Friday, December 29, 2006

Biggest Villains

Here's hoping you have had a Merry Christmas and are moving toward a Happy New Year.

A lot of stuff going on in the news this week. The death of a descent, good man -- Gerald Ford. The impending death of a wicked, evil man -- Saddam Hussein.

Speaking of which, a poll came out in the paper this morning. Here is what it revealed:

Biggest villains:
1. George Bush (25%)
2. Osama bin Laden (8%)
3. Saddam Hussein (6%)
4. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (5%)
5. Kim Jong II (2%)
6. Donald Rumsfeld (2%)

By the way, George Bush also topped the list of Biggest Heroes. As I look at that list, it makes me worry about the American people. This nation (at least those polled) actually think George Bush is a bigger villian than Osama Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Kim Jong II -- each of which would like to see us destroyed! Go figure.

Again, enjoy the Holidays. Happy New Year.

Friday, December 22, 2006


I am currently preaching through Acts, and this week will be talking about Stephen -- the 1st Christian martyr. He must have been an incredible man, since Luke tells us that he was "full of faith and the Holy Spirit" and "full of grace and power." The few snippets we get of this man are powerful. His face was "like that of an angel." He was able to glimpse into heaven and see Jesus standing at the right hand of God. Wow!

Stephen's speech before the Sanhedrin has to be one of the most courageous speeches ever given. He certainly tells them "how the cow ate the cabbage." We preachers are often reminded that "you can catch more flies with honey." I've always wondered about that saying. I have no desire to catch flies!

But Stephen uses no honey in his speech. He is very confrontive and to the point. And the Sanhedrin obviously feel threatened -- since they kill him.

I wish I knew a little more about the story. Luke tells us that Saul (later to become Paul) was there -- witnessing this whole event. I wonder what went through his mind as he saw "the face of an angel." As he heard Stephen speak of seeing Jesus standing at the right hand of God. As he heard Stephen's dying words, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them."

Again, Merry Christmas to all!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

When To Unwrap Gifts?

I enjoy our Men's Wednesday Night Class at church. We are talking about being the husbands God has called us to be, and it is encouraging to me to have guys who are as committed to that as I am to journey with. The Lord certainly knows my wife deserves my very best.


I will be on vacation next week, but may try to blog by mid-week. I know that many readers will be leaving town over the next couple of days. So, here's wishing everyone out there a very Merry Christmas and a joyous New Year in which we are all drawn closer to the Lord.


I made a list last year of resolutions / goals. It's almost embarrassing to look back at them. Some I made progress on. Others I totally failed. I had made it a goal to exercise more and lose some weight. That has been a no-go for sure. Why is it so hard to exercise? I always feel better after I do.


Question of the day: Do you unwrap gifts on Christmas Eve or Christmas morning? It is amazing to me how strongly we feel about such traditions as these.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Musings About Christmas

This week I have been doing some reading on the history of Christmas. I have again been reminded of how quickly something can become a hard and fast tradition for us. As I have said before -- traditions can be very good. They are anchors of security in a chaotic world. And Christmas is one of those beautiful traditions.

But did you know that the celebration of Christmas (as the birth of Jesus) was actually outlawed by the Puritans. And while the tradition of Santa Claus goes back to a monk from the third century (Saint Nicholas), our idea of Santa Claus really came to being through the famous poem, "The Night Before Christmas," by Clement Clarke Moore (1822). It was originally titled "A Visit from Santa Claus."

As quickly as our culture is evolving, it would be entirely possible that Christmas as we have known it for all our lives will look quite different in another generation. Even now, this time of year is known as "Winter Break" or "the Holiday Season." The word "Christmas" is used less and less. I would hate to see that happen. Because my appreciation for Christmas continues to grow more and more. As our culture is moving toward the removal of "Christ" from Christmas, I am realizing that Jesus REALLY IS the reason for the season.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

The "Spitting" Incident

Yesterday Joy, our secretary, said, "I haven't read your blog today. Did you write about T. O.?" I guess I am becoming too predictable on Mondays. But no, I hadn't written about T. O. -- YESTERDAY. Today, however, is another day. I would love to have T. O. be a non-story. But he makes sure that, no matter what's going on with the team -- it ends up being all about him.

So, Saturday night, on about the 6th play of the game -- he spit in the face of DeAngelo Hall, a defensive back for the Atlanta Falcons. T. O. said Hall was (those of you who are sensitive might want to go get a kleenex) "bugging me." On the 6th play of the game?

In his book that came out back in the summer, T. O. told about one of the most devastating things from his childhood. He spoke of how it had scarred him. Do you know what it was? It was when someone spit in his face.

As a lifelong Cowboy fan, I have had to put up with some characters who embarrassed and tarnished the "Cowboy star." Duane Thomas. "Hollywood" Henderson. Erik Williams. Michael Irvin. But there is nothing to compare to this guy. I'm sure Beverly would love to "counsel" with him for a few sessions.

So, at what point does an athlete's behavior not matter? Are we to not care so long as he is catching TD passes or hitting 50 homeruns or scoring 30 points a game? Is unacceptable behavior on the field OK so long as no felony is committed? Where do we draw the line?

Maybe I'm just old-fashioned, but I think character is nearly as important as athletic ability. And that's why I have been on such an anti-T. O. crusade. He represents everything I do not like to see in an athlete.


Monday, December 18, 2006

Christmas Movies

I spent Friday and Saturday shopping with my favorite person in the world. Beverly is -- without a doubt -- the most delightful person I have ever been around. We had a really good time.


Today we hope to find out what our 3rd grandchild will be. I am predicting a girl.


My kids will faint when they read this. Last night, we let Molly sleep in the bed with us. Talk about a snuggler! Every time I turned, she would move in to take any available space. She is a sweet puppy!


There have been a number of Christmas movies made throughout the years. Just off the top of my head, there is Miracle on 34th Street, White Christmas, A Christmas Carol, A Christmas Story, Home Alone (and all its sequels), The Santa Clause (and its sequels), A Charlie Brown Christmas, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman and Prancer. I know I am leaving out many.

I confess that I have never watched all of Miracle on 34th Street. I have heard it is great. Also, I have never watched all of A Christmas Story. I have started to -- but it just didn't hook me. I know many people say it is great.

I think one of the really great stories of all time is Dickens' A Christmas Carol. But my all-time favorite Christmas movie (one of my favorite all-time any-kind-of movie) I did not list above. It is It's a Wonderful Life.

So, that's my vote for all-time favorite Christmas movie: 1. It's a Wonderful Life, and 2. A Christmas Carol.

What is your vote?

Thursday, December 14, 2006

The Value of Being Wounded

We have talked in the past about the fallacy of the "health and wealth gospel." Today's comments by Tozer address this -- and I think he is right on the mark:

Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep Your word.... It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I may learn Your statutes.
--Psalm 119:67,71

It is amazing to me! There are people within the ranks of Christianity who have been taught and who believe that Christ will
shield His followers from wounds of every kind.

If the truth were known, the saints of God in every age were only effective after they had been wounded. They experienced the humbling wounds that brought contrition, compassion and a yearning for the knowledge of God. I could only wish that more among the followers of Christ knew what some of the early saints meant when they spoke of being wounded by the Holy Spirit....

In every generation, the people who have found God have been those who have come to the end of themselves. Recognizing their hopelessness, they have been ready to throw themselves on the mercy and grace of a forgiving God.
Men Who Met God, pp. 59,62

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Christmas Songs

Hard to believe that Christmas is in only 12 days! Beverly and I have not done any shopping, so we plan on hitting it hard this weekend. It is not crucial that we be finished by Christmas day, since all the kids will be at their in-laws this year. We won't actually "do Christmas" until early January.

I talked last year about how my least favorite Christmas song is "The Little Drummer Boy." It is amazing how many people I talk to who don't really care for Christmas music at all. There are songs I like. But most of them that we hear any more are the secular ones. I think my favorite is "O Holy Night." I heard Pavoratti (sp?) sing it many years ago on TV, and it gave me goose bumps. "Oh, night diviiiiiiiiiiiiiine. Ohhhh, night that Christ was born."

As far as the secular ones, I don't really care for most of the "Santa" songs. Of course, they are geared to kids. I especially have trouble teaching kids that Santa "sees you when you're sleeping, he knows when you're awake," etc. Sounds like attributes of God, doesn't it?

I do like "Chestnuts Roasting On An Open fire." I was wondering yesterday -- what do they taste like? And I like "It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas." And "Walking in a Winter Wonderland." But "Silver Bells" -- ugh!

Beverly's all-time favorite? "Feliz Navidad." Get her to sing it for you sometime. It's a hoot. Malaya cracks up. "Feliz Navidad -- hey, hey, hey, hey , hey. Feliz Navidad." "I want to wish you a ve-ry mer-ry mer-ry Christmas."

Well, that's my opinion. Just like noses, everybody has one. I'd like to hear yours.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Great Quote

Good discussions on recent blogs!

I love our youth ministry couple -- Jacob and Heather Baker. They are soooo cool! What a blessing they are to our church.

Yesterday after reading my blog, Jacob came into my office to share a quote with me that he had heard from professors at Harding. I wish he would have written it as a response to my blog, but Jacob is real shy:) Anyway, it is one of the best quotes! Here it is:

"What you win them with is what you will win them to." THAT says a lot!


So, T.O's dropped passes (a couple of more on Sunday night) are his teammates' fault because they haven't been supportive enough of him? (Wait, I have to grab a kleenex.) And he says that right now in games he is just showing up and going through the motions? I hear people defend him by saying everything he says gets overly scrutinized. If most other players said stuff like this -- they would be cut.

Remember those "Leon" commercials from a few years ago? They were hilarious because they seemed so exaggerated. But T.O. is actually saying "Leon" type things!

Monday, December 11, 2006

Expository Preaching

I don't normally post anything this lengthy, but it is that important to me. I am so committed to expository preaching. I wrote a lengthy paper on it when I was doing my grad work. MacArthur makes some very good points. So, if you have a few minutes today, let me know what you think.

Biblically-Anemic Preaching
The Devastating Consequences of a Watered-Down Message
By John MacArthur

Those who are familiar with my ministry know that I am committed to expository preaching. It is my unshakable conviction that the proclamation of God’s Word should always be the heart and the focus of the church’s ministry (2 Tim. 4:2). And proper biblical preaching should be systematic, expositional, theological, and God-centered.

Such preaching is in short supply these days. There are plenty of gifted communicators in the modern evangelical movement, but today’s sermons tend to be short, shallow, topical homilies that massage people’s egos and focus on fairly insipid subjects like human relationships, "successful" living, emotional issues, and other practical but worldly—and not definitively biblical—themes. These messages are lightweight and without substance, cheap and synthetic, leaving little more than an ephemeral impression on the minds of the hearers.

Some time ago I hosted a discussion at the Expositors’ Institute, an annual small-group colloquium on preaching held at our church. In preparation for that seminar, I took a yellow legal pad and a pen and began listing the negative effects of the superficial brand of preaching that is so rife in modern evangelicalism.

I initially thought I might be able to identify about ten, but in the end I had jotted down a list of sixty-one devastating consequences. I’ve distilled them to fifteen by combining and eliminating all but the most crucial ones. I offer them as a warning against superficial, marginally biblical preaching—both to those who stand behind the pulpit and to those who sit in the pew.

1. It usurps the authority of God over the soul. Whether a preacher boldly proclaims the Word of God or not is ultimately a question of authority. Who has the right to speak to the church? The preacher or God? Whenever anything is substituted for the preaching of the Word, God’s authority is usurped. What a prideful thing to do! In fact, it is hard to conceive of anything more insolent that could be done by a man who is called by God to preach.

2. It removes the lordship of Christ from His church. Who is the Head of the church? Is Christ really the dominant teaching authority in the church? If so, then why are there so many churches where His Word is not being faithfully proclaimed? When we look at contemporary ministry, we see programs and methods that are the fruit of human invention, the offspring of opinion polls and neighborhood surveys, and other pragmatic artifices. Church-growth experts have in essence wrested control of the church’s agenda from her true Head, the Lord Jesus Christ. Our Puritan forefathers resisted the imposition of government-imposed liturgies for precisely this reason: They saw it as a direct attack on the headship of Christ over His own church. Modern preachers who neglect the Word of God have yielded the ground those men fought and sometimes died for. When Jesus Christ is exalted among His people, His power is manifest in the church. When the church is commandeered by compromisers who want to appease the culture, the gospel is minimized, true power is lost, artificial energy must be manufactured, and superficiality takes the place of truth.

3. It hinders the work of the Holy Spirit. What is the instrument the Spirit uses to do His work? The Word of God. He uses the Word as the instrument of regeneration (1 Pet. 1:23; Jas. 1:18). He also uses it as the means of sanctification (John 17:17). In fact, it is the only tool He uses (Eph. 6:17). So when preachers neglect God’s Word, they undermine the work of the Holy Spirit, producing shallow conversions and spiritually lame Christians—if not utterly spurious ones.

4. It demonstrates appalling pride and a lack of submission. In the modern approach to "ministry," the Word of God is deliberately downplayed, the reproach of Christ is quietly repudiated, the offense of the gospel is carefully eliminated, and "worship" is purposely tailored to fit the preferences of unbelievers. That is nothing but a refusal to submit to the biblical mandate for the church. The effrontery of ministers who pursue such a course is, to me, frightening.

5. It severs the preacher personally from the regular sanctifying grace of Scripture. The greatest personal benefit that I get from preaching is the work that the Spirit of God does on my own soul as I study and prepare for two expository messages each Lord’s Day. Week by week the duty of careful exposition keeps my own heart focused and fixed on the Scriptures, and the Word of God nourishes me while I prepare to feed my flock. So I am personally blessed and spiritually strengthened through the enterprise. If for no other reason, I would never abandon biblical preaching. The enemy of our souls is after preachers in particular, and the sanctifying grace of the Word of God is critical to our protection.

6. It clouds the true depth and transcendence of our message and therefore cripples both corporate and personal worship. What passes for preaching in some churches today is literally no more profound than what preachers in our fathers’ generation were teaching in the five-minute children’s sermon they gave before dismissing the kids. That’s no exaggeration. It is often that simplistic, if not utterly inane. There is nothing deep about it. Such an approach makes it impossible for true worship to take place, because worship is a transcendent experience. Worship should take us above the mundane and simplistic. So the only way true worship can occur is if we first come to grips with the depth of spiritual truth. Our people can only rise high in worship in the same proportion to which we have taken them deep into the profound truths of the Word. There is no way they can have lofty thoughts of God unless we have plunged them into the depths of God’s self-revelation. But preaching today is neither profound nor transcendent. It doesn’t go down, and it doesn’t go up. It merely aims to entertain.

By the way, true worship is not something that can be stimulated artificially. A bigger, louder band and more sentimental music might do more to stir people’s emotions. But that is not genuine worship. True worship is a response from the heart to God’s truth (John 4:23). You can actually worship without music if you have seen the glories and the depth of what the Bible teaches.

7. It prevents the preacher from fully developing the mind of Christ. Pastors are supposed to be under-shepherds of Christ. Too many modern preachers are so bent on understanding the culture that they develop the mind of the culture and not the mind of Christ. They start to think like the world, and not like the Savior. Frankly, the nuances of worldly culture are virtually irrelevant to me. I want to know the mind of Christ and bring that to bear on the culture, no matter what culture I may be ministering to. If I’m going to stand up in a pulpit and be a representative of Jesus Christ, I want to know how He thinks—and that must be my message to His people too. The only way to know and proclaim the mind of Christ is by being faithful to study and preach His Word. What happens to preachers who obsess about cultural "relevancy" is that they become worldly, not godly.

8. It depreciates by example the spiritual duty and priority of personal Bible study. Is personal Bible study important? Of course. But what example does the preacher set when he neglects the Bible in his own preaching? Why would people think they need to study the Bible if the preacher doesn’t do serious study himself in the preparation of his sermons? There is now a movement among some in ministry to trim, as much as possible, all explicit references to the Bible from the sermon—and above all, don’t ever ask your people to turn to a specific Bible passage because that kind of thing makes "seekers" uncomfortable. Some churches actively discourage their people from bringing Bibles to church lest the sight of so many Bibles intimidate the "seekers." As if it were dangerous to give your people the impression that the Bible might be important!

9. It prevents the preacher from being the voice of God on every issue of his time. Jeremiah 8:9 says, "The wise men are ashamed, they are dismayed and taken. Behold, they have rejected the word of the Lord; so what wisdom do they have?" When I speak, I want to be God’s messenger. I’m not interested in exegeting what some psychologist or business guru or college professor has to say about an issue. My people don’t need my opinion; they need to hear what God has to say. If we preach as Scripture commands us, there should be no ambiguity about whose message is coming from the pulpit.

10. It breeds a congregation that is as weak and indifferent to the glory of God as their pastor is. Such preaching fosters people who are consumed with their own well-being. When you tell people that the church’s primary ministry is to fix for them whatever is wrong in this life—to meet their needs, to help them cope with their worldly disappointments, and so on—the message you are sending is that their mundane problems are more important than the glory of God and the majesty of Christ. Again, that sabotages true worship.

11. It robs people of their only true source of help. People who sit under superficial preaching become dependent on the cleverness and the creativity of the speaker. When preachers punctuate their sermons with laser lights and smoke, video clips and live drama, the message they send is that there isn’t a prayer the people in the pew could ever extract such profound material on their own. Such gimmicks create a kind of dispensing mechanism that people can’t use to serve themselves. So they become spiritual couch potatoes who just come in to be entertained, and whatever superficial spiritual content they get from the preacher’s weekly performance is all they will get. They have no particular interest in the Bible because the sermons they hear don’t cultivate that. They are wowed by the preacher’s creativity and manipulated by the music, and that becomes their whole perspective on spirituality.

12. It encourages people to become indifferent to the Word of God and divine authority. Predictably, in a church where the preaching of Scripture is neglected, it becomes impossible to get people to submit to the authority of Scripture. The preacher who always aims at meeting felt needs and strokes the conceit of worldly people has no platform from which to confront the man who wants to divorce his wife without cause. The man will say, "You don’t understand what I feel. I came here because you promised to meet my felt needs. And I’m telling you, I don’t feel like I want to live with this woman anymore." You can’t inject biblical authority into that. You certainly wouldn’t have an easy time pursuing church discipline. That is the monster that superficial preaching creates. But if you are going to try to deal with sin and apply any kind of authoritative principle to keep the church pure, you must be preaching the Word.

13. It lies to people about what they really need. In Jeremiah 8:11, God condemns the prophets who treated people’s wounds superficially. That verse applies powerfully to the preachers who populate so many prominent evangelical pulpits today. They omit the hard truths about sin and judgment. They tone down the offensive parts of Christ’s message. They lie to people about what they really need, promising them "fulfillment" and earthly well-being when what people really need is an exalted vision of Christ and a true understanding of the splendor of God’s holiness.

14. It strips the pulpit of power. "The word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword" (Heb. 4:12). Everything else is impotent, giving merely an illusion of power. Human strategy is not more important than Scripture. The showman’s ability to lure people in should not impress us more than the Bible’s ability to transform lives.

15. It puts the responsibility on the preacher to change people with his cleverness. Preachers who pursue the modern approach to ministry must think they have the power to change people. That, too, is a frightening expression of pride. We preachers can’t save people, and we can’t sanctify them. We can’t change people with our insights, our cleverness, by entertaining them or by appealing to their human whims and wishes and ambitions. There’s only One who can change sinners. That’s God, and He does it by His Spirit through the Word.

So pastors must preach the Word, even though it is currently out of fashion to do so (2 Tim. 4:2). That is the only way their ministry can ever truly be fruitful. Moreover, it assures that they will be fruitful in ministry, because God’s Word never returns to Him void; it always accomplishes that for which He sends it and prospers in what He sends it to do (Isa. 55:11).

Thursday, December 07, 2006

A Sleeping Giant

I will not be blogging tomorrow. Beverly and I will be leaving this evening to go to Houston, where our grandson will be having minor outpatient surgery tomorrow. We will be returning Saturday afternoon -- with a stop-over in Crockett to check on Beverly's dad.

Today is December 7th. "A day that will live in infamy." 65 years ago today, the Japanese, unprovoked, attacked Pearl Harbor. As the attack took place, one of their highest ranking military leaders said, "We have awakened a sleeping giant." He was right. That attack got us into World War II. We first turned our attention to the defeat of Nazi-ism in Europe -- and then took on the Japanese. This country was turned into a weapons-production plant. And in less than 4 years, the war was over.

Is it my imagination or do we pay more attention to the anniversary of Pearl Harbor than we do to 9-11? If so, I wonder why. At Pearl Harbor, the Japanese at least attacked a military instillation. On 9-11, the cowardly terrorists attacked unarmed innocent civilians. There were more casualties in 9-11. And the mainland of the United States was attacked.

Is it because the enemy is less recognizable? Or could it be that we just don't care. After all, our lives have not been all that drastically affected. Life goes on for us.

I know many people think I am being alarmist in my views, but "radical Islam" (I think that defines much more than most people do) is going to be a formidable foe that -- if we continue to close our eyes -- will eventually take over the world. Their control in Europe is already alarming. European nations live in fear every day of saying or doing anything that will "offend" the Muslims among them. We are beginning to see that happening here as well.

But it hasn't affected the Stock Market yet. Or the NFL. Or reality TV. So, let us continue to sleep.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Political Correctness -- Bah, Humbug!

I read with interest the other day about a woman who worked for one of the airlines as a ticket agent. She wore a cross around her neck. Her employer asked that she remove it or put it inside her clothing. She continued to wear it outside. The woman was terminated for her actions.

The same airline allows Moslems to wear head coverings and Hindus to wear turbans. I don't know what to make of it. Is being a Christian the only faith that is not protected by "political correctness" today? Where is the ACLU to protect this woman's freedom of speech and expression?

It also makes me sad to see the greeting "Merry Christmas" disappearing from this time of year -- because someone might get offended. I'm sad because I remember how much I enjoyed school during the Christmas season, and today's children will never experience that. Now it is a celebration of winter. A celebration of winter? Yes, sir. I bet winter ranks right up there as everyone's favorite time of year.

Things like this make me long for "the old days." Some day I'll tell you about when I used to have to walk five miles to school uphill both ways.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Changes in the Religious Landscape

The religious landscape is changing so quickly it leaves our heads spinning. We might think this phenomenon is peculiar to our own fellowship (churches of Christ) -- but it's happening in every group. So many churches are dropping their identifying "names" and calling themselves "community church" or "family", etc. Yet, they are simply Baptists or Methodists or Churches of Christ gone under cover.

Within our own fellowship, our traditional positions on many issues are being challenged. Some churches are introducing instrumental music and others are allowing women to have a more public role in the assemblies.

Ultimately, it does not matter all that much what a church in Dallas or San Antonio or Nashville does. What we are responsible for is being what God has called us to be right where we are. We have always claimed to be autonomous -- with no ruling councils and with every congregation under the local authority of elders. Let's practice that now.

The WORST thing we could do is become afraid and draw inward into a protective mode. This is often the response of churches to situations such as those we currently face. But we must not do that!

Let us (I am speaking for the Decatur Church of Christ) be bold in prayer and in action to be the hands and feet of Jesus to Wise County. Let us be led by the Spirit to be what God has called us to be. What freedom it is to have no authority other than Jesus to tell us what we must do or be. But with that comes the responsibility to be HIS church.

Fear is the WORST motivator there is. It leads to making knee-jerk decisions and clouds sound reasoning. We have not been called to fear, but to boldness.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Willard on Discipleship

Yesterday was such a good day! I LOVE gathering with my community of faith here in Decatur.

And the Cowboys won! Despite the $10 million dollar man dropping at least two crucial passes (Josh, I just had to mention that). And how ironic that they won on a 46-yard field goal -- the week that Parcells released "the greatest kicker who ever lived."

Maybe it is just because I am following college football a little closer this year, but can anyone remember a year when there were so many huge upsets? Once again, we are back to all the pundits talking about a national championship playoff. I guarantee: I would be watching! I have yet to hear an argument against it that makes more sense than having it.


Dallas WIllard is a current author who is writing books that challenge us to true discipleship. His stuff goes far beyond "church growth recipes," etc. He gets down to the basics. My son Josh is reading his new book on discipleship entitled "The Great Omission." Josh shared the following with me:

He begins his book stating that "disciple" is used 269 times in the Bible, while "Christian" is used 3. The goal of the Great Commission and the goal for us should not be converts or more people placing membership in a church, but it is to "make disciples."

Words from Willard:
"I do not know of a denomination or local church in existence that has as its goal to teach its people to do everything Jesus said. I'm not talking about a whim or a wish, but a PLAN. I ask you sincerely, is this on your agenda? To teach disciples surrounded in the triune reality to do everything Jesus said? If that is your goal, you will certainly find a way to bring theological integrity and spiritual vitality together. But as you do so, you will find both your theology and your spirituality refreshingly and strongly modified."

That is so what I want. I see my mission (calling) as being used as an instrument to strengthen the level of discipleship in myself and the faith community I serve. If God brings a numerical increase, that is great! But I don't want to buy into the American corporate mindset of trying to manipulate it though.

Friday, December 01, 2006

The Dark Night of the Soul

Have you ever experienced what has been referred to as "The Dark Night of the Soul"? I have -- and I don't like those times at all. If you have, you can probably relate to Tozer's words today:

How long, O Lord? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me?
--Psalm 13:1

Some of you know something of that which has been called "the dark night of the soul." Some of you have spiritual desire and deep longing for victory but it seems to you that your efforts to go on with God have only brought you more bumps and more testings and more discouragement. You are tempted to ask, "How long can this go on?"...

Yes, there is a dark night of the soul. There are few Christians willing to go into this dark night and that is why there are so few
who enter into the light. It is impossible for them ever to know the morning because they will not endure the night. I Talk Back to the Devil, 80-81.

As I said, I don't like those "Dark Nights." But it does seem that with each one, I come through with clearer eyes and a hungrier heart.