Tuesday, April 25, 2006

The Walleye Are Here

I got out fishing last night for the first time this year. The Detroit River is one of the best walleye spots in the country this time of year. Yesterday, we headed out about 4pm, and within about 20 minutes, one guy landed a whopper ... one of the biggest walleyes I have ever seen. He was nailing them and the rest of us were relegated to working the net for him.

But alas, about 7:30 or so, I got on a little streak and managed to get five in the boat within about thirty minutes or so. We ended up with sixteen between the four of us. The wierd thing is that I do not even like fish. I am in it for the fun of catching them. If it were up to me, the river would have sixteen more fish than it does now. But I brought a few home for the wife and dutifully hacked them up. It's been so long since I cleaned a fish that I have forgotten the easy way. But fish guts are cool ... and we have some walleye filets ready for the stove.

Years ago I used to fish with a friend whose high school job was cleaning fish. He got paid by the pound, and he could clean fish like you can't believe. So I was the designated scaler, and he was the cleaner. And I could not keep up with him, even with an electric scaler. But fresh Lake Erie perch deep fried with some biscuits makes a good sandwich, and that's about the only kind of fish I will eat.

It is relaxing to be out in the fresh air with the spring breezes blowing in your face. However, since we were on the Detroit River, we just enjoyed the coolish breezes and watched the factories belch into the evening air.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Women in the Pastorate

The issue of women in ministry keeps popping up in some blogs that I read. It is an exceedingly frustrating discussion, and I don’t know why I comment. I should stay out of it. There are legitimate issues about church ministry today that the church should be wrestling with. Whether or not women should be in positions of authority over men is simply not one of them. Out of everything in Scripture that is explicit, this is one of them.

Let me quickly summarize a few key points.

We must first recognize that Paul’s prohibition of women having authority over men is not Paul’s. It is God’s, by virtue of inspiration. Some want to claim that it was merely Paul’s preference. But 2 Tim 3:16 makes it clear that it was God’s command.

We must also recognize that it is a command that cannot be restricted merely to first century culture. It is common to argue that Paul’s command was only about the first century, or only about the church at Ephesus. That is easily answered in two parts.

First, NT Christianity was not shy about shedding cultural norms for biblical obedience. Christ made a habit of breaking cultural norms that had religious significance attached to them (such as healing on the Sabbath, picking grain on the Sabbath, eating with women and Gentiles, etc.). If this prohibition were merely cultural, it seems clear that Christ would not have felt bound by such a principle.

Second, the exegetical reasons given for the prohibition have nothing to do with the first century. These reasons go back thousands of years to the time of creation and the fall. God says the reason that women are not to have authority over men is two fold: 1) Men were created first and 2) the woman was deceived.

For those who argue that the command is no longer valid, we need to figure out which foundational reason is no longer true. If Paul had argued that it was a first century reason, I could buy the argument that women are now permitted to have authority. But Paul expressly does not say that.

Some argue that the death of Christ removes the affects of the fall. Really?? Try telling that to the mother in labor, or the husband who comes home smelling like sweat, dirty as a pig. Try telling that to the rose gardener who hands are scratched by the thorns that protrude from the bushes. Try telling that the people whose bodies lay decomposing in the grave (returning to dust). The simple fact is that Christ’s death did not overturn the physical affects of the fall, nor the relational affects.

Some argue that both men and women have “the blessed opportunity to be filled with and gifted by the Holy Spirit” (an actual attempt at an argument). I would ask who disagrees with that? Egalitarianism certainly doesn’t. We believe that women should be honored and treated as the Bible prescribes. We should never lower the dignity and worth of womanhood by asking them to do something God has forbidden, or by allowing it.

There is much that women can do in ministry and should do. May God give to his church a great number of godly women who will model godly womanhood by good works that fit a woman who professes to follow God, who will teach the younger women how to be godly. May God protect his church from disobedient women who refuse to live by Scripture.

In the end, this is a discussion about biblical authority. Will we let the Bible dictate our theology and practice, or will we let culture? Will we honor women, or will we allow them to disobey God?

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Who Is Putting on the Best Show?

Easter has just passed and reminded me again of the shows that some churches put on, and the problems they cause. Christmas and Easter are times when churches put together special programs such as cantatas or concerts. They promote them as opportunities to bring visitors to church to hear the gospel. I actually have no problem with this. I think they can be great tools to invite people to church who are not familiar with church, or people who do not go to church anywhere.

Here is the problem: In a consumeristic society, churches have church members who will decide what church to go to based on what church is putting on the best show. They will skip attendance at their home church in order to go see a show at another church.

Pastors, if your church has Christmas or Easter programs, encourage your church members to invite only those who do not go to church somewhere else. Remind them that they need to minister to others by encouraging them to be at their local church, not at yours.

Christians, if your church puts on a special program, invite the unsaved to go with you. Don’t invite people from other churches. They need to be at their own church, even when they are family members.

Yes, I know … I am radical about local church priority.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

And Not a Moment Too Soon

A British broadcaster who traveled to the Philippines to participate in a Good Friday crucifixion got a last minute reprieve from God ... apparently.
At no point was it ever conveyed that I would definitely be crucified. At all times in this journey I have been guided by my God in ways I could never have predicted. Having experienced the humility of bearing my own cross through the streets, I felt my God wanted me only to pray at the foot of my cross.

Yes, and seeing those people whipped and nailed to crosses probably spoke pretty loudly too.

When will this world stop making a mockery out of the death of Christ? To say that an event like this draws them closer to God is mockery at its finest. When Jesus died, it wasn't for show, or religious piety. And it certainly wasn't for a documentary. He died to pay the price for our sins, and to give to use eternal life through the imputation of all of his righteousness to us and all of our sins to him.

When some dude whips himself and gets nailed to a cross for a few hours it mocks the glory of the crucifixion by turning it into some sideshow at the circus.

On this Easter weekend, may we remember Christ as he gruesomely died and gloriously rose again rather than the sideshow of useless human imitation. May God lift the blindness brought by sin and Satan so that we may see the light of the glory of God in the face of Christ.

And when you claim that God told you something, be prepared to show us from Scripture. All else is fallible. Don't take the name of the Lord in vain by using it for self-defense or comfort. Use his name only for what he would use it for.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Missional Churches

The InternetMonk has a good summary article on missional churches. It will help to better understand what is meant by "missional" in most circles. Some people are antagonistic toward the idea of "missional churches," and some claim that NT churches have always had these ideals even though they did not use the term missional. But most probably don't know much about it. This article will help all three groups.

I will let you read the article rather than trying to summarize it here. But allow me to comment on a couple of things.

First, missional churches are big on the incarnating the gospel, not compromising it. It may be argued that some missional churches do both. The idea of incarnating the gospel is that it is not enough simply to preach the gospel with words; we must also live it in our communities. They would say something like, "Proclamation and Presence." It is not the true gospel if it isn't both. I am increasingly of the opinion that there is much merit in that idea, though I won't defend it here. A "presence" of the gospel in life does not mean the social gospel as we have come to reject it. I think it is different, or at least can be different. But how can we have true faith if we see someone in need and send them away with words? (1 John 3:17-18; James 2:14-17; I know the debate is about who is our brother and whether or not this is a church responsibility, or an individual responsibility. We can hash that out if you want to, or I will talk about it later.)

Second, missional churches talk much about the kingdom using what I believe is a flawed doctrine of the kingdom. Much of their presence is built on a belief of "kingdom now," something that seems manifestly incompatible with what the Bible says about the kingdom. I will simply say that I think the idea of missional churches and incarnation of the gospel does not have to be tied to this faulty view of the kingdom. As a "kingdom not yet" kind of guy, I believe we can be missional, and indeed, we must be missional.

I will write more on this when I return to my series on Evangelistic strategies (that I started a while back). Settling in with the little guy, Easter, and a major evangelistic effort soon arriving has necessitated some delay in that.

This article links to a website by Ed Stetzer called New Churches. The link is in the last paragraph and it won't jump out at you due to formatting. But it is there, or you can click through from here. I haven't look at the site much, but it looks interesting, if for nothing else than to understand where people like Ed are coming from. Ed is the author of a the book Planting Churches in a Postmodern Age. I have read part of it from the library copy, but since I figured the library didn't want me marking their copy up, I ordered my own and it arrived this week. I have found it to be a good book, worth reading.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Say It Ain't So

Christianity Today recaps the Gospel Music Association Awards show. This is "gospel and Christian music's version of the Grammys" (their words, not mine). What in the name of Christ is this about? I have some pretty strong views on music (too strong for some and not strong enough for others) but I try to grant liberty of conscience to those who disagree with me.

However, I cannot find any reason for a GMA or a GMA version of the Grammys. Isn't the Grammys all about the celebration of depravity manifested in music? Why do we need to do something like this? Why would these performers allow themselves to be held up in such a fashion? To accept a trophy for the best vocalist or best group or whatever else certainly seems to be about something other than the glory of God.

The article itself reads like a parody someone wrote out of mockery. It reminds me of a little parody I saw a couple of weeks ago about a "testimony bee." Very funny stuff. Unfortunately, this article in CT isn't a parody. It is, however, a indication of the great problems in Christian music ... too many idols, too much imitation, too little local church accountability and ministry, too little theology, and too little God.

If it's really all about God, then let Him go get the award. If not, then go get it yourself.

Of course, it probably isn't all the different than preaching contests at high school festivals and Bible college commencement activities. So just take my comments above and plug them into that topic too. It reminds me of my systematic theology professor for whom I have a great deal of respect and to whom I owe a deep debt for his wisdom and knowledge passed on to us. He used to liken preaching contests to praying contests. His wit early in the morning brought a great start to the day even at 7:30 a.m. And brought praying contests to the forefront of my mind this morning.

Speaking of praying contests, I have been working up a prayer for this summer's "prayer meet" in hopes that I might move up the rankings some. I have been pretty stagnant the last few tournaments. I am sending it to some friends for their evaluation and input. I am hoping Dr. McCune might take a look at it to see if he see some glaring mistakes I can eliminate. I am just hoping when they call my name, I can remember to thank all the right people and most of all give all the glory to God for it. And then I have to move the preaching contest trophies around to make room for the prayer trophy.

On a brighter note, here is a couple of interesting links from the Reformation 21 blog. This one gives maps of religious practice across the US. It is interesting to see the breakdowns. This one is John Piper' Challenge to Women about the ministry of womanhood. It's short but worth your time.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

A Radical Minimum Standard

At the diner this morning I was reading from Shadow of the Almighty, the book in which Elisabeth Elliot compiles some the diary and letters of her husband Jim Elliot, one of the five missionaries killed by Indians in Ecuador in 1956.

A particular sentence jumped out at me this morning. Following the death of a man, Jim wrote,
Are you willing to lie in some native hut to die of a disease American doctors have never heard of? I am still willing, Lord God. Whatever You say shall stand at the time of my end. But oh, I want to live to teach Thy Word. Lord, let me live till I have declared Thy works to this generation (pp. 199-200).
We live in an age of great comfort and convenience, an age where spiritual commitment is measured in ways that seem totally foreign to the picture that Elliot imagines in his mind, lived in his life, and for which he gave his “last full measure of devotion.”

Erwin McManus, in An Unstoppable Force, writes of learning early in his Christian life of five levels of commitment: a calling to be saved, a calling for Jesus to be Lord, a calling to ministry, a calling to home missions, and a calling to foreign missions. He writes,
An honest evaluation of the dramatic number of callings that the church has created would reveal that we have found extraordinary ways of describing the overwhelming amount of Christless living in the church. …

What we now consider to be the highest level of calling in the Christian community was, for Jesus, the basic entry point. ...

In the process of creating a theology that accommodates apathy, disinterest, compromise, and even rebellion, we have lost the essence of the movement for which Jesus died. We made a mistake of making heroes out of those who were simply living a normal Christian life (pp. 201-202).
McManus is calling for a return to a “radical minimum standard,” echoing the sentiment of Elliot’s “native hut” death. Does the NT really call for anything less?

In an age where “being known,” “being comfortable,” and “being successful” has taken a back seat to being faithful and being radically committed, we should yearn for a generation of Christian leaders who will lead people to be nothing in eyes of men, to go to their grave “in some native nut” from a “disease American doctors have never heard of.” We should long for people who will go to their grave, known only in heaven and among the peoples whom they served in the mission of God to redeem those whom he has purchased. We should long for people who are satisfied with anonymity, so long as Jesus is exalted as the only King and only Savior who is at work reconciling all things to himself.

Perhaps that “native hut” for some will be found in the great cities of this country, among the ones that society has marginalized, to live in an area of danger, poverty, drugs, crime, and meaninglessness. Perhaps that “native hut” will be found in a jungle, or a desert, among those who live a life untouched by the conveniences of modern living. Perhaps that “native hut” will be found in a radical commitment to lay ministry, having a job only to provide money for the service of our great Savior.

May God return us the radical minimum standard that Christ talked about when he said,
“If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it. For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself?” (Luke 9:23-25)

If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. (Luke 14:26-27)
What will it mean for me today to pick up my cross, my instrument of execution, in order to be His disciple? Will I be willing to pay that price? Will you?