Thursday, March 31, 2005

The Simple Gospel and N.T. Wright

All I can say is WOW!!! I am being very inspired by reading N.T. Wright's "The New Testament and the People of God". Admittedly, I don't understand 90% of it, but what I do think I understand is real confirmation that N.T. Wright thinks just like me. :)

I have been meaning to enter into the on again off again discussion at Adrian Warnock's blog about the "Simple Gospel". I have been meaning to say simply this: "I agree with you but it matters what you mean by the term 'Eternal Life'". The benefit of the Gospel to believers is life or eternal life so what we mean by eternal life makes all the difference as to what we have faith for.
In actuality, Adrian and David at JollyBlogger don't even use the term 'eternal life' in the dialogue, but I think that how we define terms in general is caught up in our worldview of how we see the redemptive story unfolding. N.T. Wright helps us go deep with respect to analyzing the 2000 years of history that can separate us from the New Testament worldview. This analysis is necessary if we are to liberate the people of God from a worldview captivity which undermines our understanding of the Gospel Story and, therefore, the theme of the story of redemption.

If eternal life is that I die and go to heaven, then I am a good American evangelical with a lot of dispensational influence. If eternal life is "relationship with God" then I am a pietist. If eternal life is the life of the redeemed community on earth where God is the central character of the life of the community, then I am getting more in line with the "theology of the New Testament". So the gospel is clear, Jesus died to forgive all my sins and grant me eternal life in His name, but the story that this victorious chapter of the Gospel hinges on how we define this term eternal life.

N.T. Wright, in his approach to New Testament Theology, as far as this novice can tell, is attempting to get back to the theology of the people of God and the people of the New Testament to show that, yes, indeed, eternal life is a life lived here on earth by a people, a Morally Beautiful Community if you will, who are participating in the Victory of God through Jesus, the Christ. The Gospel then must be seen as the fulfillment of the story of the people of God and the in-breaking of the Kingdom on behalf of that people through out the entire world. This worldview of this particular unfolding story is the heart of the New Testament understanding of Gospel.
God Bless,
UPDATE: Note: these are thoughts in process. Joe Kearnes makes some good balanced statements in the comments to Part 2 and tranforming sermons makes a nice simple satement about exile and return here. Another good post is Derek Meleby's Easter reading on N. T. A word from N.T. here: Jesus' resurrection is the beginning of God's new project, not to snatch people away from earth to heaven, but to colonize earth with the life of heaven. That, after all, is what the Lord's Prayer is about.

Mr. Felos Quote at Evangelical Outpost

see here - evangelical outpost
This one for the archives.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Consumerism and the Lordship of Jesus Christ

A Palm Sunday Sermon:
Palm Sunday is always celebrated as just that a celebration, BUT the crowd that "worships" Jesus shouts "crucify Him" just a few days later. In the religious arena, the crowd 'worshipped', but, in the courtyard of power, they denied the Lord of all Creation.

As we grow in our understanding of who Jesus really is and that all creation will cry out and worship Him, we likewise grow in our realization and application of the fact that Jesus' Lordship cries out "MINE" over every square inch of our lives.

This sermon looks deeply at the Lordship of Jesus over every square inch of our lives -streaming.


God Bless,

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

De-constructing My Fundamentalism

I always wanted to make a shirt that said, "I am the face of fundamentalism". Though my friends and peers would shutter at being called fundamentalists, I always thought that if I believe in the fundamentals then I am a fundamentalist. I always like to associate myself with the outcast and no one is more "outcast" than those who are labeled "fundamentalist". The world hates the fundamentalist so maybe such a label is to be worn with pride. BUT...

It hasn't been until recently that I have come to understand, from the reformed perspective, what a fundamentalist is and that I really am not a fundamentalist after all.

In the CRC publication, "What it means to be Reformed" the following statement is made to distinguish being reformed or even evangelical from being "fundamentalist".

"Reformed Christians also strongly distinguish themselves from fundamentalism, with its anti-intellectualism and suspicion of science and learning that arises from a lack of emphasis on creation; its lack of cultural engagement; and its tendency to emphasize the rule of Christ in the world to come rather than in this world, a tendency that arises from a dispensational understanding of history in which the kingdom of God is still a future reality."

I would like to emphasize this statement about "suspicion of science and learning that arises from a lack of emphasis on creation". It seems that there are two ramifications of a lack of emphasis on creation:
1. The fundamentalist worldview sees that knowledge comes almost exclusively from "special revelation". In such a view, the only truth is the truth of scripture. All other sources of truth are to be doubted. Sometimes this doubt is even doubt with respect to "biblical studies". Only scripture is to interpret scripture. BUT God gave us revelation of Himself through general revelation as well. My knowledge of the universe which God gave me through my mind of myself and my world is not to be simply doubted out of hand. "When the book of science appears to conflict with the book of Scripture, Reformed Christians reread and study BOTH books to see where they are misreading". I actually chose to leave a more fundamentalist stream of the church as my children got older for this very reason. My desire is that my children learn to read the book of science and nature as well as the book of Scripture and that they become excellent at both for both reveal the knowledge of God (Ps. 19)

2. Such a low view of creation creates an unbalanced view of the image of God in the unbeliever. Not only does fundamentalism teach us to doubt science and the knowledge that comes from creation BUT fundamentalism breeds a certain overly negative view of the heart of the non-Christian. In fact, the non-believer is almost demonized in the fundamentalist worldview. This unbalanced perspective can easily become judgmental and mean-spirited. In everyday life on planet earth, I find that many unbelievers have as positive a motive as the Christian including love of country, love of family, love of the weak and the poor. Fundamentalism under-estimates the role of the image of God in the life of the unregenerate.

Certainly as Christians we testify that we have a God-centered vision of morality and that we have the power to follow through with our vision, but that does not mean that those without Christ have only entirely depraved motives. I find that such an understanding of human depravity and such a view of the un-believer is both unloving and is an untrue understanding of the heart of fallen man. Such a vision of others tends toward irrationality and prejudice that undermines our graciousness which is essential to being a witness to the Grace of God.

I am in the process of de-constructing my own fundamentalism. As my theology becomes more Reformed and balanced by historical Christianity, as I study the historical developments that formed my Christians fundamentalist roots, I find ways to seperate the wheat from the chaff. In so doing, I find my ability to appreciate the discoveries of people quite different from myself. In this appreciation and love, I hope to find futher avenues for the in-breaking of the reign of Christ.

Are you in need of "de-constructing" your fundamentalism as I am?

God Bless,

Are You a Fundamentalist?

I attempted to post a short post on this question this morning, but my server connection went down. Before I got the post up, I had to go to work.

In that I am looking to read NT Wright and to do an in-depth study of Paul as I finish our study on ACTS at church and in that this is the first scholarly thing I have done since seminary on 1987, I can sense that the de-construction of my own fundamentalism is happening.

Also, I plan on doing some posts on "The Management Revolution" and how Christians can learn about Christian values from the rise of the idea of "values-based companies" and the new understanding of leadership in secular institutions.

So - Are you a fundamentalist? What is fundamentalism anyway?
I will post my mini-essay when I get home tonight. (hint: it has to do with a theology of creation)
God Bless,

Monday, March 28, 2005

To Read or Not to Read that is the Question

My wife and the kids are off on vacation for the week, so I have time on my hands to read and spend time alone. So what should I read?? Or maybe I shouldn't read at all??

A little background. I went many years from about 1988-2001 on a reading fast. I had not read anything written in the 20th century other than Lloyd-Jones and other sermons. So if you suggest a book, chances are I haven't read it.

I am leaning toward: "The New Testament and the People of God" by NT Wright or
"Total Truth" by Nancy Pearcey. I would prefer to read something to inspire my preaching!!

God Bless,

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Tsunami 3 months later

This from Chrenkoff via instapundit on the relief efforts in general. Money given at the Violet Burning Tsunami Relief concert went to help these emergency relief programs

We are planning a next relief concert to support this effort in Darfur digging wells and providing food relief.
So if you know a good band that plays in LA tell us.

Friday, March 25, 2005

The Ethic of Good Friday

Romans 5:6For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.
7For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. 8But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. 9Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. 10For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.

Considering the cross of Jesus we can see who He loved, how He loved and How this love is applied to us.
Who did Jesus Love?
Jesus died for the "helpless", the "ungodly", the impious, for "sinners", for "His enemies". Jesus died for me when I was weak and sick and unable to help myself. He died for me when I was even un-willing to help myself, unable to see my ignorance and my rebellion. He loved me and sought my good when I was dead wrong in my confession and dead wrong in my thinking. Maybe today I still am? Maybe today many people whom Jesus still loves are dead wrong in their confession and dead wrong in their thinking. These are the one's Jesus was thinking of when He died. Not the righteous. Not the good. Not the right thinkers but the wrong thinkers. Not the soldiers for the kingdom but the lost. Of whom I was and often still am the chief. These are the one's Jesus died for and I am fortunate. If He had died for any others, if He had instead died for the good and the right and the Godly, I would forever live in doubt and finally my confession would be that He did not die for me. BUT He did die for me for Christ died for the unjust and the ungodly and the deny-ers and the forsakers.

How did Jesus express this love for the un-godly?
He expressed it by giving everything He had. Jesus exercised every means necessary to reconcile us to God. Jesus gave His last breath. He became poor. He suffered and died to give us spiritual well-being. Jesus saw a life and that life was mine. That life was as good as dead and did not want life. That life which was mine He saw as worthy of nurture and grace and He is His duty out of love. Jesus loved His enemies with every bit of life He had. He spent every resource on my behalf. I was the sick. I was the helpless. I was the dying. I was the fool. I was in that crowd. I have been there many times. I didn’t make the good confession in the heat of the moment. I was lost and He saw me and loved me and spent every last bit of his resources to nurture me back to life. The cross is the ethic of the love of God.

The ethic: Love is the exercise of all means available to nurture life into flourishing. Where ever I see life I am under the duty and obligation to exercise every means necessary in the power of God to nurture that life. If it is my children, I nurture that life to flourishing. If it is the poor, I give a cup of cold water. We are to travel the world nurturing life by giving of ourselves the concrete blood, sweat and tears of love. Platitudes and slogans are not love. Love is painful and difficult and sacrificial. And it loves without partiality. Love loves without regard to nationality.

How does this love apply to me?
This love of Christ means that Jesus having demonstrated the type of love for us will now much more exercise every means necessary to nurture me to life. He will always stand to bring me forgiveness and will always bear my iniquities.

The Much More Principle
Having shown His love and acted in love for me when I was His enemy without faith, how much more will He continue to nurture me until my soul prospers and is aware of all His goodness.
I stand before God with nothing but a confession of my faith and this is more than I had when He died for me. So we stand and we pray with confidence and with knowledge of His love for the knowledge of His love has been poured out in our hearts through the Gospel.

May your day be filled with this knowledge of His love,
God Bless,

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Prayer for Good Friday

I visited the congregation Tod Bolsinger pastor's tonight and felt deeply moved by how deep the knowledge of God is and how shallow my knowledge of God actually is.

The service was filled with the story of the Last Supper and the Foot Washing. The music was quite and contemplative. I was moved to praying: "Lord, your graces are immumerable. The solutions to my innumerable weaknesses are too many for me to pray for all of them. If there is anything I am it is weak. Lord, make me humble this year. Keep me listening and learning."

May all your contemplations be filled with His presence and His word,
God Bless,

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Worship Outside the Camp

Main post today is here: Palm Sunday and Agro-Worship

Palm Sunday and Agro-Worship

I admit blogging has slipped in the last few months. I have decided to change my blogging theme from "blogging for reformation" to "blogging the reformation". In other words, I do not see blogging as so much being used to drive renewal. Instead, I see blogging being used to document the story of renewal as it happens and to give a place for discussion of "how do we describe this process" or "what biblical priciples or sayings of Jesus best describe our renewed practice". In any case, the story on planet earth comes first.

My Story - Today
For myself, I am expereincing some very positive renewal in my person. On Friday, we had a Violet Burning concert at our church. I was struck by how Michael Pritzl had grown both spiritually and musically since I knew him back in the late '80's.

The theme of the night for me was "worshippng God with all your strength". The music is very forceful rock, and, if you try to worship through it, the music forces you to worship aggressively. In attitude, it reminds me of the band "MORTAL" from the 90's. For those of you who do not know what this music is it is the more agressive rock sound (i.e alt or modern rock). HERE IS THE POINT:

Worship has progressed outside the camp, and I felt like I had not progressed with it. I was very convicted by the experience. "Oh, God have I let Your cloud move and I, in the busy-ness of life, have not moved with You." Have I become seculaized and spiritually dead through so much hard work and lack of sabbath and worship.

So, I have begun to pray and worship with more zeal again (like in the old days).
"Lord, I have let ______ into my heart. I have let ________ into my home. I have neglected ___________, and I have negleced this person and that ministry."

When I look at Palm Sunday this year, I do not see a celebration,but, instead, I am seeing Jesus weeping over the city and cleansing the temple. "Oh Jerusalem, the city of God, oh beautiful one, you missed your visitation".

This week I pray that you too would be awakened in your inner man. "Awake oh sinner and let Christ's light shine on you. Do not let any unholy thing proceed from your mouth. Be angry at your sin. Never let the sun set on your zeal. Give no place to the purposes of the evil one. Put aside all childishness. All bitternes. All gossip. Cleanse your hearts, and Christ's light will shine on you". Eph 4:17 -5:20 - my paraphrase.


Saturday, March 19, 2005

Review of Concert with TheViolet Burning at Trinity CRC

All I can say is "why aren't The Violet Burning the leaders of the new revolution". AWESOME!!! HEAVY LIKE HEAVEN and WORSHIPFUL.. WOW...I'll give a complete review during the week!! Worship the Lord with all your STRENGTH!!! Insanely great!!!
Fading Glory opened up and did a great job. Very inspiriing modern worship!! WOW!!
Thanks to everyone who came out in the rain. We gave a nice offering to the CRWRC. All is well!!

The question is what bands are there in LA that we should get in the future. They need to be cutting edge and worshipful.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Interview Game

The new media is a great combination of information and daily relationship and interaction between readers and bloggers and bloggers and fellow bloggers. In this spirit of building community in the blogosphere, someone out there launched “the interview game”. I am fortunate to be interviewed by Gideon Strauss:

Interview Questions for Brad Hightower
1. Why do you blog?
There are really two aspects to blogging for me. I have spent the past 20 years doing hands on discipleship. This process has taught me that people learn by doing and learn by example. I believe the church is experiencing a renewal of praxis. Christianity is more like gymnastics than geometry. So these lessons about discipleship and its relationship to community and knowing God and how these three levels of our spiritual life relate is something I want to write about and get out there so I can maybe do some good for the kingdom.

The other element comes from the fact that I am so not academic. Therefore, I like to write stuff and have smart guys teach me that I am wrong. In other words, I like to blog to learn. I want to gain more precision to my language so that I can explain the nuances of practice better. Neo-Calvinism is a great example. I am just now starting to accept that Christian values might be worked into the structures of secular institutions.

Also, I originally started to blog because a non-believing friend of mine said I had some ideas that he actually thought would be helpful to the church.

2. Why does story/testimony matter?
Christianity offers us a new “life”. This life that God offers us is not some “positional” life or some theoretical life to be experienced in some other dispensation. Our faith is for a new story which is the kingdom life. I like to say that the “kingdom of God is at hand” means that "the heavenly pattern of life is within reach". If our story doesn’t change with respect to the moral attributes of our character, then we have little evidence that the Gospel works. Jesus said, “You are the salt of the earth but if you lose your saltiness then you are good for nothing”. The point here is that our story is to be a story that proclaims, in the way we live as a community, that the kingdom of God is indeed at hand through the power of the Gospel. We as Christians have access to something that is impossible without grace. we have the invitation to live a life of stunning moral beauty that reflects the moral attributes of God. Therefore, having a life testimony and a new story becomes the evidence of the reality of our confession.

3. What positive memory most strengthens your idea of community?
When I was in my 20’s, I lived in a community of single guys. There was 5-6 of us ,and we ran a discipleship home for the marginally employable. This lasted until I got married (or about 5 years). It was one 24 hour prayer meeting. The fruit of this ministry was really amazing in retrospect. We were very missional and monastic.

I remember one story from back then. I had a friend (my roommate). He was an addict and all his significant adults in his life died on the streets in Wilmington, CA. We spent 10 weeks memorizing grace-based scriptures as a home. We would have times of worship most days, and one day, after he was just filled with scriptures on forgiveness and grace, he was in worship with us. As the music became more spontaneous and inspired, he began to weep. I still can see this man, hardened by the street, with tears in his eyes saying, "I'm in the gates. I'm in the gates". That’s the kingdom. Many people say to me, looking back, that those were the best years of their life.

My whole ministry is to get back to this lifestyle but in the context of raising kids and being more cross generational. I think the great blunder of 20th century Christianity is trying to live the life in isolation. That approach leads to real depression and burden. Sanctification just doesn't happen outside the context of monastic and Missional community.

Today, I live on the campus of the church, and it is really helpful because I am a witness 24/7. We keep a very porous border between church and home. Without such defining values, I think it is very hard to maintain the level of militant attitude toward life that is required to continually grow in grace.

Today, our home group meets a few times a week and Sunday is pretty much an all day affair of community. Our weakness is on the mission side. We are inviting some missionaries out to jump start our mission to the community. I want to launch lots of art driven events too, concerts and movies. We are certainly inching our way back into renewal.

4. Who has taught you most about being a pastor? (Divine persons excluded.)Christianity is more caught than taught and the person who I caught the vision from was a man named Rick Colquhoun. He is a Vineyard pastor. He led a small group (50+ in Anaheim). He invited me to move into his home and gave me a job at the Vineyard to run the “Compassion Ministries” in the mid-‘80’s. We did ministry together.

I was a pretty hard guy when I was young in terms of emotions. I remember one time I got really hurt. He was like a father to me in many ways. He was fantastic at releasing leaders and supporting young radicals like myself. I made a vow to myself when I was a young Christian to never discourage a young visionary. This man really knew how to encourage. Quite the proverbial Barnabas.

Also, John Wimber. WOW. He was so profound. He was this eccentric man who saw the world from a very practical paradigm. He used to say, “when do we get to do the stuff”. Man, this phrase meant that Christianity is about living the story of the book hook line and sinker. He was the first of a movement that has so many tributaries. Great liver of the Kingdom.

5. If there is one book you would want all of your children to read in their twenties, what would it be?
We are starting to read the stories of Narnia at night. I would just love it if we could read biographies together as a family. "Stride Toward Freedom" by MLK. Heroic missionary stories: Hudson Taylor, Martin Luther, Francis of Assisi. I really was influenced by the lives of the Puritans. I love Gandhi too. Steven Biko. I love stories of courage.

Here is a reminder of the rules of this interview meme:Anyone else interested?
Send me a note or leave a comment.
Here are therules:
1. Leave me a comment saying "interview me." The first five commentators will be the participants.
2. I will respond by asking you five questions.
3. You will update your blog with the answers to the questions.
4. You will include this explanation and an offer to interview someoneelse in the same post.
5. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them fivequestions. (Write your own questions or borrow some.)

God Bless,

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Violet Burning - This Friday 7:00 - Trinity CRC

Yeah, the last time I posted this it got canceled BUT this time it's a go.

It is all for Tsunami relief. It's $7.00 at the door. Trinity (our church) is at 18718 Grayland in Artesia, CA. It is between South and 183rd and is between Pioneer and Norwalk.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Free to Feed - Spiritual Revolution - Testimony

After I graduated from university, I moved back to my mom’s home. I was pretty beaten down and depressed at the time. I had studied East African socialism and saw all its self serving bureaucracies, and I really didn’t have enough confidence to finish my masters by doing field work. I knew it wouldn’t be good for me. I had been involved in radical politics but it led only to disillusion and discouragement. I idolized Gandhi and MLK but it seemed no one else cared to much about the dream. The next chapter in implementing the dream seemed to be even harder than the first.

On Wednesday night, I don’t know how. I found myself at a college and careers group at a church in Newport Beach. I don’t remember what the talk was about but I remember arguing with the pastor after the meeting. From my view, he was the typical tall handsome straight-laced upper middle class Christian conservative with a theology to insolate his mind and emotions from the world of suffering that I was so aware of. I had been to church every weekend by my own choosing since I was thirteen. I read my bible regularly, and I was a Stanford educated intellectual leftist radical.

I do not know how the discussion had gotten to discussion of the gospel, but I remember speaking to a few kids who stayed after the study. I preached my version of the gospel. I said, "Jesus died to reveal the path of self sacrifice. We are to give up our selfish self centered American dream and live for the suffering of the world. That is the gospel." I am sure I probably cussed a little for shock value.

I distinctly remember saying it. It is hard to put into writing, but I said, "Don’t give me this Jesus died for sin line. That is just your way to avoid the message of sacrifice and love and avoid the teachings of Jesus." My worldview was not the evangelical worldview. I was frustrated and longing for a means to change the world, and I saw that church and their message as completely irrelevant. As I left the meeting the pastor said to me, "Read the gospel of John". What a strange thing to say I thought. I remember getting in my car and saying to myself, "I hate these people".

I don’t know if it was that very night or if it was a month later but I did read the gospel of John. I had probably read the Gospel of John ten times. I had been involved in hundreds of arguments and discussions about religion and Paul and the message of Jesus. But I was living in the perfect storm of idealism, powerlessness, and bible reading.

I read the following. "the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world". This was spoken by John the Baptist before Jesus had begun His ministry. I saw the scene in my mind as a prophesy about Jesus’ calling, his vocation, in the world. He had yet to "speak truth to power" but his calling from eternity was sure. I began to weep.

What hit me like a bomb was completely unexpected. Without warning, I became, from nowhere, wonderfully aware of my own weakness. It is not just about the bondage and the slavery of others that need to be advocated for but I am a slave, I am in bondage and God almighty has sent an advocate for me. At this time in my life, I would flinch if someone touched me. I was a college wrestler and a fighter. I was bald and angry. But in one moment, someone who mattered, the only one who mattered brought me low and made me one of the poor of the world. The problem which created all the suffering of the world I was in myself. In a moment, I saw the real root cause of the plight of all mankind. Sin and I was just as sick as all the sickest of the world.

I had the solution. My entire worldview was completely changed.

I remember a few days later I went back to that College and Careers Bible study. As I left the meeting, I again sat in my car, and with tears in my eyes, I said to myself, "God, I love these people". In one moment, I was given a gift that I never knew I wanted, "Faith in the gospel and love for all the saints".

God Bless,

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Posts as art- I just figured it out

I was responding the TallSkinnyKiwi's post on the 7 blogger deadly sins and I just figured it out. I see a post as a work of art. To me a blog post is most akin to a jazz solo in music. There may be a little point of reference or structure to work around but the core of it is to just take off into the inspiration of the moment and write. I love a good long hard blowing ecstatic Coltrane solo.

Should blog posts be modular and singular in topic so they can be archived and linked or should a blogger be presenting more of a gallery of his or her work.
Is it possible that in order to have a more impressionistic effect, we need to look at ways to change the nature of a blog interaction by changing the current interface. I would much prefer to visit a bloggers "gallery" or read his or her "book" than a short one point blurb. I think blogging is mainly self-expression and not linking information. The revolution is a self-expression revolution as well as an information revolution. The last thing I personnally need is more information.

Did I mention I need to switch to typepad or moveable type??

The One Thing Needful in Evangelism - 1 Cor 1-2 - Part 3

In our discussion of Paul’s explanation of how we come to know God in 1 Cor. 1-2, we discovered that knowing the Gospel story and putting our faith in the Gospel story cannot come from either the rational or empirical methods. In fact, knowing with assurance or certainty the meaning and purpose of life does not come by looking at life alone. Instead, the purpose of history and the theme of the story of life (the big picture) only comes from personal knowledge straight from the author of history.

Because knowledge of the truth of history does not come from compiling a mountain of evidence for the listener or from an airtight rational argument, Paul says, instead, he intentionally puts his faith in the power of God to simply communicate directly to the hearer of the Gospel that indeed the Gospel is THE story of human history. In other words, the best way to do evangelism is to tell the simple story and to lay hands on people asking God to reveal himself to the person. This method puts our faith in the power of God and not our persuasive words of wisdom. This does not mean we do not contend at all for the faith by being reasonable but that we acept that certainty does not result from pure convincing rational argument or pure convincing evidence. Ultimately, the answer to the big picture question of what is the theme of the story of history comes from special revelation.

An example:
“Is there anything I can pray for you for?”
“Sure my son is not doing good in school”
“OK, do you mind if I pray for you right now”.
“When I pray for people I simply put my hand on their shoulder. Would that be OK?”
“No problem”
“Lord, …..”

As Christians, we are first and foremost a people with whom God dwells. We are a people of His presence. As individuals, trust and faith in the power and love of God is expressed in prayer. Community life in His presence is lived out by praying for one another and speaking the word of God from the presence of God. I believe this emphasis describes well the missing link that separates our story in the 21st century from the story of the early church. So often, we seek to know God through many methods other than the one thing needful which is direct personal knowledge. We attempt to effect the word through all sorts of other methods, like politics and rationalistic apologetics, which are simply not the one thing needful. People need to hear the word of God from the presence of God.

My next post will give my own conversion as an example of how God actually transforms our worldview through speaking His word in the power of the Spirit.

God Bless,

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Knowing God and The Simple Gospel - God Speaking

This is a draft. I will add links tonight... :)

I have been talking to my blogging friend (MoJoey – Photo Blogger) and I realize I really have been off topic for about a month. My topic is centered on “describing the experience”. Whether it is discipleship relationships or prayer or leadership, in order to really make the topic practical and to communicate in a way that almost assures comprehension, I like to describe my own experience. From the description of the experience or the practice as I experience it, then I go onto explain or define the theory. This is my method. All learning is founded on doing and then when we have done it then we can discuss it. This method is the “observation, imitation, discussion” model. For example what does it look like to be a person that knows the Sovereignty of God? What does it look like to be a humble person? What does it look like to enter into worship? What does it look like (describe it) to know God? This is my story and I am in need of sticking to it.

In my last post I talked about Leslie Newbigin’s theory of “Knowing God”. We learned that the quest for irrefutable evidence like the greeks or a perfect rational like Descartes’ rational method is totally inappropriate when talking about either knowing people, which is contingent on self-revelation of the object and for predicting the outcomes of story. In fact Einstein (or some smart guy) had a dictum that went something like the following, “Mathematics is great so long as you don’t apply it to anything real”. The meaning of this dictum is that the types of assurances you have in math do not work when time and space are introduced into the equation. So how do we know God and His story?

Paul says this, “Jews seek for signs..greeks for wisdom but I preach the Gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit”. Paul says in 2 Cor 5, “God is speaking through us saying “be reconciled to God”. When Paul speaks the Gospel in the power of the Spirit or when anyone sent by God to preach preaches in the name of Jesus and in the power of the Spirit, “God is actually speaking”. This process of God speaking through people who speak His word is simply a fact. I cannot prove it. And it isn’t a fact that has deniability. You can not disprove it. This fact is not verifiable at all. It cannot be tested by science. It cannot be proven by rational method. But it is true nonetheless.

This fact that God is speaking through the prophets and through the apostles and in every way through the word and deed of Jesus, the son of God, is admittedly foolish to the rational method. Post-modernists say every culture has their own self-appreciating meta narrative. Cultures create themes about themselves that give them purpose and meaning to life BUT they are not true. The post-modern mind denies all meta-narratives (statements of the theme of the story of life) but we Christians say there is one that is true. The Hebrew meta-narrative is true. We believe this tiny people is God’s one and only special revelation about the theme of history. Everything about their story can be understood in the life of Jesus Christ and the cross which brings the humble forgiveness and the weak power. Every aspect of Jesus’ life and work and words speaks to the theme of history and the purpose of life. This Jesus is the ultimate fulfillment of the life of the Hebrew people is the essential theme of the book of Matthew and we as Christians believe that God has spoke to all of mankind in this one story and it is indeed the ultimate Good News that speaks meaning and purpose to every history lived on earth of both individuals and communities to the Glory of God.

God Bless,

Monday, March 07, 2005

Faith for Morally Beautiful Community

Keeping to this blog's theme of Morally Beautiful Community, I dedicate this post to our beautiful church.

This weekend our church celebrated our 50th Anniversary. It was absolutely heaven on earth. We ate (at least I did) every meal together all weekend. We played together (we had a carnival) and sang and listened to testimonies and stories. Four of the fomer pastors were here. What a glorious tradition!!

So in looking forward to another great 50 years, I preached a short sermon on Morally Beautiful Community and Biblical faith.

Here is the audio to the sermon. This sermon depicts God's vision for His Church.
God Bless,

Friday, March 04, 2005

Knowing and Story - 1 Cor 1-2 - Part 1

Tod Bolsinger is blogging on the "one thing needful" and how this passage relates to "sitting under" the teaching and presence of Jesus. A disciple of Jesus understands that we are transformed by maintaining a learning posture with respect to the person of Jesus. I would like to "go philosophical" for a moment and expand upon this idea by proposing that the source of true ultimate knowledge is found only in a posture of personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

note: What follows owes a great deal to Leslie Newbigin and his book Proper Confidence. For a more in-depth study of the philosophy of science and personal knowledge read Newbigin or Polanyi.

1 Cor 1-2 - A Philosopher's Text
I have never heard a sermon that approaches Paul’s comments in 1 Cor. 1-2 as a lesson in philosophy, but the text teaches the reader a new approach to the relationship between knowing God and the limited methods of knowing prescribed by science and philosophy (namely Plato and Descarte).

Starting at chapter 1 verse 22, Paul says "since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. 22Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25For the foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom"
and continuing at verse 1 of chapter 2, "1When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God 2For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. 4My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit's power. "
Paul here is contrasting three ways that knowledge is discovered: by the Jewish method, by the Greek method, or by God’s chosen method.

The Jews Seek for a Sign
Paul was very conversant with his countrymen. In conversation with Paul the Jews would say, "Prove it. Show me proof that this Jesus is Lord of all. I want irrefutable proof."

The Jews were approaching faith in Jesus as the Christ from an empiricist perspective. A "sign" is irrefutable "evidence". Empiricism is the philosophical belief that knowledge stats with the object or from outside the mind.

Science is based on finding our proof in the real world. I have always considered myself an empiricist. I read western history as a journey from rationalism of the ancients (especially Plato) to the empiricism of science, but knowledge of a person and especially knowledge of the purpose of life cannot be found through these methods. This is why Paul says "in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him". God made His world in such a way that His person cannot be clearly known through such a manipulative and controlled method. Subject to subject knowledge just doesn’t work that way. If you desire to know me, it is contingent on whether I want to be known. Some people are almost impossible to get to know. That is their personal choice, and I honor their personal sovereignty. Well, guess what. The sovereign God of All can only be know as He sees fit and according to His personal sovereignty. This dependence on personal disclosure is how knowledge of persons works.

The Greek seek Wisdom
The Greek method, or at least the Greek method that Paul is referring to, is not the same as the Hebrew method. The Greeks and those like them (modern rationalists) use not so much evidence as the source of knowledge but instead rely on reason and logic. This method is called rationalism. These Greeks would say, “OK let's start from scratch. Give me an immutable truth like 2+2=4, and let's work our way logically to your claim of Jesus as Lord”. This is the method of rationalism.
Can one come to faith in the Gospel through the rational method? Let's look at an analogy:

A Test of the Usefulness of Rationalism
Using the rational method tell me the truth oh wise people out in blogville. Tell me, who will win the World Series this year? And here is the test. Tell me the answer with absolute certainty because you must bet your life on it. If your method is so wise, you must bet 100% of your savings and all your 2006-2010 income on the 2005 World Series.

You see the rational method is fine for mathematics, but it really doesn’t work too good at predicting the outcome of story. It can predict the outcome of dropping a rock from the leaning tower of Pisa, but it doesn’t work too good in predicting the behaviors of persons, especially persons who have a penchant for being very creative and unpredictable, like God.

Rationalism and Story
The gospel story is the most unpredictable story of all. "Who would believe our report, He was born of the root of Jesse…and gave his life for the transgression of many" (Isaiah 53). The Gospel is foolishness. It is counter intuitive. It is not what our reasoning would expect of a sovereign God. Who could have known or predicted that God would reveal Himself as a Hebrew baby, the least of the least. Who could have predicted that God would show Himself and reveal the theme of history by having Himself crucified as a common criminal. Having heard the story and having believed the story, we come to knowledge and understanding of the theme or purpose of history but such knowledge does not come through the rational method. Instead, the knowledge comes through hearing and believing.

So how does one come to the knowledge of a person especially a person so wonderful and complex as God? How does one learn the theme and purpose of spomething so complex as history and so subtle and beautiful as our own personal story?

For that, you must read part 2.

God Bless,

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Focusing on Church Renewal

This morning the following reads got me praying...and that is a really good thing.I have decided to really promote blogs that talk about church renewal or that encourage my heart to say "those guys are doing church".

Aslan On the Move
The first on the list is Derek Melleby's post this morning. Here is a groups of young men and women that are so engaged in dialogue and dialogue about mission that it makes you want to go back to college.

Here's Derek's money quote from this morning:

"Most provocatively, Mr. Dark had something powerful to say to the church. He suggested that we should think of the church this way: If the church were an organization (and he was very hesitant and cautious when using this word) it should be known as the only organization that primarily exists for the benefit of people outside of the organization. This is challenging, Biblical (I think), and would require a tremendous paradigm shift for how many people understand "church," and for how churches are structured. "
Derek seems to live from one exciting time of dialogue to the next at college campuses around the East Coast. When I grow up, I want to be Derek Melleby. Read the whole post here.

It Takes a Church
This is yesterday's news, but Tod Bolsinger's blog, It Takes a Church, is fast becoming my favorite read. Yesterday's blog is quite insightful about the ideal church. Tod says
But what was most interesting (but actually not surprising) was what was missing.
No one mentioned any of the following as part of their ideal church:
Food courts, coffee carts, fresh-baked cookies, skateboard ramps, rock-climbing walls, or gymnasiums of any kind.

This has been my belief for just about ever: Pastors so often, in an attempt to please everbody, never get to the cry of people's heart. Tod Bolsingers and bloggers like him are fanning the flames of people's hearts for church renewal.

The Dr.
Gideon Strauss' is talking a little kingdom theology which warms the heart and just makes ya want to start "devoting yourselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer." Makes ya' want to just "spend time together and have everything in common, selling our possessions and goods, giving to anyone who has a need". All this talk of the kingdom in every area of our life makes ya' want to "continue to meet together in the churches, break bread in our homes and eat together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people."

You in...
God Bless,

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Dialogue at Dialogical over Morally Beautiful Community

I also posted the post, "Church as Prophetic Witness" over at Dialogical Coffee House.
The discussion is going well. Also here
I encourage you to get involved in this discussion.
I commented the following to some questions as to what Morally Beautiful Community looks like:
Great to see you are wrestling with the idea that the church as a corporate body is called to be a witness as a people of God's presence. What that looks like is the other "what's Next?" question. My goal is to turn the what's next question back to an emphasis of "it begins with the church". So glad you are wrestling. A few suggestions:
1. The prototype of the Moral Beauty of the Church is the book of Acts. The goal is to say how do we incarnate these same Moral Attributes in our space and time.
2. I get the term Moral Beauty from Edwards. He never exactly said Moral Beauty but "Moral Attributes of God" or "Excellencies of Christ". So, by Moral Beauty I mean that the moral attributes of the Trinitarian God are to be displayed in the people of God primarily through how we live together. An individualistic model of the church (church as filling station where I come to get grace) undermines the church in God's program which is to display the moral attributes of a Trinitarian God.
3. Looking at individual prophets from the Old testament is not a good way to say how the community is to look. If there is one difference between the OT and the NT it is that the "kingdom is within reach" to the church because the Spirit is poured out on the entire community.
God Bless,