Wednesday, July 29, 2015

John Piper on the Podcast Pastor

A few years ago, I wrote about letting the podcast becoming your pastor, which I mentioned that whatever podcasts you listen to, it should not replace meeting together with a body of believers and hearing the Word of God proclaimed. Recently, John Piper addresses this issue on Ligonier's website:

Many Christians find biblical and spiritual nourishment from faithful podcast preachers. This is a good thing. It gives people the opportunity to build God’s Word into their lives during the week as they jog or drive or clean or just sit and listen. But with this benefit encourage these same Christians, who are benefitting from podcast preaching, to orient themselves toward their pastor(s) in the local church?

Let it be clear that we ought to deeply appreciate our local pastors, under whose shepherding and preaching we sit week in and week out. They are indispensable, as a gift from God, to His church. God does not say in Scripture that He has given podcasts to the church, but pastors and teachers. Ephesians 4:11-12: “He gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry.”

He gave these pastors responsibility for particular flocks. That is what it says in 1 Peter 5:2-3: “Shepherd the flock of God that is among you”—a pastor is not responsible for a flock across the world or down the street—“exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you, not for shameful gain, but eagerly, not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock.” Pastors will only be examples as they live and minister among a particular people. This connectedness between pastor and people is a calling for the pastor and a gift to the flock.

This is the picture that God has ordained: that flocks exist, and shepherds exist, and that the shepherds have accountability for a particular flock; and that the flock should submit joyfully to its particular shepherd. This is a structure that no podcasting pastor can replace.

These local-church shepherds, then, are given an astonishing responsibility in Acts 20:28: “Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock”—that is, all their flock—“in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God which he obtained with his own blood.” This is a massive calling—and an enormous burden. Take heed to all the flock, he says. This is your flock. You are their shepherd. Watch over them, care for them, as no mere podcaster can.

And the counterpoint is that all those sheep should know that this is the local pastor’s responsibility, and they should submit to that gladly. They should want it. They should feel wonderfully blessed by being in a church where this is believed. And so God tells us, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls” (Heb. 13:17). And He says we should be eager “to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work” (1 Thess. 5:12-13).

In other words, God has designed normal Christianity—vibrant, healthy, durable, culture-shaping, mission-advancing, justice-elevating, Christ-exalting Christianity—to be a web of relationships, in local churches, led by faithful shepherds, who live as examples and care for the souls of their particular sheep. No online preacher can take the place on the ground of these shepherds.

Let me add two further considerations:

First, what we should desire from our pastor in his preaching is not mainly rhetorical or oratorical skill, but faithful explanation of God’s Word and application to our lives, especially the life we are living together right here in this church and city, making an impact on our specific community. So I say to every church member, value your pastor as the one who opens the Scriptures for you in your situation, in your community, in your web of relationships week in and week out. Support him in this.

Second, we need to acknowledge the huge importance of corporate worship, as a whole, in the life of a believer. Gathering with God’s people every week—gathering, not just putting on your headphones and listening to a worship song—to exalt Jesus together, and hear each other say great things about the One whom we love and cherish, is the way God means for us to thrive in relation to him. I have found this weekly rhythm of corporate communion with God essential to my faith over the last fifty years.

Preaching is essential to that corporate experience. Preaching is not after worship. It is worship. It is the pastor exulting over the truth of God’s Word. It is expository exultation. In other words, preaching is not an isolated moment of instruction, as if the service just switched from music to class. No, the service is worship from start to finish. We are going vertical from beginning to end, and we are connecting with God through prayers and communion and singing and giving and in the sermon. We are leaning on the pastor to draw us into his explanation and exultation over the Word of God as part of corporate worship. Podcasters cannot do this. If people only hear preaching outside the context of corporate worship, they are neglecting part of its life and its power.

I love podcasting. I think it has a place in the growth and learning of contemporary Christians. But nothing can replace the church gathered and the community of believers under the leadership and care of shepherds who minister God’s Word to them and care for their souls.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

My Issues With Music In The Church

I admit that I have some struggles regarding music in the church. Now before I go any further, I want you to let you know this is not about worship style or musical instruments. I am all for contemporary service as well as blended. I am for the use of musical instruments in a church service. Now we have gotten that out of the way, I would like to share my struggles regarding music in the church.

The first would be solos. If you have to Southern Baptist churches like me, you know there are at times someone coming up to see a solo whether it is a hymn or a contemporary Christian song. The people singing these songs will get a round of applause or an "Amen" from the congregation. My problem is when people get more out of that than the preaching of the Word of God. My problem is when the congregation gets more excited about the person singing regardless of the song rather than meeting God through the preaching of the Word.

My wife is great singer. I love hearing her sing, but I get anxious when she sings at church because they tend to think she has the voice of an angel. Granted I do say that to her but not in a way that I fall at her feet. The songs she selects have great messages but I feel people were more in tuned with her voice than the actual song.

My second issue is the content of the songs. Have you ever thought about what you are singing theologically? I don't think many in the church do. I have find myself at times during worship not singing songs because I am not liking what I am reading from the lyrics. I am known for not singing songs that I find theologically troublesome. Above All is a song made popular by Michael W Smith which sounds beautiful but one point of the songs makes it sound like Jesus took our sins in our place because He was thinking about us. That is not how I read the Bible. I read the Bible that He willingly and submissively endured the wrath of God on our behalf for the honor of His Father, which is contrary to what another song by Jason Crabb teaches us about the cross of Christ.

Finally, where the song came from. Let me put it this way, you can go to almost any church and they might sing at least one song, if not more depending on their worship style, from Hillsong Church. Sure Hillsong has released many worship anthems over the years. They are the ones that gave us Shout to the Lord after all. Hillsong's worship songs seem really strong lyrically and possibly theologically but there preaching is not. Hillsong is known to proclaim the prosperity gospel and has watered down the gospel message. Now I know as I write this I have made some of you very angry because I am speaking about Hillsong, but hear me out before you shut me out.

I truly believe that there should a marriage between the song portion of the service and the preaching. Not saying you should have songs all about the grace of God if you are preaching about grace. What I am saying here is that solid worship flows from solid preaching. Can you imagine going to a church service where the singing was great but the preaching was off and vice versa? I have been to a few where there was great solid preaching but the worship was more self-centered than anything. One discussion I had with fellow believers in Christ is when you sing a song from a church with questionable theology, you just opened the door for that theology to come into your church. The same could be true on an individual level. I think the church needs to be careful with where a new worship song comes from. This is also true for those churches that do solos. I remember years ago working the audio for a church I was serving and the solos was singing a song that did not mention Jesus or relying on him, but it did talk about keeping the faith which was not about the Christian faith. The song was called The Climb, which was made popular by Miley Cyrus in the "Hanna Montana Movie."

Some of you will disagree with me on these issues and that's okay. Some of you may share in my concerns for music in the church. Some of you are in a church where Hillsong songs are sung and the church has a clear conscience about it even though they do not agree with Hillsong's teaching. Regardless of where you are in this issue, I think one thing we can all agree on is we gather together to worship the Living God who deserves all our worship by giving Him the best we have.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Music Monday: My Ranson by Doxology

More Christian T-Shirts You Should Avoid

I has been a while since I have posted Christian t-shirts that you must avoid wearing. Please hear me out that I am not against Christian t-shirts all together but there are some that you just simply say no to. If you get one as a gift, make sure you get the receipt. So after a search on google, I have found some Christian t-shirts that you need to avoid wearing.

This t-shirt looks like the logo from The Home Depot which means no creativity. Also, "You Can Do It" is from the Waterboy and is just opening the door for being made fun of by your peers.

I love Batman, but why would you want to promote Jesus as your Superhero by using something that looks like Batman's costume. Jesus is the Light of the World while Batman is the Dark Knight. Light and darkness do not go together. Bad idea.

Once again, taking images for the Angry Birds and trying to make it Christian is a bad idea. Not only that but blue bird looks like he has passed gas and is relieved.

Once again, Christians think that using movies in pop culture will help communicate a Christian message. This t-shirt uses the Hunger Games which means they take what is in the movie and Christianize it. This is your edition of "At The Movies."

Finally, one I have to say is something that someone in a hipster church might wear. Where do people come up with this stuff? Is God awesome? Yes. He is awesome period.

My point in talking about these t-shirts is not simply just avoid wearing them which you should anyways. The point is some Christians will wear t-shirts like these and think they are promoting the gospel. That is not true. The only thing it builds up is curiosity. The gospel need to be communicated with words from our mouths not the cute designs and sayings on our t-shirts.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Joy in Our Christian Witness in Today's Culture

Desiring God:

A Christian can focus so much on an issue that it becomes an idol. And that idolatry leads to despair, and despair leads to meanness, and meanness counters the mission - Russell Moore.

Around The Web-July 24, 2015

Is the Kingdom of God Strictly in the Future? by R.C. Sproul

Why I Don't Do Evangelism by Tim Chester

Getting into the Weeds of Church Membership and Baptism with Bobby Jamieson and Jonathan Leeman

Why I’m Hosting Presidential Candidates by Russell Moore

Today is the last day to purchase Donald Whitney's new book, Praying The Bible

What to Do With 'Some People Are Saying . . .' by Jared C Wilson

Professional surfer fights off a shark during a surfing competition on live TV.

And for your entertaining pleasure, I present to you, Jedi Cats.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

A Documentary on Martyn Lloyd-Jones

One of my favorite theologians from years past is Martyn Lloyd-Jones. I love the depth of his writings and the passion for God you can sense through his pages. A documentary has been released looking at Lloyd-Jones called Logic on Fire. Here is a preview of it:

Logic On Fire: the Life and Legacy of Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones from Media Gratiae on Vimeo.

The film is available at WTSBooks which if you purchase two of them, you will get free shipping. This deal last until July 30th.

Books on Martyn Lloyd-Jones:

The Life Of Martyn Lloyd-Jones: 1899-1981 by Iain H Murray

Lloyd-Jones: Messenger of Grace by Iain H Murray

Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (Bitesize Biographies) by Eryl Davies

Books by Martyn Lloyd-Jones:

Setting Our Affections Upon Glory

The Gospel in Genesis

The Kingdom of God

Preaching and Preachers

Reading is a Conversation

Reading is not merely an exchange of information and ideas. It is a conversation between the author and the reader. Think of reading as a silent but intensive conversation. As you read, ask questions and filter the book's content through the fabric of your conversations. Argue with the boo and its author when necessary, and agree and elaborate when appropriate.

Albert Mohler, The Conviction to Lead

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Our Minds Should Never Be On Break

Summer is the time where many families go on vacation. Whether it is visiting family or going to a theme park like Disneyland, we are ready for some rest and relaxation. Some people might even want to check their minds at the door because they don't want to think about a lot of things while on vacation.

It is not just vacations we want our minds to check but also when we come home from a long day at the office or while watching a movie. I must admit there have been times when I want to enjoy a movie and not think of the philosophical teachings a movie, no matter how innocent the movie, might be presenting to the audience.

For Christians, our minds should never be on break. Consider Peter's words in his first epistle, "Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ" (1 Peter 1:13). The King James Version has it worded like this, "gird up the loins of your mind." Think of this saying like rolling up your sleeves to be ready for a fight. Can you imagine what will happen if our minds will not prepared? We would be easily influenced by temptation. We would not be ready to make a defense for the hope we have as 1 Peter 3:15 tells us. We would miss our on teachable moments for our children as well what God is teaching us through circumstances.

The Apostle Paul told the Colossian church to "Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth" (Colossians 3:2). Our minds should always be fixed on things that are not of this world as we live in this world as exiles. Our minds should never take a break. We should always be ready for an attack from the enemy or even when God is teaching us something.

When we set our minds on things above, it will remind us of the goodness of God and His faithfulness to us. Paul later on tells the Colossian church, "Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry" (Colossians 3:5). The things that are earthly first enter the mind. They will catch us off guard when we least expect it. That is why we should always have a our mind prepared for action and set our hope on the grace of God, which trains us "to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ" (Titus 2:12-13).

Monday, July 20, 2015

The Time Joel Osteen's Advice Helped

I must admit that I do not watch Joel Osteen on TV a lot. In fact, I don't follow him on social media. I just don't have the stomach to do that. However, the times I did watch Osteen, he always said, if you are not in the Houston area, go find a Bible believing church. Interesting words coming from someone who does not teach the Bible faithful and promotes the Prosperity Gospel which he denies. I don't think he knows what the Prosperity Gospel is.

Anyways, one guy in our church has been faithfully attending for sometime, who happen to take Joel Osteen's advice to heart. Yes, we have a man in our church who came because of Joel Osteen's advice to find a Bible believing church. Thankfully, he now knows what Osteen teaches and is listening to sound doctrine from our pulpit.

One question comes to mind as I shared this story, can God use anything to get the gospel to people even when it is not the Biblically appropriate? What do I mean? Take the Judgment House for a moment. Judgment House is a Halloween alternative where people go throughout a church to see the choices people can make will either end on heaven or hell. I have been through one of those and was not impressed. They use a scare tactic to convince people they need Jesus which people have come to Christ, but does it produce true converts.

Christian movies can be another thing God uses as well as TV shows based on the Bible such as "AD: The Bible Continues." What preaching with an alternative motive? The Apostle Paul told the Philippian church:

Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice (Philippians 1:15-18).

Christ is proclaimed and we should rejoice. Sometimes it comes through ways we never expect. Like the man who attends our church because he took Joel Osteen's words to heart. He found a Bible-believing church and now hears the gospel every week, which something he would never get at Osteen's church.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Book Review: The Reason for My Hope by Billy Graham

Billy Graham is most obviously one of the most influential Christians in the United States. His crusade filled football stadiums with people wanting to hear what he has to say which is mostly from the Bible. Thousands come forward every year to receive Jesus by faith and possibly millions more while watching one of specials on TV.

About four years ago, I reviewed his previous book, Nearing Home, which talked about aging and the confidence one has in Christ. Many, including me, considered that book as Graham's last book. Thankfully, he had one more in him called, The Reason for My Hope.

In this book, Graham shares why he has hope. With so many things wrong in the world and his failing health, one might assume he would be depressed or given up. Graham shares that "Jesus Christ is the very hope that lies within. He is Earth's only hope. He came to unlock the door of your soul to bring the light of salvation into your life." He goes to say that salvation in Christ is the reason for his hope.

Graham writes what Christ did on the cross and what God saved us from. In other words, he begins to share the gospel with his readers. He also addressed sin and how we cannot save ourselves no matter how hard we try. He also takes time to address Hell and how it will be no happy place. Graham concludes the book with a promise from Jesus Himself that He will one day return. As we look at the mess this world is in, that is the living hope Christians have. Yes, we are saved from the power and penalty of sin but one day will be saved from the presence of sin.

Could this book have been Graham's swan song? Probably but we will have to wait and see if he will write another before he makes the journey home. Those who love Graham will love this book. If you have never read him before, this book will be a good start considering he has many other good ones.

Thanks BookLook Bloggers for allowing me to review this book.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Christians Are Always On Mission

We have the Spirit of God so that we might be empowered, just as Jesus was. We are His missionaries, filled and anointed by His Spirit. If you have the Spirit of God, you are a missionary sent by Jesus to tell the world who He is and what He does.

Charles Spurgeon said, "Every Christian is either a missionary or an imposter". Everywhere you go, whatever you do, you are a missionary sent by Jesus to love like Jesus, overcome sin like Jesus, proclaim the gospel like Jesus, and see people's lives changed by the power of the Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead.

You are always on mission. Every part of your life, every activity and event, is a part of Jesus's mission to make disciples.

Jeff Vanderstelt, Saturate: Being Disciples of Jesus in the Everyday Stuff of Life