Wednesday, January 24, 2018

How To Not Be Spiritually Ugly

Every morning I look in the mirror. It’s a horrifying experience.

Seriously, I do look in the mirror, and I see all manner of tragedies which need to change. Some things can’t be changed (like the size of my nose or the shape of my ears), but much of what I see can be changed (like the craziness of my hair, or the fog on the mirror from my breath).

The one thing I cannot do is gaze into the mirror for an hour, make a list of all the things that are wrong and then walk away having changed nothing.
But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. (James 1:22-25)
Notice that those who do not act, but only hear are accused of deceiving themselves. Sometimes it’s very easy to be proud of ourselves for all we’ve learned from and about the Bible. I’m afraid that there have been many times in my life when I’ve worked hard to increase my knowledge of the truth without allowing the truth to really change me.

This isn’t the truth at all.

If learning truth about God isn’t changing your daily life, you are (according to James) deceiving yourself. James says that anyone who looks into the law (the Bible) and PERSEVERES will be blessed. Perseverance is the art of continuing on even in the face of great adversity.

Jesus never promised that living his truth would be easy. He actually compared it to “taking up a cross”. But if we are willing to persevere in the consistent application of truth to our lives, we will gradually find ourselves looking more and more like Christ.

Remember, knowing truth does not equal living truth.

As you walk through your day, consider the Bible as a mirror on your life. What is God pointing out that you need to change? How will you make those changes?

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

What If Someone Preached a Sermon Using Only Questions?

What if someone preached a sermon using only questions?

Do you think it would work?

Would people listen?

Is it possible that some might find it offensive?

Can truth be communicated via interrogation?

What would socrates say?

Do people engage more with questions or propositions?

Is it possible to craft questions which stimulate deep contemplation?

What if the questions helped to unpack the text?

Don't you think a well-written question can lead to truth discovery?

What if some of the questions demanded immediate contemplation?

What if some of them called for discussions?

Could you ask the people to talk to each other about the answer?

Would you ask the person sitting next to you right now what their opinion is?

Could you build in time for contemplation and discussion?

Do you think some people might be so struck by one question that they might not be able to shake it?

What would a question like that look like?

Is it better to confront someone's shortcomings with a question or an accusation?

Isn't that the point of a sermon?

Shouldn't a preacher always be confronting our shortcomings?

Does new knowledge mean anything without life-change?

Are people willing to change their lives if they don't see any problems?

How can a sermon point out someone's problems?

Would it help to force them to think about themselves?

Would it be better to have them think of themselves in light of the text?

Could a question help them do that?

Don't you think this would get tiresome after 40 minutes?

Who said a sermon has to be 40 minutes long?

Did Jesus ever ask questions?

Would this work?

What do you think?

Monday, January 15, 2018

The Missional Church

"Missional" was a popular word ten years ago. I think it still has legs.

The essence of the missional church is that it invests itself outside the walls of the building and apart from the Sunday morning gathering.

At the heart of the missional church is a decision to take Christ seriously when he said, "AS YOU ARE GOING, make disciples." Missional churches have decided not to rephrase Matthew 28 to say, "As they come to you, make them disciples"; but rather to assume Jesus meant what He said, and that we are to be in the business of making disciples 24/7 in every aspect of our lives, not just when we gather.

Like any good thing, missional living and churching can get out of balance. I see at least a few potential dangers for the missional church:

In an effort to be "in the world", there is a constant temptation to become indistinguishable from the world. John, in his first epistle, draws thick lines between the lifestyle of the children of God and the lifestyle of the world. One must be careful that in pursuit of relevance, the true distinctives of the church are not lost. Because a part of missional living requires loving the people in the world, particularly those who are "hard to love", it can be easy to get so caught up in social causes that the gospel is lost.

It is right, appropriate, and incumbent on the church to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the prisoners, and comfort the oppressed. However , it would be better for those people to enter the kingdom hungry, naked, and captive than for them to be full, clothed, and free but miss the kingdom.

The other side of this coin is that the church, in an effort to bring change to the world, can become so politically entrenched that the lines between God's kingdom and the political parties become impossible to see (this happens on both sides!). The church must take great care as it seeks to enact the mission of Jesus, that it not lose the Gospel of Jesus!

I believe the template for missional living is found in 1 Peter 2:11:
Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.

The missional church:

  • Understands its identity -- Aliens and Strangers
  • Embrace its location -- in the world
  • Lives Appropriately -- abstain from sinful desires
  • For the sake of the Kingdom -- they may...glorify God on the day he visits us.

The key is that we abstain from sin, not the world. That is the heart of missional living.