Tuesday, November 29, 2005

The P Word

This morning my son asked, “Dad, could you define postmodernism for me?” My short answer was, “No.” That didn’t cut it with him. I tried the clich├ęd, “Defining postmodernism is kind of like nailing Jello to the wall.” No good, he wasn’t buying that either.

If I was smart, I would tell him to read Gene Veith’s Postmodern Times and be done with it. I’m not smart, though; not if I’m attempting a brief definition of postmodernism on a blog. This is for my 13 year old son, Josh. He has the advantage of asking me questions in person. If you have questions, buy Veith’s book.

Postmodernity was labeled as such in the philosophical world in the 60s, though it didn’t get much traction in the wider world until the 90s. There is nothing new under the sun, though, and some would call Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) an early postmodernist. There are similarities.

The word postmodernism means, “that which comes after modernism.”  Brilliant, eh? However, some of the most insightful commentators have argued that postmodernity is the logical outworking of modernity. In other words, they are saying that postmodernity is overrated when it is called a new category of philosophy. That, naturally, begs the question, “what is modernity?” Well, if you are familiar with that old enemy of Christianity, secular humanism, you know about modernity.

One admittedly simplistic illustration of all this is found in the metaphor of the Copernican revolution. Nicolas Copernicus (1473-1543) is best remembered for his insistence that the earth revolves around the sun, not visa-versa (don’t jump on me for not getting into the historical “rest of the story here,” this is a metaphor). How does this relate to postmodernity?
  • In premodern times, truth and reality all revolved around the sun of the divine. God was the center of all things; everything else took its meaning from this center.

  • In modern / Enlightenment thought, man (as in humanity) became the measure of all things – the sun of the solar system. Confidence regarding the universals of truth, beauty, scientific method and etc. were maintained because of a belief in the stability of the universe and its laws, including the exalted reason of man.

  • In postmodernism, the stability associated with modernity came crashing down. The universe is not as uni (one) as modernists maintained. Postmodernism challenges the source and definition of truth asserted in Enlightenment Rationalism. The Copernican Revolution in this case moves from universal human reason to the individual within his community. Reality is defined by a million little stories instead of one grand story. This means that in literature, the focus shifts from the author to the reader. In philosophy and spirituality the center moves from the uni to the many. In science, postmodernity moves from confidence in order to the acceptance of chaos.  

In one sense, postmodernity has called modernity’s bluff. The universals of Western atheistic philosophy are built upon the borrowed capital of a God-centered worldview. Without the center of God and revelation, naturalistic universals in terms of truth, beauty, goodness and reason come crashing down.

Some have argued that the postmodern movement has done Christianity a favor in exposing the hubris of modernity. This is true, as far as it goes. On the other hand, that capital modernity borrowed from Christianity (truth, goodness, beauty, etc.) is real capital. When postmodernism rejects modernity, it also rejects all true universal concepts.

Most people don’t care about philosophy, but the effects of this Copernican revolution in thinking that is taking place are real. Philosophical pluralism, the new tolerance, radical individualism and a loss of respect for authority are some of the fruits of this thinking.

There are countless examples in politics, education, entertainment and the media. If you’ve had conversations with people in the lunch room or over the back fence and you’ve been puzzled at their ability to contradict themselves with no apparent sense of concern, then you’ve witnessed the fingerprint of postmodernity. Truth, reality and morality are purely individual issues to the postmodern mind.

The church is susceptible to this yeast of postmodernity. Christians must understand the times and speak God’s truth into our shifting culture. How, then, should we respond?

To be continued.

Monday, November 28, 2005

I Love My Church

I have a long way to go in terms of appreciating the significance of the church. I know that the local church is at the heart of God’s plan for reaching the world for His glory. I have believed this for a long time, but understanding and applying a truly biblical theology of the church is still largely uncharted territory for me.  

I am thankful, however, that for our church leadership, this is a goal and a priority. For many churches today, a theological discussion of the church is not even on the radar screen. Individualism reigns in so many churches. Ecumenism, pluralism, tolerance, pragmatism and political correctness all militate against a healthy theology of the church. A church that corporately strives for holiness through a disciplined membership – in both the proactive and reactive senses of discipline – is a rare thing in Western Evangelicalism.

There is a lot of good news for the church, however. First and foremost, the church is Christ’s project, and He will not fail to bring it through all challenges successfully.  I praise God for modern reformers who are modeling and teaching a new generation about the richness of a disciplined, well rounded church. I could mention a few, but Mark Dever and CJ Mahaney spring to mind immediately.

The reason I am thinking of these things is not merely academic – though thinking well and clearly about the church requires no apology. I love the church because I love the people in my church and I love seeing how unity in the truth is growing breadth and depth in people that I care about. I love how it is not me but God who is working through various servants in the church to bring passion and maturity to believers in surprising and delightful ways. I am enthusiastic about the potential for leadership development and evangelistic effectiveness in our church.

Not everyone is on side. I would be a fool if I thought our church was – or could be – perfect. We have a lot of work to do, but we’ve seen God’s faithfulness through a terribly difficult year. I believe we are poised for a new year of genuine blessing. We still have some yeast of malice and wickedness in the old lumps we’re dragging around, but Christ has done all that is necessary for us to be new lumps individually and corporately.

I pray that God will give me the humility to see the yeast in my life before I try to point out the yeast in the lives of the people under my care. However, the word is our broom and we must be bold in our humility as we speak the truth in love.

Christ loves His bride. What a wonder and a joy to be among that number. May our love for the church grow stronger and stronger as we grow together in purity and maturity.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Limitations

I am free to do whatever I want to do. I have the power to choose my destiny. My opportunities are without limit. These statements have two things in common: First, they are commonly found in motivational books and lectures, and, secondly, they are bunk.

I am thankful for my freedom as a Canadian and as a Christian. Freedom, however, does not mean absolute power to the contrary. When things come up that block my goals and desires, I often have to cave into internal and external limitations in my life. The older I get, the more this I find this to be true.

Does this admission make me a faithless pessimist? Didn’t the Apostle Paul say I can do all things through him who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13 ESV)? No limitations, right? Paul said “all things,” did he not?

Some reflection on context here makes it clear that Paul was not saying that he had no limitations, humanly speaking. Reading between the lines, I think it is fair to say that Paul would rather be checking on his churches and traveling to new territory with the gospel instead of sitting in a Roman jail. Yet there he sat as he penned this letter to the church in Philipi. Apparently “all things” did not mean getting out of prison when he wanted to.

Regarding his friend, Epaphroditus, Paul was not able to raise him to health immediately (Philippians 2:25-30). God was merciful and restored his health, but not immediately as we would have expected a few years earlier under the initial Apostolic ministry.

No, the “all things” Paul wrote about included the ability to wait under difficult circumstances, entrusting himself to the sovereign providence of God. Paul rejoiced to see that his imprisonment served to advance the gospel (Philippians 1:12-13). In 2 Corinthians 12, it was revealed to Paul that his thorn in the flesh was given to him in order to keep him from becoming conceited (NIV), or too elated (ESV). We aren’t always given the reasons for our limitations, but they are still under God’s providence.

Admitting and accepting our limitations is honourable when we submit to God’s purposes for them. Consider Paul’s confidence in God in Philippians 1:9: . . .for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn our for my deliverance, as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will honoured in my body, whether by life or by death.”

Deliverance for Paul was certain, though he did not know how it would come. Would deliverance mean release from prison? Execution? Fruitful ministry while he was locked up? Paul didn’t know. What he did know was that God’s sovereign purposes would prevail in upholding his testimony while under extremely difficult circumstances. God would give him courage to stand fast in the gospel.

Our limitations are no limitation to God. On the contrary, they are God ordained opportunities for gospel proclamation. Old age, disease, injury, relationship problems, the myriad of fears and personal hang-ups that we all experience are not cosmic mistakes, they are reminders that God uses clay pots as his chosen vessels (2 Corinthians 4:7).

Christians should be the most contented people on earth. On the other hand, we should be the least satisfied. We have the greatest target to shoot for – conformity to the image of Jesus Christ!

What is God doing for the kingdom through the agency of your limitations?

Thursday, November 24, 2005


I enjoy the demotivational posters at despair.com. A Baptist pastor shouldn't promote despair, but these things are published with a good sense of fun. I'll do a post on the theme of this one tomorrow.  Posted by Picasa

Mom Update

I spent a couple of hours with my mom at the hospital this afternoon. Her name is Pearl Stauffer and she is 81 (thanks for asking, Ian). At what age do most women not care about the public broadcasting of their age? I think I’m safe at 81, especially with my mom!

I was surprised – she’s a lot better than I would be given the circumstances! She was bright and positive and didn’t complain. I’m thankful that she is doing so well. The rest of my family is rallying around her very well – she feels appreciated.

She thought her surgery was really interesting, as she was conscious throughout the procedure (they froze her lower half). They replaced her left hip ball, the socket was still good. She said she was able to detach herself intellectually and listen in as an observer. Shudder. I’m a wimp. Even though the recovery is a drag, I think I’d go with the general anesthetic!

When I say that I wouldn’t do as well, I have evidence. A few years ago I had surgery to repair a ruptured Achilles tendon. Just ask my wife how bright and positive I was after that surgery.

Mom's New Adventure

My mom broke her hip on Monday night. She was planning to move to Edson from Edmonton on Saturday, but is going to have an extended stay in hospital instead. She had surgery last night. I’m going to run to the city this morning to see her. We’d appreciate your prayers for her! Thanks.

Monday Evening in Edson Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Peculiar People II

What Paul says about strangers and aliens in Ephesians 2 and what Peter says in 1 Peter 2 is worth comparing:
  • Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God (Ephesians 2:19 NKJV)

  • Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul (1 Peter 2:11NKJV)

Christians are no longer strangers and foreigners, but we are sojourners and pilgrims. Aren’t these basically the same thing? Yes they are (you could add exiles and aliens here too, depending on your translation).

The solution to this is that on the one hand, we who were alienated from God and from God’s people are now adopted into His family by grace through faith in Christ. On the other hand, we are now no longer at home with this world. It is now our enemy, waging war against our flesh. We are in the world, but not of the world. Do not love the world or the things in the world John tells us (1 John 2:15).

If we are living for Christ, we won’t fit with the world. For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do – living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry. They think it strange that you do not plunge with them into the same flood of dissipation, and they heap abuse on you. But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. (1 Peter 4:3-5).

How are we doing as we seek to stand out for Christ? Righteous indignation and non-participation in the world has its place. It will not do, however, to be merely reactionary and miss opportunities to build relationships and share Christ. When it comes to participation in things of this world, are we in or are we out? Well, that depends on many factors.

Illustrations of this are countless, and they will elicit a groan from long-time Christians who have discussed these things ad nauseam in Bible studies and Sunday School classes: alcohol, movies, company Christmas parties, meeting neighbors at the pub, consumer items (can Christians drive a BMW?), the list goes on and on.

But back to the main point of this post: How do unbelievers perceive us? Do we fit in just fine? If so, we should be concerned. Are we accepted, yet considered a bit weird? That’s not so bad. I’m afraid that many of us aren’t close enough to any unbelievers to know what they think about us.

That, perhaps, is the biggest problem of all.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Peculiar People I

The White Horse Inn guys have done it again. Their last show was on the weirdness of Christianity. The basic point is that evangelicalism has scrubbed Christianity clean of weirdness where we’re supposed to be weird and become weird where we’re supposed to be normal. If you don’t have a clue what I mean, you’ll have to listen to the show.

Michael Horton read a passage from the Epistle of Mathetes to Diognetus which was written in the early second century AD. I was first introduced to this document in Seminary thanks to my history professor at ACTS Seminary, Dr. Ken Davis.

One sentence might give a bit of the flavor of this document. Speaking in defense of the weird Christians, the author says, “Every foreign land is to them as their native country, and every land of their birth as a land of strangers.” This is from Chapter V, which I encourage you to read.

As Christians, we should not fit in to the world in terms of its priorities and morality. On the other hand, we ought to be good citizens, notable for our honesty and goodness. We should not stand out because we are weird, but rather we ought to be considered weird because we fear God.

To be continued.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Andrew Peterson CD

We’re back home again (contented sigh). We have 1200+ more kms on the Corolla. The kids had a great weekend at their respective places (thanks again to the two families that might read this). Even the kids, I think, are glad to be home.

On the way back home we stopped at a Big Christian Stuff store. Juanita found a CD titled Behold the Lamb of God by a guy named Andrew Peterson. Never heard of him. However, we gave the CD a listen, and we were impressed. Juanita noticed some familiar names among the friends who contributed to the CD because of their Indelible Grace connection. I really like the biblical plotline arrangement of these songs on this disk.

There is a line in one of Andrew’s songs that really struck us: “He died like a man.” The context is Philippians 2:5-11, the hymn to Christ. There are two aspects to that line that are so important to keep in tension.

First, Christ, being the exemplar of humanity, died as the perfect man, the ideal unrealized since the fall of Adam. Christ’s courage, perfection and love were beyond any possible human comparison, yet Christ was fully man as He died on the cross. He is our champion. By faith, He is our new Adam (Romans 5:12ff). He died like a man.

The second aspect is even more striking: God the Son, the one by whom all that exists was made, died like a man. “Hands that flung stars into space to cruel nails surrendered” (from The Servant King by Graham Kendrick). This fact is basic to Christian theology, but may we never get over the magnitude of this reality!

I took notice of this line particularly because I am going to begin a sermon series on Philippians 2:5-11 this coming Sunday. I have never preached this passage as a Christmas message, let alone a four part series, but there is more than enough material there. Seeing as the Apostle Paul deals so clearly with the incarnation and its implications, it is a natural for a Christmas series.
     
Behold the Lamb of God is a rare Christmas album in that most of it wouldn’t sound out of place year round. Given how rarely we buy CDs, that’s a good thing. Highly recommended.  

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Resource Links

The retreat is over. It went well. We were particularly pleased with the facility. The people were the highlight, of course. We had some good visits with people we knew and made some new friends.

When we meet new pastors and wives, we often talk about what resources have been helpful to us and our church people. At lunch, 9 Marks Ministries came up again. Another two favorites are GoodSeed and E-Sword. I have added all three – plus a few more blogs – to my links on the right of this page.

9 Marks is a resource ministry of Mark Dever and Capitol Hill Baptist Church. The website speaks for itself, but there is refreshingly biblical instruction to be found here.

GoodSeed International distributes The Stranger on the Road to Emmaus, an introduction to the Bible. The more I see The Stranger, the more I’m convinced that this is the most important discipleship tool that I’ve ever seen. It is deceptively simple, but profoundly faithful to the Bible. You can view the whole book online. There are many other valuable resources to be found at GoodSeed’s website.  

E-Sword is a fantastic Bible program, and it’s free! The commentaries, dictionaries, maps, Bible versions and other tools must be seen. The best part of the Bible is that it is very easy and logical to use. Highly recommended – I use it every day. They also have a free Bible for Pocket PC / Windows Media. I use it on my Dell Axim.

It’s time to head out for supper. The retreat is over, but we are going to meet some couples that – like us – are staying an extra night. Such luxury!

Confidence

In the fear of the LORD one will have strong confidence, and his children will have a refuge. Proverbs 14:26

In whom do we place our confidence? We say that the Lord is our strength, our salvation and our refuge. As the old question asks, however, “If we were charged with being Christians, would there be enough evidence to convict us?”

Many fine books and articles have been written about the challenges of pluralism and postmodernism to evangelicalism. It is important to understand these shifts in our culture. We do need to learn to communicate to this generation more effectively. On the other hand, we must also guard against the tail wagging the dog.

Let me explain what I mean by that. Whenever the church has been primarily concerned with being relevant to the culture, the church has become like the culture. Prophetic voices in the church throughout the centuries have called the church back to its role as salt and light. Another way of describing this mandate for the church is to say that the church must be counter cultural. Jesus will always be the Scandalon. The Cross will always be offensive. The gospel will always be strange and foolish to the unregenerate. On the other hand, the church will always have the only Good News of reconciliation with God and eternal life in glory forever.

Some sobering verses that keep coming back to me as a pastor are found in 2 Corinthians 2:14-16: But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance of death to death, to the other a fragrance of life to life. Who is sufficient for these things?

Two thoughts:
We are the aroma of Christ TO GOD first. This glorious calling enables us to accept the rejection from people who do not receive the preaching of Christ. Frankly, it is painful to have our evangelistic efforts spurned. We grieve for the people who are perishing – we must never lose this compassion for the lost. We must be on guard, though, because compromise with the culture occurs when we get this God first priority wrong.

Secondly, Paul’s rhetorical question, “Who is sufficient for these things?” isn’t so rhetorical in our day. We must answer, “No one, and certainly not me.” This lack of confidence in ourselves is healthy when it drives us back to confidence in the Word of God.

Let me illustrate: Often when I preach, I publicly pray something like this, “Please do not let your servant get in the way of your Word to your people.” What I mean is that I am accepting the responsibility of being a servant of the Word. I am asking God to apply His Word – not my words – to the hearts and minds of His people. To me it seems like an obvious prayer. I have had people misunderstand this. I have had people pray for me and offer me encouragement because they took this prayer as an evidence of personal discouragement on my part. What can I say? I must not be communicating as well as I think I am!

Perhaps people are used to pulpit ministry that consists of a Bible verse or two, a few illustrations and a lot of personal opinion. They may not understand biblical preaching.

I am hopeful that there are winds of change blowing. We need a reformation of authoritative preaching – preaching that is powerful because it is expositional. God has promised to bring results through His Word, not ours (Isaiah 55:10-11; Romans 1:16-17; 2 Timothy 3:14-4:4).

Personal testimonies and stories can be inspirational, but we cannot take them home with us in the way that we can take faithful biblical instruction home. How can we be Bereans (Acts 17:11) if it is not the Word that we hear proclaimed? How can we trust Christ for our sanctification as well as our justification (Galatians 3:1 and following) if we do not see Him set forth in the preached Word?

My heart aches when I go to conferences and visit churches on holidays and see that many preachers have lost their confidence in the Word of God. Of course they would deny this, but where is the evidence in their proclamation?

Praise God for the exceptions. I commend to you Liam Goligher from Duke Street Church in London who was our speaker at the Fellowship Baptist National Convention this fall. There are many other names that I could name, but it makes me sad to hear from hungry Christians who long to be fed by faithful, Word-centered preachers.

If you are interested in pursuing this line of thought, I recommend a sermon preached by Alistair Begg at SBTS a few years ago entitled, “Preach the Word.” This should be required listening for evangelical preachers.

Fellow preachers, we need to get this right. Church members, if your pastor is not preaching the Bible, be a loving, gracious, educated thorn in his side. If our confidence is not in the LORD but in men, the next generation will not have a refuge.





Friday, November 18, 2005

Rocky Mountain Blog

It’s been a long day – a 600+ km drive, coffee, dessert, court this afternoon I’m still wired after 11:00. I’m wired, but wireless internet access is included with the hotel room! This is a great hotel for our Pastor’s and Wives retreat this weekend (it’s the Best Western Pocaterra Inn in Canmore).

This is going to be a very brief post. We’re here, safe and sound, and the thing in Edmonton went as well as could be reasonably expected given the legal system in this country. Plea and sentence in one day – surprising. People that need to know can email me for more details. Sorry to be so obtuse for any readers outside Edson, but that’s all I can say.

A question from Laurie on my comments (thanks, I know I have another reader!). What is blogspotting? It is simply a variation on a vanity search – you know, the one where you Google your name to see what comes up. Blogspotting is when you do a search of other blogs to see who mentioned your blog. Then you do a blog post listing these other posts with running commentary. Phil Johnson at PyroManiac is famous for them.

Goodnight for now. Perhaps I’ll post again tomorrow night.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Embarrassment of Riches

There are so many books, articles, and blogs to read; so many sermons, lectures and interviews to download and listen to, and so little time. Now Monergism has only compounded the problem. They have a new Hall of Contemporary Reformers which includes links to books, articles and audio – some of it available online. Choice stuff (alright, that’s a totally 80s word, but I mean it in the “cream of the crop” sense). Beauty (I’d better hurry up and put a disclaimer on the bottom of my blog for the sake of my poor church people who want to distance themselves from me right now).

Anyway, back to the embarrassment of riches problem. I am very thankful for the excellent resources available online. I do need to work on my time management in order to get through all the books I have waiting for me.

I do have a good time to catch up on my growing MP3 collection – I have just starting going to the gym. I haven’t had a membership for a couple of years, but we have a brand new facility that Juanita and I are trying out (BTW, Juanita has been very faithfully going to a gym for a very long time). We can’t go at the same time because of home responsibilities, but we’re both going in the morning.

I’m listening to a series of messages from the Desiring God 2005 Conference. The theme is Suffering and the Sovereignty of God. Very significant stuff. Highly recommended. DGM is so good at sharing resources online. I am thankful. I should really write and tell them that I am thankful.

Another thought regarding Monergism’s Hall of Contemporary Reformers: I must admit that I’m a little nervous about a hall of living heroes. Fine guys all, indeed – they’re great choices. I have, however, some advice from John Piper echoing in my brain: “Get yourself a dead hero. Dead Heroes can’t let you down” (that’s not an exact quote, but that’s the idea). Moral failures and theological derailments are not limited to the flaky crowd in evangelicalism. I expect none of that from these fellows, but still . . ..

Juanita and I are headed to Canmore tomorrow for our annual Pastor’s and Wives Retreat. We’re going to be late because we’re going to an important court date in Edmonton tomorrow. That’s another story altogether (and no, I’m not in the dock).

I’ll blog from Canmore if I find free high speed at the hotel. If not, I’ll be back on Tuesday.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Re: Free Advice

Though, of course, he doesn’t have a clue who I am, Centuri0n has a blog entry that relates very well to my last post. In order to get this, you also have to go here.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Affirmation

Maturity is taking life seriously without taking yourself too seriously. This is not a comprehensive definition, but it is worth some reflection. How much time do we waste by wondering what others think about us?

So much of my desire for affirmation is unconscious. The more time I take to pray and reflect upon God’s Word, the more clearly I see signs pointing to my self-centeredness.

What are these signs? Irritability at criticism, hurt at perceived slights, the expectation of recognition. I think I’ll quit there. Perhaps you can identify with these sins and add more warning signs to this list.

A few years ago, I found an article by D.A. Carson entitled, I Fear You Think Too Highly of Me (I tried to find it online again so that I could share the link, but was unable. I downloaded it from the Modern Reformation site a long time ago). Here’s the first paragraph:

Most of us go through life quietly fearful that people think too little of us. In odd moments of shame or guilt, of course, we recognize that so much evil still clings to us that we are surprised that anyone can think well of us. But by and large we spend a disproportionate amount of time wondering if we are being bypassed, slighted, or ignored, or if the we people we admire have noticed our fine words or our excellent deeds.

Dr. Carson’s point in this article is much more profound than my point in this little blog entry, but that opening paragraph does such a good job of exposing the silliness of living for affirmation that I am wrenching it out of context (if anyone would like the whole article, I could send it out as an email attachment).

The subject of affirmation came up because of my new adventure in blogging. I’ve had to ask myself why I’m doing this. If it is to fill some need for affirmation, then I’m an idiot. If it is to cultivate the discipline of personal journaling, then it might be of some use. I read some more justifications for blogging on Michael Haykin’s Historia Ecclesiastica blog (the entry for November 13). Now, granted, I am no academic. However, keeping a log of ideas, planting seeds for future projects and honing my skills as a writer are not bad motivations to keep this blog going.

If I wanted affirmation, I would make some comment about Phil Johnson’s famous blog PyroManiac just to see if I would get blogspotted. That would be stupid. In fact, when Phil’s blog was quite new, he had a poll asking readers if he should continue blogspotting. I voted “no” immediately. I was pleased to see that early voting seemed to be going my way. I was disappointed the next day to see that the “yes” side prevailed. They ended up winning by a margin of about 10 to 1. This is ancient history, but I just wanted to make it clear that I don’t go along with such silliness. I might have readers some day, after all.

I wonder what they’ll think of me?

Monday, November 14, 2005

Tombstones

Grave markers, headstones, whatever you call them, I noticed that there are more of them in the cemetery now than there were eight years ago when I first moved to Edson with my family. It is obvious that if you stay in a place for a few years, the cemetery will fill up. Obvious, but how often do we reflect upon that fact?

These thoughts came to me on Saturday as I rode in the front of the limo to the cemetery with our local funeral director, Bob. I was there because I was about to do the interment service after another funeral – the third this fall.

When I was a student pastor in B.C., I worked with a pastor who did an amazing number of funerals. He said that he would rather do a funeral than a wedding. I thought that was really radical – unbelievable! If I hadn’t known and respected him, I would have thought he was crazy.

However, I hadn’t been a pastor for too many years before I began to agree with him. Now I wonder how any pastor could not think that way. Funerals are a significant opportunity to confront and comfort people with God’s Word. At a wedding, the preacher is often just a tool – a nod to tradition, a guy to make grandma happy. My presence is also a bother for some couples, because I always require premarital counseling sessions.

I admit that funerals are challenging. They can be quite distressing, on a personal level. It is hard to be the guy in charge when the person is a believer from my church and I have to deal with the personal pain and help carry the load of people that I know. The alternative is that the funeral is for someone from the community and I have to be very careful with the words I speak. Not because I am worried primarily about offending non-believing family and friends, but because I know that I have to be honest before God. Of course everyone wants to believe that their loved one is in Heaven, but I can’t assume that. I must speak to the living and point them to Christ. With these challenges come opportunites. That is what makes the responsibility of funerals a good thing.

What really got me thinking when I saw all those new headstones, however, was not my pastoral experience but the fact of death itself. All this "professional stuff" is context. The striking fact is that we all die. I always say that at funerals. I always challenge people to prepare for eternity because this life is a vapor. The question is, do I really believe it?

I enjoy listening to the White Horse Inn radio show. One of the hosts, Rod Rosenbladt, has said a few times over the years that “death has been outlawed in Orange County,” (California). It’s not just Orange County. We, perhaps more than any culture on earth or in history, have isolated ourselves from the reality of death. We used to have graveyards beside churches. Perhaps it was a mistake to stop that practice. If we looked out the windows and saw the tombstones, we would be reminded why we need to be in church, hearing the good news of the gift of Christ’s blood and righteousness.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Timeless Quote

No one will doubt that Christians of today must state their Christian beliefs in terms of modern thought. Every age has a language of its own and can speak no other. Mischief only comes when instead of speaking Christian belief in terms of modern thought; an effort is made rather to state modern thought in terms of Christian belief.

B.B. Warfield wrote those words about 100 years ago. These words could have been written today about the postmodern shift that is infecting so much of evangelicalism. Watch this space for more on this topic.

I lifted this quote from an audio message by David Wells on the Emergent Church given at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Thanks to Justin Taylor at Reformation21 for the link.



Thursday, November 10, 2005


First snow. November 10th! That's pretty late for Northern Alberta.  Posted by Picasa

New Lumps 1 Corinthians 5:7

New Lumps – 1 Corinthians 5:7

I can identify with Tevye. So much of Christian life, and especially the pastoral ministry, involves working through the tension of “on the other hand.” The Apostle Paul’s encouragement to the Corinthian church is very encouraging. His declaration that these believers are now “unleavened” is an illustration of positional sanctification (compare 1 Corinthians 6:11). These believers – in Christ – are now holy. What an encouragement!

On the other hand, however, this declaration is in the context of a rebuke. The Corinthian church was guilty of tolerating gross sin. More than that, they boasted in their freedom while that sin festered in their midst.

Isn't this tension at the heart of pastoral ministry? We comfort the brokenhearted by pointing them to Christ. He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, whom God made our wisdom and our righteousness and sanctification and redemption (1 Cornithians 1:30). Our salvation, our sanctification, our very life is found through faith in Christ, not in who we are or in what we do.

On the other hand, we must strive to lead disciplined churches - churches peopled by Christians who know who they are and consciously live godly lives. Many verses could be cited here, particularly those found in the second half of most Epistles. The pattern of these letters is indicative / imperative. The indicative states "the way things are." That is, who God is, what He has done and who we are in Christ. The imperative is usually introduced by "therefore." It is the application, the call to holy living. If we don't get the first part, we will default to moralism and seek to find a righteousness of our own. If we miss the second part, we may become presumptious, sin-tolerating belivers like the first century Corinthians.

I love Reformed theology. I have seen people set free from the guilt of religious performance by understanding the doctrines of grace - I am one of them! On the other hand, I know the temptation to rest on knowledge and fail to grow in love and righteousness. I don't want to sit there like an old lump.

Who wants to be a new lump? May we never get over the tension between the miracle of redemption and the "on the other hand."