25 August 2010

Backing Up Your Blog

What happens if your blog host crashes?  Or maybe the federal government might shut down your hosting service...then what?  (Think that won't happen?  Check this out.)

I found a nifty, free backup program for blogs.  It works as easily as advertised.  Go here and check it out.  It takes about 10 seconds to download, and another 30 seconds or so to back up all your blog posts to your local hard drive.  In the event of a crash, you  can use it to restore your posts.

Neat. I backed up mine.  Back up yours.

(ha ha)

23 August 2010

Chronological Snobbery (and How to Fix It)

I remember the day, though not the date, when I heard my church was going to break into 'traditional' and 'contemporary' worship services.  I was a member of a vibrant, growing church in the St. Louis area at the time, and was serving as a deacon.  The change was announced to us at a deacons' meeting.  I remember feeling that something wasn't quite right, but I was still a fairly young Christian at the time (at least, I was immature in my faith) and I didn't want to make waves, so I didn't ask any questions.

Boy were my gut feelings right.

The gospel-focused experts now call this divided approach to congregations, 'Chronological Snobbery'.  Tullian Tchividjian (who I've blogged about before) posted a fascinating blog on this topic today.  He says about his church, "For many years Coral Ridge had two very distinct worship services–one contemporary and one traditional. The result was the unintentional development of two different churches under one roof. It wasn’t healthy."

In every church I've been a part of that had divided the congregation by musical preference (age, in fact), I've seen the same signs of unhealthiness.  (In fact, none of the churches I've joined since that first one have had anything other than this same chronological issue.)  I've learned to call it 'age segregation' because the word 'snobbery' is insulting to people even when it is deserved, and even though it is a C. S. Lewis term.  The age segregation causes a loss for both young and old, but most especially for the young.  We are clearly instructed in scripture to ensure that the young and old are integrated in our churches (see Titus 2:3-5 for example).  We throw this out when we age-segregate our congregations.

We also deny the power of the gospel when we do this.  Tullian continues, "You see, when we separate people according to something as trivial as musical preferences, we evidence a fundamental failure to comprehend the heart of the gospel. We’re not only feeding toxic tribalism; we’re also saying the gospel can’t successfully bring these two different groups together. It’s a declaration of doubt about the unifying power of God’s gospel.  Generational appeal in worship is an admission that the gospel is powerless to join together what man has separated."

Why would we as a church want to make such a powerful anti-gospel statement by feeding our own desires about music style?  To avoid the chronological snobbery, we should look both ways, backwards, to the past to see the shoulders on which we stand, and around us now, to see the value in contemporary ways to worship and glorify God, so we can all as one look forward to the hope that is ours in Christ.  We need to take the best of the old, the best of the new, and continue to worship and glorify God together as we proclaim the gospel to the nations; and we certainly need to not neglect meeting together, as is the habit of some, but to encourage each other, across all age groups (and any other false division we can think of), all the more as we see the Day approaching (Heb 10:24-25).

I encourage you to go read Tullian's blog in full.

22 August 2010

School Starts In The Morning!

Big day tomorrow...the new school year starts up.  My oldest two are going in to their freshman year of high school...hard to believe.  My youngest starts 5th grade, so I don't have any kids in elementary school any more.

Hard to say which is more intense...knowing that I'm getting old much faster than I care to, or being excited about seeing my kids growing up so quickly and doing so well at it.

The fun part of the deal is the new car.  We went and picked up our new Chevy Suburban on Saturday.  Our old one has almost 200,000 miles and is over 7 years old.  Since we'll be driving all over the Texas panhandle to ball games for the next seven years, we thought now would be a good time.  Those things may seem expensive, but if you get eight years out of one, that is pretty cheap driving.

20 August 2010

Mac Version of Logos, Soon

 The Mac version of Logos is coming out October 1!
 (copied from Logos)-
http://www.logos.com/mac">http://www.logos.com/images/mac/blog-post.jpg" style="float: right; padding: 0 0 0 5px;" />http://www.logos.com/">Logos Bible Software is giving away http://www.logos.com/mac#giveaway">thousands of dollars of prizes to celebrate the launch of http://www.logos.com/mac">Logos Bible Software 4 Mac on October 1. Prizes include an iMac, a MacBook Pro, an iPad, an iPod Touch, and more than 100 other prizes!
They’re also having a special limited-time sale on their Mac and PC http://www.logos.com/basepackages">base packages and http://www.logos.com/upgrade">upgrades. Check it out!

19 August 2010

What was the Raising of Lazarus Really About?

God's sovereignty in our salvation is paramount in scripture.  God says (and demonstrates) repeatedly that he will not share his glory with another (see Isaiah 48:11 for example).  One of the most compelling pictures of his sovereignty in salvation is the story of the raising of Lazarus in John 11.

Lazarus was a good friend (Jn 11:3) of Jesus, and a brother of Mary and Martha (Jn 11:2).  If Jesus had wanted to prevent Lazarus from dying, he easily could have, but when he heard about Lazarus' illness, he basically avoided the situation for the next two days (Jn 11:6).  He waited until Lazarus was dead.

He did all this to make a point (Jn 11:15).  I don't know that Jesus was as much troubled over Lazarus' death (after all, he was about to fix that problem) as he was the unbelief of those close to him.  What he said in Jn 11:40 is key:  "Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?" (emphasis is mine)

Jesus thus illustrates the glory of God in salvation by raising the physically dead, and in the process drawing a picture of what Paul describes in Ephesians 2 as raising the spiritually dead.  Jesus didn't stand at the door of the tomb and knock, hoping Lazarus would answer.  He didn't woo him out of the tomb with reasonable arguments.  Jesus commanded Lazarus to live (a picture of regeneration) and come out of the tomb (moving from death to life, Jn. 5:24, Rom. 6:13).

In the same way, we play no part in our own regeneration...it is a monergistic work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts.  As God describes it in Ezek. 36:25-28, he puts a heart of flesh in us, in place of the heart of stone, so that we can live.  As Jesus explains to Nicodemus in John 3:3, no one can even see the kingdom of God unless he is born again (regenerated).  How could we choose God if we can't see him? 

[Jesus cements this with his next statement about the wind (Spirit) blowing where it may, but that's for another article.]

What was the response of the Pharisees?  To kill Jesus (Jn. 11:53).  We are little different than the Pharisees.  Because of our humanistic tendencies, we think it was us who chose God; who reached up from our sin and depravity and grabbed the life preserver that God had thrown to us.  We may not crucify him, since he's not physically present now, but we steal his glory when he intrudes on our 'free will' of choosing him and thus saving ourselves. Be it not so!  We are dead in our sin (Eph. 2:1)...unable to respond, just as Lazarus was unable to offer any aid to Jesus when he raised him from the dead.  The glory in salvation is God's alone...and in spite of our humanism, he should not (and will not) share that glory with us.

The natural religion of man is humanistic in nature...call it 'bootstrap theology' if you like.  But it is not the religion of the bible.  The gospel is the correct view of how God saves man.  We try to write God into our own life stories, but in reality, we must write ourselves into God's story.  After all, history is His story.

"You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide..." (Jn 15:16).

17 August 2010

Fall Campus Newsletter Post: Sunrise, Sunset

I wrote the following for the WBU-Amarillo Fall campus newsletter.

Sunrise, Sunset

Where do the days go?  It seems like a few weeks ago we were planting flowers, school was getting out, and summer was just starting.  I have no idea what happened to July…somehow, I missed it.

As we get ready to start the Fall term, we already see the sun setting sooner, cooler days are just around the corner, and football is cranking up.  Fall has always been my favorite season.  I love Spring too, but the plants are just going in the ground then; in the Fall, they are mature and all the landscape starts to look grand with the cooler nights and rain.  And of course, there’s football.  Ever since my freshman year of college, and the experiences there with college football, I’ve loved the start of football season.  Now, it’s more about fantasy leagues than anything else, but there is still something magical in the air come the kick-off of football season.

The passing of time also reminds us of how fast life is moving.  When I was a kid, I thought the summers seemed to last forever.  Now, they are the blink of an eye.  Most people I talk to feel the same way…summer time seems to fly by now.  I finally heard an explanation of why this is so.  (No, it’s not some alien intervention with the orbit of the earth.)  It has to do with ratios.  When we were four years old, a summer was 6% of our lifetime.  When we hit 40, a summer is a mere 0.6% of our lifetime.  So relatively speaking, a summer seems ten times shorter to us at 40 than it does at 4.

All this serves as a reminder to us- don’t waste your life.  We can spend all our time on endless, worthless pursuits as inane as watching TV and staying busy procrastinating the things we should be doing, or we can be using the time we have (which grows shorter every year) on things that have lasting value.  Some things of lasting value are temporal, like time spent with family, or taking time out to finish a college degree.  These are worthwhile uses of our time, and will have value to us the rest of our lives.  Other things of lasting value are eternal.  Time spent with God, time spent serving others with no expectation of any payment, and time spent pointing people to Christ and to the glory of God are examples of eternally significant things we can do.  Again, they have value in this life, but they also have value for eternity.

Make a point to use some of your time this season, as you enjoy the changing of the leaves and the transitions in life, to accomplish some things of temporal and (especially) eternal value.  “For where people lay up their treasures, there their hearts will be also.”

11 August 2010

Making the Gospel Known

Ed Stetzer, President of Lifeway, said- "...making the gospel known is more complicated in America today than it was in decades past. Less people today have a general Christian orientation, or even a shared Judeo-Christian ethic. This means concepts (truths) like sin, death and hell cannot be assumed..."

I agree.

As a result of this, I think proclaiming the gospel is easier, even though it is more complicated.  The reason is (to borrow Matt Chandler's terms) many more people in our culture have not been 'inoculated against the gospel' as in the past.  In my experience, it has been easier to argue for the holiness of God when coming from the idea of the fallen nature of man.  When the 'bad news' is assumed, as it used to be, sometimes the good news gets lost in the moralism (legalism).  Since our culture no longer assumes any bad news, this part needs to be a component of the gospel message, and as Chesterton said, sin is the one part of the gospel that can be empirically confirmed...people don't need much convincing of the fallen nature of man, even though culture tells us we are all basically good.

The hard part comes when we confront the culture with our fallenness.  If there is one sin that can be committed against a culture that laughs at the concept of 'sin', it is the sin of destroying people's self-esteem.  Self-esteem is a god to many individuals and institutions in our culture.  But we can't proclaim the good news of Christ without first breaking down the primary enemy of the gospel- self-righteousness.  Self-righteousness and self-esteem are the gay-marriage partners of self-actualization, which can be seen first in scripture in the garden of Eden (you remember the part with the snake and the naked lady, right?).

I used to worry a lot more about how secularized our culture and country are becoming.  I don't do that so much any more.  When Uzzah made the mistake of putting out his hand to keep the ark of the covenant from falling off the ox cart, he assumed that his hand was less contaminated and desecrating to the throne of God than would be the mud on the ground below.  In the same way, I assumed our 'christianized' culture was better off than our secularized culture.  Wrong idea.  Both are in the same danger of the same fires of hell. 

And as the culture becomes more secularized, it is sure getting easier to demonstrate a difference between the profanity of culture (and those who live in it) and the holiness of God.


05 August 2010

What Younger Believers Need (and Don't Need)

Every once in a while, I come across a statement in a book I’m reading that begs to be shared.  This is one of them.

“Younger believers don’t need another speaker to come in and tell them about dating, self-esteem, and relationships.  They need to have relationships with saints who have put on a few miles in the Christian life and have faced challenges to their faith and practice that younger believers have not.  And the lessons learned from these relationships need to be passed on to the rest of us in unplanned, unchoreographed, and unplugged conversations.”

This is from Michael Horton’s, The Gospel Driven Life, p. 197.  I highly recommend this book.  But since it is the sequel to, Christless Christianity, you’ll probably need to read that one (highly recommended as well) first.

We tend to over-think and over-react when we hear bad things going on with our youth.  I'm afraid that's part of the problem.  Saying we need to simplify things is easy, but doesn't give enough information.  This paragraph is an appeal to simplify, and it give all the information we need to do what is suggested.

We need to stop age-segregating our churches.

02 August 2010

'Christian' versus 'Christ-follower'

I've been noticing a subtle change in wording on a good number of people's blogs and profile pages...instead of calling themselves a Christian, they call themselves a Christ-follower.  I have no idea where this got started, and I'd love to know.  If any of you reading this have a source, please drop me a line and let me know.


I haven't thought this through completely, but on the surface at least,  I have a bit of a problem with the new wording.  I know it sounds kinda cool, and it is certainly a contemporary way to express a religious orientation, but I'm not sure it means what many people seem to think.

Here's an example from scripture- both Simon Peter and Judas Iscariot were Christ-followers.  Jesus called Judas to follow him, and he did.  He called Peter, and he also followed.  Yet Judas (as you know if you read the story) was never a Christian.  Peter was.  Judas was lost; Peter saved.  One was sad he got caught, the other saddened by his lack of faith.  So one can be called a Christ-follower and not be a Christian.  I don't think that's the meaning most folks intend to express when they refer to themselves as a Christ-follower.  (Though, as an aside, the term may have a lot of utility, since there are so many folks who attend church that are apparently not Christians.)

The Bible refers to Christians as, well, Christians.  Acts 11:26 says the disciples in Antioch were the first to be called Christians.  I don't think that verse is anecdotal or without importance in the scriptural narrative.  I don't see any reference to Christ-followers in the New Testament.  I do see Jesus telling folks to follow him, and I don't have any problem with the language used as a verb (command).  I just don't see the need to use it as a noun (description).  The word Christian means little Christ.  This is not a reference to some kind of inherent deity in any believer, but rather to the idea of a believer in Christ being an understudy who is attempting to typify or embody Christ-likeness in their own life.  The Biblical term for this process is sanctification.  We can follow someone without ever trying to become like them.  I follow Weird Al Yankovic, because I think his parodies are funny and I think he's a genius at what he does, not to mention he's a very talented musician.  But (no offense, Al) I don't want to be like him.  I don't want to be a Weird Al Mini-me.  I do want to think, talk, act, love, hate, see, hear, etc., like Christ.  Thus I am a Christian (a little Christ), not merely a Christ-follower.

I don't know that any of this is a really big deal, but as has been said so often, words mean things.  Certainly, in the gospel itself, the importance of words is not capable of being overstated.  Over time, we tend to wreck our language by the overuse of superlatives (everything is awesome even when its not).  We also tend to water language down by shifting definitions, almost always away from the precise toward the general (ask someone what radical means, then look it up in the OED and you'll see what I mean).  This is never helpful to a culture; moving from the concise to the abstract always results in a loss of information.  Yes, we have too much information, and losing some of it wouldn't be a bad thing, but we need to keep the good and dump the bad, and that's not what happens when we lose our language.

I don't mean to disparage any who call themselves Christ-followers.  I just want to make sure I send the right message by what I call myself.

As for me, I'll stick to the Biblical term, Christian.