Sunday, March 30, 2008

First Things First: Praising God for our salvation

I've posted what could be an interesting exercise in praising God over at Cypress Church's blog as an application of my most recent sermon. Hop on over to to contribute to the discussion.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

In Pursuit of Orthodoxy with GK Chesterton

I’m reading Orthodoxy by GK Chesterton with a few guys from church. This British author wrote his spiritual autobiography in 1908. I’m just getting started and it is an odd book, but he’s an interesting author, that’s for sure. There’s one line I found noteworthy in the first couple chapters. I’m not done, but this line was worthy of its own post (particularly since it’s been so long since I’ve posted):

We need to be happy in this wonderland without once being merely comfortable.
I may be ripping it out of context, but I think that is such an appropriate statement for where many of us find ourselves as American Christians. We live in a wonderful place. Not perfect, but there’s nowhere else I’d rather be. It is a wonderland. But I also realize my (unhealthy) desire to be comfortable can keep me from the edge of where God would like me to serve and spend myself for His glory. I like the balance of this statement – happy where God has placed me, but not comfortable, not passive, not complacent.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Ordination #2, Art. 8: The True Church

Believe it or not I’m still chipping away at my ordination paper. Last Friday our group that is going through this together met and covered Articles 7 & 8 of the Evangelical Free Church of America’s doctrinal statement. Article 7 was the first one I posted on the blog (check under Ordination if you’d like to see it). This is Article 8, which is the first of three articles on ecclesiology (think that’s important in the EFCA?). As usual, any input is helpful.
That the true Church is composed of all such persons who through saving faith in Jesus Christ have been regenerated by the Holy Spirit and are united together in the Body of Christ of which He is the Head.
Jesus said He will build His church (Mt. 16.18) and Paul tells us that Jesus loves His church (Eph. 5.25). The church began at Pentecost with the arrival of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2). The universal nature of the church (Eph. 1.22-23; Col. 1.18, 24) indicates that the true Church is composed of all such persons who through saving faith in Jesus Christ have been regenerated by the Holy Spirit. This faith in Jesus and baptism in the Spirit is what unifies and brings a person into the true Church (1 Cor. 12.12-13). The Holy Spirit will also be active when the true church is assembled because He empowers the church (Acts 1:8) and He dwells in the church (1 Cor. 3.16-17). While it may be difficult to determine who is in this true Church, God knows who truly belong to Him (2 Tim. 2.19; Mt. 13.24-30).
This true Church is intended to be united together regardless of any social distinctions (Col. 3.11; Gal. 3.28). Christ is the Head of the Church (Col. 1.18), which means He is the authority over it (Col. 2.9-10) and sustains and nourishes it (Col. 2.19; Jn. 15.1-11) in the Body of Christ (1 Cor. 12.27).

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Great “New” Resource

It isn’t new, but I stumbled upon a great resource for young leaders – any leaders, actually. It is a podcast called Catalyst. They have an interview with high level leaders in church and business every other week, but I’m so far behind that I listen to one each day, particularly when I walk. There are great names I know, but I’m also hearing what some fantastic churches are doing around the country and getting introduced to great leaders like Mark Batterson in Washington, DC and others. Here’s their website: I’ve only been listening, not surfing, but if it is anything like the podcasts, this seems like a great resource.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Happy St. Patrick's Day

Happy St. Patrick's Day! ... a little late in the day, I guess. Got the girls dressed up in green - the boy didn't have any. Picked up a Shamrock Shake from McDonals for Eliana when she got out of school. Got one for Viv, too, but she hates minty stuff. Then we came home and had green pancackes shaped like clover - that's the kind of weird, but memorable stuff my mom used to do.

Ellie wanted to know what St. Patrick's day was and I told her he was a missionary to Ireland a long time ago. I love "St. Patrick's Breastplate," or what is called "The Lorica," which calls upon God for protection in a pretty crazy world. Check out How the Irish Saved Civilization by Thomas Cahill to see what an insane world Patrick was ministering to. Here's some sections of the "Lorica" that strike a chord with me...

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through the belief in the threeness,
Through confession of the oneness
Of the Creator of Creation.
I arise today
Through the strength of
Christ's birth with his baptism,
Through the strength of his crucifixion with his burial,
Through the strength of his resurrection with his ascension,
Through the strength of his descent for the judgment of Doom.
I arise today
Through the strength of the love of Cherubim,
In obedience of angels,
In the service of archangels,
In hope of resurrection to meet with reward,
In prayers of patriarchs,
In predictions of prophets,
In preaching of apostles,
In faith of confessors,
In innocence of holy virgins,
In deeds of righteous men.
I arise today
Through the strength of heaven:
Light of sun,
Radiance of moon,
Splendor of fire,
Speed of lightning,
Swiftness of wind,
Depth of sea,
Stability of earth,
Firmness of rock.
I arise today
Through God's strength to pilot me:
God's might to uphold me,
God's wisdom to guide me,
God's eye to look before me,
God's ear to hear me,
God's word to speak for me,
God's hand to guard me,
God's way to lie before me,
God's shield to protect me,
God's host to save me
From snares of devils,
From temptations of vices,
From everyone who shall wish me ill,
Afar and anear,
Alone and in multitude.
I summon today all these powers between me and those evils,
Against every cruel merciless power that may oppose my body and soul,
Against incantations of false prophets,
Against black laws of pagandom
Against false laws of heretics,
Against craft of idolatry,
Against spells of witches and smiths and wizards,
Against every knowledge that corrupts man's body and soul.
Christ to shield me today
Against poison, against burning,
Against drowning, against wounding,
So that there may come to me abundance of reward.
Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down,
Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.
I arise today Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through belief in the threeness,
Through confession of the oneness,
Of the Creator of Creation.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Breaking the Missional Code: Breaking the Missional Code (ch. 2)

In this chapter Stetzer tells the story of several thriving churches. They are churches of different kinds and in different contexts. Here’s the missional process Stetzer describes for successfully missional churches:

1. Calling from God
2. Exegeting the community
3. Examining ways God is working in similar communities
4. Finding God’s unique vision for your church
5. Adjusting that vision as you learn the context

A calling from God means we don’t uncritically rely on technique in our drive for “success,” which is a powerful voice in our culture. Successful mission starts with having God’s heart for the community where we find ourselves – and putting ourselves in the place that God has given us a heart for. Stetzer states, “So breaking the code begins with asking God, ‘Who have you called me to?’” (p. 23).

Rick Warren is held up as the premiere example of one who has exegeted his community in the planting of Saddleback Church, but many have made the mistake of duplicating Warren’s findings when they live in a different environment. Duplicate his process, not his findings.

While we shouldn’t duplicate others’ findings uncritically, there are plenty of cultural similarities throughout our country. It is wise to learn from these findings in similar communities, but to also contextualize and adjust as needed to one’s specific community. “Connect the dots” wherever possible.

Next, find God’s unique vision for your church and embrace it. The church community can withdraw from the larger community, but churches who have “broken the code” have found a way to “develop a unique vision for their church that both honors God and connects with their community” (p. 27).

Finally, we should adjust vision as we learn the context. This should be an ongoing process, even if your church is “successful.” Stetzer urges each church to ask: “Are we faithfully proclaiming the faith in the place in which we find ourselves today?” (p. 28).

As last chapter, Stetzer has some questions (better, assignments) to chew on:
1. Describe the specific people that God has called you to reach.
2. Identify other churches that are being used by God to reach similar people.
3. Write a brief paragraph on what your church would look like if it broke the code among that people.
4. Identify the adjustments you need to make in light of what you are learning.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Breaking the Missional Code: The Emerging Glocal Context

I just started Breaking the Missional Code by Ed Stetzer. I’m reading it with our Outreach Director to see if it can help us reach our culture better. The first chapter addresses the changes culture are undergoing and how the church is largely stuck in modernity while postmodernity is where most people live.

Stetzer uses the term “glocal” to refer to global and local realities that are converging in America. The changes are so significant that in former times seekers would go to the church first, but now it isn’t high on the list – if it is on the list at all. If the church wants to make an impact, we must engage the culture as missionaries, not just be evangelists.

What are the changes in culture? The culture is largely unchurched – even those who go to church are not discipled by the church as much as culture. Our world is more culturally diverse than ever. People/affinity groups are what bond people together. The church needs to understand these micro-environments. There are also subcultures that need to be understood and ministered to – nursing homes, jails, college campuses, etc…

Each chapter ends with some questions under the title, “The Breaking the Code Challenge.” I need to work through these for our Cypress area, but they may be helpful for you personally in your area. Here are the questions for chapter 1:

1. Describe the specific people groups, population segments, and/or cultural environments that make up your geographical context.
2. What are some practical ways you can begin to expose those you minister with to opportunities to break the code?
3. How would you define success when it comes to the Great Commission in your given context?