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One Day Delay

A busy day today . . . installment #4 of Great Expectations, GCF! will be coming tomorrow or possibly Monday of next week.

Sorry for the delay.

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I began this series of blog posts yesterday with a look at the first part of the Great Commission.  From the command to “go and make disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, we discerned two great expectations for GCF.

The first:  expect God to use GCF to challenge people to a real conversion that leads to a life of passionately loving him.  The second:  expect God to challenge you to a radical commitment to God’s people:  the church.

Today, I want to pick up on the second part of the Great Commission:  “teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”

We’ll break the discussion of this portion of the commandment into three parts.

First, there is the content of Jesus’ teaching.  When the disciples first heard this command, their minds must have sifted back through all the times they had spent listening to Jesus teach them and teach the crowds.  Passages like the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), Jesus’ ministry instructions to his disciples (Matthew 10) and Jesus’ parables (scattered throughout Matthew 18-26) would certainly have come to mind. 

We also know that the content of Jesus’ teaching, along with his teaching style, were extraordinary.  Having grown quite tired of the lofty and oppressive platitudes of the religious leaders, the crowds are so refreshed by Jesus’ teaching that Matthew tells us “the crowds were astonished at his teaching for he was teaching as one who had authority, and not as their scribes” (Matthew 7.28-29).  “Ouch” for the their teachers.

If you read Jesus’ teachings in Matthew closely and specifically in the Sermon on the Mount, you will notice that Jesus had a vast knowledge of the Old Testament; the Bible of his day.  Jesus even tells us, in the Sermon on the Mount, that he has come not to abolish God’s law (being the Old Testament) but to fulfill it.

Observing that which Jesus commanded us to do means observing all that we have been taught in scripture.  Scripture, from Genesis to Revelation, is the content of Jesus’ teaching.

As we think about scripture as the content of Jesus’ teaching we must be careful to avoid what Dallas Willard, in The Divine Conspiracy, calls our culture’s almost automatic disassociation of Jesus from anything that could be considered, or even construed as either brilliant or intellectual.  Willard goes on to add, “If this is how he seems to you, are you going to be inclined to become his student?  Of course not.”

Observing all that Jesus commanded to his disciples means that we must become not only a student of scripture, but a student of the Bible under Jesus’ tutelage and guidance.  If we think Jesus to be a no-nothing bumpkin who roamed around a third-class country some 2000 years ago then we will have little incentive to be his students.  On the other hand, if we recognize him to be who he is:  the exceptionally brilliant Son of the Most High God, then we will come to understand that being a student of the content of his teaching and his exposition of that teaching is a privilege that only an idiot would pass up.

Secondly, we are suffering from the collapse of the Christian Catechesis.  Big words, huh?  Let me explain it.  Catechesis is a Latin word that means “to sound down”.  Christian catechesis, then, is the teaching of Scripture and doctrine not only to children and youth, but to all of Jesus’ followers; no matter how old or young they are. 

In their book Resurrecting Excellence L. Gregory Jones and Kevin Armstrong note that one of the biggest difficulties facing Bible Colleges, Christian colleges, seminaries and other institutions of ministry training is the fact that God is calling his followers into ministry but they are arriving at their institutions of ministry training without even a basic, rudimentary knowledge of the Bible or Christian doctrine. 

This is, as Jones and Armstrong point out, a huge failure on the part of the church and it means that the full-time Christian servants that are returned to the church or the mission field out of those institutions are not as well-prepared as they should be to lead others in observing all that Jesus commanded.

There is only one solution.  The church must recover catechesis.  We must be serious about the training of our children, our youth, new converts and even seasoned followers in the ever-deeper ways of the faith.  About three months ago, we started a new team at GCF, the Discipleship Team, to help us begin focusing on this area of the life of our body.

We must be well-trained in scripture if we are to observe all that Jesus commanded us to observe and that will take more than an hour and a half on Sunday mornings.  It is a process that requires broad planning across the life of our church to give Biblical, doctrinal and spiritual instruction in our Community Groups, Study Groups and even in the midst of our personal times of prayer and reflection with the Lord. 

Tullian Tchvidjian, grandson of Billy Graham, founder of New City Church and now the Senior Pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church writes this in his book Unfashionable:  “Nowhere does the Bible say the Christian faith is private, partial, and compartmentalized.  On the contrary, the Christian faith is public, pervasive and complete.”  God wants GCF unified together in a process of learning to observe all that he has commanded us.

Finally, we must heed the call of Christ to live Biblically.  Jesus calls us to be salt and light in the world.  Salt is a preservative and light dispels darkness.  Our role in the world is to preserve it; to be a voice calling people to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ.  Our role in the world is to call out the darkness where it exists by shining the light of Jesus Christ onto the darkness.  We cannot do this without observing all that Jesus has commanded us to do.

Another quote from Tchividjian’s book Unfashionable:

This epidemic of professing Christians ignoring the Bible has led theologian Michael Horton to ask if churches are guilty of secularizing America.  Christians are quick, he notes, to “launch public protests against ‘secular humanists’ for diminishing the role of God in American society’, yet ‘the more likely source of secularization is the church itself.’  Our first concern should not be that God is treated so flippantly in American culture but that he is not taken seriously in our own churches.  As Pogo famously said, ‘We have met the enemy, and he is us.'”

We have seen the impact of a Biblically ignorant (for we have far exceeded Biblical illiteracy) on our greater culture.  A Biblically ignorant church is an impotent church.  Now it is time to witness the impact of a Biblically intelligent church upon the greater culture.  A Biblically intelligent church is a church that is filled with God’s power as it observes all that Jesus commanded.

Great expectation # 3 for GCF (or any other church, for that matter):  Expect to be trained in the ways of the Bible and the Christian tradition and expect to be expected to observe all that Jesus commanded of his followers.

A couple of questions to think about today . . .

1.  Do you intentionally memorize scripture?

2.  Do you regularly read the Bible expecting God to call you to change something in your life or the way you are treating someone else?

3.  Do you spend time with other believers studying God’s word and learning how to apply it to your life?

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As I was traveling over the weekend I listened to a few sermons from a wide variety of pastors:  Charles Stanley, Jon Weece (Southland Christian Church) and Mark Driscoll.

Driscoll had an excellent sermon on the Cross from his doctrine series – if you don’t mind the fact that he used the phrase “I don’t give a damn” in the sermon 🙂

When I got home, I took a look at Driscoll’s blog and ended up linking to a whole train of posts in response to a speech about “manly” preachers that Driscoll gave at a conference (probably more than one) some time ago.  Depending on what you think about the legitimacy of the blogs, Driscoll was trying to be funny OR was way over the top.

No matter.  If you are reading this blog to find a critique of Mark Driscoll, Mark Batterson or any other megachurch pastor, you’ll have to go elsewhere.  I’ve long sinced learned that the “most read” blogs that I write will always be those that mention the name of a megachurch or its pastor!

Driscoll, Batterson, Perry Noble, Ed Young and others are all gifted leaders.  God has used them to accomplish some awesome things and – like ALL of us – they remain imperfect and sometimes over-the-top.  My grandmother, if she were alive and listened to some of their sermons, would note that they are also occasionally full of themselves which she also sometimes said about me!

This post is intended to encourage us to consider whether or not God has called us to be who we are in Jesus Christ or whether or not God has called us to be who Mark Driscoll, Batterson, Noble or Young are in Jesus Christ.

God smacked me in the face with this thought in the car on the way home Saturday.  I began to feel the pressure to do things in the same way that these guys do them so that I can be successful, so that I can be a good leader, so that, so that, so that . . .

But I am not them.  I am Jason and God wants me to be me – in Jesus!  I can’t be who these other guys are in Jesus.

Jesus works in me to give me gifts, to give me leadership and to call me to obedience in my life, my family, my church and my community.  The one thing that we all have in common with these mega-church guys (or at least should have in common) is a passion for Jesus Christ and the expansion of his Kingdom! 

But in that passionate pursuit of Jesus and his kingdom, we will discover that Jesus does not call us to be Driscoll, Batterson, Noble or Young, but intead he calls us to be us – in him!  And there is no one more or less that I can be than the me I am in Jesus.  And the me that I am in Jesus is the best person I can be for my family, my church, my community and the Kingdom of God.

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The great myth of church leadership is that there are great leaders who operate quite independently; dictating to a mass following what new and exciting trends the community of faith will be pursuing or living out together.

Yes there are great leaders, but truly great leaders never operate in genuine independence.  Those who do are usually not remembered as great leaders, but as great fanatics whose leadership skills are likely classified by the terms such as “zealot” or “dictator”.  Mussolini, Stalin, Hitler, and no shortage of religious leaders – like Jim Jones or David Koresh, come to mind.

Instead, great leadership, is refined in the the community of a team.  From these teams, great leaders often emerge who – unfortunately – receive much of the kudos and accolades for any significant accomplishments.  This is due, in large part, to our cultures incessant need to search for Messiahs and Saviors amongst the hoards of rank amateurs who seek to lead us in better directions . . . current political trends in the United States come to mind . . .

Nonetheless, whenever we look closely behind a leader who is being given credit for accomplishing great things, we are certain to find a team of hardworking individuals who, like the leader, are striving for solutions that will help others achieve excellence in their pursuits.

I was reminded of this at our worship planning meeting this week.  Three of us sat down together to flesh out ideas, make decisions as we prepare to lead GCF in worship this Sunday.  The meeting was invigorating.  Some ideas were tossed out.  Others were kept to work on throughout the week.

It was another reminder for me that good leadership is a collaborative art; not the dictatorial whims of a single person.

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No Change Coming

I have decided NOT TO move to a new blog (at least not yet).  Main reason:  I don’t have time.  So, here we are for at least a few more weeks 🙂

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Several months ago I remember reading an interview with Bill Hybels, the pastor of Willowcreek Community Church.  In the article, Hybels noted how he has a highly organized, goal-oriented, task-focused, type-A personality.  He recounted how he had developed a way for him to get out of bed in the morning by first putting his knees on the floor as opposed to his feet.  The reason?  Getting out of bed on his knees forces Hybels to begin his day in submission to God.

I don’t think I’m type-A, but I am a highly focused, goal-driven, task-oriented person and – much like a lot of task-driven people – when my feet hit the floor they are off and running. 

Confession time:  I have done a lot of praying in my life time.  I usually pray sitting in a comfortable chair or laying down in a comfortable place, but last week I started spending a lot time alone, on my knees at the kneeling rails in our worship room.  I can’t say that any of those prayer times were filled with flashes of lightning or anything like that, but they were powerful nonetheless.

On Thursday morning – realizing that this whole kneeling thing was doing something for me – I checked out a few verses in scripture that contain the word “knee” or “knees”.  Two interesting things popped up. 

Most verses that mention “knees” also talk about confessing that Yahweh is Lord or that Jesus is Lord.  I realized that getting down on my knees is an act of humility.  This of course is not a news flash for any of us, but each time we do get down on our knees, we are actively saying, “Father, I know that you are God and that I am not.”

A few other verses that contained the word “knee” or “knees” talked about God strengthening our knees or raising us up from weakened knees.  I think that this is what happens when we stand up from kneeling before the Lord.  He is strengthening our weakness and making himself Lord of our lives in the midst of our humility.

Not because I want to sound old fashioned, but because I think it is probably outrageously true, I have to say it:  we Jesus-followers are probably not spending enough time on our knees.

Most of us know all of this stuff about kneeling and humility.  Most of us don’t do it.  Some self-examination might be necessary here.  If we look deep inside we might discover that there’s a deeper reason for this lack of kneeling.  Perhaps it goes beyond bad knees or a lack of comfort. 

It could be egotism and pride.  I realized last week that pride and a sense of self-sufficiency have kept me from my knees. 

But now . . . I am spending more time on my knees and that has been putting me into good company with Jesus! 

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A new attraction recently opened up in Boone County Kentucky.  It’s called the “Creation Museum”.  Now, as I understood the news reports this weekend, the 65,000 square foot museum is a bit of a mix of Disney World and the Smithsonian’s Natural History Museum.  The Creation Museum, according to its creators, showcases scientific evidence that supports the Bible’s account of the creation of the universe.

The museum’s opening yesterday drew a crowd of detractors and protestors.  Many of them were wearing George Bush masks and adding that the museum was just something more to embarass the United States within the global community.  One gentlemen – with his George Bush mask pushed back on top of his head – was arguing that the millions of dollars used to build the museum could have been more properly used in other ways.  Perhaps he’s right.  But I suppose he could have spent the day in a soup kitchen feeding the hungry rather than protesting a museum in the middle of Kentucky . . . I

But I suspect that the impact that these protestors will have on the “Creation Museum” will be much akin to the same impact that evangelical Christians had on Disney World when the Southern Baptist Convention called for a boycott several years ago because Disney had agreed to host a homosexual convention of some sort.  I’m pretty sure Disney is still in business and going strong.  And – judging by the size of the lines waiting to get into the Creation Museum – I’m pretty sure it’ll be open for a while, too.

All of this makes me wonder just how it is that we Christians are really supposed to be going about changing our culture and changing the world around us. 

In the book of Acts, Luke records the story of some metal workers; silver smiths to be exact, in the city of Ephesus.  The smiths become infuriated about the growth of the church in that community.  They are afraid that the growth of the church will destroy the vast market they have cornered for making silver shrines to the god, Artemis.  The smiths create a public protest to counter the work of the church.

Richard B. Hayes comments on this story in his book The Moral Vision of the New Testament are quite instructive.  Hayes writes,

“There is no indication that Paul has taken any direct initiative against the silver-smiths or their trade. (In other words, he planned no counter protests or public displays of his own)  He has simply been about the business of preaching repentance and integrating people into the fellowship of the church.  Yet in case after case, this sort of community-building seems to introduce an explosive new catalyst into the sociopolitical order.  The book of Acts portrays a movement that is turning people in large numbers “from the power of Satan to God (Acts 26.18) and resocializing them into a community that lives by very different norms – the norms defined by Jesus’ life and teachings.  Such a movement – when lived with integrity – inevitably has an explosive effect in the surrounding culture.  That is Luke’s vision for the transformative power of the church:  it turns the world upside down not through armed revolution but through the formation of the church as a counter culture, an alternative witness-bearing community.”

Bearing witness to the life-changing grace of God through Jesus Christ and living in a counter-cultural community.  That seems to be a tall order for the church in the Western World.

But it is an order that gets my adrenaline pumping.  I believe that it is God’s desire to create communities of repentant, Jesus-following, God-glorifying, believers all over the world that transform their communities and the world because thousands and thousands are being turned from the power of Satan to the power of God through Jesus Christ!

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