Monday, July 28, 2008

A Thought on Proverbs

Hear, my son, your father's instruction
And do not forsake your mother's teaching (Proverbs 1:8).

Proverbs is directed to sons. It is full of wise counsel about life.But there is an underlying assumption, namely, that fathers and mothers are godly and wise ... that they have instruction worth listening to.

Unfortunately we live in a world where fathers, even in our churches, are too often grossly ill-equipped to give their sons any kind of counsel that would turn them from naive into wise.

May God help us fathers to have enough godly wisdom to pass down to our sons, and to pass on to other fathers so that they may pass them on to their sons.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Golf Grips the Easy Way

Tonight I did something I haven't done in about five years ... I replaced my golf grips. I had always done it the old fashioned way before, where you use solvent and pour it into the grip, and then pour it on the shaft and rush to shove the grip on the shaft before the solvent evaporates.

But ...

I was searching for golf grips online last week and saw a new technique that involves an air compressor. I thought it looked fun and easy. So I picked up some new grips, and tried it out.

This was a breeze. The first one took about ten minutes (and I blew out the side of the grip with too much air pressure). The second one took about five. By the end, it was taking me less than a minute to put a grip on. The hardest part was getting it started because the grip end is slightly smaller than the shaft and you have stretch it around the shaft. You can read about it here and you can see it here. And it is as easy as it looks.

So next time you do your golf grips (and you should do them at least once a year if you play much ... and if you don't play, you should repent and start playing), use the air compressor. You will wonder why you ever did it any other way.

PS -- I was thinking tonight after I cut all my old grips off that I could probably have taken them off with an air compressor in the same way that I put them on. Just put the nozzle to the end, put a little air in it and pull it off. This site says you can. I should have tried it .

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Types of Churches

Churches can be divided into all kinds of different categories, but I am thinking of two in particular: Community churches and Metropolitan churches.

I define a community church as one that is made up largely of people in a particular community. It is not a place where people will drive thirty minutes to get to, and it does not have much visibility outside its particular community. It will have fewer ministries and a more family atmosphere. It will (or at least should) more closely reflect the makeup of its immediate surrounding neighborhood. It would be perhaps the equivalent of the Mom & Pop drugstore or hardware store. Often people will go because it is the closest, or because they have some particular ties there.

A metropolitan church, on the other hand,  is a church that draws from a number of surrounding communities. It is typically a larger church, and people might drive as much as an hour to get there. It will typically  have more diversified ministries, and people will not know a great number of people in the church. It is more like a "big-box store" though I intend no prejudice with that designation. People will drive past other smaller churches closer to their homes in order to go to a metropolitan church, and they will have various reasons for doing so.

Of course, I imagine that these distinctions will be less noticeable in a rural context, and more noticeable in an urban context.

I wonder if these categories are helpful (or need to be refined) and if one would pastor these kinds of churches differently.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

In the Diner

I am sitting here this morning trying to write a paper. The coffee is its normal bland self (but even bad coffee is good coffee ... if I drank caffeinated coffee I would probably be considered an addict, but alas, I drink mostly decaf).

But I digress ...

What prompted my writing was a reference from someone in the back to "the short bus." This has long been a not thinly veiled reference to those who are mentally handicapped. In fact, just in the last few days I was listening to a sermon (and I can't remember which one) where the preacher made a reference to people who didn't easily see his point as those who "rode the short bus."

Perhaps I am getting old and sappy, but I wonder why such a reference is necessary? I have no problem with sarcasm (although some would say I do since I use it all the time). I don't even have a problem with making a point through some sharp repartee.

But I do not understand the necessity of doing it at the expense of those made in the image of God who suffer the effects of sin in a way that the rest of us do not. 

The Bible commands us to "Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear" (Ephesians 4:29). Somehow, references to "the short bus" do not strike me as those which "build up" and "give grace."

I would imagine that it has to hurt the parents and family of those who are mentally handicapped, and it certainly demeans them in the eyes of the hearers. It turns a serious life situation into a punchline that is cutting and biting.

Surely we can do better.

And speaking of doing better, I saw that Mark Driscoll is due to give an address at the Bethlehem Pastor's Conference on the use of the tongue. Now I (as most of you probably know) used to like Driscoll. I say "used to" because I haven't listened to him much lately, although perhaps that's because what I have heard recently has not captivated me like his previous expositional preaching did. (No, I don't feel like explaining why I liked it in this post.) It seems he has gotten away from preaching through books and done more topical stuff lately. And let me add the obvious qualification that I have some grave reservations about much of what he did/does in a lot of ways. And I like a lot of what he does. But I have to wonder if Driscoll is the best candidate to give an address on the use of the tongue. Though I will look forward to hearing what he has to say, I have to say, "Surely we can do better."

Friday, July 11, 2008

Why Not Ask the Spirit to Pay?

From this story:

KNOXVILLE — A man says he was so consumed by the spirit of God that he fell and hit his head while at a Knoxville church.

Now he wants Lakewind Church to pay $2.5 million for medical bills, lost income, and pain and suffering he says he's endured from his injuries.


The Sevier County man says he was asking God to have "a real experience" while praying at church.

Apparently, this man is selective in what he believes the Spirit can do. Perhaps verifiable works of the Spirit (like $2.5 million materializing out of thin air) are not nearly as trusting worthy as falling down on the floor.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Taking It Personal

Do you find it easy to take the sins of others personally? I do.

When someone continues in sin after I have exhorted and pled with them for repentance and reconciliation to God and others, I find it easy to be discouraged and downhearted.

I suppose my pride is too easily enflamed. After all, given my eloquence and clarity, how could someone possibly not respond with whole-hearted repentance? And if they did not intend to follow my advice, when did they come to me to begin with?

In these times, we must recall the words of the Lord to Samuel, when Israel wanted a king. Samuel took it personally. But God stepped in to remind him (and us):

... they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me from being king over them (1 Samuel 8:7).

When we give biblical counsel and people continue to sin, it is not us that they are rejecting. It is God. So we must not take it personally.

We must rather be patient. God may not be working at the same speed we are. It may take time for the Word to take root ... "time" meaning "weeks" or "months" or "years."

And we must check our pride at the door. We cannot carry it in to personal relationships, particularly counseling/discipleship encounters.

You see, one of the problems with people coming to us for answers is that we begin to think we have them. What an ego boost that is.

But how foolish to think that a mind not steeped in the Scriptures can address the problems of the human heart. When our heart is steeped in self-affirmation, someone's repentance will do our hearts good, and their rejection will bring hurt.

Don't misunderstand. We should hurt when people reject God's word. But we must hurt because they reject God's word, not because they reject us. 

May God give us genuine compassion on people in sin. May God protect us from the disgust that views them in their sin, and rather cultivate in us a love that views them as people whom Jesus died to reconcile.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Faith and Life for Pastors

It is easy to pastors to look at other pastors with envy, usually when the other pastor's church is growing (and sometimes when the other church is at least not declining). But reading 1 Peter 5 this morning reminded me of Peter's charge to elders:

Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed, shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory (1 Peter 5:1-4).

It reminds me that we should share the faith of other pastors (if their faith is admirable). But to share their life is not ours to decide. The reward for faithful pastors comes "when the Chief Shepherd appears."

It is likely that little meaningful reward will come before then. We might have the joy of seeing people saved by God's grace, seeing families restored, seeing the chains of addiction broken, or some such little joys along the way.

But let us resist the temptation to get caught up in the comparison of life. Let us be content to be faithful (though judiciously unsatisfied), and look for the reward at the appearing of the Chief Shepherd.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

More on Faith and Life

I have been reflecting more on my last post about faith and life and the imitation of the faith of others. My mind recalled Hebrews 11:32-40 about those "of whom the world was not worthy." Consider these vastly different outcomes. faith conquered kingdoms, performed acts of righteousness, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, from weakness were made strong, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received back their dead by resurrection; and others were tortured, not accepting their release, so that they might obtain a better resurrection; and others experienced mockings and scourgings, yes, also chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated (men of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground.

If we were to imitate the "result of their conduct," is there anyone who would not try to imitate the first half of these verses? We all like lives of faith when by it we can do these great things. We want the "result of our conduct" to be great victories.

But by imitating their faith, we recognize that in the sovereign providence of God, our "great things" may be to die in a cave or be sawn in two, or some such "result of our conduct."

By imitating faith, we allow for either result with an attitude of grateful rejoicing. By imitating the outcome of their life, we might only allow for one, and then judge the goodness and rightness of faith by whether or not we received what we wanted.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Faith and Life

I was reading in Hebrews this morning and was reminded of this verse:

Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith (Hebrews 13:7).

In calling believers to a life of holiness and obedience, it should strike us that he calls on us to imitate not the life of those who have gone on before, but having seen their life to imitate their faith.

Perhaps too often we call on people to imitate obedience. "If you do what he does (or did), then you will be a good Christian and please God."

Should we not change our focus? Perhaps it would be better and more biblical to say, "See what he did? Now go believe like he believes."

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Looking for Safety or Confirmation?

In an abundance of counselors there is safety (Proverbs 11:14).

It is a common and wise practice to seek the advice of knowledgeable people about particular courses of action, particularly as the stakes of a particular decision increase.

However, I think there is an all too frequent tendency for some to ask too many people, and people of the wrong type.

There are people that I call "opinion shoppers." They are not seeking for safety in counsel; they are looking for confirmation of what they have already decided. They are simply looking for a "footnote"* for their life—someone that they can point to as agreeing with their predetermined course of action.

I think this happens with two types of people (and perhaps more, but these two come to mind).

The first type is people who are genuinely sensitive to the Lord and his Word, and who lack sufficient clarity about a course of action. They are paralyzed by fear, a paralysis of analysis. They usually have a direction in which they are leaning, and they keep asking in hopes that someone they respect as godly and wise will confirm that course of action for them. Sometimes they are genuinely confused, swaying back and forth between two opinions. Often, they are seeking to avoid responsibility for their decision by amassing a group of people who will agree with each other.

The second type is people who are genuinely sensitive to themselves and their own ideas. They have decided what to do, but their desire for approval and their fear of man leads them to seek the opinions of others in hopes of self-defense and a clearing of their conscience so that they can pursue what they want to do anyway. They are confused only by the fact that there are some who disagree with them. They will discount the views of any who do not tell them what they want to hear.

I remember a conversation one time where a man, going through a particular struggle of life, came to me to inquire about assurance of salvation. I asked him what was going on in his heart that led him to seek assurance (and such seeking was well-justified, I might add). He said that he had decided what he wanted to do, but he wanted to make sure he was right with God before he did it. His course of action was, in my judgment, a sinful one. He needed repentance (and perhaps salvation as well). He was opinion shopping, and using salvation as currency with which to do it.

I typically do not like to waste my time with opinion shoppers. So I often try to discern either by listening closely or outright asking them who else they have talked to about this. That's not because I think my opinion is the only one that matters, but because I want to try to understand where they are coming from and what they really want.

So, in the abundance of counselors there is safety. But remember that no one else will answer for your decisions, and "he told me it was okay" will not sound good at the judgment.


*Footnotes are often used to strengthen a position or conclusion by citing other respected and well-known sources that also hold the same view. It is an acceptable form of "name-dropping."

Calvin and Golf

I have been playing in a Tuesday night golf league as a substitute. I have always resisted golf leagues because the pace of play is abominable and the golf is usually worse. This one has been better. And the dinner that follows is excellent. Last night was steak and sauteed shrimp, along with a host of other things. But I digress.

So I am eating my steak when I a man across the table asks me what I do for a living. I said, "I am a pastor." This guy comes back with, "I have been reading John Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion."

A few minutes of conversation ensued in which another man at the table asked, "Isn't Calvinism the religion where the more prosperous you are on earth, the higher a place you have in heaven?"

The first man responded that he did not know what that was, but knew it wasn't Calvinism, since Calvinism had five principles (of which he proceeded to slaughter several).

I explained briefly the "five principles" of Calvinism which generated a bit more discussion.

I asked the gentleman why he was reading Calvin. He said he had a BA in Chemistry and a law degree, and figured out he better find something out about religion so he decided to start with Calvin. He said the Bible was confusing to him as a primary document because it was hard to put together, and was hoping Calvin would make some sense out of it. 

Perhaps eternity will tell if Calvin made sense to this man. Hopefully I made a little in the brief discussion.