The God Delusion – What we can learn from Richard Dawkins

I know that I haven’t been writing a lot on this little bit of web space that I can call my own. It’s a habit that I would like to cultivate again, but it seems that the myriad of life events has taken my focus off of blogging and into the culture as I know it. It’s not a bad place to be, but there is something to putting thoughts on paper and sharing them with the culture of the web that is unique in a sense and allows for deeper introspection.

As I sit down to write a sort of introduction to a series of writing, I’m pressed to pray for the hurt and the sufferings of the people that I would call my family. Death, sickness, abuse, complacency and a host of other griefs continually plague society, causing pain both physical and emotional. My prayer is that we as Christians are pressed deeper into the gospel as we joyfully engage life’s events, whether its in a time of suffering or abundance.

Father,

We know that you are the great I AM, the immutable definition of love.

You are the giver of grace and the faith that justifies and sanctifies,
and we at times forget our place in this fallen world.

Father, forgive us of our trespasses, our feeble attempts to be you.

Break us free from the bondage of slavery that is our flesh, and shower your grace upon us.

Focus our eyes on our Redeemer and Hope, the Guide through the valley’s and the mountains.

Let us not forget that we are never alone, that the great Shepard is always watching, feeding and tending to His flock.

We are but children to the Father, dependent in all aspects of our lives.

Glorify yourself through us Lord, providing the strength that we need in times of desperation and the strength that we need in times blessing.

Point our hearts towards the Gate, who is the Provider and the ultimate Comforter.

Amen

 

Interacting with Richard Dawkins’ “The God Delusion” 

As I was sitting, looking through my Amazon account for the next piece of literature that I might consume, I stumbled across this book placed interestingly enough in the “religion” section.  It’s an interesting experience when you come across a piece of literature that is diametrically opposed to your beliefs and you have the strongest of sensations to engage it.  Admittedly, there was a part of me that wanted to interact with the material to develop an argument, a counter point to Mr. Dawkins work.  Briefly, I imagined writing a book, similar to the point/counter-point literature that has fueled much of the academic work  throughout history.  My mind quickly snapped back into whatever reality I was in and refocused on the why I would read this particular book.  After some prayer and thought, here is why I will engage this text. 

  1. We live in a world that largely hates God and/or the idea of God. Dawkins articulates a world view that is pervasive. It benefits the missionary to know. 
  2. It’s a challenging read, to know deeply that God is real and to wrap your mind around the other side.  Christians tend to run to dogmatic, programmatic language when faced with difficult conversation.  Shortly, it strengthens our faith. 
  3. It forces me to not rely on my personal theologically linguistic constructs as a means to discuss the topic of God with an atheist.  How can I discuss the doctrine of atonement with someone who thinks God is a “mystic child abuser.” 
  4. It opens up conversation with atheists.  Especially, the well read ones.  
  5. It teaches Church history from a different view point.   Obviously, the Church missed the mark during the time of Christendom.  Dawkins, is quick to discuss how “religion” has been a driving point for much of the bloodshed in history. (I will flesh this out later, as I think the issue is deeper than that.)

So my prayer as I start this journey is that my biases are placed on the cross and that the Holy Spirit works deeply within my heart to show me what he has for me.  It will be an interesting journey, considering I’ve already started to repent of the pride that is being sanctified in my heart.  

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Rhythms, Life and Why You Have No Idea Whats Going On Pt 1

God is Glorious

It’s Sunday morning, the coffee is flowing through my veins and our Worship team is blowing up some new bluegrass song that has everyone dancing around like it’s a straight ho down.  God is glorious.

That could be the end of this post. 

God is glorious, He is faithful and He is alive.  We can see it in everything, it’s written on our hearts, sung in our music and lived through our lives.  You may have jacked things up, rolling deep in some sin issue, but the fact remains God is glorious.  He makes all things good and even through our sin He isn’t stopped.  It’s the Good News, Jesus’ blood is sufficient. Our sins have been paid for at a high cost.  We sing about it on Sunday’s and we talk about it in small groups.  We press it out daily in our lives (hopefully) and we…. There is something missing.

Rhythms

Let me draw out a picture of how our Youth is run at the Bridge.  We meet weekly for a missional group.  It’s just that, a mission.  Currently, we are working through the Multiply curriculum, because we believe that middle school and high school teens are more than capable of understanding The Great Commission.

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 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.” (Matt 28:18-20)

So if we know that our teens can cognitively understand The Great Commission and they know the Good News, why are teens falling away from the Church?  Why is it so difficult to keep them engaged, wanting and yearning for the Creator of all?   It’s simple really, the church (notice the small c) becomes irrelevant and frankly boring to teens.  It’s the truth, eventually the programs, events and games fall short.  This shouldn’t surprise us,  all of these things are temporal.  So the question is how do we keep students involved with ministry?

You make the student ministry theirs.  You make their relationship with Jesus theirs.  It seems to me that Jesus doesn’t become a rhythm in the youths daily lives.  The Gospel doesn’t permeate their hearts and their minds and their souls.  This is true with students and it’s probably more true than we would like to admit in our congregations.  Fostering a desire or a passion is one thing.  Faking it for a social medium or to please something is another.

Five Ways to Promote Adding New Rhythms

  1. Focus on mission.  Mission drives community and action to teaching.  Your community should know who you are.
  2. Stop Talking.  Teach and develop leaders in your ministry.  It’s great that you can do what you do, but your going to die.  Don’t let the church die because you got smoked by a bus on your way to Starbucks.  We all have amazing God given gifts, foster them and develop future leaders.  This drives right back to Focus on Mission. Encourage and push the envelop on pressing the Gospel out in your community.
  3. Get life on life.  Yeah, yeah I now this is Christianeze for meeting up with someone every week.  Blah blah blah.  Get life on life, that means that you fall deeply in love with the people you shepherd.  If you can’t spread that much love, Train leaders.  You can’t handle everyone and fall in love with them or their families.  (Note: Jesus love, this love needs to have boundaries.)
  4. Get Dynamic and Organic.  If you show up too every meeting with a certain amount of questions and a stricted time schedule you automatically set up barriers and agendas.  You limit communication and make it really difficult to be real.
  5. Teach with the intention of mission.  If you’re teaching the Gospel it should be driving you to mission.  You’re community, your life.  If you’re teaching without the intention of mission you aren’t rolling out point 1 – 3.  You aren’t pressing towards The Great Commission and you aren’t following what Jesus commanded us to do.  

 

It’s getting long, there is a lot of information here… get at it.  Press the mission, press Jesus and build people up through love.

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.

Total Depravity and Fellowship

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (2 Corinthians 12:9)

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:2-4)

Sometimes it’s hard to recognize just how relient we are on Christ.  It’s so apparent when something doesn’t go right, or life gets stressed beyond where we are comfortable.   This is where we find ourselves in complete depravity, needing everything from the Creator. If we look deeply in the words that Paul wrote to the Corinthians we see that he found great joy in feeling completely in need.

This week in the Basic Series, we talked about fellowship which ultimately comes down to the interpersonal relationship that we have with Jesus.  It seems counterintuitive to think that an ‘internal’ relationship is directly responsible for our external ‘fellowship’, but through the scriptures I think that we can see how it directly plays out.

“My grace is sufficient for you, for  my power is made perfect in weakness.”

Fellowship is about relationship, and relationships are built around trust.  Trust is built off of mutual vulnerability, allowing others to see and feel our depravity.  It’s incredibly scary and it causes us to pull back.  But God.  His power is made perfect in our weakness, as we see above.  He wants us to recognize that it’s not in the fellowship that we as a group are made strong, it’s in Him.  See the relationship with Jesus works different than the relationship or fellowship that you have with your friends or even with the Church.  God himself came down in human form, vulnerable to sin and capable of death.  His resurrection defeated death and sin, so we can rest him him.  There doesn’t have to be mutual vulnerability because like the song, His love never fails.  Fellowship will fail, friendship will fail, but God…. our love fails,

“For  God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not  perish but have eternal life.    For  God did not send his Son into the world  to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. (John 3:16-17)

Anyone who does not love does not know God, because  God is love.  In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that  God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.  In this is love,  not that we have loved God  but that he loved us and sent his Son to be  the propitiation for our sins.  Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.  No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and  his love is perfected in us. (1 John 4:8-13)

Paul can, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that  the power of Christ may rest upon me.” because he knew that God’s grace and sovereignty never fails.  His love never fails.  If we continue to breakdown how these passages lace back into our vertical relationship with Christ we see that God is love, and

Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away.  For  we know in part and we prophesy in part,  but  when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.  When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.  For  now we see in a mirror dimly, but  then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as  I have been fully known.  So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13:8-13)

The greatest gift from God is love.  The power of Christ is love.  Without the power of the Holy Spirit we cannot love even one person.  We can’t love ourselves, we can’t love our kids, we can’t love our friends, we cannot love.  You can’t have fellowship, and you definitely can’t have true communion without the power of the Holy Spirit.

The passage in James continues to reenforce this point.

Count it all joy, my brothers,  when you meet trials  of various kinds, for you know that  the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.  And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be  perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:2-4)

Count it all joy, my brothers (community), when you meet trials of various kinds (depravity), for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness (love).  And let steadfastness (love) have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.  Depravity looks ugly and it is.  We are all capable of murder, but it’s God’s grace and continuing sanctification working through us that provides us with a glimpse of what it’s like to love.  Through that insight we can start and work towards loving each other in community.  True fellowship.  It’s through his gospel that we find love, the words of his scripture and a interpretation of the Holy Spirit in our hearts.

So my challenge today is that we focus on our interpersonal relationship with Jesus.  We work towards a greater communion with Him so that we can have a greater communion with His bride.