News

Join us on December 24th for our Christmas Eve Service. The service will start at 6:30PM.
Although a few of our ministries here at Mountain View Chapel are program-based, a good many of the things we do are worker-based. My philosophy of pastoring favors worker-based ministries, because workers with a passion for what they are doing drive the ministry. It lives and succeeds because they love what they’re doing.

I’m not as opposed to program-based ministry as I used to be; they can do very well with passionate people working them as well. The downside to     program-based ministry is that it can continue as a living corpse long after the passionate people driving it have left the work. It is often believed that if a  program-based ministry stops that there has been some sort of failure; we must keep it going at any cost. Things must not stop. Things must not pass on or die. Less passionate people keep the thing alive out of duty, failing to realize that the program’s dead.

That doesn’t usually happen with worker-based ministry. When the worker who is passionate for the ministry can’t continue the work, you allow the thing to pass from the scene, and you focus on building other worker-based ministries with people who are passionate for those things. There isn’t really a failure; just no need to keep the corpse alive.

For 12 years now we’ve had a Chapel newsletter, driven initially by the vision of Linda Hartranft, and then brought to a flourishing life by editor Sherry Peroni who then passed the torch to editor Bev Guy. These ladies poured a lot of themselves into the Chapel Light newsletter, putting all of the news and articles and editorials and features together with painstaking work and a lot of devotion and time. But alas, our present editor is moving to Texas, and no one has responded to the call to the replace her—and so we recognize that to everything there is a season. And the season of this wonderful little newsletter has come to a close.

It has been a pleasure pulling thoughts out of my Shepherd’s Scrip for the past dozen years to share with you, and I’m sure our other writers would say the same. I trust our writing has been enjoyable and beneficial to all of you. And if anyone out there has a passion for writing and editing and would like to resurrect the Chapel Light in the future, don’t hesitate to contact the pastor’s office and we’ll get it rolling again.

A big thank you to all of our writers, and especially to former editors Linda Hartranft, Sherry Peroni, and our present editor Bev Guy for all of their thoughtfulness and hard work in the production of the Chapel Light. May God bless Dave and Bev as they continue their lives and service to the Lord in Texas! You’ll be missed!

    I noted in last month’s Scrip that by definition the gift of “tongues” is really just the gift of “languages” – the ability to speak in a foreign language, apparently miraculously as one is empowered by the Holy Spirit to do so. I also noted that this is not how our Pentecostal and charismatic brethren define or practice the gift. The “tongues” practiced today are not human languages that are understood by anyone. Tongues-speakers claim instead that theirs is a heavenly language, perhaps an angelic language, and that it is given as a personal and private gift – a prayer language to spiritually benefit the speaker’s inner life.
    The only place the apostles mention angelic languages is 1 Corinthians 13:1, where the apostle writes: “Though I speak with the tongues of men and angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal…”  Pentecostals and charismatics often point to this verse as justifying their notion that the gift of tongues can be non-human language.
    The context of the passage is indeed a larger discussion of the gift of tongues (1 Cor. 12-14). The Corinthians who possessed this gift seem to have gloried in it because of its miraculous nature, and they seem to have demeaned those who did not possess this gift (1 Cor. 12.15-25). Paul encourages them to desire the best gifts, but points out something more important than spiritual gifts: the practice of love (1 Cor. 12.31). The apostle then expounds on the greatness of love in what has come to be known as “the love chapter.”
    In the first three verses he points out how the possession of gifts is meaningless if the possessor doesn’t practice love, saying each time: “though I have X and even Y, if I don’t have love, I am nothing.” In each verse, the first point (X) is an action/gift characteristic of Christian behavior – the tongues of men (v.1), the gift of prophecy (v.2), and bestowing one’s goods to feed the poor (v.3). The second point in each verse (Y) seems to be an exaggerated point: giving my body to be burnt (v.3), understanding all mysteries and all knowledge (v.2), and speaking with the tongues of angels (v.1). Exaggeration is a common figure of speech, even for us. “I’ll just die if he asks me out.” “She weighs a ton.” “If I told you once, I’ve told you a million times.” Put into casual modern idiom, Paul is saying, “I don’t care if you’re the most miraculously-endowed and dedicated Christian that ever lived, if you don’t have love – you’re nothing.” So, in 1 Cor. 13.1, he acknowledges the gift of [human] languages, and then goes to the ridiculous extreme: “I don’t care if you’re speaking with the tongues of angels, if you don’t have love, you’re nothing.” He is not saying that they do speak angelic languages; the figure of speech would indicate exactly the opposite.
    The notion that the gift of tongues is given primarily as a private prayer language to be used for the spiritual benefit of the speaker seems to arise from 1 Cor. 14.1-5: “Pursue love, and desire spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy. For he who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God, for no one understands him; however, in the spirit he speaks mysteries. But he who prophesies speaks edification and exhortation to men. He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church. I wish you all spoke with tongues, but even more that you prophesied; for he who prophesies is greater than he who speaks with tongues, unless indeed he interprets that the church may receive edification.”
    Paul does indeed say that tongues-speakers speak to God. He also says that the tongues-speaker edifies himself. But you can’t isolate these statements from their context. Throughout chapters 12-14 he is trying to put tongues in its proper place as a gift. The Corinthians were exaggerating its importance, and Paul is trying to say that although it is certainly a spiritual gift, its importance is limited. More to the point, its importance is exceeded by the gift of prophesying. Prophesying is simply speaking a word from God in the language that the audience understands. “Tongues” is speaking a word from God in a language that the audience does not understand – a foreign language. Being understood is more valuable than not being understood. This is Paul’s point (1 Cor. 14.6-19, esp. vv 18-19).
    Tongues-speaking is speaking to God, not because God gave the gift to be used as a private prayer language, but because no one in the room has a clue as to what you are saying. If no one else in the church knows what you are saying, they can’t be blessed or profited; and if they can’t be blessed or profited, then your gift is not serving any loving purpose. Love never vaunts itself; it always puts others first and serves them. Paul penned 1 Corinthians 13 to address this particular point about tongues!
    None of the gifts, according to the apostle, are given for private use; they are all given for the profit of others (1 Cor. 12.7). This is why love – thoughtfulness of and concern for others – is so important in the consideration of the use of all gifts. The Spirit doesn’t give you a gift to make you feel good about yourself; He gave it to you to function properly toward others – to bless and profit them. If you are simply using a gift to edify yourself – as the tongues-speakers were doing (14:4), then you are acting selfishly and misusing the gift, because you are not showing love! For the apostle, love was tied to the profit of others by definition. If your gift couldn’t profit others, then you were to keep it to yourself – and to God. No showing it off just to demonstrate that you were gifted (1 Cor. 14:28)! The only way speaking in tongues was of any use as a gift was if another could understand what was being said – either because he was a native-speaker of that tongue, as on the day of Pentecost, or because the “tongues” message was interpreted (old KJV for “translated”).
    Again, I know it’s not chic or politically correct to question the spiritual experiences of others. I’m not questioning that tongues-speakers are experiencing something. I’m not saying that modern tongues are demonically-inspired, as some fundamentalists suggest. Nor do I think that Pentecostals and charismatics are evil or ill-intentioned, or that we should question the genuineness of their faith in Christ or their sincerity. I’m just pointing out that whatever it is that they are experiencing doesn’t square with the gift of languages described in Acts or 1 Corinthians, either in its practice or its purpose. So whatever the experience is, it doesn’t seem to me to be the biblical gift of tongues. We don’t need to say more than that; we certainly shouldn’t say less.


 

As I read, I collect quotes that I find thought-provoking. Here are a few from more recent reading for your enjoyment…

 

No statement is more unnecessary than the statement that the government should "do something" about some issue. Politicians are going to "do something," whether or not something needs to be done, and regardless of whether what they do makes matters better or worse. All their incentives are to keep themselves in the public eye. – Thomas Sowell

 

Everyone thinks forgiveness is a lovely idea, until they have something to forgive. – C. S. Lewis

 

Nobody objects to a non-doctrinal Christianity because there is nothing to object to.

– Kevin DeYoung

 

It is a mistake to think businessmen are more immoral than politicians. – John Maynard Keynes

 

The ultimate result of shielding men from the effects of folly is to fill the world with fools. – Herbert Spencer (1820-1903)

The true secret of giving advice is, after you have honestly given it, to be perfectly indifferent whether it is taken or not, and never persist in trying to set people right. – Hannah Whitall Smith, 1902

 

I get disgusted with people who call contradictions "complexities." – Thomas Sowell

 

Beware of the young doctor and the old barber.

– Benjamin Franklin

 

The worst moment for the atheist is when he is really thankful and has nobody to thank. – Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828 - 1882)

 

In your town, your reputation counts; in another, your clothes do. – The Talmud

 

The more closely you scrutinize any endeavor, the more imperfect you’re going to discover it to be.

– Bruce Weber

 

Blaming economic crises on "greed" is like blaming plane crashes on gravity. Certainly planes wouldn't crash if it wasn't for gravity. But when thousands of planes fly millions of miles every day without crashing, explaining why a particular plane crashed because of gravity gets you nowhere. Neither does talking about "greed," which is constant like    gravity. – Thomas Sowell

 

Think things, not words. – Oliver Wendell Holmes

 

The timid civilized world has found nothing with which to oppose the onslaught of a sudden revival of barefaced barbarity, other than concessions and smiles. – Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

 

Present grace is heaven begun in the soul. – C. H. Spurgeon

 

The strongest argument for socialism is that it sounds good. The strongest argument against socialism is that it doesn't work. But those who live by words will always have a soft spot in their hearts for socialism because it sounds so good.   Thomas Sowell

 


The MVC Work Day, originally scheduled for tomorrow, has been rescheduled for next Saturday, April 3rd, from 8am to 1pm.

 
     I was going to include a sermon or two in my series on the Holy Spirit about Pentecostalism and speaking in tongues, but I’ve decided that it is better written about than preached.

    That the Holy Spirit filled the apostles on the day of Pentecost and that they spoke in “tongues” is perfectly clear. Acts 2 states it straightforwardly. But what exactly was this “speaking in tongues”? And what was the significance of it? And what does it mean for us today? These things don’t necessarily lie right on the surface of the biblical text. So let’s dig a little bit…

    That people speak of the “gift of tongues” or “tongue-speaking” gives the phenomenon a sort of mysterious aura, of the “tongue” doing something mysterious. But the word “tongue” simply means “language.” We still use “tongue” that way today when we talk of speaking in a “foreign tongue” or of English being our “mother tongue.” So the “gift of tongues” is really the “gift of languages”;  and “speaking in tongues” simply talking means “speaking in languages.” (The New Living Translation correctly translates Acts 2.4 this way: “And everyone present was filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking in other languages, as the Holy Spirit gave them this ability.”)

    That the Holy Spirit was enabling the disciples to speak in human languages on the day of Pentecost is abundantly clear from the context. The feast of Pentecost was one of three Jewish feasts that required a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. There were Jews from all over the Roman Empire present on the day of Pentecost, and they all spoke different languages and dialects. When the apostles received the “gift of languages” and began speaking about God in the public square, all of the pilgrims in town who heard them began asking, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans??? Then how is it that each of us hears them in his own native language? Parthians, Medes and Elamites, residents of Mesopotamia, Judea, and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene, visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism), Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own languages!!!”

    Some have argued that the real miracle on this day was a miracle of hearing—that the apostles were just speaking gibberish but the Holy Spirit worked on the hearers so that each hearer would hear the gibberish as though it were his own language. If that is the case, then the Spirit is coming upon the hearers, not the speakers! But the text clearly says that the Spirit filled the disciples and gave them the ability to speak in other languages (Acts 2.4). The gift is the gift of languages—not the gift of hearing; it empowers the speaker, not the listener. So the 120 or so disciples (cf. Acts 1.15) were, each of them, speaking different dialects and languages on the day of Pentecost. If you’ve ever been in a crowd in a foreign country, and all of a sudden someone starts speaking your mother tongue, the language you are most familiar with, you hear it right away. It is not gibberish; the language of the foreign country sounds like meaningless gibberish to you—background noise. Your own tongue being spoken makes immediate sense to your understanding—and your attention is drawn immediately to the speaker. That was certainly what the pilgrims in Jerusalem on that first Pentecost observed. Hearing their own dialects captured their attention immediately.

    The foreign visitors in Jerusalem who understood the speech marveled that Galileans were doing the speaking (Acts 2.7). How did the visitors know the disciples were Galilean?  Perhaps by their dress, perhaps by their accents—the same way we can pick out a southerner or a hardcore Yankee! But Galileans weren’t expected to be able to speak in other languages! Like everyone in the Roman Empire the Galileans most likely spoke Greek. But they were apparently not educated beyond that, and so the pilgrims find it shocking that these country bumpkins are speaking the visitors’ home languages and dialects from all around the empire—with no apparent exposure to those languages!

    Others concluded that these Galileans were just drunk (Acts 2.13). The babbling surely sounded unintelligible to those who didn’t know the languages being spoken—perhaps untraveled and inexperienced natives of Jerusalem. What would your first thought be if the neighbor you’d known all your life, who only ever spoke English, suddenly came running out of his house babbling over and over in Chinese at you, smiling and being terribly expressive, perhaps overly so, and acting like you surely understood what he was saying??? I might just conclude that he’d lost it, or that he was drunk or on drugs. Wouldn’t you?

    But what would you think if your neighbor, upon hearing your explanation of drunkenness, stopped “babbling” and said in perfect English “I’m not drunk. I’ve been filled with the Holy Spirit”? This is precisely what Peter did. He stopped speaking whatever “tongue” he was speaking, and raised his voice—most likely in Greek—and preached to the whole astonished crowd about Jesus (Acts 2.14ff).

    I offer these simple observations on the text for your consideration, and I would point out that right here, at the very beginning of the discussion—the basic definitions of the gift of tongues—we find modern “tongues-speakers” to be at odds with the biblical text. Linguists who have observed  “tongues-speaking” in great detail have noted that “tongues-speaking” is not a foreign language, nor is it like any foreign language. It shows no sign of the tell-tale linguistic forms of earthly language and grammar, but tends to be a hodge-podge of mixed-up sounds from the tongues-speakers own language. But modern tongues-speakers generally claim they are not speaking an earthly language at all. Rather they claim to be speaking angelic and heavenly languages that only God can understand!

    Maybe that is the case. But if it is, that is not the gift of tongues as Acts describes it!  It may not be politically correct to challenge the personal religious experience of another—and I don’t doubt that tongues-speakers have their experiences—but I think it is correct to weigh all of our experiences against the definitions and descriptions given us in the Word of God, and when we do that, I think it ought to raise suspicions about the claims of modern tongues-speakers. More next month...

    The apostle John lay quietly in the cave on the island of Patmos, when the world before his eyes is transformed. He hears a loud trumpet behind him and turns to see the risen and glorified Christ standing in the midst of seven lampstands–his hair white as snow and his eyes gleaming as though they are red coals burning through John’s soul.

“Do not be afraid,” Christ says to the startled and trembling John. “I am the First and the Last; the one who lives and was dead. And look! I am a----”

Beep … beep … beep …

John grabs for his bag and retrieves a cell phone. “Excuse me,” the apostle says. “I’ve got a text from Ephesus that’s really important. Gotta answer it. I’ll be with you in a moment, Lord.”

 Can you imagine that sort of thing happening? Well, not in the first century–but I’ve been amazed at the way people use cell phones and texting in the presence of others these days. I’ve been in conversations with people when all of a sudden their phone rings, or they get a beep that they’ve received a text message–and they turn away from me and take the call–or they start texting back to whomever wrote to them. I’ve also been in group interactions where there is a discussion or activity, and noticed people looking down into their laps; upon closer observation I realize they are texting.

With new technology comes new societal behavior–and manners; manners are a form of love–and perhaps we need to do some thinking about how to use our phones and our texting in love.

Have you ever considered that answering a phone when it rings is NOT a necessity? This is what answering machines and voice mail are all about! Even before the days of such things, if I was in the middle of an activity or a conversation and the phone rang, I felt no obligation to answer it. Who says I have to let the caller interrupt what I’m doing??? I don’t allow my children to interrupt me this way; why would I allow someone on the phone to do so? A ringing phone tells me that someone would like to talk to me; it does not obligate me to respond.

Phones have rings and ringtones that are intentionally disruptive. We have little choice but to answer when they go off in public. Thankfully the creators of the cell phone made it possible to have phones vibrate or even be silent–and I would suggest that whenever you’re in a public place–in a meeting, in a class, in any sort of group setting, and especially in church–the phone should be off, silenced or at the very most set to vibrate. And if it starts buzzing in your pocket during a service or a meeting–unless you’re in the emergency medical field or were expecting a call–let it ring. You can take the call after your meeting. There are very few calls that are THAT pressing.

Whenever you are in a meeting with other people, that meeting should have precedence over all other aspects of your life and the people in the meeting should have your complete attention. I have been completely shocked on a number of occasions to have people not only answer calls or texts in a meeting, but I’ve seen people who are disinterested in their surroundings simply sit back and look down into their lap–they are initiating text messages with others. Understand that when you do this–when you break eye contact with living people around you and when you focus instead on a cell phone–you are sending a message to everyone in the room: “I am not interested in you; you are wasting my time; the person on the other end of my phone is more important to me.” You don’t need to say the words; your body language says it all. And that, too, is just plain rude.

And love is not rude …

Develop some self-discipline and some love. Make face-to-face interaction with others the top priority. Let the phone ring; let the text message wait; don’t text when in the presence of others (except in an emergency).

Mountain View Chapel’s worship service is on as scheduled starting at its regular time of 10am this morning.

   I know it’s the holiday season, and if I were politically correct I’d write something about Thanksgiving or Christmas, but what’s on my heart right now is a little doctrine that is often overlooked: the priesthood of all believers. I’d like to expound on that in this month’s Scrip for just a bit.
    In most of the ancient religions there were “priests.” Priests were religious specialists who mediated between God (or among pagans, the gods) and men. They knew the secret words, the secret formulas, the secret rites that could fix things for people with the deities, and that gave priests a certain divine power and the confidence that goes with that power. Very often knowledge of that power led priests to abuse their power amongst the pagans, the Jews and the medieval Christians.
    In the 16th century, medieval Christianity went through a “reformation” under the leadership of men like Martin Luther, Ulrich Zwingli, John Calvin and Menno Simon. These men differed on many little things, but in their protest of the Roman Church (and its priesthood) they all held to one precious concept: the priesthood of all believers. According to the Bible, these “Protestants” said, the old priesthood of Levi that held sway–and very often corrupt sway–over the people of God was broken by the cross of Jesus Christ and done away with. There is now only one mediator between God and men –one High Priest, as it were, according to the book of Hebrews–the Lord Jesus Christ; and we believers are all his brothers and sisters, made holy by Him, and we ALL have the role of priests. Both Peter and John said that the church is a “kingdom of priests,” and on the day of Pentecost the apostle Peter quoted the prophet Joel to demonstrate that now the Holy Spirit is given, not only to prophets and priests and kings, but to men and women and even servants- even female servants, and when we have that Holy Spirit, we can be confident in our relationship to God. We have no need of a priest to do the “religious work” for us; we are priests ourselves–and we can act accordingly. We can go to God for men–and we can talk to men for God. We have been told that we have that kind of access to our heavenly Father, and being His ambassadors to men is our calling and our responsibility.
    What does that look like applied in the church? Well, for one thing, it means that the pastor is not the only person that can minister or lead ministries. In fact, my expectation is precisely the opposite–I want to see other leaders raised up to “take the bull by the horns” in various ministries and make things happen. I want to see people moved and motivated by the Holy Spirit, ministering in ways that are comfortable to them as worn slippers. I want to see people using their differing gifts. Ministering to others goes beyond preaching and teaching, as important as those things are. Not everyone is a preacher or teacher. Some people have a passion to help children. Some people like helping poor or disadvantaged people. Some people like providing money (or things) for needs of people or other ministries. Some people are planners and organizers; some people love executing what has been planned for them. Some people are prayer warriors. And some people are counselors, or listeners, weeping with those who weep and rejoicing with those who rejoice. Some are leaders, and some are followers. Everyone has a niche, and everyone should work with their God-given passion in a niche that feels comfortable to them. They should do that with all their might.
    I, as the teaching elder/pastor, should not be seen as an indispensable part, a necessary component, of every meeting and every ministry that goes on here. I have limited gifts and limited passions–as does everyone. If you have a passion for the work that is laid before you–knock yourself out at it for Christ! I don’t need to be there to “bless it” or to “give it my blessing”–as though somehow I have something in my person that makes your work officially approved.    
    Yes–get what you want to do approved by the elders, submit to whatever organizational details–rooms, times of meeting, etc.–they give you and take into account their counsel and oversight and directions in carrying out the ministry; they’re trying to maintain decency, efficiency and order in the things that we do. They are “overseeing” everything; they see the big picture. But please don’t feel that if the pastor isn’t personally involved with what you’re doing that somehow you’re disapproved or unwanted or unimportant. Quite the contrary–if I’m not there it’s usually because I am completely confident of your leadership and your passion–and I am relishing the fact that you don’t need me as a babysitter. Knock yourself out for Jesus!!!
    Folks, my ideal for Mountain View Chapel, the thing I long for, the thing I’m aiming for, the thing I want to make happen, is a church that is a self-sustaining body–a body full of people passionate for various tasks and busy at them for Christ; a body full of people who are willing to take responsibility for their tasks and who use their gifts and who go forward without prodding and poking and babysitting; a body that has levels of trustworthy and competent leadership; a body so knit together that when the day comes for me to be called home to be with the Lord, another gifted and competent teacher will be able to step in and take my place, and all of the rest of the work will continue on without missing a beat.
    That, I believe, is a crucial application of the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers.



~ We will announce any cancellations of Sunday services and activities here on the home page of Mountain View Chapel’s website. We will also send a cancellation notice out on the Prayer Chain and record a message on the church office phone (610-326-5856). ~

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