Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Today in History

On today’s date, 2 significant and unrelated events occurred, several centuries removed from each other.

First, after several years of political wrangling, the Church of Scotland adopted the Westminster Confession of Faith in 1648. For them, it meant an abandonment of the Episcopal form of church government in favor of a Presbyterian form. It is significant that the Confession is still in use today by Christians across denominational lines and is still considered the gold standard as a statement of Reformed faith.

Second, in 1944, Adolf Hitler was wounded in an assassination attempt. This was not the first time conspirators attempted to eliminate the dictator, but it was nearly successful. War hero Claus von Stauffenberg , one of the conspirators and the one who actually planted the bomb, was dispatched to his eternal reward within 24 hours of the failed attempt. Eric Metaxis gives an account of this and Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s role in his biography Bonhoeffer.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Honest Abe

This is my new favorite commercial.

So You Want to be a Rock Star?

Ed Stetzer is Tim Challies guest blogger today. He writes an article called "The Problem with Pastor as Rock Star." Stetzer understand this as a modern phenomena that attends a portion of the evangelical church culture. But it is not new.

I come from a fundamentalist background and see many similarities between Stetzer's descriptions of modern "rock star" pastors and many of the "great" fundamentalist leaders of the past. Though they would launch into a tirade about the term "rock star," they share a celebrity envy with their contemporary nemeses. A few examples will suffice:

The motto of one of the fundamentalist movement's leaders was "Everything rises and falls on leadership." True enough. But the problem is when leadership becomes enshrined.

It was said some years ago among certain fundamentalist compounds that "If (insert the name of a particular pastor) goes down, the cause of fundamentalism will go with him." I say, let it fall if it is attached to a personality.

I get a publication sent to me (how I do not know) that has a "Church Directory" section, feature several pages of church advertisements that list the church credentials ("fundamental, independent, premillennial, KJV, etc) and features a mug shot of the rock star who pastors the church. Stetzer speaks of churches trying to extricate "their identity from that of the pastor’s abilities and personality" when things go horribly wrong. I think they have gone horribly wrong when that situation is allowed to develop in the 1st place.

Stetzer's comments will be seen by some as just one more error with the "contemporary, compromising crowd" (I say that tongue-in-cheek because they would never be where they would read the comments). I submit that it has been an issue long before we had the term "rock star."

Monday, July 12, 2010

Worshipping Worship

The resurgence in worship is a good thing. The legacy of the Billy Sunday, D.L. Moody and Biily Graham crusade idea has been transferred into church services. This was probably not without cause. The gospel became muddied and lost in the emphasis on liturgy in some churches. Reclaiming an emphasis on bringing truth to bear to the conscience is not bad.

Now it appears as though the penduluum is swinging in the other direction. Now there is an emphasis on worship where it was not the case before. But, since we are creatures of extremes, we must be cautious in this as well. Some want to see "worship" happen so desparelty in the church, that they come close to worshipping worship.

Matthew Smith provides some helpful insight as a guest blogger for Tim Challies. He says:
Like many high school kids before and since who’ve learned to string together three guitar chords, I was soon recruited to lead the worship singing for my youth group’s weekly meetings. (Or forced myself upon the position— my memory fails me at this point.) After leading the music, I would sit down and hear a message, whose point was often that I needed to try harder. Try harder to be a “good witness” at school. Try harder to avoid temptation. Try harder to obey God
Somehow, the idea of trying harder carried over to worship. My repertoire consisted of praise and worship songs (none of which had an F chord— I didn’t know how to play that one), mainly ones that talked about how much I wanted to worship God. I thought that if I tried harder, was sincere enough, and really meant it enough, that I would enter into a state of capital-w Worship. The world around me would fade away, I would lose my inhibitions, and I would achieve a spiritual state of being lost in worship.
But this state of spiritual ecstasy never arrived. And, in my mind, there was only one person to blame–me. I was a failed worshiper
Read the entire article here

Spurgeon on God's Sovereignty

Justin Taylor posts these comments from C.H. Spurgeon on the sovereignty of God. Find them here.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Transforming Grace

Jerry Bridges gives a needed word in Transforming Grace. What he says is not new; in fact it is completely Scriptural. But the context of modern Christianity makes it seem as though this was a new discovery.

Many Christians would decry the legalistic approach that marks some in the conservative branches of the church. Legalism is a cancer that eats away the soul of a Body. Unfortunately, legalists do not know that they are legalists. One man’s legalism is another man’s convictions, they like to say.

Bridges has a word for those who would claim to have moved beyond a narrow legalism into more mainstream evangelical faith. And though they may have checked their legalism at the door, they still carry within themselves a “performance mentality.” God expects proper performance and will reward it with blessing. Real transforming grace is a foreign and dangerous concept to many.

Transforming grace finds its center in the merits of Christ that have been imputed to the one who believes. Quite simply this means that God cannot love me any more than He does already, and He loves me as much as He loves His Son. Bridges reports that some of his colleagues have warned him against proclaiming such a message, fearing it will lead to loose and careless living. This is indication that they do not know what it means to live via the merit of Christ.

All of Bridges’ books are worth reading. This is a welcomed addition to his corpus of practical insight on living the Christian life.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from NavPress Publishers as part of their Blogger Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Stevie Wonder - Superstition live on Sesame Street

So what was Stevie Wonder saying with the song “Superstition?” Don’t get me wrong; I am a huge Stevie Wonder fan. We are approximately the same age (he is 7 months and 2 days older), and I even remember when he was known as “Little Stevie Wonder.”

“Superstition” is one of those “feel good” songs that include multiple rhythms, great brass, funky guitar, and a killer bass line. What gets lost in the exceptional music is a subtle message:

When you believe in things you don’t understand, you suffer. Superstition ain’t the way.

I do not for a minute equate the faith of the Bible with superstition. In fact, one of the best definitions of faith that I have ever heard comes from Dr. James Price: “faith is sufficient reason to believe.” This echoes Heb. 11:1: faith is substance and evidence.

Yet we must admit that there are some unseen elements to our faith. In Hebrews 11, Noah is warned of “events as yet unseen” (Heb. 11: 7), and by faith Abraham, when he was called by God “went out, not knowing where he was going” (Heb. 11:8).

We certainly do suffer if we believe in an irrational superstition that believes that things like walking under ladders and breaking mirrors can somehow influence future actions. But the faith of Jesus Christ is not superstition. I hope Stevie can make the distinction.

(By the way, the video is a live performance from Sesame Street. Remember the days when Bert, Ernie, and Oscar were fun instead of politically correct?)