Friday, November 21, 2008

Effect on the World

God called Israel (and through them the church) to receive God’s blessing so they could be a blessing to the world. God’s people are God’s gift to the world. Each one of God’s people should turn their niche in the world upside-down. The world should see the life and conduct of God’s people, and be blown away.

Which has several implications:

  • God never intended his children to do this by themselves. So, the children need to gather in families, which are also armies. We cannot think of a horde. We need to think of squadrons or platoons. We can only be effective at that level.
  • Worship meetings are not the be-all and end-all of following Jesus. Some people consider a worship meeting the primary method of demonstrating Jesus to the world. And it can be a part of that demonstration. Even if a meeting has a revolutionary effect on those who do attend, not everyone will attend. Baggage from past experiences, or expectations based on wrong information or incorrect perspectives, will convince many people to avoid any type of church meeting. So, those in Jesus’ family need to conceive of a way to engage the world outside of the meeting. (This at a time when the church seems to fear the corrupting influence of the world more than believe in the positive influence of the Holy Spirit and God’s family. As a result, they avoid engaging the world.)
  • The government and society are becoming increasingly secularized and anti-religious. The church continues to expectthat it can get the government to do its work for it. In many ways, the church acts like we are still in medieval times. It believes the world revolves around it and it stands in the center of society and holds all the strings. The universe does revolve around God. But the church began on the fringes of society. It did move to the center. But there was no guarantee that it would stay there. Indeed, it is moving back to the fringes.

Monday, October 20, 2008


God mad Man to be a creature of habit. When faced with a complex process, humans will always internalize the process until the can perform it on auto-pilot. It works this way with religious processes too. People develop habits of spirituality. Except we tend to call them tradiitons or rituals. These habits have a strong possiblity of taking over, so people need to be in continuual renewal so their relationship with God does not deteriorate into ritual motions.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Living Sacrifice (pt. 2)

Since, our life is intended to be worship ― demonstrated by words, actions and thoughts that agree with God’s purposes ― then our lives must conform to God’s purposes. Life flows from the inside out. So, our hearts must change. Our thinking must be transformed so our word and deed are transformed. We take new pattern that agrees with God’s purposes. It is like we have transformed DNA. We belong to a pattern that God approves. We can know, agree and duplicate God’s pattern. God’s DNA expresses God’s purposes in life and the world.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Living Sacrifice

Paul urged us to give consideration to God’s mercies. And as a result of that consideration, give our bodies as a “living sacrifice.” When I think about sacrifices, what occurs to me is that sacrifices give themselves totally. It has no rights, no conditions. There is only surrender. Paul points out that this surrender that is holy and pleasing to God. This surrender is worship.

This surrender affects a person’s heart. It impels a person from the core of his being to act, speak and think in ways that please God and conform to His purpose.

Worship is not longer just going to a meeting and singing praises, rehearsing in our mind God’s works and character. Worship becomes living out God’s purposes in our everyday living.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Evangelism - Storing

We do not harvest crops for exercise. Does it make sense to pick a bushel of beans, but leave them sitting in the garden? This whole process of preparing, sowing, cultivating and reaping is people could enjoy the fruit. This whole process of spiritual horticulture is so God can enjoy the fruit.

We store the fruit, so it doesn’t spoil. And there are several methods to do this: drying, canning, and freezing. And people could partially prepare food – like make spaghetti sauce – before storing it. Storage is probably the most important step.

We do not have food to rot in the garden. We do not leave babies to fend for themselves. Why do we think new followers of Jesus are fully ready to go it alone? And we don’t send babies to school. Having formal classes are not bad. But parenting is not simply making sure children get to school. There is modeling, relating, and fostering values. These cannot be done in a classroom setting.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Evangelism - Reaping

This is the part of the process that everyone in the current church seems to focus on. A person makes a commitment to follow Jesus. He is born again. He is reconciled to God.

There are many tools that people can use for this. All of them seem to do a good job of explaining the process of commitment. Everyone needs to know how to complete this step.

It is an important step. Just like the birth of a child is an important step. But any parent will tell you, birth is just the start. And God says that every one of His children was reborn to have a relationship with Him. The process does not stop at the decision. The process has just begun.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Evangelism - Cultivation

I am using the word to include all those things involved in producing positive growth, like water, fertilizer, and weeding. These are controllable factors (if you turn the sprinkler on) that can be wisely applied. Love, compassion and service can show God's heart for people. As can, inviting people to participate in situations that enable them to connect with God's family, to interact with them and observe them, and observe them interact with one another. And defending truth steadfastly, persistently, faithfully, but with patience, kindness and gentleness.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Evangelism - Sowing

Seed is often used in scripture as a metaphor for the word of God. One plants different seed at different times, in different ways. Peas are planted very early. Cucumbers, squash and melons are planted in small mounds. Corn is clustered together. The timing and method of the planting determines the fruitfulness of the seed.

Successful evangelism involves proclaiming the word of God. Yet like gardening, there are timing and methodology issues. Today it is possible to go to a Starbucks and get in a spiritual conversation with a Muslim, a Buddhist, a Wiccan, a Mormon and a chemical-determinist. Each requires different approaches and different truths. Different truths are necessary, because they are in different stages of their journey. So, one may be ready to hear the good news message, from one of the popular tools. And another may only be open to a tiny bit. We need to approach each person with spiritual sensitivity, applying that part of the word that is needed.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Evangelism - Preparation

In the Bible, evangelism is described using an gardening metaphor. It is a process and each part of the gardening process can be viewed as part of the "good news" process.

The first step in gardening is preparing the soil. There are a number of things to do in preparation. The gardener needs to decide what to plant. Corn? Beans? Peas? Cucumbers? The methods of planting these common plants is different for each plant. He has to break up the soil. He has to lay out the garden, according to what is being planted.

There are a number spiritual practices that can be put under this category. There is prayer. And prayer with different focuses: to soften hearts, to remove obstacles that blind eyes, to hinder the enemy's work that causes confusion, discouragement and despair.

This area could also include acts of service, mercy and compassion within the local community. These acts can communicate the heart of God's people. Jesus served people who did not know Him by acceptance, healing their ills and insight into their problems.

It can also include lifestyle choices and practices to demonstrate integrity, character and Christ-like attitudes. The last two paint a picture of a positive effect of following Jesus to the world. The first works with God to promote a positive spiritual climate where all reparation can have the greatest effect.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


Evangelism usually creates mental images of televangelists in big stadiums, unwanted intrusions knocking at your door, or someone sticking a pamphlet in your face. Usually, impolitely. Evangelism is derived from a Greek word meaning "good news" or "good report". Most people who are not part of God's family treat it like an intrusion. It doesn't seem to them to be good news at all.

It seems to me that for someone to receive it as good news, there is a process that needs to be gone through.

First, we need to demonstrate that in reality, it is good news. We need to show what a life of trust in Jesus means. Francis Schaeffer called this pre-evangelism. How we go about this changes, depending in circumstances, and cultural background. Sometimes rational arguments can be used. Sometimes an emotional stimulus is needed. And sometimes practical works. The end result that we are looking for, is someone saying "Hmm ... there is something good/right/true about this Jesus thing. Something that maybe I need." I am not suggesting that God's children over emphasize the positive aspects of living life with Jesus. Nor am I suggesting that they ignore or minimize the commitment and possible complications. Still, good news needs to be seen as good news.

Second, there is an explanation of the message of Jesus. Simply laid out. Tailored at the level of the audience's understanding. The Bible says we need to adapt our communication, rather than compel the audience to adapt to our communication.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

The focus of our attention also gives us a picture of the core desire of our heart. God has designed our hearts to fulfill our place in His kingdom. He has placed this core desire to motivate us to the place that has the most profit and gives us the most joy.

The enemy wants to prevent that desire from actualizing. He will give us a counterfeit. God's purpose will gain as much profit in proportion to our grasping and pursuing our desire. Our joy will follow the same way.

Focus of the Heart

Jesus continues His theme of heart focus. What we focus on reveals much about the condition of our heart. What we give our attention to fills our hearts, and conidtions our hearts. And our hearts take on more light ... or more darkness.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Heart Focus

Jesus gave a series of instructions about people conducting spiritual exercises. (Fasting, prayer, giving to the poor, etc.) Some people would conduct these exercises in a way that would draw attention to their piety. Jesus simply states that God doesn’t give a reward for this. The attention from other people is their reward.

However, He seems to always go deeper. He is not concerned with the exercises per se. He is drawing attention to our hearts. What is the focus of our hearts?

The focus of these exercises ought to be the increase of depth, breadth and intimacy of our relationship with God. We can see the focus of the heart by its overflow. Where we expend our time, energy, money, passion and enthusiasm gives shape to our heart focus.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

It isn't how much you know that matters. It's how much you love.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Shrewd Manager

To carry this one step further, after telling that story, he tells another story. This one was about a rich man, who hires a manager to take care of his investments.

One day . the rich man orders the manager to update the books, because he has ordered an audit. Evidently, the manager hed made some bad decisions, so the books weren’t going to look to good. He figured he was going to get fired. So, he needed to quick prepare for the future.

He wasn’t in shape for physical labor. But he wasn’t too pleased about becoming homeless either.

He came up with a plan to create goodwill with the people he did business, so he cold get a job with one of them. He called them up, and reduced their bills. Whatever money he would receive from these outstanding bills was not going to take him too far. But a large amount of goodwill might. His boss actually complimented him on the idea. It showed he knew what was important and he was wisely able to weigh to the positives and negatives in a method to achieve it.

Jesus told the story of the lost sheep, the lost coin, the lost son, and then the shrewd manager. Does anyone serious think this story is about managing money?

So, Jesus asks, “Why is it that those who are supposed to be spiritually in sync with God can’t recognize what’s important, and wisely assess the positives and negatives of achieving it.”

God is not glorified by condemning bad people; God is glorified by transforming bad people into good people.

We need to make sure we use our resources to achieve that which is ultimately important. And we are not considering money necessarily. The Pharisees were supposed to have a superior knowledge of God, and a superior relationship with God. Assets that should promote transformation.

In the Lost parables, Jesus demonstrates that people do not have God’s perspective on the lost. And in the manager parable, Jesus demonstrates that people, who are in the best position to search for the lost, are not interested in searching for the lost.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

The Lost Parables

Jesus told stories to teach about spiritual truth. And it seems to me that a lot of times his stories were like jokes. That is, he would set you up, and then deliver a punchline. Except the punchline, instead of making you laugh, exposed wrong thinking or attitudes. For instance, I have been thinking about a case in point.

Jesus is talking to some people who are considered bad. Today, they would be drug addicts, or people with AIDS.

He tells a story about someone who has 100 sheep and loses one. He goes, finds it and has a party to celebrate.

Then, he tells the story of a woman who has 10 coins, and loses one. She cleans the house, finds it and has a party to celebrate.

Anybody besides me feel the set up? How do people respond when they lose something valuable? They go crazy until they find it. They look in places they haven't been in month. They look in pockets of clothes they haven't been in years. And they celebrate when they find it.

Then, he tells the story of a father and two sons. The younger son insults the father, the family, their values and way of life. He demands his inheritance, and wastes it all in one big party.

Then, he gets into trouble. And he realizes that the lowest person working for his father is better off than he is. So, he goes home, apologizes to his father, and asks for a job. His father, instead of a two-hour I-told-you-so speech, throws a party to celebrate. (Anybody see a pattern here?)

Now the older son -- who did not trash the family and worked hard -- comes home, sees what's going on, and gets angry. What's the difference? Evidently, it's OK to celebrate finding a lost thing. And it's not OK to celebrate finding a lost person.

Somebody doesn't understand how a Father views His lost children. And how we should view them.