Friday, December 30, 2005

Poker Ministry? is probably innocent. It appears that the gambling is gone and just the card game remains. Yet something rings up oddly about the idea of a "poker ministry." I did a google search using that term and found several other sites for christian (or, at least, church) poker clubs and/or ministries. This site claims that the fellowship is important, and that "it was never our intentions for this group to be some sort of ministry, but then again our intentions are not God's intentions. Paul said,"...Yes, I try to find common ground with everyone so that I might bring them to Christ. I do all this to spread the Good News, and in doing so I enjoy its blessings." (1 Cor. 9:22-23) It was easy to see that God was working in this group." I can't judge whether God is at work in the group or not. I wonder if maybe the focus is getting a bit skewed. Then again, maybe it isn't poker that is my concern. There are plenty of christians who have little time for Jesus and plenty time for golf, or tennis, or computer gaming, or .... Well, I'm not sure what to make of this. I'm sure that those who began the ministry are sincere, but I wonder if this might be a bit off the target? Next we'll be seeing hula ministry ... no, that's already here isn't it? Dick Staub comments on Authentic Inauthentic Ministry today. I'm thinking that maybe the poker ministry and the hula ministry might be better than some of the youth ministry of our day.... At least they don't pretend to be something other than what they are. While I'm not sure that I can figure out the relative value of this kind of stuff, I do remember the words of one of my mentors from way back: "Jesus plus 'anything', is usually poor theology, ineffective methodology, and the 'anything' loses too."

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Christmas Morning Musings

So … here I sit waiting for folks to arrive for our Christmas morning worship service. I figure only a few will be here, but I’m still glad that we decided to hold at least the one service. Christmas Eve, as expected, was packed twice. Driving in this morning it appeared that most were holding worship, but there were those with notices that there was nothing. Of course, the press has made the cancellation of Christmas Worship Services a huge story. I think that more than how many attend I am pleased that we demonstrate a value to our world. Sunday, the first day of the week, is a fifty-two-times-a-year reminder of the resurrection. How sad is it that some (who knows how many) churches chose not to have Sunday worship as it might conflict with important family traditions. As important as family is, I’m not sure that the church should change its core to accommodate Christmas tradition. Maybe we would teach greater family values if we reminded people that meeting with God is of great value … something we sacrifice to do at times. I wonder if the persecuted church around the world cancelled their worship today? American Christmas is often more about things other than Jesus. Well, even if Jesus is the only one to show up today, I’m prepared to worship.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Short Day

December 21 -- the shortest day of the year. Of course, here in the Northwest it was grey skies and rain all day so it seemed even shorter! The nice thing is that every day from now on gets longer … and soon it might even be Summer. My daughter in Glasgow was observing the same thing today. I just worked and dealt pretty much non-stop with the administrivia that builds up in my job; she seemed to have some interesting times - even when they aren't all that interesting. Whether we like the days short or long we still only have to live one day at a time (Matt. 6:34: “So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.) It also helps to remember that "this is the day which the Lord has made; Let us rejoice and be glad in it -- Psalm 118:24. I'm rejoicing. And I'm reminded that we'll soon have summer.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Mark Dever - Someone Worth Hearing

This post on Sharper Iron provides me with a spur of the moment opportunity to introduce to my 3 readers a very challenging and provocative preacher - Mark Dever. This post is an interview that begins with preaching and evangelism and wanders through some points that have become quite controversial in Christian church circles. Dever is the point person for 9Marks website and author of Nine Marks of a Healthy Church and co-author of The Deliberate Church (which I hope to read this month!) I like Dever's commitment to church health rather than church growth. He rightly understands that we do not grow the church - Jesus does. He understands that we do not convert people - God does. We are called to be faithful to the revealed will of God in the Scriptures and to proclamation of that Word and to holding believers to high standards of living out that life for their own good as revealed Scriptures. Dever is a great example of one whose practice comes from his doctrine.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Doctrine - Is it Really Necessary?

Over the past 3 days I've had 3 discussions about the role of doctrine in the church -- especially it's place in the preaching of the church. The gist of each was whether there was too much emphasis on doctrine and not enough on practical living. These were not contentious talks, just a bit disconcerting because they reflected the idea that doctrine and practice are distinct and separated from each other. We seem to have lost the "doctrine" of doctrine in the church. Paul told Timothy to "... preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, ".... (2 Ti. 2:2-3; NASB). When writing to Titus about the work to be done in the church in Crete he bluntly says, "But as for you, speak the things which are fitting for sound doctrine." This doctrine is to have a very practical result ... men and women will live well ordered lives. What we believe shapes how we live ... our doctrine shapes our practice ... so how can we teach practice (i.e., practical things) without first making clear our doctrine? Yes, we often need to demonstrate how to live out truth. Sometimes we need to illustrate how something is applied. There is the responsibility to teach clearly enough so that an audience can understand what is required in their lives. Yet it is vital that we have sound (healthy) doctrine at the core of our ministry. That's why I was pleased with Pyromaniac's returning guest today. John MacArthur nailed this topic as one would expect from one of the foremost Bible teachers of our day. Teaching sound doctrine is not a ministry fad. It is the core of the ministry. It is not something that can be taken for granted. Here we are in the 21st century America with the ability to hear 100's of preachers, books galore, online resources, and more - yet it appears the few Christians - even leaders - can wrestle through basic biblical understandings for action.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Is that lion the King of Kings?

The anticipation is growing for Narnia. Even USA Today is extremely positive about the film. This surprising article on page 1A is very open about the Christian elements of the story and makes it clear that Lewis' made no apologies for his "supposals" about redemption and belief. Lewis may not have wanted a film made, but I think that this movie may actually have a powerful impact on lives. Maybe a more powerful film that Mel Gibson's Passion of The Christ. The story of Aslan seems to speak about THE STORY of Jesus in ways that catch people off guard and could provoke some very interesting discussions. Hopefully, believers will be well prepared to add their story of being found by the sovereign God to the discussion.