new pages over to the left

a little page publishing and shifting around this morning.

I put the three parts to “Who do You Trust?” into one new page under “The Lie” since that is where it seemed to fit.

I also put both parts to “a Conception of Self” into one page under “the Lie” as well.

finally, I moved “Marriage and Happiness” to under the Lie so that all of the stuff on the same theme would be together.

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domesticated or dangerous?

as a Christ follower, have you been safely neutered and domesticated? do you long for more? do you dare ask God to make you dangerous to the devil and his demons?

Mark Batterson has an article on Catalyst about the difference between animals in the wild on the Galapagos Islands and animals in a zoo back at home. He then wonders if our churches here in America put Christians in a nice safe zoo cage.

At one point we were walking through the ape house and I had this thought as I looked through the protective Plexiglas window at a four-hundred-pound caged gorilla: I wonder if churches do to people what zoos do to animals.

I love the church. I bleed the church. And I’m not saying that the way the church cages people is intentional. In fact, it may be well intentioned. But too often we take people out of their natural habitat and try to tame them in the name of Christ. We try to remove the risk. We try to remove the danger. We try to remove the struggle. And what we end up with is a caged Christian.

Mark’s article reminded me of a book that I read last year by Erwin McManus called The Barbarian Way.

We christians have lost our wild untamed edge in this culture. We have settled for becoming another piece of glass in the American Mosaic. We have allowed ourselves to become a cultural backwater using channels 58-61 on the cable dial and stations 88.1-92.1 on the FM dial.

If anybody outside our little cultural cage happens by, we do our best to entice them to stay with all of the various comfortable delights of which we take advantage. “if you get cancer, we will bring you meals.” “if you get divorced, we have an awesome singles group and after care counseling.” “if need to know how to deal with stress and anxiety, we have a fantastic support group just for you.” and so on and so on.

Not that these things are bad, they aren’t. But we were meant to live for so much more (to coin a phrase) and unfortunately, we have indeed lost ourselves.

Does your preacher tell you from the pulpit that God kills people? (thanks Frank). Al Mohler gave a chapel message at Southeastern Seminary to which I listened yesterday evening. Go listen to it yourselves. It takes approximately 45 minutes to learn from Deuteronomy 6 how not to raise pagans.

In the process, Al Mohler also teaches the church how to be dangerous in this world by being relevant instead of settling for being a cultural milktoasty stagnant backwater. We must have doctrine, diligence, discipline and (I would add) determination in order to recover the beating wild untamed heart of God.

I love in the Chronicles of Narnia when the characters in hushed voices say about Aslan that he isn’t a tame lion.

Take a look at this blog post where Jesus in His shocking wonderful untamed glory is revealed.

In that same passage from the book, Lucy asks Mr Beaver if Aslan, the Lion representing Christ, is “safe”. To which he responds, “Safe? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

So it is with the real Christ. He’s not safe, but He’s good! He’s the King! I pray God will give us new eyes to see Jesus for Who He really is – not a “tame lion” – but the Lion of the Tribe of Judah who is mighty to save!

That Jesus is one worth following no matter what the cost or where it leads. That Jesus is one worth being dangerous for in this world no matter what the risk is to us and our safe cocoons.

as Mark Batterson says later in his article:

Deep down inside, all of us long for more. Sure, the tamed part of us grows accustomed to the safety of the cage. But the untamed part longs for some danger, some challenge, some adventure. And at some point in our spiritual journey, the safety and predictability of the cage no longer satisfy. We have a primal longing to be uncaged. And the cage opens when we recognize that Jesus didn’t die on the cross to keep us safe. Jesus died to make us dangerous.

Break out of your cage. Rediscover the untamed, unsafe, but gloriously gracious and good God of the Bible.

Hebrews and Eschatology

The whole book of Hebrews was written to Jewish believers in Christ who were thinking about/considering the possibility of returning to Judaism. The writer’s purpose was to persuade these believers to stay with Jesus. He (or she) wrote that Jesus was better than Moses and better than the angels.

He then spent a great deal of time expositing why the priesthood of Jesus after the order of Melchizedek was better than the Levitical priesthood. In Chapters 7, 8, 9, and 10, the writer explicitly compares the priesthood of Jesus and its superiority to the Levitical priesthood. He emphasizes that animal sacrifices never cured the sin problem. They only covered it up. He says the priests in Jerusalem have to stand and continually offer sacrifices, first for themselves and their sin and then for the sins of the people. The Day of Atonement just pushed back the sin for another year. By contrast Jesus offered himself once for all and sat down at the right hand of the Father, because His work was finished forever.

Hebrews 10:1-18 sort of sums it all up, but you should read chapters 7-10 to get the full devastating (for the Jewish religion) comparison. In addition, I Cor. 13:10 says that when the perfect has come into the world that the partial will be done away with. Jesus was the perfect high priest and less than forty years after His death and resurrection, the partial symbols of the Levitical priesthood were done away with.

All I am saying is that it doesn’t make sense to me for God to rely on rebuilding the Temple in Jerusalem as part of His plan for the end and for the millenial kingdom. Why would He revert to the partial and imperfect that was supposed to illustrate and point to the perfect Lamb of God that was slain for all sin for all time? Doesn’t make sense to me.

If the Temple does get rebuilt, it will be men doing it for their own purposes. Obviously, that move will tbe part of God’s perfect plan, just like Joseph getting sold into slavery, Eli’s sons ignoring their father’s warnings, the nation of Israel chasing after other Gods and the crucifixion itself. See for example, Gen 50:19-20; Exodus 7:3-5; I Sam. 2:25; II Sam 17:14; Romans 9:15-23; and I Peter 2:9.

I am just saying there is room for doubt in our eschatology. It bothers me when people are so completely certain about uncertain things. The Pharisees knew the Old Testament backwards and forwards and based on their view of prophecy were 100% certain that Jesus was not the Messiah.

Just sayin’.

happiness

I added a page that I wrote a while back about Happiness in a marriage. The tab is to the left of this.

Deacon stuff

I added the narrative explanation of deacon qualifications and role below the outline on the Deacon Outline page. Yes, that’s right, even more words.

more on church, since its Sunday

Late last year or early this year (time flies) I read a book called The Unity Factor by Larry Osborne. The book was very good and I recommend it to anyone who is in ministry leadership as a staff or lay person.

Larry had a section in the book where he talked about the differences in leading groups of various sizes and how things change for the leadership team as the church group grows. If I remember correctly (I passed the book on, so I can’t check), he said at the beginning it is like a golf game. Basically a solo activity up to a foursome. Spending a lot of quality time together in leadership activity, fellowshipping, living life together etc.

As the church grows, the leadership becomes more like a basketball team. They have more specialized roles and rely on the other team members to get things done in their area. There is less personal interaction among the team due to the constraints of time and the need to get the job done. But a basketball team still mostly practices and plays together as a complete unit.

At some point the leadership team is more like a football team. There is a high degree of specialization needed to get the job done. Whole units like the offensive line will prepare together and work together to accomplish their task. The time for the whole group to come together and fellowship is extremely limited.

I bring this up, because I just read an article that Steve McCoy pointed me to by Tim Keller called Process Managing Church Growth.

With a juicy title like that, I bet all of you are already over there taking in all 16 pages of goodness. Don’t worry I will wait for you to get back………..

All right. Now here is the question. How does a local church that wants to reach the lost with the gospel and grow as a result thereof avoid the trap of becoming merely a self sustaining machine rounding up other christians from other churches? What do you do in the early stages to build in core values that are God honoring? Chris has a series of questions that he is asking that need to be faced head on by anybody involved in church planting. They are:

1. Are we more focused on our dreams then the gospel’s dreams? More people, big buildings, cool titles, write books, speak at conferences, etc.
2. Are we to scared to take risks and live like Jesus?
3. Dealing with messy people stinks-so maybe we subversively avoid those people and their messes?
4. We really don’t care about the lost and the poor. They become and inconvenience to our daily lives and church rhythms and budgets.
5. Could the one thing that is standing in the way of the gospel be the church of Jesus?

I wonder if we (church) really understand the responsibility we have as partners in the gospel with Jesus? If we fail to use God’s wisdom in a way that focuses on the true essence of the gospel and mission, then we damage the potential of the church and squander the ability to maximize our talents. Are we hiding our talents or multiply them? The Master gave us a ton of responsibility.

All of us should be asking ourselves how our church can both grow through reaching and discipling our neighbors for Christ, while avoiding “mission creep” away from why we started the church. How do we put enough systems in place to be good stewards of the resources with which God entrusts us, without becoming a bureaucratic nightmare?

Just asking the questions.

what is our hope?

I Peter 1:13 says that we need to prepare our minds for action (the KJV word picture is to “gird up the loins of your mind” I love that!) be sober minded and set our hope fully on the grace that will be brought at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

If we are going to focus our attention and avoid the distractions of this world in favor of such hope, we need to know what it is. What is our hope? To whom was Peter talking? According to verse 1, he was talking to the elect exiles of the dispersion scattered throughout Asia Minor.

Peter more fully describes the hope he is talking about in verses 3-9:

3. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4. to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5. who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7. so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 8. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, 9. obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

and he juxtaposes the hope they have in what is to come against the various trials that are grieving them here on the earth. In other words, the hope upon which they are called to fully set their minds had nothing to do with making their present earthly circumstances better. All of their trials were designed by God to test the genuineness of their faith so that it would result in praise, honor and glory to God at the end.

The hope was and is salvation by Jesus in Heaven where the tested genuineness of their faith would redound to the the glory of God. That is why He saved us in the first place. To the praise of His glorious grace. That is why we are called to share the gospel with others, to increase and magnify the praise of His glorious grace.

Now then, think about the prosperity gospel preachers. What is the hope to which they are calling people? More money, better relationships, better and more satisfying work and career…etc. How biblical is that hope? Whose desires are the object of that kind of hope? Who is at the center of that worldview?

Sean Lucas had a post about Joel Osteen recently that nailed the difference between the true hope of the Bible to which we are called to focus our minds and the false hope of the prosperity gospel. Spend a little time and go read the whole thing. It is great. Here are a couple of pieces of it to get you started:

I think the driving reason that Osteen is hugely popular is that he sells hope. Books like Your Best Life Now and Become a Better You provide a message of hope that my life does not have to be the way it is right now; that God is powerful and able to change my life; that God is profoundly interested in my life and is near to me. And while that message of hope is packaged in the code language of the prosperity Gospel and positive psychology (like the phenomenally successful book by Tal Ben-Shahar, Happier), at the end of the day, people leave Lakewood feeling as though there is a greater meaning and purpose for their lives.

….
The biblical priority is that God in the Gospel rescues, delivers, frees and sustains us to make much of God. He is the great good in the Good News–and it truly is amazing: that God would save his wayward children for the fame of his name; would shape worshippers who will find their deepest satisfaction in making much of God; and would gather together a worldwide body of worshippers who hallow his name