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Culture, Evangelism, Verge, young adults

Creation on Mission

December 14, 2015

Missionaries to countries where another language is spoken must, inevitably, learn the language or languish in incredible ineffectiveness. In order to disciple people to and in Christ, you have to speak a language they understand.

So what do we do when the young adults, college students, and teenagers that we are trying to make disciples among don’t speak our language any more? How do we communicate when the people we’re ministering to don’t understand us?

Several years ago the National Study for Youth and Religion found that most teenagers (now young adults) are “incredibly inarticulate about their faith, their religious beliefs, and practices, and its meaning or place in their lives.” Not only do the majority of young adults not know how to express their faith, many also simply don’t speak the language of faith at all or are operating on vastly different definitions than most ministry leaders.

It’s not just young adults. The language of western culture is shifting increasingly away from the religious. Biblical literacy is swiftly decreasing, both within and without the church walls. How are we to communicate the gospel to those who don’t speak the language that the church has trained us to speak?

Creation Speaks

In Psalm 19 David writes;

The heavens declare the glory of God,
and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
Day to day pours out speech,
and night to night reveals knowledge.

(Psalm 19:1-2, ESV)

Somehow the skies are communicating God’s glory across cultural and language barriers without any problem. While many with decades of ministry experience are using language that’s increasingly insular and incomprehensible to the majority of millennials and the wider culture, creation is making moment-by-moment proclamation of the glory of God.

Hard Facts

In their book Made to Stick, Chip and Dan Heath lay out a framework for communicating ideas in ways that gives them “sticking” power. The third principle they lay out as critical for stickiness is concreteness. They state that, “Trying to teach an abstract idea without concrete foundations is like trying to start a house by building a roof in the air.“ (115)

The problem with much of our evangelism and mission is that we start with abstract ideas that many have little to no concrete foundations for. What exactly does “saved” mean? Why should I care if Jesus “died as a sacrifice for my sins”? What exactly does justification mean? Does it even matter?

Read the rest of this post at the Verge Ministries blog.

 

 

 

Commentary, Culture, Leadership, Threshingfloor, Verge, young adults

8 Things Learned in 8 Years of Young Adult Ministry

October 27, 2015

This fall, perhaps more than any previous, has gotten me thinking over the past. Threshingfloor celebrated five years of ministry to young adults in the Fargo-Moorhead area a couple months ago. In just over a month I turn 27. It was over eight years ago that I started ministering to young adults as we moved our little college-age/young adult Bible study from our church in Baxter to downtown Brainerd and watched it grow to something amazing. Since then I’ve done dorm-room Bible studies, spent countless hours developing leadership teams, discipling all manner of people, and launching disciple-making communities.

A few days ago as I thought back over the years, I noted down a long list of the things I’ve learned that might be helpful for others to know. After an hour or so of sifting and boiling things down, I’ve narrowed it down to 8 things, one for each year I’ve been working among young adults. Here they are.

  1. Deep community beats amazing production. Every time.

I can pull my iPhone out of my pocket and watch any show or movie I want at any time, contact people almost anywhere in the world, or enjoy any of the tens of thousands of incredibly well-produced apps that are available to every other American with a smart phone. Young adults don’t need (or, in many cases, even want) a great production or another event. Our hearts long for deep community where people truly know each other, engage with the hard issues in life, and work together to make the world a better place.

2. Always try new things.

One of the best ways to keep young adults engaged is to try constantly be trying something new. Better yet, let them try something new. Whether it’s a new “experimental” style of Sunday school, launching a new service, starting a new community in a different part of town, or simply a different take on a section of scripture, most young adults are quick to get on board with something that’s new. Take advantage of that.

3. Have high expectations and make them clear.

As you invite young adults to join in and take leadership roles (or any role), make it clear that your expectations for them are high. Make it clear means telling them face-to-face what you expect and repeating it frequently. For those in leadership roles it’s best to have them sign some sort of agreement so that they know what’s expected of them and when. By putting the bar high you’ll inspire many to reach levels they didn’t even know they could. I’ve been consistently impressed with the amount of time, energy, and passion that our leaders – all of whom are volunteers – put into their communities and disciple-making. Having the expectations spelled out explicitly also gives a platform to have the hard conversations when people aren’t meeting them.

4. Prepare to be disappointed but don’t lose hope.

Of course, it doesn’t always go how you want it to. People will inevitably fall short, stumble back into sin for the fortieth time, or act like twelve year olds who aren’t getting their way. Prepare your heart to be disappointed in a way that keeps you from losing hope. It’s ok to be frustrated at people’s slowness (Jesus was!), to be tired of dealing with the same issues, and to long for something more. Just don’t lose hope. God is always working, even in the midst of apparent failure.

5. Trust the Holy Spirit

How do we know God’s working, even in those times of disappointment? Because he’s sent his Holy Spirit. Rather than clamping down and trying to control the difficult situations and people, throw yourself into prayer and trust that the Holy Spirit can work in young adult’s hearts too.

Time and again I’ve been ready to write someone off as too stubborn or just scrap the ministry and start over. The Holy Spirit has always intervened in those moments, working transformation in my heart and the hearts of those around me. Trust him.

6. Teach, demonstrate, and coach.

The postmodern wants no teaching because it’s too authoritarian. The professional wants no demonstration because it’s too time consuming. The attender wants no coaching because it’s too invasive. Jesus, however, clearly demonstrates all three all throughout his discipleship of the twelve.

Take the time to teach your people, but make sure that you’re actually demonstrating what you teach. Don’t teach on evangelism if you’re not going to go out and demonstrate what evangelism looks like. Don’t do a study on prayer if you’re not going to demonstrate prayer in your own life. Then after demonstration, coach your people until they are able to do what you’ve demonstrated. Don’t move on to the next subject until the teaching has become living.

7. Knowledge doesn’t cause change.

Coaching is so important. In a world where information abounds it’s becoming increasingly clear that knowing more about something doesn’t always change you. A six month curriculum on financial responsibility doesn’t guarantee that the attendees will use their money wisely. It’s in the doing – in the developing of new habits and practices – that the life change comes. Focus on and celebrate obedience more than understanding.

8. Vision matters more than rules.

In a back alley near downtown Fargo, in angular, hasty letters someone spray-painted, “I follow dreams, not rules.” That phrase captures the heart of most young adults today. They are ready and willing to leave their job, city, and even their friends and family if their hearts are captured by a vision. They’re willing to change their habits if they catch a glimpse of what life on the other side looks like.

Rather than emphasizing rules and “thou shalt”s, paint pictures of what life will be on the other side. Rather than hammering, “you need to read your Bible more,” declare and demonstrate the joy of connecting daily with the Creator. Instead of bludgeoning people towards purity, give them a vision of the joy and freedom of walking in step with God’s plan.

 

 

Those are eight of the many, many things I’ve learned in my eight plus years working with teens and young adults. Did any of them resonate with you? What have you learned in your time working with millennials? Share it in the comments!

Book Highlights, Christian Life, Culture, Evangelism

Book Quotes: Total Truth

September 14, 2015

Periodically I share some highlights from the books I’ve been reading. Below are some of my favorite quotes from the book Total Truth by Nancy Pearcey. It’s easily one of the best worldview books that I’ve ever read, and I would highly recommend it to all!

 

 

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It’s crucial for us to realize that nonbelievers are constantly filtering what we say through a mental fact/value grid. For example, when we state a position on an issue like abortion or bioethics or homo-sexuality, we intend to assert an objective moral truth important to the health of society—but they think we’re merely expressing our subjective bias. When we say there’s scientific evidence for design in the universe, we intend to stake out a testable truth claim—but they say, “Uh oh, the Religious Right is making a political power grab.” The fact/value grid instantly dissolves away the objective content of anything we say, and we will not be successful in introducing the content of our belief into the public discussion unless we first find ways to get past this gatekeeper.

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Developing a Christian worldview means submitting our entire self to God, in an act of devotion and service to Him.

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Every philosophy or ideology has to answer the same fundamental questions: 1. CREATION: How did it all begin? Where did we come from? 2. FALL: What went wrong? What is the source of evil and suffering? 3. REDEMPTION: What can we do about it? How can the world be set right again? By applying this simple grid, we can identify nonbiblical worldviews, and then analyze where they go wrong.

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The Christian message does not begin with “accept Christ as your Savior”; it begins with “in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”

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The Bible treats sin primarily as a matter of turning away from God and serving other gods, and only secondarily in terms of lists of specific immoral behaviors. The first commandment is, after all, the first commandment—the rest follows only after we are straight about whom or what it is that we are worshiping.

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Artists are often the barometers of society, and by analyzing the world-views embedded in their works we can learn a great deal about how to address the modern mind more effectively.

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The best way to drive out a bad worldview is by offering a good one, and Christians need to move beyond criticizing culture to creating culture.

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“Contrary to the expectations of the Enlightenment,” Lewy concludes, “freeing individuals from the shackles of traditional religion does not result in their moral uplift.” To the contrary, the evidence now shows clearly that “no society has yet been successful in teaching morality without religion.”

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Most Christian students simply don’t know how to express their faith perspective in language suitable for the public square. Like immigrants who have not yet mastered the grammar of their new country, they are self-conscious. In private, they speak to one another in the mother tongue of their religion, but in class they are uncertain how to express their religious perspective in the accents of the academic world.

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If we start with a message of sin, without giving the context of Creation, then we will come across to nonbelievers as merely negative and judgmental…We need to begin our message where the Bible begins—with the dignity and high calling of all human beings because they are created in the image of God.

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The postmodern dilemma can be summed up by saying that ethics depends on the reality of something that materialistic science has declared to be unreal.

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We should avoid the misleading dichotomy that says evolution is scientific, while design is religious. Darwinism and design theory are not about different subjects—science versus religion. Instead they are competing answers to the same question: How did life arise in the universe? Both theories appeal to scientific data, while at the same time both have broader philosophical and religious implications.

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Christianity is the key that fits the lock of the universe.

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From 1960 to 1980 there was a striking 43 per-cent reduction in the amount of time men spend in a family environment where young children are present.

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Christians must not fall into the trap of assuming that paid employment is the only thing that will give women a sense of dignity. That’s a mistake secular feminists often make. Instead Christians need to challenge the prevailing ideology of success by insisting that individuals are most fulfilled when they enjoy a sense of calling or vocation—whether in paid or unpaid work. We all long for a sense that we are contributing to something larger than ourselves, to a greater good, to God’s purposes in the world.

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The only way the church can establish genuine credibility with nonbelievers is by showing them something they cannot explain or duplicate through their own natural, pragmatic methods — something they can explain only by invoking the supernatural.

Christian Life, Culture, Fallout Revisited

Fallout Revisited: How to Prophesy

August 10, 2015

Fallout Revisited is a series that looks back through the six plus years of posts on the everlasting fallout and revisits the best and most relevant. This post, originally titled Proclaim, was posted three years ago in August of 2012.

 

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“I did not send the prophets, yet they ran; I did not speak to them, yet they prophesied. But if they had stood in my council, then they would have proclaimed my words to my people and they would have turned them from their evil way, and from the evil of their deeds.”

– Jeremiah 23:21-22

We are in an age where opinion has been crowned king, and those whose opinions are most popular are crowned the king of kings. Our world is growing ever more desperate for truth. Despite the increasing availability of information there is a vast shortage of deep, penetrating truth. Even in the church and the Christian community across the western world we have sold the proclamation of truth for the sake of purchasing the opinions that we want to hear.

Our situation isn’t far removed from Israel’s in the days of the prophet Jeremiah. Prophets across the nation proclaimed the Lord’s favor despite the fact that God himself declared destruction and calamity due to Israel’s idolatry. God says that the false prophets, “prophesy the deceit of their own hearts” (Jeremiah 23:26) and by doing so lead His people astray.

Sadly, as I look around at my fellow Christians I see numerous people who have been led astray and are in the process of bringing others with them, speaking from human logic and experience rather than from faith, confident that they have discerned what the word of the Lord is even though they have failed to actually listen.

My longing, and Jeremiah’s longing in his time, is to see a day come where the Lord’s people boldly speak the truth to each other and to the world. Oh, what a transformation this would bring! Truth has the terrible power to divide and unite, to root up what is evil and plant what is good in its place. In a world where politicking, deceit, and convenient lies are acceptable and even encouraged, the emergence of a people who speak the truth will have an earth-shaking effect.

In Jeremiah 23 God makes a statement that I believe is key for us to understand if we are to be the people who bring that prophetic truth to bear on our friends, communities, and world. I want to draw out four implications of the Lord’s words in hopes of giving us all practical ways to move toward the truth.

 

1: Begin in the presence of the Lord.

After declaring that he didn’t send the prophets who were promising peace and prosperity, the Lord says a phrase that offers both an admonition and hope. “If they had stood in my council, then they would have proclaimed my words to my people and they would have turned them from their evil way.” Throughout the book of Jeremiah it is clear that God’s earnest desire is that his people turn from their rebellion and be healed so he can relent from bringing disaster upon them. Time and time again he sends prophets to warn and admonish his people. However, because these prophets did not wait for a word in the presence of the Lord, they end up sending the people of Israel deeper into rebellion rather than realigning them with the Lord’s commands.

How often we make this same mistake! Know full well, oh Christian, that if you do not stand in the presence of the Lord often and at length, you will end up leading those around you further into sin. We are easily led astray, and without the constant pressure of the presence of Christ in our lives we are wanderers indeed. Make it your solemn promise to always begin in the presence of the Lord; to stand before the throne of the Almighty until you have the word you are to speak. Humble yourself daily in prayer and fill yourself daily with the scriptures. Then, when you can truly say that you have been in council with the Lord, your words will be words of truth that bring healing and not harm.

 

2: Be patient. Don’t go until you’re sent.

Another of God’s accusations is that the prophets didn’t wait for him to send them. Instead they went on their own timing, running when they shouldn’t even have walked.

An essential part of speaking the truth is speaking it at the right time. As Proverbs, “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.” Even if we have received a word from God or our eyes have been enlightened by the Holy Spirit to see how some scriptural truth applies to a certain person’s situation, we must wait until we are sent by our King, lest we speak out of turn and do damage. Only when the Lord sends us will our words be powerful and true. And remember, do not run where you aught to walk, or walk where you aught to tread tenderly. There are times to proclaim the truth in a flood of rebuke and there are times when the truth must be gently poured out like water from a spring. Go when you are sent and go in the way you are sent, then the truth you speak will be mighty to save.

 

3: Be Bold. Proclaim the word of the Lord.

For me, this is the hard one. By God’s grace it has become a habit to begin my time in the presence of the Lord, attending to his council. Patience in timing is relatively easy for me as well, however, my patience often turns to procrastination. Often I know the truth I need to speak and when I need to do it, but want to avoid any conflict that might result from speaking a pointed word.

We must note that it is only when the word of the Lord is actively, boldly proclaimed  that people are turned from their sin. Webster’s dictionary defines proclaim as, “to declare publicly, typically insistently, proudly, or defiantly and in either speech or writing.” There is no timidity here, only a courageous declaration of the truth that calls the hearer to respond.

In order for our world to be transformed, we must be proclaimers. Not silent onlookers, not whisperers, and not mumblers. When we have stood in the Lord’s council and are confident we are in line with his timing, we must proclaim the truth that he has sent us with, not apologizing or mitigating, even if it is a difficult thing. The word of the Lord is a double edged sword, but even the sharpest blade will not cut unless it is swung with strength. So speak boldly the truth you have received and,

 

4: Be Hopeful. Expect the Lord to work.

There is no wavering in the last sentence of God’s declaration in Jeremiah 23:22. “If they had stood in my council, then they would have proclaimed my words to my people and they would have turned them from their evil way, and from the evil of their deeds.” If God’s prophets stand in his council, go when they are sent, and boldly proclaim the word they have been given, then the people will turn from their evil ways. This is not a question of whether the people are willing or if their hearts happen to be in the right place at the moment the truth is spoken to them. It is a matter of whether the sovereign God of the universe pours out his grace and awakens the hearts of the hearer to the truth and to repentance. What the Lord has promised, he will do.

We have a similar promise in the New Testament’s great commission, where it is declared the all authority is Christ’s and that Christ is with his people until the end of days as the go forth to make disciples. God has spoken and promised. It is for us to put our faith in that promise and step forward boldly, in full expectation of people being transformed as the word of the Lord is proclaimed throughout the world.

My friends, we have a beautiful task ahead of us. We have been brought from darkness into the Kingdom of the light of the Beloved Son, and have been commissioned to go as ambassadors and prophets to those who are still in darkness. We go from the councils of our God, at his command and in the power of his Spirit into places where the wells of truth have run dry for eons, bringing with us the living water that can heal and restore what was once dead and lost. As we, the disciples of Christ, begin to proclaim truth to each other and to those around us, supernatural things will begin to happen. We will see lives transformed and people brought out from bondage into freedom; we will see dead live and hard hearts be softened. Oh, what a work we partake in! Don’t back down from it. Press forward, for the reward is great.

Book Highlights, Christian Life, Culture, Discipleship, Quotations

Quotes: Mike Breen – Building a Discipling Culture

July 27, 2015
BDC_BookImage
Below are a several quotes from the book Building a Discipling Culture by Mike Breen. We just finished reading the book with Verge’s Leader Community here in central Minnesota, and had some great discussion about the process and practice of discipleship with a few of the ministry leaders from the area.
You can get the book on Amazon or 3DM’s site.

 

 

 

Disciples are the only thing that Jesus cares about, and it’s the only number that Jesus is counting. Not our attendance or budget or buildings. He wants to know if we are “making disciples.”

Jesus has not called you to build his church. In fact, in all of the Gospels he mentions the church only two times. One time he mentions it, it’s about conflict resolution. The other time? To say that he will build his church. Our job, our only job and the last instructions he gave us, was to make disciples.

Teaching is incredibly important. Theology is incredibly important. Doctrine is incredibly important. But Jesus wasn’t able to compartmentalize teaching, theology, and doctrine into ethereal, cognitive realities. Teaching and theology were ways of describing reality, and then he showed his disciples how to live in that reality.

Good leaders always define their own reality. No one else can build a discipling culture for you—it must begin in your own life and then overflow into the lives of those you lead.

We need to externalize the things that have been going on internally. Change doesn’t happen in private.

Prayer was as fundamental an element in the life of Jesus as breathing. He inhaled his Father’s presence so he could exhale his Father’s will.

Many Christian leaders fall into the trap of being so ministry-focused that they spend too little time enjoying God. Sermon preparation takes the place of delighting in his presence. Prayer is something done mainly for the benefit of others, and the familiarity of worship may not necessarily breed contempt but indifference.

A leader’s demand for our time and energy will always exceed our capacity, working harder and longer is not the answer. Jesus said “I only do the things I see my Father doing.” He didn’t get a three year download to his Outlook calendar at his baptism, rather, each morning he had to retreat and establish the priorities for that day.

Christian Life, Culture, Spiritual Growth

You Shouldn’t Start Your Day With Social Media. Here’s why.

May 21, 2015

Your phone’s alarm goes off. You roll over, barely conscious. Hit snooze. Ten minutes later the alarm goes off again. No way you’re getting out of bed yet. You grab your phone. There’s a few Facebook notifications, an email, and there might be something new on Instagram, so you roll over and squint at the bright screen, scrolling through your feeds as your brain slowly wakes up. Ten minutes later you roll out of bed and on with the day.

The damage is done. See it? The human brain is constantly rewiring itself. Our actions create neurological pathways that form habits, feed emotions, shape beliefs, and lead to more actions. The first things placed into our brains at the outset of a day are the fuel that our mental engine will run on. If you start with Facebook, Instagram, email, or even news, your brain is being wired to believe that the things found there are the most valuable.

In light of this, I want to convince you that you should leave your phone, your social media, and your news until well after you’ve filled your mind and spirit with God’s presence and Gospel truth.

Four reasons to not start the day with social media:

    1. Social media is addictive. How would you feel about lighting up a bong before getting out of bed in the morning? Would you keep a glass of whiskey on your nightstand to sip as your brain boots up? Just like any addictive substance, social media is shaping you. Fight the addiction by controlling when you engage in it – say no to those thoughts that call you to check the feed first thing.
    2. You’ll feel better if you don’t. Studies have shown that social media use leads to unhappiness. The more time you spend on it, the worse you feel. Check out this brief article at Psychology Today. Why start your day with comparing your life with everyone else’s? Why start with something that drags you down?
    3. The story you start your day with is the story your day runs on. Social media tells the story that it’s all about you, what other’s think of you, and what you think about them. How many people liked your status/photo/blog post/link/video? Whose status did you like? What did the person with your dream job/home/family/life do since you last checked in? Social media tells a story that is utterly self centered. God’s story places God at the center and has him declaring that you are delighted in, valued, and free from both what you think of yourself and what others think of you. Which story would you rather be living in? What you start with will, in large part, determine your day’s story line.
    4. Men and women throughout history who have had huge kingdom impacts almost all started their days in God’s presence. Jesus sets the example by departing early in the morning to pray. Martin Luther was known for rising early in the morning to spend multiple hours in prayer at the outset of his day and is attributed with saying, “”I have so much to do today that I must spend three hours in prayer in order to be able to get it all done.” King David wrote of multiple Psalms describing how he would praise and meditate on God and dwell in God’s presence in the morning. I could multiply examples here ad infinitum, but you get the point.

What to start with instead:

My recommendation: Leave the social media off until after breakfast. Instead, start your day by reminding yourself of the story of God, God’s promises, and your identity in Christ. As your brain slowly crawls its way to wakefulness, train yourself to run through who God has said you are. Trace the story arc of the Bible or the amazing stories of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection. As you sip your coffee, read a Psalm or something like Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening, Piper’s Solid Joys, or another daily devotional. Spend time in silent thought and prayer, releasing every care to Christ. Once you’ve fed your soul the solid food of God’s truth and entrusted your day to his care, then you’re ready to move into the world of social media, news, and the like.

I want every one of you to live lives that are full of joy, peace, and an abundance of the fruit of the Spirit. Social media is an amazing tool, but we need to be sure that we control it and that it doesn’t control us. One great way to practice that is to not start your day with it – to ignore it so you’re not at its beck and call. Don’t start your day with social media. Instead, start with things that are true, noble, and of good repute. Ground yourself in God’s story before you engage in the world’s story. It will change your day, every day.

P.S. – In case you need more convincing, check this out;

Book Highlights, Culture, Quotations

Book Highlights: Lesslie Newbigin – The Gospel in a Pluralist Society

April 25, 2015

I love reading books, and I love sharing what I read. This post and others like it are a small section of highlights from some of the books I’ve been reading recently. These ones are from Lesslie Newbigin’s book The Gospel in a Pluralist Society.

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The minister’s leadership of the congregation in its mission to the world will be first and foremost in the area of his or her own discipleship, in that life of prayer and daily consecration which remains hidden from the world but which is the place where the essential battles are either won or lost.

However grievously the Church may have distorted and misused the concept of dogma in the course of history, and it has indeed done so grievously, the reality which this word designated is present from the beginning and is intrinsic to the gospel.

The presupposition of all valid and coherent Christian thinking is that God has acted to reveal and effect his purpose for the world in the manner made known in the Bible.

The gospel gives rise to a new plausibility structure, a radically different vision of things from those that shape all human cultures apart from the gospel. The Church, therefore, as the bearer of the gospel, inhabits a plausibility structure which is at variance with, and which calls in question, those that govern all human cultures without exception.

The relativism which is not willing to speak about truth but only about “what is true for me” is an evasion of the serious business of living. It is the mark of a tragic loss of nerve in our contemporary culture. It is a preliminary symptom of death.

It is obvious that the story of the empty tomb cannot be fitted into our contemporary worldview, or indeed into any worldview except one of which it is the starting point. That is, indeed, the whole point. What happened on that day is, according to the Christian tradition, only to be understood by analogy with what happened on the day the cosmos came into being. It is a boundary event, at the point where (as cosmologists tell us) the laws of physics cease to apply. It is the beginning of a new creation — as mysterious to human reason as the creation itself.

God’s saving revelation of himself does not come to us straight down from above — through the skylight, as we might say. In order to receive God’s saving revelation we have to open the door to the neighbor whom he sends as his appointed messenger, and — moreover — to receive that messenger not as a temporary teacher or guide whom we can dispense with when we ourselves have learned what is needed, but as one who will permanently share our home. There is no salvation except one in which we are saved together through the one whom God sends to be the bearer of his salvation.

The risen Jesus did not appear to everyone. He did not appear (as is often foolishly asserted) to the believers; there were no believers before he appeared to them.

A society which believes in a worthwhile future saves in the present so as to invest in the future. Contemporary Western society spends in the present and piles up debts for the future, ravages the environment, and leaves its grandchildren to cope with the results as best they can.

Mission begins with a kind of explosion of joy. The news that the rejected and crucified Jesus is alive is something that cannot possibly be suppressed.

The important thing in the use of the Bible is not to understand the text but to understand the world through the text.

The Church is not so much the agent of the mission as the locus of the mission. It is God who acts in the power of his Spirit, doing mighty works, creating signs of a new age, working secretly in the hearts of men and women to draw them to Christ.

Healings, even the most wonderful, do not call this present world radically into question; the gospel does, and this has to be made explicit. On the other hand, the preaching is meaningless without the healings. They are the true explanation of what is happening, but if nothing is happening no explanation is called for and the words are empty words. They do not answer any real question.

The very heart of the biblical vision for the unity of humankind is that its center is not an imperial power but the slain Lamb.

When God raised the crucified Jesus, this present age and its structures was exposed, illuminated, unmasked — but not destroyed. Cross and resurrection seen together mean both judgment and grace, both wrath and endless patience. God still upholds the structures; without them the world would collapse and human life would be unthinkable. But the structures lose their pretended absoluteness. Nothing now is absolute except God as he is known in Jesus Christ; everything else is relativized. That is the bottom line for Christian thinking and the starting point for Christian action in the affairs of the world.

Culture, Relationships

The Starving Generation

April 21, 2015

 

One who is full loathes honey, but to one who is hungry everything bitter is sweet.

– Proverbs 27:7 ESV

 

The simplest way to lower your grocery bill? Never go shopping when hungry. Inevitably, no matter how disciplined you are, you’ll be drawn to buy things you don’t need if you try to buy groceries on a grumbling stomach.

Our bodies know when they need something to fill them, and the most rational of minds can be driven to terrible action by the cries of a starving stomach. The writer of Proverbs taps into a principle that is amazingly applicable in our day when he writes, “One who is full loathes honey, but to one who is hungry everything bitter is sweet.” The point is clear – if someone is hungry enough even things that would normally be disgusting will seem appealing.

When we see our culture turning towards homosexuality, promiscuity, gluttony, and blatant sin, our first thought shouldn’t be “What wicked people! God’s going to judge them.” Instead, we need to use the wisdom that Proverbs talks so frequently about to discern the motive is behind such sins. More often than not it’s a hunger that has gone so long unfulfilled that the bitter has begun to taste sweet. The lesbian woman has a history of sexual abuse by her father as a child and a string of abusive relationships with men that have left her so starving for love and affection that the bitter, skewed love of homosexuality tastes sweet. The transgender man becomes a woman in search of an affirmation of his own identity because of his grandmother’s distortion of love, his own fear, and an uncle’s teasing and abuse. True story. The Christian man turns to alcohol because he feels he never lives up to God’s or his own standards and doesn’t have anyone else to support him.

To the starving person even what is bitter and poisonous will taste sweet. But, beauty of beauties, the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ offers in itself and in it’s people the sweet fulfillment of God and his people’s love, if only we will receive it. If only we will give it. Jesus himself does this with the samaritan woman at the well. Rather than beginning with rebukes for the woman and her long line of husbands, he offers her a well that will never run dry and a drink that will keep her from thirsting for the comfort of yet another husband. We may need to take a cue from Jesus here and change what we lead with in our Gospel presentations.

The Apostle Paul makes the amazing statement that “The God of this world has blinded the minds of unbelievers.” How can Christians get angry at blind people for stumbling around and breaking things? How can we who have an abundance of food stand by and curse those who are starving and destroying themselves and those around them? Rather than spending time railing on social media about political parties or government policies, God’s people should be on the front lines distributing the only food that will satisfy those starving souls. Instead of standing by and telling the starving man to stop eating rotten meat we ought to be in the streets preparing a meal whose fragrance will fill cities and draw men and women to the meal that Jesus offers in himself.

Christian, come to Christ and receive him as your satisfaction. Learn the way of drawing and drinking from the wells of his delights. Then, as you have received so give. Go abroad and offer the gospel news that God himself will fill every void in the human soul; that the Holy Spirit will bring peace where there was anxiety and love where there was loneliness; that the Father invites them into a family that is whole and free from abuse and need to perform.

We live in a starving generation. They’re eating anything that is sold to them by the world, by Satan, or by the lusts of their flesh. We’ve got something that is so much better! Let’s offer it.

 

Christian Life, Culture

The Age of Choice

April 6, 2015

A couple weeks ago Kelly and I sat down to watch a movie on a quiet Saturday night. We hadn’t settled on a specific movie to watch. No worries though, with a redbox less than a mile away, Amazon Prime and Hulu at our fingertips, and a large movie rental store maybe 3 miles away, we had plenty of options.

We pulled up Amazon Prime and started browsing, found a few movies that looked worthwhile, picked one, and settled in. For all of about 10 minutes. The movie wasn’t all that interesting. No problem. There were still others that had looked interesting, so we switched to another movie. 15 minutes in we were still dissatisfied. On to another movie, frustrated with the wasted time.

After about an hour of indecision and flipping between movies we gave up and went to bed unhappy. What had been set to be a nice night at home watching a movie turned into an hour cursed by the amazing breadth of choices we had in front of us, an increasingly common problem in our world with the growing list of options in every realm of life. Whether it be in the realm of entertainment or college degrees or churches or where to live, we have a massive amount of things to choose from. Technology has opened up a realm of possibilities and we’ve entered the age of choice paralyzation. Rather than picking one thing and sticking it through and enjoying it we’re almost constantly evaluating the option we’ve chosen against the ten other options that we can find pictures, blog posts, and videos of online.

I know several people who’ve added at least two years to their college career by switching majors two or more times because other options seemed more interesting. We begin attending a church and after a couple weeks start wondering what the other churches in town are like and end up hopping from one to another, never settling in. Our significant other is great for the moment, but we’re keeping our eyes open in case something better comes along. Sure, our lives are ok, but look at the lives that are out there on Pinterest and Instagram. Why can’t I have a house/family/job/car/fashion sense/body like that?

The first and biggest problem with our constant search for something new is the fact that it speaks loudly to the fact that we don’t believe God has a good purpose for where we are now.

Secondly, it kills the hope, joy, and peace that we are meant to have throughout all of life. The followers of Jesus are to be the most joyful people, at peace regardless of their circumstances and saying with the apostle Paul, “I have learned in all situations how to rejoice. ”

Thirdly, it prevents us from learning what God has given us to learn and growing up into the person that he wants us to be. Tying in to the first point, God has put you where you are now because he has something that will be for your good and his glory there. He wants you to learn and grow and become. We are to be like David, who served in his imprisonment with excellency rather than spending his days pondering what it would be like to be somewhere else. As a result of his focus and excellence he grew in character and was exalted by the Lord to the place of second in command in the nation .

Instead of always looking at the greener grass on the other side, lean into where God has you now, whether that be your job, schooling, relationship, or even the body he has given you. He has you there with a purpose that’s awesome. As you own that space with excellence and faithfulness he will lead you to open doors that will take you beyond what you had ever imagined for yourself.

Don’t waste your time. The Psalmist was right when he wrote that our lives are barely a breath. Don’t be like Kelly and I were on that Saturday night, digging ourselves into frustration rather than enjoying and being satisfied with what we had chosen. There’s joy in every situation, hope in every inch of your life, and peace anywhere that Jesus is (which is everywhere!). Lean in and watch the amazing happen.

Culture, Journal, Travel

Day Three: Jesus People

January 26, 2015

God brings people along amazing paths. Take, for example, Roger and Therese. Roger has pastored Colombo Gospel Tabernacle for over 25 years, and both him and his wife have also been the adoptive parents of dozens of orphaned children from around the city over the years. Their spacious, peaceful house is mostly empty now since their children are almost all adults, many married with children and doing ministries of their own, but the house is full of pictures and stories of how God has moved in and through them throughout the years.

Thesere came to Sri Lanka from Seattle in the late 80s after some supernatural prompting and as a single woman with the help of a few locals, began caring for orphan children. Her and Roger met a few years later and were married. They make aimagen amazing team and have impacted a huge array of lives through the ministry to their children and to the congregation at the Tab.

What resonated with me most as we attended the Tab and, later that evening, WoW, a radical charismatic church, was that regardless of where in the world you are God’s people are still the same people. It’s not without reason that the apostle Peter calls the physically separated, ethnic and racially diverse believers in Pontius, Galatia, Cappadocia, etc “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, and a holy nation” (1 Peter 2:9) and the apostle Paul says, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” to the church in Galatia (‭Galatians‬ ‭3‬:‭28‬ NIV).

When you enter into the body of Christ you don’t lose your ethnicity, culture, race, language, or identity. Instead those pieces of you are elevated by the beautiful tying-together that takes place as you are united with tens of thousands of others through the blood of Christ. Ignore the language barrier. You’re brothers and sisters with the same daddy. Delight in the cultural differences; your family is an amazing array displaying God’s creativity. Gather together around your savior and king Jesus and you’ll discovery the unity of the faith.

As we sat and shared lunch with Roger and Therese and several others, as we walked Galle Face the night before with Steffan and Sharon, as we worshipped with the people at WoW, I heard the same questions, the same Gospel, and the same praise for the same savior.

I can’t encourage you, reader, highly enough. If you have a chance to step out of your city, state, or nation and engaging with Christians from another culture (even just across denominational lines within your own city) do so! There’s an abundance of joy in meeting family you didn’t know you had.