This blog is the combined effort of four senior pastors of different churches. Their desire is to point you toward living a God-centered, gospel-focused, Christian life.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Church Government

This morning I watched a great video conversation between Thabiti Anyabwile and Ligon Duncan. The conversation was on The Gospel Coalition's blog and billed as a conversation between a Baptist and a Presbyterian about "who governs the church.".

Watch the video here:

Far more striking than their differences are their similarities. Both agreed that it is scripture that governs our understanding of how decisions in a church should be made. With that as their starting premise, even though their church constitutions and bylaws look different, it seems that their churches function similarly.

This goes to one of the beliefs I've had about church government. Healthy churches are going to end up looking pretty similarly. They are going to have leaders who are shepherding the church sacrificially. They are going to have a congregation that is supportive of the leadership and participating in making decisions.


Monday, January 21, 2013

A Delightful Book on the Trinity

Last week, a book that I had ordered several weeks ago finally showed up on my doorstep: Delighting inthe Trinity: An Introduction to the Christian Faith, by Michael Reeves.
Though late, its arrival was still timely. As our church works its way through the New City Catechism, this week we arrived at a question dealing with the doctrine of the Trinity, Question #4, which asks: “How many persons are there in God?”

When I asked this question of my kids on Sunday night, they knew an abbreviated form of the answer: “Three!” several exclaimed at once.
But they—like many of us—struggled to explain what that really means.

The answer the New City Catechism provides is both concise and profound: “There are three persons in the one true and living God: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. They are the same in substance, equal in power and glory.”
Sometimes, we think of the Trinity as a mystery that cannot be understood. But Reeves contends this is not the right way to understand (or avoid understanding) the Trinity:

God is a mystery, but not in the alien abductions, things-that-go-bump-in-the-night sense. Certainly not in the “who can know, why bother?” sense. God is a mystery in that who he is and what he is like are secrets, things we would never have worked out by ourselves. But this triune God has revealed himself to us. Thus the Trinity is not some piece of inexplicable apparent nonsense, like a square circle or an interesting theologian. Rather, because the triune God has revealed himself, we can understand the Trinity (12).
The doctrine of the trinity is not only a central tenant to the Christian faith but essential to knowing who it is we worship as God. In his introduction, Reeves says his book is

about growing in our enjoyment of God and seeing how God’s triune being makes all his ways beautiful. It is a chance to taste and see that the Lord is good, to have your heart won and yourself refreshed. For it is only when you grasp what it means for God to be a Trinity that you really sense the beauty, the overflowing kindness, the heart-grabbing loveliness of God (9).
This is an excellent way to approach this doctrine. Tim Challies, in his review of the book, notes the uniqueness of Reeves’ approach:

I have read several books on the Trinity in the past and have always enjoyed reading them. James White’s The Forgotten Trinity and Bruce Ware’s Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are biblical, systematic and powerful. I’ve read them, benefited from them, and often recommended them. I will continue to do so. The unique angle—and unique beauty—of Delighting in the Trinity is that it looks less at a concept and more at a relationship, less at a doctrine and more at the persons of the godhead. It is, at heart, an introduction to the Christian faith and the Christian life that seeks to show that both must be at all times rooted in the triunity of God. All that God is, all that God does, flows out of his triunity.
I highly recommend Reeves’ book. As the subtitle suggests, understanding the triune nature of God isn’t just about knowing some theological jargon. It is about knowing the God we claim to worship.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Quick Post

A very quick blog post this week: a few words about the same-sex “marriage” legislation in Illinois and a link to an article on reading.

First, for those who are interested in contacting their legislatures about the upcoming same-sex “marriage” legislation, please read the words of a friend who emailed me today:

I assume you are aware that the legislation to legalize same sex marriage in Illinois could be introduced to the House/Senate as early as this week for a vote. I know we have all been praying for our leaders and that they would follow God's will in this matter. I felt compelled to write you though and share some information I had used in the past when legislation that I either supported/opposed was pending a vote.

The link below takes an Illinois resident to a site that allows them to view their Senate/House representatives and their contact information by inputting your home address. We can then call and request that they oppose this upcoming legislation. Only by making our voices heard can we expect to influence our states policy makers.

Second, here’s an interesting article that addresses the question: is there such a thing as too many books?

Monday, January 7, 2013

Giving to Parachurch Ministries

Our series in Luke has taken a little bit of a detour as we started a two-week discussion on giving yesterday.

My primary giving is to my local church. Several of you asked about other organizations I give to. All the organizations and missionaries I give to on a monthly basis beyond my giving to Bethany are also supported by the church, but there are some very good organizations I support on a semi-regular basis that are not a part of Bethany. 

I mentioned three criteria I use when considering supporting a parachurch organization. 

1. Doctrinal Alignment. Do the organization and I agree on the major truths of the Christian faith? You can find a copy of BCC's doctrinal statement here.

2. Philosophical Alignment. Do this organization and I agree that the purpose of a parachurch ministry is to strengthen the local church? Philosophically, our goal is not to see parachurch organizations establishing churches or churches establishing parachurch organizations or parachurch organizations establishing parachurch organizations.  All that we do is designed to help the local church work toward the goal of establishing and strengthening the local church.

3. Mission Alignment. Does this organization have the ability to do the ministry it is seeking to do? Are we in agreement that this is a needed ministry?

I also mentioned Randy Alcorn's list of 19 questions to ask before giving to an organization. The entire list along with additional commentary can be found here

Here is the list without the commentary:
  1. Are there things about this ministry that make it uniquely worth investing in instead of a thousand other good causes?
  2. Before giving elsewhere, have I fulfilled my primary giving responsibility to my localchurch?
  3. Have I not only studied the literature from this ministry, but talked with others who know it close up but have no vested interests in it?
  4. Have I considered a ministry or vision trip to see and participate in what this ministry is actually doing on the field?
  5. Does the ministry’s staff demonstrate a servant-hearted concern for those to whom they minister?
  6. Do the organization’s workers demonstrate a sense of unity, camaraderie and mutual respect?
  7. Have I talked directly with people at the “lower levels” of this ministry, not just executives and PR people?
  8. Is this ministry biblically sound and Christ-centered?
  9. What kind of character, integrity, purity and humility is demonstrated by the ministry leaders?
  10. What kind of accountability structures does the organization have?
  11. If this is a secular or semi-Christian organization rather than a distinctively Christian one, what are the compelling reasons for giving to it?
  12. How clear are this organization’s goals and objectives, strategies and tactics, and how effective are they in carrying them out?
  13. Is this organization teachable and open to improvement to become more strategic in their efforts?
  14. Am I certain I’ve gotten an objective view of this ministry, or have they given me the red carpet treatment so I’ve seen the positives without the negatives?
  15. What view of God and people is demonstrated in this organization’s fundraising techniques?
  16. How much money does the organization spend on overhead expenses and fundraising, and how much in actual ministry to people?
  17. Does this ministry show a clear understanding of cross-cultural ministry factors and local conditions and how the flow of money may affect them?
  18. Does this organization speak well of others and cooperate with them?
  19. Is this ministry pervaded by a distinctly eternal perspective on life, ministry and resources?
May God increase your joy as you give for His glory!