Wednesday, February 28, 2007
MacArthur writes a short but beautiful summary affirming the doctrine of election.
When the Bible speaks of God’s foreknowledge, it refers to God’s establishment of a love relationship with that person.
Sunday, February 25, 2007
In the sermon he mentioned the message of John the Baptist as a precursor for the message that Jesus was to bring. This links back to my earlier post. John's baptism was one of repentance for the forgiveness of sins (Mk 1.4). That is, turn from our wickedness for forgiveness. Jesus, as with so much else formerly taught, took this to a new level. He said repent for the Kingdom of God is here. Will this includes turning from our sin, it is much, much more than that. It is about turning our whole world around. We completely reverse our thinking in regard to authority and life here on earth. Our nature that was radically effected by the fall is now radically reversed and healed by Him.
Massey also did well to not shy away from the results of living in the Kingdom. Too many these days are trying to conform the Kingdom into their agenda for social service. Massey highlighted that the Kingdom of God comes with both peace and with a sword. When the Kingdom shows up, it demands a response. People will either violently reject it or they will question it seeking more. When we live lives in contrast to the world's system, we will have an effect.
If we want to live, we must die. This is a costly proposition. It is not a close our eyes, bow our heads, and quietly slip up a hand stuff. We are signing up to live radical lives in service to a new King (Lk 14.25-33).
Unfortunately the Kingdom Experiment folks didn't get it and said, "the Kingdom is not knowing, the Kingdom is just doing." Opps ... they missed it.
Technorati Tags: Kingdom of God
The first Exodus was when Israel went through the Red Sea. The final Exodus is symbolically seen when Jesus went through the Jordan in baptism. Rather than deliverance from Pharaoh, Jesus offers deliverance from Satan. Then, at that moment, the Holy Spirit came upon Jesus. The presence of the Holy Spirit was always known to Him but now we begin to see the power of the Holy Spirit through Him.
In the same way, we die to our old lives and are resurrected. This can only happen by the Holy Spirit. But additionally, the Holy Spirit now comes in a new way to empower us for the work of the Kingdom. The battle is not with flesh and blood - it is spiritual. We need the power that comes from on high. It all begins and ends with the Spirit of God.
A.W. Tozer said that we should not think of the Holy Spirit and power, but of the Holy Spirit as power.
... salvation at its core is our transfer from the kingdom of Satan into the Kingdom of God. ... In following [Jesus], we become like Him. We extend His ministry, planting cells (churches) of Kingdom people who live out His Kingdom life. In responding to His call, we also embrace His agenda.This agenda is the beautiful and awesome invitation to become fishers of men. Drawing closer to Jesus includes drawing closer to people.
Saturday, February 24, 2007
I was thinking about this in context of the Kingdom of God which is the Gospel (Mt 4.23; 9.32; 24.14; Mk 1.15). Clearly the Kingdom has affect all around us yet so many are oblivious to it's effect and Who is behind it. John records Jesus' words to Nicodemus, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born from above he cannot see the kingdom of God." and again, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God."
We cannot even recognize the Kingdom of God until after He makes us born again, i.e., turns our heart from stone to one that is now alive in Him. The Holy Spirit gives us new life in regeneration just as He did in creation (Ps 104.30). It is the Spirit of God that gives life (Jn 6:63; 2 Co. 3:6; Ac 10:44–47; Titus 3:5).
Praise God that He has taken the initiative to redeem us from the kingdom of darkness into His Kingdom of wonderful Light. Now we must go and spread the Good News of that Kingdom through proclamation and demonstration.
In doing this, we are typically unsure of how someone may be touched or what specifically God is doing. We only know that if this is what He is doing, then we have no option than participate and to do so joyfully - even when we are not aware of the fruit.
I was blessed today however to speak with an older lady who told me that months ago, a family from our church brought her a turkey and other food stuff for Thanksgiving. She told them that she had a desire to get into nursing but at her age and financial situation, she was not so sure. They prayed with her and soon after she applied and was accepted into nursing school. She asked me and my service partner to pray with her now because she is convinced that God hears us when we pray. She has a licensing test in a week and want His peace, help, etc..
As we prayed it was clear that God was at work in her and she obviously open to spiritual things. We discussed her health as well as how to care for her ill neighbor. Serving in the Name of the Lord is a contagious thing and impacts so many aspects of life. I just thank God that He has invited us to participate in giving Him glory in this way.
Just the forward by John Piper is enough to stir the soul.
I write this foreword to defend my Father’s wrath against me before I was adopted. He does not need my defence. But I believe he would be honoured by it. On behalf of my Father, then, I would like to bear witness to the truth that, before he adopted me, his terrible wrath rested upon me. Jesus said, ‘Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey . . . the wrath of God remains on him’ (John 3:36; italics added). Wrath remains on us as long as there is no faith in Jesus.I agree with Piper as he confronts the "wisdom" of our day by saying, "Those who try to rescue the love of God by minimizing the wrath of God, undermine not only the love of God, but also his demand that we love our enemies." Many have tried so hard to swing the pendulum to the "love of God" that they have flown past the true nature of God and have created some kind of God that is sweet and kind to everyone and in turn wants us to do the same. They have lost sight of His sovereignty, His wrath, etc..
Paul puts it like this: We ‘were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind’ (Eph. 2:3). My very nature made me worthy of wrath. My destiny was to endure ‘flaming fire’ and ‘vengeance on those . . . who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus . . . [and who] suffer the punishment of eternal destruction’ (2 Thess. 1:8-9 ESV). I was not a son of God. God was not my Father. He was my judge and executioner. I was ‘dead in . . . trespasses and sins’, one of the ‘sons of disobedience’ (Eph. 2:1-2 ESV). And the sentence of my Judge was clear and terrifying: ‘because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience’ (Eph. 5:5 ESV).
There was only one hope for me – that the infinite wisdom of God might make a way for the love of God to satisfy the wrath of God so that I might become a son of God.
This is exactly what happened, and I will sing of it forever. After saying that I was by nature a child of wrath, Paul says, ‘But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ’ (Eph. 2:4-5 ESV). What a grievous blindness when a teacher in the church writes that the term ‘children of wrath’ cannot mean ‘actual objects of God’s wrath . . . [because] in the same breath they are described as at the same time objects of God’s love’. On the contrary. This is the very triumph of the love of God. This is the love of God – the ‘great love with which he loved us’. It rescued me from his wrath and adopted me into sonship.
‘But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son . . . to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons’ (Gal. 4:4 ESV). God sent his Son to rescue me from his wrath and make me his child.
How did he do it? He did it in the way one writer slanderously calls ‘cosmic child abuse’. God’s Son bore God’s curse in my place. ‘Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us – for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”’ (Gal. 3:13 ESV; italics added). If people in the twenty-first century find this greatest act of love ‘morally dubious and a huge barrier to faith’, it was not different in Paul’s day. ‘We preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles’ (I Cor. 1:23 ESV).
But for those who are called by God and believe in Jesus, this is ‘the power of God and the wisdom of God’ (I Cor. 1:24 ESV). This is my life. This is the only way God could become my Father. Now that his wrath no longer rests on me (John 3:36), he has sent the Spirit of sonship flooding into my heart crying Abba, Father (Rom. 8:15). I thank you, heavenly Father, with all my heart, that you saved me from your wrath. I rejoice to measure your love for me by the magnitude of the wrath I deserved and the wonder of your mercy by putting Christ in my place.
In our small group we are participating in the "Kingdom Experiment" and it wreaks of this kind of false understanding. The first session seemed to be equating the Kingdom of God to random acts of kindness. While mercy is a true element of the Kingdom, it is not equal to it. So many our day have redesigned God and His Kingdom into their own image. I'm excited about this book.
Ahhhh, nope, not me, mines on 24x7 - the global experiment will have to go on without me. Perhaps someone participating will send me an email ... no wait, they couldn't do that, oh well ...
Friday, February 23, 2007
In addition to trying to manage behavior/emotion, some look at the activating event (A), i.e., what they perceive to be the cause of their behavior/emotion. But who among us can really completely control our environment? Yet we are deceived, we do all kinds of things like ask our small group to pray for that boss that isn't treating us fairly, etc.. In the end, this doesn't work either.
Instead, we should use what is called Rationale Self Analysis. It runs something like this.
- record the Activating Event. What was your perception of the event? Be specified regarding what you saw or heard but avoid feelings.
- record the Consequential Feeling. Use feeling words not idea words and typically there is more than one feeling. Try to be accurate in terms of the degree of the feeling, e.g., bothered versus frustrated versus angry versus furious.
- record the Decisive Behavior. What did you do or say as a response to these feelings. Is all of this consistent? Did you record a strong behavior that cannot be explained by a correspondingly strong feeling? If so, go back to rethink this and be honest. If the behavior was weak but the feeling strong, take a closer look at what you really did? You probably aren't aware of all of your responses. And then ask if all of that came from what you thought was the activating event or was there some pre-existing situation that is what really cause the degree of what you felt/did?
- record the Belief System. What do you believe about A that explains C and subsequently D. Be sure to spend time on this. Don't fall into the trap of thinking it is A. What do you really, really believe about A that brought on the rest? You may need to go back and rework the whole thing.
- Reality Check - instead of your perception of the Activating Event, what are the facts? How would a video or audio recorder replay it back?
- Feeling Goals - if this or something like it happens in the future, how would you like to feel (should be consistent with Scripture)?
- Behavior Goals - if this or something like it happens in the future, how would you like to act (should be Christ-like)?
- Challenge Belief System - is the thought fact, i.e., objective reality, Biblical principle, etc.? Is the thought protecting/nurturing my life either physically, emotionally, or spiritually? Is this thought helping me meet my goals? Is this thought keeping me out of inappropriate conflict with others? Is this thought keeping me out of inappropriate conflict with myself?
With the old belief now clearly identified, it is time to identify a new belief - one that is Biblical and rooted in truth. It is then that we can pray and ask that the Holy Spirit make that truth alive in our hearts and minds. Getting our eyes off blaming the event to properly identify the false truth is the first step. Finding the real truth is the second. Making that truth reality day by day and moment by moment is the goal. This is done by renewing ourselves in the Word and through the power of the Holy Spirit.
When we can live out our lives regardless of circumstance but based on God's Truth, we will then see the fruit of the Spirit in all that we say or do.
Technorati Tags: Christian living
In 1986, Mkele Mbembe was on holiday in Kenya after graduating from Northwestern University. On a hike through the bush, he came across a young bull elephant standing with one leg raised in the air.Now you have to read his post to get the analysis ... it's worth the trip.
The elephant seemed distressed; so Mbembe approached it very carefully. He got down on one knee and inspected the elephant's foot, and found a large piece of wood deeply embedded in it. As carefully and as gently as he could, Mbembe worked the wood out with his hunting knife, after which the elephant gingerly put down its foot.
The elephant turned to face the man, and with a rather curious look on its face,stared at him for several tense moments. Mbembe stood frozen, thinking of nothing else but being trampled.
Eventually the elephant trumpeted loudly, turned, and walked away. Mbembe never forgot that elephant or the events of that day.
Twenty years later, Mbemb was walking through the Chicago Zoo with his teenaged son. As they approached the elephant enclosure, one of the creatures turned and walked over to near where Mbembe and his son Tapuwere standing. The large bull elephant stared at Mbembe, lifted its front foot off the ground, then put it down. The elephant did that several times then trumpeted loudly, all the while staring at the man. Remembering the encounter in 1986, Mbembe couldn't help wondering if this was the same elephant. Mbembe summoned up his courage, climbed over the railing and made his way into the enclosure. He walked right up to the elephant and stared back in wonder. The elephant trumpeted again, wrapped its trunk around one of Mbembe's legs and slammed him against the railing, killing him instantly.
Probably wasn't the same elephant.
Technorati Tags: grace
Queen Esther, was a female leader of the highest order. Esther was challenged by her cousin and surrogate father, Mordecai, to stand and be counted for her people, the Jews. “If you remain silent at this time, relief for the Jews will come from another place. Who knows, but you have come to royal position for such a time as this.” Esther, Ch 4. Esther broke protocol, but God saved his people through the courage – ‘if I perish, I perish” – of one woman.The Kingdom of God is active. If you are in the Kingdom, then you must be able to see the Kingdom. We are to actively seek the Kingdom and this is done in all humility. Yet when it is done by the subjects of the King, He will be found and in that, the lives of those around us by definition will be affected. This is significant.
The second life is that of the British philanthropist and parliamentarian who almost singlehandedly abolished slavery in England, William Wilberforce. Wilberforce, by any calculation, lived a life of significance. What is significant in man’s eyes, i.e. success, often is not significant in God’s eyes. But what is significant in God’s eyes is always, over time, beneficial and significant to men.
Could not significance of life simply be the byproduct of Christlikeness? One does not aim for significance as a goal. One is simply faithful, honest, just, and merciful. Micah 6:8 says it well... “act justly, have mercy, and walk humbly with your God.” Significance will occur; though it may or may not be recognized in the moment.
He counts over 65 times that God acts so that “the nations may know that I am the Lord God“, or some other similar phrase.
It is clear that the desire behind God’s work in and through His people is that His name be glorified - that the nations may know He is a holy God.Unfortunately ... God had to deal with His people “[It is] not for your sake, O Israel, that I am about to act, but for My holy name, which you have profaned among the nations where you went” (22). Regrettably, Israel were ‘among the nations’ because of the judgement of God, as a result of “the blood which they had shed on the land, because they had defiled [themselves] with idols” (18). Not only had they been idolatrous but they had profaned the name of God in foreign lands.It is for God's glory that His Kingdom has come. If you have reduced the Gospel to life after death, you've missed the Gospel. The Gospel is the good news of the Kingdom. It is life after life after death. Jesus died and rose again. He provided for us to join in that (symbolized through baptism). Now is the time for the Kingdom, for us to live the life He intended after we join with Him in death and resurrection - not our physical death and resurrection.
What does it mean for God’s name to be “profaned”? For the Israelite a distinction was made between the holy and the profane. It was not necessarily sinful or immoral for something to be profane. Rather, to be profane is to be ordinary and common, in sharp contrast to that which is holy. But, it was utterly sinful to treat as ordinary that which had been set-apart as holy (see Lev. 10:9-11; Eze. 22:26). In this case, the Israelites had made common and ordinary the holy name of God.
But, how did Israel manage to profane His holy name while in exile? They did so by not living in the promises and blessings of God in the sight of the nations! The nation of Israel was a chosen people and, in chapter 62, Isaiah prophecies that the nation “will call them, ‘The holy people, The redeemed of the LORD’; And you will be called, ‘Sought out, a city not forsaken’”. However, in Ezekiel 36:20, the nations said something quite different. They mocked the people of God, declaring “These are the people of the LORD; yet they have come out of His land.”
The possession of the land represents a fulfilled promise of God - the land which was given to His people; the place where He chose to dwell amongst them; where the people of God were to prosper and increase. Yet, they had now been taken captive and brought to a foreign land. Rather than being a light to the nations, they had been defeated. In ancient times, when a nation was defeated, their god was also considered defeated and “carried off” as plunder. God’s holy name had become ordinary because the surrounding nations saw no evidence that God’s promises were true among His people.
So, God must act - but not for His peoples sake, but for His glory. He says: “I will vindicate the holiness of my great name” (23a) thereby proving to the doubting nations that he is indeed the Lord God Almighty. And He achieves this restoration by showing His holiness in an unexpected way: “I [will] vindicate my holiness through you before their eyes” (23b). For this to be achieved a radical transformation and renewal is required among His people. The well-known passage in verses 24-32 describes this work of God in us, and is more fully revealed in the teaching and work of Jesus Christ in the New Testament.
Do the nations around me question whether my God is who I say he is? Do our lives also make common God’s holy name? We profane His holy name by professing to be a recipient of God’s promises, yet not living the extra-ordinary life which their fulfilment will inevitably produce. We make God’s name common by being satisfied with very much less than what Scripture promises to His people. If we are able to live as dynamic witnesses to the reality of God’s promises then let us do so, so that the nations will have no reason to say ‘these are the people of the LORD; yet they have come out of His land.’
Are you living in exile from the promises of God? The fruit of God’s work in our lives is not merely for our own sake, but for the sake of God’s holy name; that the nations will know that our Lord is God - when He shows himself holy through us!
And if we do not live in the promise of the Kingdom, we have done harm to the Gospel and the witness of God.
Thursday, February 22, 2007
The latest offense is questioned by Todd at MMI.
Technorati Tags: current events
There can be no true worship of God without a theology of God. Without “actual thoughts” of Him, our worship has no objective focus. Without an objective focus we can so easily exaggerate the value of subjective feelings. We worship God because the revealed, objective truth about God shows Him to be worthy of praise. Therefore, truth about God is the essential fuel for worship. And, as our knowlege of God becomes more accurate and faithful to His true nature, the fire of worship grows ever more intense.He is right!
Technorati Tags: worship
- members at a local church for at least a decade
- called to missions by the Holy Spirit speaking to the church leadership
- the call is affirmed by those guys in church leadership
- return to that church after missionary journeys to report on the ministries
- Give the people what they want, regardless (vv. 2ff)
- Give yourself "cover" (v. 4)
- Par-tay (v. 5)
- When it goes bad, blame everyone and everything but yourself (vv. 22-24)
- Overall, give a selective narrative (v. 24)
Technorati Tags: leadership
Wednesday, February 21, 2007
... the heart of Biblical worship is surrender ... it begins at the moment of conversion ... the aim of corporate worship is not simply to sing good theology or witness to our common experience of Christ [although this is included]. The object of our worship is God Himself, nothing less.The following is a helpful general approach.
... worship no longer takes place in sacred places, but in sacred people. [It happens in Spirit and in Truth]. "In Spirit" means that God initiates our worship. ... "In Truth" means that worship must be centered on the truth, which is Jesus Himself.
When we enter the Kingdom of God, our destiny is to become like Jesus. God-centered - not self-centered ...
Give the King His due - when we come to the King we first bring Him high praise - the form of which is both physical and vocal. This is modeled in Ps 100; 134.2; 149.3-4; 126.2 (oh oh, holy laughter?). And it continues on into the New Testament - Phil 4.4; Eph 5.18-20; Heb 12.22-24,28-29; Rev 5.13. I love that bit in Hebrews - "Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, 29 for our God is a consuming fire."
John Wimber said, "when we worship corporately, the whole congregation is the choir, singing before an Audience of One (God Himself)." High praise will expand our vision of God. High praise will elevate our spirits. High praise alone is due to God for His majesty and His mighty name. ... When we offer Him high praise, He shows up.
Bow before the King - after acknowledging the greatness of the King, we must now submit. Ps 95.1-7; Ro 12.1, and Re 5.14 offer some models. This new life we live is in continual surrender to Jesus - that is to His Word, His Spirit, His voice, His present and His future for us.
Gifts for the King - we give ourselves, our resources, etc..
Petition the King - this of course begins with the request for forgiveness of sin (Ps 32.1-5) and then we can move on to other requests (Ps 5.1-3).
Wait on the King - contrary to some evangelical thought today, we expect God to answer (Ps 34.4, 4.1-2). Of course as King, His timing and His response may not match what we hope for. He is the King.
Rejoice in the King - we have a King, exalted in holiness, faithful in friendship, who is also our loving Father. How could we possibly move from a real interaction with this King without rejoicing?!?!
Tuesday, February 20, 2007
An Arminian on his knees would pray desperately like a Calvinist. He cannot pray about free-will: there is no room for it. Fancy him praying, 'Lord, I thank Thee I am not like those poor Calvinists. Lord, I was born with a glorious free-will; I was born with power by which I can turn to thee myself; I have improved my grace. If everybody has done the same with their grace that I have, they might all have been saved. Lord, I know thou dost not make us willing if we are not willing ourselves. Thou givest grace to everybody; some do not improve it, but I do. There are many that will go to hell as much bought with the blood of Christ as I was; they had as much of the Holy Spirit given to them; they had as good a chance, and were as much blessed as I am. It was not thy grace that made us to differ; I know it did a great deal, still I turned the point; I made use of what was given me, and others did not - that is the difference between me and them'. That is a prayer for the devil, for nobody else would offer such a prayer as that. Ah! When they are preaching and talking slowly, there may be wrong doctrine; but when they come to pray, the true thing slips out; they cannot help it. (Freewill-- A Slave)
Technorati Tags: Calvinism
Is that we don't believe? Perhaps we don't care? Or is the experience in our lives not deep or recent enough to be reality in our hearts?
I'd think Trump has more to gain if he loses - what's up with that guy's hair?
PS - yes, I think wrestling is real.
Monday, February 19, 2007
Sunday, February 18, 2007
Mk 1.14-15 ... The time has come! The Kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the Good News.
The Kingdom is not:
- the message of a forceful dictator
- about a place, human power, or palace
- about your domain
- a message of oppression
- about minimal requirements, fie insurance, or sin management
- a test to be posed in order to just "get in"
- a bunch of "somebodies" or "celebrities"
- a message of relief from this present world
- a prayer of get me out of here
- to be hoarded
- to be experienced
- full of life, love and power
- a place where the subjects are receivers and givers
- what is going on in heaven going on here on earth
Technorati Tags: Kingdom of God
Jesus is our Savior but He is also our Lord. This revelation of His Lordship, i.e., His being our King in this new Kingdom, didn't come from within ourselves, it is, to quote Williams, "His self-revaliation, authored by the Father and given by the Spirit." (Mt 16.16, 1 Co 12.3)
This of course means that we cannot have any other ruler in our lives. All other idols must be destroyed (1 Kings 18.21). Jesus requires our full attention. To worship Him is to give Him our all. Our new life begins in worship and will ultimately be consummated in worship.
And giving our allegiance to a new lord is not just it. We are also regenerated, that is, we are now no longer slaves to sins but rather slaves to righteousness. We are given the ability, desire, etc. to now serve our new King. That is, we are "born again". We are a new creation. Our spirits are now made alive and where we were once unplugged from God, we are now connected and empowered through His Spirit living within us.
As Gordan Fee rightly states, to become a Christian is to become a "Spirit person." It is based on this truth we then begin our process of sanctification. We bear fruit of the Spirit (Ga 5.22-23) and exercise the gifts of the Spirit (1 Co 12.7-11). Williams reminds us of the teaching of John Wimber on the latter.
... when we move into ministry, we are like plumbers without a wrench. But at the moment we move to serve to serve, God gifts us with the right tools to be effective. When we take the risk of faith, His Spirit gives us exactly what we need.Surrender is now our lifestyle and as we do this, less of us and more of Him is seen.
I really like the following analogy that I once saw at a conference. Imagine a person standing alone on stage. This person is "Christian". Then imagine another person is "Satan". Christian standing alone is very open to attack by Satan. Then imagine that in front of Christian appears another person representing some aspect of the fruit of the Spirit, let's say Love. Satan can still step around Love to get to Christian. Add another aspect of the fruit, Joy, yet still Christian is exposed.
However, ultimately, when Christian is surrounded by all aspects of the fruit, Satan has no access. More importantly, when Christian is fully surrounded by the fruit, it is no longer Christian that is seen, but rather Christ alone by the evidence of the fruit of the Spirit.
Technorati Tags: Kingdom of God
It always excites my heart when multiple communities join together to seek God.
Saturday, February 17, 2007
Williams starts by noting that regardless of the format of your "accepting" Christ, something truly miraculous happened. Something that was initiated by God and completed by God. You were delivered from the domain of darkness to the Kingdom of God (Col 1.13). This Kingdom is within reach and within our midst. We need to repent and believe this Good News (Mk 1.15; Lk 11.20).
When we submit to Him [Jesus], He enters in by His Spirit. Our conversion immediately depletes the population of Satan's kingdom by one as our little stories become a part of Jesus' big story, and we now participate in His purpose to re-establish God's reign throughout the universe. Two problems must be solved for us to become Christians. First, we must be delivered from Satan's kingdom. Second, we must be delivered from God's wrath. But for many people today, these two problems are almost incomprehensible.The first is excellent because it helps us understand the radical nature of our falleness. We are utterly helpless to help ourselves. We submit daily to the one who would destroy us. We are so captivated by this that we actually see this slavery as freedom and we choose to do nothing about it - driving ourselves deeper and deeper into it. But when God's Kingdom breaks in, our whole world is turned upside down. Repenting isn't simply turning from sin to get to heaven, it is the freeing of every aspect of our being from an evil ruler to being servants of a new King, a King who brings life, a new kind of life, both here and forever.
The second is equally important and these days often ignored. We are rebel sinners deserving and destined for eternal wrath. There is absolute truth and there is justice based on that truth. As law breakers, we are standing against the Almighty Creator of all heaven and earth - and we definitely come out on the losing end of that deal. We should not be so deceived into thinking that this is not true nor into thinking that perhaps God doesn't mind that His creation stands in rebellion to Him. That somehow He will simply overlook what we've done as simple "mistakes" or acts of unimportance. Or, as seems popular today, that God is so loving that He somehow sweeps this aside because His great love allows Him to overlook our rebellion. No, the real Good News is that Christ died and took our sin and that those who He calls to enter His Kingdom receive His righteousness - no longer rebel sinners but righteous friends. We now serve a new King who has suffered, died, and rose again in our stead so that we can be fully transformed into a new people, a new nation, under His great Lordship.
And all of this is in reach today. Justice has been satisfied. God's mercy is extended to His children now.
[God] didn't quit being a God of wrath and suddenly become a God of love; He has loved us continually from all eternity. But the ground on which He could accept us was dramatically changed. The penalty for sin was paid, and all who have faith in Jesus are freely and fully justified. At the cross, God lifted His wrath from us and placed it upon Himself through His Son. The death we deserve to die He died for us in our place.We can now enter His Kingdom.
Martin Luther said that to become a Christian is like being married. When we are wedded to Christ by faith, we give Him all we have and He gives us all He has. We give Him all our sins, and He gives us all His righteousness. We are no righteous before God through the righteousness of His Son.
Today, we see many distortions or even absence of these truths. Under the guise of loving all, we see many openly accepting those that are yet in the Kingdom of darkness. I'm not talking accepting in the sense of acknowledging that they also are in the image of God and treating them with that sense of dignity and love - thereby honoring the truth that we both have the same creator. No, the trend today is to accept those as having some spiritual truth or partial light within them - that we can somehow be evangelized by them. No, this is not the truth of the Gospel. We need to fully understand how dark our darkness was and how light our new Kingdom really is. The problem today is as Williams infers when he quotes Allan Bloom, "To look into an open mind is to look into an empty mind; nothing is there."
Light can only break into darkness. Darkness cannot break into light. And when the light comes into the darkness, there is no more darkness, only light.
Technorati Tags: Kingdom of God
Friday, February 16, 2007
Technorati Tags: Christian living
Prayerless: I understand that you believe in the providence of God. Is that right?
Prayerless: Does that mean you believe, like the Heidelberg Catechism says, that nothing comes about by chance but only by God's design and plan?
Prayerful: Yes, I believe that's what the Bible teaches.
Prayerless: Then why do you pray?
Prayerful: I don't see the problem. Why shouldn't we pray?
Prayerless: Well, if God ordains and controls everything, then what he plans from of old will come to pass, right?
Prayerless: So it's going to come to pass whether you pray or not, right.
Prayerful: That depends on whether God ordained for it to come to pass in answer to prayer. If God predestined that something happen in answer to prayer, it won't happen without prayer.
Prayerless: Wait a minute, this is confusing. Are you saying that every answer to prayer is predestined or not?
Prayerful: Yes, it is. It's predestined as an answer to prayer.
Prayerless: So if the prayer doesn't happen, the answer doesn't happen?
Prayerful: That's right.
Prayerless: So the event is contingent on our praying for it to happen?
Prayerful: Yes. I take it that by contingent you mean prayer is a real reason that the event happens, and without the prayer the event would not happen.
Prayerless: Yes that's what I mean. But how can an event be contingent on my prayer and still be eternally fixed and predestined by God?
Prayerful: Because your prayer is as fixed as the predestined answer.
Prayerful: It's not complicated. God providentially ordains all events. God never ordains an event without a cause. The cause is also an event. Therefore, the cause is also foreordained. So you cannot say that the event will happen if the cause doesn't because God has ordained otherwise. The event will happen if the cause happens.
Prayerless: So what you are saying is that answers to prayer are always ordained as effects of prayer which is one of the causes, and that God predestined the answer only as an effect of the cause.
Prayerful: That's right. And since both the cause and the effect are ordained together you can't say that the effect will happen even if the cause doesn't because God doesn't ordain effects without causes.
Prayerless: Can you give some illustrations?
Prayerful: Sure. If God predestines that I die of a bullet wound, then I will not die if no bullet is fired. If God predestines that I be healed by surgery, then if there is no surgery, I will not be healed. If God predestines heat to fill my home by fire in the furnace, then if there is no fire, there will be no heat. Would you say, "Since God predestines that the sun be bright, it will be bright whether there is fire in the sun or not"?
Prayerful: I agree. Why not?
Prayerless: Because the brightness of the sun comes from the fire.
Prayerful: Right. That's the way I think about the answers to prayer. They are the brightness, and prayer is the fire. God has established the universe so that in larger measure it runs by prayer, the same way he has established brightness so that in larger measure it happens by fire. Doesn't that make sense?
Prayerless: I think it does.
Prayerful: Then let's stop thinking up problems and go with what the Scriptures say. Ask and you will receive. You have not because you ask not.
Praise God if He has been gracious to reveal Himself to you.
Technorati Tags: Calvinism
Technorati Tags: Emerging Church
He who glories in God is he who knows for sure that God looks on him with favour, and deigns to regard him kindly, so that what he does is pleasing in God’s sight, and what does not please God is borne with and pardoned. (Martin Luther in Bondage of the Will)
Technorati Tags: Christian living
Thursday, February 15, 2007
In previous posts, I noted that many of the concepts are solid and helpful although I didn't see how the Emergents found something new. It felt a bit to me like they think they are on some cutting edge revolution that the Church has been missing. I don't see it. The things I have gleaned from the book were good but not new.
Separately, I have been frustrated with the many internet rants against Emergents. I found the charges to lack kindness, most didn't seem to be based on fact, and most were about superficial, arguable points as opposed to core doctrine.
But now I'm sad to say that I have to join the ranks of those saying that the Emergent view is heresy. To be honest, I couldn't even finish the book.
The heresy (any teaching that directly contradicts the clear and direct witness of the Scriptures on a point of salvific importance) begins with this by Dwight Friesen.
I'm more convinced than ever that we don't have a clue about Christianity. I'm not an orthodox Christian anymore; I'm not a Protestant. The kinds of questions we are asking are very different from the questions asked at other times. Is Christianity necessary? Whose religion is it anyway? What does it mean for us to incarnate Christ, to live redemptively in a materialistic world?The last question is fair. What does it mean for us to incarnate Christ, to live redemptively? Excellent. The answer is found in Scripture and it's a fine thing to pursue. But unless Friesen has redefined Christian, the earlier statements are heretical. If he's not orthodox, nor does he know if Christianity is necessary, why does he ask the last question?
Simon Leeds continues the assault on our faith.
We are very Christocentric, which means that while we recognize God's presence in other religions and in people of no faith, we still see Jesus as the most perfect revelation of God and therefore the surest route to God.Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life! (Jn 14.6) He did not say a way, a truth, and a life. Salvation is found in no one else (Ac 4.12). The surest route to God? How about the only route to God?
Bolger and Gibbs add their approval to the heresy and quote Pete Rollins.
Traditional apologetics offer a reductionistic approach to God, ignoring Christians' spiritual and communal way of living in favor of a cognitive approach to truth. ... "In contrast to orthodoxy (right belief) and orthopraxis (right practice), we advocate believing rightly and practicing rightly. In other words, one should speak and act in a manner that respects others and transforms their existence. In this way, we have a moral agenda, but it is a minimal one that focuses more on the how of belief and practice than the what."What are they saying?!? Is the right way to believe more important than believing the right thing?
Bolger and Gibbs say that "Jesus did not push for a decision in order to promote a hidden agenda." That's correct, His agenda was not hidden. But the context of the statement was that He did not live a purposeful life with intentional relationships and encounters intended to demonstrate and proclaim the Gospel. This is false.
According to Brad Cecil, they are looking for "a place where you can feel the Kingdom of God, and we don't think we need to save everyone for this to happen." If he's speaking in Calvinistic terms meaning that we humans cannot make someone come to Christ, he is correct. But he is not saying this. In context, he is saying that they simply want to live the Kingdom without the intent of redeeming someone from the kingdom of darkness. I suspect this is not what he means but as I have found throughout the book, many absolutely false statements are made in an attempt to sound cutting edge.
Bolger and Gibbs then use Doug Paggitt to help redefine the Gospel.
What is the gospel? and How does one convert? Pagitt believes that the old view perpetuated the idea that changed ideas (conversion) lead to changed behavior. Pagit believes, however, that a changed life (conversion) leads to changed beliefs. "We are much more involved in inviting them to live differently than to believe differently."These are not mere words. This false understanding of the Gospel flows to real behavior. Pete Rollins states ...
We have been actively engaged with other faiths through the evangelism project. Evangelism has an important role but is seen as a two-way process designed to open others and ourselves to God. ... We de-emphasize the idea that Christians have God and all others don't by attempting to engage in open two-way conversations. This does not mean we have lapsed into relativism, as we still believe in the uniqueness of our own tradition, but we believe that it teaches us to be open to all.Bolger and Gibbs clarify this confusion with further heresy.
Their evangelism project is the reverse of most forms of evangelism. They visit people of other faiths and spiritualities and allow themselves to be evangelized in order to learn more about other walks of life.Sorry guys - what good thing can you possibly mean by saying our faith is unique but since other faiths have God we invite them to evangelize us? They attempt to fix things by later saying that we can learn from other cultures. I agree to that. But what they are saying and doing is teaching that we learn, nay, are evangelized, by other faiths.
Spencer Burke's community is described as follows.
[we] learn from faith traditions outside the Christian fold. There is a Buddhist family in their church. As a community, the church visited a Buddhist temple. They participated in a guided meditation with this family. Burke celebrates the many ways God is revealed. He recognizes that the Spirit has been with these people all along. The community celebrates other traditions, and they see them as beloved children of God.Ben Edson helps pile it on.
We had a guy from Mancehster Buddhist center come to Santus1 ... and talk about Buddhist approaches to prayer. We didn't talk about the differences between our faiths. We didn't try to convert him. He was welcomed and fully included ...Karen Ward sealed it with this,
I no longer believe in evangelism. To be postevangelical is to live our lives in Christ without strategy but with the compassion and the servant posture of Jesus Christ. We do not do evangelism or have a mission. The Holy Spirit is the evangelist, and the mission belongs to God. What we do is simply live our lives publicly as a community in the way of Jesus Christ, and when people inquire as to why we live this way, we share with them an account of the hope within us. We are to love one another, and that creates its own attraction. Taking care of the sick and the needy creates all the evangelism we need.I like how finitum non capax infiniti filed this under "Say What?!?" My thoughts exactly. While I want to say that I understand what Ward is driving at (i.e., words are not enough, we need to both live and speak the Gospel), I cannot believe a responsible Christian leader would say this. Perhaps the words slipped out but I'm sure Bolger and Gibbs consulted her before publishing. And, regardless of what she meant, it feels irresponsible for Bolger and Gibbs to put this out there like that.
To be fair, there are some stand outs in this crowd. Andrew Jones ...
We will always be giving an answer to those who ask. And we will always be seeking to live in such a way that makes people ask. And we will always be exporting our living environments to be closer to those people God puts on our hearts. But what's different? I would say that power and prayer are heightened, as is a sensitivity to God's timing and people's process. And experience precedes explanation rather than following it. Please don't let anyone say that it replaces it, because both explanation and experience will always be present."Bolger and Gibbs add
One must demonstrate the faith with both actions and words. ...we find that it is impossible to do any kind of mission without apologetics of some kind.Well no kidding! But it is too little too late. There is clear error and much contradiction.
I've had enough. If this is what the Emerging Church is about, in spite of the good stuff I thought I found, the Emergent Conversation is heresy.
Wednesday, February 14, 2007
Church is not about a building or strategies or programs. Church is relationships in, with, and under God as Father, Son, and Spirit. To be Church is to participate in the Trinity/divine life of God. Because God is the source of all relationality, to focus the church on relationships is to be Christian at the core.Bolger and Gibbs, Emergent Churches, add, "... to be a faithful Christian without community is a logical impossibility." This is absolutely true. We were redeemed from the Kingdom of darkness to join in the Kingdom of light - and this is done in community.
In regard to church organizations, Bolger and Gibbs continue, "meetings are scheduled to support the life of the community or to flow out of the life of the community, but they do not create community."
Absolutely, we are not about meetings but they took the statement too far by saying meetings do not create community. If the argument is that many elements go into making a community, then I can agree. If they are saying meetings are not a key ingredient, then I disagree. Meetings are a great way to create and build community. They clearly facilitate community. The key is that they are a means to an end, not the goal itself. We need to ensure we do not confuse meetings with community. If we do, we can drift in the purpose of the meeting and even convince ourselves that meetings are successful even when not in support of community.
Small groups clearly build relationships. Any small group leader that is confused into thinking that the meeting is the goal is not a good small group leader. But using the meeting as a focal point, a common place of celebration, etc. and especially a place to purposefully discuss the Word of God, is not only good, but I'd contend Biblical.
Even large group meetings facilitate community. Any sports fan can tell you the thrill of joining together with thousands of fellow fans for a home game. It is an experience that cannot be replicated elsewhere. Those fans flow with one voice. They carry that unity beyond the event. They spot each other all over town, high five each other, and yell the team whatever ... I think that is a sense of community. Certainly people feel a sense of community around their political party. As individuals they may or may not participate in meetings but their "leaders" must. And I believe those with higher commitment levels end up in those meetings as well.
So I'm not sure why the Emergent works so hard to deconstruct the value of meetings. Again, they seem bent on countering unhealthy practices found within the body of Christ but in doing so, they make statements that are too far in the other direction - even untrue and unhelpful.
Eventually they come full circle and come back in line with the Church. Todd Hunter, "We can't throw out meetings, but we must give them a new purpose and ask what they accomplish." To this Bolger and Gibbs add, "A meeting is only as good as the purpose behind it. A meeting should be a place where the Kingdom is expressed." Kevin Rains gets it when he says,
We've been down the road of deconstructing the idea that Church is just a meeting, but now we stop short of saying that church has nothing to do with gathering. We have found that it's too simplistic and ultimately unhelpful for people's spiritual formation to say that church has nothing to do with gathering.Exactly! This is further clarified by Dan Kimball speaking on meeting size, "[in the past] we communicated that small groups were the extra, and now, ... we are communicating that the big meeting is the extra. This is not easy, as most people have been taught to view things the opposite way." This is very true and reflects a proper understanding that community happens in many sized spaces and we need to shift the emphasis to relationships that are more personal in nature.
Unfortunately the Emergent quest for truth that we already know, leaves space for statements such as this by Joe Boyd, "My pagan friends are church for me as well." Ouch! I don't think that's the body referred to in Scripture.
The commitment to relationships occurring in the small group space allows Dwight Friesen to say, "We have a radical commitment to being small." I don't recall that instruction in the Bible. And I think it reflects an ignorance of how small groups and large groups can work in harmony. Hunters statement of getting clear regarding the purpose of the meeting is helpful here to allow us to jettison what isn't Biblical or helpful.
Bolger and Gibbs seem to accept the wrong notion by saying, "A community needs to remain a certain size in order to ensure the participation of all."
So I'm confused. I find contradiction in the Emergent ranks and I think even within statements from the same individuals. While I haven't found "heresy", I have found unhelpful ideas and thoughts that while arguable, don't seem to stem from Scripture.
Finally, it seems Emergents ultimately conclude what "we" already know. Yet I sense a pride in the journey of deconstructing and then get back to the same place. I don't have a value for that.
I think that I will hit the hookah or enjoy a fine Cohiba Siglo VI (arguably the finest cigar made) this weekend ... ah, the stuff of dreams.
Technorati Tags: personal
Tuesday, February 13, 2007
Of course, the aim of evangelicalism was to find a lowest common denominator faith that would take members from diverse denominations and independent congregations and stitch them together in a recognizable quilt.I agree thoroughly with the statement, "to preserve the minimum, you need to defend the maximum" but I'm not quite sure what is meant by this being a logic avoided by evangelicals.
...for mere Christianity to survive, wise and constant diligence needs to be directed to as complete a reflection on biblical truth as possible. In other words, to preserve the minimum, you need to defend the maximum. This is logic that those who call themselves evangelical have instinctively avoided.
My perception is the evangelicals strain to argue every jot and tittle. And, as noted in a previous post, the seem anxious to take corners and come out fighting (even against each other) as if they alone hold claim to all aspects of truth. While I'm sure some Emergents may not hold Scripture highly enough, my sense is that they are simply trying to swing the pendulum back. The Word is truth. Our ability to comprehensively understand and communicate that truth is limited. But in defense of Evangelicals, I will say that in the Emergent effort to swing the pendulum back, it's hard to differentiate between those with the proper view of Scripture and those that are simply challenging some of our paradigms.
Technorati Tags: epistemology
1. Institutional Religion
2. Social Service Agency
3. Privatised Spirituality
The idea is that number four is the better. In which do you find yourself?