Thursday, February 26, 2009

Sudan Trip 2 - part 3

In just a few short days Trinity Church will send three individuals to Labone, Sudan to continue building on the relationship that was established last April.  Below is a 10 minute video we put together from this Vision Trip.  The video will give you a glimpse of what our team will experience while in Labone.  They will be in Labone on March 6th and will live with the people until March 13th. Please continue to pray for this trip.   

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Sin's Ultimate Deception

"Although we have been blessed by God, sin would have us think of ourselves as victimized by God."

- Dave Harvey, When Sinners Say 'I Do', p. 55

Friday, February 20, 2009

Marriage Created in Our Image

This Sunday I plan to share with the folks at Trinity how marriage is transformed when we see it from God's perspective and understand God's purpose for us in it. How different God's design for marriage is from the world's, which is sadly depicted in this video clip.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Is There Virtue in Virtual Friendship?

Though I am active in the blogosphere, I have not been lured into the web of Web-based relationships (Facebook, My Space, etc.). Have you? Check out one journalist's response to his own foray into the virtual friendship fray here. What do you think? Is there virtue in virtual friendships, or is it only so much naval-gazing, mutual admiration society and time wasting?

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Distinguishing the Sheep from the Goats

Have you ever wondered why so many Bible professing Christians seem more angry, irritated, reactionary and bitter than joyful, restful and winsome? According to Tim Keller's wise analysis, they've not embraced a truly biblical gospel:

There are two basic narrative identities at work among professing Christians. The first is what I will call the moral-performance narrative identity. These are people who in their heart of hearts say, I obey; therefore I am accepted by God. The second is what I will call the grace narrative identity. This basic operating principle is, I am accepted by God through Christ; therefore I obey.

People living their lives on the basis of these two different principles may superficially look alike. They may sit right beside one another in the church pew, both striving to obey the law of God, to pray, to give money generously, to be good family members. But they are doing so out of radically different motives, in radically different spirits, resulting in radically different personal characters.

When persons living in the moral-performance narrative are criticized, they are furious or devastated because they cannot tolerate threats to their self-image of being a “good person.”

But in the gospel our identity is not built on such an image, and we have the emotional ballast to handle criticism without attacking back. When people living in the moral-performance narrative base their self-worth on being hard working or theologically sound, then they must look down on those whom they perceive to be lazy or theologically weak.

But those who understand the gospel cannot possibly look down on anyone, since they were saved by sheer grace, not by their perfect doctrine or strong moral character.

Another mark of the moral-performance narrative is a constant need to find fault, win arguments, and prove that all opponents are not just mistaken but dishonest sellouts. However, when the gospel is deeply grasped, our need to win arguments is removed, and our language becomes gracious. We don’t have to ridicule our opponents, but instead we can engage them respectfully.

People who live in the moral-performance narrative use sarcastic, self-righteous putdown humor, or have no sense of humor at all. Lewis speaks of “the unsmiling concentration upon Self, which is the mark of hell.” The gospel, however, creates a gentle sense of irony. We find a lot to laugh at, starting with our own weaknesses. They don’t threaten us anymore because our ultimate worth is not based on our record or performance.

Martin Luther had the basic insight that moralism is the default mode of the human heart. Even Christians who believe the gospel of grace on one level can continue to operate as if they have been saved by their works. In “The Great Sin” in Mere Christianity, Lewis writes, “If we find that our religious life is making us feel that we are good—above all, that we are better than someone else—I think we may be sure that we are being acted on, not by God, but by the Devil."

Gracious, self-forgetful humility should be one of the primary things that distinguishes Christian believers from the many other types of moral, decent people in the world. But I think it is fair to say that humility, which is a key differentiating mark of the Christian, is largely missing in the church. Nonbelievers, detecting the stench of sanctimony, turn away.

Some will say, “Phariseeism and moralism are not our culture’s big problems right now. Our problems are license and antinomianism. There is no need to talk about grace all the time to postmodern people.” But postmodern people have been rejecting Christianity for years, thinking that it was indistinguishable from moralism. Only if you show them there’s a difference—that what they rejected wasn’t real Christianity—will they even begin to listen again.

- Tim Keller, “The Advent of Humility" in Christianity Today (December 2008) pp. 50-53.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Sudan Trip 2 - Part Two

Now that you know where we're going and when we're going (See 'Sudan Trip Part One' below), we want to tell you whose going.

Josh and Angela Hawkins - They were married here at Trinity back in November and have great love for the needy people of the world and the extension of the church. They'll focus their time in Sudan on connecting with women and children through creative games, sports and crafts. Their natural ability to easily make friends with anyone will be an asset to our team and trip.

Howard Rodgers - A long-time elder at Trinity Church and a farmer with a shepherd's heart, Howard will spend most of his time in Sudan instructing African church leaders on the topic of biblical leadership. He will also be assessing the agriculture of the region and the area's viability for community health and development of a church compound to serve as a regional training center.

Andy Perry - The veteran of the team, Andy served on our first trip last April. He will be doing the lion's share of church leader training, covering such topics as basic theology, Bible interpretation and ministry planning. Andy has a heart for developing church leaders in the developing world and is eager to build on the friendships formed in 2008.

Worldliness Defined

“That system of values, in any given age, which...makes sin look normal and righteousness seem strange.”

- David Wells, Losing Our Virtue, p. 4

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

A Glimpse of God's Grace

Here in Minot it's been a long winter. I'm ready for Spring. So, when I woke up this morning to several more inches of snow and 2-3 foot drifts on my driveway and sidewalk, I was not singing "Happy Days Are Here Again."

But then in the midst of the hour long process of clearing my pavement it hit me: "I have been blessed to live at a point in history after the invention of the snowblower. I'm using one right now and it's saving my back much pain and making this job far easier than it would be otherwise. Thank you, Lord, for this glimpse of Your grace."

Like me with my snowblower this morning, may our Heavenly Father give you eyes to see the many often overlooked evidences of kind grace He's poured into your world. When you glimpse them, praise Him.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Sudan Trip 2 - Part One

As many of you know, we are soon sending our second batch of 'missionaries' from TC to provide assistance to our sister church in Labone, Sudan. In the weeks leading up to the trip, we will be updating you on specific information about the trip. The purpose of this post is 'when and where'.

When: Tuesday March 3rd - Saturday March 14th

Where: Labone, Sudan (see map)
Please join us in praying that, like Abraham, our team would be 'blessed to be a blessing' (Gen. 12:2).