Thursday, December 30, 2004

Sanctification Part 3: What Christians Actually Believe!

In our last post on Sanctification, I made a comment that I think are worth expositing a bit.

When we say we believe that Jesus is the Messiah, we are saying that we believe that the great eschatological event that brings freedom has already happened in the cross of Jesus. Therefore, we can place our faith in the finished work of Christ and expect a heavenly pattern of life in this life. This radical claim to victory is what we actually believe as Christians.

This begs the question. With respect to victory and a life of moral distinction,

What Do Christians Actually Believe?
Sometimes our faith becomes so familiar that we often lose sight of the actual claims of our faith. We look around and we see a life that is so different than the life in the book that we come to define the “abnormal” Christian life around us a “normal”.

The Toyota Way
I work in a manufacturing facility that models its operations after the Toyota Production System. The founder of the Toyota Production System, Taiichi Ohno, said “the worst thing that can happen to process is the inability to distinguish the normal from the abnormal. Because if we cannot spot abnormalities then we can not improve”. One of the tools we use in the Toyota Production System is called 5S. In 5S, we organize everything in an ideal fashion. We create a labeled place for everything and we design the work station to be as efficient as possible. Then, we use a tool called Standardized Work to design the work of the operator in an ideal fashion. We, as a team, create a highly standardize work space and highly organized work content and sequence with the expectation of a particular outcome.

Then….we watch the work. (observation)

As we watch, because the whole system is visually obvious and the outcome is pre-specified, it is very easy to find problems with the design of the work. As problems surface, the team with the operator ,redesigns the work. This process is on-going until we reach the ideal (which, by the way, we can never reach).

The Toyota Production System is based on this process of defining the expectation, designing the work and looking and observing abnormalities. The system is called Kaizen which is Japanese for Continuous Improvement.

The same is true for Christianity. Until we clearly define the expectations of the gospel and until we understand the content of what should be normal, we cannot spot the abnormal and so we can not improve. So what is our ideal or our normal for the Christian or "what is our faith?"

1. Christians Believe in Jesus Christ
To say that Jesus is the Christ and that our Messiah has come is a radical claim.

Jesus said,
I tell you the truth everyone who sins is a slave to sin...but if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed”.
Paul explains that this freedom has already happened for the one who puts his faith in Jesus as their Christ.
Romans 6:18, "You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness."
Romans 8:2, "Through Christ Jesus ,the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death."
In fact, one day the whole creation will enter into the freedom that the Children of God now possess.
Romans 8:21, "The creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God."

The Messiah came as a great deliverer and indeed He has done it. When we claim that Jesus is our Messiah and our Christ, we are not saying that we believe one day we will be free and you will die and go to heaven. Christians are claiming that Christ is the Messiah and He has set us free. This freedom is from the great enemy which is sin.

As Christians, we actually believe our Messiah has come.

2. Christians Believe in the Cross of Jesus Christ
Jesus said again,
I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. 8All who ever came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. 9I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved.He will come in and go out, and find pasture. 10The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

11“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

14“I am the good shepherd; …and I lay down my life for the sheep… 17The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life–only to take it up again. 18No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.”

This passage is really pretty easy to understand. Jesus is saying, “I am the good Shepard who is the gate…I lay down my life like a Shepard who lays down his life in front of the gate (as the gate) for the sheep.”

The gate is a clear reference to the cross. Listen to what Jesus says about the cross or the gate,

I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture…I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

The cross of Christ is the path to liberation and abundance. Mankind toils in sin and darkness, violence and fear. The cross is the end to all of this bondage and servitude to the sin and fear. The great eschatological event that brings our freedom is the cross.

Paul said, in 2 Corinthians 1:20, "For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God.”
All the promises of a new reality and a new identity and a new life that the prophets promised are “Yes and Amen” in the Christ.

Christians believe in the Cross of Christ as an absolutely revolutionary event. ‘Viva la revolution’

3. Christians Believe in Their Spiritual Union with Christ
So, we are free, and the place of victory is in the cross of Christ... but wait there's more. The message of Christianity is still more all encompassing, and, therefore, what is the intention of the Gospel cannot be underestimated. Paul gets ecstatic when he thinks about the reality he has experienced and the reality he longs for the believers to enter.
Oh that you would know the surpassing greatness of His power toward us ….now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly beyond anything we can ask or think, to Him be the glory in the church”.

You see, Paul’s confession, and the foundation of all our faith, is Jesus’ teachings that,
We will come and make our abode with you”.

Paul’s confession was similarly that, “It is no longer I who live but Christ lives in me and the life I live I live by faith in the Son of God”. In 1 Cor. 6:19, Paul says, "The one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with the Lord".

Ah, the key …
Christians believe that, through faith, the believer is one Spirit with Christ. The same person that rose from the dead lives in us by the Spirit. At any instant in my life, the specification is for me to, through faith, live the very life of Christ. Christ manifesting Himself through me through faith.

We have already spoken that this union life is most clearly manifest through love. Love is the most excellent way.

Returning to our question, what do we as Christians actually believe about sanctification?

We believe that Christ has set us free and can live through us through faith. Therefore, at any instant, we can manifest Christ.

The Experience of Holiness in Prayer
Almost all Christians, become convicted of their responsibility in prayer. In contemplation, if we let ourselves accept it, we know that Christ has set us free, and we are, therefore, more responsible than ever. Christians have quite frequent experiences of "Christ with us" and near us. We realize that He is with us all along and therefore, “No temptation has ever overtaken us but He has also provided a means of escape” through faith in Him and our Spiritual union. Our holiness is indirect. Our life is mediated by Christ. If we learn to know this truth, we know we can live in freedom. From this place of claity, we are wonderously both convinced and convicted. We become still in this moment of clarity.

Such clarity is the life of the prophet and the life of every Christian. We see. What we are seeing in this instance of clarity is what Christians actually believe.

Now, as we look at our life, have we learned how to see what is the intended normal life of faith? By normal, I do not mean what is common or even frequent but simply what the kingdom is and that all else is sub-standard. This learning to see makes us understand what it means to be militant, to accept nothing short of tasting regularly the kingdom.

Where the Perfectionists and the Prophets Made Their Errors
This very real potential for the spirit filled life, in any instant, is why the perfectionists or the prophets have such high expectations for the Christian life. The reality is that the life of Christ, Christ in us, can be the reality in any instant. Theoretically speaking, walking like Christ is possible, but only for a given instant. Life is millions of instances, and going on such a streak of living in the Spirit and in love is simply not actually "doable" in this life.

Nonetheless, to live in the life of Christ, in any instant, we forget what lies behind and press into the upward of Christ. We have to have faith for “the life” in the moment and, in fact, in any moment. We continually stand at the precipice of the future, and we choose to believe in our Spiritual union which came to us through the eschatological event of the cross. From here we face the present, and we choose, by grace and His present power, the reality of what we actually believe.

By this faith, we live.

God Bless,

Kindness - Tsunami Relief

Donate here:

CRWRC - Christian Reformed World Relief Committee

World Vision

Samaritan's Purse

American Red Cross via Amazon

For the Christian, this is what is hapening in the world today. Give and give big!!
God Bless,

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Sermons Update

I am posting a three part sermon series from the beginning of our sermon series on ACTS. This is on the community passage in Acts 2:42ff.

The theme of these sermons is that the book of Acts describes for us the prototype of the church. The first century church is the first iteration of the New Covenant specification. God, from eternity, has had a plan to display His glory through the church (Eph 3:10) and the first century church is the first iteration of this standard which flows from the mind of God. The purpsoe of these sermons is to help us understand the ckey haracteristics of the Morally Beuatiful Community that we are looking to manifest on earth, (i.e. the Kingdom of God).

Decoding the DNA of the Church - Part 1 - Fellowship

Decoding the DNA of the Chuch - Part 2 - Opening up our Homes

Decoding the DNA of the Church - Part 3 - Joyful Community


Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Sanctification – Introduction Part 2

Just so I don’t come to the end of this post and not say what I intended, I am going to cut straight to the chase and list my points on how to walk in victory and be transformed..

The way to Sanctification in summary:

1. The experience of Simultaneously Saint and Sinner
When we approach God in prayer and in any situation, there is a profound instantaneous experience of being aware of our sinfulness and simultaneously aware of our total acceptance by Grace alone, through Christ alone, by faith alone. To be of the right heart to walk in an abiding newness of life, we must become very accustomed to this experience.

2. A Gospel Orientation toward God
The entire series on the Fatherhood of God was intended to help us have a gospel orientation toward God and see God our Father as a loving provider of all we need. The gospel is an arrow downward. Jesus taught the first principle of moral distinction and transformation was that the kingdom of God is for the poor in Spirit. Only those who are aware that they have no spiritual resources in and of themselves and also are aware that they are simultaneously declared a saint by grace can rightly beg. Christianity is a matter of begging for resources from God with faith in His continual heart to heal and give grace though faith in Christ.

3. The Kingdom of God is within reach
When Jesus announced that the kingdom of God is at hand, He was saying the heavenly pattern of life is within reach through faith in Him. The heavenly pattern of life is the redemption of our person and therefore all creation through the church.

The clearest distilled manifestation of the kingdom is love. When Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount, He fully expects us to live it out through the reality of New Covenant spirituality.
When we say we believe that Jesus is the Messiah, we are saying that we believe that the great eschatological event that brings freedom has already happened in the cross of Jesus. Therefore, we can place our faith in the finished work of Christ and expect a heavenly pattern of life in this life. This radical claim to victory is what we actually believe as Christians.

4. Dynamic and Static Faith
All of the above is static or immutable faith. These realities of our position before God and Christ’s finished work are immutable. These skills of learning to get used to our justification and to get used to the Gospel of the Kingdom being an arrow downward are foundational, BUT KNOWING THIS DOES NOT MAKE US VICTORIOUS OR HOLY IN LIFE.

These static truths create affection for God and knowledge of truth deep in our hearts, but they do not directly cause us to behave differently. A person cannot move on without “getting very accustomed to these truths” , but another set of skills are needed to rise up from our contemplative experiences and learn to do good. It has been said that the greatest distance is the distance between the head and the heart BUT this is not true. The greatest distance is from the heart to the body. The greatest gap in life is the gap between knowing and doing. Acknowledging this gap and seeking to leap across this chasm is the first key to actually entering the kingdom.

6. Crossing the Knowing Doing Gap takes a MILITANT ATTITUDE TOWARD LIFE.
The following posts are going to give as many practical examples as I can possibly give of what this orientation toward the moments of life looks like. The experience is one of faith in instantaneous power and a total no compromise relationship to the law of love in the given instant.

By militant, I mean the willingness and readiness to die. All writers on sanctification that are worth their weight in salt focus on the mechanics of the imitation of the cross and death to self.

The understanding that brings victory is neither conservative evangelical, which tends to deny experiences of power, nor is it Pentecostal, which tends to link the filling of the past with victory in the present. Instead, the key to entering the kingdom is learning to experience power in the heat of the battle with the challenges of life itself.

I have tried to describe the experience of justification as that of, in the instant, knowing that we are simultaneously saint and sinner. I have tried to explain that this experience needs to be very familiar to us. In fact, we need to be able to orient our heart toward this gospel posture at any moment. So too, there is an anatomy to the instantaneous experience of sanctification. The difference is that sanctification happens in the instant of the battle itself with the challenges of life. It is in the present instance that we must learn to live and be able to explain the anatomy of the experience.

Justification can be experienced in the disciplines of contemplation, but actual sanctification is only learned in the moment of the battle itself.

Do you know the anatomy of the experience of victory? Picture yourself standing on the East side of the Jordan. As you cross over to do battle, do you know the heart orientation that knows that you are weak in yourself but simultaneously trusts in the instantaneous power of the greater Joshua? Do you know the experience of this power in your daily life in the heat of the battle? Do you know such a confident and militant approach to life?

My hope is to help us all learn these vital lessons and be able to articulate them in such a way that we can bring renewal and sanctification to the church in our generation.

God Bless,

Monday, December 27, 2004

Reforming the Church - A Method for Sanctification in the 21st Century - Part 1

A Method for Sanctification in the 21st Century.

If you haven’t noticed, I have had writer's block for about two months. My last real good post, I believe, was probably this post on Passion for the Sovereignty of God (Nov 6th).

I have actually had one idea in my head for this whole time and could not get it out. Well, finally yesterday, the idea came out in the Sunday AM preaching. (The sermon didn’t get recorded BUT I am going to preach the same ideas next week so hopefully I can get that sermon up next week). Here is the context to what has been incubating in my heart. During the rest of this week, I will work hard to get out the ideas I am preaching. These posts I hope will prove to give real meat to my efforts to codify a method of sanctification for the 21st Century Reformation and somehow play a role in the on-going renewal of the church.

The Need for a Method of Sanctification in the Protestant Church
Dallas Willard in his book “The Renovation of the Heart” says the western church does not have a transferable method of sanctification. What is meant by this statement is that the Christian cannot go to his elder in the faith, become his student, and come out two years later as a transformed person. Sure we have classes on personal disciplines and anger management, BUT the product of such classes and discipleship programs, as far as I can see, are very low quality. On the level of personal sanctification and the transformation of our temperaments, the church lacks a method and a true process. Jesus was a disciple-maker and he taught his disciples the ways of prayer and humility and self-denial. These virtues and how to attain them are all but lost in the church. This element of salvation (personal transformation) is the primary program of the church, yet the process has not yet been designed.

Is there an engineer in the house??
Is there a rabbi in the house??

How could anything be more urgent than learning how to multiply the currency of the kingdom? The currency of the kingdom is virtue, and it seems the treasure is lost. Worse yet very few are seeking high and low to find "the way to life" and even fewer are able to lead others to it. Here is my call in this season of my ministry.

The Big Picture – Rebuilding the Church
In my system, (yes, I am a pretty modern kinda guy), there are three levels which the reforming process takes place. This series of posts concerns the third.

1. Community:
The first level is the level of the church as a functioning community. The church as an organization needs to be managing a process to accomplish its mission. The mission is the building of Morally Beautiful Community and the multiplication of virtue. This level of reformation is what Rick Warren is so successful at and is the theme of “The Purpose Driven Church”. Now, I am not a huge fan of the flavor of Saddleback Community Church and the Seeker churches, BUT I am completely in agreement with their method of managing the church to a purpose. My only fault with these churches is that the content of the vision does not reach high enough. The reason for this is that these churches are only good at this mission level of the reformation program and do not yet incorporate levels 2 and 3 below. (Also, they are not reformed enough, but that is a point for another day).

I have posted a few essays on this topic:
The Case for Accountability
Morally Beautiful Community

2. Mentoring and Discipleship Relationship (One on One)
The second level of reformation is in our discipleship method or our method of mentoring. Jesus did not mentor using an academic model. I will post on this in detail later, but the basic idea is that in Jesus’ discipleship method the subject being studied was not "abstract ideas" but the “life of the teacher”. The method can be summarized as “Observation, imitation, and codification”. The learner observes the mentor. Then, he imitates the mentor. As he is learning, the mentor also teaches some sayings and principles to help the student repeat the activity and standardize what is being learned.
It is all to obvious that this method is not the primary discipleship method of the western church BUT it is the discipleship method of Jesus.

I have written on this topic here:
How Did We Get Here?
Discipleship in the Footsteps of Jesus

In summary, leaders of the church are responsible for designing a mission effective process for the church and aligning the entire community to this mission and purpose. This purpose, of building Morally Beautiful Community and the multiplication of virtue, is accomplished in the context of mentoring relationships which use the mentoring model of Jesus. These two aspects of the church:
1 Our understanding and alignment toward the mission, and
2. Our educational or discipleship methods,
need reforming ...

...BUT the meat, which is taught in the context of the above principles, is a new covenant spirituality which leads to the transformation of the heart.

This new covenant spirituality I call the "activities of the heart" or simply "activities". The individual’s moral actions, which find their source in the heart and in spiritual relationship with God, must be transformed. The role of the pastor and the mentor is to teach the skills necessary to manage one's own heart.

The way of the heart is the central themes of New Covenant sanctification. The movements and activities of our heart need to be understood and the central thrust of the church's sanctification method must center on the transformation of the heart. As teachers of God’s people, we must be able to describe the activities of the heart so that we can teach others to observe their hearts and begin to imitate a spirituality that sanctifies.

As leaders, we need to be able to teach new covenant spirituality like a surgeon can teach anatomy. The spiritual mentor should be an expert in the anatomy of the human heat and be able to describe its every activity.

This describing the activities and the experiences of new covenant spirituality has been my goal for the last few months.

The last few months, this blog has been dedicated to describing the activities of the heart that indeed do sanctify. To accomplish this task of creating a method of sanctification, I have been working through the Lord’s Prayer.

The structure of the posts and how they relate to the Lord’s Prayer are as follows:
Our Father:
Experiencing the Fatherhood of God
Kierkegaard and the Experiencing the Fatherhood of God
Four Types of Relationships with God - Neglect
Four Types of Relationships with God - Perfectionism
The Immutability of our Realtionship with God
The Four Types of Relationship with God - Abuse

The Four Types of Relationships with God - Love pt 1
The Four Types of Relationships with God - Love and the Sovereignty of God
The audio sermon that came out of these posts. - Passion for the Experience of the Father's Love
Contemplating the Experience of Unconditional Election

Your Kingdom Come:
Your Kingdom Come and Static and Dynamic Faith
Dynamic Faith 2
Love is Kind and U2

As you can see I got stuck..BUT I have found the answer . Stay posted...
Therefore, the next few posts are going to move toward describing the experience of dynamic faith, and so, I believe will constitute the meat of our lessons on "A Method for Sanctification in the 21st Century".

God Bless,

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Sermon - Passion for the Experience of the Father's Love

In October and November, I was blogging on the "Four Types of Fatherhood" and what it means to worship God as Father. These posts looked, as deeply as I could muster, at how we ought to approach God and how to have a gospel orientation toward God as opposed to a fear-based or legal approach to Him.
Well, here is the sermon that came out of those blogs.

I think it is pretty helpful. It is about 38-40 minutes.

Hope this is a blessing:

Passion for the Experience of the Father's Love - Sermon

God Bless,


Worship - Worshipping the King

Getting to the Truth
Anthony Flew, a prominent atheist who recently came out of the closet and admitted that pure materialistic evolution makes no sense of the data, said that believing in the God of the Bible is to believe that the ultimate intelligence is akin to Saddam Hussein.

Here is the quote:
"I'm thinking of a God very different from the God of the Christian and far and away from the God of Islam, because both are depicted as omnipotent Oriental despots, cosmic Saddam Husseins," he said. "It could be a person in the sense of a being that has intelligence and a purpose, I suppose."

It seems Dr. Flew has not read the Christmas story. Does Flew have any children? I will give him one point: Jesus is Lord of All and King of the Universe. BUT…Jesus is not anything like Saddam Hussein and that is the whole “good news” point. Our method needs to get to the anatomy of the universal experience of worshipping Jesus and this experience cannot be more experimentally different that the experience of bowing down to Saddam. The two realities cannot be more diametrically opposite!!!

We have said in our previous post on worship that worship is spirit to Spirit communion with God. In this post, I am going to begin to look at worship as spirit to Spirit communion with God “in truth” or around the truth. Worship is fellowship with God and others around common understanding of the truth. True worship connects with the true God in the Spirit and contemplates, proclaims, announces, rejoices, confesses THE TRUTH.

So What is TRUTH and Where Does Truth Comes From?
To know the truth, we must first begin by determining what is the source or authority for our truth. The question of “who Jesus is?” gets at the heart of the matter.

Bob Dylan said it (and regardless of how trite and cliché we may think it sounds) it is nonetheless true, “You gotta serve somebody.”

Everybody has an ultimate arbitrator of truth. For most, like my friend Mojoey, a very good friend I might add, his ultimate standard of truth is himself. This self-worship is the American way. Too bad it doesn’t work. Strangely, my friend’s ethic, which finds its source of truth in the reality he sees, has concluded that the oriental despot is THE truth that reigns on high in his world.

Paul said, “the Greeks in their wisdom became fools and worshipped the creation rather than the creator”. How true!! If our world is our sole source of truth, our truth will be brutal and despotic like the world we live in.

I worship elsewhere!!

I began by saying Flew is so wrong. Here is why. If I know I have done Saddam Hussein wrong, I would become very fearful and full of anxiety. The very presence of Saddam Hussein causes people to cower in fear and to loath their king, the despot. A child’s face is not filled with an authentic joy at the contemplation of Saddam as King. Ah, but with Jesus our experience is so different.

When I worship THE KING, my mind is filled with Joy, and I am free of all fear. When I see Him as the Truth, my mind is transformed. For me and my household, Jesus is the ultimate arbitrator of all truth and all definitions of what is real and what is illusion. Jesus is the WORD of GOD. This ultimate authority for all truth is one way that He is King. He is the authority concerning what I long to know and understand. As I worship, I long to learn from Him and honor Him with a teachable heart attitude.

Christmas is the announcement of a King. At Christmas, the Christ child is worshipped. This worship is the statement that we submit our minds and humble ourselves to be learners of truth beneath the loving mentoring of our King. Jesus is the sole mediator of truth for the believer. Indeed,
John 4: “ 22"You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23"But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. 24"God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth." 25The woman said to Him, "I know that Messiah is coming He who is called Christ); when that One comes, He will declare all things to us." 26Jesus said to her, "I who speak to you am He."

How strange that a guy as smart as Anthony Flew cannot tell Saddam Hussein from Jesus Christ. My children know the difference. Every Christmas, they worship at His feet and are filled with an authentic Joy that Jesus is Lord of all.

How sweet the truth is and how worthy of contemplation and worship. Jesus is the truth.

Merry Christmas,

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Jesus’ Clear Theology of Worship – Part 1 “Worship in Spirit”

John Depoe over here and here began a discussion on the role of form and attitude in worship. The gist of his position is that having a good intention is not enough. Worship needs to be right hearted, right headed, and done in a form that communicates well. Such discussions on worship are valuable and call for a well articulated and precise theology of worship.

The church has a practical need for a clear word on worship due to the very real conflict that the topic of worship generates. People are bound to have great differences in worship music preferences and have varying preferences regarding worship service forms.

Some like liturgy. Some hate liturgy. Some like long sets of simple folk-rock styled music. Some hate long sets of folk-rock styled music. If I had my preference, the whole church would be skankin’ to about an hour of reggae followed by an hour of preaching and maybe some ministry time, but that is not likely to happen in the near future at our church. Preferences are fine, but the real problem is that most all of us have created “theological” reasonings or beliefs to buttress what, in actuality, are merely cultural preferences.

Some say songs should be about God and not about us. Some say songs need to be intimate, which makes them inevitably about our feelings or "about us". Some equate repetition with chanting and trances; others equate repetition with contemplation and passion. Each group in each camp has a theological argument to support their position and probably a proof text or two.

So, where ought we to go to get some clarity on the issues which affect so many churches and weigh so heavily on so many pastors?

I think the answer is in John 4 where Jesus articulates a “Clear Theology of Worship”.
In fact, Jesus as the great prophet, the one who proclaims the final word on right worship, has the exact antidote for the conflict in churches today over worship. Unity in the body of Christ can come if we take to heart Jesus’ teaching on the matter of worship. The need is to be convinced of some unifying principles so that we lay down our self-serving, myopic understandings of what is true worship. Jesus has just the word we need.

John 4
In John 4, while talking to the woman at the well, Jesus articulates a clear theology of worship that speaks directly to the conflicts that churches experience over the form and content of worship.
John 4:19The woman said to Him, "Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet. 20Our fathers worshiped in this mountain, and you people say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship." 21Jesus said to her, "Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. 22"You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23"But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. 24"God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth." 25The woman said to Him, "I know that Messiah is coming (He who is called Christ); when that One comes, He will declare all things to us. 26Jesus said to her, "I who speak to you am He."

The context of this passage is so crucial to understanding the teaching of Jesus. The Samaritans were second class citizens in Jewish society. The Samaritans were unclean and the temple worship discriminated against them. The Samaritans were not allowed, in Jerusalem, to worship in the temple per se but were forced to worship with the money changers and the lambs in the outer court. Therefore, the Samaritans made way for a tradition of their own in order to avoid the shame of sitting in "the back of the bus" or the “coloreds balcony” in Jerusalem.
from this stance, the woman at the well asks, “Do I really have to worship in Jerusalem?”
Jesus’ answer is liberating.

New Covenant Worship
I have attempted to emphasize that Jesus in this passage lays out the standard or specification of true worship. The Samaritan woman has a right understanding of the Messiah, “When He comes He will explain to us everything.” So her question is most on target. “OK, I accept that you are a prophet, so teach me about true worship.” We need to be as wise as this woman and look to Jesus for the specification of true worship.

Jesus’ answer says that “a hour is coming and now has arrived…”. Here, Jesus is speaking of the inauguration of the new covenant in Him. Under the new covenant, the shadows of worship will disappear in the Glorious light of the age of the Kingdom and 'kingdom worship'. The rules of worship are changing because the covenant and the relationship between the gentiles and the common man and the Lord is changing. Many of the conflicts in the church over worship come from a lack of understanding of the opportunities of new covenant worship. Is our worship focusing on the shadows of worship and missing the substance?

The Place of Worship
The Samaritan woman asked a common question. “Where does true worship happen? Ought we to worship here on this mountain or is the correct holy place of worship in Jerusalem?” Jesus, being the Son of God and great prophet, explains clearly where true worship takes place. Jesus’ answer is pretty clear:

21"Jesus said to her, "Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father… But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit…”.

The place where worship takes place is in the spirit. True worship does not actually take place in a physical locality at all. The true place of worship takes place in one particular place, in our spirit. True worship doesn’t take place in a church. It can take place while I am in a church and sometimes, by the grace of God, it does. But the true specification of worship is that it only actually takes place in our spirit. Worship is a spiritual act. Therefore, when I come to “worship” I might worship and I might not. I might sing songs and not worship. I might hear the gospel preached and not worship. But only if in the course of that music or listening to the word, I present myself to God from the most authentic place in my being that I can muster, by the grace of God, only then have I worshipped. In fact, during the music time, I often am not listening to the music at all. Instead, I am praying; I am working through my confession of sin; I am receiving forgiveness and love from God, and I am beginning to rejoice in Him. By the end of the set of music, I may very well be worshipping if i am connecting to God with my spirit. Worship is a spiritual act. Anything else is not worship.

Romans 8:15-16 says, 15For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, "Abba! Father!" 16The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God”.

Does not Paul assume that a believer can discern when the Spirit is bearing witness with his spirit that he or she is a child of God? Isn’t this spiritual communion eternal life itself (John 17:3)? Can we therefore know when our worship culminated in spirit to Spirit communion with God? The issue facing the church is not whether worship is good or bad but whether or not we worship at all, and the believer can discern the answer to this qustion if he or she knows the specification of true worship.

Why is New Covenant Worship “in spirit”?
So the place of worship is in the spirit of the individual worshipper. But why is this the place of new covenant worship? Jesus says that “God is spirit and those who worship him MUST worship in spirit..”

True worship, which the world groans for, can be no other way. All the shadows of worship which mediate our worship are not actually worship. These may lead to worship, and they may not lead to worship. But true worship is unmediated (or actually, as we will see in part two, true worship is only mediated by truth) . Therefore, it is not appropriate to codify or standardize any particular form of mediation. Only truth mediates worship. We worship in Spirit and in truth. But this does not mean that all other ways to mediate truth other than the bible are somehow anathema. No, but we must not seek to codify and standardize forms which are not transcendent. God is spirit; He transcends our cultural preferences and sensibilities.

Whenever we appeal to our cultural sensibilities as part and parcel to the essence of true worship, we are denying the direct teachings of Jesus. True worship is the spirit to Spirit communion between the worshipper and the LORD.

In the next, post, I will look at truth and the role of culture to incubate meaning BUT...

Enough for now…

God Bless,

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Modern Worship Christmas Song - Song #1 "God Sees"

Ok, here is a first. I have not been inspired too much lately. I am so tired and burnt out I can't string two thoughts together. Can you spell- AAAUGH??

So I decided to post my inspiration from last year. Or maybe it was two years ago. Well, anyway, a few years back, I was in my home studio praying about Christmas with guitar in hand. I started playing the song "All Who are Thirsty" and I morphed the song into this song. (God Sees)

This version is my band live playing about a few weeks ago...This is all one take so be gracious...

This is a Christmas song..

The Words are as Follows:
Listen and Merry Christmas...

God Sees

Merciful, gentle, lowly, and humble and meek
Words alone can’t describe the pearl of great price So we sing.

He came down from heaven to a people oppressed
Born of a virgin young and penniless
Totally empty as poor as can be
To show to a world lost in darkness

God sees…God sees…God sees

Merciful, gentle, lowly, and humble and meek
Words alone can’t describe the pearl of great price So we sing.
His ways are the way of peace on the earth
The lamb and the lion the sheep and the wolf
Lie down together and make peace in the streets
Where the rule is the rule of the King

God sees…God sees…God sees

Well the people of God are the meek of the earth
And the first shall be last and the last shall be first
And the ancient of days His Spirit shall rise
And this heavenly vision is before our eyes
Like the lives that they trade on the ships on the sea
Like the blood of the slaves shed on the trees
And the blood of the lamb on Calvary

God sees …….God sees. ……. God sees

He came down from heaven to a people oppressed
Born of a virgin young and penniless
Totally empty as poor as can be
To show to a world lost in darkness

God sees God sees God sees...

Merry Christmas


Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Types of Knowledge - An Example of Contemplating the Doctrine of Unconditional Election

I think I am back. I need to make a commitment to force myself to write again. So here goes.

In my response to Jollyblogger and Adrian Warnock’s articles on TULIP, I stated that I believed the discussion should start and end with the goal of teaching the reader how these truths of God’s greatness are to be applied in the Christian life. David and Adrian, and Jeremy Pierce as well, are, in those posts, laying a great foundation to understand the rationale and reasoning behind the doctrines BUT that is not my gifting or role in the church or the blogosphere.

Instead, I am looking to bring to the reader’s life not the answers to theological questions but assistance to learn how to enter a certain type of practice. I am not teaching “about tennis” but attempting to “actually teach tennis”.

I do not ask the question “what is the doctrine unconditional election?” but instead, “what does the contemplation of “unconditional election look like?”. To me the contemplation of unconditional election is a skill like playing the piano or playing tennis. Yet, when I say something like “contemplating unconditional election”, I am speaking a language many 21st century Christians do not understand. The discipleship program of the church is in such disarray that a vast majority of Christians (at least in the Calvinistic denominations) simply do not have an approach to sanctification which I think is effective. It is apparent that our teaching methods do not align or communicate effectively the activities necessary for Christians to learn sanctifying practices. Are we teaching people what the doctrine of unconditional election is or are we teaching people how to contemplate your election in the midst of your faith journey? My point is we need to be teaching the later. Nonetheless, on the path to application, we obviously need to teach the doctrine itself as a foundation to this application. In reality, this distinction between these two types of knowing is a good way to distinguish the difference between milk and meat. Knowing the doctrine is milk, but learning or knowing how to abide in peace by applying the doctrine is where the rubber meets the road.

Today's Church as I see It
If I were to say “contemplate unconditional election” to a member of Jonathan Edward’s congregation, I believe I would be easily understood. Certainly, if I was to say this to Edwards himself, he could actually tell me a story of his contemplative experience to help me understand the vitality of the practice and its effect on him. So, what do I actually mean by “contemplation of unconditional election” and what does it mean to say such contemplation is a skill?

Let’s say that I am in a place of questioning my purpose in life, like a mid-life crisis. OK let’s not just pretend, I actually am going through a mid-life crisis. (but that is another post). Anyway, such a crisis is actually based on very real, and I think often appropriate, anxiety. It may be that I truly have wasted my life. It may be that I feel I have not overcome certain character flaws, and I need to wake up out of my denial and face reality before I enter the later stages of my life. So as a consequence, I am filled with anxiety. In facing this anxiety, I am forced to deeply re-evaluate who I am and what am for. If I do not do this well, I could end up ruining my marriage, becoming a workaholic, drinking to much, having an affair, or act out in some other self-destructive activity in an attempt to alleviate my unresolved anxiety. The anxiety is actually based in reality. So to face reality head-on, I suggest to my soul to “wait on the Lord”.

So, I go to the Lord in prayer with the purpose of a deep contemplation of who I am and what I am for. The superficial prayer capacity which many 21st Century Christians possess or have skill for will not solve this deep problem.

Personally, I would begin with worship. I would put on a worship CD or grab my guitar and begin to sing. I would sing probably for at least 45 minutes to one hour. Hopefully, by then, I would gain some “view of God’s majesty”. In this prayer exercise, my knowledge of God begins with “the God is great as an axiom” type of knowing to an “I know God’s greatness” experience or knowing. My goal is to solve my problem from God’s presence and not from my mind alone. My personal experience is that only from God’s presence do I think clearly. Therefore only from here, (i.e. after a time of worship), would I ask the Lord, “Father, who am I and what am I for?” At this point, my theology kicks in!!! You see I know who I am axiomatically (like I know 1+1=2), and this type of knowledge is very important to the task of finding the fruit of peace necessary to live in peace and to solve real problems like this one of the proverbial “mid-life crisis”.

Something like the following might happen. Let’s say, John 1:12 comes to my mind. “To those who believe, He gave the right to become children of God”. And to this the Spirit adds, “and know this, you did not choose me but I choose you”.

In this place of growing clarity and insight, I would normally pick up my guitar and begin to sing something spontaneously, or maybe just pray something for awhile or write something. By this time I am in a place that is very pleasurable, and I do not want to lose the clarity. I try to just stay there for a bit. All the while though, I am seeing the application.

“Who you are and who I called you to be, before the foundation of the earth, does not change!! You are a father to six beautiful children. Focus on this stage of this child’s life…” Again I might write something down. “This aspect of your relationship with your family is not according to who I have made you….” Again I write something down. My knowledge of God, my knowledge of myself, and my knowledge of my circumstances are all coming into clarity and it is mingling together with a well studied biblical theology.

All this application is based though on a theological understand of my unconditional election. I am forever a certain type of person: a child of God. This identity cannot be changed. From this deep sense of my persevering identity, of which I did nothing to be qualified for and can never shake off, I take on and put on a certain understanding of my purpose. From the place of my theology and the intimate application, I am gaining clarity into “who I am” and “what I am for”. Peace begins to reign. The place I am in life is perfect.

Such a contemplation (prayer time) will usually take most of a morning or maybe most of a day (as my wife is well aware). To me this practice is very normal and ought to be very common.

But do most Christian father’s make this their regular practice? Is such a skill being learned daily or at least weekly? How about for us bloggers? Or how about us pastor’s? Is this the Christian practice that we teach? How does our lack of personal skill in such contemplation relate to how we teach? How does this relate to our understanding of the process of sanctification?

Frankly, I do not know any other way to learn truth than by this method of contemplation and conscious contact with God. I have never asked questions other than starting with an actual problem of discipleship or holiness and then using my theology in prayer to come to solutions. I do not know any other way to know God and develop my worldview and perspective of life and God. I believe that what I am describing is the proper path to knowing God and understanding ourselves as spiritual men and women.

God Bless,

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Types of Knowledge

I will write on this subject either tomorrow of Tuesday. For now, go to Prosthesis to get a great overview. This is a "yeah, what he said" post about ideas similar to what I sum up in the phrase:

" Christianity is more like gymnastics than geometry".

God Bless,

Saturday, December 04, 2004

My Sermon - Exposition of U2's Miracle Drug

Sermon Audio here, "Love is Kind"

Oh God ....I cannot give enough love to Bono and the sheer beauty of the new song "Miracle Drug". Bono has found the love of God. God bless him and all he puts his hands to. His Christianity puts all of us to shame regardless of our doctrine. We may have all knowledge, but, if we do not have love, we are nothing, useless.

Tomorrow, I am preaching on “Love is kind”. My opening point is that the definition of kindness is found in the scriptural revelation of the kindness of God.

Lu 6:35
"But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men.

Mt 11:30
For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light

Ro 2:4
Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kind ness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that the kind ness of God leads you to repentance?

1Pe 2:3
if you have tasted the kind ness of the Lord

God is kind. He sends His rain on the just and the unjust. His kindness is seen in Jesus’ taking our load and bearing our burden. The Father’s rich kindness leads us to repentance and breaks our hearts for the hurting around us. Taste and see the kindness of the Lord, and be kind to one another.

Kindness is the practical bearing of one another’s burdens. Kindness is to perform acts to sustain others and bless others.

All this talk of the manifestation gifts and the gifts of power... "Oh God, Your 'dunamis', Your most powerful work, is LOVE."


Kindness is the great weapon of the our God.

“Oh, I’ve had enough of romantic love
I’d give it all , yes, I’d give it all for a miracle,
A miracle drug”

Kindness sees the broken and sends its rain of help and healing. Romantic notions, though beautiful, are not the pressing need in our real world. Kindness is practical and powerful and purposeful and prayerful and unconditional.

Here, Bono is praying for a cure.

"Oh, God answer. And let me and your people sacrifice all we have for the poor and the sick. Let us lay down our lives in the AIDS hospices of the world, holding the hands of the lepers of today with the kindness and grace that our God has shown to us.

"For while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us".

“God I need your help tonight

Beneath the noise
Below the din
I hear a voice
Its whispering

In science and in medicine
“I was a stranger.
You took me in”.

Oh, I have one prayer tonight that the church would rise up to embrace the power of practical kindness and release the nuclear love of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Oh God we want "to see Your thought take shape and walk right out"

Let us be the the great manifestation of the wisdom and power of our God.

God Bless,

Proof Calvinists Can Be Funny

OK, I promise I will post tomorrow night and probably a lot this week, BUT, first, something on the light side.

Our cat got run over by a car yesterday. I was actually quite sad. I was in my office and my daughter, Hannah age 10, came crying into my office and said, "Dad, we need to get a new cat." "What's wrong, honey?" I asked.
"Fanny, got run over. She's dead."

I went to meet my family at the sidewalk, and yes, the cat, a beautiful cat, was dead.

So anyway, today, the family went out to get a new cat. Well, we found one. We haven't brought her home yet, but we have named her. And her name is:

drum roll please...


God Bless,