March 31, 2009

Teach People to Follow Jesus and Pump Gas Faster

I heard the recording below a few weeks ago, and had to laugh. It does remind us to be careful what we put on our cars and then how we act (i.e. I know my level of driving and have no bumper stickers indicating my faith!). But c'mon! Really! I find this sad...for the caller.

If you are going to work in ministry I guess you have to be prepared to take almost any call.


March 29, 2009

REJesus Book Review

In REJesus Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch make the case for re-jesusing the church. Through the centuries the church has added layer after layer of religious baggage turning the church into something Jesus never intended. The answer is to re-Jesus the church...to refocus ourselves, our doctrines, our practices, and our mission on the person and work of Jesus Christ. "Rather than call this reformation, we will call this task refounding the church because it raises the issue of the church's true founder or foundation. And in our opinion, nothing is more important for the church in our day than the question of refounding Christianity" (p. 5).

When the church refocuses on Jesus everything will change. It will change the Church's worship, its discipleship, and, ultimately, its mission; realigning it with its true course.

Likes and Dislikes
I battled back and forth with myself while reading this book. I hated parts of it, and absolutely loved other parts. Frost and Hirsch, I believe, are at their best when they present the foundational elements of what happens when we REJesus the Church.

Their discussion of Orthopathy-Orthopraxy-Orthodoxy is wonderful...especially the explanation of the Hebraic understanding of "knowing." I loved the quote "We are never alone when we do a holy deed because we partner with God in the redemption of the world. In other words, a deed done in his name is a means of grace, a sacrament" (p.152).

I also like their explanation of the changes that REJesusing the church will cause in the Church...a Christlike community that reflects his character, life, and activity...a holistic community that seeks to offer up all of life to the lordship of Jesus...a peace-loving community that is considerate, submissive, merciful, fruitful, impartial, and sincere...a worshipping community that exalts Jesus and declares his sovereignty...a devoted community that experiences intimacy with Jesus...a graced community that relies on the work of Jesus for salvation...a holy community that seeks after the righteousness of Jesus...a healthy community that feeds on God's Word and the ministry of the Spirit.

I found myself nodding in agreement with their discussion about stripping away the layers of things that separate from the true message of Jesus, but infuriated that those same layers are not seen as bringing others to the true message of Jesus. They wanted a Hebraic understanding of Jesus, but separated his debates with the pharisees from their cultural context. As Andrew Perriman points out, "the controversy with Judaism tends to be construed as a simplistic competition between authentic community and institutional religion..." (Article on Open Source Theology).

A few of the problems I have...

Problem #1-There is no adequate picture of Jesus offered. Frost and Hirsch state, "If the heart of Christian spirituality is to increasingly become like our founder, then an authentic comprehension of Jesus becomes critical" (p. 13). Then they progress to give us no authentic, comprehensive picture of Jesus.

They obviously have a picture within their minds as they write this book, and yet they simply rely on a few catchy phrases to define their image of God. They want us to, "go back to the daring, radical, strange, wonderful, inexplicable, unstoppable, marvelous, unsettling, disturbing, caring, powerful God-man" (p. 111)...but again offer no real explanation or defense of their position. They simply affirm that others have done this adequately and better. I think their Jesus tends to look a little like them. Andrew Perriman brings up this same point here, and Ed Stetzer ask that question of one of the authors here.

Problem #2-They offer no picture of their own, but they are great at poking holes in other views of Jesus they deem inadequate. (This is closely related to the previous one.) They dedicate an entire chapter to knocking over some inadequate pictures of Jesus, and I agree that some of them may need to go. My problem comes when they, at least by the way they write and layout the section, imply that the picture of Jesus offered by a "motley crew of unlikely people...Some were unemployed. Some were working occasionally as artists. Others were suffering with mental illness" is somehow better than that offered by Jesus-lovers throughout the centuries...even the very people who created the images in which they are now poking holes (p. 107). I have this same backlash when non-Christians with no commitment to Jesus (and probably haven't even read the Bible) are asked what Jesus is like. (Which they do in the chapter "The Church Jesus Built.")

Problem #3-A devaluing of Church history and religion. There is an intense amount of writing in today's Church degrading the role of "religion" in Christianity. Most often they simply mean rote religiosity. With that I can agree, but I think it is lazy and dangerous to be so loose with our terminology. Religion is simply the set or system of belief. Like it or not...Christianity (reJesused or not) is a religion. What needs to be attacked is the rote, meaningless practice that never enters the heart and is completely happy with the liturgical ritual in whatever church it may take place be it Catholic, Charismatic, Baptist, or Methodist.

Frost and Hirsch state, "When Paul explains the content of the Gospel, it doesn't consist of propositional statements about creation, sin, atonement, and redemption. It is a recapturing of the historical story of Jesus!" Then they note the "flowery Nicene Creed from the fourth century" (p. 194). Of course they were different, they were addressing different things and needed to be different. The later did not negate the former.

What Can We Use?
There is much to commend this book. I am constantly challenged by the life of Jesus, and I believe that He is the standard by which Christian discipleship is to be judged. Frost and Hirsch do a great job of setting Him up as the leveling line of our discipleship.

I also think their explanations of what the church will look like are invaluable. I may disagree with some of their explanations (attacks on pop praise and worship), but their underlying philosophical structure is great.

All in all...it was a good, challenging read.

Here is a free chapter from the book.

http://www.theforgottenways.org/blog/ - Alan Hirsch's blog

March 24, 2009

Never Fight With God


You would think that I have learned this lesson by now...fighting with God is stupid! Jacob limped away from his fight. Zechariah was muted. It took awhile, but I obeyed.

Last night I stopped at Wendy's to pick up dinner. (I know...Healthy!) I looked in my rearview mirror and saw a young mother with her child in the back seat.

So I had the following discussion with God:

I felt God say, "You haven't bought a meal for someone in a long time...now would be a good time."

"Not now," I said.

"Why not?"

"Because I don't have a card (we have care cards at my church that say "This is to show you God's love in a practical way), and she is a single lady in a car who might think this is flirting. I don't want to give the wrong impression."

"You might have a card somewhere in this car."

"I haven't seen one of those cards in some time."

"Just look."

"I am not going to find anything."

"Look!"

I opened the arm rest of the car, and, wouldn't you know it, there is a card sitting right on top! I didn't see that there the last time. I was in there a couple days ago. I turned the card over, and noticed that it had the wrong service times. "God, this has the wrong service times. I can't give this to her."

"The service times are not the point."

"Okay," I said "I will do it."

I got to the window and asked how much her order was. $1.99. That was all? I paid, pulled forward, and got my meal. As I pulled away I noticed that she got her order and pulled back around into the line. She was buying what she could with the money she had.

I should know better. I should listen and respond sooner, and I hope to someday. I am working on it. Next time I should just do what I am told when I first feel the inclination.I knew it was God speaking...telling me to it.

I can't adequately explain how I knew it was God's voice and not my own inner conscience talking to me. I felt His presence, and once I did what I was supposed to do, I felt a release. I just knew.

What kind of fight have you had with God recently?

March 13, 2009

The Coming Evangelical Collapse

There is a lot of interesting discussion going on about these articles on internetmonk.com:
  1. My Prediction: The Coming Evangelical Collapse
  2. What will be left when Evangelicalism collapses?
  3. Is this a good thing?
For a relatively shorted version of the article you can go here.

So, what do you think?

March 11, 2009

Charles Spurgeon

I like this quote:

“Sometimes we are inclined to think that a very great portion of modern revivalism has been more a curse than a blessing, because it has led thousands to a kind of peace before they have known their misery; restoring the prodigal to the Father's house, and never making him say, 'Father, I have sinned.' How can he be healed who is not sick? Or he be satisfied with the bread of life who is not hungry? The old-fashioned sense of sin is despised, and consequently a religion is run up before the foundations are dug out. Everything in this age is shallow. Deep-sea fishing is almost an extinct business so far as men's souls are concerned. The consequence is that men leap into religion, and then leap out again. Unhumbled they come to the church, unhumbled they remained in it, and unhumbled they go from it.”

March 4, 2009

Sneak Peak Devotional

I thought I would give you a sneak peak at my devotional for the 9 Challenge website. What do you think?

This morning I watched my daughter head off to school. She just had her ninth birthday, and I have been feeling a bit sentimental...watching my baby girl grow up. I looked at her and thought, "I love her more than I have words to express!" I never imagined I could love someone that much, and I know that love would cause me to do almost anything to make sure she was okay.

I think most parents feel that way toward their children, and the man in John 4 is no exception. His child was about to die. There weren't many options so he went to the only person he believed could help. He would simply ask Jesus, the most famous traveling preacher of the day and a man purported to be performing miraculous healings, to come to his home before the child died.

He was probably tempted to think, "What good is this going to do?" Or, "Jesus is a very busy man. He isn't going to give me a second thought!" Or maybe, "Healing doesn't take place like this!" Those were risks he was willing to take in order to save his child.

The man worked up the courage to approach the Great Teacher...but Jesus didn't go with him. Jesus simply said, "You may go. Your son will live." It is certainly a testament to that man's faith that he believed. John 4:50 shows the man's incredible faith. It says, "The man took Jesus at his word and departed."

If I were him I may have wanted something more, but he didn't...He took Jesus at His word and departed. I am certainly challenged by that simple act of faith. I am challenged to have more faith in the God who has called me to follow Him and promised that in "all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose" (Romans 8:28) in order to bring me into the likeness of His Son. I am challenged to believe He will care for me more than sparrows and cloth me better than flowered fields. I am challenged to trust Him when He asks me to seek first His Kingdom and put my treasure in heaven, and to trust that everything else will fall into order.

I am challenged to take Jesus at His word and depart...I hope you are too.

Eric Wright