Sunday, August 30, 2009


John Piper preaching (with all his heart, and all ten fingers)

"The true usefulness of our preaching will not be known to us until all the fruit on all the branches of all the trees that have sprung up from all the seeds we've ever sown has fully ripened in the sunshine of eternity.... God will hide from you much of your fruit. You will see enough to be assured of his blessing, but not so much as to think you could live without it. For God aims to exalt himself and not the preacher in this affair of preaching" (John Piper)

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Genesis creation account

By the sound of some complaints about the biblical account of the origins of the universe, you would think it would have been more accurate if it would have been more scientific. But can you imagine a Bible full of formulas like the this one, which I guess would require study Bibles with extended explanatory notes on Planck mass, tension, and time and Planck's constant? How many notes on perturbation theory and space-tearing flop transition would it take to turn your heart to God's gracious provision of salvation in Christ?

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Nice piece on worship

Here's a nice reflection on analyzing worship.


Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Everybody's wrong--but me, Moses, and Paul

Just joking! But it's to make this point: I don't think either evangelism or worship necessarily qualifies as the number one reason for being for the church, and therefore for the Assemblies of God. I think the central reason for being is as this age's chief manifestation of the "Immanuel" principle, the promise of "God with us."

It seems like the core Scriptural promise is this: "I will live among you, and I will not despise you. I will walk among you, I will be your God, and you will be my people" (Lev 26:11-12, also Exod 29:45). In the Old Testament this was first manifested in divine fellowship with humanity in the Garden, but sin interrupted that. After that, a few walked with God, such as Enoch, Noah, and Abraham (Gen 5:24; 6:9; 48:15). But it was really with the building of the wilderness tabernacle and then the temple in Jerusalem that humanity might once again experience the Immanuel principle, "I will live among you" (Exod 40:34-38; 1 Kings 8:10-11; 2 Chron 7:1-3).

Even in the Old Testament, Isreal knew that the earth couldn't contain the LORD (1 Kings 8:27; Ps 11:4, cf. Acts 7:49-50). Indeed, the prophets promised a greater temple (Hag 2:7-9; Ezek 36:26-28; Zech 14). And Isaiah promised a child named "Immanuel" (Isa 7:14). When Jesus came as the incarnate Logos, God was "tabernacling" among his people (John 1:14); indeed, he is the one in whom the fullness of God dwelt bodily (Col 1:19; 2:9).

In turn, Jesus promised an extension of the Immanuel principle when he promised a new temple to replace the one that Roman crucifixion destroyed (John 2:19ff). This made the stone temple obsolete (Luke 23:34; Acts 7:49-50; Heb 9). It had been only a shadow of the true heavenly temple that followed the resurrection. Eternally replacing the former shadowing human-made temple, the Body of Christ fulfilled all the promise that God lives with his people. Indeed, individual believers are God's temple (1 Cor 6:15-20; Eph 2:21-22) and the corporate body is the temple (1 Cor 3:16-17; 1 Pet 2:5). The church exists as the fulfillment of the Immanuel principle.

Of course, we still live in the tension between New Testament fulfillment in Christ's finished work and final consummation in the eschaton. John's visions promise further fulfillment (Rev 11:19; 15:5, 8; 21:3). So the New Jerusalem has no temple building, because the Lord God Almighty himself and the Lamb are the temple (Rev 21:22; cf. 1 Kings 8:27; 2 Chron 2:6; 6:8; Isa 66:1).

God dwelling with his people is the whole point--it never was about stone and timber, any more than atonement was about the blood of bulls and goats being offered by faulty priests.

So, we the Church exists as God's temple, as the end times manifestation of the Immanuel principle. That's our most basic and over-riding reason for being. And in that temple, worship rises to God, and from that temple, works of mercy should flow, and from that temple should issue the clarion call of evangelism.

DISCUSSION STARTER: What does this line of thought imply for the all-too common hope that there will somehow again by a stone and timber temple made with human hands?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Getting it Wrong: Part 3

My comments on the earlier two blogs on this theme have pretty much stated my argument, but I'll put it in a brief form here:

There is indeed a reciprocal relationship between worship and missions; as Piper says, "Worship is the fuel and goal of missions." But worship is ultimate and eternal, whereas evangelism is not. When we talk of worship being the goal of missions, we reflect a rich biblical strain of thought, running from the Psalmist's calls, "Let the nations be glad" (e.g., Ps 67:3-4; 69:32; 70:4; 86:9; 97:1; 102:22; 117:1), to the apostles' awareness that the root of the apostolic call was in worship (Matt 19:29; Acts 9:16; 21:13; Rom 1:5; 9:17; 10:13; 3 John 6-7).

It's also useful to note that missionary thrust of the prayer Jesus taught is missionary-disciples: May your name be sanctified/honored/cherished and honored above any other name (Matt 6:9).

This assertion of the priority of worship over evangelism seems to me to be essential.
  • Reversing the priorities has the potential to do severe damage to the evangelistic cause, as modern American church history has shown when churches lose the real divine cause and allow missions to lapse into merely humanitarian effort.
  • Missions that are not driven by the glory of God can only be driven by some human impulse, whether it's vague humanitarianism or merely a guilty, patronizing, and condescending attempt help the developing world.
Now, after making that claim, I'm going to use my next blog posting to assert that there is something even more basic and primary that defines the key priority of the church. (Watch this space.)

Monday, August 17, 2009

Getting it Wrong: Part 2

It was interesting how the argument for and against reversing the priorities to put Worship first and Evangelism second played out. On the side for change, the resolution's sponsors provided a brief argument from biblical priorities. On the side for retaining the present order, Stanley Horton attempted a narrow argument from Acts.

But essentially, the argument against promoting Worship to first status and relegating Evangelism to the secondary position ignored Scripture and argued from our own historical documents rather than from Scripture. An emotive tactic, but not one calculated to do anything about clarifying biblical priorities.

In subsequent postings, I'll provide some of my own biblical arguments that Worship is clearly a priority over Evangelism. I'll invite comments in advance as to how you think I'll argue this case.

And in the end, I'll even argue that there's an even more compelling number-one priority that transcends even Worship or Evangelism as the church's chief priority. What do you think I'll see as the most elemental priority of the church?

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Getting it Wrong: Part 1

In the previous blog, I asserted that the AG got it right in a vote at this month's General Council.

This blog asserts that another vote got it wrong. A resolution called for the AG to reorder its priorities to reflect a more biblical order. Presently, the order is 1. Evangelism and 2. Worship. The resolution argued that 1. Worship and 2. Evangelism would reflect a more biblical order of priorities.

The General Council voted this down. But the resolution was spot on and its rejection is clearly misguided.

I'll make my argument in subsequent blog postings.