12.10.2010

The DOMINO THEORY & the FUTURE OF THE MEGACHURCH MOVEMENT (UPDATED)

Here is a recent Abounding Grace Radio Audio on my take of what is ahead for the mega church movement. It's only about 15 minutes, so do please let me know what you think.

Click Here: MEGACHURCH BANKRUPTCY

The following is an article that was recently published in the OUTLOOK MAGAZINE on this Subject:

Crystal Cathedral Mega Church Goes Bankrupt

Considering that Robert Schuller pioneered the current mega church movement, the recent bankruptcy of the Crystal Cathedral is no small issue. Are we getting a glimpse into the near future for those megachurches that have followed Schuller's same paradigm for ministry? Just what is the current state of the megachurch movement? If the Crystal Cathedral is any gage of what is to come, what might we learn from the current bankruptcy of the granddaddy of all mega churches in this country?

10.27.2010

THE ANTICHRIST Controversy Part I

See the Introduction
Already in the first century the church was faced with the question of how to understand the apostle Paul’s description of the coming apostasy and revelation of the man of lawlessness as recorded in II Thessalonians 2:1-12. Events continually surfaced that seemed to correspond to what Paul had described concerning a certain individual who would appear on the scene of history prior to Christ’s second return. In the mid 4th century, John Chrysostom (344-407) began asking questions that are still being asked to this very day. He wrote,
Here Paul discuses the Antichrist and discusses great mysteries. What is the “falling away”? He calls him Apostasy; so he will destroy many and make them fall away…And he calls him “the man of sin.”…But who is he? Satan? By no means. Rather he is a man in whom Satan fully works…He will abolish all the gods and will order men to worship him instead of God. He will be seated in the temple of God, not that in Jerusalem only, but also in every church.

10.25.2010

WILLIAM PERKINS Versus WESTMINSTER CONFESSION on ASSURANCE

William Perkins (1558-1602) is known as the father of Elizabethan Puritanism.  One of his most important works is the Reformed Catholik.  Perkins devoted an entire section in this work to the Reformed doctrine of assurance.  As I was reading this treatise, I was struck by how contrary Perkin's comments are to the Westminster Confession of Faith on Assurance.  Perkins is adamant that assurance belongs to the essence of true faith.  Read the following statements by Perkins and then compare them with the WCF. 

10.23.2010

The ANTICHRIST CONTROVERSY--Can Christ Return At Any Moment?

I am thinking of doing a blog series on the antichrist phenomena, but thought I would raise the problem first.

Last night I attended a conference at the local Protestant Reformed Church on eschatology.  Professor David Engelsma spoke on Revelation 11 and the slaying of the two witnesses. The lecture was quite good, but during the course of the lecture, Engelsma again asserted with authority that the antichrist will be a literal man who will physically crush the church once its mission is complete. I say “again” because Engelsma was one of the most vocal Reformed voices against Harold Camping’s prediction of Christ’s return in 1994.  Engelsma responded to Harold Camping by saying that it would be impossible for Christ to return in 1994 because 2 Thess. 2 says the day will not come until the man of sin is revealed.  So, according to Engelsma,

10.22.2010

Dr. W Robert Godfrey to Preach at LURC This Sunday!

For those in the surrounding region who attended our 2009 Pacific Northwest Reformation Conference featuring Dr. W Robert Godfrey, we have the privilege to have him back into our pulpit this coming Sunday.  Worship times are 10:00AM & 7:00 PM. Visit the LURC online for more info.

Sunday AM: Psalm 84--Desiring God on His Terms
Sunday PM: Revelation 14:1-13--Seeing the World as God Does

10.21.2010

THE CULT OF PERSONALITY--UPDATED

My good friend Rev. Kevin Efflandt recently did a post on the cult of personality.  His post captures the problem well.  Take time to read it.  I posted on this subject almost two years ago now (wow, where does time go?).  Here is an updated version.

In working through Preachers and Preaching with one of our seminary students, I was recently struck by something Martyn Lloyd Jones warned against.

The preacher has to guard himself against the terrible temptation to be a 'character'. People like a 'character', and if a man has certain elements in him that tend to make him a character--something out of the ordinary, something which people regard as attractive--he has to be careful. His danger is to pander to this and to play up to it; and in the end he is just calling attention to himself. Some men like to be quaint or odd or different, and to get people to talk about them. This is the danger, so beware of this; and, again, especially watch your strong point.

10.19.2010

The CRYSTAL CATHEDRAL GOES BANKRUPT

Crystal Cathedral Mega Church Goes Bankrupt

Considering that Robert Schuller pioneered the current mega church movement, the recent bankruptcy of the Crystal Cathedral is no small issue. Are we getting a glimpse into the near future for those megachurches that have followed Schuller's same paradigm for ministry? Just what is the current state of the megachurch movement? If the Crystal Cathedral is any gage of what is to come, what might we learn from the current bankruptcy of the granddaddy of all mega churches in this country?

The FUTURE OF NATIONAL ISRAEL & The CURSING OF THE FIG TREE

What exactly did Jesus teach regarding the future of Israel? Is there a future restoration planned? Why did Jesus curse the fig tree? Take some time to listen to our daily 15 minute program as we tackle this very important subject.
Matthew 21 The Barren Fig Tree
Matthew 21 The Barren Fig Tree
Matthew 21 The Barren Fig Tree
Matthew 21 The Barren Fig Tree

Matthew 21 The Barren Fig Tree Part 2
Matthew 21 The Barren Fig Tree Part 2
Matthew 21 The Barren Fig Tree Part 2
Matthew 21 The Barren Fig Tree Part 2

10.16.2010

WHAT IS REFORMED THEOLOGY? INTERVIEW on SOLA 5/COVENANT RADIO

"YOU MUST BE BORN AGAIN"

Covenant Radio's current series is: WHAT IS REFORMED THEOLOGY? 
I was interviewed on Covenant Radio this past week on the Reformed doctrine of Regeneration.  I took a bit to warm up to being hundreds miles away and doing an interview over the phone, but I trust that if you take the time to listen to the full interview, you will be blessed by our discussion on the Spirit's work of implanting the principle of life in dead hearts, to the glory of God!  Listen to the whole series.

ELECTION--Dr. Cornelius Venema
REGENERATION--Rev. Christopher Gordon
JUSTIFICATION--Dr. Guy Waters
ATONEMENT AND IMPUTATION--Dr. Richard Philips
Here are the first two:
#128 | Election and Predestination | Dr. Cornelis Venema | 1 HR 14 MIN
#129 Regeneration | Rev. Chris Gordon | 1 HR 3 MIN

10.14.2010

The CHURCH ATTENDANCE CHALLENGE

I was challenged in a previous post to not just point out the errors of others, but provide some calls to action.  I have done this over the past year in many of my posts, but here are ten ways to evaluate you motivations for church going, and whether you should be attending your present church.  The call to action is to be honest in this self-evaluation as you take a more active role to test the spirits to see whether they be from God, especially in finding a church that is faithfully preaching the gospel.
  
Personal Motivations

1.  Sentimentalism Is Never to Trump Truth

When it comes to church life, people are often more given to sentimentalism than they are to the truth.  There may be a variety of reasons for this: sentimental attachment to a building, longstanding family representation in a particular church, pride in a certain denomination, etc.  Doctrinal integrity often takes a back seat to these kinds of sentimental attractions.  In these scenarios, people are honoring their traditions more than the LORD. Such commitments become a smokescreen to the defense of the gospel.

2. Church is Not About Making You Comfortable

People approach a prospective church with the following questions:  What are the people like?  What kind of programs does the church offer?  Is the music good?  What is the facility like?  Church is not about making us comfortable.  The church is given as a place for God’s people to be fed with his means of grace and spiritually equipped for every good work. 

As Luther said, God doesn’t need our good works, but our neighbor does.   God determines who he places next to us in the pew.  Remember that we come as beggars to receive the true bread from heaven.  Therefore, as beggars, our mindset should be to help other beggars find this same bread. 

3. Your Children Do Not Determine Where You Will Attend a Church
We live in a day of the cult of the child.  Children are not expected to take a submissive role in the home. The home today is built around the child, and discipline is non-existent.  This has devastating affects upon church life.  Parents are prone to listen to their child’s wants rather than to actively nurture their children by determining what they need.  For instance, a child complains to the parent that the sermons are too long, or the service is boring, and the parents, unwilling to lead, honor their children more than the LORD (see the consequences of this in 1 Sam. 2), and base their church attendance on what the child likes. 

This has resulted in the practice of children’s church, and other practices that remove children from the worship service.  The consequences of this are devastating upon church life. We are raising an entire generation of children who are not being trained to listen to sermons or worship the Lord corporately.  The long term fruits of this will show in increased antipathy to anything formal or organized when it comes to worship, and an inability to hear the Word (are we seeing this now?). 

4.  Style Preference Is Not Neutral
Often people base church attendance on stylistic preference, mainly with regard to music.  The Bible never presents worship as a matter of personal taste or style.  But that has not held us back today.  Just look in the phone book, when it comes to churches it's all about your likes and dislikes—contemporary, life-giving, exciting worship, etc. 

Everything we do must conform to the specific commands of Scripture with regard to worship.  Our music must conform to his truth, our liturgies should be filled with his Word, the sermons should be delivered in the demonstration of the Spirit and of power.  We should stop asking if the church is doing things that we like, but we should rather ask whether the elements of worship conform to God’s Word.

5. The Message Is to Be Believed, Not the Man Followed

The average churchgoer, when searching for a church today, is primarily concerned with the likability of the pastor. Is he down to earth? Does he share personal stories from his own personal experience? Is he just a fun-loving guy who can relate, who connects with the youth? Is he friendly?  The pastor can easily pander to this and emphasize that aspect of his personality that people are attracted to.  The church then becomes built around him rather than Christ. 

The people in the pew need to understand that the man proclaiming the Word is one sent by God himself. The preacher is sent with someone else's message, along with a method already predetermined. Through the messenger, God is exposing the lives of the sheep directly. He is uncovering the sins of people's hearts. This is ministry. The great goal of ministry, therefore, is to drop prideful sinners to their knees that they might find life in the glorious gospel of Christ and him crucified.  If the pastor is doing his job, there will be times you probably won’t like him.  But likability is not a qualification for the pastor. Beware of the cult of personality.  If you are following a man, you are being set up for a great fall. Follow the message and not the man. 

Church Motivations


6. The Preaching of the Word Is to Be Central

Is the service centered on the Word? Is the Word being read, preached, prayed and sung?  Or is the Word being used as a fortune cookie to manipulate what the pastors knows people want to hear, rather than what they need to hear?  If the preaching of the Word is not central, since it is the primary means of grace, you can be sure, God is not present in that worship service. 

7. The Sermon Is To Be Christ-Centered

Isaiah says, Lord who has believed our report?” This is an interesting question. Paul cites this from Isaiah 53 in Romans 10 to make the case that Christ is brought to us in the preaching  of this report. What is the report?

Here it is: "He has no form of comeliness no beauty that we should desire him, he is despised and rejected, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief...and we on our part hid our faces from him, he was despised, and we did not esteem him...he has borne our grief’s and carried sorrows...yet we reckoned him stricken, struck down by God and afflicted and wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities...all we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned every one to his own, and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was led as a lamb to the slaughter and as a sheep before its shearers is silent so he opened not his mouth (Isa. 53:1ff)."

The report is that of bloody crucified savior who is not beautiful in our estimation. The report comes as a description of Christ's gruesome death when his grave was made with the wicked, God himself delivering over his son. Why would God do this to his beloved son? Isaiah says that it is due to our rebellious hearts since we always go astray and turn to our own. In other words, the Father did this to Son because of our sin. 

This is the report.  At the heart of everything we do in preaching, there should be a goal to preach the report.  It is God’s chosen means to save.  So ask this question: Could the sermon you’re hearing be preached in a Jewish Synagogue?  If so, it’s not a Christian sermon. 

8. Worship Should Not Be Built on Entertainment

You have six days if you really must be entertained (who could endure six days of this anyway?), but the seventh day is a day of rest from worldly amusements and a time to seriously worship the risen Christ.  Keep in mind, “amuse” means to not think.  If the church you are attending is theater-driven, you have forgotten that the very character of the perilous times the apostle warns about is a desire in people to have their ears tickled rather than a promotion of a love for the truth.  What we do is foolishness to the world, and no manner of making it acceptable to the flesh will ever be truly Spirit-filled.

 

9. Sacraments Are to Be Faithfully Exercised

God has given us two visible words in baptism and the Lord supper.  These are signs and seals of his grace to us.  Are these being honored in your church?  Are they being faithfully administered and not cheapened by making what is holy, common (i.e. baptism in parking lots and swimming pools for whosoever feels moved, etc.).   Is the Lord’s Supper treated as a means for your personal renewed commitment to the Lord, or as a means of strengthening your faith spiritually with the body and blood of Christ. 

 

10. The Church Should Love You Enough to Discipline You

It is not love to allow someone to continue in blatant sin without correction.  In fact, churches that open their doors to people running from other churches because of sin are bringing down God’s anger on the whole congregation.  A little leaven leavens the whole lump (1 Cor. 5).  We are commanded, in love, to exercise church discipline on those who have strayed in doctrine or in life.  Most likely, people have no idea what church discipline is today because the practice has all but been abandoned.  Churches that do not oversee the flock in this way are seriously offending Christ and provoking him to remove his lamp stand from their presence.

10.09.2010

The PRAISE MUSIC CHALLENGE!

So here is a clip from Saddleback's worship service.  Contrast the "theology" in this worship song with the following God-breathed Psalm and then answer the following two questions.


Psalm 24:1 A Psalm of David. The earth is the LORD's, and all its fullness, The world and those who dwell therein. 2 For He has founded it upon the seas, And established it upon the waters. 3 Who may ascend into the hill of the LORD? Or who may stand in His holy place? 4 He who has clean hands and a pure heart, Who has not lifted up his soul to an idol, Nor sworn deceitfully. 5 He shall receive blessing from the LORD, And righteousness from the God of his salvation. 6 This is Jacob, the generation of those who seek Him, Who seek Your face. Selah 7 Lift up your heads, O you gates! And be lifted up, you everlasting doors! And the King of glory shall come in. 8 Who is this King of glory? The LORD strong and mighty, The LORD mighty in battle. 9 Lift up your heads, O you gates! Lift up, you everlasting doors! And the King of glory shall come in. 10 Who is this King of glory? The LORD of hosts, He is the King of glory. Selah

QUESTIONS:
What very serious theological error is being advanced in this Saddleback song?  (Hint: Look and listen for the word "climb"?) And what is Psalm 24 really describing in contrast to this theology?  If you can pass this test, you have discerned well truth from faslehood.  BE BOLD!

10.08.2010

NEW BOOK Always Reformed: Essays In Honor of W. Robert Godfrey

Joel Kim and Scott Clark have been working on a project for the last two years and are pleased to announce its publication today: Always Reformed: Essays In Honor of W. Robert Godfrey  The volume is in three sections to reflect three areas of Bob’s interests. Here’s the table of contents:
    Preface: Our Man Godfrey—R. Scott Clark
    I. Historical  1. Christology and Pneumatology: John Calvin, the Theologian of the Holy Spirit—Sinclair B. Ferguson 2. Make War No More? The Rise, Fall, and Resurrection of J. Gresham Machen’s Warrior Children—D. G. Hart 3. God as Absolute and Relative, Necessary, Free, and Contingent: the Ad Intra-Ad Extra Movement of Seventeenth-Century Reformed Language About God—Richard A. Muller 4. “Magic and Noise:” Reformed Christianity in Sister’s America—R. Scott Clark 5. Karl Barth and Modern Protestantism: The Radical Impulse—Ryan Glomsrud II. Theological 6. Reformed and Always Reforming—Michael S. Horton 7. Calvin, Kuyper, and “Christian Culture”—David VanDrunen 8. History and Exegesis: The Interpretation of Romans 7:14–25 from Erasmus to Arminius—Joel E. Kim 9. John Updike’s Christian America—John R. Muether III. Ecclesiastical 10. The Reformation, Luther, and the Modern Struggle for the Gospel—R. C. Sproul 11. The Reformation of the Supper—Kim Riddlebarger 12. Preaching the Doctrine of Regeneration in a Christian Congregation—Hywel R. Jones 13. Integration, Disintegration, and Reintegration: A Preliminary History of the United Reformed Churches in North America—Cornelis P. Venema 14. Epilogue: The Whole Counsel of God: Courageous Calvinism for a New Century—W. Robert Godfrey Bibliography Index Contributors
The volume is 284 pages in hardcover. If I may say we tried to make this volume as attractive as it is substantive. It’s available now through the bookstore at Westminster Seminary California this week for $20.00 (+ shipping). The price rises to $25.00 on Friday 8 October 2010.
To celebrate the occasion of Bob’s sixty-fifth birthday, the latest episode of Office Hours is dedicated to Always Reformed: Essays in Honor of W. Robert Godfrey.
Comment:
Through his teaching at, and leadership of, Westminster Seminary in California, Robert Godfrey has had a significant impact both on the confessional Reformed churches at large and upon the lives and ministries of many pastors and leaders. These essays, by an esteemed group of friends and colleagues, are a fitting tribute to his life‘s work and, indeed, a helpful resource on the history, theology, and practice of the faith which he himself has done so much to promote.”—Carl R. Trueman, Professor of Historical Theology and Church History, Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia
“Most great theologians and historians of the past are moving targets, so that we speak of the ‘early’ and the ‘later’ man. John Calvin is a notable exception. In this, as in many other ways, Dr. W. Robert Godfrey emulates his sixteenth-century mentor. In the decades that I have known him, Dr. Godfrey has been a consistent Calvinist, a worthy mentor, and an engaging friend and conversationalist with a fascinating array of diversified interests. His doctrine and life are a seamless piece of his seminary vision for comprehensive, consistent, Christocentric, and committed Calvinism. Editors Scott Clark and Joel Kim, together with the prestigious Reformed authors of this unusually insightful and provocative festschrift, have done a marvelous job in showcasing this vision from a variety of angles….Bob is eminently worthy of this page-turning festschrift, and it is worthy of him. If you are interested in growing on issues that relate to the cutting edge of the Reformed faith today, read this book. You will be informed, edified, challenged, and inspired.”—Joel R. Beeke, President of Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary, Grand Rapids

10.02.2010

The Sad Case of Francesco Spiera (1504-1548)--A MUST READ

The following is a link to an article written by my good friend, Dr. Wes Bredenhof.  The article is about the case of Francesco Spiera, an Italian lawyer from Venice who in 1548 converted to Protestantism.  He was subsequently put on trial by Roman Catholic authorities during the time of the Inquisition and was pressured to recant his Protestant views.  Upon doing so, he faced severe depression and died believing that he was a reprobate and sentenced to hell. Some believe his death was by suicide.  Both Protestants and Catholics immediately voiced their views on the events of Spiera's life--warning respectively.  Wes offers a good pastoral perspective on this sad account.  The article is well worth your time. Follow the link directly to the article right here.

9.29.2010

"Watch Therefore! You Know Not the Day Nor the Hour"

There are certain things that happen in life that can never be forgotten. The chain of events that unfold before you, when they have run their course, leave such an overwhelming impression that nothing else can be done but to bow before Christ in submissive silence. We call these strange, often mysterious occurrences, providence. They are often so enigmatic while experiencing them, yet, when closure finally comes, a glimpse is given into that perfect end for which the Lord intended. And it is then that we stand in awe of our Creator whose wisdom and power supersedes anything we ever thought or imagined. I have one of those stories that, if you will take the time to read, I trust will provide you a helpful way to appreciate the doctrine of providence as I have often experienced it.

9.22.2010

Sign Seekers Beware!--Abounding Grace Radio

What does Christ think of sign-seekers? How should we think about the current signs and wonders movement? What really does it mean to live by faith and trust the inspired Word of God? All this and more on this edition of Abounding Grace Radio.
Abounding Grace Daily Broadcasts Sept. 27-Oct. 1, 2010
Monday September 27, 2010John 4 Sign Seekers, Beware!
Tuesday September 28, 2010John 4 Sign Seekers, Beware!
Wednesday September 29, 2010John 4 Sign Seekers, Beware!
Thursday September 30, 2010John 4 Sign Seekers, Beware!
Friday October 1, 2010Nicely Forgotten Preaching--What Ever Happened to Declarative Authority

9.13.2010

Nicely Forgotten Preaching--What Ever Happened to Declarative Authority?

(The picture was taken at the Cowboy Church in White Fish, MT--I had to post it!)

T. David Gordon in his book, Why Johnny Can’t Preach, states in the introduction that thirty percent at best  of preachers today are able to deliver even a mediocre sermon. Even if one chooses to disregard the statistic as just another black-eye given by the plethora of writers who are presently beating on the American church, still, has any thought been given, assuming such a statistic is true, as to what such a problem creates in the expectations of those who come to church on a given Sunday? What if the statistic were thirty-five, forty, or even fifty? The answer to this, if honest, is a painful one: very few would know how to recognize preaching that is done in the demonstration of the Spirit and power.

In this connection, I can’t help but think of Christ’s words to the multitudes concerning John the Baptist, “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? "But what did you go out to see? A man clothed in soft garments? Indeed, those who wear soft clothing are in kings' houses. "But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I say to you, and more than a prophet.” There was something about the way John preached the kingdom of God, clearly and notably different than the preaching the people had been accustomed to hearing. There was something about the voice itself—it searched, it penetrated, it convicted, it killed, it made-alive, all with the goal of increasing the testimony of God concerning his Son in the hearts of those who had the ability to hear. It was precisely John’s peculiarity of message, style, tone, authority, and delivery that made him stand out to the multitudes as someone recognizable as a prophet from God in their midst.

But imagine how we might feel if the following questions were inspired for us: What do you attend church Sunday to see? A man with earthly suggestions? But what did you go to hear? A man speaking nice things? Indeed, those who speak like that are coaches and motivational speakers. But what did you go to see and hear? A man sent by God to deliver his law and gospel?

9.10.2010

Perkins On Assurance as Belonging to the Essence of True Faith

True faith is both an infallible assurance, and a particular assurance of the remission of sins, and of life everlasting. And therefore by this faith, a man may be certainly and particularly assured of the remission of sins, and life everlasting...

Paul says of Abraham that he did not doubt the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, and gave glory to God being fully assured, that he which promised was able to do it, where I observe first that doubting is made a fruit of unbelief. Therefore, infallible certainty and assurance, being contrary to doubting, must proceed from true faith, considering that contrary effects come of contrary causes, and contrary causes produce contrary effects.

Second, I note, that the strength of Abraham's faith, did stand in fullness of assurance; for the text says, he was strengthened in the faith, being fully assured. And again, Heb 11:1, true saving faith is said to be the ground and substance of things hoped for, and the evidence or demonstration of thing that are not seen. But faith can be no ground or evidence of things, unless it be for nature certainty itself...

That saving faith is a particular assurance is proved by this, that the property of faith is to apprehend and apply the promise, and the thing promised, Christ with his benefits...In these words, to believe in Christ, and to receive Christ, are put for one and the same thing. Now to receive Christ, is to apprehend and apply him with all his benefits unto ourselves, as he is offered in the promises of the gospel. William Perkins, The Workes: A Reformed Catholike, Vol. I (John Legatt: London, 1616) 564.

8.31.2010

Christ Must Increase--Abounding Grace Radio

In a day of rampant narcissism, cult of personality and shallow spiritually, is there anything we can learn from the ministry of John the Baptist? Just how easy is it to defect from the gospel of Jesus Christ? And what did John the baptist mean when he said, "I must decrease and he must increase"? All this and more on Abounding Grace Radio.
Monday September 6, 2010John 3 Christ Must Increase
Tuesday September 7, 2010John 3 Christ Must Increase
Wednesday September 8, 2010John 3 Christ Must Increase
Thursday September 9, 2010John 3 Christ Must Increase
Friday September 10, 2010Westminster Weekend 22

8.24.2010

Abounding Grace Radio--The WRATH of God

According to Jesus, condemnation is just as much a present reality as a future one. Just what does it mean that the wrath of God abides on those who do not believe? Click to listen to Abounding Grace Radio.

Monday August 30, 2010 John 3 Condemned Already

Tuesday August 31, 2010 John 3 Condemned Already

Wednesday September 1, 2010 John 3 Condemned Already

Thursday September 2, 2010 John 3 Condemned Already

Friday August 27, 2010 Westminster Weekend 21

8.22.2010

What about that Covenant on Sinai?

"It is the swearing of the ratificatory oath that provides an identification mark by which we can readily distinguish in the divine covenants of Scripture between a law covenant and one of promise. For it is evident that if God swears the oath of the ratification ceremony, that particular covenantal transaction is one of promise, whereas if man is summoned to swear the oath, the particular covenant thus ratified is one of law...

We are bound to conclude, then, that the covenantal transaction of Exodus 19-24 cannot be defined in terms of a unilateral promissory commitment from the divine side. This particular engagement was, on the contrary, constituted a covenant by Israel's formal pledging of obedience to God's law. It was a law covenant." Kline, Meredith. By Oath Consigned: A Reinterpretaton of the Covenant Signs of Circumcision and Baptism. (Eerdmans: Grand Rapids), 16-18.

8.19.2010

HIPSTER, COOL-GUY, BAD-BOY CHRISTIANITY

Last week, the Wall Street Journal had an interesting article titled "The Perils of 'Wannabe Cool' Christianity". The author, Brett McCracken, has done some careful reflection on the current dilemma of the Baby Boomers who have witnessed the "increasing exodus of young people from their churches", and for the past two decades have been scrambling to overhaul their churches to keep "young members engaged in the life of the church." The boomers thought their kids would like the praise bands, the new hip storytelling approach from the stage, the big buildings, the nice parking lots, the youth church barn and all, but it just didn’t work, they couldn’t buy the souls of their children. Slowly they watched them leave. What have evangelicals done to remedy the problem, according to McCracken? "Hipster Christianity"and the shock tactic.

This new, wannabe cool Christianity offers you cutting edge technology, hip pastors with a metrosexual makeover, along with the coolest of relevant messages. "What better way to appeal to younger generations than to push the envelope and go where no fundamentalist has gone before", says McCracken. The article mentions Rob Bell's book Sex God, and Lauren Winner's Real Sex, along with one of coolest hipsters on the scene, Mark Driscoll who "delivers sermons with titles like 'Biblical Oral Sex', and 'Pleasuring Your Spouse'--the first pastor ever to use the word "vulva" during his sermon."

McCracken is writing in the same vein as many others like David Wells, who have done extensive work in critiquing evangelical stagnation and the marketing mega-church attempt to package its message as something appealing to the consumer. McCracken's exposure offers nothing new to the assessments of Wells and others, but he does represent something that should be viewed as an encouragement to those who share his concerns, namely, a louder, clearer, aggravated voice among many Gen-Xers and Millennials who have finally come to the point where they have had enough. We should hear the voice getting louder--do you hear it? McCracken correctly observes that what is needed is something real beyond the perversity we are "drenched" with daily. What is needed is not some temporal, ephemeral fix to the mere consequences of the misery we have chosen, but (forgive my interspersment) a heavenly solution to the tragedy of a human race dead in trespasses and sins, a real savior who has descended to sinners to give them life.

McCracken is correct in his assessment. The question, of course, is whether there is something out there for young, restless, "reforming" evangelicals that provides the "realness" they are seeking for. Years ago, I would have told people to try a Reformed church. Today, such a recommendation has to be qualified. Does the Reformed church in question actually believe and practice the confession that at one time was the basis for its formation as a church? From my perspective, I seem to be witnessing the same wholesale abandonment of the very thing McCracken is calling for, and this among many Reformed churches which were, at one time, unwavering in the "real" doctrine they confessed.

I hope Reformed people listen to McCracken's plea here and realize the opportunity that is presented to them. Evangelicals are crying for...a God. Do we have confidence in the means God has chosen to make himself known? What are we offering that really is an "alternative" to the mass of evangelicals groping in this sea of chaos? Offer the alternative with confidence! How do we do that, you ask? We begin by knowing and appreciating the very thing we advertise on our church sign: REFORMED.

Here are two articles on this very subject that I wrote last year:
The GREAT SEX CONTROVERSY
Our Faddy American Church Mess

8.17.2010

REGENERATION (Part II)---Abounding Grace Radio

Here is Part Two of our Abounding-Grace Radio series on REGENERATION

Monday August 23, 2010
John 3 Regeneration Part II
Tuesday August 24, 2010
John 3 Regeneration Part II
Wednesday August 25, 2010
John 3 Regeneration Part II
Thursday August 26, 2010
John 3 Regeneration Part II

8.13.2010

The Best Kind of APPLICATIONAL Preaching

"God's ministers [are taught] a great point of wisdom in heavenly divinity, namely, to apply their doctrine to their audience in such manner, as the circumstances of place, times, or persons do require. Some ministers come to an ignorant and unhumbled people, and teach them the gospel, which never knew the law. Here the fierce coal is used, but the lips are untouched, that is, good doctrine taught, but not well applied--for that the law should first be laid to their consciences.

Others bear all upon the law, when it may be their hearers are people sufficiently cast down, and have more need to be raised up with the sweet comfort of the gospel."

William Perkins, The Workes: Duties & Dignities of the Ministry, Vol. III (John Legatt: London, 1618) 456.


Now that would be some good "applicational" preaching!

8.11.2010

HOW TO SPOT FALSE WORSHIP--The DIALOGICAL PRINCIPLE AT WORK

I was recently asked to re-post the worship charts from a blog series I wrote earlier this year: Going Off Roading With God--(See the Worship Service Description HERE , PART I, PART II )
Hear also some recent RADIO Interviews on the Series:
THE STATE of the EVANGELICAL CHURCH IN THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST (1)
THE STATE of the EVANGELICAL CHURCH IN THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST (2)

Protestants believe worship is to be a dialogical. Our response flows from what he has declared through his servant in the written Word. We are called to separate these as two distinct aspects of worship. Notice the dialogical principle demonstrated below in a standard Protestant liturgy (what we do in worship):

God

People

Call to Worship (Scripture text)

Prayer

God's Greeting (Scripture text)

Song of Praise

God's Will For Us in His Law (Scripture text)

Confession of Sin

(prayer / song)

Assurance of Pardon
(Scripture text)

Response of Gratitude:

Prayer (first part)

Tithes / Offerings

Song of Gratitude

The Word of God spoken (Preaching)

The Word of God displayed (Sacraments)

Song of Response

Doxology of Praise

Benediction (Scripture text)




God speaks in calling us to worship, we respond with prayer; he speaks in greeting us with a word of blessing, we respond with song; he speaks by instructing us in his will for us, we respond in confession and repentance; he speaks by assuring us of forgiveness, we respond in prayer and by giving our offerings; he speaks to us in Word and Sacrament, we respond with gratitude in song and he sends us out, not with a mere dismissal, but with his benediction as his pilgrims. Through and through, there is dialogue, and our responses are only appropriate to what the LORD has already conveyed to us in his Word through his appointed messenger. This is why the Lord constantly instructed his prophets to speak, "only what the Lord has commanded" (Ex. 7:2), as worship begins and ends with Word of God. The same is true for the pastor today.

Now consider the Saddleback model:

God

People


Ready to Worship? Worship Leader

Praise Music -20-30 Minutes

Welcome by Praise Leader

Prayer

Video #1

TOPICALLY DRIVEN MESSAGE DETERMINED BY THE PASTOR, NOT the TEXT

Word of God Forced into Pastor's Topic --->


Video #2

Offering

Praise Music

Dismissed




Now who is absent here? The one element on the God-side if often manipulated by the pastor as he imposes his topic on the text. The Saddleback model claims to have a real worship experience in which we actually meet God. Does the above order of worship show this? An honest assessment of the service shows that Word and Sacrament, the primary means of grace, are not central. The man-side is full with practices more appropriate to the theater than the worship of a holy God.

When a church begins worship with the first twenty minutes of praise music, all you have done is falsely elevate the people's emotions; there has been no place given to have the truth "as it is in Jesus" be our guiding light. Our singing is not a means of grace. Music is a response from us to the grace given to us. We often begin worship with the wrong assumption that real uplifting worship elevates us to God first through music, instead of God graciously condescending to us in Word and Sacrament. This is wrong; this is backwards. Our praise is a response to his nearness to us in the Word spoken.

So, what are you receiving every Sunday?