Monday, January 31, 2011

Thinking Back On Keller

I keep thinking back on this point that Keller made during one of his talks at the Anglican 1000. He said that if you believe in salvation by faith alone, you have to believe in predestination. Keller is a Calvinist. Obviously, there are different variances on the predestination discussion, but it is a sensitive topic for those who can't believe that an all loving God would predetermine that some people are going to hell.

The point Keller made was that if you take any credit, however slight, for believing the gospel message over someone who heard and did not believe, than you are giving yourself commendation for that...and as a result are invoking some sort of 'works based' theology into your faith.

I'm having trouble digesting this. I think it takes away from free will. The only good explanation I have for the existence of evil is that some people choose it. It doesn't make sense that God would preordain some people choosing it. Ugh...I've got to go back to the books it seems. 

I'm going to develop this further on my own and write a follow up tomorrow night. At the very least...I'm going to write a bit on Calvinism's five points and the different schools of thought within Calvinism like Arminianism

But for now, it's late, and I want to hang out with my wife before she collapses into a sleepy heap.

Much Love

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Sunday-Day of rest?

Today has been incredibly frustrating. I couldn't sleep last night at all. I wasn't dealing with any particular anxiety concern...I blame it mostly on a dinner of coke and junior mints. We had family movie night last night. I took the wife and kid to see the new Narnia movie.

So I was up very late, probably fell asleep at about 2am. Then the wife, being th gem that she is...(I'm incredibly blessed to have that woman in my life)..allowed me to sleep in until 830. Church starts at 10am. I muddled around a bit and finally was ready to go at 9:40. Perfect timing.

Then I couldnt find the car keys. Anywhere. I have to admit, I lost my cool a bit. I wasn't the prefect model of Christian temperance and patience. I started blaming everyone around me for why they had disappeared. Everywhere I looked that was a pile of something. This drives me nuts. Piles of magazines, bills, papers, food, trash etc. When I do set something down somewhere, it can get sucked in to a black hole of piles. Why is it so hard to throw things away? So mostly it was my wife's fault for the lost keys. Had I been able to see a counter or table top, I probably would have been able to find the keys that I had placed somewhere I shouldn't have placed them.

Then it became my son's fault, because he had probably run off with them or stashed them in an insane place in the disaster area of a room he keeps back there. So for over an hour, I fumed around looking in impossible places, digging through a disgusting bag of garbage, and generally cursed my lot in life. I began to wonder how I was going to make it to work the next day. To top it off, I'm driving a rental car because my car is in the shop. (I forgot to put on the parking brake and it rolled through two neighbors yards into a copse of trees. I like to say the word copse.) So then I started thinking..if I've lost the rental keys I'm really in trouble. We have a single car driveway, and I had blocked my wife's car in with the keyless rental car.

Things were starting to look bleak.

Then I found them. Someone had put a loaf of bread on top of them right next to the sink.

OK...I calmed down...I moved on with life, I finished cleaning the house since I had started to organize our lives whilst going room to room trying to find the keys. Thankfully, my son had been an angel all morning and pretended he was a ninja outside in the yard.

So I rolled to work. I had some catching up to do. I wasn't meeting any clients so i dressed like a thug from Baltimore. Deep down, thats what I am. A street smart white kid from B-more. I wore some urban jeans and put on a hoodie. I had to close a deal, but all that was getting done over the phone. I rolled through the back door at the office and set the alarm off. No big deal...I just needed to click the remote switch I keep on my car keychain. I looked down at the rental keychain I had in my hand. The alarm kept going. The 30 second mark hit and the place went nuts. In about 3 minutes the police had arrived, hands on glocks, and I was dressed like I just broke into the place.

The day just kept getting better.

Well, I'll spare you the details, but it took showing the cops the pic of me and the wife I had sitting on my desk to calm them down. Now I'm home and I want to make two points from this story. The first one is this. I went from happy to victim mode in all of one second today. I was so mad at the world for making me miss church, when in reality, I'm the only person responsible for not putting me keys on the table by the door. I had just read recently, that one of the greatest obstacles to holiness is discouragement, and an exaggerated sense of anxiety. Man did I go there fast today. I need to do better.

My second point is this. I don't know who is making these CS Lewis movies, but I'm so happy and pleased to watch a Christian theme on the big screen. In fact, every time I sit through one of those flicks I tear up. It's very emotional to me to watch Lewis' work come to life in a way thatI think he'd be proud of. You know, I read those books as a kid, and even made believe that I was in Narnia etc. but I never understood the depth of the Christian theology at work in those stories. As an adult, it blows my mind. For example, Edmund and Lucy are told that they have ourgrown their time in Narnia, (which always made me sad as a kid when I read those books), so Aslan comforts them saying: "In your world, I have another name. You must learn to know me by that name. This was the very reason why you were brought to Narnia, that by knowing me here for a little, you may know me better there." That's the kind of stuff that makes me cry a bit in a kids movie. Because someone in Hollywood was brave enough to put that in there. It was nice. But I drank too much soda.

For a great article on Christian references in The Dawn Treader, check this out:

Saturday, January 29, 2011

My Thoughts on the Anglican 1000

Well, I've had a couple days to digest my 3 days away this week.

In case all two of you missed a previous post, I travelled to Texas to spend time with fellow Anglicans, (mostly priests), to reconnect and move forward in my faith. Some notable's present were Tim Keller, ArchBishop Robert Duncan, and Bishop Todd Hunter. I got to spend time with some good friends and reconnect with the former Rector of our Church, who is planting a new church in Baltimore. I met amazing, vibrant people who are working hard to make the planet a better place. I made connections with some wonderful people. I went with a great friend of mine from church. He is similar to me in that we know we've always got to be moving forward in our faith.

I flew on a plane. Four times. It became easier, although I was never really comfortable in the air. Three months ago however, the sight of a plane in the sky used to send a shiver of fear down my spine. It really has begun turning into a phobia. I think it's a cross between claustro and aero phobias. But, nonetheless I went boldly into the deep waters at Christ's beckoning. I will always be bold for Christ. He tells us not to fear many times in the Bible. So I took that to heart, manned up and went for it. I hardly whimpered.

Part of my discernment this year is to focus on how the question: How far I want to take my faith walk? Do I want to go to seminary? Will I be as effective as a lay minister? Do I need a degree for that? Can I be an attorney the rest of my life? Do I want to plant a church? I feel like I moved closer to some answers.

I talked about the subject with some smart people. Men and women that have been down the same road, and are still traveling down the road. I think that there's something to be said for connecting to people without a collar on. I think the collar can actually make it harder to build trust at times. As a regular guy, I am easier to approach, and people will often be less suspicious of agenda. I still hunger for knowledge though. We'll see...I think another degree is certainly on my horizon, but with the time devoted to family and the law may have to wait a while.

I'm convinced that the more you make Christ a priority, the more better you can hear him speak to you through the Holy Spirit. The more you exercise your faith in his plan for your life, the more he'll show up. God rewards the faithful. I want to do His will. Prayer was a constant theme at this conference. Prayer time is key to renewing spiritual energy. If your not healthy spiritually, everything else falls apart. I'm still devoted to praying in the morning and night, and developing my skill at it. It certainly takes some practice. I still want to jump right in to my needs as soon as I get started. That's an awful habit that I'm finding hard to kick.

Anyway...much love. t's back to some real world grind. Caught between two worlds.

Until next time. 

Friday, January 28, 2011

Tim Keller's Third Talk

Dr. Keller discussed the term of art called 'contextualization' in his second talk of the conference. Think of it as: What context should I put the gospel in for my audience?

Contextualization Dr Keller - 1/26/2011

Contextualization - to put (a linguistic element, an action, etc.) in a context, especially one that is characteristic or appropriate, as for purposes of study. giving answers to peoples questions in a way they understand.  The trick is not overadapting or underadapting. Ministry has to be contextualized for the mission culture at hand. This culture can be almost any demographic/social trait.  Most boring sermons arent unbiblical, they havnt properly been contextualized for the audience.

We get to understand the gospel better, because we realize how the gospel is contextualized in our own culture so that we are able to present the gospel to other cultures.

Context is invisible to us. You don't ask a fish about water. We only understand our own culture when we've left it for a certain period of time. To return after some years, may make you even better at contextualizing to your home audience.

-When spreading the Gospel there is no reason not to adapt our gospel to the surrounding environment. You can do that without losing the gospel truth. Your cultural preferences shouldn't be on the same altar as the gospel truth.

Biblical themes that have have the largest effect / motivation on people:
1. Fear of judgment or death
2. Relieve the burden of guilt or shame
3. The beauty of the Gospel itself
4. Satisfaction of unfulfilled longings (woman at the well)
5. Desire for freedom
6. Attractiveness of the grace and love of Jesus. (don't you want him!?)

We have to use all these appeals when sharing the gospel, we cannot simply use the one that appealed most to us. Various cultures and groups will respond to some of these more than others...(this is not a complete list.)

Sme great examples of Paul appealing to different cultures:
Acts 13:16-43 - Paul knew he could assume that the Jews would be living with Old Test. Theology as furniture in their mind.
Acts 14 - Paul presents to blue collar pagans
Acts 17 - Paul appeals to white collar pagans at Mars Hill

Read these and look at the different ways that Paul preaches.
***See John Stott's commentary on Acts!!

Go to 1 Corinthians 1:22-25 Most important of all texts on contextualization. The Greeks seeked wisdom, the Jews seeked for justice and righteousness. The cross was foolishness to both of these groups. Or did it answer both of see groups aspirations?!! Paul skillfully confronts and completes the baseline cultural narrative of both these groups.

There are some things about Christianity that will resonate more with people.
Popular doctrines = logs (grace & love)
Unpopular doctrines = stones (pre-marital sex & predestination*)
If you want to get your doctrines across the river, you must lash your logs together, and place your stones on top. You cannot lash your stones together and put your logs on top.

With contextualization, do not over adapt, or under adapt. But when you do adapt, you must confront the false issues of the day...if you do not confront these issues, you run the risk of becoming a club, not a church. (Don't forget to attach the stones to the logs).
There are different ways to talk about sin, for if you culture looks at being good as being more important than being free...then talk about sin as idolatry.

*John Calvin interpreted predestination to mean that God willed eternal damnation for some people and salvation for others. Keller is a Calvinist. Point: You can only believe in free grace (which is one of the five points of Calvinism) if you believe in predestination. Otherwise, you have to admit that the reason you follow Christ and someone else doesn't is because you are a bit better than them. Your works have put you in a better position to receive Christ. You must take credit for something you've done, over something they've done. As soon as you begin doing this, your faith isn't something that was completed through christs work, and given freely to you...It's salvation by works, by your own merit.

The Bible gives you an entire medicine chest to use to treat spiritual illness, you just have to pick the right medication for the patient(s).

When trying to get around a boulder do not:
1. Put your explosives on the outside of the rock, then run away; or
2. Drill a hole all the way to the middle of the boulder, but not put any explosives in the center.

You have to drill all the way to the center of the boulder (or person) and the ignite the explosives (the Gospel)

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Tim Keller's Second Talk

Tim Keller - Revival - Spiritual Renewal

Keller's Experience With Revivals
Tim is a product of the Jesus movement. 60's on college campuses. Asbury revival. inter varsity in college, it began to grow. The same thing was happening on other campuses. It was a revival, a spiritual renewal.
The same thing happened when he started his Presbyterian Church in NY. Maybe for 18 months, a couple hundred came to the faith. 

19th Century Revivals
Charles Spurgeon saw more people come to faith in his 3 years in London than during the rest of his ministry. George Whitfield, John Wesley etc. Other Anglicans started revivals. Why?Then industrial revolution, America too big for parish system and no national church, and people started reading the scripture. The question became...have you been born again? Have you really been converted? Yes you've been circumcised in the flesh, but have you been in the heart? Youre observing all the ordinances, but have you been born again? Phil 3

What is a Revival?
We must do more than play church. We must promote revival in our congregations. Revival is an intensification of the ordinary operations of the holy spirit. The holy spirit anoints and convicts and assures. When those things are intensified, for one year or one night...whatever, 1857-1860 80k people joined churches in NY city. 1/3 of northern Ireland came into the church. When it happens, sleepy Christians wake up, nominal Believers in God come to you and say...I had no idea this was possible. I must be converted to Christianity. Skeptics come to the church because the legalism is replaced by grace.

Means for promoting Revivals:
1) extraordinary prayer (there should be ordinary prayer anyway)
2) the recovery of the gospel (unite with Christ, faith alone)
3) people become a case study for revival (the penny drops, and the formerly average person becomes remarkably filled with grace)
4) places, venues, experience meetings - (william williams brought people together to process what was happening to them.)
5) creativity - Wesley and whitfield started outdoor preaching. (tears down the miners faces) (getting the gospel out in a new way).

If revival really comes, it's the end of the delta affect. Theology, worship and liturgy, social justice aren't specialties for each church, but vital churches combine all those things.

Alexander the great. One of his generals sent word saying his daughters was getting married. A sent a treasurer out there. The general asked for an exhorbative sum. A the great says, give it to him. He must believe I'm both rich and generous! Don't be afraid to ask for a lot. He is both rich and generous.

Pray for a Revival.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Tim Keller's First Talk

At the Anglican 1000 conference, hosted by Christ Church in Plano, TX, on January 25, 2011, Tim Keller answers the question, “What is a movement?”
Keller contrasts movements with institutions in 4 distinct ways:

    •     Movements are held together by a compelling vision VS. Institutions are held together by rules and procedures. 

    •     Movements advocate for others and are characterized by a culture of sacrificial commitment VS. Institutions advocate for insiders and are characterized by a culture of rights, quotas, and obligations. 
    •     Movements cultivate a culture of innovation, risk, flexibility and quick decision making VS. Institutions cultivate a culture of static ideas and slow decision making. 
    •     Movements attract, and are lead by,  energetic and ambitious people that do not struggle in raising resources; these people produce results VS Institutions struggle with leadership development and raising resources while being lead by people with tenure and connections.

Biblical Mandate. Keller goes on to talk about the Biblical mandate for movements by pointing to the book of Acts where we see “the word of God multiplied” and “the disciples multiplied” numerous times. But, Keller also notes that there is precedence for institutionalizing or at least organizing. In Acts and other New Testament letters, we see the Apostles appointing elders and overseers to protect the early churches from false doctrines.
We see that while churches must be part of a movement there is also room and a mandate for institutionalization in an effort to create order and protect the church. The challenge is balancing them. You must institutionalize a movement to execute a vision. If the vision changes every week it doesn't work. If the vision is over-institutionalized then it becomes benign and lifeless. There is a danger of holding on to a vision too long, and it's difficult to discern when to let go. Keller recommends 5 ways to maintain a movement.
5 Ways to Maintain a Movement: 
1. Spiritual Revival & Renewal. If people are white hot spiritually, then they will continue to engage sacrificially. You must smite people with the presence of God. These are the people that will live sacrificially. Fear, pride, selfishness, and self-righteousness are the great protectors of the over-institutionalized church.
2. Vision. There must be a distinct, simple, and compelling (persuasive) communication of the vision. You must have all three pieces. Make sure your vision statement is a vision and not just a tactic. Your vision must be Biblical, distinctive, and true to your gifts. You must be able to describe your vision for the future so that people can see it and want to go there. 
3. Innovation. You must create a culture of innovation. If you ask for feedback, you must respond to the feedback; if you don’t ask or do not respond, you will crush the spirit of innovation. It's equally important to associate with people that share your same core tenets of the faith but work in a different tradition or do things differently than you. These people will prophetically share with you your weaknesses.
4. Organic Systems for Producing Leaders. Movements attract leaders. If you are going to participate in a movement you must have a leadership pipeline and infrastructure to train and support new leaders.
5. Movements are enhanced by church planting. Church Planting is the best research and development for your network. 
Dynamic churches are self-sustaining and propagating standing on their own and are in no need of being propped up or assisted. To be dynamic the church must balance between movement and institution, ever aware of the natural tendency to migrate toward institutionalization.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Anglican 1000 Conference Day 1

Got up at 4am Raleigh time. Picked up by my buddy and his girl at 445. Rolled into RDU in a sweet range rover. Met 3 priests on the plane from chapel hill all saints anglican. Arrived in Texas at around 1030pm. Got a Nissan Altima, and rolled towards Plano from the airport. Stopped at chipotle. My burrito weighed 11 pounds. Got to Christ Church just as the 12noon prayer began. ArchBishop Duncan was there for the service. Partook in the Holy Eucharist. Filtered in to the conference hall. Saw Mike Boone and David Drake. So awesome. Learned that JY3 would be getting in later that night. Got some updates from church planters around the country. Listened to a talk by Keller on 'movements'. Went to dinner with JY3 and Jed Roseberry. Talked about church planting. Back to Christ Church for Evensong. Scripture took us through the apostle pauls journey from persecution to prosecution. Keller gave the homily on revivals. Beautiful choir voices, beautiful sanctuary. Long line for Keller after the service. Exhausted. Went to sleep after being up from 3am to 11pm Texas time. Stayed at a hosts home. Great amenities and wonderful graciousness shown to us by the hosts from Christ Church Plano.

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Location:Plano Texas

Monday, January 24, 2011

Leaving Tomorrow for the Anglican 1000

I had a ridiculously busy day at work today. The morning was spent bouncing around the courthouse without a moments rest, getting cases dismissed, entering plea's, on the cell with police officers, organizing client meetings etc. I was looking forward to the upcoming time in Texas to get reinvigorated for Christ. It was freezing in Raleigh. I ate lunch in my car, (my wife packs a lunch for me...she is amazing) and thought about how I was going to handle the three trials I had looming in the afternoon. I was too busy to worry much about getting on the plane to Texas. By the time I got home that night, I was exhausted, but my desk and office were completely clean when I left the firm. Yipee! I packed for the trip. My son was completely desperate for my attention. I did my best to multitask. I spent a good amount of time in prayer asking for boldness, (have really been working on giving god glory and repenting before I start asking for anything) ...and then was asleep by 10pm.

I am so blessed. My family is so wonderful and supportive. I love my wife. I don't know what God has planned for me, but I'm entrusting myself to him. I'm putting it all in his hands. I feel I've been called to this conference in Texas. I go with an one heart and mind, and will glean from it everything that I can.

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Sunday, January 23, 2011


Luke 5

Jesus Calls His First Disciples
 1 One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, the people were crowding around him and listening to the word of God. 2He saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. 3 He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat.
 4 When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.”
 5 Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.”
 6 When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. 7 So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.
 8 When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” 9 For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, 10 and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners.
   Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.” 11 So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.

Out rector JY3 is doing a fantastic sermon series about what it looks like to be a Christian. Today he talked about being a disciple of Christ. The sermon was crafted around Luke 5 and Peter's later journey as a disciple of Christ. In the scripture above, Jesus understands that Peter has been fishing all night, without much luck. They know of each other. Peter has followed Jesus around a bit, and has seen Jesus perform miracles of healing and teaching inside the temple. But he hasn't fully signed on to be a disciple at this point. Jesus turns to Peter and invites him to  “Go out into the deep water,” he says, “and there let down your nets.” I can imagine Peter's lack of initial interest. He was probably tired and frustrated. But Peter becomes a model for discipleship. It happened as soon as Peter, responds by saying, “but, if you say so.” Then off he goes, out into the deep water, and there he finds reward like he has never imagined.
I want to be like Peter. I want to be bold like a lion in following Jesus. I want to shirk the fear of safety and fly to Texas to heed the call that I know Christ put in my heart. I may never become a priest, or turn out to be the rock that Peter became. But as JY3 said in his strong as Peter was...on his own he couldn't accomplish a whole lot. At the end he denied Jesus three times and abandoned him. It was only after the resurrection and the gift of the Holy SPirit did Peter acquire the courage to stand up to the Pharisees. Tonight I pray for boldness and courage.
I want to trust Christ so much, that like Peter, I am willing to leave the safety of my comfort zone, and explore the deep dark waters to which Jesus directs me. I want to push myself to the limits of what I imagined was possible, and through the power of the Holy Spirit, stand up and be brave for Christ. God, grant me a heart for Jesus.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Another Prayer

Excerpt from Simple Spirituality by Christopher L. Heuertz

I asked God what giants in my life were blocking my view of what God had in mind for me. I began to name them:

Pride and arrogance
Individualism and independence
Intemperance and excess
Power and control
Triumphalism, defiance and resistance

I asked God to help me fight my giants. God gave me small stones of hope and promise, simple yet profound:

Humility to slay the giant of pride and arrogance.
Community to slay the giant of individualism and independence.
Simplicity to slay the giant of intemperance and excess.
Submission to slay the giant of power and control.
Brokenness to slay the giant of triumphalism, defiance and resistance.

This piece spoke to me. I know that I'm harping on the flying thing s lot lately, but as it looms around the corner, it rests heavily on my heart. I think I need to do a better job at trusting that God is committed to me and has a plan for my life. I need to do a better job slaying the giant of power and control. God controls everything. Trusting in Him will help me get over my struggle with being in the air. I've defeated a lot of issues through Christ's transformative grace...this is just the next hurdle.

Much love.

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Friday, January 21, 2011

A Prayer

As I approach on my plane trip to Texas for the Anglican 100, I reflect on this prayer and find comfort in it. Of course it looks as if there will be a snow storm moving in as I board the plane, which will go great with my nerves. But I have to say, prayer over the past month has kept me pretty peaceful about the journey. I'm looking forward to the three days.

Teach me, O Lord, not to hold on to life too tightly.
Teach me to hold it lightly; not carelessly, but lightly, easily. 
Teach me to take it as a gift, to enjoy and cherish while I have it, 
and to let it go gracefully and thankfully when the time comes. 
The gift is great, but the Giver is greater still. 
Thou, O God, art the Giver and in thee is the Life that never dies.

Thursday, January 20, 2011


I spent a decade working on achieving what I am very near to achieving. At this time next year, I could very likely be a partner in a successful criminal defense law firm. I will have the financial security that I used to dream about as I walked to class at UNCG in the boiling heat, wondering what it would be like to be able to afford my own car. Wondering what it would be like to live in one of those beautiful brick homes that lined the street towards the college. I used to day...

And now, here I am...and my priorities seem to be changing. I'm in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, and none of that stuff seems to matter any more. It certainly doesn't seem like it should be a final destination.

I visited with a good friend from church tonight. This is a guy who has achieved a lot of worldly success at a young age. I plopped my son down on his couch to watch power rangers, and we migrated to the kitchen to chat about things. We watched a bit of Keller online, and discussed how to live an authentic Christian life. We talked about how worldly aims that used to have a lot of meaning, didn't inspire us anymore. We talked about money, and how to balance the worldly with the heavenly. We talked about Church planting. It was really great to be in fellowship with him. We both want to live a dramatic life for Christ...but how do you do that when you've got a young wife and child? How do you forsake your worldly success, when there are others to think about? Where do you draw the line? How much is enough?

I've been reading 'The New Testament in Modern English' translated by JB Phillips. It's similar to the  to 'The Message' by Peterson, but written decades earlier. It takes less liberties than the Message, but is just a really great and easy read. Anyway...I came across The Letter to Phillipi. Here's what I found:

"Every advantage I had gained, I considered loss for Christ's sake. Yes, and I look upon everything as loss compared with the overwhelming gain of knowing Christ Jesus my lord. For his sake I did in actual fact suffer the loss of everything, but I considered it useless rubbish compared with being able to win Christ. For now my place is in him, and I am not dependent on any of the self achieved righteousness of the law. God has given me that genuine righteousness which comes from faith in Christ. How changed are my ambitions! Now I long to know Christ and the power shown by his resurrection: no I long to share his suffering, even to die as he died, so that I may perhaps attain, as he did, the resurrection from the dead."

That is how I feel! That is what happens when one is smitten by the love of Christ. How changed are my ambitions indeed.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Spring is here?

I walked out of court today and the weather was almost warm for the first time in months. It made me harken back to the days as a child when I would play outside for hours and hours. There's something about childhood that makes it possible to be filled with Joy at the little often. It seems harder to come by as an adult. I think kids live nearer to the intersection of Heaven and Earth because of their lack of worry. It's easier for them to be filled with God's joyfulness.

"Pan, who and what art thou?" he [Hook] cried huskily. -"I'm youth, I'm joy," Peter answered at a venture, "I'm a little bird that has broken out of the egg."

Peter Pan is the image of youthful joy...but so often that Joy gets lost as we age? I wonder why that happens? It seems our ability to get lost in our imagination diminishes with time. Once that is lost, life becomes drudgery and toil...filled with worry.

“Then Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?’” (Luke 12:22-26, NIV).

"Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. (Luke 18:15-17)

"Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 18:1-5)

Lord, I pray that over the next couple weeks, as I deal with my own personal challenge of boarding airplanes...not to mention all of the regular challenges that come with balancing work and family...Lord I pray that you continually harken me back to the days of my youth, when I felt your nearness everyday...and I reveled in the Joy of knowing you.

Much Love

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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

What does it mean to be a Christian?

Our Church has just started an eight week sermon series in which we'll be looking at what it means to be a Christian. It's a good question.  Think about it. Are you a Christian? For those people that were born into the faith, grew up in a Christian family, or have gone to church off and on for years...the easy answer is 'yes'. Sure I am...everyone in my family is!

But I'm asking seriously...are you REALLY a Christian? 

In order to properly assess that question, one needs to understand what it means to be a Christian. Going to church doesn't make you a Christian. Many people idly day dream through most of the service. Being born into the faith doesn't make you a Christian any more than being born in Dunkin' Donuts would automatically classify you as a piece of pastry. 

Being newly alive in the faith, I have often pondered this question. How do I know that I'm on the right path?  Peter explains in Acts, that if you repent from your evil ways and get baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins - then you will be given the 'gift of the Holy Spirit.' Sounds great right? Sweet! I get like magic powers or something? When does it begin? How will I know? (As I found out later...for me, this 'gift of the Holy Spirit' first showed up as a form of 'conviction'.)

The Apostle Paul says that "those who become Christians become new persons. They are not the same anymore, for the old is gone. A new life has begun!" (2 Cor 5:17) I think this is spot on. I've seen it happen in my own life. But for me, it wasn't an overnight process. Sure, I think there are some people out there that feel a lightning bolt moment and can point to a specific conversion date. But not me. I wasn't overcome with any instantaneous magical feelings or powers. I prayed that Jesus would forgive my transgressions, take charge of my life, and I thanked him for loving me enough to carry the burden of my inequities. If there were any initial was one of relief. Relief at least that I had made a decision about SOMETHING in my life. There was a God, and I was submitting to his divine authority. Whew! But no lightning bolts.

Slowly I noticed that I began to have a distaste for my old ways. As time went on, I began to look back on my prior lifestyle and choices, and felt remorse for living in such a destructive manner. I realize now that I was slowly becoming 'convicted' by the Holy Spirit. The best and most well-known Scripture using this word is found in Jesus' teaching, John 16:7. "But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment."

'Conviction' is a powerful word. Sometimes I think of it as being absolutely convinced of something. Or to convince others of when a jury decides that a defendant is guilty. The Bible word for 'convinced' is "elegcho" which is translated a variety of ways: confute, admonish, convict, convince, tell a fault, rebuke, reprove.American theologian Albert Barnes says that the word translated means commonly to demonstrate by argument, to prove, to persuade anyone to do a thing by presenting reasons. It hence means also to convince of anything, and particularly to convince of crime. This is its meaning in John 16:7. He will convince or convict the world of sin. That is, he will so apply the truths of God to men's own mindsas to convince them by fair and sufficient arguments that they are sinners, and cause them to feel this. This is the nature of conviction always."

And that's what slowly started to happen to me. The Holy Spirit began to convict me of my poor behavior. Which in turn became an everyday reminder of how much I needed Christ's intervention in my life. And the more I turned to Christ, the better my life became. I began to crawl under Christs blanket of Justification as much as possible. I found joy there that I had never experienced before. I began in earnest to pray, and make prayer a daily part of my life. I began to have a relationshipwith Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit. It was through my relationship with Jesus that I began to feel more and more assured that I truly was a Christian. But I'm not sure this relationship would've been started had I not experienced the humbling nature of the Holy Spirit's conviction in my mind.

So how do you know you have a relationship with Jesus? Is this when the lightning bolts start happening? Is this when the magic powers start to kick in? Yes actually, it is! I say that because, I really believe that my relationship with Christ has allowed me to feel a bit of magic. I really feel that I have witnessed a little bit of Heaven whilst I've been here on Earth. I've been given the wonderful blessing of enjoying my life for what it is, and sensing God's presence in places I never knew he existed before.  I wish I had the verbal acumen to explain it better...but I can only say that I've experienced a quiet joy as opposed to a fleeting happiness. I am quiet when I used to be loud. I am patient when I used to be impulsive. I am forgiving when once I was resentful. I can give it over to my creator. I am slowly learning to entrust him with my life. What freedom! 

But feelings aren't what I hang my hat on. In order to develop my faith I need to practice it. I need to be able to explain what faith is beyond just telling people that..."Man, I know I'm a Christian, because Jesus makes me feel really good!" 

Here are some some ways I know that what I'm feeling is real. Ways in which I can rest assured that I am a Christian, and I can have confidence in my Faith:

1) The Word Of God
     A. "Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me." (Rev 3:20) I asked Jesus to come in, and he slowly began to convict me through the holy spirit. I began a process of change.
     B. "I am with you always, to the very end of the age." (Matt 28:20)Every time I need his help, he is there to guide me. I feel his constant presence in prayer.
     C. "I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish!" (John 10:28) I have sensed this eternal life, I have tasted it, in the glimpses of pure joy that I never felt before I invited Jesus in.

      A. God loves us and died to prove it. (John 3:16) This is actually documented outside the Bible. See the above link to examine the sources.
      B. He took our sins upon himself. (Prophesied in Isaiah 53:6, See also 2 Cor. 5:21) Jesus removes the barrier of sin that would normally block my living, breathing, interaction with God.
      C. Christ's historical works (Crucifixion/Resurrection) provides for me the Gift of God. (Rom. 6:23) Eternal life in Christ Jesus, that can be experienced here on Earth...before we physically die. 
3) The Witness of The Spirit 
      A. When someone becomes a Christian, God's Holy Spirit comes to live inside them. (Rom 8:9) As mentioned above, I have felt the conviction of this reality.
      B. The Spirit transforms us from within. (Gal. 5:22, 23) I don't behave the way I used to, I enjoy learning about God & being with other Christians, I have a new concern for others...I feel Joy.
      C. The Spirit, especially during prayer, brings a deep personal conviction that I am God's child. (Rom. 8:15,16) This is what brings me to such Joy. The slow acceptance that I am worthy of being loved by the creator of the Universe. That truth that he loves me even more than I love my son, always moves me to tears. I am truly worth something in his eyes. He delights in me. That is breathtaking!!

I feel so blessed to be on this journey. I know I'm a Christian because I have a living, breathing relationship with Jesus Christ. I'm sure of it. He wants me to be sure of it. (1 John 5:13) Can you imagine being married, and when a stranger asks if so-and-so is your spouse... responding... 'Well, I think so...". That would be ridiculous. God wants us to be sure of our relationship with him. More than just intellectually secure in the matter. But sure - on a heart level. Loving him like you would a spouse...with a heart type of knowledge. 

It is through this kind of intimate relationship that we become truly secure in saying "Yes! I know I am a Christian!"

Monday, January 17, 2011

Corporate Prayer

My good friend, and Associate Rector of our Church, is moving to West  Los Angeles to plant a new Anglican Church. It is a mission of our church to send his family there, and I am proud to be a part of it. Tonight I met with about 25 other church members to pray for his family before sending them off. Powerful stuff. I love listening to other people pray. Our current Rector opened with a Bible Study of sorts, focusing on Luke 5.“Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.”

Fear was a big topic in the corporate setting tonight. We focused on being bold in the face of the enemy, and to answer the call courageously. The Spirit was palpable, and I was honored to play a small part in it. I hope that he and his wife were encouraged by the words spoken tonight. I know that on the few occasions when people have prayed aloud for me, I have been invigorated. I hope they were given a boost of energy and courage for the unknown that lay ahead for them.

Corporate prayer is important because it creates unity (John 17:22-23), and is a key aspect of believers’ encouraging one another (1 Thessalonians 5:11) and spurring one another on to love and good deeds (Hebrews 10:24). I think the strongest part of a family lies in the way they pray together. When my church comes together in that way, I feel so alive within the Body of Christ. It's really exciting to be a part of God's family.

I was also convicted a bit. I listened to the prayers for courage, and I know that I needed to go boldly on to the plane next week. I know Christ has called me for this mission to Texas, and he will not forsake me. I will not fear any path that Christ has walked before me, even to the death. I'm excited to be on the Christian path, and I've never before felt so fulfilled. My life is developing a purpose I never knew possible. It feels good to begin to grow towards the image that God had planned for you all along.

With that thought, a good night.

Sunday, January 16, 2011


I've been working on a system of prayer lately that will help me get into a routine of conversing with God. Prayer should be sacred, it should be entered into with a sense of piety. I read somewhere that the ancient Pharisees would spend two hours preparing for prayer. Think about it, if you were going before the Queen of England, wouldn't you spend some time getting prepared? How much greater is the creator of the universe than ole' Elizabeth? Hybels wrote a great book on prayer, and a lot of this post comes from that source.

But I've also stolen from a variety of different sources. People have been praying since time immemorial, so why reinvent the wheel? For me, prayer life is a work in progress and usually happens before bedtime.

1.       RECOGNIZE THE PRESENCE OF GOD. A gesture, lighting a candle or a moment of silence in front of the place where we will do the examination might express this. Christ made the ultimate sacrifice, and as a result we've been given the gift of the Holy Spirit and a one way connection with the Almighty. This is awesome stuff, and a bit of reverence to kick off the occasion is appropriate. Before beginning, it's good to think about these questions. Are my relationships right with others (Matt. 5:24-25)? Are my motives pure (James 4:3)? Am I seeking to glorify and please God above all else (John 14:13-14)? Am I depending on the Holy Spirit's guidance? Am I ready to praise God however he chooses to answer my requests? (Rom. 8:28; 1 Thess. 5:16-18)

Now it's time to get to work.

2.        ADORE AND WORSHIP GOD- Rev. 5:8-14
  • God's person (who He is) - Isa. 6:3
  • God's Works (what He has done) - Ps. 103
It's a good idea to begin prayer by getting our heart, soul, mind, and strength fully focused on our GREAT BIG GOD; our problems will soon look NOT very big in comparison.  This is the Adoration stage and it invokes Jesus' command to "take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?  (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek :) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.  But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you." (Mat 6:31-33)  The kingdom Jesus refers to here, is our heart's surrender to Him as King, ie., acknowledging Jesus as our Lord, Savior, our Good Shepherd (John 10:11, Ps 23:1), our faithful High Priest who continuously intercedes for us in heaven (Hbr 4:14-16, Rom 8:34), acknowledging His Father as our heavenly Father, "my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in Whom I will trust" (Ps 18:2), etc.  In other words, acknowledge God for EVERYTHING He is to us, and focus my thoughts on Him alone.  By temporarily pushing my specific requests out of mind, and first focusing on God Himself, and my relationship to Him, I am comforted by His Holy Spirit, convinced us that He hears me, and that He is able and willing, to deal with the requests I am bringingg before Him-Mat 6:8.  Beginning prayer with Praise and Adoration is a powerful way to get focused on God.  A few minutes of quiet meditation in God's Word beforehand, will help tremendously, at this initial stage of Prayer.

3.       CONFESSION - REVIEW OF THE DAY- 1 John 1:9
  • Personal sins (in deed, thought, or word) - Ps. 32:5
  • Family sins - Lev. 26:40
  • Church body sins - Dan. 9:3-19
  • National sins - Jonah 3:5-1
With the help of the Holy Spirit I go through the "anamnesis" of the day. Next element is the Confession stage, where I purposely seek the Holy Spirit's conviction of sin, so that I might ask God for forgiveness, and trust Him to cleanse me by the blood of Christ (1Jhn 1:9); I do this so that my prayers will not be hindered by sin.  "If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear [me]." (Ps 66:18) See also Ps 139:23-24, Mat 6:12, 2 Chr 7:14, Ps 51:17.

  • For trials - James 1:2-4
  • For blessings - 1 Chron. 16:7-36
  • For everything - 1 Thess. 5:18
In the review of the day necessarily I will see also my shortcomings and this moment gives occasion to reconcile and to ask forgiveness in a simple way. This is very important step for my relationship with God. I begin to feel strengthened in my relationship through everyday forgiveness and acceptance. I am fallen and I can't do it without His help. Knowing that I've acknowledged my weakness and further affirming that He delights in my fills my heart with Joy. The rule "never go to sleep without reconciliation" applies to our sins against God. I remember in the story of the Prodigal Son, when the father rushes out to meet his lost son on the road, his son says...'Father I have sinned against God and against you." God comes first, and it is only right to reconcile your sins with God before trying to make things right with anyone else. God is so wonderful, He is worthy of our praise and thankfulness. 

5.      SUPPLICATION (To Plead Humbly - for your needs and those of others.) Matt. 7:7-11
  • For my family - Matt. 6:11
  • For my local church - Col. 1:9-12
  • For the church worldwide - Eph. 6:18-19
  • For individual Christians - Acts 12:5
  • For individual non-Christians - Matt. 5:44
  • For my nation - 1 Tim. 2:1-2
  • For myself - James 1:5
Pray specifically (Avoid "God bless so and so.” Get to know people in Christ’s body!) Pray expectfully (Matthew 7:7-11). Pray submissively (God ultimately knows best - Matthew 26:39). Often times, I remember saying that I'd pray for someone, but then will have completely forgotten the next time I see them. It's a good idea to keep a list, or even one of those prayer apps to help us remember other's needs. I certainly don't need a list for my own needs, they always seem to jump out to the forefront. In fact, if it were up to me, I'd begin my prayer with a list of things I needed. I find it appropriate that I don't get to 'what I want' until towards the end of my prayer. By that time, I often realize that I don't need for much.

Examples of Supplication from the Bible can be found in:

  • Luke 1:13; 2:37; 5:33 2 Cor. 1:11; 9:14
  • Eph. 1:16-19 Phil. 1:4-6, 9-11, 19
  • Col. 1:9-11 Heb. 5:7
  • James 5:15-16 1 Pet. 3:12
6.       RESOLUTION. This point regards the future, to make a resolution about going on trusting God, loving and searching what is good. Again, it's OK to be specific about how you are going to resolve to do better tomorrow. Words are powerful, and hearing yourself commit to a change in behavior is an effective tool. Many professionals, from athletes to businessmen make a list of goals to help them achieve their aspirations. There have been a variety of studies comparing students that wrote down where they wanted to be in 10 years against those students that didn't. The results were staggering. There's no need to make oaths to God, but letting him know specifically what you are resolving to do better increases your chances of being transformed to His will.

Much Love.