Tuesday, March 31, 2015
About What Are We Enthusiastic?
Wow. Talk about hitting the nail on the head — “If you were really spiritual, you were going for a total life commitment.”I agree with that wholeheartedly, but to it add a caution - there is the reverse danger that full Christian commitment is entirely contemplative and never results in action. The real fact is that genuine action can only occur when we are right in our contemplative and personal lives. This is yet another both/and, not either/or situation.
Danielle’s insight is to recognize that the “total life commitment” in the culture of evangelicalism is not necessarily to the person of Jesus Christ but rather to the mission and program and expectations of the culture itself. Though it would claim to represent Christ’s calling, in fact it is the culture itself that often defines the “lifestyle,” the honored vocations, the meaning of total commitment. She rightly describes it as a “pressure cooker” that appeals to “activists” who will not feel that they are “taking God seriously” unless they are “getting with the program” wholeheartedly and without question.
But back to the original point, when I was on Young Life staff I had an inside joke with a friend and we would constantly tell each other our "testimony." It went something like, "I used to be a wretched drunkard until I accepted Young Life into my life." It was a way for us to blow off the pressure that would build in us between our need to build the ministry and our desire to build fellow Christians. Sometimes, even ofttimes, these things would compete with each other.
If I could sum up my objection to the mega church, this is where it would be - that it places the ministry in front of what the ministry is supposed to be doing.
Therefore, if we are to be serious about our faith we much constantly ask ourselves the question that is the title of this post.
enthusiasms life ministry
Monday, March 30, 2015
Living in Light
Ephesians 5:8 echoes the language of Isaiah, and in so doing we become part of the biblical story. But now, those who live without God are not just in darkness. They are darkness. And those who live with God are not just in the light. They are light.I heard it preached recently that many of us think that our justification by faith means that God does not care about our sin any more. How errant a concept. God came to destroy our sin, rip it from us and remake us into being that are sinless. I love the way Mark Roberts puts that here, make us into beings of light.
That's something pretty amazing to live up to, existing as a being of light. I sure do fail at that every day - bet you do too. But do we realize that?
You know to get away with God does not care about our sin, we have to think that they are pretty minor sins. Most of us don't think too much about the slights that might happen in our relationships, but it's a different story when we are deeply and grievously wronged. By thinking that God does not think much about our sins, we fail to understand that our sins wrong Him in the worst possible way.
More, when you look at a burning light bulb, do you see spots of dark? If you do, I bet you change it. We don't want bits of darkness in our light do we? Should we not be working to expunge them?
It's high time we dealt with sin, not just the fashionable sin of the moment, but the sin that is rooted deep, deep in us. The sin that prevents God from finally breaking through. The sin we are most afraid to look at ourselves.
That's what the love of God is really about - we need not fear to look at it. He loves us enought o help us deal with it.
Saturday, March 28, 2015
Friday, March 27, 2015
"Stated simply, the most common factor in declining churches is an inward focus."I grow very weary of reading this in place after place after place. One cannot focus outward without some work on oneself. I would argue that one of the biggest reasons the church has lost the culture war is becasue we have been so outwardly focused that we no longer know what we are. We have grown for the sake of growth rather than grown towards the Lord. We add people labeled "Christian," but do we add people that behave like the label we attach to them?
The key here is not to be outwardly or inwardly focused, but to be both. However, the inward must precede the outward. Moses had his wilderness time. Between Damascus and ministry, Paul spent time in training and growth. Even Jesus had to grow up. And even one He was grown Jesus would often steal away to be alone with His Father or a few of His followers.
"Outward focus" is marketing advice, not spiritual advice. It's useful, but it is not the end of the story. Yet so many churches think it is, and a cultural wasteland where Christianity is considered irrelevant is the result.
church focus marketing v evangelism
Thursday, March 26, 2015
A quick answer to this question might simply quote biblical imperatives that tell us to confess our sins (for example, James 5:16). Or, we might note that people throughout Scripture confess their sins, so we should follow their example.I agree there is a supernatural element to confession that something happens there that is out of our reach in some fashion. However, I don't think appeal to such is going to have much affect in the many faith communities that overemphasize grace and under-emphasize our sin. If they were interested in the supernatural aspects of Christianity, they would not have the issues they have.
But, deeper reflection suggests that, as the saying goes, “confession is good for the soul,” and even more than just the soul. Truly, our forgiveness comes from God’s grace in Christ, expressed in Christ’s death for us. We don’t earn forgiveness by confessing. But, when we tell God what we have done to dishonor him, we open our souls to receiving our forgiveness in ways we cannot comprehend. What is ours in truth becomes ours in experience.
Certainly there is a practical reason why we confess. There is, a mistake admitted is a mistake unlikely to be repeated. Confession is the difference between cheap grace and transformative grace. It's just that simple. Forget the theology for a minute and concentrate on the simple reality. We may never understand the theology, but we can deal in the practicality.
Go and confess. Yo may find your life improves.
Wednesday, March 25, 2015
"Though it's difficult to isolate any one factor as the most dangerous," Rainer said, "the steep numerical decline of these churches was most noticeable as the congregation started focusing on their own needs. They became preference-driven instead of Great Commission driven."I think that is really fair, but there are some important questions associated with this observation. NAmely what does it mean to be preference driven and what does it mean to be Great Commission driven?
You see I have had there very thing quoted to me in "worship war" situations and yet I cannot help but think that when they do the precise opposite is what is happening. People keep pushing for "contemporary worship" in the name of reaching out to the community, and yet the vitriol with which the war happens would indicate that it is really about preference. (Isn't it really about preference anyway? And people will deride things like Sunday School and other programs of spiritual development becasue they are not outwardly focused. And yet, for any mission orientation to be truly effective do we not need mature Christians?
I grow weary of platitudiness and word driven Christianity. We must act and act with decisiveness. It must not be action for the sake of action, but it must be action that understands the very depths of genuine Christian faith. It must be action that prompts Christian maturity in order to produce Christian mission - not babies making babies.
There is too much at stake.
church maturity wisdom
Tuesday, March 24, 2015
Foundations For Thinking
In Ephesians 5:6-8, Christian ethics is based not on God's commandments, but rather on our new identity in God. We are not to deceive or disobey. Why not? "For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light." There is an "ought" here: You ought not to deceive or disobey and you ought to live as a child of the light. This "ought" is based on the "is" of your new identity: Now you are light in the Lord. If we want to find out what we "ought" to do (and not do), we need to pay attention to the "is" of our identity in Christ.We accept much behavior in this world because in a desire to be God's we think "love" outshines all. But I wonder if the Love we are talking about really reflects the love of God. Christ acted in love when he chastised the Pharisees. Christ acted in love when he confronted the woman at the well with her sins.
If this philosophical conversation seems a bit obscure to you, consider the following example. On April 14, 1984, while standing before family, friends, and God, I pledged myself in marriage. I became the husband of Linda. That wasn't my entire identity, but being a husband became a central part of who I am as a person. Now, if I were tempted to be unfaithful to Linda and shared this temptation with a friend, he might very well say to me, "Mark, what are you thinking? You are a married man. You are Linda's husband. Be who you are!" Of course, my friend would be right in this exhortation.
Mark is right, but it requires a very clear eyed view of who Jesus is, and who He was. It cannot be some mamby-pamby idealistic vision of a cosmic grandmother that loves us "just the way we are." Jesus is the living incarnation of the God that flooded the planet and destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah. He is the incarnation of the God that ordered Saul to completely destroy his enemies and his prophets to marry hookers. These things are all as much a part of our identity in Christ as is the feeder and healer and benign teacher.
Love is not acceptance, it is character shaping. Sometimes shaping a character means acceptance and sometimes it means chastising. Sometimes shaping a character means helping and sometimes it means leaving someone to suffer in their mistake. Sometimes shaping a character says "I love you" and sometimes it says "You are wrong." Wisdom is knowing when those times are. Grace must be at play when we fail to be wise.
My identity is in ALL of God and His character.
character ethics love wisdom