Reader Chip Curley emailed his photo album from last Sunday's Father's Day Picnic and Car Show.
A place of reflection and focus for Bellevue Community Church. "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise" (Psalm 51:17).
Reader Chip Curley emailed his photo album from last Sunday's Father's Day Picnic and Car Show.
These stats, reported by the Resurgence Blog, are sobering:
* Fifteen hundred pastors leave the ministry each month due to moral failure, spiritual burnout, or contention in their churches.
* Fifty percent of pastors' marriages will end in divorce.
* Eighty percent of pastors and eighty-four percent of their spouses feel unqualified and discouraged in their role as pastors.
* Fifty percent of pastors are so discouraged that they would leave the ministry if they could, but have no other way of making a living.
* Eighty percent of seminary and Bible school graduates who enter the ministry will leave the ministry within the first five years.
* Seventy percent of pastors constantly fight depression.
* Almost forty percent polled said they have had an extra-marital affair since beginning their ministry.
* Seventy percent said the only time they spend studying the Word is when they are preparing their sermons.
* Eighty percent of pastors' spouses feel their spouse is overworked.
* Eighty percent of pastors' spouses wish their spouse would choose another profession.
* The majority of pastors’ wives surveyed said that the most destructive event that has occurred in their marriage and family was the day they entered the ministry.
You really should be reading Mark Lauterbach's blog, GospelDrivenLife. It is phenomenal.
But pride in me is foolish. I would never think it right to wait until I am healthy before going to a doctor. But I do that kind of thing all the time. I wait until I am better to confess sin. I wait until I am better to give a testimony. I wait until I am better to flee to the Savior.
I have a Savior who simply says, “Come” – and in him are riches of grace and mercy that is is both willing and desirous to pour out on me. I am called to flee from all hope in my self, my good works. I am called to fall at the Savior’s feet and receive grace for my soul – and to do so every day.
He's a bit high-falutin', but here's an excerpt from a doozy of a post on a "tough customer" Jesus by Doug Wilson:
I hope it is possible to say this with all reverence, but Jesus was a tough customer. Contrary to popular opinion, the Lord of the gospels was not the original flower child, and He did not come in order to make us all feel better about ourselves. The image that many have of the Lord’s personality and strength of character comes more from man-made traditions and saccharine portrait painters than it does from the Bible. One easily envisions the image of a genteel limpwrist standing outside the door of someone’s heart, gently tapping, because of course the doorknob is only on the inside. The only thing missing from this vision is the ribbon in his hair. I have sometimes thought that a far better picture of Jesus knocking at the door of my heart would be a commanding hand from offstage, two rows of angels with a battering ram, and a worried-looking troll peeking out over the wall of a castle.
Otto Scott put it well when he said that the God of the Bible is no buttercup. And when Jesus came He revealed all the attributes of the Father, and not just those things which we can easily interpret as comforting to ourselves. But the Lord’s words were simultaneously blunt and pointed, and as Chesterton put it, He did not hesitate to throw furniture down the front steps of the Temple. However, we like to hear all about love, and mercy, and comfort, and kindness. This is not bad in itself; these are all biblical revelations of God’s nature and character. But we present them out of context; we neglect the wrath, and holiness, and justice of God. We do not neglect these attributes because they are contradictions to the first set; we neglect them because we do not know how the Bible reconciles them. Notice how the apostle seats them at the table together, as though they were good friends. "Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness" (Rom. 11:22). We must constantly remember that a half-truth presented as the whole truth is an untruth. God is kind, and God is severe. Jesus reveals the nature of the Father to us; Jesus is kind, and Jesus is severe . . .
I hate that we apparently can't rehabilitate the perfectly good concept of religion, but in this instance, as it means "salvation by doing stuff," this piece by Mark Driscoll is right on.
The Difference between Religion and the Gospel
By Pastor Mark Driscoll
Religion says, if I obey, God will love me. Gospel says, because God loves me, I can obey.
Religion has good people & bad people. Gospel has only repentant and unrepentant people.
Religion values a birth family. Gospel values a new birth.
Religion depends on what I do. Gospel depends on what Jesus has done.
Religion claims that sanctification justifies me. Gospel claims that justification enables sanctification.
Religion has the goal to get from God. Gospel has the goal to get God.
Religion sees hardships as punishment for sin. Gospel sees hardship as sanctified affliction.
Religion is about me. Gospel is about Jesus.
Religion believes appearing as a good person is the key. Gospel believes that being honest is the key.
Religion has an uncertainty of standing before God. Gospel has certainty based upon Jesus' work.
Religion sees Jesus as the means. Gospel sees Jesus as the end.
Religion ends in pride or despair. Gospel ends in humble joy.
The greatest threat to the gospel specific to today is the indirect challenge of pragmatism among evangelicals.
The impact God has planned for us doesn't occur when we're pursuing impact. It occurs when we're pursuing God.
From a spot-on post by J.D. Hatfield at Voice of Vision:
The problem is that people aren’t looking for salvation as being reconciled to God. The old (real) gospel starts with an offended God. The new (false) gospel starts with a wounded “us”. The truth is not that we are wounded but that we are dead!
The gospel is not a commodity, and unlike what we hear preached as the gospel these days, Jesus isn’t very passionate about some of your greatest felt needs. There is nothing distinctly Christian about the new gospel messages at all, that is why they are so popular.
It has been my great privilege since last fall to get to know and to get to serve the emerging generation in and connected to BCC's community. We call the ministry to these college students and young professionals Element, and as each week goes by, I become more and more in love with the hearts and the spirits of those who wander into the Element community.
Here's an excerpt from a great article by John Piper:
In Luke 17:5 the apostles ask Jesus to increase their faith. How does Jesus help them? In two ways, both of which are by telling them truth. So even in the way he responds he shows us that faith comes by hearing. Knowing certain things should increase our faith.
First, he strengthens our faith by telling us in verse 6 that the crucial issue in accomplishing great things to advance the kingdom of God is not the quantity of our faith, but the power of God. He says, "If you had faith like a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, 'Be uprooted and be planted in the sea'; and it would obey you." By referring to the tiny mustard seed after being asked about increased faith, he deflects attention away from the quantity of faith to the object of faith. God moves mulberry trees. And it does not depend decisively on the quantity of our faith, but on his power and wisdom and love. In knowing this we are helped not to worry about our faith and are inspired to trust God's free initiative and power.
Second, he helps their faith grow by telling them in verses 7-10 that when they have done all they are commanded to do, they are still radically dependent on grace. Jesus gives an illustration. You might want to read it again in verses 7-10. The gist of it is that the owner of a slave does not become a debtor to the slave no matter how much work the slave does. The meaning is that God is never our debtor. Verse 10 sums it up: "So you too, when you do all the things which are commanded you, say, 'We are unworthy slaves; we have done only that which we ought to have done.'" We are always his debtor. And we will never be able to pay this debt, nor are we ever meant to. We will always be dependent on grace. We will never work our way up out of debt to a place where God is in our debt. "Who has ever given a gift to him that he should be repaid?" (Romans 11:35).
When it says in verse 9 that the owner does not "thank" the slave, the idiom for "thank" is provocative. I think the idea is that "thanks" is a response to grace. The reason the owner does not thank the slave is that the servant is not giving the owner more than what the owner deserves. He is not treating the owner with grace. Grace is being treated better than you deserve. So it is with us in relation to God. We never treat God with grace. We never give him more than he deserves. Which means that he never owes us thanks. God never says "Thank you" to us. Instead he is always giving us more than what we deserve and we are always owing him thanks.
So the lesson for us is that when we have done all we should do – when we have solved all our pastoral care problems and fixed the attitudes of all our people and mobilized the most missions and loved the poor and saved marriages and reared godly children and boldly proclaimed Christ – God owes us no thanks. Instead we will at that moment relate to him as debtors to grace just as we do now.
This is a great encouragement to faith. Why? Because it means that God is just as free to bless us before we get our act together as he is after. Since we are "unworthy" slaves before we have done what we should, and "unworthy" slaves afterwards as well, it is only grace that would prompt God to help us. Therefore he is free to help us before and after. This is a great incentive to trust him for help when we feel like our act is not together.
So two things increase our faith: 1) that God himself and not the quantity of our faith is the decisive factor in flinging mulberry trees out of the way; and 2) free grace is decisive in how God treats us before and after we have done all we ought to do. We never move beyond the need for grace. Therefore let us trust God for great things in our little faith, and let us not be paralyzed by what is left to be done in our lives and in our church.
I think we ought to help our fellow followers of Jesus develop practical, applicatory ways to live out life in the Spirit. Faith is not living if it doesn't work, no doubt.
This is where that Debbie Downer sad "wah wah" sound effect comes in. :-)
BCC is gearing up for the summer semester of Conexus, our small group program. If you care about connecting with other people, if you care about being a real part of community, sign up for a group. There's no better way to meet people, to -- as part of our mission states -- "know people and be known."
Do you listen to sermon podcasts? Can I recommend two great ones to you that I just listened to today?
From BeliefNet's Rod Dreher:
I had lunch today with a three Christians, one from Europe, one from the Middle East, one from Southeast Asia. Here is a summary of our conversation:
The Middle Easterner: We are being terribly persecuted. Our people are being killed and deprived of their rights in every way. Many of us are emigrating to escape. The government does not protect us. Everyday life is martyrdom. Our biggest challenge, aside from survival, is how to love those who kill and persecute us. We don't understand why Christians in the West, and the Western media, doesn't tell our story.
The Southeast Asian: Christianity is formally permitted, but our people and our clergy face constant persecution, and we are so relatively small in number that there's very little we can do except endure.
The European: Our churches are virtually empty. We are tolerated because we are irrelevant. Christianity is seen as a hobby, but that's it. We look around at all our magnificent churches, and see that the faith survived all kinds of immense hardships and challenges over the centuries, but Christians made it. Now, in our time, Christians are completely free to worship as they like, and everyone has all their material needs taken care of, but there is a real question of whether we are going to make it. Wealth and freedom is doing to Christianity in Europe what centuries of suffering and privation and persecution did not.
And there's me, the American, feeling rather ashamed of myself. Perhaps I should have told these people about the war on Christmas in my country.
Mark Driscoll, pastor of Mars Hill Church Seattle, with a powerful anecdote on idolatry in America:
I've overhauled the sidebar menu. Changed a few things around. Deleted broken links. Added a short blogroll under a new heading ("Read").
From Abraham at the Desiring God Blog:
Sometimes I pretend I don't have time. All the tasks on my to-do list are incredibly important.
I'm too busy to answer that email. Too busy to help my neighbor—anyway, I don't even speak Spanish. And I can't give my wife a hand—too much to do. I've got a meeting. I've got to get the sermon posted. I'm blogging. Terribly important, indeed.
Then there's Jesus.
When his cousin and friend John the Baptist had just been beheaded, Jesus tried to go to a lonely place to mourn, but the crowds beat him there. He healed their sick and he served them all dinner. Only then, in the evening, did he get a chance to be alone. And even that was interrupted (Matthew 14:10-25).
Another time when he was alone praying, Peter sought him out to let him know everyone was looking for him (Mark 1:35-39). He did not respond at all irritably. Perhaps that seems like no big deal, but think about the meeting that Peter broke up when he interrupted Jesus. When God and his son are talking it is more important than any conference call or international summit we can imagine. Two beings whose job is to create and maintain universes are consulting with one another—and they don't mind little Peter breaking in with information he is convinced is important.
Even when his life was on the line, Jesus had time for other people's problems.
When someone threatens to kill you and you don't think it's quite time to die, escaping will jump to the top of your task list, won't it? It did for Jesus, but he still let himself be bothered by others' urgency:
The Pharisees went out and conspired against him, how to destroy him. Jesus, aware of this, withdrew from there. And many followed him, and he healed them all. (Matthew 12:14-15)
It would be like if your pastor was willing to stay up front after a service and pray for you, knowing there was someone in the building waiting around to shoot him.
Isn't Jesus wonderfully peculiar? Everything he does is infinitely more important than what I do, but every time I interrupt him, he pays attention. Nothing prevents him from loving us. During immense sadness at his own loss, he made sure others were happy. When he was in the most important meeting in the world, he listened to a nobody. And when he was fearing for his own life, he saved others' lives.
He always had time and he always will, and I don't feel very busy anymore.
I've said elsewhere what an exciting day we live in when the cross of Christ is even a scandal in American churches. This is because the evangelical culture has traded "Christ as life" for "Christianity as help." But rather than despair over this deficiency, as so many within the Church are, I tend to see it as a great day for the scandal of grace. Those who get the Gospel get to pull a big freak out on Christian and non-Christian alike! :-)
A highlight for me is a discussion of just how useless the crucifixion of Jesus is in much of evangelicalism today. If our great need is to be delivered from the wrath of God, then Jesus is our mediator. But what if our big problem is losing ten pounds? Finding a bigger house? Paying for college? Getting out of debt? What if the guilt that concerns us is the guilt of not having a pool like our neighbor? What if the center of our prayers is the moral life of our kids or our physical health? Do we actually need a crucified Jesus for any of these things?
. . .
The prosperity gospel isn’t on the fringe any more. As William Willimon says, churches now advertise that they “have what you are looking for.” What is the average American looking for? A bloody savior to deliver from the wrath of God? Or success in life?
A good friend recently suggested I hang a CLOSED sign on BCC is Broken. I can't deny I've thought about it. But I can't bring myself to do it. I have flirted with the idea of resuming posting here when I finish the Old School Jesus series at Element, but the truth is, finishing one series won't exactly free up a whole lot of blogging time. I'll be starting another one immediately after.