All posts by Steve

Last Week's Sermon Netcast: Isaiah 4-5

Click on the link to download a netcast of my latest sermon from Isaiah 4-5 on Fruitfulness and the presence of God.  We presently have videos available of my sermons at Nuevo Community Church or you can just click on the link on the sidebar.

I am in the process of upgrading the blog and hopefully in the next few weeks there will be a new look as well as some new offerings.  Stay tuned.

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Typology & Daniel 6

Here are the links I promised to those of you in OT Survey and Bible study on Daniel.

Tonight’s Old Testament Class covered the issue of typology.    Good article on Typology  by W. Edward Glenny from Journal of Evangelical Theology (JETS).  Here is another version of the same article by Glenny, easier to read as it is all on one web page.   Here is an overview type article from Wayne Jackson that is really similar to the material in Bernard Ramm’s chapter on Typology from  Protestant Biblical Interpretation.    Since I don’t have a link to Ramm, this will have to do.

Tonight’s Bible Study covered Daniel 6. Daniel 6 is a good example of a passage that has clear typological elements (innocent man wrongly accused and sentenced to death only to defy death and emerge from a grave alive; visitor races to the “tomb”/pit/den at dawn to find hero not dead but alive;  global kingdom proclamation similar to the great commission) and yet is not classically considered typology.  For a good article on the historical challenges with Daniel, check out this PDF file by A.R. Millard, “Daniel 1-6 and History,” Evangelical Quarterly 49.2 (April-June 1977).

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Should we tell the kids?

To tell or not to tell, this is a common problem many parents with shady personal  histories face.  Should we tell the kids about our past drug usage?  How about a relational indiscretion?  What part of our past must we reveal to our children?

This is not as difficult as it may seem at first glance.  Here are the parenting principles to guide you through this question.

It is none of their business…

First, the behavior you demand from your children has no reference to how you behaved as a child/teen.  Many people have told me something similar to this:  “Our kids have a right to know, I don’t want them to find out from someone else.”  My response is:  “it is none of their business.”  Parenting is not about defending my past, it is about establishing a healthy context for growth in the present, with good results for the future.  My children don’t have an inherent right to know every detail about my past.

Parenting is about breaking bad habits and patterns that reside in the family dna and establishing the healthy values  that characterize our family now.  What I did in high school is irrelevant to the values I want to instill in my family now that I have grown up.  My behavior cannot be used as a license for my children’s desire to act out.  If you allow residual guilt over indiscretions in life to rule your present parenting posture, you will equivocate in your communication to your kids.

My father smoked and drank before I was born.  He came to faith in Christ when I was young and he changed many patterns of behavior.  I did not need to know the information, it was not my “right” and it had no impact on whether it was ok for me to smoke or drink.   I found out these details about my father as an adult, and it didn’t traumatize me, nor should it have traumatized me.

You are in charge…

The underlying problem that lurks here is the notion that the children are in charge, or that they have a right to make these egregious and stupid choices for themselves.  Now when it comes to “being in charge” the best approach is to exhibit a healthy and positive lifestyle that is attractive to emulate.  I don’t mean enforcing values that you do not hold yourself.

It is good for parents to be in control.

First, of their own life and values.  Living a positive and strong lifestyle becomes the key to parenting, and passing on values to your children.  So be in control of your life, that is the fruit of the Spirit the Bible describes as self-control.  If your past contained indiscretion, join the human race.  Whose hasn’t?  Don’t allow your children to use the stupid manipulation that claims a right to your prior misbehaviors as license for their own.  Instead turn it around on them.  Say something like:  “we obviously recognize that such and such behavior is unattractive/stupid/destructive and we don’t all have to suffer through it.

So many parenting challenges come from the reversal of authority.  It is really the same problem described in Genesis 3, the authority structure gets rearranged.  When we usurp God’s rightful authority, things get all messed up.  When the authority structure in parenting gets rearranged, things get all messed up.  Being in control in parenting means leading to godliness:  first by example then by instruction.  It is imparted with confidence, and there is no concession to manipulation.

This bears repeating.  It amazes me that people allow their children to think that they have a right to “experience” vices for themselves.  I have never taken drugs nor have I ever been drunk.  I haven’t missed anything, and I didn’t need to “experience” drug abuse or drunkenness to see it’s downside.  It does not have to be a part of my children’s experience.  In the same way my children don’t need to experience violence to know it is bad, they don’t need to experience other vices, even if I did.  We wouldn’t say:  “my kid needs to be beat up a few times so he can learn that violence hurts.”

So should you tell your kids about your past?  Maybe, maybe not.  Use your head and don’t let your past control your confidence in parenting.

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You Are Not Your Brain

Philosopher and professor at UC Berkeley Alva Noe has written a book entitled “Out of Our Heads: Why You Are Not Your Brain, and Other Lessons from the Biology of Consciousness”.  This is a fascinating topic that spans the disciplines of biology, psychology, neuro-science, philosophy and theology.

Noe has a video on Edge the Third Culture website (hardly a Christian site) which is interesting because the conclusions drawn from this discussion mitigate against a materialistic universe held by most of the Edge crowd (Dawkins, Dennett, Gould, et al).  Materialists want to make consciousness merely a function of the brain.

“The reason we have been unable to  explain the neural basis of consciousness is that it does not take place in the brain…Consciousness is not something that happens inside us but something we achieve.  To understand consciousness – the fact that we think and feel and that a world shows up for us – we need to look at a larger system of which the brain is only one element.  Consciousness requires the joint operation of brain, body and world.  You are not your brain.  The brain rather is part of what you are.”

The question will be how do they link this idea with a materialist worldview.

Of course the Christian worldview has always answered this question with the soul and body composition of man.  We are made up of a material and immaterial part.  We are not gnostics who attribute superiority to the immaterial part, we view man as created in original holiness and good.  Depravity has distorted the image of God in man, and has affected both the material and immaterial parts of man.  Regeneration primarily deals with the immaterial part of man, and resurrection finalizes redemption as it is fully applied to us – the resurrection of the body being the primary focus.  Consciousness resides in the immaterial part of man and uses the brain to communicate between body and soul.

Thanks to Jim O. for the heads up on the Scientific American book review of Noe’s soon to be released work.

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Amazing Grace in the Coliseum in Rome

Here is a great rendition of Amazing Grace, tough to do an old classic impressively, but the environment helps, and they sing pretty good too.

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more about “Il Divo – Amazing Grace“, posted with vodpod

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Dennis Prager on Human Nature

Here is an interesting article by Dennis Prager called Is There Really Only One Human Race?

I don’t agree with Dennis here, the Christian view of man’s nature is that none are good and all fall short of God’s glory.  In order to understand the Bible’s teaching on the nature of man we need to identify two contexts in which the term good is used.

The first context is creation.  When God created He declares his creation “good” and “very good”.  Even after the fall man retains the image of God (Genesis 9:6).  In that sense we can say that man retains his creative goodness. Yet sin has also broken into the creation, and so even here we are all born in sin.  Sin has marred the good creation of God and so redemption is framed as re-creation.  We are new creations in Christ.

The second context is the context of covenant.  In terms of covenant we are “not good”.  We are covenant breakers, all of us.  No one is exempt from this covenant brokenness and it is here that we are in need of redemption.

This distinction is necessary for without it we logically slip into Gnostic heresy (body=evil; spirit=good).

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The Energetic Pastor

In the Federalist Papers, Alexander Hamilton writes about the position of President, and in Federalist Paper 70 he raises the issue of Energy in the Executive.  The fledgling union was struggling to put together a form of government that recognized the strength of a single Executive without the abuses of the monarchy from which they were extricating themselves.  Hence an article on the very idea of a necessary energetic executive in the running of the government.  In his article Hamilton speaks of the ingredients that lend to good energy in the Executive office:

“A feeble Executive implies a feeble execution of the government. A feeble execution is but another phrase for a bad execution; and a government ill executed, whatever it may be in theory, must be, in practice, a bad government.

“Taking it for granted, therefore, that all men of sense will agree in the necessity of an energetic Executive, it will only remain to inquire, what are the ingredients which constitute this energy? How far can they be combined with those other ingredients which constitute safety in the republican sense? And how far does this combination characterize the plan which has been reported by the convention?

“The ingredients which constitute energy in the Executive are, first, unity; secondly, duration; thirdly, an adequate provision for its support; fourthly, competent powers.”

Our new President is especially in need of the substantive ingredients constituting energy.  Elections are about the presentation and perception of “energy”.  We are sold on a prospective candidates potential energy, and then the test of office demonstrates whether that “energy” is real or contrived.  Barak Obama faces a challenge as large as any of our previous presidents, our hope is that he proves himself energetic.

Interestingly enough, there is a correspondence between the office of President and the office of Pastor, and the need for an “energetic Pastor”.  The same four characteristics are necessary for a pastor to provide energy to his office, and to energize the mission of the church.

Unity

Unity refers to a capacity to make singular the direction of an institution.  Hamilton was concerned with the distinction of King and President. The question became can we remove the tyranny that typically accompanies a singular executive, that is the king.  The challenge became, can we maintain unity in the executive with a team?  The answer was negative.  As a result, the idea of President as a singular executive, Truman’s the buck stops here, was affirmed in Federalist 70.

So in churches, a common element contributing to health is a singular, powerful pastor figure.  In the pastorate, even more so than in the Presidency, unity is a necessary component.  Church affiliation is voluntary.  Church allegiance is transitory.  Church support is negotiable, and a method of voting.  To attract and keep people, the pastor must walk the fine line of exercising authority and leadership while maintaining and integrating the necessary plurality of leadership that is prescribed in the Scripture.

One of the keys to unity is the clarity of the plan and direction (clear vision and mission) that is framed from a Biblical perspective.  Unity in the church, and hence unity that flows from the pastor, is a unity that is derived from and submissive to the true head, that is Christ.  This must define the leaders self-perception.  If he is selfish and arrogant he can still be strong and unify a group, but it is not the purpose of the church simply to have strong organizations.  It is the purpose of the church to embody Christ.  When the pastor embodies Christ personally, professionally and directionally he imparts that strong presence to the body, who in fact resonate with all the above as a result of their organic resonance with Christ, hence the pastor.

The unity desired in the body is a special unity.  It is derived from the Spirit, and submitted to by the body.  Hence the competency (see below) of the pastor becomes a key factor in achieving Biblical, Christ-centered and derived unity.

Duration

It goes without saying (doesn’t it?) that in order to achieve Godly results, duration is a necessary component.  Life change may begin with a big bang, a dramatic birthing and beginning, but its growth is elongated.  Our microwave culture mitigates against duration.  We want it now, and we encourage surface and apparent change.  The words “persevere” and “suffer long” are not popular modern Christian terms.

As far as the executive is concerned, duration becomes the appraisal of fitness for ministry.  It is easy to preach one sermon, teach a series, give people my best for a year.  It is a whole different matter to endure before a congregation.  When a group of people can watch you raise your family in their midst, they learn more than any parenting series you could teach.  The church is about life together (thanks Dietrich), and living together takes time. We need more pastors, and more people to stick around and stay put.   Sure, it points out my weaknesses, but presents just more opportunity to point to the true leader.

Support

I have discovered that the church government is not American government.  Church leadership is not about checks and balances, or competing entities striving to get their own way or wield power.  Church leadership is about support.  Church leadership is the stage upon which the church learns how to treat “one another”.  All the one another passages of Scripture are to be played out by the leadership of any church to display what it means to live with one another, to forbear with one another, to encourage one another, to be at peace with one another, to serve one another.

An energetic executive cultivates an atmosphere of support.  He does that by first being a strong support.  The daily work of the pastor is where support is cultivated.  There are some old fashioned pastoring techniques that should be revisited here to achieve the requisite support necessary to build the church.  Ultimately, people give to churches monetarily because they support the pastor.  They support the pastor because he first supported them.

Competency

Uh-oh.  Is the term “Competent Pastor” an oxymoron?  Is there a corollary to the phrase, “those who can’t do, teach” for the ministry?

There is a requisite humility required to pastor.  I often ask the question “who am I?” when reflecting on my role as a pastor.  It is truly a humbling vocation.  With the humility there must be a confidence without which no executive can exert energy.  This confidence must reflect an accurate assessment of competency.

The pastor must be competent in the following areas:

  • Spiritual health, growth
  • Integrity
  • The Scriptures
  • The mind
  • Relationships
  • Communication

I am sure there are many more.  But these seem like the critical areas to me.  Too many pastors are incompetent. This incompetence covers the gamut from big to small churches.  We often ascribe competence to church size, another accommodation to culture.  Pastoral competence (sometimes) has nothing to do with church size.  Many small church pastors are incompetent, and some large church pastors display incompetence in the above areas.  They probably have a rare competence that leads to the large church experience, but are woefully incompetent in many Biblical pastoral ways.

So there it is guys, for those of you who are pastors/elders in churches, what do you think of the list?

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