Saturday, September 30, 2006

busy day

Today was busy. We started with the weekly Saturday service project at NSV - very cool. This is our second time but I think we will make it a family habit. Today Barb and Angela couldn't go but Isaiah and I had the opportunity to go help clean the apartment of a man suffering from spinal cancer. We got toilet duty but that was a good experience for us. I pray that this gentleman was blessed - certainly Isaiah and I were. I'm looking forward to next week.

Then Isaiah and I went to a New Driver Car Control Clinic. It was excellent! They had the kids go through some obstacle emergency handling scenarios. It really gave them a sense of the capability and limits of both the car and themselves. Isaiah did great even with that big Tahoe. Some of the other kids scared me a bit - they killed a lot of plastic cones - hopefully they learned and that's as bad as it will be. But I have low confidence.

Then we went to our neighborhood block party. We have been blessed with an interesting, diverse, and friendly bunch of neighbors. I got to speak with a couple of families regarding spiritual matters. One of them is considering attending a church closer to our home so perhaps we will be able to build a little relationship with them.

And now we are off to the movies. Isaiah's English teacher told him if he went to All the King's Men and wrote a short piece about it he could get some extra credit. I think it's a con but regardless, we're off to it now. Ciao.

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Friday, September 29, 2006

male restroom etiquette and bohemian rhapsody

I think they pretty much covered it except they said the urinal on either end are equal when in fact the urinal furthest from the door is preferable. I guess they also forgot to mention that one should always flush with their foot.

Oh - I wasn't looking for that on YouTube, I was really looking for this Bohemian Rhapsody parody.

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I try to resist all things political. I don't think Jesus would approve of either party in the US and as a Christian, I really struggle to find answers on the wide range of complex political issues. Too many people offer bumper sticker or party line solutions - I'm embarrassed to be associated with them.

Ray at Sacking Rome offers some challenging articles from time to time. I find him one sided and I'm often amazed at how he and those that comment on his blog get to the conclusions they do - but I presume he is a Christian and since most Christians equate their faith to being Republican, I read Ray's blog to try to understand other view points.

Here's an interesting article on a "torture" technique called waterboading. While I think I want to say I don't support torture, my brain doesn't process this as torture and I come out fully supportive.

Does anyone care to help me feel ok with this thinking or perhaps offer something constructive (not hateful) to help me think otherwise?

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piper charismatic?

Is John Piper charismatic? Well I don't know about that but as I abandon Mark Driscoll's teaching and his claim to being "one", I am interested in Piper's view. I'll start with his article Signs and Wonders: Then and Now.

I agree with the words of Martyn Lloyd-Jones, preached in 1965: "It is perfectly clear that in New Testament times, the gospel was authenticated in this way by signs, wonders and miracles of various characters and descriptions. . . . Was it only meant to be true of the early church? . . . The Scriptures never anywhere say that these things were only temporary – never! There is no such statement anywhere. (The Sovereign Spirit, pp. 31-32)"
Are signs & wonders against the Word?

... if we come to God with a heart aching with longing for vindication of his glory and the salvation of sinners ... We are a faithful wife, only wanting to honor our husband... signs and wonders can't save the soul, they can, if God pleases, shatter the shell of disinterest; they can shatter the shell of cynicism; they can shatter the shell of false religion. Like every other good witness to the word of grace, they can help the fallen heart to fix its gaze on the gospel where the soul-saving, self-authenticating glory of the Lord shines.
Of course they can also further harden the hard heart, which is what I think Jesus was confronting in Matthew.

Are signs and wonders signs of the Apostle?

  1. Jesus sent out the seventy, not just the twelve apostles, "to heal the sick" (Luke 10:9). And when they returned, they said that the demons were subject to them in Jesus' name (Luke 10:17). These miracles in Jesus' name show that apostolic signs and wonders are not unique to the apostles.
  2. In the book of Acts, Stephen "did great signs and wonders among the people" (Acts 6:8), even though he was in the "deacon" category not the apostle category (Acts 6:5). Similarly it says that "the multitudes gave heed to what was said by Philip, when they heard him and saw the signs which he did" (Acts 8:6). Philip was not an apostle, but performed miraculous signs.
  3. Paul writes to all the churches of Galatia and says, "Does he who is supplying the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith?" (Galatians 3:5). The point is that God is now supplying his Spirit to the Galatians and working miracles among them when he is not there. Hans Dieter Betz notes that "the [present] participle 'supplying' (epichoregon) suggests a continuous supply rather than an initial and momentary 'outpouring'" (Hermenia, Galatians, p. 135). And Ernest Burton says, "In view of the dative 'to you' after 'supplies,' the 'miracles' must be supposed to have been wrought not principally by Paul but by the Galatians themselves, as 1 Corinthians 12:10,28,29 imply was the case among the Corinthians" (I.C.C., Galatians, p. 152).
  4. Peter Masters does not adequately deal with this grammatical fact when he says that these miracles refer to Paul's own miracles which he had worked among the Galatians when he was recently among them (The Healing Epidemic, p. 134). Burton also wrestles with our very question concerning "the signs of the apostle" and astutely observes, "2 Corinthians 12:12 indeed suggests that such things were signs of the apostle, yet probably not in the sense that he only wrought them but that the dunameis of the apostle were in some way more notable, or that they constituted a part of the evidence of his apostleship" (Galatians, p. 152)
  5. Finally, 1 Corinthians 12:9-10 says that among the spiritual gifts given to the members of the church at Corinth were "gifts of healings" and "workings of miracles." Thus (as Burton suggested) such "signs and wonders" were not the "sign of the apostle" in the sense that only apostles could do them. Various gifted members of the church were also empowered in these ways as well. This is confirmed in verses 27-29, where these gifts are distinguished from the gift of apostleship.
Are signs and wonders until Jesus comes?
... 1 Corinthians 13:8-12 teaches that such spiritual gifts will continue until the second coming of Jesus. There is no reason to exclude from this conclusion the other "imperfect" gifts mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12:8-10. Since these include miracles, faith, healings, etc., with which we associate "signs and wonders", there is clear New Testament warrant for expecting that "signs and wonders" will continue until Jesus comes.

Now add to this conclusion the forthright command in 1 Corinthians 14:1, and you will see why some of us are not only open to, but also seeking, this greater fullness of God's power today. This command says, "Make love your aim, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy." And it is repeated twice: "Earnestly desire the higher gifts" (12:31); "Earnestly desire to prophesy and do not forbid speaking in tongues" (14:39).

I wonder how many of us have said for years that we are open to God's moving in spiritual gifts, but have been disobedient to this command to earnestly desire them, especially prophecy? ...
Well Mister Piper - so far I'm with you! I'm looking forward to listening to the full series.

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Thursday, September 28, 2006

less of driscoll on spiritual gifts

Ok - I've just about run out of gas on Mark Driscoll's teaching on Spiritual Gifts. I expected him to be cool and to bust open Scripture with amazing insight. He delivered on the former and missed on the latter. He spends about 60% hammering the abuses in the charismatic camp, 35% talking about gifts as though they are personality traits, and about 5% saying something informative but not revelatory about them.

The warnings against abuse is appropriate but excessive. He talks about the abuses as if they are very common - this doesn't match my experience. Additionally, the warnings aren't solid, Scripture based warnings. For example, his counter to the prosperity message was that Jesus was homeless and was murdered. While I don't support the prosperity message, I would have liked for him to (1) hit on some of the good points that have come out of that movement to counter the gloom and doom doctrine that is out there and then to (2) address the excesses/error based on some clear Scripture.

And only once did I catch a warning about an abuse in the anti-charismatic side. Net - too much warning time for my taste and seemed to pander to aniti-charismatics.

I've already discussed the gifts v. personality point in a separate post. I don't agree.

And finally there's the 5% but that's not so much about the gifts at all - it's about Jesus. I love that but it's not enough. If he wasn't going to do better on the Spiritual Gifts teaching, he could have stuck with teaching Jesus. I'm good with that.

To quote Driscoll, "we don't chase miracles, we chase Jesus and let the miracles chase us."

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red rain

A old friend of mine has a son "livin' the dream". Here's to David Pfanstiel and Red Rain.

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Tuesday, September 26, 2006

driscoll spiritual gifts contradiction

Although I'm still hopeful, I'm quickly becoming dissatisfied with Mark Driscoll's sermons on Spiritual Gifts.

I just listened to him describe the gifts of wisdom and knowledge in terms that make them sound more like personality traits - something he cautioned us not to get confused about early in the first session. An example - he describes those with the gift of knowledge as loving books - not just books but the footnotes and appendices and ... This sounds more like a personality. God creates us each with passions and skills and all of that stuff but I would try to avoid calling that a spiritual gift. And although I don't agree with him, he said a spiritual gift comes at conversion so I find his descriptions of the gifts as lacking at best, contradictory at worst.

At the very end of the description he "redeemed" himself with a clarification that I agree with but again doesn't seem aligned with his overall descriptions of the gifts. In the clarification he noted that you know you just exercised a gift when you look back at something that you just said or did and realize that it was extraordinary and that it didn't come from you. In the context of wisdom or knowledge, it wasn't something you could have construed or studied. It was something amazing that came from beyond yourself and your natural means.

I agree with that but it leaves me not so keen with Driscoll's message. Ah, the gift of discernment or ?

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little mj

Out of respect for the man ...

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jt meets mj

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romans 16 relationships

John Piper, in Commending and Welcoming Radical Risk-Takers for Christ, makes six amazing observations from Romans 16.1-7.

1. Notice the names. There are twenty-seven names. More people are greeted, but twenty-seven are named—twenty-six of them in Rome, and Phoebe (the first mentioned) on her way to Rome. Surely we should learn from this that names matter. I wish I could call you all by name. Jesus does. John 10:3 says, “The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.” Strive to know each other’s names. Paul is working here at building a relationship with the church he wants as his sending church in the mission to Spain. It’s amazing how many names he knows in Rome when he has never been there. Let’s be like him in this.

2. Notice the different the relationships and partnerships. It is remarkable the words that he uses to describe who these people are in relationship to him and to each other: sister, brother, servant, saints, patron, fellow workers, church, firstfruits, kinsmen, fellow prisoners, beloved, approved in Christ, elect, mother to me. The more you connect with people the more different and the more enriching are the ways that they bring blessing into your life—and you to theirs.

3. Notice how Christ-saturated these relationships are. Verse 2: “Welcome her in the Lord.” Verse 3: “My fellow workers in Christ Jesus.” Verse 5: The “first convert to Christ.” Verse 7: “They were in Christ before me.” Verse 8: “My beloved in the Lord.” Verse 9: “My fellow worker in Christ.” Verse 10: “Apelles, who is approved in Christ.” Verse 11: “Greet those in the Lord.” Verse 12: “Greet those workers in the Lord.” Verse 13: “Persis, who has worked hard in the Lord.” Verse 14: “Rufus, chosen in the Lord.”

This is not a simple list of greetings. This is the way a person who is drenched in Christ talks about his friends. When you write your family or friends, or when you talk on the phone, or send an email, is Christ there like this? If you say, as I have heard some say, “I don’t wear my faith on my sleeve,” be careful. The issue isn’t what’s on your sleeve. The issue is what’s in your mouth, because Jesus said, “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:34). If Christ isn’t there in your talk and in your emails, it’s not a sleeve issue—it’s not merely a personality issue, it’s not merely an ethnic issue, it’s not merely a family-of-origin issue—it’s a heart issue. Let’s be a church drenched with Jesus like Paul in Romans 16.

4. Notice that these folks are spread over several churches in Rome. Verse 5, referring to Prisca and Aquila: “Greet also the church in their house.” So there is one church that he gives a generic greeting to through Prisca and Aquila. Then there are all these other names. Look at verse 14: “ Greet Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas, and the brothers who are with them.” That probably means: the church that meets with these brothers. Similarly in verse 15: “Greet Philologus, Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas, and all the saints who are with them.” And there are probably other groupings. So we learn that the church in Rome was really churches in Rome. So the church in the Twin Cities should be the churches in the Twin Cities. May the Lord multiply Bible-believing, Christ-drenched churches in these cities!

5. Notice the most common command—to greet. Thirteen times in sixteen verses he tells them: Greet so and so. And greet so and so. Who is he talking to? I assume that this letter is written to all the Roman Christians. Romans 1:7, “To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints.” If I am talking to Kenny Stokes, I don’t say, “Greet Kenny Stokes.” So it seems that Paul expects this letter to be handled and read and taught by the leaders of the church in Rome. He is telling them: Greet these twenty-six people that I have named and all the churches they represent.

6. Notice the love that permeates this chapter. Four times Paul uses the word loved or beloved. “My beloved Epaenetus” (v. 5), “Ampliatus, my beloved in the Lord” (v. 8), “my beloved Stachys” (v. 9), “Greet the beloved Persis” (v. 12). And then we read things like: “Greet Mary, who has worked hard for you” (v. 6) and Prisca and Aquila “risked their necks for my life” (v. 4). This is the language of love. May the Lord take last week’s message on wrestling and resting together and draw us into these kinds of relationships.

I'm not sure what I can add to this. The thread is community and people matter. I love that.

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Monday, September 25, 2006

prayer discussion

The Pyromaniacs are trying to teach that prayer is not a two-way street between us and God.

A friend asked me to comment and I had to say I disagree. I understand that the Pyro guys may be trying to address some error but not only do I not see the Pyro position as in-line with the Biblical model, it also doesn't make sense to me. If I am not hearing from God before, during and after prayer, I'm not quite sure why I bother to live.

And while I continue to try to read Pyromaniacs because of their high value of the Word of God, I find that it is not uncommon for them make statements that are either wrong or true but caustic.

Ilona, at truegrit, has jumped into the fray here and here to try to address this prayer issue - to wit she earned the wrath of the pyro gods.

God bless her!

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driscoll on spiritual gifts

I've begun listening to Mark Driscoll's series on Spiritual Gifts. The first in the series is ok. While Driscoll is "charismatic", I sense he panders a little to the "anti-charismatic" crowd. I don't blame him. I identified with much of what he said but that aside, I don't believe it is proper to refer to "charismaniacs" and joke about hair style, make-up, etc. especially while teaching on this important Biblical topic.

I also struggle a little internally while listening to Driscoll. I think he is cool and therefore I want to believe what he tells me. I have to be careful, he almost "tricked" me in the past. Already in this first in the series I had to stop myself and ask, "hey wait a minute, can that be supported?"

On the positive side, Driscoll draws a good distinction between talents versus gifts. He states that talents are given by God at birth and gifts are given by God at rebirth. I'd modify that a bit. First I'd add the two categories of skills and personality - skill being something that can be taught and personality being a psychological or emotional leaning or disposition.

In addition to adding these categories, I reject that gifts are given by God only at rebirth. I agree that they are given by God but I wouldn't limit the timing. I understand one can receive a gift prior to conversion as well as many times post-conversion.

Driscoll understands gifts as something that is given once to a believer and then retained throughout the individual's "career". He said that all believers receive one gift and only some receive more. I understand that a gift can be a one time gift for a the specific moment or it can be many times over the course of a career. I also understand that it would be normative for an individual to operate in multiple gifts rather than Driscoll's single gift norm.

Regarding the "lists of gifts", I agree with Driscoll in acknowledging that the gifts noted in Ro 12, Ep 4, 1 Pe 4, 1 Co 12 are not intended to be comprehensive lists. I'll be interested if in the later sermons he tries to make a distinction between gifts, ministry, and church office. I personally subscribe to John Wimber's understanding of the 1 Co 12 gifts as gracelets. In a nutshell, the "gracelet" theory is that everyone can operate in any gift at any moment as God determines. The gift that is given is the one that is needed at the time. The analogy is that it is probably not useful if someone comes to work on the plumbing in my house with only a hammer. God will give the gift that is needed as He sees fit at the time that He sees fit.

This differs from someone who seems to work in a certain gift area as a norm. This then is a "ministry". Which is different than someone who is recognized officially by the church (ordained) in a gifting. This then is an "office".

It is based on this gracelet understanding that I conclude that any believer can operate in any and all gifts.

Remember, in the Greek, the word gift is actually the word charismata. Charismata refers to “something bestowed out of grace, favor or special kindness.” Grace is from the Greek word charis, the first half of the word charismata. The gifts of the Holy Spirit, then, are God’s undeserving grace endowments. The gifts of the Spirit are simply the extension of God’s grace to His people.

For more on gracelets, here's a fair representation or here for a more in-depth treatment. Or, if you promise not to attack the straw man, here's a child level teaching (probably more appropriate for me and some of my readers).

Regarding portions of gifting, Driscoll does well to explain that not all that receive a gift receive the same measure of that gift. For example someone may have the gift of leadership and be able to use that well for a group of 12 while another may have the same gift of leadership but be effective leading a group of 1200.

And so I'm looking forward to the rest his sermons. Feel free to jump in with your comments as I outline what I'm hearing. I will try to avoid a theological debate with some of you "anti-charismatics" but if you poke me right, I'll probably respond.

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Sunday, September 24, 2006

making a difference

Piper on making a difference, "You don't have to know a lot of things for your life to make a lasting difference in the world ... you have to know a few great, majestic, unchanging, obvious, simple, glorious things - or one great all-embracing thing - and be set on fire by them."

Paul, the Apostle, "I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified." 1 Co 2.2

What is setting your heart on fire today? What passion is driving you? Is there a single, great, all-embracing something (or someone) that pulls all of life's meaning together for you to provide purpose and drive?

Lord God come and fill our hearts with your burning fire. Take our lives and make us into people worthy of the price you paid for us. Turn us to the cross and to yourself. Help us to die and then raise again with you and you alone as our soul passion. Let us love and adore you above all and may that drive all that we say and all that we do.

"I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me." Gal 2.19-20

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saturday service project

Barb and I joined the NSV gang to serve in a couple of low income housing areas around here. This is a weekly outing to serve the needy in our own community. We went door to door giving out small packages of food. It was pretty cool. The church has been targeting a few neighborhoods in an attempt to build relationships as we serve. I sensed an openness in the community to us being there and that felt good.

I also liked it because we were partnering with another church community with the same passion for outreach.

Today was neat in that some connections were made and I'm excited about the potential I see in the Kingdom.

The direction of NSV relative to outreach is awesome. They have wide range of activities to provide us opportunities to give God's love away - very cool.

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Friday, September 22, 2006

espresso here i come

Well I got it ... my Rancilio Silvia, Rancilio Rocky, and base finally arrived. And yes, I had the Silvia modified with the internal PID controller. All of it is very cool but I'm 10 cups into it and still haven't figured out how to run the thing ... the good news is now I'm not tired so I'll be up all night trying to work it out.

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6 pointer again

I've changed my mind again, I'm back to being a 6 pointer ...

maroni ipod

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ok go - here it goes again

Barb is considering a new workout plan but we don't have the clothes for it ...

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Thursday, September 21, 2006

myson's myspace

I hate MySpace. My kid's say I just don't get it - something about being old and not too smart. I think it is unhealthy community, often borderline porn, etc.. But in the end, it's there and it's hot (106 million accounts as of 6 September).

So, my son, whom I'm very proud of, has a MySpace dedicated to his music. His old band, Free Parking, also had a MySpace.

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Tuesday, September 19, 2006

piper on TULIP

I tumbled across John Piper's, What We Believe About the Five Points of Calvinism while following up on some links to my blog. I really like how God uses Piper.

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witnessing in our culture

Thoughts and quotes from Ed Stetzer, session 3, Breaking the Missional Code at the 2006 Reform and Resurgence Conference.

Stetzer starts with, "There is no such thing as a Christianity that exists separate from a culture, a time, a place, or a people." His goal is to address the evangelical aversion to deal with the culture and marginalize or attack those that do. He strikes a nice balance in doing that without lending credence to those that have compromised the Church and/or the Gospel over the culture. The question he challenges us with is how do we proclaim and demonstrate the unchanging Gospel in our ever changing culture?

The key is to know that the starting point of ministry is the glory and knowledge of God in Christ. Our task is to connect that to where people are within the culture. For those that God has called us to reach, we must determine what questions they asking and in that, show them that the answer is Jesus.

Stetzer used referenced the classic evangelical "pick-up line", "If you were to die tonight, would you find yourself in heaven or in hell tomorrow?" He asked how many people today still ask that question. Like the rest of the audience, I presumed no one does. I certainly didn't think I knew anyone that was asking that question. But Stetzer then introduced survey data supporting that many today still do ask that question even daily. What he learned was that whether or not someone asks that question was deeply influenced by their economic situation, geography, etc.. The point being, don't assume the questions. Be prepared in season and out of season. Take time to carefully observe the culture God has put you in and then carefully lift Him up as the answer.

When Paul arrived in Athens, Scripture tells us that he walked around looking carefully and he was deeply troubled. He didn't accept all that the culture threw at him but he took the time to understand the questions coming from the culture and used that to introduce Jesus. He didn't preach against it. He lifted up Jesus in the midst of it. This had the obvious benefit of Jesus being lifted up but also by Him being lifted up, the things that were wrong with the culture are destroyed and that which was not wrong, can remain. Too often we attack the culture rather than lifting up Jesus.

Stetzer notes, "Too many pastor's pastor in their heads rather than in their communities." The stumbling block of the cross has been replaced by the stumbling block of the church. Let's stop that and learn to hold high the standard within the culture God has put us.

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healing and the kingdom

David Wayne, the JollyBlogger, posts NT Wright on the Purposes of Jesus' Healings. Excellent stuff and worth taking a look at the whole article. Bottom line is that while Jesus loves and there is benefit to a person becoming well, these were not the drivers of signs and wonders then nor are they now. This is all part of a larger story, i.e., the demonstration of the Kingdom of God - the already, not yet. As a Vineyard guy, i.e., a Radical Middle guy, I see this as counter to both the Charismatic and the "anti-Charismatic" positions. It is something altogether different.

Some quotes from Wright ...

For a first-century Jew, most if not all the works of healing, which form the bulk of Jesus' mighty works, could be seen as the restoration to membership in Israel of those who, through sickness or whatever, had been excluded as ritually unclean. The healings thus function in exact parallel with the welcome of sinners, and this, we may be quite sure, was what Jesus himself intended. He never performed mighty works simply to impress. He saw them as part of the inauguration of the sovereign and healing rule of Israel's covenant god...

The effect of these cures, therefore, was not merely to bring physical healing; not merely to give humans, within a far less individualistic society than our modern western one, a renewed sense of community membership; but to reconstitute those healed as members of the people of Israel's god. In other words, these healings, at the deepest level of understanding on the part of Jesus and his contemporaries, would be seen as part of his total minstry, specifically, part of that open welcome which went with the inauguration of the kingdom - and, consequently, part of his subversive work, which was likely to get him in trouble.
Jesus' "subversive work" continues through the Church today. We must continue through proclamation and demonstration of the Kingdom.

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Monday, September 18, 2006

doin' it jesus' way

From an interview with Eugene Peterson:

We can't say Jesus is the way - "I'm going to follow Jesus" - and then use all the devil's ways. All the "I like to do" or "have a talent for" or "have an aptitude for" or "have a spiritual gift" language is popular in our churches, but we have to do it Jesus's way. The way Jesus did it is as important as the way Jesus is. I'm just trying to connect ways and means. The means by which we do something can destroy what we're doing if they're not appropriate. And I think the American Church is very conspicuous for destroying the way of Jesus in the ways we do church...

We are at a crisis in the American Church. I don't know enough about the rest of the world to speak about it, but our rhetoric is louder and more abrasive. Our relationships are shallower, more superficial. We have an enormous amount of energy in churches in this country, and I would like to do with my readership what I've tried to do as a pastor: get them to take their lives seriously in the wholeness of Christ, not for what they can get out of Christ. I would like to make a dent in the debilitating consumer mentality that has beguiled religion and faith in this country.

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Sunday, September 17, 2006

stomach whistling ministry?

I had to laugh at this one (brought to my attention by Randy "no blogs") - Saddleback now has a "hula" ministry. As I read it I couldn't help but think of the time I saw a group of guys paint faces on their stomachs. Their belly buttons were the mouth. They wore shirts at the waist and above the painted face, from their chest up, was a hat. They then played the whistled version of Bridge Over the River Kwai and moved their bellies in and out with the music. It was hilarious.

I wonder if I could start a ministry like that? Perhaps there are some Christian songs that would play nicely if just whistled? I would be open to both hymns and choruses.

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i don't own a car ...

Steve Nicholson of VCC Evanston is a great mentor. Years ago I was in a group asking him for some advice for discipling others. We asked him, "aside from spiritual disciplines, what are some practical keys to being a good teacher?" Steve never blinked. He said, "Number one thing, I don't own a car."

This was not quite what we were looking for. But then he elaborated. Not owning a car gave two excellent benefits. First, he could do nothing alone. No matter what it was, he had the perfect excuse for asking one of his disciples to go with him. All activity gave cause to bring someone else along. This provided time to talk as well as involvement in the doing of "the stuff". The second benefit is that because he had to ask for help, he had to be choiceful regarding what he got involved in. Relying on others has a way of helping us set priorities. He did not have time for the so many frivolous things that typically fill our day.

I've learned from that but not to the extent I should. That is, I get the idea but I don't apply it consistently enough.

I had a funny situation once with a small group leader in Germany. Over there they change their car tires (or tyres as this guy spelled it) between summer and winter and visa-versa. About that time of year I purposefully asked him if he needed any help with anything around the house. After his initial amazement wore off, plus some coaxing from me, he agreed that he could use some help changing his tires.

We had a great time talking as we worked. During the conversation he told me, "Rick, I just don't know how to connect with the guys in my group. How do I get time with them to really get to know them and let them open up a little with what is going on in their lives?" I had to laugh. I asked him if he thought I liked changing tires - of course not. I asked him if he thought I had nothing else to do that day - of course I did. And then the light came on, I was there to help him with more than tires ... and he didn't even realize it until that moment.

Investing time, helping in practical ways, not selling anything but rather demonstrating that we care is the way to open a person's heart. We must be authentic and show that we truly prefer others over ourselves if we are going to impact the world for the Kingdom.

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what's goin' on ...

I'm sitting here at NSV at 8:30 blogging away on my MacBook Pro using Ecto while watching my beautiful son set-up with the worship team here. How cool is that?

I love this MacBook - although I'm not used to the trackpad yet. I love Ecto - although it will not upload photo's (but that's really Blogger's fault). And I love Isaiah - although he doesn't know any of the song the band is playing right now.

We like it here at NSV. We went to a cool small group last week and plan to continue with them for awhile. At the same time we will look around at some of the others. This group has grown quite big and plan to address that by splitting the discussion time by male/female. Those of you that know me know I'm not keen on that approach. Too bad, they seem like a cool group - but I'm sure there are other cool groups out there.

Today we will also go to a church welcome lunch. That will be cool. I'll resist asking the senior pastor about female leadership, predestination, tithing v. offering, mode of baptism, tongues, etc..

One really cool thing that has been going on is that shortly after we moved into our neighborhood started having weekly "gatherings". We have some very, very nice neighbors and we've enjoyed connecting with them. We hope that we can develop some deeper relationships and through it all demonstrate the love of Christ to all of them.

Finally, computer-wise, I've got iTunes sorted out. Now I need to get some understanding of the inter-relationship between iPhoto, Aperture, and PhotoShop. Then I need to get Windows XP installed on this thing and working with Parallels. I'm hoping my Bible software, Logos, will be available for Mac by then. But my music manager, SongBase, is not planning to move to Mac so I need to run that in Windows.

So much to do ...

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piper magnifies

John Piper describes what it means to glorify God. It is similar to the words beautify and magnify. We need to be careful with these. We do not add glory, beauty, or size to God when we do these things. We simply see Him in better perspective and reflect that back and/or out.

Magnify has two distinct meanings. In relation to God, one is worship and one is wickedness. You can magnify like a telescope or like a microscope. When you magnify like a microscope, you make something tiny look bigger than it is. A dust mite can look like a monster. Pretending to magnify God like that is wickedness. But when you magnify like a telescope, you make something unimaginably great look like what it really is. ... Magnifying God like that is worship.
Connecting with God is not meant to be done alone. If we are truly His, others will see God more clearly as they look at us. We are in a sense, "telescopes". As disciples, we see Him more clearly, we take on His likeness, and then others see Him more clearly. They see in us rightness, compassion, love - they see the Kingdom.

Let us glorify God in all that we say and do so that others might come to know the King of Kings as He really is.

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Thursday, September 14, 2006

giving birth, that is, multiplication

Steve Addison has been running some Bob Logan quotes.
Most pastors think about growing healthy churches or growing large churches, but they typically don’t think of growing multiplying churches. . . . The best way to reach the harvest isn’t through large churches, or even through planting more churches, but through churches that multiply—whatever their size. Bob Logan, Be Fruitful and Multiply, 26.
I say a hearty amen to this but want to extend it beyond church planting. Healthy things give birth to healthy things. Healthy Christians birth healthy Christians. Healthy small groups birth healthy small groups. Healthy Churches give birth to healthy Churches.

When training small group leaders, we teach the grandfather principle. That is, it is not enough to have a deep or growing group. It is also not enough to multiply another group. One knows that one is successful when the group that has been birthed gives birth to another group. It is only then that we can start to know that we have truly discipled.

I think this holds true for our lives as individuals as well as for our larger communities. When we give away the ministry in a way that it is in turn given away to another generation, then we are making disciples as Christ made disciples.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

righteous or sinner?

I'd probably be one of the last people to defend Joyce Meyer but when I saw this critique of her I found I could not at least address this specific point. Here's what one her many critics wrote ...
"I'm going to tell you something folks, I didn't stop sinning until I finally got it through my thick head I wasn't a sinner anymore. And the religious world thinks that's heresy and they want to hang you for it. But the Bible says that I'm righteous and I can't be righteous and be a sinner at the same time. All I was ever taught to say was, 'I'm a poor, miserable sinner.' I am not poor, I am not miserable and I am not a sinner. That is a lie from the pit of hell. That is what I was and if I still am then Jesus died in vain. Amen?" (Joyce Meyer, What Happened From the Cross to the Throne?)

Someone should probably let John, the Apostle who stood in the empty tomb of Jesus on the morning of the resurrection, know that he was wrong when he wrote his first epistle stating that if any man is without sin he is a liar and the truth is not in him. Someone should probably let the Apostle Paul know that he is not the chief of sinners. Maybe someone should have told the thief on the cross that he was not really going to be in paradise with Jesus on that day because Jesus was, once again, confused; Jesus had to go to hell for a few days to pay for the thief’s sin, he’ll have to catch up with him later.
It seems to me that this person just had a problem with Meyer.

Clearly, as noted in the critique, we all sin, this sin is horrible, and overcoming it is no small issue. Yet there are a plethora of Scriptures speaking to the righteousness I have in Christ. I also find it easy to understand that transforming my mind to that truth facilitates conforming my behavior to it.

I'm not sure how Meyer sees this topic overall but I think that the sin nature and righteousness nature topic is one of Scripture's paradoxes (or at least seemingly so). I would hesitate and ask a few questions before reacting to anyone who made either statement, "I'm a sinner" or "I'm righteous".

For me (I can hear some of my friends already) I'm with Meyer on this one. If I have to pick one and cannot have the benefit of dialog, I'd say I'm righteous.

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the arminan monster

If you are a Calvinist and would like to read something light to further convince yourself that you are theologically correct, here's a funny one.

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Tuesday, September 12, 2006

men v. women talk

In her book, You Just Don't Understand: Women and Men in Conversation, Deborah Tannen observes that men have report talk while women have rapport talk. Men talk to share information while women talk to share relationship.

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Monday, September 11, 2006

still doing miracles ...

"One miracle was wrought among ourselves, which, though no greater than those I have mentioned, was yet so signal and conspicuous, that I suppose there is no inhabitant of Hippo who did not either see or hear of it, none who could possibly forget it. There were seven brothers and three sisters of a noble family of the Cappadocian Caesarea, who were cursed by their mother, a new-made widow, on account of some wrong they had done her, and which she bitterly resented, and who were visited with so severe a punishment from Heaven, that all of them were seized with a hideous shaking in all their limbs. Unable, while presenting this loathsome appearance, to endure the eyes of their fellow-citizens, they wandered over almost the whole Roman world, each following his own direction. Two of them came to Hippo, a brother and a sister, Paulus and Palladia, already known in many other places by the fame of their wretched lot. Now it was about fifteen days before Easter when they came, and they came daily to church, and specially to the relics of the most glorious Stephen, praying that God might now be appeased, and restore their former health. There, and wherever they went, they attracted the attention of every one. Some who had seen them elsewhere, and knew the cause of their trembling, told others as occasion offered. Easter arrived, and on the Lord's day, in the morning, when there was now a large crowd present, and the young man was holding the bars of the holy place where the relics were, and praying, suddenly he fell down, and lay precisely as if asleep, but not trembling as he was wont to do even in sleep. All present were astonished. Some were alarmed, some were moved with pity; and while some were for lifting him up, others prevented them, and said they should rather wait and see what would result. And behold! he rose up, and trembled no more, for he was healed, and stood quite well, scanning those who were scanning him. Who then refrained himself from praising God? The whole church was filled with the voices of those who were shouting and congratulating him. Then they came running to me, where I was sitting ready to come into the church. One after another they throng in, the last comer telling me as news what the first had told me already; and while I rejoiced and inwardly gave God thanks, the young man himself also enters, with a number of others, falls at my knees, is raised up to receive my kiss. We go in to the congregation: the church was full, and ringing with the shouts of joy, "Thanks to God! Praised be God!" every one joining and shouting on all sides, "I have healed the people," and then with still louder voice shouting again. Silence being at last obtained, the customary lessons of the divine Scriptures were read. And when I came to my sermon, I made a few remarks suitable to the occasion and the happy and joyful feeling, not desiring them to listen to me, but rather to consider the eloquence of God in this divine work. The man dined with us, and gave us a careful account of his own, his mother's, and his family's calamity. Accordingly, on the following day, after delivering my sermon, I promised that next day I would read his narrative to the people. And when I did so, the third day after Easter Sunday, I made the brother and sister both stand on the steps of the raised place from which I used to speak; and while they stood there their pamphlet was read. The whole congregation, men and women alike, saw the one standing without any unnatural movement, the other trembling in all her limbs; so that those who had not before seen the man himself saw in his sister what the divine compassion had removed from him. In him they saw matter of congratulation, in her subject for prayer. Meanwhile, their pamphlet being finished, I instructed them to withdraw from the gaze of the people; and I had begun to discuss the whole matter somewhat more carefully, when lo! as I was proceeding, other voices are heard from the tomb of the martyr, shouting new congratulations. My audience turned round, and began to run to the tomb. The young woman, when she had come down from the steps where she had been standing, went to pray at the holy relics, and no sooner had she touched the bars than she, in the same way as her brother, collapsed, as if falling asleep, and rose up cured. While, then, we were asking what had happened, and what occasioned this noise of joy, they came into the basilica where we were, leading her from the martyr's tomb in perfect health. Then, indeed, such a shout of wonder rose from men and women together, that the exclamations and the tears seemed like never to come to an end. She was led to the place where she had a little before stood trembling. They now rejoiced that she was like her brother, as before they had mourned that she remained unlike him; and as they had not yet uttered their prayers in her behalf, they perceived that their intention of doing so had been speedily heard. They shouted God's praises without words, but with such a noise that our ears could scarcely bear it. What was there in the hearts of these exultant people but the faith of Christ, for which Stephen had shed his blood? - Augustine: City of God: Book 22:8-10. On Miracles

Jesus Christ - the same yesterday, today, and forever!

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chapter 7 versus chapter 11 bankruptcy

In chapter 7 bankruptcy, one shuts down shop and goes out of business. In chapter 11, one depends on the care of the courts for protection against debtors but recovery eventually comes and the courts are no longer needed.

Christians approach God as if they are going into chapter 11. We rely on Him for care but that is short lived. The moment we feel capable again, we start living as though we can sustain ourselves.

God is looking for chapter 7 people. People who understand that they can no longer cover their debt. They shut down business and give themselves completely over to God forever.

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911 memorial

9/11 memorial video ...

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Sunday, September 10, 2006

how to read verses

John Piper, "... verses of the Bible are not strung pearls but links in a chain. ... in each paragraph of Scripture, one should ask how each part related to the other parts in order to say one coherent thing."

I love the unity found in the Word of God. In the past I've noted that too often one of the strengths of the evangelical community is also a weakness. In an attempt to learn of God, we approach the Word as a text book believing that we can dissect it and still get all that God intended from it. While we need to study in that fashion, we need to more understand the "meta-narative" and grasp the unity found in the "big picture".

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the world in awe

Today at NSV the message was simple but important. The world doesn't need bigger churches, better communicators, etc.. The world will stand back in awe as relationships thrive in Jesus.

I continue to be amazed as I watch churches building programs and not community.

Today we took communion as we do every week there. The word communion itself is inter-related to the word community. We communed with God and with each other. Wonderful!

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leaving prints

"... your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body." 1 Co 6.19-20

When I was younger we had horses. I loved to ride for hours. As I road along the country roads around our home in Minnesota, I would often look back to see the fresh hoof-prints in the gravel alongside the road. I spent much time thinking that as I went through life, I wanted to leave prints - a trail of some kind.

Now that I have been redeemed, I want the same, but with a much higher purpose. I want to leave a mark for Christ on the lives that He brings into contact with mine. I pray that my life would not be wasted. That I would glorify him in all that I do.

The old hymn, in reference to Phil 1.21, goes, "Only one life , twill soon be past, Only what's done For Christ will last. To me to live is Christ." John Piper, in "Don't Waste Your Life", John Piper reminds us that we only get one pass at life, don't waste it. Live it with a vengeance. Our God and King took hold of us for a purpose. Let's glorify Him is all.

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being still

Muddy water becomes clear only if you let it be still for awhile ...

There's too much busyness. I need to take more time for solitude, rest, silence, etc.. These cool computers don't help. Marlin told me to go against the norm and set a goal to do less. I think he is wise beyond his years.

Dallas Willard recommends taking regular time to meditate on these "life in the Kingdom" passages.

What's your list?

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lds mac

As I've moved to Mac, I'm trying to make use of "native" Apple stuff. This is leading me to try using Safari rather than Firefox. While Safari is generally ok, I miss some of the Firefox extensions like the one that blocks ads on gmail. But today I didn't mind seeing the ads.maroni ipod

I learned that there is a Latter-Day Mac page ...

oh, oh ... what am I supporting with this MacBook?

Actually, the truth is that I made this post only to figure out how to insert photo's with Ecto.

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Friday, September 08, 2006

unceasing worship

Bob Kauflin quotes Harold Best's Unceasing Worship to help us understand the difference between music as an act of worship and music as an aid to worship.

We make and offer art because we worship; we should not make it to lead us into worship. We can carry [this concept] into the weekly corporate gathering. Since Christians come to such gatherings as continuous worshipers, it should now be obvious that it is erroneous to assume that the arts, and especially music, are to be depended on to lead us to worship or that they are aids to worship or tools for worship. ... Then the music, not the Holy Spirit, becomes the paraclete and advocate. God is reduced to god and music is raised to Music. Thrones are exchanged, lordship reverts to its fallen hierarchy, and conditioned reflex replaces faith.
Excellent! So many Christian communities get hung up on the music. The issues are endless. From the simple, "is loud too loud?" to "can unbelievers be on the band?" The arguments are endless. "What's the proper hymn to contemporary choruses ratio?"

Underlying it all is simply this, when we come together, do we simply join together the overflow of our worship throughout the week? If not, the questions/issues continue and as they do, well meaning leaders, in an effort to address the concerns, turn the music into the object of our love.

I think we may be better served by using that energy to point to Jesus rather than addressing why someone doesn't like the position (or even the presence) of the drum kit.

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Thursday, September 07, 2006

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

6 point calvinist?

I finally finished listening to Mark Driscoll's EXCELLENT series entitle Christ on the Cross. I highly recommend it. Go to Mars Hill Church, downloads, sermons, and then topical series. These are really great and worth listening to the full series.

BUT - Driscoll almost fooled me with number 8 in the series, Limited/Unlimited Atonement. In that I started to think both limited and unlimited atonement was correct. I started to think that perhaps I was a 6 point Calvinist.

Here's his view:
At first glance, Unlimited and Limited Atonement are in opposition. But that dilemma is resolved by noting two things. First, the two categories are not mutually exclusive; since Jesus died for the sins of everyone that means that He also died for the sins of the elect. Second, Jesus’ death for all people does not accomplish the same thing as His death for the elect. This point is complicated, but is in fact taught in Scripture (1 Tim. 4:10; 2 Peter 2:1).

Simply, by dying for everyone, Jesus purchased everyone as His possession and He then applies His forgiveness to the elect by grace and applies His wrath to the non-elect. Objectively, Jesus’ death was sufficient to save anyone, and, subjectively, only efficient to save those who repent of their sin and trust in Him.
Good stuff and one could get caught in it. Clearly 2 Pet 2.1 indicates that Christ purchased even false prophets, "But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction." And 1 Tim 4.10 causes us to see that He is the Savior of more than just those that believe, "For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe."

One of my heroes in the faith, John Piper has similar views.
We do not deny that all men are the intended beneficiaries of the cross in some sense. 1 Timothy 4:10 says that Christ is "the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe." What we deny is that all men are intended as the beneficiaries of the death of Christ in the same way. All of God's mercy toward unbelievers—from the rising sun (Matthew 5:45) to the worldwide preaching of the gospel (John 3:16)—is made possible because of the cross.

This is the implication of Romans 3:25 where the cross is presented as the basis of God's righteousness in passing over sins. Every breath that an unbeliever takes is an act of God's mercy withholding judgment (Romans 2:4). Every time the gospel is preached to unbelievers it is the mercy of God that gives this opportunity for salvation.

Whence does this mercy flow to sinners? How is God just to withhold judgment from sinners who deserve to be immediately cast into hell? The answer is that Christ's death so clearly demonstrates God's just abhorrence of sin that he is free to treat the world with mercy without compromising his righteousness. In this sense Christ is the savior of all men.

But he is especially the Savior of those who believe. He did not die for all men in the same sense. The intention of the death of Christ for the children of God was that it purchase far more than the rising sun and the opportunity to be saved. The death of Christ actually saves from ALL evil those for whom Christ died "especially."
But I think Piper has not confused, as does Driscoll, what atonement really means. Both say the right words. Christ's work on the cross benefits all mankind but for the elect, it benefits them in a special way. Driscoll calls both atonement. I don't think that is correct. Christ only atoned for the sins of the elect; atonement in the Reformed view is not applied in an unlimited fashion.

All that aside, this is really good stuff. I personally get so focused on trying to confront the Armenian "free will" issue that in hammering on that, I lose sight of the general benefit all the earth receives through Christ.

So while I cannot say as Driscoll that Christ provided both limited and unlimited atonement, I am thankful that he helped remind me of the more complete view of Christ's work on the cross.

willard on transformation

Dallas Willard on clear objectives:
Special experiences, faithfulness to the church, correct doctrine, and external conformity to the teachings of Jesus all come along as appropriate, more or less automatically, when the inner self is transformed. But they do not produce such a transformation.

The human heart must be plowed much more deeply. Thus these four emphases are good in their place, and even necessary when rightly understood. But when taken as primary objectives, they only burden souls and make significant Christlikeness extremely difficult, if not impossible. With respect to these four emphases, we need to say loudly and repeatedly, to everyone concerned, "You cannot build your house on the rock in this way.
The first objective in discipleship then is "to bring apprentices to the point where they dearly love and constantly delight in that heavenly Father made real to earth in Jesus and are quite certain that there is no catch, no limit, to the goodness of His intentions or to His power to carry them out."

1 Jn 1.5, "This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all."
When the mind is filled with this great and beautiful God, the "natural" response, once all "inward" hindrances are removed, will be to do "everything I have told you to do."
How do we accomplish this?
St. Thomas Aquinas .., "love is born of an earnest consideration of the object loved." And "love follows knowledge. Love is an emotional response aroused in the will by visions of the good. Contrary to what is often said, love is never blind, though it may not see rightly. It cannot exist without some vision of the beloved.

As teachers we therefore bring the lovely thing - in this case, God - before the dicsiple as fully and as forcibly as possible, putting our best efforts into it.
We need to help others taste and see that the Lord is good - help them draw close and to linger in His presence.

The second objective is to remove our automatic responses against the Kingdom of God. That is to "repent for the Kingdom of God is at hand." We need to free apprentices from domination, of enslavement, to their old habitual patterns of thought, feeling, and action.

We need to provide training that leads to doing. That doing is the work of the Kingdom as opposed to the work of our former way of life. This is difficult for the church today since too many have erred to either limiting their concept of the Kingdom to "life after death" or jumping into "victory" in all things at all times (i.e., Word of Faith kind of stuff). Neither of these is life in the Kingdom as Jesus modeled and taught us.

willard on discipleship

More wisdom from Dallas Willard on discipleship.
... we are ... disciples in discipleship making. We learn from Jesus how to make disciples as He did. ... this involves proclaiming, manifesting, and teaching the Kingdom of God. ... It is only a matter of appropriately informing people about Jesus and His Kingdom and helping them, through prayer and guidance, to make a decision.
The issue is that the church in general seems to have a weak hold on what it means to live in the Kingdom of God. Because of that we do not make disciples of Jesus and His Kingdom, we fall into the consumer/client model of teaching, training, etc.. In the end, we are often fail in this and then when we are successful, we train people to the wrong target.

We need to create genuine disciples within the community. Only then does the church becomes the visible people of God.

Our goal is "to enable people to become disciples we must change whatever it is in their actual belief system that bars confidence in Jesus as Master of the Universe." Dallas Willard

As Jesus said, "repent for the Kingdom of God is at hand". He's saying turn complete from you old way of thinking and take on all that He embodied relative to the Kingdom.

For us that looks like:
  1. living in a community of love and unity
  2. living a life as servants - preferring others
  3. demonstrating signs and wonders as the Father directs
I'm convinced that we need proclamation of the Gospel as well as demonstration in all three of the above points. This will provide the information for the rationale decision to come to Christ as well as the emotional (or whatever word best fits here) motivation, i.e., the significant emotional event to prompt us to that decision.

Without that "one-two punch", leaders are constantly working against the actual beliefs of the people we are trying to lead.

Friday, September 01, 2006

rap is crap .... ?

... and for those of you that don't realize that a lot of rap is crap, read this.

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aussie brothels and gas

I taught a class in Bangkok this week. There were some folks from Australia in it and I thought it was extremely timely that I came across this article. It made for a great icebreaker. It seems that some of the "working gals" in Australia are offering rebates for gas (petrol, fuel) at the pump.

This supports my prejudice that it is truckers that frequent brothels.

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iTunes movies

Oh man ... there's no way I'll be able to be a good financial steward now ... iTunes is moving to sell full length movies.

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church downsizing

Mega-church downsizes, cuts non-essential members

WINSTON-SALEM — Julie and Bob Clark were stunned to receive a letter from their church in July asking them to "participate in the life of the church" — or worship elsewhere.

In a trend that may signal rough times for wallflower Christians, bellwether mega-church Faith Community of Winston-Salem has asked "non-participating members" to stop attending.

"When your bottom line is saving souls, you get impatient with people who interfere with that goal," he says. [read more]

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dever on relevance

Mark Dever just made an excellent post on T4G entitled Relevance. The entire article is worth a read but here are a few phrases that really jumped out at me.
None of us ever have a complete understanding of the Gospel, but we must have a clear idea of what the basics of our message are, and we must be clear in our expression of them. If there is a likely misunderstanding, we should address it.
I completely agree. Too many parade about as if to have an exhaustive understanding of the Gospel. I've read many criticisms by those people toward those that are willing to admit we do not and cannot fully comprehend the fullness of this Good News. On the other hand, I'm embarrassed, angered, etc. by those calling themselves Christian but cannot/will not explain the Gospel is clear and simple terms.
Clarity with the claims of Christ certainly will include the translation of the Gospel into words that our hearer understands, but it doesn’t necessarily mean translating it into words that our hearer will like. Too often advocates of relevant evangelism verge over into being advocates of irrelevant non-evangelism. A gospel which in no way offends the sinner has not been understood.
Wow!! The anti-relevance crowd amazes me with their arrogance yet much worse, a gospel which is neither a stumbling block or foolishness to anyone is no Gospel at all.
Peter at Pentecost in Acts 2. He wanted to be relevant. But that relevance gave his words more bite, not less.
Amen. If people do not understand our message because of our presentation, then no decision is required or, they are duped into thinking they are on the "right side" of the problem facing them. But when the reality of sin is clearly presented in a way that hits home, that is going to sting. Followed by the opportunity of redemption, the hearer will make a decision.

As a side note, I'd carry this concept beyond that of "evangelism". I often teach small group leaders that the small group should be safe yet not comfortable. I think that is true of the entire Christian community. We need to know that we are among people that care for us and will bring healing to our wounds. People that will edify and protect. At the same time, we need to constantly consider how to spur each other on in the faith - confronting sins, presenting "God sized" challenges, and the like.

In my search for a new church family and over the years, I have sadly found far too many fellowships where there is much more comfort than I'm comfortable with.

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