stevengworld

Well Everybody’s Doing It

March 27, 2013
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Passion Week. Holy Week. Easter Weekend. Palm Sunday. Good Friday. He is Risen Day. Everybody’s doing it….well not everybody. What picture are we painting for our culture?

The lost, pagan, unchurched, and down right wicked people of the world all know what’s coming down the pike. Churches make the Lord’s Day message about the risen Jesus Christ. Yet their focus mainly seems to be set on visitors. What picture are we painting for our culture?

Who are you going to invite to church this Sunday? I hear this being proclaimed quite often around this time every year. I call it transit evangelism. It’s where Christians give directions to their unsaved friends to the church or pick them up so that someone besides them can share the gospel and run the risk of being the bad guy. Well everybody’s doing it, right?

Jesus has risen and we ought to point people to the one that once hung on a bloody cross, was pierced, buried, and then raised. If they refuse to look, then you have done your duty in obeying the Great Commission. But that’s rarely the testimony we hear from members.

Wonder what the expected culture would say if we didn’t put so much focus on the passion week? Wonder how they’d react if the church wasn’t so interested in who showed up as they were in who rose up?

Ask yourself, what picture are you painting for our culture as you become a calendar Christian so wound up to what’s being celebrated at Lifeway and other retail stores?

I ask us this question because I for one don’t believe Christians think the death and resurrection of Jesus should be preached, proclaimed, and made a big deal of on one day out of the year! And yet that’s exactly what I see everybody doing. This has become a pattern of inertia in the Western Church and no one questions the motives behind it.

When are we going to wake up and consider our motives? How long will the Church go along with this? Folks, we are painting a picture for our culture and maybe it’s time we ask the culture what picture they see…

 

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You Don’t Even Believe It, Why Should I

March 26, 2013
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Readers, I warn you that this may not be an easy post to read nor tolerate. I’ve thought through this subject thrice over dissecting arguments, advocates, naysayers, and foundational justifications for it all. What am I referring to? An extremely huge issue of same-sex marriage. Yep!….this is my take.

For those red tie flag waving folks who cry out the world’s in grave turmoil shouldn’t be so quick to pick up that megaphone. It’s always easier to monitor verbally what goes on outside your own house, but it comes off as hypocritical. For those blue tie tolerance shouting folks who cry out just let people live their own lives should think before they allow their mouths to form such blindsided statements they really don’t mean.

For those who purport that same-sex marriage is a civil rights issue, either stop using that as a crutch to tug at the hearts of those groups gravely affected and that group overpowering them, or just be consistent. You don’t even believe it, so why should I? Here’s why.

Same sex marriage is argued for on the basis of two things: 1) same-sex marriage is between two people who love each other and 2) them getting married doesn’t hurt anybody. I’ve had several conversations with folks who are pro-this type of logic and we’ve hashed out as many sides of this argument as time allowed. I strove to listen to them and asked questions that pushed them to its logical conclusion. What I hear over and over again are these two arguments. And then after I ask these advocates about their views on polygamy and marriage between a teenager and her senior (say a 44 yr old and 17 yr old), their own arguments blow up in their face.

Two men and two women can love each other and should be able to love each other for life in a state recognized marital union, so say advocates. Really?…well what about the man who wants that same thing with 4 women. Is that alright? Ever noticed how none of these same-sex marriage advocates wielding the civil rights issue sword proclaim that polygamy should go alongside homosexuality? And they never will because they don’t even believe what they’re saying. They don’t! They can’t.

Homosexuals are notorious and statistically proven to have lots of sexual lovers. This fact is often overlooked as advocates tend to overshadow this with the stats of heterosexuals being overtly promiscuous. I’m not here to argue against it…I can’t. However, I will argue that we must not overlook the facts about homosexuals. Why? Because it either gives grounded evidence for our society allowing polygamy or it weighs against the argument that homosexuals don’t hurt anybody. One of those has to be accepted and the other rejected.

Oh but wait….they love each other and who are we to judge that. After all, we can’t help who we love, right? I dare you to ask a married woman if she agrees with that once you tell her she’s not allowed to judge her husband for loving another woman. What’s love got to do, got to do with it? I’m sure every homosexual couple that wants to get married would say that they love each other. I’m also sure that every ‘odd’ couple with an older woman, aka cougar, and a younger man, aka boy toy, would say that they love each other. What’s the difference? Civil rights? Christians hating? Republicans being irrational? Society being held back by red states? I think the same-sex marriage advocates would have to admit there is no difference, but they don’t. They can’t. They don’t even believe what they tout as valid, why should I. Why should I accept the premise that homosexuals love each other and therefore should be granted every right in every state to marry, while rejecting the premise that marriage between older and younger people is allowable only by a few years difference ignoring their love is hypocritical at best.

If we push same-sex marriage advocates to their logical conclusion, they are left with nothing. Absolutely nothing. I don’t mean to be harsh, but I do mean to be fair and thorough. We won’t hear these advocates make room for polygamists and cougars. I hope one day our society pushes people to their logical conclusions once they plant and sprout their premise in a clear manner. Stop waving the love banner. Stop waving the no-gay-left-behind banner. Stop waving the civil rights banner. Stop waving the be tolerant banner especially when you’re intolerant of Christians, those who oppose you, polygamists, and other groups that desire to be married. Just stop it.

Now I have intentionally left the Bible out of this post simply because everybody and their mama knows the Bible is against homosexual marriage. So I didn’t feel a need to recast that for you all. This is about worldviews that permeate our society and our ability to reason well in front of a crowd of cheers and jeers. If our ability to reason and argue well doesn’t translate into consistent logic, then we must jump ship at some point. Someone may say at some point, you don’t even believe it, why should I?

There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death. – Proverbs 14:12


Quizzical Questions

March 13, 2013
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In our society today we tend to take certain things as truth because to disbelieve them would warrant a person as not being supportive, being negative, and worst of all being judgmental. On the flip side of that coin, we also tend to ‘fact check’ lots of statements made by pundits, media, and the like and somehow that’s not deemed as being non-supportive, negative, or judgmental. It boggles the mind.

Now throw in the issue of someone being a Christian and things slow down like Neo in the Matrix. Why? Because so many people think that can’t be measured by anyone else but that person. Well to that I have some quizzical questions for those who agree:

Do you enjoy fellowship with God?
Are you sensitive to sin?
Do you obey God’s Word?
Do you reject the evil world?
Do you eagerly await Christ’s return?
Do you see a decrease pattern of sin in your life?
Do you love other Christians?
Do you experience answered prayer?
Do you discern between truth and error?
Do you have the witness of the spirit?
Are you rejected or persecuted for your Faith?

These are questions a good friend of mine, Flame, posed on one of his albums. These stem from 1 John.

Now for the same group that feels they are in some isolated bubble where no one else is able to weigh in on their salvation outside the normal factors our society cherishes, such as church attendance, I have a surprise for you from Jesus in Matthew 7:

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.”

And this is Jesus talking about false prophets! So what makes us think he can’t do the same for any of us? He can because He’s God in flesh.

Just a little something to help us think through our standing before a holy Godhead. Let’s not fool ourselves with our own prideful thinking.


Parenting With Purpose

March 12, 2013
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Have we noticed that God calls parents to parent their children with a purpose? We’re talking intentional parenting. We’re talking planned parenting.

“And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children” – Deut 6:6-7

Diligently used there means purposeful planning. Parents are to have a plan to teach their children all about God. This is intentional, thought about, planned ahead, formal type of teaching children. The teachers are the parents; not someone to whom the parents wish to delegate the responsibility. The content is God, which is runs from Genesis to Revelation, and in other created things.

This shouldn’t be something that’s placed in some small compartment. Why? Teaching your kids how to read, write, and doing arithmetic is necessary for them to read God’s Word, write it out, and use dates to decide when certain events took place in the Bible. It’s also helpful for the rest of the world, and allows your children to honor God by using the tools you’ve given to them.

I purposefully left out the rest of the verses in Deut 6, which speak to informal times of teaching your kids. I want our focus and attention to be on the formal teaching. This takes planning ahead of time to consider how to present God to them, and then pick consistent times to teach. Definitely not a small task, but one that’s commanded of parents. How crazy it’d be to ignore a clear call of obedience on one hand and yet ask for something on the other.


A Moratorium On Moralizing the Old Testament

March 6, 2013
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That’s right! I’m calling for a moratorium on dishing out moral lessons left and right, both in Sunday School and home bible study, and sadly yes, even in the pulpit. I’m calling for a suspension of this practice. In fact, I’d prefer to abolish it completely, but I consider that wishful thinking.

May we stop reading Old Testament stories, neglecting to find the context of the story, digging for surface moral lessons, and passing them out like Magic Johnson dishing out assists. Stop it. It’s harming the people listening to you twofold. One, they never learn the storyline of the Old Testament, nor how to interpret it. Second, they usually don’t see how it’s relevant to their lives now. So what usually happens is these believers encounter other believers who are going through something, and the only thing they have to offer is moralizing counsel.

Take for example the life of Joseph. So many times the life of Joseph is preached in the pulpit and taught in classrooms with the sole purpose of encouraging believers how to live faithfully week to week like Joseph did in his years as slave and 2nd in command. Are you kidding me? Joseph got sold after a plot to kill him was foiled by a heavy-hearted brother….and the lesson to take from that is what? Johnny, one day you too could have someone plot to kill you only to sell you to some strange pagan people, but I want you to be faithful like Joseph, willing to be stripped and robbed off your entire identity and freedom. Now what parent in their right mind would ever tell their child that?

Do you see why this activity in the very least must be suspended, if not altogether abolished? How do believers build each other up with a moral lesson like that? They don’t because they cannot. That doesn’t encourage anybody going through anything. Joseph is made a slave, imprisoned, forgot about, tested, put in charge, undergoes an arranged marriage to a pagan woman, falsely accused of rape, and gets to endure 7 years of famine after 7 years of harvest – and the moral lesson hiding in there is…..don’t worry I’ll wait! If that were us, we’d contact the authorities, make t-shirts, do a press conference, label it child trafficking and/or kidnap, shun our sons who sold him if not throw them in jail, hosts all kinds of pity parties, go on primetime talk shows to tell ‘our’ story about losing a son, and so on. And to top it off, we’d be able to tell everyone we got to share ‘our’ message with that we believe if we’re just faithful like Joseph, and our son is faithful like Joseph, then we’ll be able to say what he said to his brothers in Genesis 50:20 – “you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good” – completely ignoring the context of the story and the rest of that verse all because we’ve been told moral lesson left and right. This isn’t that Mel Gibson movie Ransom where the kid comes home and the father gets to be the hero who kills the kidnapper. Mainly because the father, Jacob, dies and Joseph doesn’t get to spend much time with him before the tragic ending.

We’re not called to be Joseph. We never were. We’re called to be holy because our God is holy. We’re called to walk in a manner worthy of the God who saved us. We’re called to be salt and light in this world that we live in as strangers as we go about making disciples. This is our identity and our work. Joseph was no different. And if you know your Old Testament well, you’d know that Jesus didn’t come through the line of Joseph, but of Judah. So as we hamper and harp about Joseph, we do not mention the tribe of Judah very much. Why? Because we don’t have much material to draft up moral lessons, and we ought to be ashamed of ourselves.

Let us learn how to read the Old Testament rightly so that we can interpret it rightly, and truly learn how to take biblical truths that make up two-thirds of the Bible and live righteously before a holy God who sees and hears all.

 


Are Worship Leaders Necessary?

March 4, 2013
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Check out this conference ad:

Ever wonder what’s at stake on Sunday morning? The answer is simple: people’s view of God. Churches need worship leaders who take their task seriously. Corporate worship is too important for worship leaders to take their cues from whatever is on the radio. The goal of this year’s conference is to confront the pattern and challenge worship leaders to think seriously about every aspect of worship. At this conference, pastors and worship leaders will have the opportunity to hear God’s Word from men who are passionate about glorifying God in corporate worship and about equipping both current leaders and the next generation to serve faithfully in the church.

Now that is a mouthful. One of great concern. On this one, I’d like to tread carefully for two reasons: 1) I have a dear friend who went to seminary to be a worship leader, and 2) I’m not sure many have thought about this topic we’re about to approach in great detail. With that said, let us delve in.

Does the Bible speak of the Church having recognized leaders/offices? Yes. What are these offices? Pastor/Elder and Deacon. So where does the worship leader fit in?

What’s at stake every Sunday morning? The believer’s view of God. What impacts their view? The service order, the songs, the preaching, the teaching, the other people in that room, and the preachers. Is it the role of the worship leader to have a great responsibility of changing their understanding of corporate worship? Well, the Bible certainly doesn’t think so.

What does a worship leader do? They get to lead believers in singing selected songs as the local church corporately sings, I mean worships. Do worship leaders help believers understand John 4:24 clearly in a theological and practical manner? That remains to be seen, but I’d argue that a lot is left to be desired.

Should the language of this conference concern you? I think so. If churches are worried that worship leaders are taking their cues from the radio, then it’s painfully obvious God isn’t the center of our worship, but something else. Something else so prevalent that it sounded an alarm so loud that a conference was put together. Corporate worship is too important for pastors and the pew sitters to take their cues from anything else than the Scriptures. This conference needs to be about what the Bible says about corporate worship ( a la Sola Scriptura) with every believer being targeted.

Make no mistake about it, this conference is about a group that’s become socially acceptable in the life of the Church and seminaries around the world, and yet needs to be especially gathered and addressed to show them in some roundabout way how the Scripture give hints, clues, and possibly eisogesis implications for the office of the worship leader to be effective in the Church today.

Do I find worship leaders necessary? I’ll answer that by saying the Bible doesn’t find them necessary to hold an office in the Lord’s Church, so why do we. And if the Bible only refers to two offices, then these other ‘positions’ are simply man-made offices that should be done away with and simply ignored. After all, I don’t see major conferences being held for the Christian Education department head or the other out-there offices floating around.

 

 

 

 


Do We Trust God and His People?

March 1, 2013
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I hear tons of conversations being had over the topic of church ministries discussing various ways to help  believers. I read blog after blog about how the church needs to set up this and that ministry to help believers grow. I listen to podcasts and book reviews speaking to this very issue. Most of these pastors, authors, and concerned believers hold to Sola Scriptura, which simply means they believe the Bible lays out the parameters for what and why they do for the church, and most importantly the how. All of this makes me scratch my head.

Do we trust God? I think that’s an honest question. I don’t mean it in some esoteric, vague way. I’m talking about how we live the Christian life 24/7. Here’s why I challenge us with this: compartmentalization buffet style. If someone has an idea of how to strengthen the church, people get together and create a ministry that meets at the church building or a small group. If someone has an idea of how to better marriages in the church, people get together and create a wedding conference with a dynamic speaker. If someone has an idea to improve parenting, people get together and decide to just let the parents handle that on their own. If someone has an idea to help the singles not feel alone or help them get married, people get together and create a single ministry with the sole purpose of teaching them to be happy with being lonely, but they don’t have to be lonely forever. If someone has an idea to aid the youth to maturity and assimilate them into ‘big church,’ people get together and form a bridgeway from youth ministry to college age groups so that they will be treated like adults, but not really assimilated with the other adults.

And somehow we purport to get these ministry ideas and parameters from the Bible with a straight face.  Lord help us!

The Bible is actually very silent on a lot of the ministry ideas we claim to get from within it. God leaves a lot of the onus on his people. We are commanded not to court, but to marry only those “in the Lord” or remain single. We are commanded not to coddle our children, but raise them up “in the instruction and admonition of the Lord.” We are commanded not to maximize marriages once or twice a year (depending on the celebration of Valentine’s Day), but to treat our spouses the way we’d treat Jesus, which totally speaks to the way we worship. We are commanded not to have ministry after ministry to hold our hands to mature in Christ, but to “grow in the grace and knowledge” of our Savior. We are commanded not to break up the members and their families based on their ages (which by the way seems just as foolish if we divided up the believers on one side and non-believers on the other), but to worship corporately through reading, singing, preaching, baptizing, and communion. And all of this is found in the Bible! This is what Sola Scriptura is about.

Do we trust people? Obviously we don’t. We create ministries to meet at the church because we don’t think our brothers and sisters will actually do things God commands them alone to do to do it on their own. And if we’re honest, this means that we don’t trust God nor His Word. We don’t believe the Bible commands individuals to do something on their own unless we’re talking about praying in their closets and giving. We don’t believe the Bible when it says God has given them everything they need that “pertains to life and godliness” in the deep crevices of our hearts.

It starts with us trusting God first, which allows us to trust His people. If we fail in the first step, we’re doomed everywhere else. May we really read the very Bible we say we believe, follow, and allow to guide us. May we really trust our Creator, the author and finisher of our faith, and the ‘ghostwriter’ of the inspired book. May we really let the Bible alone be our all in all.