Please pray for me and my family. We're supposed to close on selling our house tomorrow afternoon, and I don't see how we can possibly have everything out of the house by then. If we do, it will be a prime occasion for giving glory to God.
Helping preachers to proclaim, and all Christians to hear, the transforming Word of God
This central feature of the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost - the proclamation of the wonders of God in other languages to people “of every nation under heaven” tells us something. Its message is that we are and must be a missionary people. Our identity is inescapably tied up with mission. We are not only the recipients of his grace, but the channels of it to the world. When we are not missionary, we are not the church.
God desires that we live different lives. The question is how far we're willing to let Him take us. Most of us think different involves living a more moral life. God thinks that different involves losing your life to gain it. Count the cost. And then get ready, because discipleship takes you past the lines you've drawn in the sand
What we are interested in, then, is not good preaching, but great preaching. The Word of God does not go out void, and we must understand walking into this that preaching that is focused on God’s word is good preaching. Yet, as preachers, we must move beyond an interest in being good. We must yearn to be great (this is not sinful ambition, but a full immersion into the calling we have been given). And we must learn what greatness in preaching is, because few of us have given much thought to why we evaluate preaching the way we do.
When did the church start being viewed as "safe"? When did Christianity become so nice and palatable? It seems to me that Jesus and His followers were thought of as neither "safe" or "palatable" by the powers that be and the culture at large. Is it possible that one of the reasons that Jesus (and the idea of following Him) seems so uninteresting to most teenagers is that we have presented Him as something He wasn't (safe, bland, neutered, etc.)?
However, it will require that we stop remaking Jesus in our own image and instead remake ourselves into His. It will require that we reveal to our teens the subversive and radical nature of the Kingdom. We will have to show them the Jesus that bucked pretty much all the systems. We must show them the Jesus who stubbornly swam upstream against the currents of power, greed, control, selfishness, and pride, by the power of love . . . . Oh, and one more thing: we have to be the rebels who model the Way for them, not the sellouts who paint a picture of Jesus that makes us feel comfortable and safe.
What if teens rebelled TO the church instead of away from it? What if that was the plan all along?
The core value of preaching that changes lives is it's biblical. You and I don't change lives; God changes lives. For 2,000 years, God has used the power of this Word to convict stubborn hearts of sin, to move cold spirits to repentance, and to lift faltering lives to hope.
When we decided we needed to be rationalistic in our proofs for God, we abandoned our main story. We began to give evidence to demand verdicts. We spoke of the faith as though it were something to be learned in law school or the science lab. We lost our way because we forgot our homeland.
One thing that we must be careful of is not submitting to modern rules again. We cannot make the argument for the faith from a superior position, as though our facts are indisputable compared to others. We must adopt the posture of Jesus in addressing humanity. We come humbly and open and serving and dying. No high-handed manipulation. No oppressive authoritarianism. Simple service will do. It is the way of Jesus.
Let us get back to the simple and yet Oh so very powerful truth, message and relationship of Jesus, the Christ of the Most High God. Let us cast off everything that is religious and return to the simplicity and unity of our faith, Jesus, Jesus, no one and nothing but Jesus, the Christ of the Most High God.
But you'd never know that from the way it has usually been presented. How have you usually heard it taught or preached? In my hearing, I've almost always heard the emphasis placed on one of two points: (1) positively - it's about how Cornelius became a Christian and/or (2) negatively - it's about how the Spirit doesn't typically work in conversions the way he did with Cornelius. . . .
Luke simply does not put the emphasis on either one of those two points! This passage isn't about what someone did to become a Christian initially (though that gets mentioned) nor is it about how God does or doesn't work in conversion. It is about how a long-time Christian was finally converted to an essential aspect of Christ-like living in which he had been in denial! It is about how God confronted a disciple and how that disciple repented of their prejudice. It is about how someone very strong, experienced, respected and mature in Christ still had plenty of growing up left to do, namely in the way others - all sorts of others - are perceived, valued and accepted. It is about the death of pride, the birth of true humility, the unity of the Spirit and the bond of peace.
A lesson like this can really put your life in perspective. We look around and see warm long days and we think – ah time to rest and relax a bit before we get into the real grind in a few months. How many times do we say – well during VBS (vacation bible school), or during this mission trip, or during our fall festival, or during such and such God will really move and work. That is rubbish. There is a spiritual harvest to brought in around you right now, even if it is not a “traditional” time of spiritual harvest – Christmas, Easter, retreats, missions, summer outreach, etc. . . . In a few weeks during X, Y or Z, or in a few months during X, Y, or Z we will get some work done for God. The work is available now. God works both in and out of our “seasons”. The work of salvation, outreach, ministry, and missions is not just for a few times a year, it is day in and day out process.
"Flesh," in Christianese, is just another word for "old nature." My pre-Christ nature, the nature I was born with, is nothing more than a baggie full of rot. People will tell you otherwise. They'll say we're all basically good at heart and to prove their point, they'll mention someone they know who once spent an afternoon working in a soup kitchen. But Scripture tells us otherwise. Scripture tells us we're born with a broken nature, a nature given to sin, a nature at war with godliness (and with God). That's the whole point of a Savior--he came to free us from our old nature, give us his nature, and open the doors of heaven so we can abide forever with a holy God.
I realized that the problem wasn't that I couldn't get my flesh to obey, the problem was that I was still dealing with my flesh at all. Dead things don't have power. I've been freed from the control of my flesh--unless I choose to obey that old nature. Sometimes we do that, simply out of habit. . . .
The only sane solution for a Christian is to render their flesh as dead, focus on Jesus, and walk in the Spirit. Or not. There's always the other option: stick that baggie in your pocket and walk around stinking.
Consumerism is the driving force in our society—a spirit of our age. It is enmeshed within the fabric of our society. . . . Christians need to intentionally and carefully navigate our consumer culture, responding to its dangerous complexities with a deepening awareness of its promises and perils. The Conference on Christianity and the Consumer Culture will be both informative, fostering a deeper understanding of consumerism and its role within our society, as well as formative, providing strategies for faithful living in light of the promises and perils inherent to our consumer culture.
You see, Jesus doesn't forgive sins and then give us a warning about not sinning again. He forgives us and welcomes us into new life with him. When he says, "leave your life of sin," he's saying there's a new way to live. A new way without the empty promises of money, the temporary pleasures of lust, the vain soullessness of pride. A fulfillment of what God has wanted for us from the beginning. A breaking out of a corner of the Kingdom of God.
There is a difficulty inherent in attempting to define what is indefinable. The barrier is language. How can a finite mode of communication such as words, do justice to what is infinite? In truth, it cannot. Words cannot adequately express who God is and how He works . . . .
Thus we need a spirit of humility as we approach the Word of God, knowing that it tells us many things about God, but not everything. We would do well to keep several passages in mind. "The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law" (Deuteronomy 29:29). "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts" (Isaiah 55:8-9).
We must remember that while what He has revealed of Himself is entirely truthful, it is by no means complete.
Our time is so intent on giving everyone their due, the claim that there might be only one way to be and one story to unite us is an affront to our sensibilities. But this is not a bad thing, it is a good one!
What a post-modern world offers the Christian is the opportunity to set our experience of God in Jesus Christ against all comers. This is a time, much like the ancient world, where the marketplace will entertain the competition and people are willing to listen to lots of perspectives. We get a chance like Elijah challenging the prophets of Baal to let our God shine through his people and to verify the claims Jesus makes.
We often underestimate the genuine thirst of humanity. People live in a parched and barren land. Thirst will drive people to seek water. Jesus is the living water of our lives. When our lives are parched searching begins. Can't we point people to the water?
There is a comical futility also in Ahaziah's cartoonish insistence on sending troops to apprehend Elijah. If 50 men are burned alive the first time, well, then, let's send fifty more with a demand that Elijah come quickly. That'll do the trick.
There are two rules for reading and interpreting visions:
1. Rule number one is that visions are about now and not later. Visions use the future to impact the present; they are preferred and secured futures that change the way we behave now.
2. Rule number two is that visions are about the reign of God and not about political and personal trivia. Visions aren’t personal Ouija boards or fortune cookies, given to tell us our career path and which person we are going to marry. They tell us how God is to reign openly in the future and does reign in an ambiguous present.
I guess the point is that the whole Christianity thing isn't rocket science. It really is quite a simple matter at its root. Its about loving or not loving; about being God's or Not God's. In the end, whatever God has prepared for those two groups, there are only those two groups. Jesus could be like this too: "Anyone who is not for me is against me." God's word needs to be clear about that simplicity, but I'm glad we also glimpse in other books, something of the complexities as well.
I call this tendency to “skip to the end” or skip the process of sanctification altogether the 20th Century 2-step. In the 20th Century, Christianity became two basic steps: 1) Make a decision for Christ or “get saved” 2) Tell others about Jesus.
Evangelicals simply do not take the issue of demons seriously enough. In a time that can be categorized by its unrelenting dereliction of truth, sources of deception and darkness must be exposed for what they are. Failure to shine the light on this infernal darkness means that it will necessarily increase in boldness.
We are doing a great injustice to folks in the Church when we shy away from talking about demons. Again, an unhealthy preoccupation is wrong, but so is leaving the chthonic unmentioned. We have too often treated the demonic like bogeymen, thinking that if we ignore them they'll leave us alone. But rest assured of this one thing: they do not exist to leave us alone. And for this reason, we ignore them at our peril.
Bottom line is this, I have yet to see a church that calls Sunday Morning anything other than a "worship" service. By definition, the unfound do not engage in worship -- we want them to, desparately, but they have to become found to even want to worship God. And that, in the end is why church is for the found, not the unfound. . . .The church has a lot to do, evangelism is a very important among those tasks. All I am saying is that Sunday morning worship is not the time for that task.
Preservation means that we are not only keepers of the message, but we are defenders of the truth. Defending the truth means that we protect the documents, the doctrines, and the lifestyle of the Christian message. Our teaching and Christian education ministries are a part of this--we have to preserve the truth of the gospel first by education of our children and grandchildren before we can "speak the truth" to the world.
We must speak "the truth in love," as the apostle Paul wrote in Ephesians 4:15. Speaking the truth in Jove is a tough balancing act. It means that we are in danger of being called intolerant. I think that many times Christians are ashamed to speak of the truth of the gospel, because if they do, society projects upon them that they are inflexible, or disagreeable.
I think one point of balance is in being called to be agreeable, without agreeing with everything. Preserving the truth means that we have a foundation of the truths about who God is, our relationship to him, and the facts of the gospel which leads us to lead a lifestyle of love.
He wasn't too comfortable in church. Or, maybe its more accurate to say when he was in church, most other folks weren't too comfortable!
He wasn't into the status quo.
He was far too inclusive not to raise eyebrows. Everyone, and I mean everyone, was welcome to be with him.
If he were alive today, he wouldn't be welcome in most churches. As a matter of fact, he wouldn't be recognized for who he really is.
I expect he would be ushered outside on a regular basis, especially when he started talking!
Probably because it fit with my personality at the time, I confused obsessing about God with being filled with the Spirit and abiding in Christ. Almost every thought I had was painfully and rigorously scrutinized, examined under an unbiblical, neurotic microscope to see if or how much sin was involved. It was about “doing it right” all the time. I literally lived by the letter of the law and watched myself constantly, as though a mere observer of a tortured, failing lifestyle. I was consumed with my own “holiness,” not with Him who had made me holy (forensically, for all you doctrinal types reading this).
I was miserable; worse, I made my wife miserable, too.
I thought that this was what the Christian life was supposed to be all about: a constant, unrelenting preoccupation with God and His word. I lost interest in almost everything that had been in my life prior to my conversion. (In my case, this was not all bad.) I was quickly bored with any conversation that did not focus on Christ and impatient with Christians who were interested in “worldly” things like sports, movies, literature, music, dancing, or having fun in general.
I was suffering and insufferable.
“I quit! You said that Your Spirit would live in me and produce Christ in me. Well, I’m through trying to do it. God, it’s time for You to do it or not. I’m done!”
Being safe in the spiritual world can kill you, and endanger the spiritual lives of those around you. "Kill you" meaning to make you ineffective and irrelevant. Have you ever seen someone you considered to be dead spiritually? Ever seen a congregation you considered dead spiritually? My bet is that in both instances you find being "safe" a priority. Are there examples in scripture of people and groups of people who put a priority on being "safe"? Ask Joshua and Caleb about the other 10 wanting to be safe, and the consequences. How long did choosing to be safe cause the Israelites to be ineffective and irrelevant to the world around them?
In our walk with him, He NEVER, EVER calls us to be "safe". Why? Because instead of leading to life, it leads to death.
We need to realize that confession, especially when someone confesses something to you, means we are sharing in a remarkable event that is sanctioned by Jesus Christ. It doesn’t give us grounds to judge or point the finger but it opens up a hurting life so you can love them. It’s time that we bring confession back to become about humans understanding their depravity and depending on the strength of Christ as opposed to humans sucking each other dry for the next bit of gossip that will only make us feel better.
There is a huge (and I mean really, really big) temptation. . . to be programatic in ministry. By programatic, I simply mean that there is a push to jump from this program to the next so that you can continually maintain an atmosphere of excitement in the congregation. So, there's the 40 days of purpose thing, and the FAITH thing, and this, that, and the other thing. It's really pretty endless. And it would be easy to get sucked in to all of it. Especially when you feel like the congregation needs a "jump start."
. . . I tend to look at ministry - and the Christian life - as a long-term project. And a part of the long-term project involves discouragement, doubt, questions that seem to have no answers and uncertainty, along with faith, hope, joy and the like. And we all know that if you stick with something long enough you'll have plenty of both. But the Christian life is a long-term project. Biblically speaking, what we are involved in even extends beyond the few years we're given here on this earth. The things we do today may have an impact well beyond our lifetimes.
The Bible was not written to address the stories of autonomous, individualistic, self-absorbed 21st century Americans. When preaching focuses on our stories it ends up taking passages out of context and missing the main point of what the Bible is all about. Some Scripture passages are preached on hundreds of times while other passages are totally ignored because they don't seem relevant to today's listeners. That is what happens when we try to make the Bible relevant to our lives.
Instead, we should concentrate on trying to figure out if our lives could be relevant to the story of God. The Bible tells a story about a holy and loving God who is working for the salvation of His people through His Son, establishing and expanding His Kingdom on earth, working in all things for His glory and our good, and commissioning and sending out His people to proclaim the gospel of the kingdom to all peoples on earth. The story is even broader and bigger than this brief summary. The greatest adventure in all of life consists in learning about this story and then following Jesus' radical call to be a part of this story. Truly relevant preaching must call people to leave their small, self-absorbed story behind and to figure out how they can play a role in this much larger and grander story. If we can get people to adopt this perspective, suddenly the whole Bible becomes alive and exciting, not just the few prooftexts that talk about marriage, finances, child-raising, or anxiety.
The gospel is the power of God for the salvation of all who believe - and this must apply to both Christians and non-Christians. The apostles always preached the gospel, even/especially in the letters they wrote to Christian churches. 1 Corinthians was written as a strong challenge to a church that was tolerating worldly sin, yet it is chock-full of the gospel. Don't we use the epistles in evangelism today? Yet they were written to believers for the purpose of building them up. So the same maturity-directed teaching that was primarily directed at believers 2000 years ago is applicable today for evangelistic purposes. I say this because I think that any modern-day teaching aimed at maturity should still be gospel-saturated and therefore will always serve a dual-purpose in evangelism.
But still, guys, look back at the early days and remind yourselves that Christianity is a rough and tumble, guts and muscle undertaking. . . .
Jesus was a carpenter's son, and I've been around enough carpenters to know you don't want to arm wrestle one.
A bunch of His best friends were professional fishermen. Not the kind with endorsement packages and their own TV shows. The kind who smelled like fish year-round. The kind who knew as they hauled in a net that if it was empty they'd have to haul in the next one on empty stomachs. The kind not even the carpenters wanted to arm wrestle.
What's my point? Jesus and his followers weren't wimps. You know how Jesus died, and all but one of those rough and rugged apostles died equally horrible deaths that they could have gotten out of just by turning their backs on him. But they didn't because they were real men and they were real Christians.If we attended church on Mother's Day, we probably heard sermons on the virtues of feminine strength:
Yeah, that's important, but the truth is that the church needs more real men who are really committed to the cause.
Think about that, if you have the guts, because your mothers and wives and daughters are counting on you.
I know what he means, but I just can't accept that this sense of fatalism with regard to sin is really what God wants for us. And yet it's difficult to respond to this attitude. You come off sounding like a naïf; like someone who has not yet wised up to the power and persistence of the flesh. Surely it is good to be "realistic" about oneself. Good to face up at last to one's weakness.
And yet . . .
I just don't accept it. In effect, this makes confession and repentance an end instead of a beginning. As if Christ's exhortation, "Get up and walk," was not meant for us today. And this attitude seriously underestimates the power of the Gospel, it seems to me. As if it were only a future hope, but never a present reality. As if Romans 7 were the end of the story, and Paul had never followed his heartfelt confession of weakness with the great encouragement to spiritual victory that is Romans 8.
Romans 6-8 paints a picture of the Christian life that is, far from being static or fatalistic (as might be assumed by those who interpret Romans 7 as if it stood alone, apart from its context), a thoroughly new way to live. Paul is essentially an optimist about the Christian life. If I have any message to offer my friend, it must share in that optimism. "For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made [us] free from the law of sin and death."
I would like to take the opportunity to bring together a collection of posts on the Darfur, Sudan genocide issue, and the situation facing the 2 million refugees who have fled to neighbouring Chad. Estimates on the number dead from genocide range from 100,000-400,000 people. It is also estimated that a further 10,000 civilians are dying every month. The refugees are not all safe, and as well as facing lack of food, some are still targeted by militia intent on ethnic cleansing. . . .
The mainstream media have shown little interest in the Darfur situation even though it is the worst humanitarian crisis currently taking place in the world. One object of collecting posts together is to help bring information to people who will not hear of this through the media. Another object is to possibly get the media to realise that people do in fact want to hear about this. And your posts may also be able to present practical ways in which to help. Just writing something is one way of helping.
We want to feel connected to God. We should not put our FAITH in the FEELING that we are connected to God. The connection to God is a matter of trust in the revelation of His will ... and our feelings will come and go. Are we addicted to feeling God's presence? I hear worship leaders say things like, "God really moved here tonight" or "God is in the house" ... as if He wasn't there before. I know what they mean. They mean that there is a feeling that has been achieved. Truly, though, God is there when the feelings are all gone.
The key to the message in Romans so far, from what I see, is not that God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life, but that you and I are standing on the precipice of eternal judgment and facing a God who is not at all impressed with whatever paltry goodness we offer Him. Thankfully the message continues with the words of 3:21 - "But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law . . . the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe."
Certainly we want lost people to think about their lostness. But is it good for Christians to consider this from time to time? . . . . I don't believe that we fully understand what we have or who we are in Christ unless we remind ourselves from time to time of what we would have gotten without Him.
Critics have long held that our most unspeakable fears are given voice in science fiction and horror films. Where does America go to understand how it feels about communism, atomic science, immigration, AIDS, or terrorism? Where it always has - the back row of the movies. Moviemakers deal in images and metaphor, and in film they give form to the darkest of our terrors.
the concept of protagonist as innocent victim at the mercy of some larger, sinister scheme.
The success of this basic plot - the ghost is furious, it’s not your fault, but the ghost is going to kill you anyway - is arguably dictated in large measure by Western angst over terrorism and American terror of being misunderstood and hated abroad and divided at home. We are searching for someone to blame. And the darkest fear we nurture is that we are The Blamed.
Expository preaching at its finest is the pastor being a mouthpiece for God, where he speaks the words of God, as revealed in Scripture, with confidence, power and authority.
They are so thirsty that they'll drink anything, whatever's placed in front of them so long as it looks remotely drinkable, or if they see others drinking it.
And that's the problem: people are so used to seeing others drinking dirty water, that they are prepared to accept it as good enough. When we know that it's not - but we need to let them know about the good water - the living water.
Jesus shared this idea with the Samaritan woman and she went back and evangelised a whole village.
Christ did not descend from the cross except into the grave. And why not otherwise? Wouldn't it have put fine comical expressions on the faces of the scribes and the chief priests and the soldiers if at that moment he had come down in power and glory? Why didn't he do it? Why hasn't he done it at any one of a thousand good times between then and now?
I knew the answer. I knew it a long time before I could admit it, for all the suffering of the world is in it. He didn't, he hasn't, because from the moment he did, he would be the absolute tyrant of the world and we would be his slaves. Even those who hated him and hated one another and hated their own souls would have to believe in him then. From that moment the possibility that we might be bound to him and he to us and us to one another by love forever would be ended.
And so, I thought, he must forebear to reveal his power and glory by presenting himself as himself, and must be present only in the ordinary miracle of the existence of his creatures. Those who wish to see him must see him in the poor, the hungry, the hurt, the wordless creatures, the groaning and travailing beautiful world.
Modernity managed to lose the sense of responsibility and postmodernity doesn't seem to have found it yet. Everyone but us, before and after our time, recognizes Paul's message of freedom from condemnation as good news, while those of us in the modern (and just barely postmodern) era put our hands on our hips and say ironically "Oh 'there is no condemnation now'? Well, I should hope not!" with all the emotion of someone whose favourite TV show is not going to be postponed after all. . . .
Tell someone Christ has freed them from the Law and it's no biggie. For each of us, the Law of God -- like the speed limit, like copyright laws -- is something that applies to someone else, not me, because I'm a little different, I'm worth it. Tell someone Christ has freed them from the Law and it means nothing. But tell them Christ will free them from Murphy's Law and you've got their attention. How sad our state and how far down Christ stoops to pull us out of the waves.
It is the road less travelled - the less desirable road - the road of true, cross carrying discipleship. . . . For an evangelist that's a hard message to hear! We all want to see as many people as possible come to faith, but I have had a gutful of trying to motivate people who don't want to be disciples to live like disciples.
In a series of interviews published as a 1996 book entitled "Salt of the Earth," Ratzinger said: "We might have to part with the notion of a popular Church. It is possible that we are on the verge of a new era in the history of the Church, perhaps very different from those we have faced in the past, when Christianity will resemble the mustard seed [Matthew 13:31], that is, will continue only in the form of small and seemingly insignificant groups, which yet will oppose evil with all their strength and bring Good into this world." Indeed, he added, "Christianity might diminish into a barely discernible presence."
It seems that Jesus sees disciples as being few and far between - a rare commodity. I am still wondering what this means for how I lead and live my life in this community.