Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas from the Shealy Family


On our wedding day in 1988, Brian and I were given a Christmas memory book that has space for recording 25 years of holiday memories. I am completely amazed to find that Brian and I will be celebrating our 23rd Christmas this year and our book is almost full! Our family Christmas photo has eight more people in it than when we started, our life is full and busy, and God has proven His faithful love to us year after year! 2010 was no exception. Here’s an update on our family…

Caleb (5) is determined to grow up in spite of the fact that he will always be our baby. Recently, he has discovered jokes, like this: “Why do chickens sit on eggs? Because they don’t have chairs.” Some of his favorite things are his cereal bowl with a built in straw, his black ankle socks, marshmallows, and Dad’s funny series of bedtime stories called The Bee Bop Bear Cops.

Luke (9) joined swim team a few months ago, and has grown about 3 inches this year. He is a big fan of Ereth, a funny, grumpy porcupine character from the Poppy book series, and is really happy when Seth is around to play video games with him. Luke and Caleb enjoy battling each other throughout the day with all their Nerf swords, axes, and guns, complete with lots of homemade sound effects.

Briana (11) has collected an armful of silly bandz this year, and loves to chat with her friends on the phone. One of her favorite memories of 2010 was going ice skating with a couple of her friends on her birthday. She loves to read books from The Charlie Bone series, and is hoping to be baptized this next year.

Lindsay (13) loves to swim and work out, and enjoys planning and organizing things. Making cards and giving gifts makes Lindsay happy, and most often she likes to give away friendship bracelets that she makes from patterns she finds on the internet or creates herself. She took voice lessons this year and sang in the girls’ youth choir at our church.

Ali (15) Ali has been exploring all forms of art this year like styling her family’s hair, singing with her friends, learning guitar and piano, drawing everything from sketches to portraits, and has just recently discovered photography. (I think it runs in the Shealy veins.) She is always available to be Savannah’s model when she needs someone for a photography class project.

Adam (17) is a senior in high school, and is thinking about career choices and possible majors. He loves to plays sports such as basketball, and volleyball with our church’s summer league. Relaxing for Adam means enjoying the X-box 360 and computer games, but he still has a soft spot for good books, (which is a good thing since he just got a new box full of books in the mail today that must be read before graduation!).

Seth (18) is recovering from having all 4 wisdom teeth removed this week, and from taking Chemistry his first semester in college. He is working toward a degree in criminal justice, and has recently applied to a cadet program with the police department. Seth got to travel to South Carolina with Brian for Thanksgiving this year, and has become quite a good swing dancer.

Savannah (21) spent the year building her wedding and portrait photography business, and was excited to travel to New York to shoot the wedding of a friend. You can see her work at: www.savannahlauren.showitsite.com. She is now pursuing a degree in photography, and in her spare time enjoys swing dancing and doing aerials with her brother, stalking the blogs of her favorite photographers, exploring San Francisco with her friends, and finding new Spurgeon and C. S. Lewis quotes.

Myra – I’m beginning to feel as if the kids are growing up in time-lapse photography speed! Within the next year the youngest child will start kindergarten and three will have graduated from high school. These are busy days, but I must say they are some of the happiest days of my life! Aside from watching God at work in our family, I’ve been so encouraged this year by the latest music of Steven Curtis Chapman, his CD called Beauty Will Rise. It is a strong testimony to God’s love and faithfulness to His children in their most painful trials. I’m looking forward to a “day off” next week that Brian is giving me, and I hope to dust off my camera, write on my blog, and maybe explore my favorite thrift store.

Brian has seen some major physical changes since last year. He lost 30 pounds, shaved off his beard, and took our family through an intense 90 day exercise program! No, this isn’t a midlife crisis, just an effort to help us all strive for better health. The results have been exciting, and it has been a fun thing to do as a family. Brian has completed two years of his PhD program, and is as busy as ever overseeing The Cornerstone Seminary, serving on the elder board at our church, and shepherding our home fellowship group.

In the remaining days of the Christmas season, our family will enjoy the special things that go along with the holiday: the food, opening gifts, seeing all the beautiful lights, and receiving cards and photos from many of you. But when it is all over for another year, the tree comes down, and the gifts have all been put away, the Savior that came to Earth so long ago will still remain the living gift that we desperately need. “Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners.” He is still the only hope that never disappoints. Our prayer is that in the year to come you will treasure Him above any earthly gift you have or desire.

Merry Christmas with love,
Myra for Brian, Savannah, Seth, Adam, Ali, Lindsay, Briana, Luke, and Caleb

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Example of Christian Liberty - Charter Schools


Awhile back I posted a series on Christian liberties. These areas are often difficult to navigate through. I have often had people raise specific issues regarding liberties so I thought I would post an example of an issue to try to help someone think through an area of Christian liberty. I do not by any means think I necessarily have the perfect answer to difficult issues like this, but at least it is an example of working through an issue. Hopefully it will help someone. The issue involves Christian homeschoolers and Charter Schools. Here is a sample letter:

Dear Friend,

Thank you for the packet of information on Charter School ISPs. I can appreciate your concerns. I am thankful for your desire to honor the Lord in all things and I’m thankful that you would come to me with your questions. Issues like these where there is no explicit command from Scripture (i.e., Don’t use Christian materials when you homeschool through a Charter School.) we have to try to apply principles that would be more implicit.

It is good to gather information on an issue as you have, but consider that these materials only present one side of the issue. What we should do in trying to solve a problem or come to a conclusion about something is to make sure that we can fully understand the other person’s viewpoint and even be able to argue their perspective better than they can, if possible. Then if we still disagree at least we can be sure that we are accurately reflecting their side and know for sure what we are rejecting and why.

The issue under consideration, as I understand it, is: First, that there are some Christian families that have their children in Public Charter Schools. Second, your issue is not that they choose to do this, but rather that some of these people use Christian educational materials during their school time instruction which you believe clearly violates the CA Constitution. Third, in your conscience, if you would do this, you would see it as sinning against God by not submitting to authorities (Romans 13:1-6). Do I have that right?

In looking at the info you gave me it was interesting to note that several of the position papers or pamphlets are arguing against anything but Christian homeschooling. They are arguing against Charter Schools because a Charter School as a public school would prohibit a Christian education. If I understand you correctly, that is not an issue with you. You would allow for freedom in regard to school choices. Someone could choose public school, public charter school, private school, or homeschool and that would be their liberty. Correct? So, we would not give weight to these arguments.

The other interesting thing that I find in the info is that none of it comes to the clear conclusion that you have come to, that if a Christian homeschools under a Charter School and yet uses Christian curriculum he is sinning by not submitting to authorities. They talk about the problems with Charter Schools. They mention that Charter Schools are not supposed to allow Christian education during school time. They mention that some Charter School administrators do allow parents to buy and use Christian curriculum, but are not supposed to. They state that parents in Charter Schools are allowed to supplement the child’s education with their own money on their own time. Yet, interestingly, none of the material, unless I missed it, states the conclusion that a parent who’s Charter School allows it would be in sin for doing it because of violating the Constitution. Mainly, they talk about the risks/dangers involved in doing so. If the courses were audited there could be repercussions such as loss of credits or even expulsion from the program. Roy Hanson comes the closest to saying it is sin when he states that it violates the regulations and then refers to possible deception involved and cites 2 Cor 4:2, which is Paul's statement about his ministry being of a different character than the false apostles because he did not come by way of deception.

So, I guess the questions would be: 1. Since it appears that it is a violation of State regulations, is it also a violation of the commands to submit to the governing authorities? 2. Is it deception?

The first problem I have in answering these questions is that I do not have the benefit of knowing how people who are doing this would answer them. I can’t make their argument better than they themselves make it because I do not know it. So, I would have to reserve final judgment upon it until I have heard their thinking on it. They may have valid points I have not considered. So, until then how should I evaluate it for myself? First of all I would approach the issue believing the best about my brothers and sisters in Christ (1 Cor 13:7) and assuming that they are not sinning until it is undeniable. Then, as the issue arises in conversation I would want to hear how they do process the situation and their actions. It is possible that some people are just ignorant of all of the factors involved. For these you can patiently inform them over time. Others may have fully thought through it all and are acting in good conscience.

Nevertheless, let’s try to answer the best we can in light of what we do know. As for the second question it seems easy. A person should know whether he or she is lying or not. If they are going to violate the regulation then they should not lie about it or try to deceive those who would inquire.

The first question is more difficult. It seems to me to be clearly a violation of regulations but even so there may be several possible legitimate reasons for such a violation. Here I would need to hear the person’s reasons for it. But I can propose some possibilities:

1) They believe it is an immoral law for the government to dictate that children cannot be taught from a Christian worldview, yet they also have the freedom to be in a public Charter School and benefit from it, so if they choose to be in it they must disobey a command to exclude God from their education.

2) Another possibility would be that there are conflicting interpretations of the law in other branches of the government (judiciary, executive, legislative) that would allow an interpretation of it that would provide freedom for homeschoolers to supplement within the school hours. Perhaps this is unlikely and I do not know of any, but I have seen this kind of thing happen often.

3) Some might feel that they have conflicting authorities. They are submitting to their immediate government authority who allows this, while other authorities do not. It is interesting that there are many laws on the books that are not enforced by governing authorities at various levels. In fact, as for going against the Constitution there are many governing authorities that go against the original intent of the US Federal Constitution. So, what do we do in such cases? Do we follow the Constitution or the particular governing agency or office that is violating it and overseeing us in the particular sphere we are operating? Sometimes these are tough questions.

4) Perhaps there are other justifications.

As it stands now I would have to conclude that this is a matter of conscience. If a person is convinced in his own mind that they are not lying and that they are free to use Christian materials in violation of this regulation and that it is not a violation of God’s command because of one of these justifications, then while I might not follow their rationale myself, I would not judge them as sinning against God. I would let God determine that (Romans 14:4, 10, 12, 13).

If after all of this a person still has a problem with people doing this and believes it is clearly a sin then in our church they would need to realize that they are in a church whose leadership views it as a freedom of conscience issue. So, they would need to do what makes for peace.

So, this is where I’m at on the issue presently. I’m certainly open to further discussion. Feel free to gain input from other elders or mature Christians you interact with. I hope this helps some.

Grace and peace,
Brian

Monday, July 19, 2010

True Biblical Love

I recently did a 2-part series on genuine biblical love for the college and career ministry at our church and thought I'd share it here for anyone that might be interested. Click here.

Monday, May 31, 2010

The Relationship of Discourse Analysis to Exegesis

In recent studies of the Bible there has been and emphasis on something called Discourse Analysis. Much of what has been discovered by this trend involves overlap with traditional steps of exegesis, yet where they intersect discourse analysis provides a strengthened concentration on the matters it covers.

Traditional exegesis has emphasized context. It could be argued that discourse analysis is context on steroids because of the heightened analysis. It emphasizes co-text which refers to the relationship of the text to the larger context of linguistic data in which it is set. It also focuses on the "intertext" which would involve the larger linguistic frames of reference. And when they speak of context it usually means the historical context. Here it is important to ascertain the situational features that shape the text: “place of writing, occasion, and readers’ circumstances.”

However, Discourse Analysis also includes grammar, but usually focuses more on the big picture, so it is concerned with the macrostructures that connect larger units like paragraphs. It also helps in outlining and understanding the flow of the argument so that one might best understand how a particular passage functions in the overall text. Here the cohesion and coherence of a text are studied to see what is communicated and how.

Discourse Analysis also provides exegetes with fine tuning for many other hermeneutical considerations such as analyzing the “sequence of information, the overall form and the structural conventions of a given discourse,” the study of deixis, speech acts, intertextuality, genre analysis, and rhetorical analysis. And it goes on from there. There is no end to the various aspects of Discourse Analysis, yet it certainly has great payoff in helping exegetes gain from the overall context and flow what is often missed in microsyntactical and lexical studies.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

The Role of the Holy Spirit in Interpretation

The Role of the Holy Spirit in interpretation is something that is often mentioned in hermeneutics and exegesis books, but little discussion is devoted to explaining what that role is, where the Bible teaches it, and how we know when it occurs. After much reading on the subject and a study of related passages of Scripture it is the contention of this writer that the Spirit has a multifaceted role in the life of the believer as he interprets Scripture.

The Spirit’s work in the interpreter is necessary because of the depravity of man. Due to the effects of sin a natural man, the unbeliever, “does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised” (1 Cor 2:14). This means that the unbeliever does not see the word of God as wisdom, but rather foolishness. Therefore he rejects it. While he does have a level of cognitive awareness of the signification of the words, He cannot understand in the sense of experientially knowing it as truth in a relationship with God. This is due the fact that it is spiritually discerned. The unbeliever is spiritually dead (Eph 2:1) and consequently has a futile, darkened, ignorant mind, and a hard heart that makes him callous to spiritual things (Eph 4:17-19). He is hostile to God and cannot bring himself under the Scriptures as his authority (Rom 8:7-8).

Therefore, the Spirit’s initial work involves turning a person into one who has many of the necessary presuppositions to begin to interpret the Scriptures. The Bible speaks of these changes in terms of the person being “born again” (John 3:3), “born of the Spirit” (John 3:5, 6), and saved by the “washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5). When the word is preached the Spirit attends His word and some receive it with joy as the word of God (1 Thess 1:5, 6; 2:13). This is because their spiritual eyes which were blind (Matt 13:15; Rom 11:8) are enabled to see (Matt 13:16). These facets of the changes of salvation give the person a new world and life view. They will then have the necessary preunderstanding concerning beliefs about God and His word for interpreting the word.

At conversion the Spirit also takes up residence in the life of the believer (Rom 8:11). Now he lives, and has the capacity to walk, be led, and filled by the Spirit (Gal 5:16, 18, 25; Eph 5:18). He has the Spirit of Christ (Rom 8:9) and thus, the mind of Christ (1 Cor 2:16). As the believer is conformed to the image of Christ through sanctification by the Spirit, he is given the proper thinking to have a whole hearted understanding and embracing of the Word as truth and gets to understand and know God better. His eyes are enlightened to know the truth more deeply (Eph 1:18).

This indwelling Spirit is the same Spirit of Truth who was promised by Jesus to teach His disciples all things, bring to their remembrance all that he had said, guide them into all truth, and declare the things to come (John 14:26; 16:13). It is difficult to determine how much of the Spirit’s work in their lives from these promises was limited to them and what aspects are normative for believers of all times. John himself includes some examples of how the apostles remembered what Jesus had said and understood the significance after His resurrection (John 2:19-22; 12:16; cf. 20:9). One can certainly see how this perfect memory would be important for writing the Gospels. His teaching them and guiding them into all truth could certainly explain the epistles. Further, declaring the things to come would explain Revelation. So, perhaps this is a promise for the apostles’ ministry and the process of inscripturation.

Yet, when the same writer, John, later addresses a church in 1 John 2:20, 27 he tells them that they have received an anointing from the Holy One and as a result they know all things and they do not need to be taught. It would contradict the very letter John is writing if these were absolute unqualified statements. The context would rather indicate that they know the truth about Jesus well enough to not be led astray by those who deny Him. If the anointing here is the Spirit, which is a reasonable conclusion, then believers are presumed to be taught the truth by Him and therefore know the truth, understand it well enough to believe it, and understand the significance of it so that they can obey it. So, the teaching ministry of the Spirit seems to be normative in relation to the truth already revealed.

Another passage that bears on this issue is 1 Cor 2:6-16. There Paul speaks about revelation that has been made known to “us” which they make known. It is possible again that this is intended to refer to the unique role that the Spirit had in revealing the mystery of the Gospel to Paul and other recipients of direct revelation. However, there are some universal truths if one reasons through Paul’s words. The very wisdom they received is imparted to others (1 Cor 2:6); it was prepared for those who love God (2:9); the Spirit knows the depths of God (1 Cor 2:10-11); the Spirit was received by them and He enabled them to understand the things given (1 Cor 2:12). So, the things given are revelation of truth, but the understanding of that truth is distinct from the revelation of it. Therefore, there is the revelatory role of the Spirit in Paul’s life, but believers who have received this same Spirit should also be able to expect that by the Spirit they too would understand the word. Again the Spirit teaches and gives spiritual discernment (1 Cor 2:16). Second Timothy 2:7 coheres with these ideas since while Paul instructs Timothy he is confident that the Lord will give him understanding of his instruction.

In summary, the Scriptures lead one to conclude that the Spirit who inspired Scripture regenerates a person and enables him to have a spiritual appraisal of the preached word, which He embraces as truth. This internal recognition of the word as truth is sometimes referred to as the internal testimony. As a person grows and is sanctified by the Spirit, as He uses the word, the Spirit guides him to understand and apply truth. While the believer is not promised infallible interpretive abilities, the Spirit does work in his life to have the capacity for the proper presuppositions needed to rightly interpret, embrace, understand, and apply Scripture.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Casting Our Cares Upon Jesus

First Peter 5:6 tells us to humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God. He is powerful, sovereign and wisely working all of our circumstances out for our good and His glory. In verse 7, the way that we humble ourselves under His mighty hand of protection is by casting our cares upon Him. That is, through prayer we take our concerns to Him and watch Him work them out. The verse ends with the words, "because He cares for you." That is an amazing thought. The mighty God wants us to come to Him and entrust Him with all of our problems and we come knowing that He really is concerned with us.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Authorial Intention

The following is a short paper I did in a PhD seminar. It won't resonate with everyone but perhaps some will find it helpful.

Is discovering the author’s intended meaning the only goal of interpretation?

Throughout the history of the Church’s interpretation of the Bible there have been many theories that have led to subjectivity, because they place the locus of meaning in the understanding of the reader, or impossibility, because of radical pessimistic philosophies of language. These have included the four level allegorical approach of the Medieval Church, the sensus plenior determined by the Catholic Church magesterium, the two horizons approach of Gadamer, Derrida’s deconstruction, reader response criticism, and post-structuralism. Nevertheless, despite the confusion prospered by these approaches, there are many reasons to contend for the author’s intended meaning as the goal of interpretation. Before erecting this defense, it is necessary to establish definitions.
By the “author”, we understand this question to mean “the person who originates the text in the particular language, words, genre and structure we find them in.” By “intention” we understand that his “communicative intention” is meant, not wishes, motives, or psychological experience, but what he actually communicates in the text. By “meaning” we understand “that which is communicated through language.” “Interpretation” is understood as discovering the meaning of the text. Finally, it is assumed that, while not stated, the above question relates to the interpretation of the text of Scripture.
Discovering the author’s meaning as the goal of interpretation is first contended for based upon the nature of Scripture as God’s revelation of Himself to man. This is a basic presupposition that demands that Scripture be approached as writing that is able to communicate truth through language. Further, God created man in His image as a communicative being, thus enabling him to receive and understand communication through the medium of language.
Second, there is no other criteria by which to distinguish valid from invalid interpretation other than the author’s intention. If the author “dies” in our interpretive process of his text then authors don’t really author, there is no real “truth” to be discovered, and any objective meaning is impossible. It is the author’s intention that makes his words count as a particular action rather than another. So, he must be considered as the one that fixes meaning.
Third, any meaning derived by any means other than seeking to understand the author’s intended meaning would necessarily make the one who derives that meaning the author. If the meaning is not set by the author of the text then it collapses into subjective relativism.
Now as to whether this is the “only” goal of interpretation depends upon what is meant by “goal.” Determining the author’s intended meaning is certainly the “first” task of interpretation, because any valid application or significance must be based upon it. However, the reasons a person would interpret a text should go beyond just knowledge of the author’s meaning. The purposes for which God gave the Scriptures should also be seen as reasons that we would interpret—that we would believe it, appropriate it to be lovers of Christ and our Church families, and spread His gospel to all nations.

Is it discoverable?

The author’s intended meaning in a text of Scripture is discoverable through a historical-grammatical process applied to it. However, if by “intention” someone means the author’s psychological experience, or his wish, desire, or purpose for which he wrote, then these would not be discoverable unless the author stated them. The Scriptures are plainly written in a way that the average person can understand the author’s meaning.

Are there any problems in discovering it?

While the Scriptures are perspicuous, there are challenges that face interpreters. These arise from the dual nature of Scripture. On the one hand the Bible is to be interpreted like any other human book. The fact is though that it is an ancient book and as such there are several gaps that must be bridged between the modern day reader and the ancient author.
These gaps include language, literature, history, culture, and geography. Through studying the historical background, original languages, culture, geography, and genres of the author’s time period the signification of his words can be arrived at with a high degree of certainty.
On the other hand, the Bible is also a divine book. Therefore, the divine author’s intention causes one to see the whole Bible as a context for the parts. Thus, typology, prophecy, and intertextuality will call for special considerations.
So, in summary, discovering the author’s communicative intention in the text of Scripture is the first task of interpretation, but not the only goal of it. It is discoverable through a grammatical-historical process even though the dual authorship and ancient date present challenges.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Urban Legend: God Won't Give You More Than You Can Handle


Have you ever heard the saying, "God won't give us more than we can handle"? It is usually given by well-meaning people to encourage those going through trials and I do not presume to know what everyone means by it when they say it. Perhaps sometimes it is a simple platitude. Perhaps others have a well thought out theology behind it and use it as an abbreviated statement for many well founded truths.

Yet, I wonder where it comes from because as it stands it is not a complete biblical concept. It is similar to the popular saying, "God helps those who help themselves," which is also not in the Bible.

These platitudes may be well intended and may contain partial truths, but are not really very helpful. While they mention God and perhaps sustain a concept of one or more of His attributes they actually place more emphasis on man-centered and humanistic thoughts that focus on our strength rather than God's.

It is possible that the saying, "God won't give us more than we can handle," probably has its roots in 1 Corinthians 10:13, "No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, that you may be able to endure it."

However, this verse is in the context of how Israel in their trials in the wilderness succumbed to idolatry and other evil. Paul is telling the Corinthians that in trials we are often tempted to sin, but God is always faithful to give us an exit path so that we can endure the trial without sinning. The focus is not on the crass notion of our ability, but rather His enabling grace to be faithful to us and provide escape from temptation.

I think the "saying" derived from this and just took the notions of "God", "will not allow", "you are able to endure it." They leave out the fact that it is talking about temptation and sin and the notions of God's faithfulness and his provision. I think the danger is that we place confidence in man and do not realize how dependent we are upon Christ. While the statement acknowledges God it doesn't give Him all the glory.

Rather than us having some notion that we will be able to "handle" a trial we should really be encouraging people who are undergoing trials with Scriptures that stress God's power and ability and our dependence upon Him for everything. For instance,
1 Peter 5:6-7 "Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, 7 casting all your anxiety upon Him, because He cares for you."

We need to understand that God is mighty and we need to simply humble ourselves before Him by continually casting our anxieties upon Him and watch His mighty hand work. We submit to His will and He will exalt us in His time, but the strength is all His, as is the glory.

The most encouraging thing about this verse to me is that it says, "because He cares for you." For those who have become His children through faith in Christ's work on the cross, we have a mighty God who cares deeply and passionately for us and will exercise His mighty power to prevail in our trials.

My two cents,

Brian

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Abraham Piper's Admonition to Blog

I recently came across this article, apparently by Abraham Piper, John Piper's son on why pastors should blog. I am going to try to take his advice. Enjoy his words:

"In this article I want to convince as many pastors as possible to sit down and start a blog today. If I can’t convince them, then I want to convince churchgoers to hound their pastor until he does.

OK, all that’s overstatement, perhaps. You can still be a good pastor and not blog.

However, here’s why I think it would be good for you and your congregation if you did.

Pastors should blog…
1. …to write.
If you’re a pastor, you probably already know the value writing has for thinking. Through writing, you delve into new ideas and new insights. If you strive to write well, you will at the same time be striving to think well.

Then when you share new ideas and new insights, readers can come along with you wherever your good writing and good thinking bring you.

There is no better way to simply and quickly share your writing than by maintaining a blog. And if you’re serious about your blog, it will help you not only in your thinking, but in your discipline as well, as people begin to regularly expect quality insight from you.

2. …to teach.
Most pastors I’ve run into love to talk. Many of them laugh at themselves about how long-winded they’re sometimes tempted to be.

Enter Blog.

Here is where a pastor has an outlet for whatever he didn’t get to say on Sunday. Your blog is where you can pass on that perfect analogy you only just thought of; that hilarious yet meaningful story you couldn’t connect to your text no matter how hard you tried; that last point you skipped over even though you needed it to complete your 8-point acrostic sermon that almost spelled HUMILITY.

And more than just a catch-all for sermon spill-over, a blog is a perfect place for those 30-second nuggets of truth that come in your devotions or while you’re reading the newspaper. You may never write a full-fledged article about these brief insights or preach a whole sermon, but via your blog, your people can still learn from them just like you did.

3. …to recommend.
With every counseling session or after-service conversation, a pastor is recommending something. Sometimes it’s a book or a charity. Maybe it’s a bed-and-breakfast for that couple he can tell really needs to get away. And sometimes it’s simply Jesus.

With a blog, you can recommend something to hundreds of people instead of just a few. Some recommendations may be specific to certain people, but that seems like it would be rare. It’s more likely to be the case that if one man asks you whether you know of any good help for a pornography addiction, then dozens of other men out there also need to know, but aren’t asking.

Blog it.

Recommendation, however, is more than pointing people to helpful things. It’s a tone of voice, an overall aura that good blogs cultivate.

Blogs are not generally good places to be didactic. Rather, they’re ideal for suggesting and commending. I’ve learned, after I write, to go back and cut those lines that sound like commands or even overbearing suggestions, no matter how right they may be. Because if it’s true for my audience, it’s true for me, so why not word it in such a way that I’m the weak one, rather than them?

People want to know that their pastor knows he is an ordinary, imperfect human being. They want to know that you’re recommending things that have helped you in your own weakness. If you say, “When I struggled with weight-loss, I did such-and-such,” it will come across very differently than if you say, “Do such-and-such if you’re over-weight…”

If you use your blog to encourage people through suggesting and commending everything from local restaurants to Jesus Christ, it will complement the biblical authority that you rightly assume when you stand behind the pulpit.

4. …to interact.
There are a lot of ways for a pastor to keep his finger on the pulse of his people. A blog is by no means necessary in this regard. However, it does add a helpful new way to stay abreast of people’s opinions and questions.

Who knows what sermon series might arise after a pastor hears some surprising feedback about one of his 30-second-nuggets-of-truth?

5. …to develop an eye for what is meaningful.
For good or ill, most committed bloggers live with the constant question in their mind: Is this bloggable? This could become a neurosis, but I’ll put a positive spin on it: It nurtures a habit of looking for insight and wisdom and value in every situation, no matter how mundane.

If you live life looking for what is worthwhile in every little thing, you will see more of what God has to teach you. And the more he teaches you, the more you can teach others. As you begin to be inspired and to collect ideas, you will find that the new things you’ve seen and learned enrich far more of your life than just your blog.

6. …to be known.
This is where I see the greatest advantage for blogging pastors.

Your people hear you teach a lot; it’s probably the main way that most of them know you. You preach on Sundays, teach on Wednesdays, give messages at weddings, funerals, youth events, retreats, etc.

This is good—it’s your job. But it’s not all you are. Not that you need to be told this, but you are far more than your ideas. Ideas are a crucial part of your identity, but still just a part.

You’re a husband and a father. You’re some people’s friend and other people’s enemy. Maybe you love the Nittany Lions. Maybe you hate fruity salad. Maybe you struggle to pray. Maybe listening to the kids’ choir last weekend was—to your surprise—the most moving worship experience you’ve ever had.

These are the things that make you the man that leads your church. They’re the windows into your personality that perhaps stay shuttered when you’re teaching the Bible. Sometimes your people need to look in—not all the way in, and not into every room—but your people need some access to you as a person. A blog is one way to help them.

You can’t be everybody’s friend, and keeping a blog is not a way of pretending that you can. It’s simply a way for your people to know you as a human being, even if you can’t know them back. This is valuable, not because you’re so extraordinary, but because leadership is more than the words you say. If you practice the kind of holiness that your people expect of you, then your life itself opened before them is good leadership—even when you fail.

Conclusion
For most of you, anything you post online will only be a small piece in the grand scheme of your pastoral leadership. But if you can maintain a blog that is both compelling and personal, it can be an important small piece.

It will give you access to your people’s minds and hearts in a unique way by giving them a chance to know you as a well-rounded person. You will no longer be only a preacher and a teacher, but also a guy who had a hard time putting together a swing-set for his kids last weekend. People will open up for you as you open up like this for them. Letting people catch an honest glimpse of your life will add authenticity to your teaching and depth to your ministry."

Friday, April 16, 2010

Loving Jennifer Knapp

This week I noticed that former Christian Music Artist Jennifer Knapp has announced in interviews that she is a homosexual, yet she also maintains that she is still a Christian. This raises the issue that the church today is going to increasingly be confronted with this. In her interview she says that she remains unconvinced at the often-cited Bible verses condemning homosexuality. It also indicates that she does not attend church.

It is good for those of us in evangelical churches to consider what we will do when faced with a professing brother or sister in our lives that would have her views and circumstances. How do we best love her and minister from a Gospel and Christ centered perspective. How do we maintain a commitment to the truthfulness of God's word and biblical authority, yet seek to demonstrate the love of Christ?

I appreciate Bob Stith's comments:

"What I would want to say to Jennifer and others who may be facing her dilemma in the Christian church is that God really does have a sexual standard," Stith said. "It is based on His creative intent which is made clear in both the Old and New Testament. He did not put forth this standard to enslave us but rather to free us. When God prohibits something He always has something better for us. Unfortunately that concept is often lost in both the church and the world today. All of us are inclined to trust our own instincts and desires more than the revealed will of God. Whatever our desires may be and however right and/or powerful they may seem, God's desires for us must always take precedence. That may not bring immediate gratification but both for us and the Kingdom eternal the ultimate pay-off will be far greater."

The Scriptures seem to be very clear that God does not condone homosexuality (1 Cor 6:9-11; Lev 18:22; 20:13; Romans 1:26-27). So, it would appear that Jennifer Knapp is a professing sister who has been caught in a tresspass. Galatians 6:1 says "Brothers (sisters), if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him (or her) in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted."

This verse reminds us that as believers we belong to a family that should be watching out for, loving and caring for one another. We should have the kind of relationships where we are close enough to know what is going on in each other's lives. When we see our brother or sister sinning we should care enough to come alongside and give loving confrontation. It is interesting how sin is described like a trap or perhaps how the victim is likened to the prey of a ferocious animal. We should have pity and compassion for one caught by sin. 2 Timothy 2:24-26 describes someone who opposes the truth as having been caught by Satan to do his will and needing God to grant them repentance so that they will come to their senses. We are commanded to gently instruct such a one.

There are exhortations for every one of us in Gal 6:1. Besides being commanded to be brotherly in this way we recognize that we need to be spiritual. According to the context I believe that means we need to be walking in, led by, and living by the Spirit so that we too do not fulfill the desires of the flesh, but rather produce the fruit of the Spirit which fulfills the law of love. We have to humbly look at our own lives and deal with our own sin.

With these concepts of gentleness, love, humility, and prayer we can approach our brothers and sisters as family and perhaps they will be restored so that one day they can restore us. If not, then Christ has wisely designed a loving church restoration process in Matt 18:15-17. I pray that Jennifer Knapp has such people in her life.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Fame

Tonight I drove my four oldest children to the church to meet their rides for winter camp. While there in the parking lot I really enjoyed the fellowship with other adults getting ready to see their children off as well. I was really touched by how each of my children came up at different times, hugged and kissed me and told me that they love me. What a blessing it is to know that and hear it expressed. When I arrived at home I took my wife for a walk. We briskly walked to keep our hearts pumping in the cold air while we enjoyed conversation. We expressed to one another the thoughts and challenges of the day exchanging advice on how to handle tomorrow. Again I reflected how special it was that we have a relationship and can express love. Later I watched "Fame" with my two youngest daughters while my two youngest sons watched "Clifford the Big Red Dog." I noticed how cute the boys were sitting in a chair together with their fresh crew cuts eating snacks and laughing. Downstairs the girls and I were so "inspired" as we watched the talented artists working hard for their dreams. As we all snuggled with blankets I thought how blessed I am to have all of this love in my life. Earlier I called my parents to see how they are with all of the snow storms on the eastern seaboard. They were fine. We discussed the news of the day and finished with that precious ending "I love y'all," "We love y'all too." God is a good God who loves to give good gifts to be enjoyed. He has lavished it on me. My brother is going to have cancer surgery this month, but then he and his family are supposed to come visit. Another opportunity to love and be loved. Life is short. Make sure to let people know you love them, and thank the Lord for all the love He gives.
His fame is glorious.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Looking For Tangible Expressions of Love

I was just studying Romans 12:9 where it speaks about letting love be without hypocrisy or in other words "genuine." As I apply it to marriage I was wondering whether anyone out there could share some examples of how husbands and wives could tangibly demonstrate to their spouse that their love is genuine. Any thoughts?