Archive for February, 2009

Acts 5

I’m trying to prepare Sunday’s message earlier in the week, so I have time to digest it, mull over it, and know what I’m going to say and how I’m going to say it. I’ve read through all four sermons Piper has on Acts 5. I’ve also listened to the first of three sermons John MacArthur preached on Acts 5. What’s interesting about these sermons is their age. The Piper sermons were preached in 1991. MacArthur’s are even older. Way older….they were preached way back in 1972. The church must have had a nice budget and invested in some quality recording gear, because the audio quality is really good, as if I’m hearing it on the radio today.

What I’ve noticed in these sermons is that both Piper and MacArthur at times do not use the text that much. Piper’s first one does. It’s a more straightforward sermon that follows the text and expounds upon what is happening. But in the other ones, Piper seems to want to talk about a certain issue that the church is facing and mold the sermon around his points. There’s nothing wrong about that; it’s just hard to gain insight that I might need such as historical background, insights into the original Greek, and cross-references. I know his manuscripts are a little different from the message he actually preaches. Reading words on a page is very different from hearing it orated, which is also different from seeing and hearing the preacher in person. For some reason, when I listened to MacArthur’s sermon, nothing stuck out to me that much. As passionate as his preaching was, there was nothing that convicted me that much. Maybe it was me. Maybe it was because I was listening with earphones with no person to look at at the pulpit. Was it because it was so polished that everything seemed to blur together? There were never any parts where MacArthur paused to examine another text; he just quoted and referenced them throughout the sermon.

That worries me, because I want LEM to be convicted and challenged. If I myself am finding it hard to get excited, then how will I get them excited?

I did read something that I thought I’d share. Piper commented on the explosion of Christianity in Latin America, about how even though the theologies that are pushing the movement aren’t the most orthodox or biblical, he still rejoices that the gospel is spreading.

As much as my personality would like it, and as much as the love of truth yearns for it, it will probably not happen: that is, the finishing of the Great Commission and completion of God’s purposes on this planet before his return will probably not happen only through people who think just like I do. It seems as though God is going to use hundreds of different denominations and thousands of different forms and styles of Christianity to finish the Great Commission.

You heard me celebrate last week the phenomenal spread of the Christian movement in Latin America. Well most of that spread has been through the work of churches that are doctrinally Pentecostal and Arminian. Now I think the classic Pentecostal understanding of the baptism of the Holy Spirit as a distinct second experience signified by tongues is wrong. And I think that Arminianism, with its failure to reckon with the sovereignty of God in salvation, is wrong. So how do I celebrate this spread of wrong teaching in Latin America?

Well I don’t celebrate the spread of wrong teaching. What I celebrate is that the name of Jesus Christ is being proclaimed and exalted. His deity, his sinless life, his atoning death, his bodily resurrection, his reign in heaven, the reality of the Spirit, salvation by faith, and the triumph of God are being spread with power. And therefore I think God is in it.

In other words, God mercifully uses his erring children. He has no other kind. As J.I. Packer says, God often honors the needle of truth in a haystack of error. All of us see through a glass darkly for now. Perfection is not required of us for God’s favor either in life or in doctrine. Wrong teaching hurts the church. Some wrong teaching can destroy the church. But there is no perfect church. And therefore the only Christian movement in the world is an imperfect one. And if we are going to celebrate at all, we are going to celebrate the work of God in imperfect people with imperfect ideas.

Head and heart. Passion and compassion. Truth and grace. Confrontation and celebration.

Francis Schaeffer and the God who is there

I’m reading Francis Schaeffer’s The God Who Is There. The first part was a very nice introduction to the shift in philosophy which has trickled down through all aspects of our society: art, music, general popular culture, and theology. Through the very brief summaries Schaeffer gives of the philosophical systems of Hegel, Kierkegaard, Jaspers, Sartre, and Heidigger, I gained a sort of appreciation for the way their thinking has developed and eventually pervaded modern thinking. It’s a cautious appreciation, though, because, as Schaeffer brilliantly points out, their systems don’t really lead to meaning and answers. As much as philosophers (and laypeople) think that Christianity requires of believers a non-rational, non-logical leap of faith, believing that these philosophical systems “work” is also a leap of faith. It’s sad how these philosophers, when fully faced with the implications of their systems, were driven to despair and anguish. Some abandoned their views altogether. The true existentialist desires to find significance in experiences which are uncommunicable. And this is what happens:

But in their struggles there is a horror of great darkness. Though they may be people of great sincerity, this does not of itself make them able to communicate to others their experience. Nor can the individual verbalise to himself what has happened. Tomorrow morning they may say, ‘Yesterday I had an experience’. The day after they still say, ‘I had an experience’. A month and a year later they are hanging on grimly to their only hope of significance and certainty of being by repeating, ‘I know I had an experience’. The horror of this situation is due to their putting their hope on a non-rational, non-logical, non-communicable experience. (23)

Schaeffer continues by describing art’s plunge into despair. And I was especially struck by his concluding paragraph of the chapter:

These paintings, these poems and these demonstrations which we have been talking about are the expression of men who are struggling with their appalling lostness. Dare we laugh at such things? Dare we feel superior when we view their tortured expressions in their art? Christians should stop laughing and take such men seriously. Then we shall have the right to speak again to our generation. These men are dying while they live, yet where is our compassion for them? There is nothing more ugly than an orthodoxy without understanding or without compassion. (36)

We may shake our heads at philosophers and artists who committed suicide in despair or were paralyzed by paranoia and dismiss them as crazy, but their views, though diluted, are part and parcel of society today. These men sat and thought about these things long and hard, to the point where they honestly believed it didn’t matter if they killed themselves. There are no absolutes, no real reasons to do any particular thing.

Some people we know also view life in this way. “Already men are part way to the Gospel, for they too believe that man is dead, dead in the sense of being meaningless. Christanity alone gives the reason for this meaninglessness, that their revolt has separated them from God who exists, and thus gives them the true explanation of the position to which they have come” (47). There is an explanation for the despair they feel. Christianity is brutally realistic. Paul says that if the resurrection of Christ didn’t happen, then let’s eat and drink, for tomorrow we die (1 Corinthians 15:32). But that’s not the end of the story: there is an answer. And it is Good News to weak, weary, despondent souls.

To be glad in one sense that men like Dylan Thomas have ended by weeping, does not mean that we should not be filled with compassion for our fellow men. To live below the line of despair is not to live in paradise, whether that of a fool or any other kind. It is in a real sense to have a foretaste of hell now, as well as the reality in the life to come…Should we not grieve and cry before God for such people? (46-47)

I love how Schaeffer seeks secular knowledge not just to contend against the false teachings of the world but to have compassion for the lost. As my last semester of college draws ever closer to the end, I hope that the things I have learned inside and outside of the classroom, of ideas and of people, will enlarge my heart for the lost sheep.

Single pastors 2

I was thinking yesterday about my entry on single pastors. I thought about how every married pastor who speaks at KCM–whether at USC, chapel, or UR–always lavishes praise on their wives as they introduce themselves before the sermon. They unashamedly declare that their wife is the most beautiful and the most awesome person in the world. I think it’s because they are so happy and grateful that God provided for them a helper that they cannot help but overflow with joy. In their ministry, these pastors depend on their wives for support and their service. How can they not magnify their wives in the presence of the church? Their wives teach them and inspire them and point out their errors.

Maybe some of them were anxious and worried too about getting married when they were single. What joy they have now! May God grant me such joy in due time.

God is moving

Hmm, I don’t feel like writing about my entire Sunday. But I did take a few pictures today. My friend Jon Baik joined us for Bible study, and I really felt like we all learned a lot from going through Genesis 1-2. That makes me so hopeful for Living Exodus.

This is the view of the worship stage, where I stand, play guitar, sing, pray, give the message, do announcements, and lead the Lord’s Prayer.

worship-stage

Here’s what I see every week during service. Austin is conveniently hiding behind Andrew, and I pushed the button before Grace covered her face with her bag. But other than that, everyone looks beautiful!

february-15-service

Eating lunch…

eating-lunch

Why don’t they want to show their face and smile?

eating-lunch-2

My view of Bible study, minus Andrew and Jon. Shortly after this picture was taken, we had an amazing Bible study haha.

bible-study

Remember

“Remember…those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body.” – Hebrews 13:3

Fullerton gang suspected in attack on pastor

A group of about 20 youths broke church doors and windows, bashed in the minister’s car and pelted him and his 3 young passengers with rocks as they fled into the church, he said.
By Bob Pool and Molly Hennessy-Fiske
February 15, 2009
Police were searching Saturday for a group of youths who attacked a longtime Fullerton minister and his sons, chasing them into their church and pelting them with rocks.

The Rev. Willie Holmes, president and founder of Majesty Christian Fellowship, said he was driving his two sons and another passenger back to the church from a Fullerton Union High School concert about 10:20 p.m. Friday when they were attacked near Valencia Drive and Highland Avenue.

A group of about 20 youths thought to be between 15 and 20 darted in front of Holmes’ car, shouting “FTT” — short for Fullerton Tokers Town, a local Latino gang, he said. The youths surrounded the gray 1981 Mazda 626 sedan about a block and a half from the church, which is in a small industrial park. Holmes drove around them and headed for the church. His son Willie Jr., 17, called 911.

Once they reached the church at 431 S. Richman Ave., Holmes said, he and his passengers ran from the car and hid inside the church office.

The attackers ran to the church lot and began throwing rocks and bottles at the office as Holmes’ wife, Vanessa, and 13-year-old daughter, Chloe, watched from a nearby church building.

“If we’d stayed in the car they’d really have hurt us,” said passenger Taylar Hagen, 19, of Whittier. She said she and the others hid at the back of the office while waiting for police.

Willie Holmes Jr., student body president at Fullerton High, said he was puzzled by the attack because the church has done much to help the surrounding neighborhood.

As the attackers smashed the church office window and door, Kyle Holmes, 20, another son of the pastor, screamed at them that they were damaging a house of worship. The youths then turned their attention to the car, smashing its windows and kicking in its sides, the pastor said.

Holmes, 41, said he suffered scrapes and cuts to his hands and hip during the attack. No one else was injured. Fullerton Police Sgt. Mike Chlebowski said his agency is investigating the episode as an assault. He said the incident involved “a local gang” but would not say whether police believed that the minister was targeted or whether the attack was a hate crime.

Holmes noted that his church, which feeds 60 local families weekly, is clearly marked on the outside.

He has worked at the Richman Avenue church, whose congregation numbers about 150, for 14 years. He said that he’s never had problems with local gangs and that the two buildings his church uses have never been vandalized by graffiti.

“We’re African American, they’re Hispanic, but we take care of the community and have a full Hispanic ministry and a Hispanic pastor,” Holmes said. “We feed their families.”

Speaking at an afternoon news conference, tears rolled down the cheeks of the minister who has counseled many victims of street violence.

“We don’t want retaliation for us coming forth. But we have to take a stand. We have a shattered building and shattered emotions,” he said.

Acts 2

Yesterday was debriefing for our Mexico mission trip. I didn’t realize it would be so long, from 3 to 10 pm. As the hours passed, I thought more and more about preparing for Sunday’s message. I had listened to Mark Dever’s sermon on Acts 1-2 and taken notes earlier in the week, but I had nothing written. And I felt horrible that even though I had been thinking about Acts 2 the entire week, I would be returning home late Saturday night with nothing. I had a dream earlier this week where I had nothing prepared for Sunday. Debriefing was really good, especially the time of encouragement, but I couldn’t help but be concerned for Sunday. So I shared it in our last time of prayer, and everyone prayed for me, and I felt encouraged and energized to work on it when I got home. I got home around midnight and started writing, having only a page by 2 am, when I crawled into bed and set my alarm for 7:30 am. I forced my head off the pillow when it went off and continued writing. During those two hours of writing, I felt a theme start to come together and things start to flow. Analyzing Peter’s sermon at Pentecost, we could learn about how to share the gospel with our friends. I was excited to share it with them since we want to grow and a good way to do that is to invite and bring our friends to church.

Even though I again rushed to finish and printed it 5 minutes before leaving for church and had no time to practice or read it aloud to myself, I felt at ease during the delivery. Everyone stayed awake, and Grace even brought a pen and notebook to take notes. Andrew would flip back and forth between the cross-referenced passages I would mention. Even though there were only 5 people all sitting in one row of chairs, I was eager to share with them insights from Scripture. We started our Bible study today using the book God’s Big Picture: Tracing the Storyline of the Bible, and I’m excited to go through it with them, along with having them memorize Bible verses having to do with sharing the gospel.

It’s funny, today I was less tired than on days when I would get a lot of sleep. I’m thankful for today and all that God did. Thank you to all who prayed and have been praying.

Single pastors

I know a number of pastors/soon-to-be pastors who are in their late 20s, early 30s and have yet to be married. Some of them pastor at small churches and are so busy taking care of their responsibilities there that they have no time or even desire to go out and meet people. If they attended a conservative seminary, then there weren’t any women in their M.Div. courses, so no chance to meet potential wives. Of all people, these pastors who know what the Bible teaches about marriage, leading a family, and managing a household would feel the most anxiety about finding a wife. They don’t long for companionship merely because they want to please themselves but because in their ministry they need affirmation. It’s hard because many of them live with their parents for lack of money. Mark Driscoll harps a lot on guys who think that they’re men but still live with their parents and don’t have jobs. For a lot of young pastors who have not married, it’s just the reality. Churches are unwilling or unable to support their pastors financially, and it only makes sense to live with parents, especially when they’re a PK and their father is also a pastor of a small church.

Pastors get very lonely. It can only be worse when they’re single. Even though I’m not a pastor, I feel similar to them, because I know well what it’s like. But I’m still so young compared to them. I feel for them because they have such good hearts–it takes a lot of sacrifice to serve in their capacities–and a lot of them are really smart and knowledgeable and humble, yet they are still single. Sometimes I wonder to myself, I love God and I serve the church faithfully and I am mature…shouldn’t a godly woman be attracted to that? But that is reaching into some of my more private emotions, which belong to God in prayer or in a conversation with a brother in Christ rather than a blog.

I’ve wondered about fellowship and how I will be fed after I graduate from college. I’ve told several people about how thankful I am for KCM and the strength it gives me to serve at church. But after KCM it is up to the local church to be my source of spiritual nourishment and fellowship. My only nourishment comes from what I listen to and watch on the Internet. At church, I am the one feeding others. There is so much good stuff out there, but there is no substitute for true, physical fellowship. I used to go to City Presbyterian Church in Long Beach for their 10 am service and then hurry on to church for Bible study. But that won’t work with our current situation since mornings are too busy for me now. Maybe I can find a church that meets in the evenings, but I’m not sure if there are any that meet close to home. Plus, I’m usually tired after church and I like coming home and resting. How will I meet godly women? I’m the oldest person at our church and there are no solid older girls in the ministry. I’m not one to go out a lot. I like staying at home. This is where I have to trust in God. I hope it doesn’t come down to eHarmony.