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Archive for the ‘New Direction’ Category

Thinking Hard About The Holidays

Yesterday, I was having a discussion with my friend about Christmas celebrations.  I discussed how so many of us actually leave Christ out of Christmas.  As a result, many have a festive, family filled, giving holiday, but, somehow, regulate God to a mere footnote on the whole thing.  This should not surprise us.  After all, most of us actually leave God out of our day to day living completely.  My friend felt I might be overthinking the whole thing.  After all, is it not possible for people just to come together and have an honest, good time without sinning (or worrying about sin?)  The more I thought about it, the more I thought, “No, no it isn’t.”  Here’s why.


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In the Old Testament, as most people know, God gave Israelites a list of rules and regulations, summarized in the 10 commandments.  Everyone understood that to break any of these commands would result in offending God and possible punishment.  However, many Israelites came to an assumption based off of these rules.  They incorrectly assumed that following these rules, in and of themselves, made God happy and/or lead to eternal life.

Jesus quickly corrected this during his ministry.  He lashed out at the Pharisees who kept the letter of the law, but completely missed the spirit of the Law.  These men missed the entire point of loving God, and loving their fellow man.  They simply looked after their own self interests by acting as the rule keepers of the people.

Jesus took things one step further.  He constantly challenged people to think about their motives.  He showed that the thought behind something could be just as sinful as the action.  He pointed out that if we express anger at a brother, that betrays the fact that, in our soul, we have committed murder.  If we lust after a woman, we have committed adultery in our hearts.  He basically took commandments, and showed the the heart of the matter, in each case, was a matter of the heart.

One of the largest commandments tells us that we must shun idol worship.

Ex 20.3 You shall have no other gods before Me. 4″You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. 5″You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God

When I think of the typical American family Christmas gathering, I often see a celebration of family, giving, traditions…but very little focus on God.  We have replaced Him with things that have loose connections to Him and His Spirit, but miss the mark entirely.  In some cases, these elements completely replace Him.  In some other cases, as I mention above, we may mention God, but He is not central to the gathering.  And, yes, I feel that we sin in doing so… as an extension of Exodus 20.3.

holyWhile the commandment warns us not to worship or serve those things that we create, I wonder if the natural, logical extension of this idea is that we sin whenever we fail to give God the praise and glory He deserves in all that we do.  And, should we not take the time to discuss and think through that…especially during the Christmas season?  I believe we should.  And, by failing to do so, in our hearts and with our lips, we have missed a mark.  It is something that I, myself, need to repent of.

Sometimes, I find myself accused of possibly overthinking things.  I get it.  Look, I know it can be challenging to ponder through this stuff.  And, in doing so, one has to wonder if people like me must have too much time on their hands.  I get it.  The pot calling things black needs to be careful.  No one lives a perfect life.  I certainly do not.  But, I believe that we must pursue the truth so that we can better serve the One who gave His life for us.  Only when we truly know and understand truth can we take the first steps towards pursuing Him.  If we stick our heads in the sand, not willing to pursue truth in fear that it may add to the guilt we already carry, we have missed the point.

For the point of doing exercises like this is not to find the magic step that leads us to immediate holy living and qualifies us for heaven. No… we have all sinned, and fallen short of the glory of God.  Our fates, sealed, led to hell.  However, Jesus died for us on the cross so that we might experience true forgiveness, through no righteous act of our own, and experience eternity with Him.  For that I am, and will always be, eternally grateful.  And, it is with this heart of love for the one who love me first…that I give everything I possibly can…including dedication of my mind and spirit, to follow and pursue His glory.  I do not discuss this stuff and look for areas of my life that need repentance in order to earn my way into heaven… I do this because I want to as thanks for what He has given to me.

Leadership

Matthew 20:25-28 – But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”


I received the following question from a listener, “Could you discuss more about organic leadership vs. institutional leadership .. And walk with Jesus vs. Give your agency to your pastor or prophet?”

In a nutshell, the New Testament does talk a lot about leadership… but its leadership, with a lower case “L”, not an upper case.  The emphasis on how spiritual leadership works contrasts greatly with how typical hierarchical leadership works in militaries or companies.  And, like many spiritual truths in the Bible, the emphasis on certain details makes all of the difference.  I find it best to demonstrate this emphasis via a couple of illustrations.

leadme.jpgIn a military or company hierarchy, there are layers of leadership.  Leadership titles are bestowed by the highest officers onto lower rank and file who demonstrate certain strengths.  With a few exceptions, companies and armies expect the lower ranks to follow their leadership, even if it goes against their better judgment.  In fact, front line soldiers receive little encouragement to think for themselves; they are expected to obey their leaders.  Lower ranks can rarely, if ever, expect to talk with the top guy, as layers of leadership exist between the lowest rank and file and the top commander or president of the company.  I call this approach, “Institutional Leadership.”  In the passage quoted earlier, Matthew 20:25-28, this approach is reflected via “rulers of the Gentiles” who “lord it over them.”

Contrast this with a normal, healthy family type of leadership. In a typical family, one or both parents (or older relatives) tend to lead the others… not because of title, but through their love.  For example, if a teenage daughter feels her father loves and understands her, she is much more likely to seek his advice to help her with a difficult problem.  If her father’s negligence and abuse pushes her away, she will seek that leadership and direction from another relative.  If she feels that she cannot find it there, she may look outside the family for guidance.  The best way a parent or grandparent can obtain the respect and leadershiop of his/her family is to not only provide the example in day to day living, but provide an atmosphere of love, kindness and understanding that naturally attracts others to seek guidance and direction from them.  This is the ‘organic’ or ‘servant’ based leadership seen in the second half of the earlier passage.

stroryYou see organic or servant type leadership painted in the Bible.  A couple of other contrasts also come to mind.  While organic leadership may involved titles, titles are not required for organic leadership to work, unlike institutional leadership.  Organic leadership is flat.  In a family, for example, we do not have to talk to Dad before we can talk to Uncle to get his permission to talk to Grandpa.  Yet, most armies and companies enforce that sort of chain of command.  However, the Bible teaches the ‘priesthood of all saints’ and that we all have direct connection with the most high, God.

Gotanswers.com says, “In summary, believers are called “kings and priests” and a “royal priesthood” as a reflection of their privileged status as heirs to the kingdom of the Almighty God and of the Lamb. Because of this privileged closeness with God, no other earthly mediator is necessary. Second, believers are called priests because salvation is not merely “fire insurance,” escape from hell. Rather, believers are called by God to serve Him by offering up spiritual sacrifices, i.e., being a people zealous for good works. As priests of the living God, we are all to give praise to the One who has given us the great gift of His Son’s sacrifice on our behalf, and in response, to share this wonderful grace with others.”

believeThis ties in with the second part of your questions, about giving our agency to a pastor or prophet.  New Testament, or servitude/organic leadership, not only changes how leadership works, but how we follow.  First, consider the fact that the bible teaches that we will each be judged based on our own actions.  “It is appointed onto man once to die, and then the judgment.”  In Matthew 7, Jesus says, ““Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.”  He warns in that same chapter, ““Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.”  The Bible also warns, in 1 John 4 ” Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.”

Unlike institutional leadership, where we must follow with little questioning, the Bible directs us to test those who claim to teach or claim to prophesy on behalf of God.  We will be held accountable for our actions, regardless of who we follow.  People generally shun this type of responsibility.  In the old Testament, God created a form of self-government for the people of Israel, through a system of judges.  The people begged and pleaded for a hierarchical, monarchy, which would relieve many of the responsibility of leadership of their own.  We were given the gospels and epistles, clearly teaching the priesthood of all saints.  Yet, it only took a few hundred years before the majority of believers handed the faith over to a hierarchical set up with priests, bishops, cardinals and a pope at the top.

Generally speaking, we have two choices when someone claims leadership and teaches or directs us.  We can either blindly accept everything they direct us to do, believing, ultimately, they speak for God.  Or, we can do what the Bible teaches us, and test each direction in light of God’s Word, accepting that which lines up with it.  At this point, we follow our own agency, or conscious.  This is what I believe the Bible teaches, and that God will hold us accountable for our actions, regardless of whether or not we follow someone else claiming to be a leader.  Allow me to give an illustration.

bible3If a pastor comes to me and asks me to do something wrong, such as steal money to support the church, I have little doubt that God would not want me to do that.  I also have little doubt, based on my study of scripture, that God would hold me accountable for such a shameful act, regardless of the fact that a leader ordered me to do it.  I should turn down his request, explaining why.  Now, conversely, imagine that my young daughter walked up to me one day, and told me that I hurt her feelings yesterday.  You see, I lost my temper (I had a bad day) and yelled at her, in anger.  She may even mention a Sunday school lesson about anger she recently learned.  If I were to turn her away because she doesn’t have a leadership title over me, God would hold me responsible.  After all, I ultimately did not turn my daughter’s correction away, but a reproof from Him.  His Word should always direct my way, for He has true authority over me, even if that message comes through a humble medium.

These examples demonstrated that “Leadership” (with a capital “L”) does not apply or work in relation to spiritual matters.  Furthermore, it shows that each of us will be held accountable to seek out God for ourselves.  Now, does that eliminate the need for ALL leadership among the church, or believers?  Absolutely not.  The Bible says that he who seeks leadership seeks a high calling.  However, we must understand that like a number of terms in the Bible, “leadership” means something different than what our culture teaches.  We must learn to be humble servants who lead others through God’s love, grace and truth… and not through a fancy title created by men.

 

Another Look at Salvation

Eph 2.8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;  not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.  For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.

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Subjective Christianity Meets Legalism

Welcome to the first blog entry of the second season of New Direction, where we search the Spirit, Scripture and more discovering the New Direction God is leading his church in this post modern culture.  Today, we take a  look at subjective Christianity and legalism. (more…)

New Direction, Season 2

Salutations.

Around a year ago, I did a series of blog entries and videos, which I dubbed “New Direction.”  In it, I attempted to lay out how I understand the Gospel message.  Furthermore, I describe my understanding of the Bible’s view on morality, something I call “Subjective Christianity.”  Towards the end of the series, I mention that it might be the last show I was doing for a while, depending on feedback. (more…)

Response to John Piper Part 2

Welcome to the bonus blog entry of New Direction, where we search the Spirit, Scripture and more discovering the New Direction God is leading his church in this post modern culture.  Today, we take a  look at a statement from John Piper stating that those who walks away from the viable, traditional church, walk away from Jesus.
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Response to John Piper Part 1

Welcome to the bonus blog entry of New Direction, where we search the Spirit, Scripture and more discovering the New Direction God is leading his church in this post modern culture.  Today, we take a  look at a statement from John Piper stating that those who walks away from the viable, traditional church, walk away from Jesus.
(more…)