I am not a fan of college football being played on Sundays. Nevertheless, it is almost Football Time in Tennessee!  

In anticipation of this new season, I am posting this video narrated by ex-Volunteer Inky Johnson.  Johnson does a marvelous job describing the sense of being part of the Tennessee football tradition.

My prediction for this coming season: Optimistic 8-4, and back to bowling.  

Osprey with Fish

I love this perspective from Paul Tripp:

“When you are struglling with anxiety, look at creation. Embedded in the physical world are constant reminders that God does not abandon the work of his hands.”

Tripp appropriately spiritualizes something that I have experienced but had never really contemplated sufficiently.  My tendency has long been to retreat into creation – whether it be the mountains of Tennessee, or the forests and river beaches here in Hampton Roads, or wherever – just to regain a sense of peace. I am reminded of God’s greatness and presence in such places.  And while I have long understood, advocated, and preached that standing on a mountain top or on the ocean shores can offer a sense of God’s awesomeness and beauty, I don’t know that I have really given adequate thought to the the practical theological principle behind the practice that relieves angst.  

I am reminded of Jesus’ counsel in Matthew 6:

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you,O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.

As Tripp suggested: “Bird watching is good for the soul.”  

Despite what relatively little knowledge I have about ornithology, I now see how beneficial it can be to periodically spend some time quietly watching the birds go about their business and their play.  Not only does it provide for tranquill moments, bird watching offers a much needed and refreshing reminder: If birds live stress free lives, how much more should I.  For while the birds were created to bring pleasure to the Creator, I am one made after the image of God; and as a consequence of the union I have with Jesus, through faith in his redeemeing work, I am one who is (admittedly undeservedly) among those who are the objects of the Father’s affection. If God loves the birds, how much more those who are in Christ – even me!

Boys of Fall

August 23, 2014

Another football season is about to Kickoff. In fact, in some places it already has.

For the first time in 15 years neither of my sons will be on a sideline this year.  While one of them expects to be coaching high school football this time next year, his eligibility at his college has expired. Now he will focus on his student teaching for the Fall, and the steps toward life.  My younger son has decided to hang up his cleats and focus on youth ministry instead.  While he is still in school, and has two seasons of eligibility left, after being sidetracked by a couple of frustrating injuries, he has set his sights on more important things.  And with my coaching days behind me, for the first time in a long time, we will all be mere spectators this season.

Nevertheless, Kenny Chesney’s video and song evokes strong memories and emotions. It brings back a sense of joy and satisfaction, something I can share with my two sons – even if our experiences were for the most part a generation apart.  If you ever played game – whether in high school or college football, or whatever, you know what I mean.

Sprout in Hand

“Truly, the Bible as the Word of God has an inherent power, but it is not a coercive power. That is, the Bible does not work it’s effects mechanically. We don’t change just because we read it. Out minds may be engaged in the text, but something must happen in our hearts as well. In the parable of the Sower (Matthew 13.18-23), the seed does not miraculously and independently transform itself into a flowering plant. The condition of the soil effects how well the seed takes root. Our hearts must be receptive to God’s Word in the same way the soil must be rich and conducive to the development of deep roots and luxurient growth. As Oliver Wendell Holmes once said: ‘What you bring away from the Bible depends to some extent on what you carry to it.'”

Tremper Longman, from Reading the Bible With Heart & Mind

Dialog & Discuss

Boyce College professor, Denny Burk, has posted an interesting warning about a common tactic employed by some with theological agendas – especially those with liberalizing theological agendas.  His post is titled:  Should Churches “Dialogue” About Sexuality?

Having read through it a couple of times I find myself appreciating Burk’s concern.  Burk notes that many a subtle debate may begin with a seemingly reasonable appeal:

“…with the liberals calling for more dialogue about the issue.”

Then, citing conservative writer Rod Dreher:

Ah, the old “conversation starter” or “dialogue” trick. Any time you see a progressive member of your church try this, you must understand that this is the wedge that they will use to pry the orthodox out. The “conversation” will be one-sided, and will not end until the orthodox have surrendered or left, because the progressives will never, ever take “no” for an answer.

While I am not one who is overly concerned about debate, or about being drawn into compromised theology, I have seen this tactic employed.  (For the sake of fairness, I must admit that I have seen the technique attempted by both those on the theological left, and by some on the far right.  It just seems that those on the far right are more likely to quckly show their hand, their agenda.)  So I agree with Burk, we need to be mindful of this, and encourage the people in our churches– or at least our church leaders – to be mindful of this ploy.

However, what Burk is addressing is not the biggest challenge to the church I serve.  Our congregation is pretty well rooted in sound theology and conservatism.  (NOTE: These are not always the same thing, especially when the conservatism is more political than theological.)  For most of our members it is not difficult to get them to accept the authority of God’s Word on any particular subject.  Our  commitment to deep, rich, historic, orthodoxy is one of the primary reasons they are part of the church.  And while we have many who are doing inspiring works throughout our community, it is far more a concern whether we can get some of the others to love and engage their neighbors – most of whom are likely to differ with us on any number of social issues – than it is whether they will be susceptible to trendy Spirits of the Age.

So while I appreciate Burk’s wisdom, I believe we also need to prepare people to “dialogue”.

Dialogue is how we engage people, without requiring that they agree with us as a precondition of  being welcome in our church or wanted as a friend.  Dialogue is one way we are able to express and cultivate love for our neighbors.  Dialogue may be the only way for some to hear what God has to say about a particular subject, as we appropriately bring our understanding of the Word into the conversations. Dialogue about issues in which we (at least) initially differ may be the means by which some hear the gospel for the first time – as the gospel does apply in some manner to all matters.

No doubt some readers will be uncomfortable with my call to dialogue with unbelievers and with theological compromisers (- which usually qualifies them as unbelievers).  But I am convinced that somewhere, somehow, we need to cultivate environments that encourage dialogue – and we must do this for the sake of the gospel.

I don’t feel alone in this thought. It is what Francis Schaeffer called for a couple generations ago.  In his Two Contents, Two Realities, the second content was: Honest Answers to Honest Questions.

I agree that we must be wise, and that there are times when conversation should be cut off – such as when it is apparent that the “dialogue” is not honest but rather a cloak over a subversive agenda. This is what Burk has in view, and so it is why I appreciate his thoughts.  But, just so there is no mistaking Burk’s counsel as an invitation for Evangelicals to hide out in the fortress of the church, I also feel compelled to contend for genuine dialogue, since it is the only way we will have opportunity to hear Honest Questions from our culture to which we may offer Honest Answers from God’s Word.

This song from Sovereign Grace Music, that shares the same title as this blog,  is a three verse meditation on Romans 1.7:

Verse 1

Grace and peace, oh how can this be / For lawbreakers and thieves / For the worthless, the least / You have said, that our judgment is death / For all eternity / Without hope, without rest / Oh, what an amazing mystery / What an amazing mystery/ That Your grace has come to me

Verse 2

Grace and peace, oh how can this be / The matchless King of all / Paid the blood price for me / Slaughtered lamb, what atonement You bring! / The vilest sinner’s heart / Can be cleansed, can be free /  Oh, what an amazing mystery / What an amazing mystery / That Your grace has come to me

Verse 3

Grace and peace, oh how can this be / Let songs of gratefulness / Ever rise, never cease / Loved by God and called as a saint / My heart is satisfied / In the riches of Christ / Oh, what an amazing mystery / What an amazing mystery  / That Your grace has come to me

TAG

Oh, what an amazing love I see / What an amazing love I see / That Your grace has come to me / Oh, what an amazing love I see / What an amazing love I see / That Your grace has come to me

© 2013 Sovereign Grace Worship

Small Self Righteous

In a post yesterday I indicated a disappointment with the prevailing tendencey to use size of  a congregation as a measuring stick of the value or vibrancy of a church.  It would be easy for some to assume by this defensive posture that I am among those who despise large churches.  Not so.

My home church is a large church – a very large church.  3000-plus members; and roughly that same number in weekly attendance.  It was this church where my wife and I met.  It was in this church where my relatively new faith began to take on roots, and where I learned the importance of global evangelization.  This church is faithful. This church is fruitful. And this church is flourishing.  I am proud (in an appropriate way, I hope) to have been sent out by this church, into ministry.

It is not the size of the church that matters to me, but whether it is faithful, substantive, and bearing fruit comensurate for it’s capabilities.

It is those churches who believe growth itself is the primary objective that disturb me; those who seem to feel that they are doing God some favor by packing people into seats, willing to serve up anything that will draw a crowd, even at the expense of the gospel, and then call itself an expression of the Body of Christ.  I hold such places with no esteem.

On the other hand, I get equally chagrined when I encounter those from small congregations who assume they are somehow better for no more reason than they are  small. (Like the cartoon above.)  While small is not necessarily a vice, neither is it necessarily a virtue.

To paraphrase Paul from Galatians 5.6:

Big congregation or small, it makes no difference. The only thing that matters is faith expressing itself through love.

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