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Tuesday, December 25, 2012


“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” (Revelation 1:8 ESV)

I am studying through Revelation for my devotional time and did a little research today on the phrase, 'the Alpha and the Omega.'  Here is what I found.  
Jesus is the first and the last; the beginning and the end and everything in between.  John's point is that Jesus is the beginning of all history as the Creator and also the goal for whom all things are made (Col 1:16).  All history is about Him, directed by Him and is moving toward glorifying Him.  Summed up, he is the center of all things.  My initial reaction to these thoughts were, is he really the center of my life?  In what ways or areas of my life is he not the center?  Then it moved to, 'is he the center of the life of every person who call CCC, the church I pastor, home?'  If he is not the center, then when He comes, we will not face him as a Father but as a judge (Rev 1:7).  That concerns me as I ponder the spiritual lives of the people God has called me to pastor.  I am concerned that within this spiritual community called Christian Community Church, there are those who profess Christ but do not really possess Christ.  Jesus, make yourself known as the Alpha and Omega by opening eyes to see and ears to hear what it really means to put Christ as the center of our lives,  what it means to have saving faith.  

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Fiscal Cliff Is A Diversion: The Derivatives Tsunami and the Dollar Bubble - PaulCraigRoberts.org

The Fiscal Cliff Is A Diversion: The Derivatives Tsunami and the Dollar Bubble - PaulCraigRoberts.org

Joy Comes to the Rescue



Stumbled across this today from Jonathan Parnell.
Your heart matters. It really, really matters.
The heart, after all, is the "noble faculty of the soul," as John Flavel explains in his 1668 publication now titled, Keeping the Heart. Most generally, the heart refers to the inner man, and most importantly, a person's everlasting state depends upon its condition.
Writing in a style more practical than sliced bread, Flavel exhorts Christians to give their hearts upmost attention. Be diligent in heart-work, he says, which eventually translates into two things: 1) preserve the soul from sin; and 2) maintain sweet communion with God (18). Said another way, repent and believe; or mortify and vivify; or put off and put on. This work is "one great business of a Christian's life."

The Hour of Temptation

After stating his case and laying a strong foundation, Flavel rolls up his sleeves to describe specific seasons in life that require our upmost care in this keeping labor. The ninth "season" is the hour of temptation, and this is where it gets wild.
How does Flavel urge Christians to stay Christian in the midst of temptation?
Answer: pleasure.
His advice begins with our understanding the nature of sin. He writes, "Satan suggests that there is pleasure to be enjoyed; the temptation is presented with a smiling aspect and an enticing voice" (89). Flavel goes on to mimic this enticing voice that rebukes the Christian for being so dull. Temptation is full of name-calling, you know. Oh come on! You're not like that, are you? Are you so boring that you can't have a little fun? And a thousand other lies.

Reader, Be Rescued

As if placing his hands on our shoulders, Flavel writes: "Reader, you may be rescued from the danger of such temptations by repelling the proposal of pleasure." See what Flavel did here: we avoid the danger of temptation by repelling its proposal of pleasure. And how we repel temptation's proposal of pleasure is by clinging to the hope of a greater pleasure.
Flavel again:
But why should the pretended pleasure of sin allure you, when you know that unspeakably more real pleasure will arise from the mortification than can arise from the commission of sin? Will you prefer the gratification of some unhallowed passion, with the deadly poison which it will leave behind, to that sacred pleasure which arises from fearing and obeying God, complying with the dictates of conscience, and maintaining inward peace? (90)

For Maximum Joy

There is a greater pleasure than the empty-promise of sin. It is "that sacred pleasure," as Flavel calls it. It is the life of fearing and obeying God, of believing the truth that God himself is enough, satisfying our deepest desires. And the only way, John Piper explains, to defeat the power of sin's promise is with the power of this superior promise. The crux of temptation, then, is the object of our faith: Do we trust in the lies of sin? Or in the sufficiency of Jesus? This is the fight of faith, as John Piper writes,
Faith is not content with “fleeting pleasures” [see Hebrews 11:24–26]. It is ravenous for joy. And the Word of God says, “In your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11). So faith will not be sidetracked into sin. It will not give up so easily in its quest for maximum joy. . . .
Our chief enemy is the lie that says sin will make our future happier. Our chief weapon is the truth that says God will make our future happier. And faith is the victory that overcomes the lie, because faith is satisfied with God. (Future Grace, 335, 336)
Keeping ours hearts means giving ourselves over and over again to "that sacred pleasure." It's when, in that moment of temptation, real joy comes to the rescue.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

God Exists - The Most Significant Implication


Here is a section from a sermon, I Am Who I Am, by John Piper, found here,  that I was reading this morning.  

Or as Francis Schaffer never tired of saying, God is there. At first this may seem so obvious and so basic that we wouldn't need to mention it. Well, it is obvious and it is basic, but the reason we should mention it is that most people live as if it were not true, or as if it were a truth that makes no difference in life.
Suppose the president of the United States invited you and a few of your friends to the White House for a reception. As you enter the cozy green room, the president is sitting by the fire place and you walk right by him without a glance or a greeting. For the whole evening you neither look at him nor speak to him nor thank him nor inquire why he called you together. But every time the one reporter asks you if you believe in the existence of the president, you say, "Of course." You even agree that this is his house and that all this food came from his kitchen. But you pay him no regard. Practically speaking you act as if you do not believe he exists. You ignore him. He has no place in the affections of your heart. His gifts, not himself, are the center of your attention.
The vast majority of people who say they believe in God treat him this way. He is like hydrogen. You learned once in school that it is in the air you breathe, but after that your belief in it has made no difference in your life. Every time someone takes a poll, you say, "Of course, hydrogen exists." Then you return to things that matter.
Put yourself forward a few years to the day when every human being will give an account of himself before the living God. God will say to millions of people, "Now it is my understanding that you said often during your life that you believed in me. You affirmed my existence. Is that right?" "Yes." "And is it not true that in your life the more honor and importance and virtue and power and beauty a person had, the more regard he was paid and the more respect he was shown and the more admiration he received? Is that not the case?" "Yes." "Then why is it that I had such an insignificant place in your life since you say you believed in me? Why didn't you feel more admiration for me and seek my wisdom more often and spend time in fellowship with me and strive to know the way I wanted you to make all your everyday decisions? Why did you treat me as though I were like hydrogen?"
What, I ask you, what is the world going to answer? What are thousands of so-called Christians going to answer, whose faith in God is virtually the same as their faith in hydrogen?
O how easy it is going to be for God to condemn the world at the judgment! Sometimes in our self-asserting pride we actually think that God is going to have trouble finding enough evidence to be just in sentencing people to hell. But if you allow yourself to think clearly for a moment about the overwhelming implications of the statement, "God exists," you will see that it is going to be very easy for the Judge on that day. The defendants will be utterly speechless because of the manifest inconsistency of their lives. The portfolio of the prosecuting attorney will not have to be opened beyond page 1 where it says, "Defendant affirmed that God exists; personal life lived as though God made no difference."
Contained in the name Yahweh is the first and most important truth about God: he exists. And for those who will stop pursuing their own glory and their own private pleasure long enough to consider it, that makes all the difference in the world.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

7 Things a Pastor's Kid Needs from a Father


A helpful post from the son of a pastor who has left a mark on me.  Found it here.Pastors, your position is a demanding one, and those demands bring unique struggles on your family. A pastor's wife bears a great burden, but she usually enters into the ministry willingly. A pastor's children, though, are carried on the current of their parents' calling. It is often a life of singular struggle and uncommon needs. These struggles often stem from the failures of the father. This isn't to cast full blame on pastors for their children's problems. But it is to say that pastors need to work to be good dads.

My own father has worked hard at this. He had his blind spots and weaknesses, and they have been a source of tension between him and me. But to this day, in his 33rd and last year of pastoral ministry, he has never stopped trying to be a better father. As I wrote this I thought of his failures, yes, but I also thought of successes. Lots of them. I also thought of dozens of conversations with fellow PKs about such struggles and their own relationships with their fathers. So know that my writing does not stem from bitterness of heart or some jaded desire to expose a good man's faults. I love my dad. My desire is to see struggles avoided or defeated for other pastors and PKs.
So here are seven of the most significant ways a pastor can be a good father to his children. Pastors, your child needs . . .
1. A dad, not a pastor
Yes, you are called to pastor your family, but PKs want a dad---someone who plays with them, protects them, makes them laugh, loves their mom, gives hugs, pays attention, teaches them how to build a budget and change the oil and field a ground ball. We want committed love and warmth. We want a dad who's not a workaholic. It's hypocritical to call your congregation to a life of love, sacrifice, and passionate gospel living while neglecting your own family. If a mortgage broker or salesman works too much at 60 hours a week, so do you. Leave work and be present for your kids. Your children will spit on your pastoring if they miss out on your fathering.
2) Conversation, not sermons
Sermons are an effective way to communicate biblical truth to a congregation, but not to your kids (or wife). Preaching at your children will stunt their view of Scripture, dull their interest, and squelch what passion you are trying to stir. Speak TO your children about the Bible in a way that's interesting, applicable, and conversational. Help them see the Bible as a normal part of life. Rather than teach lessons, imbue your conversation with biblical worldview to help your children shape their life lenses. That way they'll think they, too, can interact with this important book. Sermons at home separate them from the Word by implying that only the learned can understand it.
3) Your interest in their hobbies
Jonathan Edwards may be your homeboy or Seth Godin your muse, but your first-grade daughter doesn't give a flip. Her love language is playing Barbies and dancing to Taylor Swift. Your son wants to build a Lego fort, beat you soundly at Modern Warfare on Xbox, or learn how to run a 10-yard out pattern. Your hobbies are yours alone, but engaging your children's interests speaks love that matters deeply to them.
4) To be studied
It gets harder to share time with kids as they get older. So study them as hard as you study your Greek lexicon. They're more important, anyway. Would your high school son appreciate going out to pizza with you or chilling on the couch and watching college football on a Saturday afternoon? Does your teenage daughter want you to take her shopping or to coffee? Maybe they don't want recreation but just help---so talk through their friend challenges or algebra problems, whichever are the most pressing. LEARN these things, even if it seems like there are no right answers. Teenagers are hard; they treat parents like idiots all the time. But these acts, when done consistently, add up. Make them a pattern so that when your kids are done thinking you are a moron they have a path to walk with you.
5) Consistency from you
No one can call hypocrisy on you faster than your kids (and wife), and nothing will undermine you in the home faster. If you stand in the pulpit on Sunday and talk about grace after spending Friday and Saturday griping at your family, grace looks awfully cheap and unappealing to your son in the second row. If, however, you treat your son as if you need his grace and forgiveness for your crappy attitude, it may open a door to God's grace. (And use phrases like "crappy attitude"; it sounds more like you actually know what you're apologizing for.)
If you act like the great shepherd in the pulpit but the hired hand who runs away at home, your children will see church and all it entails as phony because you are phony. If you encourage a life of joy but are morose or exhort your people toward a life of sacrifice but are lazy and spendthrifty, nobody will notice faster than those in your home. To your family, your interactions with God and them are far more important than your Sunday sermons.
6) Grace to fail
Pastors speak much about grace. It is the basis of our salvation and the source of hope. But when the rubber meets the road, do you offer enough of it to your children? PKs feel enormous pressure to be "good" and to be confident in all things biblical. But we are often not good and often lack confidence in biblical realities. We sin and doubt like everyone else, but when we do, the road to restoration and peace often feels like an impossible one to travel. Are we allowed the same grace to fail and to doubt (assuming you preach grace to your congregation)?
7) A single moral standard
One of the graces PKs need is a single moral standard. Too many PKs feel the pressure of their fathers' priestly profession in our moral lives. The pastor and elder qualifications in 1 Timothy and Titus feel like a threat: "If you screw up, your father not only looks bad, he will be out of a job." But those standards are the same ones that every Christian should be held to (other than the ability to teach). Nobody else's dad is at risk of being unemployed if his kid is rebellious, but mine is. The additional pressure to be morally upstanding does not help my heart. It creates a convoluted soul environment in which temptation to rebel and temptation to be a hypocrite battle the desire to honor Jesus and my dad.
You have heard that it was said PKs should be holier than their peers, and their parents should raise them better, but Jesus says to us all, "Be holy for I am holy." So it should be.
Barnabas Piper (blogTwitter) works in marketing and acquisitions at Moody Publishers in Chicago. He is the son of John Piper.

Monday, December 3, 2012

The Great Tragedy of the 2012 Election


I found this post here.

A great tragedy unfolded less than one week ago on Tuesday, November 6, 2012.

The tragedy was not found in the celebrations of elected officials or the concessions of defeat. It was not colored red or blue, and it wasn't wrapped up in meaningless campaign promises.
The tragedy of the 2012 election is that in this land of the free and home of the brave, many people were not allowed to vote. Their voices were silenced. Their votes were not cast. Their opinions not expressed. Why?

Because they were dead.
The great tragedy of the 2012 election is that roughly 33 million would-be voters had been murdered. From 1973 to 1994, roughly 35 million babies were aborted. That's roughly 35 million 18- to 39-year-olds who could not vote from the grave.
This is an unspeakable tragedy.
They did not have the chance to learn what makes our nation so great. They did not have the chance to watch the results roll in with their friends and family. They did not have the chance to rest their heads on a pillow in the land of the free.
But this tragedy is not over.
In 2016, roughly 5 million more voices will be unheard. Why? Because more than 3,500 babies will be killed today. And each day leading up to Tuesday, November 8, 2016. In the three minutes it takes you to read this article, seven babies will have been aborted in the United States of America. Their voices silenced. Their freedom robbed. Their bravery unknown.

Close to Home

This is a tragedy that hits close to home. When I was 19, I chose to end the life of my first child through an abortion. My friend and I were in a scary place, we didn't plan to get married, and we had nowhere else to go. So we opted to end the life of our child.
That child would be 16 today. They'd be excited about driving a car and, in just a couple of years, they'd be excited about voting. But they won't be doing any of that. We won't be sitting down together as I explain how to think about policies and the candidates who represent them. I won't be able to tell them about freedom and justice for all. I took that freedom away with my injustice.
I cannot undo what I've done in the past. None of us can. Only Jesus, who shed his blood for sinners like me, can heal those wounds. Jesus gives us great hope in the midst of this tragedy, and all the other tragedies we face in this life.

Refuge in Jesus

If you have committed an abortion, I want you to know there is a refuge in Jesus. He will heal your wounds. There is no sin so great that he cannot forgive and no sin so small that does not need to be forgiven. If you will confess your sins and turn to him in faith, he will wash away all your guilt and all your shame. Come to Christ.
If you support abortion, I encourage you to spend time in prayer and ask God to show you if abortion pleases him or not. Ask a Christian to help you learn what God's Word says. I know you already have deeply rooted ideas. I did too. But I encourage you to take the time to read what God says about life and who has the right to give and take it away. I encourage you to start with Psalm 139.

Difficult Choice

If you are a Christian, be patient with those who view things differently. But also speak truth in love to those who are in need. Find ways to help those who are struggling through unplanned pregnancies. Investigate options for adoption and invest in the lives of those who are facing difficult choices.
I have on my wall a picture of a 3-year-old boy in cowboy boots. He nearly wasn't with us today because his mother was in a difficult place. She was unmarried, pregnant, and scared. But my wife met with her, prayed with her, and took her to a Christian doctor who showed her the baby in her womb through a sonogram. That young mother had the courage to keep her child.
That young boy's smile reminds me that God can save children, one at a time. He does this by using his people to come alongside the struggling to lovingly show them the Christ who can walk them through any terrifying situation---even an unplanned pregnancy.
I believe the only hope to turn the trend of this tragedy is for people to turn their hearts toward the God who made them through the way paved by his Son Jesus. Jesus changes hearts, and changed hearts can change a nation. May God give us grace as a country, and may God give us courage to stand up in the midst of this tragedy so that, if he tarries, many more will cast votes in 2030.
Lord Jesus, we need your help.
Garrett Kell is married to Carrie, and together they have three children. He serves as pastor of Del Ray Baptist Church in Alexandria, Virginia.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Cox and Archer: Why $16 Trillion Only Hints at the True U.S. Debt

From the WSJ online.
Hiding the government's liabilities from the public makes it seem that we can tax our way out of mounting deficits. We can't.
By CHRIS COX AND BILL ARCHER

A decade and a half ago, both of us served on President Clinton's Bipartisan Commission on Entitlement and Tax Reform, the forerunner to President Obama's recent National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform. In 1994 we predicted that, unless something was done to control runaway entitlement spending, Medicare and Social Security would eventually go bankrupt or confront severe benefit cuts.

Eighteen years later, nothing has been done. Why? The usual reason is that entitlement reform is the third rail of American politics. That explanation presupposes voter demand for entitlements at any cost, even if it means bankrupting the nation.

A better explanation is that the full extent of the problem has remained hidden from policy makers and the public because of less than transparent government financial statements. How else could responsible officials claim that Medicare and Social Security have the resources they need to fulfill their commitments for years to come?

As Washington wrestles with the roughly $600 billion "fiscal cliff" and the 2013 budget, the far greater fiscal challenge of the U.S. government's unfunded pension and health-care liabilities remains offstage. The truly important figures would appear on the federal balance sheet—if the government prepared an accurate one.

But it hasn't. For years, the government has gotten by without having to produce the kind of financial statements that are required of most significant for-profit and nonprofit enterprises. The U.S. Treasury "balance sheet" does list liabilities such as Treasury debt issued to the public, federal employee pensions, and post-retirement health benefits. But it does not include the unfunded liabilities of Medicare, Social Security and other outsized and very real obligations.

As a result, fiscal policy discussions generally focus on current-year budget deficits, the accumulated national debt, and the relationships between these two items and gross domestic product. We most often hear about the alarming $15.96 trillion national debt (more than 100% of GDP), and the 2012 budget deficit of $1.1 trillion (6.97% of GDP). As dangerous as those numbers are, they do not begin to tell the story of the federal government's true liabilities.

Enlarge Image

David Klein
The actual liabilities of the federal government—including Social Security, Medicare, and federal employees' future retirement benefits—already exceed $86.8 trillion, or 550% of GDP. For the year ending Dec. 31, 2011, the annual accrued expense of Medicare and Social Security was $7 trillion. Nothing like that figure is used in calculating the deficit. In reality, the reported budget deficit is less than one-fifth of the more accurate figure.

Why haven't Americans heard about the titanic $86.8 trillion liability from these programs? One reason: The actual figures do not appear in black and white on any balance sheet. But it is possible to discover them. Included in the annual Medicare Trustees' report are separate actuarial estimates of the unfunded liability for Medicare Part A (the hospital portion), Part B (medical insurance) and Part D (prescription drug coverage).

As of the most recent Trustees' report in April, the net present value of the unfunded liability of Medicare was $42.8 trillion. The comparable balance sheet liability for Social Security is $20.5 trillion.

Were American policy makers to have the benefit of transparent financial statements prepared the way public companies must report their pension liabilities, they would see clearly the magnitude of the future borrowing that these liabilities imply. Borrowing on this scale could eclipse the capacity of global capital markets—and bankrupt not only the programs themselves but the entire federal government.

These real-world impacts will be felt when currently unfunded liabilities need to be paid. In theory, the Medicare and Social Security trust funds have at least some money to pay a portion of the bills that are coming due. In actuality, the cupboard is bare: 100% of the payroll taxes for these programs were spent in the same year they were collected.

In exchange for the payroll taxes that aren't paid out in benefits to current retirees in any given year, the trust funds got nonmarketable Treasury debt. Now, as the baby boomers' promised benefits swamp the payroll-tax collections from today's workers, the government has to swap the trust funds' nonmarketable securities for marketable Treasury debt. The Treasury will then have to sell not only this debt, but far more, in order to pay the benefits as they come due.

When combined with funding the general cash deficits, these multitrillion-dollar Treasury operations will dominate the capital markets in the years ahead, particularly given China's de-emphasis of new investment in U.S. Treasurys in favor of increasing foreign direct investment, and Japan's and Europe's own sovereign-debt challenges.

When the accrued expenses of the government's entitlement programs are counted, it becomes clear that to collect enough tax revenue just to avoid going deeper into debt would require over $8 trillion in tax collections annually. That is the total of the average annual accrued liabilities of just the two largest entitlement programs, plus the annual cash deficit.

Nothing like that $8 trillion amount is available for the IRS to target. According to the most recent tax data, all individuals filing tax returns in America and earning more than $66,193 per year have a total adjusted gross income of $5.1 trillion. In 2006, when corporate taxable income peaked before the recession, all corporations in the U.S. had total income for tax purposes of $1.6 trillion. That comes to $6.7 trillion available to tax from these individuals and corporations under existing tax laws.

In short, if the government confiscated the entire adjusted gross income of these American taxpayers, plus all of the corporate taxable income in the year before the recession, it wouldn't be nearly enough to fund the over $8 trillion per year in the growth of U.S. liabilities. Some public officials and pundits claim we can dig our way out through tax increases on upper-income earners, or even all taxpayers. In reality, that would amount to bailing out the Pacific Ocean with a teaspoon. Only by addressing these unsustainable spending commitments can the nation's debt and deficit problems be solved.

Neither the public nor policy makers will be able to fully understand and deal with these issues unless the government publishes financial statements that present the government's largest financial liabilities in accordance with well-established norms in the private sector. When the new Congress convenes in January, making the numbers clear—and establishing policies that finally address them before it is too late—should be a top order of business.

Mr. Cox, a former chairman of the House Republican Policy Committee and the Securities and Exchange Commission, is president of Bingham Consulting LLC. Mr. Archer, a former chairman of the House Ways & Means Committee, is a senior policy adviser at PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP.

A version of this article appeared November 27, 2012, on page A17 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: Why $16 Trillion Only Hints at the True U.S. Debt.

Worship Gatherings are not Always Spectacular, but they are Always Supernatural."


Found this at Take Your Vitamin Z today.
Worship gatherings are not always spectacular, but they are always supernatural. And if a church looks for or works for the spectacular, she may miss the supernatural. If a person enters a gathering to be wowed with something impressive, with a style that fits him just right, with an order of service and song selection designed just the right way, that person may miss the supernatural presence of God. Worship is supernatural whenever people come hungry to respond, react, and receive from God for who He is and what He has done. A church worshipping as a Creature of the Word doesn’t show up to perform or be entertained; she comes desperate and needy, thirsty for grace, receiving from the Lord and the body of Christ, and then gratefully receiving what she needs as she offers her praise— the only proper response to the God who saves us.
- Geiger, Eric; Chandler, Matt; Patterson, Josh . Creature of the Word: The Jesus-Centered Church

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Leading and Submitting


Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct. . . . For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. . . . Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.  (1 Peter 3:1-7 ESV)



I found this quote today in my file under husbands and wives so did not use it Sunday when I preached through 1 Peter 3:1-7 so I thought I would quote it here:

"The husband is to be willing to be crucified for his wife, and those husbands, who by the grace of God are able to truly love their wives in this way, as a general rule, don't have any problems with submissive wives, so wives submit and remember Christ submitted. Husbands love and remember Christ has loved. - John Chrysostom

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Israel, Gaza, and 'Divine Right'


Israel, Gaza, 'Divine Right,' and John Piper

The Story: After eight days of bloody conflict, Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas have agreed to a ceasefire, The New York Times reported yesterday. Five Israelis and more than 150 Palestinians have been killed along the Israel-Gaza border during the past week.

Such events raise typical and salient questions. Does Israel possess a "divine right" to the "Promised Land" in the Middle East? What is the "Promised Land," anyway? The interminable Israeli-Palestinian conflict has always been freighted with biblical significance; Israel, after all, isn't calling their anti-Hamas campaign "Operation Pillar of Cloud" for nothing.
But are such appropriations legitimate?
The Background: In 2004, John Piper, pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, delivered a sermon from Romans 11:25-32 titled "Israel, Palestine, and the Middle East." In it, he offers seven principles concerning the ever-contentious issue of "the Land":
1. God chose Israel from all the peoples of the world to be his own possession.
2. The Land was part of the inheritance he promised to Abraham and his descendants forever.
3. The promises made to Abraham, including the promise of the Land, will be inherited as an everlasting gift only by true, spiritual Israel, not disobedient, unbelieving Israel.
4. Jesus Christ has come into the world as the Jewish Messiah, and his own people rejected him and broke covenant with their God.
5. Therefore, the secular state of Israel today may not claim a present divine right to the Land, but they and we should seek a peaceful settlement not based on present divine rights, but on international principles of justice, mercy, and practical feasibility.
6. By faith in Jesus Christ, the Jewish Messiah, Gentiles become heirs of the promise of Abraham, including the promise of the Land.
7. Finally, this inheritance of Christ's people will happen at the Second Coming of Christ to establish his kingdom, not before; and till then, we Christians must not take up arms to claim our inheritance; but rather lay down our lives to share our inheritance with as many as we can.
Why It Matters: Wherever you land theologically or politically, the events of the past week mark yet another distressing development in the Israeli-Palestinian saga. This is a prime opportunity to pray. Pray for the Israelis, image-bearers of God, that they'd search the Scriptures and find life in the Savior (John 5:39-40, 46). May they discover that the meeting point between God and man is no longer a place---whether reconstructed temple or geographical partition---but a risen and reigning and soon returning Person (John 4:21-26).
Pray too for the Palestinians, image-bearers of God, that they'd turn in droves to Jesus the King. Pray particularly for our Palestinian brothers and sisters in the faith; there are, after all, far more Palestinian Christians in the Middle East than the news headlines imply.
May the Prince of Peace reveal what's been hidden (Luke 19:41-42) and bring everlasting shalom to a Land flowing with blood and hatred---with little milk and honey to be found.
Matt Smethurst serves as associate editor for The Gospel Coalition and lives in Louisville, Kentucky. You can follow him on Twitter.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Problem with My Old Church was . . .

By  

Photo by 55Laney69.

That’s a phrase you will only hear in the modern, western church – particularly in the United States. In first century Jerusalem, if you didn’t like the music, the Pastor, or the amount of perfume Sister Bertha wore, you had to stay and work it out. Where else would you go?
Old ChurchDisclaimer: What I’m about to say has nothing to do with people who are far from God. I’m writing it to people who claim to know Him well. Read on.
I’m not promoting the idea of having only one church in every community. I think God is blessing a movement of multiplying churches that are helping to fill the earth with the good news of Jesus. But the side effect of our multiplying efforts is applying of the same consumer mentality we use at the mall to the church.
When you plant a new church in a community with a lot of churches, like northwest Arkansas for example, you come into contact with people now and then who are “looking for something new” because of the problems they encountered at their old church. I’ve heard plenty, including…
  • We just didn’t feel connected… Sometimes this is a church problem. Sometimes it’s a me problem. Some people will connect in one good church but not another good church.
  • We didn’t like the ________. Plenty of words find their way into that blank. The kids’ ministry. The way they gave to missions. The way they asked me to be, like, generous and stuff with my money.
  • We couldn’t get along with ________The Pastor? The Deacons? Sister Bertha? Whoever it is, our inability to reconcile broken relationships with other Christians is a shame. It’s a bad witness, and going to another church never solves the problem. It just transfers it.
  • We just weren’t getting fed. My favorite. As a Pastor, I usually translate this in my head into plain English… “We didn’t really like the Pastor, or the music, or the volume of the music. But the easiest thing to do is blame the Pastor for not ‘feeding’ us.” To this last one, I so often want to ask how long the person talking has been a Christian. If it’s a year or more, my next question would be, “When will you grow up enough to feed yourself?” Nonetheless…
If you, as a Pastor, play into these kinds of complaints, you’ve created a problem that will almost always come back to bite you, usually in a year or less. You’ve attempted to “sell” how much better your church is. You’ve hurt the brand of the church in general. And you’ve set the table for people with unreachable expectations, which is a Pastor-killing problem to begin with. Don’t do it. Instead say…
  • Oh, I’m a big fan of your old church and your old Pastor! You may not know him, or them, but that’s irrelevant. We’re in this thing called the kingdom together.
  • You may not like it here either. Because, if you complained about the music volume there, it will be the room temperature here. Here’s a secret worth remembering: complainers don’t like churches. At least not for more than a year, and that’s okay. Four out of the first five books of the Bible were all about how God feels about complainers.
  • You should go back and work things out. This one isn’t my idea – it’s Jesus.’ He stated it in the sermon on the mount when he told us to leave our gift at the altar and go work things out. Reconciliation is a primary agenda to the heart of God. We can’t just skip it and hope everything will just work itself out.
  • When will you grow up and feed yourself, you big spiritual baby? Just kidding. Don’t say this, because frankly and sadly, there are plenty of churches avoiding and watering down God’s truth. Still…
  • You are welcome here, IF God is calling you to be on mission with us. At the end of the day, we respect the priesthood of the believer. I don’t presume to know God’s will for anyone, so everyone is welcome to discover it as they walk with God.
We have plenty of people that have helped us plant Grace Hills who came from other area churches. Most of them didn’t leave in a huff or after a split. They simply felt called to help and drawn to the vision we’ve continually cast. But our real heart, together, will always be for the broken, the sinful, the lost.
I don’t care why a person who is far from God wound up sitting in a seat in our movie theater on Sunday. I’m just glad they’re present. But for the scattered community of seasoned saints around us, I’d rather you stay put where you’ve been serving, unless God has called you to join the mission and embrace the vision of a new, multiplying movement of God.
Here’s the bottom line. The biggest problem with my old church… was most likely named Brandon.

© 2011 Brandon Cox.
Brandon Cox is a Pastor who is planting Grace Hills Church in northwest Arkansas. He also serves as Editor and Community Facilitator for Pastors.com and Rick Warren’s Pastor’s Toolbox newsletter. He authors a top 100 blog for church leaders. You can catch him on TwitterFacebookGoogle+, or LinkedIn.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Preparing for Sunday Morning Worship


From Davdi Mathis

Other Christians. Can't do corporate worship without them, and yet sometimes it feels like we can't really do corporate worship with them either.

How nice would it be if everyone would just mind their manners in weekend worship? So thinks our old self.

Let's admit it. We're tough on others, easy on ourselves. We assume others should give us the benefit of the doubt---which is the very thing we don't give to others.
She's the reason I'm distracted, the old self tells us.
If he weren't singing so loud---and so off key . . . 
If they would just get off their iPads and smart phones. I'm sure they're all doing emails, or social media, rather than looking at the Bible text or taking notes.
We love to blame our neighbor, or the worship leader, for our inability to engage in corporate worship. But the deeper problem usually belongs to the one who is distracted. Few things are more hypocritical than showing up to a worship gathering of the Friend of Sinners and bellyaching that other sinners showed up too.

Checking Our Own Souls

If there is gospel etiquette for the gathered church, it starts with evaluating my heart, not their actions. Frustration with others' distracting behavior---whether in the pew in front of me, or on the stage---is deeper and more dangerous than the nonchalance or negligence that sidetracks others.
Of course, there are rare exceptions when someone really is totally out of line. Such as the guy who brought his own tambourine one week. But even in the occasional instance where someone's worship conduct is seriously out of bounds, what if we started by asking ourselves some hard questions?
  • If love covers a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8), might God be calling me to look past this distraction I perceive?
  • Am I really applying John 13:34-35 ("love one another") to fellow Christians in weekly corporate worship? If we can't apply John 13:34-35 when the church is gathered, are we really going to apply this elsewhere?
The principle of walking in line with the gospel (Galatians 2:14) in corporate worship looks like this: In grace consider others enough to refrain from distracting them, and extend grace to those who you find to be distracting. Here are a few suggestions for how to think well of and for others in corporate worship.
1. Arrive early.
Not only does early arrival keep you from distracting others by coming in late after the service has started, but it also enables you to greet others and extend to them a welcome as they arrive. Ain't no shame in coming early for some social time. God's happy when his children love each other.
Also, arriving early (rather than late) helps us remember that the whole service is worship, not just the sermon. Even though we'd never say it, sadly we sometimes function as if everything before the sermon is some added extra or just the warm up for the preaching.The worship really begins when the preacher ascends to his pulpit. It's fine if we miss the first few minutes of singing. No big loss.
2. Park far, sit close.
This is one practical way to count others more significant than yourselves, and look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others (Philippians 2:3-4). Parking far leaves the better spots in the lot for those arriving after you, and sitting close leaves the seats near the doors easily accessible.
3. Participate heartily.
"Heartily" is an attempt to communicate a balanced kind of engaged participation---not being a mere spectator and not being that guy singing with the out-of-control volume. The problem of over-participating speaks for itself (quite literally), but in regard to under-participating, note that you are actually robbing others of the value of corporate worship when you don't engage. Your presence is a part, and your voice is a part as well. The experience of corporate worship is enriched when all the attendees participate.
4. Smile.
I'm not counseling you to fake it or put on airs. Corporate worship is a time for gladness and excitement, not dourness and mere duty. Try to make the most of your morning before attending corporate worship, and let your gladness be contagious. Like George Mueller, seek to get your soul happy in Jesus, and ask God for help to spill over some of your soul satisfaction on others.
5. Stay late and engage others.
Come on the look for people, transition Godward in the worship gathering, and leave on the look for others. Some of the most significant conversations in the life of the church happen immediately after worship gatherings. Relationally, this is one of the most strategic times during the week to be available and on the lookout for
  • new faces you can make feel welcomed
  • old faces you can connect with
  • hurting people you can comfort
  • happy people you can be encouraged by.
Sometimes you just gotta go after a service. We get it. That's okay. There are special events, or unusual demands, or seasons of life with small, antsy children. But if you're bouncing out the doors every week as soon as possible after the services ends (or even before it's over), you're at least not making the most of corporate worship.
6. Come to receive from God and give to others.
This is the banner over all the other charges. Come to corporate worship on the lookout for feeding on God and his grace, and on the lookout for giving grace to others. Come to be blessed by God, and to bless others. Receive from him, give to them.
We're prone to get this backwards. We come to worship thinking that we're somehow giving to God, and we subtly expect we'll be receiving from others. We desperately need to turn that pattern on its head.
The God we worship is one not "served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything" (Acts 17:25). And when he came in the flesh, he did so "not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Mark 10:45). Beware coming to corporate worship to serve God. But by all means, come on the lookout to serve others. Worshiping God and building up others aren't mutually exclusive but come to their fullness together.
We give to one another as we together come to receive from God our soul's satisfaction. We kill both the vertical and horizontal of corporate worship when we come looking to give to God and receive from others.
David Mathis (@davidcmathis) is an elder at Bethlehem Baptist Church, Twin Cities, and executive editor at Desiring God. He writes regularly at www.desiringGod.org.

The Eternal Impact of One Question


What amazes me is to see the providential and extra ordinary work of God in the ordinary events of the day.  It was seventy years ago, a man from the Cakchiquel tribe of Guatemala asked missionary William Cameron Townsend a rude but crucial question. “If your God is so smart, then why doesn’t He speak my language?” God used that complaint to convince Townsend that every man, woman, and child should be able to read God’s Word in their own language. Townsend went on to found Wycliffe Bible Translators.   We have no idea how the ordinary events of our lives will impact our destiny or the destiny of those around us.  It could be a conversation or a question to a coworker, a friend or your child that may change the course of their lives!  Be aware that every day eternity is making its ways into our lives and the lives of those around us.  What could God be doing in your life today or the lives of those you touch? 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Stirring Each Other Up


And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
(Hebrews 10:24-25 ESV)

I have blogged and wirtten on this passage many tiems before; it is a favorite for how I see the church community relating to each other.  I ran across some old notes form a book I read by Larry Crabb, The Safest Place on Earth.  Several thoughts me as I decided whether to keep the notes, put them in electronic form or throw them away.  Here is the one that caught my attention.  This passage in Hebrews commands us to stir the flame of faith in others so that they can go through dark nights or pleasant mornings with their eyes fixed on an unseen reality.  Here are the rest:
  • Community does not equal church.  That is, just because a group of people are formed together and meet regularly does not mean that they are experiencing community.  Community is the place where God takes a group of people who are united behind a common vision, are open and honest with each other, are saturated in the word, and are willing to speak to each other in redemptive ways.  Our sanctification and final salvation are indeed a community project!
  • We are good at forming crowds, clubs, group, but not communities.  Formation of community is intricately hard and painful yet it is a creation of the Spirit.
  • We are not to do church but be the church.
  • God gives the Spirit and miracles both in them and among them not because they are clever to make it happen but because they revel in and are in dependance upon and learn to hear Spriit voice (Gal. 3:5).
  • Disappointment and confusion leads to openess.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Individualistic Christianity


For many years I took an individualistic approach to the Christian life. I was concerned about my growth as a Christian, my progress in holiness, my acquisition of ministry skills.  I prayed that God would enable me to be more holy in my personal life and more effective in my evangelism.  I asked God’s blessing on my church and the Christian organization worked for. But as I learned about true fellowship, I began to pray that we as the Body of Christ would grow in holiness, that we would be more effective witnesses to the saving grace of Christ. It is the entire Body–not just me–that needs to grow. Jerry Bridges

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Praying in the Spirit


Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.  And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. (Rom 8:26-27 ESV)
Wit so much confusion on 'praying in the Spirit,' Paul's description here is plain.  Praying in the Spirit is praying according to God's will, which is revealed by God's word!  

Yes, we had premarital sex while dating, but why did he commit adultery in marriage?


Ryan and Sally came in for counseling because Sally caught Ryan in an adulterous relationship. She was hurt and angry and the most important thing in the moment was to care for her soul.
While many things needed to be sorted out because of missing details, it was the pain she was experiencing that needed immediate counseling attention. Adultery is unlike most other sins because of the deep hurt it presses into a person’s soul and marriage.

Adultery is a hate sin

This sin has a unique aspect to it. If you sin normally, it’s between you and God. If your sin is adultery, it’s not just between you and God, but it trashes another soul too. But it’s worse than that–you are sinning against yourself because you and your spouse are one flesh.
Did you get that? Ryan sinned against himself, but the “himself” he sinned against was Sally because she is him–they are one flesh, not two people. Adultery is a strange sin.
In Ephesians Paul talked about how a lack of care for one’s spouse is a way to hate her. Some may recoil at the word hate, but that is God’s Word, not mine. The victims of adultery would not argue with Paul or God. It has the deep pain of hatred that is felt to the core of her being.
For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church. – Ephesians 5:29 (ESV)
After a number of sessions things began to level out and Ryan and Sally were being cared for, restored to God, and restored to each other. Part of the counseling process needed to have a preventative measure to it. I did not want them go back to this place again, but in order to accomplish this we were going to have to do some deep digging.
Sally certainly did not want it to happen again. Therefore, we had to think about why it happened and how both Ryan and Sally needed to change their views about God, each other, and their marriage.
One of the interesting things that came out of this conversation was how the adultery was not an anomaly, but a continuation of a lifestyle that had been in place for nearly thirty years. Let me explain.

The complexity of the sinning victim

Sally and Ryan have known each other since they were in high school. They both are in their late forties now. They began dating in their junior year of high school and separated briefly during college and resumed their relationship in full after their respective college graduations.
Essentially, they were dating for six years before they were married. During this time they engaged in premarital sex, what the Bible calls fornication. I was not surprised by this, which is why I always ask a couple going through adultery if they fornicated during their dating years.
In almost every case the couple had indulged in premarital sexual sin. Adultery usually has a tail that can be decades old. Adultery does not just happen. There are patterns, as well as a lifestyle that precedes the spouse hopping in bed with another person.
It was hard for Sally to hear she was part of the problem and part of the pattern in her husband’s life. While she was not responsible for his sin, she was grossly irresponsible during the dating relationship and during the marriage.
She never made this connection. As noted by the title of the article, somehow she had convinced herself that sexual fornication and sexual adultery were on different planes and had no relationship to each other.

The complexity of intellectual dishonesty

Truthfully, there is hardly a difference between sexual sin before marriage and sexual sin while married. Who wants to parse out those differences? It’s futile and wrongheaded.
Somehow she had compartmentalized their fornication and recast it as love. The adultery, according to her self-denial, was another story altogether. It was sin, wrong, harsh, uncalled for, against God, against her, evil, of the devil, and a few other condemnatory things.
While I agree on all her descriptors about what adultery is, I would also say those descriptors apply to fornication too. Her guilt before God is no different than Ryan’s guilt before God when it comes to their choice to commit sexual sin.
Do you think God would say, “Sally, your fornicating sexual sin before you were married is not as bad as your husband’s adulterous, sexual sin after you were married.”
There may be a difference in shades of black, but if you group one sexual sin as “better” than another sexual sin, you’re playing intellectual games, while trying to protect something.
Rather than Sally trying to set herself apart as a better sinner, lesser sinner, not-as-bad-as-him-sinner, it would be more honest for her to own what she did and seek to repent to God and Ryan. It would be wise and humble for Ryan to do the same.
The reason this is important is because it is honest and until they come full circle and deal with all the sinful sexual dysfunction in their lives, they will not be able to get real life-changing help.
You can’t divorce the sexual sin during the pre-marriage years from the sexual sin during the married years. They are contiguous and progressive. Sally wanted to think her husband loved her and they were making loveas teens.
She also wanted to think her husband did not love the adulterous woman and it was sinful sexual lust. She was right only on the latter assessment. Her husband was in love with himself when they were dating and that has never changed.

Rooting out the painful causes of adultery

If you would like to read the rest of this article click Fornication and Adultery and head over to our Member Site.

For further reading

I have written one eBook and other articles on the devastating short-term and long-term effect of sexual sin.
photo credit: pasukaru76 via photo pin cc