Friday, September 30, 2011

Guidance

While on vacation recently, my family and I went up into the Routt National Forrest near the Flat Tops Wilderness, the second largest wilderness area in the state. Due to the ages of our younger children, we did not push too far off-road. Nevertheless, just touching that vast and rugged wilderness was enough to make one keenly sensible that you must be aware of where you are at, at all times. Getting lost there, especially in the winter, can be a life or death matter.

Following Christ and accomplishing his mission can sometimes feel like wandering through a wilderness area. Thankfully, we have a guide, the Spirit of truth, who will lead us in all the truth. Join us this Lord's Day to follow his leading.

Songs
Call Jehovah Thy Salvation (#499)
Doxology
All the Way My Savior Leads Me (#494)
Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah (#495)
Thou Sweet Beloved Will of God (#528)

Scripture Reading
Old Testament: Exodus 11; Psalm 109
New Testament: Romans 6:15-23

Sermon
Guidance in All the Truth - John 16:12-15

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Amusing Ourselves to Death Discussion 2


Chapter 2: Media as Epistemology
1.      Postman opens this chapter with a clear statement of what he hopes to show in his book. What is it?

2.      Postman says, “Television is at its most trivial and, therefore, most dangerous when its aspirations are high, when it presents itself as a carrier of important cultural conversations” (16). Do you agree? Why or why not?

3.      Epistemology is concerned with knowledge and belief and truth. For example, we have epistemological concerns when we wonder, “What sources of knowledge can I trust? When am I justified in believing that I know the truth?” Why does Postman bring up epistemology? What does he want to show (17)?

4.      Postman writes, “Whatever the original and limited context of its use may have been, a medium has the power to fly far beyond that context into new and unexpected ones. Because of the way it directs us to organize our minds and integrate our experience of the world, it imposes itself on our consciousness and social institutions in myriad forms” (18). Why is this true from a Christian perspective? What is fundamental to a Christian worldview which explains why we always think and communicate in metaphors?

5.      Is it true that our media forms define truth for us (17, 18)?

6.      Postman denies epistemological relativism, yet he says, “Truth, like time itself, is a product of a conversation man has with himself about and through the techniques of communication he has invented” (24). Is he consistent?

7.      What is truth?


Chapters 3&4: Typographic America and The Typographic Mind
1.      Postman credits the Enlightenment for the character of American thinking in the nineteenth century (47). He also says, “It is no accident that the Age of Reason was coexistent with the growth of a print culture” (51). Do you think his historical connection is appropriate?

2.      Postman puts forward religion and law as examples of the essentially rational character of early American discourse, which he calls the “Age of Exposition.” He also says that advertising followed this basic model of discourse. When does he say that the change in advertising began (59)?

3.      Is rational, dispassionate, abstract, and objective knowledge the best way to find the truth?

Ministry Is a Verb

Last Friday I attended a local conference on ministering to military personnel and their families. I figured I could glean a few insights and also scope out the lay of the land in contemporary military ministry. Thankfully, I was able to accomplish both of those objectives.

However, two other observations struck themselves like darts into my mind while at the conference. The first was that the military co-opts the church for its own purposes. This underlying premise seemed to be shared by every speaker I heard, Christian or non-Christian, military or civilian. I heard nothing about sin, righteousness, and judgment. I did not hear the gospel of Jesus Christ. I did not hear that Jesus is Lord and that all men, including those in the U.S. military, must bow the knee to him. I certainly did not hear that allegiance to Christ was far more important eternally than allegiance to America. I did hear, repeatedly, how churches can help military personnel and their families in order to have a strong fighting force. It's not about seeking first the kingdom of God; it is about seeking the kingdom of America. This is civil religion with a vengeance. But I'll have to deal with that more at a later time. This post is prompted by the second observation.

The second observation was that "ministry" was treated as a noun and not as a verb. In other words, "ministry" was considered a thing that churches and Christians provide for military personnel. In this sense, it is a product. It can be packaged, programmed, and even marketed. "A" ministry is completely separable from any particular people, their wisdom, love, and Christian character. This view of ministry, of course, is not unique to this conference. It is precisely the view of ministry that prevails amongst Christians in this nation, so it is not surprising that the conference reflected it. This view of ministry also fits neatly with the first observation mentioned above. The military views churches as producers who provide a product that they are happy to have their soldiers, sailors, airmen, or marines consume. They are happy to have them consume this product because they see that it yields more stable families, less destructive behavior, and an all-around happier life for their personnel.

Ministry, however, is first and foremost a verb. It is something that people do. It is inseparable from those who perform it, including their Christian maturity and character. It is not a product that can be marketed. The church is not a factory which produces a nice little product called 'spirituality' which people can consume in order to make their lives and families better. It is decidedly not a factory producing a product to keep the military humming along in top condition.

Pastor David Doran recently addressed this same problem with a post aimed at local church life. He writes:

Ministry is not a position; it’s an action. You don’t really “have” a ministry; you minister. A healthy congregation is not built by organizational charts and job descriptions. It develops as God’s people engage themselves is serving Him by using their God-given gifts for the benefit of the Body (Eph 4:11-16). That text highlights spiritual maturity and mutual ministry, not organizational efficiency. Sound doctrine and godly relationships are God’s priorities.

He also gives an example of the 'institutional' mindset of ministry.

That the institutional mindset has crept into the church is most clearly evident by the way people think about going to church (and I’m tempted to put those last three words in quotes because the phrase itself reflects the problem). Let me illustrate. A friend tells you he is going up north for the weekend and you ask about missing church. His reply: “Because someone else is covering my [insert normal ministry designation] this Sunday, I’m not doing anything, so there’s no problem with me skipping this weekend.” Do you see what has happened here? Serving Christ in the church has been reduced to fulfilling a task or role within a program.

This view of ministry is tempting because it does not require a commitment of covenant love. I don't have to give my life to real people in a real place. I just have to do my job, and I am free from all the baggage of love. As long as my program works well (and working well is usually defined statistically), I can have a sense of accomplishment. I have 'served the Lord' with my life by running the program. But biblical ministry, Christ-like ministry, is at its core a giving of my life for the sake of others so that they may know the Lord. It is love that leads me to lay down my 'freedom' to skip church so that I can serve my Lord by serving his people.

Ministry is love. Ministry is service. Ministry is a verb.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

For the Love of the World

The world is an old whore, desperately deceiving and being deceived, destroying and being destroyed, and she will be judged.


God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.


Therein lies the paradox of the Christian's relationship to the world. Join us this Lord's Day to be in the world but not of it.


Songs
Now Thank We All Our God (#5)
Doxology
God Loved the World (#244)
May the Mind of Christ My Savior (#476)
Rejoice, Believer, in the Lord (#627)


Scripture Reading
Old Testament: Exodus 8; Psalm 78:23-55
New Testament: Romans 5:1-11


Sermon
For the Love of the World - The Gospel of John






Friday, September 09, 2011

Ears Wide Open

Nancy Leigh Demoss gives some good pointers on how to listen to preaching. She asks,

Do you ever find yourself . . .
• waking up on Sunday morning and wishing you didn’t have to go to church?
• having a hard time staying awake in church?
• daydreaming during the message, or making a mental “to-do” list while the pastor is preaching?
• picking apart the message or the preacher in your mind or not getting anything out of the sermon?
• wishing your pastor would be more _____?
• forgetting what the message was about before you get home from church?



How can you prepare your heart to get the most out of your pastor’s preaching?

You can read it all here.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

And for Us

This is a lesson that all churches need to learn continually.

"A Lesson from Marx for the SBC"

Amusing Ourselves to Death Discussion

For those who cannot make it to our discussion group, yet would like to follow along as much as possible, I will post study questions from the book Amusing Ourselves to Death.

(Note that all page number refer to the original edition.)


Introduction
1.      AOD was first published in 1985. Who was the president at that time? What was the cultural mood?

2.      Postman refers back to two novels which imagined the future of our civilization. What are they?

3.      What was Orwell’s vision of the future?

4.      What was Huxley’s vision of the future?

5.      Postman’s book lends its support to which vision?


Chapter 1
1.      Postman’s book focuses on the forms of human conversation and argues that “how we are obliged to conduct such conversations will have the strongest possible influence on what ideas we can conveniently express. And what ideas are convenient to express inevitably become the important content of a culture” (6). Do you find this initially plausible? Why or why not?

2.      Where did Postman first get the idea that “forms of media favor particular kinds of content and are therefore capable of taking command of a culture” (9)?

3.      Postman suggests that perhaps Moses should have added the commandment, “Thou shalt not make mechanical representations of time” (12). Why is it significant to our Christian view of communication that Moses did not include such a command?

4.      What does Postman mean by saying that “a medium is a metaphor” (10-14)?

5.      Do you believe Postman when he says, “We do not see nature or intelligence or human motivation or ideology as ‘it’ is but only as our languages are. And our languages are our media. Our media are our metaphors. Our metaphors create the content of our culture” (15)?

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Guilty As Charged

Did you know that there is one prosecuting attorney who infallibly proves his case? He is the Holy Spirit, whom Jesus sent to convict the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment. This old world system in which we live constantly protests its innocence, but there is no way to get around the verdict.

But now you must ask yourself, "Do I know how the world is guilty?" Many professing followers of Christ seem quite unaware of how the world is guilty, and so they have difficulty discerning worldliness even when it is staring them in the face. In order to perceive the world's guilt, join us this Lord's Day.

Songs
God Himself Is Present
Doxology
The Holy Ghost Is Here (#203; Tune: St. Thomas)
Eternal Spirit! Praise We Bring (#207)
Come, Holy Spirit, Heavenly Dove (#211)

Scripture Reading
Old Testament: Exodus 6:28-7:25; Psalm 78:1-22
New Testament: Romans 4:13-25

Sermon
The World Stands Convicted - John 16:4-11