Thursday, August 21, 2014

Examining Rick Warren

The video  on the LCD screen took my enthusiasm for Rick Warren's 40 Days of Purpose campaign and tossed it out the window. I could very easily see his unapologetic distortion of Scripture. Years earlier, I had mishandled Scripture in similar ways, and my past sin of doing so (or more accurately, my repentance from such dishonesty) gave me a sensitivity to the practice. That Sunday morning marked the beginning of my distrust for Rick Warren's teaching.

That memory rushed back to me today--nine years later--as I read Brian Johnson's article, An Examination of Rick Warren's Teaching on "Exponential Growth." Johnson spotted the same distortions that made me squirm. Please make time to read Johnson's article. I pray it will help you understand why I hold such deep concerns about Rick Warren and the Church Growth Movement.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Futile Treasures And Pleasures

Today I started reading Ecclesiastes, which left me feeling a bit depressed. I know the Lord included it in His Word for a reason, and consequently wants me to read it, but it certainly zaps me of inspiration. So perhaps you can regard this post as  a complaint against today's serving of manna.

I'd been feasting on Hebrews for a few days, really understanding it for the first time in my life, and I'd just finished chewing on Proverbs. After such rich fare, Solomon's protracted ruminations of life's futility put a bad taste in my mouth. Of course, when I reach the end of the book I'll realize that it teaches us to look beyond this life to the glories of eternity with Jesus.

Perhaps Ecclesiastes bothers me because my flesh stubbornly clings to the idea that this present life offers me something  substantial. Through Solomon's pessimistic words, the Holy Spirit refutes that misplaced hope by demonstrating that all our earthly treasures and pleasures eventually fade away. My flesh resists that truth.

Ecclesiastes reminds me of my two years in the nursing home. Each day, the nurses got us up, fed us, helped us rid our bodies of waste and (after a few hours) put us back to bed.  I at least had a job to go to...but most of the residents had nothing  but empty days of monotonous routine. The nursing staff dutifully kept them alive without giving their lives meaning.

Those of us outside nursing homes have various occupations and entertainments to distract us, but we really simply feed, relieve and rest our bodies with the same pointless monotony that engulfs people in those institutions. We have purpose only if the Lord directs our lives, using us to bring Him glory. Thankfully, those who know the joy of His salvation have all eternity to serve and worship Him for the wonders of Who He is!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Stating The Doctrines

Since my dental appointment took up most of today, and we'll be in Boston tomorrow seeing John's cardiologist, I decided to share the Doctrinal Statement of First Baptist Church in Weymouth, Massachusetts. John and I are in the process of joining this church, and we fully agree with this Statement:

1.  We believe that the Bible is God's Word, that it was written by men divinely and uniquely inspired, that it is absolutely trustworthy and has supreme authority in all matters of faith and conduct.

2.  We believe in the unity of the Godhead, eternally existing in Three Persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

3.  We believe in God, the Father, Creator of heaven and earth, perfect in holiness, infinite in wisdom, measureless in power.  We rejoice that He concerns Himself in the affairs of men, that He hears and answers prayer and that He saves from sin and death all who come to Him through Jesus Christ.

4.  We believe in Jesus Christ, God's only begotten Son, conceived of the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, sinless in His life, making atonement for the sin of the world by His death  on the Cross.  We believe in His bodily resurrection, His ascension into Heaven, His high priestly intercession for His people and His personal, visible return to the world according to His promise.

5.  We believe in the Holy Spirit, who came forth from God to convince the world of sin, of righteousness and of judgment, and to regenerate, sanctify and comfort those who believe in Jesus Christ.

6.  We believe that all men by nature and by choice are sinners, but that "God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life."  We believe, therefore, that those who accept Christ as their Lord and Savior will rejoice forever in God's presence and those who refuse to accept Christ as Lord and Savior will be forever separated from God and suffer eternal torment in Hell.

7.  We believe in the church - a living, spiritual body of which Christ is the head and of which all regenerated people are members.  We believe that a visible church is a company of believers in Jesus Christ, buried with Him in baptism and associated for worship, work and fellowship.  We believe that to these visible churches were committed, for observance "till He come," the ordinances of baptism and the Lord's Supper; and that God has laid upon these churches the task of persuading a lost world to accept Jesus Christ as Savior and to enthrone Him as Lord and Master.  We believe that human betterment and social improvement are essential products of the Gospel.

8.  We believe that every human being is responsible to God alone in all matters of faith.

9.  We believe that each church is independent and autonomous, and must be free from interference by any ecclesiastical or political authority; that, therefore, Church and State must be kept separate as having different functions, each fulfilling its duties free from dictation or patronage of the other.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Don't Forget Grace

We can all use reminders of how magnificent God's grace is, and how much we depend on it! This praise song provides such a reminder. As you listen, let His Spirit bring you into an attitude of thanksgiving for the unmeasured grace Jesus has made available by shedding His blood on the cross.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Don't Obscure The Lord

Sometimes I want to write solely for the sake of cleverly arranging words and phrases, delighting as their cadences and nuances animate them. Watching words flow from my headstick, through my keyboard and on to my monitor amazes me. Despite the frequent groping when my ideas resist confinement to my vocabulary (or maybe because I persevere in the groping), successfully taming those thoughts satisfies me.

Twelve years ago, I wrote five or six chapters of an autobiographical novel based on my two years in a nursing home for physically disabled adults of all ages. I quit writing when memories of sexual sin in that environment began playing with my emotions and making their way onto the pages. The story, so close to the truth of my experience in that place, ventured into an area where I knew I dishonored the Lord.

Earlier this week, I read the first few pages of my novel. The quality of writing surprised me, tempting me to return to the project. It had potential! But the problem remains that the culture among residents there bends  steadily away from the Lord, even among those who claim to love Him. So, although my writing shone brightly on those pages, I don't see a way to write the story in a way that glorifies God.

Writing simply to experience the thrill of molding words that may, if I'm talented enough, draw readers into my world offers a certain allure. The act allows me to transcend my Cerebral Palsy--as if controlling words makes up for the dependence on others for my basic necessities of daily life. It gives me a sense of power.

Yet I understand that my writing must shun the trap of being about me. God gave me this ability, not to inflate my already inflated ego by impressing prospective publishers, but so that He could use me to glorify Him. These words that I manipulate must never, by their artful arrangements, develop a texture so rich that it distracts readers (or me) from Him. I pray regularly for the ability to write creatively and skillfully. I also pray that any creativity or skill my writing possesses will only serve to magnify the wonderful Lord I love.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Railroads And Mouth Blisters--A Different Boston Adventure

This summer, we've had several trips into Boston, and even one into Harvard, which all refreshed us. Few, however, gave me much fodder for blog posts, so I left those Adventures largely unreported, unwilling to resemble a 5th grader writing on "What I Did This Summer." Most of you will thank me (fans of Beth Moore and Rick Warren will undoubtedly wish I had written more about our excursions).

Our Boston Adventure yesterday, however, definitely merits attention. Although we got off the  subway at South Station expecting little more than to buy peaches at the farmers market at Dewey Square followed by lunch at either Quincy Market or B.Good, those lack-luster plans changed when John spotted a sign advertizing a free guided tour of South Station. I'd been wanting to take one of those tours for a few years, so he didn't have to twist my arm!
On December 30, 1898, Boston mayor Josiah Quincy III dedicated South Station. Two days later (New Year's Day, 1899), trains began running on the 27 above-ground and 5 underground tracks. Today, only 13 tracks remain.

The building's neo-classical fascade, built of pink granite from Connecticut, peaks at 100 feet.The Elevated Railway that once ran between it and Dewey Square ceased as a result of The Great Molasses Flood of 1919.

In the 1970s, various factors led to plans for demolishing the building in favor of erecting something more "updated." Thankfully, the people of Boston raised enough of a protest that, in 1975, the National Registry of Historic Sites listed it, giving it protection.

The tour continued, with stories of the bowling alley and movie theater once housed in the   building before it was truncated, World War I inductees learning that the war had ended upon their arrival at the station and John adding that his grandfather had been the engineer on the last steam engine to pull out of Boston 1953. I could show you more pictures of the tour, but then why would you take it?

Besides, I still need to tell you about our lunch at  Rosa Mexicano in the Seaport district. Again, I'd been wanting to try the restaurant for quite some time because the Greater  Boston Area has a notable lack of Mexican food.

We had a very personable waiter, Gregory, who loved the fact that I've been coaxing John off his bland New England diet by introducing him to the flavors of Mexico. He decided to have some fun with John by having him try  various salsas ranging from mild to mouth-blistering. The following pictures tell the story:
Getting Hot
Really Hot     

Very Hot
Mouth Blister Hot
Had we not taken the tour of South Station, we most likely would have eaten at usual. But as much as we like B.Good, both of yesterday's Adventures delighted us! We arrived back at South Station too late for our customary Pinkberry Frozen Yogurt, but three of our "train buddies" were on our Commuter Rail car home. Come to think of it, we'd never before ridden with all three!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Rick Warren's Subject

Listening to Rick Warren preach raises a fundamental question. On the one hand, he denounces self-centeredness, while on the other hand he presents Scriptural principles as a means of obtaining spiritual benefits for ourselves. Despite his claim in The Purpose-Driven Life that "It's Not About You,"  his sermon entitled "Transformed: How To Get Closer To God" presents closeness with God in terms of "feeling His presence." Thus, he subtly makes things "all about you."

To be fair, Warren stayed surprisingly faithful to his text, Luke 15:11-24 (the story of the Prodigal Son). Because he typically uses Bible verses in fragments and out of context to bolster his points, the fidelity to the text caught me off guard. Too bad he doesn't handle God's Word that honestly more often!

That concession made, I still noticed Warren's overarching message that closeness to God has more to do with our spiritual well-being than with the Lord's honor and  glory. In the very beginning of his sermon, he makes it clear that his "50 Days Of Transformation" series (the sermon I watched today being the second in the series) would help me change things about myself that I don't like. What about changing things about myself that grieve the Holy Spirit? The sermon neglects to mention anything along those lines.

The 50 Days Of Transformation webpage on Saddleback Church's Community Blog clearly states the man-centered focus  of the campaign:

Starting in January, thousands of churches across America will begin Pastor Rick’s new seven-week small group study, Transformed. In addition, we will begin the new weekend series, 50 Days of Transformation. Together, this exciting new group study and weekend series will show you how real change—lasting change—can actually happen in your life.
Every small group member will receive a free leatherette-bound workbook, which includes message notes, small group studies, personal goal-setting worksheets, and 50 daily inspirational readings.

Do you see anything about the  Lord there? Neither do I. The free leatherette-bound workbook sounds kinda cool, but again, what does that have to do with God's glory? For all Warren's talk about avoiding a self-centered life, so much of his preaching and writing keeps the spotlight on us, with God as our most devoted Fan. That humanistic thrust makes it difficult to believe that Warren accurately understands (let alone preaches) the Gospel.


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