Thursday, January 29, 2009
(yes I realize that oceanic plants and some others don't use "soil" to get nutrients, but the principle is still the same... just let me get there.)
As I said, before I was so rudely interrupted, by me...
Ah yes... Sun, Water, Soil...
These are the three basic elements of life for any type of plant on earth. Each of these elements provides a different aspect of nutrition to the plant. Each one adding to the health of the plant. There is a delicate balance that must be maintained between them. Too much of any one element or not enough of any one element and the plant can not thrive, it may survive, but it will not flourish and be as fruitful as it was created to be.
Too much sun... the plant is scorched and burned
Too much water... the plant will drown or be washed away
Too much soil... the seed won't be able to reach the surface and will die underground
For any career farmer, or even your weekend gardener, these are very real dangers that must be kept in check as the plant is first starting to grow. As the tree or shrub matures, it will be able to take more abuse if things were not as they should be, but in the beginning of its life-cycle, the balance is literally a life and death struggle.
I believe that growing in faith is the same way. As believers we require three separate and distinct elements in order to grow spiritually.
Just as with the plant, each of these elements provides something different to the life-cycle of faith and the health of the Christian. They also must be kept in proper balance, just like their organic counter-parts, if they are to yield the best fruit in the person's life. I do not believe that there can be "too much" of any one of these elements in our lives, but just like the plant, I do believe there is a very real danger if they get out of balance and one area become the focus.
We must strive in our daily lives as well as our corporate lives as bodies of believers to keep balance in our faith. We must realize that just like the brand new plant that has just broken ground, a new believer is just as fragile in their understanding and experience of living the faith we are in. For their sake, if not our own, we must provide them a "well balanced diet" if we expect them to grow and become healthy enough to reproduce themselves.
- Just a thought.
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Well, as I have been walking down this path of organic faith and church, I have come to the conclusion that the best education for understanding the spiritual nature of God's creation is to look at the physical nature of what He left us. If you look at the way Jesus taught about faith and the kingdom, you will see he used a lot of analogies, most of them were organic in nature. I would like to use an organic illustration of my own.
All the plants on earth have, just about, the same life cycle and growth pattern:
A seed is planted...
It begins to take root...
A sapling or shoot emerges...
The plant begins to mature...
The plant spreads seeds of it's own.
Like clockwork. Without fail. Every time. It doesn't matter if we are talking about the mighty redwoods of the west coast or the seemingly insignificant dandelion in your backyard, the process is still the same. Every time.
I think there is a HUGE lesson for us to learn here as it applies to spiritual growth and maturity. First off, the process for growing in faith is exactly the same. I don't know why we try to complicate a simple process that God has put into place. When the seed of salvation in Christ is planted and allowed to take root, (cause let's be honest, some people pull that seed right back out of the ground and then wonder why it didn't grow) the flower of faith will begin to grow. Not long after that, again if allowed to grow, the maturity of that believer will be evident. Yet, that person is still not fully grown. This is where we miss a lot of the picture. Just as in the life cycle of the plant, a follower of Christ is not fully matured until that person can plant seeds of their own in other people's lives.
Let's be real here, any plant that does not reproduce, in one generation will die out completely. That's all it takes. One generation who is less concerned with multiplying and more concerned with "mega-fying". We must, as the Body of Christ, the expression of His church, and the embodiment of His love for this world, be willing to set aside our own person gain or growth to do what we were created to do.
- Just a thought.
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
"What's the difference?"
To expound on that mindset, it may sound more like this:
"What's the difference anyway? All religions are the same. They all teach you to be a better person, to be nice to other people, to live life they way they tell you to... and oh, yeah... they all want your money!"
Let's just be honest, in our pluralistic and relativistic society, this mindset and worldview is paramount. You will not be able to have many conversations with everyday people from different walks of life and not run into this position somewhere. It is pervasive. It has so entrenched itself into our culture under the guise of 'tolerance' or 'acceptance' that it is thought to be wrong if you hold to a different viewpoint.
My opinion on this issue is two-fold. The first is philosophical, the second is more practical.
First, I wholeheartedly believe that the only truly intolerant view is ultra-tolerance. What I mean by that is this. By whittling away at the differences and unique characteristics of our different cultures or faiths, we have forced everyone to uniformity. That, by definition is intolerance! Now, if you are so weak in your faith that you can't see anyone who disagrees with you as anything but an enemy that must be attacked, that that is your problem. But to ignore everyone's individual ability to choose a belief system (or not to choose) or to tell them that they can not express their belief system because someone else might not agree with it, is just as intolerant.
Second, and this is where the rubber meets the road for followers of Christ. If we have brought our faith to a point where it seems to be equal to everything else in our culture, that we as the messengers of God's love and compassion, have failed in our mission. To borrow from the Wendy's ad campaign... "Where's the fruit?"
The early church had nothing to depend on to carry their message of love, compassion, forgiveness, salvation, and community except themselves. They did not have printed ad campaigns, movie trailers, websites, or any of the major marketing tools that we see in use today. And yet, in one generation they were able to carry the Gospel of Christ from one end of the known world to the other.
Because, no one had to ask them where the fruit was!!! They lived out of the love of Christ, they were moved by the Spirit of God, and they impacted their community wherever they went. That is the real fruit of the Gospel. It's a life that is lived in such a way that the power, love, compassion, and salvation that comes in Jesus Christ alone can not be denied.
One final thought about fruit is this, there are a few tests that any good fruit must pass if we are going to want to eat it:
1. Looks - Does it look good? If it looks rotten or bruised we're not going to want to even pick it up
2. Smell - What kind of aroma does it have. What kind of impression does it leave behind? Even if it looks good, but we can't get passed the less than obvious stench, we're still not going to taste it.
3. Taste - (This is where we really drop the ball) How does it taste? Even if I think the look is ok, and it doesn't smell too bad, if I bite into it and it leaves a less than desirable after-taste in my mouth, do you really expect me to try it again?
Finally, to express this another way:
A = Life with Christ
B = Life without Christ
If, A = B, then Christ is worth nothing
If, A < B, then Christ is a negative
If, A > B, then Christ is a positive
- Just a thought.
Monday, January 26, 2009
How chillingly true this statement is. At the heart of the issue for me is the organizational foundation of the church. What I mean by that is this:
Most of the modern expression of the church that we see today is built on paradigms. A paradigm is no more than a way to do something. A plan. I'm sure you've heard of some of these terms.. the seeker model, the worship model, the discipleship model... so on and so forth. Yet, underneath every one of these models is the same thing... a paradigm built on programs. And as we all know, people's tastes change. As the taste or paradigm of culture changes... so must the church if it wants to keep up.
This is where I believe the heart of the problem is... paradigms of programs aren't self-sustaining or self-multiplying. They are reliant on the culture as their medium of connection. This is why we see people "discuss" (often times, argue) about what should and should not be "in the church". Everything from music, lights, sound equipment, stages, instruments, etc have all been debated and decided on based on our culture.
Yet, the early church carried the gospel from one end of the known world to the the other. Crossing cultural, ethnic, language, and geographic boundaries without much hindrance. What was their secret? I believe it was a simple one. The simple and organic message of the gospel was so transmittable that no matter what type of soil it was placed in, it grew. This, by its very nature, could not have been based on paradigms or programs. The power of the message of Jesus is that is based on principles not programs and character not culture. This empowered and enabled the early church to carry the message of Christ wherever they could and know that it would still take root.
I think we, as the modern day church, need to take a look at ourselves and our churches and ask some tough questions.
What is the medium in which my faith is expressed...
What is the method on which my church is built...
What is the result of my faith in church...
Culture + Programs = the Entitlement of faith
Character + Principles = the Empowerment of faith
- Just a thought.
Thursday, January 22, 2009
They preceded to tell him that only their certain group of people were going to get into heaven and that he needed to know that he was in that group. And then before they could finish, Mike turned the tables on them with this simple logic problem
(A) God is loving and merciful.
(B) Sending half (or more) of the world's population to hell is not loving or merciful.
How then can God, being loving and merciful, send all those people to hell?
They floundered for a second, starting rifling through their bibles, and began to read him individual scriptures to justify their position.
"But, how can that be?" he retorted
The conversation finally ended and neither side had really done anything of value. The newcomers left and Mike went on as he was doing. But, I do think that this question is still a valid one, and one that we still face today, so I'll try to answer it to the best of my ability.
First... God is loving and merciful. This is undeniable. BUT, that's not ALL that God is. He is also just. And you can not take any one part of God's personality and extract it to be the whole of his personality, any more than you could do that for any of us.
God is mercifully loving... He is lovingly just... and He is justly merciful.
When you look at all the character of God, and not just the part you want to see, it becomes much clearer. Just as much as a parent today would have to deny their child the gift they promised them, if the aforementioned criteria was not met. So a just, loving, and merciful Father does the same.
Where is the love? In the giving us a way out, through Jesus on the cross.
Where is the mercy? In letting us choose Christ up until the very last second of His return regardless of our circumstances, actions, motivations, lifestyle, race, gender, ethnicity, etc.
Where is the justice. In keeping to the words He has already spoken and holding us accountable for our choices and actions.
- Just a thought.
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
When Peter was finally realized Jesus was the Son of God, he fell to his feet and asked Jesus to go away, because he was a sinful man (Luke 5:8)
He was called to apostleship by Jesus on his fishing boat. (Luke 5:10-11)
Peter was one of the three closest to Jesus inside the twelve apostles (Mark 5:37, Mark 9:2, Mark 14:33)
At the last supper, Peter pledges his dying devotion to Jesus (Matt 26:33)
In the Garden of Gethsemane, Peter in passionate defense of Jesus, cuts off the ear of the high priest's servant. (John 18:9-11)
After Jesus' betrayal comes the famous trice denial of Jesus. (Matt 26:75)
On the day of Pentecost, Peter stands up in front of the crowd and delivers a message and 3,000 people got saved. (Acts 2:41)
During Paul's ministry, Peter was rebuked because he was being influenced by the circumcision group (a group that was trying to make the new gentile believers follow Jewish customs) and not allowing gentiles to live in the freedom of Christ. (Gal 2:14)
Just look at the facts... Peter was not a steady, perfect, unwavering believer. He had his personality and self to deal with throughout his ministry. This makes me feel much better personally, because I don't know about you, but I just can't seem to live up to the standard of perfection. I try, and I fail... and I try again, and I fail again. It is this never-ending cycle of constantly seeking to attain perfecting that I think achieves humility and grace. As long as we are cloaked in these meat-sacks of flesh we call bodies, we will never be able to rid ourselves of the sin that is so inherently within them (Rom 7:22-24).
But, there is hope. Not just hope, but honestly, comical hope. If Jesus, being fully God and fully man while He was on earth, still chose Peter to be one of his closest friends and most trusted disciples, then I think we can all rejoice in the fact that we don't need to be perfect. Don't forget that it was Peter that gave the great confession (Matt 16:13-16), "You are the Christ, Son of the Living God" and yet was still able to deny he ever knew Him.
I said all of that to get to this... all to often we get caught up in wallowing in sin, and not walking in grace. I am not saying use grace as a license to sin, but I am saying that when you sin, ask for forgiveness, apologize to the Lord for faltering, then pick yourself up and get on with it. Do not allow the enemy to use your sin as a foothold for bondage.
- Just a thought.
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
Then I began to meditate on the idea that His strength is made perfect in my weakness (2 Cor 12:9). I do not want to be one of those 'holier than thou' Christians, but I also do not want to make the mistake of hiding who and what I am just to be accepted by people. I found this to be a very slippery slope, on both sides, and was wanting to know what this verse meant. To be strong in the midst of weakness for me is a little hard to fathom. Yes, I realize those who are super spiritual will say, "You just need to trust God" or "You need to have more faith" Both of which are true statements, but neither of which are obvious practical examples for me to follow.
And then it hit me...
The book of Acts focuses mainly on two different apostles. The first half is focused on Peter, while the second half follow Paul. Both men were obviously led by the Spirit and are both worth trying to emulate. (all except that martyrdom thing, I'd like to pass on that)
Paul was a pharisee of pharisees. He was thoroughly trained in the law of Moses under a teacher named Gamaliel (Acts 22:3). He was both passionate and zealous for holiness and obedience to God. So, much so, that he could bring the new found followers of Christ to Jerusalem to be punished (Acts 22:5). He would be the perfect person to send to tell the message of the love of Jesus to a Jewish nation. He was trained for it. He was known for it. He was the top of food chain in religious standing with the Jews.
Peter was a fisherman (Luke 5:2-3). He was your regular, run-of-the-mill Jewish guy making a living doing what his father had taught him how to do. He was a career worker, not a intellectual or a pharisee (Acts 4:13). He understood things like the ocean, tides, and fish... and yet, he and his brother Andrew are among the first disciples who are called. James and John, fishing partners of theirs, were also called out of this occupation (Luke 5:10). Jesus even goes one step further and in His band of twelve apostles, selects three of them to be closer to Him. These three were Peter, James and John (Mark 5:37, Mark 9:2, Mark 14:33)
But wait a minute....
On the contrary, they saw that I (Paul) had been entrusted with the task of preaching the gospel to the Gentiles, just as Peter had been to the Jews. (Gal 2:7)
Paul was the one that was sent to the gentiles, and Peter to the Jews. That seems a little backwards doesn't it? Paul was the one with the training in Jewish law and religious standing. Peter was just a fisherman. Likewise, as a fisherman, Peter probably would have been a little more accepted by the gentiles, on the mere fact that he was a little more 'blue collar'.
And here is the beauty and majesty of God's sovereignty...
God called both men to minister in the area where they could not stand on their own strength and knowledge. They needed to guidance and reliance on the Holy Spirit in order to accomplish their task. This is not to say that they could not use their past experiences and knowledge, but it would not have been enough to do it on their own.
This is the perfection of Jesus' strength filling our weakness. When we can stand in the place of ministry and NOT be able to do it ourselves. Not because we are choosing not to... but because in and of ourselves, we simply don't measure up.
- Just a thought.
Monday, January 19, 2009
The sad reality is that this attitude, more than any other, has indoctrinated the ministry culture America today. Thousands of ministers, though they would never admit it publicly are caught in this web of "justified deception". You see, here's the problem that many full-time ministers face:
1. If you work for the church, and are supposed to be the 'head' and spiritual guidance, you can not then ask your church or prayer when you are struggling with something. Because, your livelihood and income depends on them looking up to you and wanting to follow you. (That's a whole 'nother post waiting to happen)
2. You also can not really talk to other ministers, because lets face it, they gossip a lot more than most people, and if you're in that crowd you know it. Also, you need to protect your career and possible future opportunities, so if you have a secret that gets out, it might make things worse for your later.
3. Because of these first two causes, the result is you develop a plastic layer on the outside of your personality (and in my opinion soul) that reflects the "Godly" character that you are expected to portray. And in doing this, you have cauterized yourself into a lonely, self-loathing box that unless you continue to 'fake it' you can not escape from.
I realize that many of you may not have experienced the dark evil underbelly of the major machine of ministry. But, let me assure you, it is real. And it is well oiled and ready for action every Sunday.
I do not fault the pastors and lay ministers that get caught up in this cycle with 100% of the blame for this tragedy. They are just a much, if not more, the victims of this wretchedly repetitive cycle as the rest of us. The only difference is, they suffer in the quite serenity of an empty sanctuary each and every day while the rest of us go to work.
If we continue to "fake" it, then do we ever really ever "make" it? Honestly, if the victory you receive is won by ill-gotten means, is it still a victory? Have you really won anything of value? I believe if we are to break the vicious cycle of vapid vanity in the church, then we must do away with the old thinking that sanctified is perfect. We, as sinful humans, though we are created in the image of God, are not gods ourselves, and even with the blood of Jesus, are still not perfect... So, why do we try to act like it?! If we really want to be the Body of Christ and minister to one another the way that Jesus intended for us to do...
We must embrace our weaknesses and be able to share them and work through them with fellow believers.
We must be willing to see that holy community is as important as holy communion. We are not islands in the ocean of faith. Without a strong connection to the body, no one part can survive.
We need one another to remain feed, strong, protected, connected, and most importantly... to grow.
We must also realize that being who the Lord has called us to be is not a destination to be reached... it is journey to be undertaken.
I realize that for most of us, the thought of changing the way we think about and look at church or ministry is unthinkable, even heretical. But, isn't that exactly what Jesus did? Should we not be constantly evaluating our thoughts, actions, motivations AND ministries to see if they are still in line with the Gospel and mission that Jesus left for us to do?
- Just a thought.
Friday, January 16, 2009
I have been plagued with logistics questions about our new church. What are we going to do about this... how will we address that... so on and so forth. It really bothered me, because, I felt that if I was supposed to be the pastor of this church, surely I should be able to answer simple questions about its operation. So, in my frustration, I reached out to a new friend and bounced some of my questions to him. The response I got back was simple. The questions I was asking were good one, but they weren't the right questions to be asking first off. Faith, like life, grows from the micro to the macro, not the other way around. Put a different way, grow disciples and you will grow a church... grow a church and you may not necessarily grow disciples. My heart was in the right place, but my focus was not. This was very comforting to me, because I didn't feel as though I had to know it all before I began, but i didn't know how to answer some of the questions that I had been asked.
I think this lesson is applicable to all of us. (not just the crazy one's that want to start churches) I believe we should all take a step back and stop focusing on the Macro elements of our life. Because let's face it, they're big. And sometimes, I think we get discouraged when we look at our life and its problems and they are too big for us to deal with. Instead, we need to readdress our focus to the micro elements. How can Jesus be Lord of your life, if he can't even be Lord over your words, thoughts, actions, motivations, etc.
I did say earlier that this response was both comforting and condemning. The condemning part of this advice for me was not in the advice itself, but in the person who first told me. As thankful as I was to my friend for his wise words of wisdom, the overwhelming sound that resounded in my ears after reading them and talking to my wife, was that this was exactly what she had been trying to tell me for the past two weeks! And I wasn't hearing it! This was both humbling and exciting. I am humbled by the realization that it took a stranger to tell me what my wife had been telling me all long... and it is exciting to know that God is moving not just in my life, but in my wife and our friends as well.
I've said all of this to illustrate two points:
(a) Faith is grown from micro to macro. Focus on the little things.
(b) We all have a lot to learn from one another, and if you think you are right and won't listen to your friends and family, you will get a rude awakening one day about how wrong you really are.
Thursday, January 15, 2009
Why is it that we are desperate to have friends, but aren't really that friendly? Is it just easier to click and link and send someone and e-vite to be your e-friend, than to put the wrench time into being a real friend? I have to admit, I have lost contact and not stayed in touch with my fair share of friends. Some because I no longer wanted to be friends with them, and others because we just naturally drifted apart. But, I began to ask my self this series of quesitons:
1. How many friends do I have?
2. Do my friends see my faith in action in my life?
3. How many people reflect back that faith, either in congruent faith, or respectful disagreement?
In my opinion, this final number is the number of people that I am actually touching with the gospel in my life. It was sad when I saw it for what it was. Even me, who I consider to be a rather friendly person, only touches a dozen or so lives with the gospel. That number is completely contingent upon my ability to make new friends and maintain my integrity and faith with them. So, in order to accomplish the Great Commission that Jesus left for us to do, we must be willing to step outside of our comfort zone sometimes and befriend some new people.
I believe the "Us four and no more" mentality has crippled the advance of the gospel in our lives today. We go to churches who many have unspoken prerequisites for attendance.
Dress this way.
Act this way.
Use these 'Christian' buzz words.
Don't do that.
Do this instead.
On and on the cycle goes until like I said last week, we become so isolated from our culture we are no longer relevant enough to affect it. Don't get me wrong, we must stand up for Biblical integrity and not make light of sin just to appeal to sinners. But, the reverse is also true, we must not make so much of sin, that sinners don't feel welcomed or loved.
- Just a thought.
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
When people first get saved and are brought into the family, we make sure that they have a Bible, and that they know how to pray, and send them on their way to "grow up". We tell them, "Read and pray, my bother, read and pray." And we think we are doing them a service. Let's look at it in another light...
Let's say that I want to become a mechanic. So, I go to a local mechanic that I know, or have heard about his shop, and tell him that I'm interested in becoming a mechanic. He welcomes me into the shop, shows me all the wonderful trinkets and gadgets that are there and then when I finally make the decision to become a mechanic, everyone rejoices. He takes me to his office, we sit down and have a cup of coffee and he hands me the instruction manual of how to build a car and a single ratchet.
"This is all you'll ever need." He says.
Just read the instructions and use the tool and you'll be able to build your own car from scratch.
"But, how do I..." I asked in confusion before I was cut off.
"No... wait, don't get yourself confused. Just read the instructions and use the ratchet and you'll be fine."
"But, what about all the other stuff you have in your shop?" I asked
"That's all for me to help people know more about their cars and what you can do with them." He replied
"Oh... OK." I mumbled in confusion, wondering how that is helpful when I don't have my car built yet.
"Great! Well, get started on the build. I would recommend building the engine first, it really helped me to get going... Oh, and come back next week and we'll be looking at how you can better improve your tires to stay on the road while driving in the rain! Have a great day!"
Now... I realize that was my very bad attempt at a story, but I hope that you see the underlying tone. When people get saved, we hand them a Bible, and tell them to pray, and expect them to do the rest of the work themselves! Or worse, we put them into our "10 steps to becoming a holy, righteous person... like me!" class, and when they don't like it, we say their too "carnal"
I think they way my friend Will said it yesterday is best:
"Growth is not being able to build the car with the blueprints. Growth is being able to build the engine without them. I might have to look back at the instructions to see what's next, or how it works with the next piece, but I know how to make the engine. That's growth."
I could not have said it better. But, would like to add to his thought. We should teach people how to read the Bible and how to pray, but we should also show them how to live out the faith that they are trying to build up in their lives!! There is no better way to teach someone that to tell them, show them, and then have them teach someone else!!
- Just a thought.
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
As my friend Andy pointed out yesterday, it's totally cool to talk about your sin when you a sinner. People even brag about it, comparing their activities or exploits to someone else's. It almost becomes either a game or the measuring post to which everyone is compared.
When you get saved, and all of a sudden sin is BAD. Now, I'm not trying to make light of sin, or make excuses for why we sin. There is no excuse. But, let's face it, we're sinful, carnal human beings. We will never fully escape the temptation to sin as long as we are stuck in these meat sacks we call bodies... so get over it!!!
But why then, as soon as we leave the sinner's world and step into the body of Christ are we no longer comfortable with talking about sin? Shouldn't we be? Isn't sin the common bond that we still have together? Don't we all still sin? Were we not all forgiven of our sins? So why is sin the taboo word in Christendom? (except if you're the pastor or the holy mother of the first pew...)
I personally believe we have done a great injustice to ourselves and the rest of the body when we make it uncomfortable to talk about sin among fellow believers. Now, let's be real... you're probably not going to pull out the big guns on your first meeting with someone, as well you shouldn't... but if you are truly creating godly, Christ-like relationships with other believers, why wouldn't you try to be honest about struggle?
I have a few ideas of why:
1. Pride - We have bought into the myth that because we are forgiven of our sin that we are in fact holy or sinless... We are not! As long as we live on this earth we are always the sinner saved by grace. To think that we are ever anything more is to do injustice to Christ's sacrifice.
2. Fear - This is especially true of people who work in the ministry. We are afraid to admit our trials and struggles because we are afraid what other people will think about it. If you work in the ministry, you are also afraid that you could loose your job! Now, stop and listen to that for a second... Hi, I'm a pastor, but I can't talk about MY sin, only YOUR sin, because I need to keep MY job... which is supposed to be leading you away from sin!!!
3. Selfishness - I think this is the dark demon hiding in the closet that no one wants to see or talk about... most of us like the sins that we do. That's why we do them! And, as long as no one knows that I have a problem in an area, then no one can hold me accountable to stop doing it. We don't change because we don't want to change!
No matter what the reason is, the lack of open conversation between followers of Christ about the real sin in their lives, not just sin in a random context, is frightening. If we really want to able to be free from the bondage of sin, we must realize that sin is not just the singular action that we do, but every action that is spawned from or motivated by it.
- Just a thought.
Monday, January 12, 2009
At the outset of our existence on this planet, God Almighty left us a two fold charge: (a) be fruitful and multiply; (b) fill the earth and subdue it.
This shouldn't have been a hard goal. (especially since most of us like the first part anyway...) But, no less than ten chapters later, we see that mankind had already lost it's way:
Then they said, "Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth." Genesis 11:4
Now, this is the point where most Sunday school teachers would say that God 'punished' the people by confusing their languages so they could not finish the tower. And, that may be a valid point... but I think the correct way to see this, as well as most interactions that man has with God in the Bible is in the light of our mission given to us by the Lord. The confusion of Babel was not as much a punishment as it was a course correction from the Lord for us to get back on track and fulfill the mission... Spread Out! Not only were the people staying in one place, in direct disobedience to God, but they were also trying to build something that would "...make a name for..." themselves. This is our condition at it's best, we're always looking out for ourselves.
Now, let's fast forward a few years to the coming of Christ and his last commission to his disciples. Much like God the Father's charge to Adam, Christ is now instituting a new people and He gives them a clear command:
"Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in[a] the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." Matthew 28:19-20
Again we are given a two fold mission: (a) Go; (b) make disciples. I think it's important not to simply brush over the "Go" in this verse and miss the impact and reflection that it has on our original mission from God. We must spread out, get out of our comfort zones in order to fill the earth.
Finally, just like at the Tower of Babel, we see the Lord enable His people to complete the work that He has given them to do:
"All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues[a] as the Spirit enabled them. Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard them speaking in his own language." Acts 2:4-6
The miracle of the Day of Pentecost was not merely that we had been given the power of the Holy Spirit, but that God was now enabling us to complete the mission. Just as the confusion at Babel caused us to spread out and fill the earth (God's first mission), the day of Pentecost brought all of those "confused" nations and languages back together to hear the singular message of His Son. And just as the creating of different languages helped the people at Babel to complete their mission, so the empowering of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost now allows us to complete our mission.
- Just a thought.
Friday, January 9, 2009
"I am the light of the world" - Jesus
"People living in darkness have seen a great light" - John the Baptist about Jesus
"You are the light of the world" - Believers in Christ (or better stated: the light of Christ, the original light, in believers)
So, as I began to mediate on this concept of light and dark an image began to emerge in my mind. It was of a single candle. Each of us can only be held accountable for our own actions, so in my mind's eye I saw each one of us as a single candle, responsible for the light that radiates from our lives. Then I began to ask myself:
It seemed odd to me. Almost comical. But I earnestly wanted to get my brain around it, so I followed the rabbit hole a little while longer, and a concept began to emerge out of the seemingly endless sea of contemplation in my head...
What I mean by that is simply this. I believe that many followers of Christ today have, by purpose or by proxy, put a dimmer switch on their candle and turned it down. The problem is we don't notice it! The reason is because when all we do as Christians is gather with other Christians in a safe, already lit up building, we don't notice the difference as much.
When you take a single candle into a completely dark room, there is no hiding or denying that it is there and of the impact that it is making. Please don't forget that dark or darkness can't even be defined by science. It is only the absence of light! So, by default or by design, our actions betray us as people who really fear the light not the dark.
- Just a thought.
Thursday, January 8, 2009
There have been several days that I have questioned myself, my direction, and even if I have been able to hear the Holy Spirit. All because I asked a few questions. That shouldn't be so bad. Right? Well, it has been. Quite.
Most of you already know that I have been reading and studying the Organic model of church, and I have to say, the more I learn, the move I love it. But, it has led me to a place I didn't expect to be...
I feel ostracized and somewhat looked down upon from some of my church/ministry friends. That is a difficult reality for me to swallow. The same friends that I have been very close with, I now feel like I can't talk to. The people that gladly let me play and minister beside them in the context of traditional church, now think I'm the weird outsider.
This is what I mean by the frightening freedom. I feel very free and very close to the heart of God for His people and bride, but, at the same time I feel frightened and divided from my friends and old partners. This Freedom has come at a higher price than I originally anticipated, but I still can not look back.
I realize today's entry is not my usual, but I wanted to share my heart with you (and really with myself as well) and ask you a tough question...
If you can not, you are missing out of the real freedom that Christ came to give you.
- Just a thought.
Wednesday, January 7, 2009
I don't understand why we as Christians or even as churches feel entitled to the gospel, or the fruits of it's growth. What I mean by that is simply this:
So why do we try to pass stuff off as our own? I was in Barnes and Nobel last night looking for the sequel to Pagan Christianity (great book!) and I was amazed at the amount of "Do it my way" books that were out there. "3 Steps to This Bobble" and "Unleash Your Inner Whoosie-What Now" were all over the place. Now, granted, I have no problem with learning from those who are more mature or educated than I am, but please, don't make the mistake of thinking that you are it.
I mention these two instances because, to me, they illustrate the arrogance and misguided zeal that many Christians and sadly churches have today...
1. Jesus died to give us the power and ability to overcome sin and commune with God Himself.
Yet, sadly, we have taken the power He gave us and have tried to warp it and bend it to our own will and purpose to benefit our wants and desires.
2. Jesus died to unite all men under His name
Yet, sadly, we have disjointed and fragmented ourselves into a bunch of small factions that are at odds with one another and often malign or bad mouth one another.
3. Jesus died for the people who didn't know Him too.
This might be the one that is closest to my heart. Jesus died for EVERYONE. Yet, sadly, we seem to think (or at least act) like Jesus only sacrificed Himself for those who are in church on Sunday morning...
May we never get further down this road of power-hungry, disjointed, selfish faith so that we almost treat the King of Kings and Lord of Lords like a toy that we are unwilling to share.
- Just a thought.
Tuesday, January 6, 2009
It's not hard to remember. It's not hard to say. It's not even hard to spell. But, somehow we have made it hard to live out. I think it's important to note that the Great Commission that Jesus gave to his disciples wasn't just a corporate command, but a personal one as well. Each and every believer should take the words of Jesus as a person charge:
"... go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teach them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." Matt 28:19-20
This might be better stated as the Great Co-Mission, because we're all charged with the same mission from Christ. It is equally as clear that making disciples wasn't the end of the charge, but we are called to baptize them and to teach them!
Now, let's put this idea back into the rowboat analogy...
If the christian life were a rowboat, that the two oars that we've been left with are REACH and TEACH. This is what we were left to do. Yes, get married, have a house, a car, some kids (maybe) and live the life that God has given you, but don't forget the job we were left to do in the process of "living".
If you don't do either of these things, not using either oar, then you are left to the changing tides and currents that will push or pull you wherever they go.
If you only use one oar, yes, you will be working, and accomplishing, but still not really getting anywhere, you're just going in circles and getting tired!
If you use both oars, you will not only be working and accomplishing, but you are also now getting somewhere and that is what is both powerful and motivating.
If you take the time to recognize that the oars and direction of your life is your responsibility, the question I have for you is:
Monday, January 5, 2009
There is no question that we live in a fallen world. There, hopefully, is also no question that those of us who have Jesus as our Savior also have faith that lives within us. And here is where the problem begins...
There is this precious gift of faith that lives within us, and we live within a fallen, sinful, often anti-faith culture. How then are we supposed to deal with this dichotomy? We can not escape the culture or world that we live in, and yet we also should not be able to ignore the flame of faith that exists within us. May I suggest that there are two ways in which people deal with this problem:
Let's take a look at the two, because they are VERY different...
Sadly, most Christians that I know take an "isolation" approach to their faith. Once they receive Christ and start getting plugged into a church, bible study, etc they begin to back away from their old life as they are striving to reach their new. Not a bad idea, especially when that old life may very well have some strong ties or enticements back to a sinful lifestyle... BUT... they never get out of the safe protected bubble that they put themselves in. They have isolated themselves, their faith, and honestly the power of their testimony.
To borrow an example from modern culture, in the movie Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, the king of Rohan is faced with an evil army that's about to be at his door. He decides, rather than ride out and meet them, (and don't forget they were known for their cavalry and horsemanship) to secure the castle gates and walls and keep his people safe. This was a great idea, until the enemy got there and started to pound away at the walls of castle until it became vulnerable.
In my opinion, this is a modern day parable for what we as Christians have done to ourselves. We have retreated inside of our stained glass castles and not gone out to meet the enemy head on and fight for our people.
The second, all be it less chosen, way to deal with the issue is insulation. The insulation approach is quite simple. I recognize that my soul has been bought and paid for, and I insulate myself from evil and sin without having to isolate myself from it.
How do you do that? Well, first off, this requires you to be much closer to the action. (Something, sadly, most Christians do not want to do.) But, secondly, it's about working smarter, not harder. Don't go into an atmosphere alone, make sure that you are the one doing the influencing, not the other way around. The biggest mistake that Christians make is that they think they are impenetrable because Christ is invincible. Christ may be, but we are still sinful at the core of our flesh... take some other believers with you that will hold you accountable as you hold them. Insulate yourselves from being influenced by the sinful culture and start spreading some light into some darker areas.
To finish the analogy...
When faced with the evil army, the king of Rohan said, "I will not risk war on my people." Aragon, a member of the fellowship that was trying to defeat the evil army simply replied, "War is already upon you."
I would like to say something to anyone who calls on the name of Jesus for their savlation:
What are you going to do about it? Are going to remain isolated inside the stained glass castle walls, as the enemy outside continues to tear away at them? Or will you insulate yourself with other believers, and "Ride out with me" to meet them...
- Just a thought.