If you are new to this blog....

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!

Friday, July 20, 2007

worship or mission?

Michael Frost, on the PGF blog - "What is the missional Church?"

For me the phrase refers to those churches for whom mission has become the organizing principle of all they do and are. ... Rather than seeing mission as one of the functions of the church, missional church people see it as its central and organizing purpose. For example, rather than seeing worship as central (as most conventional churches do), there is a growing movement of us who believe that worship is richer when organized around mission. We believe we do fellowship better when organized around mission. Likewise with discipleship, teaching, the exercise of the gifts etc.

And what is mission? It is the outward impulse of God’s people...the overarching ‘sentness’ of God’s people, as they infiltrate all of society and stake a claim for the unending rule of Jesus in every sphere of life. ... Mission is the spark, the catalysing energy, that makes sense of everything the church was intended to be.

Someone once challenged me that in the world to come there’ll be no mission, only worship. I couldn’t disagree more. In the world to come we will still be charged with the task of declaring Jesus’ rule over all of life. Sure, we won’t be feeding the poor or planting churches. Those missional activities will cease when every knee bows, every tongue confesses, and every tear is wiped away. But I’m looking forward to the unhindered mission of the new age, not to an eternal worship service.

Robert, in reply...

I am all about the missional Church... that's the purpose of my blog, after all. But the last paragraph stopped me in my tracks. I believe we have lost the 'sentness' and mission of the church, and the "missional church movement" is a needed corrective. I also recognize that sometimes a case needs to be overstated for folks to be pulled to a point of health and balance (somewhere short of that overstated case). So, I'll cut Michael Frost a break.

But, I firmly believe that worship is our eternal (and present) joy. Not the 11:00 worship service, but worship in the biblical sense... a life of love, service, obedience, prostration, adoration, and yes, MISSION. And for those not looking forward to an eternal worship service, I think the problem is a conception of a "worship service" based on our puny earthly understanding of worship.

So, I had been thinking of this for a while, but I'm going to draw in worship as a theological (and teleological!) theme into this blog and explore some of the dynamic between worship and mission.

So, look for more to come...

Monday, July 16, 2007

rahab the harlot (josh 2)

...from the sermon HERE

There is only one way and name under Heaven by which men and women are saved – the name of Jesus Christ. We need to understand the radical exclusivity of the Gospel – Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life.

But in the same moment, we also need to understand the radical inclusivity of the Gospel – that God so loved the world that He sent His only son, Jesus, into the world to seek and save the lost. Salvation is only through Jesus, but it’s for everyone!

We’ve got to regain God’s perspective on the Good News – the same blessed-to-be-a-blessing perspective as the ancient covenant with Abraham. If you know God as Savior, if you are here because you belong to Him, then God has saved you that you might go to those who are outside and invite them in.

The Church – including this church – is called together to be sent out. There is no place you are not called to go; there are no people whom God has written off. We are to share the story of what God has done and God will bring to Himself all who hear and believe, as He did with Rahab.

Finally, if there is any situation where we are even more judgmental and exclusionary than towards “outsiders” it is with ourselves. As many people as won’t darken the doors of a church because “they wouldn’t take me” there are more whose real reason is the internal and often unspoken thought, “God wouldn’t take me.”

I’m not good enough. I’ve done too much that’s wrong. I’ve made too many mistakes; too many big mistakes. God could never forgive me. I’m hopeless.

If you hear nothing else, hear this:

Whoever you are and wherever you come from, whatever you’ve done and whatever secret burdens you carry, God knows you inside and out and He still loves you. He loves you, not ignorant or uncaring of what you’ve done (remember, the Bible didn’t conveniently forget that Rahab was a prostitute). Rather, God loves you anyway, in the face of your sin. Rahab heard what God had done. The Gospel is the news of what God has done through Jesus – He has come in love to rescue you from death and bring you home. Listen, come, believe, and follow. Come in from the outside and be part of God’s family. Seeing that played out over and over – that’s God’s story, and He’d love nothing more than for it to be your story. Amen.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

christianity 101

{someone complimented the "christianity 101" page on our website, so I was encouraged to repost that page here... it is aimed at post-modern unchurched folks hoping to invite them into a conversation - the first "door" on our website is a whole section with that purpose}

What does it mean to be a Christian?
You could probably ask that to 100 different people and get 100 different answers. Don’t let that dissuade you from checking it out, though! Below, I’ll give you my answer, for what that’s worth to you, and then point you to what the Bible says about it. Whatever you may think of the Bible, most people should be able to agree that the Bible is the place to find out about Christianity. So, for those for whom the Bible may be mysterious or hard to navigate, I’ll try to provide some points of connection. Want to know more? – then come visit us at Good Shepherd… see if you don’t feel a connection with God that is reflected sincerely and without pretense in the lives of this special “family” of people. We’re hardly perfect, but we are drawn together and experience God with us in a meaningful way.

My answer…

First, who am I? I am the “pastor” at Good Shepherd Presbyterian Church. Why should my definition of Christianity matter any more than any other? Well, it shouldn’t. But I have believed and trusted in Jesus Christ, as described in the Bible, since I was a 4 year-old. I have studied other religions, objectively critiqued the faith my parents taught to me, and come full circle as an adult back to believe in the same (if more mature) Christian faith of my childhood. I have studied the Bible and find it to be an amazing and inspiring “book” – more than that, it points to a God who loves me and whom I have experience personally as “Lord” and “Savior.” What are the mechanics of believing and following Jesus Christ, of being a Christian? Here’s as down-to-earth as I know how to say it…

We (human beings) are messed up creatures. I know that intuitively and deeply. We put on a front, but behind it, we are a wreck. If and when we think about goodness and God and love and getting our act together, we realize that it is beyond our power. Kind of like AA, we’ve got to realize we have a problem and that we need something bigger than us and outside of us to help. The story of the Bible and the story I believe as truth is that there is a real and personal God who is that something. God is real in that we don’t just create our own god – that would still just be us. God is personal because He gets involved – we matter. Again, that’s the story of the Bible and the story I believe as truth. That’s Christianity – that this real and personal God got involved… He made the world and everything in it; He allowed us the freedom to choose the right thing and the wrong thing, and when we chose and choose the wrong thing, He didn’t abandon us. God came after us, like I do when I let my three year old ride her scooter in the cul-de-sac (freedom!) and when she doesn’t look out for and get out of the way of an oncoming car (choosing the wrong). I run after her! God has run after us in Jesus Christ. God became completely human, born into the world as Jesus of Nazareth and yet still completely God, and he taught and lived and died to come after me. When he died on the cross, he took my messed up life as his own, in the same way that I might run, leap in front of an oncoming car, and shove my three-year-old out of the street. Jesus has done that for you and for me! And his message was, “Come and believe that I am who I said I am and that I have done what I said I would do. Come and follow me.” That’s what it means to be a Christian – to come, meet God through the Jesus Christ of the Bible, and trusting him, to follow him. I belong to God because I follow Jesus Christ. Just as God raised Jesus up from death itself (the Easter story!), he raises the mess that is me up to a new life – Jesus said that would be kind of like being born all over again (see John 3). That is the Christian life – a new start and a new life because of trusting and following Jesus. And through Jesus, God promises new life forever – that’s Heaven… new life with God forever. How does one get all that? What are the mechanics? Come; listen and learn; believe; trust; and follow Jesus Christ.

Where’s all this in the Bible?

> God made the world – Genesis 1; John 1:1-4
> We messed up and chose the wrong (sin) – Genesis 3:1-13; Romans 3:23
> God did not abandon us, but began pursuing us to rescue and reclaim us – Genesis 12:1-3 (God establishing a people as a means to “bless” the world and begin rescuing them); Acts 2:17,21 (God’s promise to save)
> God became human (and yet God) – Luke 2:10-14; John 1:14
… to identify with us – Hebrews 4:14-16
… to speak to us and show us God – John 1:18; 5:24
… to call and invite us – John 1:35-42
… to rescue us and make us new – 2 Corinthians 5:17-19
… to raise us up for a new life – Romans 6:4
… to give us life forever with God – John 5:24
> How do I get that? – John 3:16; Romans 10:8-9

Take a moment and talk to God… use the prayer below (or use your own words)…

God, I need you; I have messed up and I am messed up. Rescue me so that I may follow you and know you. Thank you for a new start – a new life. Help me learn what it means to be your child so that I can grow up in Christ. I ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.

We’d be pleased for you to come spend some time with us at Good Shepherd or for you to contact me to talk about some of the first steps as a new Christian. Please don’t hesitate to contact me or come see us!

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

words to listen to

God does speak. God spoke to Gideon after what seemed like a long period of the people being far from God. The pressing question is, "Are we listening?"

Word of Truth: The Lord is with you, O valiant warrior. (Judges 6:12)

God is here with you and He has named YOU as His own children. What is your response? What was Gideon's response?

Gideon: O my lord, if the Lord is with us, then why has all this happened to us? And where are all His miracles which our fathers told us about, saying, "Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt?" But now the Lord has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian." (6:13)

Me: "God, why did you let this happen to me? You've done amazing things before, where are you now?"

Word of Mission: The Lord looked at him and said, "Go in this your strength and deliver Israel from the hand of Midian. Have I not sent you?" (6:14)

The Lord looked at him… silencing him? rebuking him? We talk sometimes about wanting direction from God. This was a "stop talking and get up and get about my work" Word. Maybe if we would get up and going, we'd see what God is doing. God calls us out to be a part of what He is doing. Has He not sent us? This is the Word of Mission.

Gideon: O Lord, how shall I deliver Israel? Behold, my family is the least in Manasseh, and I am the youngest in my father's house. (6:15)

Me: "I can't do it, God. I'm too young, too untrained, too unimportant."

Is that humility or excuses? And have you ever noticed how often God calls on the youngest, weakest, or most unlikely one to serve Him?

Word of Promise: Surely I will be with you, and you shall defeat Midian as one man. (6:16)

God has answered and said even more. It doesn't matter that you are small, young, weak, or seemingly unqualified. God doesn't call the equipped; He equips the called. God chose Gideon and that was sufficient. God is with Him; that is far more important than his birth order, physical strength, or family name. And God indicates what He will accomplish through Gideon – the defeat of Midian. Has God not promised us the same thing – that He is with us always and that he has conquered the ultimate enemy – sin, death, and Satan? That was Christ's same word of promise at the end of the Great Commission… "Surely I am with you to the end of the age" (Matthew 28:20) and at the cross… "It is finished" (John 19:30).

Three "can-you-give-me-a-sign" requests later I get the feeling that God tired of talking with Gideon and decided to start doing - not unlike the course of salvation history. God gave us instructions in the Garden. God gave us the Law and the Commandments. God spoke through prophets. And we just didn't get it. So God acted. Likewise, God begins to act with Gideon. It's time to bring the army against the Midianites. From some 32,000 God instructed Gideon in weeding out the fearful, then the unprepared, until only 300 were left. What was important? What was not?

We don't have to be a 10,000 member mega-church to change the world for God. God can and will use 300 who will listen to Him, follow, and obey! God can use 12 who listen, follow, and obey. God can use one. God can use YOU.

There's no confusing who is God and who is not. There's no confusing our strength for God's strength. And there's no ground for our excuses. I am not strong enough to save the world. I'm not even strong enough to save myself! But God is! God was, in the defeat of the Midianites, answering all the questions and doubts, demonstrating His strength, and providing the signs and passing the tests. God did all of that and more through the death and resurrection of Jesus!

God still speaks. Will we listen, follow, and obey?

Read the full sermon text HERE

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