Monday, April 26, 2010

The Pulpit Calls

“The pulpit calls those anointed to it as the sea calls its sailors; and like the sea, it batters and bruises and does not rest…. To preach, to really preach, is to die naked a little at a time and to know each time you do it that you must do it again.” Bruce W. Thielemann, The Wittenburg Door, no. 36 (April–May 1977)

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Creating Community

Recently, Kent Shaffer posted a quick review of the book The Tangible Kingdom Primer, a self-described 8-week guide to incarnational community. Written by Hugh Halter and Matt Smay, The Tangible Kingdom Primer explores how to become mission-minded and then act on it by creating authentic community.

It is a cleverly designed workbook with lots of graphics and even more questions intended to take you on a journey through the ideas. To get the best flavor of this workbook, here is a sample question from each week:

  1. How much time per week are you willing to give to building deeper relationships with them?
  2. Who in your life needs you to be an advocate for them now?
  3. Is your own view of the Gospel missing anything?
  4. What would you need to change to incorporate more opportunities for community to take place in your life?
  5. Considering the relationships that God has brought into your life, what are your responsibilities to them now?
  6. Who are some of the people in your life that you are currently investing in relationally?
  7. As you consider the differences between passive discipleship and apprenticeship, how would you describe your own life?
  8. How can you work with God so that you are more accessible to people and more available for God?

The Tangible Kingdom Primer is a great way to immerse yourself in thinking about community. It is an area that I need to improve. What about you?

Do you thrive at creating community or do you get lost in your own world? What are your pitfalls or keys to success?

Friday, April 09, 2010

Atheist Christopher Hitchens on Being Christian

Back in January, we did a teaching series entitled Faith & Doubt, where we explored some of the questions and objections raised by some of the leading New Atheists like Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens. These questions aren't necessarily new, but have received fresh attention with the advent of some of the aforementioned authors writings.

A friend of mine, Todd, recently posted the following excerpt of an interview with Atheist Christopher Hitchens. In the interview, he states very clearly Who Christ is for the Christian. Interestingly, he articulates it better than many Christians:

During a recent trip to Portland, Oregon, noted atheist Christopher Hitchens laid down some seriously good theology. Most people recognize Hitchens as the author of the bestselling book God Is Not Great: Why Religion Poisons Everything. Since the book's publication in 2007, Hitchens has toured the country debating a series of religious leaders, including some well-known evangelical thinkers. In Portland he was interviewed by Unitarian minister Marilyn Sewell. The entire transcript of the interview has been posted online. The following exchange took place near the start of the interview:

Sewell: The religion you cite in your book is generally the fundamentalist faith of various kinds. I'm a liberal Christian, and I don't take the stories from the Scripture literally. I don't believe in the doctrine of atonement (that Jesus died for our sins, for example). Do you make any distinction between fundamentalist faith and liberal religion?
Hitchens: I would say that if you don't believe that Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ and Messiah, and that he rose again from the dead and by his sacrifice our sins are forgiven, you're really not in any meaningful sense a Christian.

Sewell wanted no part of that discussion so her next words are, "Let me go someplace else."

This little snippet demonstrates an important point about religious "God-talk." You can call yourself anything you like, but if you don't believe that Jesus is the Son of God who died on the cross for our sins and then rose from the dead, you are not "in any meaningful sense" a Christian.

Talk about nailing it.

In one of the delicious ironies of our time, an outspoken atheist grasps the central tenet of Christianity better than many Christians do. What you believe about Jesus Christ really does make a difference.

Excerpt from

Thursday, April 08, 2010

The Goal of Discipline

“Discipline is the other side of discipleship. Discipleship without discipline is like waiting to run in the marathon without ever practicing. Discipline without discipleship is like always practicing for the marathon but never participating. It is important, to realize that discipline in the spiritual life is not the same as discipline in sports. Discipline in sports is the concentrated effort to master the body so that it can obey the mind better. Discipline in the spiritual life is the concentrated effort to create the space and time where God can become our master and where we can respond freely to God’s guidance. Thus, discipline is the creation of boundaries that keep time and space open for God – a time and a place where God’s gracious presence can be acknowledged and responded to.”

(Henri Nouwen, Bread for the Journey, 60)

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

New Series :: DAVID

Tonight we kick of a new series in New Community. We're going to be looking at the life of David.

Except for Jesus, there is more written about his life than any other character in Scripture. Unfortunately, our flashbacks to flannel-boards and David & Goliath story-sound-bytes have shrouded our understanding of David and perhaps kept us from digging beneath the surface of the story itself.

David's life is a fascinating drama that's narrated by a brilliant story-teller. I'm looking forward to what we'll discover...

Sunday, April 04, 2010


“I have seen the Lord!”
John 20:18

“The disciples had seen the strong hands of God
twist the crown of thorns into a crown of glory,
and in hands as strong as that they knew themselves safe . . .

They had expected a walkover,
and they beheld a victory; they had

expected an earthly Messiah,

and they beheld the Soul of Eternity.”
Dorothy L. Sayers

In the book, Sit, Walk, Stand, Watchman Nee said, “Christianity begins not with a big DO, but with a big DONE.” He continues:

We begin our Christian life by depending not our own doing but upon what Christ has done. Until you realize this, you are no Christian; for to say: “I can do nothing to save myself; but by His grace God has done everything for me in Christ,” is to take the first step of faith.

If I put a dollar bill between the pages of a magazine, and then burn the magazine, where is the dollar bill? It has gone the same way as the magazine – to ashes. Where the one goes the other goes too. Their history has become one. But, just as effectively, God has put us in Christ. What happened to Him happened also to us. All the experiences He met, we too have met in Him.

“Our old man was crucified with him,
that the body of sin might be done away,
that so we should no longer be in bondage to sin.”

Romans 6:6

That is not an exhortation to struggle. That is history: our history, written in Christ before we were born. Do you believe this? It is true! Our crucifixion with Christ is a glorious historic fact. Our deliverance from sin is based, not on what we can do, nor even on what God is going to do for us, but on what He has already done in Christ.*

Action: Based on this reflection, give thanks to God for what He has done.

“The crowing evidence that Jesus was alive
was not a vacant grave,
but a spirit-filled fellowship.
Not a rolled-away stone,
but a carried-away church.”*
Clarence Jordan

Join a group of Christ-followers, and together celebrate the risen Christ…

“The death of Jesus is for us nothing
if we have not died with Him;

the resurrection of our Lord is for us nothing
if we have not been

raised with Him.”*
Swiss Theologian, Emil Brunner

*Watchman Nee, Sit Walk Stand, 14, 21.
*Joyce Hollyday, Clarence Jordan: Essential Writings, 140.
*Emil Brunner, I Believe in the Living God, 103.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Day 40 of Lent :: Tombstone

“Mary stood outside the tomb weeping.”
John 20:11

The disciples had left everything to follow Christ. Many had abandoned personal aspirations, hopes and dreams. They had placed all their trust in this Rabbi – Jesus. They believed He was about to establish a new kingdom, but now He lies lifeless within the tomb. “What will we do now?” they wondered. “I suppose I can go back to work with my dad,” added another. Others sat despondent, on the verge of depression, unable to sort out the events of the past seventy-two hours.

Have you ever wondered what they would have done, had Jesus never risen from the dead? I imagine they would have somehow found their way back into the rhythms of life as they had once known it, but who knows. After all, Peter had once said, “Where else can we go?” What if the tomb remained darkened with death?


Take a few moments to reflect on this dark question: What if Jesus had never risen from the dead?

What would your life be like today, had Jesus never invaded the darkness of your soul?

What struggles, pain, wounds, and addictions would you still be entrapped in?
This may indeed be a dark reflection, but don’t be too quick to climb out of the grave.
Allow yourself to feel the darkness of sin and death, without a Savior in sight. Al-
low yourself to live with the ambiguity that these first disciples felt.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Day 39 of Lent :: Good Friday

“So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said,
‘It is finished!’ And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit.’”
John 19:30

“Good Friday,” Virginia Stem Owens writes, “is the day when you can do nothing. Bewailing and lamenting your manifold sins does not in itself make up for them. Scouring your soul in a frenzy of spring cleaning only sterilizes it; it does not give it life. On Good Friday, finally, we are all, mourners and mockers alike, reduced to the same impotence. Someone else is doing the terrible work that gives life to the world."*

Today, we recognize we are powerless to change ourselves or even make amends for our sins. We stand in awe of the One who is suffering for our sake. We gaze at the One who willingly laid down His life, so that we may live. Today, we are reminded again, that He is everything that we need.

“As you sit and gaze,
it will be born in you
that only a crucified Savior
could meet your need.”
William Sangster

Prayer: Spend a few moments gazing at the One who suffered for your sin and died so that you may experience true life.

*Virginia Stem Owens, “Good Friday,” Christianity Today. ( aprilweb-only/43.0b.html).

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Day 38 of Lent :: Weep

“But Jesus was saying,
‘Father forgive them;
for they do not know what they are doing.’”
Luke 23:34

Softly, slowly speak or sing the words to the following old hymn.

And Can It Be That I Should Gain?
Charles Wesley, Public Domain
And can it be that I should gain
an interest in the Savior’s blood?
Died He for me, who caused His pain?
For me, who Him to death pursued?
Amazing love! how can it be
That Thou, my God shouldst die for me?
He left His Father’s throne above,
So free, so infinite His grace!
Emptied Himself of all but love,
and bled for Adam’s helpless race;
Tis mercy all, immense and free;
For O my God, it found out me.
Amazing love! how can it be
that Thou, my God shouldst die for me?

“What do you weep at,
if you do not weep at this?”*
Dante Alghieri

“To make of His story something that could neither startle,
nor shock, nor terrify, nor excite, nor inspire a living soul
is to crucify the Son of God afresh.”*
Dorthy Sayers

Reflection: Close your eyes and experience this moment at the cross. See the soldiers laugh and joke as they divide Jesus’ clothes. Smell the sweat in the air as the morning sun burns down. Hear the rumble of conversation among the high priests. Look at Jesus hanging there. See His eyes on you. Hear Him say “Father, forgive” for every act of sin, rebellion, apathy, or disobedience you have ever committed or will commit.

Prayer: Dearest Savior, I hear Your voice breaking through the heat of a summer morning and the busyness of my days.. And I am back there – standing at Your feet with heartless soldiers and hard-hearted priests. I too have sealed Your fate with my sins, and am in desperate need of compassion. So tenderly You offer forgiveness to them . . . to the world . . . to me. Your voice descends like a gentle rain on the desert of my heart until I am soft and pliable in Your nail-scarred hands.*

*Raniero Cantalamess, Life in Christ: A Spiritual commentary on the Letter to the Romans, 62.
*Dorthy L. Sayers, The Man Born to be King, 43.
*Prayer by Tricia McCary Rhodes in Contemplating the Cross, 108.