From the Wisdom Jar

•September 30, 2008 • Leave a Comment

“Before we can begin to see the cross as something done for us, we have to see it as something done by us.

-John Stott

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Identity Formation and Mark 1

•September 19, 2008 • Leave a Comment

Almost 3 weeks ago Pastor John started a series on Mark.  I was out of town this past weekend, so I missed the sermon, but I think he (in the interest of time) skipped one of my favorite early passages of Mark: the calling of the first disciples.  So last night we talked through this passage in youth group.

 

First we read the passage together.

First we read the passage together.

 

Then we discussed this point together.

Then we discussed this point together.

This is the point I hoped to make with this second slide.  Often when we think of the calling of Simon and Andrew, with think that Jesus is telling them that he is going to make them into evangelists.  That they will cast their nets and bring humans into the fold.  And I think this is part of it.  But I think that there is something even more fundamental going on here.  Jesus is telling them that he will reform their very identity.  They will no longer be fisherman, but now they will be what Jesus will make them into.  Jesus is the one forming their identity, which will no longer be found in the work, but in him.

The brothers are leaving everything they know behind, including the very things that define them.  They are leaving behind even their identity in order to follow Jesus.  Following Jesus is costly!  It is not easy, and there are parts of you that you deem important, perhaps even defining, that Jesus will call you to leave behind.  How do you identify yourself?  Are you so and so’s boyfriend or girlfriend?  An athlete?  Student? Actor?  Jesus is calling us to first and foremost find our identity in him.  We are not primarily even a race or gender or ethnicity or sexual orientation.  We are called first to be followers of Jesus, and he will make us into whom he wills us to be.

Jesus doesn’t have time to wait around for James and John to decide if they want to leave behind their father and work and identity–Jesus has got things to do!  A world to change!  A people to redeem!  He is all action.  

It is costly.  It cost James and John their family and their homes and their work.  They left behind everything they knew and everything they had worked for.  Get the point?

The students were interested in talking about “fearing the Lord” but I didn’t want to get sidetracked this week (I have gotten sidetracked significantly the last two weeks!).  

The students were astute on this one.  They recognized right away that most of us serve things other than Jesus.  School, friends, sports, music–and none of these things are bad, until you get to a point where you are serving them rather than God.  And should we decide to choose these things, even just for a period of time, it will be costly.  We talked about some of the costs of serving school first, or friends first.

Choose this day (as Joshua commands) whom you will serve.  Will it be Jesus?  Think through the costs–are you willing to go all in?  It won’t be easy, but the best things in life rarely are.

Youth Group: The Fall of Man

•September 11, 2008 • Leave a Comment

Tonight at youth group, I think we’re going to talk about the fall of man.

We’re kicking off our fall, switching to a new time and a new format.  Our Bible study time is no longer going to be straight middle school and high school Bible studies.  Instead, I’m going to talk about the passage a bit (10 minutes?) and then we’ll break into middle school and high school to apply/discuss.

Originally I thought I’d kick off the fall with creation, but I think that maybe it is a little early in my tenure to open that can of worms, especially since my view on the matter is not traditional at all.

So instead, we’ll talk about the fall.  This is what I want my students to understand:

The fall is not just about you.  And, by extension, Jesus did not die just to save your soul.  

I mean, the fall surely involves us.  And Jesus did die for our soul.  But to think that the fall mainly just screwed us humans and to think that Jesus died just so that you and me to go to heaven is pretty egotistical.  Plus it’s just bad theology.

I’m not going to lie–for a long time I thought the fall was mostly about our sin and the resulting chasm between us and a holy God.  I also thought that the gospel was mostly about the bridge diagram/4 spiritual laws, that Jesus died so that I can go to heaven.  And those things are true, but it’s only part of the story, and that is what I want my students to understand.

The fall didn’t just affect us, but all of creation.  Furthermore, the good news that Jesus preached wasn’t, “If you believe in me you can go to heaven when you die!  You can have a personal relationship with me!” but rather “the kingdom of God is near.”  I truly do believe that Jesus died to save me and that I can (and do!) have a personal relationship with him.  But redemption is about the restoration of shalom.  It is about God bringing all of fallen creation (not just us!) back to Himself.  It is about transformation of creation, of people and nations and institutions.  Humanity is not the only thing that distorted in the fall; all of creation did. This gospel is big–much bigger than the Sunday school gospel of a personal relationship (which is indeed a wonderful thing!)–it is a far larger plan.

I hope my students understand this: the fall (and by extension, the gospel) is not just about you.

Breakfast Club: 9-7-08

•September 8, 2008 • Leave a Comment

This past Sunday was the first Sunday of Breakfast Club, my new Sunday morning program here at MSPC.  In my summer parent newsletter I wrote that the idea of Breakfast Club was this:

“Sunday morning.  Starting Sunday, September 7th will be a new program from students grades 6-12 called Breakfast Club, which will start promptly at 9am and conclude by 9:55am, in time for “Big Church.”  Breakfast Club may best be described as a “discipleship experience.”  We will eat, but we will also do something intentional to further our walk with Jesus.  This might look like a prayer walk to the cross and back, discussing something in the news and the way God fits into it, it might involve talking about a Bible passage or singing.  It will always be creative, Christ centered, and Scripture-infused.  You won’t want to miss this chance to grow in new ways.”

Basically I wanted something for the youth (middle school and high school) on Sunday mornings since adult Sunday school was starting the same time and weekend.  However, I wanted to make sure that I didn’t make the same mistake many other youth groups seem to make: having a Sunday morning program that looks to similar to “Big Church.”  After all, what teenager would really want to sit in church with the grown-ups for singing and a sermon if they have already sat in a program with singing and a sermon that was directed towards their own needs?  I realize that for larger youth groups there is not really much else they can do, as they just don’t have the flexibility needed to really engage students creatively, but for us…there was just no way I would be able to convince our students that it was important to participate in multi-generational corporate worship if they had already sang and hear a talk.

 

Anyway, this is what I did this past Sunday:

I started off with this quote: “Mission is what the Bible is all about; we could as meaningfully talk of the missional basis of the Bible as we could talk of the biblical basis of mission.” -Christopher J.H. Wright inThe Mission of God.

Next, I had the students imagine the following: “Imagine that God has told you to travel to Prague–to move your whole life there and to become a missionary.  So you pack up your life and fly to Prague.  What would you do once you get there?  Where would you go?  Who would you try to meet?  You don’t know the city or the language of any people at all.”  I had them brainstorm on a handout that I gave them.  Perhaps later this week I will share some of the stuff that they came up with.

Then I told them that God has called us all to be missionaries, no matter where we are.  So I had them take their ideas regarding Prague and apply them to their schools, soccer teams, families, etc.  If they had said that they would get involved with a church in Prague for support, I challenged them to dig into community here.  If they said that in Prague they would find places of need and help out, I challenged them to do that in their schools and neighborhoods.  If they said they would practice hospitality over there, I challenged them to do it here.  Basically, I wanted them to think of their lives as a mission field, applying the same notions they have regarding overseas missions to their lives here in San Diego.

Lastly, we talked about Acts 1:8.  We talked about how important it is not to forget about Jerusalem in our haste to “the ends of the earth.”  Then I challenged them to come back next week with an example of an instance during their week when they were a missionary.  We prayed, and headed to “Big Church.”

The Kingdom, Mission and the Emerging Church

•September 2, 2008 • Leave a Comment

One of the things that I love about my classes at Fuller are the reading lists.  You see, most classes have a set reading list of maybe 4 books.  These books are required for the whole class to read.  Professors, however, also have these fat reading lists, and we’re required to read a certain number of pages by the end of the quarter.  So I get to choose what it is I’ll read.  And so, over the past year, I have a read a whole slew of books on mission, the emerging church, the postmodernity and the church, and books on my own generation (millennial) and the church.  Truly fascinating stuff, and it has both affirmed a lot of where I think the church needs to be headed as well as challenged my traditional understanding of things.

I first began re-thinking my understanding of the gospel last fall.  You can read the post here.  I began to be convinced that the gospel is a whole lot more than the “Four Spiritual Laws” or the bridge diagram.  I began to believe that, while these methods may be helpful, when they stand alone they offer an incomplete gospel at best.

One of the books I have read in the last year is a book called “Emerging Churches,” written by Eddie Gibbs and Ryan Bolger, two professor at Fuller (whom I have not yet taken a class with).  There is much food for thought in this text, and it is a very readable introduction (and maybe the best book out there, period) on the emerging church..  I wouldn’t consider myself part of that movement–I have plenty of critiques of it–but I find many of the values of the emerging church movement and the missional church movement (of which I do consider myself a part) overlap.

Gibbs and Bolger write this: “The idea of a kingdom focus instead of a church focus is a huge paradigm shift, one that does not come easy…The kingdom, or the reign of God, is about our life here and now, and is it is concerned not just with individual needs and aspirations but also with the well-being and mission of the community of Christ’s representatives.  It is directed beyond the present membership of the body of believers to encompass the world that Jesus came to save from the consequences of its rebellion by turning it in a radically different direction.  The gospel of emerging churches is not confined to personal salvation.  It is social transformation arising from the presence and permeation of the reign of Christ.  The gospel of the kingdom is prominent throughout the four Gospels.  Emerging churches are no longer satisfied with a reductionistic, individualized, and privatized message.”

I reached this point also last fall.  An individualized, privatized message doesn’t satisfy me any longer.  The Four Spiritual Laws is a fine introduction, but it only begins to tell the story.  The gospel is much bigger than a bridge that enables an individual to reach God!  God isn’t just about saving individual people (although He does care immensely about each one of us) but rather about redeeming the world.  He is redeeming people and nature and institutions.  It is a holistic gospel, and it involves far more than just us.  God is in the business of creating a new heaven and a new earth, one that is fully redeemed and full of His shalom.  To preach that Jesus died so that I can be whisked away to heaven after I die is, in comparison, so shallow!!  And God’s plan to bring redemption and shalom is so much bigger than that,

Hell

•August 29, 2008 • 4 Comments

Last night, at youth group, one of my students straight-up asked me what I think about hell.  I said, “Do you really want to go there?”  He nodded.  So I explained to him the three main positions: universalism, annihilationalism, and the traditional view.  I told him that universalism’s main points of reference are the texts in the Bible that say that it is God’s will that all be saved.  I said that I believe that many universalists believe the way they do because their “modern sensibilities” balk at the notion of hell.  And I told him that universalists like to emphasize God’s loving character, a characteristic which compels him to respond to sin with forgiveness and mercy.  I told him that others are not so quick to toss out hell, but that they are also very hesitant in regards to eternal torment (physical or otherwise).  These folks, I said, have settled into a position called annihilationalism, in which those judged guilty are annihilated, or they cease to be.  I told him that as far as I could tell, this position lacked in biblical support (as pointed out by Schwartz and Grenz) but that it appealed to those who were not willing to do away with punishment for the wicked (as there is much biblical support for such an idea) but who were also uncomfortable with hellfire and damnation.  Lastly, I told him that there is the traditional view, which argues that the redeemed will live eternally with God and the unredeemed (or wicked, or whatever you wish to call those “others”) will be punished for eternity.  I told him that there are problems with this view as well, because it seems to contradict our understanding of a loving God.  Furthermore, it seems that the punishment (eternal damnation) doesn’t fit the crime (finite sin).

Then he asked me which one I believe in.  I told him that on my less self-righteous and pharisaical days, I hoped for universalism, but that it seems to me that the Bible points most easily to the traditional view, as uncomfortable as it makes me.  I told him that I believe God’s grace is very large (a la Barth) and that it is God who passes judgement, not me, thank goodness.  I told him that we have to trust that our God’s way, whatever that is, is best.  Lastly, I reminded him that our call is to preach the good news of Jesus Christ, proclaiming that “the kingdom of God is here; repent and believe.”
I’m not sure my answer totally satisfied him, but it satisfies me–I’m willing to live with not being entirely sure, trusting that God knows what he is doing and that his way of dealing with the paradox of his own love and justice is better than any way that I could (or would) do it.

YouTube

•August 29, 2008 • Leave a Comment

I posted my first youtube video today, a guitar lesson teaching basic chord shapes for a cut capo, which I use pretty extensively, especially when leading worship.  You can check it out here.