Give unto the Lord the glory due to His name (Psalm 29:2).
It's Sunday around noonish. As the congregation files out of the church heading toward the carpark, listen closely and you will hear it. It's a common refrain voiced near the exit doors of churches all across this land.
"I didn't get anything out of that today." "I didn't get anything out of the sermon." "I didn't get anything out of that service." "I guess her song was all right, but I didn't get anything out of it."
Sound familiar? Not only have I heard it countless times over these near-fifty years in the ministry, I probably have said it a few times myself. This is like dry rot in a congregation. Like a termite infestation in the building. Like an epidemic afflicting the people of the Lord, one which we seem helpless to stop. But let's try. Let's see if we can make a little difference where you and I live, in the churches where we serve and worship. We might not be able to help all of them, but if we bless one or two, it will have been time well spent.
1. You are Not Supposed to 'Get Anything Out of the Service'
Worship is not about you and me. Not about "getting our needs met." Not about a performance from the pastor and singer and choir and musicians. Not in the least.
There's been a raging controversy within evangelical circles with the release of Rob Bell's latest book, Love Wins. Bell has been quoted as saying, "I have long wondered if there is a massive shift coming in what it means to be a Christian. Something new is in the air." Dr Tony Beam responds in the following article that arguments for universalism and the denial of hell are anything but new. Read his article below.......
You have to hand it to Michigan Pastor Rob Bell. Not only did he put hell on the map of the evangelical landscape and on the lips of almost every evangelical; he ultimately managed to get hell on the cover of Time magazine just in time for Easter. For Bell, what began as a creative art exhibit that encouraged artistic expressions of peace in a broken world has led to the supposed downfall of a bedrock belief of Christianity.
Meacham’s article in Time magazine chronicles Rob Bell’s attempt to put the doctrine of hell on trial in his book, Love Wins. The book flowed out of a comment left next to a quote from Mohandas Gandhi that was part of the afore mentioned art exhibit. The note said: “Reality check: He’s in hell.” The idea that Gandhi could be in hell sent Bell into a reflective, relativistic theological tailspin. He began asking questions like, “Somebody knows this without a doubt?”, and “Somebody decided to take on the responsibility of letting the rest of us know?” These questions didn’t lead to a concrete answer mind you for there is no such thing in the Emergent church world of Rob Bell. Evangelicals who have immersed themselves in the emergent world of post-postmodern theology long ago jettisoned biblical answers to tough questions in favor of an endless conversation. It’s kind of like driving down a road that has no destination or listening to a symphony of unresolved chords. Since there is nothing there at the end of post and post-postmodern theology the journey becomes the ultimate goal with reaching a destination considered to be the new heresy.
The plain truth of the matter is the Bible is God’s revelation so that we can know who God is (within the limits of our finite minds of course) and what He expects of us. When Luke wrote his magnificent two-volume work (Luke/Acts) for Theophilus he described his writing as “an orderly account, most excellent Theophilus, that you may know the certainty of those things in which you were instructed” (Luke 1:3-4, NKJV, emphasis mine). The Apostle John wrote, “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life” (I John 5:13). And Jesus rebuking the Sadducees as they tried to trap Him said, “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God” (Matthew 22:29). Clearly in just these few examples we should be able to see that there are many things Jesus said we could know for sure about God. One of those things is the surety of hell.
The news spread around the world at the speed of a tweet. Actually, 4,000 tweets per second, according to the site. Osama bin Laden had been killed. The response has been interesting: initial jubilation, and then, for many, sobriety. Some were sober because they knew the war on terror would continue, and perhaps for a season, intensify due to retaliations. Others were sober as they wondered whether the entire operation was ethical. Adding to it all have been powerful words such as “evil” and “justice”.
What exactly does the Bible say about war, and the “taking out” of a person such as bin Laden who has masterminded such horrific acts?
This weekend highlights the role of mothers in our lives and it seems appropriate to include a mother's perspective of this special celebration. Bonnie Gray's website, The Faith Barista, serves up shots of faith for everyday life and I've included her thoughts on Mother's Day as she experiences both grief and joy.
And, with a lighter touch, I've concluded with the Skit Guys' take on Mother's Day. Mums.... enjoy your special day!
'As a mother of two preschooler boys, I’m sandwiched in between my experience of motherhood as a child and my own journey as a mother.
When I was pregnant, daydreaming of the life I wanted to build for my new family, I never would’ve guessed that my own growing up years would return to me. What I’ve found are flashbacks to my own childhood. Memories that I had long forgotten resurface as I step through childhood a second time with my children. I am both little girl and grown up woman, finding my way to nurture and create a new history with my children.
What I didn’t anticipate is that along with the loving a mother naturally desires to grow into, God has taken me through a journey of grieving. Motherhood goes deeper than genes transmitted to one’s offspring. It cracks hard places open, to face ourselves as child and let God love us. Deep where we’ve pushed away our weaknesses to grow up and become adults, lies the heart of a child that Jesus tells us holds a secret — to bring heaven into us on earth.
“Permit the children to come to Me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. … whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all.” ~ Mark 4:25-29
I used to think that joy meant the absence of grief. Whenever certain holidays would circle around, I would beat whatever was bothering me into submission. I spent most of my emotional energy trying to keep the closet of sadness shut. Becoming a mother has disassembled that steel determination. I can’t explain it, except to conclude my heart can no longer protect itself like a sieve held up to rushing whitewater. The heart isn’t a piece of machinery we can open one valve and close another. When we open our hearts to joy, especially children, our defenses are dismantled. Our innocence returns.
I’ve had to grieve what I missed out in the earlier chapters of my story, but I’m also learning there are moments of grieving in the daily giving as a mother too. There is a lot of letting go in exchange for the joy of letting in.'
I’m just going to say it: I can’t wait for Prince William and Kate Middleton’s wedding. One, I love weddings. (The dresses! The flowers! The dancing!) Two, I love pomp and circumstance. Probably because much of my life feels chaotic, the order and ritual of weddings, graduations, funerals even, move me. Three, I love princesses — not the Disney kind, mind you, but the real kind.
The kind I discovered, in fact, back when Will’s mother, Lady Diana, married his dad, Prince Charles. I was 9, and while my mom rolled her eyes at the “charade,” I was enthralled. It was during that charade that I discovered that real-life princesses lived in big houses with tons of dogs and had country houses with tons of horses. And that they got to travel around in beautiful clothes and say nice things for which people gave them roses.
What a life, I thought. A perfect life.
Church planting and growth has been a focus for most of my ministry. I frequently lecture and speak on church planting and have been actively involved in many church plants. Under God's hand and direction, my wife, Kaye, and I planted the