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Archive for March, 2010

According to Joel Kotlin at Forbes.com, while some parts of the country are experiencing an exodus, Texas cities are reaping the benefits.  Kotlin states:

Our Urbanist in Chief may sit in the Oval Office, but Americans continue to vote with their feet for the adopted hometown of widely disdained former President George W. Bush. According to the most recent Census estimates, the Dallas and Ft. Worth, Texas, region added 146,000 people between 2008 and 2009–the most of any region in the country–a healthy 2.3% increase.

Other Texas cities also did well. Longtime rival Houston sat in second, with an additional 140,000 residents. Smaller Austin added 50,000–representing a remarkable 3% growth–while San Antonio grew by some 41,000 people.

This leads me to believe that the most dynamic future for America urbanism–and I believe there is one–lies in Texas’ growing urban centers. To reshape a city in a sustainable way, you need to have a growing population, a solid and expanding job base and a relatively efficient city administration.

We in these Texas cities welcome this trend as it indicates an increase in our mission field.  It also indicates that we need help here in Texas.  Presently in Austin, with only 10% of the population churched, we do not have enough churches to reach this city.  Will you join us?

If you’re interested in knowing more about the church planting culture in Austin, check out the Austin Church Plant Network.

Welcome to PlantR from Austin PlantR on Vimeo.

Categories : Church
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“What do people believe about the afterlife?”  Atheists would say there is no afterlife-this life is all there is; therefore, eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die.  Those who hold to Eastern views would likely believe in reincarnation: a seemingly endless cycle of incarnations until one is finally united with ultimate (spiritual) reality.  One of the most popular perspectives (also spiritual) is commonly portrayed through Hollywood movies consumed with the paranormal: i.e., ghosts.

Contrary to all these views the Bible teaches that this life is not all there is and that the life we await will be physical.  Christians look forward to a bodily resurrection.  This is what the Old Testament taught (Daniel 12:1-3); this is what Jesus taught (John 5:25-29); and this is what the Jews believed (John 11:23-26).

What do you believe?  Apparently, some Corinthians denied the reality of the resurrection of the dead (1 Cor. 15:12).  They did not deny the afterlife; they denied a physical afterlife.  Therefore, they had no place for a resurrected body.  It is this denial that Paul addresses in 1 Corinthians 15.

If you deny the resurrection of the dead, then by consequence, you deny the resurrection of Jesus (15:1-19). Paul’s basic argument: If Christ is being preached as raised from the dead, and if you (Corinthians) embraced this gospel, then how can you deny the resurrection of the dead (15:12).  Paul preached the resurrection of Christ as essential to the gospel (15:1-11).  To deny the resurrection of the dead is to deny the resurrection of Christ because Christ’s resurrection is the basis for ours.

If Christ has not been raised, then there is no hope for the living – we are still in our sins; there is no forgiveness; the gospel, our faith are without basis (15:14-17).  Further, if Christ has not been raised, there is no hope for the dead; their bodies are in the ground decaying and nothing more (15:18).  If Christ has not been raised, then we Christians are the most pitiful people on the face of the earth (15:19).

But in fact Christ has been raised, and His resurrection guarantees ours (15:20-28). By faith in Christ we are united to Him in His death, burial and resurrection (15:20-22; cf. Romans 6:1-11).  Just as our union with the first Adam brings forth death, so our union with the last Adam brings forth life.  However, everything happens in its own order: Christ, the firstfruits of the harvest, then at His coming, the full harvest to come-the resurrection of the dead (15:20, 23).  Jesus’ first coming inaugurated the kingdom, the beginning of His reign (15:25-27).  At that time Jesus crushed Satan (Genesis 3:15), accomplishing forgiveness of sin for those who believe (Colossians 2:15).  Now, Jesus is ruling Lord, crushing His enemies under His feet (Hebrews 2:5-9).  When Jesus returns, then comes the end, the final resurrection when death will be defeated (15:24, 26, 28, 54-57).  This is Christian hope!

Since Christ has been raised, we do have hope! Therefore, UNTIL Christ returns we must live consistently with the knowledge of Jesus’ resurrection (15:29).  As we await the redemption of our bodies (Romans 8:23), our lives must declare this hope! 

With the hope of the resurrection, we know that to die is gain (Philippians 1:21).  Consequently, we will not fear death, for Christ has defeated sin and death and Satan (Hebrews 2:14-18).

With the hope of the resurrection, we know that to live is Christ (Philippians 1:21).  Our lives have meaning, purpose in Christ.  We will not sit idly by and await the return of Christ.  We will be willing to suffer for the sake of the gospel (15:30-32; Philippians 3:7-11).  We will press on in pursuing holiness so as not to be ashamed on that day (15:33-34; Philippians 3:12-21).

What does your life say about what you believe concerning the resurrection of the dead?

Categories : Commentary
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Here’s an interesting article on the “New Calvinism” which features Capitol Hill Baptist Church in DC.

HT: Justin Taylor

There is a great deal of debate as to whether this new emphasis on Calvinism is actually “new” or actually “Calvinism.”  However, to find out for yourself what it is exactly people are referring to when they use the term, you can . . .

Read Time Magazine’s article which recognizes the “New Calvinism” as one of the 10 ideas changing the world right now – number three.

Read Collin Hansen’s, Young, Restless, Reformed: A Journalist’s Journey with the New Calvinists.

Read my previous post on Southern Baptists and Calvinism.

Categories : Commentary, Theology
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The Father’s love is most clearly displayed in His mercy and grace at the cross of Christ.

Thankfully, judgment (discipline) is not the final word from the Father; the Father received the repentant. Though God had repeatedly warned Israel of coming judgment (Hosea 11:5-7), the Father could not ultimately give up or hand over His rebellious son, nor destroy him.  Here we see the Father’s love displayed in mercy and grace – mercy: though Israel deserved total destruction, the Father spared him (Hosea 11:8-9; cf. Psalm 103:8-18), grace: though Israel did not deserve to be reconciled to the Father, Yahweh promised to bring them back.  God’s rebellious son would return trembling, that is, repentant (Hosea 11:10-11).

The greatest display of the Father’s love is the grace and mercy displayed at the cross of Christ (Romans 5:6-8).  Jesus was sent by the Father as THE faithful son who came to rescue the younger rebellious brothers (Matthew 2:15; Luke 15).  Jesus was the Son who pleased the Father; therefore, all who trust in Christ inherit the promises of restoration as adopted sons and daughters (Hebrews 2:10-13).  The good news of the gospel is that our acceptance before the Father is not dependent upon our works or righteousness but upon the work and righteousness of the faithful Son.

Mom and Dad, our greatest need is Christ, for we were rebellious children ourselves who have now entered into a reconciled relationship to the Father through Christ!  Our children need for us to love Christ and cling to Christ and to live our lives at home in light of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Mom and Dad, our children’s greatest need is Christ!  We must point our children to Christ, not ourselves or our rules!  What I mean is that our rules are not the end goal.  We do not merely want to produce children who behave “rightly.”  We should desire children who hope in God and who will teach their children to hope in God (Psalm 78).  We should desire children who understand that their standing before the heavenly Father is based upon what they do with Christ, the faithful Son and upon nothing else.

Therefore, let us point our children to Christ by instructing them from God’s Word.  Point them to Christ by displaying the gospel in your home-in your conversations, in your discipline, in everything you do.  Show your children your continuous need and dependence upon Christ!  Show them the unconditional love of the Father in giving Christ for them!

See previous posts in this series:

Gospel-Empowered Parenting versus Fear-Based Parenting

Gospel-Empowered Parenting and Rebellion

Gospel-Empowered Parenting and Discipline

Categories : Commentary
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As we consider Hosea 11, in relation to parenting, I have already reminded us of the depth of the Father’s love in choosing Israel, His son, teaching them to walk and bending down to feed them (11:1-4).

I also pointed out that in spite of the Father’s love, Israel rebelled. The question that begs to be asked is, “What will the Father do with the rebellious child?”

The Father displays His love in discipline (11:5-7). The Father whose unconditional love was displayed in His instruction of Israel, continually called out to His rebellious child to return to Him.  Yet, the more the Father called, the more Israel went away (11:2).

Because the Father loved Israel, He could not allow Israel to continue in rebellion.  The Father did what He has always done – remove the rebellious child from His presence and blessing: exile.  Just as God had removed Adam from the Garden and so removed him from both His presence and blessing, so the Father warned that He would exile Israel, not allowing them to return to the land and placing Assyria as their king (11:5).  Israel would, in fact, be devastated (11:6), and though they would call upon the Father, the Father would not listen (11:7).

The New Testament reminds us that the Father disciplines those whom He loves (Hebrews 12:5-11).  In fact, if we are not disciplined, it shows that we are illegitimate children and not sons and daughters of the Father.

Likewise, the Bible reminds us that along with positive instruction, we are also to discipline our own sons and daughters (Ephesians 6:4).  Why discipline?  In short, if we don’t make the connection between discipline and final judgment, then discipline will not make sense.

When we discipline our children, it is a gracious forewarning of God’s impending wrath.  There is a day coming when God’s wrath will be poured out on all rebels.  Those who continue in rebellion against the Father will ultimately be removed from His presence and blessing; they will be cast into outer darkness.  When we discipline our children, we are reminding them that God exiles rebels.  Discipline is a rescue operation whereby we are forewarning our children of God’s coming wrath and calling them to repent and return to the fellowship of God’s people and the place of blessing.

This principle is reflected in church discipline.  What is a church to do with an unrepentant, rebellious sinner?  We are to remove that one from the fellowship of God’s people, the place of blessing: exile.  To what end?  Not to get rid of rebels, but that rebels would see their sin, humble themselves and turn back to God and His people.

In the home the discipline process is a warning of God’s impending wrath that exposes our need of the gospel.  Let us point our children to Christ, reminding them of their sin and helping them understand that Christ, the faithful Son, has received the punishment for the sins of the unfaithful sons and daughters who turn away from their sin and turn to Christ in faith.  Let us remind them that what they need is Christ.  Let us remember that what we need is Christ, for it is Christ who has saved us from the wrath to come.

Categories : Commentary
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In spite of the unconditional love of the Father, Israel rebelled (Hosea 11:2).

It is quite an amazing fact that the perfect Father has rebellious children.  The more the Father loved Israel, the more Israel rebelled (Hosea 11:2; Deuteronomy 1:26-33).

Though the Father led in love and delivered Israel from Slavery (Hosea 11:1), Israel forgot that it was God who had healed him (Hosea 11:4; cf. Exodus 15:25-26).

The child, Israel, was bent on turning away from the Father (Hosea 11:7).

We are the rebellious children who deserve judgment and need a savior (Ephesians 2:1-3).

We dare not judge Israel for their rebellion in the face of God’s unconditional love.  We too are born rebels, hostile in mind and engaged in evil deeds against the Father (Colossians 1:21).  And yet, the loving Father has reconciled us to Himself through the sacrifice of the perfect Son (Colossians 1:22).

Like their parents, our children are born rebels who need a savior.

We begin our parenting journey with the assumption that our children are born rebels, just as we were born rebels.   What our children need is a savior, and we are not it!

What if you have rebellious children?

1.  First and foremost, trust Christ. One lesson I learned from listening to Carolyn Mahaney in a parenting interview was how she had wished she had parented with more faith-faith in Christ, not children.

Do we really believe the gospel and the power of the gospel to save and transform, or do we believe more in the power of the world to corrupt and conform?  We must continually depend upon Christ during every phase of our parenting journey.  Children are born rebels; they need Christ.  We must trust the very Christ that used the very gospel to change our rebellious hearts.

2.  Secondly, we are to pray, pray, pray! Let us pray for our children throughout the entirety of their lives for their salvation and service to Christ.  Let us pray for their future spouses and children.  Let us trust Christ and evidence this trust by turning to the Father in prayer.

3.  Thirdly, we must point them to Christ continually. It is Christ they need; therefore, let us keep pointing them to the savior – the perfect Son who obeyed the Father and paid the penalty for sin.

One helpful resource is Abraham Piper’s 12 Ways to Love Your Wayward Child.  In this post, Abraham, who was once a wayward son himself, counsels parents of wayward children how to pursue them in love.

4.  Fourthly, reach out to your child and their friends. Continue to display the unconditional love of the Father who calls His wayward son home repeatedly.

5.  Finally, if you have younger children who live at home, then pursue biblical discipline. If you want to ensure your child remains a rebel, then give him/her absolutely everything he/she wants.  We must parent with the gospel in mind, reminding our children of the good news of the gospel, positively instructing them in the gospel, but also warning them of impending judgment (discipline – more on this in our next post).

See the first post in this series: Gospel-Empowered Parenting versus Fear-Based Parenting.

Categories : Commentary, Resources
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It is either the height of arrogance or stupidity to talk about parenting, particularly when the verdict is still out on my own children.  Nevertheless, the Bible has something to say about parents and parenting, and being both a parent and a pastor, I am obliged to shepherd my family and congregation in biblical, gospel-empowered parenting.  Consequently, I will be writing a series of posts based on my message from Hosea 11, on the Father’s love for His son.

Two Assumptions

1.  I am sinful and parenting is humbling and humiliating.

2.  God is sovereign, and He uses means to accomplish all His holy will.  The two parts of this assumption must be held in tandem and in tension.  William Farley helpfully reminds us that as parents we are one such means, even the primary means which God uses to reach our children with the gospel.

The depth of the Father’s love is displayed in His continuous care, provision, protection and instruction of His son (Hosea 11:1-4).

In Hosea 11, we have an intrusion of the Father/Son image in the midst of a prophesy that is about Husband and Wife.  In Hosea 11, God is unmasked emotionally as He recalls His love for Israel, His son, during their infancy.  The Father taught Israel to walk (11:3); He led them with much kindness and compassion, even bending down to feed them (11:4).  What condescension on the Father’s part.

One Principle for Parents

As a matter of practice it is wiser to positively engage, encourage and instruct our children than to continually threaten and constrain our children.

Lest I be accused of denying a place for discipline, please know that I will address discipline in a later post.

What I mean here is that the primary flow of the river of our parenting should be positive instruction (Deuteronomy 6:4-15; Psalm 78:1-8; Ephesians 6:4).  We are to positively engage our children, catechizing them, loving them, encouraging them, building relationships with them that express the unconditional love of the Father.

William Farley, in his helpful book titled, Gospel-Powered Parenting: How the Gospel Shapes and Transforms Parenting, warns of the dangers of “defensive,” “fear-based” parenting.

Dr. Tim Kimmel calls it ‘fear-based’ parenting.  Either we can focus on preparing our children to enter the world and conquer it, or we can concentrate on protecting our children from the world.  A defensive mind-set worries about the evil influences of Halloween, Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, or non-Christians on the Little League team.  Although parenting always involves some protection, this should not be the main focus for biblical parents.  Often this defensive mentality is the fruit of legalism (23).

(An) example is a pastor friend who has five grown children.  Only one is following Christ today.  What went wrong?  A man who knew him well described his parenting this way: No TV, no movies, no public education, no non-Christian friends.  In other words, his focus was defensive, protecting his children (23-24).

This defensive, fear-based, over-protective approach to parenting exasperates children.  Farley also brings forth an important indictment against fear-based parenting:

Defensive parents have little confidence in the attractiveness (and power) of the gospel.  They think the world is more powerful (than the gospel) (25).

Ouch!  That hurts because the truth of that statement pierces my own heart.

One Lesson

One lesson I learned from listening to an interview on parenting with C. J. Mahaney was to ask my children if I was more of an encourager to them or more of a critic.  Ouch, again!  It is helpful to know if our children view us as for them or against them.

What shall we do?

We must confess that we are not perfect parents – we have failed often and miserably!

First, as Farley reminds us, know that if we were perfect parents, then our children would not need Christ.

Second, know that if we were perfect parents, then we would not need Christ.

Embracing the good news of the gospel begins with uncovering my sin, my failures and looks to the perfect Father who sent the perfect Son to live the life that pleases the Father and who received the punishment that we deserved.

Therefore, confess your sins: to the Father, to your family, your children as/when appropriate.  Let them see your need for Christ and point them to Christ in their sin and failures.

Build relationships with your children on the unconditional love of the gospel of the Father so that our children will not think that our love for them is conditioned on their performance.

Spend much time on positive instruction: catechizing, reading together, doing life together in light of the gospel.

Be your child’s/children’s encourager.  At our house, we (mom and dad) continually tell our children that we are their number one fans.  It’s corny; we laugh; they get embarrassed.  But we want them to know that we are for them, not against them.

Finally, regardless of what kind of father you may or may not have had, remember that God is the perfect Father, and that His love is unconditional.  He loves us because He chooses to love us, not because of anything in us or because of our performance.  He loves us in Christ, and nothing will ever sever that love He has for us in Christ (Romans 8:29ff).

Our identity is in Christ who brings us to the Father, not in our pedigree or our genealogy.  We are our Father’s sons and daughters through faith in Christ, the perfect Son (cf. Matthew 2:15).  Praise be to God!

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Mar
11

What is the Gospel?

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Much confusion exists today over just exactly what the gospel is.  In an effort to clarify the gospel some begin with a via negativa, highlighting what the gospel is not.  This is helpful, of course, but we cannot stop there.  There are several places in Scripture where the gospel is briefly summarized, and 1 Corinthians 15:1-4, is one of those places.  There the apostle Paul reminds us:

The gospel is the revelation of God’s plan to reconcile sinners to Himself (1 Corinthians 15:3). This saving plan was prophesied long ago (1 Peter 1:10-12), revealed to the New Testament apostles and prophets (Ephesians 2:20) and inscripturated for our sake under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:16-21).  In other words, the gospel is not a man-made message (Galatians 1:11-2:11) but a divine revelation received (1 Corinthians 15:3).

The gospel is about Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). This saving plan that was revealed to the Old Testament prophets and New Testament apostles and prophets concerns Jesus Christ (Romans 1:1-4).  God reconciles all things to Himself through Jesus Christ (Colossians 1:19-21).  Consequently, the Father sent Jesus at the appropriate time in history to face the “hour” of His death on the cross for us (John 12:23-28; 17:1).  In this sense we may also say that the gospel is an unrepeatable event in history.

Thus, the heart of the gospel is the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ, for this historical event was the plan which has now been revealed (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).

1.  Jesus Christ died as a propitiatory sacrifice for sin (1 Corinthians 15:3; Hebrews 2:14-17).  We are sinners born in sin who owe a debt too large to pay (Romans 6:23).  Thus, the gospel is not a message of what we must do to redeem ourselves-that’s religion.  The gospel is the message that only Jesus can cancel the debt of sin that we owe (Colossians 2:13-14; cf. 2 Corinthians 5:21).  This penal-substitutionary death was according to the Scriptures (Isaiah 53:4-5).

2.  Jesus Christ was buried.  The point here is that contrary to Greek philosophical ideas that Jesus only appeared to die, He really died, for He really was buried (cf. Isaiah 53:9).

3.  Jesus Christ was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures (1 Corinthians 15:4; see also Acts 2:23-32).  Without the resurrection there is no gospel, no good news.  Without the resurrection we are still in our sins (1 Corinthians 15:12-18).

What are we to do with this gospel?

1.  We are to receive it by faith (1 Corinthians 15:1-2; Mark 1:14-15).

2.  We are to remain in it by faith (1 Corinthians 15:1-2), for the gospel is that on which Christians stand.  In other words, we will never outgrow the gospel.

3.  We are to proclaim this gospel, for it is the only hope of salvation to the world (1 Corinthians 15:1, 3).  This is the gospel priority (1 Corinthians 15:3).  It was Jesus’ priority (Luke 4:18, 42-44); it was Paul’s priority (Acts 20:24; 1 Corinthians 1:17; 9:23); it should be our priority (Mark 16:15; Luke 24:44-47).

Categories : Commentary, High Pointe
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Mar
11

Chile Quake Response

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On February 27, Chile was hit by an 8.8 magnitude earthquake that killed hundreds of people.  Today, March 11, two more strong earthquakes registering 5.1 magnitude and 7.2 magnitude shook central Chile.

The International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention is involved in the relief effort.  To find out how you can help by giving, praying, going, you can get more information from the IMB website or click on the Chile Quake Response button above.

Categories : Resources
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Divisions sometimes serve to expose sinning Christians. Those in sin may go to extreme lengths to keep their sin hidden, including attacking others’ sins.  Those who persist in sin love their sin more than the church, so they will despise the church of God.

What can a church do to address and possibly minimize such divisions in order to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace?

1.  Maintain ongoing discipleship conversations with one another (Ephesians 4:20-32).  At High Pointe, this happens primarily through our small groups and one to one meetings.  One helpful resource:

Fight Clubs by Jonathan Dodson

2.  Practice church discipline (Matthew 18:15-20; 1 Corinthians 5).  Perhaps the best resource I have found for understanding the nature and necessity of church discipline, as well as the nuts and bolts is The Transforming Community by Mark Lauterbach.

3.  Hold your leaders accountable (1 Timothy 5:19-21).  I am convinced that the elders in Ephesus were the problem (see 1 Timothy).  As the leadership goes, so goes the church.

See previous posts in this series: Do You Despise the Church?, Divisions and God’s Purposes part 1, part 2

Categories : Church, Commentary
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