Thursday, December 30, 2004

Sanctification Part 3: What Christians Actually Believe!

In our last post on Sanctification, I made a comment that I think are worth expositing a bit.

When we say we believe that Jesus is the Messiah, we are saying that we believe that the great eschatological event that brings freedom has already happened in the cross of Jesus. Therefore, we can place our faith in the finished work of Christ and expect a heavenly pattern of life in this life. This radical claim to victory is what we actually believe as Christians.

This begs the question. With respect to victory and a life of moral distinction,

What Do Christians Actually Believe?
Sometimes our faith becomes so familiar that we often lose sight of the actual claims of our faith. We look around and we see a life that is so different than the life in the book that we come to define the “abnormal” Christian life around us a “normal”.

The Toyota Way
I work in a manufacturing facility that models its operations after the Toyota Production System. The founder of the Toyota Production System, Taiichi Ohno, said “the worst thing that can happen to process is the inability to distinguish the normal from the abnormal. Because if we cannot spot abnormalities then we can not improve”. One of the tools we use in the Toyota Production System is called 5S. In 5S, we organize everything in an ideal fashion. We create a labeled place for everything and we design the work station to be as efficient as possible. Then, we use a tool called Standardized Work to design the work of the operator in an ideal fashion. We, as a team, create a highly standardize work space and highly organized work content and sequence with the expectation of a particular outcome.

Then….we watch the work. (observation)

As we watch, because the whole system is visually obvious and the outcome is pre-specified, it is very easy to find problems with the design of the work. As problems surface, the team with the operator ,redesigns the work. This process is on-going until we reach the ideal (which, by the way, we can never reach).

The Toyota Production System is based on this process of defining the expectation, designing the work and looking and observing abnormalities. The system is called Kaizen which is Japanese for Continuous Improvement.

The same is true for Christianity. Until we clearly define the expectations of the gospel and until we understand the content of what should be normal, we cannot spot the abnormal and so we can not improve. So what is our ideal or our normal for the Christian or "what is our faith?"

1. Christians Believe in Jesus Christ
To say that Jesus is the Christ and that our Messiah has come is a radical claim.

Jesus said,
I tell you the truth everyone who sins is a slave to sin...but if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed”.
Paul explains that this freedom has already happened for the one who puts his faith in Jesus as their Christ.
Romans 6:18, "You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness."
Romans 8:2, "Through Christ Jesus ,the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death."
In fact, one day the whole creation will enter into the freedom that the Children of God now possess.
Romans 8:21, "The creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God."

The Messiah came as a great deliverer and indeed He has done it. When we claim that Jesus is our Messiah and our Christ, we are not saying that we believe one day we will be free and you will die and go to heaven. Christians are claiming that Christ is the Messiah and He has set us free. This freedom is from the great enemy which is sin.

As Christians, we actually believe our Messiah has come.

2. Christians Believe in the Cross of Jesus Christ
Jesus said again,
I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. 8All who ever came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. 9I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved.He will come in and go out, and find pasture. 10The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

11“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

14“I am the good shepherd; …and I lay down my life for the sheep… 17The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life–only to take it up again. 18No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.”

This passage is really pretty easy to understand. Jesus is saying, “I am the good Shepard who is the gate…I lay down my life like a Shepard who lays down his life in front of the gate (as the gate) for the sheep.”

The gate is a clear reference to the cross. Listen to what Jesus says about the cross or the gate,

I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture…I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

The cross of Christ is the path to liberation and abundance. Mankind toils in sin and darkness, violence and fear. The cross is the end to all of this bondage and servitude to the sin and fear. The great eschatological event that brings our freedom is the cross.

Paul said, in 2 Corinthians 1:20, "For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God.”
All the promises of a new reality and a new identity and a new life that the prophets promised are “Yes and Amen” in the Christ.

Christians believe in the Cross of Christ as an absolutely revolutionary event. ‘Viva la revolution’

3. Christians Believe in Their Spiritual Union with Christ
So, we are free, and the place of victory is in the cross of Christ... but wait there's more. The message of Christianity is still more all encompassing, and, therefore, what is the intention of the Gospel cannot be underestimated. Paul gets ecstatic when he thinks about the reality he has experienced and the reality he longs for the believers to enter.
Oh that you would know the surpassing greatness of His power toward us ….now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly beyond anything we can ask or think, to Him be the glory in the church”.
EXACTLY

You see, Paul’s confession, and the foundation of all our faith, is Jesus’ teachings that,
We will come and make our abode with you”.

Paul’s confession was similarly that, “It is no longer I who live but Christ lives in me and the life I live I live by faith in the Son of God”. In 1 Cor. 6:19, Paul says, "The one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with the Lord".

Ah, the key …
Christians believe that, through faith, the believer is one Spirit with Christ. The same person that rose from the dead lives in us by the Spirit. At any instant in my life, the specification is for me to, through faith, live the very life of Christ. Christ manifesting Himself through me through faith.

We have already spoken that this union life is most clearly manifest through love. Love is the most excellent way.

Returning to our question, what do we as Christians actually believe about sanctification?

We believe that Christ has set us free and can live through us through faith. Therefore, at any instant, we can manifest Christ.

The Experience of Holiness in Prayer
Almost all Christians, become convicted of their responsibility in prayer. In contemplation, if we let ourselves accept it, we know that Christ has set us free, and we are, therefore, more responsible than ever. Christians have quite frequent experiences of "Christ with us" and near us. We realize that He is with us all along and therefore, “No temptation has ever overtaken us but He has also provided a means of escape” through faith in Him and our Spiritual union. Our holiness is indirect. Our life is mediated by Christ. If we learn to know this truth, we know we can live in freedom. From this place of claity, we are wonderously both convinced and convicted. We become still in this moment of clarity.

Such clarity is the life of the prophet and the life of every Christian. We see. What we are seeing in this instance of clarity is what Christians actually believe.

Now, as we look at our life, have we learned how to see what is the intended normal life of faith? By normal, I do not mean what is common or even frequent but simply what the kingdom is and that all else is sub-standard. This learning to see makes us understand what it means to be militant, to accept nothing short of tasting regularly the kingdom.


Where the Perfectionists and the Prophets Made Their Errors
This very real potential for the spirit filled life, in any instant, is why the perfectionists or the prophets have such high expectations for the Christian life. The reality is that the life of Christ, Christ in us, can be the reality in any instant. Theoretically speaking, walking like Christ is possible, but only for a given instant. Life is millions of instances, and going on such a streak of living in the Spirit and in love is simply not actually "doable" in this life.

Nonetheless, to live in the life of Christ, in any instant, we forget what lies behind and press into the upward of Christ. We have to have faith for “the life” in the moment and, in fact, in any moment. We continually stand at the precipice of the future, and we choose to believe in our Spiritual union which came to us through the eschatological event of the cross. From here we face the present, and we choose, by grace and His present power, the reality of what we actually believe.

By this faith, we live.

God Bless,
brad

Kindness - Tsunami Relief

Donate here:

CRWRC - Christian Reformed World Relief Committee

World Vision

Samaritan's Purse

American Red Cross via Amazon

For the Christian, this is what is hapening in the world today. Give and give big!!
God Bless,
brad



Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Sermons Update

I am posting a three part sermon series from the beginning of our sermon series on ACTS. This is on the community passage in Acts 2:42ff.

The theme of these sermons is that the book of Acts describes for us the prototype of the church. The first century church is the first iteration of the New Covenant specification. God, from eternity, has had a plan to display His glory through the church (Eph 3:10) and the first century church is the first iteration of this standard which flows from the mind of God. The purpsoe of these sermons is to help us understand the ckey haracteristics of the Morally Beuatiful Community that we are looking to manifest on earth, (i.e. the Kingdom of God).

Decoding the DNA of the Church - Part 1 - Fellowship

Decoding the DNA of the Chuch - Part 2 - Opening up our Homes

Decoding the DNA of the Church - Part 3 - Joyful Community


brad

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Sanctification – Introduction Part 2

Just so I don’t come to the end of this post and not say what I intended, I am going to cut straight to the chase and list my points on how to walk in victory and be transformed..

The way to Sanctification in summary:

1. The experience of Simultaneously Saint and Sinner
When we approach God in prayer and in any situation, there is a profound instantaneous experience of being aware of our sinfulness and simultaneously aware of our total acceptance by Grace alone, through Christ alone, by faith alone. To be of the right heart to walk in an abiding newness of life, we must become very accustomed to this experience.

2. A Gospel Orientation toward God
The entire series on the Fatherhood of God was intended to help us have a gospel orientation toward God and see God our Father as a loving provider of all we need. The gospel is an arrow downward. Jesus taught the first principle of moral distinction and transformation was that the kingdom of God is for the poor in Spirit. Only those who are aware that they have no spiritual resources in and of themselves and also are aware that they are simultaneously declared a saint by grace can rightly beg. Christianity is a matter of begging for resources from God with faith in His continual heart to heal and give grace though faith in Christ.

3. The Kingdom of God is within reach
When Jesus announced that the kingdom of God is at hand, He was saying the heavenly pattern of life is within reach through faith in Him. The heavenly pattern of life is the redemption of our person and therefore all creation through the church.

The clearest distilled manifestation of the kingdom is love. When Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount, He fully expects us to live it out through the reality of New Covenant spirituality.
When we say we believe that Jesus is the Messiah, we are saying that we believe that the great eschatological event that brings freedom has already happened in the cross of Jesus. Therefore, we can place our faith in the finished work of Christ and expect a heavenly pattern of life in this life. This radical claim to victory is what we actually believe as Christians.

4. Dynamic and Static Faith
All of the above is static or immutable faith. These realities of our position before God and Christ’s finished work are immutable. These skills of learning to get used to our justification and to get used to the Gospel of the Kingdom being an arrow downward are foundational, BUT KNOWING THIS DOES NOT MAKE US VICTORIOUS OR HOLY IN LIFE.

5. THE KNOWING DOING GAP
These static truths create affection for God and knowledge of truth deep in our hearts, but they do not directly cause us to behave differently. A person cannot move on without “getting very accustomed to these truths” , but another set of skills are needed to rise up from our contemplative experiences and learn to do good. It has been said that the greatest distance is the distance between the head and the heart BUT this is not true. The greatest distance is from the heart to the body. The greatest gap in life is the gap between knowing and doing. Acknowledging this gap and seeking to leap across this chasm is the first key to actually entering the kingdom.

6. Crossing the Knowing Doing Gap takes a MILITANT ATTITUDE TOWARD LIFE.
The following posts are going to give as many practical examples as I can possibly give of what this orientation toward the moments of life looks like. The experience is one of faith in instantaneous power and a total no compromise relationship to the law of love in the given instant.

By militant, I mean the willingness and readiness to die. All writers on sanctification that are worth their weight in salt focus on the mechanics of the imitation of the cross and death to self.

7. FAITH IN THE CONSCIOUS POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
The understanding that brings victory is neither conservative evangelical, which tends to deny experiences of power, nor is it Pentecostal, which tends to link the filling of the past with victory in the present. Instead, the key to entering the kingdom is learning to experience power in the heat of the battle with the challenges of life itself.

8. KEY: LIVING IN THE PRESENT
I have tried to describe the experience of justification as that of, in the instant, knowing that we are simultaneously saint and sinner. I have tried to explain that this experience needs to be very familiar to us. In fact, we need to be able to orient our heart toward this gospel posture at any moment. So too, there is an anatomy to the instantaneous experience of sanctification. The difference is that sanctification happens in the instant of the battle itself with the challenges of life. It is in the present instance that we must learn to live and be able to explain the anatomy of the experience.

Justification can be experienced in the disciplines of contemplation, but actual sanctification is only learned in the moment of the battle itself.

Do you know the anatomy of the experience of victory? Picture yourself standing on the East side of the Jordan. As you cross over to do battle, do you know the heart orientation that knows that you are weak in yourself but simultaneously trusts in the instantaneous power of the greater Joshua? Do you know the experience of this power in your daily life in the heat of the battle? Do you know such a confident and militant approach to life?

My hope is to help us all learn these vital lessons and be able to articulate them in such a way that we can bring renewal and sanctification to the church in our generation.

God Bless,
brad

Monday, December 27, 2004

Reforming the Church - A Method for Sanctification in the 21st Century - Part 1

A Method for Sanctification in the 21st Century.

If you haven’t noticed, I have had writer's block for about two months. My last real good post, I believe, was probably this post on Passion for the Sovereignty of God (Nov 6th).

I have actually had one idea in my head for this whole time and could not get it out. Well, finally yesterday, the idea came out in the Sunday AM preaching. (The sermon didn’t get recorded BUT I am going to preach the same ideas next week so hopefully I can get that sermon up next week). Here is the context to what has been incubating in my heart. During the rest of this week, I will work hard to get out the ideas I am preaching. These posts I hope will prove to give real meat to my efforts to codify a method of sanctification for the 21st Century Reformation and somehow play a role in the on-going renewal of the church.

The Need for a Method of Sanctification in the Protestant Church
Dallas Willard in his book “The Renovation of the Heart” says the western church does not have a transferable method of sanctification. What is meant by this statement is that the Christian cannot go to his elder in the faith, become his student, and come out two years later as a transformed person. Sure we have classes on personal disciplines and anger management, BUT the product of such classes and discipleship programs, as far as I can see, are very low quality. On the level of personal sanctification and the transformation of our temperaments, the church lacks a method and a true process. Jesus was a disciple-maker and he taught his disciples the ways of prayer and humility and self-denial. These virtues and how to attain them are all but lost in the church. This element of salvation (personal transformation) is the primary program of the church, yet the process has not yet been designed.

Is there an engineer in the house??
Is there a rabbi in the house??

How could anything be more urgent than learning how to multiply the currency of the kingdom? The currency of the kingdom is virtue, and it seems the treasure is lost. Worse yet very few are seeking high and low to find "the way to life" and even fewer are able to lead others to it. Here is my call in this season of my ministry.

The Big Picture – Rebuilding the Church
In my system, (yes, I am a pretty modern kinda guy), there are three levels which the reforming process takes place. This series of posts concerns the third.

1. Community:
The first level is the level of the church as a functioning community. The church as an organization needs to be managing a process to accomplish its mission. The mission is the building of Morally Beautiful Community and the multiplication of virtue. This level of reformation is what Rick Warren is so successful at and is the theme of “The Purpose Driven Church”. Now, I am not a huge fan of the flavor of Saddleback Community Church and the Seeker churches, BUT I am completely in agreement with their method of managing the church to a purpose. My only fault with these churches is that the content of the vision does not reach high enough. The reason for this is that these churches are only good at this mission level of the reformation program and do not yet incorporate levels 2 and 3 below. (Also, they are not reformed enough, but that is a point for another day).

I have posted a few essays on this topic:
The Case for Accountability
Morally Beautiful Community


2. Mentoring and Discipleship Relationship (One on One)
The second level of reformation is in our discipleship method or our method of mentoring. Jesus did not mentor using an academic model. I will post on this in detail later, but the basic idea is that in Jesus’ discipleship method the subject being studied was not "abstract ideas" but the “life of the teacher”. The method can be summarized as “Observation, imitation, and codification”. The learner observes the mentor. Then, he imitates the mentor. As he is learning, the mentor also teaches some sayings and principles to help the student repeat the activity and standardize what is being learned.
It is all to obvious that this method is not the primary discipleship method of the western church BUT it is the discipleship method of Jesus.

I have written on this topic here:
How Did We Get Here?
Discipleship in the Footsteps of Jesus

Activities
In summary, leaders of the church are responsible for designing a mission effective process for the church and aligning the entire community to this mission and purpose. This purpose, of building Morally Beautiful Community and the multiplication of virtue, is accomplished in the context of mentoring relationships which use the mentoring model of Jesus. These two aspects of the church:
1 Our understanding and alignment toward the mission, and
2. Our educational or discipleship methods,
need reforming ...

...BUT the meat, which is taught in the context of the above principles, is a new covenant spirituality which leads to the transformation of the heart.

This new covenant spirituality I call the "activities of the heart" or simply "activities". The individual’s moral actions, which find their source in the heart and in spiritual relationship with God, must be transformed. The role of the pastor and the mentor is to teach the skills necessary to manage one's own heart.

The way of the heart is the central themes of New Covenant sanctification. The movements and activities of our heart need to be understood and the central thrust of the church's sanctification method must center on the transformation of the heart. As teachers of God’s people, we must be able to describe the activities of the heart so that we can teach others to observe their hearts and begin to imitate a spirituality that sanctifies.

As leaders, we need to be able to teach new covenant spirituality like a surgeon can teach anatomy. The spiritual mentor should be an expert in the anatomy of the human heat and be able to describe its every activity.

This describing the activities and the experiences of new covenant spirituality has been my goal for the last few months.

The last few months, this blog has been dedicated to describing the activities of the heart that indeed do sanctify. To accomplish this task of creating a method of sanctification, I have been working through the Lord’s Prayer.

The structure of the posts and how they relate to the Lord’s Prayer are as follows:
Our Father:
Experiencing the Fatherhood of God
Kierkegaard and the Experiencing the Fatherhood of God
Four Types of Relationships with God - Neglect
Four Types of Relationships with God - Perfectionism
The Immutability of our Realtionship with God
The Four Types of Relationship with God - Abuse

The Four Types of Relationships with God - Love pt 1
The Four Types of Relationships with God - Love and the Sovereignty of God
The audio sermon that came out of these posts. - Passion for the Experience of the Father's Love
Contemplating the Experience of Unconditional Election

Your Kingdom Come:
Your Kingdom Come and Static and Dynamic Faith
Dynamic Faith 2
Love is Kind and U2

As you can see I got stuck..BUT I have found the answer . Stay posted...
Therefore, the next few posts are going to move toward describing the experience of dynamic faith, and so, I believe will constitute the meat of our lessons on "A Method for Sanctification in the 21st Century".

God Bless,
brad

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Sermon - Passion for the Experience of the Father's Love

In October and November, I was blogging on the "Four Types of Fatherhood" and what it means to worship God as Father. These posts looked, as deeply as I could muster, at how we ought to approach God and how to have a gospel orientation toward God as opposed to a fear-based or legal approach to Him.
Well, here is the sermon that came out of those blogs.

I think it is pretty helpful. It is about 38-40 minutes.

Hope this is a blessing:

Passion for the Experience of the Father's Love - Sermon

God Bless,

brad

Worship - Worshipping the King

Getting to the Truth
Anthony Flew, a prominent atheist who recently came out of the closet and admitted that pure materialistic evolution makes no sense of the data, said that believing in the God of the Bible is to believe that the ultimate intelligence is akin to Saddam Hussein.

Here is the quote:
"I'm thinking of a God very different from the God of the Christian and far and away from the God of Islam, because both are depicted as omnipotent Oriental despots, cosmic Saddam Husseins," he said. "It could be a person in the sense of a being that has intelligence and a purpose, I suppose."

It seems Dr. Flew has not read the Christmas story. Does Flew have any children? I will give him one point: Jesus is Lord of All and King of the Universe. BUT…Jesus is not anything like Saddam Hussein and that is the whole “good news” point. Our method needs to get to the anatomy of the universal experience of worshipping Jesus and this experience cannot be more experimentally different that the experience of bowing down to Saddam. The two realities cannot be more diametrically opposite!!!

We have said in our previous post on worship that worship is spirit to Spirit communion with God. In this post, I am going to begin to look at worship as spirit to Spirit communion with God “in truth” or around the truth. Worship is fellowship with God and others around common understanding of the truth. True worship connects with the true God in the Spirit and contemplates, proclaims, announces, rejoices, confesses THE TRUTH.

So What is TRUTH and Where Does Truth Comes From?
To know the truth, we must first begin by determining what is the source or authority for our truth. The question of “who Jesus is?” gets at the heart of the matter.

Bob Dylan said it (and regardless of how trite and cliché we may think it sounds) it is nonetheless true, “You gotta serve somebody.”

Everybody has an ultimate arbitrator of truth. For most, like my friend Mojoey, a very good friend I might add, his ultimate standard of truth is himself. This self-worship is the American way. Too bad it doesn’t work. Strangely, my friend’s ethic, which finds its source of truth in the reality he sees, has concluded that the oriental despot is THE truth that reigns on high in his world.

Paul said, “the Greeks in their wisdom became fools and worshipped the creation rather than the creator”. How true!! If our world is our sole source of truth, our truth will be brutal and despotic like the world we live in.

I worship elsewhere!!

I began by saying Flew is so wrong. Here is why. If I know I have done Saddam Hussein wrong, I would become very fearful and full of anxiety. The very presence of Saddam Hussein causes people to cower in fear and to loath their king, the despot. A child’s face is not filled with an authentic joy at the contemplation of Saddam as King. Ah, but with Jesus our experience is so different.

When I worship THE KING, my mind is filled with Joy, and I am free of all fear. When I see Him as the Truth, my mind is transformed. For me and my household, Jesus is the ultimate arbitrator of all truth and all definitions of what is real and what is illusion. Jesus is the WORD of GOD. This ultimate authority for all truth is one way that He is King. He is the authority concerning what I long to know and understand. As I worship, I long to learn from Him and honor Him with a teachable heart attitude.

Christmas is the announcement of a King. At Christmas, the Christ child is worshipped. This worship is the statement that we submit our minds and humble ourselves to be learners of truth beneath the loving mentoring of our King. Jesus is the sole mediator of truth for the believer. Indeed,
John 4: “ 22"You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23"But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. 24"God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth." 25The woman said to Him, "I know that Messiah is coming He who is called Christ); when that One comes, He will declare all things to us." 26Jesus said to her, "I who speak to you am He."

How strange that a guy as smart as Anthony Flew cannot tell Saddam Hussein from Jesus Christ. My children know the difference. Every Christmas, they worship at His feet and are filled with an authentic Joy that Jesus is Lord of all.

How sweet the truth is and how worthy of contemplation and worship. Jesus is the truth.

Merry Christmas,
brad

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Jesus’ Clear Theology of Worship – Part 1 “Worship in Spirit”

John Depoe over here and here began a discussion on the role of form and attitude in worship. The gist of his position is that having a good intention is not enough. Worship needs to be right hearted, right headed, and done in a form that communicates well. Such discussions on worship are valuable and call for a well articulated and precise theology of worship.

The church has a practical need for a clear word on worship due to the very real conflict that the topic of worship generates. People are bound to have great differences in worship music preferences and have varying preferences regarding worship service forms.

Some like liturgy. Some hate liturgy. Some like long sets of simple folk-rock styled music. Some hate long sets of folk-rock styled music. If I had my preference, the whole church would be skankin’ to about an hour of reggae followed by an hour of preaching and maybe some ministry time, but that is not likely to happen in the near future at our church. Preferences are fine, but the real problem is that most all of us have created “theological” reasonings or beliefs to buttress what, in actuality, are merely cultural preferences.

Some say songs should be about God and not about us. Some say songs need to be intimate, which makes them inevitably about our feelings or "about us". Some equate repetition with chanting and trances; others equate repetition with contemplation and passion. Each group in each camp has a theological argument to support their position and probably a proof text or two.

So, where ought we to go to get some clarity on the issues which affect so many churches and weigh so heavily on so many pastors?

I think the answer is in John 4 where Jesus articulates a “Clear Theology of Worship”.
In fact, Jesus as the great prophet, the one who proclaims the final word on right worship, has the exact antidote for the conflict in churches today over worship. Unity in the body of Christ can come if we take to heart Jesus’ teaching on the matter of worship. The need is to be convinced of some unifying principles so that we lay down our self-serving, myopic understandings of what is true worship. Jesus has just the word we need.

John 4
In John 4, while talking to the woman at the well, Jesus articulates a clear theology of worship that speaks directly to the conflicts that churches experience over the form and content of worship.
John 4:19The woman said to Him, "Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet. 20Our fathers worshiped in this mountain, and you people say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship." 21Jesus said to her, "Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. 22"You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23"But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. 24"God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth." 25The woman said to Him, "I know that Messiah is coming (He who is called Christ); when that One comes, He will declare all things to us. 26Jesus said to her, "I who speak to you am He."

The context of this passage is so crucial to understanding the teaching of Jesus. The Samaritans were second class citizens in Jewish society. The Samaritans were unclean and the temple worship discriminated against them. The Samaritans were not allowed, in Jerusalem, to worship in the temple per se but were forced to worship with the money changers and the lambs in the outer court. Therefore, the Samaritans made way for a tradition of their own in order to avoid the shame of sitting in "the back of the bus" or the “coloreds balcony” in Jerusalem.
from this stance, the woman at the well asks, “Do I really have to worship in Jerusalem?”
Jesus’ answer is liberating.

New Covenant Worship
I have attempted to emphasize that Jesus in this passage lays out the standard or specification of true worship. The Samaritan woman has a right understanding of the Messiah, “When He comes He will explain to us everything.” So her question is most on target. “OK, I accept that you are a prophet, so teach me about true worship.” We need to be as wise as this woman and look to Jesus for the specification of true worship.

Jesus’ answer says that “a hour is coming and now has arrived…”. Here, Jesus is speaking of the inauguration of the new covenant in Him. Under the new covenant, the shadows of worship will disappear in the Glorious light of the age of the Kingdom and 'kingdom worship'. The rules of worship are changing because the covenant and the relationship between the gentiles and the common man and the Lord is changing. Many of the conflicts in the church over worship come from a lack of understanding of the opportunities of new covenant worship. Is our worship focusing on the shadows of worship and missing the substance?

The Place of Worship
The Samaritan woman asked a common question. “Where does true worship happen? Ought we to worship here on this mountain or is the correct holy place of worship in Jerusalem?” Jesus, being the Son of God and great prophet, explains clearly where true worship takes place. Jesus’ answer is pretty clear:

21"Jesus said to her, "Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father… But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit…”.

The place where worship takes place is in the spirit. True worship does not actually take place in a physical locality at all. The true place of worship takes place in one particular place, in our spirit. True worship doesn’t take place in a church. It can take place while I am in a church and sometimes, by the grace of God, it does. But the true specification of worship is that it only actually takes place in our spirit. Worship is a spiritual act. Therefore, when I come to “worship” I might worship and I might not. I might sing songs and not worship. I might hear the gospel preached and not worship. But only if in the course of that music or listening to the word, I present myself to God from the most authentic place in my being that I can muster, by the grace of God, only then have I worshipped. In fact, during the music time, I often am not listening to the music at all. Instead, I am praying; I am working through my confession of sin; I am receiving forgiveness and love from God, and I am beginning to rejoice in Him. By the end of the set of music, I may very well be worshipping if i am connecting to God with my spirit. Worship is a spiritual act. Anything else is not worship.

Romans 8:15-16 says, 15For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, "Abba! Father!" 16The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God”.

Does not Paul assume that a believer can discern when the Spirit is bearing witness with his spirit that he or she is a child of God? Isn’t this spiritual communion eternal life itself (John 17:3)? Can we therefore know when our worship culminated in spirit to Spirit communion with God? The issue facing the church is not whether worship is good or bad but whether or not we worship at all, and the believer can discern the answer to this qustion if he or she knows the specification of true worship.

Why is New Covenant Worship “in spirit”?
So the place of worship is in the spirit of the individual worshipper. But why is this the place of new covenant worship? Jesus says that “God is spirit and those who worship him MUST worship in spirit..”

True worship, which the world groans for, can be no other way. All the shadows of worship which mediate our worship are not actually worship. These may lead to worship, and they may not lead to worship. But true worship is unmediated (or actually, as we will see in part two, true worship is only mediated by truth) . Therefore, it is not appropriate to codify or standardize any particular form of mediation. Only truth mediates worship. We worship in Spirit and in truth. But this does not mean that all other ways to mediate truth other than the bible are somehow anathema. No, but we must not seek to codify and standardize forms which are not transcendent. God is spirit; He transcends our cultural preferences and sensibilities.

Whenever we appeal to our cultural sensibilities as part and parcel to the essence of true worship, we are denying the direct teachings of Jesus. True worship is the spirit to Spirit communion between the worshipper and the LORD.

In the next, post, I will look at truth and the role of culture to incubate meaning BUT...

Enough for now…

God Bless,
brad

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Modern Worship Christmas Song - Song #1 "God Sees"

Ok, here is a first. I have not been inspired too much lately. I am so tired and burnt out I can't string two thoughts together. Can you spell- AAAUGH??

So I decided to post my inspiration from last year. Or maybe it was two years ago. Well, anyway, a few years back, I was in my home studio praying about Christmas with guitar in hand. I started playing the song "All Who are Thirsty" and I morphed the song into this song. (God Sees)

This version is my band live playing about a few weeks ago...This is all one take so be gracious...

This is a Christmas song..

The Words are as Follows:
Listen and Merry Christmas...

God Sees

Merciful, gentle, lowly, and humble and meek
Words alone can’t describe the pearl of great price So we sing.

He came down from heaven to a people oppressed
Born of a virgin young and penniless
Totally empty as poor as can be
To show to a world lost in darkness


God sees…God sees…God sees

Merciful, gentle, lowly, and humble and meek
Words alone can’t describe the pearl of great price So we sing.
His ways are the way of peace on the earth
The lamb and the lion the sheep and the wolf
Lie down together and make peace in the streets
Where the rule is the rule of the King

God sees…God sees…God sees


Well the people of God are the meek of the earth
And the first shall be last and the last shall be first
And the ancient of days His Spirit shall rise
And this heavenly vision is before our eyes
Like the lives that they trade on the ships on the sea
Like the blood of the slaves shed on the trees
And the blood of the lamb on Calvary

God sees …….God sees. ……. God sees

He came down from heaven to a people oppressed
Born of a virgin young and penniless
Totally empty as poor as can be
To show to a world lost in darkness

God sees God sees God sees...

Merry Christmas

brad

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Types of Knowledge - An Example of Contemplating the Doctrine of Unconditional Election

(re-written)
I think I am back. I need to make a commitment to force myself to write again. So here goes.

In my response to Jollyblogger and Adrian Warnock’s articles on TULIP, I stated that I believed the discussion should start and end with the goal of teaching the reader how these truths of God’s greatness are to be applied in the Christian life. David and Adrian, and Jeremy Pierce as well, are, in those posts, laying a great foundation to understand the rationale and reasoning behind the doctrines BUT that is not my gifting or role in the church or the blogosphere.

Instead, I am looking to bring to the reader’s life not the answers to theological questions but assistance to learn how to enter a certain type of practice. I am not teaching “about tennis” but attempting to “actually teach tennis”.

I do not ask the question “what is the doctrine unconditional election?” but instead, “what does the contemplation of “unconditional election look like?”. To me the contemplation of unconditional election is a skill like playing the piano or playing tennis. Yet, when I say something like “contemplating unconditional election”, I am speaking a language many 21st century Christians do not understand. The discipleship program of the church is in such disarray that a vast majority of Christians (at least in the Calvinistic denominations) simply do not have an approach to sanctification which I think is effective. It is apparent that our teaching methods do not align or communicate effectively the activities necessary for Christians to learn sanctifying practices. Are we teaching people what the doctrine of unconditional election is or are we teaching people how to contemplate your election in the midst of your faith journey? My point is we need to be teaching the later. Nonetheless, on the path to application, we obviously need to teach the doctrine itself as a foundation to this application. In reality, this distinction between these two types of knowing is a good way to distinguish the difference between milk and meat. Knowing the doctrine is milk, but learning or knowing how to abide in peace by applying the doctrine is where the rubber meets the road.

Today's Church as I see It
If I were to say “contemplate unconditional election” to a member of Jonathan Edward’s congregation, I believe I would be easily understood. Certainly, if I was to say this to Edwards himself, he could actually tell me a story of his contemplative experience to help me understand the vitality of the practice and its effect on him. So, what do I actually mean by “contemplation of unconditional election” and what does it mean to say such contemplation is a skill?

Let’s say that I am in a place of questioning my purpose in life, like a mid-life crisis. OK let’s not just pretend, I actually am going through a mid-life crisis. (but that is another post). Anyway, such a crisis is actually based on very real, and I think often appropriate, anxiety. It may be that I truly have wasted my life. It may be that I feel I have not overcome certain character flaws, and I need to wake up out of my denial and face reality before I enter the later stages of my life. So as a consequence, I am filled with anxiety. In facing this anxiety, I am forced to deeply re-evaluate who I am and what am for. If I do not do this well, I could end up ruining my marriage, becoming a workaholic, drinking to much, having an affair, or act out in some other self-destructive activity in an attempt to alleviate my unresolved anxiety. The anxiety is actually based in reality. So to face reality head-on, I suggest to my soul to “wait on the Lord”.

So, I go to the Lord in prayer with the purpose of a deep contemplation of who I am and what I am for. The superficial prayer capacity which many 21st Century Christians possess or have skill for will not solve this deep problem.

Personally, I would begin with worship. I would put on a worship CD or grab my guitar and begin to sing. I would sing probably for at least 45 minutes to one hour. Hopefully, by then, I would gain some “view of God’s majesty”. In this prayer exercise, my knowledge of God begins with “the God is great as an axiom” type of knowing to an “I know God’s greatness” experience or knowing. My goal is to solve my problem from God’s presence and not from my mind alone. My personal experience is that only from God’s presence do I think clearly. Therefore only from here, (i.e. after a time of worship), would I ask the Lord, “Father, who am I and what am I for?” At this point, my theology kicks in!!! You see I know who I am axiomatically (like I know 1+1=2), and this type of knowledge is very important to the task of finding the fruit of peace necessary to live in peace and to solve real problems like this one of the proverbial “mid-life crisis”.

Something like the following might happen. Let’s say, John 1:12 comes to my mind. “To those who believe, He gave the right to become children of God”. And to this the Spirit adds, “and know this, you did not choose me but I choose you”.

In this place of growing clarity and insight, I would normally pick up my guitar and begin to sing something spontaneously, or maybe just pray something for awhile or write something. By this time I am in a place that is very pleasurable, and I do not want to lose the clarity. I try to just stay there for a bit. All the while though, I am seeing the application.

“Who you are and who I called you to be, before the foundation of the earth, does not change!! You are a father to six beautiful children. Focus on this stage of this child’s life…” Again I might write something down. “This aspect of your relationship with your family is not according to who I have made you….” Again I write something down. My knowledge of God, my knowledge of myself, and my knowledge of my circumstances are all coming into clarity and it is mingling together with a well studied biblical theology.

All this application is based though on a theological understand of my unconditional election. I am forever a certain type of person: a child of God. This identity cannot be changed. From this deep sense of my persevering identity, of which I did nothing to be qualified for and can never shake off, I take on and put on a certain understanding of my purpose. From the place of my theology and the intimate application, I am gaining clarity into “who I am” and “what I am for”. Peace begins to reign. The place I am in life is perfect.

Such a contemplation (prayer time) will usually take most of a morning or maybe most of a day (as my wife is well aware). To me this practice is very normal and ought to be very common.

But do most Christian father’s make this their regular practice? Is such a skill being learned daily or at least weekly? How about for us bloggers? Or how about us pastor’s? Is this the Christian practice that we teach? How does our lack of personal skill in such contemplation relate to how we teach? How does this relate to our understanding of the process of sanctification?

Frankly, I do not know any other way to learn truth than by this method of contemplation and conscious contact with God. I have never asked questions other than starting with an actual problem of discipleship or holiness and then using my theology in prayer to come to solutions. I do not know any other way to know God and develop my worldview and perspective of life and God. I believe that what I am describing is the proper path to knowing God and understanding ourselves as spiritual men and women.

God Bless,
brad

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Types of Knowledge

I will write on this subject either tomorrow of Tuesday. For now, go to Prosthesis to get a great overview. This is a "yeah, what he said" post about ideas similar to what I sum up in the phrase:

" Christianity is more like gymnastics than geometry".

God Bless,
brad

Saturday, December 04, 2004

My Sermon - Exposition of U2's Miracle Drug

Sermon Audio here, "Love is Kind"

Oh God ....I cannot give enough love to Bono and the sheer beauty of the new song "Miracle Drug". Bono has found the love of God. God bless him and all he puts his hands to. His Christianity puts all of us to shame regardless of our doctrine. We may have all knowledge, but, if we do not have love, we are nothing, useless.

Tomorrow, I am preaching on “Love is kind”. My opening point is that the definition of kindness is found in the scriptural revelation of the kindness of God.

Lu 6:35
"But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men.

Mt 11:30
For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light

Ro 2:4
Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kind ness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that the kind ness of God leads you to repentance?

1Pe 2:3
if you have tasted the kind ness of the Lord

God is kind. He sends His rain on the just and the unjust. His kindness is seen in Jesus’ taking our load and bearing our burden. The Father’s rich kindness leads us to repentance and breaks our hearts for the hurting around us. Taste and see the kindness of the Lord, and be kind to one another.

Kindness is the practical bearing of one another’s burdens. Kindness is to perform acts to sustain others and bless others.

All this talk of the manifestation gifts and the gifts of power... "Oh God, Your 'dunamis', Your most powerful work, is LOVE."

LOVE IS NUCLEAR!!

Kindness is the great weapon of the our God.

“Oh, I’ve had enough of romantic love
I’d give it all , yes, I’d give it all for a miracle,
A miracle drug”


Kindness sees the broken and sends its rain of help and healing. Romantic notions, though beautiful, are not the pressing need in our real world. Kindness is practical and powerful and purposeful and prayerful and unconditional.

Here, Bono is praying for a cure.

"Oh, God answer. And let me and your people sacrifice all we have for the poor and the sick. Let us lay down our lives in the AIDS hospices of the world, holding the hands of the lepers of today with the kindness and grace that our God has shown to us.

"For while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us".

“God I need your help tonight

Beneath the noise
Below the din
I hear a voice
Its whispering

In science and in medicine
“I was a stranger.
You took me in”.


Oh, I have one prayer tonight that the church would rise up to embrace the power of practical kindness and release the nuclear love of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Oh God we want "to see Your thought take shape and walk right out"

Let us be the the great manifestation of the wisdom and power of our God.

God Bless,
brad

Proof Calvinists Can Be Funny

OK, I promise I will post tomorrow night and probably a lot this week, BUT, first, something on the light side.

Our cat got run over by a car yesterday. I was actually quite sad. I was in my office and my daughter, Hannah age 10, came crying into my office and said, "Dad, we need to get a new cat." "What's wrong, honey?" I asked.
"Fanny, got run over. She's dead."

I went to meet my family at the sidewalk, and yes, the cat, a beautiful cat, was dead.

So anyway, today, the family went out to get a new cat. Well, we found one. We haven't brought her home yet, but we have named her. And her name is:

drum roll please...




TULIP.


God Bless,
brad

Monday, November 29, 2004

Sorry for the Light Posts

Been busy with holidays. I am off to Seattle this week. We will see if I can get a good post up.
God Bless,
brad

Saturday, November 27, 2004

More on the Practical Application of the Doctrines of Sovereign Grace

Nice practical post on the doctrines of Grace at Wittenberg Gate. This site is a nice find.
Why I Love the Doctrines of Grace

Would like to re-iterate my points of the 5 points discussion.

Dory's post is a very simple expression of why Sovereign Grace doctrine is important in a practical way. Personlly, I counsel people every day (literally) that struggle with some form of legalism. As they come into the Reformed or Biblical Faith rightly understood, the legalism begins to fall, and their life becomes more winsome and more enjoyable.

I will look around the internet for more examples of this transformation.
brad

Friday, November 26, 2004

Blogdom of God Friends of Iraq Challenge

Adrian's Evangelical UK BLog and the Truth Laid Bear/EcoSystem is putting together a gift drive for Iraq. The goal is to spread American goodwill straight from your gift-giving heart to the hands and lives of Iraqi citizens.

For example, you can donate to buy tools for Iraqi tradesmen. Supply entrepenuers with the capital necessary to earn a living!!! There are many other options too!!

It is a lot like blogging. Everyone can play a direct role in promoting the right message of American goodwill.

What to do:
1. Go to Adrian's post and do whatever the post says to do.
2. Donate as much money for a good cause as you can.
3. Pass the word.

God Bless,
brad

P.S. Tomorrow I will put a link in the sidebar to "Spirit of America" which is the group that you go to to donate.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Pastoral Thoughts on the Doctrine of Unconditional Election

There is a discussion going on in "blogland" which is reviewing the nuances of the five points of Calvinism. (See Adrian's post...) and (David's Post here)

I like these articles ... BUT...

I want to direct these discussions toward a more practical and less abstract application of these doctrines.
In the discipleship process, I contend that Jesus and the Apostles utilized a method of "observation, imitation, and codification". The process begins with an aspect of Jesus' living that we are attempting to ourselves experience. The purpose of the codification-making process or the theology-making process is to assist people in living a particular observed aspect of the life of Christ. The doctrines of Sovereign Grace, I believe, are important to our faith and hope. In turn, hope greatly effects our joy, and joy makes us morally stronger. In other words, we are made humble, holy, and happy through the truth.

But in these discussions, the anatomy of the experience of hope is not discussed nor is the anatomy of the experience of worship that is generated by these particular doctrines.

The power of God in our lives, which comes through a heart orientation which is generated by this God-centered faith, is not being illustrated. If we disconnect doctrine from virtue and love, then such teaching departs only knowledge. I acknowledge that it is more difficult to describe the experience of the life of hope and how Sovereign Grace relates to our hope than to simply describe the ideas. The "experience describing" excercise assumes that the teacher has done the soul searching and the difficult work of finding hope through the application of these particular doctrines of Sovereign Grace to their soul.

If the discussion is not describing how to enter some new experience of God and Grace which tends toward love, then the discussion is divorced from the proper "observation, imitation, codification" DISCIPLESHIP process.

Unconditional election is not at all an abstract doctrine. My knowing intimately that Christ saw me, loved me, chased after me, threw a rope around my wayward legs, turned me around, and revealed His love to me through the gospel fills my heart with great peace.

Paul says "if while we were sinners (running away from God) Christ died for me, HOW MUCH MORE...shall I be saved". This is a very similar concept to Jesus' statement, "You did not choose Me but I chose you".

My peace rests in the fact that I did not choose Him but He choose me. I find pleasure in receiving the fact that He chose me. I find peace and joy in this rest. We pray and worship and receive strength from God through the Spirit's witness to this truth. When we have entered the experience of knowing His unconditional choice of us, then we passionately desire for others to have a similar life giving knowledge of God. We then find oursleves praing along with Paul "that your heart may be enlightened to know the hope of His calling of you".

This practical application and others like it are the only relevant reasons to teach such truth, and I ask those blogging to share their experience, strength, and hope that comes from this faith. Such application is the meat of the doctrine.

John Piper in a sermon by titled 'pastoral Thoughts on Unconditional Election" says:

The fourth pastoral thought about the doctrine of election is this: The humble embrace—not the discussion of, not even the intellectual belief in, but the humble embrace—of the precious truth of election and sovereign grace, produces radical, loving, risk—taking ministry and missions.
One example (and there could be so many more from William Carey and
Adoniram Judson and David Livingston and John Patton and George Mueller and Charles Spurgeon and Jonathan Edwards and on and on): Kristin Carlson has been in Zambia for almost a year working with street kids with Action International (Get to know them; I could have listed the director, Doug Nichols, among those radical Christians who went to Rwanda with colon cancer because he humbly embraces the truth of election). Here's what Kristin emailed to us on Thanksgiving morning:
First of all, I am thankful for God's unfathomable grace in choosing me. I have done nothing to deserve this, and I continually marvel at my Father's goodness to me. The reason I am thankful to be chosen is because I know what I have been chosen for. Chosen to proclaim the excellencies of God; chosen to be eternally satisfied in God through Jesus; chosen to live in light and not darkness; chosen to taste and see that He is good.
Don't miss this. Some of you have no idea of what Kristin is talking about because you have been taught that the doctrine of election is either untrue or unhelpful. You have always stood on the outside looking in and being suspicious or criticizing. You are now hearing in this email a story from inside—from someone who knows what is like to embrace and be embraced in the doctrine of unconditional election. The effect is not what you may have been taught. Listen to its effects. She continues:
I am thankful that God chose Vasco, a hard, ignorant, rebellious street kid, out of darkness into His marvelous light. And the fruit I already see in Vasco's life is testimony to his abiding in Jesus, the Vine.
I am thankful for God's overflowing goodness in the past year. . . . What an amazing work to be a part of—becoming friends with street kids and sharing the only lasting hope with them. And as an insert here, I'm thankful for the heart God has given me for these kids. Objectively speaking, I know it's not "normal" to LOVE treading through garbage piles and sitting on a plush couch (a small metal object with a piece of cardboard on top for a seat) with dirty, smelly kids, but, so it is, I love it.
Embracing and being embraced by the doctrine of sovereign grace—beginning with unconditional election—first produces that kind of radical, risk-taking sacrificial love; and then it humbles us to rejoice in the truth that we did not produce this beauty in ourselves, God did. Then we give him the glory.


Back to My Comments
In this light of the purpose of preaching such doctrine I have made the following comments on David Waynes and Adrian Warnock's blogs:

Jeremy, Adrian, David,
I challenge you with this question. Why did Paul write these things in the first place? Let me take Ephesians 1. Paul begins to write in Ephesians 1 about the believers adoption and that this adoption is predestined and that it precedes the believers choosing in other words this adoption and election is unconditional. As Paul continues to write, he begins to get emotional and breaks into prayer.
"Oh, I pray that the eyes of your heart may be opened to this truth that you may know the hope to which He has called you...and to know Him better..."
Paul writes these words because the worship of the Sovereign God is his experience, and the apostle knows how important this experience is to the believers hope and, therefore, moral strength.
If we are not fixated on the purpose of the doctrine and, instead, discuss them outside of the context of their life giving power, are we but clanging gongs? Furthermore, are we giving the witness that knowledge is the intention of doctrinal knowledge, when, in fact, the goal is faith and love.

At Adrian's blog:
Adrian,
I would like to place my 21st century perspective on this discussion a bit. I, as I am reading, am thinking, "why are we discussing this topic"? Is it to understand a mystery, like relativity? But understanding relativity doesn't make me a better person. Of course, I think this discussion is important but no one seems to be discussion why it is so. HERE is my 21st Century perspective. I see the role of leadership to be missional. To accomplish this mission, I hold to a method of "Observation, imitation, and codification". Observation is of the teacher, either Jesus or some mature person. Then, imitation is to learn to imitate this aspect of His life, and codification is to learn to put this practice into words so it becomes more repeatable. This is the method of discipleship. So the question to begin with is what aspect of the life of Jesus are we trying to imitate here.1. Has this discussion started with some codification of a system of ideas outside the context of some virtue we are learning (a bad thing).2. The discussion needs to center on the virtues and experiences that such faith generates. The goal of our instruction is love, NO? This will be the focus of any comments I make on this subject matter. How do these beliefs effect our story? That is the meat of the matter. If I cannot bring others into a blessed life through the idea I am communicating then the communication is waste. I believe these doctrines are actually closely linked to virtue, and we need to illustrate these experiences and virtues to one another.
God Bless,
brad

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Why Reformed Matters! - Humility and Sovereign Grace

Adrian Warnock is tagging along with David over at Jolly Blogger and I have been invited to the party by Adrian, God bless his soul, so here goes.

Adrian says the following, "The doctrines of grace are there to humble us and recognise that it wasnt something special about us that led to us being saved. " and also he states, ...

"I believe firstly that from a moral point of view even before I am a Christian I owe much to the general grace of God in restricting my will. Even as a Christian, it is less about my will power and more about the power of God in restraining my errant impulses. If the congregation I am a part of knew the kind of thoughts my mind sometimes has I wonder would they want to hear me preach? If my will had free reign and was unfettered by God, by society, by my upbringing, by my experiences I guess my life would not be a pretty sight."...

I believe Adrian is taking exactly the proper approach as to why we as pastors are so passionately in love with the doctrines of Sovereign Grace. It is the love of God and the humility that this biblical faith brings to our souls...

If we think of ourselves as Reformed, we would do well to read (and I am sure many of us have) Richard Baxter's "Reformed Pastor". Baxtor takes as his theme not doctrinal knowledge but the pastor's call to nurture the soul's of people by applying the truth patiently and lovingly to their souls. Baxter calls this vocation the oversight of the flock.

Just tonight, in Baxter's tradition, I went on a pastoral visit. The purpose of these visits is to know a person's story so as to give care to their spiritual relationship to God and His people. All I will say is I learned a great deal tonight that I can take into prayer and plead with God to bless this wonderful child of His.

What would I pray...well I will pray that the knowledge of God would open before this person in such a way that they would see His power and majesty all around them and in every aspect of their life. I would pray that through such a vivid view of God's sovereignty and love that their faith would become vital and alive and filled with peace and joy.

In other words, I would pray that the biblical faith would create virtue, the love of God, in their souls.

We preach that a person's will is not totally free. Oh and thank the Lord that this is true. If it were not I would be lost. Praise God that life as God ordains it and my lack of liberty controls my insatiable pursuit of foolishness.
"Oh, God hem me so that all I can do is choose your will. Lead me not into temptation, but deliver me from evil".

My lack of absolute freedom helps me realize that God can indeed mediate between my limited freedom and His sovereign will so as to assist me in choosing the good. I am humbled and I hope you are by realizing all the infinite ways that our choices are assisted by circumstances beyond our control, and, hallelujah, it is to our benefit and by His grace.

Soveiegn Grace, as doctrine, helps us to know the theory behind the reality, but, nonetheless, it is the reality that we are attemping to bring to people as we "oversee the flock".

Ah, it is so good to be a Christian in these days where information is so available, and I can tag along with a fellow pastor and psychologist over 7,000 miles away.
God Bless,
brad
brad

Monday, November 22, 2004

OK, I quit and The Story of Stanford in the Late-80's

I think it is only fair to keep a record of this thrashing I took over these posts.

To all the smart guys out there -

OK, I give up!!!

It is clear. I was in way over my head on the post-modern question. Two or three pretty smart folks smacked me down pretty bad.
Though I think whatever I was talking about (something very modern I take it) is actually pretty spot on to explain some cultural phenomena and the like, ..it absolutely has nothing to do with post-modern...

Oh well, ya win some ya lose some..

Jeremy Pierce (parableman) said:
I think your last comment just shows that what you're calling postmodernism just isn't. Postmodernists insist that there is no objective or valueless judgment. What you're talking about is really the height of modernism, a radical empiricism that's entirely skeptical about anything to do with moral claims besides just saying that we have things we value and others have things they value. The fact/value distinction is a modern phenomenon, and moral relativism and cultural relativism are the result of modernist epistemology. Jeremy Pierce

JPE (from
L'eprit D'escalier) just had had about enough of my dabbling and said basically that all my points are not examples of post-modernism. (see comments).

1. So here's the outcome. I will not dabble in stuff so far over my head and return to stuff I know a bit better.
2. I will return to this topic in a few years...After I recover from this thrashing...

You guys are great. Oh and thanks to Catez for the original post that got me thinking ...
brad

The original post (below...)

A friend, who is not the intended audience of my post on Postmodernism, nonetheless, made a good comment. He said, “Brad, what on God’s green earth are you talking about?... and why?”

The following is a little background on why I think it is important for people, and especially the clergy, to be educated in philosophy (which by the way I am not).

So the question is, “Why is it important to be able to understand the basic terms of such erudite a subject as philosophy?”

A Little Background
I attended Stanford in the early and mid-1980’s. During this time, there was a movement a foot to change the “Western Civilization” requirement for freshmen. Also, at this time, I was a “black-politic” radical. About 3-4 nights a week, I sat around a table drinking coffee with members of the Black Student Union and the Gay and Lesbian Alliance plotting how to take over the world. No lie.

During this time, there was a movement on college campuses to get major corporations to divest from South Africa (i.e. pull capital out of the South African economy as a protest against apartheid). I and my friends were arrested a few times, and we actually defended ourselves in a trial that lasted about 3 months. It was all very exciting times.

These two groups, the radical left and the committee to change the Western Civilization series, are very inter-related. How you might ask? They are related at a philosophical and epistemological level.

In the argument over the Western Civilization tract at Stanford, there are two contrasting approaches to education. One approach is to teach the history of the western mind by having students read the great books of the great thinkers. From this perspective, the students learn the effects of certain thinkers on history and art and technology etc.. The students learn the evolution of Western thought and civilization and the arguments of different intellectual schools. The students even might argue about the merits of each thinkers approach to knowledge and their proposals. For example, we have Thomas More and the humanistic Renaissance or we might look at the development of science and the response of Rousseau. Can we learn from history? Can we effect our times by understanding the past? This approach supports a classical view of education. This approach supports a basic view that intelligent and educated learning can help society. We can understand our world and solve problems. It all seems very enlightened to me.

On the other side of the aisle were the post-moderns. They didn’t call themselves post-modern in the ‘80’s but listen to the argument. The argument is the following.

Who is to say which thinker is correct? Is not this entire tradition based on a western white male power structure? Is not a better method and more helpful method to expose students to the different perspectives of various cultural groups and tribes? Each voice and stance needs to be heard. Women see the world differently than men and students need to learn to hear the woman’s voice. Black and African voices need to be heard. The basis of learning is not to determine what questions were being asked and what problems were being solved and how this effects culture. No, the need of the hour is to be able to validate the voice of each tribal element at the global party.

Well, well, well. This creates a big dilemma. As an educational institution, do we expose our students and have dialogue over Aristotle or do we read Alice Walker? Do we read about the story-telling of the Native Americans or do we read John Locke. The reality is that the reading list or the freshman Western Civilization tract or “World Cultures” tract is about 30-35 original works. If we attempt to hear the voice of the “tribes” of the world and give everyone equal time, then all those white men are going to have to go to the proverbial back the bus. The name cards at the formal dinner were all being rearranged.

This fight was very bloody. People’s careers are actually on the line. If we stop reading “Saint Thomas Aquinas” then the medieval historian is going to lose his or her job.

Similarly, the post-modern view is based on a core belief that truth is based on perspective. The methods of the enlightenment are flawed because of the male dominated political realities, and, in fact, the great goal of our human evolution is to overthrow the dogmatic thinking of the past and embrace a new method that allows for a multi-cultural, global-village of mutual respect.

The core is that all worldviews are actually political. It is leftist because it is based on the desire to overthrow all bourgeois understandings of value and it is philosophical because it aims to over throw western methods of acquiring meaning. The ivory tower folk see this as the evolution of the world. They are historicists like Marx and Hitler and Hegel.

There are many problems with the post-modern view, and this view is the dominant force in Europe and the Left in the US. I will simply state two problems and ask you the reader to figure out why my analysis is correct.

1. Ultimately, the post-modern view leads to anti-Semitism. They always have and they always will. Can you tell me why??

2. Post-modernism undermines the war on terror.

So why you ask is this discussion important. Hmm? Let me count the ways.

brad (now it is safe to read part 1 What is Post-modernism?)

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Friday, November 19, 2004

What is Post-Modernism??

Catez at Allthings2all has a series of posts on Postmodernism.

I have a little problem/confusion about the definition of "post-modern". Here, I think is the gist of my problem. All these categories appear to be too large and cover an umbrella of eras and schools of thought which are a mixture of "enlightenment", "modern", and "post-modern" elements. I am on a bit of a quest for more precision in my understanding of the definitions.

From these author Catez quotes and from what I have heard over the years, it appears post-modern is a term used to describe more the worldview of the culture at large than a philosophical school. The reason I think "post-modern" is defining culture and not a school of thought is because it appears that what is being called post-modern is actually the social application of the problems of "doubt" and "subjectivism" which I always would have considered problems addressed by modern thinkers. I (probably wrongly) have always equated modern with existentialism and doubt, BUT it appears that "modern" is defined as those thinkers who "believe their methods can come to knowledge" (hat tip to Andrew from 'Philosophical Poetry')
So a helpful tidbit here is that if one maitains an optimistic view of one's method one remains a modern as opposed to a post-modern. Hmm??

Nonetheless, I still think (again I am probably wrong here) that we can refine our definitions a bit.

Here is how I think the Terms could be defined:

Scholasticism and Pre-Scientific Thought
This is the era I think is so often missed. To me the pre-scientific thinkers had yet to discover the proper starting point of observation and experience. The scholastic world was interested in building a "house of ideas". The method was based on the authority of our thinking and the thoughts of other thinkers and not the final authority of the observed reality. But then came Galileo and his telescope. Observation proved that the ancients were wrong and, henceforth, the starting place for the authority of one's knowledge claims became observed reality.

Do we still see remnants of this old order? Have we bridged the great chasm between the 16th century and the 17th century? This question, I believe, is vital for all of us to answer!!
Here is my personal pet peeve. When Jesus says, "You know them (the validity of a teachers method or teaching) by their fruit, was he not saying that the bottom line is the external evidence (i.e. the observed reality)?" Is this how we in the West really approach the validity of a teachers teachings? Hmm?

Enlightenment:
I see the enlightenment as saying a few things:
1. The world can be understood through observation using the senses. Even observation of my self as a subject.
2. The sense and reason combined do indeed lead to the discovery of truth.
This approach can have either an objective or a subjective starting point. (That is the early thinkers (I imagine) did not address the problem of reality being mediated by the subject). Nonetheless, through experience, we can come to knowledge. The enlightenment was a very optimistic view of human potential and our ability to attain knowledge.

Modernism (I always thought):
Asked some specific questions to the methodological optimism of the enlightenment.
1. The premise is "If we are all subjects, and knowledge is mediated by a subject, how do we know something with certainty?" This "modern" dilemma leads to both philosophical and practical problems. Perspective becomes a major issue. How do we bridge the gap between the subject and reality and how do we bridge the very practical gap between the perspectives two or more subjects? The big double whammy of modern life!! Therefore,
2. The problem of pluralism and perspective becomes paramount.

3. How to live as a person and how to be authentically free and alive as a person/subject become the central question of modern life. No longer is the quest for truth per se, but, instead, the only quest left is the quest for authentic human existence.

Now it seems that what I call "modern" most people call "post-modern". But whatever?? I am asking for a little clarity here? Help!!!

A bit more on my understanding of "modern".
I think because science says knowledge comes through observation and reason, this method begs the question, "Can we trust our observations and our reason?". I think, actually, these questions were never solved in a practical manner. In other words, if we have all this doubt about our own "perspective", how do we then live and how do we then live together??

An example of a "modernist" to me would be Nietzsche. Now, I am bound to err here. I am in over my head BUT...was not Nietzsche asking how can a person live authentically and free in the modern world. In his answers, Nietzsche attacked what he saw as the slave identity of the "religious", "Jewish", and "Christian" which from his perspective was an existence based on fear and ancient authority. Is not Nietzsche saying, "In the modern world, where we have left only the world around us, our senses and our perspective, how do we live?

These questions which are based now in the analysis of the life of the individual subject and not the empirical quest for knowledge through observation and reason should not be lumped together under the single umbrella of the enlightenment!!

So then what is my understanding (as limited as it is) of Post-Modern
Post-Modern
In my scheme, what is being called post-modern is the continuation of the modern dilemma. If we doubt our knowledge, "How do we live?" and to the post-modern, "How do we live together?" The answers in the post-modern world have a lot to do with learning to respect the others perspective. Our culture and the cosmopolitan culture in general acknowledges that perspective is a byproduct of "tribe". So this "post-modernism" is the cultural and practical response to the acceptance of "modern" ideas. That is my take on the post-modern worldview.

Now, I think these categories are far more helpful. Scholasticism/pre-scientific, enlightenment, modern, and post-modern. Separating enlightenment methods from scholastic methods, separating modern problems from enlightenment problems, and, again, separating post-modern applications from the modernist quagmire seems to explain the evolution of both thought and culture more accurately than the confusing umbrella of "modern/enlightenment" which I often hear in our popular discussion of the world we live in.

Any comments would be helpful!!
Please inform my opinions here!!!
Please, all you philosophical types, help me clarify these terms.
brad Part 2 is Here...

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Your Kingdom Come - Dynamic Faith 2

Lord willing, what follows coalesces the BIG POINTS of my pastoral theology.

(Note: This post hasn't been edited so read with grace)

Knowledge through Experience - A Pastoral Epistemology
We have discussed our static faith. Static faith is the faith we have about our relationship with the Father when we are “quite and still” in prayer. If our faith is biblically sound, we will learn to have a Gospel orientation toward God. God is giving grace to us. We are on the receiving end of His love. God is not a perfectionist nor is he distant or abusive. God is love.

The second and vital point we must understand is that we do not know this static faith of our relationship with the Father until we experience it. Knowledge is experience. This is what people mean when they say the farthest distance on earth is the distance from the head to the heart. Note that in my examples, our experience happens when the Holy Spirit applies biblical truth to specific examples in our lives. I gave the example of learning God’s sovereignty as the Lord taught me forgiveness in suffering. As I forgave, I realized that this knowledge of God could not have come to me without this experience of pain and sin. Our need to experience personal application of biblical truth as the road to knowledge is actually the biblical argument for the existence of evil. Evil is part of God’s manifold wisdom to help us know the pleasure of His mercy “to the glory of His grace”.

This knowledge of God is learned as a practice not as a theory. Theology and practice are linked like we learn gymnastics through practice not theory. It is one thing to know the biblical passages that support the theory of “justification though faith”. It is quite another thing to know justification through faith by having the experience of being “simultaneously saint and sinner”. This knowledge is learned in the practice of prayer. In the same way, a gymnast needs to continually practice to say he can do a double back flip so too we continually practice prayer to know justification through faith. This practical theology regarding our position and relationship to God through the gospel is the practice and experience of our static faith. This relationship is immutable.

The next great lesson in our Christian faith is coming to know our dynamic faith. Dynamic faith is the faith for God’s power while we are, not still in prayer, but moving in the activities of life. For the kingdom to come on earth as it is in heaven that means I need a faith for God to encounter my activities with power to change my behavior and the outcomes of my activities.

Lets look at Abraham’s faith. - Dynamic Faith
Hebrews 11 By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going. 9 By faith he lived as an alien in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, fellow heirs of the same promise; 10 for he was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God. 11 By faith even Sarah herself received ability to conceive, even beyond the proper time of life, since she considered Him faithful who had promised. 12 Therefore there was born even of one man, and him as good as dead at that, as many descendants AS THE STARS OF HEAVEN IN NUMBER, AND INNUMERABLE AS THE SAND WHICH IS BY THE SEASHORE.

Abraham’s faith is not just that God accepted Him ot of the nature of who God is and the mercy to be offered in the coming Messiah BUT his faith was that God would do the impossible in his life. Abraham and Sarah had tried over and over again to have a baby boy. They were as good as dead in regard to child rearing, yet God promised to accomplish this work in their lives. So they stepped out and left their homeland and traveled into the promised land. Ten years later and still there was no child. But they continued to hope against all natural hope.

Paul says it this way,
18Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, "So shall your offspring be."19Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead--since he was about a hundred years old--and that Sarah's womb was also dead. 20Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, 21being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. 22This is why "it was credited to him as righteousness." 23The words "it was credited to him" were written not for him alone, 24but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness--for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead.

Against all hope, seeing his personal history, Abraham believed God was able to change his story, a story of barrenness, into a story of fruitfulness. Abraham believed God was able to perform and that God has the power to accomplish the promise. Faith for God’s power to encounter our activities and our personal history and bring about the impossible is dynamic faith. The content of this dynamic faith is faith for the heavenly pattern of life namely His will being done and His name being hallowed.

Dynamic faith is faith for a Christianity with Power.

Moral Beauty as the Coalescing Principle
Faith has been given a bad name by the word of faith movement. I personally cannot look upon such preachers for even one second without being grieved. The reason is because this faith is not based on faith for a Morally Beautiful life. The gospel clearly proclaims that the enemy is sin. Jesus waged His ultimate battle against man’s moral depravity. It is our morally repugnant propensity from which we have been and are being delivered from. When we pray “hallowed be your name”, we are praying that the lives of believers would manifest the moral attributed of “Our Father”. God is perfect in His moral attributes.

To possess these attributes seems to us to be impossible. As I rise from prayer, have I yet learned to experience power and the attainment of the impossible with respect to my character and the quality of my life? In each relationship, do I know the method of seeing God’s person move through me to that other person so that I am like Christ to them? This is a lesson in dynamic faith. Do I know what it means to keep no record of wrongs? Do I know forgiveness as a lifestyle? In the heat of an argument, do I bring up a person’s wrongs and the laundry list of past shortcomings? Or do I know what it means to keep no record of wrongs?

This new life is impossible in the same way it was impossible for Abraham to have a child. So we come poor in spirit, beggars before our Father.

“Your Kingdom Come”. Father, teach me a faith that brings power into my every day existence.

Then we come to learn through our story the reality of dynamic faith. Then we learn the compassion and love of God that comes from faith in a Christianity with power.

God Bless,
brad

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Your Kingdom Come - Static and Dynamic Faith Part 1

This is the start of something big. We have thus far covered the experience of our justification, and this experience of grace is foundational to our Christian experience. BUT..it is learning to add to this faith and experience, the faith and experience of power and grace for victory that is the "teleos", the purpose, of our Christian calling. Over the next few weeks, we will be learning to rise up out of prayer and live in the kingdom by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone for the Glory of God alone.

The Meaning of the Prayer "Your Kingdom Come"
For many Christians around the world, one of the most revolutionary proclamation of our faith has become rote and meaningless. This development of history is even more peculiar when we think that just a few verses later after teaching us our revolutionary motto, Jesus warns us “now don’t let this become just empty words like pagans do. Don’t let this become vain repetition”. Are human beings just stupid or what? This radical visionary motto is the prayer “Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven”. What could a more radical call for fundamental change than to say today make earth just like heaven. Nothing could be further from reality. The Lord’s prayer is a prayer for a complete change of our reality.

In heaven, all the saints are filled with one great affection for the Lord. In heaven, the saints do Your will and hallow Your name. In heaven, Jesus rules and reigns. His will is done. The Glory of God fills the “temple”. This is certainly not true in my life. This temple is not filled with the light of His moral beauty and that is all to apparent. Woe is me.

The Heavenly Pattern of Life
When I was in seminary, one of my professors (I went to a dispensational seminary) taught that the Kingdom was the return of Jesus. I challenged him and asked him, “Does that mean that when we pray ‘Your Kingdom come’ we are praying for the return of Christ’”. “Well no”, he responded. You see to believe that the kingdom is Christ’s political rule, which to the dispensationalists was postponed, is to completely miss the meaning of the kingdom.

When Jesus preached, “Repent for the Kingdom of God is at hand”. This call to faith did not mean repent because the political rule of the Christ and the judgment is coming soon. To believe such would totally contradict the sovereignty of God and the prophecy of John the Baptist. Before Christ’s ministry began, John the Baptist cried out, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world”. The Christ is coming and He has come as your Lord and your savior. Repent and enter into relationship with Him!!! John the Baptist saw the crucifixion which was decreed in God’s plan from eternity. The cross is not God’s plan “B”. Therefore, when Jesus proclaimed the Kingdom to be at hand, he was not proclaiming his right to political rule (Hello!!). Instead, He was calling all to enter the kingdom by submitting to the rule and reign of Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit and the clear proclamation of the Father’s will in the Person of the Living Word Himself. The meaning of the preaching, “The Kingdom of God is at hand” is that the heavenly pattern of life is within your reach. It is near to you so turn and reach out and grasp it through repentance and faith. The kingdom can become an existential reality right now. The Christ is here and he has and will, by the Cross, remove every barrier between God and man. Salvation is at hand. Salvation and the kingdom, the heavenly pattern of life, is within reach.

Paul definedthe kingdom for us in Romans 14:17: “The kingdom of God is Christ’s return” OOPS . No it doesn’t say that. I was kidding.

Romans 14:17 says, “The kingdom of God is righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.”
Righteousness, peace and joy is a perfect definition of the heavenly pattern of life. In heaven, the righteous will of God is performed, the shalom of God is abiding, and the rest and joy of God is enjoyed by all the inhabitants of heaven.

Such a Revolutionary Prayer takes Great Faith
If the kingdom is within our reach, then why isn’t the kingdom the defining characteristic of our existence? Instead so much of our existence might be defined by sin, anxiety and a baseline level of depression. Life is hell and then you die. What do you mean, heaven on earth is the inheritance of the saints. The answer is “Repent and believe” is it not.

So far in our study of prayer and our intimate experience of God and life, I have done my best to analyze the experience of the Father’s love. When we come to God, it is vital that our approach is based on the grace of the gospel. When we meet Him our experience is to be one of an embrace. Our orientation is toward a Father who is not negligent, or a perfectionist, or abusive but a Father who has for us love and affection. This is our experience of the doctrine of justification by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. We will not allow ourselves to be bewitched by legalism but we will expect acceptance freely from our heavenly Father. This faith is faith in our immutable relationship with God through the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ, I call this our static faith. The foundation of our relationship with God is experienced in a quite and still place of worship. When we come to God, we experience our immutable unchanging relationship with Him. This static unchanging experience of “simultaneously saint and sinner” is the experienced of our justification.

BUT wait there is more. Our existence is not only defined and lived in the static state. In fact, to experience the heavenly quality of life, I need a practical faith that changes my existence while I am “on the move”. It is in the living that life happens. For the day itself, I need a dynamic faith.

Abraham had a dynamic faith. Christianity is the combination of both of these types of faith the faith in our static relationship with the Father and faith for the heavenly pattern of life in our living. The key is to realize that both applications of faith are faith in the grace of God to encounter our life and bring us into the promised land of righteousness peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.

God Bless,
brad