Tuesday, September 30, 2008

On the Road

My job (and passion) is local. I am the local pastor of a local church. So, I don't travel much. However, last night, I returned from a trip to Belize. I hope to write more on that later after I formulate my thoughts. However, let me say that I loved meeting the Americans and the Belizeans there who are serving Christ. It is a difficult work. Yet, there are people there committed to serving Christ and His church.
Tomorrow morning, I will be traveling to Montana. One of the adjustments to being in the West is that our presbytery ( the "local" grouping of our PCA churches) encompasses three states. So, I will be flying to a presbytery meeting. That is much different than what I have been accustom to for the past 20 years.
On my trip, I finished Gordon McDonald's Who Stole My Church and Nate Larkin's Samson and the Pirate Monks. Both were interesting reads. McDonald does a good job of demonstrating the church's need to change, but not excluding the older members. He makes a wonderful case for older and younger generations working together. In facing change, one of the things that I appreciate about being a Presbyterian is that our Confession allows us to change without losing our anchor or our rootedness. I appreciate both our confessional nature and our tradition--not because they keep us from changing, but because they allow us to change without losing what is important. Frankly, I am fearful for churches do are not confessional in nature as they go through cultural shifts. Without the confessional grid, I am not sure how they are going to distinguish the baby from the bath water. Of course, confessionalism in and of itself is not a perfect safeguard (look at our mainline churches), but it is helpful.

Speaking of managing change, I saw this blog post on trends by D. A. Carson. I found point #4, "There is a trend in our churches to be consumed by social concern" to be particularly helpful. I believe he strikes the right balance for the church on this issue.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Ecclesiastes and Football

I preached on Ecclesiastes 3 this morning. In that chapter, made famous in a song by the Byrds, The Teacher laments that life seems out of control (or, at least out of our control). I saw this funny video on Justin Taylor's blog, Between Two Worlds. The Teacher of Ecclesiastes would have loved it.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Bagging a Fourteener

In my quest to become a true Coloradoan, I have been fly fishing, snow skiing, and, as of yesterday, I climbed a fourteener. For those of you not from around these parts, a fourteener is a mountain over 14,000 feet tall. There are 51-54 (depending on who you ask) fourteeners in Colorado, including our own Pikes Peak.
Yesterday, a group of men from the church began our ascent on Barr Trail before the sun came up. Barr Trail is 12.6 miles long, but it is not the distance that gets you. It is the elevation gain. It begins in Manitou at 6,600 feet and goes all the way to the top of Pikes Peak, which is 14,110 feet—that is a 7510 foot gain in elevation. When you get to 12,000 feet, you are breathing 40% less oxygen that you breath at sea level. By 14,000 feet, you are getting just over half the amount of oxygen as at sea level. For those who are in good shape, that isn’t too much of a problem. Unfortunately, I am not in good shape.
I was feeling pretty good until the last three miles, but the part that really got me was the last mile. During that last stretch, where the oxygen is at its lowest and the climb is at its steepest, I started counting my steps. I would take 150 steps. Stop. Take another 150 steps. Stop. . . Snails can travel a mile faster than I did that day. While I was despising life, Page Clark and Bryan Counts were running to the top. The whole time, Page was saying, “This is brutal,” which is Page’s way of saying “I love it!”
Just ahead of me was Kevin Allen, Kevin had the look of death on his face and his hands had swollen so much they looked like his hero’s, Mickey Mouse. It must have been because he downed enough generic “Sport Drink” and Powerbars to fuel Michael Phelps for a week. Alan Bruns, who is a physician, looked at Kevin and told him that his best bet was get to the top as quickly as possible. Whenever a doctor looks at you and says, “Your best bet is…”, it is pretty motivating. So, Alan escorted Kevin to the top as quickly as Kevin could go. Once he got Kevin near the top, he ran (yes, ran) back down to encourage me the rest of the way.
A bit behind me, Thomas Ufer and Randy Thompson were making sure Richard Hunt made it up. These men are great encouragers and did a wonderful job of taking care of those of us who were struggling. I think Page, Thomas, Randy, Alan, and Bryan could have climbed another peak that day and still had energy left over for a jog. Richard, Kevin and I were simply thankful to be alive. In fact, Alan had so much energy left that, instead of riding down with the rest of us in the church van, ran back down on his own.
The beauty of the hike was spectacular. We saw deer, marmots, and pikas. However, most impressive were the views and the rock formations. My pictures do not do them justice.

Am I glad I did it? You bet. Would I do it again? Only if I were in better shape.
There were a number of things that impressed me. First, I was impressed with the way the men cared for and encouraged one another. It is obvious why these men are respected leaders in the church. They all have shepherds' hearts. Secondly, I was impressed with the sheer size, diversity, and beauty of the hike. It truly is something to behold. If this is what fallen creation looks like, I can't wait to see the renewed world.

More On Deaconnesses

Dr. Phil Ryken, pastor of the historic Tenth Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Philadelphia has this article on Tenth's website that interacts a bit with the articles by Tim Keller and Ligon Duncan. It clarifies Tenth's position a bit.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

A Few of My Favorite Things

In my various teaching setttings, I am having the students read a variety of articles that I have found helpful, as well as listen to a number of MP3s. It got me thinking about some of my favorite resources that I use. Most of my favorite articles and MP3s, I can't post because of copyright issues. However, there are a number that I can direct you to through links in the web. So, here are some good articles and MP3s that I have found helpful. If I can find a legal way to put other stuff up here, I will do that later.

Good MP3s
There are a number of good sources for sermons on the web. I typically listen to sermons by Tim Keller, John Piper, and some by Mark Driscoll, Scotty Smith and Ray Cortese. A great new source for many of these is The Gospel Coalition. Besides sermons, here are some lectures that I have found helpful. Two other great resources are Covenant Theological Seminary and Third Millenium Ministries. You can get the equivalent of a seminary education through these sites without paying a dime. For those of us who have been out of seminary for a while, this is a great way to get in some continuing education while driving, hiking, or running. Praise God for the IPod!

Heaven is not Your Home Message by Richard Pratt on The Kingdom of God (Also see Pratt's full series on The Kingdom of God)

The Heart of a Christ Centered Message Dr. Bryan Chapell's 1st Lecture on Communicating Christ - This Series is a MUST for all who teach and preach.
The Hands of a Christ Centered Message Dr. Bryan Chapell's second message on Communicating Christ
The Hope of a Christ Centered Message Dr. Bryan Chapell's third lecture on "Communicating Christ."

The New Perspective on Paul, lectures 1, 2, and 3 by D. A. Carson (Note: I listened to the lectures he gave at RTS-Orlando. I assume that these are the same). I realize that my friends who are more sympathetic to N. T. Wright find Carson "unfair". However, while I am no expert on Wright (and have benefited much from his writings), I found this critique to be spot on.

Keeping Up with the Conversation: Undestanding the Emergent Movement and the Emerging Church by D. A. Carson

The Gospel and Post-Modern Minds by D. A. Carson

Good Articles
Preaching in a Post-Modern City by Tim Keller
Preaching in a Post-Modern City II by Tim Keller
Hope Management by John Ortberg
Ministering to Post Everythings by Tim Keller
Leadership and Church Size Dynamics by Tim Keller
Living a Magnetic Faith in a Post-Modern World by Denis Haack
The Missional Church by Tim Keller
Christian Charity by Jonthan Edwards
Evangelical Manners by Richard Mouw
The Burden of Change by John Frame
The Good Shepherd by Leslie Newbigin
Taking the Swagger Out of Christian Cultural Influence by John Piper
The Covenant of Grace by Calvin Knox Cummings
How to Teach and Preach Calvinism by John Piper
Worship as Evangelism by Sally Morgenthaler
I would also add the the articles on deaconnesses in my previous post.