Friday, July 30, 2010

Good Reasons to Leave a Church?

I've been wanting to interact with this helpful and thoughtful post by Jason Helopoulos on good reasons to leave a church. The author states that he has been thinking about this topic for the past ten years. I cannot claim that, but it is a topic which has been much on my mind for the past three years.

At any rate, it is obvious from the clock on my wall that I will not be able to accomplish this interaction today. However, I would like to draw your attention to it and invite your comments here on it. I will attempt to post some thoughts next week.

The author gives four good reasons for moving on, three possible reasons for moving on, and eight reasons often used which are insufficient. Here are his "four good reasons:"

1. Providential moving—If my job, family, or life has moved me from Dallas to Austin then I should probably find a local church in Austin, let alone if I moved from Michigan to North Carolina. It is right and good to belong to a local church and covenant with brothers and sisters in my own “backyard.”

2. Planting another church—It may be that I haven’t left my home town, but the church I belong to has decided to send me out with others to plant another church in the area. Notice though, that I am being sent out by my church, not leaving with a group of people because I am disgruntled or think it is a good idea.

3. Purity has been lost— It may take different forms, but primarily this occurs when the Word is no longer proclaimed. It could be that heresy is being taught, the Bible is never read or preached, or a much more prominent manifestation these days is that the Word is no longer seen as sufficient; it is used as a seasoning for the message of the week rather than the diet by which the congregation is fed and nourished upon. However, we must be careful here; patience should always be exercised and I must always test my own heart to see if I am “making a mountain out of a molehill.”

4. Peace of the church is in jeopardy due to my presence— This “reason” is hard to suggest for fear of it being abused, as it is by far the most subjective “reason.” However, there are cases where an individual/family can personally become a hindrance to the ministry of the local church and it is best for that person/family to move-on. If this is the reason I am contemplating leaving the church, then I must first test myself and discern whether it is because of sin on my own part. If that is the case then I must be quick to repent rather than move-on. This “reason” should always be approached with trepidation.

What do you think? Can these reasons be supported by Scriptural reasoning?

(Read the entire post here.)

Excel in this Grace

What happens when God's grace is flowing freely in a congregation of Christians? Well, a great number of things happen, but one of the fruits you will see in the garden of grace is generous giving. God's people, enriched in every way by God's grace, are giving people, and giving people bring about great gratitude to God. God is glorified when we give of our resources for his work, and that is Spirit-empowered worship.

Songs
Praise the Savior (#17)
O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing (#69)
Thou Sweet Beloved Will of God (#528)
Take My Life and Let It Be (#560)
Jesus, Where'er Thy People Meet (#666)

Scripture Reading
Old Testament: Genesis 4:17-26; Psalm 52
New Testament: Matthew 4:1-11

Sermon
Excel in this Grace - 2 Corinthians 8-9

Courtship

Here is a mature meditation on "The End of Courtship" by Leon Kass. While there is more I would want to say from an explicitly biblical and Christian perspective, there is much wisdom in this essay.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

How to Explain Christianity to an Unbelieving Friend

Here is one example of doing just that from a second century believer. Read the whole thing, and we will discuss it this Lord's Day during our seminar on early church history.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

A Good Meditation for this Lord's Day

Amidst us our Beloved stands,
And bids us view His pierced hands:
Points to His wounded feet and side,
Blest emblems of the Crucified.

What food luxurious loads the board,
When at His table sits the Lord!
The wine how rich, the bread how sweet,
When Jesus deigns the guests to meet!

If now, with eyes defiled and dim,
We see the signs, but see not Him,
O may His love the scales displace,
And bid us see Him face to face!

Our former transports we recount,
When with Him in the holy mount:
These cause our souls to thirst anew
His marred but lovely face to view.

Thou glorious Bridegroom of our hearts,
Thy present smile a heav'n imparts;
O lift the veil, if veil there be,
Let ev'ry saint Thy beauties see!

by Charles Spurgeon

Friday, July 23, 2010

Baptism and Breaking Bread

Actions mean something. How much more do actions which the Lord has commanded and defined! There are two particular actions which the Lord has ordained that we ought to practice - baptism and the Lord's Supper. Baptism is the initiation rite into our relationship with Christ and into Christ's body, the church. The Lord's Supper is the ongoing rite of participation with Christ in his body. These are precious symbols which portray the gospel for us!

Over the century ago, the Baptist preacher Charles Spurgeon remarked:

My witness is, and I think I speak the mind of many of
God's people now present, that coming as some of us do, weekly, to the Lord's
table, we do not find the breaking of bread to have lost its significance—it is
always fresh to us. I have often remarked on Lord's-day evening, whatever the
subject may have been, whether Sinai has thundered over our heads, or the
plaintive notes of Calvary have pierced our hearts, it always seems equally
appropriate to come to the breaking of bread. Shame on the Christian church that
she should put it off to once a month, and mar the first day of the week by
depriving it of its glory in the meeting together for fellowship and breaking of
bread, and showing forth of the death of Christ till he come. They who once know
the sweetness of each Lord's-day celebrating his Supper, will not be content, I am
sure, to put it off to less frequent seasons. Beloved, when the Holy Ghost is with
us, ordinances are wells to the Christian, wells of rich comfort and of near
communion (From the sermon "Songs of Deliverance").

Join with us this Lord's Day to revel in Christ's rich provision for his people!

Songs
Crown Him with Many Crowns (#52)
O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing (#69)
Amidst Us Our Beloved Stands (#230)
How Sweet and Awful Is the Place (#238)
Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing (#243)

Scripture Reading
Old Testament: Genesis 4:1-16; Psalm 141
New Testament: Matthew 3:1-17

Sermon
Baptism and Breaking of Bread - Acts 2:37-48

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Shepherding at Home

Not too long ago I came across the blog Practical Shepherding, and it has been a source of conviction, challenge, and encouragement to me in my calling as a pastor. The most recent post, although aimed specifically at pastors, is worth sharing with all of you. In it, Pastor Croft relates how he has worked to make sure that he is shepherding the hearts of his own children. While those of you who are parents may not use the exact method that he does, read his thoughts and let them be an encouragement to you to actively shepherd at home.

Twas the NIGHT before CHRISTmas and ALL...

This post on "Poetic Meter in Christian Hymnody" fits perfectly with part of our discussion last night on the topic of music. If you have a moment, give it a read.

Work on Public Prayer

Here is some excellent advice on praying publicly.

If you are in any form of spiritual leadership, work at your public prayers. It does not matter whether the form of spiritual leadership you exercise is the teaching of a Sunday school class, pastoral ministry, small-group evangelism, or anything else: if at any point you pray in public as a leader, then work at your public prayers.

Some people think this advice distinctly corrupt. It smells too much of public relations, of concern for public image. After all, whether we are praying in private or in public, we are praying to God: Surely he is the one we should be thinking about, no one else.

This objection misses the point....

Read the whole thing at Orchard Keeper.

Didache

For those who will be in our seminar on early church history this Sunday, you can read the "Didache" online here (choose a translation).

I also ran across this recent discussion of baptism in the early church which mentions the Didache.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Inconvenience or Opportunity?

I identified with this short article on parenting and thought some of you might benefit from it, too.

"Using the Bible to Parent Biblically"

Preach the Word

As we near the completion of our series of sermons on our public worship, we will consider the Lord's instruction to devote ourselves to the public reading, teaching, and preaching of the Scriptures. Praise the Lord for his inspired Word!

Songs
Come, Christians, Join to Sing (#67)
Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow
Psalm 119f
How Firm a Foundation (#610)
Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah (#495)

Scripture Reading
Old Testament: Genesis 3:1-24; Psalm 32
New Testament: Matthew 2:13-23

Sermon
Devote Yourself to the Public Reading of Scripture - 1 Timothy 4:13

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Polycarp

For those who are involved in the seminar on early church history, you can read Polycarp's letter to the Philippians either here or here.

Polycarp was highly esteemed as a godly leader during his many years leading the church in Smyrna. His most famous words were uttered shortly before he was put to death:

For eighty-six years I have been his servant, and he has done me no wrong. How can I blaspheme my King who saved me?

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Passing the Time...

To state the obvious, I haven't had much time to blog lately. So, to cure the overwhelming boredom that must come along with not reading "Relentlessly Biblical," here's something for deep biblical meditation (all tongue-in-cheek, of course).

Debating Calvinism

Saturday, July 10, 2010

The Church's Banquet

"Prayer the church's banquet," begins George Herbert's arresting poem on prayer, and this Lord's Day we wish to learn why the believers in the New Testament devoted themselves constantly to the prayers (Acts 2:42). Even more, we wish to partake of this banquet offered us by communing with the Lord. I invite you to come and pray with us.

Songs
O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing (#69)
Praise God from Whom all Blessings Flow
Lord Jesus Christ, We Seek Thy Face (#667)
When I Survey the Wondrous Cross (#167)
Give to Our God Immortal Praise (#53)

Scripture Reading
Old Testament: Genesis 2; Psalm 98
New Testament: Matthew 2:1-12

Sermon
The Church's Banquet: Devoting Ourselves to the Prayers - Acts 2:42

Friday, July 02, 2010

What to do with Genealogies in the Bible?

Gerald Bray gives a good answer to this question. He briefly shows
  • what they teach us about God
  • what they tell us about ourselves, and
  • what they tell us about God's dealings with us.
Read it here.

God's wisdom shows in every part of his word, including the genealogies!

Making God's Praise Important

This Lord's Day we will begin putting into practice some of the lessons we have learned from God's Word about how to make his praise glorious. I'm extremely excited about launching on this adventure which will last forever, so I look forward to meeting with you to give ourselves wholeheartedly to the Lord.

Songs
Holy God We Praise Thy Name
Arise, My Soul, Arise (#174)
Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus (#184)
Rejoice! Rejoice, Believers (#191)
Glory Be to God the Father (#72)

Scripture Readings
Old Testament: Genesis 1; Psalm 8
New Testament: Matthew 1

Sermon
Singing the New Song: Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs in our Corporate Worship - Revelation 5:9-14; Ephesians 5:19

Church Fathers

In preparation for our upcoming seminar on early church history, you should watch this enlightening video presentation by Ligon Duncan on "Did the Fathers Know the Gospel?"

T4G 2010 -- Session 7 -- Ligon Duncan from Together for the Gospel (T4G) on Vimeo.