Posts in "Doctrine"
Why We Love The Church
There are a lot "Christian" books out there these days which take delight in speaking ill of the local church.  They say most churches are too judgmental, too narrow minded, too hypocritical, too old school, too conservative, too cliquish, and too boring.  In addition these voices say that the church is not concerned enough about social issues like homelessness, aids, world hunger, genocide, and the environment.  I would say, that some of what they are saying is very true.  One doesn't write a book if there is nothing to write about.  And as the old proverb goes, "if the shoe fits, wear it."  Churches need to look at these criticisms and see if they are true.  We should ask, are their changes that should be made as we repent of sin in the church and seek to be the church Christ has created us to be?  Sadly, the message that many of these "anti-church" books are giving is, "let's all leave the institutional church and really be the church."

I recently read a book called, Why We Love the Church, In Praise of Institutions and Organized Religion, by Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck.  DeYoung is a 30-something pastor in middle American and Kluck is sportswriter who attends DeYoung's church.  The two have teamed up to write this book as well as the famous Why We're Not Emergent.   In the book they take turns writing chapters.  DeYoung's chapters are more intellectual and more preachy.  Kluck's chapters are more stream of thought and more every day man.  I have to admit, the preacher side of me really liked the DeYoung chapters but the part of me that really wants to know what the average church attender is thinking really appreciated the Kluck chapters.  The point of the book is to say, no, don't abandon the church, it is the bride of Christ.  Be a part of it, pray for it, show grace to other people in it just like you want to be shown grace, be willing to serve and lead the church toward being all that God wants it to be.

Let me give you just a few quotes to stimulate your appetite for this book:

In the first chapter DeYoung gives us some questions to ask when the church is in decline:  Are we believing the gospel, are we relying on the power of the gospel, are we getting the gospel out, are we getting the gospel right, are we adorning the gospel with good works, are we praying for the work of the gospel, are we training up our children in the gospel?

Going to church is not a quaint waste of time, but an essential part of a person's spiritual life and growth.  ~Kluck ~

Again, later in the book DeYoung gives some good questions for church leavers:  Are you rejecting the church or the faith, are you trying to have your cake and eat it too, are you making an idol out of authenticity, are you repeating the mistake of the previous generation?

Church isn't boring because we are not showing enough film clips, or because we play an organ instead of a guitar.  It's boring because we neuter it of it's importance. ~Kluck~

We need the church in visible manifest and sometimes hidden beauty.  We need the church of individuals and institutions.  Most of all, we ought to love the church- in all her organic and organizational mess and glory.  ~DeYoung~

If I could leave you with one thought, it's this:  Go.  Go to church.  Don't go for the coffee, the presentations, the music, or the amenities.  Don't even go for the feelings you may or may not get when you to because, no offense, these feelings may or may not be trustworthy most of the time.  Go for the gospel.  Go for the preaching.  God to be near God's Word... There are many people leaving the church, and supposedly finding God.  But I found Him here, and by His grace, I'll keep finding Him here.  I love my church.  ~Kluck~

 

Sabbath and the “Lord’s Day”
By far the most helpful thing I’ve read this week in connection with the Fourth Commandment—“Remember the Sabbath, to keep it holy.”—was A. T. Lincoln’s essay, “From Sabbath to Lord’s Day: A Biblical and Theological Perspective,” from D. A. Caron’s edited volume From Sabbath to Lord’s Day: A Biblical Historical and Theological Investigation.

You can read a great review of the book here at BeginningWithMoses.org or take a look at the book itself here at Amazon.

In the text’s introduction, Carson summaries the basic conclusions worked out by the various authors in the rest of the book:
First, we are not persuaded that the New Testament unambiguously develops a “transfer theology,” according to which the Sabbath moves from the seventh day to the first day of the week. We are not persuaded that Sabbath keeping is presented in the Old Testament as the norm from the time of creation onward. Nor are we persuaded that the New Testament develops patterns of continuity and discontinuity on the basis of moral/civil/ceremonial distinctions. However useful and accurate such categories may be, it is anachronistic to think that any New Testament writer adopted them as the basis for his distinctions between the Old Testament and the gospel of Christ. We are also not persuaded that Sunday observance arose only in the second century A.D. We think, however, that although Sunday worship arose in New Testament times, it was not perceived as a Christian Sabbath. We disagree profoundly with historical reconstructions of the patristic period that read out from isolated and ambiguous expressions massive theological schemes that in reality developed only much later.

Yet to say so many negative things is to run the risk of giving a false impression. We have not written in order to demolish the theories of others. Indeed, as a matter of policy we have focused attention on primary sources; we refute opposing positions only when it is necessary to do so in order to establish our own position. Our final chapter takes considerable pains to be as positive and synthetic as possible. We want to provide a comprehensive guide to the interpretation of the sources for Christian readers (16).
Somewhat heady stuff, but profoundly insightful and helpful. Definitely worth the work.

Preliminary Thoughts on the Sabbath

Earlier this afternoon, I began working on this week’s sermon from Exodus 20:8—“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.”—by rereading a small part of Eugene Peterson’s wonderful book Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places. There’s too much here to quote in a single sermon (although I’m sure some of it will show up on Sunday); but it’s also too good to just leave it on the shelf. I hope you enjoy:

The most striking thing about keeping the Sabbath is that it begins by not doing anything (109). [We’re so used to “religion” being a matter of action that to have God command inaction, to have him say, “Stop! Quit! Silence!” is arresting to say the least.]

Sabbath is a deliberate act of interference, an interruption of our work each week, a decree of no-works so that we are able to notice, to attend, to listen, to assimilate this comprehensive and majestic work of God, to orient our work in the work of God (110).

Sabbath and work are not in opposition; Sabbath and work are integrated parts of an organic whole. Either apart from the other is crippled (115).

[W]ithout Sabbath . . . the workplace is soon emptied of any sense of the presence of God and the work becomes an end in itself. It is this “end in itself” that makes an un-sabbathed workplace a breeding ground for idols. We make idols of our workplaces when we reduce all relationships to functions that we can manage. We make idols in our workplaces when we reduce work to the dimensions of our egos and control (116).

If there is no Sabbath—no regular and commanded not-working, not-talking—we soon become totally absorbed in what we are doing and saying, and God’s work is either forgotten or marginalized. When we work we are most god-like, which means that it is in our work that it is easiest to develop god-pretensions. Un-sabbathed, our work becomes the entire context in which we define our lives. We lose God-consciousness, God-awareness, sightings of resurrection. We lose the capacity to sing “This is my Father’s world” and end up chirping little self-centered ditties about what we are doing and feeling (117).

Exporting, Not Hoarding, Leaders
At last Saturday’s elders’ retreat we asked the question, “What does a ‘win’ in 2010 look like for New Life Church?” One the answers we surfaced was “exporting leadership.” What this means is that as church our goal, to borrow Scott Haugen’s phrase, can’t be to “just get fat.” Although it may sound backwards at first, taking a gospel-shaped view of leadership development means giving our leaders away in order to grow new and more developed ones. In reality, this is nothing more than the straightforward application of Matthew 16:25 to the area of leadership: “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”

First of all, I love being part of a church whose spiritual leaders are fueled by the belief that the only way to gain something is to give it away. This conviction is one of the major reasons we spent so much time giving ourselves away last year in Oregon City. It’s also one of the main reasons behind giving ourselves away this next year in Wilsonville.

Second, I was incredibly encouraged when I came across the following quote from a new book I’ve just begun reading entitled The Trellis and the Vine: The Ministry Mind-Shift that Changes Everything:

We must be exporters of trained people instead of hoarders of trained people. . . . [O]ur view of gospel work must be global as well as local: the goal isn’t church growth (in the sense of our local church expanding in numbers, budget, church-plants and reputation) but gospel growth. If we train and send workers into new fields (both local and global), our local ministry might not grow numerically but the gospel will advance through these new ministries (25-26).

From Karma to Grace
Towards the end of yesterday’s sermon—“What the Law Isn’t . . . and Is”—I used the following excerpt from an recent interview with U2 front-man Bono on the difference between what many people call “karam” and grace. It really is a powerful and well-put illustration between how the law-as-principle operates (i.e., legalism) and how the gospel-as-principle operates.

Bono: I really believe we’ve moved out of the realm of Karma into one of Grace.

[Interviewer]: Well, that doesn't make it clearer for me.

Bono: You see, at the center of all religions is the idea of Karma. You know, what you put out comes back to you: an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, or in physics—in physical laws—every action is met by an equal or an opposite one. It's clear to me that Karma is at the very heart of the universe. I'm absolutely sure of it. And yet, along comes this idea called Grace to upend all that “as you reap, so you will sow” stuff. Grace defies reason and logic. Love interrupts, if you like, the consequences of your actions, which in my case is very good news indeed, because I've done a lot of stupid stuff.

[Interviewer]: I’d be interested to hear that.

Bono: That’s between me and God. But I’d be in big trouble if Karma was going to finally be my judge. . . . It doesn't excuse my mistakes, but I'm holding out for Grace. I’m holding out that Jesus took my sins onto the Cross, because I know who I am, and I hope I don't have to depend on my own religiosity.

[Interviewer]: The Son of God who takes away the sins of the world. I wish I could believe in that.

Bono: But I love the idea of the Sacrificial Lamb. I love the idea that God says: Look, you cretins, there are certain results to the way [you] are, to selfishness, and there’s a mortality as part of your very sinful nature, and, let’s face it, you’re not living a very good life, are you? There are consequences to actions. The point of the death of Christ is that Christ took on the sins of the world, so that what we put out did not come back to us, and that our sinful nature does not reap the obvious death. That’s the point. It should keep us humble. . . . It’s not our own good works that get us through the gates of heaven.
Christ and the Ten Commandments
Given the natural, human tendency to try and justify ourselves by our works (that is, by who we are and what we do) rather than depend fully upon Jesus Christ by faith (that is, on who He is and what He did), I thought it would be helpful to begin our study of the Ten Commandments by sharing a decidedly Christ-centered summary of the Decalogue from John Frame’s recent book The Doctrine of the Christian Life:

Christ is the substance of the law. . . . Jesus is not only a perfect law keeper, according to his humanity, but also the one we honor and worship, according to his deity, when we keep the law.

1. The first commandment teaches us to worship Jesus as the one and only Lord, Savior and mediator (Acts 4:12; 1 Tim. 2:5).

2. In the second commandment, Jesus is the one perfect image of God (Col. 1:15; Heb. 1:3). Our devotion to him precludes worship of any other image.

3. In the third commandment, Jesus is the name of God, that name to which every knee shall bow (Phil. 2:10-11; cf. Isa. 45:23).

4. In the fourth commandment, Jesus is our Sabbath rest. In his presence, we cease our daily duties and hear his voice (Luke 10:38-42). His is Lord of the Sabbath as well (Matt. 12:8), who makes the Sabbath his own Lord’s Day (Rev. 1:10).

5. In the fifth commandment, we honor Jesus, who restores us to the divine family as he submits himself entirely to the will of the Father (John 5:19-24).

6. In the sixth commandment, we honor him as our life (John 10:10; 14:6; Gal. 2:20; Col. 3:4), the Lord of life (Acts 3:15), the one who gave his life that we might live (Mark 10:45).

7. In the seventh commandment, we honor him as our bridegroom, who gave himself to cleanse us, to make us his pure, spotless bride (Eph. 5:22-33). We love him as no other.

8. In the eighth commandment, we honor Jesus as the source of our inheritance (Eph. 1:11), as the one who provides everything that his people need in the world and beyond.

9. In the ninth commandment, we honor him as God’s truth (John 1:17; 14:6), in whom all the promises of God as Yes and Amen (2 Cor. 1:20).

10. In the tenth commandment, we honor him as our complete sufficiency (2 Cor. 3:5; 12:9) to meet both our eternal needs and the renewed desires of our hearts. In him we can be content with what we have, thankful for his present and future gifts.

New Wednesday Night Life Series
All high school students are invited to check out a new six week series Ignite will be starting this Wednesday, January 14, 2009. The series is entitled Q & A with God and is be a look at the book of Malachi. In it, God makes a statement, is questioned, and defends what He said. This happens six times, and the questions that surface are very relevant for today. The questions we will be considering are:

1. How do I know God loves me?
2. What does God expect from me?
3. Why don't I feel close to God?
4. What breaks God's heart?
5. How can I be close to God?
6. Is it worth it to serve God?

The answers that God gives are most enlightening and will teach us about love, respect, faithfulness, justice, repentance and reward. Don't miss it!
Thinking of the Chapman Family
I have been unable to shake the knot in my throat for days now since I have heard about the tragic death of Maria Chapman, the youngest daughter of Steven Curtis Chapman. Last November my family sat in his concert and cried as he sang Cinderella, a song he wrote about her.
He has been one of my favorite Christian artists since I received free cassettes of his in a sample package 20 years ago when I was a youth pastor.

What do you say to them? What can I say to them? The blog they established in her memory already has over 18,000 comments, more than 2,000 people attended her funeral. My thoughts will just add to the pile they are already experiencing. My prayers I will still add to countless others. Of course, most of my time would be spent listening, but I asked myself, what would I say if I was called upon to comfort?

I could share some sentimental notion about my two children in heaven welcoming her, or playing with her, or singing with her. But, what is that? We don't know how that works, or if it would even happen. Where is the help and hope in that?

We found the greatest help and hope from what we could affirm from Scripture. Affirming things that God said to be true was the strongest anchor for our hearts when we were inclined to accuse or blame or despair. Nothing helped us like reminding us of what God has said about similar pain. Here is a start:
  • Psalm 34:18 The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. A special sense of God's presence is reserved for those who are crushed and brokenhearted. Lean into Him.
  • Psalm 127:3 Sons are a heritage from the LORD, children a reward from him. No matter how they come or how long they stay, children are a treasure from the Lord. If they bring pain or pleasure they are still sent from the Lord. God's design is for blessing.
  • Job 1:21-22 "The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised." In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing. Job 2:10 is equally staggering: "Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?" In all this, Job did not sin in what he said. I can identify with Job who lost more children than I have. Why does the writer repeat that Job did not sin in what he said? Because he was right to affirm that God was in the calamity that came upon him. Yes, the devil had designs to destroy Job and the Sabeans stole his oxen, but God did not look the other way. He was sovereign over their sin and their intended destruction of this man of faith. Don't abandon this calamity to less loving causes than God.
  • Job 42:5 My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Some of God's design in this tragedy is to give you a glimpse of Him that you can only hear about another way. This is Job's reflection on his experience of losing his children -- I got to know God.
  • Lamentations 3:19-33 I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, "The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him." The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD. It is good for a man to bear the yoke while he is young. Let him sit alone in silence, for the LORD has laid it on him. Let him bury his face in the dust-- there may yet be hope. Let him offer his cheek to one who would strike him, and let him be filled with disgrace. For men are not cast off by the Lord forever. Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love. For he does not willingly bring affliction or grief to the children of men. I was going to shorten this, but every word of this weeping prophet is precious. Several things in this passage are worth affirming:
    • Honesty about how I feel is not only acceptable, but the means by which I am reminded of the Lord's mercy.
    • It is because of the Lord's great love that my unbearable situation is not worse.
    • God's goodness is not changed by this calamity.
    • It will not last forever. I will not be cast off by the Lord forever.
    • "Neither this man nor his parents sinned," said Jesus, "but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.He brings grief (same affirmation as Job). He also brings compassion.
    • This affliction and grief is not His first choice. He does not willingly bring it, or literally He doesn't bring it 'from the heart'. His first desire is not this pain. Yet, He sends it anyway.
  • John 9:3 "Neither this man nor his parents sinned," said Jesus, "but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life." This is not God's judgment for your sin. His judgment for sin (for believers) is taken care of on the cross. God has designs beyond this suffering to display His glory.
  • John 11:5-6 Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was. The smallest word in this sentence is the most significant, "so". Jesus love Martha, Mary and Lazarus SO, as a result, he waited two days. . . just long enough to let Lazarus die. Mary and Martha both said, "If you were here he would not have died!" Odd as it may seem, the love of Jesus led to the death of Lazarus. Less odd, Jesus' absence led to the revelation of His glory. His love and his glory are wed in the suffering of this family.
  • Psalm 44: When none of these affirmations help, Psalm 44 gives voice to my complaint. The two parts that have been most helpful to me are verse 12, "You sold us for a pittance gaining nothing by our sale," and verse 20, which says we'd expect you to treat us this way if we'd been unfaithful, but we haven't been. So, a complaint of faith and a call to remember is the most spiritual thing we can do.
  • Psalm 73:25-26 Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. Nothing has shown us that God himself is the only reliable source of joy and hope like losing a child. This passage is where we finally landed, it broke our fall. God is our strength and our eternal portion. Nothing else will satisfy our hearts. Everything else will break our hearts!
Why do I share this? Maybe you will have opportunity one day to comfort someone in an unspeakable tragedy. What will you say? I hope this helps. It has helped us. There is nothing like a world-changing, life-altering tragedy to display the strength of Christian hope.

Steve, Mary Beth, and Chapman Family, you are in my prayers.
Water Baptism Postponed
Sunday's water baptism service has been postponed until further notice. If you have questions about water baptism: what is it, why is it an important step for Christians? Or if you would like to be baptised in water, please phone Pastor Scott at the church: 503-656-8600, or e-mail revreav@newlifenw.com.
Packer on Fellowship

In preparation for the following two Sunday's sermons (Aug. 19th and 26th), I've been reading up on the concepts of Christian community and fellowship. The following quote from J.I. Packer is perhaps the best two paragraph, devotional definition out of everything I've seen.

J.I. Packer (God’s Words: Studies in Key Bible Themes, pg. 193)

Christian fellowship is two-dimensional; it is first vertical and then horizontal. The horizontal place of fellowship…presupposes the vertical for its very existence. The vertical dimension of fellowship was described by John when he wrote: ‘our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ’ (1 Jn. 1:3). This fellowship is what makes a Christian; indeed, John’s words afford a precise definition of a Christian. The man who is not in fellowship with the Father and the Son, however upright and pious he may be, is no Christian at all. The horizontal dimension of fellowship is the habitual sharing, the constant giving to and receiving from each other, which is the true and authentic pattern of life for the people of God.

Fellowship with God, then, is the source from which fellowship among Christians springs; and fellowship with God is the end to which Christian fellowship is a means. We should not, therefore, think of our fellowship with other Christians as a spiritual luxury, an optional addition to the exercise of private devotion. We should recognize rather than such fellowship is a spiritual necessity; for God has made us in such a way that our fellowship with himself is fed by our fellowship with fellow-Christians, and requires to be so fed constantly for its own deepening and enrichment.