Category Archives: Uncategorized

The Glory of the Son

Originally posted on Enduring Christianity:

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Six days later … Peter had confessed that Jesus is “the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matt. 16:18). Jesushad revealed to his disciples that he was going to die and be resurrected three days later, which was not well received (Matt. 16:21-24). Jesus had taught his disciples about the cost of discipleship, which included self-denial and bearing one’s cross (Matt. 16:24-28).

Six days later … Now, Jesus takes Peter, James, and John to a high mountain for an experience of a lifetime. At the top of the mountain, Jesus reveals his glory to them in a way they had never seen and would never forget. The text reads: “And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white” (Matt. 17:2). The word transfigured (metamorphóō) means…

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Why me, God?

Originally posted on The Sharp End:

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I’m a nobody.

There’s nothing overly special about me. I’m not stronger or smarter than the average person. I don’t have some kind of special knowledge. I don’t love better than others. I don’t sin less than anyone. I’m abundantly average.

In fact, I feel like I am weaker than most. I don’t know nearly all that I want to know, and my wisdom isn’t very wise compared to those I look up to. I struggle with loving other people because of my innate ability to be selfish. Oh, and I sin – a lot. Maybe I’m less than average.

I didn’t always see myself like this. I used to think I was everything to everyone. I was God’s gift to the world, but then I grew up and the voices around me began to make headway into my own thoughts. I began to see myself in light of the…

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The Beauty of the Gospel

Originally posted on Resurrected Living:

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We are accustom to reading the Bible as truth, which it is, but if truth is the only thing we see then we are missing much of what the Bible has to offer. The Bible is also full of beauty. It reflects the glory we find in Jesus. To miss the beauty of Scripture is to miss the glory of the Son of God.

This beauty is found before the Messiah takes on flesh and is born in a manger. The Old Testament is full of beauty. The poetry in the psalms and the prophets contain echoes of better things to come. The Gospel of Luke begins with a story about a childless couple. The righteous prayers of Elizabeth and Zechariah are heard by God and he decides to act on their behalf. As Zechariah enters the temple, he is visited by an angel who delivers the good news. Zechariah…

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Give a Man a Fish

Originally posted on From Dust:

       Today is my turn for the post in the Compadres’ Summer Blog Tour. The Compadres is a group of Christian leaders, many of which have blogs, and so we decided it would be good to try and put our enjoyment of writing together for the cause of Christ. The theme we have chosen to go with is events in the scripture that glorified Jesus. I decided to take a stab at John 6:1-15, Jesus feeding the 5,000. Before reading this post, I would encourage you to go read these 15 verses.

       John 5 ends with a sermon by Jesus, and chapter six begins with Jesus leaving the crowd, and going to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. Jesus goes up on to the side of a mountain with his disciples, and as he looks up and out, he sees a large crowd…

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K. Rex Butts:

Here’s the first Compadres Blog, from Jeremy Schopper. Read on and be blessed!

Originally posted on Leaving the Noise Behind:

ImageI’m part of Facebook group called Compadres. The group is made up of wonderful Christian leaders. Many of the folks in the group are bloggers; so we decided to come together and share our blogs this summer – hence the Compadres Blog Tour. Each of us will be writing about the glory of Jesus Christ. What you read below is my feeble addition to this wonderful project. Blessings!

Here’s one of the things Unger’s Dictionary had to say about glory. “It is the exercise and divine display of what constitutes the distinctive excellence of the subject to which it is spoken; thus, in respect to God, His glory is the manifestation of His divine attributes and perfections, or such a visible splendor as indicates the possession and presence of these.”

Here’s what I think this means; when we talk about the glory of God we are referring to the things…

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In The Age of Celebrity Pastors: What Motivates Our Ministry?

Is Christianity in America worshiping an idol known as the “celebrity pastor?” Are we who serve as ministers and pastors of churches cultivating this idolatry ourselves…for ourselves?

The last couple of weeks has seen a lot of blogs, Facebook remarks, and so on talking about the allegations that Pastor Mark Driscoll committed plagerism. In the midst of this chatter comes two post that I believe point to a deeper problem with the “celebrity pastor” status among Christianity. First up is a post on Christianity Today’s website titled The Real Problem with Mark Driscoll’s ‘Citation Errors’ in which Andy Crouch says:

Mark Driscoll is a human being, created in the image of God, with great gifts, real limits, and very likely a genuine calling to ministry. But “Pastor Mark Driscoll,” the author of “literally thousands of pages of content a year,” the purveyor of hundreds of hours of preaching, is in grave danger of becoming a false image. No human being could do what “Pastor Mark Driscoll” does—the celebrity is actually a complex creation of a whole community of people who sustain the illusion of an impossibly productive, knowledgeable, omnicompetent superhuman.

The real danger here is not plagiarism—it is idolatry.

In his blog post The Lesson of Driscoll’s Plagiarism: A Rant On Rejecting Celebrity Leadership, David Fitch describes the problem as an “ideology at work” saying,

[Mark Driscoll's] clear avoidance of one of the most basic practices of the Christian life and the continuing charades surrounding him, the publishers and the lawyers to avoid dealing with the lies, illustrate how far the Driscoll’s book and leadership has been removed above the actual practice of on-the-ground Christian life in the form of a celebrity pastor, and has become a product to be sold, an image to be upheld. This is not Christianity, this is ideology…

Both are right. It’s ideology and idolatry.

Before We Blame…

However the problem isn’t Mark Driscoll’s alone. In fact, the problem isn’t just with the celebrity pastors, whoever they are. I believe the problem is largely our problem! That is, the problem is owned by the broad movement known as evangelical Christianity (Emmergents, Missional, Reformed, Neo-Reformed, Anabaptists, Restorationist, Charismatic-Pentcostals, etc… Did I get them all?).

With the idea that there is an idolatry of “celebrity pastor” taking place, I believe that we could substitute any number other celebrity Pastors/ministers (though not all) for Driscoll and still have the same point. In evangelical Christianity, where the value of consumerism has increasingly become the driving force of the church, the celebrity status is created by Christians turning to the pastor who is able to provide the goods that they — with their consumer appetites — so desire.  It’s sort of a catch 22. That’s why so many fans Christians increasingly seem to mimic with uncritical reflection the celebrity pastor machine they flock too and then, if the local church doesn’t become an extension of the brand/goods offered by this machine, the flock leave to find a church that does.

So My Fellow Preachers…

But my concern isn’t with these celebrity pastor’s. It’s with me and everyone one of my friends and colleagues who minister with churches. We all have been gifted and blessed greatly by God to preach, teach, and lead God’s people. Technology and social-media has created great mechanism for us to use our gifts to serve God and people using our gifts in some new and wonderful ways. So we upload our sermons as MP3 files, share teachings on a blog (like I’m doing now), promote an e-book or book that’s been published by a reputable publishing company, etc…

I understand and I do some it myself. But when does promotion become self-promotion? In a conversation with a few other friends and fellow ministers, the question was asked “at what point does a pastor become a ‘celebrity pastor’?” That’s another way of asking how do we known when we are engaging in the task of building our own celebrity pastor machine…an idolatry and ideology at work?This is a difficult question and one that can ultimately only be answered by every minister, for it’s too difficult to judge someone else’s motives. However, I will say two things:

  1. If we’re aware of this concern then we probably have little to worry about. From one minister to other ministers, I’m more concerned when we stop asking ourselves the critical self-examining questions either because we unintentionally fail to do so or because we think such questions don’t apply to us anymore.
  2. If and when we do become engaged in the ideology and idolatry of establishing our own celebrity pastor status (whether on a large or small scale), it will eventually show itself in our behaviors and actions. For such hubris easily becomes narcism where we think we are no longer accountable to the moral and ethical standards that everyone else is bound by. If and when that happens, it tends to work itself out in some very visible and palpable failures.

So as this fiasco plays itself out, I hope the rest of us who are called to preach, teach, and lead God’s people can take some time for self-examination. What is motivating our ministry? Is it the mission of God or…?

Shhh… Let’s Not Talk About Making Disciples

When I was a student at Harding University, I was involved in the ministry at the local county jail.  There I and several other Christians would read the Bible with inmates, teach them about Jesus, and conduct worship in each housing-pod.  Over the couple of years that I was involved in this ministry, there were plenty of inmates who decided that they wanted to become a Christian and were baptized into Jesus Christ.

That was good, or so I thought.  The numbers of baptisms, however many there were, were good for my ego.  I could stand before my ministry peers and report to them all the good work that was being done.  But never once did I stop long enough to ask why most of those inmates were no longer interested in being Christians when they were released from jail.

You might chalk that up to typical “jail house conversions” but this problem exists elsewhere too.  A professor of mine told a story about a well-known international ministry that would boast about the number of people who were making decisions for Jesus but many of those people quickly turned back to their old life.  It sounds good when we can boast about large numbers of conversions… that 100 people decided to become Christians on that mission trip, that we baptized 25 last month at the county jail.  But why do we seldom talk about how many disciples of Jesus Christ have been made?

Go and Make Disciples!

At the end of the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus offers what we call “The Great Commission in Matthew 28:19-20:

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.  And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.

This is passage is probably cited more than any other passage in the Bible as to why we should go preach the gospel and evangelize people.  This is the mission-mandate and ignoring is not an option—or so we think.

Christians are very obedient to this passage when it comes to calling missionaries and preachers, supporting them and sending them out to plant churches and evangelize the lost.  Why?  Because that is what Jesus commanded us to do.  He said so right in this passage from the Gospel of Matthew.  But when we look at this passage a little closer, we just might find that we’re not as obedient to Jesus as we want to believe.

In this passage there is one verb: make disciples.  This verb is an imperative  while “baptizing” and “teaching” are present participles that are the result of having made disciples.  Thus what Jesus is commanding us to do is make disciples!*

It Takes More…

Put another way, Jesus is not telling us to teach people what is necessary for them to “get saved” first, baptizing them, and then hope to make disciples of them as though the first goal is salvation and the second is making disciples.  But I’m not sure we want to hear that.  Why?  Because it’s easier just to get people “saved” then it is to make disciples.  It takes more work, more teaching, and more leading to cultivate the way of Jesus in people.  And it certainly takes more time waiting for God to do the real transformative work that leads people to decide they want to surrender their life to Jesus as his follower (being a disciple), dying to themselves and be raised with Christ (being baptized) as a believer who continues learning (being taught) to live into this most peculiar kingdom way of life.

But frankly, it’s also more of a risk to make disciples than it is to get people “saved” (as if we can do that anyways).  Most people, especially when life is not going well, want a savior.  Not as many, however, will want a Lord who demands that they live every moment of their life in submission to him.  Not as many will likely want to follow Jesus when he starts talking about carrying a cross and any one of his other rather difficult teachings.  And let’s just be honest… “Not as many” is not what many missions committees and church oversight groups want to hear.

But We Must Make Disciples!

Don’t misunderstand me here.  I’m happy that people decide they want to be a Christian.  I believe that Jesus is the Savior and there are times when people are so hurt and distraught in their life that they need to hear about the grace of Jesus the Savior and know the salvation that he alone can offers them.  But here in America, there is a discipleship problem that must be addressed.  American Christianity appears afflicted with the same spiritual illness of cheap grace that Dietrich Bonhoeffer sensed among early twentieth-century German Christianity. But that’s not too surprising when evangelism is about teaching something like the four spiritual laws rather than teaching people to follow Jesus.

In a book that is now thirteen years old, Church Next, author Eddie Gibbs took notice of the mega-church and seeker-sensative trends sweeping across Evangelical Christianity.  The churches which pursued these trends boasted in big numbers of people who had made decisions for Christ, becoming Christians.  Then Gibbs said:

And any voice of triumphalism from among their ranks needs to be moderated by the fact that these new movements have not as yet exerted sufficient influence to reverse the overall decline in churchgoing (p. 18).

I’ll push even farther and say that both then and since then, with the rise of both neo-reformed and emerging church movements, there has yet to be a reversal in the rise of secularized American worldview.

I am not suggesting that we should not be thankful and encouraged by reports of people who make decisions for Christ and are baptized into Christ.  What I am suggesting is that we need to stop making the decision for Christ or getting people saved the gold standard as thought that is what is most important.  It’s not.  Making disciples is the task of evangelism because that is what Jesus commanded and unless our evangelistic intent is making disciples, we are not obeying the command of Jesus.

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* For more on what discipleship is, see my article Living the Way of JesusNew Wineskins (March 2013).

On This Election Day… God Wins!

Today is Election Day in the America.  The nation cast a ballot on many people and issues but most importantly, the nation will elect a person to serve the next four years as President of the USA.  The person elected will either be the incumbent, the current President, Barack Obama or a new President, who then most likely will be Governor Mitt Romney.

As a Christian, I have very mixed thoughts about this election.  In one sense I understand the purpose behind such a democratic purpose.  I realize that whoever is elected to serve as the President has a very important role that has global implications for the world.  So in keeping with the instructions in scripture to pray for those who govern the nations (cf. 1 Tim 2:1-2), my prayer is that whoever is elected will govern in such a way that America and the rest of the world will be a place of justice and peace according to the will of God.

But in another sense, as one who understands life through the lens of the gospel of Jesus Christ, there is so much that is concerns me… even disturbs me.  I have listened as the two dominant political parties and their nominated candidates campaigned as though the world turns on what happens with this election.  I have listened as professing Christians sounded more like Democrat and Republican spokespersons than witnesses of Jesus Christ… all the while, as the gospel of Jesus Christ is increasingly kept hidden underneath a basket otherwise known as a church building that Christian gather in to worship God and profess faith in Jesus Christ.  Surely something is wrong with this picture!  I have literally been told by another Christian that voting as a Christian is a clear choice, as one choice is a vote against God while the other vote is a vote for God.  But sometimes I wonder if this is all just a repeat of Israel’s rejection of God when they demanded that Samuel appoint them a king (cf. 1 Sam 8:4-9).

Yet I will not fear and neither should you.  We can be thankful that as vitriolic as the rhetoric of election campaigns can be, America is still a place where elections and transitions of leadership are made with a vote rather than guns and tanks.  But that is not why I will not fear.

I will not fear, no matter the outcome of the election, because I believe that in Christ, God reigns victoriously over all that is.  I believe that God is at work in all things, things good and bad, bringing history to it’s destiny where this old age will give way to the new heaven and new east in which God and his people will dwell together among creation once again as it once was in the beginning.

So no matter what the outcome is, on this election day… God wins!

To him who is able to keep [us] from stumbling and to present [us] before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy – to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, though Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.

- Jude 24-25

Nadia Bolz-Weber on God, Grace, and Church

I snatched this video from the blog of Rachel Held Evans.  If you have 20 minutes, watch this video of Nadia Bolz Weber and pay attention to what she is saying about God, grace, and church:

Nadia Bolz-Weber is the founding Pastor of House For All Sinners and Saints which is affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA).

President Obama and Common Grace

For one of my seminary classes, I was assigned to read Robert Clinton’s book The Making of a Leader.  In short, the book is about the way God forms leaders through out the different stages of life.

The first stage is called “Sovereign Foundations” and this is all about the realities and choices made for us which we had no control of ourselves.  For instance, not one of us had the choice about where we were born, the family we were born into and what sort of educational and economical status they had, etc…  In my own story, I was born in the United States to a white blue collar family.  Can you imagine what my life would have been like had I been born into a family of migrant workers in China or into a wealthy family in England.  I’m not saying one would be better than the other, just that my life would be very different.  The point is that I am who I am in part because of circumstances that I had nothing to do with.

There is a concept called “Common Grace” within some strands of Christian theology that speaks to the various blessings we have received in life that has nothing to do with faith in Christ.  We all, to one degree or another, have received a certain amount of common grace.  While we can make choices that help or hinder the quality of our life, our fortunes and blessings in life, from birth to education to vocation, is not the result of our own doing.  We have received much help along the way, more than we often realize.

For example, another blessing or “common grace” I received in my life was the ability to attend college and seminary.  While I had to do the hard work of study to graduate with my degrees, the fact that I was able to borrow money (student loans) and receive scholarships was a blessing…a common grace extended to me that I neither deserved nor earned.  Even the fact that my college and seminary of choice existed and was able to bless me with a quality education is a blessing that I neither deserved nor earned.  My point i

Well, here is why I wanted to remind us about the common grace we all have received.  President Obama has been getting a lot of flack by his detractors for these remarks he made during a recent speech in Roanoke, Virginia:

If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help.  There was a great teacher somewhere in your life.  Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive.  Somebody invested in roads and bridges.  If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that.  Somebody else made that happen.  The Internet didn’t get invented on its own.  Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.

I am seeing a lot of remarks on Facebook that laugh at the notion of the successful business owner receiving help from someone else.  Some of these remarks appear to be more interested in reading between the lines to speculate about an ulterior motive behind these remarks.  Whether there is an ulterior motive or not is not my concern here.

I just want people to realize that whether you generally agree or disagree with the political vision of the President, there still is a lot of truth to what he said.  Rather than being so quick to dispute the President’s remarks, we should instead take some time to reflect on the many blessings we have received in life to help us become who we are…and then give thanks to God in heaven.

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Feel free to comment if you wish but please remain civil and stay on topic.  I am not interested in discussing the merits of President Obama and American politics.  Any comments with vulgar language or that our accusatory will be deleted.  Thank you very much for your cooperation.