Monday, December 31, 2007

Willow Creek Repents

This is one of the top ten posts from Out of Ur (see the column at the right). Insightful and accurate. PD

Why the most influential church in America now says "We made a mistake."
Few would disagree that Willow Creek Community Church has been one of the most influential churches in America over the last thirty years. Willow, through its association, has promoted a vision of church that is big, programmatic, and comprehensive. This vision has been heavily influenced by the methods of secular business. James Twitchell, in his new book Shopping for God, reports that outside Bill Hybels’ office hangs a poster that says: “What is our business? Who is our customer? What does the customer consider value?” Directly or indirectly, this philosophy of ministry—church should be a big box with programs for people at every level of spiritual maturity to consume and engage—has impacted every evangelical church in the country.
So what happens when leaders of Willow Creek stand up and say, “We made a mistake”?
Not long ago Willow released its findings from a multiple year qualitative study of its ministry. Basically, they wanted to know what programs and activities of the church were actually helping people mature spiritually and which were not. The results were published in a book, Reveal: Where Are You?, co-authored by Greg Hawkins, executive pastor of Willow Creek. Hybels called the findings “earth shaking,” “ground breaking,” and “mind blowing.”
If you’d like to get a synopsis of the research you can watch a video with Greg Hawkins here. And Bill Hybels’ reactions, recorded at last summer’s Leadership Summit, can be seen here. Both videos are worth watching in their entirety, but below are few highlights.
In the Hawkins’ video he says, “Participation is a big deal. We believe the more people participating in these sets of activities, with higher levels of frequency, it will produce disciples of Christ.” This has been Willow’s philosophy of ministry in a nutshell. The church creates programs/activities. People participate in these activities. The outcome is spiritual maturity. In a moment of stinging honesty Hawkins says, “I know it might sound crazy but that’s how we do it in churches. We measure levels of participation.”
Having put all of their eggs into the program-driven church basket you can understand their shock when the research revealed that “Increasing levels of participation in these sets of activities does NOT predict whether someone’s becoming more of a disciple of Christ. It does NOT predict whether they love God more or they love people more.”
Speaking at the Leadership Summit, Hybels summarized the findings this way:
Some of the stuff that we have put millions of dollars into thinking it would really help our people grow and develop spiritually, when the data actually came back it wasn’t helping people that much. Other things that we didn’t put that much money into and didn’t put much staff against is stuff our people are crying out for.
Having spent thirty years creating and promoting a multi-million dollar organization driven by programs and measuring participation, and convincing other church leaders to do the same, you can see why Hybels called this research “the wake up call” of his adult life.
Hybels confesses:
We made a mistake. What we should have done when people crossed the line of faith and become Christians, we should have started telling people and teaching people that they have to take responsibility to become ‘self feeders.’ We should have gotten people, taught people, how to read their bible between service, how to do the spiritual practices much more aggressively on their own.
In other words, spiritual growth doesn’t happen best by becoming dependent on elaborate church programs but through the age old spiritual practices of prayer, bible reading, and relationships. And, ironically, these basic disciplines do not require multi-million dollar facilities and hundreds of staff to manage.
Does this mark the end of Willow’s thirty years of influence over the American church? Not according to Hawkins:
Our dream is that we fundamentally change the way we do church. That we take out a clean sheet of paper and we rethink all of our old assumptions. Replace it with new insights. Insights that are informed by research and rooted in Scripture. Our dream is really to discover what God is doing and how he’s asking us to transform this planet.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Gotta Wonder

I really gotta wonder about those "Christians" who tell the evangelical church to back out of politics. I think they missed something in Jesus' lesson on prayer. He told us to pray in order to change ourselves. Of course, that is the 'personal nature' of our faith. It begins as a personal response to affirm the call to convert, to respond with personal repentance, and to begin a life as a Christ-follower. Quickly, however, the personal nature of our faith lands us in church. Church is the corporate expression of faith in Jesus of Nazareth. We have been called out of the world to form a new and radical corporate body-an otherworldly centered colony right here in this world. Amazingly, the priorities of heaven invade the gathering of these followers of Christ; forgiveness, love, compassion, strength, and mercy invade the lives of the individuals and the group of these followers of Jesus. They are purposed to change the world.

Don't believe me? Look at the Masters prayer..."your Kingdom come, your will be done on earth as in heaven..." This insistence that my faith remain personal is a bit obnoxious and certainly out of step with the passions of Christ. As a Christ follower, I am expected to work to bring heaven to earth (so to speak) in the hearts of others but also in the society that we live in.
Those that perpetrate this benign form of 'silent witness' miss the point entirely. Heaven invades by affecting the society with the values of God!

Years ago a person tried to convince me that we shouldn't legislate morality. But realistically we are always basing our legislation on 'someones' morality. The penchant for legislating inclusiveness rather than saving the lives of the unborn is a moral decision! The desire to fore go the rights of the legal immigrants for the illegal ones is based on someones morality. The desire that the state provide for the indigent is based upon someones morality. On and on it goes! Someones morality is directing every bill put before Congress.

Why simply acquiesce? Jesus asked us to daily pray to influence the earth along the lines of His Kingdom priorities. Daily. Those believers who think they are silently influencing the world might do well to revisit the church's silence over slavery, the silence during the Third Reich, and the white churches silence during the struggle for civil rights in the US. That silence was seen as tacit approval of immorality. And it is vilified by historians and theologians alike. We, the church, cannot simply wish to make a difference...we must be the "new breed" of believers that pray it into being. And that prayer takes the footsteps of the believers.

Tomorrow when you pray the Lord's prayer...consider going public with your faith in Christ. Work to change the values of earth to those of heaven. Do it by opening your mouth and sharing your faith, do it by confronting evil in the culture around us, do it at the voting booth, do it where ever you have an opportunity to influence the earth toward the coming of the Kingdom.

Friday, December 07, 2007

TV Preachers Marginalized?

AP reports that Gov. Mike Huckabee is in second place in the GOP race. Now in the interest of full disclosure, "I like Mike"- I am a supporter of the governors pursuit of presidential office. But I am most encouraged by this news today because it shows that TV preachers and their foolish endorsements of candidates based upon "electability" rather than the candidates moral and ethical stances, are beginning to see their bases erode. Now I am convinced that the people of God have a holy right and obligation to seek to influence their society for good: and that includes the possibility of holding elected office (though it certainly isn't the only way to influence our society). But to sell out our beliefs on the right to life or the sanctity of marriage so that we can imagine ourselves as influential is mere stupidity!

America is a better place if we preachers hold to our ethical standards- first in our own lives, and second, in the lives of those who we endorse for public office. When a clear and powerful moral voice is lifted before America- how can those evangelical leaders justify ignoring it and endorsing candidates that have flip-flopped on the most important issues of our time? How can anyone believe that a corrupt culture that existed under one candidate is likely to be a single event in their lives. Rather, I would celebrate the demise of influence of the celebrity preachers and the loosening of the hypnotic grip held on Christians. People of faith should make their decisions based upon the issues and the moral and ethical stands of the candidates. If that makes us winners- praise to God. If it makes us losers in the elective process- then God help us all. But at least we can live with our conscience.

Who knows though, if the TV preachers lose influence, then our faith might be more about serving the hurting than getting rich; blessing others than being blessed; spiritual power rather than political clout. Hmmm- almost sounds like God might have a vested interest in humbling us...

Friday, November 30, 2007

Dying to Self

Lewis, in his own way enlightens us to the necessity of dying to self. This is the great struggle for every believer- total surrender. Our salvation doesn't hinge upon it (thank the Lord!) but our sanctification certainly does. And there are so many spiritual blessings that are rightfully ours (Eph 1.3) that we are unable to access because we come as the living instead of those who are dead to self.

This is from CS Lewis's Counting the Cost

"The terrible thing, the almost impossible thing, is to hand over your whole self--all your wishes and precautions--to Christ.

"Christ says 'Give me All. I don't want so much of your time and so much of your money and so much of your work: I want You. I have not come to torment your natural self, but to kill it. No half measures are any good. I don't want to cut off a branch here and a branch there, I want to have the whole tree down. I don't want to drill the tooth, or crown it, or stop it, but to have it out. Hand over the whole natural self, all the desires which you think innocent as well as the ones you think wicked--the whole outfit. I will give you a new self instead. In fact, I will give you Myself: My own will shall become yours.'...

"When I was a child I often had toothache, and I knew that if I went to my mother she would give me something which would deaden the pain for that night and let me get to sleep. But I did not go to my mother--at least not till the pain became very bad. And the reason I did not go was this. I did not doubt she would give me the aspirin; but I knew she would also do something else. I could not get what I wanted out of her without getting something more, which I did not want. I wanted immediate relief from pain, but I could not get it without having my teeth set permanently right. And I knew those dentists; I knew they started fiddling about with all sorts of other teeth which had not yet begun to ache. They would not let sleeping dogs lie. If you gave them an inch they would take a mile.

"Now, if I may put it that way, our Lord is like the dentists. If you give Him an inch, He will take a mile. Dozens of people go to Him to be cured of some one particular sin which they are ashamed of... or which is obviously spoiling daily life (like bad temper or drunkenness). Well, He will cure it alright: but He will not stop there. That may be all you ask; but if once you call Him in, He will give you the full treatment. That is why He warned people to 'count the cost' before becoming Christians. 'Make no mistake,' He says, 'If you let me, I will make you perfect. The moment you put yourself in My hands, that is what you are in for. Nothing less or other than that.'

"'Whatever suffering it may cost you in your earthly life... whatever it cost Me, I will never rest, nor let you rest, until you are literally perfect--until my Father can say without reservation that He is well pleased with you, as He said He was well pleased with me. This I can do and will do. But I will not do anything less.'

"The goal toward which He is beginning to guide you is absolute perfection; and no power in the whole universe, except you yourself, can prevent Him from taking you to that goal. That is what you are in for. And it is very important to realize that. If we do not, then we are very likely to start pulling back and resisting Him after a certain point. I think that many of us, when Christ has enabled us to overcome one or two sins that were an obvious nuisance, are inclined to feel (though we do not put it into words) that we are now good enough. He has done all we wanted Him to do. And we should be obliged if He would now leave us alone.

"But this is the fatal mistake... The question is not what we intended ourselves to be, but what He intended us to be when He made us....

"Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on: you know that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently he starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of--throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were going to be made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself!"

So if we endeavor to be blessed or to have our prayers honored or to live free from sin's tyranny in our lives we must die each day to the self. Gal 5.24; 1 Cor 15.32; Rom 6.12-14

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Lessons from the Kill

It was dark as I was kneeling down over the doe that I had shot. The sun had set an hour before and when I knelt down over this life that I had taken I was transfixed for a moment. I have come to terms that the way of the earth is that death overcomes all of us. I was contemplating my own mortality as I stroked her neck. Someone once said no one leaves this life alive, and it is true. It is a humbling thing to pull the trigger on a deer, precisely because it reminds us that in order for life to continue death must also have its way. This is a spiritual lesson as well- without the death of Christ there would be no life for us.

There are those who like their meat to come on styrofoam plates, with all the blood soaked up by hidden absorbant pads. We like to think that our world is clean and sterile. It isn't. It is a rough and tumble world with all of nature "red in tooth and claw" as the poet said. We are the ones who bring the order to the chaos, who build the gardens, and subdue the earth. It is our call- as the representatives of God on the earth to do our best to guard the species that he has supplied for us to enjoy. And that is the perspective that I take- we are stewards of this earth.

The doe lay there cooling from her life. The haunting reminder of life's cost. It is, I suppose, natural not to think of her death as we partake of the life. So when I am eating my venison steak I will not be thinking long about this doe. And perhaps that is why Christ calls us to remember his sacrifice- lest we get caught up in this Life that he has given and forget him, and his sacrifice. Remember me- that is what he said.

I am thankful that the hunt ended with meat for my family, and a time of fellowship with family and friends. And in this thanksgiving time- I am thankful for all that Christ gave me-for no man took his life... he laid it down voluntarily.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Son of Man

Someone recently asked-I was wondering the bible calls Jesus son of man but also calls the prophet Ezekiel the same thing my question is why ?

Son of Man is an expression that is unique to the culture of the Hebrews, we call this an idiomatic expression. Daniel (8.17) and Ezekiel (2.1) as well as Jesus are called the Son of man. In the plural the term ‘Sons of Men’ occurs and means men of low and high estates- in other words all of humanity. When it is used in the singular, as it is in Ez. And Dan., it is used to emphasize the individual in the created order of things. It is a term of humility and debasement. During the intertestamental times the term gained some strong messianic meaning (compare Dan 7), so that by the NT times the term Son of Man is used of the Savior Jesus. By this term he invoked a humility and a representative status. As a representative of mankind he became savior- suffering for us, dying for us, and , now, interceding for us.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Thanks- I think...

Thankfulness is a key christian virtue. Or is it a discipline? Yeah, I think it is a discipline. I think it is something demanding we are to do more than once a year- maybe more than once a day! It is key to handling stress and depression. So take a look at Sheila Mosse's list to see if you find a few additional things to be thankful for today.

Be thankful when you are feeling down, someone else is always worse off than you are.
Be thankful for small things to worry about, they give us practice for the big stuff.
Be thankful if getting old and fat is the worse thing that you have to worry about.
Be thankful for laughter... as long as it doesn’t break anything.
Be thankful we don’t have to pay for sunrises or sunsets as we could never afford one.
Be thankful for having too much work to do, that’s job insurance.
Be thankful you are free to vote your choice... even if there is no choice worth voting for.
Be thankful for friends even if they are aggravating. They probably feel the same way about you.
Be thankful for uncertainty as it gives you more time to make a decision.
Be thankful when you make a mistake that you can always blame someone else... or the dog.
Be thankful that if you don’t have time to wait, you can wait until you have more time.
Be thankful when someone says you are wrong. It gives you a chance to prove otherwise.
Be thankful that you have right to say what you think, especially when what you think isn’t worth saying.
Be thankful that the best things in life are free. This gives you more cash to spend on the other best things.
Be thankful that if you can’t avoid making a mistake you can at least avoid repeating it.
Be thankful that there are always things to smile about – even if you sometimes forget what they are.
Be thankful for needs that are met, especially if they are met in way different than what you expected.
Be thankful for finishing last because you have more opportunity to do better the next time.
Be thankful for sticky stuff, greasy spots, and blemishes, they help us remember we are not perfect.
Be thankful for stress - it motivates us to make changes.
Be thankful there is always enough blame to go around, so you can share it if you need to.
Be thankful for the fast lane; it gets the people that are speeding off your bumper.
Be thankful to see things as they might be instead of the way they are.
Be thankful for animals; they help us to remember that we are human.
Be thankful we don’t always get what we deserve, as what we deserve may be worse than what we get.
Be thankful that when you’ve seen it all and done it all, that you don’t have do it again.

Monday, October 29, 2007

In praise of Autumn

There is something amazing about the crispness of the air in the autumn. It congers up memories of walks in the woods, fireside chats, and deer hunting. I am reminded of camping trips from my youth, and hearty meals of stews, chili, and homemade soups. I suppose if we took a vote- autumn would be the second highest voted season. When else is a cup of coffee taste that good. When else is a walk so invigorating than through the cool air of the fall day.

I like letting my car warm up- it sort of paces the day. I like the crispness of the fallen leaves and the way the wind blows and swirls them into piles. I like the fact that the grass and even some flowers are still bright with color as if they are making a last stand against the impending weather change. I like the way my dog, who sat lifeless in the summer sun- now springs alive with the quickening in the air.

I like football and the beginning of hockey season the sounds of the stout and hearty playing pick up games in the park near my house. I like starting a fire in the fireplace and curling up in front of the TV with a blanket to keep the chill off. Who doesn't like flannel pajamas? Who doesn't like Hot Coco ... with marshmellows? And what of cider and the apple harvest and hayrides and on and on. To distain the fall-ness of fall- well, it would be unamerican!

No this autumn is worthy of praise- of admiration- of appreciation! Breath deep of its crisp air!

Thursday, October 25, 2007


Parenting is a difficult job. When I think back on it I remember knowing that I was in over my head from the get-go. Fortunately, we had our kids young -and that helped because we were used to staying up all night. I made a lot of mistakes as a father. I spanked the wrong kids, screamed and yelled way to much, I disconnected too often from the family, and was moody often. But I did somethings right too. Among the things I did right were the following.

We ate together every night (even when I ordered pizza on Fridays). This gave us face to face time that ministry and the life of my children couldn't infringe upon.

We celebrated family things alot. B'days, holidays, and special times were guarded so that ministry didn't eclipse them.

I had a date night with my wife most weeks. This put the family in perspective. And, while my kids did their share of demanding things from their folks, the marriage always came before the family.

I was there- for the softball games, the hockey games, the times they wanted to talk.

I tried very hard to keep my promises. I tried to represent Christ to them well-and failed. But at least they know that I am genuine and not fake. What you see is what you get.

There is a lot I would do different. I'd stress a lot less; I'd pray together a little more; I would spend more time reading to them when they were little.

They turned out well. Probably more to their mother's doing that to mine- but I am proud of all my kids. They - each one in their own way- seek to make impact on society. It is a source of pride in the purest sense. Somehow- they found their way to Faith and success.

Thank God! If your in the throes of parenthood- don't give up. It will make a difference to your kids, to the Lord, and to the world we live in.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Gutsy Guilt by John Piper

The closest I have ever come in 26 years to being fired from my position as a pastor at Bethlehem Baptist Church was in the mid-1980s, when I wrote an article for our church newsletter titled "Missions and Masturbation." I wrote the article after returning from a missions conference in Washington, D.C., with George Verwer, the head of Operation Mobilization.

Verwer's burden at that conference was the tragic number of young people who at one point in their lives dreamed of radical obedience to Jesus, but then faded away into useless American prosperity. A gnawing sense of guilt and unworthiness over sexual failure gradually gave way to spiritual powerlessness and the dead-end dream of middle-class security and comfort.

In other words, what seemed so tragic to George Verwer—as it does to me—is that so many young people are being lost to the cause of Christ's mission because they are not taught how to deal with the guilt of sexual failure. The problem is not just how not to fail. The problem is how to deal with failure so that it doesn't sweep away your whole life into wasted mediocrity with no impact for Christ.

The great tragedy is not masturbation or fornication or pornography. The tragedy is that Satan uses guilt from these failures to strip you of every radical dream you ever had or might have. In their place, he gives you a happy, safe, secure, American life of superficial pleasures, until you die in your lakeside rocking chair.

I have a passion that you do not waste your life. My aim is not mainly to cure you of sexual misconduct. I would like that to happen. But mostly I want to take out of the Devil's hand the weapon that exploits your sin and makes your life a wasted, worldly success. Satan wants that for you. But you don't!

What broke George Verwer's heart back in the 1980s, and breaks mine today, is not that you have sinned sexually. It's that this morning Satan took your 2 A.M. encounter—whether on TV or in bed—and told you: "See, you're a loser. You may as well not even worship. No way are you going to make any serious commitment of your life to Jesus Christ! You may as well get a good job so you can buy yourself a big widescreen and watch sex till you drop."

I want to take that weapon out of his hand. Yes, I want you to have the joyful courage not to do the channel surfing. But sooner or later, whether it's that sin or another, you are going to fall. I want to help you deal with the guilt of failure so that Satan does not use it to produce another wasted life.

God Makes a Way
The backdrop of Colossians 1-3 is Colossians 3:6: "On account of these the wrath of God is coming." Hanging over the whole world is the holy, just, unimpeachable anger of God at sin and rebellion. His wrath is coming, and the salvation spoken of in Colossians 1-3 is the only rescue from it. No one wants to meet the wrath of "the Lamb" when it comes (Rev. 6:16). So God in his mercy provides a way out.

Christ did something in history before we existed that obtained and guaranteed our rescue and the transformation of all who would come to trust in him. The distinctive and crucial thing about Christian salvation is that Christ accomplished it decisively, outside of us and without our help. When we put our faith in him, we do not add to the sufficiency of what he accomplished in covering our sins and achieving the righteousness that counts as ours.

The clearest verses on this point are Colossians 2:13-14: "And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the Cross."

Those last words are the most crucial. God set aside this record of debt that stood against us, nailing it to the Cross. Make sure you understand this most glorious of all truths: God took the record of all your sins—all your sexual failures—that made you a debtor to wrath. Instead of holding them up in front of your face and using them as the warrant to send you to hell, he put them in the palm of his Son's hand and nailed them to the Cross.

Beautiful Substitution
Whose sins were punished on the Cross? The sins of all who despair of saving themselves and trust in Christ alone. Who was punished on the Cross? Jesus. That is the beautiful thing we call substitution.

Paul wrote in Romans 8:3, "By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh." Whose sin? Ours. Jesus had none (only the likeness of sinful flesh, not sinful flesh). Whose flesh? Jesus'.

Have you ever wondered what the next verse, Colossians 2:15, means? Right after saying that God nailed the record of our debt to the Cross, Paul says, "[God] disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him." This is a reference to the Devil and all his demonic hosts. How are they disarmed? How are they defeated?
They have many weapons. But they are disarmed of the one weapon that can damn us—the weapon of unforgiven sin. Be sure you see the connection between Colossians 2:14 and 15. In 2:14, it says God nailed the record of our debt to the Cross. It's punished. It's finished. And in the next breath, it says that God disarmed the rulers and authorities. He triumphed over them. Sure, they can beat us up, tempt us, scare us, and accuse us, but they cannot damn us. That weapon is out of their hands. Only unforgiven sin damns. And that was nailed to the Cross.
Many see so little of the beauty of Christ in this salvation that the gospel simply sounds to them like a license to go on sinning. If all my sins are nailed to the Cross, then let's all sin that grace may abound (Rom. 6:1). Paul confronted that blindness in his own day and said, "Their condemnation is just" (Rom. 3:8). The reason they will be condemned is that we are saved by grace through faith. This faith connects you with Jesus so that his death counts for your death and his righteousness counts for your righteousness (compare Rom. 5:1, "by faith," and Rom. 8:1, "in Christ"). This faith receives Christ. It's not an adding to what Christ has done. It is a receiving. Saving faith receives Jesus as Savior and Lord and the Treasure of your life.

This faith will fight anything that gets between it and Christ. The distinguishing mark of saving faith is not perfection. It is not that I never sin sexually. The mark of faith is that I fight. I fight not with fists or knives or guns or bombs, but with the truth of Christ. I fight anything that diminishes the fullness of the lordship of Jesus in my life. I fight anything that threatens to replace Jesus as the supreme treasure of my life.

So if all you can see in the Cross of Jesus is a license to go on sinning, then you don't have saving faith. You need to fall on your face and plead that God would open your eyes to see the compelling glory of Jesus Christ.

I haven't mentioned justification, but it is very closely related to the work of God in nailing our sins to the Cross. Justification is the act by which God declares us not only forgiven because of the work of Christ, but also righteous because of the work of Christ. God requires two things for our right standing before him: (1) Our sins must be punished, and (2) our lives must be righteous. But we cannot bear our own punishment, and we cannot provide our own righteousness (Rom. 3:10).

Therefore, God, out of his immeasurable love for us, provided his own Son to do both. Christ bears our punishment and performs our righteousness. When we receive Christ as the Savior and Lord and Treasure of our lives, all of his punishment and righteousness is counted as ours (Rom. 4:4-6; 5:1; 5:19; 8:1; 10:4; Phil. 3:8-9; 2 Cor. 5:21). Justification conquers fornication.

False Hopelessness
Being armed with biblical knowledge of God, Christ, the Cross, and salvation can give such ballast to the boat of your life that the wind of temptation will not be able to tip it over easily. The reason this is not a popular remedy for temptation today is because it is not a quick fix. It's the work of a lifetime.

You have a tremendous weapon against the Devil when you know your punishment for sin has already been paid in Christ and your righteousness before God has already been achieved in Christ, and you hold fast to these truths with heartfelt passion.

With this passionately embraced theology—the magnificent doctrines of substitutionary atonement and justification by faith (even if you don't remember the names)—you can conquer the Devil tomorrow morning when he lies to you about your hopelessness.I WIll Rise
What will you say to him? Micah 7:8-9 is a picture of what you say to your enemy when he scoffs at your defeat. I call this practice "gutsy guilt." The believer admits that he has done wrong and that God is dealing roughly with him. But even in a condition of darkness and discipline, he will not surrender his hold on the truth that God is on his side. Pay close attention to these amazing words. Use them whenever Satan tempts you to throw away your life on trifles because that's all you're good for.

Micah 7:8-9 is what victory looks like the morning after failure. Learn to take your theology and speak like this to the Devil or anyone else who tells you that Christ is not capable of using you mightily for his global cause. Here is what you say.

"Rejoice not over me, O my enemy." You make merry over my failure? You think you will draw me into your deception? Think again.
When I fall, I shall rise. Yes, I have fallen. I hate what I have done. I grieve at the dishonor I have brought on my King. But hear this, O my enemy, I will rise. I will rise.
When I sit in darkness, the Lord will be a light to me. Yes, I am sitting in darkness. I feel miserable. I feel guilty. I am guilty. But that is not all that is true about me and my God. The same God who makes my darkness is a sustaining light to me in this very darkness. He will not forsake me.

I will bear the indignation of the Lord because I have sinned against him, until he pleads my cause and executes judgment for me. Oh yes, my enemy, this much truth you say: I have sinned. I am bearing the indignation of the Lord. But that is where your truth stops and my theology begins. He—the very one who is indignant with me—will plead my cause. You say he is against me and that I have no future with him because of my failure. That's what Job's friends said. That is a lie. And you are a liar. My God, whose Son's life is my righteousness and whose Son's death is my punishment, will execute judgment for me. For me! And not against me.
He will bring me out to the light; I shall look upon his vindication. This misery that I now feel because of my failure, I will bear as long as my dear God ordains. And this I know for sure—as sure as Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is my punishment and my righteousness—God will bring me out to the light, and I will look upon his righteousness, my Lord and my God.

Falling Less Often
When you learn to deal with the guilt of sexual failure by this kind brokenhearted boldness, this kind of theology, this kind of justification by faith, this kind of substitutionary atonement, this kind of gutsy guilt, you will fall less often. Why is this so? Because Christ will become increasingly precious to you.

Best of all, Satan will not be able to destroy your dream of a life of radical obedience to Christ. By this Christ-exalting gutsy guilt, thousands of you will give your lives to spread a passion for the supremacy of God in all things for the joy of all peoples through Jesus Christ.

John Piper is the pastor for preaching and vision at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis. This article is adapted from a message delivered at Passion '07.

Mitt Romney? Your Kiddin, Right?!

Recently Dr. Wayne Grudem ( a prominent Evangelical Professor) endorsed Mitt Romney for the Rebumblican Presidential Candidate. I have trouble with that endorsement-especially while the Primaries are the only opportunity to craft a platform that will speak with any type of moral authority for conservatives. Dr. Grudem says that "the best predictor of future performance is a person's past track record"- and I agree. So let's take a look at what Grudem calls his "stellar performance".

"Stellar performance" in his record
Romney's entire political career has been built by catering to the eastern liberal establishment. That he is now attempting to remake himself into a conservative is suspect to say the least!

Mitt Romney has been a consistent pro-abortion politician since entering public life. His track record is there for anyone who wants to examine it. According to one well-researched account, "Mitt Romney has a long history of supporting pro-abortion candidates and causes, and aggressively sought the support and endorsement of groups such as NARAL and Planned Parenthood. Indeed, Romney is still listed today as a member of the Republican Main Street Partnership, a group supported by Billionaire leftist George Soros dedicated to shifting the GOP leftward on social issues such as abortion rights and stem cell research.

"Romney also has a history of assisting the careers of other prominent pro-abortion politicians. In the 1992 presidential race, Romney endorsed and voted for pro-abortion liberal Democrat Paul Tsongas in the Democratic primary and just three years ago endorsed and made a television ad for Democrat Salt Lake City mayor Rocky Anderson, a former Planned Parenthood attorney.

"As Governor, he issued state proclamations honoring 'Right to Privacy Day' which until 2005, specifically referenced the Roe vs. Wade case.

"Romney repeatedly took extreme stances on abortion throughout his career and consistently made statements such as this one: 'I believe that Roe v. Wade has been the law for 20 years, that we should sustain and support it . . .'"

"There simply is no doubt that Romney was one of the most pro-abortion Republican office holders in the country."

Further, on the issue of "gay rights," Mitt Romney's record is clear. He has consistently facilitated the radical homosexual agenda.

According to a World Net Daily report, "A website paid for and authorized by the Massachusetts Democratic Party has posted a picture of a flier reportedly passed out at a 2002 'gay pride' event by then-gubernatorial candidate Mitt Romney expressing support for homosexual rights.

"The flier, on red paper, claims to have been paid for by 'the Romney for Governor Committee and Kerry Murphy Healey Committee' and reads, 'Mitt and Kerry wish you a great Pride Weekend.'"

For Mitt Romney to now say that he "took every conceivable step within the law to defend traditional marriage" is an outright exaggeration.

On the subject of gun control, Mitt Romney promised that he would not change the gun laws in Massachusetts--a state that has some of the most draconian gun restrictions in the country.

In 2002, Mitt Romney said, "We do have tough gun laws in Massachusetts; I support them."

For the "dope" on Mitt Romney's leftist anti-gun record, see the Gun Owners of America's report:

Let's look at Romney's record on illegal immigration, Mitt Romney has supported with his own funds candidates who refuse to challenge the open boarders and didn't take any opportunity to address the issue in Massachusetts . We need to be careful that Republican politicians don't make dupes out of the so-called Religious Right.

What about his "superior intellect"?

Romney has a Law degree from Harvard Business School. But, as one freind of mine said- if he is not smart enough to know that he is a part of a cult, how can we trust him to run the country.
The obsurdities of the Mormon faith are many. Sacred underwear, becoming a god of your own planet, living near Kolob (a fictional star), the Temple, the garden of Eden is in Missouri (though the Tigris is in the MiddleEast), the curse on the dark skinned peoples who were less than valiant in the pre-existence, etc.

What is important to people of Biblical faith is no mystery. The sanctity of life remains highly important. It is also important that Bible believing Christians hold to conservative and originalist interpretation of the constitution which sees that faith, morality, and values can have an important place in this country. (As opposed to those redactionists who see a 'freedom from religion' instead of a 'freedom of religion'). Traditional Marriage is also important to those who hold to the faith. A commitment to the belief in personal responsibility, a strong defense, and a
fiscal responsibility usually make the list, too.

My concern is for those who want to back a "winner" against Hillary Clinton. Are we willing to sell out in the primaries- rather than vote our consciences? Is there really Biblical justification for settling, compromising, etc. Especially when there is a Huckabee running? People of faith need to send the message to the Republican party- that they aren't willing to be fooled again.

I think the more that we understand the political landscape - we will refuse to be taken on as a drone of the Republican Party. Rather we vote our consciences in the primary- at least. If the primaries still give us Romney then at least we have expressed out values to the party. In the end- nearly anything is better than a socialist in the White house.

What do you think?

Thursday, October 11, 2007

New Orleans Habitat Trip

Thanks for your prayers. As we went to LA we found a discouragement that was difficult to image. The devastation was so widespread that it was a bit overwhelming. As in the picture above- the black mold was everywhere. The trailer has been occupied for 2 years by some family that can't find a way to afford the fixes for the house. (Actually, in probably needs to be torn down- gutted at minimum) Sadly, families are waiting for funds from insurance companies and the government. But the funds trickle in slowly. Few are working on their homes. Many have abandoned their property. Gangs and violent offenders are making these areas a haven.

We only spent 4 days in NOLA but we worked hard to make life better for a couple families. It is really a drop in the bucket but we hope that it makes a difference.

Hearing God- Another Level

I don't know about you but there are moments that challenge me as a Christ follower. These are the moments- truly subjective moments- that are not about sinning or walking righteously but rather hearing the will of God - discerning it. These are two or three perfectly righteous possibilities, but the will of God may be a bit fuzzy. This is another level. Let me explain.

There is a fundamental level of following Jesus. Learning to adapt to and embrace the values of heaven. Living by the principles of scripture. Adopting a christian world view that values what God values. This is a difficult adjustment and, frankly, takes years to be reformed- to have, as the scripture says, our minds renewed. I have walked with God for 30+ years and struggle to embrace the values of a heavenly citizenship over and above those espoused by every media outlet and every person I meet on the planet.

But there is another level. This is the level that hears God. Prayer life consists of more than moments of devotion but of a lifetime of devotion. Prayer infultrates every cell of our lives. There is no longer a distinction between doing and being. The object of our affections becomes the fellow of our fellowship. But there is the challenge of hearing God in the everyday decisions. To buy this, to hire him or her, to live here (or there), to drive this car... what is God's will?

How are you at this spirit led lifestyle? Too many talk about the christian life as if it is a surrender to Biblical positions and subjecting ourselves to principles that are revealed in Scripture. But life is more than black and white- it is a walk with the Spirit. God help us to hear him in the everyday decisions.

Gal 5.25 "Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep step with the Spirit."

Sunday, September 30, 2007

What does Worship look like?

After the service last Sunday someone grabbed a member of the worship team and launched into a diatribe about how amplified worship music is a disgrace to the Lord Jesus and, somehow, less than biblical. This often happens at our church- because our worship is contemporary in style, expressive in character, and lengthy. Usually these kind of ignorant comments are meant to provoke an argument. I am proud to say that this worship leader responded in grace. People often equate their likes and dislikes with those things that God likes. This sort of "creating God in our own image" is an idolatry that is crafty and clever but is sinful nevertheless.

Now I grew up in a church with organ music, choirs, and hymnals. (By the way the organ has a built in amplifier!)I appreciate the worship from times of old. When William Booth took bar songs and put Christian lyrics to them he did so with the idea that he was making the deep truths of God relevant to sinners. Some have attributed the saying "Why should the devil have all the good music" to him. Few people quibble over Send The Fire or other hymns that he wrote, these days. Music is both an expression to God of the soul and the making relevant and accessible the truths of God to those who need reminding of his character and nature.

But what does worship look like?
1) Well- to the chagrin of this poor unenlightened congregant- Worship is Loud! While there are some who prefer their admiration of God to be quiet and mannerly, the Bible records powerful, loud worship as being the kind of worship that God inhabits. Praise, by its nature involves shouting at times. Indeed, one of the Hebrew words for worship is "Shout" (Josh 6.16; Ps 66.1) and believers are supposed to get loud in their worship- at least occasionally. Of course, it doesn't have to be deafening but there is a reason why they had choirs with many voices... volume!
But worship is more than volume.

2) Worship is biblical. I don't think we need an example here of the poverty of some theological impressions from the hymns, do we? Okay- read through Rise Up Oh Men of God (verses 2 and 3); or how about Near the Cross...
The point is our worship needs to reflect biblical truth. While there are great hymns there are also wonderful expressions of worship in contemporary music. Any one who says otherwise hasn't plumbed the depths of a song like Glory in the Highest
by Chris Tomlin

You are the first
You go before
You are the last
Lord, You're the encore
Your name's in lights for all to see
The starry host declare Your glory

Glory in the highest
Glory in the highest
Glory in the highest

Apart from You there is no god
Light of the world
The Bright and Morning Star
Your name will shine for all to see
You are the one
You are my glory

And no one else could ever compare
To You, Lord
All the earth together declares ...
Glory in the highest ... to You, Lord

All the earth will sing Your praise
The moon and stars, the sun and rain
Every nation will proclaim
That You are God and You will ransom

Glory, glory hallelujah
Glory, glory to You, Lord
Glory, glory hallelujah

I think in John 4 Jesus called it "worshipping in spirit and in truth". A generation died in the desert because their worship was impure in character. It might be incumbant upon us to pay less attention to musical style and more to the condition of the heart.

3) Worship is genuine. If flows from the heart and the form is less important than the function. I question whether someone who is bound and determined to dislike the worship of God has a real relationship with God. Worship is what we will spend the rest of eternity doing. I think some folks may be terribly uncomfortable in Heaven!
It also strikes me as a terrible hypocrisy to judge what only God can know- the intents of a fellow worshippers heart while the same is worshipping your Lord alongside you. Really- which one of these worshippers is responding with their heart? The offended pew sitter or the fully engaged demonstrative and boisterous charismaniac?

The desire of a man or woman after God is powerful stimulus to holiness. Many offer the simplistic worship of a submitted heart. They do it in many ways- bowing before God, hands lifted to heaven, dancing in joy, singing with all their hearts, yielding to will of God, tearful reflection and repentance, jumping and shouting, in English or in a prayer language- they genuinely desire to please God. Naysayers seem to forget that all those are biblical expressions of praise to God.

4) Worship is a subjective, spiritual, and experiential endeavor. God moved in the Scriptures as men of old prayed, sang in worship, and humbled themselves. In my home church there was a fella who played for the Vikings on most Sundays. He was so big I couldn't see around him when he stood to sing. But there is something powerfully humiliating and encouraging in seeing a pro defensive tackle humble himself before a mighty God. It is a metaphor for the rest of us. It is in worship- imperfect in all its variables- that God meets us. It was the primary requirement of the sons of Adam. It was the expression of worship that brought blessing and cursing upon Able and Cain. God was experienced in the context of altars of worship and prayer throughout the patriarchs lives. And in the NT the promise of re establishing the Davidic Tabernacle of praise (Act 15.15) reminds us that God is bringing the gentiles in to experience his manifest presence.

Every Sunday I remind myself that God has planned to inhabit these praises and that his glorious presence will be there from the first note on. Some say that they can praise God in "other ways" but God is no fan of 'strange fire'(Num 3.4). The Biblical pattern for praise and worship is best.

We dedicate about 1/2 of our service to this highest calling of man. Giving God the praise due his name is of equal or greater value than the Word of God. Andrew Murray wrote, "To worship is man's highest glory. He was created for fellowship with God: of that fellowship worship is the sublimest expression." No sermon can change a man with out the invited presence of God's spirit into the situation. Worship is more than a way of life- it is life; it creates life; it welcomes life; it changes lives.

A. W. Tozer lamented the lack of real worship in churches in his day. It has been a determined effort, with many confrontations with persons who would settle for a less than biblical experience in the church, but we continue to desire to follow God's express and clearly articulated will regarding worship. If that is not what someone is looking for in a church- if they want to dumb down worship- manage the Holy Spirit's presence- stifle the gifts of the Holy Spirit- or hinder the worship of others, then I invite them to leave our church. But if they have a teachable spirit and are submitted to Christ above all- then I invite them to enter in and experience the live altering presence of God in worship. They won't be sorry. I'm not.


Of Acorns and Oaks

I have become increasingly amazed at the power of parenting. Perhaps it is because as a a pastor I see this displayed over and again. Or maybe it is because I see my own children duplicate the traits and characteristics that their own parent displayed before them. (ouch)Whatever the reason, I am deeply convinced that we hold unimaginable sway upon the lives of our children. We create a future for them whether we understand that we are doing it or not.

That fact alone is enough to scare the pants off of most of us. We want things to be genetically engineered. Recent illicit attempts in the media to blame basic character issues on genetics have come up dry and been found wanting. There have been attempts to find a "faith" gene, a "gay" gene, and a "fat" gene. People are fat because they eat too much and exercise too little. People are homosexual because they choose that lifestyle (often due to childhood trauma) and they have faith because they choose to exercise it spiritually. As much as we would like to be a nation of victims we aren't predetermined in that way.

We react to the lives our parents lived before us- either positively or negatively. The littlest things in this fragile society send people spinning out of control. previous generations were a little thick skinned compared to our current fragility. These were pioneers. But alas, this generation is reacting to what it sees in its leaders and parents.

So What? Well it becomes increasingly clear that we need to live our lives in such a way that the Lord is glorified and the watching generations are not caused to stumble. Jesus was pretty hard on those who cause little ones to stumble. (Mt 18.6) For some reason we don't preach that verse to parents- but we should. Then maybe the parents would stop exaggerating, or living double lives in front of their children, or trying to manipulate these little lives instead of educate and motivate them. It might end childhood sexual traumas and abuse. It might create strong believers in all age groups because one thing is for sure- the acorn doesn't fall far from the oak tree.

Friday, September 21, 2007

The God Who Blesses with Wealth and Health!

I just finished reading Gordon Fee's little book "The Disease of the Health and Wealth Gospel". Fee is a renown exegete and scholar whom I respect highly. His years of expertise have given him a hearing in the scholastic word and his writings have proved to be informative for many in pastoral ministry. The fact that he has Pentecostal roots is an added plus. That is why it pains me to say that here Fee drops the ball- big time. The book turns out to be a critique of what I would call the hyper faith movement and their misuse of Scripture to preach a anthropocentric (man centered) gospel. Fee makes a number of statements that the reader will recognize as untrue in an effort to make his point. (Please understand that I am not in league with the hyper-faith movement here, but a critical examination of their texts cannot be accomplished by sloppy exegetical work on our part. The Biblical position is clear, if unwelcome in the academic world, and those of use who have given their lives to study the Word should hold steady on the doctrine of the Apostles- rather than to accommodate the lastest theological stream.)

The first is his insistence that The New Testament nowhere makes the blessings of God conditional. First of all, this is the kind of nonsense that you would expect to rise from the ivory towered institutions that seek to remove the reality of God from his people. Fee steps into this unbiblical position too smoothly, as if his opinion is more informed by the company he has kept these last years than the Word of God. The Scripture is clear- much blessing is conditional upon the acts of faith of the believer. We need only to look at a passage that Fee curiously avoids.

2 Cor 9.6 Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. 7Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.

This passage is written concerning the blessing of God on the finances of the believers and Paul is challenging them to dig deep. He specifically links their future blessing with their action. To say that there is "never" any "New Testament"
link of "God's blessing to our action" is untrue. Further, we are told in Hebrews 11 that real faith is defined as believing in that God who "exists" and "rewards those who diligently seek him". Of course the New Testament links some future blessing with our contemporary actions! And Specifically, the financial blessings of God are promised to those who "sow" sacrificially in giving to the needs of others. To define it otherwise is to deny the "plain meaning" that Fee has taught me to heed.

Again-Fee directs us to the passage in 3 John 2 Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well. Here he says that this is a greeting without much literal import. he says that at best "our prayers" for one another can be informed by this passage but it cannot be used to define the will of God for all believers. Hmmm.. so the inference that Fee would have us derive from this passage is that we should pray for things that are not God's will???? This is illogical. Clearly God does will for all to be healed... because in the place where his will is always done (heaven), there is no sickness, crying, tears, pain, death, etc. Therefore we may desire it for our friends (as expressed in this greeting in 3 John) or we may pray for it for our brothers and sisters. Inadequate interpretation of scripture doesn't make for a strong position- even if you are on the right side of the argument!

Finally, this idea that God is neutral with regard to material possessions is simply false. God judges the misuse of such possessions throughout the prophets in the OT. God uses material blessings in both the OT and NT to affirm and bless the believer. How can he be neutral? It is true that he is not impressed by the material possessions we have amassed. And the church is not suposed to be a place where the rich are favored, either. Fee says that "material possessions are a zero to God", but this is an extra-biblical assertion. It isn't found in the Bible! God cannot be unconcerned about something that he is holding us accountable for AND using as incentive in our lives.

Is the current fascination with health and wealth new? No, certainly not. God must be seen as a God who blesses. Specifically, he does so so that we may be a blessing to others (see 2 Cor 9.8 above). But he also wills our best, and that includes both healing and prosperity. Does this mean that God wants everyone to be rich? NO. Does this demean the NT warnings about those who want to get rich (1 Tim 6.9)? NO. But it does speak to every person in every situation. God does not want your poverty and oppression; he is not interested in working holiness in your life by bringing diseases upon you; he wants to craft in you the best you that can be crafted. Our submission to the will of God and his word demands that we respect him as the one who blesses us- who rewards us- who causes us to reap where we have sowed- who returns to those that give to the poor. This is our God- the God who blesses. He is anything but neutral!

What is my response to God's blessings? To hoard it? NO rather we should use both our wealth and our health to honor God in the lives of others. Giving Sacrificially, supporting the work of the gospel here and abroad, and living a simplistic lifestyle that commands respect among unbelievers. We must be careful to make sure that the flesh doesn't corrupt the blessings of God. This takes spiritual maturity and purposeful living in the Spirit. I am sure that Dr. Fee would agree.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

What is the Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit?

Jesus mentions a sin that is unforgivable in Matt. 12:31-32 and calls it blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. But what exactly is this unforgivable sin?

Matt. 12:22-32 says, "Then there was brought to Him a demon-possessed man who was blind and dumb, and He healed him, so that the dumb man spoke and saw. 23And all the multitudes were amazed, and began to say, "This man cannot be the Son of David, can he?" 24But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, "This man casts out demons only by Beelzebub the ruler of the demons." 25And knowing their thoughts He said to them, "Any kingdom divided against itself is laid waste; and any city or house divided against itself shall not stand. 26"And if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself; how then shall his kingdom stand? 27"And if I by Beelzebub cast out demons, by whom do your sons cast them out? Consequently they shall be your judges. 28"But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. 29"Or how can anyone enter the strong man’s house and carry off his property, unless he first binds the strong man? And then he will plunder his house. 30"He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me scatters. 31"Therefore I say to you, any sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven men, but blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven. 32"And whoever shall speak a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him; but whoever shall speak against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, either in this age, or in the age to come," (All Scripture quotes are from the NASB).

Jesus did His miracles by the power of the Holy Spirit (rather than out of his divinity) who had come upon Him at His baptism and had lead him into and out of the wilderness temptings. The Pharisees were a prominent group of religious leaders who held strong political influence in the Jewish community of the first century. The knew that Jesus' miracles validated His teaching and ministry (see John 11:45-48) and they were attempting to discredit Jesus' ministry (and thereby his role as Messiah) by saying that His works were by the devil and not by the Holy Spirit. Therefore, when the Pharisees accused Jesus of casting out demons by the power of Satan, they were blaspheming (slandering) the Holy Spirit by whom Jesus performed His miracles. This is unforgivable because they knowingly sought to slander what God was doing in order to protect their own influence. In so doing, they were alienating further those who so desperately needed salvation.

There is no biblical support for a believer committing this sin. If you are worried that you may have committed the sin and can’t be forgiven, then don’t be concerned. If you are worried about it, then that is a sign that you have not committed it. If you had, you probably wouldn’t be concerned about it.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Why Spirit Baptism is Distinct from Salvation

What doctrine of the church is more divisive than this one? People get mighty freaked out when you start talking about Spirit Baptism. I thought that I would address a few of the questions people have. Especially, those that I hav eencountered from friends in theological circles.

Many well meaning folks hold to this doctrine quite strongly. I will leave it to God to discern their motivations for doing so. My comments will be made upon the Biblical texts.

My first evidence of this secondary work of grace is that it comes to the disciples long after they believe. In John 1.12 we are told that all who "received him, to those who belived in his name, he gave the right to become children of God". But it is not until John 20.21-22 that we see Jesus reminding them of the need to receive the Holy Ghost. I don't believe that there can be salvation without the work of the HS and yet Jesus told his Disciples that they were clean (Jn 15) because of the word they had received.

The second evidence of the Baptism into the Holy Spirit is that Luke records the words of Jesus as strongly holding back the disciples from going into ministry because of the necessity of this experience. Luke records the promise after their minds and been opened to the Scriptures (24.45-49). It would seem unlikely that the Disciples that healed the sick, and cast out demons in the name of Jesus had not come to salvation by the faith they placed in him. Yet again in Acts 1.8 the, now resurrected Christ, tells them to wait for the HS on pentecost.

Thirdly, the oft confused Baptism by the Spirit (1 Cor 12.13) is the work of the Holy Spirit putting the believer into the body of Christ. In that passage the Spirit is the "baptizer", the body is the "element" whereas in the "element" in Matthew 3.11 is the Holy Spirit and the "baptizer" is Jesus. In Matthew 3 John the Baptist is prophecying the immersion of the believer into the power of the Holy Spirit. Paul's concern in 1 Cor 12 was simply to show that there was unity initiated by the Spirit's work.

In Acts 8 we are told that the Samarian Christians believed and saw miracles (v12) but that the Holy Spirit hadn't come upon any of them (v16). Taken at its face value this text seems to be insurmoutable for those who claim Spirit baptism is simultaneous with salvation. A similar issue is with the Ephesian Disciples in Acts 19.

We might also offer as evidence the lack of the manifestation gifts present in the churches whose theological underpinnings have limited Spirit Baptism to the salvation experience. While I might agree that all of us believers have been baptized BY the Holy Spirit- only some of us are Baptized INTO the Holy Spirit.

This would also explain why the apostle would ask the Corinthians to "seek" and "desire" the gifts of the Holy Spirit and encourage that "tongues not be forbidden". In Rom 8 we are told that the Spirit empowers the believer to pray God's will perfectly. Thus there is a necessity to pray in the Holy Spirit routinely. I have often found relief and blessing as I have prayed in the blessed Holy Spirit given language that he affords me. Too many neglect this crucial gift at their own spiritual peril. Pray in the Spirit is the command of the apostle to the Ephesian church- "With all kinds of prayers", he admonishes.

If you are not Baptized into the Holy Spirit, immersed by the Lord into the realm of the Spirits power, then Seek it, Desire the good gifts of God! If you are Baptized already then practice your prayer language every day. Build up your faith in the Holy Spirit.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

What is Church About?

Sometimes people tell me that they purposely come late to church services because they just want to hear the sermon. Let's talk about this mindset.

First- it is thoroughly unbiblical. Worship is a priority for believers. It is, of course, an attitude of thankfulness, gratitude, and giving praise to God. But it is demonstrated in acts of worship. Giving, singing, Clapping hands, raising hands, dancing, etc. These are all perfectly worshipful and bilbical expressions. Perhaps we need to examine our own hearts to see if there is an unbiblical understanding of worship. Standing piously, reflectively, etc. Can be worshipful but are not necessarily expereincing the full gamot of worship.

Second- it is selfish. Church is about receiving teaching in the Word of God- this is true. But it is also about giving. Giving out of your expereince and wisdom to others who are gathered and in need; using spiritual gifts; praying for one another; loving the lost and lonely, etc. The Selfish mindset that says "I just want to hear the message" displays that the speaker hasn't understood the idea of community OR his/her obligation to worship. SAD.

In our services we try to balance worship and teaching. Worship is a balance of our experiencing Gods dynamic presence and being taught from the Word of God. Each is given roughly 40 minutes in our services. Submitting our lives to the Spiritual Discipline of Worship is crucial to our development as a believer. It makes us balanced in our faith.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Sir John Polkinghorn on Theism

"...I do believe that theism explains more than atheism ever can. I believe that those who with honesty and openness are seeking understanding through and through, are actually seeking God whether they name the divine by name or not. Oddly enough, some of the questions that religion answers are ones that arise from science itself. They're not scientific questions in themselves, those questions we can safely leave to science to answer, but they are what philosophers call meta questions, questions which go beyond that from which they started.

And I've just time for one of them. It's this: Why is science possible at all? Why can we understand the physical world so profoundly? Not just the everyday world, which of course we've got to understand in order to survive in it, but, say, that strange quantum world of sub-atomic particles, cloudy and fitful in their behaviour, totally different from the world of everyday experience. Or at the other end of the scale of things, the vast world of curved cosmic space. Our human powers of understanding are very profound. It puzzled Einstein that this was so. You may remember, he once said, 'The only incomprehensible thing about the universe is that it is comprehensible.' So why is science possible on this grand scale? Physics explores a universe of great rational beauty that is also rationally transparent to us. Physics is happy to do so, but of course by itself, it is unable to explain its good fortune in being able to do it. I think that the physical world is shot through with signs of mind because there is indeed a divine capital-M Mind behind its wonderful order. "

Sir John Polkinghorn
Former President of Queen's College,
Cambridge University

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Why I am not an Atheist

While it is true that I was raised in a nominally christian home, I didn't come to faith in God until I was 18 and out of the house. My experience with God was not a rational one- by that I mean I did not philosophize myself to faith- but rather it was a subjective experience with God. While I realize that there are numbers of people who believe in God and haven't had the benefit of a "crisis experience" it does not diminish my own experiences and belief.

I won't bore you with the anecdotal story except to say that I do not hold to a vision of God that is removed and distant but one in which he is personally close and imminant.That he responds, in biblical fashion, to the prayers of those who love him. But surely there are those who haven't experienced my experience. When they (aggressively these days!) try to attack my belief system I give them some of the following reasons why I could never be converted to atheism.

#1 Atheism is unnatural. All men are religious creatures. Cultures all over the planet have gods. There gods might be different than my God, but they represent the inherent nature of man's quest for truth, meaning and significance. This can be seen even in the scientists who argue for a strictly rational view. For instance, in Carl Sagan's anthropomorphisms. (An anthropomorphism is when we speak of an inanimate object as though it carried the character of a human being.) While some paint that as innocent nuance of language- I would argue that this is provoked by the innate personality of the universe. Since all mankind was created with that inborn hunger to know God (though men settle for desperate substitutes) it stands to reason that we were designed that way.

#2 Complexity. I simply do not have the faith necessary to believe that all that is came together without divine direction. I may not speak authoritatively on HOW creation happened but I am convinced that the guiding hand of God was in the mix. To believe otherwise is impossible for me. If I gave you a 36x12X24 inch box and filled it with screws and parts- hundreds of them- how many times would it have to be shaken before they assembled themselves into a DVD player? Similarly the complexity of the human machine is WAY more complicated and Infinitely more advanced than a DVD Player.

#3 Morality. The Atheist has no basis for his morality. That is not to say that I am only moral because I know that I will face an eternal judge someday. What I mean is that the definition of what is right and wrong is woven into the fabric of mankind. And, while the conscience can be seared, most of us know that stealing is wrong, that murder is a crime, that rape is not acceptable behavior, that genocidal killings are a bad idea, etc. The atheist has to find a pragmatic reason to refrain from stealing my bread when he is hungry. He may justify in his mind that I have much and he has none, or that mine is better than his stale crust. But in the long run there is not a compelling reason not to steal my bread. But faith in God implies that I am not to reduce myself to the worth of a loaf of bread. That there exists another avenue of supply- that the universe is not closed but open to various possibilities, among them hard work!, that will provide me with bread.

#4 History. Christians are responsible for building hospitals, for changing the penal system to include reform rather than punishment, mandatory education,for medical research grants,etc. Who are the famous Atheists you know? Marx, Neitzche, Stalin, Hitler, Gengis Khan, Mao? They have left a trail of bloodshed and genocide. (often they proclaimed equality or genuine concern when really they were living luxurious lifestyles) If the argument is that atheists don't have to be bad I probably agree. But that might not make them good, consistant atheists. Who would you rather have running the universe a consistant follower of the teachings of Jesus or a consistant atheist?

#5 Evil. Its existance becomes increasingly undeniable. Evil is the absence of good. Brain chemistry, poor socialization, psychological formation, etc cannot alone explain why some love their neighbor and others rape, murder and bury them in their back yard.

#6 Jesus. The highest and most noble teacher of mankind. His historicity is undeniable (even by the harshest critics) and his influence is even more clearly seen. His followers have sometimes represented him poorly. But writing off Christianity based upon that would be like judging the validity of a brilliant professor's teaching by asking questions of a pot smoking drop out from one of his courses.

So I will attempt to represent (imperfectly to be sure) the God who loved the world enough to send his Son to die for them. And while it would be nice at times not to care about those dying in Peruvian earthquakes, those abusers of children, and those destroying their lives on crack cocaine-I can't simply write it off as natural selection. I have to believe- and therefore- I have to try to make a difference.



Saturday, August 18, 2007

Why Accomodate Islam?

TWe are seeing a continual capitulation to Islam by our Universities. University of Michigan at Dearborn has installed footbaths so that Muslim students can wash before the there prescribed prayer events 5 times daily. Hmmm no church and state seperation for these federal funds? Boston University, Cal State-Fullerton, University of Wisconsin at Madison, Washington University at St. Louis all have installed them as well.

At a time when Christianity is being vilified in the US the ACLU is silent regarding the expenditures above. What is the church to do?

1. We need to become the kind of people who embody faith in our living. It is simply impossible to combat the faith lived out. Without vitriole or hatred of anyone we simply need to live for Christ.

2. We need to be vocal about the hypocrisy of institutions like the ACLU and the questionable expenditures by our schools.

It is the will of God that all those who follow the false revelations of Mohammed come to Christ. Let us pray that the power of Christ will break the veil off of the eyes of these unbeleivers (2 Cor. 4.4). In my estimation praying against Islams darkness is the only accomodation that we should involve ourselves in.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Real Repentance by RH Boll

There are many who will half-way repent. They come across--almost, not wholly. Something rouses them out of their sinful slumber--they are troubled--they feel the pangs of conscience and become alarmed--they make good resolutions; then relapse into their old ways. Now repentance, to be worth anything, must be real. God's call is to "break up your fallow ground, sow not among thorns." Your salvation is at stake in this matter. When you really turn, when you really come, your God stands ready to receive you. Yea, He will see you when you are yet a great way off, and run to meet you.

The marks of a true repentance are simple and unmistakable. 1. As, to purpose of heart--there is a clean returning from sin and idols unto God; without if or but, without compromise or mental reservation. There may or may not be a show of tears or sorrow for "godly sorrow worketh repentance not to be repented of"; but the essence of true repentance lies in the turning. All the sorrow in the world is worthless if it does not lead to turning; and if a man turns he need not worry about the sorrow.

2. Repentance is always humble; so much so that the two things (repentance and humbling) are spoken of interchangeably. "Seest thou how Ahab humbleth himself before me; I will not bring the evil upon him in his days." It is pride that prevents men from acknowledging their sins, and from turning openly and wholeheartedly to God. And pride and repentance cannot be in the same heart. But a broken and a contrite heart the Lord will not despise.

3. A truly repenting man never makes excuses or tries to justify himself. If there are mitigating circumstances God will plead them for you. But your confession must be excuseless. In the parable of the Prodigal Son we have a wonderful picture of simple and genuine repentance. When the Prodigal in the far country "came to himself" he said, "How many hired servants of my father have bread enough and to spare, and I perish here with hunger: I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven and in thy sight; I am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants." And thus, with that honest and excuseless confession upon his lips he came to his father. Imagine what it would have been if he had said, "Father, you know how young folks are--you were young yourself once; and like most young fellows I was rash and foolish, but I didn't mean any harm," etc. That would have been the best proof of a false and insincere repentance. But he came not so. He told the simple truth (and God is ever looking for truth in the inward parts) and stated the case as it was. And there was a welcome for him, and the best robe, and a joyful feast in the father's home--for "there is joy in heaven among the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth."

4. True repentance will make full restoration, where restoration can be made. "Lord, half of my goods I give to the poor," said Zaccheus the publican, overcome by Christ's loving condescension toward him--"and if I have wrongfully exacted aught of any man I restore fourfold." Instantly the Lord Jesus acknowledged the man's action and attitude, and said, "Today is salvation come to this house, forasmuch as he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of man came to seek and to save that which is lost." (Luke 19:9, 10.) There are, alas, many sins and wrongs for which no reparation can be made. But where it is possible true repentance will always make it. If you have slandered your fellow-man, fear not to correct the false statement you have made about him, lest you should be looked on as a liar in the sight of men. It is better to save your soul than to save your face. If you have stolen or defrauded, return what you have wrongfully taken; and don't stand back on what people will think. There are far worse things than man's reproach. And those who have done so will tell you how greatly it pays in joy and inward peace and deep satisfaction.

5. True repentance, moreover, is always unto God. Paul preached "repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ." Since all sin is sin against God, repentance must be toward God. It will not do to say, "I am going to turn over a new leaf--I will quit my evil habits, and be a better man," as often we hear people say. That is not repentance. If the Prodigal Son in the far country had said--"I see I have made a mess of things; I will now try to retrieve myself, and go here or there or yonder, and start life over again"--that would not have been a picture of repentance. Some of the proudest self-will and fiercest rebellion against God wears the guise of moral reform. But it was from his father that he had departed; against his father's love he had sinned; back to his father he must go with humble confession. Says the prophet of God, "Seek ye Jehovah while he may be found; call ye upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return unto Jehovah, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon." (Isaiah 55:6, 7.) It is not only that to God you must return, but with Him only can you find mercy, forgiveness, help, sustenance, and the enabling to a new and worthy life.

Well said!

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Absolute Lordship

Jer. 18.6 "Like Clay in the hand of the potter, so you are in my hand"

"It's my life... I can do what I want? Right?" WRONG.

Jeremiah learns this lesson clearly as he watches the artisan shape and form the clay. The Clay has no vision, no desires, no preferences and no agenda- unlike you and I. The Clay is shaped after an image that only the Potter can see. His handiwork will display that great work of art that is his vision for your life.

We like to complain about timing, and circumstances and difficulties but the Potter is the one who will shape us. His vision guides our lives and shapes our hearts. Learning to yeild to the Artisan's touch is the key. Listening to his voice is the soul work that we must do. Knowing that he is the Potter and we are the clay- that his vision - no matter how elusive or difficult or strange to our limited senses- that Divine vision of what we will be shapes us.

He shapes us for a destiny that he has envisioned. This is not small potatoes! It is the handcrafted wonderwork of God himself. You will be fitted and meet for his purpose as you understand that his Lordship shapes you.

God forgive our willful lives- our objections to your vision, which we have yet to see it is fulness. Guild our submission to the pressure of your hand, and the perfection of your eye. We submit to your Lordship- in Jesus' name. Amen.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

First Step to Freedom- Repentance

Repentance is the first step to take in our freedom in Christ. But repentance can be falsified. There is such a thing as a counterfeit repentance.Real repentance turns to God from sin. It is a conversion (Acts 3) of thinking and attitudes toward the sin that we ahve fallen into. It is humble. It doesn't make excuses or blame - on the contrary it takes full blame for the sinful actions (Ps 51). It is godward in its focus ( Is 55.6), though it makes restitution to offended men where it can (Luke 19.9).

False repentance compromises on one or another (all?) of these steps. The danger in a quick repentance is that it doesn't fully grasp the heinousness of the sin. When that happens, we tend to fall into the sin-repent- sin- repent cycles that we are so familiar with. Real repentance sees the demonic destruction that is underlying the sins of the flesh. It, therefore, develops a contempt for that sin. That contempt becomes a hatred that serves as a boundry between the beleiver and casually falling into that sin again.

Unfortunately, we have people who think they are christians in our churches that demonstrate by their lifestyle, that they are not yet converted to God's point of view on various areas of their lifestyle. They walk in and out of the church with impunity while living in sin- not realizing that God has promised to spit them out of his mouth, and not taking seriously the offense that they cause to God personally.

Ultimately, repentance is a gift that we are given by God. To gloss over it lightly or to take it presumptuously is to miss the point of grace. Grace is supposed to lead us into freedom. Without that freedom we have no joy.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Signs of Burnout

Avoid the Crash and Burn - by Mike Gillespie Group Magazine

Some people wear it like the purple heart, others struggle with it while denying its existence. Regardless, you're never as effective in ministry when you're burned out as when you're not. Learn the six warning signs of burnout before it creeps up on you.

Learn to Recognize the Six Warning Signs of Burnout

I've logged 18 years as a youth minister—18 years learning to outsmart a ministry nemesis that's claimed many of my friends. That enemy is burnout. Two decades ago, I scoffed at the possibility; now I don't. That's because I've paid a high price for ignoring the warning signs of burnout in my ministry. As you read my story, take a moment to evaluate your ministry. Remember, if you think you're safe from burnout, you're probably its next victim.


Early in my ministry, I was sure hard work was all I needed for success. I felt confident because I already had a good work ethic. Because of my naiveté, I didn't realize the church will let you work as many hours as you want. There's always something more to do. A 45-hour week quickly stretched to 50, then to 60, then … I thought I could be everything to everybody.

I was particularly vulnerable at youth council planning sessions. We scheduled retreats, lock-ins, and trips with little recognition on my part of what it'd take to pull them off. The kids loved that about me, so I succumbed. My favorite refrain: "Sure, we can do that." One summer, I committed to participate in five group trips and lead two week-long children's camps. "Sure, I can get it done." BUNK!

I'm learning to work smarter, not longer.

ASK YOURSELF: Am I obsessed with getting it all done? Is hard work a sign of successful ministry to me?

_____YES _____NO _____SOMETIMES


How many times in the last six months has a church member said, "You look tired." Hey, there's no hiding it. All those all-nighters, retreats, program planning meetings, and visitation trips add up. It surfaces in your posture, your eyes, your energy, and your enthusiasm. It roars out at people you work with in the form of irritability, sarcasm, and cynicism.

I've leaned to appreciate people who tell me when I look tired. I take it as grace. I get some rest, lighten my calendar, and recommit to my exercise routine. I understand that I'm no good to anyone when I'm tired. Excuses such as "That's what ministry is all about" are simply dumb. Recently a youth group member bluntly told me, "Hey, you look tired. Get some rest." I did. It helped. I'm psyched again.

ASK YOURSELF: Do people notice that I'm tired a lot? Have I looked in the mirror lately and moaned, "I'm tired"?

_____YES _____NO _____SOMETIMES


All of us work with difficult people. Every church and every denomination has them. Sometimes I think God has "overblessed" me with them.

Difficult people demand a lot of attention. They're high-maintenance people. It takes patience and energy to respond well when they come at you with another passionate agenda. How you deal with them can indicate impending burnout.

I recall an intense father who had demanding views and a biting, sarcastic attitude. I worked with his two daughters. I monitored how I reacted to him. Sometimes I was highly effective and could work through his criticisms positively. Other times I was poisoned by his attacks, and lingering bitterness got the best of me.

What did I discover? It all had to do with ministry energy. When I was in "martyr" mode, I was much less effective with him. When I was energized, I never took his stuff personally.

ASK YOURSELF: Do difficult people often get the best of me? Do confrontations linger and absorb me emotionally?

_____YES _____NO _____SOMETIMES


When we balance our emotional, spiritual, and physical needs, we set in place a foundation for more effective ministry. Experience has taught me that spiritual needs are easy to neglect. That's why I started taking a yearly hiking vacation in the Colorado Rockies. God has worked on me powerfully on those back-country trails.

As youth leaders, we're always praying for kids, preparing Bible studies, preaching, and so on. And we expect we'll find nourishment by spiritual osmosis. That just isn't true.

To meet my spiritual needs, I must pursue prayer, reading, and quiet time apart from my ministry. If I don't, my kids know. How? I lead Bible studies like a dictator instead of with them. Group prayer times are legalistic and boring. And I'm pharisaical—I mean I go through the religious motions while neglecting the Holy Spirit's power.

ASK YOURSELF: Do I tend to overlook my own spiritual nurture? Am I feeding myself so little spiritual food that I'm unable to nurture others through my ministry?

_____YES _____NO _____SOMETIMES


If we don't pursue opportunities for professional growth, we grow stale. And when burnout is lurking, we lose interest in upgrading our skills.

Professional growth is important to me for two reasons: (1) I value professional relationships with ministry colleagues. When I plan activities or brainstorm ideas with friends, or when I join support groups, I stay fresh. (2) I appreciate good training opportunities. I use my continuing education allowance to upgrade my skills. I particularly like events that teach me new strategies, not just clarify what I already know.

I've not always put an emphasis on professional growth. I realize those were times when the burnout bug was like a tick trying to burrow in. Don't neglect opportunities for professional growth. If you do, that's a burnout warning sign. (Or worse, you think you know it all already!)

ASK YOURSELF: Do I see professional growth as just another impossible expectation that must be sacrificed for "the important stuff"?

_____YES _____NO _____SOMETIMES


Have you learned that ministry needs always take priority over personal needs? Then you're in for troubled times.

I know you could use "take up your cross and follow me" as debate ammunition. But I also know that, at times, I've neglected myself, my family, and my friends. And I believe that's a sin. What a joke—we punish the people we love most to do God's work. That's stupid theology.

If you make ministry your mistress, you'll fizzle quickly. I'm grateful I learned before it was too late that God's hopes for my ministry aren't the same as my own expectations. But I've paid dearly for neglecting myself, my family and friends.

ASK YOURSELF: Do I neglect my needs because of ministry demands? Do I neglect my family or friends because the church needs me?

_____YES _____NO _____SOMETIMES

Mike Gillespie is a veteran youth minister who's grappled with burnout throughout his career. He lives in Kansas. This article first appeared in the July/August 1996 issue of Group Magazine.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Still the hardest thing I do...

Not sure why this is, and it certainly doesn't sound spiritual, but in the interest of honesty I have to admit-Prayer is still the hardest thing I do. Don't get me wrong or think that I am in some fleshly way- I love prayer. God's presence is unmistakeably number one in my book. I love it. It is awesome. The presence of God is amazingly comforting when I am down, a fountain of wisdom when I am dry, and my therapist when I am in crisis! Yet the path there, into the presence, getting myself to go there on a regular and consistant basis takes alot of work.

Today I took a prayer break, began saying something like," here I am Lord, I want to glorify you in every are of my life... I want you to be pleased with the things I think, do, and say... " As I whispered those thing in a heartfelt manner to God with my eyes closed... I fell asleep. WHAT! that can't be true. I can't imagine falling asleep while talking to my wife... but I did it to God! TO GOD!

When Jesus was angry with his disciples failure to keep up in the prayer room, he reminded them that though the spirit is willing the flesh is weak. My body, AND my sinful nature conspire against me being Godly upon occassion.

Perhaps it is the limitation of humanity. Perhaps it is my own foible. Or perhaps it is common- I don't know. I just know that having a consistant meaningful prayer life is the hardest thing I do... EVERYDAY.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007


Someone once asked me the difference between the ministry and a "regular job". Ha! I guess the fact that the question was worded like that tells us that there are differences. Obviously, the minsitry is often 24 hours a day on call, has irregular hours, has an unusual intimacy, and, rather than existing to make a profit, it exists to reach and heal the souls of men and women. Recently we have had so much transition around the church that we have experienced almost every kind of transition imaginable. When Pastors transition there are certain variables that are unique and often misunderstood.
When a pastor has a moral failure it is important to work for the redemption of the soul. While one can work for IBM and the morality of his behavior "on his own time" will not affect his job performance, it is not so in the ministry. A pastor is hired to be not only a teacher but and example of the christian life. When there is a moral failure, it shatters the trust level of individuals in the congregation. But that is largely because the pastor himself has fallen from grace. If the violation of God's morality is deep enough, termination is required. Fortunately, in our denomination, we have overseers who act on the ministers behalf to provide counsel, healing, and restoration at the proper time. When a minister submits to this restorative track for his life it is a sure sign of repentance and a clean break with his sin.

What is hard for people to grasp sometimes is that, for a number of reasons, a pastor cannot remain in the congregation he has ministered to while in rehabilitation. He needs to replant himself in another church body and submit himself to spiritual leadership because he has fractured the trust of those he worked with and he needs a fresh start. When the minister refuses to fully repent from his sin the bible has some strong direction for us. We are to (1) make sure that there is a legitimate sin involved - that it isn't just a rumor 1 Tim 5.19(2) refuse to have fellowship with any one who calls himself a brother but lives a sexually immoral lifestyle 1 Cor 5.11(3) we are to pray for the restoration of that person from afar(Gal 6.1)- knowing that it is impossible for our words to renew such a one to repentances (Heb 6.6). When any brother continues in sin and calls himself a brother we exclude him from fellowship so that the Lord's will may be worked out in his life. (1 Cor 5.1-5)That breaking process is not easy bu necessary.
Other Resignations
Often, even when a minister steps down for other reasons it is awkward for them to remain in the fellowship where they have served. It can be awkward for both them and the person who steps in to take his place. How does one refer to a resigned pastor- do you use the title if they no longer fulfill the job? Is it a sign of disrespect to call him "Bob" when he used to be Pastor Jones? And what about those awkward questions that parishoners ask. ("What was the real reason...?) It is cumbersome to say the least. If there was a difference of opinions- and the subordinate pastor found it impossible to remain in the leadership position it should be assumed that there is no warrant for that person to stay under the authority of the local sr. pastor. But what about the times an associate pastor thinks he has heard from God and announces his resignation only to find out that the other congregation now has changed their minds? It can be humiliating.

Sometimes the public reason given by the associate pastor at his announcement of his resignation isn't the full reason. The Church would never knowingly deceive but some matters are personal. We like to know all the "dirty details" of the situation- but usually that doesn't promote a healthy spirit. Often a brother or sister resigns for reasons that they are not completely sure of. It has happened here that some who have been in sin didn't make disclosure to the local leadership. To say the least- none of this happens at IBM, or TARGET, or Walmart. There is no crossing of the lines between public and private like there is in the ministry. That is why transitions can be painful. But it is also why ministry pays eternal dividends and Target doesn't. There is a commitment on all parties to love and serve and share their lives. God moves in that place where there is that kind of unity. But when that relationship has to be separated - it is painful.

God jealously guards the body. The greatest sin would be that of causing division in the local body of believers. Probably more so, than any immorality. Jesus warned that it is better to have a millstone tied to your neck and be cast into the sea that to cause a young one to lose faith.(Mt 18) So too we must prioritize the health of little ones. Sometimes parents are guilty of venting their displeasure with a certain pastor or leader in front of their kids- this causes deep spiritual damage. Honesty and candor can be balanced by the need to know in the lives of young ones. Some people even foolishly think their children are emotionally ready to handle scandalous details- there is a whirlwind that will be reaped for tainting the souls of the young. Even some adults have difficulty handling the fact that men and women of God are, ultimately, men and women. Their failures- though devastating and disheartening- are to be expected at some level.(Luke 17.1ff)

In the Assemblies of God, it is the practice of all ministers to leave the congregation when they no longer serve there(the exception may be in retirement). Since transition is hard for church members (who have become very emotionally attached) it is freeing for the new ministers to have a clean slate with which to work. And since the AG pastor's credentials are given by the local district, they are the ones responsible for the restoration of the local pastors who need it. They also work to strengthen and re educate those so gifted.

All this is so that the health of the congregation can be maximized and that there is little or no spiritual hinderance as the result of a staff transition. As much as we hate to see transition- we must take God at his word and believe that he is guiding the steps of our churches, we must pray for leadership, we must trust that God is moving us forward and that (Rom 8:28-29) in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

God give you grace,