Christianity 201

January 31, 2015

Babel Vs. Pentecost: Which Do We Reflect?

In preparing yesterday’s devotional/study, which looked at The Great Commission, I ran across a post we did several years ago that was taken from the blog Commissionary. Great Commission + Missionary = Commissionary. I like the name.

The article sets out the contrast between Babel and Pentecost in light of the characteristics of both, and asks us which one we reflect. To link to the original, click on: A commissionary’s conundrum: Babel or Pentecost? (Acts 2:5-13)

A commissionary aims to glorify Christ by making disciples of all nations. What is more worshipful to God than gathering more worshippers for God? This act of “gathering in,” however, first requires a “going out.” What then could be more glorifying to God than to devote one’s life to the spreading of His renown to all peoples of the world?

The early church began to understand this at Pentecost. It was not an innate part of their personality. On the contrary, they only started to participate in mission because they received the power for mission – the Holy Spirit. Pentecost happens, and right from the start God exposes his global purposes. What God did at Pentecost is a sharp contrast to what man tried at Babel. Let me explain.

First, here’s the text Acts 2:5-13

Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians – we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” But others mocking said, “They are filled with new wine.”

At Pentecost, God gathered the nations together for the purpose of announcing his gospel (the good news of Jesus Christ) to all nations. At Pentecost, many people from many languages understood the gospel through those possessed by the Holy Spirit. At Pentecost, it was God displaying His mighty work.

Babel is a completely different story (Genesis 11). At Babel, God scatters the people because man was told to fill the earth (Gen 1:28, 9:1,7) and they chose to gather and build a tower instead. At Babel, God intervenes and confuses their language. At Babel, it was not God displaying a mighty work, but man attempting a mighty work. Ultimately, Babel represents the opposite of a commissionary’s purpose in two ways. One, Babel represents self-reliance. The attitude that one doesn’t need God but can do it alone. Two, Babel represents self-exaltation. The motive to make oneself famous, instead of being motivated to make much of God.

So in light of this comparison, a commissionary has a choice between reflecting Pentecost or reflecting Babel. God has purposed for His children to be His witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. Three closing questions.

1. Are you reliant on self (Babel) or reliant on God (Pentecost)?

2. Are you exalting self (Babel) or exalting God (Pentecost)?

3. Are you more concerned with your story of achievement (Babel) or with God’s story of achievement (Pentecost), what God has done in Christ?

Don’t be Babel. Be Pentecost. Be a commissionary.

Here is that blog’s purpose statement:

  • A Great Commissionary

    Before pulpits and pews, pastors and preachers, before deacons and elders and Sunday School teachers, before flowery Lord’s tables and cross adorned steeples, there existed a mission for all of God’s people. Before programs and services, proper methods, proper times, before music and preaching, our sometimes silly pantomimes, before “Sunday morning church” and “Wednesday night prayer,” there existed a mentality, “Anytime, Anywhere.” Before statements of faith and superfluous vision, before gallivanting doctrine and convenient religion, before I follow Calvin or Luther, Peter or Paul, there existed one Lord with a mandate for all. Before baptist or catholic, various sects and denominations, before division and distinction, seemingly appropriate separations, before the ninety-five theses or even the edict of Milan, there existed one standard which the church was built upon. Go and make disciples we still hear our Jesus say, baptizing them in haste, for tomorrow is today, in name of the Father, and the Son, and Holy Ghost, teaching them to obey for He is with us to the uttermost. So before saying church member, church deacon, church teacher, church pastor, church apostle, church planter, church preacher, we advance the words of Christ, the only true visionary, declaring now and forever more, I AM A GREAT COMMISSIONARY!

April 25, 2013

The Ministry of Receiving Hospitality

welcomeYears ago I worked with a woman who, if asked, would say that as Christ-followers we should be the ones to offer hospitality, not the ones to receive it. She wanted to always be the host, not the guest. I recognized this instantly because a couple of decades earlier, I learned the hard way that I had a problem accepting hospitality. So I argued strongly that there is nothing wrong with being in need; it can provide a context for us to get to know people we might not otherwise connect with.

Today we introduce a writer who I suspect will be featured here somewhat regularly.  Chris Lenshyn blogs at Anabapistly and regularly includes in his own blog material from some of my favorite writers and speakers.  I encourage you to look around his site as ou click on this article which appeared originally as Peace to This House: A Theology of Guest.

“When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’  If someone who promotes peace is there, your peace will rest on them; if not, it will return to you.  Stay there, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house.Luke 10:5-7

Much is said about Christians offering hospitality. The call is very strong for Christians to be wonderful hosts to all people, no matter skin color, gender, age, socio-economic background, etc…

The reality of a post Christian world is such that the vast majority of people do not know the message of Jesus.  The Jesus story is not common place.  People walk by churches not knowing what the cross symbolizes.  This amplifies the need for hospitality to be foundational in Christian practice.

If Christians dare to venture into the post Christendom landscape, they WILL very well find themselves depending on the hospitality of those who do not have any connection to the Christian faith.

The early church depended on hospitality of others. When Jesus sends out the 72 in Luke 10, they become dependent on the hospitality of people in the towns which they visited.

The missional practitioner within a Post Christian context needs to know how to accept hospitality from others.  The missional practitioner needs to hold and embody a deep understanding of guest.

The implications are far reaching. A theology of guest means we respect ‘the other.’  It means we find comfort in the homes of other people.  It means we pay attention to, and partner with organizations that may not be Christian.  It means we bring ‘peace to’ the house in which we find ourselves.  We enter into the place of ‘the other’ embodying a message, representing a tribe of Jesus followers, a tribe of peace.  A theology of guest assumes that people, even non-Christians (sarcastic “GHASP”) have something to offer.

A post Christendom missionary will find him or herself depending on, and needing to accept gracefully, hospitality from ‘the other.’

Where do you find yourself accepting hospitality from others?  What differences do you find between hospitality from non-Christians (I hate that term, any other suggestions?) and Christians?


Today’s bonus item:

A 2-minute audio clip from Pete Wilson on people who leave his church or arrive at Cross Point from somewhere else because they say they’re “not getting fed.”

July 25, 2012

Do We Reflect Babel or Do We Reflect Pentecost?

This post is taken from the blog Commissionary. Great Commission. Missionary. I like the name. It sets out the contrast between Babel and Pentecost in light of the characteristics of both, and asks us which one we reflect.  To link to the original, click on: A commissionary’s conundrum: Babel or Pentecost? (Acts 2:5-13)

A commissionary aims to glorify Christ by making disciples of all nations. What is more worshipful to God than gathering more worshippers for God? This act of “gathering in,” however, first requires a “going out.” What then could be more glorifying to God than to devote one’s life to the spreading of His renown to all peoples of the world?

The early church began to understand this at Pentecost. It was not an innate part of their personality. On the contrary, they only started to participate in mission because they received the power for mission – the Holy Spirit. Pentecost happens, and right from the start God exposes his global purposes. What God did at Pentecost is a sharp contrast to what man tried at Babel. Let me explain.

First, here’s the text Acts 2:5-13

Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians – we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” But others mocking said, “They are filled with new wine.”

At Pentecost, God gathered the nations together for the purpose of announcing his gospel (the good news of Jesus Christ) to all nations. At Pentecost, many people from many languages understood the gospel through those possessed by the Holy Spirit. At Pentecost, it was God displaying His mighty work.

Babel is a completely different story (Genesis 11). At Babel, God scatters the people because man was told to fill the earth (Gen 1:28, 9:1,7) and they chose to gather and build a tower instead. At Babel, God intervenes and confuses their language. At Babel, it was not God displaying a mighty work, but man attempting a mighty work. Ultimately, Babel represents the opposite of a commissionary’s purpose in two ways. One, Babel represents self-reliance. The attitude that one doesn’t need God but can do it alone. Two, Babel represents self-exaltation. The motive to make oneself famous, instead of being motivated to make much of God.

So in light of this comparison, a commissionary has a choice between reflecting Pentecost or reflecting Babel. God has purposed for His children to be His witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. Three closing questions.

1. Are you reliant on self (Babel) or reliant on God (Pentecost)?

2. Are you exalting self (Babel) or exalting God (Pentecost)?

3. Are you more concerned with your story of achievement (Babel) or with God’s story of achievement (Pentecost), what God has done in Christ?

Don’t be Babel. Be Pentecost. Be a commissionary.

Here is that blog’s purpose statement:

  • A Great Commissionary

    Before pulpits and pews, pastors and preachers, before deacons and elders and Sunday School teachers, before flowery Lord’s tables and cross adorned steeples, there existed a mission for all of God’s people. Before programs and services, proper methods, proper times, before music and preaching, our sometimes silly pantomimes, before “Sunday morning church” and “Wednesday night prayer,” there existed a mentality, “Anytime, Anywhere.” Before statements of faith and superfluous vision, before gallivanting doctrine and convenient religion, before I follow Calvin or Luther, Peter or Paul, there existed one Lord with a mandate for all. Before baptist or catholic, various sects and denominations, before division and distinction, seemingly appropriate separations, before the ninety-five theses or even the edict of Milan, there existed one standard which the church was built upon. Go and make disciples we still hear our Jesus say, baptizing them in haste, for tomorrow is today, in name of the Father, and the Son, and Holy Ghost, teaching them to obey for He is with us to the uttermost. So before saying church member, church deacon, church teacher, church pastor, church apostle, church planter, church preacher, we advance the words of Christ, the only true visionary, declaring now and forever more, I AM A GREAT COMMISSIONARY!

July 15, 2012

Cooperating With What God Is Already Doing

It’s possible that your work situation or family situation or neighborhood situation looks, from a spiritual perspective, fairly bleak. You may find yourself in what you consider to be a fairly pagan or secularized environment. But I believe that God is at work in hearts more than we realize.

Today, I want to continue where we left off two days ago, and look at our part in bringing people into an awareness of Jesus that leads to a desire for Jesus.  Two days ago, we looked at being the kind of person that God can use to be “sent,” that is to go out into a particular situation or people group or individual’s life and then tell them, so they can hear, believe and call out for salvation.

But the Bible also teaches a principle of “sowers and reapers” in I Corinthians 3:

(NCV) 5b …We are only servants of God who helped you believe. Each one of us did the work God gave us to do.6 I planted the seed, and Apollos watered it. But God is the One who made it grow.7 So the one who plants is not important, and the one who waters is not important. Only God, who makes things grow, is important.8 The one who plants and the one who waters have the same purpose, and each will be rewarded for his own work.

My entire part-time work career during eight years of high school and college consisted of working in large department stores. In each area of the store I had to know what the products were, how the products worked, whether there were product warranties, and where the products were kept in the stockroom.  I also had to learn how to work the cash register.

So, my usefulness to my employer consisted of two things:

  • product knowledge
  • sales processing

In later years, when I owned my own business, I realized I had been taught nothing about how to sell. There was no sense in which I asked customers what they felt they needed, qualified what might meet that need, and then proceed to  “ask the question.” Asking means saying, “Do you think that this product can meet those needs?” Or, “Is there anything stopping from you buying today?” Or, “Can I wrap that up for you?” 

The ingredient I was missing was what is called, “closing the sale.” My training should have been a three-pronged approach consisting of:

  • product knowledge
  • closing the sale
  • sales processing

Sometimes in the Christian journey we encounter people who given to us so that we can plant seeds. And other times, we find people where God has been working in their lives already and they’re just waiting for someone to gently nudge them over the line of faith.

But sometimes we fall short of doing both when the opportunities are present. To switch analogies for a moment, it’s like a baseball game in which you’re up to bat and you get a perfect pitch, but instead of hitting a home run you decide to bunt. What holds us back from the hitting the ball out of the park?

In one of his books*, Bill Hybels tells the story of a friend with whom Bill had been planting seeds for a long time. One day, out of the blue, an associate asked the man if he would like to become a disciple and make Christ the Lord of his life, and the man said yes on the spot. Bill often jokes that this was simply “not fair.” With a department store analogy, you could say that this man was “Bill’s customer;” though thankfully we’re not exactly on commission! More seriously, Bill understands the distinction between sowing and reaping, and rejoices that this man did indeed cross the line of faith.

In Experiencing God, Richard Blackaby talks about coming alongside areas where the Holy Spirit is already working.** Perhaps there is a ministry organization or even a secular social service agency where people, whether consciously or unknowingly, are experiencing the fruit of God’s love and are ripe to respond. Could you be the missing ingredient?

  • In the lives of people you’ve been in contact with for the past few weeks or month, are you a sower or a reaper?
  • Do you know people right now who you’ve been gently sharing your faith with, but you’ve been afraid to ask the question?
  • Re-read today’s key verses. Maybe you find evangelism very difficult. Is there an area where you can be a “water-er” providing after-care for new disciples?

~ PW

*Just Walk Across The Room,pp. 45-47
**Experiencing God, pp. 54-55; p. 297

July 13, 2012

But Before That Can Happen, This Has To Happen

NIV Romans 10:14 How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? 15 And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”

From a purely literary standpoint, these verses in Romans use a rather unique form. It’s like Paul is deliberately saying everything in reverse, not unlike those comedies or dramas on television where they keep flashing back to progressively earlier and earlier scenes chronologically. In other words, before that can happen, this has to happen.

Having just proclaimed that, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” in verse 13, the sequence looks like this:

  • people are saved if they call on the Lord
  • can’t call on Him unless they first believe
  • can’t believe unless they hear
  • can’t hear unless someone delivers the message; the good news
  • can’t have the message delivered unless someone is sent

So before one thing can happen something else has to happen.  Let’s put things in chronological order:

  • someone is sent
  • the ‘sent person’ delivers the message
  • others hear the message
  • they believe the message
  • they call on the Lord to save them
  • they are saved

That in itself would be a sufficient meditation, but it leaves something else.  In every major English translation, one more verse is included in the same paragraph, which is a quotation from Isaiah 52. 

Isaiah 52:7 How beautiful on the mountains
    are the feet of those who bring good news,
who proclaim peace,
    who bring good tidings,
    who proclaim salvation,
who say to Zion,
    “Your God reigns!”

Repeated here in Romans:

As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”

I love how the CEV put this:

The Scriptures say it is a beautiful sight to see even the feet of someone coming to preach the good news.

Now, I’m going to read something into the text here, but I want you to humor me by following along here.  I think the CEV accurately conveys the picture here of the beauty of the sight of someone coming to bring the good news. But let’s assume for just a moment the beauty of the person themselves who comes.  (Not, obviously physical beauty, but spiritual beauty.)

If everything in the text is in reverse order, and if every translator sees the quotation as very directly linked to the other phrases, then what appears in the original form,

  • people are saved if they call on the Lord
  • can’t call on Him unless they first believe
  • can’t believe unless they hear
  • can’t hear unless someone delivers the message; the good news
  • can’t have the message delivered unless someone is sent
  • that “sent someone” is a beautiful person!!

Then the adjusted order would be

  • the process described here begins with a beautiful person!!
  • someone is sent
  • the ‘sent person’ delivers the message
  • others hear the message
  • they believe the message
  • they call on the Lord to save them
  • they are saved

Again, I’ve done some “reading into” on the text here, but it does give you a different way of looking at the passage, and it is supported by further study of what it is to be the man or woman who God chooses.  Those of you who object strongly can leave a comment with the more traditional interpretations of the Isaiah passage’s presence here.

But I think God is looking for a “special someone” to relay the message to people in need, and he’s looking for that someone to have a beautiful spirit.  In other words, before we can assume a ministry, we need to cultivate the character of Christ within.

Someone once said there are two dimensions to a physical cross, and we can think of the vertical dimension as the depth of our relationship to God, and the horizontal as the breadth of expressing that relationship to the world around us. We are responsible for the depth of our ministry and God is responsible for the breadth of our ministry.

To get to be the sent one, to be the preacher, to see people respond and call out for salvation; all that has to begin with the formation of Christian character within.  You can’t expect to move in the gifts of the spirit until you have cultivated the fruit of the spirit.

~Paul Wilkinson

For some of you, the passage today reminded you of an older worship song; so here’s a link to Our God Reigns.

June 29, 2012

Finding Jesus

As a general rule here, if we “borrow” a blog post, we at least find an alternative graphic image to go with it; but this time around the original picture really belongs with the article.  I’ve been reading Dean Lusk’s blog, Every Good Band Deserves Fudge for about four years now; and while I’ve linked to him at Thinking Out Loud a few times, this is his first time here at C201.  So, you guys know the drill, you’re encouraged to read this at his blog, where it appeared under the title, Where’s Jesus?


I’m surprised and feel a little silly that I never caught the connection between these passages before. Notice the phrases I’ve emphasized.

Anyone who wants to be my disciple must follow me, because my servants must be where I am. And the Father will honor anyone who serves me.

John 12:26, NLT

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’

“Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’

“And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’

Matthew 25:34-40, NLT

If we want to be disciples and servants of Jesus, we have to be where He is. Sometimes that “place” is not a mysterious destination we have to agonize about, asking God if this or that is what He’d have us to do. Often it’s right in front of us.

In a very straightforward manner, Jesus told us just a few of the places we can find Him. Are we there?

You can stop reading here if you’d like, and jump right to criticizing me for espousing some kind of exclusively social gospel. However, this was written to expound on one small aspect of living as a disciple of Jesus Christ, not to say it encompasses everything. Read further for bonus content! These thoughts and clarifications came out of a discussion of the topic via e-mail with a friend.

My friend asked, “So we find Jesus where believers are, right? In these passages then, is Jesus talking about helping only less fortunate Christians? How do you find Jesus among non-believers?” My response was something like this (with a few edits for clarity):

“We find Jesus where believers are…” That’s obviously a true statement, but keeping Scripture in mind (like the passage above, Matthew 25, for instance), “Jesus is not among non-believers” may not necessarily be a true statement. When Jesus is talking in the Matthew 25 passages, the believers He was talking about were the ones He was talking to. He never mentioned whether the hungry, poor, etc., were believers. That apparently didn’t matter. That is, we’re never told in Scripture to screen someone to determine if they’re worthy of our help — if they’re a believer, etc. We’re never told the spiritual status of the guy in the ditch that the Good Samaritan helped, for example. He was just “a man.”

And then there’s a different perspective making a similar point: the Church is the body of Christ; He is the head. (“We find Jesus among believers.”) However, Jesus put Himself among non-believers as a regular habit when He was physically on earth. Eating with tax-collecting scum, defending a sexually promicuous woman who was not a believer, doing things that got Him labeled by the religious elite as a drunkard and a glutton. (“We find Jesus among non-believers.”) Therefore, one way we find Jesus among non-believers is for us (believers) to be where non-believers are.

Again, Jesus told us and showed us just a few of the places we can find Him. Are we there?

~Dean Lusk

May 19, 2012

Following Jesus Into: The World, Love, Death

Today I spent some time studying the blog of Jeremy Myers.  Jeremy was a pastor in a conservative church until he had an epiphany that caused him to take a second look at the traditional church structure.  While not everyone will agree with all his conclusions, I think we can be challenged by his writing to think a little (or a lot) outside the box.  The following are teasers from three recent blog posts he wrote, you’ll need to click the TITLE of each to read the full article…  (If you’ve only got time for one, choose the middle one!)

Following Jesus into the World

In my book, Skeleton Church, I suggest that church is best defined as “The people of God who follow Jesus into the world.” Jesus wants to take the church out of our buildings and into the streets and parks of our towns to love and serve the people who are there.

What will this look like in your town and your community?

…Nobody really knows what church will look like ten, twenty, or a hundred years from now. Even the path to get wherever we are going is full of questions and uncertainty…

[click the title to continue reading]

Following Jesus into Love

There are several characteristics which define and identify those people and churches who are following Jesus into the world.

First, they will be known for their love.

Christians should be the most loving people on earth, not just by what we say, but by what we do. People should not have to be told that Christians are loving, but should tangibly see our love in what we do for others daily.

One of the best ways to reveal this is not just in loving one another, but also in loving those whom others hate.

In Luke 6:27-28, Jesus tells His disciples that they must be characterized by love for their enemies. They must love them, bless them, and pray for them. In a world that wants the death and destruction of our enemies, those who love, bless, and serve their enemies are viewed as traitors…

[click the title to continue reading]

Following Jesus into Death

Followers of Jesus will be characterized by death and resurrection.

We all want to experience the resurrected life of Jesus, but before we can rise to new life in the future, we must die to ourselves and die to our past. The church that does not die chooses instead to live in a vegetative state on artificial life support.

We cling to the past, to the traditions and to the forms of church handed down to us from the eras of Constantine, the Reformation, and Industrialism. Churches that cling to these past forms are still living, but without any real life. This fight to keep from dying allows us to survive, but only as the living dead.

It is when we embrace death that we rise again to new life…

[click the title to continue reading]

Luke 9:57 As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.”

58 Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”

Matthew 16:24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.

 

November 10, 2011

Michael Frost on Being A Christian in a Post-Christendom Era

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:27 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

Australian pastor and author Michael Frost has had a huge affect on how I look at church, mission, evangelism and community; just to name a few things.   We’ve been privileged to hear him speak several times and I often find myself repeating many of his examples of what God is doing around the world. This 51-minute lecture was posted at Glenn Schaeffer’s blog,  Go And Make and I believe it was recorded about a year ago.

What does it mean when the Jesus story no longer informs the broader culture? Rather than whine and complain, is it not possible for us to imagine that this experience may be the very ground from which we rediscover what it is to be a faithful follower of Jesus? 

Frost compares our present situation to that which faced God’s chosen people while they were in exile in Babylon.

November 11, 2010

Told To Be In The World, Though Not Of It

Today’s post is from Trent Griffith, senior pastor at Harvest Bible Chapel in Granger, IN.   It appeared on his blog in March of this year, and is also repeated in the Our Journey devotional booklet this month as the reading for November 17th.   Trent and his wife Andrea served for 15 years as conference speakers with Life Action Ministries.

John 17:16-18 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.

“Come quick, Dad! You have to change the radio station. Their singing about dancing naked!” That was the exclamation of my six-year old daughter who recognized our home was being invaded by an influence that was not consistent with the values we hold as family.

The Bible has a very specific name for that influence—“the world.” What is “the world”? It is a prevailing system of beliefs that stands in opposition to the authority and of God and His word, which reduces life to the reason and impulses of the human mind yet fueled by demonic spiritual forces. Jesus used the word eighteen times in his prayer for his followers recorded in John 17. He knew the influence of the world would tempt us to stray into unbelief and disobedience. Knowing this, Jesus prayed for our protection before he departed physically from the earth.

Christians are those who have been called out of the world to live a life distinct from the world. Our values, attitudes, and lifestyle should stand in contrast to the world. We are continually being sanctified (or set apart) from a world that doesn’t understand why we live to please a God we cannot see with our eyes. As we are sanctified by his world we should expect the world to hate us just like it hated Him.

But sanctification is not so much about getting out of the world as much as God getting the world out of us. Jesus specifically says “I do not ask that you take them out of the world.” (John 17:15) In fact, he prays, “I have sent them into the world.” (John 17:18) Why? Those whom Jesus has called out of the world are sent back in for the purpose of calling more out…to be sent back in. There is a cyclical balance to living as a “called out”, “sent in” follower of Jesus.

We are not to be of the world but we are to be in the world. We are to separate, but also penetrate. We to should spend time alone with God but also spend time conversing with godless people about God.

Why does God leave us in the world? He has sent us in to a world to show them that knowing Jesus is more fulfilling and brings more joy than anything the world has to offer…even dancing naked.

• Does the world hate you? If not, why not?
• In what practical ways do you need to separate yourself form the world?
• In what practical ways do you need to embrace the call to be sent in to the world?

– Trent Griffith

Green letter Bible? Occasionally — not every time — on this blog you’ll see scriptures in green. To me it serves as a reminder that God’s word is life!

November 7, 2010

“We Went to Starbucks and Had Church”

We live in more confusing times than, perhaps, Christians a generation ago.   When people say, “We went for a walk in the park and talked about God.   For us, that was Church;” does that work for you, or do you feel like perhaps they’re missing out on something?

Frank Viola suggests there are seven tests which “The Postchurch” needs to face:

  1. The Original Language Test
  2. The Epistle Test
  3. The Visitation Test
  4. The Narrative Reading Test
  5. The Consistency Test
  6. The One-Anothering Test
  7. The Purposes of God Test

Today’s post here is a link to a rather lengthy article which breaks this down.   I tried to find this on Frank’s blog, but I’ll start you off where I found it, with this re-post at the blog Change Room.

Here’s the link.  You don’t want to miss this.>

June 19, 2010

Raise The Cross

Several years ago, a long-time customer came into our bookstore and brought with her a new purpose and a new motto for our business, “marketplace ministry.” It was a fresh vision and a reminder that we should try to be more present in the public square, in civic life, and less dependent on churches which so often let us down.

The phrase “marketplace ministry” also reminded me of this quotation:

“I simply argue that the cross be raised again at the center of the marketplace, as well as on the steeple of the church. I am recovering the claim that Jesus was not crucified in a cathedral between two candles, but on a high cross between two thieves: on the town garbage heap; at a crossroad so cosmopolitan that they had to write His title in Hebrew, in Latin and in Greek…. At the kind of place where cynics talk smut, and thieves curse and soldiers gamble. Because that’s where He died. And that is what He died about. And that is where churchmen ought to be and what churchmen should be about.”

This quotation belongs to Scottish theologian Dr. George MacLeod (1895 – 1991). According to Wikipedia, MacLeod is also the founder of the Iona Community, an ecumenical movement committed to social justice issues and “seeking new ways to live the gospel of Jesus in today’s world.” Most of its activities take place on the Isle of Iona and its interdenominational liturgies and publishing are developed by the Wild Goose Group, the name taken from an ancient Irish symbol of the Holy Spirit. (Apologies to “dove only” readers!) Its books and music resources deal with social justice and peace issues, spirituality and healing, and innovative approaches to worship.

Someone years ago taught me that so much of what the church considers “outreach” is actually “indrag.” We need to find ways to engage the concept of “marketplace ministry.” Evangelicals have long neglected issues of social justice or relegated the ’social gospel’ to mainline churches. But that is changing. And perhaps the thing we need to do in the center of the marketplace is to live out the gospel with visible demonstrations of Christ’s love, not just taking the quotation above as a call to loud street preaching.

Is there someone in your sphere of influence to whom you can give “a cup of water” to today?