Saturday, May 27, 2006

Link - incarnation's Living

Common Grounds Online: Corey Widmer, The Trial of the Incarnation

This is a good article about a faith community facing the difficulty of living in a more dangerous neighborhood.

As for our family, we have six kids, and we live at times with strangers in our home. This poses a similar dilemma. The question is what do you want your kids to learn is Godliness. Is it Godly to avoid the beaten up people of the world and move to the other side of the street or is it best to draw near to the broken and bind their wounds. If we teach the former, we teach our children a gospel of worldly comfort and isolation, but if we teach the latter we teach the compassion and love of God. Sure there is a price to teach this about God but if God had been this protective of His Son, Jesus would never have moved to our neighborhood and suffered with and for us.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

A Fool for Christ and His Money

A disciple of Jesus is someone who is learning to follow the sayings of Jesus through the power of His life. His yoke is easy and His burden is light. But this yoke is not ease like the world sees ease. His peace is not like the peace and ease the world can give a man. But His yoke is the only true path to peace and service that abides in a love from the heart. His yoke is the cross.

Jesus’ sayings about Money
Do not Store up Treasures on Earth
Jesus’ first and foremost saying about money is very simple. Do not store up treasures on earth. This is a very simple command. It means do not store up treasures on earth. For where your treasure is so too is your heart. Those Hebrew rabbis were a very practical bunch. Some think Jesus is saying, if you treasure something then there is your heart. But that is a nonsense or no value statement. Jesus is not saying “where your heart is there your heart is” of “if your heart is in earthly things, then your heart is in earthly things”. No Jesus is saying that you know a tree by its fruit and if you have treasures on earth then that shows objectively that your heart is carnal and worldly. If we have lots of stuff, then it means we are valuing things by the world’s definitions of values. Our kingdom values and principles are the exact opposite of the worlds values. Simply, we as Christians value people over things.

A treasure is defined as a luxury item. If you have a choice to spend 1000 on something you do not need like a nicer car or a room addition on your home and you spend your money on this thing that can rust and corrode, then you are storing up treasures on earth where moth and rust destroy. It is that simple.

1 John says that “if we have material possessions, and behold our brother in need and do not meet that need then we do not possess the love of God” This saying too is quite easy to understand. If you are aware of a human need and you have material possessions then we share them. Well, there is a great deal of need out there, so the job of the good steward is not to withhold from one but to give to the most likely to receive in a worthy manner. Our job in the service of God is to be generous – wisely.

So many close there hands because they deem the one’s that we gave too in the past are not worthy. This I think is only acceptable if your funds are already earmarked for a worthy candidate.

Jesus said use your money in such a way that when you enter heavenly dwellings many will greet you with open arms. To give in such a way, extravagantly so that people will rejoice when they see you in heaven requires that the both extravagance and wisdom. All our money is dedicated to the kingdom and all our money is dedicated to meeting the needs of others. My only need for money is to provide for my personal food and shelter but other than that we ought to provide the necessities of those around us. We provide for our families food and shelter and for the poor Christians around the world and for the poor who are in desperate need as a result of the injustices of the world.

So what does this look like?
Well, it seems very simple to me.
First, we need to be very compassion focused in our money. The command is to be understood as denying self as an end in itself but taking up our cross and denying ourselves for the sake of the world. Jesus didn’t die on the cross as an act of religious piety but was driven by love for a lost and dying world in need of communion with the Father and power from the Holy Spirit. We are not driven by guilt and obligation but love and compassion.
So we start with doing ministry and opening our eyes to the world. If we see as Jesus sees and we see the heart of God and the reward in heaven for those who give away a cup of cold water, we will live a life of simplicity in order to be as extravagant and as wisely generous as possible.
Disciple the Kids
We will not feel compelled to give our children treasures as in luxury items like cell phones and iPods but we will lead them to become disciples by our example. If my child see the no which I say to them as a yes I am saying the poor all around us then they too will find the mission of the Kingdom with us.
Play the Field
We sow lots of seed. If we feel that our giving is not always so wise then find some other people group to empower and develop economically. Get involved in a “worthy” cause.
Live By Different Values
There are millions of way to decrease your monthly budget. Live in community. If our goal is to be more generous every year and not to grow in wealth, we will never think of upgrading. Simplicity for the sake of the suffering of the world.

The End of All This Compassionate Lifestyle
The end of all of these sayings of Jesus is a life without fear. The world’s security comes from money. The world creates safety with a monetary safety net but we trust in the Lord. Jesus speaking of the life of generosity said, “Yeah of little faith. Look at the lilies of the field. They do not store in barns and their heavenly father clothes them.” God can do for you in terms of providing peace far better than the world. He can do for you what you could not do for yourself and the end of this faith is a life of communion with God and the peace and joy of the Kingdom.
God Bless,

Saturday, May 20, 2006

The Muratorian Fragment - The Canon and the Da Vinci Code

The Muratorian Fragment

In The Da Vinci Code, Brown makes assertions that Constantine choose the books of the bible. This is just willful ignorance or worse. For example, The Muratorian Fragment is accepted as being written about 170AD and lists the books of the bible almost exactly as they are accepted today. The only issues unresolved were the issues regarding "the disputed books" which are basically Hebrews, James and 2nd and 3rd John. None of these councils are news to any student of history. None of the "other gospels" were ever considered, and, even as early as 170AD, we can see that the basic rules for being seen as worthy of being read in church are clear. Was the book written in the age of the apostles and by a credible witness?

The Da Vinci Code simply plays on people's fancies and ignorance. I will write more simple pieces on this movie and novel as I feel I can add a simple concise analysis which might be helpful.
For more information see here...The Canon and the Disputed Books

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Matisyahu - 2006 Tour Review

Matisyahu played the Weenie Roast in LA this weekend. I have been looking for a review. I only found this great review from an earlier show in the tour. Here is a great reviewReview from March 2006.

Also, here are some great pics..

Friday, May 12, 2006

Fearlessness - “What if Jesus had Played His Politics Better?”

When Jesus stood before Pilate some very telling words were spoken by the politician to the prophet. Pilate said, “Do you not know that I have the power to grant your freedom or to crucify you?” To this Jesus said, “You only have the power my Father gives you.” (John 19:10-11). Here is the juxtaposition of the natural man and the spiritual man, the carnal mind and the mind of Christ, the political way and the way of truth. The reality is that Jesus was the only truly free man precisely because He did not live in the fear of people’s opinions or the fear of man. Jesus does not defend Himself. Jesus does not consider how He can save His life. Jesus doesn’t manipulate or place some political duress on Pilate. Instead, Jesus tests Pilate’s commitment to truth and justice.

Another conversation between the politician and the prophet is equally revealing of the contrast of these two ways, the political and the spiritual. Jesus says, “My kingdom is not of this realm. If it were my servants would be fighting. Indeed, to be a king I came into this world. For this reason I came into the world, to testify of the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”

There is a political realm in which men succeed, and there is a spiritual realm in which men succeed. You cannot have both. These two ways are at enmity with each other. Eventually, and actually quite often, the truth will contradict political considerations. The truth will be a liability for the politician, and the truth will need to be compromised for political reasons. "What then is the politician to do?" Well, Pilate gives us the answer when he says, “What is truth?” Truth to the politician is a political construct. To the politician, truth is whatever the powerful say it is. But truth is NOT a political construct. Truth is from God and is what it is. Truth is reality whether it is politically expedient of not. So how did Jesus live in light of political dynamics?

Jesus was fearless. Jesus lived perfectly aware of political realities, and He refused to play politics and actually intentionally surfaced the sinfulness and selfish motives of those in political power. For example, Jesus knew he had conflict in Jerusalem and knew that if he surfaced the hypocrisy of the political elite, they would crucify Him. Jesus predicted this outcome. So what did He do? Jesus fearlessly pressed the issue and rode into Jerusalem. He went straight to the temple, turned over the tables, and said, “You greedy money-changers have made my Father’s house into a den of robbers. My Father’s house shall be a house of prayer for all ethnicities.” The Jewish leaders had a racket going where they made money off the fact that families that were not ethnic Hebrews had to exchange their currency to pay their tithes. So they took a profit from the exchange. Jesus hit the political powers right where it hurts, in the pocket book. The result was that He angered those in power and six days later Jesus was dead.

Was it only Jesus that acted this way? Was Jesus the only prophetic figure that called the powers that be hypocrites and sinners to His own physical harm? No, actually all biblical leaders act contrary to what is politically expedient. John the Baptist told Herod he could not marry his brother’s wife so Herod killed him. Paul was told he would be beaten and killed if he went to Jerusalem so Paul went to Jerusalem. Jesus said, “I did not come to bring peace but division.” Anyone who testifies to the truth, even with all their faults, will suffer. Yes, people will make up excuses and lies to justify their rejection of the word of God but in reality the problem is all political. Politics is the enemy of the truth.

So can we have our cake and eat it too? Here is the BIG, BIG question!!!! Why “step in it” all the time? Why act in such a way as to cause conflict? Why didn’t Jesus or John or Paul just play politics for the sake of the ministry? Think about it. Jesus could have played the game and healed the sick at the same time. Jesus could have pleased the carnal people and still done His ministry to the needy and would have ended up with a world wide healing ministry. Jesus was very popular with the weaker half of the people and all He had to do was play His politics and He could have done so much good. Paul could have just taken other people’s counsel and avoided the whole ugly problem of getting one’s head chopped off. John the Baptist could have just let this one little act of adultery slide and he could have been an apostle. But no, all these prophetic men had to speak out and press the issue. There are many very important lessons to learn from the lives of the prophets.

First, the prophets lived with no fear and this fearlessness was the core of their blessedness. Fear is the source of so much sorrow. Jesus or Paul could have played good politics but then they would not have led all of us out of fear into the kingdom. Jesus is our leader and we follow Him out of fear into happiness. Fear and politics is the enemy. Fearlessness and the truth is the answer though it comes with suffering. Those prophets on the side of truth live the truly happy and heavenly life in which there is no fear. In no instance can these men of God chose fear and politics over obedience and courage. This fearlessness is a witness to the path of peace.

Secondly, true leadership surfaces problems and surfaces sin. True leadership does not play politics and people please. If leaders in the church make decisions by taking polls and considering political or financial ramifications, they have ceased, in the instance, following Christ. This principle is a complete indictment of the seeker sensitive approach. The seeker sensitive approach is not bad because it seeks to use wise means to win the lost but because it actually articulates the motive for using wise means as being seeker sensitive. In other words, if the motive is fear of people or people pleasing, then the approach is completely carnal and Godless. It is being “sensitive” (which is another word for fearful) of people’s opinions and catering to people’s preferences which has created the consumeristic attitudes in the church. We, the church, have lost our way because we have lost our prophetic edge.

We have dummied-down and watered down the gospel for the sake of the middle-class and in so doing have undermined our mission to make disciples who take up the cross while it is the cross that is the path of discipleship.

The conclusion of the matter is this: No matter what people say never avoid conflict for political motives. What people call pastoral these days is nothing more than being an enemy of the truth and compromising the truth. This approach is not the way of the cross, the way of Christ. Martyn Lloyd-Jones used to say, “I may not be the nicest guy but I am right”. In other words, people may not like me, but I speak the truth. I may not be a schmoozer but I am a preacher. Lloyd-Jones wasn’t nice and neither was Jesus. The preacher must never be a schmoozer or a politician. To do so is simply to cease following Christ and, instead, for at least that moment, to follow Pilate, the politician.

Monday, May 08, 2006

The Central Role of Small Group in Mission

There is no BIG in Team

I became a Christian in June of 1986. After my conversion, I began attending a conservative evangelical church with my father. This church was great for the formation of my understanding of the bible as the source of our faith and practice, but it took awhile before I found a place to live out the life and the purpose for which God had called me. Though at the church I attended with my father, I learned good sound bible doctrine, it wasn’t until I met a small group of like-minded people and attended church with them that I felt at home. There is a model of teaching doctrine and ideas that works, namely the pulpit, but to learn how to live out our faith and expand the kingdom, this learning takes place in a smaller group of believers, a team if you will.

The church I first attended with my father was about 4,000 members. I remember trying to get involved with the high school group but I am very NOT gifted to work with kids. I attended the “collage and career group” at this church. That “small” group was really about meeting a mate, so I got a girl friend. That process wasn’t too different from my pre-Christian days. During this time, I went out a few times with the evangelism teams with this church but the cold turkey methods seemed very unnatural to me and ineffective. Then, when I was in seminary, I attended a small group on campus with a couple seminarians. Here for the first time I felt that this group was different. The worship was heartfelt and the group seemed to “assemble around the Lord” (Psalm 7:7a). This group visited the elderly and took mission trips to Mexico and to the parks in Southern California. People were very mission focused. The leader was from YWAM and the group was very mobilized. I began to participate in this missional community. I was actually changing. Life had real purpose and we were living a life that was focused on loving others and not a Christianized version of the American dream.

Later I attended Sunday church with this group. I felt like we were part of something very big and revolutionary, but the “us” or the “we” was the small group. We, the small group of friends were involved in something big and purposeful. Many small groups got together and worshipped but what made it so powerful was that each of this small groups was itself involved in mission at the small group level. The identity of the individual was as a team member at a level that allowed everyone to play in the team. You cannot all really play on a team of 4,000. Team sizes max out at about 50. Most teams are closer to 10 or in Jesus’ case about 12. Actual mission happens in teams. Events are led by teams and activities to make an mission activity happen takes a team of about 8-15. To mobilize a people, the people have to be on teams and these teams or small groups, functional or local, are the place where mission takes place and therefore the place where real purpose driven life motivates spiritual growth.

This team playing is key to spiritual growth and the expansion of the kingdom. Therefore, we conclude that true discipleship happen in the small group.

God Bless,
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Monday, May 01, 2006

The Problem of Looking for "The Man"

Again, some of the inspiration for this post is in many ways my recent experiences and recent conversations with a friend of mine, Ryan.

Ryan and I and also this young man, Brad Fieldhouse, were all assessed by our denomination in the past 10 years as potential church planters and pastors. All of us were assessed very highly. This whole process is in many ways rather insidious. You see the church is looking for someone who just might be “the man”.

Faith in “the man”
When a church goes through a hiring process and interviews a candidate and listens to him preach, what are they really looking for? I have found that, though we do not say it, we are looking for “the man”. Maybe, this guy can be the next “guy”. The guy to attract a crowd and make us a “successful” “church”. He needs to be “charismatic” and attractive to outsiders. He is true to the word but not too obtuse.

What is so wrong with looking for “the man”?
First, the concept behind the idea of “the man” is that the way a church grows is that a man stands up and attracts people. The work of the ministry, what ever that is, is done by “the man”. We the church we consume the product that he gives us. We laugh at his jokes. We pay attention when the mode is set. We sing the up songs at the end, and we go home feeling pretty good about our church and the whole production. The whole event might as well be called the Sunday morning matinee but with a religious theme.

This is EXACTLY what Dylan meant when he said:
“You never turned around to see the frowns on the jugglers and the clowns
When they all did their tricks for you.
You never understood that it ain’t no good
You shouldn’t let other people get your kicks for you”

It is totally not where it is at to let the artist or the preacher entertain you and to be a spectator. What is supposed to be going on here is not even the least bit about entertainment. Poets are not entertainers and neither are preachers.
You might be able to sell records that way and indeed you might be able to grow churches that way but as Dylan says… “it ain’t me babe”. The kingdom is a completely different process. Doing the stuff is not a spectator affair. The kingdom is something we do, and we do it in small groups and in one on one relationship where we teach people an altogether new way of life based on an entirely new and spiritual basis. The cross is not something you learn while eating popcorn.

Now consider what we would have to do if we didn’t utilize “the man” process at all. Even when someone does give a teaching we are not listening to the human element at all but only the pneuma (Spirit). The man himself may be totally un-polished and not entertaining at all. It is better if he isn’t. He should be weak and unimpressive so that we all know that we are not here to be entertained by a man but to here the exposition of the scripture and the voice of God through the gifts of the body of Christ.

It is time to seriously deconstruct the concept of “the man”. The seeker sensitive entertainment model has built large churches, mega churches, but has done immeasurable harm to the common Christian’s understanding of what the church is and who they are as Christians.

Let’s destroy the whole concept of “the man” and seek a model that promotes Christ and His kingdom with simplicity and humility and no dependence on the man with the golden tongue and the golden touch.

God Bless,