Friday, August 28, 2009

Should You Leave Your Church if Your Not "Growing"?

Here is a pastorally wise article by John Piper on the following question:

If there is nothing specifically wrong with my church, but I feel like I've stopped growing, is that a good enough reason to look for another one?

I doubt it. I'm taking seriously the statement, "there is nothing specifically wrong with my church." There is always something wrong with your church!

So I'm just assuming this is a doctrinally sound church and a church in which pastoral care and mutual love is happening, and so on. And I would say, if you've stopped growing then you can't point to your church. It sounds like you can't blame your church.

Something else is going on here, and you need to dig down to the obstacles that emerge in you, and find out whether it's because you've stopped serving or praying or giving your life away. Given this first statement, "If there is nothing specifically wrong with my church, but I feel like I've stopped growing," I would say, do not assume going to a new church is going to change that.

What will happen in a new church, probably, is some artificial new buzz. The worship will sound different, the preaching will sound different, and the difference will feel energizing for a while. But it's artificial. It's probably not the main cause, and you're going to bump into the same stall at that church.

And if you keep doing that, you're going to fail to find out what the problem is. Because I think the Lord would have us grow continually in a church as long as we're there and as long as life lasts. And growth has lots of other obstacles to it than church.

So get people around you who can counsel you as to what the real issue is here, why you're stalling. And it probably isn't church.

From Desiring God.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

New Berea Class Beginning September 13

Our adult (teens included) Sunday school class will begin a new book starting September 13th led by pastor Dave VanAcker. This class takes place before the worship service at 9 AM. A nursery and kids classes are running at the same time.

The new class will cover the subject of learning how to read and study the Bible by yourself and the book we will be using is Gordon Fee's How to Read the Bible for All It's Worth (I highly suggest your invest in buying this book). Here is some more information about the book:

Discipleship Starts in the Home

We are planning a parenting seminar for September 18-19 at Grace Church. The theme is about raising your kids to be followers of Jesus - disciping your children. I hope you can join us during this time.

Here are some related blog posts from Resurgence:

2 Witness on Abortion - from Al Mohler

Here is a good article by Al Mohler:

Looking across the moral landscape of the last half-century, one issue looms larger than all others -- abortion. Considered from a historical perspective, the intensity and duration of the abortion debate came as something of a surprise. Handing down its infamous Roe v. Wade decision in 1973, the majority of justices on the U.S. Supreme Court declared the abortion question settled and closed. They were wrong.

Almost four decades after Roe v. Wade, Americans are still torn over the issue of abortion. Indeed, the intensity of the abortion debate in 2009 exceeds that of 1973. The controversy over abortion is not only unsettled and unresolved -- it is still developing before our eyes. To the great consternation of abortion-rights proponents, Americans have not accepted abortion on demand as a permanent reality. As a nation, we have debated any number of issues beyond abortion in recent years, but abortion remains the controversy that is most central, unavoidable, and deeply personal.

The personal dimension of the abortion controversy came to light this week from two unexpected witnesses. The first is Sarah Kliff, a reporter for Newsweek magazine. In a very personal column, Kliff describes her experience visiting Omaha, Nebraska and the abortion clinic of Dr. LeRoy Carhart, now perhaps the nation's sole specialist in late-trimester abortions. As Kliff writes, her experience covering abortion for the magazine over the past two years has led her into contact and conversation with a range of persons on both sides of the abortion debate. She recognizes that, "both sides feel abortion is an issue worth waging war over."

Given her journalistic experience, Kliff describes herself as "well-versed in abortion policy, the pro-choice and pro-life arguments, the latest legislation." Her next sentence delivers the surprise: "But I'd never actually seen an abortion; I'd never watched the procedure that activists vehemently defend or deplore."

But that is exactly what happened when Kliff went to Omaha to research her article on Dr. Carhart. Even as she anticipated observing the abortion, Kliff confessed to hesitancy and reluctance. She observed a first-trimester abortion, even though Dr. Carhart does perform late-term abortions. Why was she so ambivalent?

In her words:

Why was I reluctant to watch? To be fair, I'd never observed a surgery and knew myself to frequently flinch at 'Grey's Anatomy.' But abortion isn't like the complex, bloody operations you see on television: medically speaking, it's a simple and common procedure. About 1.2 million were performed in 2005, the same, numberwise, as outpatient cancer surgeries. I was nervous, I think, to watch something so controversial; no one protests outside cancer clinics. I didn't know how I'd react. Would I find the surgery repulsive? Encounter women whose choices troubled me? Whom I disagreed with? I was uneasy about coming in such close contact with such substantial decisions.

Observing the abortion, Kliff writes of seeing a woman prepared for the procedure and then of the suction tube that was inserted within her. Her report is both chilling and honest. "Carhart used a suction tube to empty the contents of the uterus; it took no longer than three minutes. The suction machine made a slight rumbling sound, a pinkish fluid flowed through the tube, and, faster than I'd expected, it was over."

As Kliff recounts, she felt no physical discomfort observing the procedure. Nevertheless, she did experience a very strong emotional reaction. After describing this emotional reaction and her encounters with patients in the abortion clinic, Kliff tells of returning home only to discover that her friends who supported abortion rights "bristled slightly when I told them where I'd been and what I'd watched."

In a profound statement, Sarah Kliff acknowledges that Americans just do not talk about abortion as they talk about other surgical or medical procedures. "Abortion may be a simple procedure medically," she explains, "but it is not cancer surgery."

Sarah Kliff does not condemn abortion in her article and she does not articulate a pro-life understanding of the abortion issue. Indeed, she speaks of abortion as involving a weighty choice that, "depending on how you view it, involves a life, or the potential for life." This is a very weak way of describing the moral question of abortion, but it is at least a start. Sarah Kliff's honest reflections on her experience of observing an abortion are, perhaps more than she knows or recognizes, a witness to the horror of abortion. Her description of "pinkish fluid" flowing through the suction tube is almost impossible to force out of one's mind.

Another unexpected witness this week is actress Kourtney Kardashian. Her recently announced unplanned pregnancy became part of Hollywood's scandal and publicity circus. But what caught the attention of the media this week was her decision to keep the baby and the straightforward logic behind her decision.

Kardashian has not adopted a pro-life position on the abortion question. Indeed, she told Peoplemagazine: "I do think every woman should have the right to do what they want, but I don't think it's talked through enough." The actress told of many friends who just assured her that abortion was the easy way out. "Like it's not a big deal," the actress recalled.

Interestingly, Kardashian's decision to keep her baby was at least partially prompted by her experience of reading the testimonies of women who regretted their abortions. "I looked online, and I was sitting on the bed hysterically crying, reading these stories of people who felt so guilty for having an abortion," she explained.

"I was just sitting there crying, thinking, 'I can't do that,' . . . And I felt in my body, this is meant to be. God does things for a reason, and I just felt like it was the right thing that was happening in my life."

As she thought about her decision, Kardashian concluded that "all the reasons why I wouldn't keep the baby were so selfish." She also received encouragement from her doctor. "My doctor told me there is nothing you will ever regret about having the baby, but he was like, 'You may regret not having the baby.' And I was like: That is so true."

The Culture of Death looms as a massive threat, but its foundations are crumbling. Unexpected witnesses such as Sarah Kliff and Kourtney Kardashian help us to see how moral insight can emerge from unexpected experiences, reflections, and witnesses. Some of the most profound witnesses to the horror of abortion and the sanctity of human life do not even know that they are so. The evil of abortion cannot be hidden once it is seen, and a voice for life cannot be forgotten once it is heard.


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Friday, August 21, 2009

All I Have Is Christ Video

This summer at Grace Church we learned the song by Jordan Kauflin called "All I Have Is Christ."

Here is a video of Jordan singing this song at the Next 2009 Conference.

I highly recommend buying the download of this 13 song album at Sovereign Grace for $5. Every song is tremendous.

Here are the lyrics to the song again.

I once was lost in darkest night
Yet thought I knew the way.
The sin that promised joy and life
Had led me to the grave.
I had no hope that You would own
A rebel to Your will.
And if You had not loved me first
I would refuse You still.

But as I ran my hell-bound race
Indifferent to the cost
You looked upon my helpless state
And led me to the cross.
And I beheld God’s love displayed
You suffered in my place
You bore the wrath reserved for me
Now all I know is grace.

Hallelujah! All I have is Christ
Hallelujah! Jesus is my life

Now, Lord, I would be Yours alone
And live so all might see
The strength to follow Your commands
Could never come from me.
Oh Father, use my ransomed life
In any way You choose.
And let my song forever be
My only boast is You.

© 2008 Sovereign Grace Praise (BMI), by Jordan Kauflin

Friday, August 7, 2009

Relationships - A Mess Worth Making

Over the past few weeks I read an outstanding book by Tim Lane and Paul Tripp called Relationships: A Mess Worth Making. The title itself is worth the price of the book. The book was no disappointment. It has been very timely to read this book as I prepare to preach through the second half of the book of Ephesians (4-6). In these chapters, Paul is concerned that Christians live out their salvation in the context of the messiness of relationship.

Here are 8 important points from the book that give us a biblical perspective on our relationships with other people:

  • You were made for relationships
  • In some way, all relationships are difficult
  • Each of us is tempted to make relationships the end rather than the means
  • There are no secrets that guarantee problem-free relationships
  • At some point you will wonder whether relationships are worth it
  • God keeps us in messy relationships for his redemptive purposes
  • The fact that our relationships work as well as they do is a sure sign of grace
  • Scripture offers a clear hope for our relationships

I thank God that he keeps us in messy relationships for His redemptive purposes! He is in the process of restoration and sanctification.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Knowing Where You Live - A Broken-Down House

Last Sunday I reintroduced us to the book of Ephesians (since we have been away from there for a while) by setting the context of chapters 4-6 where I will begin in two weeks.

Where do we live? This is an important question to answer and remember. Here are some very challenging questions given by Paul David Tripp (in Broken-Down House).

Let me ask what may seem like a stupid question. Do you know where you live? No, I don't mean your street address. I want you to see the most deeply spiritual and profoundly personal implications of this question.
Do you bring to each day the realistic expectations that come from a cogent understanding of your life, yourself, and your world? Still confused? Then let's break it down a little.
Is there anything that is disappointing you right now? Is there a relationship or situation that is leaving you hurt and confused? Are there personal problems that you simply have not been able to solve? Do you ever feel alienated, alone, or misunderstood? Have you had to deal with mistreatment or injustice lately? Have you been hurt, angry, fearful, or discouraged? Is there any place in your life where you feel like giving up or giving in? Does your life ever seem much more complicated than it should be? Does it seem like you are always having to deal with obstacles of one kind or another?

Do you wish you didn't have so many problems on your plate? Does it bug you that even the easy things in life don't turn out to be nearly as easy as you thought they would be?

Are there problems in your past that still haunt you? Do you regularly face difficulties you have sought to solve, but which still lie open and festering? Have you ever envied someone else's life? Have you ever wished you could start over in some area of life, but you know you can't? Have you ever felt too weak and too unqualified to deal with what is confronting you? Does your life seem to move too fast for you ever to be able to catch up? Has there ever been a day in your life that was fundamentally problem-free? (23-24)
Here are my three points from last week:
  1. We live in a broken down house because of sin.
  2. A gracious Restorer has come to this house with the promise of restoration.
  3. We are called to live a restoration lifestyle.
Ephesians 4-6 is about living a restoration lifestyle based on the fact that the RESTORER has come and promised great things. This restoration lifestyle is not a me and my personal project that God is going to do in my soul (although he does work on individuals). He is working a restoration on us as a church--a community. He intends to transform individuals as well as groups of individuals who realize that they were made for more than themselves. This means we are called to live in a "broken-down house" together which can be quite messy. Apart from the Spirit's power we have no hope. However, Christ has promised to be with us and work in us through His Spirit to make us One Body.