Monday, November 30, 2009
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I encourage you to click on the link below and ponder the lostness and the work that followers of Jesus have before us. Warning: The pictures are haunting.
Posted by Bro. Matt at 8:03 AM
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Posted by Bro. Matt at 9:06 PM
Why We Are Adopting For Life
This past summer, my denomination adopted a resolution “On Adoption and Orphan Care,” while my sons stood in the crowded room watching. It was one of the most emotionally weighty experiences of my life.
I knew the resolution by itself wasn’t going to spark an orphan care movement among Christians. Neither is my book on adoption, and neither are a thousand manifestoes on the subject. Only the Holy Spirit can do that as local churches start to embrace a vision for orphan care.
The resolution, though, was meant to prompt some questions. If one person in that convention hall was moved to simply pray, “Lord, how would you have me minister to orphans?” then the resolution was a success in my view. If one pastor was prompted to ponder how he could preach on adoption, or lead a foster care ministry among his folks, then the work has started.
I was overwhelmed with emotion on the platform to see my sons, two little ex-orphans, looking out on a sea of yellow ballots as thousands of my brothers and sisters affirmed that we want to be the people who love fatherless children. I realized that, in an alternative story, my boys would still be in an orphanage, not knowing even the name of Christ Jesus. But there they were, watching the world’s largest Protestant denomination recognize there are hundreds of thousands of children as helpless and alone as they once were.
There’s a long way to go. Literally one day after the resolution vote, I received correspondence from an employee of a denominational agency saying that adoption and orphan care doesn’t fit under the “umbrella” of “evangelism and missions.” Tell that to the thousands of children who know Christ today because they are growing up in Christian homes, rather than in institutions or on the streets. And tell it to Jesus who says something very different to us (Jas. 1:27). Following the Great Commission requires moving beyond short-sighted definitions of “evangelism and missions” as rallies and revivals.
But something is afoot among Christian families and churches of virtually every kind. God is calling the people of Christ to see the face of Jesus in the faces of orphans in North America and around the world. All brothers and sisters in Christ who affirm a belief in the authority of Scripture are recognizing that the Bible tells us that pure religion is defined by “care for the fatherless.”
As those who should be defined by our commitment to evangelism, we must confess that there is no greater field as “white unto harvest” right now as children in orphanages, group homes and the foster care system, children who don’t know a parent’s love and who don’t know the name of Jesus.
When Satan wars against children, we should be the ones who have compassion on them, even as Jesus did and does.
My prayer is that twenty years from now there will be thousands of pastors, missionaries and church leaders who started their lives as orphans, but are now preaching the gospel of God their Father.
Not many years ago, through infertility, miscarriage and two little boys in a Russian orphanage, the Lord changed my understanding of the gospel, of missions and of myself.
The Bible, after all, tells us that human families are reflective of an eternal fatherhood (Eph. 3:14-15). We know, then, what human fatherhood ought to look like on the basis of how Father God behaves toward us. But the reverse is also true. We see something of the way our God is fatherly toward us through our relationships with our own human fathers. And so Jesus tells us that in our human father’s provision and discipline we get a glimpse of God’s active love for us (Matt. 7:9-11; cf. Heb. 12:5-7). The same is at work in adoption.
If you sense the Lord may be calling you to adoption, or if you want to start a discussion on orphan care in your church, I hope you’ll join me for the “Adopting for Life” conference February 26-27, 2010, on the campus of Southern Seminary in Louisville, Ky.
You may be wondering whether this will be a conference about the doctrine of adoption or “real” adoption. Well, one of the things that we’ll be discussing is the fact that you can’t talk about the one without talking about the other. Also, it is not as though we master one aspect and then move to the other — from the vertical to the horizontal or the other way around. That’s not the picture God has embedded in his creation work.
So we’ve invited a number of great speakers to “Adopting for Life” — speakers such as David Platt, Jedd Medefind and Justin Taylor, with worship led by Andrew Peterson — who will seek to equip us to create a culture of adoption in our families and churches. We’ll be answering questions such as, “What does adoption have to do with the Great Commission?”, “How can I pay for adoption?”, and “How can we start an adoption ministry in my church?” — along with so many others.
I would love to see you here in Louisville for the “Adopting for Life” conference, as we think together about how God might be leading us to be on mission with Christ for the sake of the orphans of the world.
Join me and your fellow brothers and sisters in Christ as we talk about how we can carry out the Great Commission through adoption. After all, adoption is about more than a manifesto. Caring for the orphans of the world, in the end, is about the gospel of our Lord — and our brother — Jesus.
Russell D. Moore is the Dean of the School of Theology and Senior Vice-President for Academic Administration at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He also serves as a preaching pastor at Highview Baptist Church, where he ministers weekly at the congregation’s Fegenbush location. Moore is the author of The Kingdom of Christ and Adopted for Life.
Posted by Bro. Matt at 8:54 PM
Kevin DeYoung posts an article that is extremely insightful and full of discernment about what is commonly preached today, versus what is the true, biblical, and authentic Gospel.
Click here to go directly to his blog and read what he writes about this. I would love to read any comments any of you have regarding what he says.
Here is a quote from the article to whet your appetite:
"Please, please, please, if you are enamored with the New Gospel or anything like it, consider if you are really being fair with your fellow Christians in always throwing them under the bus. Consider if you are preaching like Jesus did, who called people, not first of all to a way of life, but to repent and believe (Mark 1:15). And as me and my friends consider if we lack the necessary patience and humility to speak tenderly with non-Christians, consider if your God is a lopsided cartoon God who never takes offense at sin (because sin is more than just un-neighborliness) and never pours out wrath (except for the occasional judgment against the judgmental). Consider if you are giving due attention to the cross and the Lamb of God who died there to take away the sin of the world. Consider if your explanation of the Christian message sounds anything like what we hear from the Apostles in the book of Acts when they engage the world."
Posted by Bro. Matt at 8:11 AM
Saturday, November 21, 2009
Why I am hopeful about the GCR movement
Over the last several months I have repeatedly been asked why I support the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force (GCRTF) and the broader impetus that led to its formation. A full explanation would include some necessary nuances and caveats that transcend the limits of a blog post, but the main reasons can at least be summarized here. These are, quite obviously, my opinions.I believe:
The SBC is unhealthy to the point that if it does not significantly change, it will become irrelevant beyond recovery within a few years. There are many who share my concerns--some of whom have already checked out of convention life while others are headed that way if things don't change for the better.
The SBC represents loads of potential for being an instrument of great good in the kingdom of God. It has been such in the past, and still is in some degree at present, but the potential is greater than anything we have seen thus far.
There are others in the SBC who don't think about theology and missiology at all.
There are still over 6000 unreached people groups in the world--2000 years after our Lord commissioned His church to make disciples of all peoples.
The leaders who are at the helm of the call for a GCR are trustworthy men. I disagree with them on some doctrinal issues. But I do agree with them on the most important points of doctrine and I believe them to be men of integrity who will not kowtow to political pressure, even if it causes them to stand against men they esteem and love.
The GCRTF could--and should--come back with radical, convention-shocking recommendations that are rooted in a vision to marshal our resources to reach the nations.
The call for a GCR could be the greatest hope of this generation to unite churches around the gospel, under the sovereignty of God, to give our utmost energies to making disciples of the nations.
Posted by Bro. Matt at 5:40 AM
Friday, November 20, 2009
by Kevin DeYoung
When Phillips Brooks famously defined preaching as “the communication of truth through personality” I do believe he was talking about your own personality and not someone else's. It has taken me awhile, but I finally feel like I have learned to be myself in the pulpit. Now whether this means my sermons are better or worse I can’t say. But being myself means my preaching is more genuine, more comfortable, and more sustainable. I know I have a lot to learn as a preacher, and I hope that ten years from now I’ll still get those awkward but true compliments–“your preaching has really improved over the years.” But at 32 I feel like I’m finally preaching the truth through my own personality.Like most young preachers, and not a few old ones, I’ve struggled to find my “voice” as a preacher.
Posted by Bro. Matt at 2:34 PM
This prison is the largest maximum-security prison in America. It is one of the most famous prisons in the whole world. It has only murderers, rapists, armed robbers and habitual felons. The average sentence is 88 years, with 3,200 people in one place serving life sentences. Ninety percent of the inmates will die here. This is a place of hopelessness, so if Angola can change, the rest of the country’s prisons can’t say, “We can’t do this.”
There is a local extension of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary in the prison and about 140 prisoners are enrolled. There are six churches in the prison and they train their own pastors. They send trained “missionaries” to other prisons to plant churches. They do this without using any tax money. But O the money—and lives—it saves!
Violence in the prison is rare. Courtesy and respect is pronounced. The ministry team of women who were visiting at the same time we were said they were treated with more respect from prisoners here, than in many places on the “outside.” Public profanity is not allowed.
The 42-inch church bell hangs high over the chapel in a prisoner-built tower. They rescued the bell from storage where it had been put after falling and killing a man. Some of the prisoners say: The bell killed a man and we killed a man, but now the bell and we serve the Lord Jesus.
Warden Cain says: I am as nice as they let me be and as mean as they make me be. Given the job he is given to do, it is a good motto.
The Warden answered all G.B.’s questions about what the last day would be like and who from his family and the press could be there. He gave G.B. unusual privileges for these last seven weeks. He was manifestly compassionate while stating the facts with precision. I took G.B.’s picture with my phone and said I would pray for him. (Perhaps you would too.)
I preached with all my heart to those who could fit in the chapel, and to the rest by closed circuit television. G.B. (and three others on Death Row) told me they’d be watching. I pulled no punches:
For 90% of you the next stop is not home and family, but heaven or hell. O what glorious news we have in that situation. And believe me it is not the prosperity of Gospel. Jesus came and died and rose again not mainly to be useful, but to be precious. And that he can be in Angola as well as Atlanta. Perhaps even more.
Posted by Bro. Matt at 12:15 PM
I found these posts by Jonathan Dodson very interesting.
I would love to hear your thoughts on some of these suggestions. Dodson lists three ways to ensure your church is not "missional."
1. Be Event Driven. Click here to read.
2. Be Evangelism Driven. Click here to read.
3. Be Social-Action Driven. Click here to read.
Posted by Bro. Matt at 12:08 PM
Thursday, November 19, 2009
Posted by Bro. Matt at 2:51 PM
Below is a post from Mike Pohlman from the Gospel Coalition site...
Suffering, Adoption, and the Gospel
Dan Cruver, director of Together for Adoption, has a moving couple of blog posts describing what he learned about the gospel of Christ through the suffering and death of his first son Daniel and adoption of his second son Noah Daniel.
Thank you, Dan, for your willingness to share the comfort you’ve received in Christ with those who may be in the midst of affliction (cf. 2 Cor. 1:3-7).
Posted by Bro. Matt at 2:47 PM
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
"As Christians we understand that the orphan crisis has a direct connection to the devastation of sin brought about by the fall of man. Consider the reasons why children are abandoned. These children have lost their parents because of war, genocide, natural disaster, disease, poverty, and the list goes on and on. The root problem goes back to the garden; sin is the “great orphan maker.” As Christians, we know that Christ destroyed the power of sin at the cross, and offers redemption by grace.
"As Christians we are adopted as sons and daughters and God uses us as the vehicles by which he demonstrates his love to a lost world. Think about it, the church is the community that gives the world a foretaste of the renewed creation, when all things will be “made new”. We have the responsibility of living now in light of what will one day be. And, who is more fully equipped to address the global orphan crisis than the church is?
"We are the people who have been entrusted with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the eternal message of hope. We understand that “one day the very word orphan will be eliminated from the human vocabulary.” But until that day comes we as a church have a responsibility to proclaim the gospel not only in word, but in deed. Remember what James wrote, “religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”
"Ed Stetzer has rightly said that “even the un-churched know that Jesus was involved in social justice, and they often wonder why the church is not. You are the church” I believe that God is moving in the global Church right now on behalf of these children. Let’s be honest, 143 million is a very large number. Now, some of these orphans end up in relatives homes, but many of them don’t. If these children survive it is because of orphanages, foster homes, and adoption. How can God use you in the work of orphan care?"
Posted by Bro. Matt at 8:01 PM
One of the challenges of biblical interpretation is that some sentences–especially in Paul–can have so much information tightly packed into them. Skim the surface of them and you may have a general sense of what he’s saying, but God is in the details!
Here’s one suggestion. Try to put down on paper the various questions that the passage is answering. You might want to start with the standard questions (who, what, when, where, why, how).
Here’s one example: a single sentence from Romans 8:3-4:
By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
How do all these clauses relate to each other?
What did God do?
He condemned sin in the flesh.
(Note: this is why Rom. 8:1 — “no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus”–is true. God has to condemn sin; he will either condemn your sin, or he has already condemned your sin in the sacrifice of his Son. Unite with Jesus and condemnation is gone forever.)
How did God condemn sin in the flesh?
By sending his own Son [Jesus].
In the likeness of sinful flesh.
Why (negatively) did Jesus come?
Why (positively) did Jesus come?
In order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled.
Who are we (negatively)?
Those who do not walk according to the flesh.
Who are we (positively)?
Those who walk according to the Spirit.
Gerald Bray is Research Professor at Beeson Divinity School at Samford University, and director of research for the Latimer Trust. This fall he is Scholar in Residence at Union University. He has taught theology for 30 years, is the author of numerous books, and is the editor of IVP’s Contours of Christian Theology series, penning its inaugural volume on The Doctrine of God. He is also the other of a large volume introducing the history of Biblical Interpretation. (Just to give you a sense of his learning and global interests, he is fluent in French, German, Dutch, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Greek and Russian.)
He’s graciously answered a few questions for us on the basic questions to ask when interpreting Scripture.
What are the questions we should ask when approaching a passage of Scripture?
The first question we must ask of every biblical text is simply this—what does it tell us about God? What does it say about who he is and about what he does?
The second question is: what does this text say about us human beings? What are we meant to be and what has gone wrong?
The third and final question is: what has God done about this and what does he expect of us in the light of what he has done?
Asking these questions and seeking answers to them will help us interpret the Spirit’s message to Christ’s people and to each of us as individuals.
These genealogies bring us a message from God even if they appear on the surface to be barren and unprofitable. All we have to do in order to understand them is to ask the right questions about them and their meaning will be quickly opened up to us.
Let me ask you, then, to answer the three questions you posed above. What do they teach us about God?
They tell us that he is a faithful God, who keeps his covenant from one generation to another. Whoever we are and however far we may be from the source of our human life in Adam, we are part of his plan. Over the centuries we may have developed in different ways, lost contact with one another and even turned on each other in hostility, but in spite of all that we are still related to one another and interconnected in ways that may go beyond our immediate understanding or experience.
What do they tell us about ourselves?
They say that most of us are nobodies from the world’s point of view. We live and die in a long chain of humanity but there is not much that anyone will remember of us as individuals. At the same time, without us, future generations will not be born and the legacy of the past will not be preserved. We are part of a great cloud of witnesses, a long chain of faithful people who have lived for God in the place where he put them. Even if we know little about them we owe them a great debt of gratitude for their loyalty and perseverance when they had little or nothing to gain from it or to show for it.
What do they tell us about God’s dealings with us?
They tell us that we too are called to be obedient and to keep the faith we have inherited, passing it on undiminished to the next generation. They tell us that there is a purpose in our calling that goes beyond ourselves. Even if we are not glorified and leave little for posterity to remember us by, we shall nevertheless have made an indispensable contribution to the purposes of God in human history.
Posted by Bro. Matt at 2:38 PM
Posted by Bro. Matt at 8:13 AM
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Dan Cruver, at Together for Adoption writes the following:
What should motivate us to give financially for the good of an orphan?
by Dan ~ November 12th, 2009
Here’s one way to motivate people to give financially for the good of an orphan: “If you make at least $30,000 annually, your income is in the top 7.16% worldwide. You are one of the wealthiest people in the world. Orphans are the poorest in the world. What’s preventing you from giving financially for the good of an orphan? You can certainly afford to give something!”
Here’s another: “‘You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich’ (2 Corinthians 8:9). You know what it’s like to be the poorest of the poor. Remember that you were at one time without hope and without God in this world. You were a spiritual orphan. But God in His great kindness sent His Son so that you might receive adoption of sons. When Jesus was forsaken by his Father at the cross, he suffered infinite poverty. He was forsaken so that you could be forever embraced. Look at how much you are loved! The love of the Father is your main wealth. When Jesus became poor for your sake, he gave you the eternal embrace of his Father.”
Both of these ways of motivation are legitimate. But the first seeks to motivate Christians merely on ethical grounds. The second seeks to motivate by overwhelming them with the wealth of love that is theirs in Jesus. Tim Keller, commenting on 2 Corinthians 8:9, writes:
Jesus, the God-Man, had infinite wealth, but if he had held on to it, we would have died in our spiritual poverty. That was the choice—if he stayed rich, we would die poor. If he died poor, we could become rich. Our sins would be forgiven, and we would be admitted into the family of God. Paul was not giving this church a mere ethical precept, exhorting them to stop loving money so much and become more generous. Rather, he recapitulated the gospel.
This is what Paul was saying. Jesus gave up all his treasure in heaven, in order to make you his treasure—for you are a treasured people (1 Peter 2:9-10). When you see him dying to make you his treasure, that will make him yours. Money will cease to be the currency of your significance and security, and you will want to bless others with what you have. To the degree that you grasp the gospel, money will have no dominion over you. Think on his costly grace until it changes you into generous people” (Counterfeit Gods, 67-68).
Yes, it is important to let people know what economic class they are in. We need to know how wealthy we are in comparison to most everyone else in the world. But if you really want to see people give, if you really want to see Christians become generous givers for the benefit of orphans, give them a fresh telling of the gospel. Melt their hearts with the good news of the gospel. Nothing motivates like the gospel. Nothing.
Posted by Bro. Matt at 5:31 PM
Monday, November 16, 2009
Sunday Morning, November 15th, 2009
"A Godward View of Money According to Ecclesiastes"
Ecclesiastes 5:10-20, 6:1-6
Three Ways Money and/or Possessions are Meaningless in these Verses:
I. Wanting a lot of Money as Meaningless from Earth’s Perspective
II. Having A lot of Money as Meaningless from Earth’s Perspective
III. Owning A lot of Stuff as Meaningless from Earth’s Perspective (6:1-6)
The Key to a Joy-filled Life: Contentment with God (5:18-20)
1 Timothy 6:6-8
Moving Toward a Life with Contentment and Joy in God:
1. Work toward putting a cap on your current lifestyle.
2. Getting more money is to be viewed as a direct means of demonstrating your supreme love of God.
3. Believe that this current economic recession or strenuous year for a farmer as a means of God’s protective grace for your soul.
4. Ecclesiastes 5 and 6 is not only true of an individual or a family, but true for the way a church operates as well.
5. Do an honest evaluation of your heart to, seeking as to whether or not your hope and joy is found in money or in God.
Sunday Evening, November 15th, 2009
“For GOD Has Done…” cont’d
How is it that one can know for certain that this has actually happened? (vs. 5-17)
(3). There is a longing to destroy the sinful works of the flesh (vs. 12-13).
What we must recognize right up front in Romans 8:12-13:
(a). Recognize where I get this third way to be certain of salvation.
(b). Recognize that there is a direct connection between verse 12 and what has gone before it (“So then…”)
(c). Recognize that the Christian life is war with one’s self.
Ways to fight indwelling sin according to Romans 8:12-13:
1. Ponder and embrace why Paul does NOT say that believers are debtors to the Spirit.
2. Be confident that you already have the power to fight sin by the Spirit that is in you.
3. Know clearly, however, what your role is and that overcoming sin is not automatic.
a.Recall that the war is not with the deeds themselves but within the spirit before
the deeds are committed – Ephesians 6:10-12
b.Fight inferior pleasures with a superior pleasure – John 16:13-14
c.Fight lies with truth – Ephesians 6:17
d.Fight by hoping in the greater outcome: life – Hebrews 12:1-2
Posted by Bro. Matt at 1:31 PM
1. He intends for this recession to expose hidden sin and so bring us to repentance and cleansing.
4. He intends to advance his saving mission in the world—the spread of the gospel and the growth of his church—precisely at a time when human resources are least able to support it. This is how he guards his glory.
5. He intends for the church to care for its hurting members and to grow in the gift of love.
Posted by Bro. Matt at 12:44 PM
Posted by Bro. Matt at 12:34 PM
Friday, November 13, 2009
Posted by Bro. Matt at 3:15 PM
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
'This resolution affirms our state convention in its use of Cooperative Program dollars and demonstrates that Arkansas Baptist pastors and church members both know about and approve of the Cooperative Program ministries across our state,' said Turner (Executive Director of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention).
...All resolutions passed unanimously without discussion."
Posted by Bro. Matt at 6:32 PM
I came across the article below at Zach Nielson's blog. This was originally posted at Together for Adoption by Dan Cruver. I rejoice in this kind of thinking and agree wholeheartedly.
"Seeing Much More than Statistics"
We’ve all seen the statistics. There are more than 143,000,000 orphaned and vulnerable children in our world. I remind myself of that number every day.
All of us agree that we need more than statistics to awaken the church to address the global orphan crisis. We rightly say, “We need to see faces, images of these easily forgotten children. If the church is to be mobilized to care for these children, we must seem them as much more than statistics. We must see them as living, breathing image bearers.”
But I’m convinced we would also all agree that we need to see more than actual pictures and video clips of the orphaned and vulnerable children of our world, as important as those images are. If the church is to be fully mobilized to address the global orphan crisis, what we most need to see is not simply the face of an orphan but the face of Jesus.
We are all very familiar with these words of Jesus: “I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me . . . Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ (Matthew 25:35-40).
Jesus’ words tell us that when we look into the face of the orphan or the face of the sick and oppressed, we are to see more than their faces. We are to see his.
But as critically important as it is for us to see the face of Jesus when we look into the face of an orphan, if Jesus’ face is all we see, we have not looked nearly carefully enough.
Jesus spoke the words of Matthew 25 just two days before he was “delivered up to be crucified” (see Matthew 26:1-2). When Jesus made the profound statement that we give him drink when we give water to the thirsty, he was about to thirst like no man has ever thirst before or since (John 19:28).
When Jesus said, “I was a stranger and you welcomed me,” he was soon to become the outcast of all outcasts (Hebrews 13:12). Jesus was crucified among “strangers, the afflicted, and prisoners, who live outside the mainstream of urban life” (Craig Koester, Hebrews, 571).
When Jesus said,“I was naked and you clothed me,” he knew that he would first have to be left to die in nakedness at the cross before those words could become a reality for us.
The only way Jesus could say, “as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me,” is if he first suffered an unquenchable thirst, an unsatisfiable hunger, an unspeakable forsakenness at the cross for us. Jesus suffered these things so that he could deliver us from our self-satisfied, self-focused, self-indulgent, orphan-neglecting, needy-ignoring lives.
Only when we see the crucified and risen face of Jesus in the Gospel will we be fully mobilized to address the global orphan crisis.
Yes, when we look into the face of an orphan, we need to see Jesus. But before we look into the face of an orphan, we need to be melted by the face of the crucified and risen Jesus as displayed for us in the Gospel. Only then will we really be able to move beyond statistics to care for the children they represent.
Posted by Bro. Matt at 5:05 PM
Monday, November 9, 2009
For more great resources on things relating to adoption, from links to frequently asked questions and answers, click here.
Go here to see what Green Acres Baptist Church in Tyler, TX is doing. http://www.hopefor100.org/gabc/index.htm.
Posted by Bro. Matt at 12:30 PM
Now, as I soon as I mention Sesame Street, I know some of you will balk about its educational value. You’ll point me to studies suggesting that learning the alphabet from singing puppets actually shortens kids’ attention spans. No argument here. But simply learning facts was never the primary goal of the program.
As the New York Times puts it, this was a “messianic show,” with a “mission” to remake the way children envisioned the world.
Yes, Big Bird and Bert and Ernie and Grover and Oscar the Grouch and their human co-stars would teach you about letters and numbers and safety tips. But, more than that, they would show you, by the characters they featured and the plotlines they put forward, a new way of seeing things on issues ranging from racial equality to obesity prevention to the global fight against AIDS.
I know that some immediately will conclude that I’m saying simply that churches should contextualize in their teaching and mission.
Yes, Sesame Street did contextualize. The writers and producers picked up on familiar themes such as advertising commercials (”This broadcast is brought to you by the letter ‘C.’”). They built their segments around a typical child’s attention span. They featured songs that were easy-to-sing and memorable (pop quiz: can you hum the tune of Ernie’s “Rubber Ducky” song? Of course you can).
And, yes, of course, churches should contextualize the gospel, addressing people in a language that can be heard and understood. But contextualization itself is not enough. Some of the most self-consciously contextualized churches are faddish and hyper-consumerist. They’re more like the mass-marketed latter years of Sesame Street, and less like the early, innovative, culture-shaping times. And we’ve got all the “Tickle Me Elmo” kinds of Christian ministries we can stand.
Sesame Street was effective because the program didn’t just contexutalize to the present; it contextualized to the future.
Remember, after all, when the show started. It was in 1969, the era of George Wallace and the Black Panther Party and campus race riots and the Richard Nixon “Southern Strategy.” From the very start, the program showed kids what few of them had ever seen before: a racially integrated neighborhood.
Now, Sesame Street could have done this with preachy didactic dialogue (kind of like Norman Lear’s Maude series). But instead, they showed kids racial equality, and made it normal for them, without ever saying much about it in the process.
As I read that, it struck me that, years before my Mississippi elementary school was integrated via busing, I’d seen African-American and Latino characters (such as “Gordon” and “Maria”) functioning as equal members of a society, on the television screen of my home.
“It’s almost too perfect that the first African-American president of the United States was elected in time for the 40th anniversary of Sesame Street,” the New York Times says. “The world is finally beginning to look the way that PBS show always made it out to be.”
What would happen if, whenever our culture saw love or reconciliation or peace, our neighbors said, “This is exactly the way that church always made life out to be?”
I wonder what would happen if our churches were to recognize our role in showing people the future, not just in our teaching and in our going but in our being? What kind of witness could we be to our communities, as fragmented as they are by race and class and economics and politics, if the very makeup of our congregations signaled the “manifold wisdom of God” (Eph. 3:10) in which “here there is no Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Schythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all” (Col. 3:11)?
What if our children were accustomed to seeing black pastors of majority white churches, and vice-versa? What if a hotel janitor were named chairman of deacons in a wealthy suburban megachurch, because all recognized his spiritual maturity and nothing else mattered? What if our churches pioneered tort reform, not by arbitration alone, but by Christians agreeing cheerfully to be defrauded (1 Cor. 6)?
And what if all that started to seem normal to us?
The New York Times speaks of the “messianic mission” of Sesame Street and that’s, of course, tongue-in-cheek. But we really do, as the Body of Christ, have a mission that is, quite literally, messianic.
We’d still offend a lot of people. Jesus always does. But we’d offend them the way he did, with them peering over their shoulder in wonder on the way.
And some would come back, even if by cover of night, to ask us what we’re up to. Some of them would love our songs and listen to our teaching even before they believe it’s true, just because they would hope it would be true. They’d see a picture of the universe as it could be. As deeply as their sinful natures would draw back, the image of God within them would resonate with the beauty of a cosmos at peace.
It seems to me if this were the case, we’d have less abstract theology and fewer “faddish” principles to teach. We’d be announcing to the outside culture and to those who’ve taken refuge with us in Christ, “Welcome to the future, to the kingdom of Christ in miniature.”
Mission will always be difficult, as long as we’re fallen and there are demonic powers out there. Still, we can wonder what we might be able to get across to our neighbors if we market-tested the future (by faith), and not just the present (by sight).
The Sesame Street idea was a product of its time, a Great Society-era utopian project rooted in an understanding of history as “progressive.” The people of Christ know better. If our congregations are workshops of kingdom righteousness, we’ll have to make it clear that this isn’t natural, and it isn’t due to history or to progress or to us. We’ll have to say something like, ”This church has been brought to you by the letters ‘Alpha’ and ‘Omega.’”
Posted by Bro. Matt at 11:30 AM
Justin Taylor posted this interview between Mike Huckabee and a former director for Planned Parenthood. After watching an ultrasound of an abortion, Abby Johnson is not an advocate for Life! Fascinating stuff.
Click here to go to his post and to watch the interview.
Posted by Bro. Matt at 9:49 AM
Posted by Bro. Matt at 9:47 AM
“A Godward View of Money According to Proverbs”
Various Scriptures from the Book of Proverbs
I. The Diverse Angles Proverbs Has on Wealth and Poverty
A. Wealth is understood as a wonderful blessing from the LORD.
B. Wealth is understood as a horrible and worthless thing.
Proverbs 11:7, 16
Proverbs 28:8, 20, 22
C. Poverty is understood as a good and better thing.
D. Poverty is understood as a sinful and evil thing.
Proverbs 20:4, 13
II. Saving is Encouraged If and ONLY If…
A. Proverbs pointing to saving for the future as NOT being a sin.
Proverbs 13:11, 22
B. Proverbs pointing to riches being worthless to hope in.
C. Proverbs pointing the wisdom of one’s security being in the LORD, not money.
Proverbs 10:3, 16
Proverbs 11:4, 28
Saving is encouraged and wise, if and only if your purpose in saving is for the ultimate good of others and the exaltation of God’s name.
III. Giving is ALWAYS an EXPECTATION for God’s people; Taking is ALWAYS CONDEMNED.
A. Honor the LORD with your wealth – Proverbs 3:10-11
B. Giving increases wealth, hoarding brings suffering – Proverbs 11:24
C. Giving generously to the poor brings blessing from the LORD – Proverbs 14:20-21; Proverbs 22:9
D. Giving generously to the poor is like lending to the LORD Himself – Proverbs 19:17
E. Not heeding the cry of the poor will prevent God heeding your cry – Proverbs 21:13
F. A characteristic of those who are righteous is that of giving – Proverbs 21:25-26
G. Oppressing the poor or giving gifts to those who are rich will bring poverty – Proverbs 22:16
H. Giving to the poor will ensure all your needs being met – Proverbs 28:27
1. If the wealth you currently have is due to righteousness, integrity, and hard work, save wisely and give both generously and sacrificially.
2. For those who are thinking there is no way you can give generously and sacrificially as well as save for the future, be radically intentional and ask hard questions.
3. Seek after wisdom like you would $10 million.
4. Pray for a Godward balance in your everyday lifestyle.
5. Jesus, the wisdom of God Himself, is the only way for a life to be transformed to operate this way joyfully.
Randy Alcorn says, “The distinction between financial responsibility and financial foolishness is this: Saving becomes hoarding when it is exercising our own sovereignty and financial independence so that God doesn’t have to come through for us.”
Larry Burkett, while he was still alive, said this about saving for retirement:
“Retirement planning so dominates the thinking of Christians who have sizable incomes that they overkill in this area enormously. The fear of doing without in the future causes many Christians to rob God’s work of the very funds He has provided. These monies are tucked away in retirement accounts for twenty or forty years. God’s Word does not prohibit but rather encourages saving for the future, including retirement, but the example of the rich fool, given in Luke 12:16-20, should be a clear direction that God’s balance is ‘when in doubt-give; don’t hoard.’”
William MacDonald said:
“Reserves are crutches and props which become a substitute for trust in the Lord. We can’t trust when we can see. Once we decide to provide for our future, we run into these problems. How much will be enough? How long will we live? Will there be a depression? Will there be inflation? Will we have medical bills?
It is impossible to know how much will be enough. Therefore we spend our lives amassing wealth to provide for a few short years of retirement. In the meantime, God has been robbed and our own life has been spent seeking security where it cannot be found.
How much better it is to work diligently for our current necessities, serve the Lord to the maximum extent, put everything above present needs into the work of the Lord, and trust Him for the future?”
Posted by Bro. Matt at 9:35 AM
Friday, November 6, 2009
Posted by Bro. Matt at 1:33 PM
(I found this at Zach Nielson's Blog...)
What Would It Take For Every Child In the US To Be Adopted?
Turns out, not as much as you might think.
Jason Kovacs, The Abba Fund:
Did you know that there are roughly 130,000 children that are waiting for adoption in the United States today? These children have had their parental rights terminated and living in temporary situation (either a temporary foster family or group home). Legally they are wards of the State with no parents but the government. You can adopt these children at no cost! In fact, in most States, you will receive a monthly stipend.
Every child in America (in the world) should have a permanent family. There is no excuse for this! So, what would it take to find each of these kids a family? To start off, I broke down the numbers by Southern Baptist Churches (they were the easiest to find figures for – as I have time I will add up all the other evangelical denominations – my initial count is roughly 170,213).
But, just counting Southern Baptist churches the results and ratios are very powerful. There are roughly 40,000 Southern Baptist Churches in the US. If every church committed to 3 children, every child would be cared for. In 11 States all it would take is 1 church committing to 1 child. Again, that is just counting the SBC!
Will you please 1) Look at the numbers below, and 2) pray with me that God would move in an unprecendented way among His church to see that every one of these children (every number is a child!) have a permanent home. And in the case of the children represented below who are 16-17 years old and about to age out of the system, pray that they would have a family who would commit to care for them when they are left on their own in a couple months or a year.
For the full chart with all 50 States click here to download in pdf.
To go directly to this link where it was found click here.
Now Consider These...
Be sure to read the descriptions why and what motivated those behind these projects...
http://ascendio.com/fbd/ - $130 million campaign
http://www.letsbuildabridge.com/ - $5 million campaign
God help us.
Posted by Bro. Matt at 12:34 PM