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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, January 25, 2011

searchlight 2.0

In February of 2010 I wrote the following in the church newsletter, trying to describe the outward turn in focus and vision that is starting to shape our life together at Good Shepherd:

The designation ”2.0” has been used to describe the move from linear progression to multiplied connection and inter-connection. If those words don’t make sense, think of the move from regular mail or e-mail to Facebook (where in a matter of hours new users can become “connected” with 30, 50, or 200 people from various times and places in their life). Likewise, our calling to worship and outreach is manifesting less in the traditional and “1.0” pastor --> member --> visitor model to what I’m seeing as “Searchlight 2.0” – Old Providence girl scouts are using our building and their parents who hear us playing music at the corner coffee shop tell their neighbors about this hospitable and neighborly church and someone two or three times removed from our direct “evangelism” is now visiting to see what God is doing in this place. Do you start to get a sense of what’s going on? Rather than instituting a program, we are becoming a “fragrance” pleasing to God in Old Providence, Swan’s Run, Brighton, O.P. Elementary, and the corner shops.
Now a year later, and with some hiccups, ups, and downs, I see how this outward focus is growing, stretching, and weaving into the life of our neighbors.  The connections are multiplying. People are joining in singing and playing music at Caribou on Wednesday nights, where management could not be more supportive. In the past week, some nine non-GSPC folks have connected online (on meetup.com) to come in person to the Wednesday night book club meeting at another coffeeshop. The group home guys are starting back because two new people stepped up to meet with them. A major company has matched funds given through a non-member because of our White Gift appeal and given that to the Timothy Fund. The Wednesday night service group is suddenly bursting at the seams with ideas and opportunities, from tutoring to food for the homeless shelter to visitation to more.

God is doing something… a God-sized thing. If you are not yet plugged in, I urge you to do so. It’s easy, painless, and I would dare to say enjoyable! Come talk to me about how you might answer the key question:  
What is God doing and how can I be a part?

Monday, January 03, 2011

the ten commandments - more than a list of rules

From a sermon on the Ten Commandments and from a forthcoming devotional study book on sin and redemption (e-mail or comment for more info).

I realize that most often we look at the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20) as a list and consider each one as a self-contained unit. But the Commandments function as a whole, as a legal and moral whole. Formally, they are presented as a covenant document. There are several covenants in the Bible, but at heart each is God graciously reaching out toward humanity and offering to intervene and help in the human condition. If you look at the Ten Commandments as a whole, you can see the way they describe an order to life – a pattern of living in obedience to and relationship with God. And it is that ordered life, which would also be understood in Scripture as a blessed life that is in view for all who would trust God.

A God-ordered Life

I-III. The first three commandments describe a God-ordered life with God alone as priority, vision, and worthy of worship, love, and service. They speak of God alone in the highest place, the place of worship, love, service, and obedience. Nothing is to take God’s place or even compete. It is the supreme and sole priority of God in our lives that orders all the rest of life. So these commandments speak to idolatry and worship, to obedience and disobedience, to service and to selfishness.

IV. The fourth commandment (Sabbath) describes a God-ordered life in terms of work, rest, and time. Often you will hear the commandments sub-divided into the first four about God and the last six about human relationship. But the Sabbath commandment bridges between. Most importantly, it speaks not just of one day in seven, but of all seven days. It marks out our time as all belonging to God, subject to the commandments already given. And part of ordering our life under God is to not to over- or under-prioritize work, rest, or the balance between the two. Issues of work, recreation, family time, personal time, exercise, health, rest, and worship are all addressed in this commandment. It is a prime example of how the Commandments bring order and structure to our view of time and life.

V. The fifth commandment (parents) describes a God-ordered life in terms of home and family. So submitting our lives to God’s leadership and worship not only affect our use of time, but also our relationships. The commandment to honor parents is more than respecting mom and dad. It requires something of children, but also of parents. It gets at all of family life, from respect to obedience to communication to how parents and children should relate throughout life.

VI-IX. The sixth through ninth commandments describe a God-ordered life in terms of our neighbors, not taking from them selfishly, but loving them selflessly. Murder, adultery, stealing, and lying all take from those around us. Their inherent selfishness breaks the first commandments and the community implications breech what Jesus will later call “love of neighbor.” In these commandments, we see that God’s design for humanity is not just individual and internal, but societal and missional. Indeed, you do see in the Ten Commandments what will be lifted up clearly in the New Testament, that the greatest commandments are love of God and love of neighbor.

X. The tenth commandment uniquely points towards a New Testament perspective, where we must even guard our interior thoughts, guarding against temptation and the sinful attitudes that lead to sinful actions. This aspect of the Ten Commandments is often overlooked; we think of the Ten as major crimes or sins of commission. But here we see that continued longing for what we don’t have is itself sin. Is this not Adam and Eve’s original sin in the Garden?

What God holds up to us in these Commandments is a picture of life ordered according to God’s wisdom, justice, and love. The Law may be compared to a parent’s rules for children. You may play in the yard; but not in the street. It is not only the rule, it offers safety, security, and in the extreme, even life over injury or death. So also, the Ten Commandments are not rules to hamper us, but rules to set us free. Keeping or breaking the Ten Commandments isn’t about salvation. Breaking them doesn’t take you out of consideration; keeping them doesn’t purchase you a ticket to Heaven. Rather, they form a description of what a God-ordered and blessed life looks like. To the extent that we experience that, we begin to get a sense of how good God’s Word and will are for us. To the extent that we fall short and live in disarray, we realize just what was lost in the Garden.

These are not rules by which we should measure and ask, “Am I good enough?” The answer to that question is that we are ALL dead in sin – dead in sin! Rather, the Ten Commandments are an example of God COMING AFTER US, to breathe life and hope into us – to offer us boundaries and a home and a place of safety in a fallen world where we are already at play in the street. God is already initiating His rescue plan. So our attentiveness to the Commandments at once shows us how lost we are and how God is already coming to find us through His Word.

God’s Law cannot save from death, but for those living in the ashes between Eden and the End, the Commandments offer a temporary shelter in the present world, with all the hope of a God who is coming to save us from death itself.

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