Thursday, November 24, 2005

 

Standing Firm

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. 17 And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.
1 John 2:15-17 (NKJV)
The more you seek to live for Jesus and the more you press to keep His Word, the more opposition from the enemy you will receive. The one thing I have tried to do over the years is to be firm in my position on a given matter without being obnoxious. The world, especially in our culture today, is very adept at trying desperately to squeeze any notion of mind-independent, objective truth.

Telling the truth and standing for it, however calmly or meekly one might do it, will earn you the respect of some and the scorn of others. I found a quote from Watchman Nee that is as apropos now as it was the day he wrote it:

When the world meets in us a natural human honesty and
decency, it appreciates this, and is ready to pay us due
respect and place in us its confidence. But as soon as it
meets that in us which is not of ourselves, namely the divine
nature of which we have been made partakers, its hostility
is at once aroused….For let the world evolve as it will, it
can never produce one Christian. It can imitate Christian
honesty, Christian courtesy, Christian charity, yes, but to
produce one single Christian it can never aspire. A so-called
Christian civilization gains the recognition and respect of the
world. The world can tolerate that; it can even assimilate and
utilize that. But Christian life the life of Christ in the Christian
believer: that it hates, and wherever it meets it will assuredly
oppose it to the death. [link]

I ask myself every day if I am willing to stand up for what I believe even if those close to me do not understand it. And every day, God seems to allow situations to come up that will test me on it. He allows the same for the Church. Who we are committed to serving and pleasing, who we truly love, is always reflected in our response to those pressures.

We are Christ-followers. We are to please no one but Him.


Wednesday, November 23, 2005

 

'Megachurches' Draw Big Crowds

By Joyce Kelly and Michael Conlon
Tue Nov 22, 8:26 AM ET
On a recent Sunday at Willow Creek Community Church, a Christian rock band joined by dancing children powered up in the cavernous main hall, their images ablaze on several gigantic screens.

Thousands of worshipers from the main floor to the balcony and mezzanine levels were on their feet rocking to a powerful sound system. Outside cars filled a parking lot fit for a shopping mall. Inside some people drifted into small Bible study groups or a bookstore and Internet cafe for lattes, cappuccinos and seats by a fireplace.

This church near Chicago and others like it number their congregations in the thousands on any given Sunday in stadium-size sanctuaries; but in the end a major appeal of America's megachurches may be the chance to get small.


Institutions like California's Saddleback Church, Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Illinois and Houston's Lakewood Church, each drawing 20,000 or more on a weekend, offer not just a vast, shared attraction but a path that tries to link individuals on a faith-sustaining one-to-one level beyond the crowd, observers and worshipers said.

Rick Warren, founder of California's Saddleback Church and author of the best-selling book "The Purpose-Driven Life," told a seminar held earlier this year by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life that about 20 churches in America have more than 10,000 in weekend attendance.

"These churches can do a ton of things that smaller churches can't," said Nancy Ammerman, professor of the sociology of religion at the Boston University School of Theology.

"They have the resources to produce a professional-quality production every weekend, with music (often specially composed for the occasion and backed by a professional ensemble) and video and lighting and computer graphics and a preacher who knows how to work a crowd," she said.

But they also support "dozens or even hundreds of specialized opportunities for people to get involved in doing things with a small group of others. If you want someone to talk to who really understands what it is like to parent an autistic child, you may find a whole support group in a megachurch," she added.

MORE CHOICE
"Or if you really love stock car racing, but hate being surrounded by drunken rowdies, you can go with a busload of your church friends. I wouldn't say that there are fewer rules in most of these churches. Most of them really expect people to get involved in ways that can have a profound impact on their lives. It's just that there are so many paths into involvement that a smaller church just can't match," Ammerman said.

That's part of what Richard and Nancy Sauser of Schaumburg, Ill., said they found at Willow Creek where they have been members for more than 10 years. They attend regularly with their daughters, ages 5 and 7. The 30-year-old church draws 20,000 weekend worshipers.

"Anything they put their minds to, they can pretty much do," he said, marveling at the power inherent in size. But he added, "Willow Creek has the resources to effectively execute on multiple facets of church life," through more than 100 different ministries.

Sauser said he does not attend Willow Creek for its size but for the teaching and the ministry.

When the thousands at Willow Creek break into smaller groups for Bible study, the men's ministry, the special needs ministry and the adult ministry, a lot of life change occurs. "In the small groups, that is where it really gets good," Sauser said.

When the crowds head for Willow Creek's parking lot, attendants in orange vests direct processions of cars into smoothly paved parking lots ahead of the 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. services. Inside, the throng moves through the hallways and up and down escalators and stairs, welcomed by smiling greeters.

Some drop off children at Sunday school.

On the first floor Danielle Jackola of Hoffman Estates, Illinois, a mother of two who recently moved to the area from California, has come in search of a church. After listening to dynamic lead pastor Gene Appel speak on family and passing the baton of faith from one generation to the next, she liked the message -- and the entertainment.

"I had never been to something like that. I think that is one of the ways of getting your numbers up ... to get the message across but to keep it fun and upbeat. And more contemporary to get more young families involved," she said a few days later -- after deciding to join the church.

SEARCH FOR MEANING
Scott Thuma, a sociologist of religion at Hartford Seminary in Connecticut, said his research indicates there are at least 1,200 U.S. Protestant churches which claim more than 2,000 weekly attendees.

Megachurches are addressing the needs of Americans who are disinterested in "traditional church" yet want to deepen a sense of meaning in their lives. Classes and volunteer ministry opportunities lead to a deeper commitment, he said.

"They have opened worship to the seeker and the unsaved rather than reserving Sunday worship for the saved and sanctified," Thuma added.

The three largest churches are Saddleback, Willow Creek and Houston's Lakewood. But Warren said the world has far larger churches, pointing to mammoth Christian congregations in Nigeria, South Korea and elsewhere.
Warren said U.S. Protestants have returned to the 19th century roots of the evangelical movement, emphasizing social issues such as caring for the sick, the poor and the powerless, and not just concentrating on personal salvation.

"The small group structure is the structure of renewal in every facet of Christianity, including Catholicism," Warren told the Pew forum. He said his church has 9,200 lay ministers leading more than 200 different ministries all over southern California with 2,600 small groups in 83 cities.




Wednesday, November 16, 2005

 

Random Thought

Thought: I recently made the switch back to the New American Standard Bible from the English Standard Version.  The political debates surrounding translation principles are far too ridiculous for me to allow them to get under my skin.  Far too often for some conservatives, the issues surrounding gender-inclusive language is rooted more in protecting patriarchal territory in the pulpit and home than anything else.  My own personal belief is to receive the text as the text is given.  God has equipped believers to understand that when a “he” is universal and when it is specifically referring to a male.  I prefer a more literal translation and hence, I prefer the NASB.  I don’t use it exclusively and use a lot of other different translations in addition to the latest Greek and Hebrew texts to help me with study.


Thursday, November 10, 2005

 

Pat Robertson: Foot in Behind Again

Televangelist Robertson warns town of God's wrath
By Alan Elsner2 hours, 53 minutes ago

Conservative Christian televangelist Pat Robertson told citizens of a Pennsylvania town that they had rejected God by voting their school board out of office for supporting "intelligent design" and warned them on Thursday not to be surprised if disaster struck.

Robertson, a former Republican presidential candidate and founder of the influential conservative Christian Broadcasting Network and Christian Coalition, has a long record of similar apocalyptic warnings and provocative statements.

Last summer, he hit the headlines by calling for the assassination of leftist Venezuelan Present Hugo Chavez, one of President George W. Bush's most vocal international critics.

"I'd like to say to the good citizens of Dover: if there is a disaster in your area, don't turn to God, you just rejected Him from your city," Robertson said on his daily television show broadcast from Virginia, "The 700 Club."

"And don't wonder why He hasn't helped you when problems begin, if they begin. I'm not saying they will, but if they do, just remember, you just voted God out of your city. And if that's the case, don't ask for His help because he might not be there," he said.

The 700 Club claims a daily audience of around one million. It is also broadcast around the world translated into more than 70 languages.

In voting on Tuesday, all eight Dover, Pennsylvania, school board members up for re-election lost their seats after trying to introduce "intelligent design" to high school science students as an alternative to the theory of evolution.

Adherents of intelligent design argue that certain forms in nature are too complex to have evolved through natural selection and must have been created by a "designer." Opponents say it is the latest attempt by conservatives to introduce religion into the school science curriculum.
The Dover case sparked a trial in federal court that gained nationwide attention after the school board was sued by parents backed by the American Civil Liberties Union. The board ordered schools to read students a short statement in biology classes informing them that the theory of evolution is not established fact and that gaps exist in it.

The statement mentioned intelligent design as an alternate theory and recommended students read a book that explained the theory further. A decision in the case is expected before the end of the year.

In 1998, Robertson warned the city of Orlando, Florida that it risked hurricanes, earthquakes and terrorist bombs after it allowed homosexual organizations to put up rainbow flags in support of sexual diversity.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
How come God seems to judge "liberal" towns for rejecting God in the classroom but Robertson's God ignores all the lying and cheating in Washington DC where the conservative Evangelical Messiah George W. Bush administration is struggling with ethics/integrity issues?

Is God blind?

Nope.

Didn't think so.

 

Change Is 'Bout to Come

I recently just got accepted into a volunteer ministry at The Dream Center in Los Angeles where I will be working in the area of Teen Discipleship. I'm pretty excited, especially about the weather. As a mild asthmatic, I look forward to 70 degree temperatures year around. But more importantly, I look forward to seeing what God will do and how He will do it. God adventures always turn out to be wilder than anything a Christ-follower could imagine.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

 

A Ball of Confusion

Over the last few years, I spent several hours engaging in some very deep and at times heated debate over the nature of Scripture, its role in the life of the believer, and of course around the person and divinity of Christ. The arguments against Jesus as “the only way” were particularly offensive to them. Of course, some of the ones most offended were professing Christians.

If the world is confused about Jesus Christ, then it is because a great number of those claiming to know Him are as well. I have heard a number of scholars attempt to dismiss verses where the exclusivity of Christ is fairly clear with a lot of exegetical gerrymandering.

But if Scripture informs Scripture, then I should also find the same central teachings throughout the New Testament.

It makes little sense to me to claim that Jesus isn’t the only way of salvation for humanity when His mission from the start was to save humanity (Matt. 1:21; Luke 2:25-32). In addition, John 3:16 underscores Jesus’ salvific concern for “the world” and not merely for those specific persons who would follow Him. Peter makes the issue even clearer in Acts 4:12 that there is salvation “in no one else” (cf. 1 Tim. 2:15).

If we’re not getting the story right amongst ourselves, then it makes perfect sense that the world would be confused about who Jesus is. Then again, taking Jesus seriously would also require one take Scripture seriously and perhaps that is the problem right there.

But in the end, the one thing that I walked away from the numerous discussions I had with my friends was my own need as a preacher/teacher to hold fast to the Living Word Himself, to Scripture with an open ear and a clear understanding of my own frailties. Jesus alone knows who belongs to Him and who does not.

Solo Christo

Friday, November 04, 2005

 

Fellowship: It's On You...And You...And You

POHS: Part III

A Blogger's Ramble on Fellowship

My following thoughts and concerns are fairly fluid and ever changing so do not expect to make much sense out of them, lol.

I could easily craft this post around the principle that real Christians go to church but I won’t because I simply do not believe that. On the contrary, I believe that since real Christians are the Church, we need to rethink what fellowship is according to the Lord Jesus Christ and according to the Scriptures.

The New Testament is clear on the importance of being connected to other believers. Not only is this a matter of ministering to one another (Acts 2:42-47; 4:32-35; Phil 2:2-5) but also of maintaining accountability in the faith (Heb 10:24-25). In other words, spiritual formation is worked out here daily as we sharpen one another in the faith to obey the commands of Christ and preach the Gospel. That is the heart of the Great Commission itself (Matt. 28:18-20).

The “Stay Away Saint” syndrome where believers Spiritual formation cannot take place apart from maintaining fellowship with other saints. What is changing is the views of some about whether the worship gathering (i.e. church service) ought to be considered the central point of the week. It is clear, however, that there was no either/or mentality when it came to worship gatherings. Believers continued to meet regularly in the temple/synagogue for public worship (Acts 2:46, 4:1, 5:12, 5:17-21, 5:42) but they also met in homes (Acts 2:46-47; 12:12; 18:7).

There are a number of reasons why folks want to stay home. From my own struggles some Sundays, I have found myself bored by the gatherings. Others complain about the routine of the service or the length of the service as being “too long.” Some did not like the music sang. Whatever the reason, I am convinced that skipping corporate worship gatherings is NOT the answer.

A Christ-follower who has been baptized into the body of Christ can no more try to disengage from corporate fellowship with other saints than I can change my DNA and try to get new parents. In addition, the very nature of the body analogy that Paul makes underscores the complexities of trying to function apart from the corporate fellowship of believers.

True, the building is not the church. The actual worship gathering is not the church. The church is the people and those who you meet on your job or in your neighborhood who are Christ-followers. But if Scripture is to be the rule of faith for the Church, I cannot justify ignoring corporate gatherings. The early church didn’t. In fact as we’ve seen, they had both temple gatherings as well as home gatherings. We are the body and the Holy Spirit works through us individually (via the gifts of the Spirit distributed to each one) to edify the whole body of Christ as well as to make disciples of all nations and peoples.

The fact is that we need each other, especially today with all the technological advances that are cropping up daily. Blogging and instant messaging are fast becoming the cheapest ways to talk to others without having face-to-face contact with them. And there is nothing wrong with that. After all, how many folks who read Paul’s epistles ever met him personally? But the big issue here is that blogging and instant messaging ought not become substitutes or excuses for skipping corporate gatherings where believers come together to worship Christ and honor the sacraments of baptism and communion.

There is nothing like being in the presence of live people who serve the same God and who are supposed to be fulfilling the same mission: the GREAT COMMISSION. More importantly, we are commanded to meet together in the first place (Heb. 10:24-25). We are like restless and helpless babes in the wild if we disengage from some form of gathering because our “needs” are not being met.

Frankly, I had to examine whether or not I was being selfish when I flirted with the “Stayaway” issue. I had to examine if my attitude was so focused on what I could “get out of” the exercise of going to church that I had lost focus of the primary purpose of corporate worship in the first place: WORSHIPING GOD. I believed that I had and decided to repent and change my attitude regardless of where I was worshiping.

I also had to come to the understanding that when I attend a worship gathering, I might be able to encourage and admonish other Christ-followers and receive the same. I definitely believe that, especially after my mom went home to be with the Lord very unexpectedly at 52 in January 2004. I'm not sure I would have survived without the local fellowship I was a part of or without the godly men and women through whom the Holy Spirit ministered to me.

And here is where the power and presence of the Holy Spirit is so important. Because He has baptized us into the body of Christ and because He has distributed spiritual gifts for the edification of the body, our unity and connection is all the more important. I can tell people that I have the gift of teaching or prophecy all day long but if I am never meeting with other saints to allow the Holy Spirit to use those gifts for the edification of others, then it means NOTHING.

Fellowship is a matter of the Holy Spirit working through our connection and communion to do the will of God in the earth. How is the Holy Spirit to operate and draw sinners to Christ through a collection of disjointed body parts asserting their right to “be alone”? There are far too many verses that speak to the power of biblical community and unity to give up on corporate gatherings (Act. 4:32; Rom. 12:5; 1Cor. 1:10, 1Cor. 12:12, 25-27; Gal. 3:28; Eph. 4:3-6; Phi. 1:27;2:1-5; Col. 3:11-14; 1Pet. 3:8,9).

This should not, however, be an excuse to ignore some of the reasons why folks are having problems with today's version of “church.” Corporate gatherings and house gatherings are not an either/or but both/and for me personally. I bet we don't have this issue when it comes to the sports gatherings. LOL!

The Church must be the fluid, organic body she was called to be so that we effectively
represent Jesus to a sinful world who desperately needs Him.


Solo Christo


Monday, October 31, 2005

 

The Death of Kyle Lake

I am absolutely stunned to silence and shock over the accidental electrocution death of Kyle Lake, the pastor of University Baptist Church. Words cannot express how I feel right now. I just read the news posted on Ginkworld by John.

My prayers and thoughts go out to his wife and three children as well as his church family. May the peace and presence of God be with them all.

kat

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