Enough of the Talking – Part 2

Continued from previous article “Enough of the Talking”.

At this juncture do I stubbornly cling to my doctrine, or do I recognize that I may not have had God quite as “figured out” as I thought I did?

How do we know what we believe? Where do we get the doctrine we cling to so tightly? Is it merely through the transfer of information, or life experience? Should it be both? I wonder if one of the reasons we are in the “pickle” we are in as the American Church is because we have successfully indoctrinated people with information about what they should believe about this or that. But, they have no idea why they believe such things, or what it looks like lived out. It gets messy when our everyday life experiences begin to challenge our knowledge of doctrine. No longer can the realities of life be explained away by well thought out doctrinal statements, or theologies surrounding this or that issue. This is when the rubber meets the road, and following Jesus starts to get adventurously crazy…

It is interesting how little information Jesus shares with many of the individuals in the Gospels who have life transforming experiences upon encountering Him. Sure, there are parables about farming, money, etc. that He shares with the disciples. He says a bit to the Pharisees while rebuking them. He is caught from time to time preaching to large crowds about things they do not seem to understand. But wait…can you think of any stories where Jesus encountered individuals and said what could be written in one to two sentences on paper? How about, “I am willing, be clean! See that you don’t tell anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the gift Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.” (Matt. 8:3-4) Or, “Take heart son, your sins are forgiven.” (The paralytic in Matt. 9:2) Or, “Go away. The girl is not dead but asleep.” (Matt. 9:24) He then raised her from the dead without saying anything. He just grabs her by the hand, and she gets up. He then heals a blind man and mute man by asking if they believe He can. They say they do believe; He touched them, and said, “according to your faith will it be done to you.” All He says after that is for them not to tell anyone it happened. Interesting. These stories litter the Gospels. We could go on and on…

The point is that Jesus did not preach a sermon, give them a doctrine, lead them in a prayer, or give them books to read. These people experienced the power of God through the person of Jesus. Their doctrine would be shaped for the rest of their lives as the Holy Spirit leads them. They had not known much other than the fact that they believed Jesus was God. He healed the sick, and His disciples did they same while telling people to repent of their sins, for the kingdom was near. That’s what they knew. I can imagine most of what Jesus did made most Jews of that time very uncomfortable. Think about it…

On the evening of the last supper, or Jewish Seder, Jesus took the cup that was reserved for the prophet Elijah who was to return. Growing up Jews never touched this cup. At the end of the supper they would dispose of it and “wait until next year”. The fact that Jesus not only picked up the cup, but also then drank from it was blasphemous to the Jews! It challenged everything they had once thought, or the doctrine they had so tightly clung to. This doctrine was interpreted from the Torah, or the first five books of our Bible. All of a sudden what these disciples had believed so strongly in their heads was being challenged by what was happening in front of their eyes. Their experience with Jesus changed who they were into who they became, and were becoming. The act of the disciples drinking from the cup now meant they truly believed He was the one they had been waiting for. (As if the many healings and miracles had not been enough) That evening the doctrine or theology of these 11 men changed forever. (To us the doctrine was fulfilled. To these Jewish men it was changed. They no longer claimed the same “doctrine” as other Jews who were still waiting on the Messiah)

Perhaps some modern theologies, or doctrines might parallel this story. This is not an argument for or against Cessationism, but one of many examples of how our doctrine might be challenged by real-life experience. If I claim to be a cessationist (based upon how I was indoctrinated) most of my Christian life, but then go overseas, or right here in the states and witness countless physical healings or even resurrections then “something’s gotta give”. At this juncture do I stubbornly cling to my theology (which was most likely based upon the scriptural interpretation of a dead guy, or particular stream of denominations), or do I recognize that I may not have had God quite as “figured out” as I thought I did, or thought they did?

Again, my pursuit through this article is not to challenge having sound doctrine, but to challenge what that sound doctrine is, where it comes from, how we allow it to indoctrinate us, and which doctrines require a much looser grip. I am not suggesting that our experiences define our doctrine, and what we see as truth from scripture. However, our experiences as we pursue Jesus should shape and mold our doctrine, how we interpret truth in scripture, and how tightly we cling to “negotiables”.

Perhaps this discussion will be “easier to swallow” if we recognize that much of what we think is our doctrine can be whittled down to mere tradition, or ritual. Most of us do not realize how we have allowed that tradition to become a major part of our doctrine when it was never meant to be. This is scary and dangerous. At the same time all of our doctrines have bits that are just plain perverted, and not in alignment with the Kingdom or heart of God.

How about the issue of ecclesiology, or more plainly put, “church”? Sometimes our doctrine is more defined by our actions than what we say we believe. For example, most Bible believing Christians would say that the church is not a place, but the people of God. However, their actions as a person of God have become defined by going to church once each week. Or, most of us claim to believe, and desire to pursue living out the Great Commission. This includes the act of Baptizing new believers, and distributing communion. Most people who claim Jesus as Lord have never baptized a new believer into the kingdom, or intentionally administered communion. Again, our actions prove otherwise. We may not know it, but these things define parts of our doctrine, or theology.

Let’s close with a few more practical examples of how this might play out in real life. Perhaps you were raised in a “camp” that viewed alcohol as “evil”. The truth you extracted from scripture was read through that lens. You could preach a sermon on why alcohol is evil, and combat anyone elses attempts to reason with you. Then one day you met a dear saint, and warrior for the Kingdom who you learned likes to enjoy alcoholic beverages on a regular basis. Uh-oh. You are left with two choices. Either you judge your new friend who has an abundance of Kingdom fruit in their life, or you release the tight grip you have on your “theology/doctrine of alcohol”. You might come to a much simpler conclusion that your pursuit against alcohol became quite idolatrous, and completely negated Christ’s work on the cross.

We have already discussed an example regarding the supernatural gifts of the Spirit. Perhaps we will take it a step further, and go down the same road we just took the example of alcohol. If the gifts are no more, but you meet a dear brother in Christ who speaks in tongues or prophesies you are, once again, left with two choices…

Throughout my journey following Jesus I sometimes believe the lie that I have “it” figured out. It is those moments that I cease to learn, be sanctified, and play my role in the Kingdom of Heaven coming to earth. If I operate as if my memorized set of beliefs dictates the things I do, or the things I remove myself far from I miss out on experiencing Jesus in the various ways He desires to interact with me as His child. May we remember some powerful words spoken by Jesus in response to the disciples arguing about who was the greatest in the kingdom of heaven: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt. 18:3-4)

Kids do not have a well-thought out and eloquent explanation for everything they believe and why. They have great faith, which grows and changes as that faith carries them into new adventures with Jesus. I doubt you would ever hear a kid arguing doctrine with anyone. They are humble. They are students. Jesus says we should “change and become like them, or we will never enter the kingdom.” May we humble ourselves as children, cling to Jesus as Savior through His work on the cross, and be slow to think we have God figured out. I wonder sometimes how much of our doctrine to which God might say, “wow, that’s not at all what I meant”, or “how did you come up with that”? Perhaps He would just say, “You made it so complicated. I simply wanted you to come to me as a child, and let me lead you by my Holy Spirit…”

Enough of the Talking…

“When you stop thinking like a beginner, and start thinking like an expert you cease to learn.” –Alan Hirsch-

Talking is something we are really good at as American Christians. In our insecurity we gain endless amounts of knowledge about who Jesus is. We study, read books, go to school, and do all sorts of things to validate ourselves as God’s children. The problem is at the root we have neglected to find our validation in who Jesus is to us as an active part of His Body, His Bride, The Church. We replace the commands of Jesus to DO His will, and resort to merely becoming experts at knowing His Word. We even take it a step further by creating our own doctrines and theologies in order to lambaste those who might threaten our comfortable Christian lifestyle. We know our five points, “ecclesiology”, eschatology, theology, and doctrine along with a defense to anyone who might challenge us in this comfortable certainty we have created for ourselves. How certain can we really be if what we claim to know never leaves the Starbucks table where we sip coffee while enlightening our young up-and-coming “disciple” who we have fooled into thinking we are brilliant? We now have a new convert whose salvation is sealed by the passing along of our fancy words and deceptive knowledge. (1 Cor. 1:20 – 1 Cor. 2:5) This new “convert” who we think is “grounded” in knowledge of the Word & doctrine through our passing along of information may not be as grounded in either as we thought. There is definitely a root issue here seeded in how we truly make disciples of Jesus, but an even deeper root of how we allow ourselves to be discipled first. We can only make disciples to the extent that we allow ourselves to BE discipled.

When our pursuit of Jesus becomes hijacked by our pursuit of defending the particular doctrine that was handed down to us we cease to be disciples and start to be defenders. Whether we have become greater defenders of John Calvin’s five points, Bill Johnson’s healing or eschatology theology, or Mark Driscoll’s view of what it means to “be a man” we have ceased to pursue Jesus and His kingdom. While the above men are all great men of God they are mere men; one of them is dead. Jesus came back, and that is why we worship Him, and pursue His kingdom over any other man who ever walked the earth, right?

Many believers spend more time arguing doctrine with other believers than they do living out the doctrine they claim to believe. We fall into the trap of becoming very comfortable and sure of what we believe. Anything that challenges that, or is in any way different MUST be wrong because we have an explanation for everything in our doctrine for what we do or do not believe. But wait, aren’t we supposed to “be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have”? (1 Peter 3:15) If that verse popped in your head I challenge you to go read the entire book of 1 Peter in context, and see if Paul is using this verse to urge “God’s elect, strangers in the world, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia” (1 Peter 1:1) to defend themselves against other believers who might have different doctrine. Being sure of what we believe is not always a good thing…

Can you think of anything in your life that you used to believe, or think as truth that you have come to grow away from due to God pouring out more grace on you? I hope we can all say yes. For example, were any of you raised like I was thinking the idolatrous lie that alcohol is “the devil”? There are thousands of examples we could reference. Surely we do not claim to have this whole God thing figured out…? How arrogant. Surely there are things we once clung tightly to that are no longer worthy of our tight grip. Why then, do we continue to allow ourselves to fall into the same trap over and over again? It is the trap that causes us to release our grip on one thing as we grow in our understanding of the kingdom, but quickly cling to another-perhaps with more strength than before. We become experts on what we “know that we know that we know”. We cease to be students of our great teacher. After all, we have Him figured out already, right? It’s in our doctrine.

I am not against doctrine. I do not dare come against the need for being grounded in the Word, and having “sound doctrine”. My pursuit with this article is to challenge what we think “sound doctrine”, and being grounded in the Word means, along with how we “attain it”. Most of us think we are “grounded in the word” by having a well read/versed man with a degree teach the scriptures to us on a weekly basis. Or, we listen to “lots of sermons and podcasts online”. Even better, we spend all day in commentaries & Systematic Theology books so we can use big words to win an argument against someone with “different theology” than us. Or my favorite, the ability to robotically repeat what Matt Chandler and Mark Driscoll believe about things. We think having sound doctrine means being able to explain everything about God, and the Bible in any context.

Sure, there are some non-negotiables, but the doctrine of many becomes a huge list of non-negotiables, certainties, and attempts to explain away or wrap our heads around the things of God that our human minds cannot comprehend. Perhaps the only non-negotiable we should have is the fact that Jesus is Lord through His death, burial, and resurrection for the salvation of man to pursue ushering in the kingdom on earth as it is in heaven; all of this is through the leading of the Holy Spirit given to us by Jesus, the Son, through God the Father for intimacy with Him.

I would submit that we come to learn the Word, form the doctrine we believe, and grow in intimacy with Jesus through getting out into the world to radically pursue Him. This is a lifelong process. Our “doctrine” and learning to be grounded in the Word is constantly shaped as we set out to be on mission with our King. The “problem” with this is that following Jesus gets crazy…

We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.” (2 Peter 1:16)

Christ said we would see “greater things than these”. Then, He gave us His Holy Spirit, and a commandment to make disciples. Arguing about doctrine with other believers not only causes division and disunity among the body, it also does not cause unbelievers to trust Jesus as Lord.

There is so much talking, and so little being, and doing. There comes a point in many of our lives when we can no longer sit around simply knowing God’s word, and what we believe about this and that issue. That point is when we embark on an adventure with Jesus that causes us to wonder what we had been doing all that time, and praise Christ for the measure of Grace He has poured out on us. It is throughout this journey that we are forced to be grounded in scripture to avoid the schemes of the enemy. It is this adventure that shapes and molds the doctrine we come to believe as the Holy Spirit speaks to us and brings revelation through scripture.

This pursuit of Jesus is not meant to be a comfortable, or easy one. When we start really following Jesus, and taking the things we say we believe seriously by doing them things might get a little dangerous. After the danger comes and we continue to press into the Kingdom we will begin to learn what it truly means to call Jesus Lord.

Stay tuned for “part two” where we will dive into some real-life examples of how Jesus continually shapes our “doctrine” in a healthy way as we pursue life on mission in the context of community.

Closing Thoughts & My Mosque Trip…

{Sorry it’s taken me so long to pick back up with this last part of the “Removing Ignorance” posts regarding Muslims. I hope they have been enlightening thus far, and I hope this post is equally as challenging…it challenged me as I wrote…}

Do we as Christians avoid those of other faiths because we are afraid of them? Are we too insecure in our own faith to engage in dialogue with them? It seems that we are afraid that we might find out we are wrong or something. So, we simply choose to stay away from people who are different from us; they “threaten us”, right? I know that many people reading this feel uncomfortable at the mere thought of sitting at a table with a Muslim, listening to what they think/believe about Allah.

Do we not believe that the Gospel is also for Muslims? Can Christ’s blood cover over their sins as well? (If we’re “measuring” things here you’d probably find they have “less sin” than we do…chew on that) Is grace for “them”? If so, then how are we living our lives in such a way to prove that? How many Muslim friends, or friends of another faith do you have? Be they Mormon, Hindu, Muslim, etc. The truth is that most of us are uncomfortable being around those who are different from us. Whether it be moms who choose not to be around other moms who “mother” differently, or guys who are into sports not wanting to be around “nerds” who enjoy building computers, we all seem to migrate towards those who are just like us.

As Christians in America we have chosen our primary method of “reaching the lost” being a weekly church service that we can invite these “other people” to. Guys, when was the last time you know of a Muslim visiting your church? I don’t care what kind of church it is; you can probably not recall such a time. How will the Great Commission be fulfilled, and the nations reached if we expect the nations to come into our churches when it is obvious they will not do so?

Again, I think it’s time we each got out of our bubbles, and made friends with some people who are different from us…

Before my trip to DC a few weeks ago I visited a Mosque here in Vegas, and met some friendly Muslim men from Morocco. It was an interesting experience. They were THRILLED that I was there inquiring about Islam. They even gave me an evangelistic track about Islam. Seriously! It was as if I was the first non-Muslim to ever step foot on their property. They were excited, and desired for me to know about their faith in Allah through the Prophet Muhammad. (It was just as shocking for ME to go the THEIR “church” as it would be for THEM to come to MY “church”) They invited me, and my family back for one of the prayer times later that week. We haven’t gone yet, but probably will very soon.

Mosque

So much of the experience reminded me of how we do things as Christians…the Mosque was a HUGE and beautifully crafted peace of architecture. People gather to this “sacred” place to worship and pray. (Muslims do seem to get a little better use out of their buildings than us Christians, though. They use it several times/day every day of the week) I was greeted by Muslim men who handed me tracks, and shared how “happy” Islam would make me. I was invited back to a service later in the week. They both seemed uncomfortable sharing what exactly it was that would “make me happy”, & decided it would be easier to hand me the literature & invite me to a service instead. I could go on and on…

Guys, think about it. How often have you visited a mosque, temple, synagogue, etc. if ever? Then what in the name of Jesus makes us think people of other faiths will visit our churches? We must take the Gospel to the world.

I encourage you all to make it a priority to pursue a relationship with someone who is very different from you. You will probably be uncomfortable, but will learn a lot. Watch as the Gospel of Jesus infiltrates that relationship (as you allow it to). You may get to see a life transformed…

 

1 Year Anniversary & REALationships.

Morgan and I spent last weekend with two of our close friends who live in Ocean Springs, Mississippi. They got married in June, and moved from Dallas to Ocean Springs to help start an Acts 29 church called “Mosaic”. The Lord did something beautiful in each of us over the weekend as we poured into one another, and watched as the Lord grew us closer to each other and Himself. We experienced beautiful community together as we cooked meals, planted a garden, prayed, rested, sharpened, and spoke wisdom into each others lives about marriage and serving Christ with our all.


We planted a garden with the Taylor’s at their new home! Fully equipped with Basil, Cilantro, Parsley, and Flowers!


We drove an hour west to New Orleans and spent some time there.


Lunch at the “Mellow Mushroom”


We all prepared a 5 course meal together, and spent the entire evening eating and drinking to the Glory of God. Beautiful.

Monday, October 20th was mine and Morgan’s 1 year anniversary. After spending the weekend with the Taylor’s they dropped us off in New Orleans at a Hostel. It was RAD. We all have a lot to learn from “hostel life”.

Above: India House Hostel – New Orleans, LA.

Above: On the beach on Ocean Springs…Morgan wrote our wedding date in the sand!

We spent the day touring New Orleans on our anniversary.

On Monday we checked into a little bed and breakfast in New Orleans to rest and relax…

This was a beautiful time of rest for both of us. We had a great time, and enjoyed one another as we celebrated our first wonderful year of being married. Thank you Jesus.

City-Wide Missional Community Network

Two years ago there was only about one group of people pursuing simple/organic/house church, or what we call “missional community”, in Las Vegas. It was Apex Church. When Intentional Gatherings moved into town we were told by many in the city that we were “crazy”, and that the vision of seeing “MC’s” multiplied throughout the city was “unrealistic”. They said that it “just wouldn’t work in this city”. Since then we have connected with Apex, and met many others who are also on this pursuit of living in tight-knit Biblical Community through the multiplication of simple expressions of the ecclesia.

A few months ago some of the leadership of these organizations got together to discuss what it would look like for us to partner, unify, and cooperate as similar organizations in the city. As a result, the “Vegas Valley Missional Community Network” was birthed. There are now about seven organizations/churches representing 16 different “missional communities” spread out all over the city.

There is an inward purpose, as well as an outward focus behind why this network has been birthed. (Missional – outward. Community – inward) Because of this network, each of our individual organizations now realize that they are a part of something bigger throughout the city. We know, and are affirmed because there are people spread out all over the city who are pursuing the same vision; the same vision that we were told was “unrealistic”. That is the inward focus, which we pray never becomes dominant in this network. The outward focus should be a natural result, or response of each individual community as they pursue life with others centered around the Gospel. The outward purpose of this network is to see “missional communities” multiplied throughout the entire city. Our prayer is that this will happen through the training, and release of apostolic leaders to start new communities where the Gospel is not rooted deeply.

This past Sunday evening believers from the different organizations involved in the Vegas Valley Missional Community Network gathered for the first time to meet one another, celebrate what God has done in their communities, and pray for one another as they are on mission together in the city. Here are some pictures from the evening…

What a beautiful, and God ordained evening. It was the first of many. Thank you to all of you who joined us, and helped out with everything. Until next time…

The Birth of a Perfect Marriage

Highlights from a week ordained by God…

At Student CPx this past week our purpose was to equip students to plant campus churches at their universities that will reproduce organically, fostering a church planting movement. Also, in my previous post I shared about the amazing things going on with I.H.O.P. (International House of Prayer – Kansas City). There are also several other prayer movements taking place in America such as 24/7 prayer (“Red Moon Rising”). There are plans to see houses of prayer on every college campus in the world. We started dreaming this week, and the Lord began opening doors to see these two elements join together in a beautiful marriage. It would appear that the apostolic, and the prophetic are joining together among college students on universities all over the country. Campus houses of prayer (The prophetic side) have popped up everywhere, as well as student churches (The apostolic side) on campuses. For years the two have pursued their calling apart from one another. It would seem as if the Lord is joining together these two very important elements that have been seemingly absent from our current form of church in America. Imagine what it will look like when the apostles, and prophets join one another on mission! Stay tuned…

The students at CPx were not only receiving classroom style teaching, but also hands on training. They were split into “Simple Churches” where they pursued, and practiced the values of living in “missional community” for two weeks. They were on a Native American College campus as missionaries. They learned about past church planting movements throughout history, and the pitfalls of evangelism through extraction. We taught them how simple things reproduce, and that church isn’t about a once a week gathering. We challenged them to pursue Biblical community, and to “go out in two’s” seeking a “person of peace” to disciple (Luke 10). We are extremely proud of these 40 students, and hopeful for what is to come. We challenged the them to seek out an international student on their campus during this next semester, lead them to Christ, disciple them, and bring them to a Student CPx follow-up training in six months. Through prayer, a prophetic word from several people, and a step of faith we decided that we would all bring our persons of peace to meet in none other than Las Vegas, Nevada. There are many details to work out, but in January 2009 Student CPx will join Intentional Gatherings in Las Vegas to reconnect, share what God is doing, train more, and be sent back out. My hope is that we will host this on UNLV’s campus, and that it would spark interest in planting Simple Churches among Christians in Vegas. If each of the 40 students, along with Intentional Gatherings in Vegas each seek out one person of peace then we will have close to 100 Christ followers (half of which will be brand new believers) meeting in Vegas in six months to train, and be sent back out all over the country! We also threw around ideas of having this past week’s batch of Student CPxer’s lead the training for the new believers while we facilitate. We would then challenge those 100 to go back, seek out one more person of peace, and regroup again. The potential of this gives me butterflies.

Last but certainly not least: Throughout the two weeks of Student CPx three Native American students developed relationships with our students, encountered Christ in them, and made a decision to follow Christ with their lives! We immediately Baptized these students in the dormitory bathtub! Erik Fish, who lives in Lawrence, now has three new disciples to start campus churches with. Praise Christ.


I am now on a plane to Colorado Springs where a similar conference called “SPARK” is being hosted by Campus Renewal Ministries. I have been asked to come in for the week to share, teach, equip, and empower students to start “missional communities” on their campuses. Sound familiar? Luckily, the Student CPx guys (Campus Church Network), and the “SPARK” guys (Campus Renewal Ministries) know each other well. I plan on sharing with the leadership of CRM about our follow-up training in Vegas. The amazing aspect of these opportunities is that none of the three church planting organizations involved (CRM, CCN, & Intentional Gatherings) have any desire to grow “their own kingdom”, but the Kingdom of God. It would seem as if God is bringing us together with like-minded desires for a true Church Planting Movement in the states. We will pursue this, and trust God to work out the details.

“Jesus, thank you for uniting Your Body, and preparing Your Bride like You promised to do in Your word. Thank You for allowing us to be a part of what You are doing. Protect us from ourselves, our pride, and selfish ambitions. May we be connected to You, and led by Your Holy Spirit that dwells in us. Amen.”

Unity…Whut?

Previous Blog written on April 11th, 2008…

I believe that people all over the world are beginning to realize the need for Unity. For years we thought we could do it on our own. We thought ministry and the growth of the kingdom was some sort of a competition. We thought that the Lord gave US a vision, and that we were to move forward like a fright train pummeling anything in front of us in order to accomplish that vision.

Of course, we rarely see that in scripture. Instead, I see Jesus stooping down to wash the feet of his disciples. I see Him commanding us to put the interests of others before our own, and humbly serve everyone around…yes everyone…(Philippians 2) “you mean even the church planter down the road!? But what if our members go to HIS church and not mine!?” (How a thought like that can even enter any of our minds blows me away)

I have come to the conclusion that a main reason we haven’t seen Biblical unity among the body here in the states is because if it happened God would get the Glory. We don’t like that. We want the glory, and we rob God of the glory He deserves because our flesh wants recognition, and approval. We SAY we want God to get glory, but our actions prove otherwise. We say we want to grow the kingdom no matter what, but it usually translates into growing OUR kingdom. When true unity begins to happen is when pastors, leaders, planters, missionaries, etc. begin to humbly serve those around them EVEN if it does not directly benefit THEIR thing, but the others.

Unity happens when we count the interests of others as equally important as our own. Once again, this will be difficult because for this to happen ONLY God can take credit, and receive glory for it. I beg, and pray that we would desire His glory more than our own. “Father, set us free from our fleshly desires…our desires that rob you of the glory you deserve.”