Archives For Shepherding

I’m no Scrooge. I don’t object to draping tinsel, jetting off Christmas e-cards, or singing inane jingles about jingling bells. I trust that my family understands that–pagan roots aside–the plastic conifer in our living room is not a subtle mark of our allegiance to the forces of darkness. It’s just a (model of a) tree.

We do, however, prefer singing “Hark the Herald Angel Sings” over the misdirected praise of “Oh Christmas Tree,” though I’m not even fanatic about enforcing that.

We tolerate the poetic inaccuracy of “We three kings of Orient are” because it rolls off the tongue better than “We indeterminable number of Gentile scholars of Persia are.”

But… I am nervous about the potential confusion which may cloud a four-year-old’s faith in my honesty. 

Angels on high, a pregnant virgin, God in a manger, a guiding star… are impossibilities. Yet, “all things are possible with God.” [Yes, you need to believe in the virgin birth to be a ChristianWe ask our children to trust us on these claims, with their lives. Then we add a fictitious, omniscient fat guy with a red-nosed reindeer to the mix. At a certain age we matter-of-factly disclose that we were just kidding about the chimney intrusion, the Elven workshop, and the works-based naughty-or-nice judgment. “Those parts are make-believe, the rest is gospel truth. Trust me, son.”

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yoke1The “L” word. It’s one of the ugliest of all words: legalism. Defined as the idea that we can earn right standing with God, it does violence to the glorious gospel of Christ. It says, “No, sorry, it’s not enough,” to the substitutionary atoning work of Christ. It confuses the way to forgiveness, it tarnishes the gospel of grace, it lays up heavy burdens that no one can carry, it crushes hope, and fuels despair. It declares that man possesses finesse to propitiate the just wrath of God due our sin. For that, legalism is deadly and must be opposed at every level. Paul called it another gospel whose proponents are condemned (Gal 1:8-9).

Consequently, labeling something/one legalistic ought to be done with caution. To bring the charge is to say that this thing or person is in danger of propagating an unsavable system and trampling the cross of Christ. So if we label something legalistic, we better thoroughly understand the gospel, the definition of legalism, and what exactly is happening with what we are labeling as legalistic. Otherwise, we are sinning by erroneously labeling something in opposition to the cross of Jesus Christ.

Even so, the legalism card often gets overplayed. More and more I’ve interacted with Christians humbly and faithfully working out their salvation with fear and trembling, only to have the legalism card slapped on them. As such, they’re being fallaciously warned about legalism boogeymen. There are many I’ve heard of lurking in Christendom.

Looking Under BedHere are 5 all-too-common legalism boogeymen we need to shoo away:

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One balmy Summer day in 1997 Rita Rupp (57) from Tulsa Oklahoma, was on a lengthy road trip with her husband Floyd (67). For no reason in particular, she began to sense that they may be in danger. She started thinking, ‘What if someone hijacks our car and kidnaps us? No one even realize we’re missing for days, and no one would come looking for us.’ So she hatched a plan.save me

Rita wrote a note, just in case she got kidnapped. She scrawled the note in appropriately distressed handwriting, “Help I’ve been kidnapped. Call the Highway Patrol.” She also supplied her name and a helpful description of the van they were driving.

This eccentric emergency plan would actually have proven to be a pretty good idea in the event that at some point she had actually been kidnapped, and managed to dispatch the note before being incapacitated.

At the idea was rather harmless, albeit a bit quirky. Except for one unforeseen eventuality. Mrs Rupp’s paranoia would have remained her private problem if on a bathroom break at a gas station the note hadn’t inadvertently dropped out of her handbag. Oops.

A conscientious attendant found the alarming note and quickly notified the authorities who then immediately issued alerts, mobilized patrol vehicles, and set up road blocks in four states. (Here is the New York Times article that proves I’m not making this up).

All the while, Mr and Mrs Rupp were cruising along to their destination, blissfully unaware of the multi-agency, national rescue operation that been launched to save them.

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November 19, 2013

Help with holiness

by Steve Meister

We must be holy, because this is the one grand end and purpose for which Christ came into the world [2 Cor 5:15Eph 5:25-26Titus 2:14]… Jesus is a complete Saviour. He does not merely take away the guilt of a believer’s sin, He does more – He breaks its power (1 Pet 1:2Rom 8:29Eph 1:42 Tim 1:9Heb 12:10).

 J.C. Ryle, Holiness

I’ve recently preached a mini-series on holiness for our congregation (audio here). We began with Lev 10:1-11 and 1 Cor 6:9-11, and concluded with Heb 12:1-14.

After being a Christian for nearly 20 years, I can unfortunately say that personal holiness has not been a topic that’s received great emphasis in the churches and ministries with which I’ve been in fellowship. In Rediscovering Holiness, J. I. Packer points to the same reality.

Packer identifies 3 evidences that Christians today evidently do not think personal holiness is very important:   Continue Reading…

ET and the MoonI always thought Halloween was delightful and charming. I guess I always knew deep down that it had scary roots—either something to do with ghouls and witches, or Catholic holidays. But the freckled, buck-teeth kids interrupting my important sitcom watching hardly seemed sinister. I confess that, I actually found it quite charming to be greeted by the Smurfs, glow-worms, princesses, Darth Vaders,  and other beguiling alter-egos salivating on my welcome mat.

Little did I know how dastardly this holiday was. Like a razor blade in a Snickers bar, Satan had impregnated my spiritual life with his malicious influence.  How naïve I was to think I could glorify God and enjoy a cultural holiday at the same time. But I’ve been enlightened.

I’m grateful for the plethora of e-mails and blogs I encountered last week that warned me of the noxious effects of  Halloween. Who knew that what erstwhile druids touted as flagrant demonic wickedness would one day evolve into something so deceptively cute and harmless.

It piqued my curiosity that perhaps there were other apparently harmless days that were laced with esoteric dangers. Since most of the helpful anti-Halloween rhetoric emphasized the poisonous roots from which the holiday sprang, I began my detective work in the same place—the origins of benign days.  To my horror I discovered a day more insidious than Halloween: Mondays!

It turns out that the roots of Monday are as pagan as you can imagine!

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The New Testament often describes the church as a building. Jesus is the “living stone” that makes our foundation, but all believers are also “living stones…being built up as a spiritual house” (1 Peter 2:5).

Paul uses this same metaphor and stresses the progressive nature of it. He writes that believers are “built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone” (Eph 2:20). But then he notes that, “the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit” (v. 21-22).

building prjoect

In other words, the work is on going. We ARE being built…right now the work is continuing. And if the church is an ongoing building project, that affects the way pastors view their work. In fact, this is exactly Paul’s point in 1 Corinthians 3:9-14). The work is ongoing, and that should seriously affect the way pastors view their work.

Here are eight brief ways the building metaphor should affect how church leaders view their ministry:   Continue Reading…