The Basics Are Always the Basics

April 30, 2013 at 9:53 pm | Posted in Grace and Faith | Leave a comment

On Saturday I was in a board meeting for Campus Ventures college ministry.  We spent some time with campus ministers discussing the question of how we can know a student has a genuine relationship with God.  Over thirty years of my association with Campus Ventures, as a student, a staff member, and now a board member, we have seen too many who were very involved as students, apparently growing as followers of Jesus, who completely fell away after college.  The discussion was to the effect that it is better to do less with students and impact their entire lives than to do more but only impact their college years.  But how can we know when the relationship is genuine and when it is just a fun thing to do or when they are going through the motions to please a peer or campus minister?

There were a few things on which everyone agreed.  First, students must truly understand and live the lordship of Jesus; he must be the centrality of their lives.  This would be demonstrated in attitudes about doing hard things and submitting to leadership, and by priorities students set while in college.  Second, they must have a true commitment to the authority of scripture, an understanding that the Bible really is the Word of God.  This is demonstrated by a desire to be in God’s Word beyond the basic assigned duties and by decision making based on biblical principles.  Third, students must demonstrate a life of grace, recognizing the sufficiency of Christ in all things.  This is demonstrated by their motivation for doing what they do; by getting away from the performance track; by an attitude of grace toward others.   This one is difficult in a disciple-making ministry since so much of what is done can be interpreted as performance based activities.  Things like having quiet times, memorizing scripture, and going through discipleship materials can easily become performance rather than response to God’s grace.  Finally, students who have a genuine relationship with Christ will be committed to Christian community.  This could be demonstrated by their involvement with, and enthusiasm for, church and small groups.

One of the campus ministers pointed out that these issues are all presented in the Navigator’s “Wheel” illustration about the Christian life in balance.  That illustration is often used by Campus Ventures.  My thought, being the theologian I am, was that the first three items are all foundational issues of the Reformation:  The lordship and sovereignty of Jesus, the authority of the Word, and grace.  Sola Christus, Sola Gloria, Sola Scriptura, Sola Gratia!  It seems, as I was taught in Campus Ventures, the basics are always the basics.

When the Earth Totters

April 20, 2013 at 8:47 pm | Posted in Devotional thoughts, Personal Testimony | Leave a comment

This has been a rough week in many ways – a culmination of some rough months in ministry.  The attendance and finance numbers at church have gone down, and I wonder sometimes where all this is going.  But then God encourages me that it is his church, and he is in control.  I have had a few such reminders in recent days.  It seems almost every day in the past two weeks God has encouraged me through his word.  Some of the recent reminders have come from the songs of Asaph in the book of Psalms.  Here are a few of them:

“I am continually with you; you hold my right hand.  You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory.  Whom have I in heaven but you?  And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.  My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.  . . .  I have made the Lord GOD my refuge, that I may tell of all your works.”  (73:23-28)

“When the earth totters, and all its inhabitants, it is I who keep steady its pillars.” (75:3)

“Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of your name; deliver us, and atone for our sins, for your name’s sake!” (79:9)

“Restore us, O God of hosts; let your face shine that we may be saved.” (80:3, 7, 19)

Be encouraged!  When it feels like the earth is tottering, God is still there; he is still in control; he is still a refuge; he still rescues his people.

Book Review: So Brave, Young and Handsome

April 15, 2013 at 11:42 am | Posted in Books and Movies | Leave a comment

I recently finished Leif Enger’s second novel, So Brave, Young, and Handsome.  It was an interesting story in a similar style to his first novel, Peace Like a River, but not near as good.  That the main character of this book is an author who wrote a popular book but struggled to get another written for his publisher because none of his ideas were good enough, makes me wonder if the early part of this book is autobiographical.

Though the story was not near as good as I hoped or expected, one quote made the book worth finding.  The story concerns an older man who left his wife early in life and later regretted it.  His discussion with the main character includes this valuable exchange as an understanding of forgiving ourselves and making amends:

We sat quiet while he smoked the tobacco down and stubbed it out on his boot heel.  He said, “Monte, I didn’t ever ask her forgiveness.  I was a stupid youngster, you understand.  My reasons for leaving seemed good, but they weren’t.  They were poor and selfish.”
My insides shrank.  I sensed a bad ending on the way.
“I am shortly bound for Mexico,” he said.
“But she remarried, you said.”
“I don’t aim to win her back.  No – to try would be another wrong against her.”
“After so many years, does it matter if she forgives you?”
“It matters that I ask.”       (p. 29)

Wow!  That’s good stuff!

If Enger writes a third novel, I’ll read it, first because he has such a good grasp of human nature, and that comes out in his books, and second because Peace Like a River was so good, I have to give him another try.

Five Years of Blogging

April 8, 2013 at 7:43 pm | Posted in Questions for Pastor Glenn, Uncategorized | 4 Comments

WordPress sent a “Happy Anniversary” telling me I have been blogging for five years now.  It’s hard to believe it’s been that long already.  If you are fairly new to this site, I thought you might like to see my most popular posts of all time.  So here are the five most popular PastorGlenn posts of the past five years:

1.  I wrote “Grieving the NIV” in June last year, as a conclusion to the year-long decision of switching my preaching Bible to either the NIV2011 or the ESV.  Yet in less than ten months it has surpassed all the earlier posts I’d written, and it still gets numerous hits everyday.  A lot of people are grieving the NIV1984, just like I am, and wondering what to do about it.  If you’re interested in the changes made to the NIV in 2011 and why I am not using the NIV anymore, you’ll find this fascinating.  And you will want to read the links and the comments as well.

2.  I wrote “Samson:  Strength, Weakness, Grace” three years ago, and though it didn’t have the sudden popularity of the above post, people search for sermons on Samson’s strengths and weaknesses almost every day.  It is the second most popular I’ve written.  When people read it, I pray they would discover God’s grace in their weakness.

3.  My third most popular is another one I posted in just the past year.  It’s not an article so much as a picture.  Herod’s Family Tree is another thing that someone somewhere searches for almost everyday.  I guess it should come as no surprise, since four generations of the Herod family show up in the Bible, and they are easily confused.  This chart is simple to follow and shows only those family members who have a role in the biblical narrative.

4.  I wrote “Seven Problems with the Prosperity Gospel” two years ago as a summary of many other things I’d said in this blog and in my sermons.  The gospel of prosperity that is preached from many American pulpits today is not the Gospel of Jesus.  It is a distracting addition at best and a dangerous substitute at worst.  When I see this on the list of blogs read on any given day, I pray the reader would discover the true Gospel, the real good news, of Jesus.  If this topic interests you, be sure to read the eighth problem that I added a few days later.

5.  Finally, the fifth most popular article is “Life Can Be Empty” — a presentation of the biblical message using Solomon’s book of Ecclesiastes.  It is so relevant in our American culture today.  I added a separate tab for this one very early in my blogging days in hopes that some might find it who need the message.

Thanks for reading.  Whether you visit on a regular basis or you just happen by once from some search, I hope you are blessed by it.  May you grow in the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.    –Pastor Glenn

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