Monday, November 29, 2004
Saturday, November 27, 2004
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.
Friday, November 26, 2004
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.
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
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:
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.
Tuesday, November 23, 2004
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.
Monday, November 22, 2004
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 ...
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
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?
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
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
(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.
Tuesday, November 16, 2004
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.
Monday, November 15, 2004
I almost want to retract my post on the KC Prophetic Movement. I hate the spirit of criticism. If we are to criticize another community of faith, we must do so with tears of love for our brothers and sisters. The elder brother was filled with disgust. The Pharisees were filled with disgust. Disgust for another person is in itself morally repugnant. I do not blog politics and I did, but shouldn’t, blog criticism. So I have decided to blog on a positive note and answer the question, “What does a healthy marriage of evangelical theology and Charismatic experience look like?”
Winsome Indeed – Theology IS Important!!!
Though I am going to take a long route to say it, my point here is going to be two-fold.
To walk the fine line between dead evangelicalism and charismania and find vital Christianity, we must:
1. Know our Theology. By theology I mean the very subtle arguments that have gone on in church history over such issues as the atonement, the Trinity, God’s sovereignty, Justification by faith alone, the five solas….To walk the fine line, you must come out of your theological studies with a strong reformed, historic evangelicalism. Respect the theology of the great church leaders of history.
2. You must know your church history!! For example, Jonathan Edwards struggled with the same practical pastoral problems that the church is going through today. He is a great teacher to help us separate the bad from the good, vital Christianity from fanaticism.
That being said: I am going to post what I wrote last night.
It was with great trepidation that I wrote my first installment regarding the errors of the KC Prophetic Movement. Some of my dearest friends, people I have prayed for many, many times, hold the leaders in KC in the highest regard. These people are precious brothers and sisters in the Lord. But I as a pastor, I believe that to see the root cause of some harmful practices and theologies can help all of us grow in our quest for holiness and in our unity. The heart of God is love and the purpose of all correction is to heal and bless. My motivation is to help people embrace the historic faith which includes a positive view of experience yet avoids fanaticism.
Often on the radio or maybe on TV, I hear a person criticize another church community. Often, I have been a member of the community which is being criticized. My response is always the same. When church critics have criticized communities I have been involved in, I become acutely aware that this man doesn’t understand our hearts or our passion and loves for the Kingdom. From such experiences, I have learned to never criticize unless you have done your anthropology and loved a people like Christ loved us. He dwelt with us and loved us and certainly the gap between His love for God and ours or His wisdom and ours is greater the gap between our insight and the one’s we criticize. Nonetheless, Jesus still puts up with my nonsense and my ignorance and is gracious. Jesus still calls me His bride. Therefore, we must never make judgments about people’s hearts or their love for our mutual Savior. This being said, I do think it is valuable to see the subtle errors in thinking that can undermine our own pursuit of sanctification and Moral Beauty. If there is any value in criticism it is in our humble willingness to apply similar criticism to oursleves.
Some Very Important Distinctions- A Review of History
The Kansas City prophetic movement is not the third wave. In the early 80’s, C. Peter Wagner, a missiologist from Fuller Theological Seminary, wrote on the history of missions in the 20th Century. Wagner wrote that the first great wave of 20th Century missions happened as a result of the revival at Azusa Street in the early part of the century. This move of God gave birth to many new denominations known as Pentecostalism and included I believe the second big wave of revivalism in the 1950’s which gave birth to evangelists like Oral Roberts and the later rain movement. But all of these denominations and their offshoots are in culture and roots first wave. The second wave was seen as the renewal movement within the mainline charismatic churches. Wagner saw the incredible number of Pentecostal (first wave) and charismatic (second wave) believers in the world as a great move of the Holy Spirit. The third wave was seen as the embrace of the charismatic gifts, especially healing, and experiential worship by evangelicals. This third wave was seen as very different in character from the first two waves. Characteristics of the third wave include a very low tolerance for hype and emotionalism.
The greatest difference between the third wave and the other Pentecostal and charismatic “waves” is in the Third Waves view of sanctification.
I know that all sorts of problems have developed since the early 80's. That is the point. !! Case in point "C. Peter Wagner". What Peter Wagner is doing now is the opposite of what the Lord was doing in the early and mid- 80's in the Vineyard. The goal of the early Vineyard was a healthy marriage of evangelicalism and experiential worship and healing.
The model of the third wave was the Vineyard led by John Wimber, who was a friend of Wagner’s while at Fuller. John Wimber was very NOT Pentecostal. John was very self-depreciating and humble in his approach to ministry. He would say he was just a fat man going to heaven or would readily admit a mistake. At the same time, Wimber loved the whole church or as he would say “God loves the whole church smells and bells and all”. There was no elitism in the DNA of the Vineyard. The core of this humility was the emphasis on worship. Worship keeps our hearts God-centered. This God-centeredness was deep in the culture of the Vineyard. God was big, and we were small. This culture is Calvinism in practice. In my early days, I used to say, “I don’t care if you are Calvinist in doctrine just be Calvinist in practice and in worship.” I say all this to help the reader realize that the Vineyard and the legacy of John Wimber is not the KC Prophetic Movement. I obviously have great affection for the Vineyard and all it was before the KC Prophetic Movement came, and I desire to make the distinction clear.
When I used to say, "I don't care about your theology, it is your practice that matters", I WAS WRONG. That is what people are saying still today in the Emerging Church. "It is all about practice not theology!!" This is wrong. In the early third wave, it is precisely a lack of close attention to the theology of sanctification that allowed the errors in. In future posts, I am going to articulate the evangelical view of sanctification. Errors are very subtle and require deep thought and good theology. So be patient.
I am going to return to my former blog pattern of working through the life of prayer, and as I feel I have something to say on a proper view of sanctification, I will post under the heading of
Friday, November 12, 2004
Also, I have changed my blog roll by adding a lot of other people who think a lot like I do. Yes but .. has a bit on True Freedom .
Pure text has got the goods on the complimentary nature of scripture and experience.
Nicene theology actually links "The Little Flowers of Saint Francis" in his Book Feeding Time. I am in heaven. And here and here and here.
God bless John Depoe too!!
Oh and Jaytheophilus for trying, like all of us, to put it all together.
Mojoey's got more lists of Arafat terror facts.
Yeah I got a new computer and my iPod is working out great. I just had a good elder meeting. I am in a giving mood.
Thursday, November 11, 2004
First, in that God is so gracious with me, it is quite out of my normal mode to be critical of a particular church community. People believe things because they earnestly want the good for themselves and their families. I do not discuss politics usually because I detest the demonization of people just because they differ in their opinions. BUT… what follows is written because I believe I have been given some very unique experiences which can help people avoid a spirituality which I know to be harmful.
Also, what I am publishing today isn't edited, so I will later go back and re-write. In the meantime, make any comments you think might be helpful. I hope this helps.
Before I start this post, I want to give a little background. I began attending the Anaheim Vineyard in 1987 while I was in seminary at Talbot Theological Seminary. In December 1988, the Vineyard invited Paul Cain to speak at the "Spiritual Warfare" conference at Anaheim. I remember getting a call at my work by a friend saying, "You gotta come to church tonight. This guy is amazing." For the next three years, the Vineyard, myself included, were completely engulfed by the prophetic movement. I was a relatively new believer. I had become a Christian in 1986 after graduating from University.
Knowing God and the Early Vineyard
Being from the Vineyard, we had a very gracious, and I believe accurate, understanding of the Gospel. The Vineyard under the leadership of John Wimber was very compassionate, and the people, for the most part, were quite prayerful, gentle and kind. Before I even arrived at a Vineyard service, I had begun reading Reformed writers and biography. It was actually after hearing a friend give a talk, at seminary, on Martyn Lloyd-Jones that I began attending the Vineyard. He had said that the place, which believed most like Lloyd-Jones, was the Vineyard, so I went. In other words, the Vineyard was a place where knowing God through the bible and experience, like the piety of the Reformed Revivalists, was modeled rather well in Vineyard worship and prayer. The Vineyard seemed to be, to me at least, more like the story of the Whitfield's and Edward's of history than mainstream evangelicalism.
I found this God-centeredness and passion for God to be a very true description of the early Vineyard.
Nonetheless, I being very short on experience of different nuances of Christian practice and theology was not equipped to see the serious problems that came with the KC Prophets.
The Kansas City Prophets
By the Kansas City prophets I mean the following people:
Mike Bickle, pastor of the Kansas City Fellowship
Paul Cain, the most highly regarded of the "prophets"
Bob Jones, the "prophet" from Kansas City
Rick Joyner, another "prophet".
John Paul Jackson, another "prophet"
Jack Deere, the very smart guy from Dallas.
The result of these men being embraced by the Vineyard was disastrous. When I first came to the Vineyard, it was growing. John Wimber had come back from a busy conference schedule to the pastorate, and the Vineyard seemed to be getting back to evangelism. It was very easy to invite people to church. The worship was great, and it wasn't too weird. As soon as the KC prophets came, all the real evangelism appeared to stop. This change was apparent to John Wimber and Todd Hunter and others and, I know it was troubling. Later after John Wimber realized he had made a big mistake in letting the KC Prophets into the Vineyard, John began to preach for about a year on the theme: "Dance with Who Brung Ya." His point was to go back to the Vineyard as it originally was. Evangelism and Compassion. But the damage was done and the road to recovery has been indeed a long one. I have not visited the Anaheim Vineyard in many years, and I do really respect their current pastor BUT..he has a long row to hoe to bring a full recovery to what once was a truly beautiful local church.
This post is intended to distill what I think are the key poisons that came into the Spirituality of many people through the KC Prophets.
I will articulate what I think are the key practical and theological problems with the KC Prophets. They are:
The Dispensation of the End Times. The KC Prophets introduced a "Dispensation of the End-Times". This error undermines the Grace of the Gospel.
Anti-discernment. The word from hell, "God offends the mind to reveal the heart".
Speculative understanding of Causation. You know it when you see it.
I contend if we can deeply understand these errors, those of us who desires more of God can walk the narrow road between dry evangelicalism on the right and the destructive practices of hyper-spirituality on the left, and, ultimately, we can find a deep abiding love for God.
The Dispensationalism of the End Times - The Word from Paul Cain
When I was a young Christian, I took the bible for what it meant, and I still do. The foundation of my theology is the idea of Spiritual Union. As born-again believers, we are one spirit with Christ. Gal. 2:20 says, "It is no longer I who live but Christ lives in me". Therefore, my faith is such that I have very high expectations of the Gospe,l and I have high expectations for the normal mode of Christian life. Particularly, the bible teaches that we have been given everything necessary for life and Godliness.
My personal life purpose statement is "Expanding the kingdom by becoming an ever more beautiful community and living every aspect of the life of Christ." As a reader of 18th century books and as a lover of St. Francis, my emphasis has always been that we are called and equipped to live a Morally Beautiful Life. Does something historic have to happen for me to be equipped or do I need simply to understand and believe in what the bible already says? I need only to understand, through the preaching of the word and through community, to learn to live the story that is my inheritance according to the finished work of Christ. The bible neither teaches that all the holiness and power was used up in the 1st century and now we should expect little help from God nor does it teach that I need to wait for some end-times super apostle to come with the goods. It is vital to realize that in the immediate present, we exist in a dispensation of instantaneous access to all we need for both Power and Holiness. The present that I live in is dispensationally speaking exactly the same as the Apostolic age and will remain the same dispensation until Christ returns.
This once and for all Gospel is not what dispensationalist nor what the KC Prophets preach.
The first word which Paul Cain spoke in 1988 at the Spiritual Warfare conference was, "There will be a wind of holiness followed by a wind of power". This word was poison.
This concept is saying that holiness is a condition of power. I could write a book on how destructive this word was and is. This "word" is saying that the Lord will use you to heal and bless other's after he is done "making you holy". If that were true, we all might as well head for the hills and become monks. I am not even close to holy, and yet God uses me all the time. In fact, I find that the Lord gives grace not to the holy but the humble. I don't know about you but "I'm just a fat man going to heaven." To believe that we have to attain a level of holiness prior to receiving all the benefits of the gospel is heresy. Plain and simple. The entire beauty of the gospel is that your personal history has nothing to do with God giving you a beautiful robe, a ring on your finger, sandals on your feet, and a feast to end all feasts.
The fruit of this "word" was that the Vineyard as a movement stopped "doing the stuff" in the present, and, instead, the church began to wait for an end-times future that is yet to come.
The true gospel of the kingdom is that the great eschatological event that sets us free is not the coming of the end time revival but the cross of Jesus Christ.
The "Word" from Bob Jones - God Offends the Mind to Reveal the Heart
It took me awhile to understand how subtle and destructive Paul Cain's word about the winds was, but this word offended me from the get go.
Bob Jones was just plain weird, and his person just naturally makes one feel like something is just not quite right. Our ability to perceive that a person has some mental or emotional dysfunction is often more accurate than our ability to put it into words. The "God offends the mind to reveal the heart" word was the KC prophets ultimate defense mechanism against a person's natural wisdom.
The word was in essence saying, "Don't trust your discernment. The hyper-spiritual are always offensive to the uninitiated".
Don’t trust your own mind is a total manipulative, cultic, de-humanizing lie from hell (did I say that out loud??). The Holy Spirit brings clarity not confusion.
Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!!! Don't put two and two together and judge these men by their fruit. They are the hyper-spiritual men in the know.
Here is my principle God makes us winsome not weird. I came through this experience with one coalescing concept - Moral Beauty. If the fruit of a man's life is that he is morally beautiful and filled with love and joy, then there is a good chance that that person is a good person to ask how to raise your family and how to be a better person. You shall know them by their fruit is the exact opposite of "God offends the mind to reveal the heart." We are to use our natural discernment to judge both people's teachings and their lives.
This "word" is the exact opposite of what I teach my kids. I want my children to be wise and to make wise decisions. I do not want my children to throw all caution to the wind and make decisions that are clearly "unnatural and unwise". The actual fruit of this word was that the more un-wise something appears on the outside the more "spiritual" it is. This word left a wake of destruction in every person that recieved it.
This "word" totally undermines all sanctification.
Let's say you are counseling someone. This person cannot keep a job because he makes too many mistakes at work. He makes too many mistakes at work because, he stays up all night praying or because he lacks basic organizational skills. As a pastor, I would try to teach him to take responsibility for his actions and take practical steps to learn how to be organized or how to get enough sleep. We need to be assets to our employers.
Then, in come the hyper-spiritual prophets. "Don't listen to that pastor. The Lord says you are being purged and persecuted by the devil. God always puts his special children through such difficulties. Your gifting is an offense to your pastor because he, in his controlling nature, doesn’t want you to continue in your pursuit of your end time calling.
NO NO NO!!!! The leader of the church is to be of good repute to outsiders. The natural discernment of the common man should say that our life is very healthy and our life is beautiful. People think we are weird because we are weird. God calls us to be winsome not weird.
Well, all this is enough for now. Tomorrow...
Speculative Views of Causation…
Wednesday, November 10, 2004
I think Yasser Arafat was a terrible leader for the Palestinians and for the Israelis and for the whole world. This man was in a league with Hitler and Stalin and Mao.
Last year I read, William Shirer's, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. I read this to better understand megalomaniacal leadership. My desire is to understand the servant leadership of Christ, and so I read an example of the opposite. Well, I see many traits similar to Hitler in the person of Arafat.
1. He was absolutely uncompromising because he wanted to see his vision of a greater Palestine come to pass.
2. He was completely politically minded. He would do whatever it took to achieve political ends. This is the heart of fascistic terror.
3. Arafat was notorious for playing political mind games. Lying to reach his end and say anything
Blah Blah Blah....
Arafat was a very evil man who got to power by very evil means and did very evil things all his evil reign.
Now with Arafat gone there are three possible outcomes:
1. The young lions take over the PLO and it stays radical like Arafat.
2. Hamas and Islamic Jihad take over the movement and the situation stays the same.
3. The moderates take over the PLO and Hams and Islamic Jihad are crushed and the peace process goes forward like butter.
Now here is my prediction. The middle east peace process will flow like butter. With Arafat out of the way, the process of obtaining a two-state solution will be rather simple.
Therefore, if Bush spends his political capital on solving the peace issue in Israel and sends Powell and someone like Dennis Ross to the region, all will go very well. We must do what it takes to win this one.
The outcome of this transition of the leaership of the Palestinians is huge in the GWOT.
Therefore, pray that the president and his administration has wisdom on this one. Pray for the peace of Israel. It is a pivotal battle in the GWOT.
Tuesday, November 09, 2004
I have spent the last two weeks talking about 'Knowing God' in prayer and worship. These incredible truths of God's grace and sovereignty are brought home to our person and our understanding through our experience in prayer.
David Brainerd in a letter to his brother who was also a missionary wrote, "reject fire without light". It was Brainerd's practice to interview people who showed some emotion or affect in prayer. The affect was the fire, but the light (clearity of their understanding of God) was the distinguishing mark of grace. The theology of this is that God by the Holy Spirit reveals God to us, almost exclusively in revelation of Christ. A person having clarity regarding God's person should be able to describe the excellencies of God which He has "seen". In worship, we encounter God's glory, and we come to love His moral attributes and His attributes of infinity.
I have attempted to describe this experience by depicting a type of relationship to the Father that the Christian experiences and by describing what it isn't. BUT...
Seeing God is not our sole purpose. We are called to live. The proof of our spirituality is in the living. My sole point of starting from the Worship experience is because the Lord's prayer starts from the place of "Our Father, who art in heaven". Christ is teaching us something here and it is that our prayer and devotional life needs to be God-centered.
Yesterday, I posted rather practically about time. I stated that our prayer capacity needs to grow. A very practical way to grow in worship is to use music in our personal devotion. Why do you think God invented the Walkman?!! Or in my case the Guitar. I remember when the Langley Vineyard CD, Changed By Your Glory came out(Refiner's Fire etc). I, probably, listened to that tape every day for 5 years. With the stop button in one hand and a pen and paper in the other (today a laptop works even better).
Listen. Rewind. Listen again. Write. Rewind. Listen. Pray. Write. Listen again. Find a scripture. Pray. Listen again. Pray. Write. Go to work.
Going to Heaven
The bible teaches that we are seated in heavenly places with Christ (Eph. 2:6). We are to focus our eyes above where our life is hidden with Christ in God (Col. 3:1-3). When we pray and we experience God, we are experiencing heaven. Heaven is where God is. When we have this experience of God, we see a little glimpse of Him but we also see a glimpse of heaven. Heaven is where God is and where His name is hallowed, His kingdom is and His will is done. At the same time we experience clarity with respect to who God is we also simultaneously experience clarity as to the quality of life that is beautiful and heavenly.
Immediately, we are struck with the gap between our existence and the existence or the kingdom. This gap is our opportunity.
Oh, God your name is not being hallowed on earth. I do not hallow your name. I am undone…
So this is our third point:
1. The true knowledge of God produces passion for the Father's Love to some degree.
2. The true expereince produces passion for His Sovereignty or His greatness to some degree
3. True knowledge of God (being with God) produces passion to live the heavenly pattern of life where God is honored and His will manifest in daily living.
The 1% Rule
When we are in this place of clarity with respect to God and the Kingdom quality of life, we often realize that we spend less than 1% of our actual life in this awareness. This is normal but unacceptable. We are free to fail but our desire is to live in this quality of life.
Christ then teaches us to cry out for this new quality of existence. This clarity produces passionate requests.
Father let your name be honored. Let this pattern of life be the pattern of life of my family and my self. Father let you will, love and sacrifice, and loving words be my pattern of life. Oh, God…Oh God …Oh God…
Indeed, 1% is a stretch but not for long…
Enough for now
1. Read the bible
2. Worshipped in song (quietly)
I remember I would write like a 3, 2, 2 up in the corner of the day's page. This notation meant, I read the bible for 3 minutes, worshipped for 2 minutes and prayed for 2 minutes. My capacity for prayer was very slight. Many of us may be in this very beginning stage in our prayer learning curve, or we may have returned to this type of practice due to the business of life.
Learning a New Story
What happened to me was that I met some people who introduced me to the writings of Edwards and Whitfield. Also, I read a book by Martyn Lloyd-Jones called Revival that was very biographical. I saw the prayer life of people from history and my expectations changed. Also, I began going to prayer meetings with some of these new friends. Together, in community, I learned a new story of what it means to pray. In addition, I met a Korean seminary student. I would go over to his house and we would pray and worship together.
Before long, my expectation was, like Moses, "to go to the mountain and meet the LORD".
So far in this study on prayer, we have looked at the experience of "knowing God" in his grace and compassion and His sovereignty. This is the worship approach to prayer.
My desire in this series of posts is to lead the readers into a new expectation of "meeting God" in your daily life. My story changed a great deal from this 3, 2, 2 prayer life.
But I gotta go for now. Late for work.
Much more on this practical approach to prayer in the posts ahead.
Saturday, November 06, 2004
Keeping it Real - Real Pastoral that Is
The type of question which I am attempting to answer with respect to God’s sovereignty is something like, “Is God in control of my personal history?” “Was God in control when that really bad thing happened to me?” If He is in control, “Why did He let this bad thing happen to me?” I am a pastor, and I am interested not in abstract problems but the real life concrete problems that greatly affect people’s existence.
For example, if a person is raped, how does this affect their view of God and their approach to life? If a person is abused, as I have discussed in previous posts, how does this affect that person’s ability to trust God and by faith love others and forgive others?
Often the traumatized person leads a life of self-protection and survival and cannot embrace the way of the cross, the way of unconditional love.
The deeply violated says in their heart, I will trust no one. This vow is epidemic in today’s culture. Rage is all the rage these days.
Sometimes the opposite happens and the traumatized say to themselves, “I am a victim. I will always be a victim”. Such self-loathing leads to further victimization, co-dependence, and all forms of dysfunction. Due to an inability to see clearly and to see God clearly, the individual is unable to embrace the existential experience of faith and enter into the morally beautiful life.
As you can see, my approach to the doctrine of sovereignty is not abstract at all, but instead, the individual’s understanding of the nature of God and how He intersects with our existence is part and parcel of the individual’s, the subjects, interaction with the world around them. My concerns are entirely pastoral and intimately related to the pastoral job of assisting people with their process of sanctification. The truth, in this case the doctrine of God’s sovereignty, is a vital tool in helping people become free and holy and beautiful.
In my previous post, I was attempting to show (my wife said she was lost) that belief in God’s sovereignty is not an easily understood position for us while we are in the midst of an exceedingly difficult time. The belief in God being both in control and all loving is not acceptable to our minds when we are in this place of difficulty. We may stand on the goodness of God, but simultaneously be confused about what is going on. Our faith, our worldview, is not mature enough for us to abide in an experience of our God being “in control”. Then, later, according to God’s sovereign timing, we come to see God anew and faith in His sovereignty is restored in our person.
The example of this experience in the bible is Job in the book of Job.
I see the book of Job as a play. The play begins up in the choir loft. In the opening scene, I see Job and the family going about their daily mundane tasks, while above their heads a scene develops in the “choir loft”.
Satan approaches God.
God says, “Where have you been”.
Satan, “Roaming on the earth. Messing with people”.
God, “Oh yeah, did you see Job.”
Satan, “Of course, that hypocrite totally bugs me. He serves you because you make him rich. I bet if you let me take all his stuff and I mean all his stuff, he will curse You. He is no different than anybody else. They all serve you for their own selfish ends”.
God, “OK, you’re on”.
The lights in the choir loft dim. The lights on the stage come up, and the play begins. The whole point is that Job is oblivious to the real motives behind the personal history he is about to experience, but God has a plan for His own glory. As the play continues, Job curses life, but He does not curse God. Job acknowledges all his pain and all the injustice of life, but He continues to confess the truth of God’s goodness.
“Though I do not know what is going on I believe God is just. One day my redeemer will stand on the earth. The LORD is my redeemer.”
Then, the big climactic scene arrives. God reveals His majesty and His sovereignty to Job. Job falls down and worships the LORD.
Job’s passion for God and His sovereignty grows and matures through His experience of God’s sovereignty. The entire experience and its meaning is hidden from Job while he is experiencing all the pain and evil of life. But it all ends in worship. God’s goodness and God’s majesty is restored in Job’s worship.
My Experience with God’s Sovereignty
I remember times in my own life when I read Job 3, when Job curses the day of his birth, and I have said, “I am with you Job. Been there; done that.”
Let me share my experience of God’s sovereignty.
In 1992, I was working at a church as an intern of sorts. During one two-week period, the church was having two back-to-back conferences. This meant that I was attending services three times a day for two weeks. I attended every time of worship which always began with about 50 minutes of worship through music. Needless to say, I was seeking God. I would keep a journal and write out my thoughts. After one worship time, I remember going off by myself to pray for the afternoon. My roommate was going to pick me up at about 5:00pm.
Quite frankly, I do not remember what the conference was about. I do not remember what scriptures I was reading in my prayer time, but I do remember what the Lord spoke to me that day.
As the late afternoon approached, I remember that the very painful situation of my parent’s divorce came before my mind’s eye. I began to weep. I began to get angry. I saw in a moment that my youth was completely void of any parental oversight. I saw that my punk rock heroes were my parents. I was an orphan. Years of alienation came to the surface. I remember saying to both God and my parent’s in my mind, “What did you expect me to do?” as years of shame and prodigal living were paraded before my eyes.
Then, in the midst of my pain and anger, the Lord said, “Forgive them. They did not know what they were doing.” Simultaneously, I saw my mother and the pain she had gone through during the time of the divorce, and I saw the pain my father went through for so many years. I saw my pain. I began to forgive. I went back and forth between waves of pain and anger, waves of forgiveness, and waves of worship of Jesus on the cross, the author of this forgiveness I was now experiencing. Pain kissed forgiveness in a way that can only be described as Jesus. I knew deep in my person that this is what Paul meant by sharing in the suffering of Christ. I was willingly entering into the forgiveness He had purchased for the sins of the world. My suffering was being redeemed, and I was entering into in a deep identification with Christ.
This experience is the life of knowing God. In this place of pain and forgiveness, I found passion for the moral beauty of forgiveness and came to understand more deeply the love of Christ for the lost and suffering world in which we all must live.
Then, I saw it. Through all these years of difficulty, God had intentionally brought me to this very place in order to bring me into the knowledge of Him. It was through this very stretch of personal history, which was filled with such experiences of sin and evil, that God was using to create love for His moral perfections. This entire path, every step, was God’s plan. The warmest affection for God rose up in me. The fruit of this experience was the light of love for God and intimae knowledge of the cross of Jesus Christ.
It is precisely the experience of a life of suffering and our experiences of the evils of this world that God uses to show us His love and His sovereignty. Though in the midst of such difficulties, God’s sovereignty is often most veiled. In due time, He shall rise in the morning with healing. Through the most treacherous paths of our personal history, the Lord births in our hearts a passion for His sovereignty.
Totem to Temple has this post on an e-mail he received from a man and his family who is leaving the prophetic movement. "Why I am Leaving the Prophetic Movement" . I hate to be devisive BUT..this needs to be said.
I left this back in 1998. I left because my kids were getting older, and I hated the speculative thinking. I refused to raise my kids in such an anti-intellectual environment.
I shared an office directly next to John Paul Jackson’s. This man literally thought the earth was flat. I began to have my doubts.
Also Parableman is talking about bigotry in the media against Christians.
I left this comment:
I have a great story. When I was in graduate school in education, I noticed after the first semester that the bias against Christians was intense. So in my second semester, I performed an experiment. I simply did well and hid my fundamentalism. Many times I had my essays read out loud by the professor before the class. Actually, she only read my essays. She even said once that she was reading my paper and had to call her collegues because she was so excited about the content. I was easily her favorite student. BUT...
She was Angela Davis-type, leftist, feminista radical. I mean she was a Christian hating, wealth distributing, pro-abotion-in-all-cases radical.
So, after the last class session, I approached her. I said to her, "What do you think is my stance as a writer." She said, "Well, I know you graduated from Stanford and are well versed in science, but I am not sure. I have been thinking about that." To this I said, "Who are the most ignorant and uneducated people in our 20th century American society."
To this she said and I do not lie, "Your not a Christian are you."
"The only one you have ever met. I am a fundamentalist Christian", I said. She admitted that she had never met a born again Christian before.
I explained to her that I had sat in this class listening to her stereotypes, and I decided I am going to help this woman understand the depth of her bigotry. I told her you see Christian like clansmen see little black sambo. I explain to her that most of my friends have advanced degrees from prestegious schools and still believe in the bible.
She was floored. She confessed she had stereotypes and that I had helped her to see that she was wrong.
The bigotry is very real out there, but we can win folks over one relationship at a time.
Friday, November 05, 2004
I woke up this morning questioning why I blog. John Dee at fides quite providentially has asked the same question in his post, “Why Blog”
Basically, I love to blog and hate blogging all at the same time.
I began blogging as another way, like preaching, to have some positive Kingdom influence. I have been asking questions about discipleship and how sanctification works for 15 years, and I desire, through blogging, to create some type of dialogue BUT
The Medium of Blogging
Blogging is a hard medium. Blogging is the most “low attention span” medium imaginable. Bloggers and blog readers are often surfing. Surfing is a great metaphor because it emphasizes the practice of “skimming the surface”. Thus the word surf-ing. Therefore, the best method to blog as a writer is to write in very short, clear, and concise bite size chunks. "Short, clear and concise" I am not!! In blogging especially, one well written paragraph is better than ten poorly written or organized paragraphs. Furthermore, the medium pretty much requires the blogger to write every day. This being part of the blogging medium, the question remains, “Is the medium of blogging good for influencing the church with respect to a topic as complex and thought provoking as discipleship or the 21st Century Reformation?” (i.e. Is blogging good for deep paradigm and worldview transformation?) My answer is NO!!
My Personal Content Problem
I have come to the realization that what I am blogging about is very hard for readers to understand. There are two reasons for this:
1. The nature of blogging as a low attention span, surfing, medium as stated above
2. Because I am not editing and spending enough time making my points just right. I am writing about a paradigm shift or worldview shift and a shift in Christian practice that is both subtle and revolutionary. To communicate, I need to write with more precision.
When I re-read my posts, I often realize there are gaps in the train of thought. I write with a lot of assumptions in mind. I have found blogging to be great for keeping the ideas flowing, BUT my content isn’t well understood by readers in draft form!!!
For what I, as a blogger, desire to do, I need to write more in an academic journal type format. Blogging isn’t so good a medium for academic writing. Nonetheless, I like to blog even though I believe that it is possible that blogging is not the medium to accomplish the goal I desire. So why blog??
I blog because I have an insatiable desire to write. I am going to continue to blog for the sake of writing as an end in itself even if I need to accomplish the kingdom goals I have in another medium. Ultimately, blogging helps me get the ideas out and flowing.
So the medium and I are having a bit of a rocky relationship this week.
Bumming on blogging in Sunny Southern California
I woke up this morning singing what I think is just a great song. I danced around the house singing and “moshing” around with my six kids before they went to school.
So I thought, “This song is the best song of the 21st Century thus far”. Then it occurred to me that I am the weirdest person on earth. Why??
Well, my nomination for best song so far of the 21st Century…The envelop please...
That is a secret for now!! After a few days of comment, I will give up my radically eccentric and eclectic nominations!!!
Make your nominations.
OK, I will give up one of the top twenty. This album isn't #1 by any means but it is a must have:
Linkin Park "Meteora"
Music the whole family can love!! :)
Thursday, November 04, 2004
Maybe someone could help me here BUT I don't get the conflict between human freedom and God's sovereignty. First, let me explain my theology-making process. I believe the reader will come to understand that both our mind and our experience can come to adore the doctrine of God's sovereignty. What follows is a description of how I come to know God. I am contending that this is the right way to make theology by the way.
1. We start with the bible. The bible is very clear on the sovereignty issue. God can predict the details of the future and He says these events happen according to His intention. I do not see how such a scenario could transpire of both prediction and intention without absolute sovereignty. God decrees history.
2. Then having believed I and all believers ultimately come to a direct experience of the truth. Some in this life some in eternity. The Holy Spirit takes a truth about God and reveals to us its application in our personal history. This intimate knowledge of the truth about who God is produces passion for God and a love for who He is.
In my personal life, I have found passion for the experience of the Father's love and also passion and worship for God's sovereignty. I think many people are confused because they have not had the experience, and, because the truth of God's sovereignty is very hard to understand, it becomes almost impossible to describe and therefore integrate into life. In the abstract, freedom and God's sovereignty may seem hard if not impossible to integrate intellectually (like Einstein's physics), but, after experience, the task changes from explaining an abstract intellectual problem to one of describing an experience in light of the truth of both scripture and one's intimate knowledge. In this intellectual codification process, scripture and experience support one another.
Einstein is a good example. Einstein's theories are very hard to understand and seem both counter-intuitive and illogical BUT they are true.
For example, Einstein's theories (which are now proven) would describe the following seemingly illogical reality:
An example of Einstein's Theory
Imagine that I am on a train, and the train is traveling forward (lets say west) at .99 times the speed of light. While on the train, I shine a light from a flashlight westward. How fast is the light traveling with respect to me and with respect to a person "watching" the train drive by from the perspective of the side of the railroad tracks?
It seems that from my perspective as I travel at .99 times the speed of light, the light would move away from me at the speed of light. Therefore, to the guy on the side of the road, the light from the flashlight would be traveling westward at 1.99 times the speed of light (i.e. the speed of the train plus the speed of the light from the flashlight) BUT that is not correct.
The light is traveling 1.00 times the speed of light from my perspective and also 1.00 times the speed of light from the perspective of the guy on the side of the road.
Think about it - this is impossible!! If I am traveling at .99x the speed of light and a light is traveling away from me at 1.00x the speed light, then the light has to be traveling 1.99x the speed of light to the guy on the side of the road. NOPE!! Reality is not what you intuitively would think. HMMM?? Seem illogical. NOPE. The problem is our understanding of reality is just immature. Reality isn't illogical. It just is. Our job is to search the truth out and understand it and even stand in awe of the beauty of how the universe works.
The reality is that light travels at 1.00 times the speed of light from every perspective because time and distance are relative. If the speed of light is a constant, then it is time and distance that has to change.
Now here is the point. After many actual observations, man has come to actually observe and "experience" this seemingly illogical reality. Now that we know it is true by experience, the job is no longer to theorize about this reality in the abstract but to begin to describe the reality.
So (whether you agree with the analogy or not), the same is true with God's sovereignty. We start with the revelation of truth - the bible. Then, some time in life, we experience the reality of God's sovereignty in our life, and, then, we really know the truth intimately. The truth even becomes beautiful to us. At this point, we are ready to describe the experience (passionately I might add) by telling the story of our experience of God's glorious sovereignty. At this juncture in life, the one telling the story, who has both the scriptures and His experience and the evidence of prophecy and history all on his side, cannot ever be convinced to the contrary.
This is the methodology of my theology.
Next, the story from my experience.
Wednesday, November 03, 2004
This series started with a statement about "Reformed Existentialism". The point of this post being that the value of having an experience of the reformed faith is in that it is dignifying and liberating. I call this experience loosely "Existential" because I am attempting to uncover the anatomy of an experience that I believe makes us "more human" (and I mean that in a good way). The two experiences which I think are uniguely Christian are:
1. The Experience of the Father's Love. This experience is the experience of a particular type of parent-child relationship. Luther called this experience being "simultaneously Saint and sinner". I contrast this experience with the Relationship of Neglect, The Relationship of Perfectionism and The Relationship of Abuse.
2. The second great experience which actually makes us human and free (strangely enough) is the experience of God's sovereignty. I have yet to post on this but I will over the weekend.
My goal in these posts is to help the believer enter into this experience and become a person filled with affection for God but also filled with all the other virtues of the Christian life which I contend flow from the knowledge of God.
So my challenge is to please make comments on the following two posts.
Passion for the Expereince of the Father's Love
The Relationship of Abuse (re-written for grammer and typos)
Tuesday, November 02, 2004
Sola Scriptura and Human Dignity.
Also read this post by Darren over at Nicene Theology
Sola Scriptura and Total Depravity
1. Prosthesis - Winsome TULIP
2. Prosthesis - Hardcore TULIP
3. Fides ... - series on Open Theism (here, here, here, and here ) OOPS too many heres.. I think ??
4. Jaytheophilus - Religious Experience
5. Our Green Room - Theory and Praxis
As you can see I am getting into the smart guys. Very good stuff.
"If only I knew He wasn't angry with me."
I can relate. I was raised in a wonderful home. Our family was the model family. All the children were literally straight "A" students. My father was very successful. My mother was so thoughtful and hard working that I to this day stand in awe of her love. But, then, for no reason that my 15-year-old mind could understand, it all collapsed.
One day, I came home and my older sister, who was married by this time, was there at our house. She looked at me and asked me to get in the car. She said I had to go over to her house. I complied. After we arrived at her house, she sat me down on her couch and said the following words, "Mom and Dad are getting a divorce."
It was as if the floor disappeared from under my feet. I still, it is seared in my conscience, can feel the sense that everything was spinning around me. Everything became fuzzy. At 15 years old, still pre-pubescent, I was all alone. Even as I write, I begin to cuss and swear under my breath.
One day all was white.
The next day all was black.
I didn't have to run away from home because home ran away from me.
Never can a person make sense of such an experience while in the midst of it. For about seven years, I was in sack cloth and ashes. I sat in the proverbial desert, in a far away land, and I waited. Could love ever find me? During these years, my heroes were Sid Vicious of the Sex Pistols and Joe Strummer of the Clash. I fell in love with the swagger of anarchy. All I knew, though I didn't know why, was that authority was BAD.
Luckily, I rebelled into academia and athletics. My pain was channeled into the world of leftist politics and college wrestling. To me, the world was a terrible place, and I was intoxicated with the drive to change everything as we know it.
My experience is the response of a child to trauma. The world and its rulers (and usually its creator) are crazy. The rules make no sense. Its governors are cruel. No one gets it!! All the world is Babylon. The world is a vampire.
This expereince creates in the mind a worldview that sees all the ways of the world as unjust and authority as evil. Some respond to this expereince in secret ways by leading a double life. We trick the system. Others, like myself, react in more overt ways.
BUT...then, in my life, something profound happened. One day not long after I graduated from University, after I had just come home from a bible study, this "something profound" happened. Earlier that night, I had challenged the pastor. I argued with him. I said, "You are an idiot. You have no heart. People are starving to death, and you build you middle class life. This is not the gospel. You think 'Jesus died on the cross for your sin' is the point. Yet, you do not do what Jesus said. Jesus wants you to look like him." Then I said what I really believed: "Jesus didn't die on the cross for your sin".
To this tirade he simply said, "You need to read your bible".
Like a fool, I did. And something happened.
I read the statement that night in the Bible:
"Behold the lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world".
The sin of the world!! I knew the sin of the world.
All of a sudden I knew not only the sin of the world but that I was "of the world". In an instant of time, I saw the solution. The problem is deep in the heart of all of us. In the deepest place and at the most opportune time, I saw Jesus dying for my sin and for the sin of the world. I saw that the problem with all mankind is deep within, and I was no different. I knew I was a slave to sin. The problem with the world wasn't God. The problem was all of us.
In that instant, I saw that God had intentionally brought me to this place, and, then, He revealed Himself. The governor of the universe was GOOD. "God is light and in Him is no darkness at all".
The rest is, well, personal history.