Archive for July, 2008

Joy-killer #1: Sin

The responses to the initial “Joy-Killers” post have been good. Click here to submit your answer to the question, “What do you think are things that kill people’s joy?”

Today I’m going to present the first of a number of joy-killers worth discussing: SIN.

Sin is simply disobedience and disregard of God. Often times we pursue sin in pursuit of pleasure, which makes its joy-killing nature quite ironic. Though many kinds of sin are enjoyable, the results of sin are devastating. Most of the problems we know of today are the direct result of sin: abuse, hatred, greed, betrayal, murder, genocide, and divorce — just to name a few.

Perhaps a good summary of this is Romans 1:28-32

And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

Why do we sin? Well, there are at least two main answers. First, we are born with a predisposition to sin (a sin nature or what the Bible calls “flesh”). Second, we sin because we want to. Every time I disobey God it is because at that moment I want something more than I want God. I am never forced to sin, nor do I sin against my will. So, at the heart of sin is selfishness — doing what I want regardless of who it affects. When we live this way it not only robs us of joy, but it obviously robs others of joy. Selfish people are never joyful people. 

Next we’ll look at a joy-killer that takes this “sin” thing to an even deeper level. Stay tuned…

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Joy-killers

Today marks the beginning of a brief series on “Joy-Killers.” Joy is one of our core values, is commanded in the Scripture (Phil 4:4), is a result of walking close with Christ (Gal 5:13), is found in the presence of God (Psa 16:11), and is something that everybody in the world wants. Yet, so few people truly have lasting, steady joy that endures difficulty — even Christians. The question is, “Why?” That’s what I want to explore together.

I have some ideas, but I’d love to hear from you. In addition to what I’m planning, I’d love to take some of your ideas and run with them in a future post.

What do you think are things that kill people’s joy? (Leave a comment below)

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The Only People Who Get Better

Thanks to “Of First Importance,” I was reminded of this quote by Steve Brown from his book A Scandalous Freedom.

“The only people who get better are people who know that, if they never get better, God will love them anyway.”

For more information about A Scandalous Freedom (the book and some accompanying free podcasts), click here.

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The Power of the Cross

I think one of the most engaging and biblical preachers I’ve ever heard is Alistair Begg, pastor of Parkside Church and radio preacher on Truth for Life. This message, “The Power of the Cross,” is one of my favorites that I’ve listened to over and over. It’s about the central thing in Christianity — the cross of Jesus Christ.

Click here to listen.

For more free Alistair Begg resources, click here.

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GCA Seminar Day 4

This is the fourth post in a series of recaps from the GCA Church Planting Seminar (click here for part 1, part 2, and part 3).

Session 10: Planning
This session helped us begin to implement all the previous things we had been working on and set key milestones that will help us get done what needs to get done before we plant. It’s both encouraging how much we have already done and discouraging how much there is to do. We’ll try to hold these plans loosely as they will surely change.

Session 11: Priorities
For this final session, anticipation was high. All week we had been told, “Don’t leave early. Make sure you stay for the last session, it’s always the best.” We were not disappointed.

In this session, Dr. Steve Childers (President of GCA) presented his “Eight biggest mistakes…that he can share publicly.” The gist of this session was that personal spiritual renewal and health is far more important than some version of of earthly “success” in church planting. This was a sobering session that caused both Molly and I to really think seriously about what lies ahead. Here are a few of the key takeaways for me:

  • I have views of what “success” is and most of them are illegitimate and not based on faithfulness to God’s call.
  • Joy comes from who I am in Christ, not what I do for Christ.
  • At the root of my frantic propensity to overwork is usually the sin of pride and an exalted sense of my importance in the kingdom of God.
  • Goals are things I can influence and control. Desires are things I cannot. Therefore, I should work toward my goals and pray for my desires.
  • God’s goal for my life is not merely to serve him, but to know him, love him, trust him, glorify him and enjoy him. God is not a means to another end–he is the goal of everything.
  • God loves me. Really. A lot. “The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing” (Zephaniah 3:17).
  • I need people who don’t just tell me how to live and do ministry better, but also point me to the truth of the gospel.
  • I can choose to be content and enjoy life now, or I can put my hope in “I’ll be happy someday when…” and never actually get it.
  • I have an amazing wife who needs to be treasured and not sacrificed to the idol of “success.”

As you can tell, this was an impactful session. We’re so thankful to EVBC for sending us to this seminar. We learned a lot and were truly refreshed in many ways. May God be your joy and may you know the power of his amazing love.

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GCA Seminar Day 3

This is the third post in a series of recaps from the GCA Church Planting Seminar (click here for part 1 and part 2).

Session 7: Styles
This session was trying to uncover the particular styles that are necessary for doing ministry that will faithfully reach the culture of our community. Two dangers were discussed: 1) Under-adapting to the culture (ethnocentrism) and 2) Over-adapting to the culture (syncretism). Ethnocentrism is the belief that one’s own culture, race, or nation is superior to all others and that one’s cultural ways of doing things is the correct and only way (ex: “Hymns are the most worshipful form of music in the church because that’s how I’ve always worshiped most fervently”). Syncretism is the contamination of Christian faith, ritual, or beliefs through incorporation of inappropriate cultural components (ex: “Most people co-habitate before marriage, so the church shouldn’t have a problem with it”). We talked about how worship style, learning style, community formation styles, and outreach styles all have to be faithful to biblical teaching and relevant to the culture that a specific church is in.

Session 8: Ministry Model
This session was one of the most helpful, and I look forward to sharing some of our insights in the future. The key question here was, “How will the church ministries work together?” This is an important question so that the whole church has focus, synergy and doesn’t let good things get in the way of great things. During this session, we worked to put together a flow chart that shows how all the church’s ministries work together. Very helpful.

Session 9: Finances
This was a practical session about the steps involved in fundraising and managing money. Fortunately, we have some good people already in place to handle the managing of money (I don’t want to be anywhere near it for many reasons). This session emphasized that as a pastor, even the accusation of improper use of money is as devastating as actually screwing it up. Nonetheless, we will need to raise a significant amount of money in order to start in strength. If you’d like to partner with us, click here.

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GCA Seminar Day 2

This is the second post recapping our lessons from the GCA Church Planting Seminar. Click here to read part 1. Don’t forget to comment!

Session 4: Philosophy
The key takeaway from this session was that in order to reach the community that God has put you in, you have to have a ministry philosophy that appropriately speaks not just to the behaviors of the culture, but to the beliefs, values, and worldviews that are truly the roots of the behaviors. We need to give gospel-based answers about the origin of the world, meaning of life, problems of evil and pain, hope of forgiveness, and promise for the future.

Session 5: Discipleship
To be honest, this session was the downer of the day as it lacked much practical help. I suppose the main take-away is that a church needs an intentional process that patiently helps people become more like Jesus.

Session 6: Values
This session asked the question, “What are your core motivations for ministry? What will you die for?” These are questions I’ve thought about quite a bit, and this session helped me understand how these values should begin to be integrated into the life of our church. A key lesson was that it’s important that the stated values of the church become the actual values of people in life. Lyle Schaller had a helpful quote here:

“The most important single element in any corporate, congregation, or denominational culture is…the value system. The values of any organization control priorities, provide the foundation for formulating goals, and set the tone and direction of the organization.”

Then the GCA handbook said:

“Church values normally take a long time to be truly owned and an even longer time to change later.”

I’ll post more in the future regarding our values. In the meantime, pray that the people in this new church will embrace the value system, join their hearts to mine, and live them out together in the power of the Holy Spirit.

More to come tomorrow!

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