Friday, May 18, 2007

Psalm 65 & Prayer

Prayer has been on my mind a lot lately as our men’s group has been studying it and trying to practice it. It seems like this extremely powerful spiritual tool is often ignored in favor of other spiritual activities such as: ministering, fellowshipping, and studying the scriptures. These are all valuable activities and do not always exclude prayer, but when they do I believe this is a problem. That said let’s takes a moment to look at what Psalm 65 says about the subject.

God Hears & Answers Prayer
God hears the prayers of His people. (verse 2: O You who hear prayer,
to You all men will come.) What is more, God desires to provide good things for His people from His massive domain. (verses 4 & 5: Blessed are those You choose and bring near to live in Your courts! We are filled with the good things of Your house, of Your holy temple. You answer us with awesome deeds of righteousness, O God our Savior, the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas,)

God is All-Powerful
God created everything and has the ability to control all of His creation. (verses 5-8: You answer us with awesome deeds of righteousness, O God our Savior, the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas, who formed the mountains by Your power, having armed Yourself with strength, who stilled the roaring of the seas, the roaring of their waves, and the turmoil of the nations. Those living far away fear Your wonders; where morning dawns and evening fades You call forth songs of joy.)

We Are Completely Dependent on God
Even more than that, all things that are produced ultimately come from God, even the food we eat. (verses 9-13: You care for the land and water it; You enrich it abundantly. The streams of God are filled with water to provide the people with grain, for so You have ordained it. You drench its furrows and level its ridges; You soften it with showers and bless its crops. You crown the year with your bounty, and Your carts overflow with abundance. The grasslands of the desert overflow; the hills are clothed with gladness. The meadows are covered with flocks and the valleys are mantled with grain; they shout for joy and sing.) We are utterly dependant on God for all things.

In the U.S. we are taught to be independent from a very young age. Unfortunately this mindset has become ingrained even in our Christian society. Why is this bad? Because it keeps us trusting in ourselves instead of God. We have created another type of legalism. We grasp that it is through God’s grace that we receive our salvation, but we act as if God’s grace ends there. We spend our time laboring in “God’s” work without asking the all-powerful God for His help. We forget the promise “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it shall be done for you.” (John 15:7) God wants to and will help those who are doing His work; they just need to ask. This is so vital because whether we believe it or not we are dependent on God anyway. Paul wrote in Philippians 4:13 “I can do ALL things through Him who strengthens me.” Not just the hard things, or the impossible things, the Bible says ALL things. That includes the simple everyday things. What a relief that would be to rely on God’s indefatigable power rather than our own minuscule strength, completely accept God’s grace, and truly say “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me.” (Galatians 2:16)

For more read:
The Ministry of Intercession by Andrew Murray

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Spiritual Dependence

If anyone's interested, there is a discussion going on about spiritual dependence on my blog.

first post and comments...

and my response...

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Getting Naked - Supplemental to the previous post

So I guess the question is, what can we as a church do in order to make ourselves more open with each other? I think what it all boils down to is participation. I do not mean in the sense that some one does the church’s paperwork, someone runs the nursery, or someone organizes the pot luck. These things are all great and in many cases needed. I am talking specifically about participation in your weekly meeting. This must be more than singing along with the worship band or saying Amen at the pastor. Each person must stand in their rightful place as the priests of God and take an active roll in the ministering to the Body of Christ. Here are a few practical suggestions.

1.) Open Up the Worship Service Let every one share what God is doing for them. If one has a song; let them sing. If one has a prayer; let them pray. If one has a poem; let them recite. Let anyone one share anything thing, as long as, it is about the how great God is. (Ephesians 5:19-20, Colossians 3:15-17)

2.) Stop Sermonizing Let us get away from the Platonic tradition of retoric, and get back to the Christian tradition of honest sharing among believers. This is not to say that sermons are not occasionally appropriate, but these ought not be regular occurrence. The Holy Spirit is with every believer and provides every believer who is willing to listen with knowledge. Let every believer share their Inspiration with the entire Body. Let us learn from each other. (I Corinthians 12:1-13, Colossians 3:16-17)

3.) Confesses Your Sin to Each Other This one is tough but very important. It is difficult to share how you have messed up but it is harder still to live without forgiveness. Here are a couple of guidelines. For the confessor, do not be graphic or detailed, and never brag. This is not a contest to see who has received the most grace. Furthermore, use discretion, all sin should be confessed, but not all sin should be confessed to everybody. Some situations are best handled in groups of the same sex; some situations are best handled between individuals. Now for the Body, if someone is confessing sin they do not need to be told that they have sinned, they already know. Remember this is action is not to pass judgment or assign punishment. It is rather to offer forgiveness and spiritual support for cessation of sinful activity. (James 5:13-19)

Some of you may be saying I do not have the qualifications to do these things I am not a worship leader, a pastor, or a priest. I have never had training or been to seminary. To you I say no human knowledge can replace or subject the teaching of the Holy Spirit. (I Corinthian 2)
By way Biblical example please consider Acts chapter 1. Christ has risen from the dead. He has appeared to many people. Now He is with His disciples just about to ascend to Heaven (the disciples are not aware of this fact). At this point, the disciples ask Jesus if he is going to now restore the kingdom of Israel. (Acts 1:6) This is interesting these men, who had spent the last three years learning from the Messiah Himself, still do not get it. They still believe that the Christ had come to destroy the Romans and reestablish the Davidic line. At this point Jesus tells them that the Holy Spirit is coming to shown them the true nature of the Kingdom. (Acts 1:7-8)

For more ideas and consideration read:
The Open Church by James H. Rutz
The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennon Manning

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Christ Wants the Church to be a Nudist Colony

I was thinking about nakedness the other day... (I can do this within the right context because I am married :)). And I thought about all of the things that are connected to it. Nakedness tends to inspire debates and rules. Dress codes, terms such as "common decency," it often decides the rating of a movie, can make conservatives mad, etc. but it often is connected to shame--whether that shame is the shame of the naked person or the shame of those who see them naked.
Nakedness, however, is a thing that I think is inextricably connected to the Church and is an important topic to be discussed by a "House Church Theologian."
When I think about nakedness, I immediately think about Adam and Eve and the Fall (Genesis 3). It seems that the consumption of the Fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil had a direct affect on Adam's and Eve's vestiments. In Chapter 3 verses 6 and 7 that Bible fires of the following events in quick succession: 1. they ate the fruit 2. their eyes were opened 3. they realized that they were naked 4. they made clothes for themselves. Not long after that, we see several additional events: in verse 8, they hid from the Lord and in verse 12 and 13 Adam and Eve start passing the blame. It is easy to believe that we are all living in a fallen world because, after consuming the "forbidden fruit" Adam and Eve started acting so much like the rest of us. They saw something that they wanted even though that knew that God did not want it for them, they took it, felt guilty, and then tried to hide from God (and each other for that matter) and when it all came down, they passed the blame down the line.
What is bigger, though, is the fact that at the very point our knowledge of not only evil, but also good, came into existence, we felt naked and ashamed and hid ourselves from each other by putting on clothes and God by literally hiding when he came around.
If we actually discuss what comes to mind when we think about the word naked, we quickly see what the problem is. Exposed, layed bare, uncovered, all of these words assure us that something we could not see we now can see and it is scandalous. Since, for the life of me, I cannot find anything that is inheritly wrong with nakedness, I have to believe that it is sin that makes nakedness wrong. And it is not wrong because nakedness itself is wrong but because when our sinfulness is seen by others we are ashamed of it. So we put up a facade, pull on a mask, act a certain way (especially around certain people). Yet we know from personally experience that many good things are associated with nakedness: sex the way God intended it, staying cool in the summer :), and most importantly a good shower. It is impossible to become good and clean without taking off your clothes.
Jesus often referred to things in terms of light and darkness--getting out of the darkness and coming into the light, yet what does light do but expose, reveal, uncover things? Paul often used the analogy of clothing like in Colossians when his likens our old ways and our new ways to garments. In John chapter 3, Jesus talks to Nicodemus (at night, none the less, because Nicodemus doesn't want to be spotted meeting with Jesus) about rebirth from God. Of course, you can take it from Job or just ask your mother, but I am pretty sure that we were all born naked. Jesus tells Nicodemus of the return to nakedness, the return to purity and the freedom from the curse of the fall because we were reborn anew only from God's womb.
Nakedness is imperitive to the church movement because it lays us bare before God and each other and allows us to be who God wants us to be free of shame and guily and the burden that sin placed on us on that fateful day in the garden. If we are not naked before each other (and you all know that I do not mean this the sense of our clothing) then our church will not succeed. Nakedness is the path of Jesus. Nakedness is how the church can be a place where believers and non-believers alike can find that true way of Jesus and delight in it.
I think that our "clothing" that we put on to hide ourselves from God and each other is held to get by threads of pride. Pride keeps us hidden and is often what makes us unappealing to others as well. Pride perhaps does come before the fall, but in the case of Genesis, it came with the fall. Pride is Satans greatest snare and it traps up and separates us from God and each other.
Pride stems from the nature of the world: a place full of imperfect people that expect perfection from everyone. The world is full of people who are afraid to be wrong, people who hate themselves in side because of what they lack, but refuse to let that show. Pride leads to fights, pain, and hurt. Pride draws us apart, pride is not the nature of our humble savior. Pride in a nutshell us the tendency of humans to always want to be in control. I was meditating on humility the other day and realized that a humble person in the only person who is always in control. Pride often leaves us no way out of situations that we find ourselves in because pride dictates that we ourselves...our selfish selves...#1 should always come out on top. If we cannot come out ontop, then pride traps us. Humility, which is essentially trusting God that he is right and looking outside ourselves to rely on the nature of Christ allows us a way out of every situations. Case in point: I was driving down the highway in my exterminiation truck the other day and there was woman behind me in a red Honda Civic and she was tailgating me. My prideful impulse was to slam on the brakes, give her a scare, afterall, if she hit me, it would be her fault. Yet, humility told me that I could take my foot off the gas and slow down to a speed where she would decide to pass me without scaring her or pull over to the shoulder so that she would go around. My pride told me that there was no reason I should have to slow down or pull over and perhaps lose time on my journey, she was the one who should pay for her inconsiderate uncourteous behavior. But my pride would have caused a schism between myself and the Civic driver, my humility would have atleast left us in the indifference with which we started. Humility left me a suitable and effective and even unifying way out of the situation, a sincere smile and a wave as the tailgater passed bay you will leave you satisfied and sitting naked before your maker knowing that you served his interest and the interest of another over your own and that will make all three of you smile.

Discipline on the Highway of Life

House Church Theologian
I am assuming that I am doing this right. We will soon see. I figure that I better get this up before church tonight in order to avoid any rebuking...or at least admonishing :). I have had many thoughts lately, so I think that I will post them each individually. Where to start? Let's just go in chronological order of when I thought about them (all of my thoughts tend to come to me while I am traversing the Lansing area in my extermination's like a little monastery, really). Anyway...
I just happened to be trapped in traffic on I96 yesterday and, as usual, was critiquing the manner in which Michiganders drive (badly). This situation entailed a sign on the side of the 3 lane highway that informed drivers that the left 2 lanes would be closed in a certain distance. Now, common sense and thoughtful driving would dictate that everyone should slow down (gently), move into the right lane and establish a safe following distance. This would cause for the most efficient and expediant passage through the upcoming construction zone. Needless to say, however, I immediately found myself sitting in the right lane watching as the left to lanes rapidly filled with traffic. I, who was waiting to get to an exit that was, perhaps, 100 yards away had to wait for 30-40 minutes while traffic came to a complete stop in order to start letting the selfish and inconsiderate members of left 2 lanes merge into the right lane.
This incident led me (as a criminal justice degree holder) to dwell on what the official response to these activities should be. I came up with a simple solution: the police should show up in a big van full of officers, park it across the highway (since traffic is stopped anyway) and begin writing tickets and distribute them to all of the drivers in the left 2 lanes. Do this around construction zones on a regular basis and in would quickly stop the selfish actions of other drivers.
We could obviously argue/devise all sorts of law enforcement policy and the pros and cons of each, however, the policy issue is not what I am concerned with (I am afterall the House Church Theologian, not the House Church Politician...though some of my thoughts on politics may come out at some point in this blog). The issue I am concerned with here is human nature. Let me backdrop this a bit further.
My wife and I recently became the proud parents of a young black and tan coonhound named Penny. She is a wonderful dog and we love her very much, but she has a habit, like all dogs (young ones expecially), of testing her bounderies--She'll do things she knows that she is not allowed to do in order to see if she can get away with it. If I am feeling lazy, or not paying attention, or she is home alone, etc. and she gets the freedom to get away with what she is not allowed to do, she quickly develops a bad habit that requires even stricter discipline to break--it becomes more painful for both her and I. I feel bad that I have to discipline her more strictly and she feels bad when she is disciplined.
In that light, I return to our conversation on human nature. I need to search the book of Proverbs to see if there is one similar to this one, but I have come up with one of my own:

"An undisciplined person is no better than a dog"

Prefaced by my two stories, we see that as Christians, our God gives us a great deal of freedom. It is not hard to see that freedom and choose to do what we know is wrong in any aspect of our lives. By disciplining ourselves, we please our master (a decision dogs are not always capable of making, but we are) and in doing this our lives will, in some way, be smoother and better, even if that "better" is just a clear conscience. Often, however, that "better" is strikingly obvious when it rolls around. In the case of my I96 story, it is the difference between slowly but smoothly moving traffic and a dead stop. And it will probably me the same thing in your spiritual life.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Soon to be here

A blog discussing theology, housechurches, etc