Monday, May 30, 2011

Summer Reading Suggestions

Lately I have been reading a lot and I believe many of the books that I am reading would benefit all of you. So I am suggesting that you add them to your summer reading list.

Summer Book Suggestions:

1. King's Cross: The Story Of The World In The Life Of Jesus by Timothy Keller http://timothykeller.com/books/kings_cross/

2.  For The City by Darrin Patrick & Matt Carter http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c4Pfii00MS0

4. The Milennials: Connecting to America's Largest Generation by Thom S. Rainer & Jess W. Rainer http://www.amazon.com/The-Millennials-ebook/dp/B004FV4R0O

5. Give Them Grace: Dazzling Your Kids with the Love of Jesus by Elyse M. Fitzpatrick & Jessica Thompson http://givethemgrace.com/

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Temptation and The Appearance of Sin

One of the number one things that makes the church look bad today and brings shame to the name of God is infidelity within its leaders. This was captured quite well recently at the Advance the Church conference when Darrin Patrick started his talk with a serious tone by saying, "We will never accomplish what it is we are trying to accomplish here if we as men can't keep our pants on."

Most of us hear a statement like that and we immediately agree, but what are we doing to practical avoid the temptations and appearance of evil? If you are a man like me you are typically dumb and you somehow allow yourself to get in situations that you should not be in that are not necessarily sin, but either the temptation is there or the appearance is there.

The truth is that in someway we all allow ourselves to get into these situations and many leaders in the church have allowed themselves to get into these situations far to long. The reason I know this is because of how often you hear of a pastor or church leader cheating on their spouse with their secretary, choir member, or anyone for that matter.

I was faced with this own reality recently as my wife and I have been juggling our schedules with our son and occasionally we have to find someone to watch him. This particular afternoon it was a young female that I work with that is old enough to drive, but does not have a car. We asked her to watch our son until I got off of work, but we had also agreed to give her a ride to work. There was a five hour gap between when I finished work, when the sitter needed a ride to work, and when my wife finishes work. So what am I to do?

Some would say that this would be a harmless situation. Maybe so, but the appearance of sin is there as if I spent the afternoon at home it would leave me and a female, who is not my wife, at my house for five hours by ourselves. Now, the reality is that nothing would have probably happened, but the devil is smart, much more than we give him credit for, and in the moment of temptation anything can happen. Either way it would leave the appearance of evil as it would leave the two of us behind close doors for an afternoon with everyone around to wonder just what happened during that afternoon.

So what did I do? I left the house and spent the afternoon in a coffee shop reading. Call me extreme if you like, but it allowed me to be intentional in avoiding temptation and the appearance of evil. Yes, it can be tough to do this sometimes and maybe even make you look a little weird, but in the long run it is worth it.

We know that the devil is our adversary and he delights when we bring shame to the name of Jesus, but by fleeing temptation through the power of the Holy Spirit it allows us to bring glory to the name of Jesus. So I want to encourage you to be intentional about avoiding the temptation of sin before it ever even gets there because it has serious implications for whether we bring honor or shame to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Freedom in Christ Alone!

*Part 4 of 4 on Galatians 5.1-6*
In Galatians 5:5 it tells us that those that are free live by faith through the Spirit. This shows us that we are to accept righteousness by faith through Christ, not by the works of ourselves. We point to the work that Christ did. The Judaizers on the other hand are practicing works so that they may obtain righteousness, which is something that will never end because it can not be obtained. Darrin Patrick described this well at Advance 11' in saying, "You are under the law and not grace when you take your moral performance and offer it as your reason for salvation, this is your flesh, and you need to kill it!

This entire passage has been pointing to the fact that we are free because Christ has made us free. We live through the power of the Holy Spirit working in and through our lives. We often recognize that the Bible teaches this, but we often communicate to God that we know better than Him and in essence communicate that we should be God.

We all have an internal problem of rebellion, sin, that no list of rules can help. It might help us look a little more moral and orderly for a time, but the reality is that we will still be walking aimlessly with no hope of salvation. But the good news is that Christ has made a way for us and our freedom in his life, death, and resurrection. And let me tell you that if you are attempting to mix the law and grace that you need to stop, repent, and turn to Jesus!

In turning to Jesus and away from sin, we see that you are made free. What verse 5 shows us is that although we are not righteous in our salvation, Christ's righteousness is given to us and we are now looked at as righteous. And what we are eagerly waiting for here is that even though we have received his righteousness we are waiting through faith for the completed righteousness that we will receive when we no longer battle with our flesh.

In closing, Paul shows us here that he is not one sided. It is not that he is against circumcision and for non-circumcision, but rather that he is all for Jesus as the way to salvation and nothing else. He basically says for the Gentiles not to boast in their uncircumcision and for the Jews not to boast in their circumcision because in the eyes of Christ both are irrelevant in terms of salvation. 

This brings me back to my original question in part 1, what might you be trying to mix with grace as means to your salvation? Or what might you be boasting in that is irrelevant in regards to salvation? Because whatever it is it is irrelevant and will never work, because as this passage shows us that salvation is in Christ Alone!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Freedom Depends on Grace: But Can I Lose My Salvation?

*This is supposed to be post 3 of 3, but has turned into post 3 of 4*
In Galatians 5 verse 4 we see a reemphasis on verses 2 that if you are relying on something external as a means of any part to your salvation then you are stuck in the bondage of sin because you have fallen from grace. Now, some have abused this verse and interpreted that one could lose their salvation, which is not true.

In fact, in this particular verse it has nothing to do with losing salvation. Rather it is referring to the principle of falling away from grace. It is pointing out that you cannot combine law and grace and in doing so you have cancelled out grace. So the key is to continually depend on grace that it may abound evermore.

To clarify this point, let's say there is an individual who has clearly heard the gospel, understands the gospel, but decides for whatever reason to reject the gospel. At that moment this individual has rejected the grace of the gospel that was extended to them. According to Hebrews 6:4-6 at this moment they have fallen from grace because to come this far and be enlightened by and to taste the gospel and still reject it would be an apostasy.

Another way to simplify this would be the same scenario, but the individual believes that the only way to obtain salvation is to believe and accept the gospel, but also do x,y, and z in order to be saved. This passage shows us that the two cannot go together and therefore they have fallen from grace, in other words they were never a follower of Christ to begin with. So freedom depends on grace and no, you cannot lose your salvation that is obtained in Christ alone!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

BOUND TO THE WHOLE LAW

*This is part 2 of 3 on Galatians 5:1-6*
John Piper points out in Galatians 5 that there is a clue for how to live in freedom and obey verse one. Piper says, "The key to freedom is whether we have to do the work ourselves to escape punishment, or whether our Father comes down to be with us and help us", which will be seen in Gal. 5:2-5. In verses 2-4 we see Paul giving a stern warning to the Galatians, pointing out that if you are committed to one part of the law then you better plan on keeping all of the law, and that through the use of the law you have "cut" yourself off from the grace of Christ.

In verses 2 and 3 Paul shows the Galatians that circumcision will not benefit them at all. The only thing that it will do for them is bound them to obey the entire law.  Most peoples natural reaction here is that circumcision is what displeases God so in order to please God I will just avoid circumcision and be obedient in the eyes of God. But in reality what often times happens is you end up turning non-circumcision into the same thing as circumcision. Namely, that it becomes a work that you think you can do in order to earn God's favor.

You see the point of these two verses is not that the act of circumcision is wrong, but that any act that is used as a means to receive justification from God is wrong. In this story the Judaizers had sneaked their way into the church and saw something good, but started teaching the people that they had only received part of it and that they needed something else, circumcision, to receive the full blessing of God.

This really boils down to the basic doctrine of salvation. It is not possible to acknowledge that by Christ alone you are saved and then turn to something else as a supplement to your salvation. The two cannot go together. Paul here is constantly pointing away from circumcision and to Jesus because it is by him alone that you are saved.

I love in verse four how Paul tells them if they are going to require getting a little skin cut off that they mine as well cut off the whole thing, this is hilarious! I keep imagining a church in a modern setting having a time of response and you get in a room with a counselor who is walking you through the gospel and you are ready to respond and the counselor says, "Praise God, now drop your pants so we can cut part of your manhood off!" I don't believe that there would be many men professing Christ if that was part of the requirements. 

Now this brings me back to the question in my post yesterday, what might you be adding as means to your salvation? The reason I ask this is because I believe at some point we have all done this in some way. For example there are many traditions that will tell you that you cannot truly be saved apart from receiving baptism, particularly by immersion. Others will require you to speak in tongues as evidence of salvation. Yet others will tell you that if you did not come to Christ by saying these certain words or in their tradition or denomination that you truly have not been saved. 

Do you see my point? We attempt to add so much to salvation when the truth of the matter is that in Christ alone we can have it, but we treat it as it is too good to be true so we try to add all sorts of things. None of it is necessary for salvation and all it is really silly!


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

What Are You Adding For Salvation?

GALATIANS 5:1-6
For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love. 

Paul makes it clear to us in this passage that he is writing it to protect the church in Galatia from allowing false teachers to enter the church and remind them that the will of God in their lives is freedom through Christ. What has taken place here is that after Paul planted the church in Galatia and moved elsewhere to plant more churches, a group of false teachers, known as the Judaizers, have entered in and started teaching things contrary to what they had been taught by Paul.

In this case it is the rite of circumcision, but taken to the degree that it is necessary in order to obtain salvation. Instead of pointing to Jesus as the only way to salvation, they are pointing to something external, what we will call a “plus” as the means to salvation and following Christ. In verse one we see that God’s will for you is that you would enjoy the freedom that you have been given through Christ, but these false teachers are coming in and attempting to bring division within the church by the means of legalism and taking away the freedom that we have been given in Christ. My question to you in post one of three on this passage is to think about what might you be adding for your own means to Salvation? 





Wednesday, May 11, 2011

How are you fighting for your character?

It does not take one long to realize that being a follower of Christ is not that easy. Some of you were told that it would be and now you have either realized that it was a lie or you are on the brink of walking away because this is not what you signed up for. The reality is that the Christian walk is hard and we continue to struggle with our flesh, with our selfishness, seeking to fulfill our own pleasures, but we are often fighting for our character with the wrong methods.

In Darrin Patrick's session at Advance 11 he preached from Galatians 5:16-26 on walking by the Spirit. Something that Patrick said that has stuck out in my mind is that, "Most of us our fighting for our character with methods that are not biblical."

This got me thinking about the ways in which most of us try to fight for our character. Often the response is to ignore walking by the Spirit and instead fill it with other things, not necessarily bad things, but other things. This comes in many shapes and forms, but some of the most common are church activities, church programs, church conferences, the newest book, etc.

This turns us into performance driven people who will say one thing with our mouth about our acceptance and salvation being by Christ alone, but then communicate something else entirely. We easily turn to our performances as our means to acceptance and salvation, we turn to God and say, "But look at all that I've done, how many church activities I was part of, how many conferences I attended, and all the books that I read."

We then don't understand when hardships and struggles come our way because we have easily forgotten that we are at war with the flesh and we are using the wrong weaponry to fight it off. We have become legalists with our own forms of outreach and growth because we think somehow adding all of those things will make someone a better Christian then walking by the Spirit and being obedient to God alone.

Now if you know me you know that I am not necessarily against any of those things, well not all of them anyway. But the challenge is to take a look at your own life and to examine how you are fighting for your character?  I will finish my post the way that Patrick ended his talk. "You are under the law when you take your moral performance and offer it as your reason for salvation, this is your flesh, you need to kill this!"

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Would You Recognize Jesus at Your Church?

During his first session at Advance 11, Alan Hirsch posed the question, "What would happen if Jesus showed up in some of our churches?" He presented this question in the context of Jesus being the one that sets the agenda, but we often look at it the other way as if we set the agenda.

We get off on all kind of agendas in our churches. This comes in many shapes and forms such as fundamentalism, liberalism, conservatism, etc. But the reality is that this is not the gospel or the agenda that Jesus came to spread.

To answer the question, I believe that for many of our churches a couple of reactions would happen if Jesus were to show up. First, some groups would be so blind to Jesus that they wouldn't recognize him at all. This would probably be the group that would tell him he isn't dressed right for a Sunday morning and is using the wrong version of the Bible. Second, some may recognize him and truly believe that he is on board fully with what they are doing only to learn that they have been pushing an agenda and not a move of God based on issues that do not really matter for eternity.

The reason for this is that Jesus was the true missionary. He came to us and became like us in every form, contextualizing so that He might reach us. The third group would recognize Jesus, be on board with what he says, but in reality only like talking about being contextual and missional in their community.

Hirsch ended his talk with the advice to go be friends with sinners and hangout with some hookers. Now, for some of you that may come across as a shocking statement or thought. But the reality is this is what we see Jesus doing, but not for the heck of being edgy or trendy, but in order to see lives changed.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Advance Recap Day 2

This is a continuation of highlights/recap from day 2 of the Advance 11 conference. If you were not able to attend then I hope you enjoy. I will also be blogging in the coming days on more specifically how certain sessions have impacted my life and ministry.

Tyler Jones: 

  • We need to come to a place of renewal in our lives
  • We must come to see that faith and science are not in conflict, they are pointing to the same reality 
  • The gospel is not dependent on our perspective or view of reality, it is dependent on Jesus and his reality.
  • Let us be hated as Christians for our brotherly love:
    • Sacrificial living
    • Adoption
    • Ending foster care
    • Etc.
J.D. Greear: 

  • Most people in our churches believe in a functional moralism and that most of us if we are good will make it to heaven.
  • We have such a hard time with other people going to hell because we don't think that we deserve to go to hell.
  • We are guilty not because of what we haven't heard, but because of what we have heard and rejected. 
  • The gospel only goes forward through human instruments, so we cannot hide behind God's sovereignty as an excuse not to share the gospel.
  • It is arrogance and rebellion to sit around and speculate about the sovereignty of God when simple obedience is commanded. 
Tim Keller-Talk One:

  • Religion says I obey therefore I am accepted by God. The gospel says I am accepted by God, therefore I obey.
  • The gospel when brought to bear on the heard brings you new self-image and forms of humility, new motivation and depths of joy, and a new set of values and a logic of influence, and a unpredictability of thought. 
  • I couldn't accept how lost I was until I received the good news of Jesus
  • If we were saved by works there would be no limitation to what God could ask of us because it is based on our righteousness, but because we are saved by grace there is no limitation to what He can ask.
  • The gospel gives us upside down values
  • The more we fall in love with the gospel, the harder it is to categorize Christians because the gospel changes everything
Talk Two: 

  • Apologetics is the answer to the why questions after you have already given them an answer to the what question. 
  • The gospel shapes our apologetics in two ways: motivation and attitude, and in our method.
  • The gospel gives us three incredible proper attitudes: humility, hope, and courage
Alan Hirsch:

  • The church is perfectly designed by Jesus to get the job done.
  • Apostolic movements of churches being planted is what we are beginning to see around the world.
  • A gospel-centered church has to do with our forms and how we expose ourselves.
  • When Jesus and community get together all kinds of things start happening. 

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Advance 11 post conference reflections.

The last two days I have been attending the Advance the Church 2011 conference in Raleigh, NC. From what I have found this is one of the best if not the best conference of its caliber that one can find in the Southeast and maybe on the East coast. I will be taking sometime over the next few posts to blog on some reflections, but these first two initial ones will be a brief recap of notes from each speaker. Day 1:

Alan Hirsch: 

  • Discipleship is a big issue of our day, but the problem is most of us have the language of discipleship, but in reality we are missing it. 
  • Consumerism is winning out, a brand has become our idol.
  • Jesus is both the content and the context of the gospel. 
  • There is a hell of a difference between an ideologue and a disciple.
  • Jesus never commands us to worship, but he does command us to obey, which brings him worship.
Danny Akin: 
-The gospel demands certain practical actions-from Ephesians 4-6:

  1. We develop a body life that teaches and encourages the Christian graces (4:1-3)
  2. We develop a body life that teaches and encourages sound doctrine with a missionary impulse(4:4-6)
  3. We develop a body life that teaches and encourages the exercise of grace gifts (4:7-11)
  4. We develop a body life that teaches and encourages....(4:12-16)
  5. We develop a body life to learn Christ and live as Christ (4:17-5:20)
  6. We develop a body life that teaches and encourages gospel-centered homes (5:21-6:4)
  7. We develop a body life that teaches and encourages gospel-centered workplaces (6:5-9)
  8. We develop a body life that teaches and encourages strategies for spiritual warfare (6:10-17)
  9. We develop a body life that teaches bold proclamation of the gospel (6:18-21)
  10. We develop a body life that teaches love for the Lord Jesus (6:21-24) 
Darrin Patrick: 

  • Most of us our fighting for our character with methods that are not biblical.
  • Legalism comes to jack with how we come to know and grow in Jesus.
  • Biblical fruit equals spiritual maturity.
  • The way you measure your spiritual maturity is by looking to Jesus not others.
  • You are under the law when you take your moral performance and offer it as your reason for salvation.
Eric Mason: 

  • You need leadership, discipleship, and mission in order for a church plant. 
  • For some of y'all shutting your mouth would be missional.
  • We need to posture ourselves as servants in the city that will help develop a change in the city.
  • You need to have a theology of prayer, presence, and peace.