Ego Custodiam April 16, 2011Posted by preacherwin in Odds & Ends, Reflections.
Tags: a person's value to God, anxiety, being anxious, Ego Amabo, Ego Custodiam, Ego Redimam, Ego Sanctificabo, God's guardianship, God's sovereignty, I will cherish them, I will guard them, I will sanctify them, not being anxious, value, Why worry?
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The fourth of the relational statements that the early church fathers made reflected God’s relationship to the church. “I will guard them,” says God of his people. At first, we might be inclined to think that this statement could be fuller or more involved. We might expect God to say Ego Redimam (“I will redeem”) or Ego Amabo (“I will love”) or even Ego Sanctificabo (“I will sanctify them” or “I will make them holy”). At the same time, if we explore this idea of guarding something, we can argue that it contains at least an element of each of these statements. One guards those things that they love or hold to be valuable and one must have something in one’s possession to guard it, thus God redeems his people from the sin that once held us captive. Also, those things that we guard and cherish, we choose to refine, removing those imperfections that we can find in the object of our affection. Thus the language of Ego Custodiam includes all of the above comments.
So, why does God choose to guard his church? Certainly it must not be assumed that God places his affections upon us because of who we are or because of what we have done. All of our works, we must affirm like the Apostle Paul, are naught but dung (Philippians 3:8). No, he places his affections upon us because of whose we are—his own—and as a revelation of his glory. What we all deserve is eternal condemnation because of our sins and the guilt of sin we have inherited from our forefathers, yet he has chosen us since before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4), before we had done anything good or bad (Romans 9:11), and sent his Son to pay the price to redeem us from our just judgment, substituting himself in our place (2 Corinthians 5:21). As the value of an item is based on the price that one is willing to pay for it, our value to God is without measure, for his Son, Jesus, being eternal God, paid an eternal price for our souls. And because of that price paid, he will never let one of his own slip from between his fingers (John 10:28-30).
Beyond redemption is the idea of his guardianship. God does not save us to leave us saved but to our own devices. No, God preserves us and guides us through life. The Psalmist writes of God’s guardianship:
“For his angels he will command regarding you—
To guard you in all of your ways.”
The picture here is self explanatory; God is a jealous God (Deuteronomy 5:9) and he will not share us with any other. We are guarded, kept, and held secure for this great purpose and he will not revoke his calling upon us (Romans 11:29). Indeed, nothing on earth or in heaven can separate us from the love that is in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:38-39).
But what does that mean for us? It means that there is no reason for us to despair. How often we go through life and feel as if we are standing as one person against a host of enemies and that the world’s sole goal is to tear apart the things that we have sought to bring together. How often we feel lost, confused, and abandoned when confronted by tragedy in this world. How often we feel as if God is not listening to or responding to our prayers. How often chaos seems to dominate our lives and the world around us. Yet, all of these perceptions miss the mark. Because our hearts are deceitful above all things (Jeremiah 17:9) and from our hearts flow all sorts of vain imaginations and sin (Mark 7:20-23), we miss the glory that God has prepared for us even in the challenges of this world (1 Corinthians 2:8-9).
You see, we often get so wrapped up in the events of the moment that we forget that we do not see the big picture. Indeed, even when we begin to try and focus on the big picture of God’s redemptive history, because we are finite and grounded in this world, we still do not see with the scope and breadth that our Lord sees it. Indeed, compared to the immensity of God’s vision, our vision is minuscule to be generous. The sad thing is how often we take our minuscule vision as the whole of God’s vision and then wonder why God is permitting things to take place, all-the-while questioning his character and his goodness. There is none like our God (Psalm 77:13) who calls us not to be anxious about tomorrow (Matthew 6:34), but instead to cast all of our cares before him because he cares for us (1 Peter 5:7).
Reflect on what God speaks through the psalmist as Psalm 91 is brought to a close:
“Because he clings to me in devotion, I will save him;
I will make him untouchable because he knows my name.
When he calls me I will answer him,
With him, I will be in times of distress.
I will rescue him and honor him.
With long days I will satisfy him,
I will reveal myself to him in my salvation.”
Ego Eripiam April 05, 2011Posted by preacherwin in Reflections, Odds & Ends.
Tags: calling, Ego Eripiam, Ego Onerabo, Ego Territabo, Eternal Security, Harry Houdini, I will snatch, I will snatch out of his hand, John Paton, sanctification, sober-mindedness, spiritual sobriety, the Christian life, watchfulness, watchman on the wall, worldview
The third of our statements deals with the relationship of Satan toward believers—“I will snatch them” or “I will steal them away.” While we would affirm in our theology that the believer is held by Christ and can never be separated from his hand (John 6:37; 10:28; Romans 8:37-39), the reality of Satan’s eventual failure does not dissuade him from this attempt to make us stumble and fall away from our Lord and master. He is a persistent foe. This phrase could be embellished with some of the means that our enemy employs: Ego Territabo (“I will intimidate”) or Ego Onerabo (“I will weary” or “I will oppress”).
In contrast to Jesus, who gives life and life abundant (John 10:10), but the thief, which is Satan, only comes to kill and destroy. He comes to undermine the work of the fellowship and to frustrate our labors. Though he knows he cannot win, he strives toward that end. Peter describes him as a roaring lion (1 Peter 5:8) seeking someone to devour. Jesus describes him as a wolf, seeking to prey upon the weak sheep (John 10:12). John describes him as a dragon who deceives the world and seeks to lash out and destroy the followers of Jesus Christ (Revelation 12:9,17).
So, what is our response to this kind of wild enemy. Peter says that we are to be sober-minded and watchful. Being sober-minded means that one’s mind must be clear from distractions and from all of those things that would flatter us so as to lead us astray. As the man who is drunk acts in a way that is both unwise and unlike his character, so the man who is sober-minded should act in a spirit of wisdom and in a way that is consistent with the Godly character that the Spirit has instilled in us. It is to remain self-controlled even in situations where threat arises.
And to be aware of those threats, we must be watchful. This is a military term reflecting the guard that we must have on the wall to warn us of the temptation of sin (Ezekiel 3:16-21). We are not to be like the ostrich burying its head in the sand. We must not be found asleep at the post. The Apostle Paul even uses this term of watchfulness as an analogy of being alive (1 Thessalonians 5:10), a reminder that life and death are the matters with which we are dealing; a serious reminder indeed, particularly in a world that rarely takes seriously the warnings that scripture sets before us.
Though Harry Houdini may not be a model example of Christian faith (his heritage was Jewish), he is an example of what it means to be sober-minded and watchful as a Christian. Many of his stunts, from the perspective of an outside observer, were death-defying, reckless, and foolish. Yet, when you realize that Houdini never performed a stunt that had not been planned out and rehearsed many times with many safeguards in place, you must confess that reckless is not a term that can be properly applied. From the perspective of a non-Christian, sometimes the work that Christians do seems equally reckless and foolish. Christians regularly go and minister to people in plague infested areas knowing that they too might contract the disease, but doing so for the sake of the Gospel. My favorite missionary, John Paton, went to Tana Island in the New Hebrides which was populated by several cannibal tribes and his life was at constant risk. Yet, he went anyway. I have worked with inner-city drug addicts in a place where at one time the shelter’s director was stabbed by a man staying there. The Christian goes, though, because the Christian understands that the call of God is more important than the risks. At the same time, the Christian goes knowing the risks that are present and does not ever go until one has bathed himself in prayer and sought the prayers of others. Like Houdini, there are risks certainly, but the risks are approached in sober preparation.
The Devil seeks to snatch you out of the hand of God. That cannot be done, but that does not mean that the resultant tug-o-war on your life will always be a pleasant thing. At the same time, in knowing who the victor will be, it enables you to stretch beyond your limits and grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Given our fallen and sinful state, there is a great deal of stretching left to be done to prepare us for God’s heaven—what are we waiting for; step into the call that God has placed upon your life.
Ego Decipiam March 24, 2011Posted by preacherwin in Odds & Ends, Reflections.
Tags: armor of God, deception, Ego Decipiam, Guarding our heart, I will deceive them, I will ensnare them, idols, keeping one's way pure, Psalm 119, the deception of Satan, the deception of sin, the deception of the world
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While the pastor must confess that he will fail his flock, the world makes a different profession. The world says, “I will deceive them” or “I will ensnare them.” How much more sinister is this response than the one that went before, yet how often has this been our experience. The world promises us wealth and success if we just compromise this or that set of morals—which at first seems small, but like a drug, it demands more and more and more. At first it might take the form of justifying a little lie, then it may grow into envy coveting either the wealth or the success of another. Gradually it progresses from there onward. We end up make idols of the things of this world and in doing so, we compromise God’s law as a whole.
Jesus speaks of the cares of the age and the deception of riches as that which chokes the Word of God in our lives (Matthew 13:22). The cares of life often fill our days and rob us of sleep. We pretend that we are just trying to be responsible citizens and parents who provide for our families, but how often those words, while well intentioned, are placed in our mouths not by the Holy Spirit, but by those who are of this world. Yet this world and the things therein are passing away (1 John 2:17). While sounding noble, such cares betray a lack of reliance upon the promises of God to provide for his children.
The world masquerades its temptations as love and care for us, while in reality, the world hates us and the one we serve (John 15:19). Like a treacherous counselor, the world pretends to be our ally, all the while manipulating our thoughts and actions toward sedition against the great King and High Priest, Jesus Christ. Our ego is flattered and our lusts are excused. These are the ways of this world.
How essential it is for a person to keep their guard up against such treachery. The Apostle Paul warns us to be careful that no one takes us captive through vain or empty deceit (Colossians 2:8) and the author of Hebrews warns against the hardening that comes through the deceitfulness of sin (Hebrews 3:13). It is likely, though, that Paul offers the strongest warning on this matter to the church in Thessolanica when he warns that with the coming of Satan’s influence and that the reason we are ultimately deceived is because we have refused to love the Truth and in turn, rejected salvation (2 Thessalonians 2:9-12). How often we are guilty of desiring the so-called comforts of the world that we choose to allow ourselves to be deceived, yet do not consider this willful deception to be a rejection of God’s Truth!
How do we protect ourselves from this deception? The psalmist sets 8 principles before us in the second stanza of Psalm 119.
- We must guard our way according to God’s word (Psalm 119:9)
- We must seek God with our whole heart (Psalm 119:10)
- We must store up God’s word in our heart (Psalm 119:11)
- We must seek to learn God’s statutes (Psalm 119:12)
- We must declare to others the law of God (Psalm 119:13)
- We must delight in the testimony of God and in his ways (Psalm 119:14)
- We must meditate on God’s precepts (Psalm 119:15)
- We must delight in the law of God (Psalm 119:16)
Seek these things, the Psalmist insists, and you will guard the way that is before you. Deception is all around; do not fall prey to the wiles of the devil, but indeed, guard yourself with the whole armor of God which he has given to you (Ephesians 6:11).
Ego Deficiam March 19, 2011Posted by preacherwin in Odds & Ends, Reflections.
Tags: counseling, deficiency, Ego Deficiam, failure, Forgiveness, Grace, how to deal with failure, I will fail you, Nehemiah, pastoral failure, Prayer, repentance
“I will fail them.” The early church fathers reflected on the relationships between pastors, the world, satan, and the church flock and developed a series of statements that described each relationship. The first of these statements was that of the pastor with regard to his people: Ego Deficiam (I will fail).
At first, our response might be to think that this is a rather pessimistic view of the relationship between shepherd and flock. How is it that a pastor could go into his role with the assumption that he will fail his people? As churches, do we want to hire a pastor who says up front, “Oh, by the way, I will fail you.” It is food for thought.
There are two aspects of this statement, that we must understand. The first is the “I.” I will fail you. I will fail as your pastor, as your counselor, and as your friend. I will fail as a husband and as a father. I will fail as an employee and as a representative of the church in the community. I will fail. Yet, this is not a pessimistic view, but a realistic view (as well as a Biblical one). For while I will fail you; Christ will not do so. Christ will gloriously succeed not because of my efforts, but in spite of my best efforts. And when I serve not in my own strength, but in the strength of Christ, then glorious things will happen—not for my praise, but for God’s.
This is the reason that a pastor (all Christians really) must be a man of prayer. And not just a prayer in the morning or evening, but a pastor must be a man of constant prayer through the day. One of the reasons that I like Nehemiah is because he exemplifies this. Not only are there formal and structured prayers recorded coming off of his lips, but also he lifts up short little “bullet prayers” throughout the day as he is making decisions. Those of you who know me or who have sat under me teaching on Nehemiah know that I am not overly fond of his model as a manager of people (even though lots of books present him that way); read Nehemiah 13:23-27 and ask yourself if you want a governor or office manager who leads in this fashion☺. I do believe, though, he provides us with a good example of perpetual prayer, seeking God’s wisdom and strength.
The second aspect that we must understand is that the fact that someone fails is not nearly as important as what someone does as a result of that failure. The true humility of a man will always present itself in failures, not in successes. If a person covers up their failures or seeks to shift blame to others, then the person’s character is such that you ought not have him as shepherd. If he is humble, repentant, and takes responsibility for his actions, then that is a man you want to lead you. The Gospel is the good news of God reconciling us poor and spiritually bankrupt sinners to himself; we are all in the same boat together within the church—wretches who have been redeemed by grace. Why should we expect our pastor of not being a sinner and thus a failure in God’s economy?
Sadly, we often create a standard that a pastor cannot hope to live up to and then make him feel like he has to hide his sin to keep up appearances. Yet, if the pastor is living hypocritically, why are we surprised when the members of our congregations live hypocritically? Our goal must be very different. We must endeavor to create a culture of honesty and transparency within our church community that is seasoned with abundant grace. Then, when one fails, the community comes together to work toward grace-filled reconciliation. It must be said, that there are some failures that must, by their very nature, remove a man from the office of shepherd, but not that ought to remove him from the church.
In discussions and counseling sessions with members of my congregation, one of the things that I have said over and over is: “We are going to make mistakes; we are going to mess things up.” The fact is, we are fallen and sinful and despite the grace we have been shown by Christ, we will not always show the grace we ought to show. At the same time, what I have told people is that when we mess up, if you let us know, we will fix it.
Indeed, I will fail you. But in Christ, I will repent and strive to make it right.
An Urgency of the Reforms of Church and Society: Calvin 500 September 19, 2009Posted by preacherwin in Odds & Ends, Reflections.
Tags: Calvin 500, International Calvin Conference, Moscow, Reformed Church in Russia, Russia, Russian Calvinism
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This year marked the 500th anniversary of the birth of John Calvin, the theologian of the Reformation. While Luther’s preaching sparked the fires of reform, it was Calvin that God had raised up to articulate the theology of those who protested against the Roman Catholic Church. To commemorate what God did through Calvin, there are conferences that have taken place all over the globe. I was given the great privilege of speaking at the international pastors’ conference held in Moscow. I was one of three representatives from the USA, joined by representatives from Holland, South Korea, Japan, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and Belarus, to encourage the Russian Reformed pastors.
In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, when the Roman Catholic Church was oppressing the Reformers, Russia opened its doors to the Protestant refugees. Since the Russian Orthodox Church had already fought their battles with the Roman Catholic Church, they took the attitude that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” Thus, many Calvinistic Christians found their homes in Russia. These Christians not only brought their faith with them, but also quite a lot of technology from the west.
When Peter the Great began modernizing Russia in the late seventeenth century, it was the Calvinists he turned to for support. The Russian Orthodox Church preferred the “old ways,” but these Russian protestants proved to be very progressive and built Peter the Great’s navy, army, and artillery as well as much of the Russian infrastructure to support the modernization of the nation. These protestants, along with Peter’s vision for a modern Russia, are responsible for making the nation a European power.
When the Bolsheviks revolted in the beginning of the 20th century, the Calvinists in Russia supported the monarchy, thus, when the Communists took over, the Reformed Christians were systematically eliminated. When “Perestroika” took place in the late 1980s, the Protestants rushed back into Russia to evangelize and at first were largely successful. As a result, people were leaving the Russian Orthodox Church at a rapid pace; something that the Russian Orthodox leaders did not much care for. Thus, they began pressuring the government to restrict the ability of the Protestants to meet and organize.
A year ago, one of the Russian pastors, who was connected with a Reformed movement from South Korea, decided to separate from the liberals in his denomination and re-form a conservative and evangelical church from the “dry bones” of the older Russian Reformed church. He was joined by three other pastors, and the four of them formed the Russian Evangelical Reformed Presbyterian Church. One year later, they had grown to nine churches scattered around the greater Moscow area. The primary purpose of this conference was to encourage and help equip these nine pastors to continue to build as God would allow them. As a result of the conference, three churches in St. Petersburg, who were in a similar situation, decided to join the other nine in fellowship. In addition, the two representatives from Holland were there to determine the possibility of fraternal relations between their denomination (a conservative sect in the Dutch Reformed Church) and this new Russian denomination—something that seemed to go very well.
The Russian churches are still in need of a lot of prayer as they face a great deal of obstacles—some that we face and others that we are not currently facing (though may in time). It was a privilege for me to represent Westminster Presbyterian Church, Milton as well as the PCA to these pastors. Seeds have been planted, I am excited to see what our Lord will do with them in the years to come. Please commit Pastor Ten and this infant denomination to your prayers.
Two Group Pictures from the Convention
Defending Job’s Wife July 09, 2009Posted by preacherwin in Odds & Ends, Reflections.
Tags: dehumanizing Biblical characters, euthanasia, faith, fearful Christians, Job, Job 2:9-10, Job's Wife, like a fool, Mercy, Was Job's Wife a blasphemer, weakness
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Recently, I read an article that really came down hard on Job’s wife because of the statement that she makes to her husband, to “curse God and die.” The author went as far as to suggest that this was a woman who clearly had no faith and was a blasphemer because of the statement that she made and her unwillingness to follow her husband’s example. Granted, Job’s wife does not follow her husband’s example, but that being said, we need to be very careful about making judgments about her character and about her faith.
All too often, when folks come to texts like these, the matter of primary concern is, “What is the doctrine in question?” or “What moral or ethical principle can I learn?” And while texts like this do raise moral and ethical questions, when we look to answer these questions first, we oftentimes lose the people who are living out the event. Job and his wife are not fictional or allegorical characters, but they are real, historical people—human beings like you and me. They come complete with worries and fears, good days and bad days. They struggle with the same kind of struggles that you or I would struggle with, and Job’s wife, more-so than others in the narrative, needs to be looked at through this lens. We need to see her humanity and her hurt and as a result, we need to discuss her character flaws with compassion and not analytical scorn.
Look to other characters in scripture that have committed equally heinous sins. Look to King David who had his friend murdered to cover up his adultery with Bathsheba. Look at Peter who denied our Lord three times and then later, after Pentecost, still falls into fear of the Judaizers and had to be rebuked by Paul, “to his face.” Look at Abram and Sarai who doubted God’s promise and tried to force God’s hand through Hagar. Look at God’s people through history and their stumbles and failures, their doubts and their fears, and when we look at Job’s wife in this light, we see her very differently. Granted, we never see her recanting her statement, but she is restored in the end alongside of her husband. Eliphaz, Zophar, and Bildad are strongly rebuked in the end; Job’s wife is not.
Remember something as well, it is not just Job that is going through this trial, but Job’s wife is going through the testing and trial as well. Are not Job’s children also the children of his wife? Are not the lands, the wealth, and the property of Job also the lands, wealth, and property of his wife? Thus, in all these things, she has lost and suffered and hurt and grieved right alongside of Job—and been faithful, according to the account. Now, though, she sees the hand of trial turn upon her husband to the point where he is reduced to a wretched state, covered with sores and scraping himself with pottery shards, sitting in ashes. And it is here, at this point, that she breaks down and makes the comment that is recorded above.
Let me pose the question, how many confessing Christians have you known through the years who have come to this point? How many Christians have sought euthanasia for a loved one to end their suffering? Is this not the same thing as what Job’s wife is advocating? How many confessing Christians have been so overwhelmed by the grief over the loss or suffering of a loved one, that they have railed against God in anger and rage? Even many of the theological giants have gone through such crises—C.S. Lewis does us the favor of allowing us to see his inner doubts and fears about God as he watched his wife, Joy, wither and die of bone cancer. Friends, if you do not see her grief in these matters, you will interpret her badly, but when you see her grief you will see that these are not the words of a faithless blasphemer, but are the words of a fearful, hurting believer who is not able to bear what she sees taking place in the body of her husband.
The beauty of this whole event, and of our own lives when we face such trials, is that God is bigger than our grief. He is gracious in our doubts and merciful to us even in our anger. And sometimes we need to be brought by God to that point where we can just stop and be still, finding peace in Him—even in the midst of our lack of understanding. He is like a loving Father that once he has loved and held his child through a fit of rage, sits calmly with them and comforts that child in the wake of the fit. The beauty, loved ones, is that we don’t need to understand, simply trust that God understands and will work even the most horrendous things for our well-being. Thus, the next time you are ready to condemn Job’s wife, remember that she is human and remember that you are too; that ought to show her in a different light.
Education Versus Programming June 13, 2009Posted by preacherwin in Odds & Ends, Reflections.
Tags: Christian Education, Education, educere, genetic programming, Imago Dei, Imitatio Dei, instruction, instruere, pedagogy, philosophy, purpose of education, teaching
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(the following is excerpted from my essay, “Teaching Image Bearers, not just Warm Bodies,” which is part of the compilation: Docens Coram Deo: Teaching Before the Face of God. This book is written as a festschrift in honor of Bob Grete and Harold Thomas, the founders of Rocky Bayou Christian School, on the school’s 35th anniversary. Copies can be acquired at the above link; I served as the editor of this Festschrift.)
As mentioned before, the naturalistic model sees the human mind as nothing more than a super-computer, capable of processing and retaining a vast array of data which is then manipulated by genetic programming in such a way as to output a result that we commonly describe as thought. Thus, in principle, educating a human is akin to programming a computer. Yet, if humans are altogether different than a computer, what must our approach to education be?
The beginning of the answer to that question is found in the very meaning of the word, “educate.” The English word derives from the Latin verb, educere, which literally means, “to lead out. Thus, the purpose of education is not so much that of putting in, but bringing out. Now one might argue that children are not born with an innate knowledge of history, mathematics, or even of the Bible and thus, “putting in” is an important part of education. And indeed, that is where instruction comes in—instruction coming from the Latin verb, instruere, which literally means, “to pile in.” Yet notice the relationship of these two terms. Instruction is not the end goal—education is. In other words, you instruct towards the end of educating a student—you pile in mathematics, history, science, and Bible not so that a student will be full of ideas (many of which a student may never use again in life), but you instruct so that something will be brought out in them. What needs to be brought out? It is the image of God that they bear which needs to be brought out.
In the fall, the righteous image of God in man has become warped, distorted, mangled, and bent, but not lost (Genesis 9:6; 1 Corinthians 11:7; James 3:9). We are born in the state of sin (Psalm 51:5), by nature we do not seek righteousness (Romans 3:10-11), we are at enmity with God (James 4:4), our hearts are corrupt (Mark 7:21), we commit sin through both action and inaction, and we sin with our intentions (Matthew 5:21-48) as well as with our activities. In addition, when we break a portion of the Law, we are guilty of breaking it as a whole (James 2:10). There is nothing good in us by nature (Romans 7:18)—we have been corrupted by sin in every aspect of our being. Of course, education is not a substitute for the work of the Holy Spirit in redemption and sanctification, yet it is a tool by which the Holy Spirit can and does use, both in the process of growth in grace and to enable parents to fulfill their God-given mandate to raise up their children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4; Deuteronomy 4:9; Proverbs 22:6).
Thus, if our teaching reflects only the idea of giving students information, we are not fulfilling our calling. When little Billy asks, “Why do we need to study literature?”, it is not enough to tell him that he needs the knowledge of literature so that he will be able to communicate ideas with others in this world, nor is it enough to tell him that God has called him to take dominion of the world, and that means taking dominion of the literary culture as well as the geography. These statements both may be true, but they are yet insufficient. We must also be telling little Billy that he is made in the image of God and that God loves language and that God loves expressing himself through every form of language; thus, if he is to reflect that image of God faithfully, he needs to nurture within himself that same kind of love for language and the study of literature is designed to help nurture that love and appreciation for the expression of ideas through language. I have applied this to literature, but the same argument can and should be applied to every discipline of study. There is a reason that we expose students to a broad array of academic studies rather than allowing them to concentrate their studies in a particular area of interest, and it is not to make students more “well-rounded,” but it is because God’s character is reflected in each of these disciplines and to reflect the Imago Dei, each of these disciplines must be applied to our character. Thus, if we are to educate and not program, and if education is a tool used by the Holy Spirit in sanctification to bring out the Imago Dei, we must instruct in every academic discipline.
Thoughts on Structuring a Discipleship Program April 22, 2009Posted by preacherwin in Odds & Ends, Reflections.
Tags: character of God, Christian, discipleship, Holy Spirit, Salvation, sanctification, Theology, work of Christ, work of the Holy Spirit
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Recently, I was asked for some input on how I would structure a discipleship program if I were to have about 6 months of fairly intensive time to work with a small group of men. I thought that I would share my initial thoughts here.
When I began doing homeless ministry, I spent some time looking at some of the sermons found in the book of Acts to gain some insight into a model to base evangelistic preaching/teaching on. The model I came up with covered things in this order: 1) God’s glory, 2) man’s fallen state, 3) the work of Christ, 4) the promise of salvation coupled with the hope of ongoing sanctification in this life.
Unpackaging this in terms of a longer study would look something like this:
I. God’s Glory
a. Who is God?
i. names of God which reflect God’s character
ii. character traits of God
b. What has God done?
ii. Ordaining and Governing history
II. Man’s Fallen State
a. What does it mean to be made in God’s image?
i. the doctrine of the Imago Dei
ii. human dignity as a result of the Imago Dei
iii. the doctrine of the Imitatio Dei (how do we imitate God?)
b. What happened when Adam and Eve sinned?
i. Genesis 3
ii. The promise of a redeemer in Genesis 3
iii. Inherited sin guilt and the impossibility of our paying God back that sin debt on our own merit
c. How has the fall corrupted and contorted the Imago Dei?
i. Our aversion to the things of God and suppression of the truth
ii. The problem of pain–why do bad things happen to good people?
III. The Work of Christ
a. Who is Jesus and why is a Savior important?
i. the person and character of Christ
ii. the names of Christ
iii. the Old Testament prophesies of Christ
iv. The work of a mediator and paraclete
b. How Did Christ save us?
i. the preexistence of Christ
ii. the humiliation of Christ in life and in death
iii. the exaltation of Christ and his ongoing work as mediator at the right hand of God the Father
IV. The Promise of Salvation and the Hope of Sanctification
a. Who is the Holy Spirit?
i. the person of the Spirit
ii. the work of the Spirit
b. What is Faith and how is that tied to salvation?
i. The nature of Faith (Hebrews 11:1)
ii. Regeneration, Conversion, Repentance
c. What does it mean to be saved?
d. What happens next once I am saved?
i. Sanctification as a means to prepare for glory
ii. Living all of life “Coram Deo” or “Before the Face of God”
iii. 2 Peter 1:3-11 and adding to the faith as “Partakers of the Divine nature” (untwisting the Imago Dei–like having broken bones set)
iv. The fruit of the Spirit
v. The gifts of the Spirit
What does Church Architecture Point Toward? April 02, 2009Posted by preacherwin in Odds & Ends, Reflections.
Tags: architecture, center of worship, Church, Church Architecture, contemporary worship, implications, most important aspects of worship, non-traditional church, non-traditional worship, Reformed Church Architecture, Roman Catholic Church architecture, traditional church, traditional vs. non-traditional worship, traditional worship, warehouse churches
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With the coming of the reformation, particularly with the coming of Calvin’s reformation in Geneva, came a shift in the architecture of the Church building. In the architecture of the medieval Roman Catholic church, the central item in the front of the church—the area that everything in the church pointed, so as to direct one’s attention toward—was the altar. In the Roman Catholic service, it is the Mass that is central to worship, and since the altar was central to the Mass, the altar was made to be the focal point of the church.
Yet, for Calvin, it was not the Mass that was central—in fact, the Mass was done away with altogether as being unbiblical and in contradiction with Christ’s sacrifice being once and for all time as pointed out in Hebrews 10. For Calvin, the Holy Scriptures were central along with their exposition and proclamation. Thus, as a result of the Calvinistic influence, the pulpit and the scriptures were moved to the central part of the church symbolizing its importance and its centrality to worship.
This abovementioned transition is fairly well established in history, but I began to reflect recently on other changes that seem to be taking place in church architecture as churches move away from a traditional church model to a more non-traditional, assembly room/warehouse model of worship. Architecturally, what is center? In many instances, the stage has been cleared as to place nothing at the central point. One of the trends that ties in with this has been a move toward a translucent pulpit, almost as if nothing is there at all.
Now, I confess that I have a bias toward a traditional church worship and traditional church architecture with the Lord’s Sacred Desk (the pulpit) placed centrally in the church to visually make the statement, “This is the most important thing we do!” And, I suppose that by posting these views here I will be stepping on the toes of some folks even in my own denomination who have embraced a more non-traditional model. I know that when you are reaching out to unchurched folks, many times they feel intimidated by the traditional elements of church architecture and worship—then again, is church supposed to be about making people comfortable or is it supposed to be about pointing toward Truth (and Truth never makes people feel comfortable, not even me). The traditional architecture and the scriptures presented remind us that we are part of a tradition that is far older than we are.
But can we set our biases to the side for a moment and pose the question as to what this new, non-traditional architecture points toward? In other words, what does the eye focus on, what does the church layout communicate as being central? I would suggest that in the absence of the pulpit or the altar, what is presented as central is the man, whether that man be the pastor or the worship leader, it seems to be the man that all of the eyes turn toward. It is also worth noting, and this is where many more toes are going to be stepped on, that preaching has also reflected this change. The systematic and consecutive exposition of scripture has largely been replaced by topical and practical preaching. This does not mean that the preaching is not laced with scripture, it is, but the scripture becomes secondary to the topic and the topics tend to be very anthrocentric, dealing more with how to live in this world than with how God has revealed himself to this world.
In making this assertion, please do not think that I am rejecting application in a sermon—sermons must be laced with application, but I would suggest that application needs to be drawn out of the scriptures, while in the non-traditional model, the scriptures are used to support the application. In the first, the scripture is the primary focus, in the latter, the application is the primary focus. In a very real sense, this is reflected in the changed architecture where no longer is every eye drawn to the pulpit, but where every eye is drawn toward the man. Every decision we make carries with it ramifications, and I think that we must be careful in seeking new models and contexts for church worship, for when we change the focal point, oftentimes other changes follow as well.