Epistles of Thomas

May 17, 2011

Quote of the Day

Filed under: Pastoral,Preaching — Thomas @ 1:37

Today’s reading in DA Carson’s For the Love of God vol. 2 caught my attention because I have seen many entertaining the goats recently, not realising that the sheep are hungry. It can be discouraging to see others acclaimed by the goats but we are called to provide solid food.

(d) We must use whatever gifts we have received to serve others (4:10–11). Peter gives some examples, but his list is not exhaustive. If one is called to speak in the church (for example), it is not a time for showing off or for amusing the goats, but for feeding the sheep, and that means speaking “as one speaking the very words of God” (4:11).

D. A. Carson, For the Love of God : A Daily Companion for Discovering the Riches of God’s Word. Volume 2 (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, 1998), May 17.

January 7, 2010

But is God Mad at You?

I was recently reading a bit from an old David Wilkerson book, I’m Not Mad at God. Wilkerson is famous for his ministry in New York city which is immortalised in The Cross and the Switchblade book and movie.

David R. Wilkerson, I’m Not Mad at God. Old Tappan: Fleming H. Revell, 1967. 0800780884.

His first chapter in I’m Not Mad at God deals with 1 Cor 9:9, “Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn.” This is a very important verse to him as he makes clear: “The secret of success for every Christian worker is found hidden in this verse. I consider this one of the most important truths the Holy Spirit has opened to me in all my ministry. It revolutionized my life and ministry, and I will never be the same as a result” (11). Wow! That’s some serious language! What is so revolutionary about this verse?

He begins by explaining that “Paraphrased, this verse reads: ‘Thou shalt not bind the mouth of the worker who labors in the harvest.'” He then goes on to explain that this is more than a reminder that God cares for oxen. So far I’ll go along with that. From there he leaps tall buildings to arrive at the idea that “it is so very clear that the Holy Spirit seeks, through the word of wisdom, to lead Christian workers into a state of mind free from all bondage, full of faith and hope” (12). Okay, so where do we go from here? To the end result that, “Nothing is more tragic in my mind than to see a Christian worker who once had God’s hand on his life–to stumble around in fear and indecision because he allowed himself to become muzzled…. It is only a shortsighted view of this truth that suggests Paul is referring to better pay for those who live off the gospel. It is that, but so much more. It is in spiritual things we find the muzzle so devastating” (13). The implication of this, when taken in conjunction with Matthew 25, is that “if Bible statistics hold true, about one-third of God’s servants will stand before the judgment bound and gagged–with no fruit” (15).

Isn’t God saddened that something written so plainly by Paul regarding his personal situation and the opposition he faced has been spiritualised into being muzzled from producing fruit for the kingdom of God? There’s nothing heretical in what Wilkerson is suggesting but do we really need to go there from this verse? This book was published in 1967 but it sounds more like a postmodern reader’s commentary than a exegetically derived application of the text. Am I the only one who has a problem with seeing this as being what “I consider [to be] one of the most important truths the Holy Spirit has opened to me in all my ministry.”?

I have no problem with Holy Spirit informing a person about a problem in their lives using any scripture at all but when we make our interpretation normative for that text I have concerns. 1 Cor 9:11 seems to prevent Wilkerson’s interpretation: “If we have sown spiritual seed among you, is it too much if we reap a material harvest from you?” Paul’s conclusion must shape our conclusion if we are to be true to Scripture. He concludes this section with the statement, “What then is my reward? Just this: that in preaching the gospel I may offer it free of charge, and so not misuse my rights as a preacher of the gospel.” Paul certainly won’t be muzzled in preaching the gospel – it is what he lives for! Even if he is a muzzled ox, not receiving any food and other material benefits from them, he will continue to preach the gospel because that in itself is his reward.

December 12, 2009

John MacArthur takes on Christian broadcasting

Filed under: Pastoral — Thomas @ 16:24

In this post the prodigious John MacArthur takes on the Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN) and others concerning the un-Jesus slop they serve up to viewers day after day (I was going to say ungodly but then I realised that they serve mammon so that’s not technically true). If you are what you eat Christians whose nourishment consists of this programming are certainly malnourished.

While I agree with MacArthur’s general point that the evangelical church has been too slow to condemn this, people have to be responsible for what they consume. If you eat junk food all the time you will get fat and/or sick. If you chose to watch ungodly programming masquerading as godly you will get spiritually sick. Just as there is strong temptation that leads obese people to consume more pop and chips there are strong temptations that cause Christians to consume a diet of TBN. Is that the fault of local pastors for not protecting their flocks from the charlatans who produce these shows or is it the fault of viewers who send in their God-given dollars? (Notice I didn’t say hard-earned). No doubt there are pastors who will have someone to answer to for allowing their sheep to fall among these wolves but I wonder if those sheep are as guileless as MacArthur makes them sound. Are they not responsible for leading themselves and others astray as they turn their back on their local churches and focus on wealth and prosperity?

In the comments to MacArthur’s post there are many references to wolves in sheep’s clothing but are they really disguised as sheep? There have been a multitude of expose shows by both secular and Christian publications and yet nothing changes. Are people not choosing to follow the wolves? The question must be why. Why are they following the teachings of those who obviously oppose the message of Jesus? Is this what their itching ears want to hear? Or is it something deeper – are they craving something that they are not finding in local churches and these TV “artists” are selling them hope? We know they aren’t buying health and wealth so what are they receiving? It seems the answer is hope. Unfortunately, their hope is misplaced, as was Tetzel’s customers, as MacArthur mentioned. They are selling modern day indulgences – and they aren’t even building cathedrals with the money (Well okay, some are).

If my conclusion is on the money (pun intended) we need to be offering our sheep hope – hope for today and hope for tomorrow. Perhaps it’s a natural consequence of focussing too woodenly on eternal salvation. We have forgotten that Jesus offered good news for the here and now as well as in the Age to Come. Let’s do two things to offer hope both to our congregation members and through them to the world:

1. Let’s overcome our selfishness by focussing on Jesus rather than ourselves. Jesus only – rather than our cohort only. Let’s look outward. Let’s accept Christ as our head and act as Christ’s body to reach out to our world by being salt and light. Jesus said he would be with us to the end of the age in all things so let’s spread that hope!

2. Let’s overcome our narcissism that causes Christians to seek health and wealth instead of acceptance and poverty. Can American Christians even comprehend the idea that many early Christians voluntarily chose poverty and hardship in order to better commune with Christ?!? Is it possible for us to love Jesus more than ourselves? Jesus said that anything is possible with God so let’s spread that hope!


December 11, 2009

Quotes of the Day and review

Filed under: Missions,Pastoral,Review — Thomas @ 11:34
Tags: , ,

“The spiritual temperature in many of our churches is so low right now that a new believer has to become a backslider to feel at home” (167).

“The average Christian spends more money on dog food and lawn care than for the cause of God’s kingdom because he has completely taken his life and finances away from the living God’s hand” (195).

OUCH – I hope your church doesn’t sound like this but unfortunately the stinging remarks that Yohannan makes in this book are all too true in the experience of many Christians. Perhaps women should be thankful that he doesn’t use inclusive language! I would question his basic premise that this is a problem that only the North American church grapples with. I know that churches planted by native missionaries also deal with sin and its consequences in their church. I read his most famous book, Revolution in World Missions some years ago and was curious to see if he would focus on that theme in this book as well. The main emphasis of his organisation, Gospel for Asia, is that western Christians should stay at home and donate money so that native (mostly Indian) missionaries can accomplish more for the same cost. That theme is also present in this book as can been seen from this quote:

“Re-evaluate the efficiency of your current missionary programs, especially those which support American missionaries or social services. Realize that most mission efforts which rely on American staff—or provide social services—are no longer effective” (159).

After reading Revolution in World Missions I was left wondering what western Christians are supposed to do if God calls them to be missionaries (or agents for social change). He does seems to allow a place for American missionaries in this book as can be seen from these statements:

“God may ask you to throw away your furniture, give up your education and career, abandon your business and inheritance, leave family and friends. He may ask you to drive an old car, wear out-of-fashion clothes from a swap shop, give up romance and plans for marriage, go to the foreign mission field, or move into an inner city slum” (173-74).

“For my wife an me, even before our children were born, it was our continuous prayer every day for God to save their souls and call them to be missionaries” (194).

Perhaps he only means that westerners can go overseas if they compliment his vision of supporting native missionaries, but the possibility remains open. On the whole this book is quite challenging and must cause us to examine our lives and ministries to ensure that they are fully honouring to God and not just to western cultural expectations. My only quibble is with Yohannan’s emphatic statements that supporting native missionaries is God’s only plan for reaching the rest of the world. He doesn’t talk about supporting missionaries to unreached people groups but rather supporting native missionaries, as if that is the only way it can be done.

October 19, 2009

Quote of the day – Shane & Chris

Filed under: Pastoral — Thomas @ 21:43
Tags: ,

“The divorce rate of evangelical Christians now surpasses that of the rest of the population in the United States. Evangelicals are getting divorced, and gay folks are wanting to get married, and religionists keep accusing homosexuals of destroying the family. Yikes” (233).

Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw, Jesus for President: Politics for Ordinary Radicals. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2008. 9780310278429.

This is a rather controversial book but I think he raises a good point although I have only before heard that the divorce rates are the same, not that Evangelicals are divorcing in even higher numbers than others. If Evangelicals as a whole were forced to choose between NO DIVORCE on any grounds and HOMOSEXUAL MARRIAGE on any grounds I am pretty sure what the result would be. The statistics speak clearly to the fact that we would be willing to accept someone else’ sin before giving up our own. I wonder why 72% of those outside the church think it is full of hypocrites?

Unfortunately, we don’t seem to care that God was pretty clear on his feelings about divorce: “’I hate divorce,’ says the LORD God of Israel, ‘and I hate it when people clothe themselves with injustice,’ says the LORD Almighty” (Malachi 2:16). It isn’t too often in the Bible that God declared he hated things. Many people seem to think that Jesus would be easier going than that but he was pretty clear on the issue of divorce as well: “I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery” (Mt 19:9//Mk 10:11-12; Lk 16:18). I guess only certain verses are supposed to be taken “literally” at “face value.”

Why is there such a disconnect between belief and action in the Evangelical church? In our own lives? If this concerns you read today’s post linking to an article on Francis Chan and read Forgotten God!

Francis Chan in Christianity Today

Filed under: Pastoral — Thomas @ 14:56
Tags: ,

Brandon, John. “Crazy Passion: Francis Chan keeps pushing and pushing to make more and more disciples.” Christianity Today. 10/16/2009 09:53AM.

A couple of days ago Christianity Today published an article about Francis Chan, author of Crazy Love and Forgotten God, both of which I have reviewed recently. It focuses on his personal story and his current endeavour to start a different kind of church that mixes the house church and large group gathering church together. He is moving from Simi Valley into the more populous regions of LA.

I’m glad to hear that he still believes in the larger church and it will be interesting to see how the two can be combined. I don’t know of any house church movements that have been overly successful in North America but I look forward to something that goes beyond the small group model. What he’s doing kind of sounds like the Korean model which would be good if it can create the passion for God which is his goal.

October 8, 2009

Book of the Year – Forgotten God by Francis Chan


I know it’s only the middle of October but I have finished 144 books this year and I have reason to believe that of those this is the most important for the Church today.

Francis Chan with Danae Yankoski, Forgotten God: Reversing Our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit. Colorado Springs, 2009. 1434767957, 9781434767950.

I recently reviewed Chan’s Crazy Love and noted that I was a little concerned about his lack of balance between the immanence and transcendence of God. I have no such hesitation in recommending this book about the Forgotten God by which he means Holy Spirit. Francis ably addresses the fact that we as Christians seem to have forgotten the place of Holy Spirit in our lives. He seeks to redress this failure by reminding us of our calling to live like Christ empowered by Holy Spirit. In a sense this is the same calling as Wholly Sanctified that I just reviewed. Chan focuses on the role of Holy Spirit in that and our need to remember him.

In the introduction he states, “While no evangelical would deny His [Holy Spirit’s] existence, I’m willing to bet there are millions of churchgoers across America who cannot confidently say they have experienced His presence or action in their lives over the past year. And many of them do not believe they can” (15). I don’t think too many would argue with this statement. Unfortunately, too many Christians are convinced that they can’t do any better and they accept the status quo. Of course, that is the point – they can’t do any better and need to let Holy Spirit empower them. Why are so many Christians discouraged and feel disempowered about living holy lives?

Chan addresses this issue in seven chapters each of which seeks to answer a specific question. At several points in the book he cautions readers to stop and think about where they are at, or to read a certain section of Scripture and reflect on it before coming back to this book. This is helpful if people are willing to do it. Like most things in life, readers will only be successful in receiving a filling up of Holy Spirit and living out of his strength if they seek to place themselves within his sphere of influence. Exhibiting the fruit of the Spirit isn’t about intellectual knowledge but about allowing Holy Spirit to control us. Let us renew our minds and walk in his ways. Amen!

This book isn’t overly long (167pp) so it will be an easy read for most. There is more to be said about Holy Spirit and his role in our lives and in the church but if there was one introductory book I would want church goers to read this would be it.

September 28, 2009

God loves Christians // God loves the Church

Filed under: Church Fathers,Pastoral — Thomas @ 23:13
Tags: , ,

God loves Christians // God loves the Church

You would think that by definition those two statements would be accepted by all who follow Christ but unfortunately that isn’t always the case. It has become fashionable for Christian leaders to define themselves as anything but “Christians.” Jesus followers is one popular term. The idea being that “Christian” is loaded with too many negative connotations and has too much historical baggage. If we want to get back to portraying true “New Testament Christianity” we need to take on a new identifying name such as “Jesus followers.” This is problematic given that the book of Acts records that “The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch” (11:25). These weren’t just any “Jesus followers,” these were the disciples of Jesus. The term is also used in Acts 26:28 and 1 Pet 4:16 and by the apostolic Fathers. If we want to portray NT Christianity shouldn’t we use the NT label? This will prevent confusion and if we are concerned about others misusing the name of Christ we need to live up to his name and cause others to reflect on why they are not like us. The actions of some should not prevent us from using Christ’s name! Our actions as Christians can heap burning coals on those who oppose his will.

Other segments of Christians have decided that the Church has failed and we should restructure ourselves according to some new movement. Aside that the fact that ultimately the Church is the body of Christ and not a format we must consider that the early Church was just that – a Church. They held meetings in a centralised location and engaged in the stuff of church (read the Scripture, listened to preaching, prayed, sang, gave, and regularly celebrated Communion). This brings us into the realm of the emergent church and the claim that “Everything Must Change.” I came across two blog posts today reflecting on “How emergent was the early church?” and they conclude that the current emergent church seems to reflect medieval Christianity more than first century Christianity (Cf. New Leaven and The Church of Jesus Christ). All my life I have attended church on Sunday and you know what – every Sunday God has been there too because he loves the Church. It may have its problems but its Christ’s body on earth and as long as people continue to gather in his name he will be present and he promised that not even the gates of Hell could prevail against it! Amen!!

Quote of the Day – Michael W. Smith

Filed under: Pastoral,Review — Thomas @ 22:47
Tags: ,

“I believe that good music is judged not by what it sounds like, but what it does to us.”

boldThe above quote is found on page 160 of his book, It’s Time to Be Bold. Nashville: Word Publishing, 1997. 0849933366. It can be found in the BAC library under 248.4 SMI.

Smith takes readers on a tour behind the scenes, basing his chapters on the reasons why he wrote certain songs. The book’s chapters contain brotherly advice on relationships with family and friends, reading the Bible and praying, our involvement in the church and world, spiritual warfare, and dealing with pain and suffering. He writes with a familiar tone and invites readers to share his world.

BTW, if you ever meet him in real life, be sure to call him MacGyver as he really likes that and might even write about you in a future book!

“Music is God’s way of keeping the poet alive inside all of us.”

September 25, 2009

International Student Outreach Seminar

Filed under: Missions,Pastoral — Thomas @ 17:01
Tags: ,

Next Saturday, October 3, 2009 there will be a special speaker at Surrey Alliance Church. Douglas Shaw will be speaking on reaching out to international students who have come to Canada to study. It looks like a good opportunity to learn about this type of ministry and it is free, which is best of all!

For more information surf on over to the Surrey Alliance website.

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