Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Keeping the Messiah at the Center

In John Piper's book God is the Gospel he says, "The glory spoken of in 2 Corinthians 4:4 is not a vague, impersonal glory, like the glory of sunshine. It is the glory of a person. Paul speaks of 'the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ.' The treasure in this text is not glory per se. It is Christ in his glory. It is the glorious Christ. He is the ultimate gift and treasure of the gospel. All other words and deeds are means to this: seeing Jesus Christ-the kind of seeing that is seeing and savoring simultaneously" (p. 65).

At the very heart of the gospel is the declaration that the Messiah is Jesus. The death of Christ accomplished what needs to be done so we can enter into the family of the Messiah and the resurrection is God's declaration of Jesus' status as God's 'anointed-one'. The point of the gospel is that we might come to Jesus and enjoy him as the crucified and risen Christ. We ought to always seek to deepen our understanding of what exactly it means that Jesus is the Messiah so that our hearts might rejoice in him for his glory and our good.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Toronto Baptist Pastor and My Spiritual Condition

My family owned a Christian bookstore that was pretty much like your average Christian book shop. The first thing you saw when you walked in wasn’t anything really deep but was the usual Max Lucado coffee table book (or at least something like it). Some people get annoyed with this aspect of Christian bookstores thinking, "We need deeper theology!" but a question I’ve been thinking about is, “How annoyed should we be?”

R.G. Mitchell Family Books was the largest Christian retailer and distributor in Canada so it was quite a shock to some when it went bankrupt. If you search “Mitchell Family Books Bankruptcy” you will get a variety of responses. One that interested me was by a guy named Toronto Baptist Pastor. The author’s real name is Pastor H. Schonhaar; he is the pastor of Toronto Baptist Church, a fundamentalist KJV-only church in Toronto, Ontario. The heart of his post was that Mitchell Family Books went bankrupt because the Mitchell family is spiritually bankrupt. I thought it strange that such a judgment should be made before I even met this man but it got me thinking about something, namely, “What kinds of products should a Christian retailer be selling?”

My grandfather, Robert Gordon Mitchell, was a conservative brethren lay-man who had a passion for the written word. He loved Jesus and served him with all his energy. His desire was to get good books into the hands of Christians. 75 years later Mitchell Family Books was quite a different store. It sold more general products under the broad heading “Christian”. These products varied from paintings, music, books, bibles, and a whole lot of trinkets.

Throughout the time I worked there I got to know many of the authors and titles we sold. Some were good and some were bad, some had all truth (i.e. the Bible itself), some had no truth, and some had a good amount of truth. So what should Christian retailers sell? Should they sell only Bibles? Should they sell any books by liberal authors? Should they only sell books that are faithful (keeping in mind that no book, other than the bible, is perfect) to God’s word? Is there a difference between a ‘theological’ bookstore and a ‘Christian’ bookstore? Is Pastor H. Schonhaar right that a person is spiritually bankrupt by virtue of the books they sell? These are all questions I have been pondering.

I am more inclined to think that there is a difference between a 'theological' bookstore and a 'Christian' bookstore. The first is aimed towards academics who are looking to study whether it be liberal or conservative (like the theological bookstore at the University of Toronto). The second, on the other hand, is aimed more towards the average Christian reader. It is important for Christian bookstores to carry the truth because many new Christians will pick up anything they can get their hands on. The question that I would ask before carrying a book in a Christian bookstore is, "Is it faithful to the gospel?" Is the book faithful to the message that Jesus, the crucified and risen messiah, is the Lord of the world and through his death forgiveness is available to all people? This allows for grace in the area of deciding which books to carry.

Any thoughts?

Monday, March 9, 2009

Know Your Audience

I love to preach. There aren’t very many things that get me more excited than studying the Bible and then figuring out, through the Spirit of God, how I am going to communicate my findings. Sometimes I get so excited that I just have to let it out. (I have a gracious wife who is often patient as I ramble on about the apostle Paul and the gospel that he proclaimed; but I don’t think she minds too much.)

A lesson that I have been recently learning is the importance of knowing your audience. I have had several opportunities to teach and they have all been to diverse groups of people. The grace kids that I taught for a couple years were aged 3-6, I lectured on the doctrine of justification to Grace Fellowship Church (my home) to a whole bunch of people, and my continuing ministry at the nursing home where I teach the seniors. Again and again I have to remind myself that different audiences require different methods, otherwise I may be preaching in vain.

I received some great advice from my friend, who is in his 80’s, who told me that I need to teach the seniors in a similar way as the grace kids. The folks at the nursing home aren’t just retirees, they are dying. Most of them can no longer walk and many cannot even speak. I have to keep things real simple and I can’t take anything for granted (e.g. I have to explain who Adam and Eve are).

At our church the elders often address the children during their sermons. This keeps them awake and, at least, helps them get something out of the sermon. I have put this into practice with the seniors and I’m finding that it is a very effective way of keeping people involved, both mentally and emotionally. I’m still learning but I’m always looking for ways that I could improve so that I can serve our king and his kingdom better.

P.S. I found a job…..and I am writing this on my lunch break ;-)