Archives For The Church

Hebrews 10:24 commands us “to consider how to stir one another up to love and good works.” The word consider (κατανοῶμεν) implies a time of reflective concentrated thinking. As Piper said:

Literally this is God’s call on us to consider one another, that is, to look at one another, think about one another, focus on one another, study one another, let your mind be occupied with one another. And the goal of this focus on others is to think of ways of stimulating them to love and good deeds.

Below are some ways I think we can begin to encourage one another in love and good works.

Meeting Together

The first note to make is that what I quoted above is only half of the thought. Verse 25 goes onto to say “not neglecting to meet together as is the habit of some.” Therefore the first step in stirring one another up is showing up.

Go to the prayer meetings. Go to Sunday school. Show up to church on time. Stay a little afterwards. Have people over to eat with you. Get involved in small groups. Be together and love and good works may begin to abound. All the rest of the ways of encouraging one another is assuming that people are getting together.

Setting an Example

Second, seeing others doing good works encourages us to do the same. It is called the “do-good chain” and Liberty Mutual built a successful advertising campaign off it. Paul says in Philippians 3:17 , “Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us.” So part of being together is simply observing how one responds to situations. Teaching does not only happen when someone is behind the lectern.

Commands

There is place to command someone to love and good works. Sometimes we need to say, “Do not neglect to show hospitality” and “Pray for us” and “Remember those who are in prison.” The author of Hebrews was not scared of commanding his audience to do things, we should not be as well.

Looking to the Reward

Jesus endured suffering and shame “for the joy that was set before him.” Moses took upon himself to lead the Israelites out of Egypt because “he was looking to the reward.” Christians are leery of speaking of rewards because of the way they can be abused. But the Scriptures tell us to use the rewards as motivation to spur love and good works.

Pointing to Jesus

Ultimately our love tank will run out unless we are getting an endless amount of love from some other source. Therefore the author of the Hebrews tells us to run with endurance “looking to Jesus.” Talk about what Jesus has done for you all the time, and thankfulness will pour forth in good works.

These are just some of the practical ways we can begin to obey this command.

Generational Praying

January 31, 2012 — 1 Comment

“How can we pray for you?”

These words pastors regularly speak publicly with a diverse range of answers thrown back at them. Many times pastors are encouraging their people to grow in their public prayer habits. As Kevin DeYoung helpfully said, it is important to plan as a leader what to pray about.

This will be a brief survey of generational prayer habits, and a word of advice to the Millennials based on the patterns I have observed. A brief prolegomenon is in order though.

Millennials have the tendency to look back on past generations and see their faults, and assume that they can somehow strike the perfect balance. This penchant includes both arrogance and constructive critical observation. Critical observation, because we should always reforming, and arrogance because we assume that we can get it right. I think generally we need to be more sympathetic to past generations, understanding that we will all have our faults. Remember, the next generation will be looking back on us critiquing us. We should employ the same type of judgment we would want to be used on us.

With that said, we can still make generalizations and learn from others lapses. In fact the entire OT seems to be a record of failings to learn from (see 1 Cor 10:6).

Back to the issue at hand. I have been going to prayer meetings and leading prayer meetings for awhile now. In college, these prayer meetings were made up of the Silent Generation, Baby Boomers, and Millennials. It was evident how each generation differed in both their prayer requests and how they prayed. Here is the broad breakdown of how it worked (these are generalizations).

  • The Silent Generation (born between 1925-45) generally asked for prayer for physical needs. This could be in part because of where they were in life, and the specific problems they had.
  • Millennials (1980-95) tend to share prayer requests both about people they are evangelizing to, and social injustices that are happening around the world.

Millennials have rightly tried to steer away from a prayer meeting that solely speaks of Aunt Martha’s appendicitis. They have appropriately seen that in Scripture Jesus said, “Seek ye first the kingdom, and all these things will be added to you.” However the weakness in this push is that there may have also been the tendency to separate the “physical” from the “spiritual” when Jesus also tells his disciples to also ask for their daily bread.

In addition, when one thinks about it, the Silent Generation is waking up everyday and feeling the pain of their bodies wasting away. Maybe our minds run to our co-workers, but they are dealing with the pain of stretching out their legs and trying not to fall down the stairs.

So let us not spurn physical requests, while at the same time not overly focusing on them.

But what will the next generation say about our prayers?

My inkling is that they will say we were not honest enough about our own personal struggles. The nice thing about sharing requests about those we are witnessing to and the social problems around the world is that it is not about us.

That other person is the one with problem.

That other person needs Jesus.

That country has it rough.

That city needs political rest.

But the gospel tells us that the demonstrative pronouns should not always be pointing towards others, but rather that we are the problem. The gospel tell us we can’t do it on our own and we do not have it all together. Therefore it is okay for us to share our failings, because we have an advocate with the Father who is pleading on our behalf.

I realize that some things are better shared in the small groups settings, and that all of the above are good things to pray about. But I have always been impressed with someone who humbly asks for prayer in regards to serving their wife better, or leading their family better, or not being conformed to the world as they have been.

We could ask that we might be more filled with the knowledge of his will (Col 1:9), or we could confess that we are not living a life that is bearing fruit in every good work (Col 1:10), or that our love has not abounded more and more as it should (Phil 1:9), or that we are struggling to have Christ dwell in our hearts thorough faith (Eph 3:17).

As Millennials (I am speaking to myself as much as you) let us drop the veil that we got it all figured out. Let us be, as Ray Ortlund said, embarrassingly honest with one another. And when we do this, I expect we will be encouraged as others pray for us, and that God will answer our prayers, because he listens to those with a contrite heart.

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. (Psalm 51:17)

I will dwell in the high and holy place and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit. (Isaiah 57:15)

But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit (Isaiah 66:22)

 

 

It is not created, formed, or introduced by individual men on their own initiative, authority, or insight.

It is not the outcome of a free undertaking to analyse and come to terms with the self-revealing God by gathering together a community which confesses Him, by setting up a doctrine which expounds and proclaims His truth in the way that seems most appropriate to these men.

We can say quite simply that a church of that description is not the Church but the work of sin, of apostasy in the Church.

In other words, the Church has no reality independent of or apart from Jesus Christ…and it is because it lives by Jesus Christ.

Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics I/2, (Peabody: Hendrickson, 2010), 213-14.

In the New Testament, specifically Rom 12.4f; 1 Cor 10.16f, 12.12f; Col 1.18,24; Eph 1.22f, 4.12, 5.23, 29f., the church is described as the body of Christ. Karl Barth draws out the following implications from this phrase.

  1. One meaning of this description is undoubtedly this: that the existence of the church involved a repetition of the incarnation of the Word of God in the person Jesus Christ in that area of the rest of humanity which is distinct from the person of Jesus Christ.
  2. The repetition of the incarnation of the Word of God in the historical existence of the church excludes at once any possible autonomy in that existence.
  3. Those who live within the circumference of which Christ is the centre do not constitute, but they are such a single and indivisible whole. Each in his own place, as a member, is drawn into the identity of the boy body with its head.
  4. The Church has a further point in common with the incarnate Word of God. As distinguished from the eternal nature of God, it has a spatio-temporal form and extension. It is therefore visible in the same way as any other soma.

Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics I/2, (Peabody: Hendrickson, 2010), 215-220.

 

Loud Music

September 28, 2011 — 7 Comments

Mike Cosper has a good article about loud music in church at the TGC. A couple of comments.

First, he said, “The goal of music in the gathering isn’t great sound or even great music. It’s a church gathered and united in song.” If that is the goal then should not the primary sound be the voices? If not why else would be gather together to sing? I can hear loud music by myself.

Second, he helpfully pointed out verses for those who disparage loud music in corporate worship, “Shout to God with loud songs of joy!” (Psalm 47:1) and, “Praise him with loud crashing cymbals!” (Psalm 150:5).

Third, a good category to have in ones head is the law of unintended consequences. Loud music tends to drown out singers, which (might) cause them to not sing as forcefully, and not hear others sing. Therefore, it is not a question of whether loud music okay, but what does it produce.

A good word from Greg Gilbert:

I think we ought to encourage every member of our churches to sing every song in the service with gusto, even if they don’t particularly resonate with the song.  Every Christian has a certain set of hymns and songs that deeply resonate with them—the melody, the words, an experience they had when they first heard it—and our natural tendency is to give those favorites everything we’ve got . . . but then sort of check out when the next song is one we don’t particularly like.  But here’s the thing:  When you sing in a congregation, you’re not just singing for yourself; you’re singing for every other member of the congregation, for their edification and building up in Christ, too.  In I Corinthians 14:26, Paul tells us that when we come together, everything we do–including our singing–is done for each other.  Singing hymns is not just an opportunity for each of us, as individuals, to worship God in our own way.  It’s an opportunity for the church, as a whole, to worship God together.  That means that even if you don’t like a particular song, it’s likely that someone else in the congregation resonates with it deeply—they feel about it the same way you feel about your favorites—and so you have a responsibility to love that person by singing that song with all the heart you can muster.  In other words, don’t check out on songs that aren’t your favorites; sing them!  And sing them loud and heartily, not because you particularly like them, but because you may be helping to edify another brother or sister whose heart is engaged deeply with those songs.  Worship isn’t finally an individual experience; it’s corporate.  And everything we do–everything, Paul tells us, including our singing—should be done for the building up of the saints.