Archive for September, 2008


Instantaneous information

Have any of noticed how much instantaneous information thrives in our culture? I don’t get it.  It seems like we are inundated every hour on stuff that is important, but not important enough to talk about every hour.

Allow me to illustrate.

The other day our government announced the unemployment figures for the month.  It was reported this was a six-month high for 2008.  Later that day one of our political candidates announced these were the worst numbers that had been reported in years.  No, he’s wrong.  These were the worst numbers we have had in six months, and what is six months compared to six decades?

Stay with me so I can illustrate my point with more detail.

The national news channels report each evening what are called “poll tracking numbers.”  Usually the polling data compares one week to another.  Last week Obama was up 2% points, next week McCain will be tied with him or ahead.  Who cares?  Daily tracking polls don’t matter.  Elections are what matters.

Do you get my drift?  Are you starting to see my point?

Here is one a crazy case in point—the daily price of crude oil.  I understand how the oil companies want us to see the correlation, but I really don’t think the daily price fluctuation of crude oil matters.

Here is another example—the rise and fall of the Dow Industrial Average.  If you are making investments for the long haul, with the big picture in mind, you don’t worry about the daily drops.  If you are taking the long view you keep your eyes on the 10, 20 and 30 year trends.

Here is my favorite.  I know we are experiencing tough economic times.  Yes, money is tight and the economy is weak.  Yet again, one of the political candidates said this is “one of the worst economic times in the history of our nation.”

He can’t be serious, can he?  Did he forget what the economy was like when Carter was President?  Hasn’t he read about the Great Depression?

So, what is my point?

My point is simply this—a daily change in price, a daily move in the polling numbers, or a daily (and sometimes hourly) drop in the DOW really does not matter.  I am sure it matters to some, but for the majority these numbers just do not matter.  What matters is what happens in the long run.  What matters is the price of gas over a period of years.  What matters is who is elected president on November 4th.  I think the creation of 24 hours news channels makes what is not news, mostly news.  And that is my point.


My thoughts on The Shack

Many of you have asked me to read and comment on the book The Shack.  Before I offer my analysis, I thought you would like to read what others are saying about Paul Young’s book:

Al Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Seminary, calls The Shack “deeply subversive”, “scripturally incorrect”, “undiluted heresy” and downright “dangerous.”

Michael Youseff, pastor of the Church of the Apostles’ in Atlanta, Georgia commented, “The book is like a deep ditch covered with beautiful flowers — sadly, many Christians are falling into this ditch.”

Mark Driscoll, pastor of the Mars Hill Church in Seattle says, “If you haven’t read The Shack, don’t!”

My biggest beef with The Shack is that it is theologically misleading.

One might argue since The Shack is a novel it is fictitious in nature and, therefore, does not necessarily have to be theologically accurate.  And there may be some merit to that argument, if the author had not written this statement in the back section of his book titled, “The Story behind The Shack”:

There are some publishers that appeal to various religious marketplaces, often with pat answers and empty rhetoric, and other who appeal to secular audiences avoiding books that speak positively to issues of faith.  There seems to be a huge missing that would address people’s spiritual hungers with integrity and intelligence, even if the message risked offending religious powerbrokers.

If Mr. Young’s desire was to address people’s “spiritual hungers with integrity and intelligence”, then he should have depended more on Scripture and less on his own imagination.  It is one thing to write a work of fiction for the purpose of entertainment.  It is quite another thing to write a work of fiction to influence the beliefs of others.  And this was Paul Young’s stated purpose in The Shack.

While reading The Shack another author’s quote, Larry Crab’s, kept running through my mind.  Crab says, “There is a god of your imagination and a God who is; and there is a world of difference between the two.”

To Paul Young I would say the same.  I am concerned that he believes this “novel” is a work that will address someone’s spiritual needs with due diligence.  Instead, it will greatly deceive them.

Although I appreciate the author’s attempt to answer the question “Where is God in a world full of hurt and pain?” I find Paul Young’s work, to be theologically damaging.

Again, The Shack is weak and it is filled with many doctrinal holes.  Paramount among those gaps is the author’s false view of the Trinity.  His portrayal is not biblical.  God the Father is portrayed in the form of a large African American woman who is always cooking in the kitchen.  Jesus is a middle-aged Middle Eastern man, dressed in a plaid shirt, with a tool belt around his waist. The Holy Spirit appears as a delicate Asian woman named Sarayu, who loves gardening.

Nothing could be more misleading or deceptive than to describe the parts of the Trinity as fully human.  The Bible is clear: God is light (1 John 1:5), God is love (1 John 4:7), God is Spirit (John 4:24).  To reduce God to the stature of a human is heresy.

Additionally, to make God out to be three characters—an African American woman, a middle-aged Middle Eastern man, and an Asian woman—appears to be the description of three gods rather than one.  The Bible is clear in this respect, also.  Deuteronomy 6:4 teaches, “The Lord our God, is one.”

Finally, it may benefit you to know a few things about the author I discovered after reading the book.  USA Today Online provides this alarming description of the author:

Emotionally distant from his missionary parents.  Sexually abused by the New Guinea tribe they lived among.  Grief-stricken for loved ones who died too young, too suddenly. Frantic to earn God’s love, yet cheating on his wife, Kim.
Young functioned by stuffing all the evil done to him and by him into a “shack” — his metaphor for an ugly, dark place hidden so deeply within him that it seemed beyond God’s healing reach.
His adultery, 15 years ago, finally blew the doors off that shack, forcing him to confront his past. “Kim made it clear,” he says. “I had to face every awful thing.”

‘Shack’ opens doors but critics call book ‘scripturally incorrect’
By Cathy Lynn Grossman
News >> Religion Section
May 29, 2008

Now I get it.  More than a theological treatise, The Shack is a confession of heartache and pain.  Instead of stating his reasoning for writing the book as theological in nature, I would have preferred Mr. Young to depict the story as a drama of true heartache.  That way the reader would not be so prone to be misled.
I think you should also know this about Young.  Although he grew up in a missionary family, the author professes today to be a Christian Universalist.  For those who do not know, Christian Universalists believe that Jesus Christ is “a way” to God and not “the way” to God.  Perhaps that will explain some of his weak insight into the Scripture.

There are other areas of theological waywardness in The Shack.  Young’s understanding of the cross, sin, salvation and forgiveness are all man-centered and humanistic in understanding.

For those of you who desire to read The Shack, I invite you to read it with discernment.


The Valley of Vision: The Lord’s Supper

About two years ago, the Lord convicted me that CrossPoint was not treating the Lord’s Supper with the kind of respect it deserved.  As a result, we decided we would spend more time preparing and participating in the holy meal.  CrossPoint now shares in the Lord’s Supper at least once a month, eleven months out of the year.  And I firmly believe we are growing in our reverence and respect for its holy meaning.

Provided below is a copy The Lord’s Supper prayer on page 360 of The Valley of Vision.  I used the prayer this morning in my daily devotion and it already raised my expectation for Sunday.  I plan to use the prayer the remainder of my weekend as I prepare to lead CrossPoint in taking the meal this Sunday.  I share this prayer with you for the next time you take the Sacred Meal.

God of all good, I bless thee for the means of grace;teach me to see in them thy loving purposes and the joy and strength of my soul.
Thou hast prepared for me a feast; and though I am unworthy to sit down as guest, I wholly rest on the merits of Jesus, and hide myself beneath his righteousness;
When I hear his tender invitation and see his wondrous grace, I cannot hesitate, but must come to thee in love.
By thy Spirit enliven my faith rightly to discern and spiritually to apprehend the Saviour.
While I gaze upon the emblems of my Saviour’s death, may I ponder why he died, and hear him say, ‘I gave my life to purchase yours, presented myself an offering to expiate your sin,shed my blood to blot out your guilt, opened my side to make you clean, endured your curses to set you free, bore your condemnation to satisfy divine justice.’
O may I rightly grasp the breadth and length of this design,draw near, obey, extend the hand, take the bread, receive the cup, eat and drink, testify before all men that I do for myself, gladly, in faith, reverence and love, receive my Lord, to be my life, strength, nourishment, joy, delight.
In the supper I remember his eternal love, boundless grace, infinite compassion, agony, cross, redemption, and receive assurance of pardon, adoption, life, glory.
As the outward elements nourish my body, so may thy indwelling Spirit invigorate my soul,until that day when I hunger and thirst no more, and sit with Jesus at his heavenly feast.


The fellowship of the unashamed

CrossPoint is wrestling with the question: what does it mean to be a DEVOTED follower of Jesus Christ?

Perhaps the following confession of faith will help us understand the importance of being DEVOTED.  It is purported that this confession was found in the journal of a young pastor in Zimbabwe who had been martyred for his faith.  It is the most compelling commitment to Christ I know.

I am part of the “Fellowship of the Unashamed.”
I have Holy Spirit power.
The die has been cast.
I’ve stepped over the line.
The decision has been made.
I am a disciple of His.
I won’t look back, let up, slow down, back away, or be still.
My past is redeemed, my present makes sense, and my future is secure.
I am finished and done with low living, sight walking, small planning, smooth knees, colorless dreams, tame visions, mundane talking, chintzy giving, and dwarfed goals.

I no longer need pre-eminence, prosperity, position, promotions, plaudits, or popularity.
I don’t have to be right, first, tops, recognized, praised, regarded, or rewarded.
I now live by his presence, lean by faith, love by patience, live by prayer, and labor by power.

My face is set, my gait is fast, my goal is heaven, my road is narrow, my way is rough, my companions few, my guide reliable, my mission clear.
I cannot be bought, compromised, detoured, lured away, turned back, diluted, or delayed.
I will not flinch in the face of sacrifice, hesitate in the presence of adversity, negotiate at the table of the enemy, ponder at the pool of popularity, or meander in the maze of mediocrity.

I won’t give up, shut up, let up, or slow up ’til I’ve preached up, prayed up, paid up, stored up, and stayed up for the cause of Christ.

I am a disciple of Jesus.
I must go ’til He comes, give ’til I drop, preach ’til all know, and work ’til He stops.
And when He comes to get His own, He’ll have no problems recognizing me-my colors will be clear.


I don’t want them to change me

As some of you know I gave up television earlier in 2008.  Other than one or two football games a weekend or a broadcast of news every now and then, I practically quit watching the tube.  The best part of dropping the habit is that I have re-prioritized my week where now I no longer have time for the mindless junk.  Last night, however, I decided to take a peak at TV, and was I shocked!

It was 10:00 PM.  I watched the local news first.  Five minutes into the broadcast I changed the channel because the reports were depressing.

Then I flipped to one of the national news channels.  The political spin made me nauseas.  Again, I flipped channels.

“What about Monday night football?” I thought to myself.  When I finally found the game, I was disappointed watching Brett Favre embarrass him self.  Brett should hang it up before some linebacker hangs him out to die.

I spent the final few minutes with swift channel surfing.  Each channel revealed one bizarre character after another.  There was the preaching charlatan who looked and sounded more like a circus entertainer.  Several shows promoted gay men telling women how to dress, style their hair and do their makeup.  The reality channels were anything but reality.  Other channels were hawking unnecessary products.  It was all bizarre.

My television viewing was brief.  During the few minutes watching the tube I was both humored and saddened.  I was humored by the emptiness.  I was saddened by the chicanery.  Television is nothing more than a grand advertisement for human depravity.  So I clicked off the tube and retired for the day.

My tube surfing experience night reminds me of an email Tim Tidwell sent me.  I wonder how many of you can relate?

In the November 1987 Reader’s Digest, Betty Wein retells an old tale she heard from Elie Wiesel (vee-zehl’):
“A just man comes to Sodom hoping to save the city. He pickets. What else can he do? He goes from street to street, from marketplace to marketplace, shouting, ‘Men and women, repent. What you are doing is wrong. It will kill you; it will destroy you.’
They laugh, but he goes on shouting, until one day a child stops him. ‘Poor stranger, don’t you see it’s useless?’
‘Yes,’ the just man replies.
‘Then why do you go on?’ the child asks.
‘In the beginning,’ he says, ‘I was convinced that I would change them. Now I go on shouting because I don’t want them to change me.’

I quit watching television because I don’t want them to change me.


You might be a pastor if…

I have never seen this list.  The “family reunion offering” owns me.  Tell me what you think.

  • You hesitate to tell people what you do for a living.
  • You’ve ever dreamed you were preaching only to awaken and discover you were.
  • You’ve ever wondered why people couldn’t die at more appropriate times.
  • You find yourself counting people at a sporting event.
  • You’re leading the church into the 21st century, but you don’t know what you’re preaching on Sunday.
  • A church picnic is no picnic.
  • You jiggle all the commode handles at the church before you leave.
  • You’ve ever spoken for free and were worth every penny of it.
  • People sleep while you’re talking.
  • Instead of getting “ticked off,” you get “grieved in your spirit.”
  • You’ve ever been tempted to take an offering at a family reunion.
  • You read sermons to your kids at night instead of bedtime stories.
  • You’d rather talk to people with every head bowed and every eye closed.
  • You’ve ever wanted to “lay hands” around a deacon’s neck.
  • You often feel like you’re herding cats rather than shepherding sheep.
  • Your greatest joys have been in the church.

A grief-filled week

Last week was a grief-filled week for many CrossPointers.  Several of our members experienced the death of a parent, sibling, grandparent or friend.  On Thursday and Friday our family of faith was involved in five separate funerals.  I conducted three of the funerals.  Steve Parr conducted another one, and the fifth service was led by a family pastor.  To be frank, last week was a week of deep sorrow for CrossPoint.

Last week was also a week of incredible ministry for CrossPoint.  I was impressed by the acts of kindness, love and care our church expressed.  For those of you who do not know, CrossPoint is a very loving congregation.  More than a few agree that our fellowship has a sweet disposition.  And that sweet spirit was displayed many times over with the cards, visits, flowers, food, phone calls and prayers for one another.

What stood out most last week was the way our Bible Study groups ministered to one another.  CrossPointer after CrossPointer, of every age, of every group, expressed their care and sorrow for their brother or sister in Christ.  It was an incredible display of true Christian fellowship.

One grieving family member poured out their heart to me.  They could not believe how their Bible Study group prepared enough food to feed their entire family the day of the funeral.  Another grieving CrossPointer said she has been in church all her life, but she has never seen a church family as loving as CrossPoint.

These personal accounts are just a small representation of CrossPoint’s love for one another.

The seminal moment of ministry occurred for me early Thursday evening.  As I was leaving a funeral home I was greeted by three of our college-aged young men.  Of course, we hugged one another and exchanged comments.  Then I thanked and commended them for being there.  Their presence, alone, was meaningful. Their love for one another was invigorating.

It is one thing to see adults caring for adults.  Some would even say it is common to see young couples ministering to young couples.  Yet when college students get it, well, that is something special.

CrossPoint gets it.  We are figuring it out.  The big picture is coming into focus.  CrossPoint is becoming DEVOTED to the fellowship.