unity of the people, the vow of support. But the words ring hollow: "Just as we fully obeyed Moses, so we will obey you."
Forgotten are their complaints over the lack of water or its bitterness and the lack of meat. Forgotten also is the matter of a golden calf and continuing complaints over Moses' leadership. The 10 spies' report and 40 years of wandering were hardly testimony to a consistent obedience.
The leader must not be too judgmental. Good intentions are there. Holy desires. Hope for a better future. The leader will need strength and courage to follow through, but he will also need compassion for God's people. He must have an eye to see what they can and will become. He must forgive and lead with loving perseverance.
If there is irony in the vow, there is also hope for change. If Joshua can forget the people's failures in the past, his own short-term memory loss, he will be free to lead with new energy and joy.

Lord, give us unity of Spirit in all that You call us to be and to do. Help us forgive each other, trust each other, and rejoice together in Your promises.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Personal Life of a Leader Watched

Those who would lead must understand that people are watching them. Athletes and celebrities broker their influence yet protect their privacy with equal zeal. Paul reminds Timothy that ministry is more than words. A minister invites others to watch his life and to follow his example. Paul invited others to follow his example as he followed the example of Christ (I Cor. 11:1; cp. Phil. 3:17; II Thess. 3:7). He tells Timothy and Titus, his young apprentices, to set the example that would be viewed by others (I Tim. 1:16; 4:12; Titus 2:7).
The leader, then, had better walk circumspectly. He is to watch his life and doctrine closely. He is to be diligent to reflect the grace of God in speech, life, love, faith, and purity. He is also to watch his doctrine closely- which means he needs to know the substance of his own faith in enough particulars that he can defend it and promote it in the face of false teaching.
Others are watching. They will judge the truth of Christianity by how well the leader integrates truth in his lifestyle and how serious he is about the sacred text. He is to live his life in such a way that he invites that kind of scrutiny.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Taking the Mantle of Leadership

"Moses, my servant, is dead." For forty years, the young nation had been held together by the faithfulness of one leader to his God. The nation complained, the nation wandered, the nation rebelled. The prophetic power and the personal humility of Moses anchored the double-minded faith of a nation. His strong faith in God led the nation through plagues and war, hunger and defeat, direction and judgment.
"Moses, my servant is dead." However, wayward the nation, 40 years of stability had resulted from Moses' leadership. Joshua had been there as Moses' aid, observing his trust in God, his leadership style, and the willingness of the people to follow. Now, God was calling Joshua to put on Moses' mantle, but without the encouragement, stability, and strength of his mentor's presence. What resources did Joshua have in the enterprise to come?
*The promise of the presence of God
*The Book of the Law on which to meditate and obey
*The support of the people
"Be strong and courageous." It was no mean task to don the mantle of leadership in the wake of Moses' death. Joshua would need every ounce of power, strength, and courage to assume the task. It is not enough to say that the character of Joshua or the circumstances of the hour predisposed him to leadership. It was the calling of God.
Thomas Carlyle as a historian wrote "We have known times call loudly enough for their great men, but not find them when they called. They were not there..the time, calling its loudest, had to go down to confusion and wreck because he would not come when called."

Thank You, Lord, for those Christian leaders who have gone before us. They challenged us, trained us, corrected us, and inspired us to dream that You might have a plan for us as well. We shudder at the responsibility of the role You have given and we ask You to make us strong. Our courage and strength must come from You or we will not have it. Keep close to us and keep us close to Your Word. Amen.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The First Task

The first task in leadership and the first task in spiritual formation are the same.
Guard the Heart. Thoughts, desires, motives in the heart produce fruit in attitudes and actions, good and evil. Everything springs from our hearts. God knows our hearts and wants us to confess, purify, and strengthen our hearts so that we are protected against the encroachment of the enemy.

Jonathan Edwards writes:

"See that your chief study is about your heart:
- that there, God's image is planted;
- that there, His interests are advanced;
- that there, the world and flesh are subdued;
- that there, the love of every sin is cast out;
- that there, the love of holiness grows."

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Implementation Takes Courage, Perseverance

Many leadership and motivational speakers have made careers helping others to find their vision. We raise our desires and expectations but within the year we have returned to our old habits and dreams have died.

Why? Because habits die hard. Change takes courage and perseverance. We need help. Richard Boyatzis' Self-Directed Learning gives us direction through the process of change:

1. Develop as fully as possible a vision of the change you would like to see
2. Examine your own strengths and weaknesses
3. Form a plan to make the necessary changes in process, goals, and relationships so that you can begin to more toward your goal
4. Implement the plan. Begin to practice the new steps to change.

So far so good. But what will hold us on the path to change when trouble comes? Boyatzis advocates a fifth step that informs all the others: Resources. Find people who know you and can encourage you and hold you accountable to the best that you can be. People, teachers, writers, mentors, trainers, pastors, spiritual directors and encouragers are all resources that can mean the difference for us between success and failure.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Tabula Rosa or Innate Pattern?

As leaders at home, work, and church, what kind of human material do we work with? Ethicists would have us believe that man was born as a blank slate. Family, Schools, and Society write on us and we become what they envision.

The Creation Ordinances give us a different perspective. Man is made in the image of God, fallen though he may be. Our design reflects the sanctity of truth, life, marriage, work, and rest. When we live in line with those values, we flourish. When we try to write against the innate pattern given to us by our Creator, we flounder.

It makes a difference how we view those we work with. If we want them to become all they were meant to be, we had better lead according to their design. May God help us write better things into the lives of the people we serve.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Epaphras Wrestling Club: Prayer and Hard Work

Epaphras is a good example of intercession in another regard. Paul assures the Colossians and others in Macedonia that Epaphras works hard on their behalf. His ministry includes working hard in prayer. It also includes serving them well as a minister of Christ.

Epaphras' prayers are not of the 'be ye warmed and well-filled" variety. James warns against the kind of prayer that blesses others in words but withholds the material gift when it was in the hands to give. Epaphras works for the benefit of those he serves. He gives what he can. Then he takes their case before God's throne for God's provision.

Intercession is a ministry that demands a full heart. Love for people. Love for God. Giving time. Giving resources. Praying. Working. Follow the example of Epaphras:

"I vouch for him that he is working hard for you and for those at Laodicea and Hieropolis."

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Epaphras Wrestling Club: What to Ask?

What does Epaphras pray for? Epaphras wrestles with skill and persistence on behalf of his people for the glory of God. He wrestles hard, but why?

He wants believers to stand firm in all of the will of God. No compartmentalism in his prayer. He wants God's will done in every area of life and for believers to take their stand. Believers are to hold the ground won for them at the cross and to spread the influence of Christ into every area of life. Paul adds two adjectives to Epaphras' request to help us understand:

  • Mature- The worldview of the believer has become consistent so that Christ's influence is understood in marriage, politics, finances, and raising children. The believer's actions are also moving into line with his beliefs so that he is becoming a Christian with real integrity.
  • Fully Assured- the believer has a strong grasp on his relationship with Christ. He knows Christ through experience and relishes his position in Christ won at the cross. When trials come, his first response is to run to Christ.
Epaphras knew the possibility of collapse. He knew the consequences of not standing firm. He loved those for whom he prayed and longed to see them secure in Christ, both in knowledge and experience.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Epaphras Wrestling Club: Why Wrestling?

The hardest part of worship and ministry is not preaching. It is not leading worship music or visiting hospitals. It is taking up the work of prayer.

  • Wrestling indicates agony. It is a spiritual bloodsport. Intercession invites you into a life and death struggle for the souls of men. Its not a game on Sunday afternoon TV.
  • Wrestling indicates an Adversary. Satan opposes prayer because he seeks our destruction. An unprayed-for man is helpless before destruction. A prayed-for man has had his name announced in the throne room of the Almighty where the Sovereign LORD has promised aid.
  • Wrestling indicates process. The intercessor lays out his life energy on the battlefield for his friend. Stamina and persistence will win the day, but only in God's timing.
  • Wrestling indicates severe training. The wrestler undergoes rigorous self-discipline because only that will give him freedom to win in the ring.
Anyone can pray for another. Young, old, rich, poor, new believer or old, anyone can participate. What really matters in prayer is this: Persistence and experience with God. May God raise up a tribe of believers with the strong heart of Epaphras.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Epaphras Wrestling Club: Meet Our Founder

The apostle Paul introduces us to Epaphras (Colossians 4:12-13) with two phrases that are vital to effective intercession. Epaphras is "one of you" and a "servant of Christ Jesus." Epaphras was a bridge between the community he loved and the Redeemer who loved both him and them.

"One of You"
  • He identified with them. He knew the spiritual struggles, the physical circumstances, and emotional needs of the people he ministered to.
  • He understood community. He held no illusions about himself or others. Raised among them, they knew his strengths and weaknesses. His training and his association with Paul had not drawn him away from a burden for his own people.
"A Servant of Jesus Christ"
  • He was allied with Christ. His first loyalty was to Him. Epaphras identified with those he ministered to, but he never forgot who owned his heart.
  • Because of his unswerving allegiance to Christ, those he prayed for could take great confidence in his intercession. Knowing Christ was his first love gave his ministry both stability and security.
  • The Great commandments, loving God and loving men, were his heartbeat. He served others out of the overflow of his love for God. Christ provided what the people needed through his servant, and the people were drawn to God as a result.
  • The Great Commission was his marching orders. His prayer was aligned with his task. He wrestled for the believers in Laodicea and Hieropolis because he longed to see them mature in Christ. His requests on their behalf were always in line with God's will for them because he was Christ's servant first.
If we would take up the mantle of Epaphras, we too must love Christ first, then love our people for His sake.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Violent Men and the Kingdom of God

"We are to regard existence as a raid or great adventure; it is to be judged, therefore, not by what calamities it encounters, but by what flag it follows and what high town it assaults. The most dangerous thing in the world is to be alive; one is always in danger of one's life. But anyone who shrinks from that is a traitor to the great scheme and experiment of being."
-G. K. Chesterton

Monday, October 26, 2009


George Herbert has some real insight into our relationship with God during times of testing and judgment:

Ah, my dear angry Lord,
Since thou dost love, yet strike;
Cast down, yet help afford;
Sure I will do the like.
I will complain, yet praise;
I will bewail, approve;
And all my sour-sweet days
I will lament and love.
May God give us a similar trust in the good purposes of God.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Happy Chusok, Everyone!

Water Seasons

Swollen waters flood
Fields of rice beside the Han
Cranes nest in the grass.

Red dust is settled
Monsoons wash air and soul clean
Drenching land with life.

Last hike up Soyo
Leaves twist past the waterfall
Then home for Chusok.

The New Year whips snow
Through rocks where boughs hang heavy
On the So-namu.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Postmodern Ministry Design

Reading "Already Gone" has given me some interesting ideas about the future of ministry to post-moderns (ages 20-30). See what you think of this three-pronged approach:
  1. "Search and Rescue Operation." The church is going to have to go after their sons, daughters, neighbors and friends if they ever want to see them again in church. As well, one good "rededication invitation" will not suffice. Decisions for Christ will be daily movements toward Christ, three steps forward, two steps back. The deciding factor will be a friend, a Christian who genuinely cares about restoration. The friend will walk him through a process of "untangling" his life in daily, humble discipleship. Together they will untangle the consequences of sin and the judgmentalism of the church. The goal will be committed restoration and full involvement in the local body.
  2. "Full-bodied" Discipleship. In order to influence the postmodern world, the church is going to have to step up. No more obvious hypocrisy. No more passive attendance. The church will have to embrace discipleship, not only as it relates to Christ, but as it relates to following Him in the areas of human relationships, vocation, economics, education, church membership and commitment, and future leadership development.
  3. "All Hands on Deck" Involvement. This type of discipleship is total. It is labor intensive and time consuming. It demands monster amounts of authentic prayer. Every disciple will have to work toward congruence between what they believe and what they do. And, it will take more than sitting in a pew for two hours on Sunday morning. Personal involvement and lasting commitment are the only things that will be respected.
It's time to get at it.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Fear and Control- "Be Not Afraid"

It occurs to me that Jesus tells his disciples not to be afraid so much because they continually find themselves in situations that are out of their control. A boat in a storm. An approaching figure. A God big enough to silence the chaos with one command. I wonder if Jesus intentionally put them into these situations so that they could learn to trust Him.
What trouble and anxiety occurs in the heart of one who has no stability in Christ! Here a relationship fire arises, there an economic crisis. And it all depends on you to see it through. All your energy, strength and determination are stretched to the breaking to settle those fires. Then, you look up to see the whole world's on fire. Your heart sinks. You have no strength, no resources, no ability to manage the blast. And no one else to rely on.
The follower of Christ need never fear that blast. He has a Friend who loves him, who is incredibly gracious and all-powerful. He will never know that kind of hopelessness and isolation.
However, he will still undergo the trial of faith- learning to trust God in face of the evidence. "Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief." It takes discipline to trust. Discipline to wait. Discipline to put the impossible into God's hands and not to flinch. May God give us more courage.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Why Should I Obey God?

Why should we obey God? A Bible school student in our church had to write a paper to answer this question. She concluded that we should obey because God is your creator and because He is our loving Father. I told her I had some additional ideas and she wanted to hear them once she had completed her paper. So here they are.
  • Growth in holiness (Rom. 6:19-22; I Peter 1:22; I Thes. 4:7)
  • Maintain my freedom in Christ (Rom. 6:15-18)
  • Gratitude (Col. 2:6-7; 3:15-17; Heb. 12:28-29)
  • Character Formation (II Peter 1:3-11)
  • Witness in the world (I Peter 2:11-12)
  • Power (Eph. 3:14-19)
  • Duty (Luke 17:7-10)
  • Reward (II Cor. 5:9-10)
They all fall under Matthew Henry's category of "twisted interests." We obey God because He gets the glory and we grow in our satisfaction and happiness with God. The Christian life is not platonic. The highest virtue is not selfless love. It is a passionate love for God which recognizes in Him the greatest of all joys.
On this subject, we have to be careful not to be more 'spiritual' than scripture is. If scripture lists duty or reward as a motive, then we ought not to set it aside because it doesn't fit our template. God knows our frames. His enticement to reward is also a sign of his grace.

Monday, September 7, 2009

The Vindication of the Widow

Shame. Disgrace. Humiliation. Reproach. For the widow in Isaiah 54, all these came as a result of her sin. Her past was even one in which she found God Himself fighting against her. The consequences of her sin were brutal.
The postmodern world is a battlefield of torn, twisted, brutalized people. The church has a responsibility to extend grace to these people. Not the usual kind of presumptive grace that excuses sin now and in the future, but the strong arm of grace that commits to walking with a person as they untangle their lives. Postmodern ministry will take lots of prayer, time, work, and patience, but it is working with the hand of God as we help to restore the years the locusts have eaten.
This is where Isaiah 54 holds out particular hope. What a gracious God we serve! He invites the widow to enlarge, stretch out, lengthen, strengthen her hope in God and to remember her reproach no more. God says he will bring back the wayward widow with 'deep compassion.' He forgives her past and signs his own name on her vindication. No one can bring an accusation now because God has wrapped His cloak around His prodigal wife to protect her from the storm.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Sweet Sleep

It is a blessing to work hard and sleep well. A friend of mine from Korea posted this quote on her Facebook page:

"Have courage for the great sorrows of life and patience for the small ones. And when you have finished your daily task, go to sleep in peace. God is awake." ~Victor Hugo

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Jane Eyre's Cousin Needs Some Work

St. John Rivers wants to be a good parson. He wants to accomplish the heroic, to please his Commanding Officer. His quest for significance makes him a missionary candidate headed for India. He desires to wed Jane Eyre because of her skills as a "help meet" on the field. But Jane complains that "his sole desire in proposing to me is to procure a fitting fellow-laborer."
Bronte characterizes St. John with three faults:
  • He does not always see the people he serves, people become means to serve what he presumes are God's ends. He does the same in his 'love' for Jane.
  • He doesn't see the heroic he does do, like strolling out into a snow storm when he gets news of a dying parishioner. So the hard measure he uses on others, he also uses on himself.
  • He misses the joy of Rosamond Oliver. She was a beautiful young woman. They shared a mutual attraction and her father would have been favorable to a union. But he never considers her because she is different than he is (he can't see her in India). Worse, it seems to me he can't imagine a world where duty to God and joy and contentment in life are not mutually exclusive. It may even be his 'austere Calvinism' that prevents it.
Here's the error, summarized by Jane: "He is a good and a great man; but he forgets, pitilessly, the feelings and claims of little people, in pursuing his own large views."

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Thomas Watson is Wise

How many souls have been blown into hell with the wind of popular applause?.--Thomas Watson

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

"Push Back" Power

The new political strategy for winning debate has been described this way: "We will push back twice as hard." This is what political speech has come down to. No longer a discussion of differences concerning issues (maybe we can't debate the issues any more because we don't have a common ground concerning morality, truth, logic or worldview), political speech is now a contest to see who can display the most verbal muscle. And as we are seeing, verbal muscle is becoming intimidation and soon, if we are not careful, violence.
There is a better way to push back: Prayer. O. Hallesby writes that it only works in the hands of God's friends. It also comes with a safety lock (thank you, Lord)- that prayer will never be answered in a mechanical way that will cross God's purposes. Still if we pray for righteousness in our nation, change of heart for our citizens, and the ascension of godly leaders, we unleash the unstoppable power of God in individual, family, church and government spheres.
Righteous change is easily accomplished at God's hand, impossible on our own.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Taking Notes in Church

Satan's great joy is to steal the Word of God from the minds and hearts of God's people before they ever leave church on Sunday. A quick errand at the grocery store or chore before work on Monday will erase the lessons learned earlier in the day. If this is your problem, try buying a Composition Book or Steno pad. Carrying it with your Bible and a pen on Sunday will help you gain the following advantages:
  • Focus your attention during the message. Write down sermon points, important quotes, illustrations, etc.
  • Minimize distractions. Write chores and errands in the margin so that you can get them off your mind and bring you back to the text.
  • Add to your retention. Before the service, read through last week's notes. You'll begin to see the larger picture- how the passages and the sermons are connected. Read through the passage again in the coming week, using your notes as a guide. Add to your notes any new discoveries.
  • Rejoice in God's provision. After you have been taking notes for awhile, you will be able to look back on the men and messages that God has used to shape your spiritual life and bring you to maturity. God has used many different voices to make you who you have become in Christ.
  • Increase accountability. Practice the attitude of the Bereans. Write down questions that occur to you as you listen and search out the answers later. Make sure what you are hearing matches what you are reading in the Bible.
  • Add prayer concerns in the back so that you can keep running prayer list of needs mentioned during the church gathering.
  • Note action points in the margin. How would the Holy Spirit have you apply what you have learned? Any points of conviction, encouragement, or compassion?
Speakers are all different. Some speak with complex outlines, others with memorable turns of phrase. Even the worst sermon can provide spiritual help when you actively listen to the Word being preached. Whatever you write down is for your profit. Try taking notes and see what the Holy Spirit will do with your Sunday morning worship!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

"Already Gone" is Wake Up Call for Church

Ken Ham, founder of Answers in Genesis, has written a prophetic book that the church will ignore at its own peril. The book is the result of a survey of 1,000 adults who have stopped attending church, but were active in their middle and high school years. The researcher does an excellent job of separating reasons from excuses and modern opinion from actual solutions.

The conclusion of the book is that the church has become irrelevant. Nancy Pearcey, in Total Truth, describes the two-tier theory of truth. Secularism has taken the objective fields of knowledge (the sciences) and left the subjective truth of religion and ethics to the domain of opinion. What Ken Ham adds to the discussion is that responsibility for that dichotomy lies squarely at the door of the church.

When differences between the claims of science and Christianity arose, the church caved. As a result, students never hear the counter-evidence. The stories and the worship, the sermons and the music feed emotions, but not the mind. They never relate to the world outside the church doors. Add to that the distance between our beliefs and our actions and we have a recipe for apostacy.

It is past time for the church to answer the questions of the secular world and reunite the worlds of science and ethics under the lordship of Christ. We must take very thought captive for the sake of ourselves and our children. Are we too late? Francis Schaeffer would remind us, "We are not called to be successful. We are called to be faithful."

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Science and Public Don't Always See Eye-To-Eye

USA Today is reporting that the public's unquestioning allegiance to the pronouncements of Big Science is showing signs of decay. A gap between the views of the general public and Members of the American Association for the Advancement of Science is widening, according to Pew Research:

58% of the public approve of embryonic stem cell research. 93% of AAAS members approve.
49% of the public believe in man-made global warming. AAAS members, 84%.
The biggest gap was between scientists with a belief in natural evolution 87%, and 32% for the rest of society.

This is an opportunity for the church to be 'relevant' again. The two-tier theory of truth has marginalized the opinions of religion by pushing them outside the walls of Big Academia. "All truth is God's truth" could again be the marching orders of the church.

Unfortunately, the contemporary church may not be up to the challenge. Answers in Genesis' new book "Already Gone" shows that the church is already largely viewed as irrelevant by the next generation. As faith in Big Science is waning, confidence in the church is waning as well.

Maybe the church had better start teaching science again. And economics. And sociology. And take up the task of taking captive every thought found in contemporary society and making it obedient to Christ.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

More "Throwback Church" Ideas

I did a Memorial service on Saturday that reminded me again of the value of a church built upon the values of community and intergenerational interaction . I heard memories of little girls riding their bikes over for Vacation Bible School and getting married in the brand-new sanctuary. In the past, I have heard stories of wood stoves, outhouses, and carriage rows, and men sleeping in the carriage while the family attended services. Young and old came because they valued the gospel and their relationship with Christ.
Today, the church teeters on the brink of trading the content of the gospel for a desire to be culturally attractive. Maybe its time to start "kicking it old skool:"

"I have a deep confidence that the best way to be lastingly relevant is to stand on rock-solid, durable old truths, rather than jumping from one pragmatic bandwagon to another." -John Piper

Monday, May 25, 2009

Pray, Then Act

From Kevin DeYoung, Just Do Something, pp. 50-51:
Passivity is a plague among Christians. It's not just that we don't do anything; it's that we feel spiritual for not doing anything. We imagine that our inactivity is patience and sensitivity to God's leading. At times it may be; but it's also quite possible we are just lazy. When we hype-spiritualize our decisions, we can veer off into impulsive and foolish decisions. But more likely as Christians we fall into endless patterns of vacillation, indecision, and regret. No doubt, selfish ambition is a danger for Christians, but so is complacency, listless wandering, and passivity that pawns itself off as spirituality. Perhaps our inactivity is not so much waiting on God as it is an expression of the fear of man, the love of the praise of man, and disbelief in God's providence.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Dorothy Sayers Deserves a Hearing

Dorothy Sayers wrote a ground-breaking essay on the problems of modern education called “The Lost Tools of Education.” In the essay, she discusses the main problem of modern education and a possible solution. She laments that the solution will never be tried, but it is precisely that solution that Doug Wilson and others have implemented to bring about the Classical Education movement.
Sayers writes that modern education teaches fragmented subjects instead of teaching a child how to think. Every subject comes to a student as a foreign language that he struggles to decode. A student has no ability to integrate new information with what he already knows and no ability to express what he has learned persuasively.
In the essay, Sayers believes the answer to the problems of modern education lies in the trivium, going back to the educational ideas of an earlier age. The trivium has three parts, each of which teaches the child how to think. The Grammar stage (Elementary years) emphasizes memorization and repetition of basic facts and terms so that the child has the basic terms and facts to build upon. The Dialectic stage (Junior High) begins the process of integration, seeing the logical relationships between ideas. Students begin studying logic in order to think and argue in a rational orderly way. The Rhetoric Stage (High School) helps the student learn to present his ideas in a persuasive way.
Sayers argues that when the student has learned how to think, he is well on his way to master any subject easily. Because he has learned how to think, he can more easily see the connections between subjects. Because Christ is at the center, all subjects will necessarily relate to him and to each other. This brings a fragmented education together into a unified whole.
The essay Sayers wrote has become the basis of a new way of learning. Public education has become consensus education, where everyone holds the politically correct opinion and those who don’t are scorned. Classical education gives the student freedom to go wherever the facts take him. And because the world is Christ’s, the student can be sure truth will always fit together.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

The Dearest Wish

At China One, my fortune cookie predicted today that "your dearest wish will come true." If the cookie had even the slightest power to make its prediction come true, I would be the envy of the world. Untold wealth, friendships with the rich, famous, and powerful, a secret island getaway, world peace: What would be big enough to be properly described as my dearest wish?

Isaiah would call all these desires "other lords" (Isaiah 26:13). There are a thousand things that the world markets as ultimately satisfying, but none of it is true. Isaiah was more mature: "Yes. Lord, walking in the way of your laws, we wait for You; Your name and renown are the desire of our hearts" (Isa. 26:8). The only thing that truly, ultimately, and finally satisfies man is God Himself. My dearest wish will be met when God shows up and I am changed into His likeness.
How blessed I am. My dearest wish coming true doesn't depend on the power of the fortune cookie to make it happen. I have a sure word from God. I will soon see Him. Until then, I move from one glory to another with a desire to reflect His glory and spread His renown. It doesn't get any better than that.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

"Consensus Education" Fails Our Country

J. Gresham Machen is my hero. In 1920, in testimony before congress, he predicted that a state-controlled education without the competition of private and home education would become "one of the deadliest enemies to liberty that has never been devised." According to Machen, the government's desire to create a Department of Education served an evil purpose. What dangers did he see?

Now that we are a good ways down the road, its easier to look back and see the consequences. A homogenized education reduces competition in the realm of ideas. Students are given a consensus education- they've never met opposing ideas. There is no robust debate and the majority, politically correct position always wins.

Over time, the majority opinion becomes so ingrained that any opposition must appear ignorant or motivated by emotion. Debate is censored to maintain academic integrity. Consider:

  • When ethics are privatized and subjective, objective truth and accountability are narrow-minded

  • Sociology experiments with marriage and while children suffer, the minority voice "stirs up hate"

  • When Keynesian economics is in ascendancy, Ludwig von Mises and the Austrian school are forgotten amid a propensity for ridiculous debt.

  • Design is ridiculed in the face of Darwin.

  • George Washington called religion an indispensable support of society while modern Psychology regards religion as dangerous.

The end of this process is that academia has a vested interest in the consensus opinion. They turn an arrogant gaze toward opposition. Academic freedom means nothing more than freedom to hold the consensus opinion. I can think of no worse end for the university or the minds of its students. Where does education go from here? Activism? Skepticism? Renewal?

Monday, April 27, 2009

"Throwback Church" Marketing

One of the driving forces in my seminary experience was the need to mold the church in order to make it relevant to the changing world outside. Thanks to the new "Throwback" Mountain Dew and "Throwback" Pepsi, I offer a cutting edge marketing slogan for the post-modern church:

Throwback Church:
Sometimes the best way forward is back.

Think of the possibilities! Advertising lines like-

Remember when the Bible was true and Jesus was the only way?
Remember when church was more than entertainment?
Remember when theology was the joy of the heart?
Remember when the Christian walk involved obedience and service?
Remember when worship involved intellect and will too?

Those are marketing possibilities I can stand behind!

Sanctity of Life and Darwin

The Table, a publication of Ashland Theological Seminary, asked us alumni to respond to the following question: "The phrase 'sanctity of life' is thrown about in the media with little or no consistency. How would you define 'sanctity of life'? What social issues should Christians be concerned about?" Here's my attempt at a short answer!

From my point of view, "Sanctity of Life" is chief among the Creation Ordinances. Like Marriage, Work, and Sabbath, Life is ordained and ordered by God. The Creation Ordinances are a recognition of God's design and intent for His creation from the very beginning. Even before the Mosaic law, the etchings of these ordinances were in our very being. In the ordinances, we recognize God's right to rule. Questions like "When does life begin?," "How is marriage defined?" or "What welfare reform would best honor the image of God in man?" are Creation Ordinance questions. Our answers to these questions either bow to the will and intent of our Maker or exhibit our rebellion. Perhaps one legacy of Darwin, as we celebrate his 200th birthday, is that society no longer has answers to these questions.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

How to Lose Your Children

What is more important for training our children than youth groups, education curriculum, concert events, peer retreats, or a full-time youth pastor? What if its the example of the parent generation? Listen to the following quote, then spend some time, like me, mulling over its implications:

"The only way we are going to impact the world and the next generation is to prove that our faith in Christ is real and that it works. For countless Christians, I'm convinced it's real. My concern is whether or not we have the fruit to suggest it works... the gap between our theology and our reality is so wide we've set ourselves up for ridicule... some of us are working pretty hard at something that's hardly working." -Beth Moore, Believing God

Monday, March 2, 2009

Pray for Joni Eareckson Tada

I recently read these prayer requests from Joni on Justin Taylor's blog (March 2-

1. Pray that my fragile bones become stronger.
2. Ask God to infuse courage into my heart daily!
3. Over all, my pain levels are getting much better but still, please pray away any anxiety.
4. Help me not to become me-centered when I'm in pain!
5. Pain medication is never fun to take. Pray that soon and very soon I won’t have to lean as heavily on it.
6. Plead to God that I might know Jesus better through all of this and not "waste" my sufferings!!

Taylor ends by asking, "So would you consider taking these requests before the throne of grace? I know that she is deeply thankful."

Taylor also has a lecture on The Theology of Suffering that Joni gave at Dallas Theological Seminary embedded on his site. It is definitely worth checking out at

Monday, February 23, 2009

Where Do You Put Your Trust?

Dr. Jerry Falwell had a way of saying things that would stick in your head. He would have laughed at us putting our trust in the government to fix our economy and reminded us that God alone is our source. Only He gives us the power to gain wealth. Then, Dr. Falwell, would have leaned over, looked us in the eye, and said seriously, "With shekels come shackles."

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Redeeming Time

The shrewd manager, Jesus said, was about to be fired for wasting the master's possessions (Luke 16:1-15). In an act of desperation, he went to those who owed money to his master and reduced their debt- some as much as 50%. His reasoning went like this. Ashamed to beg, allergic to manual labor, he made friends who would provide for him once he lost his job. He used what he had now to provide for what he needed later. The master, already upset over wasted possessions, must now be even more angry. Right?

Turns out the master commended the servant for his shrewdness. By thinking quickly, the manager saved his job- the landowner wanted this kind of investor working for him. Try explaining that parable to your kid's Sunday School class. Jesus says the man was commended because he used worldly wealth to gain friends for himself so that he would be welcomed into eternal dwellings.

Paul's admonition to redeem the time fits here. "To redeem" in the middle voice of Biblical Greek means to buy something out of the marketplace for yourself. "Time" is not chronological time but the opportunities that come our way in time. Paul admonishes us to buy up earthly opportunities for ourselves in order to earn a heavenly reward. Like the shrewd manager.

Peter reminds us that there are two kinds of investment: Investment that will perish, spoil, or fade or investment that will wait as an inheritance for you beyond the reach of moth or rust. He is no fool who invests fading, rusting, rotting things in order to obtain eternal reward.

When Jesus commends the shrewd manager in his parable, he says the children of light need to learn from his shrewdness. This new year, may God help us find ways to invest what we have to make friends for eternity.