I heard an old, old story, how a Savior came from glory
How He gave His life on Calvary to save a wretch like me
I heard about His groaning, of His precious blood’s atoning
Then I repented of my sins and won the victory
Oh victory in Jesus, my Savior forever
He sought me and He bought me with His redeeming blood
He loved me ‘ere I knew Him and all my love is due Him
He plunged me to victory beneath the cleansing flood
I heard about His healing, of His cleansing power revealing
How He made the lame to walk again and caused the blind to see
And then I cried, “Dear Jesus, come and heal my broken spirit”
I then obeyed His blest command and gained the victory
I heard about a mansion He has built for me in glory
And I heard about the street of gold beyond the crystal sea
About the angels singing and the old redemption story
Oh and some sweet day I’ll sing up there the song of victory
He plunged me to victory beneath the cleansing flood
He plunged me to victory beneath the cleansing flood
(The Hymnal for Worship and Celebration, 473)
“Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.” Acts 20:28
“But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Corinthians 15:57
Benchmarks for Community
Loose collection of thought-fragments on the Christian future . . .
- Construction of brick-and-mortar churches that aren’t going anywhere for a while, i.e., think of Notre Dame de Paris, or Westminster Abbey and St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, but think of them as actually functioning as vibrant churches, instead of being mere landmark or tourist attractions–these brick-and-mortar churches would point to the acts of God in the past as well as the Christian future.
- Construction of mercy-ministries (predominantly overseen and ran by local churches) with military-like organization and influence/efficacy, e.g., soup-kitchens and rescue missions that provide a segue from homelessness, hunger and poverty, financial and social instability, as well as functioning as a training-ground for developing a professional skillset that in the future might provide a protective-hedge for individuals (and families) from falling back into those vulnerable circumstances.
- Construction of Christian-mediation groups to assist with legal disputes (outside of courtrooms) between Christians (this work would be only a segue until Christian Law was the law of civic courts).
- City-based trans-denominational elders meetings focusing on collaborative/strategic prayer, evangelism, mercy ministry, etc., for shared cultural space.
- Closing of abortion-mills, Planned Parenthood facilities, and the like.
- Closing of Casinos, State Lotteries, etc.
- Closing of strip-clubs.
- Closing of wannabe strip-clubs, e.g., restaurants like Hooters, The Tilted-Kilt, etc.
- Closing of oodles and oodles of Federal, State, and County “Department of whatever-wealth-redistribution-program-comes-to-mind”
What should be added to the list?
Reading Notes for Introduction and Chapters 1-5.
Reading Notes for Chapters 6-9.
Reading Notes for Chapters 10-13.
Chapter 14 – Discipline of Church
- There is a contemporary problem: doctrine of church is weak, i.e., what the author calls “ecclesiastical hitchhikers” (p. 169) – no meaningful commitment and no meaningful participation.
- Visible/Invisible Church distinction is real. However, we must have a high view of Visible Church; must have a biblical view of the objectivity of the covenant.
- “As to why the Church has fallen on such hard times, historians tell us that an overemphasis on the “invisible” Body of Christ by evangelical leaders produced an implicit disregard for the visible Church. However, membership in an invisible Church without participation in its local expression is never contemplated in the New Testament” (p. 170).
- The author quotes from the Swiss Second Helvetic Confession: “For as there was no salvation outside Noah’s ark when the world perished in the flood; so we believe that there is no certain salvation outside Christ, who offers himself to be enjoyed by the elect in the Church; and hence we teach that those who wish to live ought not to be separated from the true Church of Christ (Chapter 27)” (p. 171).
- And from the Westminster Confession of Faith: “The visible church . . . out of which there is no ordinary possibility of salvation” (Chapter 25.2).
- Together we are “co-heirs with Christ” (Romans 8:17). “In the Church we do more than come into each other’s presence—we share membership together” (p. 172).
- Therefore, be committed to the visible church (cf. p. 175).
- From the “Food for Thought” section: “What do our attitudes toward church and toward Christ have to do with each other? If the latter is misguided, will the former do any good?” (p. 177)
- From the “Think About It!” section: “List as many strengths and weaknesses as you see in your church. Now write down the ways you personally are contributing to each of these, and also specific ways you can be part of changing the weaknesses” (p. 177).
Chapter 15 – Discipline of Leadership
- Biblical leadership consists of (a) character, (b) qualifications, (c) commitment.
- Author summarizes Biblical teaching on leadership: Biblical leadership is servant-leadership.
- Looking through the lens of Moses-Joshua narrative, the author lists attributes for leadership:
- Prayer: the foundation of spiritual leadership; our power comes from God.
- Vision: one’s vision of God will shape one’s vision for living, i.e., service, leadership, etc.
- Devotion: “True spiritual leadership is born for devotion and demands to be closeted with God. We cannot name one great leader in the Church who has not made personal worship a top priority. . . . There is no spiritual leadership apart from passionate devotion” (p. 183).
- Magnanimity: 50 cent word for selflessness/generosity of spirit (see Numbers 11:28-29). “Those who qualify for spiritual leadership are big-hearted, supportive Joshuas to each other and to all those around” (p. 184).
- Leadership & Faith: “Without exception, great spiritual leaders have a faith that towers above their contemporaries. The grammar of their lives is ‘By faith, by faith, by faith . . .’ (see Hebrews 11)” (p. 185).
- Leadership & Holy Spirit: “There is no spiritual leadership apart from the fullness of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, it follows that if we aspire to leadership in the Church, we must be full of the Holy Spirit. Practically, this means that we must continually confess our sins, keep ourselves in God’s Word, and continually submit to God, asking the Spirit to fill us. The telltale sign of this will be that we effervesce Christ (Ephesians 5:17-20). As we walk and serve in the Spirit, the Spirit will ordain us to specific tasks in the Church, and these will be tasks of leadership at all levels, be it waiting tables or heralding the gospel” (p. 186).
- Expendability: “The transition from Moses to Joshua was like going from poetry to prose. Yet, God did not need Moses. Even Moses was expendable!” (p. 187).
- “It goes without saying that leadership per se involves many more elements beyond the seven qualities instilled in Joshua. But one thing is sure: leadership must have a dream, a vision, a mental image, a precise goal of what is to be accomplished. Vision is the currency of leadership. A vision or dream must grab the leader, and when it does, it will pull others along. The challenge of leadership is so great today because modern man is dreamless” (p. 187).
Chapter 16 – Discipline of Giving
- History again and again reveals that men are mastered by their wealth, e.g., see story spanning from 1923 to 1948 (p. 191).
- How to avoid this? “The grace of giving” (p. 193).
- “Giving” in the OT (pp. 192-194). All those percentages add up.
- “Giving in the NT (p. 194-195). “Their [the poor Macedonians] remarkable giving was the result of their first giving themselves to God. It is so simple: when all one has is given to God, giving to others becomes the natural reflex of the soul. . . . This is where grace giving must begin – giving ourselves completely to God. Grace giving cannot exists without this (cf. Romans 12:1)” (p. 195).
- We are not “clubbed” into giving. We are grateful because Christ gave all for us. We are united to Christ, who gave all, therefore, we bear fruit (grace of giving). The Lord’s Service is corporate discipleship that “forms” us; God serves us in the Lord’s Service (e.g., called into his presence, our sins are forgiven, washes us in Word, feeds us at Table, sends us out strengthened to get dominion in the world through/by service).
Chapter 17 – Discipline of Witness
- Witnessing – “average” avenues of everyday person-to-person witness (all can do this regardless of gifting or calling), see p. 202.
- An example: Andrew brought others to Christ (pp. 203-207). Author’s comments on Andrew’s ministry were compelling.
- We need to realize the “value of relationships” – it takes (1) time, (2) effort, (3) emotional investment, etc. See p. 209 for ideas/examples for how to invest in relationships.
Chapter 18 – Discipline of Ministry
- Disciplined in:
- Labor: Labor for Christ and Church. “Big hearts, the enlarged hearts that God uses, are laboring hearts which, though weary, will willingly be expended as necessary” (p. 215). See 1 Thessalonians 2:9 and 2 Corinthians 11:27 – laboring night and day; laboring in all types of afflictions–this is persistent labor.
- To Reach Out: Example of Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4). You cross barriers, you radically hurdle the conventional barriers of today, etc. Humbly goes after even “least of these.”
- In Perspective: Learn to look at world through ministry/servant eyes. See spiritual opportunities. Be attentive/sensitive to the leading of the Spirit, e.g., while driving in a car the Spirit lays it upon you to pray for a passing car, etc. So, look for spiritual potential – “part of an eternal drama in which each Christian has a special part to play” (p. 218). What is my calling? What is my perspective? What am I supposed to do? Etc. God has called each of us to participate meaningfully in the Kingdom of Heaven.
Happy 450th Birthday anniversary to Shakespeare. To celebrate Mashable compiled some of Shakespeare’s greatest jabs. “I would challenge you to a battle of wits, but I see you are unarmed.”
I’ve made brief notes before here and here about the growth of Christianity in China. Recently Peter Leithart summarizes an article over at The Telegraph which states China is on course to become ‘world’s most Christian nation within 15 years.’ From the article:
“Mao thought he could eliminate religion. He thought he had accomplished this,” Prof Yang said. “It’s ironic — they didn’t. They actually failed completely.”
Communism writes off (persecutes) religion wholesale. But perhaps in God’s providence the evil that is communism is merely a tool that God is using to graze cultural idolatrous woodlots, i.e., a type of pagan clear-cutting; Communism is the “Emerald Ash Borer” of the forest-that-is-paganism. So now the seed of the Gospel can be planted and new Psalm 1- “righteous man” tree farms can be cultivated? Perhaps. What the communists intended for evil the Triune Lord intended for good.
I’m guessing Christian China is singing Psalm 2 with zeal.
Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing?
The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the
LORD, and against his anointed, saying,
Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us.
He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision.
Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure.
Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion.
I will declare the decree: the LORD hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee.
Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession.
Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.
Be wise now therefore, O ye kings: be instructed, ye judges of the earth.
Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling.
Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.