Wednesday, November 25, 2009

the big question for the university

This is the big question that the postmodern university needs to answer...

"Simplifying to the extreme, I define postmodern as incredulity toward metanarratives. This incredulity is undoubtedly a product of progress in the sciences: but that progress in turn presupposes it. To the obsolescence of the metanarrative apparatus of legitimation corresponds, most notably, the crisis of metaphysical philosophy and of the university institution which in the past relied on it. The narrative function is losing its functors, its great hero, its great dangers, its great voyages, its great goal. It is being dispersed in clouds of narrative language elements--narrative, but also denotative, prescriptive, descriptive, and so on. ... Where, after the metanarratives, can legitimacy reside?" (-- Jean-Francois Lyotard)

A "metanarrative" is a grand narrative, or a singular, overarching plan over history. Or, ultimate purpose to all of history. Postmodernism likes narratives, but rejects any such transcendent narrative.

But when you've removed a Creator, moral absolutes, transcendent authority, or ultimate meaning to history, upon what do you build? What meaning or purpose is there to education, other than to become technicians without a conscience? Jesus answers...

"Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it." And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes." (Matthew 7:24-29 ESV)

And finally, who does the postmodern person give thanks to on Thanksgiving? He or she may feel thankful, and perhaps give thanks to others for good circumstances provided by them. But not in any ultimate sense, since most of our blessings are beyond our control, and actually beyond the control of others. So, do you thank "time, chance and matter"?

I give thanks to God for all things good, and for all things which work for good through Jesus Christ. He alone is the true God.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

reasons for preaching

Craig Larson lists reasons why Christians should listen to, and be under, the preaching of God's word:

1. Preaching brings us before God’s Word in the presence of the Holy Spirit, who indwells the gathered church.

2. Good preaching rescues us from our self-deceptions and blind spots, for left to ourselves, we tend to ignore the very things in God’s Word that we most need to see. Preaching is done in community, covering texts and topics outside of our control.

3. Good preaching brings us into the place of corporate obedience rather than merely individual obedience. This is a uniquely corporate discipline that the church does together as a community, building up individuals and the community at the same time.

4. Good preaching contributes to spiritual humility by disciplining us to sit under the teaching, correction, and exhortation of another person. This strikes right to the heart of individualism, which is such a plague on the church.

5. Good preaching gives a place for a spiritually qualified person to protect believers from dangerous error. To use the biblical metaphor: Christians are sheep; false teachers are wolves; preachers are guardian shepherds. A preacher is a person called and gifted by God with spiritual authority for the care of souls in the context of God’s church.

6. Good preaching does what most Christians are not gifted, trained, or time-endowed to do: interpret a text in context, distill the theological claims that are universally true, and apply these truths in a particular church – all this with the help of resources informed by 2,000 years of the church’s study that average Christians do not own.

7. Listening to preaching has a much lower threshold of difficulty. While many spiritual disciplines sound like exercises for the spiritually elite, young and old, educated and uneducated, disciplined and undisciplined can at least listen to a sermon.

A legitimate question is “If preaching is so central, how can so many Christians listen to it for decades and not be transformed?” Part of the answer may be weak or unbiblical preaching in which the Bible plays little or no role in the sermon. Or.…preaching that moves too quickly to what we should do before establishing who God is and what He has done for us.

--By Craig Larson, in Christianity Today, October 2009, pp 26-27.

dignity and depravity

"A paradox, this man: both son of God
And rebel, stellar powers bursting out
Through spirit mean and shoddy, cloaked about
With fine creative genius, yet a clod
Of dirt, compounded equally of sod
And everlasting consciousness, a lout
With moral aspirations, clutching clout
In empty power scrambles, sordid, odd.
Reflecting the Creator, given high
Preferment, ever served by angel hosts,
This son of wrath, preferring darkness, died,
His true paternity a barren boast.
God spoke: in his own image he made man;
And blemished though that image be, it stands."

(D. A. Carson, Holy Sonnets of the Twentieth Century)

Friday, November 20, 2009

this is part of the solution?

From the New York Times today...

SAN FRANCISCO — In January, Mike Rowland was so broke that he had to raid his retirement savings to move here from Boston.

A week ago, he and a couple of buddies bought a two-unit apartment building for nearly a million dollars. They had only a little cash to bring to the table but, with the federal government insuring the transaction, a large down payment was not necessary.

“It was kind of crazy we could get this big a loan,” said Mr. Rowland, 27. “If a government official came out here, I would slap him a high-five.”
So... how is this solution different from the problem?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

from solitude to community

I have appreciated the insights of Henri Nouwen on "Moving from Solitude to Community to Ministry." Here are a couple of thoughts on the relationship of solitude and community...

Why is it so important that solitude come before community? If we do not know we are the beloved sons and daughters of God, we're going to expect someone in the community to make us feel that way. They cannot. We'll expect someone to give us that perfect, unconditional love. But community is not loneliness grabbing onto loneliness: "I'm so lonely, and you're so lonely." It's solitude grabbing onto solitude: "I am the beloved; you are the beloved; together we can build a home." Sometimes you are close, and that's wonderful. Sometimes you don't feel much love, and that's hard. But we can be faithful. We can build a home together and create space for God and for the children of God. ...

This is where celebration, the second discipline of community, comes in. If you can forgive that another person cannot give you what only God can give, then you can celebrate that person's gift. Then you can see the love that person is giving you as a reflection of God's great unconditional love. "Love one another because I have loved you first." When we have known that first love, we can see the love that comes to us from people as the reflection of that. We can celebrate that and say, "Wow, that's beautiful!"

In our community we have to do a lot of forgiving. But right in the midst of forgiving comes a celebration: we see the beauty of people who quite often are considered marginal by society. With forgiveness and celebration, community becomes the place where we call forth the gifts of other people, lift them up, and say, "You are the beloved daughter and the beloved son." ...

From "Moving from Solitude to Community to Ministry" by Henri Nouwen

Monday, November 9, 2009

Great concert

This weekend we really enjoyed the music and ministry of Doyle Dykes, and his daughter, Haley!

Friday, November 6, 2009

pop's garden

a brief history of bcf

Blacksburg Christian Fellowship, or BCF as it is popularly known, was founded in November 1969. Prior to this time several families had been meeting for Bible study and prayer, with a particular concern that the Lord raise up an effective biblical ministry to the students of the Virginia Tech campus. Growing from these meetings, the Lord led them to begin a public ministry on Sunday mornings. The Wesley Foundation agreed to the rental of their facilities, and the first meeting was held in November 1969, with about 30 people in attendance.

Since the first meeting BCF has been greatly blessed by the Lord and has seen a steady growth in ministry and in numbers. Two other local churches were formed in part from BCF. In 1974 the Lord led Houston Couch, who at that time was an Elder in BCF, to leave and start Dayspring Christian Fellowship. In 1980 Max Harris, who was a regular attender at BCF, was encouraged by the Elders and members to start a ministry which has now become Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church. In spite of these departures, the numbers attending the Sunday services at BCF were such that it was necessary to start two services in 1981.

A new phase in the ministry of the Fellowship began in the Spring of 1988 with a request from the Board of the Wesley Foundation that BCF make alternate arrangements for a meeting place beginning in 1989. An intensive search of available properties led to the purchase of seven acres at 2300 North Main Street, and construction of the building began in May, 1989. The first service in the new building was held on December 17, 1989, and the building was dedicated on April 7, 1990.

The Lord has continued to bless the ministry of BCF in its new location, and an addition consisting of the chapel, expanded nursery facilities, and new classrooms was built in 1995. Continuing growth of the Fellowship made it clear that the ministry of a full-time elder was necessary for biblical shepherding of the body, and Sandy Young, who had attended BCF as a student and a new believer in the early 1970's, was appointed as the first full-time elder of the Fellowship in December 2000. Growth has continued since then, and in 2004 the elders and the church approved the planning phase of a second addition, to consist of new classrooms and possibly a new auditorium.

The church has always had the goal of equipping members for ministry and encouraging them to serve, but it was not until 2003 that this ministry vision was summarized in the vision statement: "We seek to be a fellowship of ministers, growing in the Lord Jesus Christ, and sharing God's love and the joy of knowing Him with the world."

By Paul Ribbe. This month is BCF's 40th anniversary!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Sunday notes

“Be very careful, then, how you live-not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” (Ephesians 5:15-20)

The Holy Spirit [part 1 review]

1) He is a Divine Person (Rom 8:9, 14-15; Eph 4:30; Jn 14:26)
2) He brings God’s presence (John 14:26)
3) He brings supernatural power (Acts 4:31)
4) He has a holy purpose (John 16:14)

The baptism of the Holy Spirit, a one-time event that places us into the Body of Christ and fills us initially. (Matt 3:11-12; Acts 1:4-6; 2:4; 11:15-16; 1 Cor 12:13)

“No one may ask a believer whether he has been baptized with the Spirit. The very fact that a man (or a woman) is in the body of Christ demonstrates that he (or she) has been baptized of the Spirit, for there is no other way of entering the body.” (Donald Grey Barnhouse)
The filling with the Spirit should be an ongoing event in the Christian life. (Acts 4:31; Eph 5:15-20)

1) What does it mean to be filled with the Spirit?

a. It is a command.
b. It is a plural (or corporate) command.
c. It is in the passive voice
d. It is in the present tense
Paraphrased: “You Christians, all of you, allow the Holy Spirit to go on and on filling you.”

2) How are we filled with the Spirit?

a. We must desire to be filled.
b. We must confess and forsake our sin. We cannot be filled with the Spirit until we are emptied of sin and of self.
“If we are full of pride and conceit and ambition and self-seeking and pleasure and the world, there is no room for the Spirit of God, and I believe that many a man is praying to God to fill him when he is already full with something else.” (D. L. Moody)

"Being filled with the Holy Spirit doesn’t mean I have more of the Spirit; it means the Spirit has more of me." (Ray Pritchard)

c. We must fill ourselves with God’s word. Compare the parallel passage: Colossians 3:16-17.
d. We must trust God to do His work of filling us. (Romans 15:13)
e. We must be willing to do this daily.

“This is your day, Lord; I want to be at your disposal. I have no idea what these next 24 hours will bring. But before I begin, before I get my first cup of coffee, and even before I get dressed, I want you to know that from this moment on throughout the day I am yours, Lord. Help me to be a branch that abides in the vine, to lean on you, draw strength from you, and to have you fill my mind and thoughts. Take control of my senses so that I am literally filled with your presence and power and dynamic. I want to be your tool, your vessel today. I can’t make it happen. Without you I can accomplish nothing. And so I am saying “Lord fill me with your Spirit today.” (Chuck Swindoll, from his book “Flying Closer to the Flame”, on how he often begins the day by the side of his bed.)

3) What are the Consequences of being filled with the Spirit? (Ephesians 5:15-20)

a. It increases our fellowship “Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.”
b. It enriches our worship: “Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
c. It increases our thankfulness: “always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
d. It gives us new power in prayer: Eph 6:18 “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.”
e. It enables us to submit to one another: Eph 5:21 “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”
f. It gives us power to live for Christ
g. It allows God to give us spiritual gifts
h. It allows the fruit of the Spirit to grow in our lives.

David's sermon here.

The Spirit-filled life explained here by Bill Bright.