Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Code Words

Have you noticed that some followers of Christ worship code words? Words like "personal relationship with Christ (I challenge anybody to find those exact words in the Bible- they aren't there- though you would have thought they were the 11th commandment)", "blood of Christ", "born again", "sold out", "spirit filled", etc. You can think of some too. When they do not hear these code words they immediately shut down and cast you as a heretic or guilty of not preaching the word as if not quoting the Bible three hundred times in a 40 minute sermon means you are not faithful to the scripture.

Then there are others whose code centers around "inclusive language", "the Hebrew scriptures" (last time I checked that was the Old Testament), "wholeness", "peace with justice" (I didn't know there was any kind of peace without justice).

Our use of code words runs the risk of turning into idolatry where we become overly concerned with language and hearing the right words we forget what all of this points us to: The God of all creation who took on flesh in Jesus Christ, died for us, was raised on the third day, ascended into heaven, sits at God's right hand, and is coming to make a new heaven and earth. Let's remember to see the forest amongst the trees shall we?

Glimpses of Heaven

Every now and then God gives me a glimpse of what heaven must be like. For me one of those times was the other night as I watched my children sleep when I went to check in on them. The feeling of love I had in my heart was great. You parents can identify I know! I think such a feeling begins to scratch the surface of the love God has for every one of us and the perfect unity we will share in Christ's presence one day. Like the kingdom, that unity refelcted in heaven is already, but not yet.

Coaching Tee Ball

I have signed up to coach Robert's Tee Ball Team. Players need to be five years old before April 30th. Robert will be five on April 25th. Tee Ball in our county is for five and six year olds so Robert might be the youngest player!

We had our first practice this past weekend. The kids listened pretty well. I am reminded to keep the audience in mind when I am coaching these five and six year olds. I started with going over the positions on the filed and which direction you are to run the bases versus what the infield fly rule means or practicing first and third situations!

While the persons who come to our worship celebration experience and have no "church" (read club) background are not to be treated like Tee Ballers, I am reminded that what we talk about in worship must make sense. That means I cannot do a message series on the difference between the Hittites, the Perizzites and the Termites or the nutritional value of 1st century food Jesus would have ate. Instead the aim is to be seeker comprehensible to steal a term from Ed Stetzer.

Please pray for me and more importantly for these kids!

Monday, March 26, 2007

Building Healthy Relationships Podcast

I have not posted the audio from a message for a long time. Here is one from our 40 Days of Community Message Series.

To listen now, click on the podcast icon below.

Building Healthy Relationships

God has created us to be in relationship. There are many relationship killers out there: selfishness, pride, insecurity, and resentment. These things drain and destroy relationships. In Christ we have the antidote to those things and have the picture of selflessness, humility, love, and forgiveness needed to build healthy relationships. In following him and getting the vertical relationship right our horizontal relationships get better.

This message is from the series "40 Days of Community". In this series we have seen how God has created each person with a purpose. The purposes for which God has created us are always lived out best together. By being in community we multiply the power of God working through us and we transform our community and are transformed ourselves.

Subscribe to this podcast via Apple iTunes by following this link.

Get Apple iTunes for PC or Mac here.

Friday, March 23, 2007

What/ How Do We Measure?

Go to any type of meeting with more than one pastor in the room there will always be talk about how things are going in one another's churches. This is really code for "how may people do you got at worship". Sometimes that question is even asked point blank. This is how we have come to measure "success" in reaching people for Christ. This is often reinforced in the reporting of statistics to judicatories.

I am not one to say numbers do not matter. They do. More correctly it is the people behind the numbers that matter, or should matter to us, and definitely matter to God. These are people who had no hope before they met Christ, whose marriage was failing, or who were chained by addictions.

However, worship/ membership numbers do not tell the whole story and cannot. How then can we measure how faithful we are being to making disciples of Jesus Christ? That is a hard question.

One thing we surely need to do is move beyond the counting of "club" members and their financial contributions as the only reflection of faithfulness. In Reggie McNeal's words in The Present Future: Six Tough Questions for the Church "The church in North America is thoroughly modern. It has reduced its understanding of spirituality to numbers that can be reported (the triumph of materialism over spirit)."

How can we begin to measure how people are growing spiritually, how many people are "not yet" followers of Christ but attending worship in a church, how many conversations church members have had with pre-Christian people, how many people have been transformed by mission trips etc.?

What and how will we measure? Will we measure using the "modern" way of sola numero "numbers alone" or recognize that being faithful to the Great Commandment and the Great Comission is so much more?

Monday, March 19, 2007


We had a good time bowling yesterday at Liberty Lanes in Massaponax. Thanks to all the New Seasonites who came out.

As for me, I bowled horribly. I was under 100 the first game and barely over a 100 the second game.

How about how they have these lanes now that keep score for you. When I was a kid you had a pencil and a sheet of paper. For the leagues they had this overhead projector like thing that you wrote on with this yellow wax like pencil. They also have it programed where bumpers come out up for the kids but go back down for the adults.

And, this bowling alley was smoke free. They have a special room for the smokers. Bowling, like church, is a different experience than it was twenty years ago.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Random Thoughts about Evangelism

Here's some random thoughts about evangelism:

  • It is not optional.
  • We don't win anybody to Christ- the Holy Spirit does the winning- we get to be used by the Holy Spirit.
  • Evangelism doesn't stop when someone says the sinners prayer, agrees to the four spiritual laws, walks down the Roman Road or is baptized. Evangelism is about making disciples and discipleship doesn't stop with justification but is a lifelong process.
  • We don't bring Jesus anywhere. He is already there. The ten-thousand dollar theological word for this is omnipresence. God is present everywhere. We just cooperate with him so that he can be revealed, people will see him and people will respond to his invitation for abundant life in this life and in the life to come.
  • Much of evangelism in the past fifty years was about getting people to be part of the club and be good club members instead of helping people be sold out radical followers of Jesus.

Number 3

Diana and I will be welcoming child number three in October. Thanks be to God!! It is hard to see an ultrasound and not believe in God. There have been times when I thought this may not be as our soon to be middle man "Jack Jack Attack" almost did us in. BTW, Jack's preschool teachers at our parent teacher conference said he was "a little devil with angel eyes."

Robert, our oldest, five next month, is excited about a new brother or sister and seems to understand a lot more than when Jack was born.

Please pray for the baby, for Diana and the rest of the nut house.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The Full Story of Salvation

Sometimes we have gotten only the partial picture of what salvation is in the Christian life. For many salvation is only other-worldly. It is the sweet by and by, heaven, the pearly gates, the streets of gold, and angels strumming harps. And, this is true that salvation has to do with our eternal destines- with God or apart from God. But salvation is more.

Salvation is also in the here and now. It is not just something in the future. When one yields their life to Jesus Christ not only will they experience salvation in the life to come but in the life now. Salvation is like the kingdom of God- it is already, but not yet. When speaking about salvation Christ used the present tense not only the future tense. Hurting people today need salvation now, not only the promise of "no more crying'" there after they die. When we view salvation as a present reality- it becomes a way of life that totally transforms the way we look at the world, each other and Jesus Christ.

Also, salvation is not only about me. The Bible tells us that all of creation will be redeemed. The Bible tells us that in the end God wins and Christ will return not to beam us to some celestial place but to create a new heaven and new earth right here. Humanity and all of creation stands in need of salvation.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Velvet Elvis

Velvet Elvis- Repainting the Christian Faith

Rob Bell of Mars Hill and Nooma fame offers a great book to challenge followers of Christ and church leaders about issues of faith. Much of what Bell suggests and offers in terms of theological reflection is nothing new (as he admits), but is a recovery of what has come before. Yet, for many much of Bell’s reflections will seem new- especially those who see the church as club.

Through seven movements Bell takes us through a number of interesting themes. I don’t cover them all here but touch on a few.

Scripture- we bring our own cultural and personal baggage in interpreting scripture. This is true and makes a mockery out of the modern quest to dissect the text and peel away to get at its meaning as if we could ever be objective.

Questioning- we should not be afraid of questions. Uncritical appropriation of faith is shallow faith. Test it- probe it Bell says.

Christology- Following Jesus is not about “feeling better” about oneself. That makes Jesus no better than a self-help guru. Following Jesus is hard, does not solve all our problems and may even create more problems. Be upfront with people about that.

Evangelism- we don’t “take” Jesus to anybody- he is already there. We just get the privilege of working beside him and helping reveal him to people who do not see and know him yet.

Salvation- it is more than a ticket to heaven. It is both a present and an eternal reality. And, it is about more than just me- the blood of Christ was for the purpose of redeeming all of creation.

Friday, March 02, 2007

John Wilberforce and John Wesley

You may have heard about the new movie called Amazing Grace about the life and work of John Wilberforce of Great Britain who sought to abolish the slave trade. Below is an article written by Neil Caldwell, editor of the Virginia Advocate News magazine (the article actually appeared in a weekly companion to the Virginia Advocate called the Sunday Advocate).

Movie, campaign link past and present slavery

The last letter that John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, wrote before his death was to William Wilberforce, a member of Parliament fighting to end the British slave trade. Dated Feb. 24, 1791 — six days before Wesley died — the letter offered encouragement: “If God be fore you, who can be against you? Are all of them together stronger than God? Go on, in the name of God and in the power of his might, till even American slavery (the vilest that ever saw the sun) shall vanish away before it.”

Sixteen years later, in 1807, Wilberforce finally achieved his goal when Parliament voted to abolish the slave trade. The movie “Amazing Grace,” now playing in theaters, chronicles his efforts, and a related campaign focuses on ending modern-day slavery in the world. The film’s title refers to the famous hymn by John Newton, a former slave trader who converted to Christianity and became a priest in the Church of England. In the movie, Wilberforce visits Newton twice and, in one scene, climbs atop a table in a pub and sings the hymn’s first verse. Wilberforce converted to Christianity under the ministry of Wesley, a lifelong opponent of slavery.

The Church of England is marking the 200th anniversary of the end of the slave trade with a March 24 act of repentance. On Feb. 24 the Virginia General Assembly voted unanimously to express “profound regret” for the state’s role in slavery.

In conjunction with the movie is “The Amazing Change” campaign to continue Wilberforce’s work. The effort is designed to raise awareness of slavery and other forms of oppression in today’s world, and to encourage involvement in and funding for organizations working to abolish slavery. One of its funding partners is RugMark, a nonprofit organization working to end illegal child labor in the carpet industry in India, Nepal and Pakistan. RugMark is supported by the Women’s Division of the Board of Global Ministries and was endorsed by the Bishops’ Initiative on Children and Poverty.

Downloadable versions of an “Amazing Grace” faith guide for church leaders can be found at <www.amazinggracemovie.com> under the resources tab. Visit <www.theamazingchange.com> for information about the campaign.