Saturday, February 27, 2010

Why We Really Need the Local Church

This blog is a repost from Josh Harris. Good stuff on the local church.

***

Is belonging to a church really just a formality? When asked what church she belonged to, one Sunday-morning visitor told a pastor, "The universal body of Christ."

Technically, she may be right. As we saw in the last chapter, every authentic Christian does belong to Christ--and that's wonderful! But is it either wise or right for a person to be linked spiritually to the universal Church yet have no connection to a local church? Is it even possible?

Wouldn't that be like telling your new bride that while your love is true, you have other priorities? Your heart of course is all hers, but as for the rest of you...well, you'll be in and out.

I propose that for sincere followers of Christ, the Bible allows no such disconnect. If you and I identify with and love the idea of church, we must consider how we can identify with and love an actual church.

A local church is a visible, tangible, real-world expression of the body of Christ. "Of course every believer is part of the universal church," writes Chuck Colson. "But for any Christian who has a choice in the matter, failure to cleave to a particular church is failure to obey Christ."

Charles Spurgeon agreed that for a Christian failure to join a church is disobedience. He combined piercing truth and humor when he compared such disconnected Christians to "good-for-nothing" bricks:

I know there are some who say, "Well, I have given myself to the Lord, but I do not intend to give myself to the church."
Now why not?

"Because I can be a Christian without it."

Are you quite clear about that? You can be as good a Christian by disobedience to your Lord's commands as be being obedient?

What is a brick made for? To help build a house. It is of no use for that brick to tell you that it is just as good a brick while it is kicking about on the ground as it would be in the house. It is a good-for-nothing brick.

So you rolling-stone Christians, I do not believe that you are answering your purpose. You are living contrary to the life which Christ would have you live, and you are much to blame for the injury you do.

Only by joining a local church can Christians avoid "kicking about on the ground" like a brick. It's in the local church that we are attached to God's work around the world.

Authors Brian Habig and Les Newsom, in The Enduring Community, make a helpful recommendation. Borrowing from the bumper sticker, they recommend that Christians should "Think globally, love locally." "All of us should concern ourselves with the challenges that face all people everywhere," they write. "But that concern cannot be expressed everywhere. We demonstrate our concern by acting and living where we are."

We see this combination of a global mindset with a local focus throughout the New Testament. The apostles weren't just caught up with the universal Church--they were busy planting and caring for individual local churches. Most of their epistles were written to specific churches in cities like Galatia, Ephesus, Corinth, and Philippi. Almost every time the word church appears in the New Testament it means a particular gathering of Christians.

They saw the big picture, but they understood that you could never separate God's big-picture plan from everyday service and involvement with people.

Excerpted from Stop Dating the Church.

Revolution: The DNA of a Radical Church - S[c]ENT

Ask yourself the question, "Are you revolutionary? Really?"

Here are two more characteristics that ought to be in our lives if we are really going to be radical followers of Jesus who love the world like He does.

God’s revolutionaries who love the world are… servant-hearted.

Now, this is very, very much a cliché. But it’s true. People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.

So, we are people who show people that we care. It’s why we’ve been sent..

…to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound…Isaiah 61:1d (ESV)

You probably won’t have to look very hard to find someone who is brokenhearted. How will you bind them up? You probably know some people captives – enslaved by drugs or alcohol or bad habits or damaging relationships. How might God use you to set them free?

We talk here about global goliaths – problems in our world that are giant-sized. A lack of clean water. Hunger. Sexual slavery. Health issues like AIDS. Billions in our world are held captive by these things and are brokenhearted. What are you going to do?

Pick a global goliath and get busy serving. Do good works.

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:10 (ESV)

We want to be an “externally focused” church. We don’t want to exist for ourselves, but for others.

I am encouraging 100 percent of you to serve others. It’s not optional. Lives are transformed and relationships are built through good deeds.

Everyday, everywhere… look for daily opportunities to serve others in your school, your home, and your work.

What if you said, “OK. One hour a week. One hour a week, I’m going to devote myself to good works.”

Volunteer with hospice. Volunteer with meals on wheels. Volunteer to coach a little league team. Volunteer to sort cans in a food bank.

Would people look at your life and say, “There’s someone who cares. There’s someone who serves. There goes a servant-hearted revolutionary”?

God’s revolutionaries who love the world are Spirit-powered, gospel-bringing, God-sent, servant-hearted...

...hope-giving.

…to comfort all who mourn; to grant to those who mourn in Zion—to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit…

… that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified.

They shall build up the ancient ruins; they shall raise up the former devastations; they shall repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations.

Isaiah 61:2b--4 (ESV)

God’s revolutionaries who love the world are Spirit-powered, gospel-bringing, God-sent, servant-hearted, and hope-giving.

Our dream is that we all will be revolutionary in our love for God, in our love for one another, in our love for the world.

We’ve tried to visualize it this way… We start with loving God. And that flows into our loving one another. Then we go into a world of hurting people and we love the world. The circle and the arrows mean that this goes on and on. Everybody goes 3 for 3. Over and over.

Because of the love that Jesus has for us and demonstrated on the cross when He died for our sins, we love Him. We love Him with a joyous, generous, audacious love.

And His love for us and our love for Him spills over so we can love one another.

“You look like you need an arm around the shoulder.” “You look like you need a kick in the seat of the pants.” “I was wrong; will you forgive me?” “You look like you need someone to just say, ‘I see Jesus in you; I believe God is going to do great things in you.’” We love one another.

And the love that we have for each other spills over so we can love the world outside.

We have to get out of these walls. We are missionaries cleverly disguised as homemakers and plumbers and students and nurses and businessmen/women and teachers. I’m outside the church now. I’m looking for people to serve. We’re looking for the brokenhearted, for those who are bound in addictions. We’re looking to comfort all who mourn. We’re looking for ruined lives and communities to rebuild and repair. We love the world.

And in the process of loving the world, we find that our energies are depleted. So, I’m back in the church building now.

And I see the cross. And I hit my knees. And I’m loving the One who first loved me. My energies are renewed. I’m filled to overflowing. Now, I need to reconnect – to love my brothers and sisters again.

“You look like you need a hug.” “Now, I’m the one who needs the kick in the seat of the pants.” “You look like you need a gentle push in the right direction.” “You were wrong; but I forgive you.” We love one another.

It’s time to get back to the cross. It’s time to love God.

Over and over and over again, we love God, one another, and the world. We go 3 for 3 over and over. Is that you?

Am I truly following Jesus? Do others see me as so Spirit-filled, gospel-bringing, God-sent, servant-hearted, and hope-giving that they would be tempted to say, “You are out of your mind?’

Remember that I talked about that summer when I could have played in front of the dozens of pro scouts but went instead on a mission trip?

I can remember that one night on that mission trip I was in a 3rd rate hotel in Managua, Nicaragua that had been leveled after a devastating earthquake. My roommate told me about a beautiful Christian girl from the University of Alabama who wasn’t dating anybody at the time. When we got back to the States, he introduced us on a blind date. And two years later we were married.

Some people said, “You are nuts for not going to Alaska to play in front of those pro scouts. Your decision stinks.” But I was sent on a mission. And that decision didn’t stink. It was sweet-smelling to God.

We are sent as a scent. When you respond to God who sends you, it will the sweetest-smelling decision you’ll ever make!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Revolution: The DNA of a Radical Church - S[c]ENT

I see five characteristics that ought to be in our lives if we are really going to be radical followers of Jesus who love the world like He does.

Let's look at the first three...

God’s revolutionaries who love the world are… Spirit-powered.

Does God’s Spirit empower you? God’s Spirit empowered Jesus.

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me…
Isaiah 61:1a (ESV)


If we are going to love the world well, we need to be filled with – empowered by – God’s Spirit.

When we trust Jesus as our Savior and Lord, a kind of miracle happens. The third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit of God, comes to dwell in us. I Corinthians 6:19 says, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you?” The Holy Spirit lives within every believer. And in Ephesians 5:18, we are told to be filled with the Holy Spirit. And Galatians 5:22-23 says that when we are filled with Spirit, we bear the fruit of love, joy, and peace – fruit that makes our lives attractive to hurting world.

So, the all-important question for us is this: Does the Holy Spirit control us, fill us, empower us?

Someone said that when it comes to being filled with the Spirit, followers of Jesus are like helium-filled balloons. We leak. And if I’m not filled with the Spirit, I’m filled with self. And instead of bearing the fruit of love, joy, and peace, I bear the fruit of indifference, cynicism, and irritability. And I have nothing to offer the world when I’m like that.

But when we are empowered by the Spirit, we have a wisdom and a winsomeness and an energy that is necessary to love the world.

I do not want to be part of a church culture that creates methods for doing church that require little help from Holy Spirit. Are we dependent on ourselves or are we desperate for His Spirit?

God’s revolutionaries who love the world are Spirit-powered...

… gospel-bringing.

There are a lot of people in the world doing a lot of good deeds in our world. There are lots of people feeding the hungry, providing clean water, building medical clinics, adopting 3rd world kids. And a lot of people doing a lot of good are not followers of Jesus.

What makes us different? What do we have to offer that the world doesn’t have? Jesus says that He was sent…

… to bring good news to the poor… Isaiah 61:1b (ESV)

The phrase “good news” is often translated with the word “gospel” in the New Testament. God’s revolutionaries are gospel bringing people.

So, what’s the gospel? And who are the poor?

On Friday, a friend asked me to “Tweet” a definition of the gospel to him. That means you can only use 140 characters and spaces. Here’s what I sent:

Jesus is God in the flesh who died for our sins and rose from the dead so we could be justified. Repent of sin; believe in Him; be saved.

Now let me expand that definition just a little: We believe that there is a real heaven and a real hell and that real people like you and me are headed to one or the other. We believe that all men and women and boys and girls are sinners who deserve the wrath of God – that we’re all headed to hell without Christ. But we also believe that God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son to suffer the wrath that we deserve – He died in our place and paid for our sins. We believe Jesus rose from the grave. We believe that the only way to be saved is to repent, to trust this risen Christ – to know Jesus, to enter into a relationship with Him. And when we do, we are set free. We are saved. We have a home in heaven. That’s good news. That’s the gospel.

Let me be very upfront and in-your-face with some straight-talk. If we provide safe water in Ghana for thousands of people, but they die in their sins and go to hell, we haven’t really loved them with revolutionary love. If we feed the homeless downtown week after week, but they never meet Jesus and they don’t make it to heaven, we didn’t really love them with revolutionary love.

We have to open our mouths and point people to Jesus, the Savior who loved them enough to die.

We do good deeds to create good will so we can share the good news. Now, that might sound like manipulation. It might sound disingenuous. It might sound like we are doing good deeds with an ulterior motive. But it’s not really an ulterior motive. It’s the ultimate motive.

If this book is true and there’s a real heaven and a real hell and only Jesus saves, then I don’t really love you very much if I do all kinds of good deeds for you, but I never tell you that you need Jesus to be your Savior and Lord.

See, we’ve been sent…

…to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor, and the day of vengeance of our God…
Isaiah 61:2a (ESV)

We must somehow tell people that they can receive the Lord’s favor and grace through Jesus. We must somehow tell them that, because of our rebellion against God, apart from Christ there’s a day of vengeance coming. We must somehow encourage people to connect to Jesus, the One who took the vengeance we deserved on Himself when He died on the cross.

So, do good deeds more and more. But add to that. In your own way and in your own words, you have to learn how to point people to the good news about Jesus.

God’s revolutionaries who love the world are Spirit-powered, gospel-bringing…

… God-sent.

Some of us have a tendency to tip-toe through life. Some of us do what we do and say what we say in an apologetic kind of way. Not Jesus. He had a sense of confidence about who He was and what He said. Why? He knew who sent Him.

…he has sent me…Isaiah 61:1c (ESV)

Jesus knew that he was God-sent. And that changes things. It made Him bold, confident, assured.

In Mark 9:37, we see the confidence Jesus had in Him life and ministry, “Whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me” (ESV). In John 5:30, we see the confidence of Jesus in what He did, “I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me” (ESV). In John 7:16, we see the confidence of Jesus in what He said “My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me” (ESV). In John 7:29, we see the confidence of Jesus in who He was, “I know him, for I come from him, and he sent me” (ESV).

Over and over and over – 34 times in the book of John – Jesus uses this little phrase “sent me” to indicate that He was living His life through the knowledge that God had sent Him.

Is that the way you live your life?

When it comes to having a revolutionary love for the world, we don’t have to wonder whether we are sent or not. In John 17:18, Jesus is praying to the Father about His followers, “As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world” (ESV).

It’s as though you could take a globe, spin it, stop it randomly with your finger on some spot, and say, “OK. I’ve been sent here.” You say, “No. That’s crazy, Rick. Surely God would be more specific than that!” Well, listen to Jesus…

All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.
Matthew 28:18-20 (ESV)

Pick a place and go on a mission knowing that you’ve been commissioned by God. Be confident. Wherever God enables you to go, you can say, “I am a missionary. I’m here serving, talking, helping, speaking because I’ve been sent by God.” You’re going under His authority, under His commission.

When you have the sense that He’s sent you and you have His divine authority backing you and that every conversation is a divine appointment, then watch God work in you and through you and for you and with you.

God’s revolutionaries who love the world are Spirit-powered, gospel-bringing, and God sent.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

A Revolutionary Message for a Revolutionary Life


This message from David Platt from Luke 9:57-62 is 44:27 long. It is absolutely worth your time. This is the kind of life I want to live - a revolutionary life. This is the kind of life I want CVCers to live - revolutionary lives. Watch and listen and then ask God to change your life.

Seven Spiritual Prayers To Pray For Myself And Others (2)

A couple of weeks ago, I posted a list of 7 prayers to pray for yourself and others. The list came from Jim Mayes, an old friend who is the Director of the Buckeye Central-Erie Baptist Association. Jim recently spoke at a half day of prayer for our staff. Now, I've just learned that the prayer list originally came from Mike Wilson, pastor of Lincoln Heights Baptist Church in Mansfield, Ohio.

Mike wrote to me: "I wanted to tell you that after I emailed you, for kicks I went to your blog (it had been a couple weeks since I had been there last) and to my joyful surprise I read your blog entry for last Thursday. It was the prayer stuff (7 Spiritual Prayers to Pray for Yourself and Others) that I developed several years ago for my church when I realized that their praying sounded more like an organ recital (God bless my kidneys, and my liver, and my heart, and my...) instead of yearning for God to do the amazing in their lives.

"We gave each a copy, walked through it, asked them to put it in their Bible, and lasked them to let it inspire them to pray for things that make eternal difference. It is only about half original, the rest is inspiration from something I read from John Piper.

"I am glad you found it helpful enough to use it and post it. Several years ago I circulated it to any of my friends who thought it might be helpful. Jim Mayes uses it at prayer events that he does and Jim told me he did a prayer event at your church recently."


So, I gladly give Mike the credit for composing these 7 prayers. And I am gladly re-posting the list here.

***

1. God, turn my heart and my affections to You and away from self-centeredness. Make me to want You – to be hungry for You and Your Word (Matthew 6:33, Psalm 119:36.)

2. God, give me a holy fear of You. May I have a reverential awe of Your presence, power, splendor, majesty, holiness, and righteousness and a knee-knocking fear of Your jealousy, justice, judgment, discipline and correction (Psalm 2:11, Psalm 33:8, Psalm 86:11).

3. God, help me to understand Your Word – to know what it says (2 Timothy 2:15, Psalm 119:18, 27, 34).

4. God, enlighten my heart so Biblical truth will affect me deep within. Make a difference in my life – that I would feel the weight and impact of it’s message (Ephesians 1:18, 19a.)

5. God, make me satisfied in You. Turn my heart so You truly are my treasure (Psalm 90:14).

6. God, give me inner strength. Give me true spiritual inner power to hold to convictions, do the right thing and so “no” when my flesh screams “yes” (Joshua 1:6, Joshua 10:2, Ephesians 3:14-16).

7. God, cause me to produce good works. Empower me with power that is beyond my ability (Galatians 6:10, Colossians 1:9, 10, 2 Thessalonians 2:16,17).

Revolution: The DNA of a Radical Church - S[c]ENT

Are you revolutionary? Really?

On Thursday, I was reading our One Year Bible reading in the NT. We saw that when the people who were close to Jesus watched how He lived His life – how He served so selflessly, how He engaged the world around Him, how He cared about hurting people so deeply that He sometimes went without food and rest – Mark 2:21 says, “They went out to [rescue] Him, for they were saying, ‘He is out of His mind.’”

Evidently, the people closest to Jesus saw His extreme passion and incredible zeal to serve God and to build His kingdom. And they thought,” This guy is crazy. He’s too intense about spiritual things. He’s taking things to an unhealthy level. He needs to lighten up. He’s going to burn out. He’s out of His mind!”

I wondered. Would anybody ever say something like that about me? I’m concerned that I’m playing it too safe – that I’m not revolutionary enough.

I do remember a time in my life when some people said I was nuts. When I was in college at Vanderbilt, my dream was to play pro baseball. To do that, the pro scouts need to see you play. So, between my junior and senior years, I had a great opportunity to play in a fast-paced college league in Alaska. Lots a great competition and lots of scouts would be there. I was stoked.

My baseball coach at Vandy got a letter from a missionary organization called Overseas Crusades. They were putting together a baseball team to go to poverty-stricken areas in Central America to do missionary work. They wanted to draw a crowd by playing baseball, then serve the poor and share Christ.

My coach gave the invitation to me. I gave it to my dad. He gave it to a businessman in my hometown. And that man raised the money for me to go on that trip.

So, I could go on the mission trip and be seen by no scouts or head to Alaska to be seen by lots of the pro scouts. Some people said I was nuts to turn down the opportunity to play in front of the scouts. But I had enough sense to know that I was being sent by God on a mission for Him.

Do you know that you’ve been sent? And are you nuts enough – revolutionary enough – to go? I want to talk to you about what it means to be sent.

Texts: Luke 4:16-21, John 20:21, Isaiah 61:1-4

16 And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up.

Jesus is in His hometown, Nazareth – where He spent His boyhood.

And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read.

The synagogue was the gathering place for worship. It was likely a large room with bench seating along the walls. Every seventh day, it’s a habit for Jesus to be in church. There’s singing. Two prayers are prayed. Someone reads from the Law – from the first five books of the Bible. Then Jesus takes His place to read the lesson from the prophets.

17 And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written,

The Chazzan (the worship leader at the synagogue) takes the scroll of Isaiah and hands it to Jesus. The congregation stands to listen. Jesus unrolls the scroll until He finds what He wants to read.

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed,19 to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.”

What might it have been like to hear Jesus read the Word of God? He read it in Hebrew and then probably translated it into Aramaic.

20 And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him.

There’s an elevated seat in the room where the speaker gives the message based on the passages read. Jesus sits there. All eyes are on Jesus.

21 And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
Luke 4:16-21 (ESV)


Jesus is saying, “I’m the One who is the Ultimate Fulfillment of Isaiah 61. And on that day, He stirred up a controversy. Some just didn’t buy it, “You’re just a grown-up carpenter’s kid, dude.”

And even today we all have to decide if we believe Jesus is who He says He is or not.

So, this is what Jesus says at the beginning of His earthy ministry. He says, “The Spirit of the Lord… has sent Me…” That’s radical and revolutionary. And at the end of His earthly ministry, He says something radical and revolutionary to His followers.

Jesus said to them… “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.”
John 20:21b (ESV)

The Sent One (Jesus) has now become the Sender. He commissions His followers to serve as His missionaries, His representatives. He describes form Isaiah 61 how He was sent. And then He says, “I’m sending you the same way.”

So, I think it’s a good idea for us to take a look at Isaiah 61. Just how has Jesus sent us? He was sent into this world to be a revolutionary. I guess that means that I have been sent into the world to be a revolutionary, too.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Liberation Theology - Another Look

A few years ago (well, more than just a few!) I had the honor of performing the wedding ceremony of a wonderful couple, Walter and Nandita Smiechewicz. Walter and Nandita are now living on the west coast. Walter continues his commitment to his business career with a heart that also remains fully devoted to missions.

Walter is intelligent, thoughtful, and passionate about seeing the Kingdom of God extended throughout the world. He has great insights about the theology of missions. I recently was able to read a very insightful article he wrote about the nature of the church's mission and the influence of liberation theology on bringing justice to hurting and needy people.

Liberation theology has been rightly criticized by evangelicals for losing sight of some vital essentials of the gospel. But Walter maintains that we can and should learn from some of the biblically correct emphases of liberation theology. I agree.

In light of CVC's strong emphasis on loving the world in practical ways, I asked Walter if I could post his insights on my blog. He graciously said, "Yes." So, here it is. As you read, notice the strong biblical basis for our zeal to bring justice to the last, the least, and the lost in practical ways.

***

Liberation Theology has understandably had a bad name in conservative evangelical circles. It also has the reputation of being supported by Marxist underpinnings and as such is viewed negatively by conservative free market political thinkers. “Liberty”, however, is a fundamental aspect of the true Gospel of Christ. Certainly liberty from sin and liberty from the judgement of sin is the primary application.

I believe, despite certain negative aspects, that there are nuggets of truth in Liberation Theology that can be of value to Born-Again Christians and conservative theological thinkers who have a high view of Scripture. These nuggets relate to a broader view of the world than is considered by the American church today. Indeed, what is needed is a deeper view of the power of God to change society through Christian love and to relieve suffering in the world caused by injustice that manifests itself in hunger, thirst, nakedness, sickness, imprisonment and alienation.

Liberation Theology maintains that one should approach the Bible with this perspective of relieving the suffering of the oppressed. It preaches that one should work to bring about this justice primarily through political means. This is the guiding and principle hermeneutic for the Christian who believes in Liberation Theology.

Historically, this school of thought gained ground rapidly in Latin America owing to the gaping and unjust disparity in wealth that led to enormous swathes of society being shackled to poverty and the pain of oppression with no redress in sight. It had its’ beginnings in Rio de Janeiro in 1955 and evolved from there through the 1970s. Its’ basic tenet is the interpretation of the Bible through the lens of Liberation Theology. This is where the essence or purpose of Liberation Theology comes into focus - the reduction of poverty by suppressing the causes of poverty. Liberation Theology equates poverty with sin. Therefore, their hermeneutic is based on viewing the Scripture through the prism of relieving suffering for the poor and oppressed (certainly worthwhile goals to which every Christian should be committed) which is perpetuated through a sinful economic system structured to support the existing disparity of wealth and serve as a continuing mechanism to oppress the poor.

Praxis is a term often used in the discussion of Liberation Theology. Praxis (πρᾱξις) is the Greek term defining action or that which translates a held truth into a transformative reality. In the Christian life it would apply to the practice or the working out of one’s Christian belief in concrete ways. This working out of one’s faith is outwardly oriented and performed in community leading to a restructuring of a society for the benefit of the poor or as Jesus called them, the least among us, in any particular economic system.

Let’s now look at what the Bible teaches. Through the branch of theology designated as hamartiology, we obtain a fuller and more true to the Scripture definition of the concept and reality of sin: Firstly, sin is the inheritance of all men through the sin of the first man and became the natural state of man, in fact all men are sinners; next, sin brings judgement because sin cannot be accepted in the presence of God; so judgement is the fate of all men and its end is death; lastly, men who die in this unregenerate state of sin face final judgement, which is separation from God. It is critical to understand these theological concepts of sin because the primary error of Liberation Theology is its faulty understanding and teaching about sin and its failure to acknowledge Christ’s efficacious death.

The issue on which Liberation Theology falters and fails is that it does not teach the entire counsel of God. Its mistrust of the establishment church in the region of its birth (Latin America) whom they view (in many cases justifiably) as part of and supportive of the opressive status quo, causes it to reject even something as fundamental to the Christian doctrine as the fact that all have sinned - that all have consciously disobeyed God. And the judgement of this deliberate disobedience is separation from God.

The reprieve from this judgment is provided by our Lord Jesus Christ through His liberating forgiveness. His liberating forgiveness is obtained by believing in the value and power of the crucifixion and bodily resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ to alter what was once an irrevocable judgement.

The Gospel goes further than liberation from sin and sin’s judgement. For it is by purpose, the first step to a new understanding of life There is much more ahead. The person who places his faith in Christ is not only free from the penalty of sin but is given everything by God that pertains to life and godliness! This godly life of faith is now lived out with a perspective that is not centered merely on one’s own spiritual growth, as this self centered spiritual self help mentality, which sadly, has infected much of the evangelical community in America, only works to drive the individual’s focus inward and away from the world. An end many world religions see as fitting. But Christians are exhorted to be in the world but not of it.

The godly life of the Christian should, therefore, be lived out for God’s glory. This life of seeking God’s glory is lived out by a life that: (1) is victorious; (2) is holy; (3) shows the love of Christ to as many as we are able; (4) works diligently for the evangelization of the world by bringing the gospel of Christ to all those who have not heard the message of liberty.

It is in the third point listed above that I see a place, while maintaining a high view of Scripture, for a reformed view of Liberation Theology. There are three ways Liberation Theology can be accomodated.

Firstly, individual Christians, because of their own personal devotion to Christ, work by themselves to bring liberty from suffering to all peoples of the world. It is incumbent upon all Christians to live a life like Jesus. Jesus’ life provided for salvation and liberty from the suffering caused by sin - the Kingdom life. Jesus, through the agency of His miracles, relieved the suffering of many. The relieving of suffering (injustice, poverty, oppression, alienation) should also be the goal of every Christian’s life. It should be done to testify of the character of Christ - to exhibit the love of Christ to the World.

Secondly, the Church should work in community to bring about this same liberty from suffering. The Church is the “body of Christ” and as the body of Christ is called to bring the gospel of liberty to those who do not know our Lord Jesus as Saviour and invite them into the body of Christ - i.e., the Church. And the Church should also show the love of Christ by working to live out Matthew 25:35-36 in very real and concrete ways: relieving hunger and thirst around the world; welcoming new residents (no matter their race, background or status) into their community and neighborhood; providing shelter and clothing to those in need; visiting the sick in hospital; visiting those in prison.

Thirdly, Ministers of God, Pastors and Evangelists, should actively fulfill the Biblical role of Prophet to which they are called. They fulfill this role of Prophet by preaching truth to power. This may seem like a trite and overused phrase but preaching truth to power calls Christians to admonish and exhort, to preach in real ways about how a society should structure itself to care for the poor and disenfranchised among us. If injustices are present in a society, then Christian Minsters should point this out from their pulpits. If the poor are not provided with worthwhile education, then Christian pastors should preach to have this changed. If immigrants are mistreated in any way, then Christians should be in the vanguard for change. Christian ministers should give the clarion call to their communities and political leaders on how the gospel can change their society and preach to relieve the crushing burden of injustice, ignorance and poverty.

Let us therefore collectively work to have a proper understanding of liberty in Christ in its fulness and show forth this liberty and His love in every aspect of our life, ministry and society!

Summary:

Historically, the teaching of Liberation Theology has not been in line with Christian Orthodoxy.

However, as Christian leaders we should reach for the nuggets we can glean from Liberation Theology.

A proper biblical understanding of Liberty from sin is critically important.

Application of Matthew Chapter 25:35-36 will bring “liberty” to many around the world in very practical ways.

What to do next:

Make sure you and your church have a proper understanding of Hamartiology.

Challenge all of your parishioners to apply Matthew 25:35-36 in their personal Christian life.

Ask God how your Church can apply, in tangible and quantifiable ways, Matthew 25:35-36 in your city and state - including liberty from the oppressiveness of injustice, ignorance, false biases and poverty.

Pray and ask God that oppressive and unjust aspects of society are ameliorated and that you and your church can be a part of that “setting right”, regardless of location. Preach to this end!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Revolution: The DNA of a Radical Church - Refreshed (Part 5)

Here's yet another prayer to pray for revolutionary relationships, "God, who am I to receive?"

This is the prayer to pray as you think about someone who’s hurt you. How do you show revolutionary love to the person who’s hurt you?

Philemon had every legal right to keep Onesimus as a slave. He could just have him thrown in prison. But Paul calls for him to receive Onesimus as a brother.

Revolutionary Love for one another means we receive each other with grace. That we don’t focus on the wrong done to us. We don’t define each other by our past sins. Instead, we see each other as who we are in Christ. We are brother’s and sisters… even when we hurt each other.

That’s radical stuff. That’s not normal. The world says, “It’s pay-back time.” But we receive someone who has sinned against us as a brother or as a sister. We welcome them. We open up our homes and our hearts. We’ll share a meal and pick up the tab.

Can you receive someone who’s hurt you that way? Or are you unforgiving and bitter?

Nancy Leigh DeMoss, in her book Choosing Forgiveness, has some really powerful statements on unforgiveness and bitterness:

In our therapeutic culture, it’s widely acceptable to acknowledge that we’ve been “hurt” or “wounded” — words that focus on the wrong that has been done to us. But it’s a lot harder to admit that we’ve let that hurt escalate (or descend, to use a better word) into unforgiveness or bitterness — which puts responsibility on our shoulders.

Then she gives a list of diagnostic questions to help us see if we are harboring bitterness without even realizing it. See if you relate to any of these statements:
I often replay in my mind the incident(s) that hurt me.
When I think of a particular person or situation, I still feel angry.
I try hard not to think about the person, event, or circumstance that caused me so much pain.
I have a subtle, sweet desire to see this person pay for what he or she did to me.
Deep in my heart, I wouldn’t mind if something bad happened to the person(s) who hurt me.
I often find myself telling others how this person has hurt me.A lot of my conversations revolve around this situation.
Whenever his or her name comes up, I am more likely to say something negative than something positive about him or her.

But if you will allow Jesus to set you free fomr bitterness, the world doesn’t know what to do with that. Forgiving others is what a person is like when he or she has been changed by Jesus.

And why do we do it?

Bear with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgive each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.
Colossians 3:13 (ESV)

We receive the people even though they have wronged us because Jesus received us even though we have wronged Him. When we receive each other in grace it’s because grace has been shown to us. If Jesus has forgiven your sins – if He’s forgiving your sins, how could you hold another person’s sins against them?

That’s the Jesus way. That’s the revolutionary way.

A prayer for revolutionary relationships: God, who am I to receive?

Will you pray that prayer today?

12 Ways to Love Your Wayward Child

I was out to lunch with my friend, Gus Supan, on Friday. And he told me about a family he knows who has a wayward child. Gus said that the mom and dad were greatly helped by an article written by Abraham Piper, Pastor John Piper's son.

I think it's a great article. So, I reproduce it here in hopes that it might help some parents at CVC who need hope. You can also access it on Piper's Desiring God website.

John Piper wrote about the article: "My son Abraham, who speaks from the wisdom of experience and Scripture, has written the article that follows. I read it with tears and laughter. It is so compelling that I asked him immediately if I could share it with the church and the wider Christian community. There is no greater joy than to see your children walking in the truth—and expressing it so well. The rest is Abraham’s untouched."

***

Many parents are brokenhearted and completely baffled by their unbelieving son or daughter. They have no clue why the child they raised well is making such awful, destructive decisions. I’ve never been one of these parents, but I have been one of these sons. Reflecting back on that experience, I offer these suggestions to help you reach out to your wayward child.

1. Point them to Christ.

Your rebellious child’s real problem is not drugs or sex or cigarettes or pornography or laziness or crime or cussing or slovenliness or homosexuality or being in a punk rock band. The real problem is that they don’t see Jesus clearly. The best thing you can do for them—and the only reason to do any of the following suggestions—is to show them Christ. It is not a simple or immediate process, but the sins in their life that distress you and destroy them will only begin to fade away when they see Jesus more like he actually is.

2. Pray.

Only God can save your son or daughter, so keep on asking that he will display himself to them in a way they can’t resist worshiping him for.

3. Acknowledge that something is wrong.

If your daughter rejects Jesus, don’t pretend everything is fine. For every unbelieving child, the details will be different. Each one will require parents to reach out in unique ways. Never acceptable, however, is not reaching out at all. If your child is an unbeliever, don’t ignore it. Holidays might be easier, but eternity won’t be.

4. Don’t expect them to be Christ-like.

If your son is not a Christian, he’s not going to act like one. You know that he has forsaken the faith, so don’t expect him to live by the standards you raised him with. For example, you might be tempted to say, “I know you’re struggling with believing in Jesus, but can’t you at least admit that getting wasted every day is sin?”

If he’s struggling to believe in Jesus, then there is very little significance in admitting that drunkenness is wrong. You want to protect him, yes. But his unbelief is the most dangerous problem—not partying. No matter how your child’s unbelief exemplifies itself in his behavior, always be sure to focus more on the heart’s sickness than its symptoms.

5. Welcome them home.

Because the deepest concern is not your child’s actions, but his heart, don’t create too many requirements for coming home. If he has any inkling to be with you, it is God giving you a chance to love him back to Jesus. Obviously there are some instances in which parents must give ultimatums: “Don’t come to this house if you are...” But these will be rare. Don’t lessen the likelihood of an opportunity to be with your child by too many rules.

If your daughter smells like weed or an ashtray, spray her jacket with Febreze and change the sheets when she leaves, but let her come home. If you find out she’s pregnant, then buy her folic acid, take her to her twenty-week ultrasound, protect her from Planned Parenthood, and by all means let her come home. If your son is broke because he spent all the money you lent him on loose women and ritzy liquor, then forgive his debt as you’ve been forgiven, don’t give him any more money, and let him come home. If he hasn’t been around for a week and a half because he’s been staying at his girlfriend’s—or boyfriend’s—apartment, plead with him not to go back, and let him come home.

6. Plead with them more than you rebuke them.

Be gentle in your disappointment. What really concerns you is that your child is destroying herself, not that she’s breaking rules. Treat her in a way that makes this clear. She probably knows—especially if she was raised as a Christian—that what she’s doing is wrong. And she definitely knows you think it is. So she doesn’t need this pointed out. She needs to see how you are going to react to her evil. Your gentle forbearance and sorrowful hope will show her that you really do trust Jesus.

Her conscience can condemn her by itself. Parents ought to stand kindly and firmly, always living in the hope that they want their child to return to.

7. Connect them to believers who have better access to them.

There are two kinds of access that you may not have to your child: geographical and relational. If your wayward son lives far away, try to find a solid believer in his area and ask him to contact your son. This may seem nosy or stupid or embarrassing to him, but it’s worth it—especially if the believer you find can also relate to your son emotionally in a way you can’t.

Relational distance will also be a side effect of your child leaving the faith, so your relationship will be tenuous and should be protected if at all possible. But hard rebuke is still necessary.

This is where another believer who has emotional access to your son may be very helpful. If there is a believer who your son trusts and perhaps even enjoys being around, then that believer has a platform to tell your son—in a way he may actually pay attention to—that he’s being an idiot. This may sound harsh, but it’s a news flash we all need from time to time, and people we trust are usually the only ones who can package a painful rebuke so that it is a gift to us.

A lot of rebellious kids would do well to hear that they’re being fools—and it is rare that this can helpfully be pointed out by their parents—so try to keep other Christians in your kids lives.

8. Respect their friends.

Honor your wayward child in the same way you’d honor any other unbeliever. They may run with crowds you’d never consider talking to or even looking at, but they are your child’s friends. Respect that—even if the relationship is founded on sin. They’re bad for your son, yes. But he’s bad for them, too. Nothing will be solved by making it perfectly evident that you don’t like who he’s hanging around with.

When your son shows up for a family birthday celebration with another girlfriend—one you’ve never seen before and probably won’t see again—be hospitable. She’s also someone’s wayward child, and she needs Jesus, too.

9. Email them.

Praise God for technology that lets you stay in your kids’ lives so easily! When you read something in the Bible that encourages you and helps you love Jesus more, write it up in a couple lines and send it to your child. The best exhortation for them is positive examples of Christ’s joy in your own life.

Don’t stress out when you’re composing these as if each one needs to be singularly powerful. Just whip them out one after another, and let the cumulative effect of your satisfaction in God gather up in your child’s inbox. God’s word is never proclaimed in vain.

10. Take them to lunch.

If possible, don’t let your only interaction with your child be electronic. Get together with him face to face if you can. You may think this is stressful and uncomfortable, but trust me that it’s far worse to be in the child’s shoes—he is experiencing all the same discomfort, but compounded by guilt. So if he is willing to get together with you for lunch, praise God, and use the opportunity.

It will feel almost hypocritical to talk about his daily life, since what you really care about is his eternal life, but try to anyway. He needs to know you care about all of him. Then, before lunch is over, pray that the Lord will give you the gumption to ask about his soul. You don’t know how he’ll respond. Will he roll his eyes like you’re an idiot? Will he get mad and leave? Or has God been working in him since you talked last? You don’t know until you risk asking.

(Here’s a note to parents of younger children: Set up regular times to go out to eat with your kids. Not only will this be valuable for its own sake, but also, if they ever enter a season of rebellion, the tradition of meeting with them will already be in place and it won’t feel weird to ask them out to lunch. If a son has been eating out on Saturdays with his dad since he was a tot, it will be much harder for him later in life to say no to his father’s invitation—even as a surly nineteen-year-old.)

11. Take an interest in their pursuits.

Odds are that if your daughter is purposefully rejecting Christ, then the way she spends her time will probably disappoint you. Nevertheless, find the value in her interests, if possible, and encourage her. You went to her school plays and soccer games when she was ten; what can you do now that she’s twenty to show that you still really care about her interests?

Jesus spent time with tax collectors and prostitutes, and he wasn’t even related to them. Imitate Christ by being the kind of parent who will put some earplugs in your pocket and head downtown to that dank little nightclub where your daughter’s CD release show is. Encourage her and never stop praying that she will begin to use her gifts for Jesus’ glory instead her own.

12. Point them to Christ.

This can’t be over-stressed. It is the whole point. No strategy for reaching your son or daughter will have any lasting effect if the underlying goal isn’t to help them know Jesus.

Jesus.

It’s not so that they will be good kids again; it’s not so that they’ll get their hair cut and start taking showers; it’s not so that they’ll like classical music instead of deathcore; it’s not so that you can stop being embarrassed at your weekly Bible study; it’s not so that they’ll vote conservative again by the next election; it’s not even so that you can sleep at night, knowing they’re not going to hell.

The only ultimate reason to pray for them, welcome them, plead with them, email them, eat with them, or take an interest in their interests is so that their eyes will be opened to Christ.

And not only is he the only point—he’s the only hope. When they see the wonder of Jesus, satisfaction will be redefined. He will replace the pathetic vanity of the money, or the praise of man, or the high, or the orgasm that they are staking their eternities on right now. Only his grace can draw them from their perilous pursuits and bind them safely to himself—captive, but satisfied.

He will do this for many. Be faithful and don’t give up.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Revolution: The DNA of a Radical Church - Refreshed (Part 4)

Part 4 of the message entitled "Refreshed" in our current series at CVC called "Revolution: The DNA of a Radical Church" taught on Sunday, February 14, 2010.

*****

Here is a prayer you can pray if you are seeking to enjoy revolutionary relationships .

God, where am I to return?

This is the prayer to pray as you think about someone that you have hurt. How do you show revolutionary love to the person you’ve hurt?

Andy Sikora reminded me this week that one of the biggest things that destroys relationships between brothers and sisters in Christ is our inability to repent – to apologize, to admit their wrong and walk in a new way.

But that’s what Onesimus does. Watch him and you can see true revolutionary love.

Onesimus was clearly in the wrong based on the law. But he was willing to go back to Philemon. He took a risk. He could have been thrown into prison. Maybe even executed. But he had been changed by Jesus and he wanted to make things right.

Even if it meant humbling himself. Even if it meant giving up freedom. Even if it meant he had to suffer. He returns so the relationship can be renewed.

But many is us don’t return. We run. We don’t repent because we don’t think we should have to. We want to justify our behavior. “I said it for a reason. I had a just cause for what I did.” We work hard to convince ourselves that we were actually right. But without repentance, there is no chance for revolutionary love.

Jesus even commands it. "If you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift" (Matthew 5:23-24, ESV).

When our wrongs are too obvious to ignore, we practice what might be called the 40/60 Rule. It goes something like this: “Well, I know I’m not perfect, and I admit I am partially to blame for this problem. I’d say that about 40 percent of the fault is mine. That means 60 percent of the fault is hers. Since she is 20 percent more to blame than I am, she should be the one to ask for forgiveness.” Maybe we never actually say or think these exact words, but we resort to this tactic in subtle ways. When we believe that our sins have been more than cancelled by another person’s sins, we divert attention from ourselves and avoid repentance and confession.

But it’s radical when you return and repent when you’ve wronged someone. Take the low position and go to them without trying to justify yourself.

Just say it: “I was wrong. Will you forgive me?” That’s revolutionary. That’s not natural. That’s Christ in us. That’s revolutionary love.

Will you pray, "God, where am I to return?"

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Seven Spiritual Prayers To Pray For Myself And Others

1. God, turn my heart and my affections to You and away from self-centeredness. Make me to want You – to be hungry for You and Your Word.

Matthew 6:33
Psalm 119:36


2. God, give me a holy fear of You. May I have a reverential awe of Your presence, power, splendor, majesty, holiness, and righteousness and a knee-knocking fear of Your jealousy, justice, judgment, discipline and correction.

Psalm 2:11
Psalm 33:8
Psalm 86:11

3. God, help me to understand Your Word – to know what it says.

2 Timothy 2:15
Psalm 119:18, 27, 34

4. God, enlighten my heart so Biblical truth will affect me deep within. Make a difference in my life – that I would feel the weight and impact of it’s message.

Ephesians 1:18, 19a

5. God, make me satisfied in You. Turn my heart so You truly are my treasure.

Psalm 90:14

6. God, give me inner strength/ Give me true spiritual inner power to hold to convictions, do the right thing and so “no” when my flesh screams “yes”.

Joshua 1:6
Joshua 10:25
Ephesians 3:14-16

7. God, cause me to produce good works. Empower me with power that is beyond my ability.

Galatians 6:10
Colossians 1:9, 102
Thessalonians 2:16,17

Revolution: The DNA of a Radical Church - Refreshed (Part 3)

Part 3 of the message entitled "Refreshed" in our current series at CVC called "Revolution: The DNA of a Radical Church" taught on Sunday, February 14, 2010.

*****

Let's pick up at Philemon v. 15 today.

15 For this perhaps is why he was parted from you for a while, that you might have him back forever,

Paul writes, “Think about it, Philemon. Could it be that God was at work all the time – that God in His sovereignty was in charge all along? Could it be that it was God’s plan that Onesimus run away from you, meet me, come to know Christ, be changed, and be sent back to you?”

16 no longer as a slave but more than a slave, as a beloved brother—especially to me, but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.

I think Paul here is encouraging Philemon to free Onesimus. Paul is expecting that revolutionary love will entirely transform the relationship between the two because Onesimus is now a brother in Christ.

Philemon's heart is beginning to soften toward this runaway slave.

17 So if you consider me your partner, receive him as you would receive me.

Philemon thinks, “If Paul showed up here, we wouldn’t send him out back to sleep where the slaves live. We’d put Paul in the best room – the guest room. But what about the money he stole from me?”

18 If he has wronged you at all, or owes you anything, charge that to my account.

Paul is very much like Jesus here. I read this week that Martin Luther once said, "All of us were God's Onesimus." We are created by God for God. But we sin. We steal from Him and run away from Him. But the Lord Jesus says, "He has done wrong. She has fallen into sin. So, charge that to My account. I will pay it." That’s revolutionary love. That’s what Paul says here.

19 I, Paul, write this with my own hand: I will repay it—to say nothing of your owing me even your own self.

Back in that day, captured runaway slaves were treated brutally. Sometimes, they were put to death. By asking Philemon to receive Onesimus, Paul is asking Philemon to do something radical.
Paul was probably dictating this letter. His helper Timothy was probably writing it. But now, here in verse 19, Paul takes the pen in his own hand. He signs his own name.

And then Paul makes a personal guarantee, “I know I’m under arrest here in Rome. But I will accept full financial liability for anything that Onesimus might owe you. Oh, and by the way, don’t forget that you owe me. You owe me something far greater than anything Onesimus might owe you. You came to Christ through me. You’re ticket to heaven is punched because of me.”

20 Yes, brother, I want some benefit from you in the Lord. Refresh my heart in Christ.

Paul is saying, “So far, I haven’t asked for anything for me. In fact, if Onesimus owes you anything, don't worry about it. I'll pay it myself. But here’s one thing I will ask: Restore the relationship and refresh my heart in Christ.”

21 Confident of your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I say.
What’s “even more than I say” mean? Some think that it means “free this slave.” Others think it means “send him back to Rome to serve with me again.”

22 At the same time, prepare a guest room for me, for I am hoping that through your prayers I will be graciously given to you.
Philemon 7-22 (ESV)

Paul expects to be released from prison and come to Colossae for a visit. He says, "You keep praying for me there in Colossae."

I think that in this story, we see prayers for revolutionary relationships. Here's the first: God, what am I to rebuild?

This is the prayer to pray as you think about some people you know who are in conflict. How do you show revolutionary love to those people?

This letter is a kind of intervention from Paul. He wants to be used by God to rebuild the relationship between Philemon and Onesimus. Paul doesn’t shy away from the conflict.

It’s easy to see how Paul is loving Onesimus here. But what about Paul’s revolutionary love for Philemon? Paul jumps into the mess between two brothers in Christ.

That’s Crazy Love. Too many times too many of us display Lazy Love, not Crazy Love. Too often we just let people do their own thing. We don’t want to get into the middle of someone else’s mess. We don’t want to be too pushy. So, we just let someone continue living in the wrong. Why?Because we don’t want the hassle. We don’t want to risk our own relationships.

But true Revolutionary Love steps into the middle of the mess and helps our brothers and sisters build bridges.

Why is Paul willing to step into this mess? It’s Jesus. It’s what Jesus had done for Paul. Jesus stepped into his mess. And now Paul is a changed man.

So, Paul is willing to sacrifice to see Onesimus restored. He’s putting his reputation on the line. He’s also willing to put his money where his mouth is. He doesn’t demand or command. He just works toward a godly resolution to the conflict. He wants God’s best.

How about you? Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God (Matthew 5:9, ESV).

I once heard someone ask, “Are you a peace-breaker, a peace-faker, or a peace-maker?” So, which is it for you?

Will you pray, "God, what do You want me to rebuild?"

Check back for more prayers for revolutionary relationships...

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Revolution: The DNA of a Radical Church - Refreshed (Part 2)

Part 2 of the message entitled "Refreshed" in our current series at CVC called "Revolution: The DNA of a Radical Church" taught on Sunday, February 14, 2010.

*****

Let's pick up at Philemon v. 7 today.

7 I have derived much joy and comfort from your love, my brother, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you.

“Philemon, you are known for your love for other believers. And that makes me happy. Your love refreshes others.”

Philemon says, "That’s nice for Paul to write.” Philemon goes on reading the letter:

8 Accordingly, though I am bold enough in Christ to command you to do what is required,

Paul writes, “Philemon, frankly, I could order you around. I have the authority as an apostle to speak freely and openly about tough stuff. But I’m not going to boss you."

9 yet for love's sake I prefer to appeal to you—I, Paul, an old man and now a prisoner also for Christ Jesus—

Do tears come to Philemon’s eyes as he reads this? Paul, who led him to Christ sits under house arrest as a 60 plus year old member of AARP and write, "Philemon, old friend, would you do me a favor? I'm appealing to you, even though I could command you. I'd like you to do me this special favor."

You can feel Philemon's heart softening.

10 I appeal to you for my child, Onesimus, whose father I became in my imprisonment.

Philemon looks up into the face of Onesimus. “Am I reading this right? Paul led you to Christ? There in prison in Rome, Paul became your father in the faith like he became my father in the faith here?”

Onesimus nods, “Yes.” Philemon keeps reading.

11 (Formerly he was useless to you...

Philemon thinks, “That’s an understatement. He stole from me and then ran. Yes, he was useless.” Keep reading…

… but now he is indeed useful to you and to me.)

This is a BC/AC thing. BC – before Christ – Onesimus was achestos – not useful, not fit. AC – after Christ – Onesimus was euchrēstos – of good use, a good fit. The cross and the resurrection of Jesus change everything. When a person repents and believes the gospel – when a person comes to know Jesus, lives change.

The name Onesimus actualy means “useful” or “profitable.” Paul is saying, "Onesimus may have been useless to you once, but he is useful now. He is Onesimus now."

12 I am sending him back to you, sending my very heart.

Paul doesn’t use the common word for heart here. Instead, he uses splagchna, literally meaning “guts.” He says, “When I send Onesimus, I’m sending you the core of my being. I have a fond affection – a deep love – for Onesimus.”

13 I would have been glad to keep him with me, in order that he might serve me on your behalf during my imprisonment for the gospel,

“If he hangs out here with me in Rome, it would be good with me. He’s serving me and in serving me, he’s serving the cause of Christ.”

14 but I preferred to do nothing without your consent in order that your goodness might not be by compulsion but of your own accord.

Paul says, “I’m not twisting your arm. I don't want to keep Onesimus in Rome without your consent, so I'm sending him back to you. If you renew a relationship with Onesimus, I want it to be because you want to do it. Don’t do it just because I say so.”

That’s the heart of revolutionary love. Love doesn’t force or coerce. It doesn’t force anybody to do anything.


Check back for Philemon 15-22 and three prayers for revolutionary relationships.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Revolution: The DNA of a Radical Church - Refreshed (Part 1)

This is Part 1 of the message entitled "Refreshed" in our current series at CVC called "Revolution: The DNA of a Radical Church" taught on Sunday, February 14, 2010.

*****

Loving God and loving the world many times seem like they are a whole lot easier than loving one another.

It is fulfilling – even fun – to sit down with a cup of tea or coffee or hot chocolate and read the Bible, to get insights from God, to pray to Him, to feel His presence, to worship, to give Him time/talent/treasure. Loving God can be fun and fulfilling.

And it is fulfilling – even fun – to go to help rebuild communities in New Orleans and to help plant churches in Ghana and to serve the poor in Appalacia and to feed the homeless downtown. Loving the world can be fun and fulfilling.

But when it comes to loving one another, you don’t always come away feeling fulfilled. Think about what it feels like to try resolving a quarrel between you and someone else. Think about what it feels like to try refereeing a fight between two believers. Not as fun.

You’ll survive OK if you drop the ball with God or world. God will give you grace and the world has low expectations anyway. But if you drop the ball with a believer, you will pay.

But that’s the test of Revolutionary Love. Francis Chan in Crazy Love (p. 130) says,…

Today, I want you to think about 3 scenarios. 1) Think about some people you know who are in conflict. How do you show revolutionary love to those people? 2) Think about someone that you have hurt. How do you show revolutionary love to the person you’ve hurt? 3) Think about someone who’s hurt you. How do you show revolutionary love to the person who’s hurt you?

There is a possibility that those relationships can be “refreshed.”

Refreshed
text: Philemon 7-22

series: Revolution: the DNA of a radical church

Last weekend, we talked about how we should want to have “even more love” for God. We included a revolutionary prayer for us to pray – a prayer that will help us love god with even more love.

After reading that prayer last week, one young mom wrote to me. “I want this life... I want to give up anything, go anywhere, or do anything for Jesus. I want my life to be counter-cultural. My daily prayer has been so similar to [the one] you wrote… I want to love God with all my heart... with all of me. I have already made a commitment to God that I will not leave my house until I have been with Him in prayer and through the Word. This means even if I wake up late and [I have] an appt...then the appt gets canceled and I get my time with God. I made this commitment to the Lord b/c I know I have a tendency to fill my day without making God my first priority...this is not meant to be legalistic, but simply a Christian discipline. I have been wanting to grasp in my heart that I need God, that if I step foot out of the house w/out being filled with the spirit, I have NOTHING to offer anyways. I have been begging God to teach me that I am desperate for Him that I need Him and His Spirit each and every day.”

She gets it. Do I? Do you?

When we love God this revolutionary way, it will cause us to be able to love each other in revolutionary ways. The vertical impacts the horizontal.

What does a revolutionary love for brothers and sisters in Christ look like? How would we have to love one another so that outsiders thought our love for each other was radical – that the way we loved each other was different? What if our love stood out? What if it was deeper, stronger, bolder, truer than love found in the world? What would that love look like?

What we see in this tiny book called Philemon is a picture of revolutionary love for one another. I think we find a good example of this love in a letter from Paul to a friend.

First, the back story. We’re going to meet a man named Philemon. Philemon is a successful businessman. He had money and along with that in his culture came slaves. So, Philemon was a wealthy slave-holding follower of Jesus who lived in the city of Colossae.

While Paul was busy planting a church in Ephesus, Philemon heard the good news about Jesus began serving the cause of Christ in the Colossae. He opened his home for a group of Christ-followers to have house-church there.

At some point, Onesimus, one of Philemon's slaves, ran away. On the way out, he stole money or household items from Philemon. So, now, Onesimus is a fugitive slave living in the most populated city of the Roman Empire, hoping to escape detection.

Somehow Onesimus met the apostle Paul who is under house arrest in Rome. And Onesimus becomes a Christ-follower, too. And he begins to help Paul with his ministry as Paul writes letters and encourages people who come to visit him while he’s guarded by Roman soldiers.

Paul loves what Onesimus is doing to Paul. But he also knows that this fugitive slave's broken relationship and his wrongdoing against his master needs to be addressed.

So, Paul writes this letter to help Philemon see that Onesimus is a life that has been changed. And he wants Philemon to receive Onesimus back not as a slave but as a brother.

(And by the way, the truths found in this little letter helped lay the foundation for the abolition of slavery.)

So, Paul sends Onesimus back to Philemon with the letter in hand.

Think about the scene at the home of Philemon when this letter arrives. Philemon looks down the road and sees somebody coming. He says to his wife, "Here comes someone to see us. No. It can’t be. It is. It’s Onesimus. Let’s find out what he’s going to say about the missing iPad and the missing 10 K."

So, there’s pained look on his face as he waits for Onesimus. He says, “So you've come back, huh?”

Onesimus doesn’t say a word. He just hands him this letter from the Paul. Philemon opens the little scroll and begins to read. Let’s start at v. 7…



We’re going to continue at v. 7, so be sure to stop by for the next post .

Monday, February 15, 2010

Revolution: The DNA of a Radical Church - Even More Love (Conclusion)

Here is the conclusion of the message entitled "Even More Love" in our new series at CVC called "Revolution: The DNA of a Radical Church" taught on Sunday, February 7, 2010.

*****

When it comes to loving God, I will become even more joyous, even more generous…

… I will become even more audacious.

Now, let’s go back to verse 16.

16As the ark of the LORD came into the city of David, Michal the daughter of Saul looked out of the window and saw King David leaping and dancing before the LORD,

Remember, this is a great day for David. The presence and power of God are back for the people he loves and leads. He goes home to bless his family. He is a joy-filled man. Most everyone seems pleased with David’s worship. But at least one person isn’t happy. It’s David’s wife, Michal. Look at the last part of verse 16.

… and she despised him in her heart.

“Despised.” It’s the opposite of “appreciation.” She shows contempt for David. His joy-filled day ends on a sour note. Why? His number one critic is his wife.
(Even palaces aren’t free from conflict.) When David comes home after a day of exuberantly loving God, Michal lets him know she isn’t happy. Skip down to verse 20.

20And David returned to bless his household. But Michal the daughter of Saul came out to meet David…

David is headed home excited about God. But Michal is so upset that she can’t wait for David to enter the palace. She meets David outside and says, “Nice dance, David!” Again in verse 20.

Michal said, "How the king of Israel honored himself today, uncovering himself today before the eyes of his servants' female servants, as one of the vulgar fellows shamelessly uncovers himself!"

Sarcasm? She’s jeering. “Uncovered” means that David has taken off his royal robes and put on the ephod.

Michal is saying, “You aren’t dressed appropriately. Kings don’t dress like this. You’re acting like an immodest common man.”

She says that David looks “vulgar.” The word could be translated as “foolish” or “worthless.” “Hey David, what you call ‘worship’ I call ‘worthless.’ You’re acting ‘beneath’ yourself.”

Maybe she thought it was OK for others to show their love for God, but that David should be above it. She’s thinking, “My husband is making a fool of himself. If this is what it’s like to live with the presence and power of God, then count me out.”

Her heart is exposed. Maybe she just wants David to go through the motions like her.

What’s wrong with Michal’s heart? Why isn’t Michal with the people? Why doesn’t she join the parade? Why does she steer clear of loving God? She’s in the king’s palace. But she can see the procession – the worship. She sees the people. She hears the music. She’s watching. And she sees her husband, the king. And he’s whirling and dancing and leaping.

But Michal can’t bring herself to join in. Why not? Let me suggest a possibility. Here’s what we know about her. Tragedy had hit her life. I Samuel 31 tells us that in battle her father, king Saul, had died, committing suicide. And that’s what put David on the throne. On that same day, her brothers, Jonathan, Abinadab, and Malchishua, also died. Four close family members… gone. All on the same day.

Could it be that she struggled with worshipping a God who ran the world where all that had happened? Maybe it was pain and suffering kept her from worship.

Now, think about David. Pain and suffering could have kept him from worship. David had a loyal heart toward king Saul, but Saul tried to kill him. As a young adult in the prime of his life, David had to live life on the run. His wife had been taken away from David and given to another man. David’s best friend was Jonathan, Michal’s brother. And, remember, he had died. Now, David is king. And he is trying to bring worship back to the heart of the nation. And he watched a man named Uzzah be struck down by god – a man who was helping bring the ark to Jerusalem.

He could have said, “How can I worship a God who runs a world where all this has happened?”

Maybe that right where you are today. Tough stuff has happened for you in this world that God runs. And you wonder, “Why should I love God?”

21And David said to Michal, "It was before the LORD, who chose me above your father and above all his house, to appoint me as prince over Israel, the people of the LORD - and I will make merry before the LORD.

“Merry.” It’s word that means “playing” joyfully. The KJV uses the word “play.” David is saying, “My worship will be joyful and playful. You can say what you want. You think you know more than me how a king is supposed to act. But let me remind you that God chose me to be king over your father. He may not have loved God, but I will.”

How happy are you in worship? Some of us are satisfied with just going through the motions.

Question. If you supervise anyone at work, is that what you want from an employee? Do you want people who just go through the motions? Who are bland? No! We want people around us who are living lives that are filled with passion. A “you-can’t-ignore-me” kind of life.

Some words of caution.

If you are a “going through the motions” in your love for God, don’t judge the passionate people. Be careful how you react to passionate people. You don’t want to become a Michal to them.

If you are striving to love God passionately, make sure you are really worshipping “before the Lord.” I’ve been around some people in worship and it felt to me like they were trying to draw attention to themselves. If your way of showing your love for God in public worships is really discouraging or distracting a good hearted follower of Christ, then you need to watch out.

If you are a passionate lover of God, expect this: Some people won’t like it. Michal didn’t like David’s worship.

One of our problems with our worship is that we care too much about what the lukewarm lovers of God think. Not David. Look at what he says to his wife.

22a I will make myself yet more contemptible than this, and I will be abased in your eyes.

“If you have a low opinion of me because I worship God, you will have an even lower opinion. If you think that worshipping God makes me a small man, then just plan on seeing me shrink more and more in your eyes. You ain’t seen nothin’ yet! Because I’m going to worship more and more this way!”

Sometimes we forget that God loves to honor His people. Michal thinks that David as king is going to lose credibility in the eyes of the people because he’s so passionate about God. But look at what David says.

22b But by the female servants of whom you have spoken, by them I shall be held in honor.

He’s saying, “Here’s what I predict: The more I passionately love God in my worship, the more I will be honored by the very people you say will dishonor me.”

Sure, the “going through the motions crowd” will hate me. But I’m going to live for the Lord. And I know that if I do that, I will be honored by true lovers of God. If I love the Lord, the world will despise me, but the Lord will defend me.

Michal mocked David. And in doing so, she brought judgment on herself. As David’s queen, she may have thought, “David and I will have a son. And that son will sit on the throne one day.

But God gave her barrenness.

23 And Michal the daughter of Saul had no child to the day of her death.

Question: Could it be that God is seeing to it that your dreams are left unfulfilled? You’re missing out. Why? Could it be that in your heart that you are going through the motions and that are inwardly mocking and despising anyone who is truly loving God?

When it comes to loving God, I will become even more joyous, even more generous, even more audacious.

So, who are you most like in this story? Michal or David?

A Revolutionary Prayer:

Jesus, I must be honest and admit that You have not been the most important thing in life to me. I am deeply sorrowful about that. Please give me grace to repent. Please change me. I want to enjoy You genuinely – to find my greatest pleasure in You. And I want to become more generous and audacious in worshipping You. I want to love You more than anything on this earth. I can’t make any of this happen by myself. I need You to help me love You more. I need You deeply and desperately. Help me to see that You are the Source of every good thing – that You are great and good, that You are life and love, that Your death and resurrection have changed everything for me. I believe that You are better than anything I could have in this life or the next. I want You. And when I don’t, I want to want You. Be all in me. Take all of me. Have Your way with me. Amen.
Inspired by Francis Chan, Crazy Love, p. 111

A truth to take home: Revolutionaries keep on falling in love… with God.

A verse to take in: “We love because He first loved us” (I John 4:19, ESV).

A change to take on:
___ I believe Jesus loved me enough to die on the cross for me. I am receiving Jesus as my Savior and Lord today. I want to love Him in return.
___ I would like to follow Jesus’ example and command by being baptized.
___ I will look for ways to be (check one or more) __ joyous, __ generous, __ audacious in my love for God.
___ I will join you in praying “A Revolutionary Prayer” for the next 30 days.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Revolution: The DNA of a Radical Church - Even More Love (Part 3)


Here is Part 3 of the message entitled "Even More Love" in our new series at CVC called "Revolution: The DNA of a Radical Church" taught on Sunday, February 7, 2010.

*****

When it comes to loving God, I hope we can all say, "I will become even more generous."

Look II Samuel 6:13…

13And when those who bore the ark of the LORD had gone six steps, he sacrificed an ox and a fattened animal.

The first time David tried to bring the ark to Jerusalem, he didn’t follow God’s directions. And a man died. So, for three months, the ark was kept in someone’s home.

And during those three months, David did his homework. He’s searched God’s Word about how to transport the ark. Now, the day has come to bring the ark to Jerusalem. And David does it the right way. Priests carry it with poles on their shoulders.

But why a sacrifice every six steps? Well, God worked in creation six days and then rested. So, David and the people are following God’s pattern. Six steps, then sacrifice. And notice who’s footing the bill for these sacrifices? David is.

How many steps from Obed-edom’s house to the place where the ark would rest? We don’t know for sure. But we do know that David joyfully went to a lot of trouble and expense to worship with passion.

Loving God in a revolutionary way is sacrificial. It requires that you give your time, your talent, and your treasure. Every six steps… sacrifice. What if we took that seriously? What if after every six steps, we said, “Jesus, I give my time and talent and treasure to You; I love You”? Or what if we expressed our love for Jesus after every six “to dos” are done or after every six hours? Certainly, after every six days, we ought to show up at a worship service and give God our time, our talent, our treasure.

17And they brought in the ark of the LORD and set it in its place, inside the tent that David had pitched for it. And David offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before the LORD.
18And when David had finished offering the burnt offerings and the peace offerings, he blessed the people in the name of the LORD of hosts


David’s heart goes out to the people who are lining the streets. They are there celebrating this coming of this symbol of God’s presence and power to the nation’s capital. David wants to bless the people.

19and distributed among all the people, the whole multitude of Israel, both men and women, a cake of bread, a portion of meat, and a cake of raisins to each one.

David is worshipping the God who has blessed him and now he has to let those blessings spill over to others. So, as the king, he digs into his own wallet and gives to the people. See, loving God makes you a lover of people.

When we worship, we are reminded that God has been so very generous to us. He’s loved us. He’s given us Jesus. He’s forgiven us though what Christ did on the cross. He’s given us the sure hope of heaven. He’s met our needs. And when we think of how He’s blessed us, we love Him back. And then, we want to love others.

***

Be sure to check back for Part 4 of this message.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Michael Oh on Revolutionary Love for one another

In prepartion for my message this week, I came across this message from Michael Oh at Urbana. It's 12 minutes long. But good. Really good. Take a look. It will get you ready for the messages at CVC/707 this weekend.

Here’s the official description of the video: “Michael Oh uses his own history of anger toward the Japanese to explain that reconciliation begins with a personal conviction of sin. As a Korean-American pastor and missionary to Japan, he has learned that we who are loved undeservedly must love unreservedly.”

Michael Oh from Urbana 09 on Vimeo.

Revolution: The DNA of a Radical Church - Even More Love (Part 2)


Here is Part 2 of the message entitled "Even More Love" in our new series at CVC called "Revolution: The DNA of a Radical Church" taught on Sunday, February 7, 2010.

*****

And as we work our way through II Samuel 6:12b-23, look for three primary ways we can show God even more love. I hope you be able to say this:

When it comes to loving God, I will become even more joyous.

Face the facts. Lots of us think that loving God is boring. Wrong! Look at verse 12.

12b David went and brought up the ark of God… to the city of David with rejoicing.

Rejoicing. Loving God is rooted in joy and bears the fruit of joy. True worship doesn’t produce long-faced, bored-out-of-their-minds people. Loving God won’t make you miserable. We were created to love God. And that will make us more joyous.

We’re going to come back to verse 13 later. For now, let’s look for evidence of David’s joy in verse 14.

14And David danced before the LORD with all his might.

The word “dance” can be translated “whirling.” It’s a kind of spinning, leaping thing that David is doing. David was not embarrassed to worship God extravagantly – physically.

The Bible says we have to get physical with our worship. Here’s what God’s word says about how to use your body in worship.

We can worship…

Sitting, I Chron 17:16; Standing, Ps 33:8; Walking, Ps 48:12; Dancing. Ps 149:3; Leaping, II Sam 6:16; Eyes up, Ps 123:1; Eyes down, Lk 18:13; Bowing, Ps 95:6a; Kneeling, Ps 95:6b; Face down, Rev 7:11; Clapping, Ps 47:1; Lifting hands, Ps 63:4

Why lift your hands? Because in lifting your hands, you say, “I surrender. I volunteer. I receive. I celebrate.”

Some of us think kneeling is too formal, too ritualistic. Other of us think hand-raising is too radical, too Pentecostal. We all bring our upbringing and reactions and prejudices to the Loving God table. But we have to be careful about that. I hope we are committed to just be biblical. Don’t you just want to do what the Bible says? If God reveals that He wants to be loved in these ways, let’s just do it!

Keep in mind that David is a king. He’s just been crowned. There’s a certain way to behave. With dignity. There are certain clothes you should wear. Royal robes. “Hey, I’m king. I want to be respected and honored.” But look at verse 14.

14 And David was wearing a linen ephod.

An ephod? What’s that? An ephod is something that a priest would wear. It’s a rectangle of cloth in the front and the back held together by straps over the shoulders and a belt around the waist. It’s what priests wore for worship.

David, the King, says, “The best thing I can do on this day is not get all dressed up like I’m a ‘somebody.’ I’m not trying to impress anyone. I won’t wear the clothes of wealth. I’ll wear the clothes of worship.”

David isn’t worried about looking like a king. He is busy being a worshiper. David isn’t concerned with public perceptions. He isn’t concerned about protecting his dignity.

15So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the LORD with shouting and with the sound of the horn.

This is happy music. It’s pure praise. It’s loving God with music.

We are in love with music in America. There are some great songs and some great sounds out there. But the best songs should be about Jesus. He’s the only One who loved you enough to die for you.

I’m so very grateful for the people are CVC who have musical gifts and who have leveraged those gifts for God. These people are gifts to the church and they are big in the eyes of God.

The singing that we do at church? It’s not just the opening act for the message. It’s a way to let God know that we love Him.

16As the ark of the LORD came into the city of David, Michal the daughter of Saul looked out of the window and saw King David leaping and dancing before the LORD…

We’ll finish this verse later. But for now, just focus on the fact that this was a great day for David. The presence and power of God was back for the people he loved and led. He went home to bless his family. He was a joy-filled man.

I wonder. How joyous are you when it comes to loving God?

Do you love God? Really? Some of us don’t think it’s cool to love God.

I grew up in a home with lot of testosterone. I had no sisters, but two big brothers. My brother, Jerry, once broke his wrist and he used to bang me over the head with his cast. (Maybe that explains why I’m a few brains cells short!) In a house with all boys, you were trained to be tough. And now, Maryanne and I have three sons of our own. How does loving God fit into the testosterone zone? Loving God is for wimps, right? Not really.

Some of us think worship is for women and girly men.

But David was a man’s man and was maybe the most passionate lover of God in the Bible. In fact, the Bible says he was a man after God’s own heart (I Samuel 13:14 and Acts 13:22). I want you to think with me about who this man was.

David was a shepherd. As a young shepherd, the Bible tells us stories about how he killed a lion and a bear to protect his flock. Tough job… shepherd. Alone. In the elements. Facing danger.

David was a soldier. They used to sing a song about him, “Saul has slain his 1000s, but David his 10,000s.” He fought in the days of hand-to-hand combat. He was a bloody warrior. In fact, in David’s first fight as a young soldier, he faced a Philistine enemy giant named Goliath. No one else in Israel’s army had the guts to face him. But David did. He killed the giant. And then, for good measure, cut off his head.

David was a sovereign – a king. When this story takes place, he’s about 30 years old. And he has just been installed as the King of Israel. His name is on the tip of everybody’s tongue.

He’s a shepherd, a soldier, a sovereign; not a wimp. He was a man’s man… yet we are going to see a man who is passionate about loving God. He wanted to experience the presence and the power of God.

If we think we’re too tough or too important or too busy to love God, then we’re the wimps. But if we want to access more of God’s presence and power in our lives, we’ve got to learn to love God and to be happy in Him.

Be sure to check back for Part 3 of this message.

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