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How to Wake the Dead

“…You shall be Witnesses to Me…”[1] – Jesus  


“If you are a Calvary Chapel pastor or in teaching leadership, chances are you are concerned about the death of biblical truth in our culture and within our churches…As a pastor or teacher, you have the privilege of expositing and expounding God’s truth to your community.”[2]Chuck Smith

Speaking of the biblical gospel in a letter written to a group of believers living in Rome during the first century, the Apostle Paul said it is, “The power of God for salvation to everyone who believes…”[3]  That is a brilliant statement of truth!  The word gospel literally means good news.  The message of the biblical gospel is that even though human beings are spiritual criminals who are evil from the core of their being, God still loves them.  It tells us that though all humans have broken God’s law and heart at the level of behavior, desire, and imagination, God has chosen to freely provide a way for us to be totally forgiven for our crimes.  He has made a way for us to know and enjoy Him forever in personal relationship.  We have a way to be viewed by God as perfect and righteous even though we know deep down we could never be those things practically speaking, from the inside out.

 

The Rescue Mission of Rescue Missions

How in the world could these things be possible?  Only through the life, death, and resurrection Jesus Christ accomplished on our behalf some 2,000 years ago.  The core of the good news of the gospel is that the infinite, totally adequate, self-sufficient, self-existent Holy God of the universe came to earth to reach out to humanity when we had no way of reaching up to Him in an effective way.  This was the greatest rescue mission the world has ever seen, or will ever see. He came and was born to a young virgin girl named Mary becoming not only God, but also 100% human.  He proceeded to live a life of perfect obedience to the law of God in behavior, desire, and imagination on behalf of every sinful human being.  He died the death that every person who has ever lived deserves to die on a roman cross as a substitute for all people.  There He took the full force of the wrath of God that we deserve to experience as spiritual criminals.  He rose from the dead conquering the power of Satan, sin, demons, and death on behalf of all.  He now offers us forgiveness for our sins and restoration to relationship with Him if we will simply believe in this great message of His love.  This God, who came from heaven to earth to do for us all that we could never do for ourselves, is the God-man, Jesus Christ!  This is His gospel.

The Fundamental Goal of Church Planting

The basic tenets of that message inherently carry the power of God to bring the person who accepts them from spiritual death to an experience of spiritual life if they are embraced with the heart.  It is that message that Jesus has commanded His people to proclaim boldly and without shame or fear in all the earth.  The fundamental goal of planting local churches is to establish strategic centers for the preaching, spreading, and advancement of the gospel in the world for the glory of the gracious Christ.  A church should not be planted but with the goal of functioning as an effective tool for spreading the message of Jesus in the world.  If a gathering, organization, or any so-called Christian entity exists without the express purpose of spreading the powerful gospel, it is not a church.  It is not representative of the church.

 

We need churches like the first century church in Thessalonica.  Paul commended that local church as being a community of believers who were on fire for spreading the gospel they had received.

“And you became followers of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became examples to all in Macedonia and Achaia who believe.  For from you the word of the Lord has sounded forth, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place.  Your faith toward God has gone out, so that we do not need to say anything.  For they themselves declare concerning us what manner of entry we had to you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.”[4]

 

The community of believers at Thessalonica didn’t simply receive the gospel, get saved, and sit around playing church and enjoying their relationship with Jesus as they watched the rest of the world go to hell.  On the contrary, they became a center for missional gospel proclamation.  The gospel was sounding forth from the mouths of people who had their hearts changed by it’s power.  The joy over their salvation implanted into their hearts by the Holy Spirit who now indwelled them caused an overflow of gospel preaching and gospel living that brought many more people into the kingdom.

 

Every church planter’s goal should be that God would establish a church through him that is like the church in Thessalonica.  Their dream should be that of a group of people being saved by Jesus through gospel preaching who become so passionate about the gospel of the God who saved them that they spread it everywhere they can.  This is the New Testament picture of a mature and gospel-planted church.  This is the kind of church I pray for, and work toward by God’s grace.

 

The Command

Planting churches through gospel preaching is not merely one permissible option for church planting strategies among many.   It is church planting as God has commanded it to be done.

 

I know by experience that there is intense pressure from within and from without for church planters to get clever with their preaching.  You see some guys who have flashy churches, major resources, tons of money, and yet the weakest sermons in regard to biblical content.  After a while you might start to wonder if just teaching the Bible simply isn’t enough.  So you start softening a truth here, glossing over a doctrine there, and all in the name of reaching people.

 

Over against this kind of thinking is the teaching of the Holy Spirit in the Bible:

“And I, brethren, when I came to you did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God.  For U determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.  I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling.  And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.”[5]

 

Now when it comes to preaching there are generally two extremes that should be avoided at all costs.  Some think that using technology, media, props, and even illustrations to effectively communicate the gospel is carnal and unfaithful.  These people confuse flexibility in methods with compromising the integrity of the message.  Jesus Himself was a master illustrator who used the familiar pictures and experiences in the environment and technology around Him to communicate God’s timeless truths in timely ways to His hearers.

 

Still others are so focused on methods and strategic communication that they sometimes fail to actually present the simple content of the gospel faithfully.  The pure message of the Bible gets twisted or lost in all the wrappings.  These people seem to forget that while good missionaries are culturally sensitive and utilize practical tools and technology to communicate the gospel, the methods and techniques are not what God has promised to bless with His power.  The simple gospel message is what God blesses with the accompanying power of the Holy Spirit to bring people from spiritual death to life.  I once heard Francis Chan ask a group of Bible teachers, “Do you want to be a good communicator, or a powerful communicator?”  We would do well to ask ourselves that question.

 

The Choice is Ours

So, every church planter has to decide where he will fit.  Will you focus on methods to the exclusion of the message like many seeker sensitive and liberal churches do today?  Will you be a fundamentalist and preach the Bible but ignore the cultural communication stumbling blocks that get in the way of the people who hear you receiving the gospel?  Or will you be in the missional middle and preach the simple gospel faithfully while being sensitive to the cultural hang-ups of the ears who hear you?

If you are all method in your ministry I would challenge you to get back to the real source of power which is the simple gospel.  You can have nothing but the power of the Holy Spirit and the pure message of the gospel in your heart, and you will have all you need to plant a church.  That is all that the first church planters had and they did well to say the least.  I would encourage you to read Acts two and pray over the topics we’ve covered so far in this post right now asking God to show you if and where your heart is out of step with His on the gospel.

 

How to Reach Young People

Something that always concerns church planters is how they are going to reach young people for Jesus.  Many leaders are convinced that kids need to be entertained and have all sorts of extra wrappings encapsulating the gospel and the teaching of the Word for them to plug into churches.  I believe this is a lie from hell intended to get Bible teachers side-tracked.

 

I was as liberal and post-modern as they come when it came to my view of truth before Jesus saved me.  I can vividly remember personally saying many of the things that pastors often quote in their sermons as depicting the epitome of the post-modern mindset.  I would give people the, “what’s true for you is true for you, and what’s true for me is true for me,” line all the time.  And I believed that with all my heart.

 

But one life-changing day the Holy Spirit shot the truth of God into my mind like a bullet.  I couldn’t defend myself against it.  I couldn’t force it out.  He convicted me of my sin and drew me to seek God.  I found myself reading the Bible at home strangely desiring to figure out it’s teachings, something I had never desired to do before.  I remember that as I read I realized that what this book said was true of my heart was undeniable based on my human experience.  I knew it was right when it told me I couldn’t help wanting and doing things that I knew deep down were things I shouldn’t do or want to do.  I knew it was right when it told me I couldn’t make myself do or want to do things that I knew deep down I should want to do and practice.  I knew my heart was captive with the chains of sin it described.  This was my journey to becoming born again through reading the written Word.

 

After I got saved I developed an appetite for the Word like newborn babies desire milk.  I could understand the Bible where I hadn’t been able to before, and I wanted to learn God’s Word.  I found a Bible teaching church and began to soak up what I was hearing.  And the funny thing looking back is that the church I attended was about the least cool place I’d ever been from my previous cultural perspective.  The “new music” we sang were worship choruses from the 1970’s, the décor of the church looked like it was supplied by my grandmother, the pastor preached in a full suit, and the only visual images in the service were these poorly done and horridly distracting landscape scenes that would appear at random behind the lyrics on the projection screen.  You know what kept an artsy former metal and punk rock musician/social activist coming to such a lame place?  I knew I was getting stronger in the spirit through the unadulterated preaching of God’s Word!

 

Many of my friends have been saved from similar backgrounds to mine and have the same kind of stories to tell.  And as I meet lots of young people who come to the church I pastor and hear them talk about why they are with us, it isn’t the cool lighting, awesome band, or the fact that I listen to the music they do that keeps them coming; it’s the often blunt, sometimes offensive, always present preaching of gospel of Jesus Christ and the Word of God!

 

If you’re an older church planter or pastor trying to reach a younger generation, my encouragement to you would be to stick with the thing that God has chosen to bless with His power, and preach the gospel!  Teach the Bible!  Sure, you can draw a crowd with all sorts of things.  But the only thing that will change people, the only thing that will grip them at the core of their very being, is God’s Word.

 

Conclusion

The preaching of the gospel is what Jesus has chosen to build His church.  Preaching the simple gospel isn’t merely an optional way to do the work of church planting, but the only way.  Utilizing different methods to communicate the gospel is fine and can even be good missionary strategy, but methods must never get in the way of communicating the simple gospel message in the power of the Holy Spirit. If we want to wake the dead gospel proclamation is a non-negotiable.

 

Note- The above is an excerpt taken from “The Spirit-led Mission” by Kellen Criswell


[1] Acts 1:8b NKJV

[2] Smith, Chuck. Line Upon Line. Page 12.

[3] Romans 1:16 NKJV

[4] 1 Thessalonians 1:10 NKJV

[5] 1 Corinthians 2:1-5 NKJV

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Christians and Combat

***Written a few days after the killing of Bin Laden***

Ten years ago today I was an active duty Navy SEAL deployed to the Middle East, today I am the Senior Pastor of Valley Baptist Church contemplating the death of Osama Bin Laden. Every now and again I have these moments where my two worlds sort of collide. Today is one of them. The Internet is a furry with news, Facebook status updates, and blogs all reporting on this historical event. The chatter has inspired me to blog on a topic that is near and dear to my heart–The Christian and Combat.

First, let me begin by stating that I am writing this on my own behalf. My views are my own and do not necessarily reflect any group that I represent. These are my thoughts in progress and I do not claim to be an expert…although, I probably could. :)

Second, I have had many discussions with Christian pacifists over the years. I love the majority of them dearly. They are my brothers and sisters in Christ and we just don’t agree on this one issue. Some have accused me of not being able to see the Scriptures clearly because my background distorts my ability to listen to the Bible’s teaching. I admit that this really bothers me. They are simply wrong and assume my inclination is to hold a “pro war/violence position” because of my military background. In all honesty, the opposite is true. I have had to draw my gun on people (although I have never actually had to kill someone) and I have lost a number of very close friends in battle and have seen the after affects of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I would LOVE, LOVE, LOVE to take a pacifist position on this subject, but the Scriptures will not allow me to do that (in my humble opinion). Violence of any sort is horrible and I long for the day when God scraps this world and starts a new, but for now I am here living in a sinful fallen world faced with horrible things where there is no simple answer.

“The Christian and Combat” was the title of my Master of Divinity thesis. As a former Navy SEAL who is now a pastor and law enforcement chaplain, I feel I need to get to work and convert it into a user friendly format for publication as I am often asked for my thoughts on this subject. One of these days, one of these days…

My first combat mission was on September 9, 1999–my 25th birthday. At this point in my life, I had spent the last seven years preparing for this moment and had been a Christian for about 3 years. It was dark, pitch black dark, in the Northern Arabian Gulf off the coast of Iraq, my adrenaline was flowing, and I distinctly remember thinking, “Gunnar, how did you get yourself into this one?” I know the feeling that many soldiers and cops experience…my prayer is that I can help those who protect us answer these deep theological questions prior to finding themselves in combat.

There is no way for me to blog about this in its entirety–I need to write that book. But I will attempt to answer a couple of questions: 1) the need for warriors, 2) the authority of the warrior, and 3) the Christians response to violence.

The need for warriors. There is a story in the Old Testament that inspired the writing of my thesis and it is found in 1 Samuel 23:1-5. David and his mighty men are on the run from Saul when David gets word that the Philistines are plundering the people of Keilah. My first point against the pacifist argument is evil is happening all around us. You can be a totally passive person (which I feel like I am) and find yourself witnessing one person or group that is violently attacking another. I love what Dietrich Bonhoeffer says about this reality, “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.” David and his men were exposed to an evil situation, their initial reaction was not to respond because they weren’t in the best position to help. David asked God a second time if this is what he was to do. God’s desire was for David to proceed onward using violence to stop this evil that was already in progress. Today is no different. Evil is everywhere. Men and women everywhere are doing evil to all sorts of people. Are Christians simply not to intervene? I don’t think so.

The authority of the warrior–military, cop, or individual. The clearest teaching anywhere in the Bible on this subject is found in Romans 12:9-13:4. This passage is pretty intriguing to me this week as it is very similar the Sermon on the Mount which I am preaching on through the month of May. Romans 12:9-17 has all of the verses that pacifists love to quote like: “Bless those who persecute you”, “Never pay back evil for evil”, etc, etc. Yes, I believe this all applies to the Christian and I take these verses literally, but a literal interpretation forces one to look at the whole context–one cannot study Scripture in isolation of the whole.

Romans 12:18-19 begins to shed some light on how we as Christians are able to do this. First, the Bible says we are to be at peace with other people if it is possible and as much as it depends on our own actions. Then it says, “leave room for the wrath of God.” Okay so this is very interesting. We are not to take our own vengeance because God’s wrath is more effective than our own wrath (okay, the text doesn’t say why, that is my opinion). In my Bible I have drawn from “wrath of God” in Romans 12:19 down to Romans 13:4 where the thought carries through. Here the Bible essentially says that “it” (i.e. the authorities or government) “does not bear the sword for nothing” and that it is a “minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil.”

I have met a number of pacifists that I respect. Concerning these verses in Romans 13 they would agree that the government is responsible to bear the sword, but would say based on Romans 12 that there is no place for the follower of Christ to function in this capacity of authority as the one bearing the sword. Biblically speaking, the wrath of the government is the wrath of God (for the record, I am not defending all government actions, time does not allow me to unpack this, but I do think God judges nations Isaiah 34-35 this will be in the book). So to say that the Christian cannot function in this capacity is in essence to say that they Christian is holier than God and this responsibility should be left the the unregenerate.

Every soldier and cop must understand the concept of being under authority. There was one such soldier who encountered Jesus in Capernaum who understood this concept and expressed it to Jesus (Luke 7:1-10). Jesus’ response to this man was, “I say to you, not even in Israel have I found such great faith.” This is a pretty incredible statement if you stop and consider it for a moment. The point is that when life is taken it must be under the proper authority of God and the government and right circumstances–whether you are a soldier, cop, or individual defending yourself or others.

The Christian’s response to violence. Yesterday I started preaching through Luke’s account of the Sermon on the Mount (Luke 6:20-49). One verse stuck out to me (v.21), “Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh.” Am I happy that Osama Bin Laden is dead? Yes and no. Yes because a man who promotes evil and destruction to many people is gone. “Relief” is probably a better word than “happy.” Many of us in the West are not fully aware of the evil this man inflicted in the world. He killed many innocent people brutally. I am sad for what he represented because another will arise in due time…there are many already doing evil to the innocent even as you read this. He is dead, but many died along the way. One peer of mine calculated that some 62 SEALs have died fighting the war against terrorism. I know a few widows and children who are left behind…Osama Bin Laden’s death doesn’t undo this or the attacks that have been committed during his lifetime. But there is pleasure in knowing that the government is following through with God’s command to bring “wrath on the one who practices evil” (Rom. 13:4).

There is so much more I could write on regarding this subject, but I am running out of steam and I would like to post this tonight. Regardless of your theological bent regarding pacifism, I think we all agree on Paul’s instructions to Timothy, “First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity” (1 Timothy 2:1-2).

We should be on our knees this day praying as Paul tells us to above. I am thankful for the sacrifice of soldiers, cops, and good Samaritans who put their lives at risk in the calling of restraining evil.

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The local church and illegal immigrants–remember the Gibeonites!

I’m a follower of Jesus, I’m a pastor of a local church that is heavily engaged with serving the immigrants that live in our local community, and I’m a person who believes the bible is God’s self-revelation and that the historical events recorded in the bible actually took place at a specific time in history. I also believe that God has recorded those events, and many other things, for our benefit (1 Cor 10:11). I’m also convinced that if we take the time to understand the historical and cultural context of the times in which these events took place, we can discover principles that transcend all times and cultures. I also believe that those principles can and should be expressed by specific practices relevant and understandable to any specific culture.

Having said all of this, I am also something else, I am…….deeply troubled.

What specifically is troubling me? It appears to me that many self-proclaimed followers of Jesus here in America view themselves first and foremost as citizens of the United States of America, rather than first and foremost as citizens of the Kingdom of God. That for a number of reason too numerous to go into here, they live with the faulty understanding that somehow, the United States is a valid and perhaps the only true expression of the Kingdom of God in a political form. That the American “way of life” and the American “dream” are somehow in complete agreement with and are actually a great example of the truths that citizens of the Kingdom of God should navigate life by. And that somehow, the stumbling and unraveling of America will inflict a major death-blow to the Kingdom of God.

Needless to say, I beg to differ with those that hold these views.

I base the above summary of Christian American’s views on many conversations I’ve had with people around the country and right here in Phoenix. If you don’t understand why I would describe many self-proclaimed followers of Jesus in this way, here’s a quick summary of just some of what I’ve experienced since I arrived in Phoenix and began working among the refugee community:

The Arizona Republic, the largest newspaper in the state, has run a couple of articles in the past few years about the work my church does with refugees in our local community. After each article was published I received telephone calls from people claiming to be Christians who accused me of being a contributor to the train wreck that the American “way of life” is headed toward. I was told that I had no idea what I was doing by giving help to “those people” and one lady went as far as stating that she hoped when the kids of “those people” start gangs and cause turmoil, that my kids and grandkids will suffer at their hands. Again, these were people claiming to be Christians. Even when I explained that we work primarily with refugees who arrive completely legal under U.S. State Department guidelines and oversight and that 90 percent of the refugees would go back to their home country tomorrow if they could do so without the risk of being put tortured or put to death by a variety of means, some of these callers still spit venom in my direction. But, and this too is troubling, even those who softened their rhetoric after understanding the situation of refugees, on the other hand, were quick to tell me that those other immigrants, those “illegals” are the main culprits that are contributing to the ruin of our country.

What is going on here? In my opinion, as I’ve described above, some crucial lines have been blurred regarding the Kingdom of God and the United States of America. I’m convicted and convinced that it is the responsibility of those who take the Word of God seriously, especially those who pastor local churches, to bring some biblical truth and principles to bear regarding followers of Jesus and immigrants, even ILLEGAL-IMMIGRANTS!

The bible is full of admonitions for God’s people to be an expression of His love and care for the fatherless, the widow, the poor and oppressed, and the “stranger” that lives among us, (Deut. 10:17-22 being just one of dozens of examples). But does the bible have anything to say about the stranger or foreigners who live in our midst and who came here by “illegal” means? How should His people relate to those who have used deception to circumvent the clear laws of a sovereign people in order to sneak in and live in the presence of God’s people? How should His people interact with those who have snuck in among us in order to avoid what they perceive as an inevitable death much earlier than they would desire?

Are there a principles from a historical incident recorded in God’s Word that might apply to the situation followers of Jesus find themselves in at our moment in history? I believe there are.

Let’s consider those pesky Gibeonites!

Is it possible that God recorded the whole story of the Gibeonites and their interaction with God’s people so that His followers in America more than 2,500 years later might be able to clear up some of the very important lines that have been blurred? I think so.

Without expositing the texts in detail, let me give you a few key points from the story of Israel and the Gibeonites that I believe contain principles for us today.

1. God permitted the Gibeonites to deceive Joshua and peace was made with them and a covenant agreed to that will permit them to live. (Josh 9:15)

2. When they discovered they had been deceived, they didn’t give them what they deserved. A commitment had been made to them and Joshua wouldn’t permit them to break that commitment…even a commitment that was actually the result of the Gibeonites deceptiveness. This decision was not popular with the majority of God’s people and caused them to complain against their spiritual leaders. (Josh 9:18)

3. The Gibeonites agreed to be woodcutters and water carriers, (jobs nobody else really wanted to do), to stay alive and live among and be blessed by the blessings God was going to pour out on His people. (Josh 9:21-27)

4. The “long day of Joshua”, when the sun stood still, was triggered by God’s calling His people to protect the Gibeonites that were living in their midst. (Josh 10:6-15) The Lord fought for Israel in a unique way as Israel was His tool of protection for the “illegals” that lived among them.

5. Even generations later, mistreatment of the Gibeonites by Saul and some members of his house in their zeal for their own ethnicity brought serious consequences on members of their own family at a later point in time, David even permitting the Gibeonites to determine what form the justice should take (2 Sam 21:1-9)

Me thinks it would behoove the body of Christ in America to consider and apply the principles I’ve just unpackaged.

The following is my thought process based on these principles:

–Personally, I’m not commissioned by my government to enforce immigration law, but I am commissioned by my God to love the stranger, the poor, and the oppressed, regardless of their immigration status.

–I don’t view the changing ethnic make-up of our neighborhoods and our country as a threat to the American “way of life”. I view them as an amazing opportunity for me personally and the members of my church and God’s true followers nation-wide, to be able to obey the “great commission” (Matt 28:18-20) and have a direct, participatory role in helping Rev. 5:9 and 7:9 a reality….what a privilege!

–If those I serve and share Jesus with are here illegally and they are apprended and deported, I will weep with them, encourage them to stand strong as they face the justice of deportation that they deserve, view them as missionaries being sent to a needy field at government expense, and then maintain communication with them as they represent Jesus in their cities and among their own people.

–I don’t believe any country’s borders should be eliminated. I believe it’s every government’s responsibility to have immigration laws and enforce them. I don’t have a problem with a border fence, national ID cards, or any other reasonable steps a government takes to try to ensure the safety and success of it’s own people. But none of those things is the responsibility of the Kingdom of God…it’s priorities–the King’s priorities are usually quite opposite.

Let’s grab our motto back from the Blues Brothers: “we’re on a mission from God here”! And let’s thank God for those pesky Gibeonites and what it reveals about Him and the responsibilities of the citizens of His Kingdom.

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Soap Operas Teach Biblical Morality

I was in a grocery store line many years ago and TV Guide’s cover advertised an article entitled, “Soap Operas Teach Biblical Morality.”  I thought that was about the dumbest thing I’d ever heard.  Soap Operas are all about prima donna drama, selfishness, fornication, adultery, lying, murder, cheating, greed, hatred, bitterness, personal revenge, and smoldering resentment.  These are the polar opposites of Biblical morality.  “That’s just plain dumb,” I thought, but I was so intrigued that I bought that issue of TV Guide.  I read the article, and by the end of it the author had me convinced that indeed, soap operas teach Biblical morality.

Here’s his premise: the Bible teaches that selfishness, fornication, adultery, lying, murder, cheating, greed, hatred, bitterness, personal revenge, and smoldering resentment will result in unhappy, unfulfilled, dissatisfied, discontented, uptight, and joyless people.  What do we see on soap operas?  Unhappy, unfulfilled, dissatisfied, discontented, uptight, and joyles people. Soap operas are a backhanded reinforcement of Biblical morality.  It would not ring psychologically true, even in our jaded culture, to have a program where people murder, commit adultery, lie, steal, hate, covet, scheme, etc., and live happy, joy filled, worry free lives.

Hollywood actors and actresses can glorify out-of-wedlock or extra-marital sex on the movie screen, but when their real life spouses commit adultery – they divorce.  They can’t get away from the moral standard impressed upon their hearts.  When people choose to live outside the moral standard of our Creator, any happiness and joy they seem to have is a cosmetic that has to be put on before leaving home to mask the basic discontent of their lives.

J. Budziszewski, in the September 2003 issue of Touchstone magazine, helps us understand why this is so.  In his article The Furies of Conscience, he artfully unfolds the way our conscience functions.

Conscience works in three different modes:

  • Cautionary – alerts us to peril of moral wrong and generates an inhibition against committing it.
  • Accusatory – indicts us for the wrong we have already done.
  • Avenging – punishes the soul who does wrong and fails to heed the indictment of the accusation.

Conscience is therefore teacher, judge, or executioner, depending on what mode it is working: cautionary, accusing, or avenging.  It appears that the workings of conscience cannot be stopped – they can be ignored, but ignored at the peril of the one denying and hardening their conscience.

The article in its fullness will go a long way in informing and equipping the pastor in understanding how even the pagan or the backsliding Christian cannot escape the reach of conscience.  This will greatly aid you in counseling and preaching and understanding yourself.  It can be found at http://www.touchstonemag.com/archives/article.php?id=16-07-027-f

I was convinced – soap operas teach Biblical morality.  No, they don’t preach against the vices that are portrayed, but they do demonstrate that those who live in these vices never experience the true joy of life and only find themselves broken again and again.  As pastors, counselors, and preachers, we can rest assured that a life of rebellion is an empty life, regardless of the smiles and the thrills that attend it.  Pastor, your church is filled with soap opera characters.  Like most churches, the soaps have no larger than life heroes – no Rockys, no Rambos, no Indiana Jones’.  They portray regular people living in the furies of conscience.  Many who listen to you Sunday after Sunday are being decimated by the furies of conscience. By Christ, we can see through the smiling faces into the broken hearts, we can see past the bling to the sting, and we can present a Savior who can silence the furies of conscience.  Biblical morality is inescapable – even by those so desperately seeking to overthrow it.

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Ideas on Doing Outreach – Daniel Fusco

The critical mistake that many church planters make is that they think that God’s calling on their lives equals a ‘successful’ plant. Planters think that since God is calling them to an area that they will simply show up, put up a sign, and people will flock into the building because they are ready to teach the Bible. Oftentimes people get the false impression that if you simply teach the Word, people will flock into a new church. This may be true if you are planting a church in the middle of a full on revival, but in reality, in 2009, there aren’t too many place in the United States that are in the middle of a full on revival. Effective church planters need to do outreach to meet people so that they can come to the building to hear that Word of God. This was brought into focus for me when I was speaking to one of the older pastors in the Calvary Chapel movement. This pastor was there in the beginning of the Jesus Movement. He told me that not only was the Pastor Chuck Smith’s teaching anointed, but there was also a ton of outreach going on. There were concerts and Christian communes. There were outreach studies going on in schools, homes, and by the side of the road. Greg Laurie was inventing new cartoon tracks and they were being handed out. Teaching tapes were being given out. There were people, outside of the church building, meeting people with the intention of communicating the Gospel to them. A successful church plant is one that is reaching out to their community. When the people who are reached come to the church, then they will get the opportunity to hear God’s inspired Word.

In one of Mark Driscoll’s books, he gives a great and simple insight into casting vision for outreach. He asked three simple questions: Who are you reaching out with? Who are you reaching out to? And how are you reaching out? Feel free to read that article to see the finer points of these questions. But to begin our discussion, these questions are important. Who are you reaching out with? Is it just you? Do you have a small team? A large group? The answer to this question will affect the scope of our outreach. Who are you reaching out to? Depending on whom we are trying to reach, this will color the style of outreach. In the Jesus Movement, Christian concerts worked well, but might not in every context. This speaks to the need for cultural exegesis and understanding our target communities. This is where statistics and demographics can be incredibly helpful. Do we love the community that we are called to as Jesus does in such a way as to understand them? Finally, how are you reaching out? This is the culmination of the first two questions. When we understand who we are reaching out with and who we are reaching out to, then we can formulate an action plan as to how we are going to reach out. It is this third section that I want to spend some time on.

Have A Plan

It is simply wisdom to have a goal and that can be executed. If we have a plan and set some goals, we will have a better chance of accomplishing anything. So I always recommend that church planters come up with a plan, no matter how basic it may be. Set some goals and work towards their fulfillment.

Don’t be Seeker Sensitive, Be Seeker Sensible

I don’t know who coined this pithy phrase, but I like it. We need to be sensible to the people that we are trying to reach and the message that we are giving out. This is important because oftentimes our outreach ideas are not relevant to the people we are trying to reach. We have a tendency to import an outreach strategy that we saw used in another context. We need to be sensible. There is nothing worse then investing time and energy into something that isn’t sensible.

The Gospel is Free; But Getting It Out is NOT Cheap

We need to spend money on outreach. This may seem like a no-brainer, but it isn’t. It seems that oftentimes we would rather spend our money on anything else other than reaching people for the Gospel. We would rather spend money on the building a church (building) than building the church (community). Are we more concerned with getting ourselves a salary our reaching our community? Getting the Gospel out in our community will cost money and we should be prepared for this. It is money well spent (as long as we are mindful of who we are trying to reach).

It’s The Slow Drip That Works

What I mean by this is simply that it’s the cumulative effect of all the outreach attempts that work. We are apt to judge the effectiveness of an outreach based on immediate fruit. But in a church plant, it is the entire breadth of outreach that will have the effect. A continued outreach initiative, over time, will be effective. So have a broad view of it. Think about it, how many times have you heard about something before you try it? Like a restaurant? Oftentimes you’ll see an advertisement or two, maybe a billboard, then you’ll hear of a few people who went there and then you’ll try it. Churches are the same way. After someone gets used to seeing your name, if they know someone who likes it, often they will try it.

Put Your Name and Logo On Everything

This is the simplest outreach style. I call it ‘passive outreach’. To simply get name recognition, you want to put your logo, name, and website on everything: handbills, t-shirts, pens, everything. If you put your branding on everything, eventually people will notice you. As a Calvary Chapel pastor, if I am driving through a town and I see a dove, I instantly know what that means. There is recognition of the name and symbol. In our towns, if no one ever heard of us, there is a good chance that they are not stopping by for a visit.

Maintain A Good Website (and keep your name in the Yellow Pages)

In the technologically obsessed United States, it is criminal not to have a strong web presence. We are really shooting ourselves in the foot if we are not all over the web. Simply google your community and see what comes up. Put your name everywhere. On every community website that you can. The internet is here to stay and we want to be a part of it. People still use the Yellow Pages as well. Make sure your name is in the Yellow Pages. Also, don’t forget that you can negotiate with the Yellow Pages salesman. That we have in the Yellow Pages was being offered at $120 per month and we settled on $30 per month. That’s an extra $90 for other outreach ideas.

Train The Congregation in Community Engagement

Jesus’ outreach style was to train up twelve apostles. Jesus knew that having thirteen points of contact (Himself plus the twelve) would be more effective than it just being Himself. As we are teaching the people the Word, we need to be constantly raising up people who are effective witnesses on their jobs, while at school, as they recreate and the like. I am constantly downloading outreach sensibilities to the congregation as we walk through the Scriptures together.

Finally, The Church Will Be Passionate About What The Pastor Is Passionate About

Brothers, if we are not passionate about the lost, neither will the folks in our fellowship be. Just as Jesus reproduced Himself spiritually in His disciples, so will we. If our hearts do not burn for the lost, then we will never inspire them to care enough to share. Brothers, do we have a passion for the souls of men? Is it a passion that will drive us out of the safety of our offices and studies and into the places where people congregate to them won for Christ? A church planter without an outreach passion is not a church planter.

balance

The Balancing Act

“So it was, from that time on, that half of my servants worked at construction, while the other half held the spears, the shields, the bows, and wore armor; and the leaders were behind all the house of Judah.”

Nehemiah 4:16

This is by no means exhaustive or complete…just thinking some things through…

There is no doubt that the “work” we are involved in as the Body of Christ is vast and extensive from our point of view. As we look at the “walls” that lie in disrepair and comprehend that its “breaches are many” (Isaiah 22:9), we begin to understand the scope of all that has been done, and begin to understand the reach that still has to be accomplished in our own communities, to the ends of the globe.

What greater thing is there than pouring our very lives that have been redeemed from the slimy pit and have now been washed clean, purged from the stains of our guilty consciences and shot-out lives, into the great and eternal “work” that we have been called to and given gifts by His Spirit which enable us to engage ourselves in this work effectively and profitably for the renown of Jesus’ name.

There are those that each of us know and love and care for that are fighting and laboring and toiling, expending spiritual and physical blood, sweat, and tears in this “work”. They are the ones that fill the seats on Sunday, falling asleep, nodding off during our sermons, not making it to the discipleship classes, the home fellowship or mid-week study all the time, “‘cuz their just plumb wore out”. And unfortunately, we sometimes question their dedication to the work because of these realities. These are the ones who are directly involved in the “front lines” work of the ministry. We sometimes fall into the mindset that “We are the ones on the front lines, that I am the one forging ahead into the vast hordes of the unchurched and unbelieving. “I alone am left, Lord!” (and not wrongly so, in all instances).

But here in Nehemiah 4:16 we see the position of the leaders in the “impossible” work in Jerusalem…namely repairing the breaches, rebuilding the wall. The leaders are positioned squarely behind the “frontline”. Yes, they are also directly involved in the work themselves, fighting, laboring and toiling alongside. But they are also functioning “behind the scenes”, watching, directing, re-directing, encouraging, equipping, etc.

With this picture in mind, one thought stands out. There is the necessity that we must teach, by our lives and by our words, that in the work of the Lord and in the service of the Lord, in desiring to accomplish the task that is before us, there is a needed balance, with which we will be able to be most effective in our watching and in our working.

We, as your pastors, have been separated from “waiting on tables”, so to speak, and strive to be constant in our giving of ourselves, our entire lives, to the ministry of the word and to prayer. Our desire, our goal, our calling, if you will, is to excel in being the leaders that God has gifted us to be so that you might be the best equipped, as you each are laboring and toiling on the front lines, rebuilding the walls.

Ephesians 4:11-16


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Understanding Your Context – Daniel Fusco

When I speak with church planters, I always want to find out about the area that they are ministering. I ask them about the community, its values, its style, the demographics, etc. I find that oftentimes men haven’t taken the time to do any cultural exegesis. At first, this took me aback. But then I remembered that when I planted the church in New Brunswick, I did barely any cultural exegesis. I was a young man with a Bible who knew that faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. I had seen the Lord change my life and I had a passion to see people experience that same change. So I set on out, without thinking much about where I was, the uniqueness of the area, etc. Even when we first began, although I was saying all the right things about my understanding of the community, the reality was that I didn’t really take the time to understand the average person in New Brunswick. I didn’t love the community enough to want to really know and understand them. The ministry suffered because of this. Not because I didn’t teach the Word, but because I did but not in a way that anyone could understand. It suffered because I exported the ministries that I had seen at the church that I was an Assistant Pastor at, rather than seeing my area for what it was and tailoring the ministry accordingly. So now, we’re going to look at ways of understanding our ministry context as well as some of the pitfalls that church planters face.

The Most Important Thing about Contextualization

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is unchangeable. It is fixed. It cannot be altered and still be honoring to God Himself. But how we communicate these truths need to be changeable. They will change as the times do and as the culture does. The reason that I say this is the most important thing about contextualization is that many people don’t want to contextualize the gospel because many people change the Gospel to reach a culture (this is called syncretism). This is wrong. But you can package the gospel in such a way as to keep people from actually being able to hear it. Imagine if you were interested in using a new computer. You go and talk to a ‘professional computer guy’ and he speaks to you in very technical, computer geek language. Within a few minutes, you are completely lost and your eyes glaze over and you decide that learning about the new computer is not for you. Is it that you weren’t really interested in learning or was it that the computer guy just shot soo far over your head that you just couldn’t get it? I’m sure a lot of our churches are like this. So in any discussion about contextualization needs to begin and end with the unchangeable gospel that God asks each of us to package specifically for our target audience, our community.

The Scriptures are Completely Contextualized

This was a mind-blowing realization to me. There are four Gospels. Each one has a different audience. Matthew, writing to Jewish people, quotes extensively from Scripture and is constantly looking at the fulfillment of prophecy in the life of Jesus. Mark’s Gospel has very little of this, as he was writing to a different audience. You’ll notice in Luke’s Gospel how he is always clarifying things to explain things that the average Roman wouldn’t understand about Jewish culture. Each of Paul’s epistles are contextualized to a specific area. The Galatians were struggling with the Judaizers, so Paul spoke to them about the necessity of faith apart from works. The church in Corinth was simultaneously spiritually gifted and carnal. So Paul shared to them the unsearchable riches of Christ within their context. Although all of this is God-breathed, it was inspirationally directed to a specific group of people. Not only were the words and concepts inspired, but also that those words and concepts were to be directed to a specific target audience! Jesus was incarnate into first century Judaism. He looked and dressed as they did. He understood how they were raised, as He was raised the same way. He spoke their language. If the Lord would have been incarnate say today in New York City, the Gospels would contain the same truth, but in drastically different packaging. One of the keys to understanding your context and ministering effectively within it is to ask the simple questions (with radically important answers), “If Jesus were to be incarnate today into (insert your location here), what would His ministry look like?” “If the Apostle Paul was doing his missionary work in (insert your location here), where and how would he do his ministry?” Then you should ask the question, “Why aren’t I doing these things?”

Demographic Research Is Not Unspiritual

I had always thought that it was unspiritual to look at demographics. As if using demographics somehow made your calling of God of a lesser effect. I had heard people speak ill of Rick Warren for surveying the area that he hoped to plant in to find out about what the people’s experiences with church and their perceptions of what would be the type of church they would attend. He found, among other things, that people wanted sermons that had real life application to it and they wanted a church that really valued their children. I believe that God wants these things as well for His church. Wikipedia defines demographics as ‘Demographic or demographic data refers to selected population characteristics as used in government, marketing or opinion research, or the demographic profiles used in such research. Commonly-used demographics include race, age, income, disabilities, mobility (in terms of travel time to work or number of vehicles available), educational attainment, home ownership, employment status, and even location. Distributions of values within a demographic variable, and across households, are both of interest, as well as trends over time.’ Demographics are simply a compendium of who lives in your area. It was completely illuminating to read the US Census Data for Mill Valley, California where I currently serve. The people here are 90% Caucasian. 60% of the people have a college degree and one in three people have an advanced degree. The average per family income is more than twice the national average. This simply teaches me that the people here are primarily Caucasian, wealthy, successful and very well educated. This has profound implications for ministry style and approach. Would it be wise to come into a primarily Caucasian area and harp on the need for the ministry to be multicultural? With the education of the area that I am in, I have to make sure to anticipate the intellectual arguments of very well educated people and pepper all messages with this. Demographics are a snapshot of the makeup of your community. You want to know who you are trying to reach and make sure that your approach takes into account the people you are trying to reach and not just your own personal preferences.

We Absolutely Need to Understand the Average Person in our Community

Now I hate to say this but you won’t understand the average person in your community reading Bible commentaries and listening to your favorite pastors. Don’t get me wrong, you need to study to show yourself approved and be edified. But this will not help you understand your missiological context. Are your neighbors reading Bible commentaries? It is doubtful (although we wish they would). Do your neighbors really care about what some group of Christians are doing in some place that they’ve never been that you don’t agree with? Again, it’s doubtful. But oftentimes, this is what pastors do.

I have found that in order to understand the people that you are called to minister to, there are certain things that you can do to aid yourself.

1) Purposefully vary your people context.

Make sure that you spend time with non-Christians and find out what is important to them. It is really easy for church planters and pastors to spend all of their time with folks from within their congregation. It is essential and a disciple to vary your people context. Find out where they get their information from, the books they like, the movies that seem important to them and what they laugh at and why. Talk to them about sports and politics, but not to argue with them, but to understand them.

2) Read their information sources.

Read your local newspaper if it is popular and widely read. Read magazines that are targeting a population that is similar to your own. Read the popular books in your area. You can go into the local large bookstore change and ask them for their list of the most popular books that the store has sold. It’s a good idea to buy a book or two and read it with a mind to both understand your target population and also have a point of contact to begin dialoguing with people about (like Paul’s ‘Unknown God’ reference in the Book of Acts). I have found that magazines are easier than books as they are shorter and not as involved/time consuming. Also, if your area is strongly of a certain political flavor, you want to really understand their worldview so listen to their pundits, even if it makes you a bit nuts. If you want to understand whom you are trying to reach, you’re going to have to make some sacrifices.

3) Find the Points of Commonality

As you speak to people and as you digest their information, find the areas that you can agree on with the culture at large. Most people are used to Evangelicals being completely adversarial in their approach. It turns them off, just as it would us, if we were in their shoes. In almost every culture, there are things that there is agreement on. It’s important to find those points and use them as a relational bridge.

4) Proximity Breeds Accountability

I always encourage church planters to live directly in the community that they are called to. You want to live in the same context as they do. People will consider you irrelevant if you are living in the suburbs and trying to plant a church in the middle of a city ghetto. Your contexts are different and they will see that. You want to shop where they shop, work out where they work it, have the same weather, etc. And by all means, if you move into an area, change your cell phone number to have the same area code as everyone else, there is nothing that says ‘outsider’ more than having a cell phone number from some unheard of area code. And on that note, get your license plates changed ASAP if you move across state lines.

5) Teach As If Your Community’s Seekers Are There

If all of your messages are directed at evangelical people and are concerned with evangelical sub cultural discussions, then the only people who will be interested in them are evangelicals. But in most of our communities, there are less and less evangelicals and more and more people who don’t go to church. If you ever hope to reach your community, you want to make sure that you are teaching to an audience (whether you are in actuality or not) who includes those who are not yet Christian. Don’t just invalidate the average concerns with mockery. Those are real people’s concerns. Teach the Scriptures and show the community God’s love from them by lovingly addressing their most common concerns and explain to them how that concern is either unfounded or way more important than they realize. When you teach, teach as the average person in your community is there, and Lord willing, one day they will be and there will be conversions in the church.

6) Make Sure that You Really Love Them

Love is always relevant. I often think of Jesus eating with the tax collectors and sinners. He was nothing like them, at all. But yet He loved them and spent copious amounts of time with them. Even though He was distinct from them, He was there with them and no doubt, they knew that He loved them. We need to make sure that we love the community that we are trying to reach. We need to beg God for His heart for the people. He loves them. Jesus Christ died on a cross so that those who would come to Him might have life and have it more abundantly. God give us your heart of love for our communities.

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Answers and Direction

Proverbs 16:1-9
1 The preparations of the heart belong to man, But the answer of the tongue is from the LORD.
2 All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, But the LORD weighs the spirits.
3 Commit your works to the LORD, And your thoughts will be established.
4 The LORD has made all for Himself, Yes, even the wicked for the day of doom.
5 Everyone proud in heart is an abomination to the LORD; Though they join forces, none will go unpunished.
6 In mercy and truth Atonement is provided for iniquity; And by the fear of the LORD one departs from evil.
7 When a man’s ways please the LORD, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.
8 Better is a little with righteousness, Than vast revenues without justice.
9 A man’s heart plans his way, But the LORD directs his steps.

Reading this early this morning set me to thinking.
1) It is incumbent upon me to have my heart prepared, in the right place. Or, as one biblical orator phrases it, “Living in Communion with God and living in community with each other.” For that to be a possibility, my heart needs to be prepared. And if it is, then I have no place to worry about the words that will pass from my lips throughout the course of the day whether I am conversing, counseling or teaching.
2) Verse 9 encapsulates this thought from 1-9 in saying that it is responsible for me to have made my plans, but I must remain flexible, as in reality, it is Christ who is the One who will be directing my steps today…not me.
3) Verse 3 reminds me that as I have my heart prepared, and as I have made my plans for the day, the week, or the direction of the church I am a part of, I am to commit my works to the Lord Jesus and a glorious thing happens…He, in His condescension, establishes my thoughts. That is, He orders and prioritizes them, some may fall by the wayside, others take precedence.

Result?

The peace of God floods my mind which is often times troubled and so easily stirred up by the unrealistic expectations I place upon myself and those that are placed upon me by others.
I have gleaned great and precious things from my Pastor, things that are discussed frequently, for they are constant sources of sustenance, guidance, and satisfaction. One of these falling in line with this meditation…

“How do I know God is leading me in _____?”
“Do you have the desire to do it?”
“Yeah…”
“Do you see an opportunity (a door) to step out and put that into practice?”
“Yeah…”
“Then go and do it. Step out into the thing. And see what God will do.”

Philippians 4:6-8
6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;
7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
8 Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy–meditate on these things.

Q.1) If you could do anything in this life (as a disciple of Christ), anything at all, what would it be (take no thought of provision or resource)?
Q.2) What would it look like, cranking away on all cylinders, 10 years from now (what would be the ‘product’ coming out)?
Q.3) Who could come alongside you and help you do it?

adam

Guest Contributor – David Guzik “We gain far more in Christ than we lost in Adam”

This post is a response to a question that I posed to David Guzik. He graciously allowed me to post it as it was a great response.

I sent David a question based on something I saw tweeted that he had said.
“We gain far more in Christ than we lost in Adam.”

I asked David, “Is this true? Can you riff on this a bit for me?”

Here is David’s response-

Most of us think that the ideal world is the world of innocence, where sin or even have never been experienced. But God seems to place a greater value on the world of redemption.

Adam was certainly innocent, in the sense of not knowing good and evil (Genesis 3:22). But he was not righteous, in the sense of having fulfilled all of God’s law. Jesus came as the second Adam (Romans 5:12-21), and perfectly fulfilled the will and law of God with His obedient life. This positive righteousness of Jesus is credited to the believer by faith (Romans 3:21-22, Philippians 3:9). This is something greater in Jesus than Adam never had.

We also don’t have any evidence that Adam was regarded as an adopted son of God, but the believer is in Jesus (Ephesians 1:5, Galatians 4:5).

We are named kings and priests before God (Revelation 1:6, 5:10) – Adam never was.

We are part of a glorious community that Adam never knew, a community that will be consummated in the New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:1-3). Man has never known a community unmarred by sin. Adam and Eve only knew a limited community, and community in a larger context only came long after the Fall. Here, in the New Jerusalem, we have something totally unique: a sinless, pure, community of righteousness, a holy city.

In Ephesians 1:9-12, Paul wrote of the mystery of His will that has been made known to us. What is it? That in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ. A critical aspect of God’s plan of the ages is to “sum up” or resolve everything in Jesus. In a sense, we could say that God glorifies Himself by allowing a problem and showing His wisdom in not only solving the problem, but in making the end result greater that the prior condition.

I see a wonderful consummation of all this in Revelation 21:5: Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” And He said to me, “Write, for these words are true and faithful.”

This is an authoritative announcement, coming from the throne of God itself: He who sat on the throne said. In this announcement, He says: “Behold, I make all things new.” This statement is in the present tense, “I am making everything new.” Revelation 21:5 marks the consummation of God’s work of renewal and redemption, having begun here and now in our present time.

The words “All things new” connect with the thinking behind God’s eternal plan – to allow sin and its destruction in order to do a greater work of making all things new. At this point in His plan of the ages, the plan is complete. All things are new.

Our instinct is to romantically consider innocence as man’s perfect state, and wish Adam would have never done what he did. But we fail to realize that redeemed man is greater than innocent man; that we gain more in Jesus than we ever lost in Adam. God’s perfect state is one of redemption, not innocence.

A few days later, David added this quotation to an email

Today I was reading some Spurgeon, and methinks I have a great quote from him about this very topic:
“You have been a gainer by Adam’s fall. You might almost say, as one of the fathers did, O beata culpa, ‘O happy fault,’ which put me into the position to be so richly endowed as now I am! Had you stood in Adam, you had never been able to call Jesus “Brother,” for there had been no need for him to become incarnate; you had never been washed in the precious blood, for then it had no need to be shed. Jesus has restored that to you which he took not away. He has not merely lifted you from the dunghill to set you among men, but to set you among princes, even the princes of his people. Think of the bright roll of promises, of the rich treasure of covenant provision, of all that you have already had and all that Christ has guaranteed to you of honor, and glory, and immortality, and will you not in the midst of the congregation praise the Lord?” (Jesus, the Example of Holy Praise)

Wow. I love that: You have been a gainer by Adam’s fall …. O beata culpa …. Jesus has restored that to you which he took not away.

No wonder that God had to tell John, “Write, for these words are true and faithful.” John was probably so astounded by these words that he forgot to write – and must be told to do so.

That’s how it runs through my mind. To me, it is just plain glorious.