Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Prayer, Revival and Witness Cont.

Real Funny Story about a Friend

I have this atheist friend and I pushed him yesterday about him being not right with God. He then said, “How come you are not an atheist etc” (see story below). Any way I went to lunch with him today and he said he had a dream. I was in it and I was selling soap. So I asked him, what in your life needs cleaning that maybe I could provide help with. He said, “My garage”. To which I responded, “very funny”. “What do you mean, I am serious.” So I said, “Could it be that I could provide ‘Soap for the Soul’”. He cussed at me and we had a little laugh. This is what I call Good Humor God style.

So the answer this speaks to our discussion. I am sure I can work it in here. The point is my friend and all our unbelieving brothers need to be convinced by the Holy Spirit that the Gospel is real. The Spirit can do many strange things to get people wet so that they can believe in water. They experience the providence and the conviction and the weight of the Gospel on their mind and soul until they come to realize that the Gospel story is true. Jesus is alive. He is Lord of all life. History has a purpose and their soul needs cleansing by the cross of Christ in order to become right with God.

Therefore, we pray and ask God to give the unbeliever an assurance of the reality of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.


Prayer, Revival and Boldness

Yesterday, I wrote in support of Lloyd-Jones view that the filling with the Holy Spirit as a conscious awareness of God's participation in one's life and that this awareness is filled with knowledge of the grace of God in the Gospel. This heightened sense of assurance comes from a "sensible" encounter with the Holy Spirit which brings revelation and assurance. The old Puritans used this word "sensible" to mean perceived by the senses. Such a vital faith and assurance only comes from prayer and often quite extended prayer.

Many do not know what is meant by the call to extended prayer. Prayer, when our personal experience does not include the availability or even just the emphasis on "conscious contact with God", usually is not seeking to be inspired and know God intimately in prayer. So our prayer times are not necessarily extended. By extended I mean enough time to contemplate deeply a truth of God's word and to converse with God all its applications to one's personal journey. This for me might take about an hour or more. I say this simply to help people get a picture of prayer that can bring boldness, and a boldness that can lead to revival and awakening in a congregation.

I was speaking yesterday to a friend. He jokingly said, "Why don't you become an atheist?" He is an atheist. I said, "You are telling me to believe their is no beach and yet I am still all wet."

What I mean by this is that I have personal experience of God's presence and the reality of God on a regular basis and that Jesus is alive, you cannot convince me to believe contrary to my regular experience. It is like asking a man born in China that China doesn't exist just because you have never been there.

This is how revival works. In Acts 4, the people were being persecuted and their courage was being put to the test. The people and the apostles needed help and assurance to press on. So they prayed for boldness. The Lord shook the building, filled them with the Holy Spirit and they spoke boldly.

They were conscious of the filling and the shaking of the building. It is exactly the confirmation of God's being with them that produced the boldness. But why didn't they just stand on their faith and preach anyway. Well, I imagine if they weren't scared they could of but the reality is they were scared and they wanted more power and boldness because they were up against a foe that was effecting them.

This is the reality of life. In the church, we are up against a foe and we are in need of courage and this courage comes out of the extended time of prayer. The key then is to take the courage of the prayer room and "speak the word of God boldly".

The marriage of the conscious assurance of the filling with the Holy Spirit and the program to go and speak and to actually do the work of an evangelist is the key to true biblical church growth that leads others into a vital relationship with the Lord. No watered down Gospel no stealth Christianity just good old fashion Gospel preaching.

Monday, August 30, 2004

A Reformed Understanding of Revival

A Reformed Understanding of Revival (writen on my lunch break at work) God Bless!!

For a reformed understanding of Revival and the relationship between God-centered preaching, holiness, the filling of the Holy Spirit and revival, I encourage everyone to read Martyn Lloyd Jones’ deeply biography laden commentary on Romans 8. (link). This a fantastic balanced read. If you do not know who Lloyd-Jones is the great Dr. was the successor of G. Campbell Morgan at Westminster Chapel, which is the Puritan / “non-conformist” church in London. This pulpit is the place where Puritanism and the English Reformation were born, and Lloyd-Jones is a great son of that marvelous tradition.
Lloyd-Jones’ position is that the filling of the Holy Spirit, the baptism, what ever this is called is the same as the “Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are sons of God” (Romans 8:15-17). This experience is a heightened sense of assurance of salvation which brings a great affectionate knowledge of the Grace of God. To support his view he spends two or three chapters quoting the lives of the great reformed preachers like John Owen, Jonathan Edwards, Charles Spurgeon etc.
This view is a great unifying view as it defines the fire in the context of the light. What I mean by this is to say that the way we know a authentically reviving experience is when the light of the knowledge of God’s grace through the Gospel creates affection in the heart. This too is Jonathan Edwards position. It is this affection which creates passion for the Excellencies of God’s moral perfections and a love of holiness and grace. This knowledge of God is the truth that sanctifies. Lloyd-Jones is saying that history and the bible teaches this not as a cold academic exercise but as an encounter with God the holy Spirit as He bears witness to the Grace of God in Christ. The heart is flooded with love of God through the Gospel. Here is the unifying experience of the revived regardless of denomination.
For pastors the key is how do we preach from a place of revived knowledge and how do we impart this thirst for God to others.
The key here is that the method of the historical reformed preachers bridged the problem very well in that the focus on how to warm the heart through the Holy Spirit was to focus on the content of the sermon and the preaching of God centered messages. Lift up the moral attributes of God and draw people to the fire of the light of the knowledge of God. Focusing on the content of our message and the exposition of God with the aim of producing not academic knowledge but passion for God and love for God is the key. No one can claim that though we believe so forcefully in prepositional truth and the emphasis on preaching that we are dead when w ourselves seek to create fire especially if we ourselves are filled with fire ourselves.
It is said that many preachers pray only minutes per day. Is it a wonder that the knowledge of God and affection could be communicated from a heart starved and weak in prayer. Prayer is the passion to know God and takes hours per day to cultivate. If we desire passion it is time for the pulpits to be filled with passionate men who have a fire that is fueled by knowledge of the moral beauty of God as displayed in the Gospel. This is the road to revival.

Expect a Lot of Blogging This Week

Expect a lot of blogging this week, but not this morning. Read yesterday mornings. The point there is to be "both/and" regarding evangelism.

I will blog a lot this week. As I need to really put a lot of work into my sermon this week.

see everybody tomorrow.

Sunday, August 29, 2004

Becoming a Courageous Christian

It is Sunday at 6:00AM and I am making the finishing touches to my Power Point presentation for my sermon this morning. My sermon is on Acts 4:12-13:

"Salvation is found in no one else, for these is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved. When they (the Rulers and Elders of the people) saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled ordinary men, they took note that these men had been with Jesus".

I have been thinking and doing (poorly lately) evangelism for many years. I have found the exact opposite is true of what most people think. I find that the more straightforward and the clearer we are the better. I call it being militant. The churches that grow are simply the churches that have a very clear missionary mindset. They invite people to church and preach the gospel because they believe people are going to hell and missing out on life without Christ. The message is rightly seen as urgent. So I am pretty old school.

The problem is that many such Christian's are shallow and religious in a bad way. So where is the balance. "Don't throw the baby out with the old bath water". Be like the book of ACTS in every way. Quality community and intimate fellowship (be real) and be militant in evangelism.

In this passage Peter is very clear and bold. He speaks the truth to his peers and he speaks the truth to power. He calls the people on their sin saying twice and throughout the book that they killed the Christ both the people in general and the powers that be. Peter is straight up on the issues of salvation. Guilt is real and forgiveness and salvation in this life and the next is in the name of Jesus alone. Peter calls them to decision immediately calling for the people to repent and Peter is successful.

This is being courageous and urgent and passionate. These qualities are seen by those who saw Jesus as qualities of the Son of God. Jesus was wise and compassionate and gracious and evangelistically courageous.

The key is to have the whole balanced mix of these moral attributes as the DNA of the Church.

Friday, August 27, 2004

Urgent Change and Community

On Todd Hunter's blog (the national director of Alpha) here , Todd talks about radical change and the process of how people resist change. As I have been mentioning, I have been thinking a lot about AA and the AA community. At the funeral for a friend this weekend (see below), one AA man stood up and was talking about the men's house and the women's house where they live and he said, "The men sit on one side and the women on the other as is our tradition because we know that mixing it up too much is not good for us". As you probably know, the AA folks often live in community together, share most everything in common, have daily meetings, give away what they have (sobriety) to stay on track, share meals together in a corporate place...and are sensitive to the role of sexuality in getting people off track, so they separate the men and the women...Get the picture. Sounds a lot like the New Testament.

Lord, make your church like that.
Why do people trying to get sober live in community, meet daily etc. while the church doesn't very often at least? I think the answer is urgency.

The results of falling off the program could easily be deadly. The program has very tangible results, and the need to stay on track is vital. The knowledge of the need for change and the reality of the change that is taking place is evident. As evangelicals, we usually think we are OK. The absolute need for continual change is not perceived as urgent. Why is this so? It is because we are not looking nor convinced that we are called to live in a way that is very different than the way we are actually living. BUT let's look at reality. Are we called to struggle all our days with lust and self-loathing? Are we to live in regrets and prayerlessness? Are we to live in isolation and evangelistic ineffectiveness? Or are we called to urgent change?

True, for most of us, our lives will not end up on the street if we do not change like the alcoholic or addict, but we could lose our nation. We could miss the kingdom in our generation!! We could never learn the nature of kingdom living, or we could only learn a slight taste of it. Is this the story we are called to live? Or are we called to change, urgent change? When we are in the Lord's presence, we often see the vision and realize we need change, this is a good thing. We have been coddled with a psycho-babble gospel that teaches us to water down our repentance, but grace says "hope big", "dream big", and "believe big". Like your life depends on it!!! Only then, when we begin to perceive the reality of our urgent need for change, will we come to know that we need community and the daily corporate exercises of spiritual disciplines in order to enter the kingdom and fulfill our calling.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

More on the Daily Cycle - Keeping it Real

OK, we had a bible study at our house so I failed to blog last night BUT..
Here goes my follow-up of yesterday and I will post more later.
Before I start let me say thatthe content of what I am going to say isn't the point but the method of being honest and humble and praying about observable problems. My problem is how I deal with conflict. Here goes..

I was having an extrodinarily good day. I was being very thoughtful and could very much listen and show concern for people I work with. If I was like that all the time I would be walking on water so to speak.

I even had a discussion with a friend about things going quite well


I got on the phone with a friend and I became very mean and argumentative. Here my take
I do the exact opposite of what I said we ought to do in the AA and Grace post. I do not let people be where they are in their journey. I try to force them to my solution as opposed to simply saying I am cool with XYZ but if you want my oppinion on ABC I am not into it. Instead I use forcefulness. AA friends of mine say that when you are disturbed it is your problem. So why do I get disturbed.

Here is the point. We need to pray and focus on solving the directly observable problems as they surface in our life and BE RUTHLESLY HONEST.Take ownership with things that happen during the day that are less than a beautiful picture of Jesus. Conflict is a big skill. I have conflict with people a lot and I need to learn how to handle conflict with great grace.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Let Me Put My Practice Where My Theory Is!!

Let Me Put My Practice Where My Theory Is!!

I wrote a “prayer journal entry a few posts back. I was very excited because to me this is the real deal. We let ourselves be observed and we document our learning in issues of authentic spirituality.

In that post I spoke about my struggles with a few things. I think I am doing better but that is not the point. The point is to show the method which I am not really following. The method is the idea of a daily cycle. The cycle is morning prayer of worship and a look toward the day. Then live your day and then evening prayer including journaling your reflections on the day. This cycle takes a good standard discipline. The key point is having prayer deal with the day ahead and then the reflection being very honest self reflection. Any problems? Any successes? The aim is to learn the skills of walking in intimacy with God and love of our neighbor. Learning to do these things will not “just happen”. We need to learn the skills like we would learn gymnastics.


I am by God’s grace going to attempt to do this live in this blog.

This morning: I really prayed about my own gracious and thoughtful speech at work and at home. I am very impulsive as are most human beings. Amen. My goal is simple “to be a listener” and a coach.

During prayer time I asked myself. Is this commitment to prayer and reflection worth it? I know in my head the answer is “yes”, but the reality is that one needs to actually believe that a noticeably different life, a distinctly improved story is attainable by grace. My answer is basically, “Yes, Lord I believe you can help me ‘walk on water’”. I believe but I am not sure I have the vision (i.e. faith) to actually motivate a new walk. We will see.

Monday, August 23, 2004

AA and Grace

This morning I did a funeral for a family in our congregation whose daughter died. We had a memorial service at her AA house on Saturday as well. The whole weekend was very enlightening.
First, the Alcoholics Anonymous people do grace very well. The people I spoke with over the weekend seem to be very aware that they are sick and need God's power to help them. The fellowship practices a wonderful commitment to community that I would love to see in those who are more evangelical.

One major lesson I learned was how we, and myself acutely, need to learn to let people know God with the grace they have. A person "not knowing God like I know God" has to be OK with me for now. When the Lord is working on a person, they begin to see their need for Grace and help and power. They want their story to be changed. All we have to do is help them see that getting help is exactly what the gospel is about. The reality is that most of us evangelicals jump right to trying to either help the person's theology or we try to get them to repent of some sin that they are not interested at this time to change. In other words, we turn the Gospel into law or philosophy neither of which is the point of the Gospel. For example, we try to get people to see that Jesus is "the only name under heaven by which a person can be saved" (which is truth), or we try to get them to stop having some sexual relationship. But the reality is that these things that we think they need are not what the Lord is telling them at that time. They just want to end some life controlling self-destructive problem. If that is the bread they want, then give them that bread in Jesus name.

It is like healing the sick. We pray for the sick whether or not the sick believe in Jesus or not. Jesus healed them all. Then, in time, they came to understand the Gospel or at least some did. If Jesus had tried to preach the Gospel and say he was the Messiah before helping the people get well, they would never have come to faith.

This “heal the people first” or “give the people the bread they ask for first” is the key to ministering in Grace.

Saturday, August 21, 2004

The Journey - The Soul to Earth or the Earth to the Kingdom

This site is about a few things. First, I want to cover practical issues of discipleship but I also am attemtpting to show how foundational philosophical and worldview "pre-suppositions" effect such practical things as our personal devotional life and our methods of discipleship.

One such issue is our understanding of the eternal state.

This sunday I am preaching from Acts 3:21: "He (Jesus) must remain in heaven until the time comes for God to restore everything as He promised long ago through His holy prophets". The topic will be "The Return of Christ". The basic point is that the eternal state is living on Earth in a rstored and regenerated body. Why is this doctrine important to us trying to renew the church into living a practical and effective witness in the present. Well, it is all about worldview. The faith that God has great plans for our physical bodies. We are not just spiritual beings but physical beings living in a physical world that is destined for restoration. The hope we have is not that our souls travel to heaven someday but that God comes and restores our society and our culture and our bodies and our community and our church. We are on a journey not to heaven in the sky but heaven on Earth. This is our ultimate goal. This heaven on Earth ultimate goal effects our proximate or short term goals and our perspective on our purpose. Here is a piece from an essay I wrote back a while ago:
Greek versus Hebrew Views of History
We have already shown that the faith of Abraham was the believing of the LORD’s work in history. We have said that Abraham journeyed toward the promised land but he never saw the fulfillment of the vision the LORD had given him. Abraham’s journey is the beginning of the redemptive story and it is precisely this understanding of the journey of the faithful that draws a distinction between the beliefs of the pagans and the faith of the Hebrews.

What is the Journey?
The key to understanding the biblical meaning of faith is the answer to this question “what is the journey?” To the pagan or Hellenistic mind the journey is from Earth to Heaven. To the Greek, pagan idol-worshipping mind, earth is the place where suffering and evil resides. The spirit realm, the realm of the mind or the soul or the spirit is the realm of the good. The journey of the soul is from earth to heaven. That is the journey is from a static earth to a static heaven with the soul being delivered if it lives in the spirit and not the earth. This worldview is the essence of Greek dualism. Buddhism is exactly the same. To the Buddhist the soul travels from a static earth to a state of Nirvana. The change and maturity of the soul is to come to live not in the illusions on earth but in the mind of the spirit. In fact, the great escape is to escape the endless cycles and bondage in the body and to reach Nirvana. This process of escape is the final destination and the great purpose of life. Notice the ultimate purpose is to escape the realm of the earth and the flesh and to find peace in the realm of the spirit of “mind”. This worldview sees the earth as always in a place of suffering and pain. The pagans have a cyclical or static view of history and a static view of heaven. The journey is the movement of the soul from earth to heaven. BUT THIS IS NOT THE JOURNEY.

The journey according to the biblical worldview is the journey of the earth, the realm of time and space and moral living, from evil to good. The journey is the trajectory of life toward holiness in our individual lives and the life of mankind. The history of man on earth has a trajectory and a purpose. We are not pagans who see history as static but we see history as teleological or with trajectory and purpose. The kingdom is coming to “earth as it is in heaven”. The LORD Almighty is going to change life here through His mighty saving acts. This change in the realm of earth is the journey of the biblical saints. The journey is not of the soul toward heaven but of heaven toward earth and of heaven, the LORD, coming into the life of mankind on earth to bring the earth from the place of pain and suffering to a place of “perfect” moral beauty. History on earth is on a journey toward moral beauty and holiness through the gospel. This is the journey of redemptive history.
This worldview regarding the purpose of life to bring the city (the morally beautiful community) from heaven to earth cannot be overstated. This is the meaning of Jesus’ message that the kingdom of God is at hand repent and believe. This proclamation of Jesus means that in Jesus the rule and reign of God is within reach repent and enter into this moral deliverance and see the manifestation of the purpose of history. Look at the Hall of Faith from this distinctly Hebrew mind, “These journeyed (pursued the purpose of history to bring the quality of life of heaven to earth) but did not see its fulfillment, but God has provided something better for us. In us the fulfillment is to come for we are entering into a better covenant which actually takes away our sin (our deep moral depravity) and makes us holy. Therefore, because we have so great a salvation let us pursue the purpose of God in history with even more diligence and endeavor for in us the Glory of God’s moral beauty is being manifest through the Gospel. This faith for righteousness on earth is essence of biblical faith.
This fulfillment of God’s will on earth to build a morally beautiful community is the meaning of Jesus’ statement “do not think I came to abolish the Law and Prophets. I did not come to abolish but to fulfill.” What is the purpose of the Law? The purpose of the law is what all law is intended to do. Law is created to lead us to a morally beautiful society. Moses was creating through the word of Law the Promised Land. That, at least, is the Hebrew understanding of the purpose of the law. But the Law “weak as it is” is not able to produce righteousness, but the Gospel, because it is the power of God through the Spirit, is able to produce actual righteousness in our life on earth. Jesus is saying, “I have come to make the faith of the Old Testament and of all the Old Testament saints a reality. I have come to fulfill the law and the prophets and bring the Kingdom of Heaven to earth. I have come to fulfill the law”. Therefore, we come to the conclusion that the intention of the gospel is not to save our soul only but to redeem our life and living in today.
In fact, the extent to which we participate in bringing this heavenly quality of life to earth is what we will be held accountable. We are making a case for accountability and the movement of moral beauty into the history of the church and thereby participating in God’s Ultimate Purpose is the substance of what we are being held accountable for.

The Biblical Meaning of Faith
Understanding the Hebrew worldview with respect to history helps us to understand clearly the biblical definition of faith. Hebrews 11:1 defines faith by saying “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen”. But this definition is understood by the numerous examples which follow this definition. The remainder of the chapter talks about people taking journeys on earth to build morally just communities on earth. The thing these Saints hoped for was not to go to heaven but they longed for and labored for the ultimate revelation of a God Glorifying Community on earth and this faith was based on the beliefs in the unseen God. Therefore, if we look at the context of the saints in this chapter on the nature of true faith and we look at the Hebrew understanding of a history as a journey with a purpose and a trajectory toward holiness, then we must also see faith as primarily faith in this context. Faith then is a combination of TWO element:
Faith in the static truths concerning God and his salvation
Faith in God’s promises to bring our history and the history of our communities to a place of holiness for His name sake.
This faith is faith for a new story based on our beliefs regarding the person and work of Christ revealed in the scripture. Thus biblical faith is a dynamic faith based on static and immutable truths. Biblical faith is the belief that God encounters and moves our history because He is good and that this movement of our personal and community history toward righteousness according to His ultimate purpose to reveal a City filled with His glory. Faith for the journey is not faith for the journey of our soul as I travel to heaven. Neither is faith belief that Jesus died for our sins. These are the necessary foundations upon which faith stands but Biblical Faith is the faith that God will encounter our history and allow us to participate in His plan to reveal the Holy City on Earth. This Hebrew understanding of faith becomes the ultimate purpose of our life which becomes the context of all our actions in life. God’s Ultimate Purpose becomes Our Ultimate Purpose. Every activity of our life comes under submission to the Will of God when every activity of our lives is lived with in the context of participation in God’s redemptive purpose to build a morally beautiful community. We are laboring to build and restore the church in our generation and pass an ever increasingly morally beautiful community to our children.

OK that is that: I know this is a bit of a read but it is important. Let the shift continue


Friday, August 20, 2004

An Example of Morning Prayer

If you are new here. This site is about discipleship through openness and observation. This post is going to let you in a little bit to my prayer life so that the reader gets a bit of learning on what morning prayer might look like. We do not talk openly about our spirituality very much BUT we need to with friends. We are not boasting but trying to help each other get to the next level and live the life.

My Prayer journal
Oh my, it has been bad lately. I have been really too busy and it makes me both stressful and prayerless. These are a bad combination. But this morning I prayed some.

I prayed and let the Sermon on the Mount paragraphs come into my mind and the sections on sexual purity and anger really brought me low. The word says “if you call someone in your mind a ‘knucklehead’ you are in danger. Well, I am in danger.

This is how prayer is to work:
1. The ideals are lifted up and we let the Lord tend to our heart.
2. We stand on the promise of life and forgiveness.
So I move into a call to the Lord for power to change the things I fail to change. I hand these areas over to Him for power and help.

“Lord give me wisdom ands honesty. Lets solve this problem today. I am willing to deal with the issue you expose before my eyes today and I will not worry about other things. I will focus only on the area you have for me to trust you in today. As I learn resolve this today, guard me and help me see something tomorrow. I am not wise so I follow Your lead. “

This is the method of rapid problem solving. We solve the problems of today and do not get overwhelmed with the big problems and long term issues that plague our minds. Not that these long term issues in our life do not need to be solved BUT I do not think morning prayers is the time to solve them. Morning prayers deals with the immediate needs of the day and how to walk in the Lord’s presence today.
Long term problems like maybe career or finance or church growth in my case maybe even family strategies like the kids school usually need a different place to contemplate and discuss. BUT morning prayer that is for the problem right in your face today.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Openness and Discipleship

I started a discipleship relationship with a young man in our church. What I had him do was the following:
1. Go through the Sermon on the Mount and organize it into paragraphs.
2. Make a goal statement for each paragraph using his own words.
What happened here is he and his wife ended up making a plaque of this
exercise, and it is their family constitution.
3. Next, he prayed about thirty days to see what is the most vital of these goals.
4. Then, he selected three areas to pray about or example being encouraging and personal prayer life.
5. Next, we monitored the issues together. I made a chart of how I rated my prayer time each day. I also literally tracked the minutes I prayed.

Why do something like this? Why get so specific about the areas you want to change in your life and measuring something like prayer in minutes? It seems so wooden and strict. Well, I will tell you why. It is very revealing!! And humbling!! I have realized that I have become very inconsistent in my own prayer life. I used to ridicule men who didn’t pray significantly daily. Well, here I am and I am too busy to pray just like everybody else.

Here is the point. Do we know how to get real and observe ourselves and let ourselves be observed by others? So often we talk about prayer but we never hold each other accountable for making changes. Do other people know your life and your secret life? Well, if you are not observed, you very well may never change.

The 12 steps are built on this transparency. That is why meetings are anonymous. People share the real deal and that transparency needs to be honored. Do we share like this? Hmm. What if, just what if openness and community and transparency is the key to growth? Are we willing to be open if that is what it costs?


Wednesday, August 18, 2004

How Jesus did Discipleship? Go to the Gemba

This is a short section of a longer essay - enjoy - very important point

Where do you do discipleship? - Go to the Gemba!!!
Learning is at the Gemba not the Academy
The current Christian education system teaches church leaders and ministers as if they are mathematicians. Mathematics is the study of a system of abstract ideas and the relationships between these abstractions. So too theology is taught by teaching a series of ideas which are accepted as true, namely bible prepositional truth statements, and the good student is the one who can create a sound system that relates all of these abstract ideas together. The simple fact is that different church groups are distinct in the theological house they build out of all these ideas. The nature of the Greek debate is to discuss the logical relationship between generally accepted known truths and from these truths ascertain the answer to other questions. The brilliant student in the Greek educational system is the student who can create a robust system of ideas which can withstand the test of debate. All this activity takes place in the realm not of time and space but in the realm of static ideas or the mind. But discipleship and the lessons of discipleship are not learned in the mind or in the emotions or in the heart but, instead discipleship is learned in the realm of time and space.

In manufacturing, 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. A greater example is the process of training in the manufacturing world. The expert machinist for example will teach the student how to run a machine. He shows the student over and over for often many weeks. Then the student tries. After the mentor and the student together have learned the best way to run the machine, they go in the classroom and write down what they have learned. They first learn at the Gemba and then they standardize the process in the classroom. This is a perfect analogy of how Jesus taught the disciples. First, Jesus lived by example. Then, he sent the disciples out and then they reflected on what they learned. Finally, at the end or near the end of their lives, the apostles wrote the Gospels and put all they had learned down on paper for all of history. The disciples learned from Jesus example, then they learned by doing and then they codified all that they had learned in the New Testament writings.

An Example:
I will use one more practical example to illustrate the difference between our old “living in the abstract” method of discipleship and discipleship in the footsteps of Jesus.

Just today I am aware of a couple which went to visit a pastor for help with their marriage.

Lets say for example, a man comes into our 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. But I say 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. 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 that I made it my job to build her up even when I was tired. What do you think would make your life 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.

Seems like pretty good advice and counsel. It might even be helpful. Lets say that the two work at this accountability relationship for a year and the husband even reads a few good books and gets somewhat better. Not perfect but better.

Now 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 they 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. !!!!!!!!!!!

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 my pastor in his everyday life with his family, yet my main discipleship concern is in the realm of my family. 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 your reading of this treatise may it be that you and others come to consider our efforts to qualify as “discipleship in the footsteps of Jesus” only when we 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”. Jesus said to the disciples “Come let me show you how to be a fisher of men and then I will make you fishers of men.” 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 Explain.

Observe Imitate and Explain – That is our method.

I want to focus your attention for a moment. Did you hear what I just said? The most foundational of all principles in this book just explained!!!! Listen:

But Jesus would not do it that way!!! The proper method of discipleship is to invite the man to your home.

This simple truth changes everything. It is understanding the nature of Jesus’ discipleship method that changes what it means to “do church” and “to be a Christian” and to be a “pastor” or leader. All the rules change when we change our method of learning.

Sunday, August 15, 2004

Keeping It Real In This Sad World

How do we apply our belief in a loving God to a sad world without being trite and irrelevant?

In the Heidelberg Catechism it says, “He will turn to my good whatever adversity He sends me in this sad world”. The catechism is confessing the role of Grace in the context of a world filled with many evils. As authentic people, we must have real comfort to give in a sad world and in often extremely complex situations where simple solutions do not provide comforting answers.

How do we apply our belief in a loving God to a sad world without being trite and irrelevant?

The Spirit of the Age
I love art. Art reveals to us the voice of a generation and the spirit of the age. Art reveals what is connecting with the heart and mind of a generation? To understand ourselves and the world we live in and what is happening as our culture weaves its way through history, we need to listen to our artists. I have picked three statements of three musicians to try and capture the voice of our American Experience. The three voices are:
Kurt Cobain saying “Here we are now entertain us”
Billy Corgan’s “Despite all my rage I am still just a rat in a cage”
And System of a Down’s: “The toxicity of our city”

You may not be as big a fan of Modern Rock as I am but nonetheless, I think it is valuable to at least understand these messages that resonate so deeply with so many of us 21st century Americans. Before I go into details of the message of these songs and how they relate to our values as a generation, let me just give a few one line explanations of what I believe the core messages of these artists are:

Nirvana and Kurt Cobain: "Here we are now entertain us" basically is saying: “I am bored” or even “I am bored I might as well kill myself”.
Billy Corgan: “Despite all my rage I am still just a rat in a cage” is saying life is random evil and there is no way out. Face it violence happens.
System’s message is clear as well: “The toxicity of our city” is speaking of the how economic and political greed is so toxic it is spreading its violence and evil onto the earth itself. Greed leads to a toxic environment and this evil has invaded everything.

A little detailed analysis:
“Here we are now entertain us”
With this anthem, Kurt Cobain is saying if you try to entertain me, I am in control. All the commercial world is doing is trying to entertain us to vie for our dollar. “OK America here I am, I dare you to try and entertain me”. Another line that is parallel to this one is “I wish I was like you easily amused”. Those who try to entertain us, the whole corporate and often even the religious system, are filled with whores all selling out to almighty dollar. Look at the cover of “Nevermind”. It is a picture of a baby willing to drown as he reaches for a dollar bill. People who try to entertain us are clowns. Clowns entertain us.
This song is a wholesale condemnation of the American entertainment culture. It is a very insightful critique of the superficial nature of American consumerism. Cobain is saying entertainment is completely irrelevant and boring. In the video, the central figure is the cheerleader. This symbol is the ultimate source of Cobains disdain. Superficial medicine to a deep psychological sickness. We are sick and broken and all you have for us is entertainment. I am a victim of incest. Please. You don’t touch me. “Oh well whatever Nevermind”. Cobain is mocking those who put only their best foot forward and ignore their brokenness and pain. The cheerleader is the ultimate symbol of such superficiality and the ultimate icon of the American dollar driven entertainment addiction.

“Despite all my rage I am still just a rat in a cage”
Another nuclear song to say the least. Billy Corgan is all about Pulp Fiction. This song is about the inability to escape the random injustice of life. The theme of The Smashing Pumpkins as a band is always the reality of random violence and meaningless evil. Despite all I do and all my rage and efforts to fight back against reality as it comes to me, I am still trapped in a world of surreal evil. I have ZERO power and influence, so really the least I can do is be really pissed off about this unjust and absurd world we live in. Everything is gray. Isn’t this a more realistic view of life then to live in denial and pretend all is well. People ask why today’s music is so evil and dark. Is it not because today’s world presents us every day with totally unexplainable evil? Too many terrible things happen to too many innocent people to give simple 1950’s black and white answers to this totally random life we live.

“The toxicity of our city”
System of down has a much more political perspective than the philosophical or social view of Smashing Pumpkins or Nirvana. System is all about the reality of political and economic violence. To system the only response is political rebellion against evil authority. Political awareness of political and environmental evil is key. The rulers of the city have toxic greed that is destroying even the earth. Again, notice the emphasis on the reality and problem of evil. How do we live in an evil world? “Disorder Disorder How do you own disorder?”

Art is the voice of the spirit of a generation. The message is clear “things are not good”. What answer do you give the victim of incest or orphan or street kid. A simple “God loves you” just will not do. It is a sad world. These are the facts that our hearts cry out all day long. The reality of random injustice and evil is the reality from which we must start for this is the experience of most of us and the thoughtful will accept no solution that does not address the reality of evil around us and the brokenness in us head on and up front.

Our Faith states that God is Almighty and that He is love. We confess that “he will turn to my good whatever adversity he sends to me in this sad world”. In this sad world. In this sad world. In this sad world.

Our number one value to address the relationship between a loving God and an unspeakably evil world is the value of authenticity. It is superficiality that the voices of our generation are raging against. It is simple answers to horribly difficult questions that require love and care and patience. We must not be like Job’s counselors and give logical and superficial answers to the pain and suffering of the neglected and broken. We too must face our brokenness and sit in the dust with the Jobs around us. Ultimately, God did reveal that He is in control and all will one day be redeemed. We do know that “our redeemer lives”. But silence is often the only answer we should give our hurting friends. We too are confused and broken. We do not understand. We face the pain of life with humility and AUTHENTICITY. In fact, it is foreign to “the greatest generation” but what my generation longs to see is not a happy church but a sad church, a broken church, a compassionate church. The syrupy smile and our best foot forward is the worst way to adorn the gospel of Jesus when the thirsty of the world around us are sitting in sackcloth and ashes and cursing the day they were born. The sovereign providence of God is holy doctrine that requires deep intimate contemplation and must be adorned with tears if it is to give comfort to the children of this sad world.

Saturday, August 14, 2004

That last post - HMMM???

I think that last post is a bit too heady (esoteric). I will post again later today after I work on my sermon for tomorrow. Promise! There will be a lot of stuff by Monday.


The Greek Olympic Opening Ceremonies

I noticed some great symbols of Greek thinking in the Olympics opening ceremonies last night. There was a scene with a man standing on top of a cube and on the cube was projected other geometric shapes. This the commentators said was to represent the birth of "thinking man".

The Greeks here are taking credit for human progress.

OK, history and a short study of Greek thinking gives the Greeks only credit for half the story. Just a few esoteric notes: The revival of Europe has three important stages:

1. The revival of European started in the 15th century with the late Renaissance. The renaissance simply introduced the idea of critical humanistic thought. The attempt to rationally solve life’s problems and improve society using either objective or speculative analysis but analysis nonetheless. This step toward change was obviously positive when compared to the fatalism and superstition of the dark ages. He source of comparison for the renaissance thinkers was indeed ancient Greek and Roman culture, but other than in Art, the renaissance did not lead to a better quality of life. In fact, it was the renaissance that introduced slavery back into European life (in imitation of the racism and speculative Historicism of the philosophers especially Plato) Such humanistic historicism which is a Platonic approach to history led to such 20th century ideas as Marxism and Fascism!! Hello!!

2. True improvements did not come until the reformation broke open the realm of religion and philosophy and introduced ideas like the knowability of God and His universe. The speculative era of Greek thinking finally was crushed with the pen of Martin Luther. The Greeks were good at math but terrible at religion and the values which flow from religion. These western religious values we owe to the Judeo-Christian tradition in the West. Basically, the values of equality are traced not to the Greeks but the Hebrews. And this is pretty important!! 3. In the 17th century (Galileo was tried in 1632) we have the birth of science. Science is new and a departure form the method of the Greeks. So progress happened in a three-stage process: 1. Acknowledgement of the dignity of man to search out and discover solutions to his problems and societies problems through the renaissance. 2. The overthrow of superstition and religious tyranny by returning to a reasonable, knowable, and practical religion through the reformation.

3. The discovery of the method of observation as final authority with respect to knowledge and learning through the scientific revolution. So I would say that yes the re-discovery of Greek thinking promoted a return to some form of reasonable problem solving BUT their speculative method was horrible and destructive in issues of religion and actual philosophy and faith. The dignity of the individual and universal freedom must be traced back not to Greek thinking but Hebrew. Likewise, it was Greek speculative and abstract analysis when applied to issues of faith and practice which diverted the church from the concrete and practical approach to religion of the Hebrew founders of true religion.

Friday, August 13, 2004

Church and My Work - Learning to See and Taking Responsibility for Leadership

Sorry for the light blogging, it has been a very busy (12 hours a day) time at work. I am taking today off. So I have some time.

Our God is so Good!! At my work as I posted I am training people who are superior to me in status and it has been very hard. We train on the role of "observation" in leadership. The big point is to know what actually makes you money (which is the process which makes the product or service you provide) and observe this actual process itself directly. When you do, if you learn to see correctly, you will observe opportunities to improve. Also, if as a leader you ask, "why has it taken us so long to make these usually simple improvements?", the leader will realize that he has not created a system or process for actual improvement. Usually, this training session which is three days long creates emotional responses from leaders. The training can be embarrassing. The training can be invigorating. The training can be overwhelming. The leader deep down inside is thinking, "Am i an idiot or what? Why have I had my head in the clouds for so long? I had no idea we were this disorganized." This revelation can be difficult to handle.

In the church, the weight of this discovery is even heavier. Also, the defenses which protect the leader and the believer from taking responsibility to make changes are deeply held and even religious beliefs. For example, I often say churches don't grow because people are not growing the church. There is no formal process in place to actually do the stuff that grows churches. If there is no formal process, how can we measure the effectiveness of the process and how can we improve the process if the process doesn't even exist and its effects are not being measured. At the church I just started pastoring in July, we have no actual evangelism and enfolding ministry. We do zero advertising. We do no marketing. We make no contacts and we don't even register visitors. There is no information table and not even any children's ministry during the service so that parents are able to enjoy the service.

The current state is that we cater to families that already are part of the church community and know the church exists. These people know their way around the church campus and have long-term relationships with people in the church. Such a process cannot grow a church.

How hard is it for a congregation to accept that a complete change of "the way we do things" must happen if we are to survive. The love for the church is very deep and the thought of change is very threatening.

Nonetheless, the leader must take responsibility and go forward with the development of the process and design the process which will effectively grow the church. A church needs good information to make the visitor feel comfortable, there must be a safe place for kids to go during the service and learn in a child friendly environment. The signage must be clear so the visitor is not confused. Greeters need to be present in the right places to help greet and direct. The community must know the church exists. There needs to be advertising and events that are well marketed. The congregation needs training to invite their friends and neighbors to the church. This process must be formal and measurable and the pastor must respond to the indicators of the effectiveness of his process design. We must be wise master-builders. We must simple open our eyes to see things the way they are and design a process that will effectively accomplish the mission. This practical approach to simple problems based on observation of the way we do things is the practical outcome of the 21st Century Reformation.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Do you live in the 15th century

Well, I said I would get back to this situation of what I mean by moving from the 15th to the 16th century. Here is the point:
In the 15th century, the worldview was one of speculation and superstition. The cause of life’s difficulties was unknown and unknowable to the mind of the 15th century commoner. In the 16th century, a core of people caught on to the idea that life can be understood and the causes of life’s difficulties, at least some of them, are knowable and possibly solvable eventually. This leap from life is just difficult to life can be known if we open our eyes and look objectively at it is what I call the leap from the 15th to the 16th century. In practical terms, take any problem: I argue with my wife. Is the cause of this knowable and can I learn with God’s help to manage it. Is there a new and better way to live? Can I continuously improve my life?

Nope: Life just happens and we are powerless.

It is so hard when you have lived in the 16th century to live amongst people who still dwell in the 15th century.

There is a way to be honest and observe our life and solve our problems that works. But convincing people of this is the hardest thing. People must see the reality for themselves and somehow discover how to solve life’s difficulties.

I often say marriage is easy. The point is that if you learn the way to observe and the root causes of conflict and how to do a few simple humility skills, marriage is simple.
So as a leader, how do we teach people that joy and peace are to be normal to the Christian and you have the opportunity to enter a new way when their worldview tells them that life’s problems are only to be solved after death? They are stuck in the 15th century. Powerless and impoverished.

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

The Journey from the 15th to the 16th Century

To succeed in the 21st century we need to make the journey out of the 15th century and into the 16th century.

I am teaching a training to Leaders in Industry and here is the days learning:
(come back later to see the answer)

Saturday, August 07, 2004

Luther's Bondage of the Will and Epistomology

A few notes, this bleat will make no sense if you haven’t read my earlier bleat from this morning so scroll down and read the earlier entry on "The 21st Century reformation BIG observation point". (which is actually called Radical Transparency - Opening the "Oikos") Then come back and read this. My point here is going to be whether keeping a well-kept 'house of ideas' is relevant today. My answer is that it is relevant as a means to an end but Christianity is primarily lived "on planet Earth" and not in the realm of the mind.

I just read J.I. Packer's introduction to Luther's "Bondage of the Will". I was struck by Luther's honesty of how difficult it is to maintain His faith in God's total sovereignty. Here is the theological issue: Luther's position is that God is sovereign over both good and evil. The devil is God's devil and man does nothing without God's, at least, indirect activity. In short, man is not free. Therefore, man cannot do anything meritorious toward his salvation. Luther says any clear reading of scripture has this theistic position. Anything less robs God's grace and is deism. Now the ruthlessly honest part is that Luther admits that if a rational person looks at the world and sees God behind it all, the honest soul must conclude that God is unjust. WOW that is so true. This conclusion is what I find continually in the world, and the Christian needs to cut it with this sentimental, "Just look around and you can see that God is good", tripe. The holocaust victim doesn't always see it this way. The incest victim doesn’t always see it that way. And the sojourner of the Middle Ages didn't see it that way either. In fact, I talk to my friends at work all the time and ask, "How does it work that all the backstabbing jerks get all the promotions". The wicked prosper and the righteous so often suffer. So evil happens and Luther struggles and despairs. How if God rules everything and the world is so evil could God still be just and good?

Luther's answer is biblical faith. Trust in the word. The scripture is what man has been given so that he may know that God is good in spite of his reasonings. This was the issue of the reformation. The reformers concluded from scripture that God is sovereign and man did not have free will and concluded, due to their honesty, that the only way a person could trust that God is good and sovereign is via scripture and a gift of faith. I love the honesty of this stance and the Existential despair of the position. Keirkegaard said faith is hard. So true.

Now here is my point:
1. My first inclination is to say Luther is too concerned with making his theology make systematic sense. The essence of the matter should be what faith looks like and how it empowers us to lay hold of the eternal life in this life. This dynamic faith is the kingdom a sopposed to Luther's striving to hold onto a static and consistent static worldview.
2.BUT: This struggle to make sense of the world in our minds and to make our house of ideas in our minds make logical sense was a question of the prophets in many instances. This is the question of the wisdom literature especially Job and Ecclesiastes. How could God be good when such evil and injustice is everywhere.
3. So we end with a both/and issue which bridges the gap between the 20th and 21st century. Dynamic faith in God's participation in our life to move our communities into the Kingdom story is the goal of faith BUT this dynamic faith stands upon a static faith in who God is and how the world actually works. Static faith. The house of ideas all fitting together is the worldview in which we existentially live out our dynamic faith.

The 21st century disciple sees the necessity to place the primary emphasis on the dynamic faith but to exercise this dynamic faith it just might be necessary to think BIG THOUGHTS ABOUT GOD along with Luther and the father's of the faith who went before us.


Radical Transparency - "Opening the Oikos"

Radical Transparency - "Opening the Oikos"

The BIG new method thang that the 21st century reformation is about is observation. I know this sounds a bit strange or esoteric but this emphasis on the observed reality and basing knowledge on observation is the big revolutionary shift.

First as i write, realize that these ideas are not yet mature. The process is just beginning and the purpose of blogging is to create the dialogue and learn in community. So let the process continue.

Let me explain. In the protestant reformation, (remember I am a Reformed Pastor), the battle was initially about the corruption and superstition of the church. As the war took shape, Luther discovered the proverbial nuclear bomb that won the war in unwavering commitment to Biblical doctrine. Luther was not alone. The reformation storm had been brewing for decades. Many things had come together, the printing press, humanistic criticism of the church (Thomas Moore and Erasmus), new translations of the bible etc. Things appeared on the surface to be about indulgences and patronage and corruption. Then, Luther says "No, it is about theology". Luther hits a home run by discovering the real root cause of the churches failures. If we can rediscover the bible and grace, the souls of the masses will find courage in their love for God. Then, the church will be transformed from within. Luther found the reforming principle of his day and saved the church.

Today, the questions that are arising are quite similar. What is difficult is that we do not have the hindsight to say, "Of course, commitment to the bible is key". The reformation generations took a long time to coalesce their ideas into a cogent worldview which would win the day and change the world and the church. In hindsight, it seems obvious but it obviously wasn't so clear as it was happening. So too today!!

But the crisis is similar. Is the church losing its power and its influence due to a practice that is not compelling? In fact, this is not even a question anymore. It is just a statement. The church is losing its relevance because its practice is not compelling. FACT. And like in the reformation the answer is in a deep worldview or theological question.

Many will say, "NO, NO, NO!! It is theology that is the problem. We want a practice without dogma." Wake up, Erasmus. Even this position is based on some answer to a philosophical question. We are Christians first. To be a prophetic people, we do not look to sit around the campfire and sing, "Imagine no religion". Such immature sentimental thinking will not win the day. But on the same token, the prophetic word of the 16th century cannot again be nailed to the church door with much effect. No, the answer must come again from heaven to the soul of the church if reformation is to come, and I believe the word has something to do with "observation".

The Kingdom of God is not a set of beliefs or a system of ideas but an observed life. The path to this observed life is faith, but the goal of the Christian life is to possess an observed life.

The means of learning how to enter the Kingdom, the observed life of Christ in our personal and corporate context, is to observe our life and the life of those we long to emulate. This learning through observation is the rabbinic learning method of the New Testament as modeled by Jesus. Again, the key to this method is observation. So both the goal of our faith and the means to that goal is observation based.

Here, observation of life in time and space is in direct contrast to the method of learning which has for 1000 years ruled in Western Civilization. The greek academy is not based on observation but on ideas and the relationship between ideas. Such learning is done so to speak "with our eyes closed". Such learning takes place within the four walls of the classroom. The goal is to build and communicate a "house of ideas". This method is based on a particular epistemology which believes that abstract knowledge is the only absolutely true knowledge. This academic model and its intellectual precision is based ultimately in the Greek obsession with geometry and the later monastic and Augustinian mysticism (i.e. neo-Platonism). Well, this is the root of the problem. The key to revolution in the church is an epistemological question with an epistemological answer. The key is "observation".


Friday, August 06, 2004

Peter and Power - the anti-hero

I am preaching this sunday on the story in Acts three where Peter says, "Gold and silver I have none but in the name of Jesus of Nazareth rise and walk." He grabs the lame man and picks him up. The lame man is healed and shouts for joy, "Leaping and praising God". Then. Peter preaches a sermon about how he is a nobody but Jesus is the Messiah.
1. God endorses the name of Jesus.
2. The Father is Jealous for the Name of Jesus and gives grace to the humble.
There is no Peter Barjonas Ministries, Inc. in the early church.
3. Peter shows his humility in poverty. Peter didn't take money or give money. This points to the need of people for the power of God not the Power of money.

These are the concepts at this point. Next week I will publish the actual sermon.

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Been avoiding the Signsand Wonders Issue in Acts

Well, the time has come to bring up the issue of Signs and Wonders issue. WHY have I been avoiding it?
It is an issue of priotities. The priority to have people understand is that the key to Glorifying God is to have a winsome life like in Acts 2:42-47.
Nonetheless, Signs and Wonders was a part of the 1st Century Chrisitan Story. So I am looking at the Life of Peter and beginning to preach on Peter as the anti-hero. Peter is the greatest of all in my book becasue he is so full of weakness and he is so transparent about it.
The key verse here is in Acts 3 where Peter says, "It is not because of my godliness that this man is healed but becasue of the name of Jesus". Peter is the man. "I am just a fool like all you. It is Jesus that is our hero".

John Wimber used to say, "I am just a fat man going to heaven".

Hallelujah. Humility is the path to power. We are just kids who get to play. Grace. Grace. Grace.

Monday, August 02, 2004

Life is Great - Joy and the Winsome Witness

I am continuing my study of Acts at Trinity CRC in Artesiaand it is going really well. Yesterday the passage was:

The ate their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God and enjoying favor from all the people and the Lord was adding to their number daily those who were being saved.

Key here is to see the value of their "gladness of heart' and its relationship to the authenticity and therefore power of their proclamation that "Jesus is the Messiah". To the Christian the eschatological event that brings the abundant life of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit has already occurred in the death and resurrectio of the the Christ. And we live a morally beautiful life of Gladness and sincerity of heart to prove it. The proof is in the winsome witness of our story as a community. John Piper says it this way, editting the Westminster Catachism Piper says, "The cheif end of man is to Glorify God BY enjoying His presence forever". Meaning that the means to Glorifying God is to live a life which finds its satisfaction in the presence of God in the midst of His people.

The witness of the early church was marked by a distinguishing joy.

The sermon goes on to ask the question: How do we become a more joy-filled Christian Community?

The answer is three fold in scripture:
1. Cultivate Praise. Examples in scripture include paul and Silas in prison. They found reason to praise the greatness of God in the worst possible circumstance. They continued to think BIG THOUGHTS about God and His salvation regardless of the trial. Romans 5 explains this by saying we exalt in tribulation knowing that ...God demonstrated His love in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us". What this means is that our worldview empowers us to get a proper perspective on our circumstances. If we cultivate praise by thinking BIG THOUGHTS about God and His participation in our lives, we can guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. We will learn to cast our anxieties upon Him and the peace which surpasses understanding will guard our heart and minds.

2. Pursue being Pure in heart. It is the pure in heart that can see God and maintain this proper communion and conviction of God's goodness and His abiding participation in our personal and corporate story. The beginning of beautiful and skillful living is the fear of the Lord. So long as we place our relationship with the Lord and our desire to please Him in the forefront of our consciousness, we will continually be able to "take our meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart".

For example, I have a saying about marriage. It goes like this: "marriage is easy; its learning how to maintain the fear of the Lord and perfect peace with the Lord that is hard". Whta this means is that if we focus all our attention on being perfectly repentant before God we will learn all the skills of confession and humility which make marriage a walk in the park. I know this from experience. Seek to ofend the Lord in nothing, do all you can to please Him no matter what the cost and you will possess the wisdom to have a glorious and marriae.
All in all this leads to beautiful witness.

enough for now