April 27, 2006

The Next 2 Weeks

The most exciting days in the next couple of weeks for me look like this:
  • Tues. 5/2: Bruce Arena announces the USA Men's Soccer Team Final Roster for the World Cup coming in June
  • Wed. 5/3: My last Final Exam (the 3rd of that particular day....uggggh)
  • Sat. 5/6: I travel home for the summer.
  • Thurs. 5/10: Hopefully, I will be in Cary, NC watching (physically) the US MNT train in preparation for the World Cup. This would be the team which was mentioned as being selected above.
Ok, sorry, I'm sure you're not interested in what I'm doing. You'll get over it!

Health over Growth

Having grown up in a Fundamentalist (not fightin' fundy), Baptist (not big "B) church for most of my life, I have always believed that mega churches use unscriptural methods in order to grow. I have heard all the arguments used, normally consisting of casual dress (normally meaning women wear pants and the men don't wear ties...) and "contemporary" music. While broadbrushing the category is unwise, I would have to say that many complaints against the methodology of most mega churches is legit.

What troubles me, however, is not the big churches. What troubles me is that the "good" churches (generally smaller by comparison) condemn the mega church, but yet they buy into the same pragmatic thinking used by the liberals. I think it boils down to the simple truth that people, in general, are concerned and impressed by numbers. Society persuades us to believe that "small" is inferior to "BIG." Being small, by comparison, means that you are not as effective in methodology and execution as the "BIG."

A couple of quotes relating growth to the church:
  • "Numbers are important, because numbers represent people."
  • "The result of growth is not necessarily bad, but the goal of growth leads to pragmatism and compromise."
I would contend that the goal of the church should be health, not growth. (And for those of you that think I just made an egregious error by not stating that the goal should be the glory of God, I am including that idea in the word health.) Now do not misunderstand, health often leads to growth. Growth cannot be made to be wrong in and of itself. The 1st century church grew by leaps and bounds. However, the goal of a church cannot be growth. This reasoning makes me conclude that people should not write books relating the Church to a business. The goal of business is growth and gain. (sorry for the alliteration) The goal of the church is the glory of God through means of worship, evangelism, discipleship, fellowship, and ministry.

A church may have to become healthy before it begins to grow. It goes against all human logic to not experience "success" when we are doing things "correctly." This would have to go back to our definition of "success." When glorifying God as mentioned above is the goal, men do not count people on Sunday morning so that they can report on how bad the pastor is. This is man-centered, anti-Biblical thinking. I would tend to think that one reason a church may not be growing is because of the ones who are more concerned with attendance rather than worship.

For some good reading on this topic, check out Mark Dever's "9 Marks of a Healthy Church." (see the Solid Ground sidebar to go to 9Marks Ministries.

April 24, 2006

The Atlantic Ocean Effect

This phenomena goes almost unnoticed by most Americans and Europeans. But it didn't get passed me. You see, I'm an oddity when it comes to sports. Every Saturday morning, I check EPL (English Premier League) scores before checking the Friday Night NBA scores (if I check them at all). The UEFA Champions League holds more for me than Major League Baseball ever could. Most Americans and Eurpeans are perfectly content to watch and track the sports occuring in their own country. Before soccer, this would have described me. However, when soccer entered my life, a drastic change occured. I began to grow discontent with the dearth of soccer (International soccer at that) that was being shown on the average cable channels in the US.

On Easter Sunday, Malcolm Glazer had a stroke. The headlines read as the following:

  • (ESPN) Bucs owner Glazer suffers stroke, in hospital.
  • (Soccernet) Man(chester) Utd. owner Glazer has stroke on Sunday.
You see, Malcolm Glazer, owner of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers purchased Manchester United, currently one of the richest sports club in the world, valued in the billions. The amazing thing is that when news travels overseas, the Bucs are left out, primarily because no one in Europe cares. When the news of the Glazer stroke was reported in the USA, no mention of Manchester United was found. I just find it humorous, and yes even a bit frustrating. Well, at least there's Soccernet.com, which does happen to be a branch of ESPN.

April 19, 2006

Learning to Wait (Systematic Theology applied)

As an American white male (not being racist, just being real), I want things; I want them now; I want them a certain way...MY WAY!!! Most times, however, God does not see fit to operate according to MY WAY. In fact, He hates when I live MY WAY. It is impossible, that we would by default, approach all situations with no expectations and/or demands. I don't believe that is inherently wrong. From all I understand, it becomes wrong at the point when our demands become the more important that God and others.

Many characters in the Bible either had to wait, or perhaps even, were ultimately denied in their requests to the Father. The ones who come to mind first are:

  • Job: He knew God was sovereign. But he probably never understood why God did what He did. Honestly, God was not obligated to tell him.
  • David: He desired the temple, but God would not allow him to. (I think this would have been hard for me to cope with.)
  • Paul: The "thorn in the flesh" was never removed, whatever it happened to be. God simply gave grace in the need.
  • Christ: He wanted the desired end accomplished another way. However, He submitted to the will and glory of His Father.
Knowing all that I know about God and these characters has not seemed to help alot in the last couple of weeks. That is probably a shame. Theology is easy when it is required on paper, but when it is required in thoughts and actions, it becomes seemingly impossible. You know God is sovereign, and that His sovereignty trumps all situations, because He is working towards His glory and my Christlikeness (Rom. 8:28-30). What happens, though, when in my humanity, I want MY WAY more than I want God to receive glory and more than I want to be like Christ? That is where I am constantly in my spiritual life.

In my respective setting, I was denied a position of leadership, which on paper I seemingly was qualified to obtain. I sought answers as to the cause. I questioned with a good spirit, at least on the outside. To my chagrin, however, I was spreading seeds of strife amongst my friends about the situation. Unfortunately, the answers received were vague and possibly based on shady knowledge. To make matters worse, a less-experienced friend of mine was accepted and received the position. To make a long story short, another opportunity came my way, and again I was denied. In my mind I said constantly, "I DESERVE THIS!!! I AM QUALIFIED!!!"

As I prayed about it and thought about why these things were present, I began to think of all I had received that I did not deserve, and the things for which I was not qualified. I think the list of positives heavily outweighed the list of negatives. My reasoning is not one of balancing good vs. bad, but rather of realizing "fairness" is not really an accurate focus.

If I can't focus on fairness, what then should I focus on? The overwhelming answer to that question is God's faithfulness. I know that all things work together for my Christlikeness, because of God's sovereignty. Also, I know He works all things after the counsel of His own will. God is in control. (That may the most simple truth in understanding, yet it is the hardest truth to actively believe) As for God, His way is perfect. As for me, I will wait on Him, for He does all things well.

***The more I learn and respond to truth, the bigger fan I am of systematic theology. Everyone acts according to ST, but some refuse to believe it. Every moral choice I make is based on what I believe about God, His Word, and myself (being based on God's Word, the revelation of Himself). By the way, when you get to heaven, ask Job what he thinks of systematic theology...I think I know what he'll say...

April 11, 2006

Exegetical Axioms (Part 1)

I am currently in my 2nd semester of NT Greek. We have just passed the midpoint in 1 John. Translation from actual Biblical text has been a refresher. My teacher, whom I have appreciated greatly, offered 2 exegetical axioms to us today. Here they are:

(1) If the author had no other choice (of a word/phrase) to use, it [his choice] is probably not significant.
  • The point being made is, alot of times huge emphasis is made on the word choice of a Biblical author. It behoves us to ask the question, "Is this really significant?" or "Would the original writer/readers have seen it as important as we are making it?"
  • Sometimes a writer, such as John, will use a different verb tense or a different way of addressing his readers. Sure, the words have meaning, but maybe not all the implicit significance that may be imagined.
(2) Rely on your mother tongue when answering exegetical questions.
  • This axiom is not as hard and fast as the first, but it must be a general principle. When reading, if you notice an odd difference in verb usage, preposition choice, etc. (hopefully examing the Greek), it is needful to put the idea into a contemporary English setting.
  • For instance, when telling a story, there are many ways to go about the task. You can use linear verbs to pull the reader into the situation. (So, I was walking down the hall...) You may choose to say "I walked down the hall." Here, the use of past or present tense has no significance. This is just one small example. I hope it is cleary seen how we, as readers, can imagine greater significance than what the author originally intended.

I hope to post more of these as I come across them in class. For me, I believe the Word of God, the revelation of Himself, is so precious that we should be meticulously careful in how we exegete. We must be careful that we "accurately divide the word of truth." (I Tim. 3:15) Oh yeah, I almost forgot that part about studying to show ourselves approved. Hmmm....

April 1, 2006

Depth of Mercy!

I first came across these lyrics when I listened to a cd a friend let me borrow. The music was a rewrite of a song published in 1740, the words having been written by Charles Wesley. Many times I've played this on my guitar and simply marvelled in amazement at God's amazing mercy. Meditate on these stanzas (all 13 of them):

Depth of mercy! Can there be
Mercy still reserved for me?
Can my God His wrath forbear,
Me, the chief of sinners, spare?

I have long withstood His grace,
Long provoked Him to His face,
Would not hearken to His calls,
Grieved Him by a thousand falls.

I have spilt His precious blood,
Trampled on the Son of God,
Filled with pangs unspeakable,
I, who yet am not in hell!

I my Master have denied,
I afresh have crucified,
And profaned His hallowed Name,
Put Him to an open shame.

Whence to me this waste of love?
Ask my Advocate above!
See the cause in Jesus’ face,
Now before the throne of grace.

Jesus, answer from above,
Is not all Thy nature love?
Wilt Thou not the wrong forget,
Permit me to kiss Thy feet?

If I rightly read Thy heart,
If Thou all compassion art,
Bow Thine ear, in mercy bow,
Pardon and accept me now.

Jesus speaks, and pleads His blood!
He disarms the wrath of God;
Now my Father’s mercies move,
Justice lingers into love.

Kindled His relentings are,
Me He now delights to spare,
Cries, “How shall I give thee up?”
Lets the lifted thunder drop.

Lo! I still walk on the ground:
Lo! an Advocate is found:
“Hasten not to cut Him down,
Let this barren soul alone.”

There for me the Savior stands,
Shows His wounds and spreads His hands.
God is love! I know, I feel;
Jesus weeps and loves me still.

Pity from Thine eye let fall,
By a look my soul recall;
Now the stone to flesh convert,
Cast a look, and break my heart.

Now incline me to repent,
Let me now my sins lament,
Now my foul revolt deplore,
Weep, believe, and sin no more.