Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Submitting to God

"When we submit ourselves to God, we are placing our lives under His mission. Of course this is always easier when we agree with God and far more difficult when we do not. We cannot assume that we are living a life of genuine submission to God simply because we do what God says when we are in agreement. The real test of submission is when we disagree, when we don't like what has said because it goes contrary to our personal interests or desires. If we find ourselves unwilling to submit to truth in those cases, then we are living by truth not because we agree with God, but because God agrees with us." ~ Erwin McManus; Uprising, pgs. 57-58

Monday, November 27, 2006

How to Experience God

I wonder how many times we have talked ourselves out of an experience that would lead to an encounter with God because we didn’t know how it would all turn it. We talk about Abraham’s great faith, but many of us would not have followed his example. Instead of following God to the Promise Land we would have stayed behind in Ur.

Henry Blackaby in Created to Be God’s Friend wrote:
“Don’t let the unknown of the second step determine whether or not you will take the first step. Some people are not willing to take the first step unless they know what will happen when they do! Faith leaves the next step to God and ‘steps out’ in obedience, believing God will supply ‘all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue’ (2 Peter 1:3).”

It is hard to follow God into the unknown. There is uncertainty because God has left so much unspoken. There is also fear of failure or the fear of being forced out of our comfort zone. Each one of us can come up with a reason why we would rather stay where we are than to live a life of faith following God into the unknown.

Isn’t this one of the reason why we have equated morality with obedience. By obeying God’s moral laws we can feel good about ourselves without ever having to leave our couch or pew. Obedience is so much more than just living a moral life. Obedience is about trusting God more than we trust ourselves and going wherever Jesus leads. Obedience take us on an adventure beyond our control. In the end being moral is so much easier than being obedient.

Being obedient often requires us to do things that we would rather not do, to be selfless rather than selfish, and to follow God when it does not make sense to. When we are obedient we will follow God into the unknown; trusting Him to bring us to the land which He is leading us.

The Rich Young Man’s problem wasn’t with morality because he was a moral individual. The Young Man's problem was a lack of faith in Jesus. That is exactly the same problem many of us have. We are willing to be moral, but it is another story to follow where Jesus leads. The reason we fail to experience the full life Jesus promised is because we fail to put ourselves into the position to be blessed. Abraham would have missed out on encountering God had he remained in Ur. It was only because he trusted God with his life that Abraham had this amazing experience with God. The Rich Young Man missed out on the blessings God wanted to give him. All the Young Man had to show for his encounter with Jesus was a life plagued with the question: "What if?"
{24}Then Jesus said to the disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must put aside your selfish ambition, shoulder your cross, and follow me. {25}If you try to keep your life for yourself, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for me, you will find true life. {26}And how do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul in the process? Is anything worth more than your soul? {27}For I, the Son of Man, will come in the glory of my Father with his angels and will judge all people according to their deeds. {28}And I assure you that some of you standing here right now will not die before you see me, the Son of Man, coming in my Kingdom.” (Matthew 16:24-28; NLT)

How do we live a life that resembles Abraham rather than a life like the Rich Young Man? It begins with a choice. A choice that God can be trusted. If we do not trust God we will never obey Him. So here is the question you have to consider: Why can YOU trust God?

Does God Know the Word 'Perhaps'?

Here are the two articles against Open Theism that the Christian Standard printed in their November 19 and November 26 issues.

Part 1:

Classical theism tends to start from the idea of God as an absolute and perfect being, and secondly explains how this abstract idea becomes personal in the God of the Scriptures. First, what is God? And second, who is God?

All human beings have some concept of divinity. "For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen. (Romans 1:20, New American Standard Bible). Consequently, when someone searches for the existence of God he already has some concept of what kind of existence he is looking for.

The abstract concept of divine nature or divine essence is crucial for classical theism. God is by definition the most complete and perfect being thinkable. He is essentially distinct from his finite and dependent creatures.

Part 2:

Whatever one might believe about classical theism or open theism, it is good that the teaching of God is again in the forefront. Open theism challenges many traditional ideas and forces us to a deeper understanding of the biblical text. Indeed God is personal and relational. The abstractions of classical theology end up with a God of the philosophers and not the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

However there are some serious flaws in the open theism model, and we need not leave the classical model to perceive God as a loving person. I mention six issues that for me personally are decisive to finally refute open theism.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Open to Open Theism

The Christian Standard the past two weeks have run pro and con articles about Open Theism. Here are the pro articles.

Part 1:

As someone who was asked to argue the "pro" side of open theism, I have a confession to make. I am not really "pro" open theism. As someone whose early training was in two Restoration Movement educational institutions, I am inherently suspicious of theological systems, even my own. If open theism has become such a system, I cannot say I am a proponent of it.

But I am sympathetic to some of the questions some open theists raise about traditional systematic theology, whether Calvinistic or Arminian. More importantly, I think reading the Old and New Testaments without preconceived theological systems that tell us what texts must mean suggests that open theists have something constructive to say to the church at the beginning of the third millennium.
Part 2:
Open theism arose as a system because of dissatisfaction with traditional theological formulations of the doctrine of God, whether Calvinist or Arminian.

Calvinism is known for its consistency in emphasizing the sovereignty of God over all things. With the claim that God has ordained all things, God’s sovereignty is protected. Nothing has ever or will ever happen, according to the Calvinist, that is outside of God’s knowledge, control, and predestination.

This is a consistent position, but it causes a variety of problems. If God predestines all things, it seems as if he is responsible not only for the good things but also for the manifestly evil things that plague the world.

Arminians respond to this problem by saying that while God knows all things, past, present, and future, he does not cause all things to happen because he has given angels and human beings free will. To know something, argues the Arminian, is not the same as causing it. I agree, but I am not sure that solves the problem.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The Gift of Praise

"God does not only 'demand' praise as the supremely beautiful and all-satisfying Object. He does apparently command it as lawgiver. The Jews were told to sacrifice. We are under an obligation to go to church...But for many people at many times the 'fair beauty of the Lord' is revealed briefly or only while they worship Him together. Even in Judaism the essence of the sacrifice was not really that men gave bulls and goats to God, but that by their so doing God gave Himself to men; in the central act of our own worship, of course, this is far clear--there it is manifestly, even physically, God who gives and we who receive." ~ C. S. Lewis; The Joyful Christian; pgs. 117-118

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

God Will Get You to the Right Place

Life is unpredictable. Regardless of the plans we may make it rarely works out the way we hoped. It is the rare person who is experiencing life the way they imagined it would be. Far too often life is filled with disappointments that force us to cope with life rather than live life. When life doesn’t turn out the way we planned we have no other option but to deal the best we can as we adapt to the new circumstances.

Following Jesus doesn’t change any of this and many times makes it far worse because our dreams tend to stand in the way of what God has dreamed for our lives. Jesus will ask us to lay down our plans and follow Him into the uncertainty of the future. If we are unwilling to do this He will allow our dreams to shatter so that we will be forced to discover the life He wants us to live.

One of the frustrating aspects of this whole process is that God doesn’t treat us all the same. For some God allows great tragedy into their lives in order to prepare them for what lies ahead. Others will have constant obstacles thrown into their paths which will teach them endurance and trust. When we compare our lives to the lives of those around us will begin to feel like God is being unfair because God isn’t treat us equally and we will begin to exaggerate the difficulties in our lives while minimizing the troubles of other people.

Think about Joseph the son of Jacob for a minute. Even we can see how unfair his some of the circumstances in his life were. Joseph experienced slavery and false imprisonment in a foreign land while his brothers enjoyed freedom in their homeland. How can that be fair? Yet what we discover on the other side of these experiences when Joseph’s family was forced to come to Egypt because of famine that everyone had changed. Joseph’s brothers did not have an easy life at home because of the guilt they had for selling Joseph into slavery. Joseph was prepared to take an exalted position in Egypt in order to help people. While going through the difficulties things didn’t make sense, but God used even the evil for good in their lives. Things will not always make sense, but we must trust that God will do what is right.

When it comes down to it all we can do is to do our best wherever we may find ourselves. That is certainly one of the lessons we can learn from Joseph’s life. This is what God requires of us no matter what the circumstances may be in our lives. When we remain faithful in even the toughest of circumstances God is able to use us and move us closer to the life He wants us to have. How we live is far more important than any position or prestige we might have.

Part of the problem that we run into is believing that positions and prestige are the route to living a life that makes an impact. This runs contrary to what Jesus taught. Kingdom power is not found in position but in service. It is not about being the greatest but about being the least. It is when we give our lives away in service that we are truly able to impact those around us.

To find the place God wants us to be we have to follow the path of service and giving ourselves for the good of others. If we take care of what we are responsible for, the way we live and how we treat others, God will make sure we get to the right place.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Worship By Obeying

“God knows how inclined we are to say one thing and do another. That’s why the true test of worship isn’t so much what we say, but how we live.” ~ Louie Giglio; The Air I Breathe

Jesus told this parable:
“But what do you think about this? A man with two sons told the older boy, ‘Son, go out and work in the vineyard today.’ The son answered, ‘No, I won’t go,’ but later he changed his mind and went anyway. Then the father told the other son, ‘You go,’ and he said, ‘Yes, sir, I will.” But he didn’t go. Which of the two was obeying his father?” (Matthew 21:28-31; NLT)

I sure can identify with the younger son. “Yes, I will go,” and then distraction comes my way. Work is work, and it isn’t always fun. It is so much easier and simpler to sit inside and drink Mountain Dew and play Playstation than it is to go outside and work. Who wants to sweat when you can be comfortable on the couch?

This is the attitude we have with our lives. God has asked us to obey Him, to step outside and to work for Him. We have responded with a “Yes, Lord,” yet we have become distracted and have not done what God has asked us to do. We have lied to and failed the One who has done so much for us.

Obedience is the foundation of worship. Without our obedience all the songs we sing and all the gifts we give are meaningless. Isaiah 29:13 reads;
And so the LORD says, “These people say they are mine. They honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far away. And their worship of me amounts to nothing more than human laws learned by rote” (NLT).
The Israelites worshiped God through tradition and ritual, but they failed to live the way God wanted them to live.

Obedience is the foundation of worship because our obedience is an indication of our love for God. Remember what Jesus said in John 14:15? If you love me, obey my commandments (NLT). Our obedience is the reality of the emotion we say we have. What Jesus is saying is: no obedience equals no love. When we are unwilling to obey Jesus it means we do not love Him.

The good news in all of this is that we have a second chance. The older brother in the story originally told the father no, he wasn’t going work in the vineyard. Given time the son changed his mind and went. Our decision to not obey doesn’t mean we cannot start today by stepping out and obeying God. The decision to love God begins with a choice, and that choice is available to us anytime we decide to obey God.

Real worship isn’t about songs or traditions, but it is about obedience. When we obey God and live our lives the way He wants us to live we honor Him. That is what worship is about; glorify God through the way we live.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Courage to Change Opinions

"We must be fully persuaded, that all uninspired men are fallible, and therefore liable to err. I think that Luther, in a coarse manner, said that every man was born with a Pope in his belly. By which I suppose he meant, that every man deemed himself infallible. Our pride abhors the idea of being accounted weak. To give up an opinion, a sentiment or doctrine, and to receive a different one, has been long reckoned a certain evidence of weakness. The public has strangely affixed this stigma on the man, who dares to change his opinion. If the various reformers, in the different periods of the world, had been influenced by this principle, what would have been the consquences? Certainly, they would have remained in error--evaded persecution, and we should now have been under the midnight shades of paganism and popery. If the present generation remain under the influence of the same principle, the consquences must be, that the spirit of free enquiry will die--our liberty lie prostrated at the feet of ecclesiastical demagogues--every sect must remain as it is--their various and contradictory notions must continue, and strife and division remain, in opposition to the will of God, and to the disgrace of Christianity.

"To approach the Bible, with a desire and determination to learn and practise the truth there revealed, in despite of all oppositions, requires a greater degree of forititude and self-denial than is gernally possessed by the professors of religion in the present day. To be stigmatized as weak--to be accounted as fools, when we take the best method to become wise--to lose the smiles, approbation and friendship of the circle, in which we have long moved with great pleasure--to incur the frowns of our dearest relatives and friends, the sore displeasure of the sect of Christians, with which we may be united--these are not light things; but these must be expected by the man, that dares change his opinions, from a scriptural conviction that they are wrong." ~ Barton W. Stone; The Christian Messenger, Volume 1; pgs. 2-3(1826)

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Wallowing in Mud

I don’t know about you but I often find myself struggling with the same sins all the time. There are certain sins that hold no attraction to me at all but there are others that continually seem inviting, no matter how horrible I try to make the be. Once we have established a behavior or attitude it is certainly hard to break.

This is no excuse for remaining in sin. There are consquences for not struggling against sin and throwing it out of our lives. Here is what the Apostle Peter wrote about continual sin in our lives:
20 And when people escape from the wickedness of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and then get tangled up and enslaved by sin again, they are worse off than before.21 It would be better if they had never known the way to righteousness than to know it and then reject the command they were given to live a holy life.22 They prove the truth of this proverb: "A dog returns to its vomit." And another says, "A washed pig returns to the mud." ~ 2 Peter 2:20-22

Bruce Oberst in his commentary Letters from Peter wrote:
“If we do not frequently recall to our minds the great blessing of being clean through the blood of Jesus, we will soon go back to the dogvomit and the sow-wallow” (pg. 145).

One of the reasons it is so important for us to be in God’s Word on a daily basis is to be reminded of God’s great love for us. As we read the Bible, listen to sermons, or discuss Scripture with friends we are being reminded of the truth of the Gospel. We are also putting ourselves in a position to all the Holy Spirit to use the words from the pages of the Bible to convict or encourage our hearts with Truth.

I know that in my life when I struggle the most with sin is when I neglect God’s Word. Instead of filling my mind with God’s Word I allow other things in that lead my thoughts down paths they should not go down. When I don’t make God’s Word an important part of my day the struggles with temptation and sin seem to be greater and more out of control which, in turn, overshadows the Truth of God’s love.

Christ Followers must be dedicated to the Word of God. The Holy Spirit using the Truth of Scripture purifies our hearts and minds and helps us to make good choices rather than giving into the temptations that spring up in our lives. One of the best way to begin to overcome sin in our lives is to give our hearts and minds something pure, good, and truthful to ponder.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Inappropiate Intimacy

"Do not open your heart to everyone, but discuss your private concerns with a person who is wise and who reveres God. Do not spend much time with young people or strangers; instead, develop the friendships you have, especially with those who are older and wiser than you are. Do not flatter the rich, and do not be eager to be seen with important people. Rather, be with the humble and the simple, with the devout and the obedient, and talk about those things which help you to beome more holy. If you are a man under religious vows, do not be intimate with any woman, but commend all good women in general to God; if you are a woman under religious vows, do likewise with men. Seek, instead, a more intimate friendship with God and his angels, and avoid becoming emotionally or spiritually dependent on other people.

"We should have great love toward everyone, but intimacy often gets in the way of our spiritul development. Sometimes it happens that a stranger shines from a good reputation, but when we meet him he falls far short of what we expected. Sometimes we intend to please others by our own company, and instead we displease them by the shortcomings they see in us." ~ Thomas à Kempis; The Imitation of Christ; pg. 37 (William C. Creasy, translator)

The Far Reaching Consequences of Sin

A sobering thought I have pondering that last few days is the result of my sin. I believe when it comes to sin we don’t fully understand the far reaching consequences of our actions. Henry Blackaby wrote:
“Sin carries awful consequences. Sin is devastatingly real in its consequences in every person alike. There are no favorites or exceptions” (Created to Be God's Friend)

A good example of this reality is Abraham. God had promised him a son, but after years of waiting Abraham and his wife Sarah were still childless. To help God out the couple decided to go ahead and have a son by an acceptable cultural method. Abraham and Sarah had a son through Sarah’s servant. While this may have been acceptable to the culture it was disobedience to God, and the consequences of that decision are still felt today in the Middle East. Abraham’s sin had far reaching consequences. David’s sin with Bathsheba assured that David’s family would always have trouble and sexual transgressions would be a part of his family’s legacy.

We may think we have covered our tracks and hidden our sin because we have not felt the immediate consequences of our sins, but that doesn’t mean that damage has not been done because of what we have done. Can we be certain that no one will ever find out about our sin? Are there people who are affected that we no nothing about? What about the good we failed to do because of the evil we were doing? Because of God’s grace Satan has falsely lead us to believe that our sin is no big deal. “God will forgive me,” we rationalize.

Sin is a big deal. Every time we disobey God there are real consequences that affect those around us. Those consequences I believe are most often seen in the absence of blessings in our lives. When we are involved in sin our friends and family are unable to experience the blessings of God that they are to have because of us. Sin hinders us from experiencing all that God has for us.

The sad reality is that many people turn to sin to numb them from the pressures and difficulties of life. The very thing they hope will give them a few moments of joy is the very thing which insures they will continue to live a life absent of joy and blessing. The consequences of sin we experience in this life are rarely out in the open for everyone to see, but are often discovered in what our lives is missing.

What do you think you have missed out because of your sin? What blessings have your friends and family missed because of your sin? What good have you not done because of sin? I am certain that one of the punishments every person will experience will be the revelation of the life we missed. Imagine seeing what your life could have been like if you had only obeyed God’s call. For those who are Christians we will be deeply moved to repentance and acknowledge God’s grace in dealing with us. For those who are not Christians will come a deep seated but misplaced anger for God not helping them (Now of course this is just my opinion, not revealed Truth, but I think it is something worth considering).

The day will surely come when God, by Jesus Christ, will judge everyone’s secret life. This is my message. ~ Romans 2:16; NLT

Even if we think we have gotten away with our sin right now there will come a time when we will be able to hide no longer the evil that we have done. When that time comes the only that will save us from the eternal consequences of our sin is our faith in Jesus Christ. Sin is deadlier than we realize and only Jesus can save us from its awful consequences.

Monday, November 13, 2006

People of Influence

The God-given mission that we have been given is to influence the world around us. It is through our influence that we will have the best chance at bringing change into the lives of people. Condemning people and using power plays will not get us the results we desire. If we are really interested in helping people find love and forgiveness in a relationship with God then we will seek to be people of influence.

Though I have to admit it is hard to have influence because it takes time and work to establish the trust and relationships needed so others will listen to what you have to say. Relationships are the path over which influence travels. Without a relationship we have little hope of influencing a person.

As we seek to be people and churches of influence we have to remember that influence require character and intergrity. How we live our lives say much more aboaut what type of people we are than anything we might say. We have to think about what our lives are saying to the people around us. This is also true about our local congregations. We need to be aware of how the community views our church family and do our best to be a loving place to be. People need to know that we care about what is happening in their lives.

Not only does influence require character, but it also requires us to care for those around. The old adage is true: People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. In order to influence people we need to go out of our way to do simple acts of kindness. When we show people that we care about them they become more receptive to what we have to say. It makes us people with the potential to influence their lives for good.

Influence is essential in making a difference in the lives of people. We see this clearly in the relationship of a parent and a child. A child becomes the person he/she is due to a large part to influence of the parent. Intentionally, and often unitentionally, the parent teaches their child how to live.

The question we have to consider is: Am I being an influence for good in the relationships that I have? Each one of us influences other people, probably to a greater degree than we know. Therefore it is important for us to constantly be aware of what our lives maybe saying to those around us. We need to be influences for good in this world.

The Commission we have received from Jesus to make disciples is about being positive influences in the world. Even Jesus’ metaphors, salt of the earth and light of the world, point to the influencing nature of our lives as Christ Followers. Jesus has called us to be influencers so that the world may know Him. Let’s go out and change the world.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

God Has What It Takes

"Most of us do everything we can to reduce the element of risk in our lives. We wear seat belts, watch our cholesterol, and practice birth control. I know some couples who have decided against having children altogether, they simply aren't willing to chance the heartache children often bring. What if they are born with a crippling disease? What if they turn their backs on us and God? What if...? God seems to fly in the face of all caution. Even though he knew what would happen, what heartbreak and suffering and devastation would follow upon our disobedience, God chose to have children. And unlike some hyper-controlling parents, who take away every element of choice they can from their children, God gave us a remarkable choice. He did not make Adam and Eve obey him. He took a risk. A staggering risk, with staggering consquences. He let others into his story, and he lets their choices shape it profoundly.

"This is the world he has made. This is the world that is still going on. And he doesn't walke away from the mess we've made of it. Now he lives, almost cheerfully, certainly heroically, in a dynamic relationship with us and with our world. 'Then the Lord intervened' is perhaps the single most common phrase about him in Scripture, in one form or another. Look at the stories he writes. There's the one where the children of Israel are pinned against the Red Sea, no way out, with Pharaoh and his army barreling down on them in murderous fury. Then God shows up. There's Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who get rescued only after they're thrown into the fiery furnace. The God shows up. He lets the mob kill Jesus, bury him...then he shows up. Do you know why God loves writing such incredible stories? Because he loves to come through. He loves to show us that he has what it takes." ~ John Eldredge; Wild at Heart; pp. 30-31

Friday, November 10, 2006

The Pathway to Change

Influence is the way we bring about change in others. This is true not only for us personally but also for communities and nations. The change we long to see happen in the lives of other people, in our communities, in our churches, and in our nation begins with our influence.

One of the killers of influence is power or authority. When we seek to bring about change based on our power or the position we hold we will ultimately fail to see the results we hoped to have. People may adhere as long as we are there to enforce obedience, but they will not comply when our backs are turned. A change of heart can’t take place by force and resentment quickly replaces any influence we may have had.

Looking at the life of Jesus we notice He sought to bring about change based on influence. He is the one person who could have rightly demanded obedience and yet He sought to influence people by showing them respect and compassion and then providing them with a choice.

Nicodemus, the woman at the well, the apostles, and Zacchaeus (just to name a few) are people who were influenced by Jesus and decided (except Judas) to give their lives to Him. By showing them respect and compassion Jesus was able to allow these people to discover who He really was.

What we find in Jesus in in stark contrast to what we read in the Old Testament. The Ten Commandments and all the other laws given to direct Israel’s daily life could not bring about change. These people continually turned away from God, even after witnessing awesome displays of His power.

Perhaps this is one of the reasons the writer of Hebrews wrote: If the first covenant had been faultless there would have been no need for a second covenant to replace it (Hebrews 8:7; NLT). This doesn’t mean that God made a mistake by establishing the first covenant. One of the things it does mean is that God was trying to show us the inadequacies of the ways we want to do things. Law cannot bring about salvation and Power cannot change a person’s heart. God wants us to realize that every other way is inferior to the way of Jesus.

Jesus’ way to bring about change is not about power, but humility and service. It isn’t about authority but about influence. It is the way of the Lion who became a Lamb who was Killed (Revelation 5:5,6). Jesus gave up His power and gave His life away in order to influence people so that they might choose to change.

Change is not going to happen as the result of laws and political power, but through the influence brought about by humble and compassionate service. We will only see the change we want to happen in this country when we trust God enough to do it His way. The way of the ballot box and political clout is the way of the world, the path of Jeus is influence due to giving our lives away.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Moral Choices

"People often think of Christian morality as a kind of bargain in which God says, 'If you keep a lot of rules, I'll reward you, and if you don't I'll do the other thing.' I do not think that is the best way of looking at it. I would much rather say that every time you make a choice you are turning the central part of you, the part of you that chooses, into something a little different from what it was before. And taking your life as a whole, with all your innumerable choices, all your life long you are slowly turning this central thing either into a Heaven creature that is in harmony with God, and with other creatures, and with itself, or else into one that is in a state of war and hatred with God, and with its fellow creatures, and with itself. To be the one kind of creature is Heaven: that is, it is joy, and peace, and knowledge, and power. To be the other means madness, horror, idiocy, rage, impotence, and eternal loneliness. Each of us at each moment is progressing to the one state or the other." ~ C. S. Lewis; The Joyful Christian; pp. 123-124

Monday, November 06, 2006

Story and Truth Telling

John Eldredge in his little book Epic quotes Neil Postman (Science and the Story That We Need):

“In the end, science does not provide the answers most of us require. Its story of our origins and our end is, to say the least, unsatisfactory. To the question, ‘How did it all begin?’, science answers, ‘Probably by an accident.’ To the question, ‘How will it all end?’, science answers, ‘Probably by an accident.’ And to many people, the accidental life is not worth living.”
More than facts and figures or philosophies and propositions what people need is a story. A story which will help them make sense of their lives and gives them a purpose for their life.

For all the good science has given us through out the years it has failed to deliver what most people hoped that it would: answers to life's toughest questions. Science can dissect things and explain why things work the way they do, but science is incapable of telling us why these things are here. Science can help us count the stars, but can't tells us why the stars are there. Science can explain what life needs to survive, but not why life is even here in the first place. The answers provided by science mean little when there is no hope for tomorrow.

Part of the reason our culture shifted from a modern mind set, with its foundation being the scientific method, to a post-modern mind set, with its foundation being relativistic experience, is because of science’s failure to answer the deepest questions people have. Science can give us drugs to feel better, give us technology to make our lives easier, and provide theories on how the universe works, but it can’t provide us meaning for our lives. Divorced from it’s theologically underpinnings, science has proven to be of little help in our journey to understand “why?”.

For centuries it has been story, myth, and legend which have helped people understand their place in universe. The modern person believed they had come to a place where they were above all the superstitions of the primitive person. He turned his back on the stories and only to discover that science was unable to answer his questions. He was left without hope and without meaning.

Yes, I agree that stories seem to be a strange place to discover the meaning of life, except for the fact God decided to communicate to people through story. The Bible is ultimately the story of God working throughout history. The Church is God’s story as He continues to work in this world.

The modern person missed out on so much of what the Bible said because, like any good scientist, they dissected it into parts. Parts of it were taught and preached, but often the whole was forgotten. The preacher focused on a proposition or a truth, rather than the whole story of God.

If we are going to touch the post-modern person we have to go back to the story. The post-modern has already experienced the failure of science. They are tired of proclamations of fact and philosophies. They want something that will give their lives meaning and bring hope to their hearts. They are bored of the technology and long for transformation.

So Joshua called together the twelve men and told them, “Go into the middle of the Jordan, in front of the Ark of the LORD your God. Each of you must pick up one stone and carry it on your shoulder—twelve stones in all, one for each of the twelve tribes. We will use these stones to build a memorial. In the future, your children will ask, ‘What to these stones mean to you?’ Then you can tell them, ‘They remind us that the Jordan River stopped flowing when the Ark of the LORD’s covenant went across.’ These stone will stand as a permanent memorial among the people of Israel” (Joshua 4:4-7; NLT).
Throughout the Old Testament we read similar things, about people setting up reminders of what God had done. From these stone memorials to the ceremonies and traditions of Ancient Israel came opportunities to tell the Story of God to the next generation.

If we hope to impact this generation then we need to stop looking at the Bible as a text book providing us with information for more effective living and start using the Bible to tell people God's story. How do you communicate to Truth to people who have harden their heart to truth? You tell them a story and allow the Holy Spirit to come through the back door of their heart with the truth they so desparately need to hear.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Relational Integrity

"When God creates, he creates with relational integrity. Everything is connected and fits together. This is true not only in the physical realm, but even more so in the spiritual. The Bible tells us that when man sinned, all creation groaned...The pulling of one piece of fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was the primary influence of famines that spread across deserts, tsunamis that swallow up villages, earthquakes that shake the earth, and the unpredictable force and violence of nature. According to Scripture, everything is connected, and every action has at least some effect on the whole.

"In the same way the church is a part of the whole, she is both influenced by the world around her and called to influence the world in which she exists. Too often the church does not realize that she is part of a greater societal and spiritual ecological system. That is why a balanced ecosystem is of primary importance in the Genesis design. And just as it is critical for all living beings to live within a balanced ecosystem, the church can only thrive in the context of healthy relationships.

"We are accustomed to speaking of the great commission, but it is the commandment that Jesus calls 'great.' The commission erupts out of the great commandment: "Love the Lord your God with all your soul and with all your mind." The second is this: "Love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these. The gospel flows best through the establishing of significant relationships that are authentic and healthy. When relationships become stagnant and the community of Christ closes itself to the outside world, the result is an institution rather than a movement." ~ Erwin McManus, An Unstoppable Force; pg. 15

Friday, November 03, 2006

Pick Yourself Up

“Why do we fall, Bruce? So that we might learn to pick ourselves up.” ~ Thomas Wayne to a young Bruce in Batman Begins

It is no secret that Batman is one of my heroes. The movie Batman Begins I believe is the best live action Batman movie, partly because I think it captures the true essence of Batman, and partly because of some of the themes which run through the movie. One of the themes is overcoming failure. Every one of us has to deal with failure.

Failure for the Christian can be devastating. Satan will whisper in our ears that we are no good and that we don’t have what it takes to make it. He will use our failure to crush our spirits and rob us of the desire to move on. Satan isn't neccessarily looking to take us out with some big “sin.” He does want to rob us of the love and forgiveness God offers us through Jesus, which are essential to living lives of hope. By filling our lives with guilt because of our failures Satan is able to steal and destroy the life God wants us to live.

We have to accept that failure will be a part of our lives. This is not to give us an excuse to sin, but an acknowledgement that as long as we live in bodies of flesh we will be tempted by the evil of this world. Since we will not be perfect what God is looking for, and something which demonstrates our faith, is our getting up and renewing our struggle with sin.

Malcolm Smith in The Lost Secret of the New Covenant wrote:
You will fall, but you know who lives within you; pick yourself up and move on more aware of your weakness and, therefore, trusting in Him more deeply (pg. 264).

Falling should help us trust God a little bit more. When we fall it is because we put too much trust in our abilities rather than really trusting God. Falling teaches us that God's way is the best way and that He has our best interests at heart. Learning to trust God more and more leads improved obedience.

What does it mean that we pick ourselves up? To pick ourselves up means that once again we choose place our faith in God and battle the sin that we have in our lives. When we fall we either can chose to stay where we are or we can get up and follow Jesus where He leads.

You have a problem with gossip and you spent Saturday evening talking with your friends about the latest juicy tidbit after you promised yourself you wouldn’t. Don’t stay down, but pick yourself off and renew your commit to faithfully follow Jesus.

Cussing has been a part of your life for as long as you can remember. When something goes wrong you let the four letter words fly, but you know that it is behavior which harms your witness of God’s love. Don’t think you are a no good sinner whom God will never be able to use, but resolve to do better and trust Jesus a little bit more.

Whatever your sin maybe that constantly trips you up don't accept it as part of life, but declare war upon it. Struggle and fight it. Seek help and encouragement as you struggle. It is through this struggle that our character becomes more refined and our hearts become more like the heart of Jesus.

Ultimately picking ourselves up is an indication of our faith in Jesus. Through our actions we are saying that we don’t have what it takes and that only following Jesus will our lives be changed. While He never likes our sin God is excited every time we decide that we don’t want to stay in that sin as we take steps to remove that sin from our lives.It is this struggle with sin, the falling down and getting up, that helps create us to be people fit for Heaven. It shows God that we hate our sin but love Him.

Every time I fail Satan whispers in my ear; "You are a good for nothing sinner." But I am beginning let Thomas Wayne’s words echo through my heart and so I pick myself up and renew my struggle with sin. God is always pleased when I decide to get back up after a fall. It is what makes me stronger because with each fall and with each standing up comes a greater trust in Jesus and God’s love for me.

We may not be perfect, but we still have to opportunity to use our failures to become stronger. Why do we fall, Christians? So that we might better learn to pick ourselves up.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Making Sacrifices

What sacrifices am I making to follow Jesus?

Think about that question for a while. I mean it, take a few moments right now and consider what sacrifices you are making in your life that would qualify you to be Jesus disciple. Remember Jesus said:

“If any of you want to be my follower, you must put aside your selfish ambition, shoulder your cross, and follow me” (Matthew 16:24; NLT).
One of the ideas of shouldering your cross is the idea of sacrificial service. So the question is still out there for you to consider: What sacrifices am I making to follow Jesus? To put it another way: How am I shouldering my cross? Take a few moments on ponder this question…

Accept the Differences

Most of us understand that people are different and those differences are a good thing. The world would be a boring place if everyone beli...