Sunday, December 28, 2008

An Evangelical Bridge Too Far

from Townhall.com -- goes along with my talk today:

An Evangelical Bridge Too Far
David R. Stokes
Sunday, December 28, 2008

The recent furor over President-Elect Barack Obama’s selection of California mega-church pastor Rick Warren to pray at the January 20thinauguration yields a few clues about what evangelicals can expect during the next four years.  

On the surface, playing the Warren card appears to be a masterstroke by Obama – one that further demonstrates impressive political skills.  A day or so after the election, I was asked by someone about what Mr. Obama would do to prepare for his administration.  I replied that I thought he would demonstrate significant savvy by – at least for the time being – ignoring the clamorous pleas from core constituencies, the kind of people who will support and vote for him no matter what.  And I suggested he would reach out to those who view him with fear – or at least mild suspicion. 

That’s pretty much what number 44 has done.  He has confounded those who voted for “real change we can believe in” by putting together a crafty combination of a third Clinton term on most things, and a third Bush term on issues relating to the war in Iraq.

This brings me back to Rick Warren’s upcoming supplication in Washington.  Evangelicals – especially younger ones – played a key role in Barack Obama’s ability to counter clear problems with his own church and pastor.  They also, in many cases, overtly campaigned for him, his decidedly non-evangelical views on abortion and other traditional values issues notwithstanding. 

Mr. Obama is viewed by many evangelicals as a new kind of politician - someone who can bridge the gap, or reach out, or maybe begin a dialogue.  Just pick your mantra.  But before any kind of modern-day Great Awakening is declared, some should take a serious look at how Rev. Warren’s selection to offer a simple prayer has become such a controversial matter.

Evangelicals, those who take the Bible and their faith seriously, need to realize that when it comes to issues like gay marriage – even abortion – there is not really any middle ground with those on the left, even the so-called Christian left.  

Rick Warren has spent a great deal of time and money, investing his ministry in initiatives that are outside of the normal evangelical box.   He has worked tirelessly in Africa and elsewhere on the issue of AIDS – and has cultivated a compassionate and understanding persona when it comes to dealing with issues and ministry challenges stemming from same-sex attraction.

What Warren has not done, nor will he ever do, is to reach the point where he declares that homosexual behavior is not sinful.  He will not do this because he is a Biblicist.

No matter how understanding evangelicals are and how sincere some are to open a dialogue with same-sex marriage advocates and activists, there can be no real rapprochement without the willingness to change the way the Bible is read and interpreted. 

And that would be an evangelical bridge too far.

Conservative evangelicals possess a belief-system rooted in a movement popularized nearly 100 years ago and that reached its peak at the mid-point of the roaring twenties.  Fundamentalism - part dogma, part culture, part reaction to culture - and in large measure driven by several key and dynamic personalities - was at its high water mark as a social phenomenon. Though certainly no fan, in fact a persistent critic, of the movement, H. L. Mencken, the caustic journalistic sage of Baltimore, observed its clear influence, writing at the time: “Heave an egg out of a Pullman window, and you will hit a fundamentalist almost anywhere in the United States today.

From 1910-1915 a series of twelve books was published and widely distributed to conservative-minded Christians around the country under the title The Fundamentals.  A year before the first edition appeared, a wealthy Californian had been inspired, listening to a sermon by Chicago preacher, A.C. Dixon, to “bring the Bible’s true message to its most faithful believers.” Very soon he developed the concept for the publishing of “a series of inexpensive paperback books, containing the best teachings of the best Bible teachers in the world.” After The Great War (1914-1918), a movement took root, one based on the ideas in The Fundamentals, and that would transcend “various conservative Christian traditions.”

During the 1920s, most of the great protestant denominations experienced internal convulsions over issues raised – sometimes vociferously – by fundamentalists in the ranks.   Of particular concern to some was the growing tendency on the part of religious “liberals” to question long-held dogmas of the faith.  

Opposite the fundamentalists were the “modernists” – and they openly challenged things seen as precious to true believers everywhere.  Harry Emerson Fosdick – a leading modernist protestant pastor – suggested an alternative narrative for the virgin birth.  Jesus was likely (in his thinking) fathered by a soldier.  The scriptural story could not possibly be true.  And the resurrection – well, come on now – really?  Rising from the dead – I mean, that’s just too incredible for “modern-intelligent” minds to accept.

And everything depended on what you believed about the Bible itself. 

To fundamentalists it was the inspired Word of God.  By this they meant the “verbal-plenary inspiration” of scripture.  In other words, the “words” were inspired – and the book itself was in its entirety.   And when it came to interpretation, fundamentalists opted for what they called, “the historical-grammatical” method – what the words meant in context and back then (think: “strict construction” of the U.S. Constitution – what did the founders and framers mean? Etc.). 

Why is it important to know this?  Well, because the evangelical movement grew out of fundamentalism.  Led by people like Billy Graham and Harold John Ockenga – and schools like Moody Bible Institute and Wheaton College – the idea was to keep the solid “doctrinal” stuff – Biblicism and the centrality of Jesus Christ and his “finished work,” while moving away from the strident, often belligerent, methods of the earlier generation of fundamentalists.

A new-breed of evangelical “whiz kids” took the religious Model-T of the fundamentalists and popularized it to a post-war/Cold War nation.  They even had a saying in the Youth for Christ movement in those days (where Graham got his start): “Geared to the Times, but Anchored to the Rock.”

Rick Warren and millions of others today remain faithful to these ideas.  Though attempts are made to build bridges – to reach out – it is only for the purpose of bringing people to a relationship with Jesus. 

Though I hesitate to put words in Rick Warren’s mouth, or speak definitively as to where he stands – I am quite confident that his view of scripture is very much in line with the 1950s evangelicals – even the 1920s fundamentalists.  It is a high view of the Bible – inspired of God, interpreted careful, and applied personally.

This is a view commonly shared by conservative evangelicals across the denominational landscape.   And it is why some evangelicals need to face the music.  No matter how much you try to love, reach out, dialogue, and build bridges, the other guys are not going to be happy short of the abandonment of the Bible as a serious document relevant to our times.  

Unless evangelicals are willing to say that the Bible does not call homosexual behavior sinful, no amount of posturing will change anything.

It is sort of like the Israeli-PLO land-for-peace narrative.   It will never work because the PLO does not think Israel should exist.  Conceded acreage will not assuage that.

Nor will “reaching out” assuage those who believe that anyone who takes the Bible seriously on the matter of homosexuality is, ipso facto, a bigot filled with hate.

The Apostle Paul knew a thing or two about people and bridge building.  He told the Corinthians that he was always willing to reinvent himself in order to connect with others.  But the connection he desired with others was designed to bring them to a place of faith in Jesus. 

Many evangelicals are firmly, optimistically, and sincerely on the Barack-Bridge, but they may soon realize that in order to cross it completely en route to the new promised land of change, they will have to lighten their load and leave some stuff behind.

And among the things discarded will be a lot of Bibles.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Short Term Missions

Check out this article about short term missions trips (I'm not completely confident in the link so I apologize if it gets removed at some point) by Jim Lo. Pretty good stuff.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Beginning, End, Beginning

I was in the lobby of a Doctor's office on Friday and bored stiff, and saw one of those little kids picture bible's on the coffee table. I decided to read it to pass the time. It only covered Genesis, but it was fun because of the way they elaborated everything to make it appealing to kids and with lots of pictures. But sure enough, it got me to thinking about a few things.

Let's talk about creation for a minute. God starts creation, and knows exactly what He's doing doesn't He? He makes light and dark, makes the atmosphere, and then rises up dry group out of the sea and grows every living plant on it all in the first three days. We don't have to think hard about all the benefits to human life that come from his plan even from the first three days! The atmosphere makes it so that we can breath, burns up incoming celestial junk, and protects us from the Sun. The Sun wasn't even created yet! God didn't create the sun, stars, and moon until the fourth day. Water is obviously important for life, and plants are obviously important for our atmosphere, the food chain, climate, and a whole horde of other things. God definitely planned this all out before he started (if there is a 'before' before the creation of time). We could go on and on listing all the things God did in the first three days that made creation beautiful, and a suitable habitat for human life. He created ALL of this FOR US.

Look at what it says in Hebrews 2:6-7 (I realize this is just a quote from Psalm 8:4-6 anyways) "What is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? You made him a little lower than the angels; you crowned him with glory and honor and put everything under his feet." (NIV). Here it is talking about God making Jesus in a human form. But it references the state of humans here, that we were created lower than the angels. Even so, God made ALL of creation for us! Corinthians 1:28-29 says, "He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things - and the things that are not - to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him." God created man the way he is on purpose, so that man would serve to glorify God's name. Now when I said, "He made all of this for us" you might have thought, "No, he made all of creation for himself." It is one and the same thing! Everything God does glorifies himself, correct? God cannot do anything that doesn't glorify His own name, and thankfully, because anything that doesn't glorify His name isn't worth doing anyways. But God planned out ALL of creation so that it would be beautiful and majestic and everything that Man needed.

Moving on to my second point, the children's picture Bible was talking about the birth of Jesus and how this little kid liked the 'begats' the best. The 'begats' are when it's talking about the geneology of Jesus in the gospels. Anyways, it started talking about everyone's father, and how Adam was the Son of God. A light bulb went off in my head. Let's look at John 1:12, "Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God -". Do you see it? God gave dominion over the earth to Adam (and Eve), and then they screwed it up. But until then it was perfect and the whole thing was made for them! So everyone since then is a Son of some other human guy, who also screwed things up. But what Jesus does through his death and resurrection is, he is making us Sons of God again! We will be able to enjoy his (new) creation forever, and perfectly (direct access to and the full presence of God)! I used to just think, 'Ok, children of God, cool enough', and not even think about the implications that that had!

Lastly, the children's Bible story also got me thinking about something else that is a confession of sorts. I know God loves me, and that his love is absolute. But I've always kindof felt that God's love for me was more of a collective love, rather than an individual love. I know this is a lie, but it's something I've struggled with all my life, and here's a better explanation of it. Jesus's victory on the cross was for everyone. And His plan through creation involved everyone who has ever lived, because nothing is created or exists that Jesus didn't create or have dominion over. But, I've always felt like, if I was the only person on the earth, would Jesus die for just me? Of course he would die for the millions of people throughout history that would trust in him and be with him for eternity, but would he just die for me personally and specifically? Well here's how the creation story helped. If God created all of creation for ME personally, because He had the whole thing planned out in the beginning, and His plan included ME from the beginning of time, of course He loves me individually! I wish I could elaborate more about how the creation story helps me know He loves me individually, but I'm not really sure why it helped to be honest. I just know that something clicked, and that if I trust that he planned creation to sustain MY life and for MY enjoyment (true joy comes from communion with God), than of course I can trust that He died for me specifically.

Maybe it helped in this way, look at John 15:13, "Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends." I've always held the view that (and feel free to argue with me on this one) that God would not be God if He didn't die for us. And Yes, I know that God would be absolutely just to simply punish us all, because he is Righteous. But it goes back to the point that everything God does goes back to glorify himself, and if He made creation knowing that sin would enter the world, than by the very definition of who God is, says that His plan includes redemption! I'm not saying that God made the decision to create, and was loopholed into having to save mankind. I'm not saying that at all. But what I am saying, is that God would not have created man in the first place unless He knew that He would die, and rise again, and save us in the end. That's who God is. So do you see how this connects? God created EVERYTHING for US (ME) knowing that He would die and save us all!

Please feel free to share your thoughts.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Post from Victor

Victor made a post on his blog yesterday afternoon concerning the election. I thought I'd mention it to you guys so you can go read it. I thought it was very well written. Just so you know, his post is mostly concerning Republican's disappointment with the outcome.

To be bipartisan, I am claiming no party affiliation by sending out this notice. I just thought that the hope that Victor displays in our Lord was very encouraging. For the man charged with sheparding our church, he does a great job of saying (paraphrase): "Our Lord is here in our lives, our Lord is coming, and why would you not have faith in the plan that he has set for our lives? Our Lord is victorious!".

To read it go ahead and visit the church webpage at http://www.calvarybaptistonline.org/. In the bottom left square you will see a tab called "Pastor's Blog". The link to his blog is http://victorstanley.blogspot.com/, in case you want to go directly there and make a comment.

Love y'all & God Bless.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Look Up

Every so often, while you're outside, it might be a good idea to just look up. It is nearly impossible to not be blown away, to not recognize the beauty and the magnificence of the sky.

I know when I look at the sky it sets my mind on things above, both physically and spiritually. For me it is very refreshing and I hope it can be the same for you.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

In the Quiet

Jesus often went off to a mountainside to be by himself to pray.

Matthew 14:23

After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone

Luke 6:12

One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God.

Elijah waited to hear God and He came not by a loud wind, a raging fire, nor a violent earthquake, but by a whisper.

1 Kings 19:11-13

11 The LORD said, "Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by."
      Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. 13 When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave

Our society is filled with noise. ESPN, CNN, Disney Channel, Olympics, House, Heroes, NFL, Fantasy Football, Sports Illustrated, Glamour, Vanity Fair, Tabloids, Best Buy, Victoria’s Secret, Forever 21, Google, Microsoft, Xbox 360, PS3, Democrat, Republican, Socialism, Capitalism, Earthquakes, Hurricanes, China, Russia, Oil, Terrorism, School, New York City, Harry Potter, Work, The Dark Knight, Dave Matthew’s Band, Linkin Park, Jay-Z, Fergie, The Jonas Brothers, Commuting, 5ks, 10ks, Weightlifting, Tubing, Product (RED), Bono, Dancing with the Stars, Survivor, New Pastor, New Church, Black, White, Hispanic, Evolution, Intelligent Design,  College, Graduation, Abortion, Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Guitar Hero, Rock Band, Halo, COD4…

Jesus, as an example, made it a point to be alone with God.  We should do the same.  And I don’t mean 15 minutes every morning (though this is encouraged.)  I think it’s clear that what is described in the gospels is not something that happened all the time, but did occur occasionally.  I think this is an idea we can apply to our lives. 

We must do something out of our normal schedule.  We must be deliberate in being quiet and alone with God.   We must make this regular, but not scheduled.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Factors associated w/ children embracing the their parent's faith

Tim Keller supervised a doctor of ministry student studying the factors associated w/ children embracing the Christian faith of parents.
6,000 15-16 yr olds surveyed at a huge youth event in Philadelphia.
Among other questions, they were asked: Are you on your way to embracing your parent's faith? Do you think 10 years from now you will be a Christian going to church?
Christian School v. Home School v. Public School, family devotions, youth group, were not factors in whether kids were more likely to embrace their parent's faith.
Kids who said "my parents understand the real world, and they understand my world, and I think if I had a problem they'd understand it" were much more likely to embrace their parent's faith.
Thanks to Stan Gibson for sharing this interesting study!

The church and the home must be a place where kids (and adults) can ask the hard questions. No question is too hard for God.
Jesus is alive and practical "I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." John 10:10

Here is Tim Keller's sermon "It Takes a City to Raise a Child", in which he describes this study ... http://download.redeemer.com/audio/Takes_City_to_Raise_Child.m3u

Sunday, September 14, 2008

The Shack

I decided to read "The Shack" by William P. Young, based on an intruiging article in Newsweek (http://www.newsweek.com/id/156370). What a blessing!
A Google search quickly reveals a variety of opinions on this book, from rave reviews to cries of heresy. While I do not agree w/ all the theology expressed in this book, much of the dialogue between God and Mack is insightful and moving.

Here are a few quotes that really hit home for me ...
"You don't need to have it all figured out. Just be with me." p.178
"For you to know or not, has nothing at all to do with whether I am actually here or not. I am always with you" p.195
"It is true that relationships are a whole lot messier than rules, but rules will never give you answers to the deep questions of the heart and they wil never love you." p.198

I'd put "The Shack" in the same category as "Joshua" (Joseph Girzone) and "The Martyr's Cry" (Ted Dekker). Each of these works of fiction powerfully expresses God's unfailing love and abundant grace.

Thank you Lord for inviting us into relationship w/ you. Help us to break through independence, rules, and ritual, to draw nearer to you, and hence learn to trust you.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Worship Blog

I have been reading some blogs from Bob Kauflin on his website worshipmatters.com.  I have really enjoyed them so I decided to share them and we can maybe discuss some of them.

Defining Worship several parts I think I enjoyed 3 and 4 the best

Expressing Love to God dealing with the issue of "God is my girlfriend songs"

How Do We Grow in Physical Expressiveness in Worship some of these things could(should) be said at church.  I thought part 4 was good




Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Egypt

I was reading the 10 commandments the other day, and there were two things that struck me that I thought I would share. Interestingly enough, this is my second post on this blog about the 10 commandments. I don't read them every day, and this is the first time I've read through them since my last post. Don't ask me why I did, I just felt like reading them, and God showed me something.

The part I read started out in Deut 5:6 and it reads:

"I am the Lord your God. I brought you out of Egypt. That is the land where you were slaves."

Immediately after reading that I thought, "Now what does that have to do with me? Why am I even reading the 10 commandments again anyways?"

Well, after I finished my reading I realized something. I was in Egypt, and God rescued me. This is no new theological truth, and I'm sure I'm not breaking new ground here, but for some reason the connection finally clicked. Egypt was a land of slavery for the Hebrews, and that's exactly where I was before I knew Christ. I quickly opened back up to the passage and read the commandments again with renewed vigor.

On my second time through my attention was caught by the 3rd commandment in verse Deut. 5:11, "You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name." It caught my attention because of our culture's current mindset about this verse. Misuse of God's name not only refers to verbal action, but any action. We are God's servants, and we should act just as 1 Peter 4:11 tells us. Everything I do should be for the Lord, and if I misrepresent him or misrepresent the love he would give then I am misusing his name.

I pray that we would all be able to live as the Spirit guides us, give out the same love that God first gave us, and that His name and His kingdom would reign forever.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Walking on Water

Matthew 14:22-33

22Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. 23After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, 24but the boat was already a considerable distance[a] from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.

25During the fourth watch of the night Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. 26When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. "It's a ghost," they said, and cried out in fear.

27But Jesus immediately said to them: "Take courage! It is I. Don't be afraid."

28"Lord, if it's you," Peter replied, "tell me to come to you on the water."

29"Come," he said.

   Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, "Lord, save me!"

31Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. "You of little faith," he said, "why did you doubt?"

32And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. 33Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, "Truly you are the Son of God."

Is our response to Jesus similar?  Do we have the faith to get out of the boat and walk towards Jesus, the faith to keep going when the wind blows?

We should all have the courage and faith to at least take that first step out of the boat, and in fact, I’d say, many do.  People get caught up with an idea or a goal and run with it at first, but at the first sign of trouble or hardship the energy, the passion, the faith disappears.  I think Jesus is asking us to keep our eyes on him. 

A recurring theme in the Bible is perseverance and clearly Jesus is encouraging this here.  Practically speaking, I think of this in terms of the home group we have.  We are throwing ideas out like crazy and are often very excited about doing them.  When the excitement wears off, what will remain, who will remain.  Perhaps that is why Jesus spent years living with these guys; it may have taken that long for them to get it.

Audio Adrenaline:

"Walk On Water"
Simon Peter won't you put those nets down
follow me I'll lead you out of this town
to a place where no boat has ever been
I will make you a fisher of men


Jesus walked out on the water
said take courage it is me
Peter trusted and he wanted to go farther
so he stepped out on the sea


If I keep my eyes on Jesus I can walk on water
If I keep my eyes on Jesus I can walk on water


Just like peter I want to go farther
tread on the sea and walk on the water
step where he steps and go where he goes
side by side when the sea billows roll
I'll be alright when the wind comes
I'll be alright when the waves come crashing
I'm not afraid for this is my father's world

Monday, July 14, 2008

Would the community weep....

Would the community weep if the church were to pull out of the community?

http://www.christianitytoday.com/outreach/articles/isyourchurchagoodneighbor.html

What should be our churches role outside of the four walls? What are some local organizations that we can be involved with to serve the community....is that something we should do. If not then what can we do to be involved in the community.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Greater Things

The title of our blog is “Greater Things.”  I figure I ought write a post explaining why.

John 14:5-14

5Thomas said to him, "Lord, we don't know where you are going, so how can we know the way?"

6Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7If you really knew me, you would know[b] my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him."

8Philip said, "Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us."

9Jesus answered: "Don't you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, 'Show us the Father'? 10Don't you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. 11Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves. 12I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. 13And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. 14You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.

Jesus himself says that those who have faith in Him will do what he was doing.  He goes on to say that those who have faith in Him will do “even greater things than these.”  I am struck by those words.  How can the Son of God say that those who follow him  will do greater things?  He was perfect and we are not, how can we possibly live up.  But there it is, a statement of fact.  That leaves me not confused, but inspired.  If Jesus himself was confident in those who have faith in Him, then what else do we need.

It is clear that the “greater things” come through faith.  Because the faith is in the Almighty “greater things” are more than possible.

What “greater things” are we going to let God do?

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Identity

I've often thought that Christians needed a new name. Not that being "little Christs" is not something worthy of being associated with, but all the negative connotations that come with the title have muddied the name. As I've sought for a new way to identify myself as one who follows Christ without at the same time associating myself with all of the muck that is out there, I have noticed some things. Christians have been looking for new names for a long time. In fact, they have found many of them, and have always needed to revise them. That's essentially where most of the denominations have come from. That's how plastic stick-on fish and WWJD bracelets came around but since then have become some of the fastest ways to buy your salvation. That's how the term "born-again Christian" came to mean someone who is a real believing Christian and not someone who is merely nominal and celebrates holidays.

But what I realized, is it's not the name that is important. Jesus said, "By this all men may know that you are my disciples, if you love one another" (John 13:35). His point is this: It's not what you call yourself. It's not wearing cross necklaces. It's not having the name "Baptist", "Bible", or anything else written on your church sign. It's not even not having one of those labels on your church sign. It's how you live, it's who you follow and how you follow him. I would probably be accurate in saying that every non-Christian person I've met that knows that I am a Christian couldn't tell me what denomination I was or even what version of the Bible I read. They simply know that I am a real Christian.

I came to the realization yesterday that I need to stop trying to disassociate myself but rather spend all that time more closely associating myself with what really matters. It's more offensive than it is defensive. It's Jesus Christ.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Everyone’s Going to Heaven

At least that’s what the majority of Americans seem to believe: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/24/us/24religion.html?hp

That’s a little discouraging.

Giving

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB121418580830795863.html?mod=googlenews_wsj

The article says that US citizens gave over $300 billion to charities. Giving to religious organizations is up over 4% and totaled over $100 billion.

The crazy thing is that in the US, collectively, $300 billion is a drop in the bucket, as the article says, it's only 2.2% of our GDP.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Who Stole My Church?

A new book by Gordon McDonald confronts the generational differences that affect the church - ours is not the only one who will be going thru this change. Y'all have heard me say before that we have to be ready to turn over leadership to your generation. The elders will all be reading this book in preparation for our leadership retreat in Sep. One of the main sticking points is the differences in music style between the generations. You guys will not remember because you weren't born yet but the explosion of contemporary christian music started in the early 80's with Keith Green. When he was killed in the plane crash others stepped up to continue the musical renaissance. But we can't neglect the older generation and forget to use music that resonates with them so that they can enter into worship. Take a look at this video posted on crosswalk.com and see if we aren't all guilty of the same attitude when our particular style of music isn't being used: http://www.crosswalk.com/video/11576826/

Someone shared on our trip to Moody what goes on at his church and I hope we never get to that at CBC. He said that when praise songs are being sung the older folks just stand there with their arms crossed and scowling but when they sing the hymns they sing at the top of their lungs almost defiantly -- some act of worship isn't it?

Or how about when someone refuses to play or sing because they don't like a particular song. There are plenty of songs I don't care for but I don't refuse to sing them because the songwriter wrote it to worship God. Maybe we can re-arrange it to update it but to not sing because you don't like it isn't the thing to do either.

Maybe one Sunday the worship team should just stand up there and look at the congregation during worship like some in the congregation look at us every week. We really need to check our attitudes and as the video says figure out what worship is really about...

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Shrewdness

Luke 16
The Parable of the Shrewd Manager
1Jesus told his disciples: "There was a rich man whose manager was accused of wasting his possessions. 2So he called him in and asked him, 'What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your management, because you cannot be manager any longer.'

3"The manager said to himself, 'What shall I do now? My master is taking away my job. I'm not strong enough to dig, and I'm ashamed to beg— 4I know what I'll do so that, when I lose my job here, people will welcome me into their houses.'

5"So he called in each one of his master's debtors. He asked the first, 'How much do you owe my master?'

6" 'Eight hundred gallons[a] of olive oil,' he replied.
      "The manager told him, 'Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it four hundred.'

7"Then he asked the second, 'And how much do you owe?'
      " 'A thousand bushels[b] of wheat,' he replied.
      "He told him, 'Take your bill and make it eight hundred.'

8"The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly. For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light. 9I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.

10"Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. 11So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? 12And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else's property, who will give you property of your own?

13"No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money."

14The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and were sneering at Jesus. 15He said to them, "You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of men, but God knows your hearts. What is highly valued among men is detestable in God's sight.

 

I don’t think I completely understand this parable.  Who does the rich man represent?  Who is the manager?  What does being fired represent?  What’s the message? 

I’m gonna try to Wikipedia this in a few minutes to see if it has some thoughts.  If I can’t find it there, I think I’ll search for a Bible wiki or look into creating a Bible wiki.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

WWJD?

I should probably put this on my personal blog, but whatever.

Check out this passage from Luke 7:33-34:

For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and you say, 'He has a demon.'  The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and you say, 'Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and "sinners." '

What would Jesus do?  Drink alcohol, apparently.  What this means is what my dad has taught me all along; drinking alcohol is not sinful, getting drunk on alcohol is.

The Pharisees quickly labeled Jesus a "drunkard," though he wasn't.  I bet Jesus would be labeled the same by some of today's churchgoers.  Those same churchgoers should probably have a look at that passage.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Appreciation

Here is a snippet from a much longer post on my personal blog.  I felt it would appropriate for this blog too.  If you want to you can read the whole blog post at http://mindtravellers.blogspot.com/.

...

As I walked to the car the wind blew.  I felt it all over, it unsettled my hair and gushed across my arms, it rippled my clothes.  Alive.  I realized then and there what a joy it was to experience the wind, experience God, experience worship.  I wasn't singing, I was existing in God's grace and attributing to God the beauty of the creation; worship, in spirit and in truth.

...

Give

Relient K has a song called "Give Until There's Nothing Else."  Go to http://www.myspace.com/relientk and list to the song called "Give."  Here is the chorus:

Give give give (until there's nothing left)
Give my all (until it all runs out)
Give give (and I'll have no regrets)
I'll give until there's nothing left to give
Give give give (until there's nothing left)
Give my all (until it all runs out)
Give give
Give until there's nothing left
I'll give

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Cracking CBC's DNA

A lot of talk now going on in church leadership journals about determining your fellowship's DNA -- what makes your fellowship unique. Check out www.theckn.com and search on dna or code for a great article on it.

So using that as a framework what do you think CBC's DNA is? What makes us unique and is our particular bent in doing ministry? This is extremely important to determine because if we try to do things that are outside our DNA the "organism" will reject it as foreign. They do make the point that you can change your DNA - mutate as it were.

Here are a few things I think are part of our DNA.
1. We are a racially, ethnically and generationally diverse fellowship.
2. Because of this we are a fellowship were interracial couples are comfortable and accepted.
3. We don't say "we don't see color" -- We see color in all its glory as a reflection of God's creative power and we celebrate our differing viewpoints and diversity as a "little taste of heaven".
4. Even tho we are diverse we still are a majority white church (just from demographics) but we have a black senior pastor -- how cool is that! We really don't see that as a big deal but I guess it is for those outside the fellowship in that it is very very rare and unique.
5. We have a significant group within the fellowship who homeschool and others said that it would not work. Again its a celebration of our freedom in Christ to choose how we educate our children and we respect each others' decisions without saying each group is right or wrong.
6. Our generational diversity is pretty much evenly split among the various age groups - not overloaded in any one group I don't think.
7. We are a predominately a discipling church - we do some outreach thru our missionaries but for the most part do teaching -- we have recognized over the years that we need to emphasize outreach but have struggled with evangelism -- we know we are commanded to do that but we need to figure out how to do it in the context of our DNA.

Any other areas that are in our DNA?

Monday, May 5, 2008

The Future

At the conference last week in Indianapolis, Rex Miller gave a keynote address.  Rex Miller is a "futurist" and the author of a book called The Millennium Matrix.  In the book  he explains how the major technology or medium of the day influenced life and the church. 

According to Miller we have moved from oral transmission and the printing press, to the Internet.  Those born before 1992 are considered "Digital Immigrants"; that is to say that those born after 1992 have existed entirely within a world influenced by the Internet.  According to Rex Miller this new technology will cause a drastic change in society.  Because of this, Miller suggests that businesses, organizations, the government and the church need to  adjust the way things are done to ensure survivability and efficacy.

He explained that the current model for businesses and churches is "attractional" in nature.  He describes the model as being and effort by churches (and organizations) to put on a bigger, better "show" to attract people to the building.  This is in contrast to what he calls the "engagement model."  The "engagement model" focuses on interaction and relationships.  He points out that if society is indeed heading towards a more interactive and relational structure that investing in massive infrastructures that require weekly income is dangerous.

The four of us attending the conference discussed these ideas and decided that we could apply some of Miller's advice.  Firstly, we all agreed that we are in a society where the "attractional" model is still viable and that CBC could be and should be doing a better job at it.  Secondly, we agreed that we need to prepare for and develop programs that fit into the "engagement model."  Thirdly, we reiterated that ultimately, no matter what you name things, people still have to love their neighbors.

Finally, here are some practical things that I think should happen:

-Regular meetings to discuss ministries, vision, effectiveness, brainstorm new things

-Website redesign, including incorporating current social networking technologies, increased communication

-Church-wide small groups

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

If you build it, they will come?

I'm here in Indianapolis at a church facilities conference (wfxweb.com).  There are some impressive and expensive church buildings in this country.  I toured one yesterday that was finished last year and cost $30 million.  It was stunning to say the least, and most definitely useful.

There is an emphasis on meeting the needs of today's American culture.  An increasingly connected, visual audience apparently (based on the conference) "needs" multimillion dollar, multimedia experiences driven by the latest technologies.

The four of us attending the conference have talked over meals and during breaks about CBC.  We've identified that there are definitely things we can accomplish in our current facilities and as we dream we wonder what we could accomplish in a new building.

Should we build a new building?  What would a new building have?  How can we best reach Woodbridge?  What is the purpose of a church building?  How can we do church most effectively?

There are so many questions.  Ultimately, we want to glorify God, but how?  What are your thoughts on buildings?  I have tons of thoughts about this and perhaps will write a longer post later.  For now, I just want to get a conversation started.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Is church too "clean?"

Although most of the many people who came from Ephraim, Manasseh, Issachar and Zebulun had not purified themselves, yet they ate the Passover, contrary to what was written. But Hezekiah prayed for them, saying, "May the LORD, who is good, pardon everyone who sets his heart on seeking God - the LORD, the God of his fathers - even if he is not clean according to the rules of the sanctuary." And the LORD heard Hezekiah and healed the people. -2 Chronicles 30:18-20

I read this passage during my daily Bible reading today (Thank you, Richie!), and this verse got me to thinking. It is story of the celebration of the Passover by Hezekiah. In fact, it was the first mass celebration of the Passover in quite some time. What is interesting to note is that Hezekiah had sent out couriers to the the whole nation of Israel, including the northern kingdom, inviting them to come celebrate the Passover in Jerusalem. These Israelites from the northern kingdom were the ceremonially unclean referenced in the above passage. Hezekiah does not stop them from participating until they are clean, because there hearts were seeking after God, but rather prays that the LORD will accept them as is, and the LORD hears Hezekiah's prayer.

What got me thinking was the similarities between this story and several passages in the New Testament. The first is the parable of the wedding banquet. The father is throwing a big party for his son, who is getting married, but none of the bigwigs will come. So the father goes to the street corners and allyways and brings all the dirty, lower class people to the party, where he gives them clean robes to wear. What is relevant in this instance, is that the people were dirty when they came, but that the father (God) cleaned them up after they came. The same happens with Hezekiah. The people come unclean, but the LORD sanctifies them after they come.

This is also the debate that the apostles struggled with. Must the Gentiles become Jews (or "cleaned up") before they could become Christians? God's answer, as given through the story of Peter and Cornelious, is NO! It is Christ's blood that washes us clean after we come to the cross. Do we, as the church, still struggle with this today? Do we expect people to clean up their act somewhat before they enter our doors? Do we simply encourage all who wish to seek God and worship him to come on in, as Hezekiah did? Do we remember that it is Christ who sanctifies, not obedience to the Law or rules? I believe a good example of this is with a homosexual. The point is not to get him to leave his homosexuality, but to bring him to salvation. God will then clean him up (or not, which raises the question of how we deal with those who don't seem to be leaving their sin as quickly as we feel they should). In other words, we are not to become "clean" in order to seek God; we are to seek God, welcome all others who do, and leave the cleaning up to God.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Use us or Lose us

Ok my younger brothers take a look at the following blurb (and I will have more after the quote)

Use Me or Lose Me
Recent surveys indicate that more than half of the baby boomer population wants the rest of their lives to count for something more significant. They want to invest the rest of their lives for the betterment of their families, their communities, and their world. This cohort of people is not only huge, but more than half of them want to give back to others. For the church that is aware of these realities, the boomer could well represent the largest labor force for the kingdom that the church has ever seen. These men and women will probably willingly serve in the traditional ways (ushering, greeting, sitting on boards, teaching classes, etc.), but if these are the only offerings you have then many of them will find greater opportunities to give back to the community outside the church. This is what the Baby Boomer means when he says to the church, “Use me or lose me.” He or she would prefer to get involved in something significant in the church, but if the church has little too little to offer, he will find opportunities elsewhere. Leadership Network Advance 3/25/08

There are a few of us boomers who realize we need to groom you for leadership of the church and start passing on leadership and responsibility for the future of the church (including local fellowships such as CBC). That means we need to give you opportunities to lead and not get in the way of you doing "church" different than we did. The question comes as stated above -- how will you engage the boomer labor force to do or be church.

Richie has heard me say before that I have to have a mission to be happy -- serving. Which is one reason I'm looking to go back to govt - I have a skill set that can help defend this nation. But what will I do when I'm ready to retire again at around 60? Maybe go teach? Continue coaching? What will you guys have me do for church as you are now the leaders in a decade?

Some of us don't want to be the guys sitting in the back carping about music or "we didn't do it that way"; or "Why did we stop having Wednesday night meeting or Sunday night meeting?

But my challenge to you my younger brothers is: what's your strategic plan? What would you change and why? What are things we can change now to put us on that path? What forms would you change to meet the function?

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Bridge Mix

Here are some quick things that I've run across lately that I've been thinking about.

- The 5th commandment to Honor your Father and Mother was given to however many hundreds of thousand former Hebrew Adult slaves (with their respective kids), not only to an elementary school-aged Sunday school class.

- About the whole masculinity issue that the church has been fighting lately to get Men involved and inspired in the church: Jesus was not a wimpy hippie. He flipped tables. He was a carpenter and most likely had a moderate muscular physique. He bore a cross after nearly being beaten to death. He even still had the strength to tell another man he would be in paradise after being beaten and hung by his hands and feet. Jesus didn't hesitate to tell the truth in the face of murderous crowds. He conquered death for goodness sakes. If that's not inspiring to Men, I don't know what is. Go Jesus.

- I read an article at ChristianityToday about the story in John 7-8 about the aldulterous women. Most Bibles mention that this section is not found in most or the earliest manuscripts. I find it interesting that I came across this article today, because Tim had me read John 8 last week and I had been thinking about it, and also yesterday reading Velvet Elvis, he was talking about the inspiration of scripture. So... my wheels have been turning. It seems to me that many Christians are confused about what it means that Scripture is Spiritually inspired, and to what extent they are inspired. When I was younger I used to think that if I could find any mispelling when people quoted scripture, that I could automatically disqualify it as something I didn't need to listen to. I was young, what can I say? But now, the question is, "Can I say that God has never since inspired someone to write something since the last segment of our Bible was written?" Obviously, God's Spirit has worked through people since then. Do I believe things need to be added to scripture? No. Do I think that the woman adulturous story needs to be removed? I'm not sure. But, this topic sure does open a huge can of worms as to discernment into what/who is inspired by God's Spirit and what/who isn't. I think we can all think of things that we know for sure aren't inspired by God, but that other faith bases do believe are inspired. But I know that I can say that I've said things before that God was definitely speaking through me. What about you guys?

Monday, April 21, 2008

Intelligent Design and Expelled

Dinesh D'sousa comments on Expelled. This is the point I've been trying to make about evolution and ID in general. Why should we concede the point on evolution. Paul tried to be everything for every man so that he might win some but I don't believe he sacrificed truth..

Ben Stein Exposes Richard Dawkins
By Dinesh D'Souza
Monday, April 21, 2008

In Ben Stein's new film "Expelled," there is a great scene where Richard Dawkins is going on about how evolution explains everything. This is part of Dawkins' grand claim, which echoes through several of his books, that evolution by itself has refuted the argument from design. The argument from design hold that the design of the universe and of life are most likely the product of an intelligent designer. Dawkins thinks that Darwin has disproven this argument.

So Stein puts to Dawkins a simple question, "How did life begin?" One would think that this is a question that could be easily answered. Dawkins, however, frankly admits that he has no idea. One might expect Dawkins to invoke evolution as the all-purpose explanation. Evolution, however, only explains transitions from one life form to another. Evolution has no explanation for how life got started in the first place. Darwin was very clear about this.

In order for evolution to take place, there had to be a living cell. The difficulty for atheists is that even this original cell is a work of labyrinthine complexity. Franklin Harold writes in The Way of the Cell that even the simplest cells are more ingeniously complicated than man's most elaborate inventions: the factory system or the computer. Moreover, Harold writes that the various components of the cell do not function like random widgets; rather, they work purposefully together, as if cooperating in a planned organized venture. Dawkins himself has described the cell as the kind of supercomputer, noting that it functions through an information system that resembles the software code.

Is it possible that living cells somehow assembled themselves from nonliving things by chance? The probabilities here are so infinitesimal that they approach zero. Moreover, the earth has been around for some 4.5 billion years and the first traces of life have already been found at some 3.5 billion years ago. This is just what we have discovered: it's quite possible that life existed on earth even earlier. What this means is that, within the scope of evolutionary time, life appeared on earth very quickly after the earth itself was formed. Is it reasonable to posit that a chance combination of atoms and molecules, under those conditions, somehow generated a living thing? Could the random collision of molecules somehow produce a computer?

It is ridiculously implausible to think so. And the absurdity was recognized more than a decade ago by Francis Crick, co-discoverer of the DNA double helix. Yet Crick is a committed atheist. Unwilling to consider the possibility of divine or supernatural creation, Crick suggested that maybe aliens brought life to earth from another planet. And this is precisely the suggestion that Richard Dawkins makes in his response to Ben Stein. Perhaps, he notes, life was delivered to our planet by highly-evolved aliens. Let's call this the "ET" explanation.

Stein brilliantly responds that he had no idea Richard Dawkins believes in intelligent design! And indeed Dawkins does seem to be saying that alien intelligence is responsible for life arriving on earth. What are we to make of this? Basically Dawkins is surrendering on the claim that evolution can account for the origins of life. It can't. The issue now is simply whether a natural intelligence (ET) or a supernatural intelligence (God) created life. Dawkins can't bear the supernatural explanation and so he opts for ET. But doesn't it take as much, or more, faith to believe in extraterrestrial biology majors depositing life on earth than it does to believe in a transcendent creator?


Again - the fact that a student in biology buys into the evolution argument as an excuse not to listen to the gospel is his problem with God. We talked about not getting diverted to side issues when sharing Christ but we also have intellectual reasons to believe in God -- the whole area of apologetics which Paul typified on Mars Hill.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

From Church Leaders Intelligence


04.16.08

Church Growth Barriers
As megachurches grow larger, smaller churches are struggling. Many churches deal with the same inevitable growth barriers that keep them from filling their pews and reaching more for Christ. “They essentially find themselves stuck,” says Nelson Searcy, lead pastor of The Journey Church in NYC.

The most fundamental barrier churches face is space. When a room reaches 70% of its seating capacity, it’s full. Searcy observes that most churches face growth barriers when attendance reaches 65, 125, 250, 500 and 1,000.

The second barrier is self-development. If the church’s leaders have stopped maturing spiritually and progressing personally, the congregation is not far behind.

Barrier #3 is focus. Churches stop growing when they become inwardly (instead of outwardly) focused. Healthy churches should have a 5:100 ratio of first-time guests to regular attendees.

Weekly worship service can be growth barrier #4. Searcy calls it “the front door” through which people get their first impression of the church. “To keep your service strong, always try to look like a church twice your size,” he advises.

Barrier #5 is often staff. Many pastors want to put off staff hires until they have the money in place to support the positions. This seems practical, but unfortunately, it doesn’t work. Searcy says, “You will never have enough money in advance to hire the staff you need.”

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Brick Walls and Trampolines

I just finished reading the section in Velvet Elvis about the Brick Walls and Trampolines, which Terry referred to in this post.

Here are my thoughts:

Lets not discredit Rob Bell for using the virgin birth as his example for the brick analogy. He openly states on the very next page, "I affirm the historic Christian faith, which includes the virgin birth and the Trinity and the inspiration of the Bible and much more."

But the meat of the matter is his analogy of the brick wall and the trampoline. For those of you who have not read this section, the analogy is two parts.

Brick Wall: He is observing that many Christians' faith is brick-like. In other words, one belief is a brick, and each brick sits on top of another brick.
My take: In many ways, this analogy rings true. How else would we have so many different denominations? I think of it as a Lego brick wall. Presbyterians and Protestants might have very similar walls, with a few different colored bricks in the top, middle, and bottom. Some denominations' walls will have different shapes and colors than other walls, but hopefully most of the bottom bricks are the same. We can maybe even say that some of the bottom bricks are different shades of the same color.
Bell goes on to note that "walls" are often defended, and aren't necessarily encouraging for growth, but are more often used as boundaries. I think his analogy breaks down here. First of all, bricks work great if you are describing foundational truths, and how some truths are based on the truth of others. Bricks can also be used to build structures or shelter. Walls shouldn't be the first connotation when we think of bricks. I'm sure that there are many walls Christianity (the Christianity as humans have made it) has built, some good, some bad, some as shelter, but they are not all bad walls. Also, he is only describing the analogy when he says that the virgin birth is only a brick, and what would happen if it was removed? I tend to believe that the virgin birth is a bottom brick, but not the bottom. Christ is the cornerstone after all. If the virgin birth was removed, Christ would still stand and so would a lot of other bricks. (Notice the contrast from this post and my previous post, I still haven't figured it out, and probably never will. God is beyond my comprehension and I like him like that). But let it be said that I think the virgin birth is immovable, because it is so clearly stated in a book I believe is truth.

Trampoline: Here Bell is describing how some aspects of our faith serve as springs in trampolines. They help us understand things better and help us jump higher. Just like jumping simultaneously on a trampoline you can get a much higher "bounce" if you time your jump just right with your partner's landing. One example of a spring is the Trinity. The word trinity is not explicitly stated in scripture. But when we use that "spring" it brings to light so many other aspects of God that we would have had a harder time understanding otherwise. Bell states that springs are not what make up Christianity, but are what help us understand it better.
My take: The trampoline idea is great, but as with most ideas, could be potentially dangerous. Purposefully looking for new springs without discernment can result in a higher jump, but some of them could eventually jump you off the trampoline entirely. I realize I am further stretching this analogy to relate it to getting off course but I feel justified in doing so in light of Bell's stretching of the brick analogy into forming walls.

I also think that while something may be a "spring", it wasn't given to us by our constant thinking and questioning. A true spring is revealed to us by God. God may reveal it to us through our study of scripture, but it is definitely not a man-made revelation. Any not God given spring is definitely one that flings us off the trampoline no matter how subtle it may do so.

Expelled

Ben Stein's movie Expelled comes out some time soon.  I just recently finished reading an article critiquing the film and here is the third to last paragraph in the article. 

"The weakness of the logic of Expelled is beside the point, however. No one who accepts evolution as fact is likely to leave the theater shaken. Some people with looser understandings of the science or the legal issues might buy into its arguments about "fairness" and protecting religion against science. Expelled is nonetheless mostly a film for ID creationism's religious base. That audience has seen one setback after the next in recent years, with science rejecting ID as useless and the courts rebuffing it as for a constitutional violation in public education. For them, Expelled is a rallying point to revive their morale."

For the full article (it's kinda long) go here http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?id=ben-steins-expelled-review-john-rennie.

I think I'm just posting this so everyone is aware of how the movie might be perceived.  I'm not trying to make a statement or anything, just purely providing information.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Variability and God

This is a topic that I find very interesting. There are definite truths in both sides as far as I can tell, but I'm going to present you with both to generate discussion. I don't know if there is any other documentation on this topic, but it's something I think about a good bit. A discussion Richie, Terry, and I had last night reminded me of it.

Here it is:

Could God have made any of his choices differently? On the surface it seems like an easy question: "Of course. He's God, he can do whatever he wants." But on the other hand: "Of course not, He's God." Here's what I mean:

Every decision God makes is made by Godly discernment. Therefore, every decision God makes is just, wise, true. The properties of these decisions make every other dicision unjust, unwise, and untrue. We could even add other descriptors there, but those are just the ones that came to my head. God can't act against himself because that would be sin. This could even tie in to predestination-type topics. If God knows all, He knows himself, and does He therefore know every decision He will make?

Often, people say, "God could have not done such and such but will still have been God." Such as creating the earth, humans, etc. I'm not sure of the answer to that question. But here's a subtopic leaving behind the topic of creation. Could God have created human beings who he knew would fall into sin, but not save them? John 15:13 "Greater love has no man than this, that one lay down his life for his friends". Of course, you could argue that Jesus could not have come to earth, and then would not be subject to showing greater love because he had never become 'Man'.

The other side of this is, if every decision God has made (and will make, in human terms) would have been made the same every time because God is God, then does God have personality? Does God have choice? Everything inside me also wants to say that he does. If God didn't have those things, then it almost makes God not alive, and we all know that he very much is.

Anyways, there is a whole slew of topics. I'm torn between them, and I hope hearing you guys discuss it will help sort some things out.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Now this is just silly - and does make us look like nuts

Quote

REEDSBURG, Wis. (AP) - An elementary-school event in which kids were encouraged to dress as members of the opposite gender drew the ire of a Christian radio group, whose angry broadcast prompted outraged calls to the district office.
Students at Pineview Elementary in Reedsburg had been dressing in costume all last week as part of an annual school tradition called Wacky Week. On Friday, students were encouraged to dress either as senior citizens or as members of the opposite sex.
A local resident informed the Voice of Christian Youth America on Friday. The Milwaukee-based radio network responded by interrupting its morning programming for a special broadcast that aired on nine radio stations throughout Wisconsin. The broadcast criticized the dress-up day and accused the district of promoting alternative lifestyles.
"We believe it's the wrong message to send to elementary students," said Jim Schneider, the network's program director. "Our station is one that promotes traditional family values. It concerns us when a school district strikes at the heart and core of the Biblical values. To promote this to elementary-school students is a great error."
Schneider co-hosts "Crosstalk," a nationally syndicated call-in Christian radio show.
After the program aired, both the school and Reedsburg School District office were flooded with calls complaining about the event.
The response surprised Principal Tammy Hayes, who said no one had raised any objections beforehand. She said a flier detailing Wacky Week had been sent home with children the prior week, and an announcement was also included in teacher newsletters.
The dress-up day was not an attempt to promote cross-dressing, homosexuality or alternative gender roles, district administrator Tom Benson said.
"The promotion of transgenderism - that was not our purpose," Benson told the Baraboo News Republic. "Our purpose was to have a Wacky Week, mixing in a bit of silliness with our reading, writing and arithmetic."
The theme for Friday's dress-up day came from students, Hayes said.
"It's different every year. They basically present the ideas, and they vote on what they would like from Monday through Friday," Hayes said. "... They did not mean anything by this day. They were trying to have fun and come up with a fun dress-up day."
About 40 percent of the student body dressed up Friday, Hayes estimated, with half portraying senior citizens and half dressing as the opposite sex.
"I can assure you we will not be having this day (again)," Hayes said.
Reedsburg is in southern Wisconsin, about 60 miles northwest of Madison.

Unquote.

Now this is the kind of stuff where we do overreact - you can't find a boogyman in everything that goes on. I take the school system at its word that they were not promoting alternative lifestyles. This episode probably set back folks witnessing and sharing Christ up in that area a great deal. It probably would have been better to have addressed this with the school principal instead of stirring up the pot.

Velvet Elvis

I just scanned several pages of the book on google books and would like to read the whole thing. I did stumble on the brick analogy and the virgin birth pages and am very concerned about his thinking. It is one thing for an unbeliever to not understand the nuances of the virgin birth and not believe that by faith because he has none. It is quite a different thing for a believer to buy into his argument.

If you want to have these discussions in a theology class that would be the place to do it but to continue to doubt the fundamental tenets of the faith that set it apart from other faith systems is to call God a liar. We've heard all these arguments before: the word translated virgin could mean young woman -- the context of Isaiah make that interpretation improbable. Then you have to throw out the whole speech of the angel to Mary when she questioned him by saying "how can this be since I'm a virgin?" and the explanation to her by the angel. Some of this argument Bell makes comes right from mormon theology.

Yes we need to share Christ - but what Christ are you sharing with others? The Sovereign God of the universe who created it by a word who became one of us or a Christ that had a biological father and some how mystically became God?

I like a discussion as much as the next but this is dangerous thinking if he is suggesting it really doesn't matter whether God created in 6 days or Christ was born of a real virgin. Look how CS Lewis approached these matters --you can't call him an intellectual slouch - he didn't shrink from these matters. Look at the other christian apologists over the years - even down to Bill Craig.

What does Bell say about the death and resurrection? are those metephorical writings too? Where does he draw the line on where he will base his faith??

Let the discussion begin

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Live the Life

Preach the gospel to all the world, and if necessary, use words. -st. francis of assisi

Were passengers aboard the train
Silent little lambs amidst the pain
Thats no longer good enough
And when its time to speak our faith
We use a language no one can explain
Thats no longer good enough
And God knows its a shame
As we look to pass the flame
We are not the worthy bearers of his name

Chorus:
For the world to know the truth
There can be no greater proof
Than to live the life, live the life
Theres no love thats quite as pure
Theres no pain we cant endure
If we live the life, live the life
Be a light for all to see
For every act of love will set you free

Theres something beautiful and bold
The power of a million human souls
Come together as one
And each in turn goes out to lead
Another by his word, his love, his deed
Now the circle is done
It all comes back to one
For it is he and he alone
Who has lived the only perfect life weve known
-- Michael W Smith

Interesting discussion today at men's fellowship breakfast about again living your life as flawed as it is and loving folks. One ancedote shared by Allen Hickox about a guy he meets in the gym who was constantly telling dirty jokes that Allen really didn't care to hear. How do you tell the guy you really don't care to hear them without coming across as judgmental? I can't remember now his exact response but it was along the lines of "I don't really relate to those -- what other jokes do you have" Another comment Allen said to him jokingly when these would come up was: How does your wife tolerate you? The guy replied, she doesn't. I wish I could remember the exact line he used because it was really good and not judgmental. As it was the guy did have some other stuff - like conservative jokes (the guy is liberal) so they did have some stuff they could banter back and forth. This opened up a quasi-friendship so much that the guy felt comfortable sharing that he was having some problems at home. Allen simply asked if he could pray for them and then followed up the next time they were in the gym.

I guess these are the kinds of things we should be looking for when the song says to live the life. And when scripture says to be ready to give an account of the hope that is in you...

And I guess we should be praying for these opportunities. O one other thing - 12 guys spent three years with Jesus day in and day out. We know one of them betrayed him; might know the names of 3 or 4 others - 6 max I would say. What about the ones who never wrote scripture and we hardly remember their names? What did they do? How come we don't hear about there efforts in spreading the gospel? Maybe its to remind us that simply living our lives and loving each other and other people is all we are really called to do. Just be faithful....

Friday, April 4, 2008

Finish the line...

Rudolph the red nose reindeer....

Buy me some peanuts and cracker jacks....

I can't get no....

Hit me baby....

Jingle bells, batman smells....

Melts in your mouth....

Like a good neighbor....

Help I've fallen....

Thy word have I hidden in my heart....

Good maybe you got that one

Sanctify them by the truth....

Maybe that one was harder

Think about all those songs and jingles that you know all the words to, you have them memorized because we hear them over and over again. We spend time listening to them and looking at them and dwelling on them so that we have these statements in our head that we can spit out. What if we could do that with scripture, if we meditated on it so that someone could start a verse and we could finish it. All of this came from a Francis Chan sermon (part of a series he was doing on Intimacy With God). Psalm 119:11 says I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. So much of Psalm 119 talks about that, the idea of meditating on Gods word so that you can remain pure like in vs. 9. Thats great if you could finish those verses above but think about all of your friends or people you know in the church that can't finish those verses. I am sure we all want to live a more pure life and not sin against God as much as we do and I think we often over complicate things. Psalm 119 says that if we need to know Gods word and hide it in our hearts.

We also see the word of God as a sword in Ephesians, Hebrews, and Revelation. This is our offensive weapon against Satan. We see Jesus use this when He was being tempted in the desert, he responded with the word of God. This has been on my mind this past week and I hope it can be an encouragement to you too.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The Evolution of Man

A fierce debate rages in today's America about the origin of life.  It is an incredibly important debate that I don't believe can be won by arguing scientific theories (e.g. Intelligent Design, Darwinian Evolution.)  The primary reason it can't be won on scientific evidence is that people have made their minds up on the topic already and can support their position with science.  What I believe Christians should do is focus on the implications of an origin without God and realize that God is bigger than this debate.

1. Implications of life without God

What is inherently better about "life"?  What incentive do I have to preserve my existence or the existence of those around me?  Why is preserving of a group of molecules that have somehow become self-aware more important than not?  A true atheist has no answer.  Any attempt answer that and you leave the realm of the natural and enter the supernatural.

If we are unable to answer that question, then everything falls apart.  There is no authority; no authority for government, no authority for decency, no authority for morality.  Without God no one could tell me that walking into your house and killing your family is wrong, or that walking into a classroom and shooting 32 people is wrong, or that people starving in Africa is wrong.

If atheists realized what they were saying they'd live differently or stop being atheists.

2. Evolution is not bigger than God

Let us assume scientists were to somehow discover "the missing link" or reproduce the "primordial soup" that resulted life, what then for the believer?  Does God cease to exist?  Is the Creation story now irrelevant and wrong?  The answer, of course, is absolutely not.  Rob Bell in his book "Velvet Elvis" takes this idea and expands it using the virgin birth to do so.  He spends a little more time fleshing out the argument using bricks and trampolines as a metaphor, but I'll leave it at that and perhaps get him some more book sales.  The heart of the matter is that we want to introduce people to God and not to a set of rules and doctrines that one can adhere to without knowing why.

 

As always there is plenty more to be said, but this at least gets some of the ideas out there.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Relationships

At the risk of stating the obvious, God uses relationships to build people. This is clear from Jesus' ministry (time spent w/ his disciples), Acts 2:42-47 (the word "together" is used repeatedly to describe their fellowship), and all of scripture. God didn't need to make it so. How could have made us to be lone rangers, but he didn't. Ecclesiastes 4:12 explains "Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken."

I recall Chuck Swindoll sharing a story about a Marine Corps buddy of his who found more sincere relationships in a bar than in the church (http://tatumweb.com/blog/2007/07/22/church-bar/#comment-67001), and frankly I can relate. When I came to faith in college through InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, I belonged to strong fellowship and it made all the difference. In the 12 years since then, the depth of my relationships have been on a steady decline, for a number of reasons (most of which are my fault).

I'm convinced that church structures must foster healthy relationships, between believers, and reaching out to non-believers. These relationships must be God-honoring and real. Why is it so important that church structures support relationships? For some people, relationships come natural - they don't need structure. For others, either relationships do not come natural or they're just choked out by business. We must strive to ensure that nobody "falls through the cracks", neither visitors, nor regular attenders. BTW, I believe that small groups for all are great way to do this.

As Mother Teresa said "The most terrible poverty is loneliness and the feeling of being unloved." God forbid people feel the way Rich Mullins did in his song Elijah "There's people been friendly, but they'd never be your friends. Sometimes this has bent me to the ground."

A desire to serve the living God is the reason that I must be a part of a church. But the times that I've experienced sincere love (and there have many) are what makes me want to belong to a church.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Confidence

1 Sam. 10:5 Once these signs are fulfilled, do whatever your hand finds to do, for God is with you.

That verse is taken from 1 Samuel 1o and is spoken by Samuel concerning Saul's anointing.  In that chapter Samuel tells Saul that when he meets up with other prophets, the Holy Spirit will come on him in power and that when that happens he is to "do whatever your hand finds to do."

If each of us as followers of Christ have been granted the Holy Spirit then don't we have the same charge?  Haven't we been given a Spirit, not of timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline?  Isn't faith being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see? 

Do you believe the Holy Spirit is directing you?

From Mike Adams on Townhall - the Audacity of Hope

I think this is the kind of stuff you guys are talking about when "doing church". While we don't know what God would do if we stepped out in faith -- we really aren't that concerned about numbers other than the fact that more folks means being able to do more but read the following:




The Audacity of Hope 127
By Mike S. Adams
Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Just a few years ago, Pastor Jackson got on a plane from Africa to come to the United States of America. He felt led to reach out and form a partnership with a small but growing church in Wilmington, NC. He sold his car in order to purchase the plane ticket. He put his trust completely in the Lord.
When he arrived unannounced at the airport in Baltimore, MD, he called the office of the church asking for someone to come and pick him up. They had to give him the bad news that the Baltimore airport was close to Wilmington, Delaware but not anywhere near Wilmington, North Carolina. But they managed to get him on a bus to North Carolina so they could listen in person to why Pastor Jackson thought he had been led to contact them in the first place.
Not knowing where to put their surprise visitor from Africa, the church staff got him a hotel room. After listening to him address the staff, one of the young pastors named Mark drove him back to Baltimore and put him on a plane back to Africa.
When Mark returned from his seven-hour ride with Pastor Jackson he was convinced that his ministry was one that was worth supporting. The young North Carolina church was struggling financially and trying desperately to save money for its first building. Nonetheless, they were asked to consider giving 10% of their budget to Pastor Jackson’s ministry.
One of the young pastors remarked that it would be insane to give 10% to this man’s ministry at a time when their own church was struggling financially and without a building of its own. Another replied with a pointed question: “Do you think God will punish us for giving too much money to African children?”
The staff prayed as a group. At the end of the prayer and without further discussion they all looked up and said “Let’s do it.”
If you look at a chart of the growth of Port City Community Church in Wilmington, NC, you can see that the biggest jump in attendance followed that leap of faith resulting in giving 10% of the church’s budget to Pastor Jackson. Just eight years after holding its first service, Port City Community Church recently had to turn people away from its doors as it packed over 3700 people into five Sunday services. Plans for a new building have had to be modified to accommodate unexpected growth.
I believe that stories like this show that God has a plan for every person and for every church. And God rewards those who respond boldly and decisively to His plans.
When I mentioned in a recent column that I was signing over 100% of any future royalties from my latest book to Pastor Jackson’s Hope 127 Project I received an unexpected torrent of hate mail. Many of those emails asked how I could possibly donate proceeds to a foreign charity instead of one here in the United States. What I have already said in this column explains the specific calling but it does not address the larger issue of choosing foreign over domestic charity.
Those who are adamantly opposed to giving to foreign charity, especially if they are Christians, need to take some consolation in the fact that atheism is on the decline in the world today. And they can also take some consolation in the fact that Christianity is the world’s fastest growing religion.
But the good news about the Good News is not all coming from the United States of America. In fact, the real reason Christianity is winning is because of what is happening on continents like South America, Asia, and Africa. And that success has led many like me to view foreign Christian charity as a good investment.
I want those who hastily fired those critical emails to consider the location of Jesus’ birth and ministry. Is it a coincidence that God chose a place where Asia, Europe, and Africa intersect? We are all free to believe this to be a coincidence. But Christianity is not for those believing in a random universe.
When we ask ourselves “Where Would Jesus Donate, WWJD?” we should remember that God donated His Son to save an entire world. And the distinction between foreign and domestic charity has long been washed away with the blood of Jesus.
Mike Adams is a criminology professor at the University of North Carolina Wilmington and author of Feminists Say the Darndest Things: A Politically Incorrect Professor Confronts "Womyn" On Campus.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Role of the Elders

I made a comment in my previous post about about "one guy" doing all the preaching. I wonder why that is the model. In the Scriptures elders/overseers were responsible for the teaching and spiritual oversight.

Have a look at Acts chapter six. There, some of the apostles were being bogged down by distributing food; so much so, that is was interrupting their ability to share the word of God. Seven servants/deacons were selected to take this over, thus freeing up the apostles to spread the word. And spread the word they did, as many came to be followers of the Way. I would suggest that the bulk of the teaching should be coming from all the elders of a body. Elders according to Paul (1 Tim) should be able to teach so the argument that someone isn't gifted in that way shouldn't be an issue since it is a foundational criterion for an elder.

How would that look at our church?

The Sunday Morning Crowd

Let me start by saying that blogging by nature is slightly less formal than full-on essays, so please forgive my lack of a degree in English. Also, I can't say that I've fully thought through everything I say here. Finally and most importantly, my hope is that by getting ideas out there we will collectively come to the right conclusions.

Our comments/discussion has shifted to being primarily about the Sunday Morning Service and it probably deserves it's own post.

I believe the meeting on Sunday mornings in a building with a sermon from one man each week definitely has its place within the church, but I believe it to be only a part, maybe even small part, of what church more generally is and should be doing.

Who is the audience?
What role does it play for the audience?
What role does it play in the church?
What are the goals? (tightly related to the previous two questions)
What elements should there be based on the goals?
How did it come to be what it is? What factors influenced?
What are the good things that do and could come from it?
What are the bad things that do and could come from it?
Why do some churches succeed numerically?
Can a meeting on Sundays accomplish everything a church is to do?

I think these are some good questions to think through because they will both explain why things are the way they are and perhaps the way they should be.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

How would you "do church" if you had a blank slate?

We're not told a lot in the new testament "how" to do church. Sure there are a few things such as the reading of the word; singing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs; the Lord's supper; teaching. We also see glimpses of the temple worship and worship around the throne in Revelation so that has to have some bearing on what we do. What about synagogue services since that would have been the model the early church practiced? I'm a firm believer in not doing things because "that's the way we've always done it". Sunday school did not exist 100 yrs ago. Wednesday night or Sunday night services didn't exist either I don't believe -- never have really thought about it or done the research.

We as Elders intend to review the ministries we have and see where they fit into the vision of CBC...Glorifying God....Making Disciples. If they don't fit or arent effective they must be replaced with something that does or is.

Ok - so what would you do if you could design your own church - something folks are doing today. I can't recall the name of the church but they are meeting at Union Station in DC-- google it and check it out...

Saturday, March 15, 2008

My Vision For This Blog

I will try to sum this up and keep it short. Earlier this year I read a book called Kingdom of Couches written by an author that is on staff with Cru. It was a book about having a communal faith and living out your relationship with God in the context of people or a community. Throughout the book the author included excerpts from a blog he had with some of his good friends, some of which were pastors. They would just share things that God was teaching them and present questions as well. More recently I have been listening to a lot of sermons from a lot of different pastors (Mark Driscoll, Francis Chan, Tom Nelson, John Piper, Tim Keller). The sermons have brought up lots of things that I have and would like to continue to discuss.

So with this blog I would love to have some guys like Tim, Chad, Neal, maybe Greg, and some other "more elder" leaders at church be apart of this. With a good number of people involved in this it would keep it fresh and updated and give something to read and think about regularly. It would give us all something to challenge our walks with God by being able to ask questions present ideas or new thoughts from things in our life to things with the church. This might sound like emergent church kind of stuff (which I have been learning about) but its not because we aren't going to be questioning theology. This is also a good way to have a check and balance to things that we listen to online and things that we might be reading.