Archive | November, 2013

Elder Questions: Core Convictions

I’m currently in a six month eldership process at my local church. This series is taken from questions asked during the process.

elderQuestions

Please list 6 core convictions concerning which you (as elder) will never give in, nor even bend on, as you lead the church and reference at least 3 scriptures support each one.

  1. Trinity (John 1:1, Matt. 28:19, John 8:58)
  2. Hypostatic Union (John 1:14, Matt. 28:19, John 8:58)
  3. Justification by Faith (John 3:16, Romans 10:9-10, Eph. 1:14)
  4. Total Depravity (Romans 3:23, John 2:24, Romans 5:12-21)
  5. Sola Scriptura (2 Tim. 3:16, John 17:17, Jesus speaking only Deuteronomy in his temptation)
  6. Imago Dei (Gen. 1:27, Gen. 9:6, James 3:9)

How would you respond?

Why I Think Non-Pastors Should Care About Pastoral Theology

(Lisa Robinson)

I’m not a pastor. I have no intentions of being a pastor even if I were affiliated with a denomination or church structure that would allow it. Yet, I find that I have quite an interest in pastoral theology, particularly as it relates to the pastors role in the church and shepherding the flock of God. I like to read and think about what makes for an effective pastoring. Now you may ask why I would be so concerned if it doesn’t apply to me. That’s a good question! But I am struck by a variety of reasons.

First, we have to consider the task of pastors from the perspective of a healthy local body. That means caring about pastoral theology is not so much about scrutinizing the ones in that role as much as it is seeing the broader picture of healthy church life. We can be incredibly self-focused and critical people and care only for what the pastor for us individually. But there is something much bigger than ourselves to consider – the body growing itself up together in love (Ephesians 4:15-16) So pastoral theology really is about a love for the church.

We shouldn’t care about pastoral theology to be critical. Yet, an understanding of the pastoral role is an issue of discernment. It amazes me when reports of pastoral malfeasance arise in the public eye and defended by those who question  Believe it or not, pastors do have job descriptions and qualifications found in 1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:7-9; and 1 Peter 5:1-3.

Not only that but the New Testament gives strong support for the church to be governed by a group of elders. And by elders, I don’t mean a board of directors that give a yes vote to the pastor, but those who are actively governing the affairs of the local body.

Now, if your church is structured this way please don’t read what I write as endorsement to go nitpicking the leadership. That is not the intention. But I do believe that every church going believer should be aware that Scripture provides some pretty clear mandates for how the household of God should be governed. Granted there are varying leadership structures and we should have some familiarity with what those are. Ignorance on this matter makes it that much easier for transgressions to occur in the name of a self-proclaimed, God-given mandate. I think that is a sign of healthy pastoring is informing the congregation of what Scripture says about the pastoring responsibility that is rooted in what the breadth of Scripture concerning the nature and purpose of the church (not just cherry-picking some Old Testament passages out of context).  Continue Reading →

Is God an Egotistical Maniac?

God

“It is absurd to believe that the deity has human passions, and one of the lowest human passions, a restless appetite for applause.” -David Hume

“Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” 1 Corinthians 10:31 31

“Whoever speaks, let him speak, as it were, the utterances of God . . . so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever.” 1 Peter 4:11

There is a popular notion among Evangelicals that I think has become part of our folklore. Indeed, it is the shibboleth (secret pass code) of my fellow Calvinists. When I call this “folklore” I don’t necessarily mean “not true” (as we will see), I simply mean that it is uncritically accepted without much thought. Many would say that God’s sole purpose, intent, and motivation for creating humanity and all of creation was for His own self-glorification. If you were to ask God, “Why did you create us?”, his answer, without hesitation, would be, “Easy, to glorify myself.”

Many unbelievers will bring this up as a primary point of departure from the Christian faith. They would say that the Christian God is an egotistical maniac, only out for his own self-glory. As one person put it: “If I had a child I would not bring him into this world and say, ‘Congratulations, I created you to worship me’. I would not want a son simply to serve me.” He goes on, “I never asked to participate in this game of life. I was nothing and then I was created simply to serve him or I’d have to burn for eternity?” He goes on to accuse God of being egotistical, sharing in the most base traits of humanity. Is this true? Does God have a “relentless appetite for applause”?

Wrong Answers

Wrong answer #1: Yes, God is an egomaniac. But it is okay since he is God.

This is the answer many people would give (though not in so many words!). The idea is that being self-serving and demanding of recognition is acceptable so long as the recognition is warranted. It’s only bad when we do it because we don’t deserve it. Therefore, God’s egotism is a “righteous egotism.” What is base and sinful for man is not so with God.

I am going to let you in on a little secret. I am from Oklahoma. We have a certain way of getting by with things here through the way we talk. We can sanctify many conversations by using certain qualifiers. For example, we can get by with any gossip by simply adding the words “God bless his/her/their soul” to the end of the sentence. “Did you hear about Bobby and Susan? They are having marital problems, God bless their souls.” “I hear  Rick is starting to drink again, God bless his soul.” I think we have something similar in Christianity. We can attribute just about anything to God so long as we tag it with the word “righteous.” God is vindictive, but it is a “righteous vindictiveness.” God is jealous, but it is a “righteous jealousy.” God is cruel, but it is a “righteous cruelty.” I think we need to be careful here. Sometimes these things are true, such as God’s jealousy (Deut. 5:9). But simply placing the word “righteous” in front of the character trait does not often do justice to what is trying to be said. Continue Reading →

Theology Unplugged: Church (Part 3) – What Makes a Local Church?

Join Michael Patton, Tim Kimberley, JJ Seid and Sam Storms as they continue their new series on the Church. This is a topic hotly debated today. What really does it take to be a church? Can three people meet at a coffee shop and call themselves a church? Do churches need to have elders? What about an online church?

There are so many questions being asked today about the Church in the 21st century. This series seeks to dive into the prominent issues of Ecclesiology (the study of the Church).

Theology Unplugged: Video Edition is available for the first time to Credo House Members. You can now listen AND WATCH as Michael, Tim, Sam and JJ dive into issues of theology. Grow in your faith, learn theology, and have a good time. Try Membership risk free! If you don’t love it as much as us you can cancel at any time

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Elder Questions: Pornography

I’m currently in a six month eldership process at my local church. This series is taken from questions asked during the process.

elderQuestions

You are praying with folks up front after a Sunday Service and get a young man that would like you to pray for him in regards to an addiction to pornography. What would you do and how would you on the spot counsel this man?

I would share with him very briefly, first, of my own struggles with sin. I would seek to encourage him, by God’s grace, of the areas God has given me victory with the idea that he would feel the hope of Jesus to redeem all our lives.

I would then compliment him that he had the courage to come up front and be honest about this sin. The role of the Holy Spirit is to convict people of sin. The fact he is up here asking for prayer means God cares for him to be free from this sin.

I would, however, make sure I ask him about his belief in Jesus. If he’s trying to get free from pornography without Jesus as his Savior, then I need to tell him that his first priority is to trust Jesus as his Savior.

If he is a believer I would then pray thanking God that every sin of my brother’s is paid for on the cross. I would beg God that He would show my brother how to cling to his Savior and allow the power of the Holy Spirit to show him how to flee from this sin and cling to holy truth. After continuing to pray allowing the Spirit to direct how to best pray for him, I would then strongly encourage him to memorize a few verses. The Lord powerfully used Hebrews 12:11 in my life, “For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”

Another verse very helpful for me to internalize and meditate on for times of temptation has been 1 Corinthians 10:13, “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”

God used those two verses to drag me past many sins I thought would always be a struggle. I have probably recited those verses hundreds, if not thousands, of times. I would let him know the power of God’s Word to moment-by-moment make us more like our Savior.
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I think it’s ok to teach Relative Truth

FoucaultOne of the easy softballs to hit out of the park in Apologetics 101 training is when two people are role playing and the statement is made, “I think truth is relative. There are no absolute truths.”

The ridiculously easy response to this statement is, “Well, you just made an absolute truth statement!” Kaboom, the foolish non-Christian is just pummeled under their own faulty logic. They made an absolute statement when they said there are no absolute statements. Wow, what an intellectual lightweight. Now, when I share Jesus with this person they will know I have just conquered their worldview so they will be ready to adopt my worldview.

The problem with this very easy Apologetic talking point is it simply doesn’t work in many situations. Many times the young apologist has only left the relativist feeling frustrated, angry and demeaned. Sometimes I think the more appropriate response is, “I think truth & morality are also relative. Foucault was a pretty good observer of humanity.”

Michel Foucault (pronounced foo-ko) may be one of the most influential 20th century thinkers you’ve never heard of. He was interested in studying the development of ideas. How and why do we know what we know? He held a chair at Collège de France with the title, “History of Systems of Thought.” He wrote several books on diverse subjects such as: psychiatry; medicine; the human sciences; prison systems; as well as the history of human sexuality.

Foucault’s observations and skepticism challenged many long-standing ideas. His first book wondered why some people are considered crazy? What if these “crazy” people lived at a different time in a completely different culture? Would they still be considered crazy?

How about, for example, John the Baptist? His clothes were nasty. He lived out in the desert eating bugs. He yelled at people to repent. They responded by letting John hold them under water. In first century Israel John was viewed as one of the greatest prophets who ever lived. Transfer John the Baptist to New York City and he’d be locked up in a mental hospital. Craziness is relative.
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Elder Questions: Why Pray?

I’m currently in a six month eldership process at my local church. This series is taken from questions asked during the process.

elderQuestions

A group of people are talking and invite you to answer a question they have been trying to figure out. The question they are trying to answer is what role does prayer have in the Christian life if you preach the sovereignty of God? What would be your answer for them?

This is actually a great chance to teach on prayer. I would first be thankful that I’ve been invited to answer this question. The scarier thing would be if people privately question prayer in light of God’s sovereignty, don’t pray, and never tell anyone.

I would try to gently show the group the direction they are heading. If you follow the logic they are saying, “God, since I now know that you are totally in control I’m not going to pray anymore. Previously, I thought you weren’t completely in control so I thought you needed my help. Prayer was me throwing you a bone, helping you out.”

Hopefully, at this point they would be laughing and realize how silly that sounds by thinking God’s sovereignty rules out prayer. I would then probably spend most of my time focusing on how Jesus seemed to pray more than any of us today. Have any of us spent multiple all-nighters praying?
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On the Death of My Father – William Michael Patton: 1947-2013

There is not a prayer I remember praying before this one. It is a prayer, which as a child, I frequently prayed with tears. I prayed it with my mother, with my sisters, and often alone in my bed. I even remember my nephew accidently praying it at the dinner table, while the one being prayed for was sitting right beside him: “Dear God, thank you for this food and please help Pop to be saved.” “Please help Pop to what?” came the response from my dad as everyone sat there shocked that this routine family prayer was revealed.

I loved my dad. I did not realize how much until now. Whatever he may have been to others, he was my hero.

One week ago today, I sat beside my dad without much worry. I got him some Advil to break the fever (he was using Naproxin—his beloved cure for everything). His fever broke and I left his little “Popcorn” room at the west end of the house where he has lived for a few years. I was not worried and neither was he.

You see, a little less than a year ago, my family and I moved into my mother and father’s house. After my sister’s death, my mother had a massive aneurysm and stroke that left her a hemiplegic and replaced my very strong willed, beautiful, and talented mom with a disabled child-like mother who wants to do nothing but watch the same movies over and over and drive through my childhood neighborhood every day. My dad was doing his best to cope with the situation, but his grief was too much. Angie’s (my sister) suicide in 2004 drove him back to drinking. This was a lifestyle that he had left in the early nineties (primarily due to the influence of my mother). At this time, my mother was too weak and grief-stricken herself. Within two years, my mother’s brain exploded—quite literally. It was at this time, in 2006, that I decided to leave my pastoring job at Stonebriar Community Church in Frisco Texas (where I had been for six years) to be with my family. I knew that my mother, father, and two surviving sisters needed me.

Fast-forward to one year ago July 17th. My father kept my mother at home. After all, she was only 56 when she had her aneurysm and we did not feel right about putting her in a nursing home. My niece was taking her to Quail Creek (my childhood neighborhood), which was her Saturday routine. At this time, my mother’s right leg worked well enough for my father to help get her into a wheelchair, and then, into the car. As they were driving along, someone turned into their lane and crashed into my mother’s side of the car. This crushed her only good leg. After getting out of the hospital a couple of months later, my father discovered that he could not move her or change her anymore due to her leg. She needed someone that could deadlift her (and she has gained quite a bit of weight). That is when I started living there and eventually moved my family into my parents home.

Since Angie’s death, my dad received seven DUI citations. At the time I moved in, my dad was looking at ten years in prison (at least). In November of last year, my father and I put together all his bank account info, mortgage details, and everything that I needed to take care of things while he was in prison. I drove him up to the courthouse just before Thanksgiving to say goodbye and drop him off. However, something happened that none of us could believe, even his lawyer—the judge sympathized with his life and pain and let him go. He told him that the sentence was deferred, but if he got picked up one more time, he was going straight to prison. Continue Reading →