Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Monday, October 26, 2009
Our Lord and Master Jesus Christ, when He said Poenitentiam agite (Repent Ye), willed that the whole life of believers should be repentance.
This first thesis is truly deeper than any thought recorded and has the most impact for any believer for the following reasons:
When one is a repentant man, one has to realize that he is continually wrong. This continual understanding of wrongness, drives the man to humility. Paul said he was the chief of sinners and least of the apostles, showing the lead in how we should understand our sin as it relates to others. We are not above others, but we should see as our least among our brethren. Thesis 1, is truly amazing, because it drives us to humility.
2. Our Problem
When one is constantly in need of repentance, it shows that we are constantly in torment over our sinful state, showing our lack in ourselves. Repentance not only gives one humility, but it shows the utter lack of good within themselves. When one is continually being shown their sin, it shows the truth in God's word that says that "none are good, no not one" and "all our good deeds are like filthy rags." When one lives a life of repentance, it is a life that continually sees their lack, not their fullness in themselves.
3. Our Solution
Notice who says, "Poenitentiam agite." Is it not our Christ? When one lives a life of repentance, they are driven to humility, see their lack of righteousness, but are also driven to understand their need for a Saviour. When one repents, they don't merely turn from sin, but they turn to their Saviour. A life of repentance, is a life that is full, not because of their own goodness, but in the goodness of the One they turn to. A life of repentance is a thankful life that is lived out because of the gift and love of the Saviour to save them from utter despair of realization of a life lived out wickedly.
and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory,
1 Peter 1:8
“But now I come to You; and these things I speak in the world so that they may have My joy made full in themselves.
For these three succinct reasons, which many books could and have been written on, I believe that the words of Luther are most profound and ones that came only after a man was caught up in self-righteousness found that,
For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “But the righteous man shall live by faith.”
This man, realized in himself was a torn up worm who needed to continually repent to see his Christ more clearly. For that, I thank him, but to God alone I give glory.
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
He actually went as far as to say that because I believe in the grace of the cross that must mean that my God will be happy if I remain in "grace" without real changes in my behavior. Which is interesting because Paul received the same questions when he preached on grace:
What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase?
May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?
Now, I know that when speaking to a non-believer in Christ and the authority of the Bible their will be a bit of an unwinnable war between us. So, what I am not trying to do is win them to my side, but explain why I believe that it truly is a big deal to understand a life lived out because of grace instead of a life lived out to receive grace. One is the gospel and the other is historical and contemporary religion. There is a vast difference and it is shown quite clearly in the Scriptures.
Christ tells us this:
“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.
“Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
“For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
“If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.
For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome.
1 John 5:3
These statements are a big deal. Ones that I found very hard to understand while dealing with being a religious person hoping that my good works would at some point catch the attention of my Creator.
The real understanding of the cross and it's abundance is not trickery or some sort of mind games. It is real and one that is derived from the Spirit opening up, not only the mind, but the affections of the heart to the One who died for me. The outcome of this affection comes true obedience to the Christ, not some sort of obligation to pay him back in some sort of quasi payment plan.
We actually see this happen in real life as well which prove that this obedience out of gratitude and love is not mere mind games and trickery, but real obedience that isn't burdensome.
Why is it that God sets up pictures for us through our lives that depict what a real relationship with him is like? Think of these. Christians are called the bride of Christ, pointing to marriage and God is also called our Father, pointing to the structure of family.
When thinking of marriage and family, true obedience coming out of love is always distinguished from a mere obligation to be paid because one is a spouse or a child.
When thinking of my marriage, I do those things that please my wife because I love her. I do these things out of gratitude for her love for me and our close relationship through the knitting of souls in marriage. I will at times do the dishes, buy her flowers, take her out, clean up after myself, make the bed, etc. not because this is an obligation in marriage, but because I love her. I want to please her, I want to make her happy and do those things which bring her pleasure. These things are not burdensome, but are done because of my deep rooted love for my wife. I have asked my wife, "If I cheated on you, would you divorce me?" She responded, "although it would be hard, I would do all I could to stay married and honor our marriage and God." Now, do I go off cheating on her to take advantage of the situation? Or, do I understand how much I love her and how much she loves me and honor her?
The same is with Christ. I don't do good things because if I don't he won't love me. I do the things of Christ because of the great love he displayed for my sake on the cross and the resurrection. This is not trickery of the mind, but a correct understanding of the gospel. If it was mere trickery, then what is the difference between a husband who does things for his wife's pleasure out of love and the one who does those things so the wife won't divorce him and take half of his money?
The same can be seen within the structure of the family. As a parent, I don't want mere obedience, no parent truly does. Now, is it nice when our kids are obedient instead of unruly? Yes, but does this prove that they love us? Not at all. You can have two kids that do the same chores with perfection and one could be doing it because they love you and the other could be doing it to stay out of trouble or with the hope of a greater payment in allowance, treats, privileges, etc. And, for the parent, this is a huge deal. When my son does things for my wife because he wants to see her happy, even in little things like making his bed, it is a vast difference if he is doing them so he can get ice cream. One shows a deep understanding of love for his mom, the other shows that he is merely doing the chore to receive payment. The difference is like having a wife that maintains the house because she loves you and a maid that comes in once a week and barely knows you and could care less about you (besides receiving a paycheck).
This is the same with Christ. God doesn't want obedient children that just want to stay out of trouble (hell or judgment) or to receive God's gifts of a good life (which may or may not happen). God desires for the person's heart to be changed in a loving understanding of the depths of redemption that was paid on their behalf. He isn't using trickery of the mind, but is changing the heart to be knitted to his own. This is why when someone understands this love of God, God's commandments are not burdensome. Because God's love and approval of me, has nothing to do with my obedience, but of Christ's obedience.
The proof is found directly in the Bible. Just look at David vs the Pharisees. To be honest, the Pharisees were far superior to David in outward works. David was an adulterer, murderer, depressed and sort of skitzophrenic in his relationship with God. But David was a man that was said to be a man after God's own heart. Why? Because he knew that God was his redemption and although he tried his hardest to live that out, he knew himself to be a sinner in need of help from his Father and future Bridegroom.
On the other hand, you have the Pharisees that were close to perfect on the outside, but Christ called them white washed tombs and sons of the devil. Why? Because they did their works out of obligation for payment of eternal life and God's gifts, not because they loved God.
This isn't trickery. This isn't some sort of mind game. This is true biblical love that is shown in God's work on our behalf, so that we could display his work to others.
King David puts it this way:
Sacrifice and meal offering You have not desired;
My ears You have opened;
Burnt offering and sin offering You have not required.
Then I said, “Behold, I come;
In the scroll of the book it is written of me.
I delight to do Your will, O my God;
Your Law is within my heart.”
But, when you think of this: didn’t God say that burnt offerings and sin offering were required? But notice that David says he does these things not to earn God’s favor but does it because he delights to do God’s will, because he loves God.
On the other hand, you have the Pharisees who did good works for payment from God. Jesus had this to say to them:
‘This people honors Me with their lips,
But their heart is far away from Me.
‘But in vain do they worship Me,
Teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.’ ”
Jesus wants your heart, not merely your works. But know this: out of a heart that loves God and desires him most, good works will come.
If there is a difference in those relationships that we deal with daily, then we must ask why is there a difference and where did it come from? It came from the God who created us for his glory to do his will because he first loved us.
This isn't some mind game that is made up. This isn't trickery. This is real obedience to One that I love and adore. To him, that makes all the difference, to the homeless guy who gets fed, it doesn't matter...he just wants food.
So, although it looks like the same thing to someone who does not know God, they don't know the heart of the man. So, although two people can be doing the same good works and both look holy, one of them could be doing it out of a loving obedience and the other out of obligation for payment.
Monday, October 19, 2009
My buddy David, over at Calvin and Calvinism, pointed out this video by Derek Webb. The song is on worrying more about language and such, than the "stuff" that matters more. Now, as I am definitely not a language Puritan, not sure that this is the right venue, meaning a public one, to show off his language skills. I am sure that Derek and I would get along great over a beer and shooting the ...uhhh... stuff about culture and Christ and the contextualization of the gospel. But, just not sure if cussing in public is the right thing for us to promote.
I say this and I am still going to put up the video and the lyrics. As usual, let the comments fly, and to all you anonymous commentors that I know will comment (maybe not now)...chicken. So, enjoy, but know that there are a couple of words that could be offensive to the viewing public even though they are used in the right context. The song is called "What Matters More" off of his album "Stockholm Syndrome".
Click "read more" to view the lyrics.
You say you always treat people like you like to be
I guess you love being hated for your sexuality
You love when people put words in your mouth
'Bout what you believe, make you sound like a freak
'Cause if you really believe what you say you believe
You wouldn't be so damn reckless with the words you speak
Wouldn't silently conceal when the liars speak
Denyin' all the dyin' of the remedy
Tell me, brother, what matters more to you?
Tell me, sister, what matters more to you?
If I can tell what's in your heart by what comes out of your mouth
Then it sure looks to me like being straight is all it's about
It looks like being hated for all the wrong things
Like chasin' the wind while the pendulum swings
'Cause we can talk and debate until we're blue in the face
About the language and tradition that he's comin' to save
Meanwhile we sit just like we don't give a shit
About 50,000 people who are dyin' today
Tell me, brother, what matters more to you?
Tell me, sister, what matters more to you?
I have been reading Nichols' book entitled, "Ancient Word, Changing Worlds: The Doctrine of Scripture", and I came to a quote from Machen from his book, "Christianity and Liberalism" which I found to be very helpful and insightful. Remember that this book by Machen was written in 1923:
This doctrine of "plenary inspiration" has been made the subject of persistent misrepresentation. Its opponents speak of it as though it involved a mechanical theory of the activity of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit, it is said, is represented in this doctrine as dictating the Bible to writers who were really little more than stenographers. But of course all such caricatures are without basis in fact, and it is rather surprising that intelligent men should be so blinded by prejudice about this matter as not even to examine for themselves the perfectly accessible treatises in which the doctrine of plenary inspiration is set forth...
The modern liberal rejects not only the doctrine of plenary inspiration, but even such respect for the Bible as would be proper over against any ordinarily trustworthy book. But what is substituted for the Christian view of the Bible ? What is the liberal view as to the seat of authority in religion?
The impression is sometimes produced that the modern liberal substitutes for the authority of the Bible the authority of Christ. He cannot accept, he says, what he regards as the perverse moral teaching of the Old Testament or the sophistical arguments of Paul. But he regards himself as being the true Christian because, rejecting the rest of the Bible, he depends upon Jesus alone.
This impression, however, is utterly false. The modern liberal does not really hold to the authority of Jesus. Even if he did so, indeed, he would still be impoverishing greatly his knowledge of God and of the way of salvation. The words of Jesus, spoken during His earthly ministry, could hardly contain all that we need to know about God and about the way of salvation; for the meaning of Jesus' redeeming work could hardly be fully set forth before that work was done. It could be set forth indeed by way of prophecy, and as a matter of fact it was so set forth by Jesus even in the days of His flesh. But the full explanation could naturally be given only after the work was done. And such was actually the divine method. It is doing despite, not only to the Spirit of God, but also to Jesus Himself, to regard the teaching of the Holy Spirit, given through the apostles, as at all inferior in authority to the teaching of Jesus...
It is not true at all, then, that modern liberalism is based upon the authority of Jesus. It is obliged to reject a vast deal that is absolutely essential in Jesus' example and teaching--notably His consciousness of being the heavenly Messiah. The real authority, for liberalism, can only be "the Christian consciousness" or "Christian experience." But how shall the findings of the Christian consciousness be established? Surely not by a majority vote of the organized Church. Such a method would obviously do away with all liberty of conscience. The only authority, then, can be individual experience; truth can only be that which "helps" the individual man. Such an authority is obviously no authority at all; for individual experience is endlessly diverse, and when once truth is regarded only as that which works at any particular time, it ceases to be truth. The result is an abysmal skepticism.
The Christian man, on the other hand, finds in the Bible the very Word of God. Let it not be said that dependence upon a book is a dead or an artificial thing. The Reformation of the sixteenth century was founded upon the authority of the Bible, yet it set the world aflame. Dependence upon a word of man would be slavish, but dependence upon God's word is life. Dark and gloomy would be the world, if we were left to our own devices and had no blessed Word of God. The Bible, to the Christian is not a burdensome law, but the very Magna Charta of Christian liberty.
It is no wonder, then, that liberalism is totally different from Christianity, for the foundation is different. Christianity is founded upon the Bible. It bases upon the Bible both its thinking and its life. Liberalism on the other hand is founded upon the shifting emotions of sinful men.
J. Gresham Machen, Christianity and Liberalism, pgs. 73-74,76
Friday, October 16, 2009
I have heard so much about this book that I finally had to pick it up and read it because of me love of Schaeffer's earlier works, which you can find my reviews here on those. I am not sure what I was expecting, but what I found was really a regurgitation of earlier works to be adapted to a film series that Schaeffer and his son were going to do. Not that the book was bad, it just wasn't anything new from Schaeffer's earlier works.
The book is based off the passage found in Ezekiel 33:1-11,19 where you will find the title in verse 10 and then the answer to the question in verse 19:
1Again the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,
2Son of man, speak to the children of thy people, and say unto them, When I bring the sword upon a land, if the people of the land take a man of their coasts, and set him for their watchman:
3If when he seeth the sword come upon the land, he blow the trumpet, and warn the people;
4Then whosoever heareth the sound of the trumpet, and taketh not warning; if the sword come, and take him away, his blood shall be upon his own head.
5He heard the sound of the trumpet, and took not warning; his blood shall be upon him. But he that taketh warning shall deliver his soul.
6But if the watchman see the sword come, and blow not the trumpet, and the people be not warned; if the sword come, and take any person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at the watchman's hand.
7So thou, O son of man, I have set thee a watchman unto the house of Israel; therefore thou shalt hear the word at my mouth, and warn them from me.
8When I say unto the wicked, O wicked man, thou shalt surely die; if thou dost not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand.
9Nevertheless, if thou warn the wicked of his way to turn from it; if he do not turn from his way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul.
10Therefore, O thou son of man, speak unto the house of Israel; Thus ye speak, saying, If our transgressions and our sins be upon us, and we pine away in them, how should we then live?
11Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?
19But if the wicked turn from his wickedness, and do that which is lawful and right, he shall live thereby.
This book is good for those who have never read Schaeffer. He, as usual, masterfully shows through the rise and decline of nations how their thought of God has been determined and shown it through a nation's art and culture. He walks through early Rome, the Middle Ages, the Reformation, the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, etc. to show how the belief in God, or lack thereof, was shown through music, theatrical playwrights, paintings, and even architecture. He really sums up well whole cultures throughout history to show the flow of thought as a whole.
As with all of his books he focuses primarily on the arguments posed by those who ascribe to non-absolutes and shows how this thought has ruined, and will continue to ruin, the reason for man and the value of man. After he shows how these people have portrayed their beliefs in all of culture, he breaks down the reason why the belief in the Christian God makes more sense and is a reality.
Even if one isn't a Christian, the flow of culture that is shown by Schaeffer is not a grind but a real joy to read. He shows this over and over again in all of his books the reality of the impact our cultures have on our thinking and values.
Although I do recommend the book, I would then quickly follow up with his earlier works which give even greater detail. But, I will also say that I enjoyed the fact that this book included pictures of the art and people that Schaeffer spoke about. Usually I would be googling those different aspects of art and film that Schaeffer mentioned because of how much detail he sometimes goes into when referencing different pieces in history. This part I much enjoyed about this book.
Buy from the following:
Thursday, October 15, 2009
Edward Gibbon (1737-1794) in his Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (1776-1788) said that the following five attributes marked Rome at its end:
1. A mounting love of show and luxury (that is, affluence)
2. A widening gap between the very rich and the very poor (this could be countries in the family of nations as well as in a single nation)
3. An obsession with sex
4. Freakishness in the arts, masquerading as originality and enthusiasms pretending to be creativity (I put some pictures that I took from the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art so you could see up close the absurdity)
5. An increased desire to live off the state
This was Schaeffer quoting Gibbon back in the 70's. How far we have come in a mere 30 years to show that Schaeffer was noticing something even then what was coming. I just wonder how close we are to calling ourselves Romerica. (click read more to look at SFMOMA Pictures.
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
This morning I was having quite the discussion based on this quote by one of my favorite theologians, Martin Luther:
"Faith must trample under foot all reason, sense, and understanding. "
Now, some (I don't think all the guys I was discussing this with would take it this way) take this quote and use it for some help in an understanding that our faith isn't reasonable or logical. But, this is not what Luther was trying to get across. We must take Luther in his context and whom his fight was against. His fight was against Rome who was taking their theological constructs from Aristotle and Aquinas. Both of these men put revelation (Scripture) and reason on an even playing field. In actuality, they usually would put reason completely above Scripture in any competing argument.
So, when Luther is speaking of things such as reason and logic, he is not speaking about throwing them out all together, but making sure that they keep within the context of the revealed faith in our Scriptures. A clearer quote from Luther came from a debate Luther had where he said that,
Reason is a whore
This is clearer because reason is not sinful or wrong in it's context it should be used in. If used inappropriately beyond the confines that God has placed it in, one can then abuse what God has made to be good. Think of sex within the context of this quote. Sex is not wrong in the correct, godly context, but taken outside of the bounds which God has placed it, one becomes a whore.
So, should we have a reasonable faith? Yes. God calls us to. There is never a story of faith in the Bible that was a blind faith, or one without reason. We are even told that Abraham was going to sacrifice Isaac because of his understanding that God would raise him from the dead (Hebrews 11:17-19). He wasn't blindly walking up the mountain to sacrifice his son to an unreasonable and irrational god.
What one finds as they search the Scriptures and then tests them to the things of this world is a rational, reasonable God. This God is who gives us our reasonable faith so that we can trust in him. One does not take a blind leap of trust or faith. Faith without reason is foolish, reason without faith is pointless and damning. The reason I say that it is foolish is that no one should trust in something or someone without a reason. Why should we trust in Christ and his cross? Because God has given us reasons to do so. Do we always understand these reasons? No. But we do have reason and rationality to believe and trust in the Scriptures and the God who speaks through them. This also goes with someone who has intellect and reason but no faith. They are damned and without hope, because their reason and rationality aren't directed to the one who underlines their whole life of worship.
These two aren't warring but must work together. We even have the definition of faith in Hebrews that points to reason and logic within the person that has faith:
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
Assurance and conviction do not come about through the air, but through a reasonable understanding of whom or what you are putting your faith and trust in. This is why when reason tells us something that seems to contradict the Bible we must put our attention on the reasonable God who is infinite. Our faith is reasonable and logical, but when life doesn't make sense in our finite minds, we must have faith in our infinite God.
Know that I am not saying one can merely come to God through reason, but one cannot come to God without a rational reason for doing so. One doesn't just one day wake up from being an Atheist to a blood bought Christian.
If you want to think about it this way. Today I am putting faith in the building that I am in. I have faith that it won't collapse on my head because of my minute knowledge in engineering and architecture and my experience of being in this building everyday. This is a reasonable faith not a blind one.
One will also notice how God tells us to report on this faith:
but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence;
1 Peter 3:15
Peter uses the term "apologia" which of course is where we get the use of apologetics, which means to make a defense. Actually in the Strongs it says, "to make a reasoned statement." The term was used for courtrooms where something was defended with evidence and reason. One wouldn't walk into a courtroom and tell the jury, "just believe me."
Neither would God. He is always giving us more and more reasons to believe in Him. He has given us reasons and logic and rationality to have faith in him and he has never asked to follow blindly.
This doesn't mean we'll always understand or have a depth of knowledge in any given situation, but we can have faith in those times because our God has always been faithful and just and he alone is the evidence and reason to believe in those times.
If he didn't give us evidence and assurance then we would never believe the following:
...for He Himself has said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you,”
so that we confidently say, “The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid. What will man do to me?”
When someone asks why you believe, never tell someone to "I just believe" or to "I had to take a leap of faith" because God has never asked you to do so.
Check out this short video on this topic as it gives a great summation in under 4 minutes: Faith vs Reason
HT: Mark at Here I Blog
Monday, October 12, 2009
As I sat in church yesterday, listening to the gospel message being put forth by one of the Soma elders Jeff Vanderstelt, I started to wonder if we have missed the point of the Gospel. The reason is because of the powerful message put forth by Jeff, not despite his message. Jeff spoke about the three aspects of the Gospel, which was to save us, is saving us and will save us. Meaning the Gospel has happened is powerful for the past, present and future. I will have to say that my understanding of the gospel has been mainly focused on what it has done and what it will do, but very little in the great understanding of it's affects for today. I believe in the power of what Christ did on the cross, but I wonder if I believe in the power of Christ's resurrection for myself today, to live it out to others. I just wonder if we, if I, have missed the point of the gospel.
The past five years, it seems as though my process of works has been self motivated. I also believe that I am not alone. What I have found after thinking about yesterday is that my life has been about defending doctrine and telling others about Jesus. Now, this sounds great on the surface, but is a real danger and pride bearer for anyone left to his own flesh.
Because the focus has been on defending doctrine and telling others about Jesus, I have spent little time on my life with Jesus. How does his gospel truly affect my life? How does he affect my relationships with those that do evil against me? How does he affect my times of monetary struggles? How does he affect me to reach out to the hurting? How does he affect me to be a good husband? How does he affect me to be a good father?
What this is really saying is am I truly affected by the gospel so that I can then affect others deeply for the gospel? Am I making disciples or am I merely yelling at others and telling them how they are wrong and what they should do different?
Instead of asking myself if I have been saved and what are the fruits of my salvation, I only ask others this, then challenge what doctrines that I believe that they have mistaken to be unorthodox. Now, don't get me wrong, I believe sound doctrine and telling others about the gospel is important, but if it comes at the expense of never having one's life transformed, it does little good for you personally for eternity. One can have great doctrine and still not know Jesus. One can be saved and in heaven only to find that the person who told them about Jesus stands condemned because they were never circumcised in the heart, only bent in the mind to spew truths.
I just wonder sometimes: Have I missed it? As we look at the life of Christ and the words of Him, we need to see that he truly has done it all for us and that we can never measure up, but God looks at us as though we have measured up because of the righteousness of Christ, not anything within us. So, instead of me trying to measure up by having all the right answers (doctrines, orthodoxy, orthopraxy), serving in all kinds of ministries, memorizing Scripture, telling others about Jesus from afar, I now am seeing that what I must do. Yes, continue to do some of those things, but also get my hands dirty and dig deep and make disciples. Because if we are not making disciples, which is a word that is deeper than having someone say some weird sinner's prayer, then are we really a disciple ourselves?
I mean, we are told that we will suffer in this world, that some will hate us, that we should love those whom are our enemies, that we should help the poor and that we should imulate Christ and incarnate him to others, that would we should carry one another's burdens, that we should care for each other. Are we, am I, doing this? Or am I masking ministries, writings and sermons as what a real Christian does? Do I really think that because I serve in many areas of the church that that is what makes me a mature Christian? Because what did those Christians base their salvation on in the Middle Ages where churches met in a stone house with no tracts or Youth Group? Am I spending too much time focusing on the lack of perfect orthopraxy of other ministries instead of looking at the lack in myself and the fullness of Christ?
I used to not help out with the local single women's shelter because the place would send women to any local church instead of taking a stand on certain doctrines that I hold dear. Instead of incarnating Jesus to these ladies and showing them Jesus, I would stand afar and scoff at other churches who were helping them. Who looks like a Pharisee and who looks like Jesus in this? Again, knowing that doctrine is still very important, but, honestly, who cares if a church hands out gas cards to get people at their church and then helps out the poor? It's better than scoffing at those churches who are desperately trying to be the hands and feet of Jesus.
What I am trying to say through this is that Christ tells us that "Go, therefore" which really means, "as you go, make disciples." In every day life, those that God has put around me, I need to make disciples for Christ. The only way to do this is to understand that the power of the resurrected Christ has been given to me, his Son, to live like I believe God is in control and has given me a past, present and future hope in his righteousness, grace and mercy.
The first question that I am asking myself: Am I a disciple? Am I truly affected by Christ and his gospel? Am I in the battle or am I merely someone who strategizes for the battle without ever entering it?
The second question: Am I making discples or am I merely pointing fingers at others who are trying?
Or, Am I a Christian living like Jesus did or am I a Pharisee who tells everyone else what they should be doing?
Friday, October 09, 2009
When someone rolls by and hears the rapping they don't know it is Christian so they will think it is just another secular artist that is being sexually explicit
Really? This is the excuse? Someone might think ill of you? What should make us throw up isn't the type of music someone listens to but their lame attempt to say they are Christian and hold their culture as a higher standard than another. Because this is exactly what someone is doing when they have to say that hip hop culture is evil and Jesus can't impact it in a positive way.
So, am I supposed to believe that if you love music that sounds like Barry Manilow and the Beatles that it is more godly? Am I supposed to believe that your mullet and confederate flag is less idolatrous than hip hop? Just because someone dresses different than you, listens to different types of music, sags their pants, and lives in the inner city doesn't mean that you should look down on their culture. It just happens to be different than yours because they don't drive a minivan with a Jesus fish and "my kid was student of the month at my all white school" bumper sticker.
Please wake up. Hip Hop, just like any other music can be used for the spread of the Gospel or the spread of idolatrous self worship. The Beatles said that they were bigger than Jesus yet no one is calling out those bands that sound a lot like them or play similar licks or instruments. The fact is, Holy Hip Hop is going to the places that you would never imagine living or even visiting. They are going into the urban areas giving these idolatrous kids something to look outward to (Christ) instead of looking around them at the treasures of this world. They are spreading hope, not through Obama, but through Christ. They are speaking of the cross and the resurrection of Jesus, instead of whores and rims.
The sad thing is that some think that this isn't godly. They think that Hip Hop cannot show forth the light of the gospel. They put their culture, whatever it is, above another's. And to be honest, it sounds a lot like Hitler and Germany. I know that is extreme, but honestly it has the same root. One is spreading the gospel, which happens to be Holy Hip Hop and the other is spreading religion that gives us culturally okay methods to use and not use based on their crap opinions. Just look at the different methods that were used to reach the different cultures in the writing of the New Testament. Depending on who they were writing to, they would draw on different things. John, when speaking to Greeks, used a term "logos" that would draw them to understanding. Paul, when speaking to Jews, would use the Law and it's requirements to show them the grace found in the cross of Christ.
I love when people say that they believe this because we are not to be of the world. They say this with a straight face when their clothes and music look exactly like the dude cheating on his wife, hooked on porn, beating his kids and has money as his idol as he works more than he comes home. What is the difference? Oh, one is comfortable for them, the other is out of their comfort zone. No one is asking them to spit rhymes and buy the albums, the hip hop guys are just asking them to pray for their mission and that the gospel will be shown clearly to those others are too scared to reach out to.
I would really like somone to point out to me biblically, why Holy Hip Hop is wrong. I would like to know how saying it is wrong is not culture idolatry and superiority. Jesus came and immersed himself in culture and the Pharisees were pissed that he was sitting and befriending sinners. Maybe you need to ask yourself: Do I look more like Jesus or a White Washed Tomb?
Below is the lyrics to Shai Linne's song called "The Cross (3 Hours)" which has more theology in it than the sermons most have heard in the last year.
There’s something you gotta see, journey with me
It’s approximately 30 A.D.
In the land of Israel- the city of Jerusalem
But on the outside there’s screams and loud cries
Through faith, this scene can be seen without eyes
The mean shout lies and seem to sound wise
As we inch through the crowd, we need to be cautious
A Roman execution, men on three crosses
But all the focus is on the one in the center
The gate closes behind you- no one can enter
The sight you behold is so odd, you’re stunned
The man hanging on the cross is God the Son
12 noon, it’s pitch-black because the sunshine’s lacking
Your minds can’t fathom this divine transaction
As slowly the sound becomes mostly drowned
You realize that you’re standing on holy ground
So forever will I tell
In three hours, Christ suffered more than any sinner ever will in hell (4x)
It’s where we see Your holiness- at the cross
We see that You’re controlling this- at the cross
We see how You feel about sin- at the cross
Your unfathomable love for men- at the cross
It’s where we see Your sovereignty- at the cross
We see our idolatry- at the cross
We know that there’s a judgment day- from the cross
May we never take our eyes away- from the cross
We’re now in the realm of the sublime and profound
With God at the helm it’s about to go down
The Father’s wrath precise will blast and slice
The priceless Master Christ as a sacrifice
Willingly, He’s under the curse
To be treated as if the Son was the worst scum of the earth
The scene is the craziest
Jesus being treated as if He is the shadiest atheist
How is it the Messiah is in the fiery pit
As if He was a wicked liar with twisted desires?
The One who’s sinless and just
Punished as if He was promiscuous and mischievous with vicious lust
The source of all godly pleasure
Tormented as if He was a foul investor or child molestor
How could He be bruised like He was a goodie two-shoes
who doesn’t think that she needs the good news?
He’s perfect in love and wisdom
But He’s suffering as if He constructed the corrupt justice system
We should mourn at the backdrop
Jesus torn like He’s on the corner with crack rock with porn on His laptop
What is this, kid? His gifts are infinite
But He’s hit with licks for religious hypocrites
He’s the Light, but being treated like
He’s the seedy type who likes to beat His wife
He’s treated like a rapist, treated like a slanderer
Treated like a racist or maybe a philanderer
Jesus being penalized like He had sin inside
Filled with inner pride while committing genocide
I could write for a billion years and still can’t name
All of the sins placed on the Lamb slain
But know this: the main thing the cross demonstrated
The glory and the holiness of God vindicated
Thursday, October 08, 2009
1. Christ Centered, Heart Gripping
This is the biggest thing we have noticed. It is all about Jesus. The sermons are full of the glory of Christ instead of just tagging him at the end of the sermon. Christ, the cross and the glory of the Trinity are shown as the fulfillment of every sermon and how it should impact our hearts, minds and actions. These things aren't just put at the end of the sermon as a quasi alter call for those sinners in the audience to repent. The whole sermon is a calling for believers and non-believers alike to repent and live a life of repentance by peeking into the throne room of Christ and his completion of each passage or topic preached. Because of this focus, your heart is assaulted and you leave knowing your shortfall, but with the hope of the work of Christ for you. The cause for change isn't because I desire to make God happy with me, live a better life, get rid of this sin or that sin, the cause for change is happening because I desire to live for the sake of the One who incarnated himself on a rescue mission for my soul. Quite the difference and one that is not just found in the sermon, but in the very lives of the congregants and shown in the music, the discussions and in the kids gospel classes as well.
2. Purposeful to Exalt Christ
I used to scoff at those churches that were emerging and missional. Was told that they didn't know how to do church. I have to say that Harambee is the most purposeful church I have ever been to. Each week for the Sunday gathering the service is scripted to show the flow of the Christian walk. This is what has historically been called liturgical worship. Now, when most people hear this, they think boring and repetitive. Not so here. The service is set up like this:
Songs of Repentance (with corporate Scripture reading)
Songs of Hope (with corporate Scripture reading)
Scripture reading for our sermon and prayer for our kids
Reading of Nicene Creed
Communion with songs of confession
Songs of Celebration with all of our kids present with us to see the glory and joy found in the fullness of the gospel
This is a gathering with a purpose. Not to mention the preaching and music are simply amazing.
Not only is the Sunday gathering purposeful, but if you ask why the church does anything, it is always purposeful. From church planting, community development, family Sundays (where there is no childcare to have the whole family present during worship to show how church is done worldwide), partnering and taking overseas trips to develop local churches, to the individual member taking ownership for the purpose God has put them into the church for. It is astounding to see what this church does without care if the attendance will go up. They keep planting churches with members, sending members off to team up with new plants, etc. because they care more about where Christ is calling them, than what the attendance is week in and week out.
I have yet to find something that Harambee has that is done just because they have "always done it this way." They truly are men and women who gather under the flag of Semper Reformanda: Always Reforming. All for the Glory of God Alone.
3. Gospel Saturated Transparency
We have only been at the church for 3 months but this has been interesting to see. No apologies for past sinful lives. No apologies for struggles within the person. Just honest discussion on how God has restored, or is restoring the sinner for the glory of God. We have seen this from the pastor preaching, unveiling struggles he has, to the time of testimony where real lives have been exposed to show the glory of the Gospel and its transforming power. Women have shared past sins and past/present struggles openly and honestly so that the church as a whole can come alongside them and love them and see the work of the Spirit in their lives. They open up because they know that they aren't going to be judged, but are going to be loved. This is because this church has been saturated with the gospel and the response is found in lives that desire community with a family.
We have seen it in the Sunday gathering but we have also seen it within our interaction with individuals. Whether it is from our missional leaders to discussions with men on the retreat, it is apparent that these Christians desire deep relationships to penetrate the heart with gospel living. It has allowed myself and my wife to open up and expose our hearts like we have not done in a long time, knowing (or hoping at this point) that it won't be used against us, but will be used to pray for us and come alongside us.
This is where we are with Harambee. We are excited to see what God has in store for us here. We are still in the infancy stage with them, but already see a huge difference and see the gospel clearer and clearer the more times we interact. Our hearts are already being drawn to Christ closer because of their witness and we thank God for them, and can't wait for God to continue to show us his greatness through them.
This is why we are not sneaking out the back door. This is why our journey is just starting with them. This is why God has already started to knit our hearts to them.
May God be glorified and Harambee be humble always seeking out the will of our God for the sake of the cross.
Wednesday, October 07, 2009
For these posts I am going to delve into why we chose the church we are currently attending and then also why we are going to stay here and become members. So it is sort of "Why we walked through the front door?" and then "Why we aren't sneaking out the back?"
First, the church that we have decided to dig into is called Harambee in Renton, WA. Harambee is simply a Swahili name meaning, "Together Pushing Forward." It is located in the heart of downtown Renton, about three blocks from one of the most, if not the most, diverse High Schools in Washington State. Renton High School is 36% Black, 33% Asian, 16% Hispanic and 15% White. This is actually one of the reasons we chose Harambee is because of the diversity that is found in the area that they minister. That is a little about where they are, but let's get into why we chose Harambee in the first place.
First, they are affiliated with Acts 29. The pastor that started Harambee, Mike Gunn, was one of the three that started Mars Hill alongside Leif Moi and, of course, Mark Driscoll. Mike is still an elder and our primary teaching pastor, but gets paid as the Acts 29 International Director.
When we left our church we really wanted to be associated with Acts 29. We had another opportunity to look into a church plant in downtown Bellevue, a suburb of Seattle where my business is located, but decided that it wasn't what we were looking for and it was just too far from our community where we live. As we searched the area for Acts 29 churches, there were some others, but none were as close as Harambee (little less than 20 min from house), nor as urban as Harambee.
First, we wanted to be a part of Acts 29 because they are Reformed, missional, complementarian and hold those things that are essential in a closed hand and those things that are secondary in an open hand. The Nicene Creed (closed hand) is read each week at Harambee showing those things that we fully embrace to be orthodox Christianity. Harambee and Acts 29 are very dedicated to the word of God and being theologically astute without giving up what it means to be immersed into culture every day of our lives.
We also desired to be associated with an Acts 29 church because of the focus of glocal missions. Meaning, they fully believe that we need to be missionaries to the communities we are a part of, to show them Jesus, and we also need to be equipping foreign people to make an impact on their own communities through church planting. They don't ask the white dude to go and set up shop in Africa, they send the white dude to help raise up local guys to plant churches in their own areas abroad. This is a huge difference and one that I fully support and see supported through the whole book of Acts in the life of Paul.
The way that Harambee specifically showed us how they are impacting the community around them came about in three ways specifically.
1. The Hall
The Hall is an after school program (held at the church building) for the local high school kids to hang out, be mentored, get help with school and just old school discipleship. There is no secret message of Jesus being forced to them. There is no helping in English class by making them read the Bible. It is just a place to serve the community, specifically the youth of Renton, that usually find themselves in trouble if left to themselves. Below is a video of the Hall and what it is striving to do. It has just been taken over by Matt Topping who is going to take it to new heights and also is being joined up by a Christian Hip Hop artist named Celestine (video below) with a ministry (Cry Out) that aids inner city youth through music and mentorship. To put it bluntly...we are very excited in what Matt and Celestine have in store for The Hall.
2. The Refuge
The Refuge is a place that aids the area's homeless. The Refuge takes place at the church building on Saturdays to feed, give health care and just a place to chill out for the homeless in the community.
3. Missional Community Groups
This is not small group Bible study. This is a time to come together to pray for each other, to disciple each other, to go over biblical questions and studies and also to strategize how to impact the community that each one meets in. This is the extension of the church. This is where one will find aid spiritually and physically and one that becomes family instead of merely a group that meets to go through a study and part ways. These people will serve together and grow together. When someone is in the hospital from the group, the group supports, when someone has a baby from the group, the group comes alongside. There is no need for a churchwide program to "deal" with these issues, but these issues are handled like a family would handle them. We have just started one with an elder at Harambee and have enjoyed our time together and have already been able to start to aid our community. Not only is this going to be made up of people from Harambee, but also those who attend church elsewhere and those who just want to know more about who Jesus is. The groups function as the hands and feet of the church to the local communities spread throughout South Seattle.
4. Right Focus
We chose Harambee because it has the right focus when dealing with the day to day in church life. Instead of having program after program that was formed in the mid 50's, it allows the missional groups to function organically on how they want to serve. Harambee doesn't have a different program for every little thing or every person that attends church. Harambee, instead, makes the parents responsible for the upbringing of their children, so they teach them how to do so. Harambee makes the husband and the wife responsible for their actions and roles, so they drive them into missional groups together, instead of studying separately. Harambee drives the singles into missional groups to study alongside married people and others so that they learn how to be Christ centered.
By doing this, the main function of Harambee is Sunday morning and the night of your missional group. They are very simple. They don't have program after program that takes up all your time, making it impossible to love your family and your community.
Through all these things, Harambee got us in the door to see what they were about. Little did we know that this would be the place that we would dig our heals into and try and call family. We have only been at Harambee for 3 months, but it feels like Christ has been doing open heart surgery on us since we started.
These four things were the central reasons we chose Harambee. The next post will deal with why we are so excited about Harambee and why we are starting to find it a place to call home.
Thursday, October 01, 2009
Okay, well not all forgiveness sucks. It's cool when God and others forgive me, but I hate it when I have to forgive others. I hate when I have to forgive others even when they don't feel they have done anything wrong and I know will never change or seek reconciliation. My flesh takes over on these parts, and I also hate that about myself. I feel like Paul when he states,
"For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want."
I am dealing with forgiveness issues, along with some anger, and really trying and desiring to forgive, move on, and press into Christ. But, the problem is that the longer I allow this attitude of non-forgiveness to abide in my heart, the more the devil has the opportunity to use it against me and my growth and pursuit of Christ will be hindered.
The issue isn't coming from me not knowing that I should forgive. I know all the verses. Let's call that "Point A." And I know that if, and when, I forgive the closer and freer I will be in Christ. Let's call that "Point B". The problem comes within the movement along that line that moves me from a head knowledge to a real heart of forgiveness that then pursues Jesus and his love and grace.
I thought I would share the ways in which I am currently dealing with this real life fact, and sin, in my life and some of the great perspectives I received from my missional community leaders last night, that have dealt with the same issues that I have.
1. I am the One Who Needs the Most Forgiveness
Through this process, God has showed me that I am the one who needs to be forgiven the most, not the others that I am struggling with. God has exposed me like a dirty diaper in a crowded room. I didn't truly understand how sinful I have been, until taking my unforgiveness to Christ through prayer. He said, like Nathan did to King David, "You are the Man!". At first, I was thinking God was getting me mixed up with someone else. Then, I realized as he worked on my heart, that I needed to deal with some of my own issues, before I would be allowed to forgive others. I needed to know how much I had been forgiven, how much patience God has had with me, how much pride has filled my heart and how much grace God has showed me. I knew the story in the Bible. I knew the story of the unmerciful servant and used to laugh at how stupid that guy looked for strangling the servant for a couple of cents compared to the millions that had been forgiven him. (Matthew 18:21-35)
But, God really opened my heart to show me that I was him. I was that man. I have been forgiven much and the small crimes done to me was nothing compared to the cross and the crimes done to my Saviour.
“For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. “But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.
So, step one. I am the unmerciful servant. I must truly believe this in both the mind and the heart. I must know this and pursue the understanding of the depth of the cross. Knowing myself and knowing Christ is the first step.
2. Prayer. Not Just for Me. But Not Fake.
Recently I had been praying for those that I have had a hard time forgiving. Praying for God's grace to be abundant in their lives. Let's just say that I then had to pray for God to forgive me for lying right afterwards. I didn't want them to get grace, I wanted God to reign down fire from heaven against them. They were prayers from the head, not from the heart. I knew I should pray for them, but my heart wanted to punch them in the face. Honestly, if I wasn't a Christian, I would have done just that.
Last night, wisdom was spoken into my life. One of our missional leaders told me how she dealt with it. She said that she, knowing that she didn't want to lie but knowing that she needed to pray for those that had hurt her, decided to open the Bible and pray Scripture for them. She would pray for them by looking at prayers in the Bible and praying that for them. She said that she prayed that God would change her heart to the point where she could honestly pray for grace in their life, but until then, she didn't want to lie to God, so she prayed the very words of God for them.
Out of the depths I have cried to You, O Lord.
Lord, hear my voice!
Let Your ears be attentive
To the voice of my supplications.
If You, Lord, should mark iniquities,
O Lord, who could stand?
But there is forgiveness with You,
That You may be feared.
I wait for the Lord, my soul does wait,
And in His word do I hope.
My soul waits for the Lord
More than the watchmen for the morning;
Indeed, more than the watchmen for the morning.
O Israel, hope in the Lord;
For with the Lord there is lovingkindness,
And with Him is abundant redemption.
And He will redeem Israel
From all his iniquities.
3. Patience. God is Working.
The next thing that our leaders told me is to be patient. They said to be honest with God, pray the Scriptures and then also know that the heart doesn't always follow right away. I currently have an open wound that needs to be covered by God's grace and much prayer. But, that open wound needs time to heal. I can say that I am healed all I want to, but I must be honest when I see it flaring up and bleeding.
During this time, continually seek out God and his lovingkindness. Continue to search the Scriptures, but give myself time and understand that I am not going to be cured like I went to a Benny Hinn crusade and gave a $1000. This is key for me, because I am one that desires for things to be done instantly. But sometimes, you have to realize that we are on a journey and not in a race.
The end of a matter is better than its beginning;
Patience of spirit is better than haughtiness of spirit.
4. God Has Justice. I Am Just a Witness. But a Guilty Witness.
The last thing that I learned from my missional community leaders is that I must allow God to work on their hearts, that is not my job. They said that anger will abide in my heart as long as I want them to be "paid for what they did" instead of trusting myself to my God. I have to realize that God is the one who convicts and puts forth judgment, that isn't my job. These people might never repent, they might never seek reconciliation and to me, it might seem as though they "got away with it." But, if continue to dwell on their actions and their non-repentance, I will never be able to fully entrust or press into my Saviour.
I must remember that they didn't only sin against me, but they sinned most fully against God. He is the one that is most offended in this transaction, not myself. I must deal with my sin, I cannot make them repent, but if I withhold forgiveness, I am now again in sin and won't be able to move on to have full joy in Christ.
……Mercy and forgiveness must be free and unmerited to the wrongdoer. If the wrongdoer has to do something to merit it, then it isn’t mercy, but forgiveness always comes at a cost to the one granting forgiveness.
Tim Keller, The Prodigal God (pg. 82-83)
I must understand that I am a witness of this crime, but I am a guilty witness. I am not sinless, but I held the nail as they were being hammered into my Saviour. So, if I expect myself to be forgiven, I must forgive and love that my oppressors are also forgiven. We are both on the same floor of grace, and if their floor gives way, so does mine.
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation. Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. “But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
So, this is what I am working on in regards to forgiveness. I desire to forgive in my mind, but my heart is holding out. I must entrust myself to my God.
For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously; and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed. For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls.
1 Peter 2:21-25