Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Worship Pastors?

Worship pastors seem to me to be a strange thing. I believe that we should really lose the term entirely (my church is still small and we don't have a worship pastor. yet? ) 

Here is the issue: we have often elevated worship music to the status of worship....and it is not. It is part of worship, and an important part at that, and I love sining songs to God, old or new. That being said we to often see singing worship as the totallity of worship, and that is to make a fatal mistake.

I'd argue that unless we worship God with all of our lives (Rom 11, 1 Cor 10:31) Monday to Sunday in whatever we do, we are not really worshipping him, no matter how intese or spirtual our sunday singing may have felt. Of course that brings the obvious point that it really does not make a difference how we feel, it really matters what God feels about our worship. 

Which makes me wonder again: if we sing songs repeatedly to worship God becuase it feels good has it then ceased to be worship and instead become the idolatry of self?

John Piper

John Piper is an outstanding preacher...good old shcool reformed teaching check out his website at Desiring God  his sermons are available for donwload and well worth listening to. He preaches from time to time at Mark Driscol's church Mars Hill which is where I picked up his stuff.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

SermonJams

http://relevantrevolution.com/home.html

 

Some great stuff here, if you can get past some of the frustratingly annoying backing music...short, punchy sermons with good substance by some well known names...make copies, pass them on and let’s get Jesus message out there!

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Great Article on the Divinity of Jesus

Mark Roberts is a PCUSA minister who’s blog I read. He has written a great series on Jesus divinity. In this outstanding article he outlines some of the early development of the theology of the Early church with regards to the divinity of Jesus. It is very helpful as an apologetic tool against those who would suggest that the divinity of Jesus is a much later invention.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Chinese liers

I feel so cheated after watching the Olympic opening ceremony on TV and being wowed by it all. We are now told the girl who sang the song was actually lip synching because the girl who had the voice was not pretty enough and it "was in the national interest" to have a pretty face and a good voice. Likewise many of the fireworks where pre-recorded too.

It seems that so much of what China shows the world is a lie when the truth behind the scenes is something far more serious and devious. Whilst they might be the next superpower I think that their misinformation, lies and rhetoric will outdo even that of the current superpower, the USA.

It seems like nothing around us is what it seems. Lying seems acceptable if it will get us riches or power and what I find most disturbing is that people accept it and carry on as if nothing happens.

Perhaps it is time we stood up for the truth and for the one calls himself the Truth. Perhaps it is time that the church took a stand against corruption and lies that face us each and every day. I am not suggesting that the church become political, but I am suggesting the church speaks out against corrupt politics and lying politicians. Otherwise we stand to be mislead like we were at the Olympics and we fail to see what is really happening. We have the wool pulled over our eyes and we miss the wood for the trees.

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it."

Perhaps it is time that we allow Jesus light to shine into the darkness of this world.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

So long bud...

Yesterday my close friend Hannes died whilst climbing on Mont Blanc in the Alps.

His last mail a week back was “next week i am off with Mark Johnston to climb something big and alpine and so and so for 3 or 4 days...grim life! ciao H”

Here is a pic of Hannes (left) and I on the summit Mount Kenya almost three years ago to the day in happier times!

Hannes loved the Lord, amidst the questions and wrestles we all have as we face the confusion and difficulty of life. The sadness is losing him when he was at the highest point. It seemed that everything had finally come together and he had recieved answer to prayers prayed over many years. He had just relocated to Switzerland to be with his girlfriend Angelika and he was happier than he had been for a long time, they where planning to come back in a couple of months and already we'd begun to speak of what we'd climb.
There are so many moments that we shared roped together, sometimes just the two of us, other times with Ty another close friend. We shared laughter and fear, we had moments of silliness and other moments where we reflected deeply on life. There is a kinship of the mountains that can never be explained to those who have not shared it, a brotherhood of the rope - a bond that runs deep. There is something amazingly surreal about sitting on a ledge hundreds of meters above the scree slopes, arms buzzing after an epic pitch of Cape Town sandstone, your mind in a place so free, feet dangling barefoot over the void, a gentle breeze and the African sun warming your back - moments when it almost feel like you're touching heaven in God's creation - it is those moments with Hannes that I will remember forever.
Hannes died doing what he loved most, perhaps in heaven we get to do those things we love most again - I sure hope so and Hannes my prayer is that you're busy cranking the crux on some epic heavenly route!
Cheers bud, we’re gonna miss ya!

Monday, August 18, 2008

New ways of reading the NT?

Some parts of the emerging movement are focused on us reading the scriptures in a ‘new way’ basically reinterpreting the Bible to show how Jesus is concerned with the world here and now and that the Gospel has a massive social impact.

 

I recently read McLarens ‘everything must change’ whilst on a stint in hospital. And whilst I find the book challenging, helpful and hopeful, I do have a concern. Whilst I agree with that aspect of the Gospel, and the reading between the lines approach to see what Jesus meant, I am concerned that this new movement has missed the basic stuff that Jesus actually said.

 

There is very little talk if any of sin, resurrection and the life to come. These things that I believe are of primary importance are often plainly missing. Whilst there are parts of the emerging church movement that are great and effective I really often find myself thinking they are searching the scriptures so hard to find things that Jesus might have meant that they miss what he so obviously said!

 

What do you think?

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Where is our faith heading...

More and more I find in my pastoral work as minister of the church that I am involved in, that people are believing a more diverse set of ‘truths’ than ever before. There are all sorts of influences to this style of belief:

  • The pluralistic values that most people buy into (all roads lead to Rome, all religions are equal)
  • Political correctness (that we are unable to judge other beliefs)
  • The church of Oprah (see below for a previous post)
  • A lack of basic doctrinal training and teaching in the church (Doctrine is irrelevant and experience is everything)

But what I see is Christians believing a very alternative set of truths and spiritual ideals that fall far outside the realm of orthodox Christian doctrine. Whilst I am all for a diversity of opinions and a tolerance towards other beliefs I do find some of this hard to stomach in so far that it really takes liberty of opinion further than I believe Jesus or the scriptures would allow us. For those outside the church: believe whatever makes you happy to believe. But my concern lies with those in the church. I am not a wildly charismatic believer where anything not directly approved by the Bible is evil, but I do have my deep reservations about the spiritual origins and influences that some of these beliefs have, and particularly that many who call themselves followers of Christ believe these things. The problem for me is a dumbing down of Christian belief to a set of universally accepted principals that other religions might also believe. And as long as these basic ideals are the same another religious belief will be compatible with Christian faith: For example many Reiki masters abide by five principals:

  • Do not be angry
  • Do not worry
  • Be grateful
  • Work with integrity
  • Be kind to others

These are great principals that any Christian would be happy to live by, but to contend that because these ideals are compatible with some of the ideals of Christianity that Christianity should accept Reiki (or any other similar new age religion or teaching) is a stretch that I am not prepared to make.

Almost all new age teachings or spiritualities speak of an unseen "life force energy" that flows through us. And what happens is most people say “wow that kind of makes sense – they must be talking about the Holy Spirit” – well I am convinced that this is not the Holy Spirit. A spiritual force that all people are able to access is not the Spirit of Jesus, the Holy Spirit is given only to believers in Jesus and to equate the third person of the trinity with some universal and impersonal force (I have visions here of Darth Vader “The force is strong with you young Skywalker!” ) is erroneous at best – blasphemous at worst. The Holy Spirit is God, and he is the one who guarantees those who belong to Jesus a hope for eternity (Eph 1) and empowers us to be Jesus agents in this world, to bring truth, justice and reconciliation in Jesus’ name (1 Thess 1). Finally the Holy Spirit will always testify to Jesus work ministry and truth (1 John 5).

This is not the same spirit that is proposed by a myriad of New Age religions that are punted by Oprah and the likes. Not everyone has the Holy Spirit and to suggest that they do is to misunderstand the New Testament witness at a substantial level. The abundance of teachings like The Secret, A New Earth, Reiki, Body Talk and a countless host of other influences are infecting the church and eroding the truth that the early church fought and died to pass on to the next generation.

So I find myself asking myself the question: How do we as leaders in the church deal with this?

Do we simply clamp our eyes and ears shut and see no evil, hear no evil? Do we pretend this is not an issue and hope it goes away (I am pretty certain it won’t)

Or do we speak strongly against this? ( possibly undoing the work of the grace of Jesus or chasing some away from the church)

Or is there a middle path?

I am still not sure of my answer.

Where is our faith heading...

More and more I find in my pastoral work as minister of the church that I am involved in, that people are believing a more diverse set of ‘truths’ than ever before. There are all sorts of influences to this style of belief:
  • The pluralistic values that most people buy into (all roads lead to Rome, all religions are equal)
  • Political correctness (that we are unable to judge other beliefs)
  • The church of Oprah (see below for a previous post)
  • A lack of basic doctrinal training and teaching in the church (Doctrine is irrelevant and experience is everything)
But what I see is Christians believing a very alternative set of truths and spiritual ideals that
fall far outside the realm of orthodox Christian doctrine. Whilst I am all for a diversity of
opinions and a tolerance towards other beliefs I do find some of this hard to stomach in so far that it really takes liberty of opinion further than I believe Jesus or the scriptures would allow us. For those outside teh church: believe whatever makes you happy to believe. But my concern lies with those in the church. I am not a wildly charismatic believer where anything not directly approved by the Bible is evil, but I do have my deep reservations about the spiritual origins and influences that some of these beliefs have, and particularly that many who call themselves followers of Christ believe these things.

The problem for me is a dumbing down of Christian belief to a set of universally accepted principals that other religions might also believe. And as long as these basic ideals are the same another religious belief will be compatible with Christian faith: For example many Reiki masters abide by five principals:
  • Do not be angry
  • Do not worry
  • Be grateful
  • Work with integrity
  • Be kind to others
These are great principals that any Christian would be happy to live by, but to contend that because these ideals are compatible with some of the ideals of Christianity that Christianity should accept Reiki (or any other similar new age religion or teaching) is a stretch that I am not prepared to make. Almost all new age teachings or spiritualities speak of an unseen "life force energy" that flows through us. And what happens is most people say “wow that kind of makes sense – they must be talking about the Holy Spirit” – well I am convinced that this is not the Holy Spirit. A spiritual force that all people are able to access is not the Spirit of Jesus, the Holy Spirit is given only to believers in Jesus and to equate the third person of the trinity with some universal and impersonal force (I have visions here of Darth Vader “The force is strong with you young Skywalker!” ) is erroneous at best – blasphemous at worst.

The Holy Spirit is God, and he is the one who guarantees those who belong to Jesus a hope for eternity (Eph 1) and empowers us to be Jesus agents in this world, to bring truth, justice and reconciliation in Jesus’ name (1 Thess 1). Finally the Holy Spirit will always testify to Jesus work ministry and truth (1 John 5). This is not the same spirit that is proposed by a myriad of New Age religions that are punted by Oprah and the likes. Not everyone has the Holy Spirit and to suggest that they do is to misunderstand the New Testament witness at a substantial level. The abundance of teachings like The Secret, A New Earth, Reiki, Body Talk and a countless host of other influences are infecting the church and eroding the truth that the early church fought and died to pass on to the next generation.

So I find myself asking myself the question: How do we as leaders in the church deal with this?

Do we simply clamp our eyes and ears shut and see no evil, hear no evil? Do we pretend this is not an issue and hope it goes away (I am pretty certain it won’t)

Or do we speak strongly against this? ( possibly undoing the work of the grace of Jesus or chasing some away from the church)

Or is there a middle path? I am still not sure of my answer.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Jacob


OK so last Sunday I preached on Jacob wrestling with the angel at the Jabbok river. A fascinating passage and I spent a lot of time reading and researching to make sense of it. I though I gave the message a good run.

I write this blog four days later lying in hospital recovering from a broken hip after crashing my mountain bike. One of my elders who was unable to make worship called to say that on wednesday shortly after hearing about my accident opened his daily devotional to find the Genesis 32 passage on Jacob having his disclocated whilst wrestling the angel.

Rather strange?

Of course if we beleive there are no coincedences then the question must be asked...what exactly IS God trying to say to me?

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Small or Big

No I am not talking about waist lines, but about church size.

There seem to be two movements in the church these days. On the one hand are the mega-churches, sometime meeting in multiple locations with one minister doing all the preaching and teaching, othertimes holding many services at different times in one large venue.

The second movement is characteristic of the emerging church movement. These churches meet in small informal and intimate environments and many of the people will be participative in the worship. There is a belief that these churches are more "biblical" than mega churches.

Let me make some comments and open it up to some discussion. It is clear that the early church met in both homes and at temple worship and so there seems to be some biblical model for both styles. Secondly Jesus spoke to large crowds, sometimes significantly bigger than some mega churches. Peter too at Pentecost preaches to thousands of people. There is clear evidence of both styles of meeting.

The move towards smaller churches is caused by a number of factors and I dont want to enter into all of them here. Some are around accontability and community which I value very highly and agree with completely.

But one of the issues is the centrality of the preacher. Whilst I firmly belive in conciliar leadership (leadership by a council of leaders) and that the only person the church should be build around is Jesus, there are gifted men and women who are called to preach and others who whilst called to lead should not be allowed near a pulpit :) In many of these post-modern smaller churches there is no specific preacher and the baton of bringing the message is passed around from one Sunday to the next. And I just don't agree with that. Not all elders are teachers/preachers, they may have wisdom, integrity and maturity of faith, but some really should not be allowed to teach up front.

Personally I do not like being the center of attention and get annoyed when people focus on me rather than the subject of my message, Jesus. but I also realize that by God's grace I do have the ability to expplain the scriptures in an engaging way. Not all the elders I have served with have that ability.

So there is my opinion (for what it is worth being a precher :) )

Comments...?

Saturday, August 2, 2008

God's grace

Recently new life church (of Ted Haggard infamy) had a terribly tragic shooting. But it is in traumatic moments that God works his power int eh most amazing ways. Read the following excerpt from a LeadershipJournal article, it is a powerful testimony of what the grace of God is able to do with our brokenness.

 

FYI:  The Murrays son had shot and killed four people at the church, two of whom are the daughters of the Works family.

 

A few days after this interview, Pastor Boyd quietly contacted the family of Matthew Murray, "Would you like to come to the New Life campus … to see the place where your son passed away?" Overwhelmed with gratitude, Ron and Loretta Murray admitted they had longed for this very thing, but they'd felt they would be invading what they knew had been a tragic and difficult situation for the church. So they had stayed away.

Now they agreed to come. Boyd then asked them if they'd be willing to meet with the Works family. They said they would. He asked the Works, in turn, if they'd be willing to meet with the Murrays. Surprisingly, they also agreed.

Before the meeting, Boyd spent some time alone with the Murray family, retracing the steps of Matthew Murray on the church grounds, up until the place in the hallway where their son passed away. Many tears and hugs were shared as they grieved and prayed together over the tragedy.

Later, in Pastor Boyd's office, David and Marie Works joined the Murrays. "What happened there in the two hours in my office … was the most significant ministry moment I've experienced, maybe in all of my life," Boyd said. When they first entered the office, the two families embraced. They sat, wept, and cried together, Boyd said, for "I don't know how long."

Then they prayed together. Later Jeanne Assam was invited to join them. When Jeanne, who had undoubtedly saved many lives but had been forced to shoot the Murray's son, walked into the room, "the Murrays embraced her and hugged her and released her from any guilt and remorse. The dad looked at Jeanne and said, 'Please know we're so sorry that you had to do what you did. We're so sorry.'"

We are reminded in the Bible not to repay evil with evil—not to be overcome by evil but to overcome it instead with good. The families involved in these tragic events are showing how to live out their faith by clinging to what is good in the face of unimaginable pain.

"We can talk philosophically about repentance and redemption and going forward with God," Boyd said, "but what I saw in that room in my office was the greatest testimony of forgiveness and redemption that I have ever seen. It was a testimony that God really can restore and redeem."

 

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Last Sunday

I helped out at our Durbanvile church and did a panel discussion with two elders and a colleague minister. The congregation had submitted questions prior to the service for us to answer. Some really good ones (although old and unanswerable :) ) came in:

Slavation of children or those who have not heard the Gospel.
Literal vs metaphorical rading of scripture (in particular relation to the two genealogies of Jesus in Matthew and Luke)
And then suffering related particularly to Zim and in light of Luke 12:22-34 ("Do not worry...")

It was great fun and we really did some good work. My colleague Douglas ended with a quote from "Night" by Elie Wiesel and spoke about God being real in that suffering...he spoke immensly powerfully. In Elie's book a young child is being hanged in Auschwitz and someone asks "where is God?" and the answer comes back "There on the gallows..." very powerful message that we know God through the suffering of Jesus on the cross.

I read the book yesterday morning. It is an outstnding if harrowing read about the horror of the German concentration and extermination camps. I find myself fascinated by these places and would love to go to Auschwitz. Marisa nd I went to Dachau when on holiday in Europe in 2000 and it was a truly fascinating and moving experience.

All this pain and suffering around us raises deep questions about God, his goodness and power. They are the same qustions that have been asked since the very beginning and the same questions to which there are still no answers. all we can do is to wrestle with God as we seek to find understanding and hope in Jesus who is alive!

Back from leave and into the swing of things...

Great to be back from leave and hopefully a new season of blogging.

Watched some of Oprah yesterday. I used to like her show but the last months I find myself getting more and more uncomfortable with what she is focusing on. Whilst she calls herself a Christian I find that very hard to believe, when her show focuses on new age thinking, reincarnation and the such like. Each to his own I guess...

But what frustrates me is that so many Christians, young in their faith and lacking discernment get so easily confused about what is truth and somehow we also think that what is on TV is true...the world is a crazy place and it would be great if those who are the church could see the truth and also the lies paraded as truth...

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Leave...

OK so the one or two of you who read this blog...I am going to be on leave so not sure how much I will be posting on it for the next five weeks... see you August!

 

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Sola Scriptura

The reformation cry was sola scriptura – by scripture alone, sola gracia – by grace alone and sola fide – by faith alone. And whilst at first glance these may seem quite obvious, the interpretation of what that may mean may be quite different from person to person. The scriptures and the way that they are used vary immensely from person to person and from church to church. I have so often sat with someone and found that we have quite different understandings of a single passage because of our culture and worship style.

 

 This page has a great article about sola scriptura outlining some of the different views. It is only part one so check the site in a day or two for the rest of the article.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Discernment in the church

A number of times in the last couple of weeks I have been quite surprised by a number of people who I had considered mature Christians, being impressed by a number of teachings that to my mind and, I believe, by any normal interpretation of scripture are heresy. I uses these words carefully as I understand the power of them, but these teachings seem to be exactly that.

Secondly these 'churches' have become cults and I use that word because what is happening and what is being taught is beyond the realm of Christian orthodoxy as it is recorded in the Bible and as it has been passed to us through the early church. I understand that to criticise in this pluralistic culture is not really popular. My aim in not so much criticism, but to point out the immense dangers that the church faces. This is a little like your child running around the garden playing around the edge of a large hole - you obvioulsy warn of the inherent danger of doing that. That is my aim - to help us remain true to the teaching of Jesus.

Let me share with you two of the teachings that have gained massive popularity these days:

Joel Osteen and the prosperity cult: Joel is a prosperity teacher. Basically properity teaching is a heresy where we are taught that not to be healthy, wealthy and wise is to be outside of God's blessing. People are desperate for wealth and with the immense commercial pressure on them, they are finding that desire fulfilled in this teaching. Mark Driscoll is a preacher who I think preaches solid doctrine, he makes some comments that you might find helpful in understanding this issue.

The Florida outpouring: There is a supposed move of the Holy Spirit happening in Florida at the moment. The leader of this movement is Todd Bently, who whilst immensly passionate is dealing with something that is not God. I found this video - it really needs no further explanation except to say that for those who believe that this is of God are being led into the world of the demonic.

There seems to be a general lack of discernment in the church these days. Perhaps it is or desire for the next big thing, or the belief that new is better than old. But whatever it's cause, it is reason for concern to all of us who follow Jesus, because these teachings are not about following Jesus, they are about self and self-fulfilment. Jesus says whoever loses his life will save it...sounds quite a bit different to a lot of what is being peddled as Christianity these days....

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

For those that can read Afrikaans this is a great version of 1 Corinthians 13 for fathers (it is Fathers day this Sunday!)

1 Korinthiers 13 vir Pa

Al sou ek die mooiste huis in die buurt hĂȘ en met die duurste BMW ry, maar my vrou en kinders geniet nie die weelde van my teenwoordigheid nie, dan is ek so waardeloos soos 'n bankkrediet met 'n nulbalans.

Al het ek die gawe van woorde sodat ek 'n direksie met my argumente kan swaai, of skares na my preke kan laat stroom, en ek het nie die liefde om na my kinders te luister nie, doen ek meer kwaad as goed.

Al ken ek die geheimenisse van die Beurs en die Reserwebank; en besit ek al die kennis van rugby- en die krieketreels; en al het ek al die geloof dat ons hierdie land met gebed kan verander, maar ek het nie die liefde om my kinders die gevare van baie geld te leer, langs die baan te staan as hulle speel of hulle te leer bid nie, dan het ek niks bereik nie.

Al gee ek 'n dubbele tiende vir die armes, en al beroem ek my dat ek in elke liefdadigheidsraad op my dorp dien en vakansies my gesondheid opoffer om in malariagebiede sendingwerk te doen, en ek is te moeg om saans vir my kinders boeke te lees of naweke in die veld te gaan stap, baat dit my alles absoluut niks.

'n Pa wat liefhet, is geduldig met kinders wat sukkel met wiskunde;

'n Pa se liefde is vriendelik met 'n kind wat nie wil rugby speel nie;

hy is nie afgunstig op pa's met slimmer of mooier kinders nie;

hy is nie grootpraterig en verwaand oor sy kinders se prestasiesn ie;

'n Pa se liefde handel nie onwelvoeglik met die ma van sy kinders nie; soek nie sy eie belang sodat sy huismense laaste kom nie;

is nie liggeraak en nukkerig as 'n kind bietjie ekstra aandag soek nie;

'n Pa wat sy kinders liefhet, hou nie boek van hulle foute en peper hulle met verwyte nie.

'n Pa verbly hom nie oor 'n kind se foute met "Ek het jou gewaarsku maar jy wou nie luister nie".

Hy is verheug as hy sy kinders die waarheid hoor praat - selfs tot hulle eie nadeel.

Daarom wil ek my kinders se skandes met liefde bedek; in hulle glo, die beste vir hulle hoop, en hulle kleredrag, klaery en kritiek verdra.

'n Opregte drukkie en 'n intieme gesprek van 'n ouer bly lank in 'n kinderhart.

Maar die preek of toespraak wat ek liewer in die tyd wou skryf - sal oormore weer vergeet wees.

Vandag se noterings op die aandelemark - is volgende week niks werd nie.

In die lig van die Volmaakte wat kom, word al my kennis en besittings gerelativeer.

Toe ek 'n jongman was, was ek gesteld op my voorkoms, my motor en my
geleerdheid; maar noudat ek pa geword het, wil ek graag my kinders met liefde, balans en geloof grootmaak.

Nou kyk ek nog vas teen rebelse tienergesigte, maar eendag as hulle groot is, sal hulle verstaan wat ons hulle wou leer, en wat God ons
almal leer.

En nou......

Geduld, aanmoediging en liefde bly, Maar die waardevolste hiervan is onvoorwaardelike liefde !!!!!

*Bron: Mini-stories vir pa's, gepubliseer deur Lux Verbi. *




Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Benediction

Read an article by Gordon McDonald about the benediction some time back that got me thinking. The last words that the minister says at a worship service. Normally “May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, And the love of God our Father and the fellowship of the Holy spirit be with you now and always” The benediction is one of those things that we take for granted or ignore completely.

A number of times I have been to churches where there has been no benediction at all. And i have felt let down...as if worship was almost anti-climactic. I was waiting for it to end and the next thing it was over and I felt like someone had stolen the last sip of my coke!

I think part of the issue is that ministers have forgotten our priestly calling, and this is true not only for ministers but for all christians who are part of the priesthood of all believers. The benediction is not just a tradition of empty words that are nice to hear. I really do believe that these words are a blessing, a commisioning and an anointing of Gods people. They are words that prepare God’s people for battle in the world.

Paul always blessed the readers of his letters...perhaps we should take our benedictions a little (lot) more seriously than we often do. We do after all have the Spirit of the Living God in us and he uses people to bless others. Let’s use our last words carefully and be God’s
instruments of grace.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Emerging, emergent, missional...

Here is a helpful article for those wandering through the maze of the modern church... 

Friday, June 6, 2008

Hope...

Last night at our discipleship group we watched Louis Giglio’s “Hope” DVD. If you have not yet seen Louis in action, he is an awesome preacher, really easy to understand really true in his doctrine. Hope is really one of his best sermons, I have only watched the first DVD so I am keen to see the second one. But his basic premise is out of John 16:33 that you will have trouble – but Jesus says take heart I have overcome the world...he has a really moving illustration from a family who lose their daughter...watch it if you get  a chance it really is good.

 

He is coming to South Africa in August to do a Passion tour for 18-25 year olds (and their pastors J ) so I am looking forward to hearing him live!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

The emerging church...

OK so the buzzword these days is the emerging church (not emergent…that is something else)

I love some of the ideas that the emerging movement is coming out with, an attempt at contextual ministry, rethinking tradition, trying to create a New Testament church..if that is possible. Really they are trying to engage the postmodern culture and some of the big questions that are being asked.

But the movement has at points, I believe, missed out on some fundamentals. There are some core things are missing. Rob Bell the influential pastor who does the ‘Nooma’ DVD series is a brilliant communicator but he never speaks about sin and repentance, fundamental themes in the New Testament (check out Romans 5&6) and this is ture for many other merging types...

It seems that I am not alone in my concerns…Mark Driscoll has this to say and David Fitsch responded...

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Destiny of the unevangelized...

Michael Paton from  Reclaiming the mind has a short but interesting post on Theologica. It’s a great conversation about what happens after death to those who have not received the Gospel offered by Jesus. Check it out! I’d be keen to hear where you stand…

 

I definitely think the post-mortem option is beyond the hope of the Bible, but other than that there are a number of options that are consistent with various statements in scripture.

 

 

The gospel(s)

Sometimes it really does seem like there are two gospels. One focused on fixing social ills and issues: poverty, racism etc. And there is the spiritual gospel where salvation is about eternal life. The gospel is more than just either of these…it is both of them and more than.

Other than social issues, and eternal life, I believe the gospel includes good news for the creation: For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross Col 1:20

But it is still more than this too…our gospel is often just too small. The gospel is the pinnacle of good things. The gospel is good news for everything in life that is bad news. It is the opposite of everything that is destructive, negative and evil. Paul writes in Romans 5 that sin came through one man how much more will life come through Jesus (heavily paraphrased – go read it!) Jesus came to bring life in every place there is death or the vestiges of it!

I guess the gospel is one of those perfect medicines…good to heal everything. Jesus really is good news in a multifaceted way, and some parts of his power will only be revealed in times to come…man I can't wait!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Living in community

The church is a strange beast. You’d think that belonging to Jesus would make us all really, really nice, and easy to get along with! Ha if you think that you’ve obviously never been part of a church!

 

Again today I spent time with someone who has been hurt by the church. It was unintentional, but this person somehow was made to feel that they do not fit, that they are somehow outside the circle. Many people have spent much of their lives feeling outside the group. Not cool enough, clever enough or fast enough to be one of the team. How often do our churches not continue that exact earth-bound mentality. Instead of being the diverse family that God intended us to be, we often strive to become monochromatic, same thinking groups. Little huddles of people who are very similar to each other.

 

But something deep in me says that is not what God intended. God loves the diversity of human life and experience, or he would not have given it to us. The church should always have room for those who are ‘different’. What about the slow of mind, the physically broken or those who for whatever reason battle to fit in socially, is there no longer home for them in the church?

 

And we think the xenophobia is someone else’s evil…perhaps we should look closer to home.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Xenophobia II


Today we baptized my second born, Alex, it was a great service. One of the things we did as worship was to make a call for our church to help reach out to some of those affected by this horrible xenophobia. This is not really xenophobia but something much more violent and evil. This is a return to the horrible past of this country of ours.


Rainbow nation…not quite.


Zapiro's comic says it all:


Anyhow we raised over R15 000 to help those affected to begin to restart their lives! We also have collected 2 car-fulls of clothes, non-perishible food and the like. Some of the money and items will be going to Bellville Presbyterian Church our sister church who are helping 60 folk by housing them at the church and feeding and clothing them. Awesome resoponse!! This is what the gospel is all about. Sharing the justice, mercy and compassion of Jesus with those so desperately in need. The rest of the money and clothes will be going to the Western Cape Council of Churches to help 1700 displaced people in Kayalitsha.


As I reflected on this issue this evening with a bunch of teenagers, I believe that God gets mad at this. If money lenders in the temple got Jesus riled, I think this must get God worked up. Anger is OK if it moves us to get involved and rectify the wrong. It is time for God’s people to stand up with a righteous anger and lets make this world the kinda place Jesus wants it to be.


Let’s think carefully next time we pray “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven…” it might mean us getting really involved in some of God's work in this world...


Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Great quote

Gotta love this one from Mark Driscoll about some branches of the emerging church:

“There is a strong drift toward the hard theological left. Some emergent types [want] to recast Jesus as a limp-wrist hippie in a dress with a lot of product in His hair, who drank decaf and made pithy Zen statements about life while shopping for the perfect pair of shoes. In Revelation, Jesus is a prize fighter with a tattoo down His leg, a sword in His hand and the commitment to make someone bleed. That is a guy I can worship. I cannot worship the hippie, diaper, halo Christ because I cannot worship a guy I can beat up. I fear some are becoming more cultural than Christian, and without a big Jesus who has authority and hates sin as revealed in the Bible, we will have less and less Christians, and more and more confused, spiritually self-righteous blogger critics of Christianity.”

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Shack



A friend recently gave me a copy of The Shack to read (click on image at left to find online) It is touted by Eugene Peterson of The Message fame, to be the modern Pilgrims Progress. The basic story is a grieving father receives a note to meet God in the shack where his daughter was murdered. There he meets God and interacts with him (her?). God the Father is a large black lady called Papa – this is a bit of an adjustment, Jesus is a bloke doing his carpentry and the Holy Spirit is a women of Asian origin.



I was skeptical at first, but I actually really enjoyed the book. It is helpful in understanding the trinity in many ways, it really helps one in some sense to wrestle with this eternal mystery of who the three persons of the trinity are. But there are some caveats.



There are some theological issues with the books view on the trinity, so I would be careful about talking it all to heart. The following three where pointed out by Mark Driscoll in a recent sermon he preached at Mars Hill Church.



Firstly, God being a woman is an interesting issue that Mark brings up. I am not sure I entirely agree with him saying this promotes goddess worship. There are attributes of God that reveal himself to us as feminine as well as masculine, the Bible to is written in a male centered society and it would have been natural to address God as father. Unfortunately we have no gender unspecific language to talk of a personal God without falling back to make/female language. I can let this slide, but it is a bit of an adjustment



Secondly there is the issue of modalism. That God has chosen to reveal himself at different times in different ways. So in the OT it is God the father, in the NT God is revealed in Jesus and now we live in the age of the Holy Spirit. This theology denies the distinctiveness of the three persons that have eternally made up the Godhead. They where all together in the beginning as the language of Genesis makes very clear. It is theologically incorrect to pray to God the Father as if He died on the cross – Jesus did. Modalism returns to the idea of one God showing himself in three modes…this is not orthodox doctrine. The Bible attests that the three persons of the Trinity are distinct.



Thirdly and perhaps more importantly there is the issue of hierarchy in the Godhead. The three persons of the Trinity are equally part of God, equally important in us understanding God, but they have different roles. In the book Young has God saying that “hierarchy makes no sense to us” But this is again contradicting scripture. Jesus tells us “I only say what the father tells me to say” Jesus tells us that “I will send the Holy Spirit…” there is a clear structure to the Godhead. There is a flow of authority and power from one to the other. The ancient Christian way of praying by the power of the Spirit through Jesus the Son, to God the Father is helpful in us understanding that there is a hierarchy of roles in the mysterious concept of the Trinity, but that each person has equal place and importance.



So the book is a worthwhile read, but I would be hesitant to base any sort of substantial understanding of the Trinity based upon it. Happy happy…

Monday, May 19, 2008

Xenophobia



This is yet another disturbing image of the xenophobia happing in our country at the moment. There is no information as to whether this man died or not...

What is the church's response to this horror? Jesus has always stood up for the oppressed, the marginalized those who always seem to take the worst society can dish out. Of course there are all sorts of economic reasons to be chasing the foreigners out when we have enough hungry mouths of our own to feed. But that is thinking with our wallets and not with the Spirit that Jesus put into us. Luckily this has not yet been happening to this extent in Cape Town. But it will soon be here no doubt...the only question is 'how will we as Jesus church respond?"

In Matthew 23:23 Jesus in one of his angry moments says "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former."

How will we play out Jesus' justice and mercy here and now? Let's get ourselves into action...

The Comrades

OK so Gareth sent me this link about a Christian making some noise about the Comrades on a Sunday. Basic issue that he raises is that those who died on the Marathon last year may have done so because of God's judgement. I find this kind of attitude very hard to deal with in light of what Jesus says in Mark 2:27 "Then he said to them, 'The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.'" It is important to take a sabbath rest day, but what about ministers, or doctors, nurses, emergency staff and the suchlike? I get really irritable with this kind of narrow minded quasi-christian legalism... I cannot imagine what Jesus would have to say. It is this kind of attitude that the emerging chruch is coming out from, trying to return to where Jesus wants us to be...what do you think?

Friday, May 16, 2008

Evangelical manifesto

As some of you may have heard there has been an evangelical manifesto put together to speak out publicly what evangelicals in the US are about. With the over politicizing of evangelical ministry there are many misconceptions. So they released the manifesto

Here is an extract from the manifesto summary:

As followers of Jesus Christ, Evangelicals stress a particular set of beliefs that we believe are true to the life and teachings of Jesus himself. Taken together, they make us who we are. We place our emphasis on ...

1. Jesus, fully divine and fully human, as the only full and complete revelation of God and therefore the only Savior.

2. The death of Jesus on the cross, in which he took the penalty for our sins and reconciled us to God.

3. Salvation as God’s gift grasped through faith. We contribute nothing to our salvation.

4. New life in the Holy Spirit, who brings us spiritual rebirth and power to live as Jesus did, reaching out to the poor, sick, and oppressed.

5. The Bible as God’s Word written, fully trustworthy as our final guide to faith and practice.

6. The future personal return of Jesus to establish the reign of God.

7. The importance of sharing these beliefs so that others may experience God’s salvation and may walk in Jesus’ way.

Perhaps it’s just me, but do you notice something missing?

Other than implicitly in item 6 there is no mention at all of the resurrection. I find this strange. The resurrection is the central truth of Easter. I mean let’s be brutally honest here. Anyone can die on a cross, painful yes, but doable. But it takes something special to be raised from the dead! I think the manifesto is great, a return to some of the values that evangelicals started with. But perhaps they could have thought this out a bit better.

Life can be sad

I spent some time with an old Jewish man today. He has been very successful in so many ways and a disaster in so many others. He is wealthier than most, but has strained relationships with many family members. He has worked hard at amassing wealth, but as we sat talking over a cup of coffee, he said in an unguarded moment “I have done nothing worthwhile with my life…”

We prayed and he and his wife where quite moved that a young pastor should come and pray with them…

I hope that when I get to the end of it all I can look back on my family, my friends and all those whom I have served and be able to say “I did OK, by God’s grace, I did OK…”

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Alriiiiighty then...four posts in two days
Mars Hill Bible church http://www.marshill.org/ is where Rob Bell best selling speaker on the 'nooma' video series preaches

Mars Hill Church http://www.marshillchurch.org/ is the church of whom Mark Driscoll is the minister

They are not the same thing...I was listening to some of the videos (links in previous posts) and was surprised at how 'normal' they sounded. I mean Mark Driscoll preaches doctrine and heck even predestination!!! Quite unlike Rob Bell, and I was confused...until I realised that they are two different churches both with quite divers flavours...:)

DOH!

Another Mars Hill link

Mars Hill has a series on doctrinal issues. This one is answering questions asked by members about prosperity preacher Joel Osteen:

www.youtube.com/watch?v=7IuiUOapK1w&feature=related

Monday, May 12, 2008

wow two posts in two days..

They say you should start in the same way you hope to begin..not likely

Anyhow here is a link to a YouTube vid that I have found helpful, it is from Mark Driscoll the pastor of Mars Hill church in Seattle…

I was recently reading “The Shack” which was enjoyable, but certainly not entirely on the button. Mark makes some comments on it… check out www.youtube.com/watch?v=pK65Jfny70Y

OK so my first post...
hmmm what to say?

Well today I listened two two lectures at Stellenbosch by Prof. Scot McKnight from http://www.JesusCreed.org
He is easy to listen to and shared on Teaching the Bible to a postmodern generation and The Missional Jesus. My only complaint was that he has left me wanting for more. Perhaps it is my measly 3 year BTh degree, but I could easily sit for a year listening to his lectures on the NT.

Scot is one of the leading lights in the emerging conversation, but he has not gone as far afield as some of Brian McLaren's stuff...He is pretty sound doctrinally and raises some really interesting points on interpreting the message of the Gospels.

The most striking point was that we often read the Bible in Maestro mode...basically we read the Bible through the eyes of one or other of the authors of the Bible. Most notably (and probably true for me) is that many of us read through Paul's eyes. It colours and flavours almost everything we read.

I'd never thought about it till now, but it's a good point, we can miss out on some important ideas and themes...