Sunday, October 26, 2014

Things to Be Reminded of or Learn from The Lord's Prayer dba Luke 11:1-4

When it comes to the Lord's Prayer, there are few things in Christian life people feel they know better, but maybe miss some key points on.

1.) The Lord's Prayer is a community prayer, or a prayer of an individual but who lives in community.  It is from Jesus' plural (you) and the several "us" remarks a prayer of someone who lives in Christian community.

2.) The Lord's Prayer is not a public prayer.  It is a disciples prayer.  Actual Christ following people.  It is not a generic prayer for Christendom.  I purposely avoid using, for instance, in a city council or commissioner's court prayer.

3.)  The Lord's Prayer is about kingdom provision.  When we say "give us our daily bread" God in His great love for you boldly invites us in to almost (but not quite perhaps) come as close to a extremely bold statement.  Old Abraham asked God "do not be angry, but what if" when pleading about Lot's city.  But The Lord's Prayer Jesus taught us with "give us" is an imperative verb.  It is still approaching a superior (God) so it is respectful, but very bold.  Many miss this.  The ask is for kingdom things though.  Every whim and expense we may wish may not be God's will.  We have to realize that God knows better than us what is best for us and He love us.  PtL.

4.)  The Lord's Prayer is designed to make God's renown or reputation our big focus.  If you think about it, Father, as a title is a family title.  God as our Father means we have a family lifestyle.  We are asking that, not a worldly family lifestyle.  The prayer both changes our focus and God uses the prayer to change us too in His power.  Life is better when God is the focus anyhow.

5.)  The Lord's Prayer is realistic.  We live in God's mercy and grace, amen?  That is surely the reality behind forgive us our sins and then leads us not in temptation.  The idea that we serve God, or even approach Him, in our own greatness is purely foreign to doing anything more than rote prayer of Luke 11:1-4, the prayer.  We must not set ourselves up inside, in our soul, for a mental, emotional and indeed spiritual fall, that comes by trusting in ourselves.  God's grace sustains us.

6.)  The Lord's Prayer is hope.  Hallowed be your name.  This is setting one's life apart to God.  He is about success stories and redeeming tough situations for His glory.  We can rejoice in this attitude of making it about Him.

7.)  The Lord's Prayer is daily.  Without getting all technical on you, there are verbs and words that indicate instead of worrying, we approach God daily, knowing we can handle praying about that interval and God sets that outline there.  Each day has enough of its troubles, aka don't worry.  God loves you.  Things will work out brother or sister in Jesus!

God bless.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Radical Changes to Church Planting and Established Church Invite Methods

There is a new study out published in a Barna book, called Churchless, which explores this topic in the headline.  It finds that receptivity to direct mail, social online media, tv, radio, and newspaper ad invites to church among those not in a church is very very low.  And dropping.

What does this mean for churches?  See study here.

In sum, churches should expect that advertising as a main driver of church growth, or a grand opening launch, or a special event will be very unimpressive.  Indeed, our church has realized this and stopped spending nearly as much on advertising in our area.

However, I loved how Barna brings this national perspective that the trend is not just North Texas.

That is so useful to others, so they as church laymen and women or leaders can benefit from that VALUABLE knowledge on kingdom resources.

In short, save your ad money, it's just not so much worth it to see people in church.  The unchurched don't care much about your ads and they actually begrudge them.

One caveat to the Barna findings is this, however:  As Dr. Darrell Robinson says in his evangelism book -- "In the first place, we do not go because they want us to come, but because he (Jesus) has sent us.  Second, lost people do not know what it will take for them to reach Christ.  When I was lost, if you had asked me, 'Do you want a Christian to come to your house and talk to you?' I would have strongly said, 'Absolutely NOT!'  But that is exactly what I needed...."

So in this we should not equate advertising ineffectiveness with other things.  We should never give up personally going to people who are friends and neighbors.

God bless!

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Subversive: Living as Agents of Gospel Transformation by Stetzer - a review

Ed Stetzer the well known church leadership and data researcher shares insights in his book Subversive that are spot on.

The book served me as a pastor differently than it might another Christian.  For me it was more of a confirmation book of trends and correct ways to view things within church rather than an eye opening book.  For some it could be an eye opener.  This book was especially useful not as an idea book for me, but as a way post on the road preaching through the Gospel of Luke, kind of like someone saying "right on, keep it up" on certain passages.

Much of Subversive pulls from the radically subversive nature of Jesus in the Gospels.  He is not comfortable with people staying in the status quo spiritually, but actually living for God instead of their culture, their homespun religions, or themselves.

One thing which I strongly do not like in books is a conversational style, because of course, while you may think of reading as a conversation, it really is not.  This is distracting at best, reading it as though in a conversation like a fiction work/novel.  Stetzer's book has large conversational style sections.  But I judge a book more on content than format, so moving on....   The work as well doesn't come across (in its strength) as a research book either, but more of a praxis book.  In this book's purpose this shows the author's skill and he has to be satisfied this is an accomplishment for an accomplished researcher like Dr. Stetzer.  He could easily write a book in that style and it would be great stuff, but probably that would be for a different audience type.

The book will best serve most genuine Christians as a breath of fresh air. You're able to be challenged to be obedient.  It's not mere cultural commentary.  It is about your walk with God making sense.

This explains the title and the ending sentence:  "stay subversive."  If you just live like everyone around you that is not any new kingdom you are in in faith in Jesus.  If you live differently, you are seen as subversive.  That is the goal, to call Christians out of the wide path/the wide way and onto more of a Christian path of obedience.

A few minor things:  One, not a fan of NorthWood Church in DFW that he references in the book.  While there are some great things there, the missions approach they have doesn't include just reaching lots of people (which is cool, who could disagree with that!), but helping to build/construct mosques with Christian volunteers and money.  NorthWood advocates the viewpoint that you should never plant a church unless you also help out with a local mosque or synagogue.  This is embarrassing by the gospel/NT standards, where Paul never did such a thing with any of this many missionary/church planting teams.  Shame on Ed Stetzer for endorsing that kind of agenda.  It's known that the less informed, less Bible rooted church starts in Dallas-Ft Worth associate with NorthWood, not realizing it is not God's will for them to use church funds to build mosques.

Also second other minor thing, much of the book is what you could get just by reading the gospels on your own.  Jesus' words have power.  Many pages of this book are just quotes.  That's great in one sense, but it is akin to just picking up your Bible instead too. I think Stetzer knows this, it is no mistake, he realizes most Christians in churches rarely open their Bibles, but they might use his book for a "small group" or "Sunday School," thereby learning the Bible still.  This would result in a step in the right direction for maturity, getting a taste of what they must be reading for maturity to come.  So it has a wise planning side to it's fact in the work.

The book has a strong point of being church-centric.  So often people see the church as unnecessary for spiritual growth and for walking with Jesus.  Dr. Stetzer shows how Jesus took a different view, that the church is what He works through.  Stetzer also points out how the local bodies of believers (churches) in the New Testament (NT) are said to be supports of the truth.  He also points out how the Scripture talks of not forsaking being in worship and discipleship through a church.  So the book is incredibly encouraging and insightful in this area, where most in our country would miss these truths in a normal life not probed or thought through.

There is a good emphasis on the already-not yet aspect to the kingdom.  That we reflect it here, but it is later in heaven.  This is great theology.

There is great spiritual advice in relationships, turning the other cheek and so on.  These are well placed to where they flow with the whole.  I trust God will use this book in your spiritual life too, wherever you are with Jesus now.

Overall I would definitely recommend this book to someone.  You'll walk away from reading it a stronger believer in Jesus.

God bless!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Who Are You Following Today Christian?

There is an encouraging word from discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer:

(Taking up) "The only constant factor throughout is the sameness of Christ and of his call then and now.  His Word is one and the same, whether it was addressed during his earthly life to the paralysed or the disciples, or whether it is speaking to us today.  Here as there we receive the gracious summons to enter his kingdom and his glory.  ...  All we have to do is to hear the word and obey the will of Christ, in whatever part of the scripture testimony it is proclaimed.  The Scriptures do not present us with a series of Christian types to be imitated according to choice:  they preach to us in every situation the one Jesus Christ."  (p 228; Cost of Discipleship)

God bless you!

Friday, October 3, 2014

Some good Friday thought...

Today it has really stood out to me that we too often make Christianity about a culture in America and that really we must be cognizant of Christ's daily call to follow him.

Consider.  It's been said before:

"A religion that gives nothing, costs nothing, and suffers nothing, is worth nothing."  --Martin Luther.

There is a lot of truth to this when you think on passages like the Gospel of Luke, chapter 9, verses 23 to 24...

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Did Jesus Get Raised or Raise Self from the Dead?

A common misconception from a limited study of the New Testament is this:  Jesus either raised himself from the dead or he was raised from the dead by God the Father, not both.

In church before as a pastor I have heard this, when I deep dig a passage and bring out that in one case Jesus was raised from the dead (God does as in God the Father in NT lingo; Luke 9:22), that someone may have only heard the other side.

But we see both.

Passively raised up by another member of Christian Trinity verses:
Luke 9:22 God the Father.
Romans 8:11 God the Holy Spirit.

Actively raised self up from dead verses:
Luke 24:46; Acts 10:41; Acts 17:3

(Separate but also same verbal idea pt., Luke 16:31)

Be blessed in the context of Scripture friends!