Our Philosophy of University Ministry

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Why doesn’t Eagle Heights have a designated university student gathering during the week? Why don’t you all do more free food? Doesn’t requiring membership keep people from serving? Why do you do what you do? Why are there some things that you don’t do?

Let me begin with a bit of personal background. I value being a part of a local church in a small town with a major university. I have been working with university students for almost twenty years either in a parachurch capacity (BCM – Baptist Collegiate Ministry), or as a local church pastor. It is hard for me to imagine being in a place where university students are not a regular part of making disciples.

But Stillwater has its challenges when it comes to pastoring a local church in a small town with a major university. For instance, there are a lot of parachurch ministries that are targeting university students, which means we have to figure out how to work with them –  or around them. With this in mind, here is what we do and why we do it.

  • We desire to partner with parachurch ministries, not compete with them. There are many (15+) Christian Parachurch Ministries on the campus of OSU that spend most of their time and resources specifically targeting university students. As a local church we support some of these ministries in various ways, including financially. Additonally, many of the staff and students who are committed to parachurch ministries also regularly attend our church. So instead of competing with them, we would rather partner with them to make disciples.
  • We want to be a biblical local church for university students, not duplicate the specialized efforts of parachurch ministries. Some of these parachurch ministries have mid-week worship gatherings and most all of them have a weekly Bible study. If we are supporting some of these university groups financially or otherwise, then why would we duplicate or compete with what they are already doing with our support?
  • We have something unique to offer university students while they are in Stillwater. I spent almost ten years doing campus parachurch ministry. I value groups like BCM, Student Mobilization, etc. The Lord used BCM to change my life. But groups like these are not local churches. Some of them act like local churches, but most of them don’t recognize biblically qualified leaders (1 Timothy 3:1-7), or practice membership and church discipline (Matthew 18:15-20), or acknowledge the biblical authority of the local church in the administration of the biblical ordinances. Parachurch is a designation that describes ministries that are coming alongside local churches to accomplish specific disciple-making tasks with specific groups of people. Besides what was mentioned above, one of the realities that often differentiates local churches from parachurch ministries is diversity. For example, the diversity of age that should exist in local churches is a strength when rightly understood. Young people need to know and learn from more mature people with life experience, and people who are more advanced in years need to know and learn from younger people who are often still full of passion and zeal. We intentionally try to be multi-generational in our approach to disciple-making strategies. We organize the way we do ministry to get people from different generations to build each other up. In other words, we don’t think our local church needs to be another affinity-based, age-specific parachurch ministry, when there are a lot of those already existing on campus. We want to begin to integrate university-aged people into the life of the church so they can know how to build up the body of Christ when they move on to the next phase of life.
  • We want university students to see and be committed to a healthy local church. To do this we emphasize church membership. Church membership simply means a person is making it publicly known that they are a committed follower of Jesus Christ, and therefore, they are committed to His people in a local body through regular attendance and serving,  and they are under the biblical authority of biblical leadership that is affirmed by a local congregation. Unsurprisingly, some people balk at the idea of church commitment because they are convinced it keeps people from the local church. But we believe church membership is a biblical means of discipleship, and that to lessen the level of commitment to “reach” more is doing a biblical disservice to those who claim to be disciples of Jesus. We also try to organize multi-generational groups that read the Bible together so that they can learn to value the benefits of generational diversity, while also learning how to make disciples in a local church context. We call these 5Groups. For most students, the local church is the next step for disciple-making community. Parachurch ministries need the local church for this reason.

Though our university ministry is very decentralized, we do have a Sunday Morning University Bible Study, a monthly university lunch, and a university spring break trip. By the way, almost all of these still have a multi-generational dimension to them. But primarily we are trying to help university students be a committed part of a healthy local church. One of our goals is that in participating in a healthy local church, university students would then go and be a part of what they have experienced with us. If that happens, then we would consider that a biblical win, and that is why we have chosen to do university ministry the way that we do it. It’s also the reason we have chosen to refrain from activities that are commonly associated with university ministry.

 

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9 Ways Women Are Prominently Featured in Exodus

pharaohs-daughter

This past Sunday I noted the prominent role women played in the deliverance of God’s people in Exodus chapters one and two. I made the statement that the Bible raises women up by telling their stories and showing them to be heroes whom God used to fulfill His promises to the nation of Israel (Genesis 12:1-3; Genesis 15:1-7 and 13-16; Genesis 17:1-8; Genesis 35:9-12; Genesis 46:1-4 and 50:24).

Here are several examples of how the Spirit inspired God’s word to prominently and winsomely portray women as a part of God’s providential deliverance.

  • (1:15) Pharaoh, the most powerful human in this story is left unnamed, while two Hebrew midwives are named – Shiprhrah (Beautiful One) and Puah (Splendid One). The naming indicates who is truly important and powerful in God’s sight.
  • (1:10 and 17) Pharaoh acts out of fear because of the multiplying Israelites, but the Hebrew midwives act to disobey a direct command from Pharaoh because of their fear of God. In their fear they demonstrated real courage.
  • (1:19) When Pharaoh confronts these women about their disobedience, they give Pharaoh the runaround, and Pharaoh does not execute them, indicating they were favored by God.
  • (1:20-21) The writer of Exodus says God was good to the midwives and blessed the people because of the midwives fear of God. And because of their fear of God, He blessed the midwives with households.
  • (2:1-3) Moses’ mother – and notice it does not mention his father as a part of the plan to hide Moses – hides Moses for three months and then entrusts him to God by putting him in the Nile in a mini-ark (Gen. 6:14).
  • (2:4, 7) Moses’ sister (likely Miriam – Numbers 26:59), watched Moses from a distance and boldly suggested to Pharaoh’s daughter that she could find a Hebrew to nurse the Hebrew child Pharaoh’s daughter compassionately rescued. Miriam exhibited courage to interject with such an idea when the Hebrews were not favored in the land of Egypt.
  • (2:8-9) Pharaoh’s daughter agrees and Miriam finds Jochebed, Moses’ mother (Exodus 6:20), who gets paid to nurse her own child that she released to God in the Nile. I suspect this helped Moses retain some of his Hebrew identity while being brought into the house of Pharaoh.
  • (2:10) Pharaoh’s daughter brings into the house of Pharaoh the very deliverer (Moses) that the Pharaoh feared would cause the Israelites to depart Egypt.
  • (2:10) Pharaoh’s daughter names the Hebrew child Moses “because I drew him out of the water.”

Pharaoh sought to control the Hebrews by oppression and stunt their growth as a nation by murdering their sons, but God used Pharaoh’s daughter to draw Moses of the water so God could use Moses to draw His people out of Egypt and redeem them.

Women are portrayed as very important and powerful in the first two chapters of Exodus.

Exodus Ironies

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As I have begun to study through Exodus, I have noticed with the help of commentators, more than a few ironies or reversals. Here are elevn from the first two chapters.

  • The LORD God uses the weak and seemingly powerless to overthrow the strong and mighty. For example, in Exodus it is the “daughters” that Pharaoh chose not to kill (Exodus 1:16 and 22), but as it turned out, it was daughters who were his downfall.
  • The Pharaoh who targeted the sons of Israel (1:15-22) brought about the death of Egypt’s firstborn sons (11:4-6).
  • Pharaoh’s house decreed destruction, but it was Pharaoh’s house who sheltered and raised the deliverer, Moses (2:1-10).
  • Moses is drawn out of the dangerous water of the Nile (2:10) by Pharaoh’s daughter, and it is Moses who becomes the one who leads God’s people through the water of the Red Sea to safety.
  • In fleeing to Midian (2:15), Moses fled from the children of Abraham to another branch of Abraham’s family (Gen. 25:1-2). Also this may explain Jethro’s inclination to worship the One true God.
  • Pharaoh wants to prevent Israel from rebelling and leaving (1:10), yet it is his fearful and aggressive actions that God uses to fulfill His promise of departure (Exodus) from Egypt.
  • By keeping the Israelites in bondage, he actually helped make them a great nation (1:12).
  • The more Pharaoh tried to thwart God’s plan, the more Pharaoh failed and God’s purpose thrived.
  • God saved the child Moses so that He could save His children the Israelites.
  • Moses tried to deliver some Israelites from the Egyptians his way (2:12-14), but he was rejected and fled for fear of his life. Moses stepped aside into 40 years of banishment and God took center stage in response to the desperation of His people (2:23-25).
  • Moses tried to deliver the Hebrews in Egypt but ended up in Midian. In Midian he delivered Jethro’s daughters and found a home (2:16-22).

Exodus Insights: Jesus, the True and Better Israel

In John 15:1 Jesus proclaims about Himself: “I Am the True Vine…”

From Old Testament passages Isaiah 5:1-7, Jeremiah 2:21 and Hosea 10:1-2, we learn that Israel was also called God’s vine. God planted Israel and cared for them in every way and yet they acted like the nations and became a “degenerate shoot.”

vine-grape2

Jesus, according to John, sees Himself as the true, better and perfect Vine. With reference to Jesus, this kind of Christologic, fulfillment typology runs throughout the Bible.

In Exodus 4:22 Moses is to tell Pharaoh on behalf of God that “Israel is My Son, My firstborn Son.” Biblical scholar, J.A. Motyer, points out that this is where Matthew’s gospel account begins in showing that Jesus is the “Son of David, son of Abraham” (1:1), “my Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased.” (3:17)

As noted by Motyer, Matthew doesn’t stop in the first chapter His gospel with the comparisons between Israel in Exodus and Jesus the Son. Consider these similarities:

  • Jesus, like Israel, was “threatened by the contemporary political authorities , and, like the, he even made the journey into Egypt (Matt. 2:13-15).”
  • Like Israel, Jesus also faced adversity and satanic opposition (Matt. 4:1-11).
  • Just as Israel left Egypt and came to the Red Sea in Exodus 14, so Jesus returns from exile in Egypt and then comes to the Jordan River to be baptized (Matt. 2:23; 3:1).
  • Just as Israel emerged from the Red Sea to go into the wilderness (Exodus 15:22), so Jesus went through the waters of baptism into the wilderness of temptation (Matt. 4:1).
  • Israel experienced an absence of water and food in the wilderness (Exodus 15:23 and 16:3), so did Jesus during His temptation (Matt. 4:1-4).
  • Unlike Israel when they put the LORD God to the test (Exodus 17:2), Jesus refused to do this in His second temptation (Matt. 4:7).

Note: Jesus is like Israel, but is the better and perfect Son.

  • Israel came to Mount Sinai (Exodus 19) where they turned to idol worship (Exodus 32:1-6), but Jesus, who was tempted from a very high mountain with all the kingdoms of the earth, proclaimed that there is only one God worthy of worship (Matt. 4:8-10).

Motyer concludes after this short juxtaposition: “In other words, Exodus is the story of the son of God who stands in need of salvation, failing at every point of life and even of privilege; Matthew tells of the Son of God who brings salvation (Matt. 1:21), perfect and righteous at every point and in every circumstance and test.”

Coupled with Matthew, Exodus reminds us that the life of Jesus is the turning point of history. Others walked where Jesus walked, but no one walked the earth like Jesus Christ. He is everything that Israel was meant to be. He is the true, better and perfect vine that is Israel. John and Matthew saw this vividly. We would do well to see it too.

Eagle Heights Member’s Meeting Agenda and Summary Notes For 07.29.18

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As is the custom of the people of Eagle Heights, we will have our quarterly Member’s Meeting on Sunday July 29th at 9:15 am in the worship center.

Our Member’s Meeting is a time to:

  • celebrate the work of the Lord in our midst
  • communicate what is coming up so we can do ministry together
  • conduct business when necessary
  • answer questions from the members of Eagle Heights and pray for those who are spiritually and physically sick

It is very important that every member of Eagle Heights make every effort to be there. If you can’t be there, please ask someone what was said and done.

By the way, if you have questions for the Elders or staff, please feel free to email them to me: bprentice@eagleheights.com We always want to do our best to communicate with our faith family, and we sincerely want our brothers and sisters to ask any questions or express any concern as it relates to our trusting and obeying all that Christ commanded.

Here is a summary agenda for our time together at 9:15 am on the 29th of July.

(3 min) Welcome and Prayer (Pastor Brent)

  • We gather in committed community to communicate and celebrate what God is doing because of what Christ alone has done. We do this for God’s glory together.
    • I love this faith family and I love our commitment to biblical fidelity.
  • A brief reminder why it is important to participate in these meetings.
    • We communicate the work of the church, celebrate what God is doing through the church and conduct business as necessary.

(3 min) Update from Notie Lansford, Chairman of the Personnel Team

  • Notie reported that the church has graciously responded to the request for funds to send Brent and Lacey to Israel. So far, $7,100 has come in.
  • Brent and Lacey had to postpone their trip because the trip they planned to go on was canceled. They will attempt to go in 2020.

(3 min) Membership Presentations (Pastor Brent)

  • Present new members to be affirmed next week.
    • Blake and Lauren Abbott, Shelby Hackett, Truby Mackey, Leah Muriel, Danny and Jenny Sherman Please let us know if you have concern about any of these folks being members.
  • Briefly explain what membership means to the people of Eagle Heights
  • Briefly explain the process (Class + Interview + Congregational Affirmation)
  • Introduce New Members
  • Affirmation:
    • Elder: “Do you commit to help us glorify God by trusting Jesus and striving to obey all that He commands?” New Members: “We do.”
    • Elder: “Do you commit to strive to know and build these new members up in love for God’s glory and your joy?” Church Members: “We do.”

(4 min) Youth Ministry Report (Parker)

  • Parker communicated what to expect for the youth ministry moving forward and invited parents to a meeting on Sunday, August 12th at 9:15

 (4 min) Ziegler Family Seminary Commissioning (Pastor Brent and Pastor Dan)

  • Matthew will explain their plans.
    • Their last day with us is August 5th. They will be moving to Kansas City for two years of seminary and hope to return to us with the capability to address counseling needs in our city.
  • Pastor Dan will come and pray for them.

(4 min) Elders Update (Pastor Kevin Moore)

  • Trustees Update – Per the constitution, the Trustees have not been rotating off every three years. In December, Bob Dixon will rotate off, then Charlie Cooksey the following year and then Terry Bidwell. We will be looking for people to fill the role of trustee as these rotate off.
  • Constitution Revision Update – The Elders are currently combing through the constitution to make sure it is clear and helpful for the governance of our faith family. We will be presenting revisions at our next Member’s Meeting in September.
  • Membership Material Update and Review- Because of teaching we have done, we are currently updating our membership material and plan on filming a new membership video in the near future.

(4 min) Missionary Commissioning (Pastor Brent and Tyson)

  • (Names have been removed for security reasons) will explain their plans.
    • They are still fundraising to leave in the next few months to go to the Middle East to do language training in Arabic.
  • Pastor Tyson will pray for them

(4 min) Children’s Ministry Update (Pastor Ryan)

  • Wacky Water Night on August 8th as outreach with mailers – we are sending out over 2,000 mailers to specific parts of our city.
  • Children’s Camp – Children’s camp went very well and we had several professions of faith and one commitment to vocational ministry.
  • We need Volunteers as school starts –
  • Dearinger’s school supply partnership – we are partnering with Dearinger’s Printing and have contributed to the funds to give rulers with our brand and a message on it to every first grader in Stillwater
  • Promotion Sunday is coming up on August 12th and AWANA starts Wednesday the 29th.

(4 min) UPWARD Update (Pastor Brent and Jonathan Harrison)

  • Jonathan and Amanda Harrison have decided, after a period of evaluation, to continue UPWARD one more year, but only for Kindergarten through 2nd

 (4 min) Preparing for August (Pastor Brent)

  • Servant attitudes and Seating and Parking
    • Brent asked that we please serve each other and those who will be coming to our church. If anyone has questions about why we do what we do, please come directly to us.
  • University Ministry
    • Brent explained that we will not be hiring an intern for the Fall Semester, but will run the university ministry through a team approach for the time being. Brent interviewed two candidates but it didn’t work out.

(4 min) Ward Commissioning (Pastor Brent and Pastor Nathan)

  • Colton and Lauren will explain their plans.
    • Colton and Lauren plan to leave in the next few months to go to the mission field to share the gospel and plant churches. They are still raising funds to be able to go.
  • Pastor Nathan will pray for them.

(3 min) Staff Updates: Jason Denney (Pastor Brent)

  • Jason Denney will no longer be serving as the part-time minister of international students or core groups. He will be working full-time for Greater Europe Mission. August is his last month serving in this capacity.

(3 min) Ministry and Missions Giving Update

  • –Brent reported that missions giving is going very well, but encouraged everyone to continue to give through $18 for ’18. He said summer giving has been slower but overall the budget is strong.

 Q&A with Elders if time permits, and Prayer

  • Prayer request: Cindy May, mother of Karen Privott who is a former member, unexpectedly died at the age of 56. Praying for the family.
  • Prayer request: Caleb Harris and Allison Smola, who are EHBC members, are leaving for mission’s training school in Mexico for 10 months. This can be a challenging time of learning and growing.
  • Prayer request: Sevi is the four month old nephew of Cayton Jones. He has been critically ill with heart and brain issues. Cayton also lost his mother this year to cancer. Please pray for strength for this family and the healing of Sevi.
  • We ended with a brief time of prayer.

The Starving Soul of The Sluggard

sluggard

There is nothing good about a lazy person. Right? Wrong. Even the lazy person longs for good and satisfying realities. Desire is something, but it is not everything.

Proverbs 13:4 contends: “The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, but the soul of the diligent is made fat (fully satisfied).” 

You see, there it is. The sluggish and lazy person really wants to live the good life. They want something; apparently they want a fat or fully satisfied soul. But they get nothing because they do nothing, or at least not enough.

This passage might be applied to many areas of life. For instance, I desire to be more physically fit and have more energy, but the couch is way more comfortable and so my desire does me no good. Someone else might crave financial freedom from debt, but it is way easier to eat out all of the time instead of sticking to a budget. Another person may want to have a healthy marriage, but the miserable peace that exists is better than having to have a hard conversation about the reality and the needed adjustments that would have to take place for the relationship to improve.

As it relates to this verse, the category I most often think about is the spiritually atrophied soul. This person wants to know the blessed life of walking with Jesus by faith (Matthew 5), but instead they choose a life that does not satisfy. Many who claim to have a life-changing relationship (2 Corinthians 5:17) with the Creator of the world in Jesus Christ, seem to know so little of the love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23) that is produced by the same Spirit of God that raised Jesus from the dead (Romans 8:11). And by the way, all of us struggle or fail at this, but there is a difference between struggling forward and believing the present situation is the inevitable reality we were destined to endure.

CS Lewis was right, so many are playing with mud pies in the slums of life and craving more, when they could be enjoying a vacation at the beach.

The answer to this problem is clearly stated in the text. If you want to be satisfied in anything (Psalms 128:1-4), and particularly in God, you must diligently seek it and work at it. You most go after what you want. You must train yourself for godliness (1 Timothy 4:8). You must abide in Christ, for without Him you can do nothing (John 15:5). You must apply all diligence to attain godliness (2 Peter 1:5-11).

To be clear, I am not talking about earning salvation. God is not opposed to effort, He is opposed to earning grace. But grace should drive us away from being sluggishly lazy (2 Corinthians 5:14-15).

In light of the wisdom probability that is Proverbs 13:4, craving or desiring is a start, but if you want to live a full and satisfying life in Christ, you must get busy living with all diligence. You must pursue God and the things of God. Otherwise, your soul will be starving and weak. God wants something better for you than the life of the sluggard.

If you desire more, but don’t know the way of the satisfied soul, find someone who appears to have love, joy, peace, etc. The satisfied soul is glad to help others be satisfied in Christ because God is an overflowing, forever God who wants the best for those who love Him and know Him. Do you believe that? Then be diligent.

Parenting and Learning From Those Who Have Gone Before Us

generations

Life experience is really important, and it is one of the realities that makes the local church so important and practically helpful. We would do well to learn from the people who have gone before us and experienced the ups and downs that life will throw at us. A multi-generational church is a gift, if we recognize it and embrace it.

Tomorrow morning at 9:15 a.m. in the worship center,  I have asked four empty-nester couples to share one parenting strategy that they successfully employed when they were parenting. But I have also asked them to share something they wished they would have done, or something they would do differently. We will then have 20-25 minutes of Q&A.

If you are a parent of any age, with children in the home of any age, I highly recommend you make the effort to join us and learn from the life experience of others in the body of Christ.

07.11.18 – Below is the video from our time together.

 

What Is “The Fear of the Lord”?

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I continue to find that that the “fear of the Lord” is an oft misunderstood biblical concept. That’s not good because we must understand the fear of the Lord if we are to know and love God and live according to His design.

Ray Ortlund Jr. describes the fear of the Lord in Proverbs 1:7 as the threshold by which Christians are able to embrace true wisdom for living in God’s world. Ortlund writes, “The whole of the book of Proverbs can be distilled into a Proverbs 1:7 drop.” To say it another way, no one can access the wisdom of God and the good it brings without the fear of the Lord. We need a new beginning – “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” – and we can’t have it without the fear of the Lord.

But what is this fear of the Lord?

Ortlund writes: “It is not a cringing dread before the Lord. It is not a guilty “Oh no, here comes God. I’m in for it now.” The fear of the Lord is openness to Him, eagerness to please Him, humility to be instructed by Him (Proverbs 15:33). The fear of the Lord is willingness to turn from evil and change (Job 28:28). The fear of the Lord is surrender to His will (Genesis 22:12). The fear of the Lord is one way we love Him (Deuteronomy 6:2, 5). The fear of Christ is meekly fitting in with one another (Ephesians 5:21). The fear of the Lord is when we realize, “I am not the measure of all things. I am measured.” p. 31 – Proverbs; Wisdom That Works

CS Lewis describes the antithesis of the fear of the Lord:

In God you come up against something which is in every respect immeasurably superior to yourself. Unless you know God as that-and, therefore, know yourself as nothing in comparison-you do not know God at all. As long as you are proud, you cannot know God. A proud man is always looking down on things and people; and, of course, as long as you are looking down, you cannot see something that is above you. Mere Christianity 

John Piper provides a helpful picture from The Pleasures of God:

Suppose you were exploring an unknown glacier in the north of Greenland in the dead of winter. Just as you reach a sheer cliff with a spectacular view of miles and miles of jagged ice and mountains of snow, a terrible storm breaks in. The wind is so strong that the fear rises in your heart that it might blow you over the cliff. But in the midst of the storm you discover a cleft in the ice where you can hide. Here you feel secure. But, even though secure, the awesome might of the storm rages on, and you watch it with a kind of trembling pleasure as it surges out across the distant glaciers.

At first there was fear that this terrible storm and awesome terrain might claim your life. But then you found a refuge and gained the hope the that you would be safe. But not everything in the feeling called fear vanished from your heart. Only the life-threatening part. There remained the trembling, the awe, the wonder, the feeling that you would never want to tangle with such a storm or be the adversary of such a power.

After all, “it is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31), and not be hidden the cleft of the Rock that is Christ, who has bore our wrath on the cross.

So the fear of the Lord is not just the dread of God, as though there was a constant worry that God might smite us. However, if we are not in Christ by repentance toward God and faith in the finished work of Christ, then we have real reason to fear the eternal wrath that awaits us. But if we are safe and secure in Christ, then the fear of the Lord is simply an attitude or disposition that comes from knowing our place in the world as created beings of the Creator. In Christ, we live in awe and reverence toward God, because He is so powerful, wonderful and magnificent to us. Without this fear, we will believe the lie that we are god and the captain of our own ship, doing what we think will bring us the most pleasure a part from God, (Genesis 3:1-6) and we will not see our need to trust and follow Christ, who is wisdom from God for us (1 Corinthians 1:30).

To fear the Lord is to humbly know your place in the universe God created, and by faith to think and act appropriately toward our only hope, Jesus Christ.

“So Will I (100 Billion X)” The Good and The Questionable

On Sunday we watched the following video as an illustration of the sermon from John 1:1-3:

WHAT IS HELPFUL ABOUT THIS SONG

There is so much to embrace and enjoy about this song. I am edified by this song because of the grand and sweeping Biblical meta-narrative it artistically and emotively proclaims. It begins with creation and prods us to attempt to ponder what it might look like for God to make everything from nothing by the sheer force of His speaking; the movement of His breath. It invites us to to imagine and remember how big God really is. He always has been, and always is, and always will be majestic and grand and mind-boggling. But then it reminds us that this cosmic God is personal and merciful and loving in that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us to live perfectly, and die for the sins of many (John 1:1-3, 14; Mark 10:45). Finally, the song models for us to respond by faith with surrender and worship.

We need more songs like this to stretch our minds to see as much of the fullness of God as we can. We need more songs that biblically provoke awe and wonder.

WHAT IS QUESTIONABLE AND CONCERNING ABOUT THIS SONG

I chose to use this video in our worship gathering with some trepidation, concerned  there might be a few lines that would distract and maybe even mislead. To be clear, I don’t mean to be uncharitable and overly critical. After all, I am a teaching preacher who sometimes says things that don’t roll off the tongue the way I want them to. Having said that, there is something to be said for being as precise and clear as possible about the truth we sing, teach and preach. So I hope my critique of this song models the need for precise and biblical thinking, but with a spirit of humility.

  • “With no point of reference” After the worship gathering I was sharing with one theologically astute man some of my hesitations about the song, and he pointed out one possible deficiency that I had not thought of when the song says that God created from nothing when there was “no point of reference.” The truth is that there was a point of reference, namely, the Triune God. To be fair, what I think the song was referencing was that there was no point of reference as it relates to time and space. But there is an important lesson to be learned from the observation that God was there. Just as we often ignore the creator in favor of the creation, so it is always possible to forget or underestimate God. If time and space never came into being, God would still exist as the ultimate point of reference. As a matter of divinely declared truth, He is the only reality that ultimately matters, for in Him are all things and He is in need of nothing (Acts 17:22-31).
  • “Evolving in pursuit of what You said” If you go to YouTube and search “So Do I”, you might see a video titled: “So Will I (100 Billion X) mentions evolution. Should we stop singing it?” My concern is there are those who see the word “evolution” as a sort of anti-Christian word, and therefore, be distracted from the good the song delivers. To begin with, let’s look at the context of the aforementioned line. “As You speak, a hundred billion creatures catch Your breath, evolving in pursuit of what You said.” Now I don’t know what the author(s) believe about Darwinian, macro-evolution. Maybe they see no conflict between the Bible and this scientific theory. But it seems to me in the reading of their lyrics that they might be talking about micro-evolution. I say this because they mention creatures that have already been created and now have the breath of life as given by God. Then they write about those creatures evolving in pursuit of what God has said. I, like most people, believe creatures are capable of adapting to their environment as it changes. This affirms the wisdom of God. Do I believe we are advanced chimps? No. I believe God created mankind in His image, distinct from all other creatures (Genesis 1:26-28). But I do believe in micro-evolution. That is how I interpret the song, and therefore, it is not a problem for me.
  • “A Hundred Billions Failures Disappear” What is wrong with this line? After all, I have most certainly failed. I am the chief of failures. Wait, that isn’t quite right, is it? Paul said, “I am the chief of sinners.” (1 Timothy 1:15) All have fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). But I have failed, along with everyone else, because I have rebelled. I have fallen short of the glory of God because I am a sinner who has willfully sinned (Romans 3:23). It is worth emphasizing that we needed the cross not because we tried for holiness and came up short, as though it were a lack of skill or effort, but because we are rebels in rebellion against a perfect and holy God. We all have shook our fists at the LORD God. I wish the language was biblically stronger about the reason that Jesus lost His life on the Hill that was created through Him.
  • “Like You would again 100 billion times” My good friend, Ryan Smith, said something like, “Why is there always just one line you have to change in the songs that Hillsong writes?” It seems that way in this song too. If I were going to change one line in the whole song, it would be this one. In the final crescendo of the song it declares the passion of God for people as displayed in the gospel and then says, “If You gave your life to love them, so will I.” That’s fantastic. The love of Christ displayed on the cross for us should propel us to love others by sharing with them the good news of Jesus. Amen and Amen! But then we hear these words: “Like You would again 100 Billion Times”. I wish they would have just ended it with the  previous line. Here is my beef. I can’t think of a time in the Bible that it says, or suggests, that God would send Jesus to die again if need be. First of all, the Bible is clear that the work of redemption is complete and perfect. It is finished (John 19:30). It was a once for all endeavor. There is no need be for another try. Second, there is only one Son of God. There is only one Jesus. Yes, I suppose it is a nice sentiment, but it is not like Jesus is “the one” of the Matrix, only to find out there have been six others before him. Isn’t Jesus enough? Isn’t He enough to convince us of God’s love and mercy and grace and justice? Why is there a need to try to improve on God’s incomprehensible love (Ephesians 3:18-19)? If you doubt God’s goodness toward you, there is no need to guess that He might do it again to show His deep love. Just look to the once and for all, “it is finished” work (Romans 8:32). God loved His glory and humans so much that He got it right the first and only time with His One and only Son. Enough said and done. Let’s celebrate and rejoice in what is finished, not what will never be needed.

One final thought. Music is such an important vehicle of truth. The Psalms are proof of that. But so many songs today are wrong, superficial or unclear. If our theology is strong and sound, we can listen to a lot of songs with clear and biblical thinking. More than being nit-picky, I hope I have modeled that with regard to a song that has really helped and challenged me to love Jesus and glorify God more and more. Let’s listen to and sing the song, but let’s think biblically as we do.

 

5 Money Questions For Marriage

money and marriage

Few things test a marriage like money. To be clear, money isn’t the root problem, but it does expose relational deficiencies and priorities. How a couple manages money will  reveal what they really treasure and love. It will ultimately reveal the affection(s) of their hearts.

Here are five questions married couples can ask to evaluate whether or not they are honoring God and each other with their money and possessions.

(These questions are mostly applicable to single people, but the impetus for writing this blog is a session I always do on money for those who seek premarital counseling.)

  1. Do we think biblically about God’s money? The money you possess is really God’s money. “The earth is the Lord’s and all it contains; the world and those who dwell in it.” (Ps. 24:1) Seeking to build your own kingdom and security by your own power instead of being rich toward God is foolish (Luke 12:13-21). If God is not first place, then something else is, and how you think about God and money will show it. If you don’t see your money in a God-centered way, then money and what it affords will become to you a god and savior.
  2. Do we practice joyful generosity toward God’s people? The discussion about how much is one worth having, but what is biblically clear is that God wants those who belong to Christ to be generous in giving and He wants them to be cheerful about it (2 Corinthians 6:9-12). God is concerned with both the quantity and quality of your giving. It really is quite simple; God wants us to supply the needs of the saints for their well-being and the work of ministry (2 Corinthians 9:12 and 1 Timothy 5:17-18), and so He asks all who belong to Christ to be generous. God is most glorified when we do this joyfully and not under compulsion. Our giving should be gospel-driven and motivated by God giving the greatest gift of all; His only begotten Son, Jesus (2 Corinthians 8:9). This is one of the primary ways to answer the first question: “Are we rich toward God?”
  3. Do money and possessions produce ongoing conflict and tension in our marriage or other relationships? If there is constantly conflict over money, then there is likely one of two reasons. First, there is no reasonable expectation by which the couple can communicate about spending. This is why a budget is so important. The budget is a visible and agreed upon expectation that both people seek to honor. With a budget, both people know what is coming in, and they both have agreed to a plan by which the money is spent and goes out. The expectation of a budget provides the opportunity for accountability and a shared cause. Second, there is a lack of communication about the shared expectation. Someone has to take the primary responsibility to track expenses and communicate the budget reality in a considerate, clear and kind way. Both people should agree who the point person will be, and then they have to be willing to communicate and agree upon how the money should be spent. When there is no reasonable expectation for expenses and little or no communication, then trust is eroded, and conflict is inevitable.
  4. Do we have excessive and perpetual debt? Look, with the exception of Dave Ramsey, few people are going to fault you for having a mortgage and reasonable car loan. But if debt causes you to take on more debt when the need for normal expenditures arise like car maintenance and vacations, then you have too much debt. If debt keeps you from being generous toward God and His people, then you have a debt problem. If debt is a constant source of conflict, then you might need to revisit number three. Sure, sometimes things happen that are beyond our control and we have to take steps that might create debt. But the truth is this: A lot of debt, if not most, is avoidable. No debt is best, but debt that steals joy, kills relationships and destroys opportunities is nothing less than a slave (Proverbs 22:7).
  5. Are we trapped by materialism? Again, look at questions one, two and four to get started answering this question. From there ask: Do we have more than we can take care of in time and money? Is our greatest joy found in the stuff that we claim to own? How do we respond when it gets old, dinged, damaged or destroyed? Do we worry about our stuff more than we worry about eternal matters like the souls of people and those who have almost nothing presently?  Do we own our stuff or does our stuff own us? Does our stuff cause strife with others that we love and care about? When we look back on our lives, will we have given our best energy and time to the acquisition of possessions that will not last? Are we going into debt to have stuff that we actually can’t afford? Are we able to live within a budget and have delayed gratification if there is something we really want? Will we ever have enough? When will enough be enough? If you can’t be happy without money and possessions, then you will likely never be happy with them – at least not for long.

Money is not bad. As a matter of fact, God can use it for all sorts of good in the life of our marriage and other relationships. But we have to be willing to ask some tough questions and be honest about the place of money in our lives. Get a-hold of your money, or it will have hold of you.