Archive for November, 2008

Aliens & Citizens by Jordan Hylden

Sunday, November 30th, 2008

If you haven’t been following Christianity Today’s “Christian Vision Project” you’ve been robbing yourself of some very good information and deep insight into how we can and should be the church in the 21st century. Yesterday I posted my review of Brian McLaren’s “Everything Must Change.” Today I read an article that helps to balance some of the imbalance I saw. You can read the article by Jordan Hylden here.
Hylden’s specific focus is on how we as followers of Jesus should interact with government. His approach is much more biblical than that espoused by McLaren. He emphasizes the fact that the Israelite exiles in Babylon were admonished to live in and pray for Babylon. As a matter of fact the heroes of Scripture from that time did just that. Think of Daniel, Nehemiah, and Esther. He also points out the Paul’s view of the Roman government was that it was in place at the will of God.
For those that follow Jesus, it is important that we remember our citizenship and ultimate loyalty are not with whatever government issued our passport. It is with God’s kingdom. Yet, to truly live out the values of God’s kingdom, Jesus’ followers should be the best possible citizens of this planet and whatever government under which they live. This includes all moral and ethical issues like the rights of the unborn, responsible care of the environment, loving the poor, etc. These are not Democrat/Republican, Left/Right, Liberal/Conservative issues. These are human issues. Issues rooted in loving God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, and loving our neighbors as ourselves.

Everything Must Change by Brian McLaren

Saturday, November 29th, 2008

One of my biggest frustrations with a lot of what is written by the Christian community is the stark one-sided approach that most of the writers take. In particular I’m talking about the writings of the “Emerging” of “Emergent” authors (yes I know there’s a difference but I challenge you to define it) and the conservative, evangelical authors. Scot McKnight said it well on his blog when discussing the concept of gospel, “Too many today want to be faithful to Jesus’ use of the word ‘gospel’ and ignore Paul; too many also want to be faithful to Paul but ignore what Jesus said.”
This is my fundamental issue with McLaren in Everything Must Change. His premise is that the spiritual aspects that evangelical Christianity tends to focus on are not biblical. Now, I’m committed to communicating my presuppositions on this blog so you should know that my theology is very evangelical and I have spent my entire adult life working in evangelical churches. That said, I feel that McLaren is doing some exegetical gymnastics in his argument that the focus of Christianity is solely in changing what he call the “suicide machine.” The difficulty comes from the framing questions that he is asking. Questions that Scripture never intends to answer.
First, I don’t see any place in Scripture that Jesus or his followers worked to undermine or change established secular authority. That was not their mission. They constantly worked to live God’s kingdom principles in whatever political context in which they operated. They even took advantage of the political situation when it helped to spread their message.
Second, throughout Scripture there is a focus on the transcendent. McLaren ignores this or reinterprets it to support his presuppositions. He seems to argue that rather than needing to be transformed by God through faith we need to have faith that what we do will change the world.
I agree with every call to action that is laid out in the book. We all need to be better stewards of what God has given us. That, however, is not why Jesus came and died. Jesus didn’t die as some sort of protest to Caesar’s system. Jesus died to redeem the people that he deeply loves. He died to provide a way for people to reconnect to the God in whose image we have been created. This reconnection transforms the individual to be the person that will live out God’s values in this world in a way that will point others to God.
We all, especially those of us who claim to follow Jesus, need to be more responsible stewards of the earth and care more about the people that God cares for. Included in that is a need for us to submit to Jesus as Lord which saves us from our sin and transforms us into citizens of his kingdom so that we can spread his kingdom throughout this world.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 27th, 2008

I love the fact that our culture provides a day to remind us to be thankful. A few things I’m thankful for are: my wonderful wife and daughter, God’s provision for us that we have a warm home and food, the fact that I have great friends, and the fact that I get to be a part of what God is doing in the world.

What are you thankful for?

Bregrudgingly Blessed

Tuesday, November 25th, 2008

About twice a year I have the privilege of speaking at a local women’s prison. I say it’s a privilege because I know that to be true, but I never feel like it’s a privilege when I’m driving down there. It always feels like a burden and an interruption in my life. In truth, I never really want to go. The only reason I go is because of Jesus’ words in Matthew 25 about visiting him in prison.
I know I’m not supposed to admit that. I’m supposed to tell you how awesome it is and how much I love serving Jesus in this way, but, that would be a greater sin than coming up with an excuse not to go.
Yet, in spite of my curmudgeonly attitude toward the whole endeavor, God always shows up and blesses me. Much more than he blesses the ladies with whom I share his story. This time I didn’t even prepare like I should have.
Early in the week I felt God telling me that I needed to share with the ladies what it means to be a peace-maker, referencing Matthew 5:9. I did the research. I sought him and prayed for a message. But when it came to actually writing the message I got distracted by a hockey game and gave up. I printed off a message that I wrote a year ago with the intent of just doing that one again.
When I got to the room where we would worship with the ladies and I would share, God grabbed me and slapped me around a little bit. He made it clear that recycling an old message was not what he wanted and that I was going to give the message he told me to.
Now… I’m one of those guys that likes a lot of prep before I speak to any group. This brought me before God in prayer in HUGE ways. There was no way I could give that message. I had three points but no intro, no conclusion, and no illustrations. God didn’t care about that. I was going to give the message that he told me to.
Well… you already know what happened. Similar things have probably happened to you. I gave the message that God gave me. He gave me and intro, a conclusion, and illustrations. And the whole time I was speaking I was sharing God’s message with the ladies and God was sharing his message with me.
Sunday afternoon, I learned that I am far more rebellious than I like to think I am. But, I also learned that God loves me too much to leave me in that condition. He won’t let me get away with being a spoiled lazy brat. God lavished his love on me and allowed me to experience him working through me. I begrudgingly experienced his blessing.

Disturbing Stories

Sunday, November 23rd, 2008

I subscribe to an RSS feed from MSNBC. This is one of the ways I try to stay informed with what’s going on in the world. By the way if you’re studying theology or in ministry, it is vital that you stay well informed sot that the work you do is relevant to the people with whom you minister.

Anyway… I read two stories in a row about horrible things that mothers did to their children. In one story a mother set her home on fire in hopes of killing her husband in order to collect insurance money and instead killed her two children. In another a woman burned the word “wimp” into her 6-year-old daughter’s neck.

These two stories are incredibly disturbing to me. How in the world could a person do this to their child? I don’t mean to be holier-than-thou judgmental, but seriously!! Am I off my rocker on this one or does this seem crazy to you. I know I’m supposed to say pray for these ladies and failure’s not final, but that isn’t particularly helpful to me right now. I believe that those things are true and I will pray for these women that God will do something in their lives but I’m disturbed that we live in a world that this sort of thing happens at all.

Maybe I’m just naive. In truth though, it’s hard for me to pray for these ladies or think anything positive at all about them. What about you?

Catlyst One Day the ending

Thursday, November 20th, 2008

I’m sitting in the final session of Catalyst One Day. This has been a great day. I’ve enjoyed working listening to both Andy Stanley and Craig Groeschel. I’ve also had a great time hanging with the Student Ministry team from NorthRidge. These guys are awesome godly men that it’s a privelege to spend time with and talk with. I always grow spiritually when I have the opportunity to talk with them. I’m incredibly bummed that the conference is almost over.

Today I’ve:
Been reminded of the importance of momentum in ministry.
Learned keys to starting and sustaining momentum.
Learned the importance of leadership (my leadership) in gaining and sustaining momentum.
Realized that there is a direct correlation between my leadership effectiveness and my intimacy with God.

Catalyst One Day session 2

Thursday, November 20th, 2008

Session 2 was lead by Craig Groeschel from LifeChurch.tv. This is the first time I’ve ever heard Craig speak. I’ve heard a lot of good things about him, and everything I’ve heard was correct. This session was incredibly personally value. The idea that we need to change our mindset regarding leadship in the local church. The assignments that he gave were very practical.
o Find someone one or two steps ahead of you and learn how they think.
o Identify one wrong mindset and ask God to renew your mind with truth.
o Identify one painful decision that you’ve been avoiding and make the decision no matter the short term pain.
I need to think on all of these deeply and try to process them. The main issue I need to process through is the third. I’m not sure what decision I might be avoiding right now. I’m curious to here from others out there about what they think of Craig’s three assignments.

Catalyst One Day session one

Thursday, November 20th, 2008

The first session of Catlyst One Day was outstanding!  Often conferences are very inspirational but not very helpful.  This was not that.  It was actually incredibly practical.  Andy Stanley did a great job helping us see what momentum is and how to catalyze momentun in our ministries.  I love how open and honest Andy was.  The difficult thing with what he shared was that it seemed to be focused on the point leader of the organization.  I would like to see someone speak more to leading up and applying leadership principles to junior leaders in an organization.

First Things

Tuesday, November 18th, 2008

Snow is awesome!  We got just enough snow this weekend to build a snowman and go sledding.  This was the first time that I got to do these with my daughter.  It was one of the best weekends ever!

Transformational Architecture

Tuesday, November 18th, 2008

Transformational Architecture by Ron Martoia is a must read for anyone serious about trying to help people connect with God.  Ron takes a serious look at the way most people today communicate the to others about Jesus and offers a counter-point to the way most people that follow Jesus have been taught to share what that means.  The major thesis of the book is that we’ve been taught to start too late in the story.  Rather than starting with the fact that we’re all dealing with sin, Transformational Architecture argues that we should start with the fact that we’re all created in the image of God.

For Ron, being created in the image of God means that there are three fundamental yearnings built into the architecture of our existence that provide the key launching points to help us connect with God.  By utilizing these launching points we have ample opportunity to have profitable conversations about God and faith.

My struggle with Ron’s work deals with an issue that I’m still wrestling with in my mind as well.  I’m not sure if I agree with him or not but I’d like to hear him elaborate on the point.  One of Ron’s major critiques of the way a lot of people view following Jesus is that most people try to set up a way to tell if someone is “in or out.”  Ron argues that it is not for any of us to know but only God.  I want to agree with him on this but I’m not sure I can.  In one sense I will never know if you are in or out and you will never know if I am.  Yet, if you come to me and ask if I’m in, I feel very confident in saying yes.  With that, I feel I should be able to guide you to discover if you are (Isn’t that the point of having these conversations?).  Moreover, I think that God has given us some clues to help us see in ourselves and others if we are truly following Jesus or just paying him lip service (i.e. the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5).  It is also my presupposition that there is a point when we cross from death into life (Romans 6:13) and become new creations (2 Corinthians 5:17).  I wish that Ron would have addressed these issues.  Perhaps, they were out of the scope of this book but these are unanswered questions that I have to continually work through as I share Jesus with those around me.