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Welcome! The primary purpose of this blog is to explore and encourage around what it means to be winsome and sent into the world for God's glory. If you are new here, the definition of "lighthouse-searchlight" or our missional journey is a good place to start. Come peruse the blog and add me to your RSS feed!

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

you ought to be teachers by now...

A challenging question comes from Hebrews 5:11-14. It is the question, “What are you doing with what you have been taught?” Putting faith into practice is a remedy for the dullness described in these verses in Hebrews: we read that the mature are able to eat “solid spiritual food” and discern good and evil because of practice. If we don’t use what we are learning from God’s Word, it is not only useless, but dulls us to hearing more of it. But verse 12 has the zinger… “by this time you ought to be teachers.”

Consider this: most Americans over the age of 16 probably has more formal education than the typical house church pastor in China. And yet, each of these pastors risks life and livelihood to teach what he or she knows of God’s Word each week as believers gather out of the sight of the government authorities.

Every American reader of this blog probably has multiple Bibles in your home. And yet, these same house churches in China sometimes must share individual pages out of one Bible so that the Word of God will not be confiscated by authorities.

For six years running, we have spent at least 4-6 weeks doing evangelism training at Good Shepherd. For two years we have emphasized sharing the Good News of Jesus as our primary mission. Many of you have sat through multiple Sunday school classes surveying numerous books of the Bible.

We should be teachers by now. By that, I mean that except for those who are preparing to profess faith for the first time, be baptized, and join the church, every single one of you has what it takes to live as an effective disciple of Jesus Christ. You’ve heard the story; you have the information; you have the mission directions; you are challenged regularly.

But here’s what Hebrews says: if you don’t use it, you lose it. I’m not talking about salvation, but I’m talking about your spiritual health and vitality. How do we grow spiritually? How do we discern good and evil? Hebrews says it is through practicing our faith – putting it into action.

More in the sermon HERE

Friday, April 18, 2008

what are we doing here?

“What are we doing here?” And specifically, why come to church and sit in a room for an hour or more and sing and pray and listen to words from an ancient book? Is God there? What do we think is going on? What do we expect will happen? Are we doing it the right way? Is there something more or less we should do or say? If worship is at the center of a church’s life, are we clear on what it’s supposed to be about?

Jesus addressed that question famously in the middle of an encounter with a woman of another race. There were a number of things going on during that encounter and in that passage, but one key part has them discussing the worship of God, which was one of the points of historic difference between their two races (Jewish and Samaritan). They worshiped in different ways, and most importantly (to them), in different places. Jesus ends up describing to her the “people the Father seeks to be His worshipers.” (John 4:23)

I want to grow towards being the kind of people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. I believe that is the right answer to what we are doing here, and the question really is whether we are being those kind of people or not.

The worship conversation began at the same place our worship conversations most often begin: Samaritans and Jews, Presbyterians and Baptists, Jerusalem and Mt. Gerazim, a traditional church building or a rented storefront. Jewish worship was ancient, full of heritage and tradition. The Samaritan worship was new-fangled and mixed in questionable new practices. But Jesus didn’t take the bait.

John 4:23 may be the single most important verse about worship in the Bible. Listen to what Jesus said:

An hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers.
Not only were things supposed to change radically from the arguments about time, place, and style, but Jesus announced that things had changed. The hour is coming and now is.

More in the sermon HERE or listen here (approx. 20 min.; click arrow to play)

Thursday, April 03, 2008

burning hearts - a sermon song

Burning Hearts is a song that Gerrit Dawson and I wrote as a "sermon-song" back in 1999. I sang it again this past Sunday to go with the Emmaus Road text and sermon. It is, perhaps, a reminder that it is not program that makes the Church or Christians the light of the world (Matthew 5:14), but the presence of the Holy Spirit testifying to the light of the living one, Jesus Christ.

Burning Hearts (Emmaus Road)

By Gerrit Dawson and Robert Austell, 1999

On Emmaus Road, heads hung low,
A stranger joined who didn't know
Of Jesus and the Christ he seemed,
Now dead, except in rumor's dream.

Weren't our hearts burning within?
More than we dared to hope,
To see Jesus alive again!

As if he'd written every word,
He taught the Scriptures and we heard
Of the Christ who first had to die
To enter his glory on high.


He made to go on, but we cried
Oh stay with us, evening is nigh
He broke the bread, gave and we knew,
Our eyes opened--it was all true!


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