LEAD! C.10 World-Changing Worship

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In Which We Give Up the World for God, So We Can Give God to the World

Worship is simultaneously the most personal and the most all-encompassing of all human experiences. True worship is to encounter the Divine Presence in the very depths of our being, in a posture of absolute stillness and submission.

Yet such an encounter doesn’t merely empower and inspire us; it also requires us to manifest that same Presence amidst the frenzy and confusion of this present darkness (cf. Ephesians 6:12). Even to those we think least likely to respond…

Memory Verse: “God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.””John 4:24 (NKJV)

Assigned Reading
  1. Richard Foster: Celebration of Discipline

    • 11. Worship
  2. Donald Whitney: Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life

    • 5. Worship
    • 6. Evangelism
  3. Eugene Peterson: A Long Obedience in the Same Direction

    • 4. Worship: “Let’s Go to the House of God!”
    • 16. Blessing: “Lift Your Praising Hands”

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LEAD! C.7 Silence and Solitude

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In Which We Withdraw From The World To Draw Near To God

The modern world considers solitary confinement and enforced silence as among the worst long-term punishments — with good reason; it is a terrifying thing to be cut off from the consolations and diversions of society. And yet, the very severity of that terror hints at the fertile spiritual soil to be uncovered when we deliberately cultivate time away from the distractions of ordinary human life…

Memory Verse: “Now when it was day, He departed and went into a deserted place. And the crowd sought Him and came to Him, and tried to keep Him from leaving them; but He said to them, ‘I must preach the kingdom of God to the other cities also, because for this purpose I have been sent.’ “Luke 4:42-43 (NKJV)

Assigned Reading
  1. Richard Foster: Celebration of Discipline

    • 7. Solitude
  2. Donald Whitney: Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life

    • 10. Silence and Solitude
  3. Eugene Peterson: A Long Obedience in the Same Direction

    • 7. Security: “God Encircles His People”
  4. Ruth Haley Barton: Sacred Rhythms

    • 2. Solitude: Creating Space for God

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LEAD! C.4 Fervent Fasting

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In Which We Slow Down To Feast on the Lord’s Name

Throughout the Old and New Testament, God’s people have fasted to express sorrow, repentance, and desperation. In ways we only partly understand, these acts of physical denial open up our spirits to experience God in deeper and more powerful ways. For Christians, fasting is less an obligation than a privilege: the opportunity to enjoy a special time of intimacy with our Bridegroom despite his physical absence (cf. Mark 2:18-20).

Memory Verse: “‘Now, therefore,’ says the LORD, ‘Turn to Me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning.’ So rend your heart, and not your garments; Return to the LORD your God, for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness; and He relents from doing harm.”Joel 2:12-13 (NKJV)

Assigned Reading
  1. Richard Foster: Celebration of Discipline

    • 4. Fasting
  2. Donald Whitney: Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life

    • 9. Fasting
  3. Eugene Peterson: A Long Obedience in the Same Direction

    • 13. Humility: “I’ve Kept My Feet on the Ground”
  4. Ruth Haley Barton: Sacred Rhythms

    • 5. Honoring the Body: Flesh-and-Blood Spirituality

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LEAD! B.11 From Gluttony to Self-Control

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In Which We Deny Our Bodies to Nurture Our Souls

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” — Matthew 5:10

While gluttony primarily refers to the excessive consumption of food, here we will define it more broadly as “seeking to satisfy our souls by indulging the appetites of the flesh.” This is in contrast to self-control, which is the ability to align the actions of our body with the desires of the spirit.

Importantly, for a Christian self-control is ultimately about being controlled by God’s Spirit; in fact, God sometimes lets us fall into sins of the flesh to teach us not to trust in our own willpower!

This is also why those who undergo persecution are considered “blessed”, or “lucky”, as it is obvious to them that they can’t pursue physical comfort and the kingdom of heaven at the same time.

For the rest of us, alas, the temptation is far more subtle…

Assigned Reading
  1. Peter Kreeft: Back to Virtue

    • 13. Courage under Persecution vs. Self-indulgence
  2. Dick Hockett: Foundations of Wisdom
    • 3.1 (Self-control) Example: Proverbs about the Tongue

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LEAD! B.1 From Humanism to Wisdom

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In Which Our Character is Conformed to God’s Name, Via The Pursuit of Wisdom

In our first twelve-week series on Theological Foundations, we focused on what it means to be “baptized into the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit“, moving from sin to sanctification as the body of Christ entering into His Kingdom.

In this our second series, we focus on how we can appropriate that “name” in our own lives — as well as those of the people we lead and serve. This is the essence of Christian Character, the second leg of our “LEAD” tripod (the third and final one being “Skills for Service”, coming in Spring 2009).

The goal of character formation is to bring our “whole person” into alignment with the “whole name” of God — His identity, character, and purpose. We can define the whole person using the “triplet” model below, which has:

  1. Our Spirit at the center…
  2. … working through our Heart, Soul and Mind… (cf. Mark 12:30)
  3. … which together produce Emotions, Reasons, and Decisions…
  4. … that manifest in actions of our Body

person-new

While all models are imperfect, and there are many other ways to picture the human psyche, this diagram will help us understand the role of Wisdom in character formation — and how we fall short…

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LEAD! Syllabus for “Theological Foundations”

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[NOTE: the official syllabus is now on the "Lead" page; this post is obsolete, but kept for the sake of historical continuity].

[Yes, I should probably have written this before the first lesson, but better late than never...]

In thinking about it, I ought to take my Curriculum one step further, and actually identify the passages and key learnings for each lesson. Not only will this help ensure I’m on the same page as my pastor, but it would enable others to write some of the lessons (since class starts on September 4th!).

I’ve also cross-referenced these lessons against two common systematic theology books:

In addition to providing a sort index to the topics covered, this allows students and teachers to use those as supplementary textbooks.

  • Draft 1 – Sunday, 24th August
  • Draft 2 – Tuesday, 26th August: Added “Doctrine” “Essentials” chapters for each lesson
  • Draft 3 – Friday, 29th August: Added “Doctrines” chapters for each lesson

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LEAD! Curriculum Reset for “Theological Foundations”

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So, the good news is that our church is gearing up to start LEAD! on September 4th, and already taking applications! That’s also the bad news, since I’ve only finished three classes. :-(

Still, it only takes me about four hours per class, which is two late night waiting-to-feed-Rohan sessions (assuming he behaves), so I should be able to keep up.

The real problem is that my lesson topics have gone in a completely different direction that originally envisioned. More, my pastor has a slightly different vision for how things should fit together. Given the time timeframes, it is essential we get on the same page (and stick to it, if possible).

Here’s my current vision for what is now being called “Theological Foundations”. Hopefully my pastor and I can converge on this syllabus soon (once he’s no longer busy with his new grandson :-)

[Updated and ratified 8/19 with John Isaacs]

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Twelve Steps to Arrow-Proof Your Ministry

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Apologies for the pretentious title, but I wanted to challenge myself to identify and reorganize the lessons we covered in last year’s leadership class into a coherent prescription for facing down “Ministry Killers”. The idea is that each of these “steps” would be a single “life lesson”, but that together they provide the “full armor of God.

What do you think? Did I miss anything important?

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Stoned, Part I: Three Stones

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5:30 AM, Sunday, March 11th, 2007

I am walking down a street of some kind, carrying  three stones I, um, excreted earlier. Semi-round, they are roughly the size of a quarter, nickel, and dime, respectively. Clean now, I juggle them in my hand, relieved to have them out, but not quite sure what to do with them.

It is night, but I am approaching a streetlight where i can finally examine them. They all have a fine texture, almost like a random-dot stereogram. More than almost — if I stare at each of them I can make out a word. Respectively, I see:

  1. Insecurity
  2. Pride
  3. Self

It is a bit surprising to see “Self” as the smallest pebble, but there you have it. Having named them, I understand why it was important to excrete them — so I could get them out into the open and deal with them. But, how to deal with them?

  • Jesus?
  • Hi Ernie.
  • What do you want from me?
  • Your sin.

Wordlessly, I hand him the three stones. I watch.
He takes the first stone, Insecurity, in his right hand. He cradles it in the spike-hole at the base of his palm. He does the same with Pride on his left, then hands Self back to me. I start to have an awful premonition about what will happen next.

Oh God, no. Not again.

Where the streetlight was — or perhaps it was the streetlight — stands a lone cross. It is now late afternoon, but the sky is filled with patches of red-tinged clouds. In the ruddy light, Jesus ascends a tiny platform at the base of the cross; like the kind used for hangings in the Old West.
On the platform are a hammer and three nails. And nobody besides me to use them.

  • Jesus, no. Please let this cup pass from me.
  • As it is written, so must it be.
  • How can I do this to you?
  • You have already done this to me, Ernie. Now you must own up to your sin.
  • Father, is there no other way?

No, Ernie. For this is how it has always been, since the dawn of creation. A price must be paid.

Swallowing hard, I mount the steps to stand beside my savior. To execute him. There are steps on either side, so I can reach the arms of the cross. Jesus stands on a wooden block.

I pick up the hammer, which is named Confession. I realize with a start that this is the hammer I thought I needed to forge — and failed to — back in August 2005. I realize the first two nails are Truth and Love, part of the same set I was given at that time. But what is the third? I look closer, and I see it has the name Spirit.

Jesus is waiting. I pick up the Hammer of Confession and the nail of Love. The stone of Insecurity has expanded, like a sponge in water, to fill the hole in Jesus palm. It is red like blood, so it is an easy target. Gritting my teeth, I hammer my Lord to a cross.

I hope the pre-drilled hole will make it easier on him, but that’s only half true. He does not cry out, but wracking shudders flow through his body with every blow. I hear wailing sobs — but those are mine, not his.

The dark deed done, I pick up a nail of Truth, and hammer it into Pride on the other hand. This expanded stone glows green through his skin; sickly, like kryptonite.

I step back to ‘admire’ my handiwork. Out of insecurity and pride, using truth and love as weapons, I have crucified my Lord. Again.

And I’m not even finished. Jesus is in pain, but not mortally so. There is one more nail, and one more stone.

  • Lord, have mercy on me, a fool.

I kneel at the foot of the cross. Jesus painfully lifts himself on Truth and Love so I can slide the block away. Beneath is the hole on the well-used cross, which aligns easily with the holes on his feet. I look at the stone of Self, which is a light (if dappled) grey, easily mistaken for white. It is soft, squishy even, like dry gum. I stick it onto the point of Spirit, my final nail.

I look one last time into the eyes of my Saviour, suspended above me. To my amazement, there is no condemnation; a fierce joy — even gratitude! — blazes through the immense pain he is suffering. Perversely, this spawns a new round of weeping in me, and I bathe his feet with my tears.

Picking up Confession, I begin to hammer Spirit and Self into Jesus. I expect it to be even easier than the first two, where the nails sliced through the sponge-like substance of the assimilated stones. But Self and Jesus do not mix easily. For the first time, I hear him cry out; each touch of Self is like acid to his flesh. Self liquefies, covering, encasing, and quenching Spirit. Sparks fly, and a deadly blackness seeps into his feet..

  • O my Lord, what have I done to thee?
  • How long and how oft have I tainted thee with me?

I cannot do it. It is not simply a matter of will, but strength itself has failed me. It is then I feel my Father’s arms around me, cradling me in his lap, guiding my arms with his strength.

Complete the work, Ernie. Finish it, for only then can you both be free.

Nodding, I tighten my grip upon the hammer, and with the Father’s strength behind me the Spirit drives Self not merely into Jesus, but all the way through into the cross, in one blinding collision of darkness and light. The very air seems to scream. I collapse into my Father’s arms. My last thought as consciousness ebbs is, “At least I didn’t need to pierce his heart” — as blood like water pours out of his side, to fall refreshingly on my face.

I sleep.

I wake up cradled in the arms of Jesus, newly risen (as always :-). He gives me a hug, and I hold him close for along time.

To be continued….