Saturday, May 30, 2009

Why Hast Thou Forsaken Me?

Some of us have been having a discussion about Jesus ‘ words from the cross: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” I grew up hearing preachers describe the scene like this: “Jesus was taking all of the sins of the world upon Himself, and it was so bad that God could not stand to look upon all that sin, so He literally had to turn His back on His Son, forsaking him” (usually it was much more detailed and dramatic than that, but you get the idea). I probably even preached something like that in my early days.

After more study, and listening to some respected teachers, my view has changed. Jesus was quoting the beginning of Psalm 22 (which gives an amazingly detailed description of the crucifixion). Could Jesus, in referencing that Psalm, have been essentially saying, “Psalm 22 is now being fulfilled”? In addition, If God the Father had literally forsaken/abandoned His Son, then who was Jesus talking to when He said, “Father forgive them….” and “Father, into your hands I commit my Spirit”?

What do you think?

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Church Polity

Here is my latest article for reIGNITED:

Who is Running This Place?

One of the first questions asked about a business or company or even a church is, “Who is running this place?” or “Who is in charge around here?” The issue is leadership. You are hard pressed to find a thriving, dynamic, growing church that does not have godly, mature, spiritual leaders and people who are willing to follow them. One of the primary tenets of the Restoration Movement is that the Bible is the pattern by which the local church should be structured. There are scores of books and theories about leadership in today’s world, but the Scriptures are to be our guide.

Restoration Movement congregations have no denominational or hierarchical structure. They are independent and locally autonomous. Local churches are led by elders (pastors) who know the congregation and the community. In Acts 11, the term elders is first used in the context of the church, and in the epistles we often find references to local church leaders. In Acts 14, Paul and Barnabas appointed elders in each church and, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord, in whom they had put their trust. Three words are used in the New Testament to describe the same people: Elders, Shepherds, and Overseers (see Acts 20:17, 28).

Our Lord’s favorite metaphor for spiritual leadership, a figure often used to describe Himself, was that of a shepherd -- one who tends God’s flock. A shepherd leads, feeds, nurtures, comforts, corrects, and protects. The apostle Peter wrote, Be shepherds of God's flock that is under your care, serving as overseers--not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away (1 Peter 5:2-4).

The Holy Spirit saw fit to leave the church with some guidelines as to who would be fit to be in a position of leadership in God’s church (see 1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9). Lynn Anderson, in his book They Smell Like Sheep, says that elders are to be men of experience, men of character, and men of vision. An elder is a spiritually mature man whom God had called as a leader/mentor/shepherd of the local church. Along with other spiritually mature men, he leads and feeds, and protects and inspects the flock. By example and instruction, he helps bring the congregation to maturity.

Many folks have a warped view of church leadership. They think it has to do with power, authority, and rule. This is a far cry from the New Testament model. Leaders in the local church are men who are spiritually mature, doctrinally sound, and relationally compassionate. Elders are responsible for teaching doctrine, administrating discipline, protecting the flock, praying for the flock, studying the Word of God, and overseeing the flock. Their many responsibilities can be summed up in two words: leading and feeding.

Pray for those who serve in this capacity in your congregation. Offer words of encouragement and appreciation. Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you (Hebrews 13:17).

Talkin' Bout Regeneration

Last week, my friend David Willis posted some thoughts about regeneration. There is something to be said about the fact that if a person is saved, it should be readily visible in that person's life. His thoughts echoed what I had been reading recently:
Much is at stake in seeing the new birth in true biblical proportions. Heaven and hell are at stake – and a church in the world now that acts more like Jesus and less like the culture aground it. Which brings us back to where we started, namely, the claim that born again Christians have lifestyles of worldliness and sin that are indistinguishable from the unregenerate. I don’t think so. 1 John 5:4: “Everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith.” But my conviction is not rosy news for the church. It implies that there are millions of church attenders who are not born again.

That started my creative juices flowing, and I penned this little ditty (with apologies to The Who)

Did your conversion really take?
(Talkin' 'bout regeneration)
Or is your Christianity fake?
(Talkin' 'bout regeneration)
True repentance produces fruit
(Talkin' 'bout regeneration)
You can’t get to Heaven by another route.
(Talkin' 'bout regeneration)

Don’t be tryin’ to water it down
(Talkin' 'bout regeneration)
Grow a spine, get doctrinally sound
(Talkin' 'bout regeneration)

This is regeneration
This is regeneration, baby

What part of Acts 2:38 do you not understand?
(Talkin' 'bout regeneration)
Baptism’s part of salvation’s plan
(Talkin' 'bout regeneration)
I'm not trying to cause a big s-s-sensation
I'm just talkin' 'bout r-r-regeneration

Why don't you padded guys f-fade away?
(Talkin' 'bout regeneration)
And don't try to dismiss what we all s-s-say
(Talkin' 'bout regeneration)
I'm not trying to cause a b-big s-s-sensation
I'm just talkin' 'bout r-r-regeneration

This is regeneration
This is regeneration, baby

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Some Gave All

We remember the true reason for this holiday weekend. Freedom isn't free.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Ready for the Weekend

I'm sorry I haven't been posting much lately. Not much going on anyway.
But I have a fairly full weekend planned. Yard work today, then our monthly Men's Breakfast on Saturday, followed by a church work day. Then the usual Sunday stuff.

Have a great weekend everybody!

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Worship Star

I like CCM and worship music, but I still thought this was pretty funny.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Theological Musings

This morning I was reading Acts 17-20. I was struck by a couple of things. First, does anyone agree with me that Apollos was re-baptized? If the Ephesians in Acts 19 were commanded to do so, isn’t it reasonable to assume that Apollos was too?

Also, every time I read Acts 20:7 these days, I think about how we have preached it over the years. I mean, THAT’S the definitive text that tells us that communion is on Sunday, every Sunday, and only on Sunday? Really?

Friday, May 01, 2009

He Is Not Silent

One of the “give-aways” at the Gospel Coalition last week was Al Mohler’s He Is Not Silent. It is a book about preaching, and it is excellent. I’m about halfway through it now. Here are a few gems:

The power of the Word of God, spoken through the human voice, is seen in the Bible’s unique power to penetrate all dimensions of the human personality.

Any consideration of Christian preaching must begin with the realization that preaching is essentially an act of worship.

A Major portion of Christendom is spiritually starved – and sound, biblical preaching has become an extremely rare commodity.

True preaching is never an exhibition of the brilliance or intellect of the preacher but an exposition of the wisdom and power of God.

This kind of humility in preaching is possible only when the preacher stands in submission to the text of Scripture.

When we say “preach”… what we mean is, very simply, reading the text and explaining it – reproving, rebuking, exhorting, and patiently teaching directly from the text of Scripture. If you are not doing that, then you are not preaching.

If the Bible is truly the enduring and eternal Word of God, it means what it meant even as it is newly applied in every generation.

Expository preaching demands a very different set of questions: Will I obey the Word of God? How must my thinking be realigned by Scripture? How must I change my behavior to be fully obedient to the Word?