Monday, January 31, 2005

Back in the Groove - The Rule of Jesus over All of Life

I preached this Sunday on the Conversion of Paul and, by the grace of God, I had my groove back. This sermon reveals my heart, and I pray the heart of the Spirit to encourage the church to proclaim the rule of Jesus over all of life.

The Storm Front

God Bless,

Tsunami Relief Concert with Violet Burning

In a post below "I Predict Morally Beautiful Community", I spoke of my longing for a monastic lifestyle of cultural and church renewal to flower in the 21st Century.
My heart longs for the church to become the kingdom or at least grow into the kingdom. From that earlier post:

The Renewed Church
I predict (and pray earnestly) that a Franciscan-type, incarnational, monastic lifestyle which promotes holistic cultural, social and economic renewal will arise in the inner cities and rural areas of North America and Western Europe which will bring renewal and revival to the western church. These Christian communities will be places of economic development and empowerment. They will produce cultural and artistic artifacts which will have enduring quality. These communities will incubate young minds for exploits in the sciences and the arts. These communities will marry intellectual and moral excellence with social action and authentic spirituality. In other words, these communities will emerge as a prominent expression of the church of the 21st century. Some of these communities will be closely aligned and supported by the churches of their forefathers and some will not.

Well, a few days after that, I was praying, and I said to myself, "Why are you not just doing what your heart desires. AMEN".
One of my great loves is music that moves a lot of air, and I always wondered why the churches do not support such great art in our regular outreach efforts especially to youth (young and old).

So, I picked up the phone and called our worship leader. "Let's start having concerts. Call Violet Burning and see if they can do a concert. Lets do it like in three weeks. See what is available in February. I want to do a Tsunami relief concert." Well, it is happening...

This relates to the Morally Beautiful Community post because our plan, Lord willing (and I predict He is willing), is to do charity concerts monthly. In the long run, my aim is to call the churches together to give and give and give and ultimately build the cultural and economic renewal centers I spoke of in the above mentioned post.

Let's just live the dream rock and roll concert at a time...

The concert is at Trinity CRC in Artesia (18718 Grayland between South and Artesia) on Saturday night February 19th. It will be $10 and I will take an offering too. The church will take $0 so 100% of the money will go to World Vision and the CRWRC.
God Bless,

Iraqi Election


It seems to me so much of what the Administration has said over the last year:
1. The Terrorists are a small band of thugs,
2. The Neo-con approach to freedom as the cry of the human heart,

is vindicated by this woman's courage and her love for her own humanity. (HT: Instapundit)
God Bless,

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Come and Follow Me - Discipleship in the Footsteps of Jesus

In manufacturing (my day job), we have a saying, “go to the Gemba”. The Gemba is the place where the process is actually taking place and where observation and learning occurs. The phrase means that a group of engineers sitting in an office, talking and analyzing a problem, cannot discover any new learnings unless they first observe the process itself on the manufacturing floor. The phrase was developed from the observation that western engineers spend so much time in the office and so little time actually observing processes. To learn and discover, the student must “go to the Gemba”. We “go to the Gemba” to observe and to learn. All real learning is at the Gemba. Again the Gemba is the place where the parts are being actually made as opposed to the office where people think about parts being made.

How does this concept of learning at the "gemba" relate to discipleship? I am arguing that if we understand the place of learning and how we actually learn a new skill (like loving your wife or working well on a team), then we will grow far faster and become better at multiplying virtue in those we are attempting to disciple.

Let me give an example.
The following example is stated in what I think is the best example of the common methods of mentoring and discipleship that is currently practiced.

Just today, I am aware of a man who went to visit a pastor for help with his marriage.

Here is an example of the method this pastor, if all goes well, will use to disciple this man and his wife.
The man comes into the pastor's office. After some small talk, he gets to the point and says, “I am having a problem in my marriage. We are always arguing. We go round and round until I am drunk with anger. This is no way to live. I cannot take it anymore. Can you help me?” The pastor says, “I respect your honesty. Tell me more.”

The man proceeds to say how he gets home from work and is very tired. His wife usually is pretty tired too, and the house is a bit of a mess. He is patient and even helps a little with the kids but he continues, “If I help too much she will say, ‘I can do that’. So the man will let her do the particular chore and he eventually is pushed out of helping. After dinner, he often falls asleep or watches TV.

And then he says, “And last night, I was watching TV and she was putting the kid to sleep in another room. She came in, and I was asleep. She yells at me, ‘How come you never spend time with me?’ I guess I was relaxing for awhile, but what am I supposed to do? Well, it turned into a knock out drag out fight. She says I think she isn’t pretty anymore. I respond by saying that I am tired. The problem is this happens a lot. We just do not get along.”

The pastor is very wise and says, “You know I think my life is rather similar in terms of stress, and my wife, when the kids were young, felt pretty bad about herself as well. During that time of our life, we learned a few lessons. I learned edification. The bible says husbands need to build up our wives. I learned that my wife is very prone to feeling less than pretty. So I began to make it my job to build her up. I discovered she likes gifts and little tokens, so I made it my job to build her up even when I was tired. What do you think would make your wife feel better about herself?”

To this the man answered, “She likes to go out and be pampered. I think she likes time. I need to give her my time. Maybe we should start a date night.”

“That sounds like a good place to start. Why don’t you set up a date night for this weekend and set another appointment with me next week. I would like to hold you accountable for maybe a few months until the two of you get through this season of difficulty” said the pastor.

This example is a very simple example of a man not knowing how to make his wife feel loved and his wife being in a season in her life where it is hard for her to receive love. The pastor gives what I consider to be pretty inspired advice. It might even be helpful. Lets say that the two work at this accountability relationship for a year. The couple visits the pastor together. They read a few good books and get somewhat better. Not perfect but better. Obviously the idea of an accountable relationship is pretty dedicated discipleship by this pastor.

By no means is that bad discipleship relatively speaking. It actually is pretty good in today’s church. I intentionally used what I believe to be probably the best method of discipleship used today, which is very intimate small group accountability. These groups come in all different types and the pastor meeting weekly with the husband and holding him accountable for following through on some new behavior is one form of accountability.

Lets analyze what the pastor did. He listened and then distilled the behavior that is needed down to a principle. Then he gave a learning task. Then, the pastor and the husband met the next week for follow-up. He explained. He instructed. He followed-up. Pretty close to learning by doing.

But this is not how Jesus would do it. !!!!!!!!!!!
The proper method of discipleship is to invite this man over to your home. The disciple must observe how the mentor treats his wife if he is to learn. The discipleship method of Jesus requires the living of life together, and the primary method is observation and imitation of the teacher’s example. Then, after the disciple attempts to imitate and experiment with learning the new behavior, the teacher distills the lesson through explanation. Is this how we disciple in the church today? Is not this the obvious method of Jesus? Observation, imitation and explanation.
Notice that the method always begins with the modeling of kingdom living by the mentor and observation by the student. The call is to live with and learn the life of Jesus by observation. Thus, living the kingdom together is the primary activity of discipleship. I must admit I have only very rarely seen other pastors in their everyday life with their families. I have been mentored for years and it is rarely or never by an observation, imitation, discussion model. Instead, we talk ideas. We seem to follow more the educational model of Socrates and Plato than the discipleship model of Jesus and Peter.
If anything comes from this series of posts may it be that you and others come to understand that if we desire to make disciples in the footsteps of Jesus, we must begin by allowing people to see our lives. We must first model the desired behavior. Let me say it again. The proper answer to almost all our disciple-making needs is to say “come follow me”. That is the call to discipleship. “Come and learn from me”. This phrase means learn from my example. Certainly there is a place for communication and the use of the abstract but the priority is Observe, Imitate and then Discussion.

I began this post by talking about manufacturing and the "gemba". It is a vital worldview shift when managers and engineers learn that the place of real learning and becoming better at "making stuff" is to observe people actually working and doing their jobs. The office is not the place to actually learn to do the stuff of making stuff. So too, in discipleship, we must go to the place of living and observe life as it is being actually lived. Observation of the teacher and the student is the place where learning starts. When this method again becomes the paradigm of discipleship both the role of the teacher and the role of the learner will completely change, and the 21st Century Reformation will begin to bear fruit!!!

Observe Imitate and Discuss – That is Jesus' method.

God Bless, brad

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Hospitality and Our Understanding of Church

About six or seven years ago, I was leading a small bible study in our home in Bellflower, CA. The Bible study was attended by a very ecclectic group of people including three doctoral students from Fuller Seminary and a handful of addicts. One man was a African Anglican priest from Uganda. On one of the last nights before he went home, he said the following, "I love visiting your home. You are the only Americans I know who live like Africans". I took this as the highest of compliments and the confirmation of our vision for the church.

What this African man meant was that "even though you are Americans, you treat the stranger as family in a very practical way". The home is to have a very porous border. This principle needs to be both our belief and our practice.

I live at the church. Literally. I live in a parsonage on the church campus.

When I first started living at the church, I was advised to keep my home as a "sanctuary". I smiled. That is exactly what I do not desire to do. The entire church family in my mind has 24/7 access to our home. There is nothing my wife and I love more than having some lonely man or woman fall asleep on the couch any given night of the week. It is hilarious. I have been in bed when somebody will call and ask if he can bring over ice cream...So we get up, turn on the TV, wake up the kids, and eat ice cream. For someone who has never had intimate family or who longs for connection, such an event speaks more powerfully than 20 sermons on 1 Cor. 13.

Theologically, it must be remembered that the early Christians called themselves, "Brother and sister". These titles are actually true. It is just as true that Joe Congregant is my brother as it is true that my sins are forgiven. As Christians, love experiencing being forgiven. We also need to learn to love living like brothers and sisters in the most literal sense. Such a lifestyle seems strange to some having lived as Americans all our lives, but the reality of it is life and peace. Such hospitality and the opening up of the home is central to the Christian lifestyle and practice. Such practices display a brotherly love that speaks to our participation in the story of redemption. Let the light shine through the porous borders of your home.

God Bless,

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

1st Annual Evangelical Blog Awards - Shameless Self-promotion

Announcing the 1st Annual Evangelical Blog Awards! Over at Evangelical Underground...
If you want less politics and more discipleship in the knowwaht to do!!!

How about cheering me up by nominating 21st Century Reformation as the Best, Ministry, Domestic, New BLOG !!! Vote early and vote often!!!
Here are the categories. I think I qualify in the bold ones..Certainly ministry and pastor...
Best Overall Evangelical Blog
Best Evangelical Blog-Ministry
Best Domestic Evangelical Blog (U.S.)
Best Evangelical Blog-Pastor
Best New Evangelical Blog
Nominations can be sent to

Things We Love - My list

Gideon and Derek and MBM at Testimony and Truth and Christie at For Now have shared a bit about themselves by sharing the things they love. I think this makes for some go:od communication and a little web community. So here is a spontaneous stream of conscious list of a few things I love.

1. Being interrupted by the presence of God
2. Being forgiven
3. Inspiration at 5:30AM
4. The sound of a tube amp just starting to break up
5. Bob Marley’s wail
6. Missionaries
7. My wife’s hard work and patience
8. My mother’s hard work and patience
9. Christian’s from other countries
10. The whole church
11. Being offered a meal by an immigrant family
12. The sayings of Jesus
13. Pastoral visits
14. The elderly
15. Being woken up by my kids on a Saturday Morning
16. The Who Quadrophenia
17. Putting my confidence in the compassion of Jesus
18. The Lord’s supper
19. Jonathan Edwards
20. Heroic effort
21. A perfect jump shot
22. My dad
23. Hi-gain Mesa Boogie amps like Rage
24. Stravinsky
25. Sleeping on other people’s couches
26. Raiding other people’s refrigerators
27. Having people over every night of the week
28. Saint Francis
29. Guinness
30. Science
31. Modern Worship
32. A Good hymn
33 Listening to my kids practice piano
34. The dialectic dinner table
35. Dylan
36. Coltrane
37. Asking for forgiveness
38. Adversity
39. Still believing for revival
40. Idealism
41. Prophetic passion
42. Seeing lives change
43. 50th anniversaries
44. Alcoholics Anonymous
45. Violating social norms
46. Dancing to worship music
47. Reggae
48. Talking to my brother about politics when he’s drunk
49. Expository preaching
50. Our church….

God Bless,

Discipleship - The House of Ideas or The Life of the Mentor

I have been reading a lot lately about the "emergent discussion". Brian McLaren in his response to Andy Crouch's Christianity Today article, the emergent mystique, says the following:

Crouch: From Polanyi and MacIntyre, he concludes that the emerging church must be "monastic"—centered on training disciples who practice, rather than just believe, the faith.

McLaren: My friend Diana Butler-Bass, working in a parallel track in the “mainline” world, is going in a similar direction, emphasizing the importance of spiritual and missional practice. See The Practicing Congregation.

Hello!!! Such a simple point needs to be digested for the next twenty years. I am sure many many pastors are saying such things BUT I find them hard to find. I personally have never seen discipleship and teaching any other way than teaching the praxis of the faith. This path which my Christianity wlaked down has been a lonely road. My role I see is one of seperating out the meat from the bones and presenting the emergent discussion in a way that us evangelicals can digest.

The monastic aspect of the emergent discussion is one that I whole-heartedly support but which needs a on-going and thorough discussion. Christianity needs a reformation not of our "house of ideas" but of our practice. Over the next series of posts, I am going to contrast two educational models in a way that i hope is helpful to the dialogue. This first point is going to look at the "object of study".

The Academy and the Street
The western educational system, for the most part (and I realizing this is changing) , is modeled after the Greek academy. The place of study in the academy is within the four walls of the classroom. The reason that the academy can take place within the four walls of a classroom is because the academic model is based on a belief that the purest form of knowledge is knowledge that is ascertained by the mind alone. Therefore, the place of learning is essentially within the mind. Of course, this generalization is an overstatement, but this principle generally holds for the type of learning that takes place in both the academy and the church. Learning in seminaries and pulpits is about thinking and manipulating ideas. The place of learning is the mind and the object of study is the thoughts of the teacher or writer. The method is to construct a house of ideas that is internally consistent. The one with the most consistent system of ideas is the smart guy,...but does this method of knowing actually teach Christianity?..Of course not.

For effective Christian discipleship, the object of study is not the ideas of the teacher but the life of the teacher. The disciples spent all their waking hours observing Jesus. The role of the disciple is to learn to imitate the character of the teacher and become like him in practice. To be able to think like Jesus is certainly helpful, but it is not the goal of discipleship. If the method of education in the church was to learn to practice life like the teacher/pastor as opposed to learn to dispense information like the teacher/pastor, then the job description of the pastor would completely change.

In this mentoring model, how I treat my children now becomes the object of study. The place where I teach now becomes the home. How I practice evangelism now becomes the object of study, and the place of learning becomes the street.

This change in educational method from the academy to the home and the street is necessary if we are to regain a distinctive moral beauty in the church which is salt and light to the world.
The mantra of my emerging methodology for discipleship is "observation, imitation and discussion". If I am to live this model, my job description as a pastor will completely change. The object of study to those I am walking with becomes my life, and the place of learning becomes the places that I live my life, the home and the street.
My aim, and I believe the aim of the emergent discussion, is to radically change our understanding of what it means to practice our faith. One such area needing to be discussed is our understanding of how we learn to enter this liberating practice of Christianity. In order to radically change our practice, we must first attempt to model our learning after the methods of the Master.

God Bless,

Monday, January 24, 2005

Radical Change in Our Christian Practice – Introduction

Radical Change in Our Christian Practice – Introduction

In discussing the need for a 21st Century Reformation, which is particularly vital to the mission of the church in the West, I picture three areas which need to be radically changed. These three areas can be compared to the “stories” of a house.

The foundation or the basement level concerns the corporate life of the church and how we together live out our mission or purpose. This area is commonly called ecclesiology. A radical change needs to come about in the 21st century with respect to the Christians understadning of the the church and the believer's identification of his story as lived in the context of church life. All our endeavors as Christians and our life in the church must stand upon a common understanding of our mission to make-disciples of every nation and to become “the city” whose architect and builder is God. Some Christian thinkers see the role of the church to be quite limited. I see it otherwise. The church is the place where we live out our primary purpose of being a community which is a shining example of the heavenly quality of life. The radical change in our practice will flower when a new vision of corporate life becomes our new vision of the church. Currently, the church is by no means seen as living counter-culturally, yet the lifestyle of the early church and of Jesus Himself was so very revolutionary. At this foundational level, our practice and ultimately our understanding of the church must change for the church to fulfill its mission to display the moral attributes of God through our life together.

The second story of the house is the life of our discipleship relationships. This second level will be the primary emphasis of this next series of blog entries. As we embrace a new understadning of the role of church in our daily life and in our life purposes, we need a method to learn the life of the kingdom. The learning of this new life happens in the context of mentoring relationships. In the same way that our corporate life and the definition of the life of the church must become counter-culture and must radically change, so too, our understanding of the role of the pastor or elder and the methods by which we teach must completely change.

In the next few posts, I will attempt to describe and articulate the necessary changes in the way we learn to live the Christian life. Neither the current academic model of dispensing information nor the priesthood model of dispensing grace are effective in actually teaching the believer how to live. Our discipleship and learning philosophy must be an imitation of the methods of Jesus. In jesus' methodology, the object of study is not primarily the ideas of the teacher but the object of study is the life of the teacher himself (or herself). The method of learning must be based first and foremost on observation and imitation and only secondarily on articulation and codification. Our method of learning must be changed from building a house of ideas to learning the ways of the cross and the ways of compassion and love through a method of imitation, observation and dialogue. Therefore, our educational method or the story of our discipleship and mentoring life must be revolutionized. The practice of discipleship must be deconstructed and then rebuilt according to the example of the discipleship methods of Jesus.

The third layer or story of the house is the layer of personal sanctification. The church lacks a teachable method for the transformation of our character. Christian’s are often forced to go outside the church to learn to become a new person. Our leaders do not even often have faith that the Christian is called to walk the Morally Beautiful Life. We have little experience with living in the abiding presence of the Spirit and are fundamentally unable to describe the experience to those we are trying to assist in life.

In the last two months, I have covered a daily cycle of prayer and worship, living “The Mediated Life”, and the need for times of reflection. If we learn the way of prayer, the mediated life, and regular times of reflection, a life of freedom and holiness is attainable.

The next few posts are going to focus on the discipleship methods of Jesus. What I encourage and exhort each of us to realize is that the observable life of the church, our practice, is in need of radical change.The church has learned orthodoxy by taking seriously the creedal truth of scripture. In the same way, the time has come to look just as dilegently at the principles of Christian practice articulated by those same scriptures. The reformation of the church on all three levels (mission, discipleship, and sanctification) will restore the church to true biblical practice in the same way that the first reformation restored the church to a biblical faith.
God Bless,

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Warnie Acceptance Speech

The Warnie
Well, first, I would like to thank the one all us bloggers really owe the biggest debt to…Yes, I need to thank Al Gore for inventing the internet.

But on a more serious note, I really do love the idea of blogging as a new democratic institution, and I think blessing the long tail is a great way for the old school bloggers to help us newer to the scene get exposure.

I think we all gotta watch out for the addiction that blogging can be. The people who pay the biggest price for our extra hour or two a day of blogging are our families. If other people keep reading while we step aside awhile I think that is great.

Adrian led the way a few months back when he was out of commission and proclaimed himself “bored”. Isn’t that great that his blog took off AFTER he took time off. So, thanks for that as a great example.

Another great example of blogger integrity is when Rick Brady of Stones Cry Out decided to fast for a week from blogging right AFTER Hugh gave him blogger of the month. Then when Hugh said, “Post or your toast”, Rick stood his ground and kept his word to the Lord.

May we all remember, “pray first, blog second”. Keep encouraging one another especially folks you don’t necessarily agree with.

Thanks, Adrian….

Starting a "Pretty Good Posts" List

Well, shucks,...
In honor of a Warnie Award ...I thought I would direct any new readers to some, well, better than average posts:

Passion for the Experience of the Sovereignty of God

Sanctification 2
Sanctification Part 3 - Mediated Life 1
Sanctification Part 4 - Mediated Life 2

Hebrew and Greek Views of The Journey
I Predict Morally Beautiful Community
Church as Power Network

Thanks Adrian,

Friday, January 21, 2005

Album of the Year - Focusing the Family on....

And the winner is for album of the year....AHHHHH could it be anyone other than the great one himself....

(This post was written back in July of 2004)
Am I the only person out there who thinks that the new Morrissey record is the greatest thing to come from Great Britain since Winston Churchill?

The new Morrissey record is just pure poetry and pop romance as only Morrissey can do. You are the Quarry aims again to help the English redefine themselves. Morrissey is on a mission to make a more balanced and romantic world for all of us to live in. As for me and my household, we will ballroom dance to Morrissey all hours of the day and night. Just last night, we had a family “lets dance around with Dad to the new Morrissey record” frolic in the living room. It is really funny because I am a pastor and I live on the Church Campus, which is quite the fishbowl. But lets throw all caution to the wind and swoon with the great swooner. I looked up the word swoon. It means “To be overwhelmed by ecstatic joy.” Ah, to swoon.

The album has its hits like, “Irish Blood, English Heart” and “The First of the Gang to Die” which are quite catchy. But, oh, the old despair of Morrissey is so rich and full-bodied on “The World is Full of Crashing Bores” and my personal favorite “Let Me Kiss You”. Why does Morrissey make us feel so good?

Well the answer is in the question: "What does it mean to be a poet?"

Why do some of us want to be poets? Ahh, it is because the poet is trying to make something beautiful. To Morrissey, it appears that what is beautiful is being authentic about your struggles with desire, the desire to be loved, the desire to be safe. Morrissey explores his self loathing and his navel gazing as to why no one loves him. Needless to say, Morrissey and I connect. I just want to launch into romantic verse:

Regrets, regrets, regrets. That is the story of my life.
But I can dream of the day.
Of the day when you embrace me and tell me
Tell me something other than the regrets I tell myself:
"Self, you are a loud-mouthed bore.
Self, you are no more aesthetically inspiring than the local convenience store."
So tell me something or say nothing at all if you have nothing nice to say.
If you have nothing nice to say….

Ah, I long to focus the family on the reality of some of the self-loathing, self-conscious melancholy of our long lost fellow travelers, and who to do it better with than the Mos. Ahh, to touch and feel the emotions of the world. This can be the height of knowledge. So to all you Ghetto dwellers buy a bottle of wine and "You are the Quarry".

And drink a toast and pray a tearful prayer for all the ghetto dwellers who are asking for a voice at the devil's dinner table.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

The Mediated Life Part 2 - The Game Plan and the Game Face

We have a saying in our small group and in our chuch - "the 1% solution". This means that if I learn the Mediated Life about 1% of my day, then I am doing pretty good. When I am at about 1%, I am having a good day. Then, having learned 1%, I will make it my goal to learn to grow to 2%. That said, let me attempt to describe the experience of the mediated life.
(see part 1 - Sanctification the Mediated Life) if you missed it..

Part 2: The Anatomy of The Game
One of the more enjoyable activities of life is playing games. When we are playing well, we say we are "in the zone" or that we have "our A game". When we are in these places, where we are focused and yet detached and where our performance is at a high level, we feel as if we are living (or at least performing) as we ought.

Hemmingway, for example, romanticized the game and saw in games the existential moments which define the essence of being human and being free. Americans love their games and for good reason.

Though only 'make believe', games are in many ways a metaphor of war, and the language of war is often used to describe our spirituality. "The flesh is at war with the spirit and the spirit with the flesh". Jesus speaking of the attitude necessary to enter the kingdom said, "The kingdom of God suffers violence and violent men take it by force." A loose paraphrase of this verse might go something like "the kingdom is entered through violence and violent men forcefully advance it". In other words, do not think that spiritual progress can be attained through leisurely attitudes toward the obstacles of your soul. Spiritual advance is made by soldiers not by citizens. God does not want tax paying citizens in the kingdom; God is after soldiers. I call this attitude of "spiritual violence" being militant. We need to approach our sanctification with a decidedly militant attitude.

The Game Face is a Militant Attitude toward the Obstacles of our Spiritual Advance
The relationship between the language of war and the language of the game is self-evident, so too, if we look at the life of a soldier or the life of the professional athlete, we can learn some lessons about how we ought to approach our personal quest for holy (beautiful) living.

If you look at the week in the life of an NFL football team, you find that the team studies film on Mondays. They create a strategy on Monday night and then practice and revise the plan on Tues-Friday. They rest a little on Saturday, and, then, they execute the plan on Sunday. If you hear the winning quarterback in a post game interview, he will inevitably say, “We went out there and executed our plan. We stuck to the game plan, kept our focus and executed our game.” The path to victory is this balance of planning followed by focused execution.

In the above diagram, you see the daily cycle. The day begins with a time of worship and planning. This is our time of personal or, in some congregations, corporate prayer. We have spoken extensively about this planning time of personal prayer using the model of the Lord’s Prayer. Planning is good, but an athlete wouldn’t be worth a plumb nickel if he could not execute that plan. We need to learn to approach the day just like an athlete approaches game day with an expectation and confidence that we are going to execute the plan. The "DO" of this cycle is the only part that really is the point. The rest is planning to DO and reflecting on our DOING. The point again is the execution.

The anatomy of a successfully executed battle:
1. The Mediated Life: As I stated in part one of this series, to be in the game is to have a conscious, active orientation of my heart toward Christ in the moment of my doing. We must first learn to consciously bring Jesus Christ into the situations of the day. If we do not know how to allow Christ into the situation in the immediate present and practice His presence in the moment of the battle, I do not believe the Christian will find victory in the battle. "The eyes set on the flesh is dead but the eyes set on the Spirit in life and peace". I am applying this principle to the actual moment of the battle itself. I do not think it can be experienced any other way. The mind set on the natural faculties of the self will lead to failure, but the mind, the awareness, set on the empowering life of the Savior Himself will find freedom and liberation from the impulsiveness of the flesh and the bondage of sin. This principle of the Experience of the Mediated Life needs to become a well worn path and a common (many times a day) experience for the Christian if we desire to walk in victory.

2. A Soldiers Abandonment to the Plan. When I am in this moment of inviting Jesus into my battle, He will "bring to my remembrance all that He has taught me". In other words, I need the Spirit of Christ to remind me of my morning plans for victory. In my case for example, "He who controls his tongue is a mature man". But remembering is not enough, I must have the attitude of a soldier in an army. Soldiers do not question the plan in the midst of the battle. Now is not the time to allow oneself to rationalize. I must have my game face on. The word is a clear command of scripture which I have, in a very prolonged and sober moment, seen as vital to my spiritual growth. Do not doubt in the dark what you saw in the light! This principle is so helpful. In the moment, I always find my mind will say, "No, speak up. Your point is valid, and who cares what they think anyway. You are free to speak your mind as you please." This rationalization makes perfect sense, but it fails to see the big picture of the war at hand.

These principles seem difficult, but the reality is, when practiced together, they bring peace. The mind set on the Spirit is life and PEACE. When I invite Christ into my awareness in a given situation, I become confident. My gracious Savior is for me and with me. He is all-powerful and all-loving, and He is here. This calmness comes with the command when the command comes from His presence. That is the anatomy and the experience of the mediated life. In this place, the cross is taken up, the moment passes, and for a moment, in my person, the rule and reign of Christ has been experienced. He is indeed Lord of all. One moment passed. One battle won by His grace.

God Bless,

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Surf Report - Adrian And the Aggregators

Surf's Up San Diego
Topping today's surf report is the big kahona from San Diego..
Rick Brady is the king of candor. He is, also, the king of blessing the tail. Rick is to me integrity in blogging. Read here as Rick bites the hand that feeds. Ouch How do you spell integrity..FACTS!! Right on Rick.
No offense Hugh, but don't talk polls without first consulting a Master Black Belt Statistician...the blogosphere is a tough place...Just ask Dan Rather...

Also, Rick was probably the first blogger to give me an in-bound link.

Adrian and the Aggregators
So how do you like the name of my surf band...Just kiding. If you don't know, Adrian Warnock is on a holy tear of spreading the blessing. Adrian Warnock is a top of the heap blogger who has put in his time and been blessed by other bloggers including even the big Hugh Hewitt.

So in joyful Christian fashion, Adrian and others are finding ways to bless the rest of us.

Adrian was one of the first bloggers to send me a personal e-mail to encourage my writing. Adrian's method of blessing others is primarily the aggregator. If you don't know, the aggregators are lists of headlines and excerpts from all the posts of the bloggers that are signed up. Adrian has set-up a few aggregators:
The grand-daddy is "The Blogdom of God"
From here, David at Jolly Blogger created The League of Reformed Blogger's
Now, aggregators are picking up steam with a new Apologetics aggregator etc...

Well, this week as a result of Joe Carter and Adrian's lead, the Christian bloggers are really starting to do more out-bound linking and daily round-ups. I would like to give props to a blogger among many that have always been doing this:
1. A Physicist's Perspective seems to do a weekly round-up and is a very in-depth blogger. Here is an example.

Other Good Reads of Late:
1. All Things to All has a wonderfully written post on Pascal's Bet.
2. John DePoe, when is the book coming out. I think it should be called answers to everything. Here is his great post in support of the need for internal (i.e. rational) consistency in our understnading. Everytime I read John's post's I say o myself. Yeah, what he said.

There is another great post on the perils of blogging that I think is great. Hope I can find it..
Good Night,

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

The Dialectic Dinner Table

In my tent making job, we are taught to use the Socratic method of teaching. By the Socratic method, we are taught to only really ask probing questions. In my job, we focus particularly on observation, and, by asking questions, we are attempting to get people to see differently.
This method forces people to do the "heavy lifting" of thinking and of working out the problem definition and solution themselves. This method is used as opposed to a method where I as teacher "tell and prescribe" the answers, and the student passively "learns". The fact of the matter is that people do not learn util they are forced to struggle with challenging questions. It is this process of problem solving and wrestling with complexity that is true thinking.

Gideon Strauss has a post on this subject. Gideon quoting Thomas Pangle writes,

A liberal education that is truly liberating in the Socratic sense is an education that brings us face to face with disturbing challenges to our deepest and apparently surest moral commitments. It is an education that compels us to rethink our most cherished convictions - to their very roots, thereby to rediscover and refertilize, and, if need be, replant, those roots. The aim of such a probing, if sympathetic, scrutiny of our treasured beliefs is not, of course, to subvert those beliefs; the aim is to transform our beliefs from mere opinions into such grounded moral knowledge as is available to human beings. ... Dialectic provides us with awareness of the genuine strengths of our principles, precisely by forcing us to deal with the most telling actual and potential challenges to those principles. The aim of dialectical education is to leave the subjectivity of "values" behind, by reenacting for ourselves, accepting or modifying, and therefore making truly our own, the great reasonings, the great choices rooted in argument, that ushered in our modern civilization. This kind of approach to the truth, or what Socrates calls his "human wisdom," is the opposite of all dogmatism. ....To achieve this sort of bracing confrontation, we cannot possibly rest satisfied with the sorts of challenges that originate in our own age and culture, because what we seek is precisely critics whose spiritual footholds are outside our cave, outside our own time, outside the basic matrix of our moral outlook.

My read on what this quote is saying is that we need to encounter in our "liberated" education many people with many contrary opinions, and, in the midst of these challenges, our beliefs, having been had argued and hard earned, become our own. This personally hard earned worldview and value system is not mere accepted dogma but is now conviction.

So my question to Gideon is:
At what age should we begin to educate using this "challenging the paradigm" and "breaking and re-making" process. I have my children write essays about all sorts of things, but their thoughts are very simple. My oldest is 10. They go to Christian schools which is in many ways the opposite of what you are talking in thatthe culture is very monolithic.

To this question, I received the following answer from Joe Kearns:
As early as possible, and mostly around the dinner table. It is true, they will not become 'abstract' till about puberty (Piaget was right, mostly), but if they are raised in a home culture that debates ideas, they will be ready. We homeschooled our four, and it gets really exciting (and tiring) in the adolescent years. My grown children, reflecting back, have repeatedly spoken of how our dinner table conversation is different from any they have heard at their friends' homes. Perhaps it helps that we don't follow sports or watch much TV, so the most popular items for discussion are not available to us.

Again, your example goes a very long way. My children have observed that I read across centuries, de-emphasizing current books and majoring in those works that have remained important after the passage of time. Three of the six members of our family have at one time or another attended St. John's College in Annapolis, whose curriculum is entirely discursive, and based entirely upon the "Western Canon".

Finally, in teaching and discussing the Bible, we de-emphasize "right" answers. ("The answer is always 'Jesus'") We challenge their "right" answers..."Are you sure the scriptures are inspired? What do you mean by that? How do you know? Can you know? Does such-and-such really make sense?" etc.

The safety of this depends upon the extent to which your children trust you about truth. Your admission of the possibility of doubt, even about Christian fundamentals, is counterbalanced by the fact that you, an educated, thoughtful, and intelligent person, believe it to be true. The church tends to represent faith as absolute cognitive certainty, the absence of doubt. I think faith can be better described as an incliniation to give God and his self-revelation the benefit of the doubt.

Oh, to create that kind of Socratic and challenging Dialectic Dinner Table, that is my desire in this life. What would our nation and our churches look like if every Christian home was such a parent led place of challenging and liberating learning. What will it take to implement this type of dinner table discussion in your homes? This lofty goal is at the top of my prayer list right next to "remember 6:00pm-8:00pm belongs to the kids".
God Bless,

Monday, January 17, 2005

Stride Toward Freedom - Martin Luther King and Moral Beauty

One of my favorite books of all time is Martin Luther King's "Stride Toward Freedom".

This book helped define my heart and the purpose of my home. When I was still dating my wife, we read this book together. In fact, we read it on the flight home from NJ to LA after I had just proposed to her. I remember how we cried and cried as we read this wonderful story of the Beautiful Christian community that was led by Martin Luther King. This community spoke so clearly of the love of Jesus and the sacrifice of Jesus for the good of all in the late '50s in Montgomery, Alabama.

My then fiance had been working for the "New York School of Uban Ministry" in Queens, and I ran a Christian recovery home and community in Los Angeles. Our entire Christian life had been about living incarnationally with the poor. These experiences set the DNA of our hearts for ministry.

In honor of Martin Luther King's birthday, I am going to post links to bloggers who are writing on MLK today or over the weekend. Then, I will sum up with a few words on Moral Beauty.

John DePoe has a short and sweet essay on Objective Ethics and Martin Luther King
A big thank you from Baldiloks.
Eternal Perspectives has a self revealing post on Rethinking MLK Day
Evangelical Outpost exhorts Evangelicals
to do a little soul searching by re-reading MLK's "Letter From A Birmingham Jail". The fact is many evangelicals were too blind to renounce tradition and hatred and embrace the dream.
Over at Music for America, Joe Felice asks whether youth see MLK as a Hero or a 3-day Weekend

Adrian links an Article on the Remnants of Racism in our Society
La Shawn Barber gives a conservative take on the Color Blind Society

Dustbury explains why this day matters
Lots of blog entries from progresssives on the inequality of the Celebration itself (here too). The holiday is an official holiday, but few people celebrate it. What gives?

If you know any other posts on MLK today please tell me and I will link them in this post.

Stride Toward Freedom - Martin Luther King and Moral Beauty
As you know, I continually attempt to explain that the church's primary apologetic for the Gospel is the Moral Beauty of our Community and our Lives. To the extent that we do or do not reflect the Moral excellencies of Jesus (forgiveness, grace, compassion, action, love for God, simplicity...) is the extent that we do or do not live as witnesses to His Lordship and power.

Martin Luther King is in many ways a King David of our time. He displayed a vision from the Almighty and a broken heart for God's people of all races. The community of Montgomery during the late-'50s was a beautiful testiment of the power of the teachings and the Spirit of Jesus Christ. Today, I would like to honor Martin Luther King as a great, though limping, witness of Jesus.
God Bless,

And the Winner is!!!

The winners for the essay contest on "Americanism and Its Enemies" are in over at Evangelical Outpost. Go read the winning articles. Yours truly got an honorable mention. :)

Sunday, January 16, 2005

The Daily Practice of Forgiveness

I finished my series on "The Lord's Prayer" last week.
This sermon talks about, well, The Daily Practice of Forgiveness. Today, I preached on "The Mobilized Church". I used the diagram from the post below. I hoe to get that sermon up soon. I think it is biblical and important (even if I didn't preach too well today).
God Bless,

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Links to the World – Church as Power Network

Evangelical Outpost has recently written on the role of networking in the blogging world. In support of the value of networking, Evangelical Outpost notes that the TTLB ecosystem ranks bloggers not by traffic alone but primarily be inbound links. The reason for the emphasis in links in the TTLB rankings is that the power of an organization's influence is more proportional to its networking structure than its immediate size. Don't get me wrong, the goal of a network is influence, and a organization can be simultaneously big and structured as a power network, BUT the more vital and sustaining characteristic of an influencial community is the power of its affinity network.

The blogging community is ranked by in-bound links because of the fact that the long term potential for a person or institution to have cultural influence is tied to the structure of its network. This principle is depicted in the daigram below. In this diagram, the community on the left depicts a ghetto community, and the community on the right is a developing power network.

Ghetto Community ------------Power Network

In the diagram above, the ministry of the group on the left appears bigger at first glance. Assuming these communities are chuches, the communty leader on the left actually has a far bigger church and connects to more individuals on a given Sunday, but the community on the left is structured as a Christian Ghetto. In contrast, the ministry or community on the right is a growing power network. Which community is actually more influential? Whose ministry will continue after the original leader is gone? Who is mentoring in the pattern of Jesus?

Jesus empowered leaders, and, in so doing, Jesus built and modeled for us community-building in the pattern of the power network.

Another good illustration of this phenomenon in the Bible is the role of the “scattering” of the church in Acts 8. In order to prevent the possible insulation of the church into a Christian ghetto, scattering happens. Because Jesus had trained up trustworthy leaders, and the Apostles likewise continued the mentoring model of Jesus, the scattering didn’t kill the church. Instead, the scattering of the church led to explosive growth. The Apostles stayed in Jerusalem, and their immediate community invariably shrunk. Even so, because of the number of semi-autonomous and empowered leaders in the community at large, the church and the Apostles influence actually grew mightily. The rest is history!!!

Which type of community is your church? Are you insulated from other groups and cut off from the other institutions in the culture at large? Are there ever growing cultural barriers between your Christian community and the world around you, or are you part of a developing power network?
Is your Christian community filled with many ministries of many flavors? Are these ministries discipleship and proclamation hubs in their own right? Is the structure of the body non-hierarchical and fluid? If the pastor fell or died, are there many other leaders in the community that can continue the mission?

As leaders, do we promote a loose affiliation of growing leaders or does our desire to have everything "just perfect" end up cultivating an insulated community?

This new paradigm is not so new is it!!! The biblical model of leadeship is actually that of mentoring and the development of a fluid, multi-cultural power network!
This illustration is another example of what I mean by the biblical model of discipleship. The power of mentoring in the footsteps of Jesus will lead the church into the multiplying influence of the power network.

Love you all and God Bless in the name of Jesus,

Friday, January 14, 2005

Blogging and the Church – Getting Critical Mass and Unity

(If you didn't read part one on "Sanctification - The Mediated Life" that post is the key post in our series.. )

Blogging and the Church – Getting Critical Mass and Unity
When I was a new Christian, the first book I read was "The Selected Sermons of George Whitfield". Whitfield was an open air preacher from the First Great Awakening.
When I walked by a vacant lot in those days, I used to say to my buddies, "Do you see that? That is our pulpit".

Well, the new mode of proclamation has arrived. May the Lord raise up a unified band of preachers and thinkers who can bring constructive change to the church and awakening to our culture!!

Bloggers, Thinkers, Pastors and Preachers
It is time for Christian bloggers to take themselves a little more seriously if we desire to bring constructive change to the church. The goal is always the same: to accomplish the mission of extending the kingdom in our generation. "The kingdom of God is righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit", Romans 14:17.

In all institutions, media, politic, business, stagnation happens when bureaucracy and power politics take priority over the mission and over innovation which helps solve real problems. Young entrepreneurs and thinkers get pushed to the side. When the walls are high and thick, the way on is difficult. Stagnation occurs when God’s gift of gifted people are not empowered to promote innovation.

BUT all this is changing with the new technology.

In Luther’s day, the printing press empowered students and professors to be heard. The velocity of new ideas was transformed positively, and the cause of truth was catapulted forward. This combination of "spot on ideas" (Luther’s recovery of the Apostolic Gospel spoken in a language that the culture could understand) and a means to promote the new paradigm is HERE in blogging.

BUT …revolutions, scientific, cultural and religious, happen when a critical mass of thinkers and innovators are all on the same page. I am sure that in Luther’s day not everyone agreed on the details, but everyone agreed on the mission…The mission remains the renewal of the church and the blessing of the cultural through the expansion of the Kingdom through preaching the plain gospel.

Keys we can agree on:
1. The Church needs renewal.
The discussion regarding the gap between the progress of the kingdom in the early church and the progress of the kingdom in today’s generation must be addressed. The key here is that WE AS THE CHURCH WILL BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE. The parables of Jesus are clear.
"In that day, it will be like steward and his master." The master says “show me the money”, and the servant is judged by the return on investment that he generated. The judgment will be fair and exacting.
“But I was scared and the world is getting real bad and ….” Excuses!!!

Why did Jesus tell such parables?
Answer: Because we will be held accountable for the expansion of the kingdom in our generation. The judgment will be like a CEO standing before the board of directors. The board is looking at one thing – THE BOTTOM LINE.
Let me emphasize that the economy of the kingdom is not about money. The currency of the kingdom is VIRTUE. If we see the currency of the kingdom economy as virtue and not just numbers, we will promote both quality and quantity. The answer is not to be anti-mega-church. The answer is to seek to expand actually spiritual growth in terms of Morally Beautiful Living or the multiplication of virtue.
If the church needs renewal and if we are being held accountable, it is time to be analytical and do the hard thinking without being critical. Personally, I love Rick Warren. Why? He is teaching the church to design processes that get the job done. We may disagree with the details of some paragraphs in the plan BUT the meta-message is that the time has come to take responsibility for the renewal of the church. On this point evangelicals and emergent leaders and Reformed pastors and all those who love Christ and His church need to agree upon. The time has come to do the heavy lifting of solving our problems which undermine the accomplishment of the task.

2. A return to Hebrew thinking. There is much talk about “post-modernism” and “emergent” and a lot of terms are thrown around. Some folk tell us to reject the foundationalism of rationalism that entered the West via Descartes etc…Others say that systematic theology and propositional truth is a problem. Such extreme measures, I believe, are an attempt to solve a real problem. I believe there are philosophical answers which need to be answered, and I do have my perspective on these issues. BUT!! Such extreme answers do not solve the problem in a manner that can be understood or embraced by the majority of the church. This pastor desires to find the wise answers to the deep questions, but these solutions need to be born of peace and sown in peace if they are to bring a harvest of righteousness.

What we can agree on is that the biblical emphasis on tangible fruit and wisdom in living needs to be the top priority of the Christian leader. The story of the church, its observable life, needs to have the same winsome qualities as the New Testament prototype. This emphasis on the observable life, as opposed to the purely internal life, is a return to Hebrew thinking. If we simply say, we need to recover the learning models and self-assessment priorities of the bible and if we simply call this a return to Hebrew thinking as opposed to Greek thinking, everyone says AMEN!! Here, I believe is the proper language which will both bring unity and get to the root of the problem.

On this firm biblical ground, I call the bloggers to begin to joyfully network and dialogue. As this dialogue grows, through this new media, the ideas that will renew the church and renew the culture around us will incubate and eventually flower. The 21st Century reformation is not just happening in politics and media but in the church as well.

If you weren’t invited to the party, have no fear. The party is over and the discussion has moved out into the street. The blogoshere is the open air pulpit of the 21st Century. The open air preachers have arrived.

God Bless,
(for more on Blogging and the Church see Tod Bolsinger's blog post and Bill Hobbs here)

Thursday, January 13, 2005

I Predict Morally Beautiful Community

If you didn't read part one on "Sanctification - The Mediated Life" that post is the key post in our series..but also..

Another ecstatic utternance over at "The Dialogical Coffee House" from yours more
and Thanks to Gideon... and I guess if Hugh is gonna link me I better post... So here goes:

Morally Beautiful Community
This site (actually over at Dialogical Coffee House) is dedicated to the hard work of cultural renewal. As a Christian, I, and I imagine my peers, emphasize the need to mobile the church and men and women of certain talents to cultivate those gifts to promote change in the common places where people of all walks of life interact. In response to the launching of this site and in response to the on-going discussions going on in various blog ghettos regarding the Emergent Church and Neo-Calvinism, I would like to make my predictions for the 21st Century.

It should be noted that I have a bit of fire in my bones for the glory of the church. The "hub" from which we launch into all the spheres of our life must first teach us an entirely new story of the meaning of being authentically human. This story, then, is told with manifest wisdom in all the various vocations of our life. Here is my vision of the big picture of church renewal. This is my answer to the "what is next (century) going to look like?" question.

The Renewed Church
I predict (and pray earnestly) that a Franciscan-type, incarnational, monastic lifestyle which promotes holistic cultural, social and economic renewal will arise in the inner cities and rural areas of North America and Western Europe which will bring renewal and revival to the western church. These Christian communities will be places of economic development and empowerment. They will produce cultural and artistic artifacts which will have enduring quality. These communities will incubate young minds for exploits in the sciences and the arts. These communities will marry intellectual and moral excellence with social action and authentic spirituality. In other words, these communities will emerge as a prominent expression of the church of the 21st century. Some of these communities will be closely aligned and supported by the churches of their forefathers and some will not.

The good works of these communities will be seen by the world in such a way that others will be drawn by the winsomeness of their lifestyle. In short, good works will become the hallmark of the church life in the same way that good works was the hallmark of the life of Christ.

The Importance of Aesthetics
Human Beings are equipped with an ability to assess beauty. When anyone from any culture looks at a sunny sky over the snow capped peaks of the Canadian Rockies, they say, "Stunning"or "Beautiful". Mankind has the ability to intuitively know the beautiful. So too, human beings are equipped to behold Christ on the cross and hear Him say, "Father forgive them they do not know what they are doing", and to stand in awe, and say, "Stunning" or "Beautiful".

Mankind has the ability, an ability which is very hard to lose, to see stunning moral beauty and to assess that beauty rightly. Therefore, I predict that the 21st Century Church of Jesus Christ will display forth Morally Beautiful Community. This beauty will not come about through luck or happenstance but as the result of hard earned, institutionally designed programs and processes.

I predict that intellectuals and disciple-makers will come together to articulate a Christian worldview and biblical theology which will codify the values and priorities for future generations to likewise create and maintain similar institutions, programs and processes. In short, I predict a reformation of the church in the 21st Century. This church then becomes the birthing place of a new people and the hub from which "the people of the church" go forth to participate in the various theatres of life and culture.

God Bless,

The Virtual Socratic Classroom

The Logical Jesus - An Educational Exercise
Joe Carter over at Evangelical Outpost is starting a project called The Jesus the Logician Project. more . Joe is giving the readers (students) some definitions of different examples of "Figures of Reasoning". Then, as I see it, the students are to go find examples of the use of these reasoning figures in the sayings and stories of Jesus.

Could this be part of the answer to the what's next question.
Question: How do we cultivate public intellectuals in the 21st Century?
Answer: We use new media as the Socratic academy.

Setting: The virtual classroom
Brad (raising hand): Oh, I know one. The render unto Ceasar passage is a Enthymeme

Teacher Joe: And why is that?

Brad: Oh because Jesus never says the major premis which is "Owners of items brand their initials or image on the items to mark ownership". ...Ahh, in the pasage, the teachers of the law ask, "Should we pay the temple tax." To this Jesus says, "Get me a coin. Whose image is on the coin?" "Ceasars" the lawyers say. And Jesus answers, "Ok, then give to Ceasars what is his and give your life to God". So the major premis is implied. Therefore it is an enthymeme.

Teacher Joe: Does anyone challenge Mr. Hightower.

And so, the virtual Socratic Academy is born. And to think, I was there that night sitting at my desk just blogging along when the fallow ground of the Western mind was first being broken up... there at the dawn of the 21st Century.

God Bless,

The Emergent Discussion - An Open Letter to Brian McLaren (Derek Melleby)

Derek Melleby over at Aslan on the Move has written An open letter to Brian McLaren.

A little background if you do not know who Brian McLaren is. Brain is the leading voice in the emergent community. By emergent, I mean all the voices out there who are calling for radical or fundamental change in the church. Of these voices, there are some who are more conservative and come from evangelical and charismatic perspectives and others who are far from conservative and from my reading not even Christians. This one size fits all definition of emergent harms the cause of valuable church wide reformation.

Derek in his open letter to Brain McLaren continues the dialogue over just these issues. Personally, I am one who is longing for renewal that leads to revival as are the vast majority of evangelicals. I believe this will require radical change which I am attempting to, with growing precision, articulate:

Here are my comments to Derek Melleby’s post.

I think we need to encourage McLaren like you are in the following ways:

1. I think it will be almost impossible for McLaren and the emergent folk to embrace Neo-Calvinism as a priority as they have a view of church as a “prophetic people”. I think their paradigm is more of church as a light that the world sees. The emergent church, as I see it’s evangelical side, tends to picture people, first, seeing the church (the missional, monastic community) and, then, leaving the world community and entering the kingdom community. They see church as “witness” to the world and not “redeemer” of the world. These perspectives on the role of the church need to be looked at by both neo-Calvinists and emergent leaders. As always, I think the aims of the two schools of thought do not contradict but are complimentary and synergistic.

2. I love that you see this “post-critical” stance as basically disingenuous and really not accurate or precise. One of my main points is that “post-modernism” and biblical Christianity are incompatible worldviews. The emergent leaders need to see themselves as recovering a biblical worldview. The embracing of post-modern ideas can only cause harm and not good. I propose a more precise philosophical definition of what McLaren means is needed, and, therefore, I am asking that the Christian philosophers in the blogoshere assist in the discussion to bring precision and unity.


Wednesday, January 12, 2005

The Wittenberg Gate Debate - My Challenge

Wittenberg Gate has asked for debate topics. I have thought for awhile about this and here is my response.

I have thought about a provocative topic. The question in my mind is, "what is something that is as pressing as indulgences in Luther's day?" "What is a worldview shaker?" Here is my topic.

Does the church need radical change?

Similar to the three areas of our life depicted below, I have seperated the question into three parts:

First, I contend the lifestyle of the church needs to completely change toward following a pattern similar to the first century church in terms of mission and community.

Second, I contend that the pastoral role and the definition of the pastor's role needs to be completely redefined in terms of discipleship and the rabbinic method of mentoring.

Third, the church needs to develop a method of sanctification that works.
These three levels of radical change are both vital and urgent in the church. So, I am siding on the "yes to radical change" side of the question.

P.S. This post is my breakthrough post for the week so far.

It has been a Good Day

WOW!! Today I got invited to participate in a group blog with:
Gideon Strauss
Joe Carter
Gerek Melleby
and the gang
Here is the link: The Dialogical Coffeehouse
Also, something else pretty cool happened....Hmm? I guess prayer works. :)

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Sanctification - The Mediated Life

I have been posting a lot on Church (ecclesiology) and all its related topics of Mission and the emergent church, but now it is time to return to personal spirituality and sanctification.

Whenever my book all comes together it will be outlined as follows:
1. Church and Community (Mission)
2. Discipleship and the Rabbinic Method (Observation, Imitation, Codification)
3. Personal Spirituality and a Method for Sanctification. (Fruit and Abiding)

These three aspects of the Chrsitain life can be diagrammed like three concentric circles:

Now, we move back to our discussion of personal sanctification. How do we become the person that we so long to become?
I am learning a great deal lately and so I will try to "describe the experience".

Devotional Prayer and Beautiful Living Not DIRECTLY Linked
I have led bible studies and had personal one on one discipleship relationships on-going every week for 20 years. In all of this helping ministry life, I have learned that prayer alone is not the answer. A person can be the greatest devotional prayer warrior and simply live like a fool. Worse yet sometimes that person with the consistent prayer life and the same bad habits is me. In prayer, we learn some wonderful lessons. In prayer, I have learned forgiveness. In prayer, I have learned worship and God's love. BUT prayer has yet to teach me how to keep my mouth shut in situations where I need to learn to stay quite. Yet, James says "If a man learns to keep his mouth shut, he is mature". So, the lesson I have learned is that devotional prayer doesn't directly lead to sanctification.

Devotional prayer is one skill. Living a beautiful life is another skill altogether, and the two are only indirectly related. Prayer opens the door to change, but learning the new desired skill and making it a habit is the path to actually walking through the door of change in the real world and on a daily basis. The meat is in the street!!!

Not Devotional Prayer But The Mediated Life is the Key
Last night, I was on pastoral visits. I always leave pastoral visits feeling absolutely great. Every visit seems to go well, and I always leave feeling I have been "in the zone". Preaching is the same way. When I step out of the pulpit, I am almost always filled with a sense of great joy. I usually think to myself, "WOW, that was a great experience". These two experiences are similar, and it has dawned on me that I can live every instance of my life like a pastoral visit if I learn and make a few practices the on-going practice of my daily life.

When I go on a pastoral visit, I am going as a minister of grace. I am going in Jesus name. As I am speaking to someone, I, like all pastors I imagine, am thinking, "Lord, what is this person going through and what does this very moment call for me to do?" In short, my antennae are up. I am expecting the Spirit of Christ to be working through me.

What is great about this orientation of my heart is that, I am both in prayer and, in that very moment, I am less distracted than normal. I am listening better. I am quiet. I ask questions. I am basically a completely different person. It really isn't me at all. "It is no longer I who am living but Christ is living in me". This is the mediated life.

My life in that moment is a triangle. The triangle of relationships is myself, the person I am seeking to bless, and Jesus Christ standing between us. Our relationship is mediated by Christ. Before I speak, I am especially careful because I know I am Christ representative as I fulfill this special responsibility. But is not all of life a pastoral visit? Should I not be practicing the life of on-going conscious contact with God all the time? I am a better listener in this moment. I am more productive at the task at hand. I actually control my tongue which is a miracle. Yes, every day and every moment, I, and every Christian, is on a pastoral visit. The key is to learn to live this mediated life of being both present in the situation and spiritually aware of our union with Christ and our kingdom role as His ambassadors.

This mediated life is the path to the Morally Beautiful Life. If we learn the anatomy of such moments, we can learn a method of living that actually standardizes the activities of our heart. We can teach others to walk in this way and multiply the virtue that results from living out what we actually believe, namely our Spiritual Union with Christ.

In my next post, I will pick up on more of the anatomy of this mediated life. There are certain attitudes of the heart which are contained in this orientation toward the moments of our life. If we can learn this skill and make this mediated life, the way of every moment of our life, then we will live a Sanctified Life.

God Bless,

McLaren - Monastic and Missional

Derek Melleby has a review of a seminar he is attending with Brian McLaren.
McLaren is saying that the church and the culture is in the midst of a paradigm shift much like that proceeding the protestant reformation. Two elements of this change in the church will bring the church to have two new defining characteristics.

The first is presenting the Gospel as "God loving the World" as opposed to God saving the individual soul (sound familiar). This ideas is the same as the diagram I presented here. The difference is that I believe it is not modernism that we are shaking off but Greek thinking. This Greek thinking entered the church as the church moved northern in the 3rd and 4th centuries. This Greek thinking found its pinnacle in modernism, but its roots are far deeper and need a deeper understanding to really be changed.

The second principle is the need for a monastic lifestyle. This Christianity as a lifestyle is the meaning of the term "Morally Beautiful Community". Both McLaren’s points are descriptions of the church as a community in the 21st Century. This view of the church becomes the emergent ecclesiology.

The church (evangelical. liberal, Reformed, Baptist, Catholic, etc) needs to come to realize that this is a no brainer. McLaren is biblically correct. This need for a return to a Hebraic understanding of both the Gospel and the church is an idea whose time has come.

This emerging paradigm is not about nuances of our views of atonement or philosophical ideas about sovereignty. No!! This whift is about the observable life of the church and our witness. It is time for all of us to simply bow down low and accept that the bible calls us to be the people who continue the story of the redeemed community. Our story must manifests in our corporate life the Moral Attributes and love of God. Having the right ideas simply will not work and never really did.

May we, in unity bless, the work of the Holy Spirit in our generation.

God Bless,

A More Thorough Review of Americanism and Its Enemies

For a more thorough but similar take to "Americanism and Its Enemies" see "Americanism is Not Puritanism" at A Physicist's Perspective.
PS: I am working on a post on "Sanctification as a Skill - Sanctification Part 4". I will try to post later today.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Americanism: The Enemy of the Puritan Hope

Americanism: The Enemy of the Puritan Hope

I have decided, on this rainy Southern California Sunday afternoon, to take up the challenge from Joe Carter at Evangelical Outpost and comment on the article, Americanism- and Its Enemies, by David Gelernter.

In his article, Americanism - and Its Enemies, Gelernter is attempting to make a connection between the historical resistance to Puritanism and the current resistance to America’s grandiose view of itself in the world. He makes this connection by stating that Americanism is a later stage of the Puritan vision. Here is the thesis of Gelernter’s piece:

I believe that Puritanism did not drop out of history. It transformed itself into Americanism. This new religion was the end-stage of Puritanism: Puritanism realized among God’s self-proclaimed “new” chosen people—or, in Abraham Lincoln’s remarkable phrase, God’s “almost chosen people.”

Many thinkers have noted that Americanism is inspired by or close to or intertwined with Puritanism. One of the most impressive scholars to say so recently is Samuel Huntington, in his formidable book on American identity, Who Are We? But my thesis is that Puritanism did not merely inspire or influence Americanism; it turned into Americanism. Puritanism and Americanism are not just parallel or related developments; they are two stages of a single phenomenon.

Gelernter is arguing not that the zeal of Puritanism faded and that Americanism replaced it but that Americanism is a later stage of Puritanism. To Gelernter, Americanism is Puritanism. Gelernter’s claim is basically that because some presidents have seen themselves as doing the work of God that Americanism is the same as the Puritan vision. As a lover of the Puritans and as a churchman and pastor, I believe categorically that nothing could be further from the truth. If I were to remain silent on this matter, I believe I would be failing to protect the aspirations of all lovers of the church and the dreams of those filled with a passion for her purity.

The Puritan Hope
The essence of the Puritan hope is in direct opposition to the aspirations of Americanism. If we understand what constitutes the Puritan hope and contrast these core principles with Americanism, we will see that, as a worldview, Americanism is the enemy of the Puritan Hope.

1. Puritanism is a religion founded on the power of the Grace of God. The Puritan faith was the by-product of a strict theology of conversion which believed that Jesus Christ brings redemption to the human person which, when communicated to the life of the individual, transforms the individual’s affections and subsequent behaviors. This belief in the power of the Grace of God led the Puritans to hold high expectations for the fruits of faith. When taken to its logical extreme, this faith in the transforming power of grace in this life led the Puritans to apply high expectations to the observable life of the corporate body. Puritanism cannot be equated with just any belief in the progress of society and mankind. The cornerstone of Puritanism is a theology which emphasizes God’s role in man’s salvation in this life and the age the come. In fact, the theology of Puritanism was in direct and vocal opposition to the various forms of humanism of its day. It is insulting to the Spirituality and the theology of the Puritans, which remains a dominant theology in the American church, with aspirations of human progress separate from a clear biblical theology based on grace from God through the Gospel. Puritanism cannot be separated from a faith in the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Americanism, which places its hope for progress in a worldview separate from the Gospel of Grace, is not only antithetical to the Puritan theological vision, it is the enemy of the Puritan hope.

2. The Puritanism believes in the instrumentality of the organized Church. Puritans, and their current day incarnation, not only believe that God has a plan for purity and freedom in their life, but they believe that their dreams and visions are to be accomplished through the church. It is the corporate body of Christ, founded on the Gospel of Christ, that is being equipped to perform the work of Christ. Puritanism leaves no room for the accomplishment of our dreams for a Morally Beautiful Community through the state. Puritans do not believe that human progress will be accomplish through the state. Puritans oppose the attainment of our true humanity through participation of the grand schemes of the state. It is the philosophy of Hegel that sees the state as the instrument of authentic human progress. It is Hegel, not Jesus or the Puritans, that saw the state as the instrument of the manifestation of the Spirit of a people. We have been down that road before. It is called World War II. Hegel’s children, Max and Hitler, fooled us once. News flash, Mr. Gelernter, WE WON’T BE FOOLED AGAIN!!!

3. The Puritan Hope is best practiced in a land that allows the free practice of religion. Though the practice of our Puritan vision may lead a Christian to fight a political battle to free the church from tyranny and oppression like in the case of the English Puritans, this does not mean that the Puritans were fighting for a pure and holy state or that they thought of England as the people of God. The Puritan influence on human government is centered on the need for the freedom to live in a world where those with a Puritan vision can live as the People of God, as the church, in freedom.

4. The Puritan hope is not dead. The progeny of the puritan movement is not Americanism and its grandiose view of America. Puritanism is still alive in the pulpits of America. Though the vision of today’s Puritanism has been polluted and diluted by Americanism, the vision for a church of purity and influence is not dead. I write this essay precisely because I consider people like myself, a Christian Reformed pastor, and the thousands of pastor’s with a heart for a revived church in our generation to be part of the endless line of splendor which the Puritans maintained so well in their generation. Though such men and women, myself included, are filled with Thanksgiving for the freedoms we have which allow us to seek our dreams of renewal in the church, we will never turn the responsibility for accomplishing our dreams over to the realm of politics or the jurisdiction of the state.

I cherish my freedom, but, more than this, I cherish my God given love for Christ’s church. If Americanism seeks to transfer the Glory due to Christ to America, count me as an enemy of Americanism.

God Bless,

The Lord's Prayer - The Path to Answered Prayer

I am posting last Sunday's sermon. This sermon covers:

1. The purpose of prayer is to answered prayer. The heighth of prayer is not just ontemplation but actually receiving power and provision from God to accomplish His goals on earth.

2. I cover the "Your Kingdom Come" section. Here, I ask the question: "Are you a soldier or a tax paying citizen in the kingdom of God?". The Lord doesn't need tax paying citizens. He is after soldiers.

Here it is:

"The Path to Answered Prayer"

God Bless,

Thursday, January 06, 2005

The Hebrew and Greek Views of "The Journey" - The Foundation of Our Ecclesiology

I have been describing the different ecclesiological visions which might bridge the gap between the emergent views of the church and the traditional Western Evangelical functional view of the church. I think it is helpful to give some consideration to what I call "the journey".

Sanctification is about change, and it is the longing of the human heart to be delivered from the norm of this life to some eschatological future. This eschatological future, the Promised Land, is viewed quite different in different religious systems.

The Monastic or Greek View of the Journey
When we think of the monastic or Western system, I think it is helpful to understand "the journey of transformation" to be that of the soul journeying through dynamic change and finding its home in heaven. This is so often the system we hear preached from the pulpit. In this system the individual is interacting with God and being transformed and fit for heaven. The journey is of the soul from its current state into the heavenly state. The place of the preferred future is in heaven and the transformation is of the soul only. In this model, we hear stories of rest in heaven and mansions and golden streets. The goal of this system is the sanctification of the individual soul and its destination is a spiritual state called heaven.

Such a view of the journey is so prevalent that it is hard to think that an entirely different paradigm of the journey may actually be the biblical or Hebraic view.

The Biblical View
In the biblical view, certainly the soul is transformed but it is not to travel to heaven but to participate in a changing community on earth. The journey is the journey of the community of the people of God from the current state to the preferred future of the Kingdom through the encounter with God on earth. This journey is the journey of the people of God on earth into the eschatological future. In this system, the power of God is coming down and redeeming creation not just redeeming the soul. The vital difference is that what is ultimately being transformed is human community and the destination of this community is a preferred state on earth.

The following picture displays these two worldviews:

When this Hebrew view of the journey becomes our vision of the preferred future, then our goals and intentions for the church are changed. The ultimate end is not the sanctification of the soul of which the community of the people of God is just a means of grace to this end, but the individual, who receives grace from God and from the community, is participating in a greater ultimate end of the sanctification of the people of God, the city of God. This reformation of our view of the "journey" then becomes the foundation from which flows our ecclesiology or theology of the church.

God Bless,

Penal Substitution and the Atonement

Though I do not tend to get into theological discussions per se, I could not resist giving an answer to this issue raised at both "Parableman" (here and here) and Adrian's (here). I do wonder why Wink has even attempted to make this point, which by the way I disargree with.

Wink is attempting to say that the Penal element of the Cross is not substitutionary. To this aI replied the following:

I do not think there is any way to deny "penal substitution", but first let me affirm the idea of Spiritual Union. I love to emphasize Spiriual Union myself in preaching the gospel.

Because I am Spiritually unioned with Christ, "I have every spiitual blessing in Christ". "Christ in me is the hope of Glory" and "the one who has joined himself to the Lord is one spirit with the Lord". I agree with you, if this is your motivation, that Spiritual union is underemphasized in American Evangelicalism. I endlessly preach that the Gospel is power and the foundation of this power is our spiritual union. In fact, to see the gospel as only penal and only about forgiveness and not power is a very weak gospel indeed BUT...

The penal element is thoroughly intended to be understood as substitutionary. My proposition is that a theological emphasis on union does not mean that the penal element of the cross should not be contemplated as substitutionary.

1. We agree that the cross has a penal element.
Matthew 26:28This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.
Ephesians 1:7In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace. It is accepted that forgiveness of sin is reconciliation and the removal of our guilty standing before God due to sin. This is penal.

2. We agree that Jesus was punished for my sin.
Isaiah 53:5But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed.
Isaiah 53:10 But the LORD was pleased to crush Him, putting Him to grief; If He would render Himself as a guilt offering.Certainly Jesus was punished due to our sin.

3. Is this substitutionary or union? Well, I ask, "Can I celebrate that I do not experience punishment?" Yes. "Can I contemplate that Jesus experienced punishment due to my sin, but I do not experience punishment for my sin?" Yes.

This is exactly what we do contemplate and what produces affection. He willingly suffered as a perfectly free agent. He was without sin and therefore had no obligation to suffer except in order to alleviate my suffering. You are trying to seperate punishment from suffering which gives the word punishment no meaning. If punishment is a state of well-being then it is not punishement at all. Suffering may not involve punishment BUT, for punishment to have any meaning, it must involve some discomfort or to deprive one of some form of well-being. This discomfort and suffering due to God's wrath on sin was entirely taken from me and placed on Jesus. Therefore, because I will never suffer for my sin, it has no meaning to say that I share in suffering God's wrath for my sin with Jesus. This simply IS NOT TRUE. I will never suffer God's wrath for my sin. This is the penal truth of the Gospel!!!

This meaning then needs to be applied to "sharing in Christ's suffering". Christ's suffering was never for His sin, and, when I share in Christ's suffering, I am not suffering for my sin either. This view of penal substitution is clearly the intent of the Apostles and a key to our affection for Christ. Nonetheless, this does not negate that I have spiriutal union with Christ and that because He took my sin, I am able to share in His death. This death is death to sin not death on account of sin. When I share in His death, I am celebrating my liberation from sin and the flesh. "Do you not know that you are dead to sin".

I think it is appropriate to say that the penal element which is entirely substitutionary is seperate from the union element which is entirely linked only to Spiritual blessings and the fulfillment of the promise of liberation.

God Bless,

Politics is the Enemy of Morality

James at, Rooftop Blog, has made a great case against political activism in the name of "Evangelical Christianity".

James says:
GroupWhen the church presents its concerns as a laundry list of demands, we become a special interest group, and our price has been set. We lose our moral authority. Pay our price and we will be yours. Chuck Colson warned his brethren in "an open letter to the Christian church" last month against listing demands of the president or other elected officials. “To think that way demeans the Christian movement," Colson wrote. "We are not anybody's special interest group."

I have a saying which comes more from personal relationships than politics. I say, "Politics is the enemy of morality". When a Christian begins to play political games in realtiosnhips or in politics or makes manipulative threats, as some evangelical political groups are doing, we are playing politics in the name of Christianity. In so doing, we bring the Gospel of the Kingdom into the realm of man's petty desires. Our calling and the name of our Lord is far too holy to enter into such folly.

God Bless,