What the church must have.

9 11 2016

“We have lost perspective when we see other churches as the competition, vying for prominence and distinction. Instead we should find ways to demonstrate our unity and serve each other.

“The Church must draw inspiration from Whose it is, to rise to its greatest calling, to cease striving within and rise above. Instead of thinking conformity, the Church must think creatively. Instead of merely having an impact, the Church must settle for nothing less than transforming its culture through manifesting its Savior. Rather than working to boost its attendance, the Body of Christ must rise to the full stature of Christ’s character in the beauty of diversity of size, ethnicity and form.

“The issue is not house churches versus traditional ones. Not post-moderns versus moderns. Not ethnic or Caucasian, nor denominational over independents. What matters is this: Where is the Spirit of Christ present, and where is the truth of Christ found? If these exist, their flickering flame must be coaxed into a hungry fire and blown into roaring conflagration.

pablo4From THE AMAZING POTENTIAL OF ONE SURRENDERED CHURCH, Robert E Rasmussen, pp. 42,43.

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A prayer for community

6 11 2016

“You’ve heard of missing persons. Have you ever thought about missing prayers, prayer requests that God ought to hear regularly but that we scarcely speak? The prayer for spiritual discovery ought frequently to grace our lips.

“For this reason, since the day we heard about you,
we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding”
(Colossians 1:9).

candle prayerFrom SAFE IN HIS SANCTUARY, by Robert Rasmussen (Multnomah 1999), p161.

Walk to the park

3 11 2016

A young couple with kids lives intentionally in an urban black community. One day they were heading to the local park for a walk. A child from a house next door asked, “Can I go with you to the park”?

“If your mother and dad tell us you can go.”

The child took off running to get permission.

In the time it took for her to return, 11 kids with at least one parent showed up to join in.

It was quite a walk to the park that day.

Vision on a clear night

18 07 2016

night caveJohn the apostle, now an aging man, is alone on the isle of Patmos, looking out at night from a hilltop, in front of the cave he now calls home. He looks into the distance and sees fires on the mainland where the seven churches of Asia lie. As night falls the  afternoon winds calm down, the way they did suddenly at the command of the Master. Oh what a day that had been. How their anxiety turned to awe at the authority of His voice, “Peace be still.”

The apostle ponders the seven churches that burden his heart, the sheep given to his charge. The Ephesians, so strong in doctrine but lagging in love. Those in Smyrna, the flock in Pergamum. What is their future, these tender congregations? Will they huddle to themselves in self-preservation, unaware of the power given to them in the Spirit? Will they cling to each other around common likes and dislikes, rather than throwing open their arms to rich and poor, Jew and gentile, high class and low?

Suddenly a breeze blows across John’s face, as if the Spirit of God is visiting him afresh. The apostle’s heart surges with the joy of a hopeful vision of things to come. He sees a heavenly multitude gathering around the throne of the Ancient of Days, for a time has come to right the wrongs on the earth. The evil that has twisted humanity must be driven out by righteous judgment. The 24 elders stand in worshipful consternation. The dilemma is this: The scrolls of judgment are sealed, and none has the authority to open them. Heaven waits for the answer.

In time the vision becomes clear. It is not by military might that righteousness reigns. No, heaven has a different scale. Into the throne room walks the one who embodies righteousness. Like a lamb, slain in sacrifice, the Savior enters and in an instant all know that the scrolls will now be opened, not by force, but in voluntary subjection to the power of humility.

The followers of the Lamb are then revealed and the sight gives John new hope, for the throng of worshipers are from every tribe, tongue and nation. They are one, a new community, fashioned after the humble character of their Lord. “Worthy!” they cry. “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to open the scroll!”

While the vision became clear, so had the night sky. He looks over in the direction of the churches and ponders their future. He knows they will struggle, even suffer. But He now has confidence that the gospel will spread to every people. He knows that God will choose for Himself a new community whose love will overcome all divisions. He knows that the sacrifice of the Lamb will not be forgotten, but will be victorious in the end.

(Based on Revelation 7:9)
Photo credit: Eric Nathan photography


Letter to the Privileged – 2

16 10 2015

[In continuation of my first post on this topic.] Why do we need to study Romans 1-4 with new eyes?  Paul spends these chapters seeking to break the grip of privilege from the grasp of the Jews — the insiders of his day — to help them see that the gospel is given expressly for the Gentiles (the outsiders) just as fully as the Jews. Those privileged with lineage, heritage, possession of scripture (their law), a rite of identification (their circumcision) are wrong to see these as basis for acceptance by God. None are worthy. None inherit salvation from fathers. All are unworthy. Only faith in the finished work of Christ brings inclusion.

The Jews believed that Abraham, the father of their nation, gave them an inside track with God, but Paul says that even Abraham received righteousness by faith, not works. Anyone — anyone — can have Abraham as their father if they share his faith in God through Jesus Christ.

Generally, the church today has succumbed to the same error as first century Jews. We are content to believe that, by God’s grace, we have been shown the light of the gospel while others lie outside the scope of God’s saving love. This troubles us, but we have grown theologically resigned to it.

In a way, we have our own reliance on a kind of circumcision. The word has the idea of cutting around in a circle. Those so cut are marked for inclusion. Everyone else is uncut, or excluded from the circle of belonging.

Why is this important for us? Wherever we are content to enjoy inclusion for ourselves, even feeling entitled to it, we repeat the prideful judgmentalism which Paul exposed. The result is exclusion of those who are as much beloved by God as ourselves, whether by omission or commission. I believe this condition is pandemic in the church today, a life-threatening virus which spreads unchecked in the comfortable climate of ignorance and unrepentance.

And bad theology produces bad activity. That is why in these articles I make a claim that convicts me personally:

The single greatest impediment to the advance of the Christian faith among all peoples is the prideful entitlement of those who already believe — an attitude which results not only in apathy but judgmental exclusion of those whom God loves.

The good news is for those who have received bad news.  As all people, even Jews, have sinned, all people, even Gentiles, can believe and be saved. Or to paraphrase Paul’s point: As all people, even privileged believers, have sinned, all people, even despicable unbelievers, can believe and be saved.

For “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8).

So what must we do?

First, we must re-frame our understanding to correspond to Paul’s teaching of “Jews” and “Gentiles” and apply that truth to our current context.

Typically we see the Jew-Gentile contrast as past history which has long ago been settled and laid to rest. We figure that the gospel has come to us (the Gentiles) so Paul’s expose is now academic in its cultural and social implication. We admit it must have been a radical teaching in the first century A.D. but has less direct application now that the gospel has gone far beyond its Jewish roots.

However, we must apply the sin of exclusiveness to our day by seeing that now, we who rest contentedly in our faith without a passion for lost people fill the role of “Jews” in Romans one through four. The “Gentiles,” by application, are the likes of Arabs, “terrorists” posing as refugees, the undocumented immigrants, the atheistic evolutionists, and those of an alternate lifestyle whom we have assigned a place outside the circle of favor and inclusion.

I will reserve three more recommendations for the next post….