Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Big Story, Part 2

The second part of our 4 week series on The Big Story. In this message we overview the entire Scriptures. Check out this handout that lays it all out.

The Big Story, Part 2 from Oxford Bible Fellowship on Vimeo.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Keeping the Main Thing the Main Thing

Kevin DeYoung on primary and secondary issues:
I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that the average reader of this blog is a fan of theology. Most of you are thoughtful, doctrinally attuned Christians. I also imagine a few of you might be a wee bit opinionated. It takes one to know one.

I don’t use “opinionated” as a bad word. We should be immovable on some matters, absolutely convinced of others, and it’s not bad to have strong informed opinions on all the rest. But let’s be honest: sometimes in conservative evangelical circles the intensity with which we hold to our convictions (let alone our opinions) is all out of whack.

See What I Mean

The Lord has been gracious over many years to preserve the unity at our church. So I’m not writing about the members of University Reformed Church. But I’ve seen and heard enough—from other church leaders and from church visitors who end up not staying with us—to know that some conservative Christians can make things that are secondary (or tertiary or whatever words come next for four and five) into things that are primary.

There are Christians who want homeschooling to be the top agenda for the church. Others insist that every church leader must embrace private Christian schools. I’ve met Christians whose number one passion seems to be age-integration in church ministries. Others are adamant that kids should be in all church services and aren’t allowed to draw pictures or look at books. For others, paedocommunion is a must. For some the issue is the Ten Commandments every Sunday or the presence of two services (morning and evening good; two in the morning bad). I’ve heard of other Christians getting up in arms about Christmas trees, the use or non-use of wine during communion, and whether infants should wear white garments or black when they are baptized. And too many have taken the regulative principle, which as a general principle is helpful and scriptural, and made the detailed application of this principle the end all and be all of church life.

Please hear me out. I like Christians who know what they believe and why they believe it (I’ve never been criticized for having too few convictions and opinions). So, I’m not saying the items above are unimportant issues (okay, a couple might be). The problem is not that we care about all sorts of issues or that we want to think carefully about every aspect of church ministry. The problem is we haven’t always thought carefully about how we express and hold to our careful thoughts.

And Here’s Why

First, we are not always gracious in the way we talk about secondary issues. Most Christians speak kindly and calmly about their convictions. But sadly it often feels like the less important the issue the more intensely someone will hold to it. We make up for the lack of gravity surrounding the issue by promoting that issue in the gravest possible terms. And even if we are right and someone else is dead wrong we should still correct our opponents with gentleness and grace (2 Tim. 2:25), not with hand grenades.

Second, some of us have never considered that certain issues in the Christian life belong in a Romans 14 category. Don’t get me wrong, I believe in polemics. I believe in dying on some hills. I believe in standing fast on doctrine, even on “non-salvation issues.” But on some matters we should say with Paul, “Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind” (Rom. 14:5). And sometimes we must ask, “Why do you pass judgment on your brother?” After all, “we will all stand before the judgment seat of God” (14:10-11). It’s okay on some matters (not all!) for Christians to agree to disagree (even if you know you’re right like Paul did!). It’s not a failure of theological nerve to recognize that some good believers we’ll make different decisions than other good believers. The mature Christian can hold strongly to his opinions without insisting strongly that all other Christians do the same.

A third problem is that some Christians inquire too early and too often about their particular hot-button issues. When a brother visiting the church for the first time asks where I stand on Rushdoony, I’m a little freaked out. It’s like taking a girl out on a first date and asking if her parents have digital cable. What?! Don’t you want to know a few other things first? In checking a church I hope you’d be interested to hear about the role of prayer, the importance of missions, the understanding of the gospel, the integrity of the leaders, their view of Scripture, and a dozen other things before launching into the rareified air of Rushdoony. Besides, I would also hope visitors, as a matter of courtesy, would not land at a church ready to insist on items 16-25 on their theological checklist.

Finally, we must be careful our passions are not out of proportion. There is no problem with Christians who feel strongly about schooling, the placement of the congregational prayer, or the frequency of communion. The problem is when our passion for these issues exceeds our passion for the gospel, for the cross, for the lost, for the afflicted. Not every issue matters as much as every other issue. Not every position deserves out fieriest passion. Save the big guns for the big ones. Get the heart pounding for the doctrine of the Trinity or penal substitution or God’s sovereignty. If your “thing” is Christmas trees or the kind of beverage in the communion cup, it’s time to get a better “thing.” The Christian life allows for lots of passion, discourse, and detailed application—as long as we don’t get everything out of whack.

This article first appeared in the June issue of Tabletalk.

HT: Justin Taylor

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Friday, June 17, 2011

I Am Second

A while back someone let me know about this great website called I Am Second. It's filled with testimonies of all different types of people that have come to faith in Christ. The ministry describes itself as:
A movement meant to inspire people of all kinds to live for God and for others. Actors. Athletes. Musicians. Business leaders. Drug addicts. Your next-door neighbor. People like you. The authentic stories on provide insight into dealing with typical struggles of everyday living. These are stories that give hope to the lonely and the hurting, help from destructive lifestyles, and inspiration to the unfulfilled. You’ll discover people who’ve tried to go it alone and have failed. Find the hope, peace, and fulfillment they found. Be Second.
You can check out the many video testimonies here. Below is the story of professional baseball player Josh Hamilton.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Transformational Church & Thoughts on Worship

Early this year I enjoyed reading Transformational Church by Ed Stetzer and Thom Rainer. It's a great book for assessing your church and moving to a missional mode of ministry. I may post some comments from other chapters, but here some helpful thoughts from their chapter on worship:
  • When people attend worship, are they simply observing a show or being transformed by God? (p. 154)
  • Reducing worship to a focus on style removes God as the reason for gathering. (p. 157)
  • Every generation dislikes the previous generation's music. And many in each generation also dislike the next generation's music. So there is a constant tension between three generations about their preferences between at least three kinds of music. We fight about musical style, yet God uses all kinds of music for His glory and honor. We are fighting over cultural forms when we should engage in biblical meanings. Can God use different forms of music? Yes. Remember, worship is an issue of the heart. And from the biblical record, we find no such thing as Christian music, only Christian lyrics. (p. 159)
  • No style of music is relevant to every culture in the world. Your current style may match your community, but that could change in five years. Will you be willing to change, or will you insist on imposing your style of music on the people in the community you seem committed to reach? (p. 161)
The last quote really has me thinking about whether or not the music we use at OBF is relevant to our culture. I think it is fairly relevant to our Mid-west, Christian culture, but is it relevant to our non-churched community? Of course relevance must be subservient to glorifying God with appropriate lyrics in worship, but there is still so much to be determined in terms of musical style. So, I'm just pondering, are we being relevant to our community with our music?

Monday, June 13, 2011

Vocation: Discerning Your Calling

A helpful article here from Tim Keller, posted by the Resurgence, on the topic of vocation. There are many truths with which we need to have our minds continually renewed, and this is one of them: that vocation is holy calling from God whether I work full-time in the church or in the "secular world."

This post appeared on the Resurgence with permission from Redeemer City to City.

Stewardship is the cultivation of resources for God. The Bible tells us that one of the most important resources God has given us is our gifts, aptitudes, talents, and abilities. One of the sacraments of the medieval church was the Sacrament of Holy Orders, which divided the world into the “religious” and the “secular.” Those who went into full-time church ministry as priests, monks, or nuns were on a completely different spiritual footing from those who did not. One of the Protestant Reformation’s main planks was to overturn this view with the biblical teaching of the priesthood of all believers (1 Peter 2:9). Martin Luther insisted that all forms of work are God-honoring callings. To be a farmer, a craftsman, or an artist was just as much a vocation, a calling from God, as to be a preacher. Why?

All Forms of Work Are Participation in God's Work

God made the created world by his Spirit (Gen. 1:1-3) and continues to care for and sustain it by his Spirit (Ps. 104:30), watering and enriching it (Ps. 65:9–13) and feeding and meeting the needs of every living thing (Pss. 145:15–16 and 147:15–20). Indeed, the very purpose of redemption is to massively and finally restore the material creation (Rev. 21–22). God loves this created world so much that he sent his Son to redeem it. This world is a good in and of itself; it is not just a temporary theater for individual salvation.

If the Holy Spirit is not only a preacher that convicts people of sin and grace (John 16:8–11; 1 Thess. 1:5) but also a gardener, an artist, and an investor in creation who renews the material world, it cannot be more spiritual and God-honoring to be a preacher than to be a farmer, artist, or banker. To give just one example, evangelism is temporary work, while musicianship is permanent work. In the new heavens and new earth, preachers will be out of a job! Ultimately the purpose of evangelism is to bring about a world in which musicians will be able to do their work perfectly.

All Forms of Work Are Ways of Serving Others

Imagine how much time it would take to make a chair by yourself. You would not only have to cut and shape the wood yourself, but you’d also have to make the tools. To make the tools, you’d have to mine the ore to make metal. It would take months, perhaps years, to do all the things necessary to create the chair. When you share in the work of others, however, you can buy a chair with money equivalent to some number of hours’ worth of your time, not months or years of effort. Even if you want to make the chair yourself, you can buy tools made by someone else.

"In the new heavens and new earth, preachers will be out of a job!"

All work, according to God’s design, is service. Through work we enrich one another and become more and more interwoven. When Christians do “secular” work, they function as salt and light in the world (Matt. 5:13–16). Farming and business, childcare and law, medicine and music—all these forms of work cultivate, care for, and sustain the created world that God made and loves. We are all ministers (priests) to the human community on God’s behalf.

Work is taking the raw material of creation and developing it for the sake of others. Musicians take the raw material of sound and bring the meaning of art into our lives. Farmers take the raw material of soil and seed and bring food into our lives. This means we are God’s ministers in our work not only when we are witnessing or talking directly about Jesus, but when we are simply doing our work. A musician is serving God when she makes great music, not solely when she is singing about coming to Jesus.

Visit the Resurgence to download the full article.

RT: The Resurgence

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Oh, What One Can Do With A Whiteboard & A Red Marker

As a part of our current teaching series, The Big Story, I asked someone at the church to sketch the title on a whiteboard. This is what he came up with. Pretty amazing. So a special thanks to Jason Walters for many hours putting this together. I hope it helps us to stand in awe of our brilliant Creator and the gifts he has passed onto his people.

Click on the image for a better view.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Big Story: Through the Bible in 4 Weeks

Here is the first of a 4-part series overviewing the Scriptures, with special emphasis on the Old Testament. We decided to mix things up a bit since it's the summer and more of a teaching series. Check it out.

The Big Story from Oxford Bible Fellowship on Vimeo.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Recommended Reading on the Old Testament

On Sunday I began a four week teaching series called The Big Story: Through the Bible in 4 Weeks. My hope is to help our people understand how the Bible fits together while peaking their desire to go deeper. So, to that end here are some recommended resources for learning more about the Old Testament.

On The Old Testament by Mark Driscoll
This is in a series of booklets called, "A book you'll actually read." Driscoll concisely answers 9 common questions about the Old Testament and gives an introduction to each of the 39 OT books.

Survey of the Old Testament by Paul Benware
This is an excellent introduction to the Old Testament complete with colorful illustrations, maps, and charts. Very helpful for understanding the flow of the Old Testament and a basic introduction to each OT book.

Encountering the Old Testament by Bill T. Arnold & Bryan E. Beyer
This introduction goes a little deeper than the other books and is used for Bible college students. But it is still very accessible and well done.

The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones
This is a must-have for all families with young children, and it's actually great for everyone. One of the best books I could recommend in any category.

Friday, June 3, 2011

How to Honor Your Wife

I hesitated to post this for a couple of reasons, which I will mention in a minute. But I decided to do it because of the insight and challenge it provides for men. There are a lot of helpful thoughts in this post from Mark Driscoll on how men need to honor their wives.

Two two reasons I hesitated are 1) because I'm not sure men really need to be called idiots and imbeciles repeatedly in order to be motivated to change, and 2) grace changes men, just like it changes everyone else. This piece is not infused with much grace and forgiveness which provide the power and motivation to change (in this case, changing to better honor your wife). The post will make you feel terrible about yourself, and sometimes that is needed, but we must always be directed to Jesus for forgiveness and help even as we repent.

So don't read this post as "I'm a terrible husband, and I just need to try harder." Don't make a mental check-list of all the things you are going to change about yourself by just gutting it out. Look to Christ first for help. Pray for his strength. Confess your failure to him. And rely upon him daily for grace to be a better husband.

With that focus, there is a lot to take away from Driscoll's challenge on honoring your wife:

Show Honor to Your Wife

Here’s what Peter has to say In 1 Peter 3:7:

    Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayer may not be hindered.

In the previous verse, 1 Peter 3:6, he said that women, when it comes to marriage are prone toward, what? Fear. Fear. And you know what? Those fears that the women have about marriage are legitimate.

Your Wife Trusts You with the Rest of Her Life

If a woman marries a man, she’s trusting him with the rest of her life that he won’t hit her, cheat on her, that he’ll work hard, that he’ll pay the bills, that he’ll love their children, that he’ll finish the race well, that he’ll walk with Jesus until the end, that if she gets sick, he’ll look after her, that if she is dying, he will be faithful to her. Gentlemen, it is a terrifying thing for a woman to trust a sinful man.

As a man, I don’t think I fully understood this until I had daughters, and now I have some understanding of that fear. The thought of taking one of my daughters and walking them down the aisle and handing them to a man and trusting that he will love them and protect them and serve them and care for them and look after them, it causes me fear and grave concern.

Don't Give Women a Reason to Fear

Women have legitimate fears, and what Peter is saying is that men need to be a particular way so those fears are alleviated. And I love his words, “in an understanding way, showing honor.” That’s a man.

Now as I say this, many of you guys will nod your head and say, “Yeah, that’s me.”

No, you’re not. So let me practically unpack this for you. Every man who reads this, even the best men among us, has areas of repentance and growth that are required. And so I want to talk to you men about some things that your woman will fear.

1. Honor Your Wife Maritally

What this means is, gentlemen, you’re not looking for a girlfriend if you are single. You’re not looking for a roommate. You’re not looking for a cohabitation partner. You’re looking for a wife. You must honor her while dating, that is when you're on your best behavior. I don’t care if you apologize, do you repent and lead? Being sorry is not enough; being Christ-like is what is necessary.

Read The Rest Here.

Thursday, June 2, 2011