Morning Thoughts

The Way of Love

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

(1 Corinthians 13:1-7 ESV)

There is something about living the Christian life that should be appealing to anyone and everyone that encounters the Gospel.  Something that is so genuine, so open and so free that it is just pouring out of every member of the body.  The something is love.  As I sat last night and pondered over the words in this passage, begging for wisdom and guidance I recognized something within the words.  Paul is talking to the church in Corinth, a church that was so eager to use their spiritual gifts that they started to misuse them.  Paul’s words, His guidance was not to throw the gifts out, but to pursue them.  His exhortation down that line starts in 14, but the premise starts here.  The Way of Love.
As I read the words, I have to recognize two things.  First, Paul is again reiterating that regardless of the gifts and the talents that we have, without love they are nothing.  This is nothing new, as Christians we should know and operate out of love.  There is something much deeper going on in the words though, something that pulls at the strings of our character.  If we read the well quoted passage about the qualities of love, and we put into context of our character we find that the passage digs into our souls.  The deepest parts of who we are, and why we do what we do.
Our character should be patient and kind; it does not envy or boast; it’s not arrogant or rude.
In a series of passages that talks about our spiritual gifts, we find that the apostle Paul is writing for an inward reflection, of an outward response.  If our character is love, that is who we are on the deepest level, it’s qualities will be reflected outwardly towards everyone.
So, my prayer for this morning reads something like this:
Father,
I know that my heart needs to be focused and refocused on the finished work of the Cross.  Your Son took my place, took my punishment and my guilt on that day.  He defeated sin and death, an accomplishment that only He could do.  I know that my heart doesn’t always reflect the nature of love, the perfect nature of Jesus.  I beg Father, that you continue work in my heart, that you continue to press me deeper into the Gospel and that you teach me how to love Your bride.  Let my character reflect Your nature, let my actions and my gifts flow from a heart that is deeply in love with You.  Wrap me in your arms, hold me, so that I might know the love that can only come from you.  Amen.
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The Gospel to the Streets

Walking through some teaching last night with a few of people made me realize that there is a disconnect, a misguided nature to the way that we teach Biblical truths to the people that God has placed in our paths. This disconnect isn’t inherently wrong, nor does it present itself as a heart issue per se, but it opens up conversation and teaching at a much deeper level. The issue is not with the curriculum that we are teaching but how we apply the teaching and the response to the truths that we are hearing.

Let’s flesh this out a bit. Last night we are working through the advanced year for Porterbrook. If you aren’t engaged in Porterbrook, find a learning site and go. We are talking about the Cross and the theological beauty of the scandal. The depth of the teaching is unreal. The implications are mind boggling and irrational, counter intuitive to the progressive society that we live in. As a group we can clearly define what grace is, and the happenings of the cross and this is where we find the disconnect. With all the teachings that we went over, we as a group struggled to be able to reteach or reframe all the teaching in language that mattered in our culture. We essentially have been taking great theological teaching and letting it die on our own domes (that’s brains in an urban culture).

Questions like; “How can you translate this for the people in your culture?” and “Can you explain this to me if I’m struggling with the nature of the cross?” turned out to be very pressing. Our group, had a difficult time breaking down the knowledge of the Gospel and turning it inside out. If we are going to fulfill the Great Commission we are going to have to turn the teaching inside out.

I love the phrase “turning the teaching inside out,” because it conveys the nature of the Gospel in a way that people can understand. As we peer into the Word, the Gospel infects our hearts, it changes us. We learn the deep truths, as we engage not only the Word but teachings from the word. It goes inside us. To develop disciples that internal engagement has to reflect and turn outward. It’s the nature of the Gospel. So our teaching has engage that reflection, it has to engage the mind and the heart. Our focus cannot be simply on learning, but on the teaching aspect as well. It’s in the nature of a disciple to teach, and reproduce.

Here are a few things to ponder before your teaching, regardless of the medium.

  1. As a teacher, are you using theoretical language? Is your language conducive for reteaching? Are you pressing out how to teach the information? Are you using real world examples or are you relying on Christian language to reinforce your points?
  2. Do your people really understand the material or are they just there? How can you format the teaching time to best engage your people? Is it time to step back and make sure that everyone is on the same page?
  3. How is the Gospel speaking into the hearts of your people? You can turn the knowledge inside out, if it’s not really getting to the inside. Where are your people at in their daily devotions?
  4. What’s going on in the lives of the people you’re shepherding? How can you leverage daily living as teaching moments? How is the Gospel speaking into their current situations?
  5. Are you teaching our of your personal experience with the Gospel and whatever curriculum that you are working out of? Do you have stories and life events where the teaching as greatly effected you?

These are just a few of the questions that we should be asking ourselves as we are preparing to teach. The glory of the Gospel is that we can’t add anything to it, to make it work. We can however teach it in ways that press our people deeper in to mission, deeper into community and just plain deeper in.

How are you getting the Gospel to your streets?

Wild and Wrecked

I have to admit that last week was rough and this week seemly is rougher, but something is different. Something is different, because I’m different. Last week I was bent on taking on the world. I was going to do something about everything. It was me against the world, and I was going to walk out all the world problems in a fit of rage.

This week someone said something to me, a comment that changed my prospective across the board. It’s not like it’s the first time that this particular person has said something like this to me, in fact I’m pretty sure that it’s the rock that smacked my soul around during sermon prep.

God is God and He loves His people, regardless of what side they are on currently. 

In the midst of war zones in Iraq, St. Louis and Israel, (just to name the headlines)  God loves His people and my job is simply to pray and witness the Good News of the Gospel.  The change that is so invigorating in my life, so undeniably real, that I cannot help but tell someone about it.   And that leaves me humbled in complete submission to the Creator.  

Who am I and where did I go?  That seems to be the question lingering in the air, the question that ultimately falls back into what is my identity in.  Does Christ define me or have I attempted to hijack my identity again?  It all boils down to who I rest under, is it Adam or is it Christ.  If it is Christ, I walk out my prayer in humble submission to the one that paid it all.  I begin to see people differently, and my thoughts and actions are transformed through my interactions with the living God.  If I rest in Adam, my thoughts and my actions reflect the broken nature of my flesh.

Let us not forget our identities as we walk out our faith, minute by minute, day by day.  

1 Corinthians 10:31

clouds

“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”  (1 Cor 10:31)

As I sit on a plane headed to Denver to spend sometime with my family, I ran right across this verse. lt was not particularly what “I” planned to contemplate as I’m in the middle of some theological writings, but alas l keep coming back to with a yearning heart.

What are the implications in our daily lives if we take this verse literally? (I read this as a prescription)

The first implication that immediately jumps out at me is the fact that my life is not my own. We can see this weaved in and out of the NT, the idea of complete sacrifice to God, our lives. Paul points out that your life is not your own, but to be used to preach the Gospel.
(1 Cor 10:31)

Has the gospel gripped you to the point that you will do whatever it takes (short of sin) to spread the good news?

What situations do you find yourself in, where you don’t glorify God? What about when you do?  What in the circumstance changes?

Do you feel like you glorify God in your daily life? If not, are you trying to earn God’s favor or are you worshiping?

Just some thoughts at 10,000 ft. in a tuna can.

The Rise of Pseudo Intellectualism Pt. 1

Lets just put this on the table, clearly displayed.  I have a unique understanding of intellectualism and Christianity.  To date, I strive to understand and maintain an open mind towards secular studies of science, psychology and sociology.  I love reading, understanding what drives social interests and where society is ‘at.’  I’ve played the part of the ‘intellectual’ debating sciences, religion and of course sports.  I can hear the reader now, “That’s great Adam, but why do we care?”  It’s not about me, that just a baseline card to start on before laying out the rest of the article.

I’ve been on a Facebook sabbatical, because at this point Facebook has become more of prayer request board than any sort of communication device, at least from my people.  We use it to promote lots things but in reality my peeps from years past just keep my prayer list full.  They don’t know it, I read the things that they write, the pics they post and the events they go to and I know what is going on.  I used to live that life.  I know where they are and it burns inside of me.  I know the emptiness that they feel and I understand that need to fill the emptiness with some sort of intellectual bolstering.  I want desperately for everyone to see the real Jesus.  Not the pastors and the churches that get all sorts of media attention.

Some people might or have called me a bit of an extremest about doctrine and theology.  I already admitted that I love reading and learning and I have some set beliefs on doctrine, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t change.  That doesn’t mean that I’m not open to understanding why people are drawn to certain churches or pastors.  Here is where I start having an issue.  The media, specifically the liberal media loves to point out churches that have some ‘wack’ thought processes or massive issues deeply in them.  Generally, the mega churches and of course the Catholics.  After they post an article or run a story about “the church believes,” the outpour of prayer requests starts coming in.  Hundreds of people start commenting falsities about Christianity and seemingly are fine rolling around with false conclusions about God and the church.

I blame the ego of men in the Church

That’s right.  I don’t blame Marx, Nietzsche, Freud, Wordsworth, or Darwin (who was a theist). They played a prominent part in the downfall of the Christian influence and opened up doors for communication that the Church couldn’t handle.  They provided a solid foundation for intellectualism and Pantheism.  The response of the church?  Well let’s see what we have running around in the very loosely based Christianity umbrella.  Mega church pastors that are rolling around in 14 million dollar houses, claiming anything but Jesus.  Anyone who is actively proclaiming the Word of Faith movement is actively participating in pantheism.  It’s not just the word of faith movement, the Catholics are continuing a tradition of hiding sin within the confines of the Vatican and allowing priests to continue to minister the word of God after having sexual relations with children.  It’s sad, and it’s damaging to the very fabric of the testimony of the church.  If you think that’s harsh and it hurts to read, I hope that you understand it comes out of a love for Jesus and his bride.  In our extended church family we had to deal with infidelity within the staff of the church.  Leaders, sinning and they are going to continue until they are dead, they are blinded by their own personal idolotry.

The Truth

Men are going to continue to sin.  Sanctification should be happening and the leaders of the church have to address sin.

23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Rom 3:23 ESV)

Does that make the church irrelevant in today’s society?  In some sense it actually makes the church more relevant, because the church can teach what Christianity is all about.  Grace.  Far too long, the church has made laws and constitutions to hold their congregations back from the moral underlying of society.  The church can call on grace, call on Jesus to help repair those whom are broken with the understanding that all have sinned, not just the outsiders of the building.  This is not to say that we as Christians shouldn’t strive towards Jesus, never taking out eyes off of the cross, but it’s relieving to know that you don’t have to be perfect.  That the church can release itself from some of the dogmatic rulesets that have been self imposed.  We as Christians should engage the world as Christians, as humans that have sinned, will sin and want deeply for the Holy Spirit to continue to press out our natural state.

This kills much of the sounding board for pseudo intellectualism and secular reasoning.  The church shouldn’t feel the need to combat science with theology.  Science has continued and will continue to edify the great word of God.  We don’t have to create a societal divide based on what we know as truth and the process that continues to prove the truth.  Jesus called us to arms, commissioned us to speak boldly all that we have been taught.  Our mission shouldn’t be to win the intellectual skirmish, but the war for souls.

The Great Commission

16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17 And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in[a] the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:16-20 ESV)

So how do you win the war on ideology, intellectualism and pantheism?

Jesus

I believe and will continue to attempt to walk out how to walk out some extremely hard truths for people to believe.  Charles Darwin once said,

“I am not apt to follow blindly the lead of other men”

Why would we expect the cultures that we are in to blindly follow anyones lead?  Jesus called us to teach His truth, to speak about His life, death and resurrection.   Imagine if the presentation of the Gospel would have been something that Charles himself had been taught.  Imagine if we put our ego’s down, pride being much of the root of sin, and walked out what Jesus called us to walk out.  Christianity as a moralistic ruleset is dead.  It started out as dead and is dead.  Christianity as a lifestyle, Jesus as a savior and an understanding that moral codes and laws bring death.  I’m with Mark Driscoll on this.

It’s time for a call to Resurgence.

Loving Reactions to Modesty: Asking Not Telling

Modesty: Asking Not Telling

Jesus plus anything is busted

You can find Emily’s article here.

I was trolling twitter today and I found someone retweeting a blog post from the wonderful Emily Maynard which caught my attention.  The Portland loving Emily has be wrestling with this idea of modesty and what women wear.  Automatically, men are jacked in this converstation.  A) Women rolling around in seductive clothing biologically and spiritually sends us spinning and B) the legalists come out screaming Romans 14:13. 

13 Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother.

Unfortunately, the exegesis of that particular passage starts out with some judgement.  This isn’t to say that the stumbling block shouldn’t be ignored, but rather to discuss this matter from both points of view.

Emily points out a perceived root of the Modesty Rule as a legalistic approach to controlling women:

I often hear the critique that my energy should be redirected to only the “legalistic” appropriation of these rules or that “modesty is important as long as it’s not legalistic” but I’m calling foul. There’s no such thing as a non-legalistic approach to Modesty Rules, and that’s not the point. Applications vary, but the root of the Modesty Rules is controlling women.

This is where I would cordially and lovingly disagree.  Modesty at the root is not a control mechanism for the control of women, or is it a coup out for dudes not being responsible for their active response to the Gospel.  Let’s dive into this argument on a biblical level and see if we can’t find the root of the Modesty Conundrum. 

When we look at the exegesis of Romans 14:13 we are going to find that Paul is speaking out to his brothers in Rome.  It is vastly important to look at one chapter back in Romans.  Here we find Paul dropping any legalism arguments by pressing the new covenant (read Gospel) into the situation.

10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

11 Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. 12 The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. 13 Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. 14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.  (Romans 13:10-14 ESV)

Let’s break that down, quickly.  The Great Commandment reads:

But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?”And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:34-40, ESV)

On the fly lets roll this out into a nice fitting package.  Romans 14:13 calls us not to pass judgement and to not cause our brothers to stumble.  We do this because we love them, which is what the Great Commandment commands to do.   Love your neighbor (not just brother or sister in Christ) like you love yourself.  Romans 13 tells us that love is fulfillment of the Law, which presents the Gospel perfectly.  Jesus’ substitutionary death was the perfect sacrifice for our sins, legally fulfilling God’s requirement for the wages of sin, because he loved.  It’s the Gospel to love our neighbors and dressing modestly shows a level of commitment you have to the family.  Truly loving your brothers should drive you to wanting them to succeed in growing and maturing as a Christian.  Here’s the kicker Romans 14:10-12

10 Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; 11 for it is written,

“As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me,
and every tongue shall confess[b] to God.”

12 So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.

The Holy Spirit will roll deep in your heart and make changes as He sees fit.  You ultimately are responsible for the choices that you make.  Grace covers all, Jesus’ blood is sufficient.  It’s not a control mechanism at all.  It’s a sign of love.  Let’s continue….

1 Timothy 2:9 points out that women should wear (adorn) respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control.

9 likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire,

1 Peter 3:3-4 points to the key to this whole discussion.

Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.

If we can agree that our lives are paid for by the blood of Jesus and that they are no longer ours, it should be evident that we should strive to glorify God in everything that we do.  What we wear, what we say, how we act are all encompassing in the Great Commandment.

This post is already rolling a bit long, Emily if you would like, I’d be more than happy to lace out men’s responsibilities in the Modesty Rule in a similar manner that I have here.

 

Generational Thoughts

I see a generation rising up to take their place,
With selfless faith, with selfless faith,
I see a near revival, stirring as we pray and seek,
We’re on our knees, we’re on our knees.


Have loved me

Heal my heart and make it clean
Open up my eyes to the things unseen
Show me how to love like you

Hosanna, hosanna
Hosanna in the highest
Hosanna, hosanna
Hosanna in the highest

Boom. It hit me like a MAC truck. The Holy Spirit hit me like Ed Reed from 15 yards out. I don’t pray for a generation rising up to take their place… I don’t know if I press the generation to seek and pray for a near revival, and I’m not sure if we as a Church could honestly say that we do either. I would say that we press good programming, fun activities and Gospel connections that draw on Mommy and Daddy’s faith. Daddy is ultimately responsible for his child’s growth but what am I doing as a youth leader to press that personal faith and growth in the students and parents I engage? 

These are my thoughts as I worshiped the one true God.  The Creator of all, the King of Kings, the Father.  What am I going to do with the ministry that you have entrusted me with.  Am I going to get on my knees and pray for this generation?  A generation that needs more prayer and more intercession.  A generation that needs MEN to boldly proclaim the gospel to their offspring and not shy away from spirituality like it’s some effeminate quality that ranks right up with going to the mall.  Than it came again, Ed Reed style… A deep feeling like we as a Church don’t ask the right questions.  Tim (the Lead pastor) starts his blow up about asking the right questions.  Not forcing my contextualization, allowing them to teach me what they need.

So I prayed and much like Isaiah in Isaiah 6 it hit me:

Isaiah’s Vision of the Lord

1 In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. 2 Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew.  3 And one called to another and said:
“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory!”
4 And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke.  5 And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”
6 Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. 7 And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.”
Isaiah’s Commission from the Lord
8 And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.” 9 And he said, “Go, and say to this people:
“‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand;
keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’
10 Make the heart of this people dull,
and their ears heavy,
and blind their eyes;
lest they see with their eyes,
and hear with their ears,
and understand with their hearts,
and turn and be healed.”
11T hen I said, “How long, O Lord?”
And he said:
“Until cities lie waste
without inhabitant,
and houses without people,
and the land is a desolate waste,
12 and the Lord removes people far away,
and the forsaken places are many in the midst of the land.
13 And though a tenth remain in it,
it will be burned again,
like a terebinth or an oak,
whose stump remains
when it is felled.”
The holy seed is its stump.
Go and speak the Gospel.  Speak the words of God and trust that it won’t return void.
10 “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven

and do not return there but water the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
11 so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it. (Isa 55:10-11 ESV)
I went in to the cell group with one strategy.  Speak the Word to the teenagers and let them tell me how that effects their lives.  Let them do the talking and carrying the converstation.  Help lead the converstation when needed, but let them work out the life applications with guidance.  In short, I listened.  It’s an interesting lesson to learn and that is to listen.  Contextualizing only works if you have the right context.
If you aren’t in your missional community living life, you have no idea what to context too.  You have to live the life, learn the customs and roll deep with the trash of other peoples lives.  Jesus did it, it’s biblical and it’s what we are called to do.  This experience doesn’t just lend itself to teenagers, those dudes you are discipling once a week for an hour probably need you to engage, listen and teach the Gospel as it relates to them.
Pray for resurgence, pray for generational change, pray bigger than you can imagine because God is infinite and good.