Thursday, June 29, 2006

The Kingdom of Heaven - A Daily Faith

This post is a part of a larger essay I am working on. It was proceeded by some paragraphs on what "poor in spirit" means and is considering the richness of the promise "for theirs is the kingdom of heaven".
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven”

Here is possibly the grandest promise of all Scriptures. All the moral beauty of the Kingdom of heaven is promised to the poor in Spirit. This promise is our faith.

We believe in the immediate presence of the Kingdom of God to those who put their faith in the person, power and principles of Jesus Christ. We believe that the Kingdom of God is present for those who immediately, today, moment by moment, acknowledge to God their absolute spiritual poverty. We believe that the Messiah Jesus pours out His Holy Spirit into the poor in Spirit that He might do for them what they cannot do for themselves. He makes us and our loved ones beautiful from the inside out. He does this without respect to anything that man respects. He is no respecter of persons. He meets the spiritual hunger of the financially rich and the financially poor and even the middle class. He meets the spiritual need of the respectable and the despised. He calls His own not the black or the white or the brown or the yellow or red, terms which man has invented to their own detriment, but He shares His inheritance with those who realize that one’s nature is filled with all types of uncleanness and vile motives and thoughts. We know and understand that we cannot change our nature. Can a leopard change his spots? So we have chosen a path of hopelessness with respect to our own ability to reform ourselves. We will never change so long as we rely on our own will power or self knowledge.

And then the follower of Jesus hears these words from the Messiah, the Savior of the World. We are like the woman at the well. The problem we find ourselves in morally is not the first time down this road. We are who we are…Then the Messiah says to us, “He who drinks the water that I give shall never thirst and shall have flowing out of them living water, over flowing”. So too we respond, “Where can I find this water?”

This water is the power of the Holy Spirit. Our problem is a total lack of power. We could dream dreams of righteousness. We could make new resolutions. We could even pray for help from God. But we found ourselves walking in circles and in fact we were digging ourselves in a hole. Now we hear this promise and we are willing to give it a try.

Jesus by saying that the Kingdom of heaven is available to the poor in spirit is saying in essence, “OK, I have seen your attempts at self reformation. Now let me show you the work of My Spirit in your life”. Truly, unless the LORD builds the house those who labor labor in vain.

This first principle of the kingdom that the poor in spirit are blessed, that we must have an abiding knowledge of our own spiritual poverty is like a coin with two sides. One side is the principle of powerlessness and the other is the side of faith in the power of the Holy Spirit whom the Messiah gives freely to all who acknowledge their powerlessness.

Mourning and Moral Beauty
In the old Puritan days, it was understood that to see one’s sinfulness clearly was a good sign of spiritual awakening. This honest acknowledgement before God of our wretched history is the blessing of mourning. We see that we are not beautiful on the inside at all. We are filled with lusts for prominence or material possessions. We live possibly a life of personal and private happiness and realize that this is self-serving and selfish. We see the true calling to care for the poor of the world and to serve God. We see that we are not submissive wives or pictures of virtue for our children. In all things in fact, we are hypocrites. I for one speak of generosity and simplicity but I lack faith often to sacrifice my treasures for the needy. We have habits that rob us of true happiness. We know the feeling of shame that follows sin. In fact, we know this feeling all too well. We may know what it is like to be drunk or intoxicated. Other may know what it is like to be drunk with lust or anger. Or what it is like to feel “hung over” after a long argument that started over some petty matter. We were crossed and we were offended. So we defended ourselves and found ourselves unable to control our tongue. We may be manipulative and controlling using all sorts of passive aggressive means from self pity to any matter of ways of withholding our peace. In short, we find that we are not morally beautiful or spiritually beautiful.

So here is the promise. “I will make you morally beautiful.”, says Jesus Christ the Messiah. We are the woman at the well, indeed.

Picture, yourself as a consistently loving and gentle person. Picture what a blessing you could be if your mouth always spoke from the heart encouraging words. Imagine a life without regret and guilt and shame. Jesus Christ can do this for you and for me for He is the one who pours out into us His Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the life of God in our soul. The Holy Spirit is the life of Jesus Christ. We can live like Jesus Christ. Who can live like Jesus Christ? The poor in spirit. The one’s who mourn over their moral depravity and utter moral failures. We who realize our utter hopelessness and have come to an end of all foolish attempts to reform ourselves can have the very Moral Beauty of Jesus Christ displayed through us.

Are you as morally depraved as the prostitute on the street corner? I am worse. Far worse. I am a pastor and, left to myself, in time, I will do worse than her if I would not be found out. What about the gangster executioner with no moral qualms at all. We have other means but do we not harm other in a million ways. If we thought such methods would work to bring ourselves prominence in our social setting, like the young man who shoots an innocent by-stander, we would do the same. Same game; different rules. Same theme; different plot, scene, and actors but still the same heart that motivates us all.

To us, who forsake all attempts to bring this dead man from utter depravity to some semblance of sanity and moral health, to us, who find that the years bring not a progressive growth in righteousness but find that the “old man is being corrupted daily”, to us there is a glorious exchange - our filthy rags for His moral excellence and perfect love.

The Messiah has come and He is all around us pouring out His Holy Spirit on the poor beggars who rend their hearts and cry out, “Woe to me a sinner!!! Only say the word and I shall be healed”. The Holy Spirit!!! The Holy Spirit is within reach. He is immediately present that we might feel the love of God for us and flowing through us to others. A foolish notion. A dream. We who are so weak are going to find that this weakness is a great asset in spiritual matters. It is when we are weak that He is strong.

Picture the immediate presence of God’s love. Picture the most beautiful scene in all creation. Picture Yosemite Valley. This beauty is God’s handiwork. And you too are His workmanship. The power of God which meets our powerlessness is there to help us moment by moment to live the life of Jesus Christ. We follow Him because He feeds us from His hand. We follow Him because we are spiritual beggars. He has the words of eternal life that lead us out of our natural way of thinking. We follow Him because we are so destitute without His power, a power that He gives one day at a time like the manna in the wilderness. We follow Him because we know that if we do not we could so easily find ourselves in a shameful circumstance. Truly our weakness is one of our greatest gifts. Now, we have found a solution that meets our spiritual need. We have found the kingdom of heaven. We have found a power from the Holy Spirit, the life of Christ Himself. We find this power as we come to accept our own powerlessness.

To God be the Glory, Amen.

Monday, June 12, 2006

News on Our Ministry

I thought since the nature of this blog has changed a lot in the past six months that I ought to share a bit of personal history. I am no longer serving as pastor at Trinity CRC. We, our small group, are looking into church planting and home church models but are yet undecided. We still are members of Trinity and love the church dearly, but I am no longer the pastor.

So that is all you will hear about from now on when I say "our church", I will mean "our home church" or "our small group". For me, the term church means the people with whom I am working out discipleship and mission. Let the reformation continue!!!!

What we are currently doing church wise.

1. I feel the idea of church shopping is not a covenantal approach to faith. As human beings, we are fundamentally social and relational beings. The church is the people we live with. So together with the people that we have lived out our faith over the last 3 years, we will pray and ask the Lord what is the next step in expanding the kingdom in our time and space.
2. My first guess is that we have learned discipleship very deeply in the last 2 years and now it is time to learn MISSION MISSION MISSION.
3. For me, my fishing pole is music. So much of my time in this next year will be spent in helping our small group live out the mission of bringing the person, the power, and the principles of Jesus Christ to our immediate neighbors by playing music...and creating a nuisance.

God Bless, brad

Sunday, June 11, 2006

JOLLYBLOGGER: Defining Neocalvinism?

JOLLYBLOGGER: Defining Neocalvinism? read the comments.

On Neo-Calvinism
Lots of talk about what blogs and books to read. I personally do not know enough about neo-calvinism to be too positive. Neo-Calvinism tends to be non-ecclesiastical, and I believe our only vocation is in the church. So naturally, I trend away from neo-Calvinism.

Friday, June 02, 2006

The Mechanism of Discpleship

A few links to old posts on method:
In Defense of Method

Discipleship 101

The Mechanism of Discpleship
In this post I would like to discuss the concept of mechanism. A mechanism is the tool in which the method is delivered. The combination of method and mechanism is necessary to effectively disciple. The mechanism of all discipleship is community. It is the community of believers and our relationships in the culture of the body of Christ through which the discipleship teachings of Jesus are delivered. The way of Jesus Christ is caught not taught. Or more precisely the mechanism for teaching is socialization in community. We learn by doing not by hearing. As we live together, we learn a new life and a new story of what it means to be truly human together.

This community life is the life of the small group of the home church.

The Mechanism of Discipleship is the Home Church.
I use the term home church as opposed to small group here only because we often have many preconceived notions concerning small group. To many of us we associate small group with something, we do once a week and which is primarily bible study. In this model, the sermon or academic method is used but the building is a home as opposed to an auditorium. The method is the same as the sermon. Because this model is not the model I am speaking of here, I refrain from using the term small group and instead use home church. The home church is the place where we live and accomplish mission together. The purpose of home church is community and mission and not just the dissemination of information. Home church is to mechanism for discipleship and discipleship is the learning of a new way of life which is based on the teachings of Jesus Christ. We learn this new and spiritual way of power and mission and love in the context of the family of home church. Though bible study happens in “home church”, the purpose of home church is not bible study but discipleship and mission. Home church is the mechanism of discipleship. If we are to use the term small group, I would qualify this and say the monastic and missional small group.

The Necessity of Immersion – The New Monastic
If anyone has ever attempted to change some aspect of their character or has struggled with addictions, then you understand how difficult change is. Discipleship is about this level of dramatic change of our approach to life. Loving our enemies, not worrying about tomorrow, ceasing to lust after the world, living in love and fearlessness is a totally new way of life. I find that I personally need to be encouraged every day if I am to maintain such a spiritual perspective. It is absolutely impossible to change alone. Instead what we need is total immersion in a new culture. This new culture is the home church.
(Note: By home church, I am not intending to imply something which necessarily excludes a traditional Sunday church celebration.)

Today, our home church only meets weekly, but I find for my own spiritual walk this is completely inadequate. I need total immersion. I have friends who are seeking to maintain their spiritual program and spiritual walk, and they find that they forget from week to week. They find that their spiritual life ebbs and flows. This experience is due to the lack of total immersion. If we are to bring freedom to people, we must be able to offer them total immersion in the life of the kingdom through the mechanism of the home church.

My goal is to provide for those who seek it both a method and a mechanism to enter into the kingdom of God – a truly happy and heavenly quality of life. That method is found in the Sermon on the Mount and the principles of discipleship and the mechanism is the home church or monastic and missional small group.