Contend Earnestly: May 2010

Friday, May 28, 2010

Loving Osama Bin Laden is For Wimps

I have been seeing a lot of people speaking about, posting stuff, etc. on loving Osama Bin Laden as an example of who we should love, because he is our enemy. But, when you think of it, if Bin Laden hasn't killed anyone you know, how much do you actually see him as your personal enemy? I understand that the things he does are very evil and he does them on a mass scale. I am not trying to diminish his inexcusable acts of terrorism (nor am I trying to speak to those who have been personally attacked by this glutton for terror), but I just think it's too easy for most of us to talk about loving him. I mean think about it. How many times has he knocked on your door? How many times have you spoken to him? How many times have you had the chance to bless him personally?

We are told many times in the Scriptures to love our enemies, and to love our neighbors. Although I think it is helpful to point to guys like Hitler and Bin Laden to show that we should even love them, we must then take that example and apply it in our personal lives.

Who in your life is your personal enemy? Who in your life "gets under your skin"? Who in your life has hurt you, either physically or spiritually? Who treats you or has treated you wrongly?

When Jesus was dying for our sins on the cross, he was staring the dudes in the eyes who nailed him to the cross. Although he would have, no doubtingly loved those enemies who were far from him, but it's a huge deal that he would say this as he is being mocked and spit upon:

Two others also, who were criminals, were being led away to be put to death with Him. When they came to the place called The Skull, there they crucified Him and the criminals, one on the right and the other on the left. But Jesus was saying, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” And they cast lots, dividing up His garments among themselves. And the people stood by, looking on. And even the rulers were sneering at Him, saying, “He saved others; let Him save Himself if this is the Christ of God, His Chosen One.” The soldiers also mocked Him, coming up to Him, offering Him sour wine, and saying, “If You are the King of the Jews, save Yourself!” Now there was also an inscription above Him, “THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.” One of the criminals who were hanged there was hurling abuse at Him, saying, “Are You not the Christ? Save Yourself and us!” But the other answered, and rebuking him said, “Do you not even fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? “And we indeed are suffering justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.”And he was saying, “Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!” And He said to him, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.”
Luke 23:32-43

It's easy to love some guy living in a cave half way around the world, but what about the enemy that lives in your own neighborhood or works with you every day? How do you show that you love them? How much do you pray for them? How much do you bless them? Maybe we shouldn't stop at loving the caveman terrorist, but continue that thought with the guy that is a thorn in our side.

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Thursday, May 27, 2010

NASA: Satellites View Growing Gulf Oil Spill

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Contend Earnestly Authorship Changes

If you haven't noticed already, there are some other guys starting to post on Contend Earnestly. When Contend Earnestly started 4 years ago, it was originally four of us that were blogging. Because of schedules, etc. I was the only one who stuck it out and it ended up being really, my blog. I have always wanted to make it a multiple authored blog and glad I have guys that I trust and respect that have full reign to write whatever they want. One of the other things I have wanted to do is start a blog with an atheist or agnostic, on culture, etc. to just broaden my horizons and have some fun while doing it. Anyways...that hasn't happened here, but might in the future...who knows.

I wanted to introduce you to the guys that will be writing every once and a while. Being they are very busy, I am not putting up some schedule for them to follow or even topics for them to write on. They will write when they can write, and your job is to read and comment and challenge our notions. Because there will be multiple writers, I am hoping that people will not merely comment on my twitter or facebook pages, but actually come here and comment. Most of my posts generate numerous comments, but, for whatever reason, those comments seem to have migrated away from the actual blog. Although you will see myself and three (possibly four) other authors, I am only going to introduce you to two of the guys as my other buddy wants to stay somewhat anonymous, which I totally understand.

Here are the guys, they are big boys and you can challenge them however you want. But, as usual, bring your "A game."

Mike G.

There is really too much about Mike to put here as it would become long and ridiculous. Plus, it might build up his pride, and we can't have that. Mike is one of the co-founders of Mars Hill Church, alongside Mark Driscoll and Leif Moi, and from there founded Harambee Church, where I currently attend. Mike has literally been all over the map, both planting churches and encouraging pastors. I am not sure all the places he has been, but it seems as though India, Pakistan and Ecuador are his homes away from home. Although Mike has quite the personality, his wife Donna is far funnier, and doesn't mind throwing Mike under the bus every once and while to keep him check. What I mean is that Donna doesn't think Mike is a super hero like some other pastor's wives I've seen. Although, I think that Mike might be a super hero, but that is for another discussion. Mike and Donna are about to leave for a year to find out exactly what the next stage in their life and ministry will be and, although this is exciting, it is also quite the loss for us at Harambee, but God is the Gospel, not Mike. Mike has a clear heart for the unreached and takes this love for them and culture to bring forth the gospel clearly in both his writing and preaching. To be blunt. Mike is one of the best pastors I have ever heard and his understanding of Gospel and Culture rivals anyone. You'll enjoy his posts and I'm excited for my readers to be able to see how Mike can truly split open your heart with the gospel and have your desires be more for God than self.

Pete Williamson

I actually met Pete after the Resurgence Conference when he posted some information on his blog about Tim Smith's Rain City Hymnal. From there, our friendship has really grown and Pete is the reason why I even went to Harambee. Pete told me that Mike G. and Co. would challenge me farther than I will have ever been challenged. Pete is the pastor of Oikos Fellowship up in Bellingham, WA. Oikos was one of the first, if not the first, plants by Mars Hill back in 2003 (or around there). Pete, along with a few others, was instrumental in aiding me while I dealt with serious issues at my last church. So much so, that he wasn't willing to merely tell me to leave, but challenged me to make sure I was making a godly decision and not a man-centered one. Pete's new vision definitely revolves around Zambia. He has been there 3 times in about 13 months preaching at conferences and aiding the local churches. Pete never follows the crowd for the sake of following the crowd. He always questions the movements of churches by the Scriptures, not for the sake of being different, but because of his love for the glory of God and not the glory of movements. Pete will challenge you. He will raise questions you might take for granted. But, Pete does all this because he is truly trying to get to the bottom of what God desires for us and for our generation. I think you'll really enjoy his perspectives on things and how they affect our lives, I know I have.

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On the Topic of Missionary Support

This is another aspect of the whole missions question that I’ve been working on. I’m thinking specifically of how we expect that once we’ve identified and approved our missionary candidate(s), we then expect them to raise their own support before they go. I get that this is part of the cost of the call, but in the final analysis it seems that we have just placed an additional burden on brothers and sisters who are already making sacrifices we won’t make to go where we won’t go. But their calling is not to raise money, but to go and make disciples. What if those of us who send took on more than just giving money, but also participated in the raising of funds? Or what if, when our missionary candidate is finally approved, the money is already raised and all that is needed is to buy the ticket and go?

If you think that’s how it works presently, then I’ve got some missionaries for you to talk to.

One further point, how do we help missionaries raise funds without making them feel guilty for what they’re asking? If we’ve approved them, shouldn’t we be able to trust that what they’re asking for is not extravagant but rather necessary – even if it’s more than what you or I live on back home? What would a helpful and wise approach look like?

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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Who Is A Missionary?

I'm writing as a follow up to Pete's question in the previous blog article. And I write this with the reality that I am going to spend my next year overseas, and quite possibly may move permanently outside of the USA.

The question seems easy enough at first; aren't missionaries those folk who go outside the US to share the gospel to the "Pagans?" I think this view dominated the great missionary period of the late 18th and 19th centuries. After all, America was "Christianized" and it was time to share the "Truth" of the gospel with those that had never heard of Jesus. Sounds like a biblical plan, but that same truth was ostensibly amalgamated to "Manifest Destiny" and other American idols, weakening the gospel story, and creating an American version that has hurt the gospel, and darkened the missionary endeavor.

Thanks to men like Leslie Newbigin, we have been "Enlightened" to the imperialistic missionary movement of the 19th century, and have re-focused our efforts on a fledgling America who has lost its gospel moorings (Not a bad effort at all in a post-Christian/postmodern west). This was most certainly a needed adjustment, as a weird dualism was created between missions (Overseas work) and evangelism (The gospel in America) that mitigated the need for fresh new church plants to help renew a dying institution. The church is always in need of a reformation as many of our reformed forefathers reminded us (Semper Reforma).

All of this was fine, except the fact that we have once again (As the church is so good at) thrown the baby out with the bath water. While we badly needed the corrective, many in the so called missional church movement have castigated overseas missions as imperialistic and arrogant. After all, doesn't each culture have the right to their own religion? Is it possible the church has drank the 21st century, enlightened western kool-aid, instead of the clear teaching of the scriptures to "Go into the world and make disciples?" This attitude has helped increase those that have not heard the gospel to close to 40% of the world's population. Only 2.5% of all missionary endeavors and church plants reach the unreached and/or un-evangelized.

So who are the missionaries in the 21st century? Two clear things come to mind when I think of this question; First, all of God's people are missionaries, as we are all called to be His witnesses (Acts 1:8) so that we "May proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness and into His marvelous light" (1 Peter 2:9b). No doubt that means in our own back yards, and to the "Uttermost parts of the world." Right now though, more believers from Latin America and Asia are crossing cultural boundaries to share Jesus, than there is from the "West."

Secondly, God is a missionary. The Latin term "Missio Dei" was coined I believe by German Missiologist Karl Hartenstein to remind us of God's missionary movement throughout the world to redeem a people to Himself through His church. He is a revealing God that "Sent" us His Son as the ultimate revelation and missionary (Hebrews 1:1-3). John 16 reminds us that when Jesus left, He did not leave us alone, but promised us the Holy Spirit would come to "Convict the world concerning Sin and righteousness and judgment" (v.8), which gives us great comfort that it is God who is at work in the people's heart before God's servant shows on the scene.

It's a wonder that reformed people that believe in the sovereign grace of our Lord Jesus Christ have so much problem accepting the fact that our God is a missionary God already working in the religious and political structures of the cultures we enter, and in spite of vast cultural and religious differences, there are similarities and evidence of His grace wherever we go.

Thus we are all missionaries following our missionary master into the world, knowing He has already paved the way; therefore maybe we can enter other cultures with a gospel denuded of Americana and cultural arrogance and present Jesus in a way that allows the Spirit of God who is already working in the culture to sear it into the hearing and hearts of the people we serve. Maybe then we can enter presenting the gospel of redemption in the power and conviction of the Holy Spirit, and not with an heir of superiority, attempting conversions to our religion, ministry or country! Maybe then like 1 Corinthians 3:6 reminds us that we can plant and water, but it is God who creates growth and conversion.

Is it possible to do evangelism trusting in the Spirit of God to prepare the people we share with, and trust that God will do what He desires with His word as we faithfully bare witness to Jesus our savior?

Shouldn't we do this in our back yards, and in nations far away? Isn't the glory of God something that can't be co-opted by cultural, political and national values, and should be shared with men and women in every culture and people group? Sounds biblical?

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What Is A Missionary?

I just returned from a couple weeks in Zambia working alongside some friends who are missionaries with a group called ACTION Zambia. This was my third visit in the past 13 months and it was during this trip that I really began wrestling with how we think about missions and missionaries. In spite of the fact that the Scriptures only describe two church offices in any detail, missionaries have become an unofficial official role in the church along with others like Sunday School superintendent and youth pastor.

The problem is that it leaves us with a vocation that lacks biblical definition. This is a wonderful boon on the one hand because we can launch thousands of missionaries in a short period of time since all we really need are people with the willingness to "go" somewhere, anywhere. No real need for extensive training. No red tape to slow the process down. Here today, gone tomorrow. But what kind of people end up being sent? How many of them should not only be kept home, but be locked away? How many of these will go into the field adding to the already heavy load of the local mission or even disrupt the work there because of unresolved or undetected character or theological issues?

Instead of missionaries, should we instead think of them as elders or deacons that will be sent abroad (like church planters, I suppose) and therefore hold them to the same character and doctrinal standards? Wouldn't it be better for churches at home to strive toward sending over-qualified candidates into the mission field rather than anyone who's "willing"?

What do you think? How does your church do it?

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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

True Life: I Was On a Jury

I thought I would put some of my thoughts in this post on my time spent at jury duty. This isn't going to be some hyper spiritual post on comparing the court of Kent with the court of God...just simply some of my thoughts on what went on and give people a place to ask questions about the case or experience.

When I was first called to jury duty, I figured it would be a quick process and that I would be in and out in a couple of days. Wow, was I wrong. For the first two days, I never saw the court, but just sat in this room for around 6 hours, including an hour and a half lunch and a couple of 15 minute breaks in between. We were allowed to have computers, books, etc. to use while in the room, so that was good.

After filling out a one page questionnaire asking about whether me, my family or friends have ever been involved with sexual misconduct, we were finally called to the court room to start the choosing of the jury. They used a process called, "Voir Dire", which means "speaking truth." They basically ask questions, you hold up your juror number if you agree, and then they ask you to explain your answer. Some of the questions were, "Can you be fair and impartial in a case involving rape of a child?" "Does anyone believe that the defendant is guilty because he is sitting in the court room and was arrested?" "How can you tell if a child is lying?" etc. etc. This took a couple of days, but only actually involved a total of about 3 hours inside the court room. Again...much of jury duty involves waiting on the court, so you have to be very patient.

When it was time to actually choose a jury, each side got to dismiss 8 jurors for whatever reason they deemed, didn't have to be reasonable, could be because they thought your hair cut was whack. It was pretty obvious why some were excused, some were a little puzzling, but whatever. After hearing that both sides agreed to the jury, and I was juror number 11 out of 14, I believe a word that would make moralists very angry escaped my mouth (don't worry, I didn't lose my salvation, I said it very quietly). What they decided to do in this case was to have 14 jurors, where two would be alternates. Here is what sucks. No one knows the alternates until the very end of the trial. At that time, they choose two jurors out of this old school box and they go home. Brutal. Glad I didn't get chosen to be an alternate, I might have thrown a fit.

After being chosen, we were finally given what the charges were. There were 8 counts. 5 counts of a father raping his daughter, one count of tampering and 2 counts of contacting the alleged victim after being given a no contact order. Being it was a criminal case, we had to come to a unanimous decision on a verdict of guilty or not guilty. Other parts, that you might know or not know is that the burden of proof is completely on the prosecution to show that beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty. What we also found out is that we aren't saying he is "innocent" if found not guilty, but just that we weren't given enough evidence to show he was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

This was very difficult. What I found is that I had to be completely logical and take out emotion or my conscience from this experience. We were asked, "Whether you agree with the law or not, can you listen to the court's instruction on making a judgment?" I said yes to this, meaning, whether I liked it or not, my decision was going to be based on evidence, not on my ability to read people or deduct my thoughts on probabilities.

We were given testimony and evidence for a span of about a week and a half. We were allowed to take notes, but no transcript or reports would be allowed in the deliberation room. Throughout the trial, I knew that the defendant had been raping his daughter since she was 10 years old. This was obvious in my mind. She was now 15 and her testimony, along with her two sisters, made this clear. But, our instructions weren't, "Do you think she did it?" The instructions were very specific on each count, based on evidence and the prosecution's job in delivering his case against the defendant.

After everything was said and done, we went to deliberate. I was the youngest at the age of 32, and there was another woman who was a little older than me, but the rest were all over the age of 40, with one lady over the age of 60. There were 5 women and 7 men. After reading the instructions and seeing the counts, I clearly made my mind up pretty quickly on my thoughts on each. I could only prove that he raped his child twice and he admitted to calling his daughter on Christmas, so that was a given. Even though I wasn't the presiding juror, I was able to walk through each count and argue my points. This took two and half days and we finally came up with the verdicts for each. We found him guilty of raping a child in the third degree (I found it odd that the degree of rape had only to do with age) twice and guilty for contacting the defendant on Christmas. It sucked, because most of us knew he did, not only every count he was charged, but even more than that, but we had to stick to the instructions and the evidence given. There was just a lack. So, most of us had to vote against our consciences, which we all were pretty pissed off about.

We delivered our verdict and then had a chance to talk to the attorneys afterwards. Someone finally asked the question that was on all our minds: how long will he probably go to jail for? The reason is that we were not allowed to know the punishment for each crime because they didn't want that affecting our decision. My thought was that a dad raping his child would end up being a charge of at least 10 years in prison, or around there. What we heard at this point, made me almost throw up (this isn't an overstatement). The prosecution said, "The maximum is between 24 and 36 months, and with time served and good behavior, he'll probably serve around 20 months." My jaw dropped and I told the defense..."If I knew that beforehand, I would have put him away for every count."

Amazing that a dad can rape his child and be put away for less time than a drug dealer. Not only that, but if the mom decides later to accept this man back into the house (which actually is a high probability), he'll be allowed to be with his children again.

Overall, this was an interesting experience. It was much like what you see on TV, not much difference. Now, my job is to pray for this family and for this man. I pray that God would do some amazing work in their lives and that this young woman would be able to see what a true Father looks like in God, and that her father, was a very bad example of what a real dad looks like.

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Monday, May 24, 2010

I Am Second: Ken Hutcherson

Back in the day, before we moved, we went to Antioch where Ken Hutcherson preaches. He is a very good preacher and this Antioch is where Driscoll and Gunn first met and started dreaming up Mars Hill. Currently, he is battling a man. From what I have heard, he is sharing his struggles, yet continues to trust in the sovereignty and will of God. Speaking of his cancer he said:

"Don't pray that God would heal me. Pray He would make me like Christ."

Pretty powerful dude. But he follows an even more infinitely powerful God.

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Friday, May 21, 2010

Jon Stewart Show Has Some More Fun With Christianity

Not sure I can really add anything to this...have a great weekend.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
God Smacked
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party

ht: Irish Calvinist

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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

John Calvin Was Missional: Truth and Culture

I've been looking for this quote for quite a while. I finally found it in Gunn's book on gospel and culture. This quote shows Calvin's understanding of how truth can be found in even profane authors. That God is so permeated in all areas of life that he is bound to be found in even the most profound places. So, when we see different cultures and different illustrations of that culture, examples would be in art, music, design, poetry, stories, etc., we should seek how we can speak to those things looking to cultivate the Gospel out of them. We don't take God to the culture we go to, God is already there. Our job is to redeem the aspects of the culture that show off who God is and reject those areas that cannot be redeemed.

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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Celtic vs Roman Way of Evangelism

I'm currently reading one of my pastor's (he's becoming a good friend just before he leaves the country) books. The book is authored by Mike Gunn and it's called, "Gospel and Culture: Reaching the Nations With God's Glory." Once he gets it edited and made ready for sale...I'll give you more information. But, I have to say, it is very good, and like Mike's sermons, packs a lot in a few pages. I wanted to give you a quick taste. This is part 3 in a header called, "How Do We Change?" from the chapter, "What is Culture?"

We must be "all things to all people" (1 Corinthians 9:19-27; Acts 16:3; 18:18, Galatians 2) and see ourselves as Leslie Newbigin described us as the "hermeneutic of the Gospel." Meaning that it is the people of God that ultimately interpret the gospel to others that do not understand the Gospel (Matthew 5:16). When we approach the Gospel the "Celtic Way," verses the "Roman Way," which sees people not as "marks" to convert, but as "pre-Christians" waiting to be revealed to by God, we will become servants of the culture instead of its enemy.

Working like this helps us work hard not to import our culture, but it is our story that lifts up the name of Christ, the only name under heaven by which men are saved (Acts 4:12). When we love and serve the people, then they will begin to understand the grace of God, and witness the truth of forgiveness and sacrificial love in the people of God. As we apply the "Celtic Way" of evangelism, "People are called to come and see the transformed lives of God's people before they are called to repent of sins and to trust in God."(1) Literally, aspects of the culture can be redeemed as the people of God share in them, and utilize them for the glory of God. The following chart is adapted from George Hunter's, "The Celtic Way of Evangelism" and Mark Driscoll's "Radical Reformission" helps us see the process.

Traditional Evangelism

(Believe in Jesus then belong to the church)

Gospel info is presented

Hearers are called to make a decision about Christ

If an affirmative decision is made, the person is welcomed into the church.

Friendship is extended to the person

The convert is trained for service in ministry by being separated from culture

Celtic Way of Evangelism

(Belong to the church then believe in Jesus)

A genuine spiritual friendship between a Christian and a non-Christian is built

The non-Christian sees authentic faith and ministry lived openly and participates in it

The Gospel is naturally present in word and deed within the friendship

The non-Christian's conversion to Jesus follows his/hers conversion to Christian friendship and the church

The church celebrates the conversion of their friend


Books Mentioned:

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Monday, May 17, 2010

"Quiet Times" Are Overrated


I believe that knowing what the Bible says, is essential to spiritual growth. Without knowing the words of truth, from our God, we would all go on our own way and what seemed good in our own hearts.

Thanks to David Drake for asking for some sort of disclaimer on this post. :)


Growing up, my parents never made me do a "quiet time" nor did I ever know if they did one on their own. Actually, after speaking to my dad (who has always been either a pastor or elder since I was born), he admits he hasn't done regular "quiet times" for over 40 years. So, I am not sure where my thought process of feeling so sinful as I have dealt with quiet time "regulations" over the past 6 years. I have been told, and been preached to by many, how important a quiet time is for those who follow Jesus. You might be thinking of something different when you hear quiet time, so I'll give you my thoughts when I hear the term (besides the fact of wondering what people did before the 15th century when there wasn't a printing press). For me, it means spending a certain time, on certain days, reading and studying the Bible and praying. Now, the idea doesn't seem to be wrong. And, that's not what I am saying with this post. But, what I have been told, is that it is necessary to have one on a regular basis to aid in sanctification. Here is the problem. I have never done it on a regular basis. The closest I have come in doing this is when I was preaching/teaching twice a week and was studying the Bible for the sake of teaching it. Further, "rules and regulations" are put on quiet times. Such as:

How long should I have a quiet time?
What part of the day should I have a quiet time?
Should I have quiet times with others?
Should I have a quiet time with my wife? With another brother in Christ? With my children?

If you read those above and you say, "yes, I have always done all these!" I find that interesting, and totally fine. But, I read all those above and have to be honest: I have never done any of the aboved mentioned on a regular basis. This might just add to the fact of why some believe me to be a heretic. But, I have always desired to have a quiet time. I have always desired to have a study with my wife, with my children and with my friends on a regular basis. But, what seems to happen is that I never "stay with it" and to be honest, it is a real burden, instead of something I find to be a joy. But, the only reason I have desired to do it, is because I have been told I am supposed to want to do a quiet time if I love Jesus. The fact is, I feel like I love Jesus, but I hate and don't desire traditional quiet times in any way.

I will say that I have always been slow to admit this kind of stuff to others, knowing how most feel about quiet times. Meaning, it seems most that I have run into have very legalistic thoughts about how to "meditate" on the word of God and how to "meet God" and worship him. I was discussing this with a close friend and we both don't want to be lazy with our time with God, but we also want to honor the way that God has made us and be able to worship God in joy, instead of a burden.

Quiet time has always been a burden for me. So, like all burdens, I avoid them like the plague. After discussing this with my wife, which we both realized a long time ago that us studying anything together on a regular basis was going to put us on a road to divorce, she confirmed my thoughts on this subject. What if God made us all different? What if to "meditate" and "worship" God happened more through how God made us, instead of pushing one form of meditation and worship on all persons? What if God allowed us to worship him through the personalities and desires he has given us? After thinking through this, I received the below in a PDF format that showed the different ways people seek and worship God. Although I am more apt to study the Bible by myself, the way I teach my kids and lead my wife is by redeeming certain areas of our life and also bringing about the redemptive understanding of the Gospel in different areas/situations that come up in our lives on a daily basis.

So, when playing catch with my sons, I might speak about the glory of God. When disciplining or building up my sons, I will use Scripture to speak God into their lives. When I am wrong, I apologize to my children and speak to them about the cross and resurrection. When eating, I point to God's provision. I am more apt to teach my children theology through daily life, instead of systematizing theology with them, even though this is how I personally learn.

Here is the list of 9 ways people seek God. Which one are you? And, am I crazy for admitting and not desiring some Western thinking of how to "meditate on the word of God"? Have we put more importance on the means instead of the end game, which is to worship God and enjoy him forever?

Sacred Pathways
by Gary Thomas

Naturalists: Loving God Out of Doors
Naturalists would prefer to leave any building, however beautiful, to pray to God beside a river. Leave the books behind - just let them take a walk through the woods, mountains, or open meadows. Naturalists learn to seek God by surrounding themselves with all that he has made.

Sensates: Loving God with the Senses
Sensate believers want to be lost in the awe, beauty and splendor of God. They are drawn particularly to the liturgical, the majestic, the grand. When these believers worship, they want to be filled with the sights, sounds, and smells that overwhelm them. Incense, intricate architecture, classical music and formal language send their hearts soaring.

Traditionalists: Loving God through Ritual and Symbol
Traditionalists are fed by what are often termed the historic dimensions of faith: rituals, symbols, sacraments and sacrifice. These believers tend to have a disciplined life of faith. Frequently they enjoy regular attendance at church services, tithing, keeping the Sabbath, and so on. Traditionalists have a need for ritual and structure.

Ascetics: Loving God in Solitude and Simplicity
Ascetics want nothing more than to be left alone in prayer. Take away the liturgy, the trappings of religion, and the noise of the outside world. Let there be nothing to distract them - no pictures, no loud music - and leave them alone to pray in silence and simplicity. Ascetics live a fundamentally internal existence. Even when they are part of a group of people, they might seem to be isolated from the others. They are uncomfortable in any environment that keeps them from “listening to the quiet.”

Activists: Loving God through Confrontation
Activists serve a God of justice, and their favorite Scripture is often the account of Jesus cleansing the temple. They define worship as standing against evil and calling sinners to repentance. These believers often view the church as a place to recharge their batteries so they can go back into the world to wage war against injustice. Activists may adopt either social or evangelistic causes, but they find their home in the world of confrontation.

Caregivers: Loving God by Loving Others
Caregivers serve God by serving others. They often claim to see Christ in the poor and needy, and their faith is built up by interacting with other people. Whereas caring for others might wear many of us down, this recharges a caregiver’s batteries. Perhaps the supreme example of this temperament is Mother Teresa of Calcutta.

Enthusiasts: Loving God with Mystery and Celebration
Excitement and mystery in worship is the spiritual lifeblood of enthusiasts. These believers are the cheerleaders for God and the Jesus-following life. Let them clap their hands, shout “Amen!” and dance in their excitement, that’s all they ask. If their hearts aren’t moved, if they don’t experience God’s power, something is missing. They don’t want to know concepts, but to experience them, to feel them and to be moved by them.

Contemplatives: Loving God through Adoration
Contemplatives refer to God as their lover, and images of a loving Father and Bridegroom predominate their view of God. Their favorite Bible passage might be taken from the Song of Songs. The focus is not necessarily on serving God, doing his will, accomplishing great things in his name, or even obeying God. Rather, these believers seek to love God with the purest, deepest and brightest love imaginable.

Intellectuals: Loving God with the Mind
Intellectuals might be skeptics or committed believers, but in either case they are likely to be studying doctrines like Calvinism, infant baptism, ordination of women and predestination. These believers live in a world of concepts. “Faith” is something to be understood as much as experienced. They may feel closest to God when they first understand something new about him.

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Friday, May 14, 2010

Church Programs Suck

Alright, not all church programs suck, but a church that is all about programs ends up usually focusing on the wrong thing, or the wrong people. This post comes off the heals of meeting with one of my pastors and speaking about this. What I found is that our thoughts were right in line with each other as we have both seen programs strangle the spirituality from people within the church. Not only this, but I read an article by Dave Patty called, "Raising Up Disciples." This was some prework for the Missional Community Group Leadership training that happens once a month from my church gathering, Soma/Harambee. I have been thinking a lot about these things since being a youth pastor for close to 6 years and seeing what this kind of program did with the relationships of kids and their parents and also being a part of a church that had more programs than people to lead them. Not only have I seen that part of programming, but since being part of Harambee for almost a year now, I am seeing the benefits of a church that focuses more on organic ministry, instead of forced programming.

Now, this post will focus in on why I have, and am, turning against programming, and have for about 3 years now. With this in mind, I do want to put this disclaimer before you continue to read. I am not saying that all programming is wrong or a sin. I am not saying that all programs are bad for the church. What I am trying to get through is the dangers of programming in the church and how it can become a crutch, instead of a help.

1. Organic Ministry Gets Squashed

Me saying "organic" sounds like I am carrying around a purse and saying that it is a European carry all while drinking an appletini. Let me continue before you beat me up and take my lunch money. When I say organic, I mean that God has given us all personalities that are both similar, yet different than those around us. He has given us desires and traits that are neutral to holiness or sin (different topic than total depravity, which I adhere to), yet definitely show off the Imago Dei. God is very diverse in his traits (i.e. just and gracious), and has created his creation to show off his diversity and glory.

Historically, programming has taken these personalities and tried to force them all together, instead of allowing us to live our lives how God has created us. Meaning. Churches love to have discipleship programs, men's breakfasts, women's bible studies, prayer meetings, etc. All these are usually done in the same way, and leadership has historically asked the membership to show up to these things, on a set day, set time with a set schedule. When members don't show up, or are disenchanted with the program, leadership becomes frustrated. What has happened is that the leadership has told the members how they are to worship God, how they are to study who God is and when to do so. They have taken a diversity of personalities and pushed them into a preconceived setting that leadership has determined as the best one.

This squashes a lot of people who just don't have the personalities to sit in a room for 2 hours in an uncomfortable chair listening to a boring speaker tell them why they suck. This type of programming squashes organic ministry. Why not preach to the heart of your people on Sundays to live out the gospel and allow them to do it in the ways that seem right in their lives and play in the hands of how God has made them? Why not allow them to do this through going to their art class, participating in community efforts, playing sports, taking their kids to sports games, having dinner with neighbors, etc.? This allows the leadership to not get frustrated with having the same four people showing up at every event and complaining about all those other people who aren't mature in the faith. Organic ministry allows for people to do ministry in every part of their lives and not see it as only on Wednesday nights. Organic ministry allows people to get together for Bible study and prayer, or allows them to go out in nature and experience the glory of God. Organic ministry allows leadership to not stress about how much time they have to be in some group, instead of being the pastor to their family first. Organic ministry allows families to give their first fruits to God and their family, instead of the left overs. Organic ministry says, "live your life for the glory of God!" Programming says, "We know how you should live your life for the glory of God: Every Wednesday from 6-8pm."

2. False Worship Can Take Root

Programs, for the most part, usually start to figure out how to worship God and allow others to do so. This can be based on age, sex, marital status, or just similarity in where one lives. What I have seen over and over again is that instead of the worship being focused on Jesus, the program takes over and becomes worshiped. Not only this, but the leadership within this program can be not only worshiped, but can replace the duties of the family. The easiest example is youth groups. I led a youth group for almost 6 years. Honestly, I replaced a lot of dads as the pastor of their family. When the youth had an issue, the kid came to me. When the family was struggling, the whole family came to me. When the kid had an issue, the mom would come to me. I became not only the father figure in homes that had both parents that loved Jesus, but for a lot of people, without them or me noticing, I became their functional saviour. Not only this, but the youth group became my functional saivour. If I failed, or the youth group failed, our joy was stolen and our hope was removed. Now, this wasn't some long lasting thing, but was quite obvious when it did.

Not only can the people themselves become worshiped, but the program itself can become worshiped. In my last church, there was a program in the church that was obviously taking up too many resources, was jacked in the gospel presentation and the people were getting too tied up in it. Plain and simple, the pastor said, "We'll never get rid of (said program) because it has just been here too long and we have nothing to replace it with." That's jacked. The program started to be worshiped. If we were to get rid of it, the pastor mentioned that people would leave and would demand something else. Again, jacked. This isn't this pastor's fault alone, but it is also the congregants as well. The program was seen as so important that if it was to leave, so would many people. The people, and leadership, didn't understand how we could get rid of something that had been in the church for so long. As if Jesus wasn't good enough. And actually, the gospel wasn't even being presented correctly within the functions of this program, yet these issues were put to the side, for the glory of the program.

Church programs become so much a part of the church that they become worshiped and so do the leaders within them. If you change or get rid of these programs, the people don't know what to do. They act as if there is no way to worship God correctly. They believe their children will grow up as drug dealers and prostitutes and that God isn't smart enough when he said that the parents are to be the primary ones that teach about the statutes and glory of God (Deut 6).

3. Programs Take Us Out of the World

This is the most messed up thing of it all. When you add up all the programs in your church that you go to, or expected to go to, when do you have time to serve your family and live life for the glory of God to those around you? If someone has kids, it gets even crazier. You have youth group, community groups, men's group, women's group, discipleship groups, Awanas, and then special church events. When does one have time to just live life? What if this isn't what God wanted? What if he didn't want us to continually live closed off to the world with an "Open" sign on the front door of the church. Basically, if you look at a church bulletin, what it is really saying is, "these are the times we are open for business."

What if instead, we lived our lives in the world with the view of glorifying God in it? What if instead of having our kids go to youth group or Awanas, we had them in swimming classes, art classes, karate, sports, dance, etc. living their lives with a Godward perspective? What if afterwards and beforehand, we talked to our kids about how to live and participate in these activities while worshiping God? What if we had neighbors over for dinner, had BBQ's, fun events in our neighborhood, etc. to show that we aren't closed off to those who aren't like us? What if we just lived normal lives radically for Jesus? What if the teaching of our kids and our families didn't happen in programs, but in every day life? What if our neighbors saw us as just normal people who loved Jesus? What if it wasn't about inviting people to your church event, but instead, invited your neighbor to just live life with you while you show off Jesus?

The clincher is just asking, "How did Jesus do this?" What is funny is that when we look to how Jesus did this, is that he did this with his apostles just by being with them and living life with them and the world. Jesus understood that worship, discipleship and learning didn't happen at a scheduled time on a Wednesday evening, but happened by living life and living life for the glory of God.

Here is an excerpt from Dave Patty's article on discipleship

(Dave's wife is speaking to him about the term discipleship)

“Dave, do you think a lot of people feel pressure when they hear that word?” “What do you mean?”I asked. “It just seems to me that people think Discipleship is some special formula, some program, some kind of neatpackage. If someone takes you through the right steps you can say you have ‘been discipled’ and if you do it to others youcan say you are ‘discipling them’. I just think it has a lot more to do with following Jesus, and pulling some people close to you so they can follow Jesus too.”

In Mark 3:14 Christ appointed twelve—“designating them apostles--that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach.” We see here Christ’s initiative in challenging men and calling them to who they would become. We see his vision, that they would touch others and preach the good news of the kingdom. But before this vision could be realized, we see him calling them to “be with him”. As we follow the disciples from this point on, their training appears a bit chaotic. Christ’s teaching and preparation is intensive, but it often seems to be haphazard, designed to shape and mold whatever raw materials life had thrown at them in a given day. What remains consistent, however, is the characteristic of Christ’s presence in their lives, and their presence in his. They were “with him”, and he “with them.”

Raising Up Disciples by Dave Patty

Maybe we should just see how God has called us to be as the church, instead of trying to make the church an organization that is open for business and we go there to be taught and trained. Maybe we only go as the gathered church once a week to hear the great news of the gospel of grace and the rest of the week we live that out. Maybe this is exactly how Jesus did this and exactly how the apostles did it. Maybe this is why they had so much time to focus in on making disciples instead of memorizing the correct answer that the group leader will ask from the handout he emailed to us. Maybe this is why the church in America is so stagnant. Maybe this is why people hate the church. Maybe we should stop calling the building the church and understand that we are the church. Maybe we should understand that worship doesn't only happen when at that ugly building, but happens all throughout the week as we live our lives.

Maybe church programs suck, because they suck the life right out of us instead of filling us up with joy.

Maybe Jesus had it right and what he did wasn't cultural, but something that could be repeated until he returns. Maybe. Just maybe.

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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Innocent Until Proven Guilty?

Innocent until proven guilty is the law in the United States Judicial system, but it is not the law found in the word of God. We are told that we are guilty as we are born into this world by a sinful woman. There is no doubt in this. So much so, that the Revelations tells us what the devil is doing:

“Now the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down, he who accuses them before our God day and night.

Revelation 12:10

We are guilty. We are not innocent. There is no argument. There is no evidence needed and the devil knows this. How frustrating must it be for him to show us all our sin to our holy God, and yet come up short. Why is this?

The simplistic reason is that because of the cross, those who believe in Jesus are said to have had a "great exchange":

He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
2 Corinthians 5:21

I will rejoice greatly in the Lord,
My soul will exult in my God;
For He has clothed me with garments of salvation,
He has wrapped me with a robe of righteousness,
As a bridegroom decks himself with a garland,
And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
Isaiah 61:10

So, although we are guilty and we do no good in of ourselves, we have been given the righteousness of Christ, who although he was tempted in all things, never sinned. When we are accused by Satan, God looks at those who believe and only sees the righteousness of His Son. And of his Son, God says:

“This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.”
Matthew 3:17

Because he is well pleased with his Son, and the Son's righteousness has been given to us, there is nothing that we can be accused of, and there is nothing that we can do to gain "a more pleasing attitude or disposition" from God. May we remember this.

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Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Closed for Business

I wish this wasn't true...but it is. After around 85 people were dismissed, I was for some reason asked to be on the jury. I thought using key words like "pastor", "I could see myself in that defendants seat" and "Ted Bundy was my uncle", I would get out of it...but I guess they like to have at least one crazy person on the jury. So, I will be posting pretty sporatically for the next 2 weeks as I will be sitting in the court room getting my discernment on.


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Monday, May 10, 2010

Characteristics of a Missional Church: Tim Keller

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My Index of Personal Orthodoxy

For whatever reason, people today love to throw around the term heretic, wolf and false teacher. They really don't understand what is essential for belief, and what is to be worked out in our sanctification through our differences of thought because of culture, background or hermeneutical school of thought. People seem to not understand how to stand shoulder to shoulder with people that have the essentials of the faith, yet might differ in superfluous (although still important) theological convictions. What I have found interesting in studying Scripture is how much the apostles left the sanctification and growth of new followers of Jesus to the power and wisdom of God, not man. People would ask, "How shall I be saved?" For the most part, this came after a clear presentation of the redemptive Gospel, but the response was almost always the same, "Repent and believe." (or something very close to this every time) What I have found very interesting through this study is that the one thing that was always presented was redemption, then repentance and belief. People have decided that they want others to present the gospel in a wider way, yet in the New Testament, and especially in Acts, it was mainly, redemption (through the death and resurrection of Jesus), repentance and belief. That's it.

So, with this in mind, I figured that I would just put a quick index of my posts on the Five Solas of the Reformation and also my posts (they aren't finished yet) on my small commentary on the Nicene Creed. If after reading this, you find myself or my church, to be heretics or wolves, I honestly believe that you aren't fighting against us, but against the historic orthodox church of God. Know that I am not perfect in my commentary or writing, but you'll see that what I write (and believe, along with my church) is historic in its roots and orthodox in it's beliefs.

The Nicene Creed:


Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

The Five Solas of the Reformation:


Sola Scriptura: Part 1

Sola Scriptura: Part 2

Solus Christus: Part 1

Solus Christus: Part 2

Sola Gratia: Part 1

Sola Gratia: Part 2

Sola Gratia: Part 3

Introduction to Sola Fide

Sola Fide: Part 1

Sola Fide: Part 2

Soli Deo Gloria: Part 1

Soli Deo Gloria: Part 2

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Friday, May 07, 2010

Mike Gunn's Response to Crosstalk and Ingrid Schlueter

Recently, the infamous Ingrid Schlueter got wind of our (Harambee) dialogue with a local Muslim community (MAPS) about "Who is Jesus?", and instead of calling us to speak to us she decided, along with many of her readers, to slander us on the internet calling us many names. I wrote a post on my response in regards to being called "dumb so-called Christians", "heretics", "a reprobate church", "denying Sola Scriptura", "Christian dupes", "den of thieves", "false teachers" and now, most recently, useless idiots. They say that this is just to warn others about what we are doing, although I am not sure how we are affecting them (like God needs to be defended?) nor did they ever actually call us or contact us to try and understand what the dialogue was all about.

Below, is Pastor Mike Gunn's full response to Ingrid's blog post and accusations. I want everyone to know my immense respect for Pastor Mike and how much he has taught me about the true understanding of the gospel and how it/we should interact with culture for the glory of God. If I were to give you a list of all the things he does locally and globally, and how much God has used him in ministering the word of God, it would sound like I was exagerrating and a little vain, since he is a friend of mine. Yesterday, we spent some time at lunch and spoke even more deeply about this subject of culture and the gospel (he has also written a book on the subject) and how much this type of attack does nothing but harm the gospel. This is why he felt it necessary to at least write a rebuttal of what was said, so that we could return to the most important part: The Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Enjoy the post and ask any questions you might have.

Living In the World, But Not Of It!
By Pastor Michael Gunn

It saddens me that I have to write a rebuttal letter to those that have taken liberty to judge Harambee Church, Mark Driscoll and Acts 29 because Harambee hosted a forum for Muslims and Christians to get together to discuss the person of Jesus Christ from the two different perspectives.

First, I want to say that Mark Driscoll, Mars Hill nor Acts 29 had anything to do with this event. This event was born out of relationships and ministry in and among Muslims in the Seattle area. The fact is there are 30,000 Somali Muslims alone in the King County region, and there are 1.3 Billion Muslims in the world; many of who have never heard of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Secondly, it’s important to state that Harambee Church has always promulgated a clear, Christ-Centered gospel that is Reformed in its roots, and has never backed down from the hard theological entanglements that come with it. We have lost many people that do not agree with our theology, and our desire is not to “water down” the gospel so people will stay. These are major assumptions of our detractors. We do believe however that it is both prudent and biblical to preach a clear gospel that the people can understand. This tradition is taken from men like Peter, Paul and Jesus. When Paul was confronted with pagan believers in Athens (Acts 17), he departed from his normal strategy of “reasoning from the scriptures,” to utilizing pagan poetry to clearly communicate his message (Acts 17: 27-28). Gospel authors, such as John, used pagan terms, like logos, in redemptive ways in order to better explain Jesus to a pagan audience. The words the bible uses for God (Elohim/Theos) have pagan roots, yet they are redefined in Jesus Christ (Hebrews 1: 1-3). Subsequently, using a biblical form of contextualization is true to the tradition of the biblical writers, and needed in order for the gospel to be understood by each subsequent generation and culture. Therefore using words like Allah (which is the Arabic word for God) is not any different than using the words Elohim or Theos. So many want to argue the fact that the root of Allah is from a moon god, whose name was Sin, but whose title was Al-Ilah (ie. Allah). While there are many linguists who would argue a different root for the name Allah, why does this matter? Our own Hebrew term for God is a plural, pagan term El – Elohim? Jesus’ words on the cross were “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani, which is similar to Al-Ilah. Why is this an issue? If we were in Germany we would use “Gott,” which has its own pagan history, or if we were in Andra Pradesh India, we would be forced to use “Deywadu,” which is fraught with all kinds of pagan ideas. Yet, we would be forced to use these terms to communicate a clear understanding of the truth of the gospel. It is a biblical contextualization that takes these pagan terms and redeems them with the fuller truth of the gospel (See John 1:17).

Thirdly, it appears that many of those that hate Mark Driscoll and Acts 29, and decry dialogues, such as the one we hosted at Harambee, feel that if you aren’t immediately persecuted when you proclaim the truth of the “Good News” then you must not be preaching a true gospel. There’s an heir of self-righteousness that accompanies their assumptions, because not all of Jesus’ or Paul’s encounters with sinners and pagans ended in derision and persecution. In Jesus’ encounter with the woman at the well (John 4), we see a somewhat muted story that the Holy Spirit uses for her conversion. While I believe Jesus was confrontive, it was done in a gracious manner, and was received well by the Samaritan woman. Jesus’ tact with the men on the road to Emmaus was explaining the story line from Moses, through the prophets to the present time, which is exactly what Mike Ly did when he explained the clear gospel of Jesus Christ to the non-believers who were present at the dialogue. But, it seems, that some think that the message of the gospel isn’t truly there unless persecution and hatred is the result. I believe Acts 17: 32-34 gives us insight into the reality when the clear gospel is heard clearly; “Some began to sneer, but others said, ‘We shall hear you again concerning this’…but some men joined them and believed.” Isn’t this the goal? To tell you the truth, there were definitely men, at our dialogue, who “sneered” and some that got a bit testy during the panel at the end, because we answered every question very clearly, and biblically. However, we also believe that we won an audience with many Muslims that night that have emailed Michael and stated that they never heard a presentation about Jesus in this way. It was counter to their understanding, and they literally want to “hear us again concerning this.”

There is no doubt that persecution will be a result of the gospel. I personally have been screamed at, spit on and punched, but not every encounter of the gospel results in people hating you. Jesus Himself, “kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men” (Luke 2:52). In order to cut through some cultural and political garbage, the gospel often needs to be heard well, many times. Our goal is to love our enemies, as we are clearly commanded in scripture, and to gain an ongoing relationship for the sake of the gospel, so we could:

“Speak forth the mystery of Christ…in order that we may make it clear in the way we ought to speak. Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned as it were, with salt so that you may know how you should respond to each person.”

Colossians 4:3-6

Christ and Christ crucified will always be the central focus of the preaching here at Harambee, as it was that night in March, but our goal is to “season our speech” with the grace and love of Jesus, and then allow God to work in the hearts of the people regardless of the consequences to our own lives.

Fourthly, the claim that MAPS (The group we worked with) has ties to CAIR, which has Hamas ties is irrelevant. Jesus commands us to love our enemies (Matthew 5: 43-44), and Paul exhorts us to “bless those who persecute you” (Romans 12:14). Even if all 150 Muslims in that room were Hamas (and that’s what I say is absurd, because they aren’t), so what! Aren’t we supposed to face our enemies, love them, and even bless them? Shouldn’t preaching to them Jesus be our goal? Aren’t we commanded to take the gospel to the “nations?” It seems as though many Christians are more interested in preserving their national identity than they are their identity in Christ. Their God has become a politically driven (Democrat/Republican, depending on which political side you choose), white American, which allows them to demonize those that don’t look and act like we do. Is that what Christianity has become? Isn’t our allegiance to Jesus, to live like Him, and not endorsing everything our political persuasion or our nation demands? Weren’t the early Christians persecuted (not for their message of the cross) for calling Jesus Lord, and not giving that title to the emperor? Yet, by all accounts, they lived exemplary lives and were loved by many in the culture.

So many comments in some of these blogs make claims that Muslims are the “antichrist,” thus justifying a lack of hospitality to over one billion people in this world. They use texts like 2 John 9-11 as their “proof text” for such a response. It amazes me that people who claim to be the guardians of the “truth,” can be so callous with the scriptures they claim to love. It was poor exegesis like this (not “Postmodern” relativity) that justified slavery and genocide by the church in the past. This verse has nothing to do with reaching non-believers and having them in your house, and it is contradicted by many actions of both Jesus and His disciples. This verse is speaking of false teachers within the church, not outside non-believers. Paul iterates a similar idea in 1 Corinthians 5:9-13.

This kind of legalistic nonsense reminds me of a quote from Westminster Professor, Michael Horton who said,

Christians are supposed to be in the world but not of it, but the problem is many of them are of the world, but not in it.

Unfortunately, I find this all too true. While they wear a badge of separation, they act no differently than the world. They use human effort and methodology to effect change, political power, division, slander, and lack of love for all people, which seems to color their repertoire. They act as the older prodigal son, who bitterly opposed his father because of his own claims to the throne. It’s easy to vilify the “enemy” as antichrists when you see yourself as “righteous.” It is only when the gospel penetrates your heart and reveals the ugliness of your own righteousness, that are we able to act in grace toward others, as Christ has done to us.

Our intent for the Muslim dialogue was not to water down the gospel. As a matter of fact, the leader of MAPS told our pastor that we are the first church they have dealt with to present a gospel that is clearly contradictory to the Muslim idea of truth. But the aim of MAPS, and the reason they felt it was a “success,” was that we both could state those differences, with reverence and grace, and though we vehemently disagreed with one another, we will continue to discuss Jesus. We will continually work out our disagreements with love and respect for one another, and I just don’t see how that is contrary to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

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Thursday, May 06, 2010

Soli Deo Gloria: Part II

Applying the Fifth Sola

Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
1 Cor 10:31

This has been my text that I have tried to live by. I will tell you though I have also taken it in the past and been a legalist at the heart without realizing it. Thinking wrongly that my deeds almost gained merit with God, when in reality, they don’t. To best understand this last part of our study on the Solas we see a succession that needs to take us through an examination of thought. It starts with Leviticus 1-7 then to Isaiah 53 then to Romans 8:1 then finally to 1 Cor 10:31.

You see Leviticus 17:11 states that it is the blood by reason of the life that makes atonement.

The first 7 chapters of Leviticus go through the different sacrifices that should be offered because of sin. As you read, and continue to read, you understand that this is a very, very bloody outworking. Shedding the blood of bulls, goats, lambs and other animals. Taking out the entrails of the animals and placing them on alters to burn, sprinkling the blood of the animals on different parts of the alter, the tent and mercy seat. Taking the animal’s skin and cutting it into pieces to offer on the altar.

So much blood that a river would run of blood through the valley of Kidron from the temple. God instituted this bloody sacrificial system, not to literally take away the sins of the people, you can see that in Hebrews 10, but God had such a bloody and rank system so that the people would see the effects of their sin and stop sinning.

You would think that if you had to continue to watch the lives of these animals be taken and the mess that it created, the river of blood it created, the stench of the animals and the burning of their bloody flesh that the people would stop sinning. But they didn’t. And neither would we.

Jeremiah 31 speaks of the new covenant; this covenant is needed because the nation of Israel didn’t keep the first covenant, so God said He would bring a new covenant, where He would remember their sin no more. This covenant was prophesied about in the great passage of Isaiah 53. So God, first started with the blood of animals and their sacrifice to show the depths of sin, when this didn’t work, in God’s perfect timing, He brought us His only Son.

Before moving on, I need to make clear that God does not react to people. His plans have been established and preordained from eternity past. But He also interacts with us in a way so that we will get an understanding of what He means. This is why He calls Christ a Lamb. The people of Israel, who were very accustomed to shepherding could understand this, but this doesn’t mean that Christ has wool and hooves, just as when God said that He brought the New Covenant because of Israel’s disobedience, this New Covenant was eternally ordained by God. Easier to understand, what came first, the promise of His Son’s death, or the Mosaic Covenant? Genesis 3:15 points to the redemption through the New Covenant because of Christ.

Take a look at Isaiah 53:4-12

But through Christ, there were two purposes. One was to show how nasty our sin was because of the cross, the brutality that was exposed on the cross and the Father forsaking His Son. The was to show us the spiritual loneliness of sin, and also to show us the depth our sin has in regards to our holy God. Second is found in Romans 8:1

Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

What is the therefore, there for? Paul just got done exposing his guilt because of his sin even though he is a child of God. So what is Paul’s conclusion after this self examination? There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ. Christ paid your debt completely on the cross. If this is true, you cannot be condemned for a payment that has been made. This word “condemnation” means “damnatory sentence.” Romans 8:33,34

Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us.

So, although, we should hate our sin and by the aid of the Spirit strive to overcome it, in the end, if you are one of the elect, God’s chosen one, you cannot be condemned. What is the natural outcome of this? Soli Deo Gloria. I know many have heard this, but again, just like we need to stop and look at the mountains and marvel at God’s omnipotence through His creation, read these words and marvel: There is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus!

In addition, the people of Israel’s captivity in Egypt is an amazing parallel to our life as a people. Israel was enslaved by an evil one, the Pharoah. We are told that we are slaves to sin. The people did the will of their master, the Pharoah. We are told that before salvation that we do the will of our father, the devil. The people of Israel were redeemed by one of their own, Moses. We were redeemed by one of our own, the Son of Man. I will not continue in this but there is much more…including the look at the paschal lamb verses our Paschal Lamb.

What was the reason that the Lord wanted His people to be released from Egypt? Take a look at Exodus 12:31. If you get nothing else out of this post get this verse.

Then he (Pharoah) called for Moses and Aaron at night and said, “Rise up, get out from among my people, both you and the sons of Israel; and go, worship the LORD, as you have said.
Exodus 12:31

Just as Israel, this is our reason for being let go from the bondage of the evil one, being risen from death to life: to worship God, to give God all the glory.

If we understand the Levitical sacrifices, the sacrifice of the Son, the release of all condemnation, this should not even have to be told to us, but Soli Deo Gloria should be the natural outflow of our lives.

Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
1 Corinthians 10:31

Paul is speaking here to an embarrassment of a church in Corinth (which is us), but how many times do we have to be reminded to do all to the glory of God? This transformation of our life must take place in everything we do. You have to remember that for the Reformers they were used to a Pharisaical look at the ministry. Leaders all around them being corrupt and not really living for the glory of God, but all the glory was given to the Pope and his men. Calling the Pope “holy father” and having past popes being called saints to be worshiped and prayed to. Soli Deo Gloria cried out in the face of all this to put the glory back in its rightful place: all on God, none on us.

The fact was established long ago by Paul.

But may it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ
Galatians 6:14a

1 Cor 1:31 and 2 Cor 10:17 both say (taken from Jeremiah 9:23,24) “Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord”

Galatians 2:20 “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me;

We studied this when going through Sola Gratia but it can be summed up who we are in Romans 9:22,23

What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? And He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory,

The natural outflow of God showing us the riches of His glory is for us to proclaim and live out this glory in our lives. Not just in part but in whole.


I concluded my introduction to the Five Solas with this and I want to bring back Peter Jeffery’s quote to end our discussion.

Spiritual men do not look for fame and the applause of people; they are concerned only with being faithful to God. Faithfulness is more valuable in gospel work than greatness. It always honors the Lord and is concerned with his glory not its own. Few will be great but all of us should be faithful. Out of that may flow greatness but if it does not then the Lord is still honored.

My hope is that you start to understand your standing before a holy God. Namely, your unworthiness because of who you are, but your right to heirship because of Christ. Understanding this, your life will be a continual outflow of the love of God and the glory of God and you will truly live out what the chief end of man is: to worship God and enjoy Him forever.

I will end with Isaiah 52:7

How lovely on the mountains
Are the feet of him who brings good news,
Who announces peace
And brings good news of happiness,
Who announces salvation,
And says to Zion, “Your God reigns!”
Listen! Your watchmen lift up their voices,
They shout joyfully together;
For they will see with their own eyes
When the LORD restores Zion.
Break forth, shout joyfully together,
You waste places of Jerusalem;
For the LORD has comforted His people,
He has redeemed Jerusalem.
The LORD has bared His holy arm
In the sight of all the nations,
That all the ends of the earth may see
The salvation of our God

May all the ends of the earth see the salvation of our God because of who we are and what we say, and may the Five Solas of the Reformation aid you in your understanding of the great and glorious salvation of our God, and may your life be a life of worship to our God. But, when you sin, and you will sin, know that because of the payment of the Christ, "there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus."

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Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Page CXVI: New Hymns Album is Out & Free Music

I figured I would share this today and also note that you can get their first album completely free (I included a video of one my favorite songs off the first album below). I believe today is the last day to download the first one for free so do so quickly. Also, if you want to preview the new album, Justin Taylor put up the whole album on his site. Enjoy.

To download first album for free click here: Page CXVI: First Hymns Album

To go to their site and order the new album click here: Page CXVI: Second Hymns Album

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Way to Go Protester, Way to Go: The I's Have It

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Nicene Creed: Part 5

Rising on the third day according to the Scriptures (Luke 24:1-12, 46; Matthew 16:21;28:1–8; Mark 16:1–8; John 20:1–8; Acts 2:24-28; 1 Cor. 15:4)

I believe that Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of Man, not only literally died in the flesh on the cross and was buried, but on the third day he rose again. He conquered death, showing that he was truly more than a mere man and showing that he truly had paid for our sins. For, if Christ did not rise from the dead, he is like any other martyr dying for a cause. But, because Jesus did rise again, he showed us not only that he was The Way and that those who follow him will go to where is at, but he also showed that his payment for sin was enough. He truly was the perfect and righteous sacrifice that was a shown throughout the Old Testament imperfect sacrifices who all died and turned to dust. He, the perfect priest, did not offer up another animal, but he laid his own life down on the alter and conquered death. I believe that Jesus Christ rose on the third day.

And ascending into the heavens (Luke 24:51-53; Acts 1:9-11,22)

Jesus didn't merely raise from the dead, but was carried up into heaven. This was to show the complete satisfaction of redemption by God the Father to not only raise him from the dead, but to receive him back into his right function as God, with all power and might. We are also promised that Jesus will come back, just as he left. He went up into heaven, and will return again to judge all men. If Jesus did not satisfy the redemption of mankind, he wouldn't have been raised, and he wouldn't have been publicly displayed to be entering back into the heavenly tabernacle. I believe that Jesus Christ ascended into the heavens.

He is seated at the right hand of the Father (Mark 16:19; Ps 110:1; Luke 22:69; Acts 2:33; 7:55f; Rom 8:34; Eph 1:20; Col 3:1; Heb 1:3; 8:1; 10:12; 12:2; 1 Pet 3:22)

If raising from the dead and ascending to heaven wasn't enough to show that Jesus truly satisfied the wrath of God, then being seated at the right hand of the Father truly sums all this up. The right hand is a place of honor and the Father would give this honor to no other than to Jesus Christ, who completely satisfied for us redemption and fulfilled the work he was sent for as John 17 shows us:

Jesus spoke these things; and lifting up His eyes to heaven, He said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify Your Son, that the Son may glorify You, even as You gave Him authority over all flesh, that to all whom You have given Him, He may give eternal life. This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. I glorified You on the earth, having accomplished the work which You have given Me to do. Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.

Further, Hebrews tells us that Jesus was what David was speaking about in Psalms 110 as Jesus had authority over all things, as all things were under subjection to Him. I believe that Jesus sits at the right hand of the Father.

And coming again in glory (Matthew 24:3,27,37,39)

The story isn't over. Jesus will return just as he left. He will come this time, not as a humble servant born in a stable, but he will come again in glory. He will not lay aside his Deity as he did the first time, but he will show forth the fullness of God and His glory to all nations and to all peoples. He will show them his power and majesty. This is the hope of all people who follow Jesus, that someday, at a time unknown, Jesus will return for His people. His coming won't be in a little town where no one knows of it, but he will return as lightning comes to earth for all to see his power and his glory and his majestic reign as King of kings and Lord of lords. I believe Jesus Christ is coming again in glory.

to judge the living and dead (Acts 10:42; John 5:22, 27; Acts 17:31; 2 Tim 4:1; 1 Pet 4:5)

This day, the return of our Christ, our Messiah, who comes in all glory, will be a judge. He will judge all people and separate the goats from the sheep based on deeds. Those who have sinned, will be cast into outer darkness, into hell forever. Those who wear the garments of the Saviour, the Messiah, the Trusted Sacrifice, the blood of the Lamb, will enter into heaven. Not because they have their own deeds that cover their sin, or their own deeds that make them righteous, but they have the deeds of the only perfect Priest who died in their place. They exchanged their filthy sin for the righteousness of Jesus Christ. This culminates from the belief and understanding of the entirety of the Creed up to this point. It is only by faith that one enters into eternal heaven, worshiping God. And it isn't just any faith, but the faith that believes in the Way, the Truth and the Life found only in Jesus Christ. I believe that our Messiah, Jesus Christ, is coming again to judge the living and the dead.

His kingdom shall have no end (2 Sam 7:13, 16; Ps 89:36, 37; Dan 2:44; 7:14, 18, 27; Matt 28:18 Luke 1:30-33; 2 Peter 1:11)

This is a great promise and shows his complete sovereignty and complete omnipotence. One loves to work under a king, who's kingdom and reign last for a long time as this promises them a long employment and much riches. This goes even further. We are told that we are sons of the Most high, and that our King's Kingdom will have no end. Not only this, but our King is perfect and rules justly and mercifully and that this Kingdom will be perfect. What a great promise to know that this will never end. That our joy will be totally complete, because the perfection that we gaze upon in heaven, as we worship our God, will never end and he will never be defeated. We will never be slaves again of the despicable god of this earthly world, but forever will be sons and adopted children of the One who encompasses love and who's whole being is defined by love. I can think of nothing more to be joyous about than to be able to be in the presence of the Most High King with a kingdom that never ends. I believe that our King will sit on the throne and that his Kingdom will have no end.

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