Monday, March 22, 2010

Networking

I came across an extremely though provoking quote in an article regarding the prostitution of underage girls in Phoenix, Arizona. I will let the quote speak for itself.

"I've always wondered why the criminal world can network so well, and we can't. You see the government agencies doing their stuff autonomously, churches and parachurches doing their stuff autonomously. What if we could network as well as the criminal world? We would be awestruck at what God would accomplish."

-Pat McCalla

Churches within the Phoenix area have been working with each other and local government to protect these young girls. It is not everyday that you hear the call for the church to emulate organized crime.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

How often do you say, "I'm tired"

If you are like me, then you probably say it a lot. I think there are several factors that play into this: I don't exercise like I should, I don't eat the right food, and I don't have a regular sleep pattern. I sometimes pray, "God give me the energy to get through this day." I often wonder if I should really pray that since I am not taking any steps to be disciplined in my physical habits to improve my energy levels. In some sense I am humbling myself before God and admitting that He is the only way I am going to have the energy to get through the day but I still feel like I should back up my words. I think that I don't deserve for God to sustain me through the day if I don't take any action. But then I am reminded of God's grace. Its true that I don't deserve it, in fact no one does and that is the beauty of God's grace. Even if I did eat right, exercise, or had a regular sleep pattern there is no reason why I should have good energy levels, its all in God's hands.

After a quick biblegateway.com search for rest, I found this passage in Exodus 33 to be interesting...

13 If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you. Remember that this nation is your people."

14 The LORD replied, "My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest."

I find it interesting because Moses is wanting to learn His ways and continue to find FAVOR with the LORD. That FAVOR, I'm pretty sure, is the same thing as GRACE. So for Moses to know God and experience His grace, God is going to go with him and give him REST.

Now I do think we should do things like eat right, exercise, and have a regular sleep pattern but whether we do or not we should focus on Gods grace. When we are tired we should rely on God's grace. When we are well rested we should thank God for His grace.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Liar Liar Pants on Fire - The Centralization of Authority Part 1

Acts 5

I need to be honest the beginning of Acts 5 confuses me.  The church has been growing super fast, people were being healed, the gospel was spreading.  Then God decides to freak everyone out by killing someone who gave money to the church.

I should be clear here, Ananias and Sapphira conspired together to gain favor in the fledgling church by appearing spiritual in an act of giving.  They decided together to sell some land and give part of the money to the apostles and make seem as though they had given all the money they received.  Peter being full of the Spirit knew they were attempting to deceive the body of believers and, more importantly, God himself.  Peter called them out and both were struck dead.

This strikes fear in my own life because I feel I've committed equally, if not worse, sins against God my savior.  God clearly is the author of life and is sovereign over all, so he can at any point exact his wrath or demonstrate his mercy.  That said, I believe God used this event as an example rather than a norm to establish and centralize the leadership of the early church and further build the church's foundation.  Jesus says to Peter and the rest of the twelve that on them he'll build his church.  If Ananias and Sapphira were able to get away with this, you'd have seen enemies of the church weasel their way into leadership and disintegrate its foundation and credibility.

What God did worked.  People were hesitant to join the believers out of fear, but still received the gospel in droves.  The Sanhedrin, naturally, became jealous and sought to prevent the apostles from preaching more.  A respected leader wisely prevented them from carrying out any capital punishment on the apostles by arguing that if these men were not aided by God himself their movement would die.  God in his wisdom used the deaths of Ananias and Sapphira to ensure that the movement would in fact be completely led by his Spirit.

As we'll see later on in Acts, this is one of many events that God used to ensure the fidelity of this new movement.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

And None Were in Need

Acts 4 continued.

 32All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. 33With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all. 34There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales 35and put it at the apostles' feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need.

 36Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means Son of Encouragement), 37sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles' feet.


How's that for an open hand.  While I won't advocate for some sort of theocratic socialism, I will say it seems that as believers we should hold our possessions a little more loosely.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Thank You Lord Jesus

On Wednesday evening, my daughter Sara was playing in the backyard. She decided to go down the slide w/ a metal pole in her hand. The pole hit her one inch below her right eye. We took her to the doctor. Her eye is fine. Thank God!!! (I’m not just saying this as a throwaway cliché.)

I have seen many of these “near misses” in the lives of my children and in my life. These make me mindful of the “common grace” which God grants to all humankind. Though we live in a fallen world, God continually expresses His love for the world through His providence. Colossians 1:16-17 reminds us that Lord Jesus Christ made it all and keeps it all: “… all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” Wow! In this life I’ll never know all that God does for me. To my shame, I go through most days taking this for granted. I grumble when things don’t go my way, but rarely praise Him when things go well.

And how much more should we as believers praise Him! For we have been given much more than “common grace”. We have been given “such a great salvation” (Hebrews 2:3)!!! A friend of mine in college gave this word of testimony while his family was in turmoil: "If all that God ever gave me in my life was salvation, and He never did anything else for me, that would enough to praise Him for forever." Right on.

This brings to mind a song we sing at church, “Thank You” …
“For all that You’ve done I will thank You
For all that You’re going to do
For all that You’ve promised and all that You are
And all that You’ve carried me through
Jesus I thank You
And I thank You, thank You, Lord!
And I thank You, thank You, Lord!
Thank You for loving and setting me free
Thank You for giving Your life just for me
How I thank You, Jesus I thank You
I gratefully thank You, and I thank You”

Thursday, March 11, 2010

A Shaken Room

Acts 4 Continued

After being told to shut up, Peter and the rest of the disciples prayed together for the boldness to continue speaking the good news of Christ's resurrection:

29Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. 30Stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus."

God's response:

31After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.

Incredible.  What we're finding as we read through these chapters in Acts is that God is doing some very remarkable things to establish his church.  While what we are reading seems to indicate that these things aren't the norm, I can't help but wonder what God could do if we as a group sought to proclaim his name boldly and asked him to help us do it.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Succession of Leadership

I guess just to followup on my talk from Sunday on the need for church leaders to train the next generation of leadership. We've all heard the cliche about having 3 types of people in your life: a Paul, a Barnabas, and a Timothy. In other words - a mentor; a peer and a "mentee" or "disciple". We of the Boomer generation have to make a concerted effort to prepare the Millenials for leadership service and we need to start now. That means being willing to release our grip on leadership roles - move into a mentoring role and also release the methods of ministry to a new generation. This goes against the grain because some see these new methods as "not the right way to do things".

Two things need to happen: 1) we need to identify potential leaders and 2) be willing to support those leaders when they do things different than we would -- after all we aren't doing things the way our parents did.

Above all tho we need to allow methods to change while remaining true to Scripture -- that is the basis of all ministry: how does it stack up against the Bible. If it does then my advice to my generation is: let it go. If it doesn't we need to provide guidance - pointing to Scripture where the issue deviates and recommend other alternatives.

Its time...

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Can't Help It

Acts 4 picks up in the middle of a dramatic event outside the temple in which a crippled man regains his mobility.  Peter and John, early leaders of the church and close friends of Jesus, are taken into custody by the authorities at the request of the Sadducees (the Sadducees are a sect of Jewish priests who did not believe in the resurrection of the dead as Peter and John preached - Acts 3:15).  They are held overnight and brought before a group called the Sanhedrin - a word meaning "sitting together" and referring to an assembly of judges in Israel.  Here they were questioned.

During their inquisition Peter and John boldly proclaim the gospel and in so doing "astonish" these educated leaders.  The disciples' boldness and apparent authority are so shocking that the Sanhedrin withdraw into closed quarters to discuss the plan for dealing with these men.  For fear of losing control and favor among the Israelites decide to order the apostles to cease their proclamations altogether.

Peter's response to this demand stands for itself, he says to the Sanhedrin, "Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God's sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard."

I was challenged by this and I want to point out two things about this:

  • What they had to say they understood as fact
  • We should have a similar sense of urgency in sharing God with others

The Facts

Sometimes I find myself focusing more on philosophical discussions about the existence of God and deeply logical explanations of the Bible's authenticity rather than simply stating the facts.  The facts:

  • The Bible is a book comprised of many literary works
  • These literary works describe a man named Jesus
  • Jesus claimed to be God and brought a message of grace and reconciliation
  • Jesus's closest friends saw him die and live again
  • Reconciliation and grace can be ours

The Bible contains a portion of the works and teachings of Jesus (John says that if everything were written down the world's books couldn't contain it).  The teachings recorded are so radical and unlike anything else that they seem crazy but the facts are:

  • Since my dad didn't exasperate me I know he loves me (Ephesians)
  • I obeyed the authorities and got good grades (Romans)
  • My brother and sister understand grace and forgiveness so they still love me (Gospels)

Share the facts and let those who hear deal with it.

The Urgency

Often when something is important to you it's important enough to share.  When your friends have babies you tell people about it, when you get engaged you let people know, if you liked a particular movie you tell people to see it, if you like a restaurant you tell people to try it.  These things just flow out during conversation as if we couldn't help it.  Our experiences with the church, the Bible and God should probably be similar.  If our experiences with the community of Christ don't impact us then we're unlikely to think they are worth sharing.

Misguided Christian Outrage?

I read this post: http://theresurgence.com/misguided_christian_outrage from the Resurgence blog and found it interesting enough to repost.  Hopefully, I'm not breaking some sort of blogging etiquette.