Tuesday, November 29, 2005

The "Charismatic-Reformed" Position and the Third Way of Unity

Adrian Warnock has continued the discussion and has summarized my position quite well both at his blog and at theologica. I am planning another post on "How to regulate prophecy in the church?" but that post needs to be written well so I am not going to write this now. We really need to write a "book" that describes the new position. I honestly do not think Grudem's position of NT prophecy being different is correct but again that is another post.

I would like to make a few comments on Adrian's ideas. Adrian says.
In a sense Reformed charismatics are occupying the centre ground. Like "new Labour" they advocate a third way. It is really possible they say to pursue a solid biblical knowledge and sound doctrine whilst experiencing the presence of power of God in a real way today. The Word and the Spirit are not in conflict but rather work together to cause us to know God.

This discovering a new way and a new position of unity is what I think the new media is all about. As bloggers, we do not need to fit in a system of thinking, a paradigm, that we are utterly beholden to. This freedom allows us to state the obvious. With respect to both "cessationism" and "pentacostalism", the emperor has no clothes. Both of these positions an paradigms are so flawed and poorly describe the biblical position or my personal experience. Pentacostalism is horribly Arminian in practice and lacks a good foundation for God-centered peace. Also, the pentacostal practice of tongues and often prosperity is so infiltrated the church that it needs a serious critic. Let's just state the obvious and form a new middle ground of doing church in a more sober way.

At the same time the cessationist position and the lack of power and experience in the reformed churches and much of evangelicalism in the USA lacks the liberating reality of the kingdom. The full assurance of the experience of Charismatic worship and the comfort of the spiritual life which leads to true holiness and a truly transformation of our affections is lacking in the evangelical churches. A new way is needed. To this Adrian calls for "Reformed-Charismatic" position. BUT...

I contend for clarity sake that it might be best to use other terms. Instead of "charismatic", how about "kingdom". The theology that is needed is a higher view of realized eschatology. Here is the root of the matter. We live in a daily experience of the kingdom. The power of God is available for our righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. We are to live in community as a response to the "world". We are to be a new people. It is not only "gifts" that are the issue but all of life that is filled with a new experience. A heavenly quality of life is available and therefore I find the term "kingdom" to best exhort the church to fulness of all our experience.

Instead of reformed (which is a much loved word for me) a better term might be God-centered. Our world is centered or controled by God!!!! As a pastor, God-centeredness and a high view of sovereignty is so vital and central to an experience of peace. One cannot truly be meek and at peace without believing that God is absolutely in control. I cannot claim a new label as "God-centered Kingdom" believer just doesn't role off the tongue BUT I bet someone else as this discussion continues might just have a way to susinctly express wat I believe so many of us actually live.
For now, I pray that this discussion and others like it will continue:
Eph 4:13until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God
and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

God Bless,

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Sunday, November 27, 2005

Pictures of the Famdamily

I opened a flickr account and now I am in the 21st Century for real. So I thought I would post a few pics of the family. This is a picture of Hannah, our eldest. Our three older children play piano. I will take a few pictures of the various musical instruments in our house and office. Hannah is getting better as the years go by.

Here is a picture of David. He is very much like his dad. A bit of a loner and way into science. He is a fantastic and very kind young man.

Our next child is Mercy. Mercy is our little art lover. She loves classical music and knows all her painters. Mercy is pretty shy but she always suprises us with how well she can do just about everything.

This is Sarah. Sarah is so confident it's scary. She is very atheletic and social and crazy....Uh oh...

This is super James. He is the nicest and sweetest and cutest kid. People write us letters and tell stories as they go to bed about how cute our kids are. He already gets fan mail. He is simply "the man".

Our youngest, Lily. The happy child. She is a dancing, booty shaking, trouble maker. She leads the family in "Jesus Loves Me" around the dinner table.

Well, thats just a brief introduction to the Hightower family.

God Bless, brad

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Blogging Break - For the Kingdom

As it is, I am too busy to blog daily. If I am to do God's will in my life, blogging needs to be more of a journal of the great things happening "on the ground".

I have a few goals this next week with respect to discipleship. Therefore, I am going to take a one week blogging break. Lord willing, I will be able to return with some good news about the good news.

Dan Edelen is likewise taking a break. (read here)

God Bless,

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Charismata – Impressions and Prophecy – Agreement on the Major Issue

In this post, I am going to review the main issue that a few bloggers are in agreement on, and, then, I am going to quote Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ historical survey of the experiences of the great preachers in support of this major point of agreement. So don’t miss the end that is the meat of this post…

The Major Issue: God, by the Holy Spirit, grants His children direct, conscious experiences of Himself. These relational experiences of God amount to impressions from the Holy Spirit and are good for the strengthening, comfort and edification of the believer.

Further, I contend that if we accept the availability of such impressions and their value from God that we are in essence accepting that God speaks today directly to the believer through the Holy Spirit.

The debate on Charismata – A Truly Humble Dialogue

This debate is giving me so much hope for the role of the blogoshere in positively effecting change and unity in the body of Christ. This discussion on the Charismata is developing nicely. There are numerous bloggers who, from my reading, are genuinely coming to a middle position where now the differences are fundamentally semantic

Three Bloggers of Note are Essentially Saying the Same thing.
David Wayne
David Wayne has a long post about impressions vs prophecy. David has a contention with Wayne Grudem’s definition of prophecy that prophecy “is a human report of something that God has brought spontaneously to mind”.

For our purposes, this is a matter of semantics. The point is that David accepts that God gives impressions and these impressions are valuable. Here is David’s conclusion of the matter.

When we call something "prophecy" that is really my own interpretation of some spontaneous impression we are giving a greater weight to that impression/interpretation than it can carry. The same applies when we use phrases like "God told me." Calling my own spontaneous (and subjective by the way) impressions prophecy escalates them in certainty and authority. There is a world of difference in the statements "I think God may be leading me," and "God told me." There is a world of difference in saying "I have an impression that I
ought to do so and so," and "I have received a word of prophecy." In both of those examples, the first statement identifies me as the speaker and the latter identifies God is the speaker. If I use the first kinds of statements there is no authority to them, they are not binding, it is up to me whether or not I act upon them, and there is no harm no foul if it turns out my impression was wrong (unless I act on it unwisely). If I use the second kind of statement there is a binding authority to them which I must act upon.

This position I agree with in practice (except David’s point about binding authority), but I contend that the difference between an impression and a prophecy, as David is articulating, is a matter of degree and a matter of presentation. Both experiences are in essence the same. If God is speaking to the believer and the believer is humble enough to “use the gift of prophecy according to the proportion of his faith” (Romans 12:6), then the wording of a slight impression might be stated humbly by saying, “Well, I think maybe God is saying….”. We moderate the level of faith we have in our prophecy by moderating our tone and wording. But the main issue is whether God speaks to us and give impressions directly to believers, and I answer ABSOLUTELY, YES.

John Shroeder
John at Blogotional posts a call for learning to maintain the good aspects of the charismatic experience with the Holy Spirit while boldly correcting the abuses. This is a much needed emphasis. Again, John is siding with God speaking and giving inspiration and impressions directly to believers but desires moderation. AMEN!!

Adrian Warnock
Arian is doing a great job as he moderates this debate. In this quote, he really nails the BIG point saying,

"The cessationist who concerns me is the one who does not believe that there is any sense in which we have a relational experience of God today.”
Oh…for a thousand tongues to sing my great redeemers praise. Such affection only comes from what Adrian here calls “a relational experience of God”.

Here is the Major issue. This passion to share with all people the peace and power of a conscious relational experience with our great God is I think the height of Gospel preaching. This gift of the Holy Spirit to enable us to have a relational EXPERIENCE of God directly is life itself. It is this experience that empowers me to face the lions of everyday life. Not only that we believe God is with us because the scripture says so, but an assurance we possess because we are all wet with the experience of His love. This does not for a second mean that we do not stand on scripture or that we rely on experience alone, but that the filling of the Holy Spirit does lead us to a higher level of experience which strengthens our boldness and our assurance. This position was Lloyd-Jones’ conclusion and the conclusion of John Piper, Jonathan Edwards and a whole host of Reformed believers through the centuries.

A Historical Survey of “Relational Experience of God” from Lloyd-Jones’ commentary on Romans

Martyn Lloyd-Jones in his sermons on Romans spends 19 sermons expounding on his understanding of Romans 8:14-16
14For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. 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.

Lloyd-Jones’ position is that this ‘bearing witness” is a conscious experience and that this experience leads to a heightened sense of our assurance of salvation which leads to boldness and empowerment in ministry. This conscious contact with God Lloyd-Jones argues is the essence of being filled or baptized with the Holy Spirit. In my essay on discipleship, I argue that this “relational experience with God” is the power we need to guard our hearts from the self-centeredness and fear that is at the root of our sinful responses to life. It is through the maintenance of our conscious contact with God that we find power over pride and unbelief. This conscious contact with God is worth fighting for as it is these on-going, daily, affection transforming experiences that is the “seeing and savoring of God” that Piper is fighting for when he says “God is the Gospel”.

Before I list some of these experiences, I simply refer readers to this marvelous volume.

Lloyd-Jones lists numerous tests regarding how we know we are being led by the Holy Spirit. He states that this being led is not normally guidance which is how so many people take being led. But then he gives marvelous examples of actual guidance. So much of the pastoral care and precision needed to understand how to help people who are unbalanced by over reliance on guidance of the Holy Spirit, Lloyd-Jones deals with extensively. I take Lloyd-Jones thorough working of the subject as the best available for those of the Reformed-Continualist perspective.
Lloyd-Jones speaking of the experiential element of the work of the Holy Spirit says the following:

"Let me remind you of Thomas Goodwin, one of the great Puritans of three hundred years ago, states the matter. He used a remarkable illustration. He pictures a man walking along a road with his little boy, holding hands – father and son, son and father. The little boy knows that this man is his father and that his father loves him. But suddenly, the father stops, picks up the boy, lifts him up into his arms, embraces him and kisses him. Then he puts him down, and they continue walking. The boy is no more a son when he is being embraced than he was
before. The father’s action has not changed the relationship; it has not changed the status of the boy; but oh, the difference in the enjoyment.” (pg 280 – Banner of Truth)

This experience is worth fighting for and praying for our friends and loved one’s to experience. This is the pleasure of Piper’s Christian hedonism.

Biographies of The Reformers
From the Life of Robert Bruce – successor to john Knox (1554-1631)
"There was never such foul flesh that has gotten a more gracious, more sensible, more powerful, approbation of my ministry in Edinburgh, of my fidelity therein. His Spirit has testified with my spirit, not only by real joys, spiritual and elevated light, but by vocal speeches within me in the daylight, that I heard so sensibly with great effusion of tears…that I admire how He should bestow such gracious speeches upon so wretched a creature as I was.”Bruce goes on and on with a testimony of being totally overwhelmed with these sensible assurances.

George Whitefield speaks of his experience innumerable times in his journals. Speaking of the spirit of adoption as a sensible experience.
"Was filled with the Holy Ghost. Oh that all who deny the promise of the Father might thus receive it themselves! Oh, that all were partakers of my joy”. Exactly.

Jonathan Edwards
"Once, I rode out into the woods for my health, in 1737, having alighted from my horse in a retired place as my manner commonly has been, to walk for divine contemplation and prayer, I had a view that for me was extraordinary, of the glory of the Son of God as mediator between God and man, and His wonderful, great, full, pure and sweet grace and love, meek and gentle condescension. …The person of Christ appeared ineffably excellent, with an excellency great enough to swallow up all thought and conception, which continued, as near as I can judge, about an hour; which kept me the greater part of the time in a flood of tears, and weeping aloud….” (pg 346 – Banner of Truth)

These are very conscious experiences by these great men. These are very strong impressions directly upon their souls. The experiences are filled with overwhelming emotion and “views” of God. Edwards knows how long the view lasted and explains later in the quote of how he responded with greater desire to serve God with all his being.

These experiences are direct communications by God to His people. These experiences, though not always to this degree, are to be common in the contemplative life of men who desire earnestly to prophecy. By this definition of prophecy I mean speaking of he truth regarding God and His ways with a passion that comes ONLY from such experiences of the Holy Spirit.
Though all of us can say God is great. Only the Edwards’ and those who are so filled can rise up from their experiences and speak with the urgency that is need to awaken the church.
Such glorious fillings and direct knowledge of God is what our people need. As we discuss the topics of the gifts of God’s spirit, it is these works of the Holy Spirit that we can all agree upon are the most vital to be able to communicate and propagate in our congregations.

God Bless,

Monday, November 14, 2005

First Post at Theologica - A Little Bio

David Wayne and Joe Carter have graciously granted my request to be allowed to post at Theologica..

This post gives a little background to some of the Charismania topics we have discussed of late..

Here is the meat of the post...
I became a Christian later in life at the age of 23 after graduating from Stanford University. Immediately following my conversion, I enrolled at Talbot Theological Seminary where I met a man who introduced me to the writings of D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. Actually, the first Christian book I ever read was “The Select Sermons of George Whitfield”. This man, who became a mentor to me, also attended the Anaheim Vineyard. In 1989, I was invited to be on staff at the Anaheim Vineyard leading outreach ministries to the underclass in the Anaheim area.
These early Vineyard days were simply extraordinary.

Our small groups were always packed and many very broken people were being helped. Many scenes were quite analogous to the paralytic being brought to Jesus through the roof by his friends. As a young Christian and a young pastor of evangelism, I cut my teeth on Reformed doctrine, small groups, the laying on of hands, and the freedom of Vineyard worship. This background puts me pretty firmly in the “Reformed-Continualist” camp though I would hope that my experience gives me a unique perspective.

All Theology is Pastoral Theology

During the late 1980’s and the early 1990’s, I led a Christian discipleship community, and it is this setting that really set my spiritual DNA. The mission of this community was to bring the gospel of the Kingdom to “the least of these”. For me the wisdom of a given theological position has always been a practical one. The abiding question in my analysis of theology has always been “Does it disciple well?”. For me, all theology is pastoral theology. My experiences have led to a very high expectation for the life of the church analogous to the experience of the early church of Acts. I call this emphasis being “Missional and Monastic”.

Since these early days, I have always led at least one small group every week. For me, the small group setting and the community life that comes from a good small group, which focuses on discipleship, is essential to a solid Christian witness. A goal of my ministry is to build discipleship programs which include daily mentoring relationships. My model tends to be very egalitarian and natural. The content of our ever-developing discipleship program is based on learning to live under the Lordship of Jesus Christ as articulated in the Sermon on the Mount. If I was to sum up what I believe God has called me to do, I would say it is to help people rediscover the lost art of Discipleship in the context of Christian community. A summary of these teachings can be found in this essay: Discipleship 101.

Decidedly Reformed for Pastoral Reasons

Theologically, I have found the writings of Jonathan Edwards, especially Religious Affections, and the writing of John Piper, especially the Pleasures of God, to be very helpful. I certainly believe that the God-centered experience of “seeing and savoring” is an essential part of the sanctification of our affections. You could say that the marrying of a strong reformed faith with a history of experience in Charismatic worship is central to my spiritual DNA.

A Unique Perspective on Charismania

During the early 1990’s, the Vineyard began to be influenced by the Kansas City Prophetic Movement. As I was working daily with people in desperate need of discipleship and power from God, I had first hand experience of the effect of hyper-spirituality on the spiritual health of many troubled souls. I found such spirituality to not be helpful. As my children began to approach school age, my wife and I decided to leave the Vineyard as a result of the increasing effect of such extreme practices in the local churches. I only mention this in light of the recent discussion in the blogosphere regarding Cessationism and Charismata.

God Bless,


Friday, November 11, 2005

Light Post - Gifts and Books

I promised to post today on the need to regulate spiritual gifts, but this will have to wait until tomorrow. I will attempt to show that charismatics have not developed a method of defense against the false use of gifts and are somewhat libertine regarding the gifts of the spirit while on the other hand the cessationists have erected a wall that is unbiblical. So look for this post over the weekend...

On the subject of Gifts, there seems to be others likewise finding balance.
Here is the money quote from John at Blogotional:
Each has conceded the other's major point in the discussion to date -- David agrees that the Spirit, in fact, acts boldly today, and Adrian concedes that authoritative revelation has ceased. This puts the two of them very much in the same territory, the difference now being emphasis, vocabulary and interpretation, as opposed to basic principles. That's real progress.

So, for more info, go to John's blog and follow the links to David Wayne and Adrian Warnock's posts.

A great link to a book list from Hearts and Minds Bookstore (HT Gideon Strauss).

God Bless,

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Now Concerning Spiritual Gifts - Prophecy and King Saul

The topic of Spiritual gifts has been hotly debated by serious an in-depth thinkers for many decades now. Therefore, to give a proper treatment to the subject and to develop a proper and balanced view would take a book. I would like to simply offer a few posts to, as is my normal method, supply balance.

If you would like to do further study on the subject Rob Wilkerson at Miscellanies on the Gospel has the post of the week on the subject. Rob has complied a massive list of links to other reformed and continualist writers. Adrian and John agree Rob has done quite a service to the discussion at his blog.

Saul and Prophecy in the Body of Christ
In 1 Samuel 10:5-11, the story picks up with Samuel speaking to Saul:
5"... you will come to the hill of God where the Philistine garrison is; and it shall be as soon as you have come there to the city, that you will meet a group of prophets coming down from the high place with harp, tambourine, flute, and a lyre before them, and they will be prophesying.
6"Then the Spirit of the LORD will come upon you mightily, and you shall prophesy with them and be changed into another man.
7"It shall be when these signs come to you, do for yourself what the occasion requires, for God is with you.
8"And you shall go down before me to Gilgal; and behold, I will come down to you to offer burnt offerings and sacrifice peace offerings You shall wait seven days until I come to you and show you what you should do."
9Then it happened when he turned his back to leave Samuel, God changed his heart; and all those signs came about on that day.
10 When they came to the hill there, behold, a group of prophets met him; and the Spirit of God came upon him mightily, so that he prophesied among them.
11It came about, when all who knew him previously saw that he prophesied now with the prophets, that the people said to one another, "What has happened to the son of Kish? Is Saul also among the prophets?"

The first thing to notice is the construction of the phrase "the Spirit will come upon you mightily and you will prophesy". This construction is similar if not exactly the same as in Acts 2. Peter says quoting Joel 2, "the Spirit shall be poured out on all flesh....(and Peter adds) and they shall prophesy". The experience that the 120 in the upper room had is the same as Saul and at his anointing for his ministry. The changing that took place was not with respect to holiness and sanctification (as the Wesley thought) but with respect to boldness and courage. This courage seems to be the exact transformation that happened to the apostles and Peter on Pentecost.

What type of Prophecy is this?
Now here is a great lesson from this passage. First, Saul's prophecies are not canonical utterances. I doubt that Saul was foretelling anything in this instance of prophecy. Instead it is far more natural to read that Saul was "speaking of the mighty deeds of God" (Acts 2:11). Furthermore, this prophesying did not make Saul a prophet. Saul's fearlessness was very temporary and his love of God was indeed temporary. When the New Testament is speaking of prophesying in the body by the people, the New Testament is referring to this experience of the Spirit falling mightily on an individual or a group and the people speaking boldly the mighty deeds of God. This wider definition of the nature of prophecy answers the cessationist dilemma regarding all prophecy being canonical and infallible. The cessationist narrow definition of prophecy simply is not supported by scripture regardless of how logical such a position seems. This opens the discussion to how a person grows in a gifting and how we need to disciple in people in spiritual gifts. This will be the topic of my post tomorrow.

New Testament and Old Testament Prophecy Actually the Same
The above discussion regarding the “type” of prophecy this is can actually leads to confusion. Saul prophesied when the Spirit came upon him and it was likely extremely rare in his life. But, if Saul's calling was as a prophet, like David, this experience and skill would have matured. The difference between the prophecy of Isaiah and Saul is not one of being categorically different but is absolutely different in terms of value, weight, and maturity of the gifting.

The example of David on the other hand shows that the spiritual maturity and calling of the individual relates to the maturity and value of the gift.

The Bible and New Testament Prophecy
If maturity of gifts could lead to a more valuable and increasingly edifying ministry of prophecy, then could a prophet like Isaiah be revealed in the current dispensation of the church age? The answer to this is "NO!!!". Why? Because Isaiah was prophesying a new dispensation and Hebrews clearly declares that Christ has ushered in the final word. For this reason, this age we are in is called "the last days". I have dealt with this topic thoroughly in my critic of the Kansas City prophetic movement which I believe is heretical from a doctrinal perspective.

Continualist not Charismatic
I personal am not a charismatic but a continualist. I do not believe the current practices and doctrine of the Pentecostalism or charismatics is helpful. I have seen incredibly harmful practices and doctrinal positions in these groups. For further details on this subject please see my critic of the "KC Prophets".

God Bless,

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Riots in France, Hopelessness, and the Fruit of French Socialism

Speaking in political terms for me is quite rare as I prefer to only speak regarding spiritual issues and the church BUT ..I break my normal rule to write on the riots in France. In all earnestness, I think this situation speaks concerning a proper use of compassion and a clear understanding of the human psyche. We must be compassionate and also wise. Such insights into the human condition are something quite valuable that Christians can give to the world.

Riots in France, Hopelessness, and the Fruit of French Socialism
The News from France is quite alarming:
“Nationwide, vandals burned 1,173 cars overnight Monday to Tuesday, compared with 1,408 vehicles the night before, police said. A total of 330 people were arrested, down from 395 the previous night.”

Rioting was reported in 226 towns across France, compared with nearly 300 the night before.”

But more alarming still is the French analysis of the problem. The French Prime Minister, Villepin stated today that “The Republic is at a moment of truth, The effectiveness of our integration model is in question”. Is integration into French society the real root of the problem? Does not the problem lie at a still deeper level? Why are immigrants in France not being integrated into French culture, especially the French economy?

The reality is not that these riots are a result of a failed “integration” policy but a failed government welfare policy. The French have built subsidized government housing for their unemployed immigrant population. In such a scenario, the draw to live in France is not a draw from the French economy or a demand for immigrant labor. In fact, the French economy is incapable of supporting with valid employment the immigrant population which they have artificially supported with Government housing. Therefore, the draw into France of African immigrants is created or maintained by subsidized housing. These ghettoized housing projects become disconnected with the French economy creating not a lack of social integration but a lack of economic vitality and hope. After two or three generations of support without actual job creation, the subsidized housing projects become essentially urban reservations which breed discontent and hopelessness instead of entrepreneurship, home ownership and small business growth.

So how did the French create this problem? The answer is by interfering with the powers of the economy and artificially creating a non-productive class through socialist welfare programs. Remember it is entirely different to have an emergency, temporary, program to alleviate unforeseen economic crisis like the New Deal during the great depression. It is altogether another thing to create a permanent underclass through long-term subsidized housing and welfare programs. Such programs create ghettos not due to a lack of social integration but due to a lack of economic activity to support a community’s vision for an economic future.

Here is the solution.
Assure that immigrant communities are working communities.
Support capitalism in immigrant populations.
Grant small business loans to promote immigrant businesses.
Instill worker sponsorship programs like the Bush plan while minimizing welfare dependence.
Create incentives for work

It is not money that makes people happy. It is the self-respect created by working hard to make a better future for yourself and your family. In today's situation in Paris, money is actually the fuel of the discontent that created the quagmire of hopelessness which is now exploding throughout France. If governments create an economic house of cards, they should not be so alarmed when the whole project goes up in flames.

List of Links (to follow stay posted)
Hugh Hewitt links: here,
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Monday, November 07, 2005

Reformed and Charismatic - A Balanced View

I think it is helpful to distinguish between two aspects of Charismatic experience. I like to find common ground on the MAJOR issue.
1. Do we experience the presence of God through our senses? Do believers have conscious contact with God? Does this conscious contact with God provide inspiration and can we know when this inspiration is happening? Edwards for example records David Brainard saying to his brother in a letter, “Reject fire without light”. By this he means reject experiences of God that do not include an intelligible inspiration. This quote shows that Brainard and certainly Edwards too believed in the work of the Holy Spirit as having a conscious element. This level of experience is the work of the Spirit that the Reformed Charismatic really has a passion to bring others into. In fact, I think this aspect of our life is what John Piper means by delighting in the Lord.

Also, the "light" (clarity regarding the mind of God) of this "fire and light" equation is what many Reformed-Charismatics mean when they say "prophecy". A good example of this is Lloyd-Jones who believed that the filling of the Holy Spirit was a heightened experience of assurance. Lloyd-Jones spends many chapters in his Romans 8 commentary giving illustration after illustration of the experiential aspect of many reformed divines spirituality. The point here is that this is the MAJOR work of the Spirit that leads to passion and love for God. Such passion and love leads and empowers a positive ethical response and is therefore very valuable. I believe it is vital that believers agree on this element of the "charismatic" experience. Such a work of the Holy Spirit in the believers life is life giving and worthy of being a defining element of one’s preaching and teaching in the church.

2. The second aspect is the Charismatic discussion is the issue of healing, tongues, and manifestations. These items, though important, involve a different problem and discussion. I would be willing to disagree on these matters so long as we can all labor together in promotion of the former experience of God and the illuminating work of the Holy Spirit stated above. Edward’s religious affections thesis is basically that affection (my #1) is the true sign of a work of grace in the believers life. In other words, like Edwards, one can be a cessationists (reject #2) but hold onto the vital issue of the conscious experience of God.

I believe it is a passion for the experience of the Glory of God as “seeing and savoring” as Piper says that compels many of us to consider oursleves both Reformed and Charismaic, for at the heart of the Reformed emphasis is a passion for the Glory of God and the experience of His glory in the life of the redeemed.

God Bless,

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Revolution in Ecclesiology - A "Both/And" Solution

Both John at Blogotional and David at Jollyblogger are talking "church".

David is resonding to Barna's new book "Revolution". I myself consider myself a revolutionary but also not. i am a both/and guy. The revolutionary idea is that the institutional church isn't "doing church" and isn;t being the church. So we (emergent folk) are going to leave the church and start a new community where we can set our own sprirutal DNA. For the record, I am against this path. First and foremost such a path is divisive. We do not need another sect of Christianity. Instead, we need to be mature and find solutions to our family problems. This leaving and finding another community is no better than divorcing our wives and finding a new "model".

The Church and "Doing Church"
There is a difference between "the church" (ekklesia) and "doing church". Here is the way I think it works. The church is the institution. Such an institution has elders and government and authority and oversight. We are required to be in the church just like David Wayne is saying (see this post). "Doing church" is the charismatic experience of all coming with gifts and bringing them to the assembly.

The word "ekklesia", to be called out, is actually never used in the verb form in the bible. Instead, for "doing church" the biblical writers use the term assembly. Here is the problem "doing church" (i.e. assembly) is only one function of the church. We can "do church" (assembly in small groups and as a family etc.), but that is not the church. The answer then is to be part of the church with its authority and covenant and also personally "do church" daily or regularly. This is a both/and answer to the problem. I am a revolutionary (I like to do church daily etc) but I am also under the authority of a council and am accountable to the church.

Being the Church
"Being the church" is being the new society. The institutions of church (the sunday meeting/larger congregational meeting) is not stopping anyone from "being the church" in the regular settings of life like small groups and family. Nonetheless, us radicals need to remain faithful to the institution and remain accountable to the larger body both with respect to doctrine and righteousness.

God Bless,

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Friday, November 04, 2005

Family as Church – Ecclesiology in Crisis – Part 3

In this blog, we have discussed a million and one ways to maintain the presence of God. How do we keep the line open so we can maintain our conscious contact with God throughout the day? We are people who as individuals carry the presence of God. This daily reality is life. As Jesus said, this is life – to know God. This is our story.

This story of being the people of God’s presence, the people who walk through the desert with a pillar of fire by night and a cloud by day, is to be our story as a family and our story as the church.

In this series, I am attempting to give illustrations and stories that help us all form a new definition of what is church. In the first post, I attempted to simply show that if we expand our definition of church to something other than the institutional “church”, we can learn to do church wherever we are. Doing church is the responsibility of each of us. We can do church in the home; We can do church in small gatherings of 2 or 3. We can do church and fulfill our mission with a few like-minded friends. This approach gets us out of the “least common denominator” syndrome of the larger congregation setting. For example, I love serving the poor. So be the church and serve the poor with a few friends. No excuses.

In our second post, I discussed that the real mission of the church is socialization. We are to be a new society that socializes people into a kingdom lifestyle based on kingdom principles, the greatest of these being love. We are the church in our homes, in our small groups, in our ministry outings, in our ministries. In all this we are teaching people how to be the people of the presence of God and how to love.

Today, I want to give a simple example of “How to Church?”

How to Church – 2x a day
Do you have a family? If not, you need to find a likeminded Christian roommate. Do you as a family have sit down meals?

When I first became a member of the CRC, I was having a meal with my mentor and we were talking about family meals. He said in his family of origin, they had three meals together as a family. He went to school near his home and he would come home for lunch. At breakfast, lunch and dinner, his father would lead the family in singing and bible study and discussion.

Another pastor friend of mine, who was actually my mentor before the man above who walked home for lunch, he spoke of his children actually bringing their violins to dinner and leading the family in hymn singing. WOW..That is taking the family as church thing seriously.

In both of these families, prayer is both before and after meals to create structure to the meal time.

Well, I have six kids ranging from 2 to 11 and we do family as church whenever I am home for a meal. So usually, at least this week, we have done breakfast together and I think one or two dinners. So here is the vital question:

How do you do meals together as a family?

Again, it is vital to have a method or in this case a liturgy of sorts for how you do church. For us we take about 15 minutes for the whole affair. We
1. Pray
2. Ask “who did a loving thing today?” (during dinner time)
3. Read the bible
4. Discuss the passages meaning.
5. Sing a song
6. Close in prayer
7. Help mom with the dishes.

Our family vision is that there is a “pillar of fire” at the table. We also teach the kids that they need to “bring something to the table”. Everyone comes with a word or a spiritual song or some spiritual gift for our little church. All of this is our little way to live the life.

Lord, let Your glory fall in this room, let it go forth from here to the nations…
God Bless,

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Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Church as New Society – Socialization and the Church

When Bono of U2 sings, “I still haven’t found what I am looking for” he is not talking about his personal devotional life but the corporate community life of the church.

Bono sings,
“I believe in the kingdom come
Then all the colors will bleed into one
Bleed into one
Well, yes, I'm still running

You broke the bonds and you
Loosed the chains
Carried the cross
And my shame
All my shame
You know I believe it

But I still haven't found what I'm looking for

All I can say is I agree 100%, but I am learning and starting to see it.
The church is called to be the new society that we long to live in. I love the way the writer to the Hebrews says it, “All these died without seeing what they hoped for, BUT WE HAVE BETTER THINGS FOR YOU”.

This is the proper faith filled vision of the church that Christ calls us to long for. Many leaders see the in breaking of this new order of things in our lives and we desire to pursue this life more and more everyday. We know that we will not see it entirely until its fullness comes but we can live and love in such a way that others see the light and give glory to God.

The Expectations of a Child Like Faith
When a new convert pictures the church and the role of the church in his or her mind, what is the new converts world view? Often this initiates view is quite limited – the church is the place we go to here the bible preached on Sunday morning. Other times the initiates view is quite na├»ve – the church is a community of brothers and sisters that will meet my needs for community and spiritual growth. This being the new converts initial understanding of what church is can have a large range BUT a more pertinent question is what is this persons understanding of the function of church in his or her life after five to ten years of relationship with the church. I contend that after awhile of actual practice on the ground most of the new believer’s excitement has subsided and the more mature believer now experiences the church as “the place I go on Sunday to hear the word preached”. To this we might add that the now mature believer goes to bible study or small group once a week and has some new friends that believe as he does.

What if instead the young idealist’s expectations are far exceeded and the level of community and spiritual support far exceeded all expectation and that to be under whelmed by the church was the exception and not the rule.

So here is the foundation of the answer to a new ecclesiology or understanding of the bible’s vision for the church, the church is to be that new society that meets the essential needs of the human heart for relationship with God, relationship with one another, purpose and mission AND…

Socialization in a New Way of Life based on New Principles
When I use the term “society” or “culture”, I am speaking of the matrices of relationships, behavioral norms, worldview, and symbolic world that combine to socialize the individual. The modern and post-modern world teaches us that people are a product of their tribe. The church is our tribe and in this culture we learn the principles of our tribe: self-sacrificial love, meekness, mercy, purity, faith and so on. This nurture of the individual is the primary function of the church. If we cannot know that our children are going to learn this lifestyle from the life of the church, then we are not functioning as the church. Many at this point may be saying to themselves, “This is idealistic dreaming”. No!!! Such a vision for the church which is the meaning of the church’s message that “This Jesus is both Lord and Christ” requires faith. Faith that is willing to take steps out of the world and into the kingdom for the Glory of God.

Others maybe saying, “But isn’t this socializing function primarily the function of the FAMILY”

Church as Family and Family as Church
Yes, it is accepted that families create the atmosphere where children learn their fundamental identities BUT do not the parents learn their identities and are not parents ultimately socialized by the church. What of the parent who became a Christian in their 20’s or 30’s? Where do these parents learn to create the kingdom in their homes. The answer is unequivocally, “From the church”.

The church has misunderstood the role of the story of the church in socialization of the beleiver. Is not this the message of our baptism? We died and entered the body of Christ. This entering the body of Christ is not some Gnostic ideal but a living reality.

Instead of accepting this function, as modern believers, we have been deceived to think that our identity comes from our individual relationship with Christ, but this is not where this identity is learned. Our true identity is learned from experience in the church and the life of the church.

The Necessary Response to This Perspective of the Primary Function of the Church
If this is our foundational understanding of the function of the church body then immediately we realize that Sunday lecture is not enough. I cannot worship as a church family once or twice a week and expect this bi-weekly routine to define my personhood and my spiritual identity. This being true, I conclude that I need church society every day. I need to come to the table with my brothers and sisters and worship together daily. This is how the church is family…

In the same way the church is called to socialize the believer, so too, this kingdom socialization describes how the family is to be the church. My family story can be this story as well for the sake of my own identity and spiritual life and the life. Every meeting together as a family can be an experience of worship. Prayer and the word and song can begin to permeate our daily life and define how we eat and play and learn and work.

All of us have some realm of relationships with our fellow believers. All these relationships can be defined as an opportunity for church. Where ever two or three are gathered there, right there, we can be the people of God assembled. Do not wait to become the church, you are the church.

The need is for a new definition of church and church life. Our definitions need porous borders. Our homes need porous borders. Our churches need porous borders. Our work needs a porous border. All our spheres need to become modes of church, of assembly.

God Bless,

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Tuesday, November 01, 2005

A Crisis in Ecclesiology - Part 1 - Taking Action One Day at a Time

Many leaders young and older (Subversive Influence; Jesus Creed and here too) (more links to follow) today see, as I do, a crisis in ecclesiology. As we read the pages of the bible, we see the church functioning in the believers’ life quite differently than the church functions today. The church of the bible is community. The church of the bible is family. The church of the bible is mission and discipleship. The church is the new people living according to a new worldview, with a new ethic, with new economic ties to each other. The church is noticeably distinct in every way from the world around it. Baptism in the early church meant leaving an old way of life and entering a new culture of people living by a completely different set of principles.

Today, I simply want to introduce the fact that the witness of the church is in a crisis because the limited role church plays in the life of the believer in North America.

Here is the simple challenge: Can we live like the new testament church one day at a time with our small company of friends?

What would this look like? How often would you meet? What changes would have to take place in our lives if we sought to totally re-engineer understanding of life in the church? How would we "take our meals"? How would we use our finances? How would we decide where to buy a home?

My challenge is to realize that we are equipped to live this vision today if we are willing to take responsibility for our life daily. We do not need to wait for leaders to lead us. We have but one leader -Christ. Where ever 2-3 are gathered in His name this new community can become a reality. Such an endeavor takes courage and a deep deconstruction of God's plan for our lives under the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts.

God Bless,

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