January 30, 2008

I've Finished Reading "Biblical Eldership"

I first heard about Strauch's book several years ago when I was attending a small Southern Baptist Church in South Carolina. The pastor was beginning to explore what it meant to move from committee lead structures to an elder lead structure for the church. From what I knew at the time, the book proved profitable for the group of men he pulled into the group to discuss the book, but seeing any change beyond simply what occurred in the study, especially in the structure of the church never happened to my knowledge.

It's situations like that and just an overall lack of understanding of the subject of eldership for which Alexander Strauch wrote this book. The reason it became of particular interest to me was because I envision and am committed to Eternity being lead by a plurality of elders and as such wanted to make sure I was as thoroughly versed from a Biblical standpoint as I could be. There are other works on the subject that I intend to read but I have a hard time believing they will top this one.

From the very beginning, Strauch makes an extremely strong defense why a plurality of elders is really the only Biblical option for church leadership. He cautions against the "pastor as superhero" model and also readily dismisses with exegesis of Scripture the idea of "ruling bodies or presbyteries" that govern multiple local churches at a higher level.

The book is broken into four parts:

  1. Biblical Eldership (The different facets of it)
  2. Defense Of Biblical Eldership (Strauch's personal defense)
  3. The Exposition Of Scripture (The Biblical texts that have led Strauch to his position)
  4. Related Topics (More operational and method related questions in regards to Elders)

The book is a 300+ pages and with it's attention to particular Biblical arguments is not (and really should not be) a fast read. It has a great Scripture index at the back and it will take a couple of passes to catch some of the finer arguments that Strauch is attempting to make. But this book is a must have for anyone leading a church. It's a great reference and in my opinion solid Exegesis of 1Timothy, Titus, and 1Peter as they relate to church governance and leadership.

Strauch's positions will most definitely fall within a complementarian camp and will very much line up with Piper and Grudem's summary of male leadership within the church.

You can't miss with this book. If you're a church planter, a pastor who sees where the structure of leadership in your church is falling short, or you've just come to wonder why so many of the newer churches are being led by people called "elders", this will be a good book for you.

January 29, 2008

I've Finished Reading "Christ Centered Preaching"

Wow, it feels like forever since I've done a book review. I haven't stopped reading, but it seems like the reading has been more scattered over the last few months than it has focused.

This was a book recommended to me at our last church planter's meeting by Jonathan McIntosh of The Journey. We had discussed preaching at that meeting and this was a book that he recommended to the planters that were there.

For the most part, the book lived up to its billing. However, it is definitely a practicioner's book. Chapell does a good job of walking through developing a Christ centered redemptive sermon.

At times, and I think the content warrants this, it gets a bit methodical and plodding. I found myself feeling like I was re-reading the same parts of the book over and over and over. For those who have never preached, or like myself who have preached a little but now see that becoming a much more consuming piece of life, this is a good book to lay the foundation and the fundamentals of practice before stepping onto the platform on Sunday mornings.

The book is broken into three parts:

  1. Principles For Expository Preaching
  2. Preparation Of Expository Sermons
  3. A Theology Of Christ-Centered messages

It's almost 400 pages long including appendices, bibliography, and indexes so it's not necessarily the quickest read in the world. The bibliography is great and gives reference to more books that should time and money warrant, I would love to read.

Overall, I would say for anyone who is looking at planting a church, starting to preach on a regular basis, or feels like their preaching ministry is somehow off kilter, this would be a good book to put on the shelf and to make a reference.

I'll end with a quote:

When preachers perceive the power that the Word holds, confidence in their calling grows even as pride in their performance withers. We need not fear our ineffictiveness when we speak truths God has empowered to perform his purposes. At the same time, acting as though our talents are responsible for spiritual change is like a messenger claiming credit for ending a war simply because he delivered the peace documents. The messenger has a noble task to perform, but he jeopardizes his mission and belittles the true victor with claims of personal achievement. Credit, honor, and glory for preaching's effects belong to Christ alone because his Word alone saves and transforms.

January 25, 2008

I’m A Closet….

Celine Dion fan…those of you who know me already knew that. But in my blog life, I must confess, I'm a closet reader of Penelope Trunk.

Who is Penelope Trunk (Even though that is not her real name)? She's the author of Braazen Careerist. She would be described by many in Christian circles as a blazing feminist. She's a dispenser of very un-orthodox advice. And as far as I can tell, would not call herself a Christian.

But one thing is for sure. She's a darn interesting read. Whether I agree with her or not, whether her advice is Biblical or not, her posts are good reads. And I had to quote her from this post as I think in many ways, she is spot on here:

One of the first things people think when they are unhappy is that they need to change their job. Maybe they'll get a job that pays more, or that allows them to be their true self, or will be their dream job.But you know what? A job does not make you happy, it only makes you unhappy. And forget about that raise, because the incremental happiness you get from earning more than, say, $100,000 is barely noticeable. (Yes, even if you have a family of four in San Francisco. Stop thinking you're the exception to every rule. It's a flaw that undermines your ability to change.) The thing that increases our happiness is our relationships. A job cannot make those better. However a job can make you so unhappy that you can't relish the relationships in your life.

Now obviously, Penelope and I would disagree on THE THING that increases our happiness, but we very much agree on the fact that people take WAY too much value from their job. I did. For a long time. My value in life came from what I did. It was a good job. It was in "ministry". Therefore, I was a good person and had every reason to be proud.

But it was during that job that I took so many things – starting with my family – for granted. I sacrificed my family on the altar of a "ministry" job. And as I get ready to plant a church, the one vow I have made is to never do it again.


Too many people have been great at their jobs and their spouses and children have wondered why daddy didn't love them. You can be the greatest employee, doctor, lawyer, real estate agent, pastor, director, developer, communicator, etc you want, but at the end of the day, God will have a lot more to say about what you did with Jesus, your family, and those closest to you than he will about how great you did in your job.

What's funny is that Penelope gets it. And I wonder why millions of Christians, who have the Spirit of God dwelling within them, don't?

January 24, 2008

So…I Went To Wal-Mart Yesterday

To pick up a prescription from the pharmacy for my youngest son. Now, for those of you not familiar with Wal-Mart, it is quite possibly the most intriguing place from a human standpoint that you can find. Short of a bearded lady, there isn't a better circus.

In fifteen minutes, I saw the following:

  • A man and a lady (probably in their late 40's) walk up in front of about six people and the guy sticks his arm out to ask the pharmacist if she would ring him up. What took her, and all six of us by surprise, was the fact that he was holding a twelve-pack of condoms. After being told by the pharmacist that she didn't ring people up, the couple turned around to find all of us smiling at them at which point they immediately hurried off obviously embarrassed but giggling the whole time. So here's my question: Whose idea was it to put the "family planning" and "sexual aides" next to the pharmacy.
  • After going down to the deli to get some popcorn chicken for little tyke to munch on, I'm walking up to the cash register area to get a 20 oz bottle of Coke when my face is immediately awakened to a 300 lb man's fully exposed butt crack staring me in the face like a Wal-Mart smiley. Not only did he not seem to care, he also needs to learn the value of proper hygiene. Enough said.
  • Then upon returning to the pharmacy area to retrieve the prescription that had taken wayyy too long to fill at this point, I was treated to Bubba and Charlene sitting on the bench next to me with Charlene the redneck holding a five-pack of Wal-Mart thong underwear. That was bad enough except for the fact that when her and Bubba departed the area, she left two pair of underwear behind (both thong, and both with see through lace on them). I'm assuming Bubba was a happy man.

So I was left with the dilemma..do I let the underwear she left behind sit there, or do I make an associate aware of the situation so that she can take them back to ladies wear.

I did what any self-respecting father of two would do. I had my four year old pick them up and throw them in the cart as we walked out of the pharmacy to go home.

January 23, 2008

Who Are You Trying To Help? Yourself Or The Local Church?

UPDATE: Tim Challies (on queue from me)...see that's funny because Challies gets like a gazillion hits a day and I get (well not a gazillion)...wrote a great post today on the church. He too does not see it as a failure but rather as something worth putting our hand to the plow on.


It was a good couple of days as I finished up some work on my prospectus for Eternity and had a great meeting in Jefferson City yesterday. I'm excited to see God opening more and more doors as planting a church gets closer and closer.

I wrote this question in my last post:

How do you define the point at which para-church organizations (Promise Keepers, AWANA, FCA, Young Life, Missions Organizations, Conventions, etc) cross from being a helpful resource provider for the local church into an un-Biblical entity usurping the mission of the local church?

This is a touchy subject. Particularly because employees and supporters of para-church ministries will inevitably point to the vast "good" that they are doing. And while it may be true that they are seeing "good" results from their efforts, the question isn't whether "good" is being done, but rather (I believe): "Are we trying to take the place of the local church?"

It might be helpful for me to state up front what I believe the mission of the local church is. I'll combine three scriptural passages here for brevities sake because I think they kind of get to the heart of the matter:

To make disciples in a local community by teaching them all the Jesus has commanded us, equipping the saints so that we may present every man complete in Christ

That's a hybrid I know. But you get the point. The local church is the means that Jesus has established to present every man complete in Christ. It is the vehicle. It is the bride. It is the mechanism. It is promised that the gates of hell will never prevail against it. The Bible presents no other entity designed to serve as this disciple making body.

So why do we have so many para-church type organizations.

I would argue for two reasons. First, many people who start para-church organizations do so because they have detected a need in their own local church (which they fill) and then move onto attempting to fill that need in all the local churches they can. Second, if a local church is filling a need but doing so in an unsatisfactory manner (or at least perceived by the para-church organization that way), the para then attempts to fill that need in a way that they believe is more effective or "in-tune" in today's environment.

And in the early stages of a para, I think the intention is good. They want to help the local church. They want to help it fill a need it is not currently filling (or at least not filling effectively in their minds). At that point, the para is simply a resource provider to the local church. It exists to adorn the bride of Christ, providing her with much needed tools, methodologies, etc. Essentially, it is a bridal shop helping the bride get ready for her big day.

But then something begins to happen that I think is very un-biblical and ultimately destructive. The para begins to think that its mission is important. It begins to think that the local church exists to grow it, not the other way around. It begins to put its own objectives ahead of that the Bible prescribes for the local church. The para begins to become consumed with its own vision. Its own success. Its own importance. Its own numbers. Its own financial health. Its own fame. Its own mission. It quits looking to the local church and asking "How can we help?" and begins looking at the local church and saying "Here's what we need you to do".

A para-church organization NEVER has the right to tell a local church what it should do. Nor should it even attempt to. And when it does, it shows a fundamental lack of respect for the leadership and shepherds of that local body. It assumes it knows what is best for that church, rather than those that have been charged with shepherding it. Essentially, the para gets tired of adorning the bride and watching her get all the glory. It simply steals the dress and tries to walk down the isle itself.

And ultimately every para weakens, plateaus and either dies or at best becomes marginally effective. Why? Because it failed to recognize that it was there for the local church – not the other way around.

Hear me on this, I am not saying para organizations are wrong to exist, but they must do so within Biblical confines. Selling resources, providing aids, doing what it can to help adorn the church is a good thing. Being a strong Christian business that sells good products to a church presents really nothing wrong. But the minute you put your own vision above that of the local church, you have tried to take the place of the Bride of Christ…and one thing is for sure about that…

Jesus doesn't sleep around.

January 19, 2008

We Interrupt This Series….

Because blogging is going to be light for the next seven days or so and I don't want to do the resolutions of Jonathan Edwards injustice. I hope you've had a chance to check out days 1 – 11. They were really profitable for me to spend time in. I'm looking forward to the next 10.

I'm headed to Oklahoma City the next couple of days to finish up my prospectus for Eternity. I'm looking forward to a great time away. If you think about it, I would sure appreciate the prayer. This will be a time of articulating the mission, vision, values, and strategy for Eternity moving forward. Please pray that the video work will capture the heart of what God has impressed upon me.

After that, I'll be in Jefferson City for a meeting that I pray will be both encouraging and fruitful for Eternity as well. More details to come on that should they develop.

This week was a good week. I finished up my phone interview with Acts29 and am now set and ready to attend boot camp in Seattle at the end of February. I'm so jacked up.

I'm looking forward to some preaching assignments in the next six weeks or so. Things are really starting to pick up schedule wise. I pray I can be disciplined in my time management.

One thing I'll be pondering over the coming days, and a significant post I'll be writing in the upcoming week will attempt to address the following issue:

How do you define the point at which para-church organizations (Promise Keepers, Awana, FCA, Young Life, Missions Organizations, Conventions, etc) cross from being a helpful resource provider for the local church into an un-Biblical entity usurping the mission of the local church?

You might find this article stimulating as you ponder that question. DISCLAIMER: I do not subscribe to nor endorse the beliefs and views of Eden2Zion although I think there are some intriguing takes on issues today in Christianity…I simply found the post a thought-provoking read that caused me to think about my own experiences and the situations in many local churches.

I'll be back in a few days. I pray that they are productive and fruitful ones.

January 17, 2008

Resolved (Day 11)

#13 – Resolved: To be endeavouring to find out fit objects of liberality and charity.

I can't tell you how many times I've heard people that are having problems in their marriage or that have been divorced say the words: "I just don't love them anymore".

Other than the classic misconception that love is a state instead of a verb, that statement brings out a common problem with a lot of people.

We don't want to seek out ways to love people. We really don't. We would rather sit in our house, watch our TV, eat our frozen pizzas, write Facebook messages, play World of Warcraft on our PC's, etc etc. Anything that allows us to consume and stay passive.

The last thing we want to do is get up and go find a way to make a difference in the life of someone else. And not only do we not want to get up in the first place, say we actually do find somewhere that we want to go, very rarely when we get there do we do that thing with a spirit of generosity and love.

We usually do it with a sense of obligation and duty, all the while pondering what we could be doing that would be really fun for us.

Why? Because we don't believe in Jesus.

And before you get mad at that statement, ponder the fact that if you really believed in Jesus, why wouldn't you be generous? Why wouldn't you be loving? Why wouldn't you be seeking out other people the way Jesus sought you out? Why wouldn't you be serving and loving other people with love and caring the way Jesus served, loved, and died for you?

You don't believe.

If we believed, we would become more and more like the thing we believe in. Because when we believe, our passions, our intentions and our wills are directed and energized toward the object which we believe. And in that action, we become more like what we believe.

Don't believe me? Look around you. Look at what people are consumed with. Look at what they believe (love) the most. Chances are they're going to strongly resemble it.

And I'm not saying here that because Jesus loved you, can't you go love others for Jesus. That's not the Gospel. That's not Christianity. That's some religious, legalistic freakshow that teaches you to think that you have the power within yourself to love.

Nothing could be farther from the truth. You have the capacity to love because Jesus first loved you and lived a loving, caring, generous, servant life for you. His power is your power. Period. So the only way to be intentional about loving and generosity (as Edwards stated in his resolution) is to believe in Jesus. Edwards could make such a bold resolution because he knew that it wasn't him who was loving. It was Jesus who was loving.

Endeavoring is a strong word. It evokes feelings of work, labor, gruel, effort, strength, intentionality?

So many want to love others in a passive way and hope it makes a difference.

I would ask you to read the Bible and see if it took work and effort on the part of Jesus to demonstrate His love and generosity towards you.

Now, because He did it, you have the power to do it.

January 16, 2008

Resolved (Day 10)

Pride. One little word. Many destructive effects. It was pride at the root of the fall of mankind in Genesis. It is pride that is at the root of our downfall today. It is the one thing that lurks around every corner to destroy us. It is an evil poison for which there is only one cure: The Gospel

#12 – Resolved: If I take delight in it as a gratification of pride, or vanity, or on any such account, immediately to throw it by.

There are a lot of things in life that we do and put our hands to simply to make ourselves feel like we are more than we are. We are creatures who want to take our value and our worth from something related to how good we are.

Think about it. Sports. Jobs. Hobbies. Education. All things that if we excel at, have the temptation in them to puff us up and cause us to think more highly than we ought to.

You know, at the base level, believing in the Gospel (Jesus) is in many way a total renunciation of pride and vanity. It is a recognition of who Jesus is and who we are not.

John Piper tells a great story about his dad (who was an evangelist) saying to him "Johnny, it isn't getting people saved that's the hard part, it's getting people lost".

Truer words could never have been spoken. We don't want to really believe that we are prideful, arrogant, sinful, perfectionistic, self-absorbed, me-first brats. We just don't want to believe that about ourselves. We want to think of ourselves as loving, caring, generous, kind, and all other kinds of nice words. We want to believe that is who we are at the core.

In reality, nothing could be farther from the truth. Without Jesus, we remain totally focused on ourselves and consumed with how the world will revolve around us. That's who we are by nature. And Edwards understood this.

He knew his tendency to take joy and satisfaction from things related to himself, as opposed to things related to the Glory of God (Resolution 1). And so, he committed himself to always examining why he was joyful. Why he was happy. What was the source of that delight as he called it. And if it was found to have come from something that gratified him out of his own self-absorption or elevating of himself rather than Jesus, he resolved to rid himself of it.

He understood the perils of focusing on me and then getting happy when me was rewarded.

The one thing the Gospel demands is that "I" be taken out of the equation. It's not about me. Not even my sin. It's about Jesus.

January 15, 2008

Resolved (Day 9)

#11 – Resolved: When I think of any theorem in divinity to be solved, immediately to do what I can towards solving it, if circumstances do not hinder it.

Churches today are full of ignorant (and when I use the word ignorant I am using it in the sense of un-educated), lazy, passive, careless people.

People who don't care to study the Bible at all. People who would rather remain ignorant of the great truths, landscapes, nuances, and contours that God has laid out for us in Scripture.

If you established grade levels for knowledge/comprehension of the Bible with conversion being kindergarten and graduate school is graduating from seminary, I would say most of our churches are reading the Bible or living the Christian life at a 3rd or 4th grade level.

Now, please hear me say this, merely reading the Bible and filling your head with the knowledge of what lies in the Bible is not equal to advancing a grade level. The comprehension and application of what is in there is what's important. Transformation matters. Education can do very little if not properly applied.

With that said, we have to want to learn. Can you imagine your child in the fourth grade announcing to you that they were comfortable with the level they had progressed to in life and they saw no need to go to school any further. Even though you could plainly see that there was so much more they needed to learn, they felt confident that they had "enough" of it to get by.

And then imagine the fact that they keep walking into the school building every day. They don't have any intention to learn, grow, develop, or progress in their knowledge, wisdom, and education. They just want to go hang out with the other kids because they don't like being alone. And then imagine the teachers allowing them to do this without challenging them.

If you can get that illustration, you've just apprehended the American church I believe.

And what Edwards is saying in this resolution is that he was resolved to try and figure out that which could not be figured out. Even though it might be a mystery of divine proportions, that was not going to stop him from applying all of his mind and effort to know as much of it as he could.

He was going to learn. He was going to reason. He was going to do his dead level best to solve the greatest being in all of existence: GOD.

Do you have that passion today? Do you really want to go after God with all you have? Do you feel that you have the Gospel figured out? Cause if you do, you may be interested to know that Peter writes the angels (after all these years) long to look into the Gospel because they haven't fully comprehended it yet. And let me say something, angels have been around a lot longer than we have and have seen a lot more than us. If the Gospel still intrigues them, it should certainly intrigue us.

This is one area where ignorance is most certainly not bliss.

January 13, 2008

Resolved (Day 8)

I can say without a doubt that this has been one of the more roller-coaster weekends I've experienced in a while. It's had its highs, its lows, and its middles.

A great weekend at LifePoint and I'm just so thankful to be a part of the church I'm at. I'm excited about what God is doing. And I'm anxious to see what all transpires as we work through a "Gospel Centered Life" series in our community groups.

It's also a weekend of hurt and pain. One family here in the area has suffered a very unexpected loss. We were fairly close to them as we were in a small group with them for over a year. But hadn't really talked much since we returned to Missouri. And as I sit to write on the next Edwards resolution, it is fitting that the next resolution was:

#10 – Resolved: When I feel pain, to think of the pains of martyrdom and hell.

Have you ever had anyone tell you "Son, you haven't felt pain yet"! Or heard a woman tell the story of birthing her child and looking up at her husband and assuring him he had never felt pain like that.

And do you ever stop yourself and remind that stupid ignorant voice inside your head that things could be a lot worse? I mean seriously. We gripe about the stupidest stuff. I'm standing in line at a funeral home today to pay my respects for the family that experienced the loss and all some stupid woman behind me could worry about was where the line to pay the respects was. I mean she wouldn't shut up. She kept going on and on. You wanted to reach back around and shut her yap for her.

I mean seriously. It was really stinking annoying. And as I sit here tonight, I think "Marc, you're like that all the time with God". There is real pain and suffering in the world and all you can worry about sometimes is where the freaking line is.

Goodness, I'm an idiot. I gripe and complain about the stupidest stuff when there are Christians suffering in jails and being tortured in this world.

I think I have it so freaking bad and I fail to remember that billions of people are headed straight for hell. I'd rather worry about why the freak I didn't get an extra hash brown at McDonalds than ponder and pray for the missionary that was just burned with a blowtorch just for being a Christian.

It's un-fathomable how selfish, short sighted, winey, bratty, idiotic, stupid, and a pathetic complainer I am in my life.

I have been so blessed in life. I've been healthy my whole life. I have a beautiful wife and two precious boys. I have a house that doesn't leak. I have a furnace that works. I have plenty of food in the pantry. Clothes to put on my back. A great church to serve at. Friends to share life with. Eyes to read with. Hands to work with.

But god forbid I wake up tomorrow and I don't know where the line is. The world may come to an end.

God, please forgive me and help me truly see how stupid and sinful I am.


January 10, 2008

Resolved (Day 7)

#9 – Resolved: To think much, on all occasions, of my dying, and of the common circumstances which attend death.

How many of us routinely try to picture ourselves in a casket? More interesting yet – how many of us think about the manner in which we may die?

You might say that's morbid. I would say you have a point. But the question that crosses my mind when I read this resolution is: What good can come from thinking about our death and the manner in which we may die?

I think there's probably a couple. First and foremost, I think it would keep us grounded that although we are strong today (healthy and able), there's going to come a time where the life will leave our bodies and we will be strong no more.

I think back to watching my stepmom pass away from cancer and what I remember most is how strong she was. A year prior to her death, she was an extremely strong woman. She was never sick. She was sharp. She was healthy. And in a year, it all changed and her physical body was reduced to nothing.

How quickly the common circumstances of death, as Edwards would call them, can engulf us. As I watch people grow older, it really makes me sad. I watch people that were strong in the 30's, 40's, and 50's but now that they are in the 60's, 70's, and 80's their bodies are simply giving out on them. Death visits us all and its effects are non-discriminatory. Many of us will not die suddenly. Rather we will go through a slow agonizing process of having our faculties taken from us slowly. It's difficult to think about.

So why should we? Because it will keep us humble and make us grateful. If we know that the precious time we have where we do have our faculties, where we are blessed with health, where we are sharp mentally and emotionally, where we do have the ability to still process most of the world around us, is just that: PRECIOUS, then we will treat it as such and won't waste it. We'll be thankful for what we were given and not bitter when it is taken from us. As the Bible says – God gives, and God takes away.

Pondering our death and the common circumstances of it will remind us that we are not God and that no matter what achievements we claim as our own, soon we will be reduced to an infant-like stage similar to when we came in the world.

I also think that pondering our dying and within that considering that it really is not an eternal death but rather a step into eternal life (for those that have repented of their sin and believed in Jesus) helps us not be afraid when it comes upon us. Somehow, I think our relationship with Jesus should help us face dying with grace, not with anger and fear. Is it scary to die? I'm assuming so (I haven't yet). But there should also be a real peace in dying for the Christian. A hope born out of a lifetime of following someone you will soon see.

In Jesus, death (or dying) has no sting.

January 09, 2008

Resolved (Day 6)

Today was a great day. On this day, nine years ago, Jennifer Lynn Virtue was crazy enough to agree to marry me in front of a couple hundred witnesses. Back then it was three inches of ice on the ground. Today was just the aftermath of twelve hours of tornadoes. I don't know that there is an analogy there – just a statement that things are always interesting (at least weather wise) around our anniversary.

I want to look today at Edwards 8th resolution:

#8 – Resolved: To act, in all respects, both speaking and doing, as if nobody had been so vile as I, and as if I had committed the same sins, or had the same infirmities, or failings, as others; and that I will let the knowledge of their failings promote nothing but shame in myself, and prove only an occasion of my confessing my own sins and misery to God.

I remember growing up having a plaque in our house with an Indian prayer on it (I doubt it was Indian but when you're poor you take what you can get): Lord, let me not judge my neighbor until I have walked a mile in his moccasins.

And while I don't necessarily think that's what Edwards was getting at here, I think it conveys the sentiments. When you read this story and think about how an adult could throw innocent children off a bridge into a river to die, what is your reaction? Is it along the lines of "there's a special place in hell for that guy"? Or how about "I hope they fry his sorry butt"?

What crosses your mind. Because the reactions above are very normal, human reactions. But the strange thing is that we don't ever consider ourselves capable of such evil. We think we have things pretty much under control. We think we're pretty civilized.

I submit, and I think Edwards knew this, that we are all capable of anything at any time save the intervening grace of God. And I also submit, that you and I have already committed the most heinous act that could be committed. Much worse than tossing children off a bridge.

We sinned against God. We rebelled and disobeyed. We told God to take a flying leap. Get lost. We don't need you.

And let me tell you something, if you're capable of that, you're capable of anything. As you look at what Edwards understood and really a lot of redwoods have understood throughout history is that evil lurks inside each and every one of us. It is our nature. It is our bent. And it is waiting for the opportunity to strike. We may not murder a child, but we will murder a co-worker with our gossip. We may not commit adultery but we'll cheat on our spouses by watching pornography. We may not commit genocide, but we'll do all we can to make sure "those people" don't join our church – because we want a pure church.

Evil is evil. Apart from the restraining grace of God, we are all capable of the worst atrocities that have been committed through the ages. You are very well capable of being the next Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Saddam Hussein, or Osama Bin Laden.

And so what Edwards implores of us here is to use the occasion or seeing evil, hearing of sin, or reading about it to cause us to look inside and see within ourselves our very own sin and then to lay it at the cross. To continually return to the Gospel where we were forgiven for the greatest evil the world has ever known. Rebellion against God.

Does it mean that we ignore justice? No. Does it mean that evil doesn't cause anger or pain? Not at all. But along with our condemnation or our judgment of others for their mishaps and failings, it will do us well to remember that we are all of the same condition and capable of the same things.

It's easy to walk a mile in another man's moccasins. Especially when we are all wearing the same shoes.

January 08, 2008

Resolved (Day 5)

We had quite a night last night here in Southwest Missouri. I don't think I've ever experienced ten straight hours of being under a tornado warning. It was a long, tense, and exhausting evening.

Today I want to take a look at three of Edwards resolutions that essentially (I think) deal with the same issue.

#7 – Resolved: Never to do anything, which I should be afraid to do if it were the last hour of my life.

#17 – Resolved: That I will live so, as I shall wish I had done when I come to die.

#19 – Resolved: Never to do anything, which I should be afraid to do, if I expected it would not be above an hour before I should hear the last trump.

Do we realize how precious life is? Do we understand how fast it can disappear? Last night was a perfect example of how quickly life can be taken from us. Two people in Southwest Missouri died in the tornadoes and all reports talked about the fact that it was over in an instant. Edward understood this. After all, he is the guy who wrote "Sinners in the hands of an angry God".

He understood that we are not promised tomorrow nor should we assume that we will be around to see it. And it was this understanding that caused him to take pause about all that he did.

How many times have you asked yourself the question "If I had 24 hours to live – what would I do?".

I think it's a great question. I think it forces you to think about what is important. I doubt many of us would go about the same routine we have today.

What relatives would you call to say things you wish you had said years ago? How would your actions toward your wife or your children change? Would the little things that people do that drive you nuts suddenly seem unimportant because it was the last time you were going to see them?

Would you live differently? Would you lead differently? Would you love differently? Would the Bible take on a new perspective for you? Would prayer suddenly seem great?

Here's the thing. That's how you're called to live every day because you are not guaranteed tomorrow. You're not even guaranteed next hour.

So I'll pose this challenge to you as you read this and go about your day. If you knew you were going to die an hour from now, what would you spend the next 60 minutes on?

The clock is ticking.

January 06, 2008

Resolved (Day 4)

It's been a great weekend and I'm looking forward to another week of potential and to see what God will do. Tonight, I'm writing on Edwards' sixth resolution:

#6 – Resolved: To live with all my might, while I do live

Have you ever met those people in life that you're not sure whether or not they're really alive or if they are somehow just walking around in a semi-comatose state being kept upright by some mysterious drug?

I mean seriously, have you ever seen em? Or have you ever talked with folks that when you ask them what's been going on in their lives lately, the answer they give is the same answer they could have given thirty years ago?

Or the same answer they would have given you when they were in high school? How many of you have those friends that all they can talk about is the past? How many of you have those people that love to reminisce about the old times but the present times don't seem to be producing much in their lives?

I think that's what Edwards is getting at here. He saw that in life, we have to be intentional about living. We have to wake up every day and look at life with an optimism that God has something really great planned for us today. We have to trust that God is wanting to continue doing something in our lives. We have to know that God isn't done with us yet.

We can't rest on our laurels or on the past. We have to look to the future. Enjoy the past, learn from it, treasure it, but don't try to live in it. There are brand new chunks of 24 hours given to you every day. What are you doing to make the most of them?

Are you doing the same old thing at your job? Are you doing the same old thing as a parent? Are you doing the same old thing as a spouse? Are you doing the same old thing at your church? Are you doing the same old thing as a person?

What are you living for? And once you answer that question, then you really have to look at the effort your exerting in life to experience it. There are people in this world that have weeks, months, and years packed with memorable and life-changing experiences. Why? Because they are living with all their might! They realize that you get one shot at this.

There are not do-overs. If we are going to do something, we had better do it now. There are risks to be taken for the cause of Christ. There are churches to be started. People to be evangelized. Truths of God's word to be apprehended. And the question begs to be asked, what kind of effort are you putting forth?

Are you giving life your all? Or are you simply clocking in and clocking out?

January 05, 2008

Resolved (Day 3)

I'm adding Edwards fourth resolution back into this post as I think it more aptly fits there. The resolution that I want to focus on today is his 5th:

#5 - Resolved: never to lose one moment of time, but to improve it in the most profitable way I possibly can

How much time do we waste in life. On TV, on sleeping too long, on reading un-important blogs or articles, on arguing, or worrying, on whatever. One of our greatest downfalls is that we don't make the most of the time we're given to live. We're wasteful. We're ignorant. We're stupid.

We live life without an eternal focus. We live life in undisciplined ways. We live life apathetic toward truly important things. We don't get the fact that life is a vapor and is here today and gone tomorrow.

And if you need evidence of this, go to funerals often and here the comments that are shared. Things like:

  • I wish I could have spent more time with them
  • God took them from us too early
  • I never got a chance to tell them how much I loved them
  • I miss them
  • It doesn't seem real that they are gone

All those statements reflect in one way or another our human tendency to waste the opportunities we've been given and to take tomorrow for granted. Jonathan Edwards saw this. He knew that even though 50 or 60 years seems like a long time, it's not. We will all be gone very shortly. In the eternal span of things, we will all be gone in a second.

I think another of Satan's great ploys is to get us to waste the precious life God has given us and to convince us to waste it away watching stupid, banal, idiotic television shows or arguing about politics or playing online games all day.

In a way, this is the great challenge for me in blogging. Am I doing this to be profitable in my spiritual journey for me? Or am I doing this and simply wasting time?

Have you ever asked yourself what the components are of profitable moments and endeavors in life vs. what the marks of wasteful ones are?

We should. We don't. What a waste.

January 02, 2008

Resolved (Day 2)

Yesterday, we started with Jonathan Edwards resolutions and looked at #'s 1 and 2. Today I want to look at resolution #3:

Resolved: If ever I shall fall and grow dull, so as to neglect to keep any part of these Resolutions, to repent of all I can remember, when I come to myself again.

Jonathan Edwards knew that we all, no matter how hard we try (or how resolved we are) will wander. The great Christian hymn "Come Thou Fount Of Every Blessing" says as much. Prone to wander, Lord I feel it. Prone to leave the God I love.

It is our natural and easiest bent. We exercise religious fervor for a time. But then it gets old and we move on to the next exciting things that we can find. We as people are not good at keeping resolutions. So it is amazing that Jonathan Edwards built into his resolutions the concept of repentance.

Repentance is a lost thing among church goers these days. Very few people are repenting of anything. If anything, they are charging headlong into more areas of stupidity and idiocy. We are sinful people who want to indulge our desires, not deny them. We want to enjoy the pleasure of sin, not examine the ugliness of our hearts. If anything, I would say that unbelievers have most Christians licked in the area of examining oneself and then intentionally changing one's choices and behavior.

So what are we to do? Surely by now you've already blown half the resolutions you made for yourself going into 2008. And if you haven't, the end is surely near. It's not if you're going to blow it. It's when. And then the question becomes, when you blow it – are you going to get back on the road you were on and keep going?

We are not perfect, nor will we ever be. Edwards knew this. And he knew that when we blew it, the true nature of our communion with Jesus would be revealed. Because those who give up once they blow it, were only trying to do it for themselves. But those who blow it, and still press on, understand that Jesus gives us the grace to repent and that our standing with Him doesn't diminish just because we fell.

Jesus fell three times and needed help to get to Calvary. We fall every minute and need Christ's help getting to the finish. Edwards knew no matter how resolute he was, it was not Jonathan Edwards who was anything but Jesus was everything and that is why He must repent of falling short.

We repent because that is what brings honor to Jesus. Not quitting.

January 01, 2008

Resolved (Day 1)

As I was thinking what I wanted to do with The Jonah Syndrome around the first of the year, I had the idea of covering in detail and my thoughts on Jonathan Edwards 70 resolutions. A couple years ago I purchased the complete works of Edwards and have not been disappointed. While I am no where near progressing through them as I thought I would like, one of the first things I read was Edwards diary, his resolutions, and the essay written about him.

Turns out, I'm not the only one who likes Edwards resolutions. Justin Taylor linked to them here and Pulpit Magazine did a post on them as well.

But for the next 45+ days or so, I'm going to go through them here on the blog mainly for my own personal preparation for my Acts29 assessment at the Resurgence Conference in Seattle. However, I hope and pray that my reflections and interactions with them will be profitable for others as well. There are some that go together, as today's post will demonstrate. On those occasions I will list all "overlapping" resolutions so to speak. So without further adieu:

#1 – Resolved: That I will do whatsoever I think to be most to the glory of God, and my own good, profit, and pleasure, in the whole of my duration; without any consideration of the time, whether now, or never so many myriads of ages hence. Resolved: to do whatever I think to be my duty, and most for the good and advantage of mankind in general. Resolved: so to do, whatever the difficulties I meet with, how many soever, and how great soever.

#2 – Resolved: To be continually endeavorouing to find out some new contrivance and invention to promote the forementioned things.

#4 - Resolved: Never to do any manner of thing, whether in soul or body, less or more, but what tends to the glory of God, nor be, nor suffer it, if I can possibly avoid it.

So what the heck is Edwards trying to say?

I read these and hear this: Everything I do, I'm going to do what is purely for the glory of God, what is profitable for me, and whatever is good for my neighbor. No matter how much time it takes from me in this life and no matter how hard it is. And not only that, I'm going to be creative in thinking about ways to do it.

You know, as someone who desires to plant a church, this is refreshing for me. Focus is something I struggle with. This resolution hits home with me because I ramp up in the process of planting a church over the coming months, I am going to have be focused.

I'm going to have to have a filter by which I decide what I will do and what I won't do. And what I heard Edwards saying here is a challenge for me to ask the following questions:

  • Is what you're about to do for the glory of God?
  • Is what you're about to do going to bring you closer to Jesus?
  • Is what you're about to do going to help somebody other than yourself?

If the answer to any of those is no, then why am I doing it? Do you realize how much time we waste in life on stuff that just simply won't matter in eternity? It's frightening. And I think it's one of Satan's best ploys to hinder the spread of the Gospel. Occupy the troops with trinkets and toys while mass carnage occurs on the battlefield.

It's interesting to me that the first resolution listed would be on focus. It's also interesting to me that Edwards displays here a passion for creativity? How creative are you in your life? In your marriage? In your church? In your ministry? In your job? In your prayer life? In your Bible study?

Do we realize how destructive and stagnating routines can make us? God's mercies are new every day, and we should be to. We need to be creative. Why? Not for creativities sake. But rather, because when you think about how to do just the right thing in just the right way, you demonstrate the worth of object of your action or your words. And how can we say that God or others are valuable to us when we're interacting with them in exactly the same ways we did 30 years ago or 10 years ago and we have no desire to keep it fresh. Principles don't change. Methods and application do.

Two great resolutions to start with.