"God is most glorified in you when you are most satisfied in him in the midst of loss, not prosperity." --John Piper

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Can you be righter than right?

Matthew 5:20

For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

Let's begin by forgetting what we know of the scribes and Pharisees for a moment, and think about what the hearers of this might have thought.

Scribes and Pharisees were the religious cream of the crop. These were people who had devoted thier lives to the reading, understanding, and practice of the Torah. They not only knew the rules, they interpreted and enforced them too. Think of it as congress, the Supreme Court, and the President all rolled into one. Their religion was constantly on display, from the clothes they wore and the accessories on those clothes to the places they went to the people they associated with. Scribes and Pharisees were righteous dudes, all the way. They were able to devote all of their time to their pursuit of God. And Jesus just said, unless you can do it better, you won't even get into the kingdom.

So I see two options here. The first is that I have to be better, to spend more time than they spend, and to make my efforts greater than theirs. That does not sound possible, so option two: consider the fact that perhaps the scribes and the Pharisees were not as righteous as they seemed. But even that option does not seem to make a lot of sense. How could these men not be righteous?

Suddenly, option three comes into play. Maybe Jesus was talking about a different righteousness. Or a righteousness that comes from somewhere else. Or both. Philippians 3:9 sheds some light on this idea. "and being found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith." So it is not about the show. It is not about what I can do. It is all about Jesus, just trusting in Him to do what I cannot do no matter how much effort I put in.  This is not an excuse for laziness, but it shows that whatever is lacking in me, Christ can provide as I trust in him to do so. So I don't so much worry about pursing my righteousness as I do pursuing Christ himself.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

To salt or not to salt...

Matthew 5:13

You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people's feet.

The job of salt is to be salty. Kind of makes sense, doesn't it. Now we could get into all of the properties and characteristics of salt if we  like. It flavors, it preserves, it melts ice and snow. But we could just sum it up and say, salt has a job to do, and that is to be salt-like. If salt is not salty, if it doesn't do its job, then it is not good for anything. You may as well just poor sand on your food. And for salt that is not doing its job, there is no hope. Assuming that it was salty at one point, if it has lost its saltiness, it will not get it back again.

Nice lesson on salt, right? Obviously not. Jesus was trying to convey a truth here in a way that the disciples might understand. He called them salt. They had a job to do. Salt brings the flavor out in food. His disciples were to salt the world with God. They were to show God to a world that either did not have him or misunderstood him.

Ever eat something with salt? Blah. With salt? Um, just right. Too much salt? Yuk! I'm just saying...

Question: What is the difference between the church and the Rotary Club? Well, if you don't know, maybe your church isn't being salty enough. Maybe it has lost its saltiness. Blah! I think of the social gospel here. Now I am all for reaching the lost, I believe that is a responsibility of the church. But we must do that as a seasoning, and not as a responsibility. If we are salt, we want to reach out, and not just to other parts of the world, but to our own world as well. To our neighbors and co-workers.

And that will not happen without the why. How many sermons have been preached over this text? People leaving the building being told they must be salt. Maybe even being handed out little packets of salt on their way out. But now what?

For salt to be effective, it must be salty. It must function in its fundamental purpose. Salt with saltiness on the right food just naturally does its job. So it should be with Christians. It is not being told to go out and be salt that makes us salty, it is naturally possessing the qualities of salt. It is knowing God, and loving Him because we understand and attach his greatness to everything.

I could put some sand in a salt shaker, but that wouldn't make it salt. I could tell it to do the job of salt, but that would not enable it to do the job of salt. As Christians, our responsibility is not to keep the world free from sin, or ask people to come to church. It is to glorify God in our lives. It is to know God and attach that knowledge to all that we do. It is to honor God when all is well with the world. It is to honor him when all is not well too.

Steak, even prime rib, misses something if not seasoned. So does the church and the Christian. Unless we are salty with God, full of an understanding of what His grace means to us, somethings is seriously missing.

Religiousity #2

Lamentations 2:14

Your prophets have seen for you false and deceptive visions;
they have not exposed your iniquity to restore your fortunes,
but have seen for you oracles that are false and misleading.

Is this true today? Have not our prophets (preachers) seen false and deceptive visions? Haven't many of them seen a gospel that is different from the one proclaimed by Christ? Do they not preach a gospel that puts us at the center of God's desires instead of putting Him at the center of ours? Some even taking this to the extreme of saying that if we just trust in Him, He will bless us materially beyond our imagination. But it does not have to be taken to such an extreme to be a false gospel.

And what charge is laid against these preachers? "They have not exposed our iniquities to restore our fortunes."  They have not exposed our sins, in order that our former state of being may be returned to us. They may have exposed sin, but not in such a way that in impacts the hearer other than the hearer to nod in agreement and say, "Yes, when others do that it is wrong." The ESV uses the word fortunes, which we might interpret wealth. But the idea in the original language carries is more of the thought of restoing us to God's original intent, such as how things should have been in the garden.  The NIV states that section this way, "they did not expose you sin to ward off your captivity." Either way, the preachers did not preach about us as sinners. They sugar-coated their message so that it would taste better. "There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death." (Prov. 14:12) The death that Proverbs speaks of here is eternal death, separation from God. Captivity. Cast out of the garden forever.

There is a big difference between preaching about sin and preaching about us as sinners. ONe places a burden of law on the hearer while the other brings glory to God for what He does as a result. Preaching about sin can lead to modification of actions. Don't go to R rated movies, don't drink or cuss, go to church, tithe, etc. And the neat thing about this kind of thinking is that we can do these things without repenting. Just do it, as the old Nike commercial says. But does that really work for anyone?

If we want life change, we must talk about the truth of life. We must present the gospel, which says that we are sinners in need of a Savior. This does not lead to mere modification of action, but to repentance. And true repentance will bring the type of modification of action that will last.

2 Cor. 7:10 states, "For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death." Godly grief breaks our hearts. It happens when we see that our actions have hurt the God that we worship and love. Godly grief brings regret for our actions to the point of repentance, because we do not want to continue such despicable behavior. Godly grief is when we see the full consequence of our action and are motivated by love to change.

My dad had been a smoker most of his life. He had tried to quit on several occsions, but these attempts never brought success. He retired at age 62, and shortly after his retirement, he had a heart attack. He knew that a large part of the reason behind his heart attack was smoking. And it was in that stay in the hospital that he found godly grief. No longer was smoking an action that might have some bad consequences, but now it was the thing that was going to take him from his wife, retirement, children, future grandchildren, and so on. I think his greatest motivation of all was the love he had for his wife of 40+ years, and his not being ready to leave her because of his selfishness. He said that once he entered the hospital, and from that day forward, he never even desired another cigarette.

I am not sure where I heard this, but I like the idea. A small boy was asked to define repentance. He said, "Repentance is to be so sorry for doing something that you wouldn't do it again, even if you knew you wouldn't get caught. That is what I want, that is what I need. That is why I need to understand the Holiness of God, and the sinfulness of me.

Religiousity #1

Job 4:6  "Is not your fear of God your confidence, and the integrity of your ways your hope?"

These words were spoken by Eliphaz, one of Job's friends, after 7 days of silence. Do they sound like words of comfort to you? I think to some they might, I think to some people this would be a compliment. But are they? I would hope that no one would think such things about me.

Now I think that the fear of God is a good thing. Proverbs 1:7 tells us that "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge." And I would hope that people who know me can see and understand that I do fear the Lord. But my fear of God is not my confidence. My confidence is in God and His attributes alone.

If my confidence is in my fear of God, then my confidence will waiver. I don't always fear God. Now that might sound like a strange statement, but I believe it is true. I believe in God. Always. But what about when I sin. Any sin. I could be a sin of disobedience, such as anything from speeding to murder. When I sin, I am not in fear of God. It could be a sin of omission. Perhaps someone gave me too much change, and I walk away and stick it in my pocket. Or I walk by someone in need, and do nothing. At these moments, do I fear God?

You see, I think Job's friend is saying here that Job's confidence is in his own righteousness. And I never want someone to tell me that my confidence is in my own righteousness. No matter how good I am or how good I might appear to be to others, I know that I am a sinner. I fall short. It is not just that I have fallen short, I continue to do so. If my confidence is in my fear of God, then I miss what God has for me.

The second part of that statement basically says the same thing. I would hope that no one would think that the integrity of my ways my hope. I am not 100% righteous. And isn't anything less then 100% failure? Now maybe not at school. At school we have a grading scale. 92% and above is still an A. But God's grading scale is not like that. It is pass or fail, it is 100% or nothing. If my hope is in my integrity, I am doomed to fail.

So what is my confidence in? God. Whatever I am, whatever I have, whatever happens, I put my confidence in God. It must be God who saves me, for I cannot save myself. There is no good thing that I can do to earn the favor of a God who can create and maintain such a universe as the one we live in.

Unfortunately, there are many in the church who don't get this. I think largely because we have stopped preaching about God, and have made religion about us again, much like the Israelites did over and over, all the way to the Pharisees and teachers of the law in Jesus time. There are those who, in the name of religion, teach that it is my behavior, my effort, my everything that determines my salvation.

Even at my church, where the current sermon series is "I'm All In" (with reference to Texas Hold-em poker, yes, really). I have to choose the right attitude, I have to go all in (as if that is even possible), I can't criticize, complain, or think of myself. Ironically, if I have this belief system, all I am really doing is thinking of myself.

Yes, Jesus told us to carry our cross daily. So in a sense, he calls us to go all in. But his was not a catch-phrase. It was a statement of the reality of following God. It was told to combat the idea of religiousity, not promote it. It was told to the disciples after Jesus had just told them he must suffer and die. On one occasion, Peter rebukes Jesus for saying he must die. Jesus instructs him rather harshly.

First, by calling him Satan.

I don't believe that Jesus was calling Peter names. I think at that moment, Jesus was literally addressing Satan, who was using Peter to tempt him. Satan wanted Jesus to agree, to say that such a thing should never happen to him, to the Messiah. He was appealing to Jesus' humanity, but his diety saw through it immediately.

Second, by explaining to Peter that carrying a cross is not a bad thing. Sure, the cross is an instrument of pain and suffering. But that is the price if you desire to save your soul. It is about obedience to whatever God lays out for you, and not about what you think He should lay out for you. Which do you prefer, Peter? To save your life but in the end to lose it, or to surrender your life in order to keep it.

It is not about me, my righteousness, my integrity, my anything. It is about God and Him alone. It is about me pushing into Him, not me pushing myself on Him. My confidence is Him.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Wrapping things up.

Radical, Chapters 8-9, by David Platt

I have finished the last 2 chapters. All I can say is that his teaching is so different from what we are used to hearing from most pulpits. His appeals more as a message of truth. Theirs is a message of comfort.

Why doesn't the world hate us? That is what Jesus said, isn't it? That if the world hated Him, we should expect it to hate us. And while we might take some comfort in that America as a nation is hated, and say that is the answer, I think that we are more hated because of our arrogance and hoarding of the earth's resources than it is that we are a Christian nation. Although one of the sad things about this is that sometimes our arrogance and gluttony is seen as a result of our being a Christian nation.

Dr. Platt states that the world likes it when we pursue what they pursue, when we look like them instead of Jesus. That is harsh. Does the church in America look more like America than Jesus? Let me get my mirror...

The American church has lots of fancy buildings, programs, presentations, etc. Mirror says that Americans pursue large homes, big screen TV's, and entertainment. Jesus had no place to rest his head.

The American church is budget driven, thinks nothing of spending money it does not have yet, and is concerned with growth, both financially and numerically. Americans may not be budget driven, but we do think nothing of spending money we don't have, and at least have the desire to see our incomes and bank accounts grow. Jesus had no budget that we are aware of, totally trusting in God to provide for his needs. He didn't go into debt that we know of (although having the ability to find coins is fish to pay taxes probably helped in that area). And He was not afraid to say things that would cause people to walk away.

The American church speaks of comfort and convenince. Our call to commitment is one from a God who loves us and calls us to go to church, give of our excess, and be good people. Amercians love comfort, from our blue jeans to our couches. Our towns are full of convenience stores. Our trash cnas are a great example of our excess, as each week we give away ridiculous amounts of goods to that large truck that collects them, and of course, Amercians overall think of themselves as good people. Jesus spoke and lived a life of suffering, including his sacrificial death on the cross. The only excess that Jesus gave was the excess of Himself and His love for us. And when the rich young ruler called Him good, Jesus responded by saying the God alone is good.

Which all leads me to one conclusion. I gotta get a new mirrior.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

A no-brainer???

Chapter 7, Radical, by David Platt

It this chapter, Platt answers the question, "What happens to those who do not hear of or accept Christ?" The Bible's answer seems clear, but is unpopular. Without Christ, they suffer eternal damnation.

Is that a narrow-minded view? Yes, at least from a human perspective. But narrow-minded or not, what matters is, is it true? If you believe the Bible, you should accept it as truth.

As a result of that truth, the church has an obligation to declare Christ to the world. It should be a priority. More than having a nice building, or having the greatest speaker. Our passion should be to glorify God before the world as a result of the love that we have for Him. Somehow, showing up for a couple of hours on Sunday morning does not fit the bill.

Does your church have a passion for the lost? Do you? How it that passion expressed?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Objects in the mirror may be closer...

Radical, Chapter 6 (by David Platt)

Chapter 6 begins with a discussion of seeing our blindspots. The trouble with blindspots is that we generally can't see them, hence the name blindspots. The focus of this chapter is materialism, and is it a blindspot for the American Christian, especially are we turning a blind eye to the rest of the world.

I hate it when people are right.

The guilt of this falls both on the church and the individual. Jesus spoke to the Rich Young Ruler. He told him to sell all he had and give it to the poor. When he walked away sad, the Scripture says "Jesus looked at him and loved him." Jesus loves us, but I have to believe that our selfishness makes him sad.

He loved him enough to tell him the truth. He loved him enough to confront him. He loved him enough to let him walk away.

Why has God given us more than we need? Is it to use the excess to have a more comfortable life, or is it to use that excess to honor God? I think we already know the answer to that question. Now the next question, what are we going to do about it?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Welcome to the show...

Radical, Chapter 5 (by David Platt)

God blesses us so that His glory may be known in all nations. God does it for Himself. He loves us, and He knows that this is the best way to spread His renoun. He blesses us so that we will shine His light to others, knowing that we will not always do this. That is love.

Today the Gospel isn't spread,  it is marketed. Marketed so that we can grow. Marketed so that we can attract large numbers of people to impressive buildings and programs. Marketed. Is that how Jesus worked?

For Jesus, spreading the Gospel centered around investing Himself in a few men, while preaching God's message to the masses. Contrary to today's marketing plans, He shunned titles and popularity. He was the Christ, yet told His disciples not to tell this to others. How is that for shunning titles? When the crowds got too large, He often would introduce a new, difficult teaching, causing many ot leave.

In today's performance driven ministry, individuals are often left out of the picture. Instead of making disciples, we have a model of ministry where the many watch the few minister. A model where the masses are receivers rather than reproducers. A model where we attempt to attract people into the church rather than teach people to "go into all the world to make disciples."

Now there is risk involved in turning the the reins of disciple-making over to the masses. But if Jesus was willing to take that risk, why don't we?

Monday, February 14, 2011

Partial Credit???

Radical, by David Platt, Chapter 4

Does God give partial credit? If we get a part of the answer but not the whole idea, does it really matter? Do we really want to take that chance?

Here is the question: What is the message of the Gospel? If your answer is, "God loves us," you only get partial credit according to Dr. Platt. Answering "Why does God love you?" is also a crucial part of the answer to grasp the entire meaning of the Gospel. I would agree.

So why does God love us? Because it is to His glory to love us. The difference is subtle, but significant. If the gospel's whole message is that "God loves us," then we are the center of the gospel, and it terminates on us. If it terminates on me, then my obligation ends with my acceptance of the gospel, and anything I do beyond that should please God. If He does it because it is to HIS glory, then He becomes the center, and my response is incomplete unless I continue to make Him the center, by loving Him and sharing His glory to others.

The greatest commandments, to love God and to love others, show us that this love should not terminate on us. The great commission tells us of our obligation to share His glory not only with others, but throughout the world. In fact, I believe that every command given in the Bible needs to be interpreted in the light of this. If we are the center,

Giving your all

Radical, by David Platt, Chapter 3, Parts 3 and 4

I appreciate the author's honesty. He said that at one time, he thought about all that his church could accomplish with all of the resources they had at their fingertips. Then he rethought that, and realized that without the power of the Holy Spirit.

Isn't that the message of the Bible? Seldom does God choose those who have it together to get his jobs done. More often he chooses those who need to rely on him. It is not our strengths that show God's glory (even though those strengths ultimately come from him in the first place), it is our weaknesses. God is most glorified when we get a task done that on our own we could not have ever accomplished.

Why was the widow's mite such an incredible gift? Others gave much more, out of their abundance. Their gifts did not glorify God like hers did because their gifts did not depend on God's power and might. I am not talking about in the lives of those who would receive the gifts, but in the life of the one who gave it! I don't think the widow was thinking about what her gift would accomplish when she gave it. Perhaps she was thinking about where her next meal might come from. But her primary thought must have been that in this act she was worshipping God.

The author gives the example of George Muller, who started an orphanage for children. But his goal was not to feed children, it was to honor God. God has the resources, he does not need ours.

Which would impress you more, a from-the-free-throw-line dunk by Michael Jordan, or the giving of a mite by a widow? One requires God-given talent, the other requires absolute dependence on God. One requires grace on the court, the other requires the grace of God. One has little consequence for failure, the other is like a high wire act without a net. One is flashy and gathers ohs and ahs, the other is hardly noticeable. Which one impresses you most? Now ask, which one impresses God.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Yeah, this is a problem.

Chapter 3, Part 1 and 2

NOTE: The following thoughts are not in the book, but are on my heart after hearing this section of the book.

I am an American. First generation. My parents came over from Germany in 1956 to give their children a "better life." They are gone now, and things were good when they left. One son was a boilermaker, married, and had a nice house near theirs. Another son was a machinist, and lived about an hour away in a place on the river. A third son lived about 3 hours away, and was a teacher married to a teacher, with 3 children.

That picture is different now. The first son is divorced. The second committed suicide. One of the children of the third had a few run-ins with the law, but is thankfully now on a better track. The American dream...or is it the price we pay to live in America? And let's not even talk about all the unsettlement with the economy these days. Is the dream becoming a nightmare? If it is, perhaps that is God's grace, reminding us that He is in charge, and that this world does not hold the answers we should be chasing. Yet we still do. Hope of the economic rebound grow. The market is up. Maybe I can still retire...

And what of the church? 9/11 provided a wave of people seeking God. Many went to church, only to find that instead of God, patriotism was preached. I have no problem with being patriotic, but somewhere along the way patriotism became confused with self-sufficiency. God became a spectator and we became the instruments of success.

Church became a spectator sport as well. Some tired to the show, but others soon filled their empty seats. Those who left, often just traded one theater for another. No discipleship. No power of the Holy Spirit. No dependence on God, as budgets were met without a problem. And when budgets started to shrink, luckily we had all those missionaries on budget. We quickly and easily cut their funds, because after all, the show must go on.

Where is the desperation for God? Where is the yearning for His presence? Where is the power of His Holy Spirit? To quote Bono, "I still haven't found what I'm looking for!" But by his grace, I will.

Monday, February 7, 2011

A response

Chapter 2, Part 3

This section begins with a very loaded question, "How do we respond to Christ?"

Typically, a prayer, a moment of agreement, perhaps baptism. All ways of saying that we accept Him. But isn't that backwards? Isn't it all about Him accepting us?  Have people been led down a "religious road that makes grandiose promises at minimal cost?"

We are saved to know God. And to know His is to love Him. A full, no holes barred, abandon all else love that experiences the Sovereign God of the Universe. Somehow, just praying a prayer or taking a bath just doesn't seem enough.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Eeny, meeny, miny, moe! (Nyuk nyuk)

Chapter 2, Part 2

A basic idea in math and/or science states that if your beginning theory is off, all subsequent theories based on that idea stand a high likelyhood of being off as well. To illustrate, if you were hitting a golf ball, and had all of the mechanics of a proper swing down pat, you still are not ensured of keeping the ball in the fairway if you do not aim in the right direction!

This section challenges much of what many evangelical churches hold dearly to, that God loves us, wants good things for us, and if we just follow some simple steps we are saved. But, the author says, the Biblical view is that we are an enemy of God, we are dead in our sins, and we are dependent on God to save us.

These are 2 very different perspectives. Both can preach, but can both save?

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Hungering for His word (Can I get fries with that?)

Chapter 2, Part 1

The author begins this chapter referring back to an earlier mention of Christians in Asia who secretly met to worship. He had been at one of their meetings, and experienced their hunger and thirst for the word of God. He talks about how God's word is enough for millions who meet in such house churches, and hten asks, "but is it enough for us?" Or are we only content with supersize meals, complete with large fries and a drink? With all of our amenities, padded seats, air conditioning, indoor plumbing, would we be satisfied just to meet and hear God's word?

The 3 M's

We tend to misunderstand, misinterpret, and even manipulate the word of God to accomodate our assumptions and desires. We need to honestly explore how much of our gospel is Biblical and how much is American. He then goes on to say that the primary reward of the gospel is God Himself. I wonder how many people think this and would be satisfied with it. This stuff truly is radical. Maybe the world needs more radical thinkers. With fries, of course.

Friday, February 4, 2011

I opened my Bible and this Jesus popped out!

Chapter 1, parts 3 and 4 of Radical, by David Platt

In this section he talks about how we rationalize and redefine the tough teachings of Jesus. I cannot help but think of Aaron when Moses confronted him about the golden calf. "So they gave it (their gold) to me, and I threw it in the fire, and out came this calf." Do you think Moses was buying it?

And what of the Jesus that we have cast in our own image? Shall we answer God, "I opened up my Bible, and this is the Jesus that popped out!" Not even the best salesman could sell that one to God.

There is a tone to this section. A tone that says, "He is worthy." To be worthy implies that something has value. And it is only when we see the infinite value of Christ that we can truly worship Him. It is only when we see His infinite value that we can look at the things we hold on to and realize their worthlessness.

A thought occurs to me. If Jesus told the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus, which one would we be?

Now that's radical...

I wasn't going to do another book thing, but I have begun listening to Radical by David Platt. (Apparently I orded the audio version from Amazon instead of the book. But that might actually be a good thing.) I have barely begun listening, and already I am touched by the author's message.

Chapter 1, part 1 of 4
The author is the pastor of a mega-church, but this is not a book about church growth. If anything, he comes out in the very beginning and challenges what he is doing and what American churches in general are doing, and contrasts that with what Jesus did. He compares and contrasts our choices with those of Christ, and contrary to what some might do, he does not downplay what Jesus did or explain it away through some kind of cultural excuse. He questions what we do. Jesus was not interesting in marketing his teachings. In fact, when the crowds got large, he would say things that would chase some away. Apparently, his invitiations were more costly than some were willing to accept, and he was okay with that. Quite the contrast to the invitation that we often hear today.

Chapter 1, part 2 of 4
"Somewhere along the way we have missed what is radical about our faith and replaced it with what is comfortable." Those are hard words to hear. But when we look at the Jesus of the Bible, and really listen to his call, we do not hear a comfortable call or promises that all will be easy. That call that Jesus gave was full of difficult and challenging statements. Things like "carry your cross," "let the dead bury their own," "go and sell all that you have and give it to the poor," and the ever-popular "unless you eat my body and drink my blood, you have no part in me." When is the last time you heard those words in an invitation?

He mentions the story of the Rich Young Ruler in this section. Wouldn't most of us given anything to have such a person of power and prestige as a member of our group? Yet Jesus couldn't close the sale. Jesus called people to abandonment. Many of his followers did so at the cost of their lives. That is not easy to hear, so we water it down. But Jesus didn't. Did he know something that we don't?

Thursday, February 3, 2011

It's a wrap!

I am reading the final 2 chapters today, so I can wrap this up.

With all the snow, I have a little extra time on my hands, and I think it is time to wrap this one up. I have quite a few books waiting on me.

Chapter 11 starts out with a great illustration of the importance of Scripture. He talkes about holding a meeting for house church leaders in China. How they long for the freedom to meet that we have. But Wayne will not pray that they become like us, instead he says he will pray that we become like them, willing to travel 13 hours to attend a meeting, sit on the floor instead of padded chairs, no air, having to commit Scripture to memory because it is illegal to possess a Bible. Committed, in other words, and not just adding God to our todo list for the week, if it fits into our schedules.

Chapter 12 talks about the need to have the Holy Spirit involved in the process. I do like the illustration of the seminary student from Uganda, who had witnessed many horrible things as a Christian, and then came to the states to study. He quotes, "We came to gether not for confession or forgiveness, but for debate." Where once the Scriptures were depended upon, now they were another one of the many things that fill our lives. Somehow, we need to get back to depending on them.

Overall, I rate this book average. If it is a topic of need or interest for an individual, maybe a little above average. So maybe 5 1/2 out of 10. If you are looking for illustrations, maybe more.

Going public

Chapter 10 of The Divine Mentor introduces the 20/20/20 program. 20 minutes of reading/20 minutes of focus on one Scripture/20 minutes of group sharing.

I read an article the other day in The Christian Standard where the author is calling for the death of small groups, citing research that small groups are not effective (Shhhh! Don't tell Jesus this!) I think a part of the reason for this is the fact that many small groups do not have a focus. But then again, some big churches don't either! Sometimes we have small groups just because someone said we should have small groups. I am a firm believer that we cannot duplicate the successes of other churches just by copying their programs. But I do think that if I were to be in a small group right now (I have been in the past), that I would want to be in one that takes this approach, or at least try it.

I also find it interesting that the author's small groups meet in public places, as a witness to those who might see them. I like that idea, although I could see where some might be uncomfortable with that.

The author concludes this chapter with a Daily Bible Reading Schedule. These have never worked for me. I either fall behind or want to get ahead. So I struggle with this part, but again stress, do what works for you.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Genuine Imitation Christianity

Chapter 9 begins with an illustration of how he had bought what he thought was a solid oak roll-top desk, only to later find out that the desk was veneered pressboard.

On the outside, it looks just like the real thing, but that is only skin deep. Oh, the places I could go with such an illustration! He goes on to talk about James, the half-brother of Jesus. He tells of how James conviction became so strong that he would spend hours in prayer. James is quoted as telling us to "look intently" into the word. Don't just skim the surface. Look past the veneer.

"God is intimately acquainted with our ways, and He's more concerned about transformation than information." (Page 140)

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Doh! nuts

Chapter 8 basically focuses on an illustration of bread. It talks about our need to get our daily bread from God, to feed on his word. He concludes the chapter talking about the spiritual famine that appears prevalent in Christianity, despite the vast sum spent on Christian products and programs.

So rather than enjoy a loaf of fresh, warm bread, we settle for day (or week) old donuts. Doh!