The Emerging Church at CBE

The Christian Book Expo in Dallas a couple weeks back held a very interesting panel discussion on the subject of the Emerging Church.

Give it a view.

I’ve gotta be honest, I find Tony Jones to be more than a little pretentious. Jones’ opening statement really came across as nothing more than an extended resumé of how well read and learned he is, and how varied his writing is. Jones speaks very much as a philosopher. Very circular in his reasoning, but I do appreciate his attempts to honestly answer questions presented.

Scot McKnight honestly comes across as full of vitriol because he feels Kevin DeYoung is uncharitable in his critique of the popular Emergent movement. I did find McKnight’s statements about Brian McLaren interesting because they’re so contradictory. First he says, “Who says Brian is the poster-boy for Emergent?” Later he says, “We all know Brian is the poster-boy for Emergent, although he’s not happy about it.” Which is it? All in all, I understand that McKnight was trying to present more of a middle-ground in the Emerging/Emergent movement.

The Harris brothers asked good questions. They made a great and crucial point: Young evangelicals want to be both doctrinally sound and culturally engaged.

DeYoung made several great points about why he focused on the leaders he did in Why We’re Not Emergent, particularly that these are the folks DeYoung’s congregations are reading and being influenced by. As a pastor, he is absolutely right to be focusing on those gentlemen. Generally speaking, I felt DeYoung was getting beat up simply because Jones and McKnight are far… louder than anyone else on the panel. They consumed a lot of the discussion time, so I don’t know how balanced the discussion truly was.

HT: Kevin DeYoung

Challenging content

Right now I’m working on an article for my friends at Small Group Exchange about the concern of having someone you think might not be a Christian in your small group. As you can imagine, the topic is extremely challenging, particularly since I’m doing my best to not come off like a jackass (sadly I do not have the spiritual gift of being a jerk and it going well for me).

I want to throw the question out to you: What would you do if you found yourself concerned about whether or not a member of your small group was actually a Christian?

I hope it leads to some interesting discussion.

Random thing because it's late

I’m reading Spurgeon’s All of Grace tonight and it’s an extremely helpful book.

It’s helpful to me particularly because I am truly exhausted. Today, the recent events of our lives have been particularly taxing and my emotional bucket is more than a little drained.

So why do I find this book so helpful?

Because it’s a reminder that God is good. He is glorious and sovereign and in complete control over every circumstance. It’s a reminder that I don’t have to do everything under my own power, because I can’t.

God can and God does.

That’s why grace matters.

Nightline: Face-Off – Does Satan Exist? Commentary

Debates—particularly those centered around beliefs you affirm—are always tricky to watch; it is incredibly difficult (at least it is for me) to try to listen to an opposing idea without a desire to start picking it apart before it’s even come out of the speaker’s mouth.

The Nightline Face-Off between Mark Driscoll, Annie Lobert, Carlton Pearson & Deepak Chopra was, honestly, no different in that way. But, here are my thoughts, for better or worse: [Read more...]

Finding joy in suffering

This week has been extremely difficult at the Armstrong home.

It started off well, with Emily and I completing the announcement of her pregnancy to our family, then to our network. This was great. Emily and I love being parents and having more children is a great privilege and blessing for us.

Then, there was Tuesday.

“The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” Job 1:21

Emily was concerned because she was experiencing some difficulties related to the pregnancy, so we went to the emergency room. After several hours of compassionate assistance, we learned that our baby had died, and had apparently done so at least  a couple weeks prior. Emily and I went home, with mixed emotions; grieved, yet at peace with it, because God is good.

Wednesday we had a visit from one of our pastors, and we greatly appreciated his time and his prayers. Emily and I had a pretty nice afternoon, talking together, drinking a mocha and praising God for His goodness. As we reflected on Scripture, we prayed that this would ultimately be a testimony to His glory.

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” Psalm 23:4

Wednesday night, Emily became wracked with pain and was experiencing complications with the miscarriage. She had lost a lot of blood, and she was again off to the emergency room, this time in an ambulance. Our friends John and Meghan arrived to stay with Abigail (our two-year-old daughter), and I quickly followed, praying that I not be tempted to forget that God has ordained all things for good “for all who are called, according to his purposes.” Romans 8:28b

“… we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Romans 5:2b-5

After being separated from Emily for 40 minutes, I was allowed to join her in the treatment area. I watched as she groaned in pain, pale and cooler to the touch than she’s ever been, while the doctor worked to take care of her. At that moment, I was no longer afraid. I simply did my best to comfort Emily and trusted that God would do what would bring Him glory.

The doctor removed an obstruction that was causing Emily’s excessive bleeding… and Emily was calm. Her breathing became more relaxed. Her skin started to become slightly warmer. I’m not sure how to explain it exactly. Over the next several hours, her color improved and her body temperature increased, although she was still very weak. At three-ish in the morning I was released to go home and get a bit of sleep.

Thursday morning I returned to the hospital while Emily was in the process of getting two ultrasounds to diagnose her health. When she had finished her tests, we returned to her station in the emergency room to await the results and our options for further care. Emily slept lightly while I read a book beside her. At two in the afternoon, the doctor provided us with some medication and the okay to return home. And home we went.

After having something to eat, and returning some phone calls, we talked some more.

We mourned the loss of our baby.

We thanked Jesus for the outpouring of love we’ve received from our friends, their prayers, and the several meals they’ve made for us. And we thanked Jesus that He knows exactly what we’re going through.

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses…” Heb. 4:15a

“For Christ also suffered…” 1 Pet. 3:18

What am I learning from this truly tragic set of events? I am learning to find joy in suffering.

In a bizarre way, Emily and I have received a great gift through all of this. We have seen that we do not need to hide the difficulties in our lives and pretend like nothing’s going on. We have seen that we can turn to our friends for help and support whenever we need it, because they actually do love us. We are learning to see what the body of Christ looks like when it functions as it should. We are being conformed into the image and likeness of Christ, who suffered as we have, but in His suffering did not sin.

And this is a wonderful gift.

“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” Romans 8:18

Nightline Face-Off: Does Satan Exist?

Tonight, Nightline is airing between Deepak Chopra, Carlton Pearson, Mark Driscoll and Annie Lobert on the existence of Satan. Chopra and Pearson contend against the existence of Satan, while Driscoll (obviously) and Lobert will be arguing the position that he does exist. Mars Hill Church in Seattle will host the event in front of a live audience tonight at their Ballard Campus.

This will undoubtedly be an interesting debate, particularly given the line-up—A “New Spirituality” guru, an ex-Pentecostal pastor-turned vague spiritualist, a former Las Vegas escort who now works to rescue women from the sex trade, and the “controversial” pastor one of the fastest growing churches in America.

Should be fun.

Here’s hoping that Driscoll doesn’t (in his words) “Charlie Brown it but actually get his foot on the ball” (via Facebook).

Nightline airs at 11:35 (Eastern). More details at ABC.com

EDIT: Correction, Nightline was filming the debate on March 20th. The debate will air on March 26th.

UPDATE: Commentary can be found here

Late night random thought

Emily and I went for a terrific walk this evening with Abigail after celebrating her second birthday; and while we were walking, we were discussing (as always) church matters. In our conversation, we were discussing denominational divides, and how for many, it is unthinkable for, say, a Pentecostal to go to a Baptist church, or a Baptist to go to a Methodist church, and so on. Some background on this: we’d had a conversation with a person at our church about feeling some specific convictions about our role in our immediate community, and had visited a church near our home. The first question he asked in response was, “Is this a  [name of our church's denomination] church?”

Now, I understand the very real need to be guarding the gates against bad doctrine; but I have to wonder, if that is what motivates denominational division like in the above example?

What do you think motivates these questions?

If you have some time, post your thoughts in the comments section. I’m interested to see what you think.

The importance of patience

Daylight Saving Time is upon us in Canada and it is wreaking havoc in my home.

My daughter’s temperament has not been the best since her nap this afternoon (during which I had a nap—which was awesome, by the way), and has been up repeatedly over the two hours since her bedtime (It’s now about 9 pm local time).

“Sousie drop!”

“Hungry—Eat?

“Brush teeth again?”

Every 15 minutes for the last two hours. We finally caved in the end and gave her another bowl of cereal. And now I think she’s gone to bed for real (it’s been a few minutes since I heard a peep). But there is a teachable moment for me in this, and it’s not that I’m a pushover as a parent.

It’s the importance of patience.

Patience is not something that I’m good with, partly because I’m a part of the immediate gratification generation, and partly because I don’t always sleep enough. But what I’m learning is that my impatience is not really that much different than a toddler’s: I want what I want when I want it, so can I have it now?

I’m realizing that much of my impatience is directly related to how much I trust God. In fact, impatience may actually be the way anxiety manifests itself in my life. Do I believe He’s going to provide for our needs, as Jesus says He does in Luke 12: 22-30? That’s probably the biggest trust issue that exists because it’s the most practical and pressing (as I mentioned last week).

I hope I do, but sometimes I don’t know.

Abigail’s up again and counting numbers out of order (“1,2,3,6,8, 12…”).

Patience is a fruit of the Spirit. Here’s hoping I’ve got enough…

Thoughts on Ahaz & suffering

Late last October, I challenged myself to read through the entirety of Scripture in a year. Today, I read the story of Ahaz, king of Judah, as told in 2 Chronicles 28, and it gave me a lot to think about.

Ahaz was one of the many apostate kings who abandoned the law and clung to idols—even sacrificing his sons as a burnt offering(!). And God’s wrath was upon him.

Verse 5 says that Judah was given into the hand of Syria and Israel. 120,000 men of Judah were killed by Pekah the son of Remaliah, and the men of Israel captured 200,000 of their relatives, women and children, along with “much spoil.”

The Edomites invaded. The Phillistines raided.

Ahaz sent to the king of Assyria for help, giving him tribute (read: cash). But instead of helping Ahaz, he took the money and he too went to war against him!

So what did Ahaz do? Verse 22 tells us: “In the time of his distress he became yet more faithless to the Lord—this same King Ahaz.”

“For he sacrificed to the gods of Damascus that had defeated him and said, ‘Because the gods of the kings of Syria helped them, I will sacrifice to them that they may help me’” (verse 23 a).

“But they were the ruin of him and of all Israel” (verse 23 b).

God’s wrath was upon him, and Ahaz suffered mightily.

Many people ask the question, “Why do we suffer? If God loves us, why do bad things happen?”

I think the answer can really be found in verse 22: In our times of distress we need to not become more faithless, but to trust God even more.

Not all suffering is a consequence of our sins. Suffering also comes from sins commited against us (to say nothing of the unexplainable hardships that occur). All suffering is meant to show us our dependence on God and to cause us to move closer to him.

[Read more...]