Thursday, July 24, 2008

A T4G Music CD??

If you've attended T4G in 2006 or 2008, one thing you were no doubt touched by was the singing (esp. in 2006 in that tight hotel ballroom). It's a glorious sound of rejoicing in the Savior, and such rich dwelling of Christ in our hearts!

Check out this slide show from T4G 2008, set to How Sweet and Aweful Is the Place. Sweet stuff. I hear there is a CD to be released later this year. Can't wait for that!!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

My People Perish...

My man Lance is casting vision for the reform of predominantly African-American churches.
Part One
Part Two
Part Three

More to come.... The revolution will not be televised.

Sean Lucas Watches Joel Osteen

Okay... maybe not every night. But he did last night, and he offers some good historian's reflections.

Monday, July 21, 2008

A Good Book for Christian Women

I'm looking forward to ordering copies of Wendy Horger Alsup's new book, Practical Theology for Women: How Knowing God Makes a Difference in our Daily Lives. Some of you will know that Wendy is deacon of women's theology at Mars Hill Church. I first "bumped into her" through an interview series she did with Adrian across the pond.

I suspect that the book will be helpful to men as well (I'm looking forward to reading it), but I'll be eager to give copies to the women in the church. I'm for anything that communicates a big view of God and Christ with a resulting impact on our daily living.

Publisher's Description:

This resource presents the power of theology while exhorting women to apply what they believe about God in the middle of life’s daily battles.

Women in evangelical churches believe in God. However, when they are faced with life’s battles—financial problems, job loss, serious illness—they begin to question the God they know. “Can he really provide for my family?” “Can I truly trust him to get me through this crisis?” If such a woman is not grounded in her knowledge of God, the battles she faces threaten to shatter her wavering faith.

Wendy Horger Alsup recognizes such dangers. In Practical Theology for Women, Alsup uses the power of theology to address practical issues in women’s lives. Her book opens with a general discussion of theology and addresses the most fundamental and practical issue of theology: faith. Then she explores the attributes of God the Father, Son, and Spirit from Scripture, concluding with a look at our means of communicating with God—prayer and the Word.

Throughout the book, Alsup exhorts women to apply what they believe about God in their everyday lives. As they do this, their husbands, homes, and churches will benefit.

Together For Adoption Conference

The Together for Adoption Conference is slated to kick off November 1st in Greenville, S.C. The schedule promises an edifying and challenging time.

Theme: Our Adoption in Christ: What it Means for Us and for Orphans
Date: November 1, 2008
Location: Southside Fellowship (Greenville, SC)
See Conference Schedule

Sessions and Speakers:
The Good News of Adoption (Ephesians 1-2) Rick Phillips (Listen to one of his sermons: How Shall We Now Live?)

God’s Joy in Adoption Russell Moore (Listen to one of his sermons: But Are They Brothers? The Spirit of Adoption and the Unity of the Church)

Adoption and the Multi-Ethnic Family of God (Ephesians 1-2) Carl Robbins (Listen to one of his sermons: Union with Christ)

Our Adoption and Visiting Orphans in Their Affliction (Romans 8:22-23) Tullian Tchividjian (Josh Harris interviews Tullian about his book Do I know God? -Listen to one of his sermons: What the World Needs from the Church)

Q & A with Speakers

More details forthcoming

Two downloadable documents about T4A conferences:
Main Article
T4A Brochure

Join our Facebook group here.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

The Suffering of Job

I must be due a season of suffering. That's the sense I get as more and more the Lord turns my attention to passages and themes of Scripture that have some bearing on suffering. I am, by most every measure, enjoying a season of plenty and calm. So I don't know whether my suffering will come via a test in prosperity, or a change of providence delivering a stinging blow from the Father's hand.

But it seems to me that the Lord is at work, giving me resources from His word that, by His grace, will allow me to pierce the veil of suffering to see the moves of His mighty hand. Among the many things we need during suffering, it seems to me that clarity of vision is most needful. We may endure the suffering itself with grit and resolve. We may find the comforts of Christ in the presence of friends. There may be relief from pain via the common grace of medicines and the like. But all of those will have little effect if suffering occludes our view of God who sits high and looks low, who rules all things from the throne of righteousness, and in our suffering--and our comfort--overflows the banks of our life with the experience of His Son in us (2 Cor. 1:5). Lose sight of God in suffering and no amount of earthly help will in the end be any help at all, just temporary snatches of deeper insanity appearing as relief before agony resumes. The irony will be that the agony will have us closer to God and the relief farther away if in our suffering we have no view of God.

Today I began listening to Mark Dever's sermon series on Job entitled "Losing Everything?". I highly recommend the first sermon in the series, "Job's Trials." I don't think I've heard Mark any better than he was in this sermon.

1--Job's Trials (Job 1-2)

2--Job's Questions (Job 3)

3--Job's Friends (Job 4-37; it would be just like Mark to sneak in a sermon whose text is 34 chapters long!)

4--Job's God (Job 38-42)

Friday, July 18, 2008

"Reverend" Jesse Jackson?

Two years ago, I drafted a post firing many of the major Black Civil Rights leaders on behalf of all of African America. My wife, discerning and gracious, suggested I not publish it. I keep it in my draft file, and every once in a while I read the "pink slip" hoping to send someone packing on a Friday afternoon, never to return to the office.

Today I learned that Rev. Jesse Jackson said more than the already crude statements regarding Sen. Obama's private parts aired on news channels over the past week. He apparently used the N-word. Now everyone from the ladies on The View to the usual TV pundits are trying to figure out what's going on with Jackson. And I'm dusting off my pink slip marked Jackson.

I don't know what it is, but iconic African-American clergymen in the twilight of their careers have been falling like flies around Barack Obama. First Wright, now Jackson. Men who have served for decades now watch either their reputation or their work burn like wood, hay, and stubble in the flames of indiscretion, immorality, and public outrage. What will the flames of Christ's judgment do?

I remember the first time I heard John Piper pray that the Lord would keep him from falling and would enable him to finish well. It was a lightning bolt through my soul. I had not been praying that way for myself or for others, and I instantly knew I needed to. I can fall. I can ruin myself, my family, and the reputation of my local church, and most of all bring disrepute upon Christ. In an instant, off-mic, leaning to a colleague, I can do almost irreparable harm.

So, Jackson reminds me that mine is a public life as well. Every pastor's life is a public life. And perhaps a case can be made that every Christian life is a public life. And we all can fall to depths that make us shudder when we're sober-minded enough to think about it. We are Christ's, but Satan has asked to sift us like wheat, sin lies crouching at our doors. We'd better watch our lives and our doctrine carefully.

Having said that, I wonder what the term "Reverend" now means in the minds of Christians. When people call me "Rev. Anyabwile" as they sometimes do, what are they thinking? Are they thinking anything at all really? Is "Reverend" a quaint little title we normally assign to kind old men in collars who've served a gray-haired flock for some time, but also a title that happens to land on younger men destined for that same humble little future? Is anything of reverence, respect, holiness, God-fearing, Christ-likeness associated with the word any more?

Not if Jesse Jackson can be justifiably called "Reverend". I'm not singling out Jackson. We could list the Swaggarts, Lyons, Paula Whites and others who for various reasons make the name meaningless either by their lack of reverence or their misplaced energies. After all, Jackson hasn't been involved with a church as an active pastor for some time as far as I can tell. But beyond the recent comments, we might also point to Jackson's adulterous relationship and illegitimate child just a couple years ago. If the title is going to be more than ceremonial, if Jackson and every other pastor would dignify the pastoral office and the title, we must not only pray that we would not fall, but if we should fall we also must "step down," see ourselves as disqualified, hasten to refuse the label, choosing instead to encourage and pray for others who run the race by God's grace without being disqualified and entangled with the affairs of this world.

Jackson's comments are deplorable. There is no compelling way of explaining why anyone associated with the risen Lord Jesus should say such things, much less why His ministers should profane His name that way. Jackson's words deomonstrate a lack of integrity--campaigning for the abolishment of the N-word's use while freely using it "off air." We will be judged by every idle word we speak. And judgment will begin at the household of God, where those who teach will receive the stricter judgment.

Jackson has run his race. He's run out of bounds set by Scripture. He should dignify the pastoral office and the men who give their lives to it by setting aside the title "reverend," for his actions do not warrant the honor.

We all should be watchful, lest we fall. Let's all pray that those who stand to proclaim the gospel of Christ would be kept and sanctified by the truth in the power of God's Spirit. That "Reverend" would mean something deep and beautiful and awesome and Christ-honoring and cross-embracing and holy and profound and gracious and trustworthy. That those who don the title would be wholly committed to Christ, not distracted by politics and studio lights, humbly working as slaves of Christ for the glory of Christ with the joy of Christ.

To paraphrase Mc'Cheyne, the greatest need our people have is the holiness of their pastor. The perishing world needs to see that as well.

Descended from Adam--Like Me

Rare fraternal twins born to German parents demonstrate that we are all descended from Eve, mother of all living. One of the twins is black-skinned with brown eyes like his mother, while the other is white-skinned and blue eyed, resembling his father. Acts 17:26. Story and video here.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Do You Take Church Membership Seriously?

Earlier I linked to John Piper's sermon on July 13, 2008 entitled "How Important Is Church Membership?" It's an excellent articulation of the assumptions in Scripture that warrant a biblical belief in and practice of church membership.

Piper concluded with some excellent personal application questions and a brief appreciation of the church as the body of Christ. If you struggle with the idea or the necessity of membership, I pray you'd listen to the entire sermon and afterward ponder these questions"
Are you an accountable member of a local church? Not just: Is your name somewhere? But, are you committed to discipline and being disciplined according to biblical standards? Have you publicly declared your willingness to be shepherded and to be led by the leaders of a local church? Do you see yourself and your gifts as part of an organic ministering body? Do you show by your firm attachment to Christ’s body that you are attached to Christ?

Church membership is a blood-bought gift of God’s grace. More than most of us realize, it is a life-sustaining, faith-strengthening, joy-preserving means of God’s mercy to us. I urge you not to cut yourself off from this blessing.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

How Important Is Church Membership?

That's the question John Piper tackles in the first of a three-part series addressing baptism and church membership. Should be a good series. Listen or watch here.

Emotion in Singing

The Lord has granted me the honor and privilege of speaking at Worship God '08. I'm greatly looking forward to the fellowship with the saints there, thinking about and applying the Psalms to our lives as worshippers of the Sovereign Lord.

I have the honor of speaking on the Psalms and our emotion in worship. A friend sent me this video. I wonder if this is what Bob has in mind?

For the unitiated, the first few songs were very popular R&B love songs. Should we sing those to God in worship???

Wicked Contamination of the Word

My wife just sent me this ecnouraging reminder:

"And if it be deemed a great wickedness to contaminate any thing that is dedicated to God, he surely cannot be endured, who, with impure, or even with unprepared hands, will handle that very thing, which of all things is the most sacred on earth. It is therefore an audacity, closely allied to a sacrilege, rashly to turn Scripture in any way we please, and to indulge our fancies as in sport; which has been done-by many in former times."

--John Calvin (in the Epistle Dedicatory, Dedication to Simon Grynaeus, in his Commentary on Romans)

Monday, July 14, 2008

Suffering and Comfort

This past Lord's Day, the Lord granted us the privilege to hear 2 Corinthians 1:3-11 expounded. We meditated on the fellowship of suffering and comfort as part of our "Life Together: Spiritual Fellowship in the Church" series. 2 Corinthians 1 is a remarkable passage, full of gloriously challenging and assuring truth.

This morning, the Lord graciously granted the opportunity to listen to a couple others expound this wonderful section of God's word. I thought you might wish to hear some of these saints handle this text.

Sinclair Ferguson, "Working Together with Him: Great Distress, Greater Comfort" (2 Cor. 1:1-13)
John Piper, "The Line of Prayer" (2 Corinthians 1:11)
Mark Dever, "Good Grief," from the series Genuine Paradox: Real Christianity (2 Cor. 1:1-2:11)

Also, Piper has posted this related meditation today: Why God Doesn't Fully Explain Plain.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Around the Blog in 80 Seconds

Greg Gilbert is a "flaming populist" when he's not the leader. Read why he shouldn't be, and we shouldn't either. Catch his ongoing series on church reforem when you're not the pastor:
Post One: Reform Is Easier in a Small Church Than a Large One
Post Two: Do What Christians Do... Love.
Post Three: Make Yourself a Help, Not a Problem, to Your Church's Leaders

Eric offers an explanation for why some African American Christians will vote for Obama despite his position on things like abortion and gay marriage. (HT: Lance)

Young pastor, preserve the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace... by not gossiping with your people. So says Spurgeon (HT: DG):
It is the extreme of unwisdom for a young man fresh from college, or from another charge, to suffer himself to be earwigged by a clique, and to be bribed by kindness and flattery to become a partisan, and so to ruin himself with one-half of his people. Know nothing of parties and cliques, but be the pastor of all the flock, and care for all alike. Blessed are the peacemakers, and one sure way of peacemaking is to let the fire of contention alone. Neither fan it, nor stir it, nor add fuel to it, but let it go out of itself. Begin your ministry with one blind eye and one deaf ear.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Chief End of Preaching

"What is preaching? Logic on fire! Eloquent reason! Are these contradictions? Of course they are not. Reason concerning this Truth ought to be mightily eloquent, as you see it in the case of the Apostle Paul and others. It is theology on fire. And a theology which does not take fire, I maintain, is a defective theology; or at least the man's understanding of it is defective. Preaching is theology coming through a man who is on fire. A true understanding and experience of the Truth must lead to this. I say again that a man who can speak about these things dispassionately has no right whatsoever to be in a pulpit; and should never be allowed to enter one.

"What is the chief end of preaching? I like to think it is this. It is to give men and women a sense of God and His presence. As I have said already, during this last year I have been ill, and so have had the opportunity, and the privilege, of listening to others, instead of preaching myself. As I have listened in physical weakness this is the thing I have looked for and longed for and desired. I can forgive a man for a bad sermon, I can forgive the preacher almost anything if he gives me a sense of God, if he gives me something for my soul, if he gives me the sense that, though he is inadequate himself, he is handling something which is very great and very glorious, if he gives me some dim glimpse of the majesty and the glory of God, the love of Christ my Saviour, and the magnificence of the Gospel. If he does that I am his debtor, and I am profoundly grateful to him. Preaching is the most amazing, and the most thrilling activity that one can ever be engaged in, because of all that it holds out for all of us in the present, and because of the glorious endless possibilities in an eternal future."

--Martin Lloyd-Jones, Preaching and Preachers, pp. 87-98.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

The Pastor Leading God-Centered Worship

Last night I leafed through John H. Armstrong (ed), Reforming Pastoral Ministry, noting things that caught my attention a few years ago when I first read the book. The book looks like it was highlighted with a rainbow! At any rate, one thing that struck me afresh was a short section in Jerry Marcellino's contribution, "Leading the Church in God-Centered Worship: The Pastoral Role" (pp. 129-146). It's helpful reminder of what we work and long for in our gathered assemblies.

Therefore, leading our flocks in the offering of true worship to the living God, in both spirit and truth (John 4:24), with Christ's gathered church, is surely to be the aim of every authentic minister of the new covenant (2 Cor. 3:6). Such a minister is continuously marked by setting before his heart the salvation of lost sinners and the maturation of Christ's sheep, especially on each Lord's Day, for the purpose of building a God-centered climate and culture. Recently I had the privilege of reading a Third-World missionary church planter's prayer letter that echoed similar aims: "...longing for a God-centered, Christ-exalting, vibrant Biblical church... may we go on to become not merely a legally recognized church, but one recognized in heaven for consistently worshipping God in spirit and truth!"

As a result, leading your church toward a more God-centered worship service is easier said than done. Great patience with God's people and much prayer, coupled with sound and pertinent exposition, must be your overall general guiding rules for such reformation. There are numerous reasons for this approach, and the purpose of this chapter is to discuss them and then point the way ahead. (p. 131)

Later Marcellino summarized:

May God help us to lead our congregations to such God-centered worship that not only our visitors but all who regularly attend our services in an unconverted state may fall down and worship God! (p. 140)

That's a great prayer to offer for every Lord's Day.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Hearing Is Believing

In a culture over-saturated with images and the clanging of many sounds, hearing is undervalued. Extended attention to words and sentences and paragraphs and arguments unpacking a lofty idea is a lost discipline. Gone (forever?) are the days of 2-3 hour sermons or public lectures where the ideas of the day are carefully articulated, debated, and finally evaluated by hearers hearing with discernment.

A short memory might make it easy to pass over this or that trivial detail and passing fad with no lasting consequence. But are a short attention span, dull listening, and a fleeting memory very beneficial when it comes to the truth about God and His word?

Because the weighty and sublime truths about God are not easily grasped with slothful listening, "expositional listening" becomes a critical discipline for God's people. Piper encourages us to think about how critical listening is using Jesus' own words here. Let us heed the word!

10 Tips from Grudem on Bible Interpretation

Grudem's chapter in Preach the Word offers some helpful reminders on correctly interpreting the Scripture.

1. Spend your earliest and best time reading the text of the Bible itself.

2. The interpretation of Scripture is not a magical or mysterious process, because Scripture was written in the ordinary language of the day.

3. Every interpreter has only four sources of information about the text: (a) The meanings of individual words and sentences; (b) the place of the statement in its context; (c) the overall teaching of Scripture; (d) some information about the historical and cultural background.

4. Look for reasons rather than mere opinions to give support to an interpretation, and use reasons rather than mere opinions to attempt to persuade others.

5. There is only one meaning for each text (though there are many applications).

6. Notice the kind of literature in which the verse is found.

7. Notice whether the text approves or disapproves or merely reports a person's actions.

8. Be careful not to generalize specific statements and apply them to fundamentally different situations.

9. It is possible to do a short or long study of any passage. Do what you can with the time you have, and don't be discouraged about all that you cannot do.

10. Pray regularly for the Holy Spirit's help in the whole process of interpreting the Bible.

Grudem goes on to encourage his readers to keep the "big picture" in mind with 6 other reflections.
1. The Bible is a historical document. Therefore, always ask, "What did the author want the original readers to understand by this statement?"

2. The original authors wanted the original readers to respond in some way. Therefore always ask, "What application did the original author want the readers to make to their lives?"

3. The whole Bible is about God! Therefore we should always ask, "What does the text tell us about God?"

4. The center of the whole Bible is Jesus Christ. The entire Old Testament leads up to him and points to him, and the entire New Testament flows from him. Therefore, we should always ask, "What does this text tell us about the greatness of Christ?"

5. All history can be divided into several major "ages" or "epochs" in salvation history. Therefore, we should read every passage of the Bible with a salvation history timeline in our minds and constantly remember where every passage fits on the timeline.

6. Themes: Because the Bible is a unity (it has one divine Author though many human authors), there are many themes that develop and grow from Genesis to Revelation. Therefore, for each significant element in any text, it is helpful to ask, (a) Where did this theme start in the Bible? (b) How did this theme develop through the Bible? and (c) Where is this theme going to end in the Bible?

Happy Bible interpreting!

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Discouragement and Grace

For the past couple of days, I've been working on a pastoral situation where it seems nothing has gone right. I've been heavy in spirit--discouraged really.

Then last night in Bible study, two members of the church approached me separately with small gifts. Both thanked me for what they see as faithful shepherding in their lives.

I can't count the number of times I've been downcast in soul and God kindly sent someone to me to point out evidence of His gracious work in and/or around me. When my soul falls He is ever there to pick it up. I'm thankful for the Body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:26).

I'm also thankful for the trials that push me out of myself, depletes my self-dependence, and makes me cry to the Lord. "It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn Your decrees" (Ps. 119:71).

Praying Calvinists

Dan Phillips has some crisp and helpful comments.

Read This and Confess

JT posted the following excerpt from Tripp's new book, Whiter Than Snow: Meditations on Sin and Mercy. I, too, found it convicting and helpful and liberating. Visit JT's post and also find a video of Tripp reading from and discussing the book.
It wasn’t a big deal in one way. Just a small conversation that had turned a bit ugly. It wasn’t a dramatic life-altering moment. It was in the privacy of my home with one of my family members. But maybe that’s the point. Perhaps it’s very important because that’s where I live everyday. You see, you and I don’t live in a series of big, dramatic moments. We don’t careen from big decision to big decision. We all live in an endless series of little moments. The character of a life isn’t set in ten big moments. The character of a life is set in 10,000 little moments of everyday life. It’s the themes of struggles that emerge from those little moments that reveal what’s really going on in our hearts.

So, I knew I couldn’t back away from this little moment. I knew I had to own my sin. The minute I thought this, an inner struggle began. "I wasn’t the only one at fault. If he hadn’t said what he said, I wouldn’t have become angry. I was actually pretty patient for much of the conversation." These were some of the arguments I was giving myself.

Isn’t this interesting. Rather than appealing to the mercy of the Lord in the face of my sin, what I actually do instead is function as my own defense lawyer and present a list of arguments for my own righteousness. The theology behind the defense is that my greatest problem is outside of me, not inside of me. In so arguing, I’m telling myself that I don’t really need to be rescued by the Lord’s mercy. No, I’m telling myself that what I need to be rescued from is that sinner in the room who caused me to respond as I did.

Here’s the point. Before you can ever make a clean and unamended confession of your sin, you have to first begin by confessing your righteousness. It’s not just your sin that separates you from God, your righteousness does as well. Because, when you are convinced you are righteous, you don’t seek the forgiving, rescuing, and restoring mercy that can only be found in Jesus Christ.

What’s actually true is that when I come to the Lord after I’ve blown it, I’ve only one argument to make. It’s not the argument of the difficulty of the environment that I am in. It’s not the argument of the difficult people that I’m near. It’s not the argument of good intentions that were thwarted in some way. No, I only have one argument. It’s right there in the first verse of Psalm 51, as David confesses his sin with Bathsheba. I come to the Lord with only one appeal; his mercy. I’ve no other defense. I’ve no other standing. I’ve no other hope. I can’t escape the reality of my biggest problem; me! So I appeal to the one thing in my life that’s sure and will never fail. I appeal to the one thing that guaranteed not only my acceptance with God, but the hope of new beginnings and fresh starts. I appeal on the basis of the greatest gift I ever have or ever will be given. I leave the courtroom of my own defense, I come out of hiding and I admit who I am. But I’m not afraid, because I’ve been personally and eternally blessed. Because of what Jesus has done, God looks on me with mercy. It’s my only appeal, it’s the source of my hope, it’s my life. Mercy, mercy me!

Do People Really Want Forgiveness?

I've just started John Ensor's book, The Great Work of the Gospel. I've only read a couple chapters and already it's been a very helpful, edifying, and God-glorifying read. This morning Ensor offered a really insightful couple of paragraphs on forgiveness:
Ask a hundred people if they want forgiveness, and a hundred people will say, "Yeah, sure. And can I have fries with that, and a large Pepsi?" They have no great sense of needing God's forgiveness but believe it would not hurt to have it in their pocket just in case. Religion is, I fear, most often practiced to buy off God's anger, to pay for a sin done, so that one is free to go on in it. We throw ourselves into church or confession as a burglar might throw a steak to a watchdog--to keep him at a safe distance. C.S. Lewis had his own witty way of describing the problem: "Amiable agnostics will talk cheerfully about 'man's search for God.' To me, as I then was, they might as well have talked about the mouse's search for the cat."

Our natural belief about ourselves is that we are pretty darned good people, though we are not too proud to admit that we have made a few mistakes along the way. This allows us to confess a little guilt, but in a self-flattering way. We say, "Well, I admit I'm not perfect." We do not mean to be humble here, as in "Now, honey, remember I'm not a perfect husband." We say it defensively: "Okay! I'm not perfect." Translation: "Other than a blemish or two, I sparkle. So get off my case!"

We also like to say, "I'm only human." By this we man, "My sin should be excused because, as a human being, I really can't help it."

Even when we feel guilty, we do not believe it is because we are guilty. (p. 32)

This is looking like it's going to be a great read. I've already been drawn more deeply into the great work of God through Christ Jesus His Son and our Lord.

Challies has a review here.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

The Mortar That Holds the Church Together

I'm reading through John Hammett's Biblical Foundations for Baptist Churches: A Contemporary Ecclesiology. In chapter 1, Hammett surveys the Scripture's popular imagery of the church as the people of God, the body of Christ, and the temple of the Spirit. As I was reading the section on the temple of the Spirit this morning, this paragraph struck a real chord:
There is another reason why many churches have a problem holding their living stones together. We call the church the temple of the Spirit because the Spirit is the mortar that holds the stones together. The church is not to be held together by social bonds such as being of the same race or class or income, but by the spiritual bond of a common possession of the Holy Spirit. Church growth strategists tell us that churches grow fastest when they target people most like those already in the church. They are no doubt right; people are usually attracted to those with similar backgrounds and lifestyles. But the New Testament is clear that the church must not become a club of one type of people but a community that transcends those things that divide people in society. In Paul's day, the call was to transcend the barriers between Jew and Greek, slave and free, male and female, and find unity in Christ (Gal. 3:28). Today's barriers include race (white, black, Hispanic), social class (rich, middle class, poor), and even age (young families, senior adults). Contemporary churches need a greater reliance on the Spirit and a deeper experience of his gift of fellowship if they are to be temples fitly joined together.

I love that last line: "Contemporary churches need a greater reliance on the Spirit and a deeper experience of his gift of fellowship if they are to be temples fitly joined together." Yet one more way we see our need for the presence of God the Holy Spirit in our corporate and personal lives. Yet one more excellent way for us to pray for our local churches--a fresh outpouring of God's Spirit Who cements together the living stones from every quarry until we're fashioned into a spiritual temple suitable for His glorious indwelling.

God has poured His Spirit into our hearts. Such an obviously-stated biblical truth with an extraordinary, ineffable implication and reality for us. God with us--indeed in us!