Archive for March 2009

Importance of Studying Church History

My Seminary degree concentrated on Church History. I am fascinated by and in love with the study of Church History. You may not share my appreciation (yet :-) ), but I can assure you that the study will be profitable for you as a believer regardless of your current level of interest.

The history of Christ's body, the church, consists of hosts of godly men and women from whom the modern believer can learn much of a dedicated, consecrated walk with Christ. Examples of men trusting God in spite of persecution abound. Countless stories of faith amidst trials, tragedy, and temptation are not to the exclusion of many wondrous accounts of God's blessing his followers in material ways and their continued dedication to Him in spite of the potential distractions of wealth and ease. While these historical figures were certainly not perfect, and care must be taken to present an accurate picture and not a beatified portrait of them, we can be very much encouraged and can learn a great deal from observing the way that they honored and served our God. We can also learn from the mistakes and failures of these men and women that even Godly believers have weaknesses and are vulnerable to temptation. I plan to begin very soon a series of vignettes to expose you to both the lives and works of these saints.Read more ...

Published on March 2, 2009 at 9:00 pm |

Personal Convictions

Personal convictions are the template, pattern, or framework for decision-making in each person's life. We arrive at personal convictions in a variety of ways, but there are similarities in each of us. Most of us rely heavily on our upbringing. The values of our parents or guardians are interwoven in all we do. Also, major life experiences and crucial interactions further color our life choices. For the believer, though, there must be a higher standard by which we make our life choices; our personal convictions must be based on Biblical truth.

Not many are likely to deny the above statements. Most professing believers would claim that they base their life framework on Biblical commandments and principles. How is it, then, that the lives of believers unfold in such an amazing variety of ways?Read more ...

Published on March 5, 2009 at 9:01 pm |

Bitterness Against God: Job

The story of Job could be described as a "riches to rags" story. In the beginning of the book we learn that Job has what many would call the American Dream. He is an incredibly wealthy man. He has a large family that enjoys spending time together. He also was a very godly man. God's description of Job is that he "was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil" (Job 1:1). He was also very concerned about the spiritual well-being of his family. He prayed for them and offered sacrifices for them (Job 1:5). He seemed to have it all-a fact that Satan was quick to point out to God. Satan claimed that Job's faithfulness to God was the result of unparalleled blessing on his life, and the removal of this blessing would result in Job's cursing God and forsaking Him (Job 1:11). God agreed to put Job to the test. He allowed Satan to take his wealth and the lives of his family all in one day, and Job's response was stunning: "The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord" (Job 1:21). Many of us would have crumpled under the crushing weight of such a blow, but Job's faith remained untouched. The divine commentary on Job's faith is also remarkable: "In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong" (Job 1:22).Read more ...

Published on March 8, 2009 at 9:02 pm |

Papias of Hierapolis (Church History Vignette 1)

Papias of Hierapolis cherished the sayings of our Lord, and we would do well to follow him in that love! The Bishop of Hierapolis, Phrygia, Papias, was a disciple of John (which John is debatable, but likely the Apostle-more on that later) and a friend of Polycarp of Smyrna. He was born around A.D. 70 and likely knew St. Philip the Evangelist as well at St. John. Eusebius insinuates that Papias was not an intellectual powerhouse, but this opinion may have been negatively influenced by Eusebius' strong dislike for Papias' eschatological system (yes, they disagreed about that back then too). Unfortunately, it is difficult for us to ascertain how biased Eusebius may have been because we have so precious little of Papias' work extant. The Bishop's primary work, Exposition of the Oracles of the Lord, was extant as late as 1218, but is now lost except for fragmentary quotes in Eusebius and Irenǽus.Read more ...

Published on March 10, 2009 at 9:02 pm |

Blue Like Jazz: Nonreligious Thoughts On Christian Spirituality (by Donald Miller)

Blue Like Jazz is a very enjoyable and interesting read. Regardless of what one may think of the contents of the work, most agree that the book is written well and in an engaging style. The title is interesting (some might say confusing) and tricky to understand if one has not read the book. Here is the CliffsNotes version. Donald Miller (the author) never liked jazz music because it isn't structured, and it is difficult to tell where it is headed at any given moment. One day at a bus stop he saw a man playing jazz on a sax. The man had a look of pure joy on his face as he played. His passion and joy in the music changed Miller's perception of jazz. Miller's mind made a connection to God-he had never really liked God early in life, but as he saw God in the lives of true, vibrant believers, his mind was changed. One cannot always predict where God is headed. Faith is necessary. That explains the jazz part-God is like jazz. The "blue" part comes from a camping trip in the Grand Canyon. As Miller rested and stared up at the sky he was overwhelmed by thoughts of God...up there in all that "blue...like jazz."Read more ...

Published on March 12, 2009 at 9:03 pm |

Bitterness is Destructive

In the last two articles, we defined bitterness as the anger and hatred that we direct at other people because of our own selfish ambition and pride.  We also looked at two examples of bitterness.  The first was Simon the Magician's bitterness against other people.  Simon's ambition drove him to be poisoned with bitterness against the apostles.  We also examined the life of Job and his bitterness against God.  This has been, in many ways, preparatory for this final installment-the destructive nature of bitterness.  It is imperative that we realize that bitterness is an incredibly dangerous vice to toy with, and it must be rooted from our lives.Read more ...

Published on March 14, 2009 at 9:05 pm |

Upward: The Bob Kauflin Hymn Project

Upward: The Bob Kauflin Hymn Project is an album of fantastic hymn texts with simple, fresh, modern settings that would be useful as songs for congregational worship, public offerings of song by an individual or small ensemble, or for private, individual worship. All twelve tracks on the album are very solid both musically, and, more importantly, lyrically: There’s no dead weight here. While no musical style can be appropriate for every audience, Upward strikes a remarkable stylistic balance that provides enthusiastic, joyful worship while maintaining a simple style that will be useful in a majority of settings. Note that the style of the freely available arrangements (more on that later) is likely to be useful in an even wider array of venues than the recording itself would be.Read more ...

Published on March 17, 2009 at 9:06 pm |

God, I Don’t Want To Be Isaiah (is that OK?)

I recently got a call from a young pastor who was trying to decide if his attitude was wrong concerning his desire to see his church experience serious growth. The answer, of course, is...it depends. There is no doubt that it is possible to "do ministry" from improper motives. In his letter to the Philippians Paul says that he is aware that some are preaching the gospel out of a sense of selfish ambition (1:15-17). If a pastor desires for his ministry to grow so that he will be recognized as a great leader, and so that his latest book will sell more copies, yes, that is a problem. I don't think we need to spend much time arguing that point. It is legitimate, however, to consider whether it is wrong to desire ardently to see one's ministry opportunities grow and expand.Read more ...

Published on March 19, 2009 at 9:07 pm |

Is There a Difference Between Prosperity and Success in Ministry? (based on Joshua 1:8)

[This article began as a response to a question asked about God I don't want to be Isaiah. As I am incapable of being short-winded, it grew into a separate article.]

The matter of the difference between prosperity and success is really going to be semantic. If you are basing the discussion on modern usage of the words while applying biblical principles, I would say yes, there is a difference. For instance, in the modern vernacular, "prosperous" overlaps with success, but generally includes monetary gain. M-W.com lists prosperous as "a: marked by success or economic well-being b: enjoying vigorous and healthy growth c: flourishing. However, "success" is defined as a "favorable or desired outcome." Therefore, you may "succeed" in an endeavor in your ministry without "prospering." Example: if your teens decide to take up a project to feed the homeless, they may take donations, do fundraisers, and orchestrate a food drive. As the day of the event get closer, they haven't met the goal, so the church kicks in $200 from the general budget. Well, on that day they feed 500 homeless people, and as that was their goal, they have "success." However, the church is set back $200. So, by those definitions they did not "prosper." Obviously, if you use a more Christo-centric Biblical outlook and say that the kids succeeded (by feeding the homeless) and prospered (by laying up treasure in heaven) you also fulfill both definitions. As I said-semantics.Read more ...

Published on March 21, 2009 at 9:08 pm |

Philip Melanchthon (Church History Vignette 2)

Philip Melanchthon was born Philip Schwarzerd in 1497 in the town of Bretten. Already a precocious student at the age of eleven, Philip underwent a major life change when his father died. Young Philip was mentored by a relative (perhaps an uncle) named Reuchlin. It is likely that Philip not only furthered his seemingly unquenchable thirst for knowledge, but also acquired his unswerving allegiance to the study of the biblical languages under the influence of Reuchlin. At his relative's recommendation, Philip changed his last name from Schwarzerd to Melanchthon. Both names mean "black earth," but the former is German while latter Greek would have been considered more learned. After the completion of his education at the age of twenty-two, Melanchthon moved to Wittenburg where he would teach for the rest of his life.Read more ...

Published on March 24, 2009 at 9:09 pm |

The Shack (by William P. Young)

First, I really enjoyed the book. I think the story (especially the dialogue) was brilliant. It was interesting and entertaining. I appreciated the deep thinking that it caused me to do. I always embrace having my preconceived notions–especially about God/spirituality–challenged.

[SPOILER ALERT-CRITICAL PLOT ELEMENTS REVEALED]
However, (you probably knew that was coming) there are some real issues. I went back and forth on the “God as 2/3 female” issue. I understand what Young was trying to do, and I don’t think he had a rank feminist agenda, but I was still uncomfortable with it. He explains that Papa (God the Father) was materializing as an African woman to short circuit his aversion to the Father figure, but Saryau (Holy Spirit) was a woman the whole time (and seemed really to be female).

Furthermore, Young’s attacks on institution and hierarchy were off-base. This is not just my opinion. Scripture clearly teaches that Jesus was and is submissive to the Father’s wishes (willingly, but still submissive). Also, Scripture does not teach that the man as leader of the home is an aquiescence to the Fall and man’s shortcomings. Eph.5 teaches it as a Divine plan.
Read more ...

Published on March 26, 2009 at 9:10 pm |

Constantine the Great (Church History Vignette 3)

Caius Flavius Valerius Auerlius Claudius Constantinus Magnus (phew!) was born in February of approximately 272 A.D. Constantine I, later known as Constantine the Great, contributed much to the Christian Church, but his contributions are in the form of performed deeds and not active life for God. Schaff says that “his greatness… is to be measured more by what he did than by what he was.” The first, great, Christian Emperor may not have been a Christian at all.Read more ...

Published on March 31, 2009 at 9:11 pm |

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