Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Bono: In Conversation with Michka Assayas

Bono interview (HT Smart Christian and PaperCut Theology) This is pretty old news but it is quite good. It seems Bono is willing to cut straight to the chase on things theoogical. I think this point is so good about the difference between Karma and Grace. In counsiling myself and other total misfit toys like me, Karma just doesn't help much. The cycle of Karma has been broken by grace and nutballs like us got hope.

Q&A excerpted from the new book "Bono: In Conversation with Michka Assayas" by Michka Assayas.

Assayas: I think I am beginning to understand religion because I have started acting and thinking like a father. What do you make of that?

Bono: Yes, I think that's normal. It's a mind-blowing concept that the God who created the universe might be looking for company, a real relationship with people, but the thing that keeps me on my knees is the difference between Grace and Karma.

Assayas: I haven't heard you talk about that.

Bono: I really believe we've moved out of the realm of Karma into one of Grace.

Assayas: Well, that doesn't make it clearer for me.

Bono: You see, at the center of all religions is the idea of Karma. You know, what you put out comes back to you: an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, or in physics—in physical laws—every action is met by an equal or an opposite one. It's clear to me that Karma is at the very heart of the universe. I'm absolutely sure of it. And yet, along comes this idea called Grace to upend all that "as you reap, so you will sow" stuff. Grace defies reason and logic. Love interrupts, if you like, the consequences of your actions, which in my case is very good news indeed, because I've done a lot of stupid stuff.

Assayas: I'd be interested to hear that.

Bono: That's between me and God. But I'd be in big trouble if Karma was going to finally be my judge. I'd be in deep s---. It doesn't excuse my mistakes, but I'm holding out for Grace. I'm holding out that Jesus took my sins onto the Cross, because I know who I am, and I hope I don't have to depend on my own religiosity.

Assayas: The Son of God who takes away the sins of the world. I wish I could believe in that.

Bono: But I love the idea of the Sacrificial Lamb. I love the idea that God says: Look, you cretins, there are certain results to the way we are, to selfishness, and there's a mortality as part of your very sinful nature, and, let's face it, you're not living a very good life, are you? There are consequences to actions. The point of the death of Christ is that Christ took on the sins of the world, so that what we put out did not come back to us, and that our sinful nature does not reap the obvious death. That's the point. It should keep us humbled… . It's not our own good works that get us through the gates of heaven.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Podcast - Sermon 2 - Meekness

My only theme this year it seems. Subscribe to podcasts here. Cut and paste this url:
http://reformation.typepad.com/sermons/rss.xml
into your podcast subscriptions in your media player (iTunes etc).

Or this one, I think this one works too???..
http://feeds.feedburner.com/typepad/uSRJ

God Bless,
brad

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Christmas - A Time for Receiving

Tod Bolsinger recent post on "God is better than Santa" got me reflecting a bit on my personal story. Tod's post is saying that if we see our relationship with God as a matter of giving instead of receiving then we end up thinking we deserve or have earned God's grace. But instead, we it is most helpful to see Christmas as about receiving and in fact all of spirituality about receiving. This is a profound truth that sometimes is counter intuitive and is contrary to what our emotions (false humility) actually is telling us.

My Personal Story
I remember once I was at a retreat, and we were in the ministry time and a couple came up and wanted to pray for me. They said to put my hands out like I was receiving a gift. I was very awkward. I distinctly remember feeling that I am not to receive from God but give to Him. I had a "the lesser serves the greater" kind of instinct. Anyway, as they prayed for me, I began to weep, but the funny thing was I couldn't feel any thing. They asked what are you "feeling"? I actually said out loud, "I don't feel any thing?" as I wept uncontrollably. Well, the next few years completely changed my personality. (and you thought I am a basket case now..)..Our spiritual transformation all hinges on the idea of changing from being on the giving end or the receiving end with respect to spirituality.
God Bless,
brad
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Monday, December 19, 2005

Podcast - Sermons

It is official. I have started a podcast. I think our little church has something to say to the body at large and so I have started a sermons podcast.

To subscribe cut and paste this URL (http://reformation.typepad.com/sermons/rss.xml) into your subscriptions in iTunes. If you don't use iTunes I imagine it is very similar. Basically this url (http://reformation.typepad.com/sermons/rss.xml) is the rss and your media player will dowload any updates to this feed. I plan on posting two sermons a week or at least one.

God Bless,
brad
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Thursday, December 15, 2005

The Most Important Part of Prayer

The Most Important part of Prayer
When our Lord taught us to pray, He outlined a specific prayer, a quite simple prayer, to keep our priorities and attitude properly aligned in our prayer life. What can we learn about prayer from our Lord’s teaching on prayer.

1. The foundation of prayer is the orientation of our life toward God’s rule and reign.

Jesus taught us to pray by saying, "Our father in heaven hallowed by Your name. Your kingdom come your will be done on earth as it is in heaven." This prayer is entirely about aligning ourselves with the Sovereign Lordship of God and submitting our lives to His agenda. Here is the key to our spiritual lives and in fact our peace and happiness. The purpose of prayer is first and foremost our own repentance. The key to daily living is to turn from self-centeredness to God-centeredness.

How to achieve this alignment of our wills!
It is important to know that such alignment of our wills does not come with the words of our prayer but with the actual act of alignment. Jesus Himself says that it is not the words that matter. The Father already knows what we need. Prayer is a spiritual discipline to condition our person in meekness and worship. A key to this exercise is to realize that the opposite of self-centeredness is not 'non-self-centeredness" but God centeredness. To rest in the place of God-centeredness requires spiritual vision. What we are seeking in this exercise is a right view of God. Such a view of God is dependent on the Holy Spirit.

So the second point I would make is that such an orientation is not about words but about a view of God that brings what the bible calls “the fear of the Lord”. This fear of the Lord is a joyful place of acknowledging and seeing in our person the greatness of God and accepting His perfections.

The possible content of such a meditation is almost infinite. We might think of His wisdom in sending Jesus that He might be both the “just and the justifier of the one who believes in Jesus. Or His love in sending Jesus to make a way for our abiding forgiveness. We might thank Him for our lives and our experience of life. We might be thankful for His faithfulness in our lives. We might read a healing story from the life of Jesus and simply meditate on God’s compassion. We might praise for being a God of justice and mercy. BUT most importantly, we must be aware that the Holy Spirit is working with us to help us to worship God and to see His excellencies.

The Acceptance of God’s Will
I prefer the term acceptance to the term surrender when it comes to the orientation of the will. So often we stumble over the term surrender as in “total surrender”. We always will ask ourselves “Am I totally surrendered?” if we believe that surrender is a doorway to the blessed life, but acceptance is a more precise description of what is really happening.

“Lord, what ever happens in my life, whether good or bad, health or sickness, favor or persecution, all of this I accept as coming from Your hand and an opportunity for Your kingdom to come”.

We accept two essential realities in life. We accept all our circumstances which come to us. We accept that significant people around us are spiritually sick. We desire their spiritual healing and desire their spiritual maturity but first we accept them just as they are. We are absolutely tolerant of all people. Here is our peace.

Secondly, we accept God’s declared will, His word. We accept the word revealed in Jesus to love unconditionally. In this acceptance, we have come in alignment with God’s providence and His commands. We see trials as opportunities and difficult people as the most in need of our acceptance and love. We see difficulties as the moment when we can Glorify God and show His love.

This alignment of our wills is something we do more than daily but it is helpful to formally do as a spiritual discipline at least morning and night if we expect to abide in Christ and His word and thereby bear fruit to the Glory of the Father. The goal is to learn to walk during our day in these attitudes with prayer being a focused and directed time of orientation.

God Bless,
brad

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Prayer Tools - The Lord's Prayer - Part 1

Adrian Warnock introduced a topic on prayer. He is asking "Can you suggest how to keep a prayer journal?". Well, this is something I have been doing and learning for over 10 years and here is the best method I know.

I teach prayer through the Lord's prayer and I use these sheets. The goal is to pray morning and evening. Also, it is helpful to NOT BE HEROIC. What I mean by that is that when I was single and very charismatic, we tended to think you had to have some great "breakthrough" every day. I find this super-prayer warrior mwentality to not be helpful. So simply use these sheets to orient your heart in the surrender and to journal a few simple requests. The key is that our hearts are centered on God and His will. The "meekness, mercy, purity, peacemaking" part under "Thy kingdom come" is our way of keeping our hearts in the ways of the kingdom as taught in the Sermon on the Mount. So that is it for today. I will try to elaborate as the week progresses. I also will link the actual word docs too.



Well, that is the best I can do for now....I will try and clear this up...I hope this is helpful.
God Bless, brad

Saturday, December 03, 2005

The SBC-IMB and Open Letter from Wade Burleson

See this post for a little bit on the Southern Baptist International Mission Board on Tongues and Baptism from a trustee on the IMB...

Update: Here is another open letter from an insider. Also, I am thinking of starting a Baptist Blogs blogroll. This denomination seems to have some real mover shaker bloggers.

This is really a big deal and it opens up all kinds of polity issues. I orginally wanted to make comments but realized this issue is very complicated. A discussion on the role of democracy in the church, I think is valid. The role of such boards and committees in denominations and local chuches is vital to the mission of the church. Who should be making such HUGE policy decisions?

At the local church, such similar issues play out with similar weight for the local church. This instance in the SBC-IMB is larger in scope and certainly graver in its ramifications for unity and the witness of the universal church.

Prayerfully,
brad

Friday, December 02, 2005

Church Polity - Ecclesiology by a Novice

Update the tongues and baptism issue is SBC and is a decision by the International Missionary Board of the SBC (IMB). Also, here is a post from Missional Baptist on the issues. Lots of comments.

Adrian posts that the Baptists have banned all missionaries who speak in tongues. My question is does anyone know much about Baptist polity. Is this the big successful pastors who are pushing this? I doubt it. Is it theologians and seminary professors? Or is it bureaucrats? Is this principles or politics?

Also here is a great article on the conversion of Anne Rice. Very good article.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Reformed and Charismatic and The Central Role of Discipleship

Updates for typos and errors:
Two things are really difficult pastorally. One is making charismatics out of reformed believers, and the other is reforming charismatics. These two groups are so far apart in temperament and priorities that one is tempted to say that the two shall never meet. But with God, all things are possible.

Paul’s Ministry Experience
When we look at the New Testament churches, we realize that no church is perfect. Paul had real problems in almost all the churches he started. The Galatians had problems with legalism that almost completely undermined the true gospel. The Colossians had problems with syncretism and mysticism, and of course the Corinthian church, which Paul spent more time than with any other church, had serious divisions around rhetorical excellence and spiritual excess.
The Corinthian problem was twofold:
1. They idolized those preachers who had the best rhetorical skills.
2. They judged one another’s spirituality by how powerful an individual’s spiritual gifting was. The one who spoke in tongues the loudest and the weirdest was considered more spiritual.

What I would like to emphasize is how Paul dealt with these problems.

Paul Did Not Outlaw Spiritual Gifts
As a pastor, this Cessationist solution has been taken by many to the problems of charismatic excess. This is a very good defensive position to take. The problem is that this solution only deals with the symptoms. Paul was a better theologian and a better pastor than many of us and so he pointed out the real root cause of the problem.
Paul’s solution is to address the root cause of egomania by teaching on agape love.

The Root Cause of the problem of Charismania is egomania. Therefore, the solution to the problem is discipleship according to the principles of Jesus Christ, our Lord.

Paul says to the Corinthians, “Are you not worldly since you create these parties and divisions based on the charisma of your leaders?” The problem Paul is addressing is worldliness as in the idolatry of men. We are not entertainers!!!

With respect to excessive use of spiritual gifts in public, Paul knows that the root cause is self-centeredness and, therefore, he teaches the people about love. Paul is saying, “You are using spiritual gifts in order to display before others that you are spiritual. This is not the purpose of God’s Spirit and His gifts. The purpose of the gifts is love. If you grow and learn love, then you will use the gifts of God, healing, prophecy, tongues and interpretation, in such a way that you glorify God. Love is patient and kind. It does not boast or act unbecoming. It does not seek its own. Love never fails”.

The Root Cause of the Problem is Self-Centeredness and the Solution is Discipleship.

If we look at Paul’s biblical solution to the problem of fanatical excess, we see that Cessationism is not the proper solution.

A Note to Charismatics
Charismatics need to examine their ministries and the motive of the heart. We need to admit that there really is a problem of fanaticism and egomania in the charismatic churches. The central pastoral need in all the churches is discipleship. The central principle of discipleship is love and the place to learn the ways of love is the Sermon on the Mount and the teachings of Jesus.
The presence of spiritual excess and fanaticism shows a lack of discipleship in the principles of Jesus. Jesus teaches meekness. Meekness is a great anecdote to self-centered fanaticism which is so apparent in the charismatic churches.

A Note to Conservatives
On the other hand, conservatives and Cessationists need to realize that to disallow prophecy and tongues in the church is not a true solution to the problem. This solution leads to a Christianity without power and without experience of God’s intimate care and concern for people. God knows us intimately and He speak to us intimately. God knows our pains and he shows compassion and heals us. Prophecy and healing are central to the presence of the kingdom of God in this age of grace.

As we seek a full expression of our faith, the place to start is to lay a solid foundation of discipleship. Teach the ways of Jesus Christ that progressively matures the believers in love and self-denial. From this foundation of discipleship the expression of the power of the Holy Spirit will marry both the heart of God and the hand of God. This corporate expression of love and compassion is the place of God-centered God-glorifying Kingdom Christianity.

God Bless,
brad

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

The "Charismatic-Reformed" Position and the Third Way of Unity

Adrian Warnock has continued the discussion and has summarized my position quite well both at his blog and at theologica. I am planning another post on "How to regulate prophecy in the church?" but that post needs to be written well so I am not going to write this now. We really need to write a "book" that describes the new position. I honestly do not think Grudem's position of NT prophecy being different is correct but again that is another post.

I would like to make a few comments on Adrian's ideas. Adrian says.
In a sense Reformed charismatics are occupying the centre ground. Like "new Labour" they advocate a third way. It is really possible they say to pursue a solid biblical knowledge and sound doctrine whilst experiencing the presence of power of God in a real way today. The Word and the Spirit are not in conflict but rather work together to cause us to know God.

This discovering a new way and a new position of unity is what I think the new media is all about. As bloggers, we do not need to fit in a system of thinking, a paradigm, that we are utterly beholden to. This freedom allows us to state the obvious. With respect to both "cessationism" and "pentacostalism", the emperor has no clothes. Both of these positions an paradigms are so flawed and poorly describe the biblical position or my personal experience. Pentacostalism is horribly Arminian in practice and lacks a good foundation for God-centered peace. Also, the pentacostal practice of tongues and often prosperity is so infiltrated the church that it needs a serious critic. Let's just state the obvious and form a new middle ground of doing church in a more sober way.

At the same time the cessationist position and the lack of power and experience in the reformed churches and much of evangelicalism in the USA lacks the liberating reality of the kingdom. The full assurance of the experience of Charismatic worship and the comfort of the spiritual life which leads to true holiness and a truly transformation of our affections is lacking in the evangelical churches. A new way is needed. To this Adrian calls for "Reformed-Charismatic" position. BUT...

I contend for clarity sake that it might be best to use other terms. Instead of "charismatic", how about "kingdom". The theology that is needed is a higher view of realized eschatology. Here is the root of the matter. We live in a daily experience of the kingdom. The power of God is available for our righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. We are to live in community as a response to the "world". We are to be a new people. It is not only "gifts" that are the issue but all of life that is filled with a new experience. A heavenly quality of life is available and therefore I find the term "kingdom" to best exhort the church to fulness of all our experience.

Instead of reformed (which is a much loved word for me) a better term might be God-centered. Our world is centered or controled by God!!!! As a pastor, God-centeredness and a high view of sovereignty is so vital and central to an experience of peace. One cannot truly be meek and at peace without believing that God is absolutely in control. I cannot claim a new label as "God-centered Kingdom" believer just doesn't role off the tongue BUT I bet someone else as this discussion continues might just have a way to susinctly express wat I believe so many of us actually live.
For now, I pray that this discussion and others like it will continue:
Eph 4:13until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God
and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

God Bless,
brad

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Sunday, November 27, 2005

Pictures of the Famdamily


I opened a flickr account and now I am in the 21st Century for real. So I thought I would post a few pics of the family. This is a picture of Hannah, our eldest. Our three older children play piano. I will take a few pictures of the various musical instruments in our house and office. Hannah is getting better as the years go by.


Here is a picture of David. He is very much like his dad. A bit of a loner and way into science. He is a fantastic and very kind young man.




Our next child is Mercy. Mercy is our little art lover. She loves classical music and knows all her painters. Mercy is pretty shy but she always suprises us with how well she can do just about everything.


This is Sarah. Sarah is so confident it's scary. She is very atheletic and social and crazy....Uh oh...

This is super James. He is the nicest and sweetest and cutest kid. People write us letters and tell stories as they go to bed about how cute our kids are. He already gets fan mail. He is simply "the man".

Our youngest, Lily. The happy child. She is a dancing, booty shaking, trouble maker. She leads the family in "Jesus Loves Me" around the dinner table.

Well, thats just a brief introduction to the Hightower family.

God Bless, brad

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Blogging Break - For the Kingdom

As it is, I am too busy to blog daily. If I am to do God's will in my life, blogging needs to be more of a journal of the great things happening "on the ground".

I have a few goals this next week with respect to discipleship. Therefore, I am going to take a one week blogging break. Lord willing, I will be able to return with some good news about the good news.

Dan Edelen is likewise taking a break. (read here)

God Bless,
brad

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Charismata – Impressions and Prophecy – Agreement on the Major Issue

In this post, I am going to review the main issue that a few bloggers are in agreement on, and, then, I am going to quote Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ historical survey of the experiences of the great preachers in support of this major point of agreement. So don’t miss the end that is the meat of this post…

The Major Issue: God, by the Holy Spirit, grants His children direct, conscious experiences of Himself. These relational experiences of God amount to impressions from the Holy Spirit and are good for the strengthening, comfort and edification of the believer.

Further, I contend that if we accept the availability of such impressions and their value from God that we are in essence accepting that God speaks today directly to the believer through the Holy Spirit.

The debate on Charismata – A Truly Humble Dialogue

This debate is giving me so much hope for the role of the blogoshere in positively effecting change and unity in the body of Christ. This discussion on the Charismata is developing nicely. There are numerous bloggers who, from my reading, are genuinely coming to a middle position where now the differences are fundamentally semantic

Three Bloggers of Note are Essentially Saying the Same thing.
David Wayne
David Wayne has a long post about impressions vs prophecy. David has a contention with Wayne Grudem’s definition of prophecy that prophecy “is a human report of something that God has brought spontaneously to mind”.

For our purposes, this is a matter of semantics. The point is that David accepts that God gives impressions and these impressions are valuable. Here is David’s conclusion of the matter.

When we call something "prophecy" that is really my own interpretation of some spontaneous impression we are giving a greater weight to that impression/interpretation than it can carry. The same applies when we use phrases like "God told me." Calling my own spontaneous (and subjective by the way) impressions prophecy escalates them in certainty and authority. There is a world of difference in the statements "I think God may be leading me," and "God told me." There is a world of difference in saying "I have an impression that I
ought to do so and so," and "I have received a word of prophecy." In both of those examples, the first statement identifies me as the speaker and the latter identifies God is the speaker. If I use the first kinds of statements there is no authority to them, they are not binding, it is up to me whether or not I act upon them, and there is no harm no foul if it turns out my impression was wrong (unless I act on it unwisely). If I use the second kind of statement there is a binding authority to them which I must act upon.


This position I agree with in practice (except David’s point about binding authority), but I contend that the difference between an impression and a prophecy, as David is articulating, is a matter of degree and a matter of presentation. Both experiences are in essence the same. If God is speaking to the believer and the believer is humble enough to “use the gift of prophecy according to the proportion of his faith” (Romans 12:6), then the wording of a slight impression might be stated humbly by saying, “Well, I think maybe God is saying….”. We moderate the level of faith we have in our prophecy by moderating our tone and wording. But the main issue is whether God speaks to us and give impressions directly to believers, and I answer ABSOLUTELY, YES.

John Shroeder
John at Blogotional posts a call for learning to maintain the good aspects of the charismatic experience with the Holy Spirit while boldly correcting the abuses. This is a much needed emphasis. Again, John is siding with God speaking and giving inspiration and impressions directly to believers but desires moderation. AMEN!!

Adrian Warnock
Arian is doing a great job as he moderates this debate. In this quote, he really nails the BIG point saying,

"The cessationist who concerns me is the one who does not believe that there is any sense in which we have a relational experience of God today.”
Oh…for a thousand tongues to sing my great redeemers praise. Such affection only comes from what Adrian here calls “a relational experience of God”.

Here is the Major issue. This passion to share with all people the peace and power of a conscious relational experience with our great God is I think the height of Gospel preaching. This gift of the Holy Spirit to enable us to have a relational EXPERIENCE of God directly is life itself. It is this experience that empowers me to face the lions of everyday life. Not only that we believe God is with us because the scripture says so, but an assurance we possess because we are all wet with the experience of His love. This does not for a second mean that we do not stand on scripture or that we rely on experience alone, but that the filling of the Holy Spirit does lead us to a higher level of experience which strengthens our boldness and our assurance. This position was Lloyd-Jones’ conclusion and the conclusion of John Piper, Jonathan Edwards and a whole host of Reformed believers through the centuries.

A Historical Survey of “Relational Experience of God” from Lloyd-Jones’ commentary on Romans

Martyn Lloyd-Jones in his sermons on Romans spends 19 sermons expounding on his understanding of Romans 8:14-16
14For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. 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.

Lloyd-Jones’ position is that this ‘bearing witness” is a conscious experience and that this experience leads to a heightened sense of our assurance of salvation which leads to boldness and empowerment in ministry. This conscious contact with God Lloyd-Jones argues is the essence of being filled or baptized with the Holy Spirit. In my essay on discipleship, I argue that this “relational experience with God” is the power we need to guard our hearts from the self-centeredness and fear that is at the root of our sinful responses to life. It is through the maintenance of our conscious contact with God that we find power over pride and unbelief. This conscious contact with God is worth fighting for as it is these on-going, daily, affection transforming experiences that is the “seeing and savoring of God” that Piper is fighting for when he says “God is the Gospel”.

Before I list some of these experiences, I simply refer readers to this marvelous volume.

Lloyd-Jones lists numerous tests regarding how we know we are being led by the Holy Spirit. He states that this being led is not normally guidance which is how so many people take being led. But then he gives marvelous examples of actual guidance. So much of the pastoral care and precision needed to understand how to help people who are unbalanced by over reliance on guidance of the Holy Spirit, Lloyd-Jones deals with extensively. I take Lloyd-Jones thorough working of the subject as the best available for those of the Reformed-Continualist perspective.
Lloyd-Jones speaking of the experiential element of the work of the Holy Spirit says the following:

"Let me remind you of Thomas Goodwin, one of the great Puritans of three hundred years ago, states the matter. He used a remarkable illustration. He pictures a man walking along a road with his little boy, holding hands – father and son, son and father. The little boy knows that this man is his father and that his father loves him. But suddenly, the father stops, picks up the boy, lifts him up into his arms, embraces him and kisses him. Then he puts him down, and they continue walking. The boy is no more a son when he is being embraced than he was
before. The father’s action has not changed the relationship; it has not changed the status of the boy; but oh, the difference in the enjoyment.” (pg 280 – Banner of Truth)


This experience is worth fighting for and praying for our friends and loved one’s to experience. This is the pleasure of Piper’s Christian hedonism.

Biographies of The Reformers
From the Life of Robert Bruce – successor to john Knox (1554-1631)
"There was never such foul flesh that has gotten a more gracious, more sensible, more powerful, approbation of my ministry in Edinburgh, of my fidelity therein. His Spirit has testified with my spirit, not only by real joys, spiritual and elevated light, but by vocal speeches within me in the daylight, that I heard so sensibly with great effusion of tears…that I admire how He should bestow such gracious speeches upon so wretched a creature as I was.”Bruce goes on and on with a testimony of being totally overwhelmed with these sensible assurances.

George Whitefield speaks of his experience innumerable times in his journals. Speaking of the spirit of adoption as a sensible experience.
"Was filled with the Holy Ghost. Oh that all who deny the promise of the Father might thus receive it themselves! Oh, that all were partakers of my joy”. Exactly.

Jonathan Edwards
"Once, I rode out into the woods for my health, in 1737, having alighted from my horse in a retired place as my manner commonly has been, to walk for divine contemplation and prayer, I had a view that for me was extraordinary, of the glory of the Son of God as mediator between God and man, and His wonderful, great, full, pure and sweet grace and love, meek and gentle condescension. …The person of Christ appeared ineffably excellent, with an excellency great enough to swallow up all thought and conception, which continued, as near as I can judge, about an hour; which kept me the greater part of the time in a flood of tears, and weeping aloud….” (pg 346 – Banner of Truth)

These are very conscious experiences by these great men. These are very strong impressions directly upon their souls. The experiences are filled with overwhelming emotion and “views” of God. Edwards knows how long the view lasted and explains later in the quote of how he responded with greater desire to serve God with all his being.

These experiences are direct communications by God to His people. These experiences, though not always to this degree, are to be common in the contemplative life of men who desire earnestly to prophecy. By this definition of prophecy I mean speaking of he truth regarding God and His ways with a passion that comes ONLY from such experiences of the Holy Spirit.
Though all of us can say God is great. Only the Edwards’ and those who are so filled can rise up from their experiences and speak with the urgency that is need to awaken the church.
Such glorious fillings and direct knowledge of God is what our people need. As we discuss the topics of the gifts of God’s spirit, it is these works of the Holy Spirit that we can all agree upon are the most vital to be able to communicate and propagate in our congregations.

God Bless,
brad

Monday, November 14, 2005

First Post at Theologica - A Little Bio

David Wayne and Joe Carter have graciously granted my request to be allowed to post at Theologica..

This post gives a little background to some of the Charismania topics we have discussed of late..

Here is the meat of the post...
I became a Christian later in life at the age of 23 after graduating from Stanford University. Immediately following my conversion, I enrolled at Talbot Theological Seminary where I met a man who introduced me to the writings of D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. Actually, the first Christian book I ever read was “The Select Sermons of George Whitfield”. This man, who became a mentor to me, also attended the Anaheim Vineyard. In 1989, I was invited to be on staff at the Anaheim Vineyard leading outreach ministries to the underclass in the Anaheim area.
These early Vineyard days were simply extraordinary.

Our small groups were always packed and many very broken people were being helped. Many scenes were quite analogous to the paralytic being brought to Jesus through the roof by his friends. As a young Christian and a young pastor of evangelism, I cut my teeth on Reformed doctrine, small groups, the laying on of hands, and the freedom of Vineyard worship. This background puts me pretty firmly in the “Reformed-Continualist” camp though I would hope that my experience gives me a unique perspective.


All Theology is Pastoral Theology

During the late 1980’s and the early 1990’s, I led a Christian discipleship community, and it is this setting that really set my spiritual DNA. The mission of this community was to bring the gospel of the Kingdom to “the least of these”. For me the wisdom of a given theological position has always been a practical one. The abiding question in my analysis of theology has always been “Does it disciple well?”. For me, all theology is pastoral theology. My experiences have led to a very high expectation for the life of the church analogous to the experience of the early church of Acts. I call this emphasis being “Missional and Monastic”.


Since these early days, I have always led at least one small group every week. For me, the small group setting and the community life that comes from a good small group, which focuses on discipleship, is essential to a solid Christian witness. A goal of my ministry is to build discipleship programs which include daily mentoring relationships. My model tends to be very egalitarian and natural. The content of our ever-developing discipleship program is based on learning to live under the Lordship of Jesus Christ as articulated in the Sermon on the Mount. If I was to sum up what I believe God has called me to do, I would say it is to help people rediscover the lost art of Discipleship in the context of Christian community. A summary of these teachings can be found in this essay: Discipleship 101.


Decidedly Reformed for Pastoral Reasons

Theologically, I have found the writings of Jonathan Edwards, especially Religious Affections, and the writing of John Piper, especially the Pleasures of God, to be very helpful. I certainly believe that the God-centered experience of “seeing and savoring” is an essential part of the sanctification of our affections. You could say that the marrying of a strong reformed faith with a history of experience in Charismatic worship is central to my spiritual DNA.


A Unique Perspective on Charismania

During the early 1990’s, the Vineyard began to be influenced by the Kansas City Prophetic Movement. As I was working daily with people in desperate need of discipleship and power from God, I had first hand experience of the effect of hyper-spirituality on the spiritual health of many troubled souls. I found such spirituality to not be helpful. As my children began to approach school age, my wife and I decided to leave the Vineyard as a result of the increasing effect of such extreme practices in the local churches. I only mention this in light of the recent discussion in the blogosphere regarding Cessationism and Charismata.

...
God Bless,

brad

Friday, November 11, 2005

Light Post - Gifts and Books

Tomorrow
I promised to post today on the need to regulate spiritual gifts, but this will have to wait until tomorrow. I will attempt to show that charismatics have not developed a method of defense against the false use of gifts and are somewhat libertine regarding the gifts of the spirit while on the other hand the cessationists have erected a wall that is unbiblical. So look for this post over the weekend...

Gifts
On the subject of Gifts, there seems to be others likewise finding balance.
Here is the money quote from John at Blogotional:
Each has conceded the other's major point in the discussion to date -- David agrees that the Spirit, in fact, acts boldly today, and Adrian concedes that authoritative revelation has ceased. This puts the two of them very much in the same territory, the difference now being emphasis, vocabulary and interpretation, as opposed to basic principles. That's real progress.

So, for more info, go to John's blog and follow the links to David Wayne and Adrian Warnock's posts.

Books
A great link to a book list from Hearts and Minds Bookstore (HT Gideon Strauss).

God Bless,
brad

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Now Concerning Spiritual Gifts - Prophecy and King Saul

The topic of Spiritual gifts has been hotly debated by serious an in-depth thinkers for many decades now. Therefore, to give a proper treatment to the subject and to develop a proper and balanced view would take a book. I would like to simply offer a few posts to, as is my normal method, supply balance.

If you would like to do further study on the subject Rob Wilkerson at Miscellanies on the Gospel has the post of the week on the subject. Rob has complied a massive list of links to other reformed and continualist writers. Adrian and John agree Rob has done quite a service to the discussion at his blog.

Saul and Prophecy in the Body of Christ
In 1 Samuel 10:5-11, the story picks up with Samuel speaking to Saul:
5"... you will come to the hill of God where the Philistine garrison is; and it shall be as soon as you have come there to the city, that you will meet a group of prophets coming down from the high place with harp, tambourine, flute, and a lyre before them, and they will be prophesying.
6"Then the Spirit of the LORD will come upon you mightily, and you shall prophesy with them and be changed into another man.
7"It shall be when these signs come to you, do for yourself what the occasion requires, for God is with you.
8"And you shall go down before me to Gilgal; and behold, I will come down to you to offer burnt offerings and sacrifice peace offerings You shall wait seven days until I come to you and show you what you should do."
9Then it happened when he turned his back to leave Samuel, God changed his heart; and all those signs came about on that day.
10 When they came to the hill there, behold, a group of prophets met him; and the Spirit of God came upon him mightily, so that he prophesied among them.
11It came about, when all who knew him previously saw that he prophesied now with the prophets, that the people said to one another, "What has happened to the son of Kish? Is Saul also among the prophets?"


The first thing to notice is the construction of the phrase "the Spirit will come upon you mightily and you will prophesy". This construction is similar if not exactly the same as in Acts 2. Peter says quoting Joel 2, "the Spirit shall be poured out on all flesh....(and Peter adds) and they shall prophesy". The experience that the 120 in the upper room had is the same as Saul and at his anointing for his ministry. The changing that took place was not with respect to holiness and sanctification (as the Wesley thought) but with respect to boldness and courage. This courage seems to be the exact transformation that happened to the apostles and Peter on Pentecost.

What type of Prophecy is this?
Now here is a great lesson from this passage. First, Saul's prophecies are not canonical utterances. I doubt that Saul was foretelling anything in this instance of prophecy. Instead it is far more natural to read that Saul was "speaking of the mighty deeds of God" (Acts 2:11). Furthermore, this prophesying did not make Saul a prophet. Saul's fearlessness was very temporary and his love of God was indeed temporary. When the New Testament is speaking of prophesying in the body by the people, the New Testament is referring to this experience of the Spirit falling mightily on an individual or a group and the people speaking boldly the mighty deeds of God. This wider definition of the nature of prophecy answers the cessationist dilemma regarding all prophecy being canonical and infallible. The cessationist narrow definition of prophecy simply is not supported by scripture regardless of how logical such a position seems. This opens the discussion to how a person grows in a gifting and how we need to disciple in people in spiritual gifts. This will be the topic of my post tomorrow.

New Testament and Old Testament Prophecy Actually the Same
The above discussion regarding the “type” of prophecy this is can actually leads to confusion. Saul prophesied when the Spirit came upon him and it was likely extremely rare in his life. But, if Saul's calling was as a prophet, like David, this experience and skill would have matured. The difference between the prophecy of Isaiah and Saul is not one of being categorically different but is absolutely different in terms of value, weight, and maturity of the gifting.

The example of David on the other hand shows that the spiritual maturity and calling of the individual relates to the maturity and value of the gift.

The Bible and New Testament Prophecy
If maturity of gifts could lead to a more valuable and increasingly edifying ministry of prophecy, then could a prophet like Isaiah be revealed in the current dispensation of the church age? The answer to this is "NO!!!". Why? Because Isaiah was prophesying a new dispensation and Hebrews clearly declares that Christ has ushered in the final word. For this reason, this age we are in is called "the last days". I have dealt with this topic thoroughly in my critic of the Kansas City prophetic movement which I believe is heretical from a doctrinal perspective.

Continualist not Charismatic
I personal am not a charismatic but a continualist. I do not believe the current practices and doctrine of the Pentecostalism or charismatics is helpful. I have seen incredibly harmful practices and doctrinal positions in these groups. For further details on this subject please see my critic of the "KC Prophets".

God Bless,
brad

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Riots in France, Hopelessness, and the Fruit of French Socialism

Speaking in political terms for me is quite rare as I prefer to only speak regarding spiritual issues and the church BUT ..I break my normal rule to write on the riots in France. In all earnestness, I think this situation speaks concerning a proper use of compassion and a clear understanding of the human psyche. We must be compassionate and also wise. Such insights into the human condition are something quite valuable that Christians can give to the world.

Riots in France, Hopelessness, and the Fruit of French Socialism
The News from France is quite alarming:
“Nationwide, vandals burned 1,173 cars overnight Monday to Tuesday, compared with 1,408 vehicles the night before, police said. A total of 330 people were arrested, down from 395 the previous night.”

Rioting was reported in 226 towns across France, compared with nearly 300 the night before.”

But more alarming still is the French analysis of the problem. The French Prime Minister, Villepin stated today that “The Republic is at a moment of truth, The effectiveness of our integration model is in question”. Is integration into French society the real root of the problem? Does not the problem lie at a still deeper level? Why are immigrants in France not being integrated into French culture, especially the French economy?

The reality is not that these riots are a result of a failed “integration” policy but a failed government welfare policy. The French have built subsidized government housing for their unemployed immigrant population. In such a scenario, the draw to live in France is not a draw from the French economy or a demand for immigrant labor. In fact, the French economy is incapable of supporting with valid employment the immigrant population which they have artificially supported with Government housing. Therefore, the draw into France of African immigrants is created or maintained by subsidized housing. These ghettoized housing projects become disconnected with the French economy creating not a lack of social integration but a lack of economic vitality and hope. After two or three generations of support without actual job creation, the subsidized housing projects become essentially urban reservations which breed discontent and hopelessness instead of entrepreneurship, home ownership and small business growth.

So how did the French create this problem? The answer is by interfering with the powers of the economy and artificially creating a non-productive class through socialist welfare programs. Remember it is entirely different to have an emergency, temporary, program to alleviate unforeseen economic crisis like the New Deal during the great depression. It is altogether another thing to create a permanent underclass through long-term subsidized housing and welfare programs. Such programs create ghettos not due to a lack of social integration but due to a lack of economic activity to support a community’s vision for an economic future.

Here is the solution.
Assure that immigrant communities are working communities.
Support capitalism in immigrant populations.
Grant small business loans to promote immigrant businesses.
Instill worker sponsorship programs like the Bush plan while minimizing welfare dependence.
Create incentives for work
.

It is not money that makes people happy. It is the self-respect created by working hard to make a better future for yourself and your family. In today's situation in Paris, money is actually the fuel of the discontent that created the quagmire of hopelessness which is now exploding throughout France. If governments create an economic house of cards, they should not be so alarmed when the whole project goes up in flames.

List of Links (to follow stay posted)
Hugh Hewitt links: here,
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Monday, November 07, 2005

Reformed and Charismatic - A Balanced View

I think it is helpful to distinguish between two aspects of Charismatic experience. I like to find common ground on the MAJOR issue.
1. Do we experience the presence of God through our senses? Do believers have conscious contact with God? Does this conscious contact with God provide inspiration and can we know when this inspiration is happening? Edwards for example records David Brainard saying to his brother in a letter, “Reject fire without light”. By this he means reject experiences of God that do not include an intelligible inspiration. This quote shows that Brainard and certainly Edwards too believed in the work of the Holy Spirit as having a conscious element. This level of experience is the work of the Spirit that the Reformed Charismatic really has a passion to bring others into. In fact, I think this aspect of our life is what John Piper means by delighting in the Lord.

Also, the "light" (clarity regarding the mind of God) of this "fire and light" equation is what many Reformed-Charismatics mean when they say "prophecy". A good example of this is Lloyd-Jones who believed that the filling of the Holy Spirit was a heightened experience of assurance. Lloyd-Jones spends many chapters in his Romans 8 commentary giving illustration after illustration of the experiential aspect of many reformed divines spirituality. The point here is that this is the MAJOR work of the Spirit that leads to passion and love for God. Such passion and love leads and empowers a positive ethical response and is therefore very valuable. I believe it is vital that believers agree on this element of the "charismatic" experience. Such a work of the Holy Spirit in the believers life is life giving and worthy of being a defining element of one’s preaching and teaching in the church.

2. The second aspect is the Charismatic discussion is the issue of healing, tongues, and manifestations. These items, though important, involve a different problem and discussion. I would be willing to disagree on these matters so long as we can all labor together in promotion of the former experience of God and the illuminating work of the Holy Spirit stated above. Edward’s religious affections thesis is basically that affection (my #1) is the true sign of a work of grace in the believers life. In other words, like Edwards, one can be a cessationists (reject #2) but hold onto the vital issue of the conscious experience of God.

I believe it is a passion for the experience of the Glory of God as “seeing and savoring” as Piper says that compels many of us to consider oursleves both Reformed and Charismaic, for at the heart of the Reformed emphasis is a passion for the Glory of God and the experience of His glory in the life of the redeemed.

God Bless,
brad

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Revolution in Ecclesiology - A "Both/And" Solution

Both John at Blogotional and David at Jollyblogger are talking "church".

David is resonding to Barna's new book "Revolution". I myself consider myself a revolutionary but also not. i am a both/and guy. The revolutionary idea is that the institutional church isn't "doing church" and isn;t being the church. So we (emergent folk) are going to leave the church and start a new community where we can set our own sprirutal DNA. For the record, I am against this path. First and foremost such a path is divisive. We do not need another sect of Christianity. Instead, we need to be mature and find solutions to our family problems. This leaving and finding another community is no better than divorcing our wives and finding a new "model".

The Church and "Doing Church"
There is a difference between "the church" (ekklesia) and "doing church". Here is the way I think it works. The church is the institution. Such an institution has elders and government and authority and oversight. We are required to be in the church just like David Wayne is saying (see this post). "Doing church" is the charismatic experience of all coming with gifts and bringing them to the assembly.

The word "ekklesia", to be called out, is actually never used in the verb form in the bible. Instead, for "doing church" the biblical writers use the term assembly. Here is the problem "doing church" (i.e. assembly) is only one function of the church. We can "do church" (assembly in small groups and as a family etc.), but that is not the church. The answer then is to be part of the church with its authority and covenant and also personally "do church" daily or regularly. This is a both/and answer to the problem. I am a revolutionary (I like to do church daily etc) but I am also under the authority of a council and am accountable to the church.

Being the Church
"Being the church" is being the new society. The institutions of church (the sunday meeting/larger congregational meeting) is not stopping anyone from "being the church" in the regular settings of life like small groups and family. Nonetheless, us radicals need to remain faithful to the institution and remain accountable to the larger body both with respect to doctrine and righteousness.

God Bless,
brad

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Friday, November 04, 2005

Family as Church – Ecclesiology in Crisis – Part 3

In this blog, we have discussed a million and one ways to maintain the presence of God. How do we keep the line open so we can maintain our conscious contact with God throughout the day? We are people who as individuals carry the presence of God. This daily reality is life. As Jesus said, this is life – to know God. This is our story.

This story of being the people of God’s presence, the people who walk through the desert with a pillar of fire by night and a cloud by day, is to be our story as a family and our story as the church.

In this series, I am attempting to give illustrations and stories that help us all form a new definition of what is church. In the first post, I attempted to simply show that if we expand our definition of church to something other than the institutional “church”, we can learn to do church wherever we are. Doing church is the responsibility of each of us. We can do church in the home; We can do church in small gatherings of 2 or 3. We can do church and fulfill our mission with a few like-minded friends. This approach gets us out of the “least common denominator” syndrome of the larger congregation setting. For example, I love serving the poor. So be the church and serve the poor with a few friends. No excuses.

In our second post, I discussed that the real mission of the church is socialization. We are to be a new society that socializes people into a kingdom lifestyle based on kingdom principles, the greatest of these being love. We are the church in our homes, in our small groups, in our ministry outings, in our ministries. In all this we are teaching people how to be the people of the presence of God and how to love.

Today, I want to give a simple example of “How to Church?”

How to Church – 2x a day
Do you have a family? If not, you need to find a likeminded Christian roommate. Do you as a family have sit down meals?

When I first became a member of the CRC, I was having a meal with my mentor and we were talking about family meals. He said in his family of origin, they had three meals together as a family. He went to school near his home and he would come home for lunch. At breakfast, lunch and dinner, his father would lead the family in singing and bible study and discussion.

Another pastor friend of mine, who was actually my mentor before the man above who walked home for lunch, he spoke of his children actually bringing their violins to dinner and leading the family in hymn singing. WOW..That is taking the family as church thing seriously.

In both of these families, prayer is both before and after meals to create structure to the meal time.

Well, I have six kids ranging from 2 to 11 and we do family as church whenever I am home for a meal. So usually, at least this week, we have done breakfast together and I think one or two dinners. So here is the vital question:

How do you do meals together as a family?

Again, it is vital to have a method or in this case a liturgy of sorts for how you do church. For us we take about 15 minutes for the whole affair. We
1. Pray
2. Ask “who did a loving thing today?” (during dinner time)
3. Read the bible
4. Discuss the passages meaning.
5. Sing a song
6. Close in prayer
7. Help mom with the dishes.

Our family vision is that there is a “pillar of fire” at the table. We also teach the kids that they need to “bring something to the table”. Everyone comes with a word or a spiritual song or some spiritual gift for our little church. All of this is our little way to live the life.

Lord, let Your glory fall in this room, let it go forth from here to the nations…
God Bless,
brad

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Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Church as New Society – Socialization and the Church

When Bono of U2 sings, “I still haven’t found what I am looking for” he is not talking about his personal devotional life but the corporate community life of the church.

Bono sings,
“I believe in the kingdom come
Then all the colors will bleed into one
Bleed into one
Well, yes, I'm still running

You broke the bonds and you
Loosed the chains
Carried the cross
And my shame
All my shame
You know I believe it

But I still haven't found what I'm looking for


All I can say is I agree 100%, but I am learning and starting to see it.
The church is called to be the new society that we long to live in. I love the way the writer to the Hebrews says it, “All these died without seeing what they hoped for, BUT WE HAVE BETTER THINGS FOR YOU”.

This is the proper faith filled vision of the church that Christ calls us to long for. Many leaders see the in breaking of this new order of things in our lives and we desire to pursue this life more and more everyday. We know that we will not see it entirely until its fullness comes but we can live and love in such a way that others see the light and give glory to God.

The Expectations of a Child Like Faith
When a new convert pictures the church and the role of the church in his or her mind, what is the new converts world view? Often this initiates view is quite limited – the church is the place we go to here the bible preached on Sunday morning. Other times the initiates view is quite na├»ve – the church is a community of brothers and sisters that will meet my needs for community and spiritual growth. This being the new converts initial understanding of what church is can have a large range BUT a more pertinent question is what is this persons understanding of the function of church in his or her life after five to ten years of relationship with the church. I contend that after awhile of actual practice on the ground most of the new believer’s excitement has subsided and the more mature believer now experiences the church as “the place I go on Sunday to hear the word preached”. To this we might add that the now mature believer goes to bible study or small group once a week and has some new friends that believe as he does.

What if instead the young idealist’s expectations are far exceeded and the level of community and spiritual support far exceeded all expectation and that to be under whelmed by the church was the exception and not the rule.

So here is the foundation of the answer to a new ecclesiology or understanding of the bible’s vision for the church, the church is to be that new society that meets the essential needs of the human heart for relationship with God, relationship with one another, purpose and mission AND…

Socialization in a New Way of Life based on New Principles
When I use the term “society” or “culture”, I am speaking of the matrices of relationships, behavioral norms, worldview, and symbolic world that combine to socialize the individual. The modern and post-modern world teaches us that people are a product of their tribe. The church is our tribe and in this culture we learn the principles of our tribe: self-sacrificial love, meekness, mercy, purity, faith and so on. This nurture of the individual is the primary function of the church. If we cannot know that our children are going to learn this lifestyle from the life of the church, then we are not functioning as the church. Many at this point may be saying to themselves, “This is idealistic dreaming”. No!!! Such a vision for the church which is the meaning of the church’s message that “This Jesus is both Lord and Christ” requires faith. Faith that is willing to take steps out of the world and into the kingdom for the Glory of God.

Others maybe saying, “But isn’t this socializing function primarily the function of the FAMILY”

Church as Family and Family as Church
Yes, it is accepted that families create the atmosphere where children learn their fundamental identities BUT do not the parents learn their identities and are not parents ultimately socialized by the church. What of the parent who became a Christian in their 20’s or 30’s? Where do these parents learn to create the kingdom in their homes. The answer is unequivocally, “From the church”.

The church has misunderstood the role of the story of the church in socialization of the beleiver. Is not this the message of our baptism? We died and entered the body of Christ. This entering the body of Christ is not some Gnostic ideal but a living reality.

Instead of accepting this function, as modern believers, we have been deceived to think that our identity comes from our individual relationship with Christ, but this is not where this identity is learned. Our true identity is learned from experience in the church and the life of the church.

The Necessary Response to This Perspective of the Primary Function of the Church
If this is our foundational understanding of the function of the church body then immediately we realize that Sunday lecture is not enough. I cannot worship as a church family once or twice a week and expect this bi-weekly routine to define my personhood and my spiritual identity. This being true, I conclude that I need church society every day. I need to come to the table with my brothers and sisters and worship together daily. This is how the church is family…

In the same way the church is called to socialize the believer, so too, this kingdom socialization describes how the family is to be the church. My family story can be this story as well for the sake of my own identity and spiritual life and the life. Every meeting together as a family can be an experience of worship. Prayer and the word and song can begin to permeate our daily life and define how we eat and play and learn and work.

All of us have some realm of relationships with our fellow believers. All these relationships can be defined as an opportunity for church. Where ever two or three are gathered there, right there, we can be the people of God assembled. Do not wait to become the church, you are the church.

The need is for a new definition of church and church life. Our definitions need porous borders. Our homes need porous borders. Our churches need porous borders. Our work needs a porous border. All our spheres need to become modes of church, of assembly.

God Bless,
brad

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Tuesday, November 01, 2005

A Crisis in Ecclesiology - Part 1 - Taking Action One Day at a Time

Many leaders young and older (Subversive Influence; Jesus Creed and here too) (more links to follow) today see, as I do, a crisis in ecclesiology. As we read the pages of the bible, we see the church functioning in the believers’ life quite differently than the church functions today. The church of the bible is community. The church of the bible is family. The church of the bible is mission and discipleship. The church is the new people living according to a new worldview, with a new ethic, with new economic ties to each other. The church is noticeably distinct in every way from the world around it. Baptism in the early church meant leaving an old way of life and entering a new culture of people living by a completely different set of principles.

Today, I simply want to introduce the fact that the witness of the church is in a crisis because the limited role church plays in the life of the believer in North America.

Here is the simple challenge: Can we live like the new testament church one day at a time with our small company of friends?

What would this look like? How often would you meet? What changes would have to take place in our lives if we sought to totally re-engineer understanding of life in the church? How would we "take our meals"? How would we use our finances? How would we decide where to buy a home?

My challenge is to realize that we are equipped to live this vision today if we are willing to take responsibility for our life daily. We do not need to wait for leaders to lead us. We have but one leader -Christ. Where ever 2-3 are gathered in His name this new community can become a reality. Such an endeavor takes courage and a deep deconstruction of God's plan for our lives under the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts.

God Bless,
brad

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Sunday, October 30, 2005

Philippians 4:13 – The Most Misinterpreted Verse in America

Picture this scene. A man is being honored at work for making the most sales. He has set his mind at making a good living and he has succeeded. He cleared $20,000 this month and he wants to give the glory to God. So the zealous young man takes out his favorite verse and says, “I just want to give glory to God, for I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”. The message of this man’s testimony is “You too can make 20,000 a month because Christ can give you the strength to do whatever you set your mind to.” Here, you have it, the not-so-great American gospel.

Again, picture the beauty queen all decked out in high heels and a bikini. The final choice for the winner is announced and the nice Texan girl wins. As she is interviewed she tries to give glory to God and says, “I just want to give glory to God, for I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”. What is wrong with this picture other than the high heels and the bikini?

First, let’s look at what the verse actually means. Philippians 4:13 is better translated as follows:
In every type of thing, I am strong through Him who strengthens me” or amplified only slightly “In every type of circumstance, I am strong and stable through him who strengthens me.”
This verse is not speaking of how Christ strengthens me to have successful circumstances, but that Christ gives me His peace in adverse circumstances. Christ said, “My peace I give to you not as the world gives I give to you.”

What the American gospel says is that Christ, for His glory, will make you have nice circumstances and succeed. Set your mind to success. Never quit. Persevere and Christ will bless you. What a load of heresy and worldliness!!!

Is it no wonder that we have churches filled with successful people, giving testimonies of success, to lead others into this uniquely American form of Christianity?

But this is not the Gospel!!!! Christ did not call us to empower us to fight the good fight of perseverance in the American dream so that we could live a pain free life to the glory of God. This is just sanctified self will. Christ called us to learn to be strong and at peace in difficult circumstances so that we can forsake the world and follow Him into all the world for His name sake. “For we are called not only to believe in Him but to suffer for His name sake”. That is what this verse is about. Did we forget that Paul is writing this verse from a prison cell with shackles on his feet?

In this one most mis-quoted of all American verses, I think we have in a nutshell a definition of the disease that ails us. God help us.

God Bless,
brad

Saturday, October 29, 2005

The Sovereignty of God and Walking in Peace

I have a saying, “The joy of the Lord is your MORAL strength”

I contend that if you are delighting in God, then you will have power to walk in purity, and you will have a testimony of “righteousness, peace and joy” to share. Does not all gossip and sins of the tongue come from a lack of peace and joy? Therefore, in discipling people, the number one topic is how to remain undisturbed. For many, this skill is called anger management for some it is just living stress-free in order to be a powerful witness. In learning the skill of living stress free, I think one must be a biblically high view of the sovereignty of God.

Traditionally a lower view of God's sovereignty has been called Arminianism. As a pastor, I see the spiritual ramifications of such beliefs quite often, and, in discipleship, a high view of God's sovereignty is essential. Such a lower view of sovereignty might go as follows.
We are called to participate in the Kingdom by fighting against sin and satan. God has delegated the war to us, and we are to fight. If we are losing the fight, it is because we are not fighting or believing hard enough or consistent enough. Basically, the onus is on our commitment to or zeal in fighting. This worldview produces a certain response to adverse circumstances.

A believer with a deep sense of God's sovereignty will approach such a problem quite differently. We would agree that we participate in the kingdom and in the work of Christ on earth. We agree that there is a fight, but we fight by giving the outcomes of al our labors to God. We ceasing all fighting and peacefully and joyfully accept the results as from the hand of God through faith. The difference in the two worldviews is how we respond to adversity and unpleasant outcomes. The arminian fights; the Biblical faith accepts and continues to do the work leaving the outcomes to God.

An Example
The foundation of this peaceful labor is a high view of the sovereignty of God. For example, let’s say I am working hard at my job and I am not given that promotion. The more Arminian believer says this is warfare; I need to have faith. The outcome God wants is my good, and I need to fight for this good. The believer with a lower understanding of God's sovereignty fights against the daily outcomes of life.

In the same scenario, the biblical faith says, "God is good. I accept this set back with patience. All your works are wonderful. This circumstance too is perfect." Upon reflection, the biblical faith is far more prone to say, "In fact, Lord, You are teaching me that I have [such and such] character defect. Thank you for your pruning, and Your jealousy for my sanctification. I love you Lord".

Here is a great key to living the blessed life. We are all equally called to be zealous for the kingdom. We are all equally called to exercise means to build up the church and do the work of Christ on the earth but do you accept as from God’s hand those outcomes that you cannot control.

Next...accepting people and living in peace.

God Bless,

brad

Friday, October 21, 2005

Tune in Turn on and Drop Out - The Challenge to Live Different

Dan Edelen made a great post yesterday on a vital issue. "How do we find time to do our kingdom life: church, devotion, discipleship, real authentic relationships, real parenting etc?"

The trick to Dan's post is that he starts with Doug Groothuis's post on multi-tasking and Dan rightly takes the big G to task. I like that!!!! Then, he goes a little deeper to ask "how is the church addressing the problem and teaching people how to live the life in the midst of the insanity?" (or something like that)

To this I would like to say a few bits:
1. I think the goal for me personally is community and meetings every day. I know this sounds crazy, but it is true. I meet drunks every day and I have to send them to AA because our chuch at least doesn't meet every day and sinner s need meetings. I for one am a sinner and I need a lot more meetings or I lose my conscious contact with God and an abiding awareness that nothing matters but the kingdom. So, how in the world can we get there?? Point, if we paint a totally new idea of what "true north" is we will begin to change everything to get there. So I paint the true north, the direction I want to go to a community that is encouraging one another every day.

2. Isn't part of the answer to this qustion: food. The answer, in part, is to take meals together as a family and as a church. Every day. As a family, worship at meals. Yes, that means sing songs. Do some study and have a share time during meals. What a novel idea, eh?

3. The other answer is the cell phone. I love the cell phone. I live in LA and I spent yesterday four yes four hours in the car. So what is a pastor to do with four hours in the car. Call your fellow co-conspirators on the phone. If I need to do the disciplship time and I am super busy, the answer is the cell phone. Of course, this isn't as good as eating together but it ain't bad.

4. Practice the presence of God while you are in meetings. I spend 2-3 hours every day in meetings...even if I am leading them they are pretty worthless...It is very easy to multi-task in meetings. It is pretty easy to follow along and pray or meditate at the same time. This last one is a bit of a joke but you get the point. I hope.

Well, that's it for today. Multi-tasking...my answer to modern life.

God Bless,
brad

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Mentoring and Sanctification

I have explained in previous posts that I think it is helpful to see our Christian life as unfolding on three levels like a three story house. We have the story of our inner life. This level is the activity of our person. Included in this level is our devotional life, our intimacy with God, the practicing of the presence of God, and management of our heart. Discipleship as I teach it from the Sermon on the Mount addresses this level of our life.
Meekness, mercy, and purity of devotion to the Lord all really are activities of our spiritual life.

The second level is the level of our discipleship relationships. There are the few people who see our lives and that we expose ourselves to and who teach us the path to peace and help us manage the level one of our life.

The third level is the level of the community and the level in which we together live out our Missional vocation in the church. We are part of a unified community that is taking the “kerygma” to the world. We take the message of the Lordship of Jesus Christ and the Kingdom to the world around us. This is our life as a people, as a Morally Beautiful people.

So of these three level which is the primary and most vital. Which level if you miss it means you really are going to be extremely hindered in doing the others?

Well, here is my experience. Level two is the most important. Here are the facts as I see it. You will never have the quality of life you desire without meeting with people and discussing your inner life with people and reminding one another about the meaning of the teachings of Jesus every day.

I have tried to disciple and teach people, but unless we apply the principles together EVERYDAY nothing really changes. I need meetings everyday. That is just the way it works. These meetings are the 2-3 gathered meetings. These daily meetings and open dialogues about your day and how we are implementing the Kingdom teachings of Jesus are the backbone of all sanctification. We are simply too forgetful and too dull to do it alone. There is simply no other way.

Daily we must worship together and share the teachings of the Lord if we to effectively be a witnessing people to others and walk in the kingdom. This is just the way it is.

You may not know what you are doing and you may not know a mentor. Do not worry!! The spirit will help you. Learn the teachings of Jesus. Talk to your friends and your pastors. Meet and call people up every day. I am mentored by people who may not actually have done this stuff as long as I have or who are as far down the road but that is not the real point of discipleship. The point is to keep it real and have a relationship where someone else encourages you into meekness, mercy, purity and worship. Discipleship relationships - there is just no other way to practice the presence of God on a daily basis. Discipleship relationships are the path to sanctification.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Meekness and Jesus

When I bring up the question "so, what is meekness?", I tend to get a lot of blank stares.
Most respond, "I don’t know, I never really thought about it". Or "Meekness, hmm?? A lot like weakness isn’t it?". Basically, we are not too sure we understand meekness.

Jesus and Meekness
Jesus said, "Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. 29"Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle/meek and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. 30"For My yoke is easy and My burden is light."
Jesus describes Himself as meek and humble of heart. Meekness is a defining characteristic of Christ. The cross is a clear and glorious display of Christ’s character and certainly displays this attribute called “meekness”. To love God and to know Christ is to contemplate and meditate and know and glory in the attributes of God displayed in the face of Christ, namely in the cross event. So certainly, meekness is a central attribute that we as lovers of God and those who glory in Christ Jesus should be well acquainted with.
But such is not the case, and I contend, here in lies the problem. In fact it is precisely in taking meekness and lowliness upon ourselves and learning meekness that we “find rest for our souls”. It is the learning of meekness that we get excited about. Meekness is the double back flip of Christianity. Meekness is the part of every solid daily discipleship routine.

So what is meekness?
Death to Self

Meekness is death to self and surrender to God. Luke 9:23 says it this way, “If anyone wants to be my disciple, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me”. This process of learning how to die to our self and the impulses of self, learning to never defend self or stand up for self or protect the interests of self or fear the humiliation of self or the dishonor of self is daily central to our walking with Jesus, our Lord.

Taking Up our Cross
The flip side of death to self is not passivity but taking up our cross. Taking up our cross is taking up our daily task or obedience. Daily we serve not self but God in love. “Lord, what is my task today?” is the meditation and contemplation of the meek. The answer to this question I have found is always the same, “Love everyone everywhere unconditionally”.

This meekness is an abiding orientation of the heart. It is in the heart orientation of meekness that we say today I follow Jesus and learn to “share in His sufferings”. His cross of death to self and obedience to God is all I long to know and imitate. It is this cross life of Christ that dwells in me by the Holy Spirit. In business meetings, in discussions with friends, in the midst of injustice and personal offense and injury, in all things meekness. We learn to no longer defend self or be offended by any assault on ourselves but we learn self sacrifice and unconditional love. In raising our children, in discussions with our loved ones, in peace and in conflict, meekness and humility.

Here is the Problem
Such talk is not in vogue in the church. Such sweet savoring of the knowledge of Christ and His cross by learning and discussing meekness is not the DNA of the church. Yet, every disciple of Jesus should know and love this attribute of Christ. We should know this experience like we know French fries and a diet coke. Meekness and the contemplation of meekness is our daily bread, the staple of our spiritual diet. Here is the solution to all that ails us as a people. Here is our shalom our peace and our rest.

God Bless,
brad

Saturday, October 15, 2005

GodBlogCon - Friday Afternoon - Influence

I went to a session of GodBogCon on Friday afternoon. The question to the floor and a panel or David Wayne, Andy Jackson, John Shroeder and Joe Carter was "can blogging have an influence on culture".

One thing is very encouraging. Everyone agrees this media is evolving and that we need to network outside of blogging. So the idea is to begin meeting people face to face or over the phone or however to develop some group blogs.

Also, I really think that most of the blogger do NOT feel their real calling is politics. My take on the role politics has taken so far in the blogosphere is that politics is an issue that is already in the culture so networking and blogstorming politics already has a great deal of momentum. The key for Christians is not to use the party mechanisms that already exist and jump in but to create new networks of other ideologies and causes other than politics. What again is encouraging is that I think most people want to do this.

So my job here as an individual blogger is to begin networking to create a type of magazine for people interested in missional and monastic lifestyle. Dan Edelen is into restoration of 1st century practice as are many many others. Tod Bosinger is bloging on the kingdom and kingdom theology and practice. Hello...The Spirit is speaking this message to our congregation and to pastors so how do we create some momentum? How do we get something moving that can have influence on the church and the culture?

So if you know some great bloggers or even non-bloggers who might be on the same page as what I tend to write please leave a note or send me an e-mail. Or just join the dialogue!!!

God Bless,
brad

Monday, October 10, 2005

Principle 3 - Meekness

I intend to post a few entries on meekness. This first post is an introduction of this doorway into the experience of the kingdom. Of all the principles I love, meekness is at the top of the list. I encourage you to consider this principle deeply and to seek how to enter meekness. Truly, meekness is the doorway into the experience of a truly heavenly quality of life.


The purpose of this blog series is to put together about 20-30 questions that form the basis of a simple practical walk through the Sermon on the Mount. Theology behind these short posts is my personal experience and strong faith that coming under the Lordship of Jesus by putting into practice His words leads to a very blessed life.

In every post, I like to review the most core principle of all. “Blessed are the poor in spirit”. This teaching reminds us that we are spiritually bankrupt and that everything we desire spiritually comes from the Grace and Power of the Gospel. This grace and power delivers us from our core problem of sin and self..So onward


So far we spoke of:
1. Powerlessness
2. Faith

Now let’s look at the next beatitude, “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth”

Nothing is more contrary to our natural tendencies than meekness, yet meekness is the doorway into a new life, the kingdom. Where an awareness of our powerlessness is a foundation principle, meekness is the actual doorway into a new experience and a new way of life.

So what is meekness?

Meekness is the absolute ceasing to fight for our agenda and believing that God will fight on our behalf for His agenda. Meekness is the abiding practice of death to self.

Most of us travel through life disappointed that things have not turned out as we planned. In life’s circumstances, we have attempted to manage situations to get certain ends to have people behave certain ways and for the outcomes of life to produce a certain level of blessing in our lives. We are all like actors with each of us trying to direct the play and have the scene come out the way we want it. We want people to like us. We want a promotion. We want recognition or respect so we begin to manage perceptions. We buy things and adorn ourselves. All of this directing and managing sets us up to be disappointed and hurt. All of this concern is self-centered. The answer is Go-centeredness. Meekness is the absolute acceptance of God’s care and managing of our lives. Our task in life changes. We are responsible for doing His will of love in every situation, and He is responsible for the outcomes. We are no longer in management. We are meek.

Every human relationship has power dynamics and politics. The meek do not manage power or play the games of politics and by so doing it is the meek that will inherit the earth for only the meek are truly free, trusting in God for outcomes, to live a moral life based not on power and results but on principles and love.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

The Simple Path - Assignment 3 - Faith

Lets get straight to the point. Assignment 3 is on faith.

I spoke to a man a few days back and I asked him a few questions. First, ‘Is Jesus Your Lord?”. To this he said, “yes”. So I continued, “Ok, if Jesus is your Lord how does His main teaching sermon start? I am referring to the Sermon on the Mount.”

Most often when I ask this line of questioning Christians do not know the most basic teachings of Our Lord. If we do not know His teachings, then isn’t our claim to call Him our Lord void of real content.

In this discipleship program, I am leading you, the reader, through a systematic approach to practicing the teachings of our Lord. I promise you that if you put these teachings into practice your whole life will be completely changed and in fact, we will find true freedom, happiness and holiness. It is that simple. Follow Jesus and you will experience the blessed life and probably a lot of suffering and persecution too.

So here we go:

We are look at the first few verses of the Sermon on the Mount.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”
“Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted” ….


In assignment 1, we looked at the word “Blessed”. Our assignment was to ask ourselves and to journal our answers to the follow ing questions:
Are you happy?
What constitutes true happiness?

Next, we looked at the phrase “poor in spirit”. These are the blessed ones remember. We asked ourselves to journal and discuss the following:
From your life story, convince yourself, God and a friend that you are a sinner and that your case apart from some miracle in your life is totally hopeless!!! A person who is poor in spirit is someone who is quite aware and lives in an abiding awareness of their spiritual poverty and powerlessness.

Today we look at the promises of the beatitudes. “For theirs is the kingdom of heaven” or “for they shall be comforted” The meek SHALL INHERIT THE EARTH. Etc…..

The Faith of Abraham
First a word about faith. The bible says ‘By faith Abraham left his country and set out for the promised land”. Abraham is described as the father of faith. He followed a path God set for Him and the path was promised to lead him to the promised land. In the same way, faith in Jesus is believing that He is the Messiah that saves us from sin and that by following Him we will enter the kingdom. By following Him, we primarily mean putting into practice all the principles of His teaching. By faith, we set out on a journey into a righteousness that we can only describe as heavenly.

It is vital as we start down this journey that we never forget our first principles, namely that we are spiritually bankrupt and in absolute need of power. The quality of life we are going to set out for is completely impossible in our natural abilities. We are again like Abraham whose body was dead and yet he believed that God could miraculously grant him an heir. So too we seek a life that until now we could only dream about but apart from really learning to follow Jesus and apart from the power of God is completely unattainable.
So today’s questions are as follows:

“What qualities of life do you understand you will experience when you ‘die and go to heaven’?





What does it mean when Jesus proclaims that the “kingdom of heaven is within reach, repent and believe”?





Do you believe that Jesus Christ has the power to completely deliver you from the miserable condition that you are in which the bible calls sin? If yes, what do you expect your life experience to be like as a result of putting this “faith like Abraham” into practice as you follow Jesus?


God Bless,
brad