Monthly Archives: June 2006

Speaking About God

The Presbyterian Church USA recently recommended, via its General Assembly, that new language for the Triune names of God be used in public worship. Suggestions included: “Compassionate Mother, Beloved Child and Life-giving Womb.” Another was “Overflowing Font, Living Water and Flowing River.” Then there was: “Rock, Cornerstone and Temple” as well as “Rainbow of Promise, Ark of Salvation and Dove of Peace.”

This kind of silliness attempts to alter the use of “male” gendered language for God as used in the Bible, which is considered offensive to some members. The problem is that the Bible already addressed the issue by making it clear that God is not gendered at all. But God chooses to reveal himself very clearly in language that carries some very specific ideas.The church has always seen this as important. This is not an issue of patriarchy or chauvinism. Further, the Bible speaks of God in terms that actually do accommodate female imagery. But when it comes to “naming God” this issue is too important to make up terms like these. Most people, even in the PCUSA, know better.

By |June 30th, 2006|Categories: Feminism & Women|

Friendship Evangelism May Be the Only Kind

Americans surprised pollsters in 1985 when they reported that they only had three close friends. Today, in 2006, they say they have only two such close friends. And one in four people say that they have no one with whom they can discuss important matters; i.e., no close friend as the survey defined the terms.

These results had little to do with gender, race, age or education. Most who had good friends said these friends were members of their nuclear family. But then those numbers declined as well, demonstrating that intimacy in families is markedly down. The findings appear in the June issue of the American Sociology Review.

Weakening bonds of friendship have huge social consequences, especially when there is great human need as in crises like Hurricane Katrina. And, the article further suggested, the decline in friendship outside the family puts added stress on spouses, families and counselors.

Why are Christians surprised, when they put a great deal of emphasis upon being friends with their neighbors, that there are a myriad of open doors to do good

By |June 27th, 2006|Categories: Evangelism|

The Future of American Christendom

June is the month for church assemblies and general conventions. Last week the Episcopalians and Presbyterians met and made headlines. Several weeks before it was the Southern Baptists who were in the news.

The Episcopalians (ECUSA) chose a new presiding bishop, Katherine Jefferts Schori, who follows the controversial Frank Griswold, who led ECUSA to the shoals of ecclesiastical destruction over the last three years. Jefferts Schori does not appear to be the type of person who will take the action now needed to save this church from being severed from the worldwide Anglican community. Time will tell but ECUSA’s failure to follow the Windsor Report has serious ramifications. My friends tell me there is little hope now for meaningful reconciliation. Te Holy Spirit will likely do something new and fresh. Let all who love Christ and his church watch and pray.

Meanwhile, the Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA) passed a “peace” resolution that threatens to breakup that fellowship. In effect, this resolution does not bring peace but makes the church into a collection of individual presbyteries without real connection to a national

By |June 26th, 2006|Categories: The Church|

A Sad Death and a Christian Response

Denice Dee Denton, 46, an embattled University of California chancellor, who was criticized for helping her lesbian partner secure a top-paying job at the University of Santa Californai Santa Cruz died Saturday morning in San Francisco after apparently jumping from a downtown hotel. UC Santa Cruz Campus Provost David S. Kliger said in a statement released on Saturday: "We are deeply saddened by her death."

Denton had been criticzed by an employee union for the university’s creation of a $192,000-a-year job for Gretchen Kalonji, Denton’s longtime partner and a former professor of materials science at the University of Washington in Seattle.

When I read such news accounts I wonder how Christians should respond. I would guess some might say, “You really do reap what you sow. We ought to make this clear.” Still others might say we ought to appeal to “justice being served” since she appears to have shown a particular kind of favoritism that is reprehensible to most people. I bowed my head and prayed for Dr. Denton’s family and her many friends as they try desperately to make sense

By |June 24th, 2006|Categories: Homosexuality|

Confessions of a Reformission Rev

I mentioned hearing Mark Driscoll (my June 21 blog) at the Acts 29 Network retreat this week. His new book, Confessions of a Reformission Rev: Hard Lessons from an Emerging Missional Church (Zondervan, 2006) has just been published in the past few weeks. It is worth your time if you want to know the story of how a young man and a young church emerged in the last decade in the most unchurched city in America. I refer, of course, to Mars Hill Church in Seattle. Mars Hill is not only innovative but theologically sound and fast growing, reaching over 6,000 in less than ten years while openly affirming solid teaching and spiritually sound church practice at the same time. It also has one of the most carefully planned and developed strategies for new church planting of any megachurch in America. For thirty-five years I hoped and prayed that pastors of large churches would adopt this type of approach to planting local churches. Read Mark’s excellent book and you will better understand why I believe this church is truly a missional powerhouse.


By |June 22nd, 2006|Categories: Emergent Church|

The Grace and Honesty of Mark Driscoll

I am privileged this week to be a part of the Acts 29 Network pastor’s retreat in Boulder, Colorado. Today we heard Mark Driscoll speak very honestly about the subject of “Death by Ministry.” Mark candidly admitted that stress and the related physical and emotional symptoms that it brings to pastors is presently doing a number on him personally. He pulled no punches, spoke from the heart, and warned us to take care of ourselves spiritually, emotionally and physically. I felt the room full of mostly under-35 year old pastors was given a unique opportunity to face some of the greatest dangers of modern pastoral ministry. I wish a leader had given me the same counsel when I was in my 30’s.

Some of Mark’s solutions included practical suggestions such as:

1. Do not overfill your plate. Know what your unique plate can hold and only put something new on it when you take something off it.
2. Exercise physically.
3. Do not allow technology to become your Lord.
4. Sabbath rest is critical to good health.
5. Pick

By |June 21st, 2006|Categories: Emergent Church|

Is TR the Right Designation?

Several days ago (June 2) I wrote ten questions about conservative Reformed movements that I think beg for careful thought and discussion by serious Christians within these various movements.

While I’m at it, there is one more question that makes me wonder even more:

Would it be more accurate to refer to some conservative Reformed spokesmen, not as TR (Truly Reformed), but rather as VR (Viciously Reformed), or perhaps as AR (Angrily Reformed)?

There is very often more psychology involved in these debates than theology, at least in one fairly observable sense. Time and again I have watched as fear, insecurity and the need for approval and control all drive such debaters and their agendas. For folks who confess the sovereignty of God it does make you wonder a great deal.

By |June 19th, 2006|Categories: Reformed Christianity|

The ACT 3 Review: An Encouraging Endorsement

I rarely promote my own written work or the resources I edit and produce, since I feel completely uncomfortable praising things I am so directly associated with as an author. After all the Scripture does say, “Let another praise you, not your own mouth” (Proverbs 27:2). However, a friend will sometimes say things that encourage me wonderfully. Such was the case with P. Andrew Sandlin’s recent blog about our newly designed quarterly journal, ACT 3 Review. Andrew’s blog spot, which I encourage you to visit regularly, had this to say about the new journal: He may be over the top in his praise but I do encourage you to try the journal. If you do not like it we will refund your money. You can subscribe for half-price right now ($16.00 for four issues) at our Web site:

By |June 17th, 2006|Categories: Personal|

A Great Evening at the CSO

Conductor Daniel Barenboim is doing three farewell concerts this week with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO). After about fifteen years of leading this great orchestra he will be moving on to other musical challenges in Europe. Barenboim chose three great pieces for his last three evenings with the CSO: Mahler’s Ninth Symphony, Bruckner’s Ninth Symphony and Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. I was privileged to hear the CSO’s masterful performance of Mahler’s Ninth last evening. I was given this special evening of music as a birthday gift (my birthday was actually more than three months ago) by my dear friend, our ACT 3 board chairman and my own pastor, Dr. Wilbur Ellsworth. Wilbur is himself a highly trained musician thus his insights and commentary helped to make the evening even more memorable.

What can I say about Mahler’s Ninth? It is a very moving composition that reflects Mahler’s obsession with death. In various ways Mahler reveals musically how deeply shaken he was about his own demise. There is both majestic beauty and haunting silence in his music. Mahler died very young, May 18, 1911,

By |June 16th, 2006|Categories: Music|

The SBC on Alcohol

The Southern Baptist Convention, which continues to discover new ways to promote the agenda of conservative populist groups within their circles, approved a resolution this week on the consumption of alcohol. The messengers to the annual convention dealt with fifteen resolutions this past week, including one on immigration and another on the environment, demonstrating that “hot buttons” often dominate conservative Baptist life. But it was the resolution on alcohol, and the debate surrounding it, that caught my attention.

The alcohol resolution was the most debated of all at the 2006 convention. This is most definitely not the first time this subject has taken center stage for Southern Baptists. It really serves to remind us that Baptists and abstinence have a deep historical, and contemporary, connection. I grew up in this setting and was thus taught from earliest remembrance that alcohol was a great evil and we must oppose it to be good Christians.

It is important to understand that the resolutions of the SBC are not binding on member churches. But they do have an effect, often an adverse one. An amendment added to this resolution

By |June 16th, 2006|Categories: Southern Baptists|

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