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"I love you more than my need to be right." I’ve been thinking about those words in the context of this verse  – “Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry” – and have wondered what difference it might make to those standing on the margins of the church. What if their experience of church was marked by people who listened well to them and each other...
July 18, 2013 0 1 comments
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In 1999 I was blessed to be extended a call to co-pastor Immanuel Christian Reformed Church in Kalamazoo, Michigan, which had a vision to become a multicultural church.  I researched the CRC’s doctrines, history and mission focus and it all seemed to align with God’s leading in my life. So I accepted the call. I was eager...
July 16, 2013 0 6 comments
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If you minister where the most well-read news magazines are Progressive Farmer and the Farmers’ Almanac and not The New York Times, where you can't leave town without everyone knowing where you are headed, and where everyone knew your name before you ever arrived there, then this blog’s for you...
July 9, 2013 0 2 comments
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One of my readers asked me to reflect on the whole issue of judgment in the church. His starting point was Matthew 7:1: “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.” How can we make sense out of this whole business about judging—a word used often in the New Testament and sometimes in opposite ways?...
July 2, 2013 0 5 comments
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"If you seek God's hand, you will miss His face. If you seek His face, you will get His hand also." I have to say this quotation hits the nail on the head as to why so many folks are not effective in their prayer life. They seek God's blessing on their work and life without seeking God's searching, purifying, and transforming grace. I know I have lived this way all too often. I have prayed...
June 27, 2013 0 2 comments
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Ender is confronted by a gang from school. At first, I couldn’t discern the fault in his thinking; it was completely logical: “I will have to face these bullies every day. No one will help me. Therefore, I must help myself. I will beat them at this game so badly they will never fight me again.” I realized that Ender’s decision was completely logical only if one believes that one is truly alone...
June 18, 2013 0 6 comments
Discussion Topic

Edwin Walhout, apparently a retired CRC minister, has written an article in the Banner suggesting and promoting the changing of a number of core reformation doctrines which the CRC holds to, and which are foundational to our understanding of who man is, who Christ is, and what our relationship...

June 10, 2013 0 64 comments
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Perhaps in some of your studies you have found, probably through the help of commentaries, how a Hebrew prophet plays with words in order to communicate his message. The way in which the narrator of the Jonah story has crafted this book is indeed exciting. A variety of words are sprinkled throughout the book to give it a hidden and enriching unity. I can only...
June 6, 2013 0 6 comments
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I recently attended a conference on spiritual leadership. The conference teacher encouraged us all to read many books on leadership. But he also encouraged us to spend considerable time reading books spiritually. So what does this mean? Spiritual reading is about quality, not quantity. It is to read a book with this question in mind...
June 6, 2013 0 4 comments
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"Just because someone asks doesn't mean you should do." I heard Mark Cuban say this during a recent episode of Shark Tank. In a show where entrepreneurs try to get funding from a panel of successful business leaders to jumpstart their company, Cuban, the well-known owner of the Dallas Mavericks, was trying to figure out why someone wanted to take their business in a certain direction...
May 30, 2013 0 0 comments
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I still cannot comprehend these facts three weeks after it all began. They've been playing in my head like a wicked song I can’t turn off. My response is not unique. Why does this young man’s death and his family’s grief make such a deep impact on so many who never knew Tim Bosma?
May 28, 2013 0 4 comments
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It was the third evening in a row I had heard the steady hum of amplified music reverberating through the night air. In North America, I would have imagined the source to be a group of teenagers grinding out their favorite tunes in a garage. But in Nicaragua it is not teenagers who make the racket. “It’s the churches,” my host explained. “We’ve got five of them in this neighborhood. And they have services six nights a week.”
May 23, 2013 0 0 comments
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In the forum regarding Overtures 3 & 4 for this year’s Synod, Meg Jenista quoted Augustine of Hippo, who said: "In the essentials, unity. In the non-essentials, liberty and in all things, charity." So what’s the question? The question is: what are the essentials, and what are the non-essentials when it comes to our faith?
May 16, 2013 0 10 comments
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In two years I’ve done 24 funerals. Three of which have been for someone under the age of 70. One was for a baby. Each time, no one knew how to deal with death and dying. They kept going back to praying for the miracle. Praying against hope that things will not end in the inevitable. As pastors, ours is the calling to...
May 16, 2013 0 5 comments
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Because of the radical changes in the sporting world, some rather difficult issues face any Christian believer or institution involved in competitive sports. To be honest, I think these changes have made it harder for the fan to keep a good Christian testimony than the athlete...
May 9, 2013 0 0 comments
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What do the Scriptures mean when they refer to glorifying God? This teaching is, of course, a common one in Reformed circles. From childhood I have heard the exhortation, “Glorify God in all of life.” What this meant was that in everything that we do, we should reflect the glory of God—that we are children of God. People should be able to see from the way...
May 2, 2013 0 1 comments
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I am learning that being a pastor is not about having the perfect text picked out for the anxious soul, articulating with winsome ease encouraging words to the grieving, dying, depressed, and preaching sermons where riots break out in the parking lot because of the work of the gospel (think Apostle Paul in Ephesus). I am learning by God’s grace the role of the pastor is about becoming unnecessary...
April 25, 2013 0 5 comments
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Among all too many of us there is a hidden, unspoken, forgivable kind of blasphemy. It is the protest of Jeremiah when the Lord appointed him a prophet to the nations: “Ah, Lord God! Truly I do not know how to speak” (Jeremiah 1:6). Unintended blasphemy – to preach, or refuse to preach, as if successful preaching depended primarily on me. The blasphemy is the implication that preaching is...
April 25, 2013 0 6 comments
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Kelly (name changed) was a hardworking farmer—a salt of the earth kind of guy. He became a Follower of Jesus as an adult. And although he’s made considerable spiritual progress over the years, he admits that his growth is hindered because he struggles to read—especially God’s Word. I tell this story because it relates to one of my ongoing challenges in pastoral ministry: reading...
April 25, 2013 0 2 comments
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First it was a short article in Christianity Today, and then Sam Hamstra’s piece came in, and today I read that John Piper preached his last sermon Easter Sunday in his congregation in the Twin Cities.  Suddenly, everywhere I turn retirement is being written about, and I think that is good, although late for me since I retired in 2008...
April 18, 2013 0 3 comments
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It's difficult for me to believe that it's been now close to 8 years since I left my last congregation as pastor and weekly preacher. I like to think that my ability to draw on nearly 16 years' worth of preaching experience helps me in my job now training up a new generation of preachers via our students here at Calvin Seminary. But every once in a while I realize that maybe I've been out of the "game" just long enough that I have lost touch a little with the struggles of preachers today...
April 18, 2013 0 6 comments
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Why are we sometimes so hard on ourselves? Or, for that matter, hard on each other? Ever notice that? No wonder someone said recently, “Christians can sometimes be SO mean!” That hurt to hear. But I think he was more right than I might care to admit. We CAN be mean – to ourselves, to each other...
April 11, 2013 0 0 comments
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Spiritual biographies can be compelling reading. But fictional treatment of the spiritual journeys of four women? What kind of book would that be? And why would I read it? I had heard such good things about Sensible Shoes. And I DO find it helpful to hear others reflect on their deepening walk with Jesus and how that relationship...
April 11, 2013 0 1 comments
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In the late 90′s I was a pastor reading business books with my missional cohort in our Sacramento mission field. We were attending conferences at Willow Creek and Saddleback trying to figure out how to “create a safe place to hear a dangerous message.” It wasn’t just seeker methodology we were mining. We were exploring cell churches, house churches, multi-site churches, and just about any methodology that ...
April 4, 2013 0 0 comments
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I received a comment asking if I could verify “the apparent imperative in the Lord’s Prayer for the statements which are called the first, second, and third requests.” They stated, “It would almost seem possible that these three requests are praises to God as well, i.e., ‘hallowed be Your Name’ or ‘hallowed is Your Name.’” Great question, and I will address it on several different levels...
April 4, 2013 0 2 comments

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I have felt the same uncomfortable feeling with the "How are you" greeting. Now I say "Hi, nice to see you".

Interesting, when I lived in New Jersey I found it was customary to say "How ya doin'?" when walking past someone on the sidewalk that you did not know. The appropriate, expected response was also "How ya doin'?"--I found it confusing at first, having grown up in midwest where people do not ask a question as they walk swiftly past someone. Soon though, I realized that it wasn't that people were being rude--quite the opposite! They were speaking up to acknowledge my presence. Though they didn't intend to have a conversation with me, neither did they want to walk past as thought I didn't exist. I wonder if that is also the intention behind some flippant greetings you've described. Maybe there is a genuine desire to make people feel valued despite the lack of an established relationship or the time that would allow for an extended conversation.

Missional discipleship.  Problem: getting them off the couch and the bleachers and into the classroom... or small group

living rooms.   Motivation?  from leadership - pastors and elders, maybe deacons also.

posted in: Exegete This!

Death is some thing we face everyday. Whether it is some one we know or not, we are surrounded in a world filled with death. Many ask why a truly loving god would put us in this world filled with such sorrow, with such pain. Why some would have to face this mortal experience without the support of those who have passed? Why would God allow that some would live long lives and others would have the spark of life extisuighed so soon in life?

i have sometimes struggled with these questions myself. i lost my grandfather who i did not know very well due to a deibliating diease he had earlier in his life. i struggled with the fact that i had never truly had gotten a oppurtuiny to truly understand him, the only clue i had to what he had been was at his funeral. That was a time of great sorrow to suddenly realize what a loss it had been. What a terrible thing would it be if i could never get any of that back. Luckily for all of us such is not the case/ 

 It is our job as those who minister to help those who ask these questions to understand Gods greater plan. We may have to forgo the company of many of our friends and families but for a time, in lifes seemingly endless twists and turns but we can take comfort and comfort those that mourn with the good news. Death is not the end it is but a transition. Some thing that we must all go thourgh at the end of this mortal sorjoun. So let us rejoice at the times we have had with those we love and look forward to the time where we can again be with those we have lost.

This is an ecumenical group of trainers and I'm not sure that the group would be willing to travel to BC. However, there are plans to publish the training materials that are being developed! I'm very excited about this possibility and how those materials might be used (it's a wonderful group of people working together on this, lots of valuable wisdom). I believe that it's difficult for seminary training to prepare pastors for all that they will face. Therefore, ongoing training is needed, especially in this area of boundaries, which can often be the source of conflict in churches.

Would you consider coming out to the West Coast, say Abbotsford BC to do a similar workshop?

Thank you, Bev, for clarifying that it was Dallas Willard who emphasized the importance of solitude and silence--especially today.  I agree with him wholeheartedly!  Accordingly, I find "taking Sabbath" an essential practice for God's people today.   

I also like that Nouwen quote.  I remember reading something similar in one of Willard's book (The Great Omission, I think).  Something like: "No one has made significant progress in the Christian life without spending considerable time in solitude and silence."

May the Lord help us all to live this out, and then teach our people to do the same!

--Leon

I appreciate what the others are writing, and especially the resources that you have found helpful in trying to get a handle on what effective leadership is and how to maneuver through conflict. I have been at Zondervan for over 25 years, though never in a supervisory position. But all employees were required to take a course in Covey's Seven Effective Habits, one of which was "Think Win-Win."

Unfortunately in the American culture, our entire thought patterns are Win-Lose. We see it, naturally, in sports; we see it in the legal profession; we see it politics (the other term for that is gridlock). And I think we see it in church conflict--there will be winners and there will be losers. I don't believe it has to be that way. It wasn't that way in the NT church, but it took time to build a consensus. We need to think win-win (that is perhaps the X that Ron Klimp talks about).

Verlyn,

You have posed the question as if the leader has three choices: A, B or remain neutral

When churches (or groups) experience conflict over choice A or choice B it may be because they (or their leadership) have not passionately sought out, defined, then repeatedly emphasized the ultimate goal X. If X (which it now occures to me can conveniently stand for Christ and his kingdom) is well defined in the current context -- we are called to be..... and to do... -- then discussions about whether route A, B, or C take us there more directly (and at what cost) can be more openly explored.

 I suspect that the leader who allows himself/herself to be identified with A, B, C, D or E before the group has adequately explored them all and chosen one by a clear majority (while being frequently reminded of X) is the leader who goes down in flames or cleans up after a train wreck. 

Eugene Peterson's book The Pastor: A Memoir has some good chapters on his honest struggling with a young church about what they should become (and at the same time what he as a pastor should become).

 

 

I am currently reading The Painful Side of Leadership, Moving Forward Even When it Hurts by Jeff Iorg. it's an excellent book for pastors and leaders. Sometimes pain comes as a result of followers, sometimes as a result of leaders. Sometimes it happens because of sin, other times it may be just misunderstandings. Iorg shares some insightful suggestions in dealing with painful situations in leadership.

Verlyn,

Found your post most interesting in the light of my having just finished reading the book as well as the reality of being "on the scene" at this point. (I'm serving Calgary's former First CRC--now RiverParkChurch as their Interim Sr. Pastor.) When I asked Henry W. for some input regarding my serving here, he suggested "Read my book," which I obediently and wisely enough did.

But, having said all that, doesn't qualify me to answer all of your questions. A lot has transpired at the church since. Folks have headed in a variety of directions, and some of the differnces seem very minimal in the light of developments, even denominationally since. A pastor is always steering in a direction. It's impossible to be an impartial referee. When he/she is or becomes the center of the debate, I'd suggest it may be time to have an honest, reality show kind of discussion and determine which group goes where with whom, being obviously honest about why they're doing so. All too often we use all kinds of rhetoric to explain what is really not honest or maybe explainable.

Seems to me that in those kinds of situations, no real listening takes place. We're too busy givng our impressions or opinions and then forget/refuse to listen. Personalities are a reality, and it's best when we're honest about it. Read Acts again and see Paul & Barnabas' approach, with an eventual compromise and reconciliation. How do we keep the focus when persons become the focal point?  Anyhow, just some ramblings as I deal with a church/people greatly affected. No conclusions drawn......yet.......or ever. Not mine to do, I think.

 

that was Dallas Willard, as interestingly, I just read about that concept in a book earlier today  =)  he considered silence and solitude the 2 most radical discplines of the Christian life.  and Henri Nouwen said that "without solitude it is almost impossible to live a spiritual life."

interestingly the Native Americans tended to live in sync with their natural rhythm but it is not looked upon with much affirmation and usually to their detriment by those that don't follow their natural rhythms... most of us would quite likely get fired and lose our jobs if we did live in accordance with our natural rhythm...  if you are self employed, you have much more flexibility with your work schedule...

what was fascinating to me from my reading today, and I had never thought of this before, was that while the Israelites were slaves in Egypt, they worked 365 days a year, every day was the same, there was no Sabbath and the command to honor it had not been given yet... it was after they were freed that God gave them the gift of a day of rest via Mt. Sinai.

 

thx. for the invitation for input here... I know i'm a bit late to this thread, and classes are already back in session for the fall...

I'm a lay leader, and when/if my pastor/spiritual leaders have a lifestyle of praying and fasting, my confidence in all the other areas/decisions will be much higher that they are walking in step with and sensitive and open to the leading of the Spirit.  I believe the Spirit will help with whatever wisdom and insight they will need for whatever situation will arise, including using the potential gifts of other believers for certain situations, and that the leading of the Spirit will always be in line with the Word of God.

I will briefly discuss 3 areas that are connected to that, and it's possible these are already discussed in another class.

prayerlessness, The average time spent in prayer for 95% of believers is less than 5 minutes a day, and for pastors that average is 6-7 minutes/day.  there are all kinds of statistics on this, and I believe there is currently a group (Denominational prayer leaders network?) that is working on connecting with seminary leaders to encourage an increased emphasis on prayer in their curriculum.

One of my theories on prayerlessness is because many churches no longer view/teach Song of Songs as an allegory between Jesus and His Bride, the Church...  Song of Songs is a beautiful picture of that relationship (spiritual intimacy) if we are willing to work at understanding what each phrase symbolizes, instead of letting our culture influence what it means to us. (that's an entire discussion on its own ;)

and then there's the "practice" of fasting  ;)  that is often closely tied to prayer...  I think that would be an interesting discussion as well!!  Fasting is almost unheard of in today's church culture, and if brought up, the result is often strange looks along with "why in the world would we do that?"  or "that's not for the NT church"

and a discussion on cessationism/continuationism of the gifts I think would be very insightful.  What I have found is that "listening" prayer, that the Holy Spirit speaks and prompts today, is still considered a heresy by some, even though we/crc refuted cessationism back in 1973.

hope that makes sense!

 

again, thanks for asking =)

 

 

 

I grew up in a small church.  There were probably never more than 15 or 20 children, pre-school to high school.  As we grew up, we held the choir together; we taught Sunday School, Bible School, Bible clubs in open air, and in other ways learned the nuts and bolts of praise, worship, teaching and leadership.  We didn’t know about Dr. Klassen—he was long after our time; but his observation might have been made from us.  From our small group came two pastors, two international missionaries, a leader in Samaritan’s Purse, and a trained group of young adults who were ready to become leaders in their local churches.

SAMcGuire, Bourbonnais, Illinois

Hello President Medenblik,

Thank you for passing on the reading list.  'Looks very helpful!  And thank you for inviting our input as pastors in the field.  Three titles that immediately come to mind are: Leading the Congregation, by Norman Shawchuck & Reuben Job; Center Church, by Timothy Keller; and The Pastor, by Eugene Peterson.

May the Lord bless your teaching and leadership ministry!

--Leon

Hello Mark,

Thank you for writing this insightful article.  I resonate with your concerns.  (And here I am, responding to your article--catching up on my email correspondence and social media--on a Friday evening!)  I recall the late Dallas Willard--or was it Richard Foster?--saying that solitude and silence is the most urgent spiritual discipline for us to practice today, as we live in an over-extended and distracted world. 

Thank you for reminding me to be more sensitive to our natural rhythms.  I think I'll log out now! :)

--Leon

The Pastor by Eugene Peterson; Building a Discipleship Culture by Mike Breen; Christ-Based Leadership by David Stark; Church Unique by Will Mancini; The Making of a Leader by Bobby Clinton; The Eight Concepts of Bowen Theory by Roberta Gilbert and The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni.

A Tale of Three Kings by Gene Edwards was very helpful for me in dealing with "alligators" in the congregation. A quick, easy read.

To be honest, I found Bill Hybles' book Courageous Leadership to be very helpful and insightful. It gave me a lot to go by for my own perosnal growth in leadership. I know it's a bit more "pop culturery" (as in not Henri Nouwen) but it has some good stuff that can be taken away for leaders.

The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer is always a good read and another I have found helpful is The Equipping Pastor by R. Paul Stevens and Phil Collins which is a systems approach to congregational leadership. 

Leading with a Limp - Dan Allender; Spiritual Leadership - Henry & Richard Blackaby; Relational Leadership - Walter Wright; Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership - Ruth Haley Barton; Missional Leader - Roxburgh & Romanuk

Hi-

You've probably already had this recommendation, but Center Church by Timothy Keller is an intriguing and helpful book. Its brought greater clarity to my thinking on a range of issues dealing with the role of the church in the broader community. 

 

Unexpected Gifts: Discovering the Way of Community by Christopher Heuertz is enriching, and woulr make for some great "deep skimming." 

As I mentioned in my comment to your first post, our future pastors need to explore what it means for the church to be inclusive with people with disabilities. What does the Bible say about inviting and welcoming these fellow image bearers to worship God with us. An excellent book on this topic is The Lost Mandate, A Christ Command Revealed by Dan'l C Markham. This book talks about the mandate given by Christ in Luke 14 to 'Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in here the poor and the maimed and the lame and the blind.'

Another subject closely related to disability ministry is biomedical ethics. How can the church be a light as people are being challenged daily with beginning and end of life decisions. How are pastors going to respond when people come to them asking for advice on these difficult issues.While we should not expect our pastors to know everything, we should expect them to be acquainted with issues such as bio ethics so they can encourage the church to seek answers with a Biblical perspective. How To Be A Christian In A Brave New World by Joni Eareckson Tada and Nigel Cameron is a very good source of information for bio ethics.

Both of these books are available in Kindle format which can be very helpful to a seminarian's budget.

 

 

 

You're right on!!!!  Growing up in a small church, I was able to play the piano and serve in the nursery and teach VBS starting at 11 years old! Even young teens weren't spectators. What valuable experience I received and carry with me today. I was 15 years in a large church as a young adult, and it was sad for me to never see teens participating in music. The pianists were great and very professional, but the teens didn't have opportunities to serve. Does God want only professionalism, or willing servants? I think the latter.

Hello August,

Yes, I know the Eskimos are struggling right now.  Actually, they look a lot like the 2012 Riders!  But since I wrote the blog, the Riders have also lost--to Winnipeg!  A humbling experience for them, I'm sure!

Actually, I think that perhaps there's more to learn from losing than winning.  So much to gain from reflecting on our mistakes and failures.  I suspect the Eskimos are doing that, and will improve before the season's end. 

Peace to you!

--Leon

A real 21st century parable (even though the car comes from the 20th century). Thanks.

posted in: A Small Redemption

Tremendous post, brother! Thanks for sharing!

posted in: A Small Redemption

Ken,

Glad to hear that I'm not the only one who has feelings like that for a car at times. Great use of such as a parable....of redemption. Enjoyed it immensely. Don't forget to change the windshield washing fluid...lots of baptism symbolism and seeing things clearly again......

posted in: A Small Redemption

Ken, my dear brother in Jesus,

Thanks--so much--for this piece.  Marcia's and my hearts were moved by reading it. 

Blessings to Kay and you,

Dale Cooper

posted in: A Small Redemption

We can all learn much from your story. If only I could learn to both love and forgive to such a degree. Nice to know that God vacuumed my carpets and changed my oil. Thanks for sharing a beautiful parable.  -- Jerry

 

posted in: A Small Redemption

Thanks for a great post, Ken!

 

posted in: A Small Redemption

Not very helpful for Edmonton football fans. Edmonton is at 1-9 The whole team is quite humbled by the ordeal. can we learn more by those who do not have 'success'?

Glad to hear you were able to catch a Rider's game in Toronto, Richard.

I haven't been to one in years!  Hope to catch one in Edmonton some day. 

The Lord be with you and your family!

--Leon

agreed with Marshall and Miller. But we've moved on.

We went to a game in Toronto... got tixs from a couple of parishioners. There were more Green and White fans than Blue fans. We made a lot of noise! The UofS alumni folks thought we were alumni and invited us to a party. We declined.

Take care... and enjoy Alberta.

Hello Richard,

Great to hear from you! (We SK boys need to stick together! :)  Yes, I agree that we can learn much about leadership from many places.  Let's keep our ears and eyes open!

Another lesson I learned from the Riders, but didn't mention, is the importance of moving on and letting new leaders lead.  Remember when Coach Miller moved to the office after coaching, and Marshall was hired as head coach?  It appeared to me that Miller was still the coach, even though he was in the office.  I don't think Marshall was really empowered to lead.  And the Riders had one of their worst seasons!

Anyway, let's keep learning about leadership and cheering on the Riders!

Peace to you!

--Leon

"God works thru means and ways that are sometimes beyond our categorizations, even though we ought to do the best we can to understand good theology and good practice in our walk of faith."

Nicely said and unmistakably true.  Sometimes he takes our best works, filthy rags, and creates a divine quilt anyway, thank goodness.
 

As your example of the tower of babel illustrates, God uses divisions and separations for his own good purposes.   Maybe this is also true within the church, not that we should be looking for divisions and contentions since scripture clearly indicates against that, but...

Last weekend, I heard an aboriginal Dene talk about his faith experiences.   He had been a Rom Cath, somewhat nominal apparently, who embraced alcohol and eventually ended up in jail.   But at one point he was given a bible by a Rom Cath priest, and began to read it.  Then he became a Christian, receiving his "prayer" in the Pentecostal church.  He has been a Christian for about 30 years (is now about 60yrs old), has left alcohol behind, and had a sister who became a Christian after 18 years of evangelism by him.  He talks/preaches in churches of various denominations, and often feels rejected by his aboriginal relatives and friends, but perseveres.   He knows his bible very, very well, having memorized some epistles completely. 

I guess my point in this example, is that even though he is no longer a Rom Catholic because he wants to follow scripture and not follow a hierarchy nor a human tradition, he still acknowledges that God worked through that priest in order to bring scripture to him.   That is where we ought also to have the humility to admit that God works thru means and ways that are sometimes beyond our categorizations, even though we ought to do the best we can to understand good theology and good practice in our walk of faith.   I believe that sometimes the struggles themselves are exactly the means that God uses for his good purposes. 

The tower of Babel was a sign of pride, but also of disobedience, since people were commanded to fill and replenish the earth, not hole up in some small corner to preserve their comfort...   so God made them move and disperse by other means.   It reminds me of the phrase, "every knee shall bow" to Christ;  we will either acknowledge him in this life willingly, or we will be forced to acknowledge God in the next life, unwillingly.  

Thank you Leon! Go Green and White!

We as church leaders can learn so much from leaders in other places. Learn both from the good and the bad. Not judging one way or the other, but applying.

That said... here is one of our sons with his "helmet" before the 2009 Grey Cup held in Calgary. The fall when stores had to make an extra large order for watermelons since Saskatchewan ran out that week.

Thanks for the very helpful thoughts.  I've never known quite what to do with the story of Babel because while God's dispersing people into different groups can be seen as punishment for human pride and aspiration, what happened there also created individual differences, both in human beings and in groups of human beings.  Those differences are wonderful.  Here in Sioux County, Iowa, the county with the highest percentage of Dutch-Americans in the entire country, we're blessed by our brand new Hispanic neighbors.  Good night, we eat a ton better these days--at least our foods are spicier.  Differences in worship style and substance are not an abomination; now two of us are exactly alike, right?  

And that's good.

The comment made by the Chippewa man is wonderful, not because it condemns Christians but because it illustrates how difficult it must have been for Native people to understand what on earth was going on when white Presbyterians fought with white Episcopalians and white Roman Catholics, etc., etc., especially snce they saw all white missionaries as emissaries from a culture that threatened their own way of life.

Coming from a background where my siblings and children are members of churches from eight different denominations, ranging from protestant reformed to baptist and pentecostal (but no anglicans nor rom cath), I have often asked myself what is God's purpose with regard to so many denominations or churches who all want to serve and worship the same Lord and Saviour.   I'm not sure I have a very good answer, except maybe this, that personalities and personal quirks sometimes cause problems in one church situation, and another church situation can allow a method of worship and service that is more tempered to an individual at that time.  Various disputable theologies and practices also play a role; we see changes sometimes in one denomination, but they happen too quickly or too slowly for some, or no change is desired.  Sometimes history of experiences, or separation of family relationships, combined with  a different worship environment, make old scriptural passages and applications take on a new life and vigour. 

Underlying all of this, however, is the common purpose and unity that can exist between Christians in different churches and denominations.   While differences are real, so is the unity also real.   Sometimes there is greater unity between christians in different denominations or churches, than there is within one particular church.   This might be because the focus changes to what unites, rather than to what separates, especially when churches want to work together.   

This realization has also ocurred to me, that some churches have great theology, but members don't practice it, while other churches have sloppy or incomplete theology on paper, but members practice a great theology in daily life. 

The different churches also allow some people to discover the essentials of the walk of faith, since they must separate their walk of faith from mere tradition, into a conscious discovery of God's will for their/our lives on a day to day basis with people who do not take their particular traditions for granted.  This will bring them back to scripture and God's will on a deeper basis than they have ever perhaps done before. 

 

Lincoln mandated that only 39 of the 300+ were guilty and sentenced to hang for their parts in what happened.  Thirty-eight were hung in Mankato, MN, on December 26, 1862, the largest mass hanging in American history.  

Interesting theory on mega-churches.  Personally, I've never really understood the dramatic attraction they have for so many believers, but they continue to grow and multiply and dislodge the kind of broader community that denominations once created, for better or for worse.  Thanks for your very perceptive thoughts.

Thanks, Ron--and blessings on a new school year!

Great post, James! But you left me hanging with the Lincoln encounter: were those 300+ souls spared? 

As to your main point, sadly I am disturbed along with you about the state of Christian unity nowadays--especially unity of the deep sort you and Whipple describe, in which we can see Christ in our disagreeing siblings. A major factor is the non-denominational denominations, which seem to splinter and balkanize the church more than ever. So many, whether mega or mini, seem to become a law unto themselves, and the megachurches that jump on the permanent multisite bandwagon have effectively formed mini-denominations and thus they exacerbate the problem of vulgar, proprietary denominationalism.

Great post James! Thanks! Indeed we do not have a very good answer to that question that was asked so long ago.

Hi Greg and Jeff,

Jeff, I've been retired for four years now and doubt that a gravaman would work as I have too many concerns to list in it.  I hope you and family are doing well.  We get up to Wis. quite often and do think of you.  You may have moved from there, but wish you the best wherever you may be.  Blessings.       Greg, I'd like to do a little wrestling over some of the issues with you, as I see they are important.  So if you're open, you could send me your email address and we could follow up on our conversation.  Thanks for your openness.   Roger

posted in: What Is the Gospel?

Good to hear from you, Roger.  

I appreciate your honesty in your posts.  You have obviously thought about these topics a lot.  But to be fair, that has to be balanced with the form of subscription that we as officebearers sign.  Towards that, I wonder if you have ever considered writing a confessional-difficulty gravaman.  Could that possibly be a way forward for you?

posted in: What Is the Gospel?

Roger:

I should have read more before responding to your first post!  

To be completely unfair, Your issue is that you are a convinced openness of God proponent who denies total depravity?  I gather that in your mind, people are really not "dead" in sin (Ephesians 2:1-3)?  Even more to the point, you think God is unjust so Christianity is nothing but a contentious, backward, mean-spirited religion?

While I think you did state these points, I hope you did not mean them!  If so, I ask you to consider again what the bible truly teaches about God, about creation, about humanity, and about the condition of the world.  Please consider these in light of the promise that God will set all things aright when Jesus returns to make a new heaven and new earth!

I think you have several huge errors in your overall logic.  I also think you have several errors in your understanding of "Calvinism" and what the bible teaches.  

While there are clear answers to your questions, I fear this is not the forum to answer them sufficiently as it is too public.  I would be happy to continue the conversation in a more personal form of correspondence.  All we need is for you to wish to continue the discussion and for the ability to figure out how to do this.

 

 

 

posted in: What Is the Gospel?

Roger:

Where to start?  First, I encourage you to read other articles I have written so as to know that I would not, nor do I think we ever should ignore the fact, the reality, and the clear biblical teaching concerning total depravity.  The way you paint it, many Christians have lost the gospel story and the reality of the gospel announcement (to use Wax's terminology).  While I might agree, I hope to be more charitable.

What concerns me the most here is your issues with "the justice of God."  The way you wrote your response implies to my reading that you believe we ignore the question of the justice of God because we do not like the biblical answer?  Is this a correct interpretation of what you are saying?

Personally, I do not have a problem with the biblical answer.  We are guilty before a holy God not merely because of our inherited sin, but also because of our willful sin.  None of us deserve grace.  None.  That is why grace is so amazing!

Furthermore, you seem to confuse our experience of this grace, election, evangelism, etc., with God's understanding of all these events.  In our experience, we do not know who is "elected" so we are told to proclaim the gospel to all.  God has made salvation available to "all" (for example Titue 2:11), which means all types of people.  Our experience is one of us turning to God, of us sharing the message of Christ, and of us going out in ministry.  Yet, God is the one working, knowing, and leading.  Somehow in His sovereign will He is at work building His Kingdom through fallen people like you and me.  This is a mystery of the faith.  Yet, it is one clearly taught in scripture, affirmed by our confessions, and wrestled with by thoughtful folks.

What does this mean?  I will assume, pray, and hope that you are one of those thoughtful folks!  Yet, I caution you, as does Nick Monsma, that the way you are stating your questions/objections is itself questionable.  Arminius himself merely claimed to be "biblical."

The real goal is to be biblical.  We are a confessional church because we believe our confessions describe that the bible teaches.  If you do not agree with what the confessions teach as biblical, then we are at a different place in the discussion.

posted in: What Is the Gospel?

A great question.  Sorry for the delay in responding.  I did not check the Network for comments until today.

I think all of them are missing at different times and by different groups.  If you are a person who states, "I believe in Jesus" but I do not think church is important, then you are missing the gospel community.  If you are a person who states, "Christianity is primarily about social action," then you are definitely missing the second leg of the gospel announcement.  If you are a person who wished to deny the clear teaching (and experience) of total depravity mixed with the incredible truth of creation as originally good and maintaining vestiges of that goodness, then you are missing the gospel story.  

As a historian, I find it interesting that entire churches, denominations, and groups can so over emphasize one of these dimensions of the gospel that they actually lose the gospel.  Part of our task as believers is to call these individuals, groups, and churches to repentance and renewed faith in the whole gospel- in other words renewed faith in all three legs of truth.

To be biblically faithful and solidly part of the Reformed tradition, we should hold to all three even if we lean more toward one leg.

posted in: What Is the Gospel?

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