Friday, September 30, 2005

Edith Jones - OOPS mised that one

I predict the president will nominate Edith Jones to replace Sandra Day O'Conner. I am not much of a political pundit but I thought I would go public on this one.

NOTE: Bush picks Harriet Miers.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

The Simple Path – Assignment 2

Well, I did my assignment. (Assignment 1)

We have discussed being “poor in spirit” many times at this site and I speak of it ad nauseam in our church and small group.

Our Lord’s first principle and teaching on how to enter the kingdom life is:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”.

To be poor in spirit is a person who has had life convince them that they are spiritually without resources in themselves. A person who is poor in spirit is convinced that they are powerless over their defects.

Jesus tells a parable of two men at the alter. One pounds his chest and says, “Whoa is me a sinner. Only say the word and I can be healed”. The other looks at the man next to him and says to himself, “Praise the Lord I am not a miserable loser like this poor guy”. Then Jesus says, “This poor sinner went home justified while the self-righteous religious man did not”.

This is a picture of the beginning of following Jesus. This spiritual beggar to enter the kingdom must first come to a place of total deflation. In order to do so one must not live a total prodigal life. A man could look quite righteous on the outside and be quite active in doing good and nonetheless come to a place of a deep knowledge of his spiritual poverty. Luther is a great example of a man who was quite religious but just prior to his conversion he came to the knowledge that he was a miserable sinner.

So today’s assignment is:

Q1: Convince yourself, God and another human being that you are a sinner. Convince them that apart from the power of God, you are a totally hopeless case. Use specific life examples.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Discipleship 101 - Simple Path - Assignment 1

I published this essay on Discipleship 101. This essay explains the discipleship principles of the Sermon on the Mount in simple terms that I hope give some insight into the meaning of our Lord’s teachings.

At the end of Jesus’ teachings, He says that the wise man hears these words and puts them into practice. On the other hand, the fool is the one who merely hears these words.

So I would like to give some very practical assignments we can take to “put these commandments into practice”.

What follows by the Grace of God will be a regular kind of assignment of the day or of the week. As we do these assignments, with a coach, we will be learning how to put these sayings into practice.

Some Definitions:
“The kingdom of heaven”:
The kingdom of heaven is true happiness and a heavenly quality of life. The kingdom is within reach to all who put faith in Jesus Christ because the messiah has come. The cross is the great liberating event that has made available true liberation from all our enemies, namely sin and death (actually, the fear of death because without fear death has no sting).

Another definition of the Kingdom might be the life of Christ. Christ said “My peace I give to you. Not as the world gives you my peace I give you”. In other words, the kingdom is the process by which we enter into the “shalom” which Christ lived in this life by through the power of His life in us, by grace through faith, we live His life in our shoes.

The first principle:
Matt 5:3"Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.

1. Memorize Matt 5:3-4
2. Answer the following questions. These questions are simply a contemplation of the word “blessed” as used in these sayings of our Lord.
Q1: How happy are you? Rate your happiness and explain. In what ways does your life lack the peace and joy of Jesus Christ?

Q2: What do you believe constitutes true happiness?

God Bless,

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Dallas Willard and Richard Foster on Spiritual Formation and Discipleship

It is so strange that what is clearly the heart of Christianity, the transformation of our character, is not the heart of the 21st century church's program. I call this process discipleship. Dallas Willard and Richard Foster call this process spiritual formation. Here are a couple quotes from Dallas Willard and Richard Foster interview in Christianity Today:

In this quote, Willard points spiritual formation directly to the Sermon on the Mount and the radical proposition of learning to love our enemies in the various contexts in which we live and how such basic teaching is often lacking in the church.

How does Jesus address spiritual formation?
Willard: Jesus teaches it, but often his teaching gets identified with general moralisms, like turning the other cheek and so on. You don't actually find much instruction on how to do that. So we've come to a place where we just assume we're not actually going to do it. Some time ago, I was in Belfast, a place where your enemy may have lived across the street and may have killed your child. I was talking to ministers and church leaders about Jesus' teachings on loving our enemies. A gracious man stood up and said, "When we talk about loving your enemy here, it means something. And we're not sure that you can do that."
I asked, "Are any of your churches teaching people how to love your enemy?" There was a moment of silence. No one was.
That's a question we all should ask ourselves: Do you know of a church where they actually teach you how to love your enemies, how to bless those who curse you? This is extremely radical material because it goes to the sources of behavior.

In this quote, Richard Foster is discussing how churches and Christian training institutions fail to address the true heart of character transformation

Foster: … many Christian institutions have a system by which you find out whether you're in or out. Sometimes it's rules; sometimes it's a certain belief system.
You just look sometimes at what they produce in terms of solid families and marriages. Do they really love their enemies? If that's the case, great. If it's about the number of verses you can memorize or the answers you give to a certain set of questions, while you're full of bitterness or pride—that's not spiritual formation.
Pride is one of the socially acceptable sins in some corners of the evangelical culture. It's just straight-out ego gratification—how important I am; whether my name gets on the building or on the tv program or in the magazine article.

These men have been involved in discipleship for many years and are attempting to grow a process of small groups to give a place for people to have their lives transformed.

In our church, we are making these relationships THE program of the church. Such a process is not likely to grow big name churches but is an attempt to set the DNA of the church back on the foundation of the teachings of Jesus Christ.

God Bless,

Monday, September 19, 2005

The Lordship of Jesus Christ and the Gospel of the Kingdom

Jesus ends His great sermon on discipleship, the Sermon on the Mount, with the parable of the wise man and the fool. In Jesus’ parable, both the wise man and the fool hear the teachings of the Sermon. The only difference between the wise man and the fool is that the wise man put these commandments into practice. The blessed and the happy man is the one who not only hears the good news of the kingdom but takes action to put the spiritual principles of Jesus into practice and through these principles enters the kingdom.

The rock solid foundation upon which the wise man builds his house is the teaching of the Sermon on the Mount. These principles become the foundational principles that guide and define his wisdom.

Do you know any Christians who are not “blessed” or happy? Well, I have the answer!! The Sermon on the Mount. Learn and practice these principles. Another way to say this is simply this: “Is Jesus Christ your Lord?”

All Christians that I know answer this question, “yes”, but few discipline there lives according to the teachings of the Sermon on the Mount. How can we say Jesus is our Lord if His rules are not our rule of life? Jesus’ words teach us how to live in the power of the spirit and how to keep our hearts filled with the love of God. He is our Lord and our Savior. So I ask, “Is the core of your wisdom the knowledge of what it means to “turn the other cheek” or “to judge not” or “to forgive”? Do we understand the meaning of being “poor in spirit” or “meek”? If we do not and if this isn’t our magnificent obsession, then what do we mean when we claim Jesus as our Lord? The phrase Jesus is Lord is without meaningful and liberating content if His words are not our life.

A few months back I spoke of the divorce rate in the church. Can a person who lives under the spiritual principles of Jesus and the grace of God argue with his spouse? Have we learned the way of peace?

My friends, “The kingdom of heaven is within reach. Repent and believe the good news”. Change the principles that are the foundation of your life. Take His yoke upon you and learn of Him and you will learn blessedness. His ways are the ways of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.

If you are not living in this heavenly experience, there is an answer. There is a solution. The words of Jesus Christ are your map. Prayer and His power are your compass. With these two means in hand and in your heart, let Jesus Christ the risen Lord lead you down the narrow path into the blessed life of the Kingdom of heaven.

God Bless,

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

The Confirmation Hearings – John Roberts

I was listening to the Roberts hearings today (9/13/2005) and was so grateful for our system of government. The hearings are the greatest civics lesson I have ever heard. Every school in America should take these few days off and listen. The teachers can explain the idea of the rule of law vs the rule of men and the separations of powers, the difference between the legislature and the judiciary etc. John Roberts has such a command of how the system works that he can explain it simply, clearly and consistently. I wasn’t able to listen to the entire hearings but of what I heard here are just a few highlights.

1. Discussion on the Value of Free Speech and the Public Square
This discussion brought tears to my eyes. I do not remember the Senator who spoke about free speech and the public square but the question was itself beautiful. The idea was that the public square and being able to speak in the public square is a fundamental part of both freedom and being human conveyed the real value of these proceedings. Does the government have an obligation to promote a public square and protect the public square for the common good. For example, today technology is such that people drive alone from private property (their home) to private property (a parking lot) and therefore the public square is shrinking. What is the obligation of the state to promote and protect the right not only to speak but the right to have a forum to be heard, i.e. the public square, and in so doing promote free speech. Public dialogue is part of a healthy society. What a profound reality!!!

2. Separation of Powers and discussion on Interpretation of Law and the Making of Law
This topic was I believe initiated by Sen. Grassley. The question was about various constitutional philosophies. Roberts was simple and brilliant. Roberts said there are theorists who believe that there is no line between interpreting and making laws and therefore we are fooling ourselves if we think that we are not always making law. To this idea, Roberts said No, there is a line that can be drawn and in fact in the case about the bakers not being forced to work over 13 hour days the decision said that it believed the law was wrong. This is a clear case of judges making policy. It is not within the judges discretion to make policy but simply to interpret law or to determine if the law under question is constitutional. I really liked this discussion as it gets to the heart of questions of hermeneutics and therefore has such application to the Christian life and the rule of the word of God over our lives. We are a people under the rule of the book and not the rule of men. WOW!!! God bless America.

3. International Precedent and Democracy
Roberts answered this question with such simple clarity it just is like an atomic bomb to the silly notions of International precedent playing a role I the decisions of the American courts. Roberts simply said the use of international precedent undermines democracy. Judges are appointed by elected officials to interpret laws made by elected officials in light of other laws created by elected officials that have been interpreted by judges that were appointed by elected officials. To go outside of the system of law which finds its authority in the will of the American people by looking to other nations is to circumvent the American people and our democracy. I am sure I didn’t say that correctly. Listen to the tapes.

My plan is to get the tapes of the hearings from NPR or wherever I can find them and save them for my children.

This is the best introduction to great thinking and great ideas that I can think of.

God Bless,

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Vacation and Ministry - What is the Source of Our Rest

Tod Bolsinger, Pastor at San Clemente Pres., and I have been having a dialogue regarding rest and vacations.

Here is the gist of his perspective:
It is this understanding of Sabbath as communion that leads us to re-cast our leisure time from a “vacating” as Brad called it, to a time of recreation—re-creation. I want to encourage Christians to have far more restful, peaceful, relational, educational, experiential, and dare I say, spiritual vacations by re-connecting them to creation. I have become deeply aware of how truly stressed out and disconnected from the Earth, our own souls and each other we become through the hurly burly of every day life.
This is why I have been critical of media as escape, video games as leisure, and
amusement parks or Las Vegas excursions as the sole focus of our vacation time. That is not to say that a day at Disneyland is somehow “unchristian.” (I actually like roller coasters a lot.) I just want to challenge Christian families to reconsider their next trip to a resort where they will sit by a pool with a waterslide and spend too much on umbrella drinks when they could be snorkeling in a reef, hiking to a waterfall or looking for wildlife in a national park. I have also challenged Christian families to use their vacation time for mission trips, cross-cultural excursions or opportunities to see and reflect on more of the world.

I would make the following comments on Tod’s perspective.
I really think this topic is important in the American church. I would like to make one little challenge to Tod's perspective of "Sabbath". How did Jesus spend the Sabbath? One answer is in all the healing stories. He did good. So, a great way to get peace and rest is to "Do unto others". Our true rest is from self-centeredness and into otherliness. Under the New Covenant, we can enter this Sabbath of deliverance from self-centeredness every day. In fact, we ought to strive to enter into this rest.

I believe your model for leisure time is still really a therapeutic model. Our souls find true rest not in leisure or recovery time but in taking His yoke upon us and learning a new way of living day by day that is based entirely on "doing the will of God" and being of service to others. Jesus said just this in John 4 when He said “my food is to do the will of the Father”. Jesus was replenished and nourished by doing good and ministering to others. If doing good and ministering to others doesn't bring us rest, then we are still doing these things out of some self seeking pride or self-centered fear.

I am challenging your readers to possibly re-evaluate the foundation upon which we really live. If our daily life produces stress, this is a serious spiritual problem. The answer is in learning a new foundation to build upon by seeking to walk in the spiritual principles of Jesus.

thanks for the dialogue,

Friday, September 02, 2005

Good Job Bloggers - Hurricane Relief

The hurricane news and stories are just heart wrenching, and it is great to see bloggers (links here - Tod Bolsinger) doing a good job mobilizing assistance. Please join in assisting the hurting.

Hugh Hewitt, Instapundit and others lead the way.

God Bless,

The Simple Path and the Even Simpler Path - Summary of Discipleship 101

I realize that it is very hard for us to change our worldview as a result of reading a blog post or in fact reading any essay. Worldview really changes from seeing lives changed by the power of God. We know the truth by its fruit. So all I can say is the teachings of Jesus work and ya’ gotta trust Him on that one a little. That being said, here is a simple post on the simple path that I have found through the years to really really work!!!!

In discipleship as in any teaching situation, a good mentor can keep it simple. Here is a simple path to a changed life as I see it. Jesus’ teaching as summarized in the Sermon on the Mount can be summarized in a very simple path. Jesus warned us that if we do not build our entire perspective of life on these commands that we are not truly in our hearts taking Him as our Lord. Here is a simple summary of the teaching of Jesus and the path to the Kingdom as I understand them. I have found these principles to be a great source of power and a perfect path to abiding “righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 14:17).

A Simple Path
1. Jesus’ teachings are a lot smarter and simpler than all our philosophy and psychological figuring.
2. We lack power. That is our problem.
3. We lack power because we are self-centered by nature.
4. Why you are self centered is not important and in fact focusing on how our self-centeredness developed can lead to rationalizing our self-centeredness. This rationalization often leads to self-pity and victimhood.
5. Anger is the big killer and is a result of thousands of forms of self-centeredness.
6. Look at every form of anger and resentments and every instance of anger and find the root of it in your form of sinful self-centeredness. (hatred, pride, greed, lust, envy, sloth…).
7. Do the same process of moral inventory for fears.
8. Do the same for sex. Find how you have been inconsiderate and self-centered in your sexual behaviors.
9. Confess to God and another human being the exact nature of your sinfulness and the self-centeredness that is at the root of your all our spiritual problems and powerlessness.
10. Be willing for God to take away these defects of character.
11. Ask God to take away these defects of character and to fill you with His love, His power, and His presence.
12. Begin doing good by making amends for the wrongs you have done. Say to those you have wronged, “I was wrong”.
13. Continue daily to take moral inventory of anger, sex and fear. When you are wrong, quickly admit it.
14. Seek through meditation and prayer to improve your conscious contact with God which is the source of our power.
15. Having experienced a new righteousness, peace, and joy and a profound change of character, do good for others daily and share this source of power and this simple path with others.

The Even Simpler Path
1. Faith in Jesus Christ for power and deliverance.
2. Self-centeredness is the problem. Being filled with the life and meekness of Jesus is the answer.
3. Take moral inventory of anger, fear and sexual behaviors to discover some details regarding your character defects and sin.
4. Confess to God and another person and ask for a new life.
5. Seek to live by this rule daily in prayer and daily moral inventory.
6. Share this solution with others in need of this life and power.

God Bless,