Honoring Bill Johnson

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Bill Johnson of Bethel Church in Redding is truly one of God’s greatest gifts to the 21st century church. At a time when many (perhaps most) Christians unthinkingly accept the brokenness of this world as “just the way things are”, He has both preached and practiced the vital truth that Christ came to give us victorious life.

He has led Bethel for decades with humility, integrity, and compassion — including a perhaps unprecedented openness to raising up and blessing other leaders. I wish more leaders were like him.

But to be honest, sometimes he drives me crazy.

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Socrates Repents (An Alternative “Apology”)

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[I realize this looks like (and probably is) a harsh critique of the most revered figure in philosophy (Hat Tip to Taleb for stating it first). But I didn’t write it about him. I wrote it about me.]

Friends, Athenians, countrymen
Lend me your ears!
For I fear mine have not been working.

While awaiting my trial
And preparing my Apology
I was granted a vision of Apollo

He reminded me that his Oracle
Had already said
That none was wiser than Socrates

Why then, he asked me
Did I still torment the citizens of Athens
Hoping to find answers to my questions?

His words troubled my heart
It made me question my deepest beliefs
I felt my soul shriveling within me

For the God spoke truth
I had ignored his words
Or rather, sought to refute them

Worse, why did my daimonion not stop me?
This inner voice that long warded me
Always kept me from acts of evil

It forced me to ask the hard question
I had never asked myself
Or enabled others to ask of me

Why did I trust the daimonion
And not the deity?

Pride

The easy answer is pride
Certainly my enemies see it so
And I must acknowledge their bitter truth

Yet strangely it was an excess of humility
That drove me to challenge the God’s claim
That none were wiser than I

So why did I see humility
In the very same thing
That others recognized as pride?

Because I saw myself
As submitting to my daimonion
As a thing other than myself

The thing I took pride in
Was my self-awareness
Of how little I knew

You Athenians only saw
Me worshipping what was inside me
At the expense of the what you worship

It is right and just
For you to accuse me
Of pride and impiety

It is just and right
For me to die
For I have set myself above all of you

Yet while that is all true
And death would be fair and merciful
It is still too easy of an answer

For if I confess my sin as mere pride
Then I am the most foolish of men
Which once again, makes the God a liar

My true sin is far, far worse
Yet it is one my worst enemy
Would be loath to speak against me

Cowardice

For as I stared into the depths of my soul
And confronted with horror
My willful defiance of the God’s own truth

I had to ask myself: why?
Why could I not simply agree?
Why not simply accept I was the wisest man alive?

Why not revel in my high position?
Why not accept riches and status
For selling wisdom to eager buyers?

If I had, I would not be here today
Shackled and condemned
Making a widow and orphans of my family

You may have envied me
But you would never have condemned me
Because I would have been no threat

But I was cursed with a deep truth
That I truly had no wisdom to give
And to claim otherwise would unman me

But I can claim no credit
For my embrace of that truth
Since it led me to deny a deeper one

The word of the Oracle to me
That many would sing as praise
Was to me the knell of death

For I knew I had no goodness in me
And if none were wiser than I
Then surely we all were doomed

It is only to be expected
That a mortal such as I
Would flee that terrible abyss

Indeed, that is why
None of my accusers
Leap to condemn my cowardice

For they too share that same fear
Which is why they must silence
My questions that reveal their shame

In truth, I cannot blame them or myself
For refusing to face the emptiness
That ritual and tradition help us avoid

Yet I cannot help but wonder
Why my daimonion dared not speak
And challenge my craven fear?

I trusted that voice with all my heart
I would gladly have gone to my death
In order to honor its commands

I had always assumed
That this inner voice
Spoke only the truth

And perhaps it is still fair
To say it never lied
Except by omission

What if
That voice
Was also scared?

Trust

I still believe that voice
Cared for my soul
Even to the death of my body

But now it seems
That even spirits
Have their limits

There is a place
That man must go
Where spirits dare not tread

Perhaps my daimonion thought it kinder
For me to wander in darkness
Rather than be burnt by light

But it seems more likely
That my voice was bound
With an oath too terrible to contemplate

It would help me if it could
But is itself in need of rescuing
Which is why it could not save me

I can no longer trust this inner voice
Yet neither can I deny it

Commission

Citizens of Athens
Lend me your ears
And I will lend you mine

I owe you my life
It is yours to take
And mostly gladly would I surrender it

But I ask you instead
To lay a greater burden on me
And perhaps on yourselves

Send me to ask the God
The question I should have asked
Instead of trying to prove Him false

Perhaps only a God
Can speak the awful Word
Than binds the lips of spirits

Grant me the exile I once spurned
But with the added scourge of hope
That I may return if my quest succeeds

If you grant me this indulgence
I will seek the Oracle at Delphi
And lay this Question before her

I know not even now
What is the right Question
That I need to ask

Perhaps my daimonion
May contrive a way
To evade the curse that blocks its aid

Or perhaps I will waste away at Delphi
Longing for a Truth I know not to ask
Of which I and the world are not worthy

Either way, fair citizens
I will trouble you no longer
And you need not have my blood on your hands

Conclusion

My heart rends within me
At how my deeds
Have sundered me from those I love

I know not how to ask forgiveness
When even my penance
Adds to the pain of those who love me

All I can do is lay down my life
In faith to the God
And submission to my community

Thank you.

The End
(Or possibly, The Beginning ?)

IGWET Statement of Faith

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  1. Praise
    Romans 8:28 And we know that God works all things together for the good of those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose. 29 For those God foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brothers.
  2. Word
    2 Timothy 3:16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for instruction, for conviction, for correction, and for training in righteousness,
  3. Spirit
    John 14:26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have told you.
  4. Body
    Romans 12:5 so in Christ we who are many are one body, and each member belongs to one another.
  5. Blood
    1 John 1:7 But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.
  6. Mission
    Matthew 28:18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me.
    19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,
    20 and teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
  7. Reflection
    Philippians 3:13 Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead,
    14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize of God’s heavenly calling in Christ Jesus.
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TGR-S6E6: How to Cure Train Wrecks

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Join us on The Great Reset (via Zoom or YouTube Live at Tue Jan 5, 2020 at 1PM PST) as Ernie pitches a framework for tying together our recent themes of discipleship, reconciliation, and loving more like Jesus.

Question: Is there a single thing that both causes and sustains “train wrecks” (i.e., cascades of broken relationships)? If so, can it be inverted to provide a cure?

Perspective: Yes, abjection (i.e. dissociating self from what is toxic or outside our control). The tragedy is that abjection is essential for identity in both groups and individuals, yet ultimately destructive of the larger context. The cure is to follow Christ by incarnating into what was abjected, and overcome it by the power of the cross.

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Spiritual Christianity: Theology, Simplified

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Update: Accepted as a Poster Session. Slides now available.

Abstract submitted for PassionTalks 2018 on Saturday, August 11th at Convergence House of Prayer in Fremont, CA.

Spiritual Christianity arose from a series of blog posts I wrote to prepare my seven-year-old daughter for baptism.  I wanted her to start out with a faith that was:

  • Resilient to disappointments
  • Relevant to culture
  • Revolutionary to society
  • Reviving to the church

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Lesson 6/6 Joy (Anjali’s Catechism)

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Spiritual Maturity: Thanks

God made all of us on purpose. We are happy when we obey that purpose. We become happier the better we understand and live out that purpose.

We share many purposes with other people, because God made us the same:

  • Our bodies are happy when we eat healthy, rest well, and use them as they were intended.
  • Our souls are happy when experience beauty.
  • Our minds are happy when we discover truth.
  • Our hearts are happy when we share love.

Joy is happiness of the spirit. It is the deepest and most important kind of happiness. But there are two very different ways our spirits can be happy.

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RohAnjali 2018 New Year’s Prayer

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Dear God,

Thank you that our family belongs to you.

We confess we need you to free us from our sin and shame so we can love like Jesus.

Give us the grace to:

  • Trust you with our desires
  • Face our fears
  • Reflect on our anger
  • Speak the truth in love, and
  • Ask for help along the way

We ask this by the blood of Jesus, Amen.

LEAD! C.11 Discerning Direction

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In Which We Hear to Obey, and Obey to Hear

Few questions are more fraught with promise and peril for the believer than “What is God’s will for my life?” While we know the textbook answers, we still long for more specific, personal guidance — and rightly so. Properly hearing God’s voice can open the door to dramatic transformation of people, relationships, and society; alas, mishearing God’s voice can result in darkest tragedy.

There is no simple answer, but there is a sure promise: if we entrust our ways to the Lord by faithfully pursuing the disciplines in submission to the Spirit, the Word, and the Body, He will ultimately lead us in a way that glorifies His name…

Memory Verse: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.”Proverbs 3:5-6 (NKJV)

Assigned Reading
  1. Richard Foster: Celebration of Discipline

    • 12. Guidance
  2. Donald Whitney: Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life

    • 12. Learning
  3. Eugene Peterson: A Long Obedience in the Same Direction

    • 3. Providence: “God Guards You from Every Evil”
    • 14. Obedience: “How He Promised God”
  4. Ruth Haley Barton: Sacred Rhythms

    • 7. Discernment: Recognizing and Responding to the Presence of God

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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.8 Submission and Service

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In Which We Triumph By Surrendering

Submission is the key to understanding and exercising divine authority. Not merely submitting to God, but also to other humans — even those we might be tempted to count our inferiors — in order to serve them.

Crucially, our service must not spring from codependency or a need to be liked, but from a single-minded devotion to our Lord Jesus Christ, who made Himself a servant for our sake.

For only if we serve as Jesus served can we triumph as He triumphs.

Memory Verse: “For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your bondservants for Jesus’ sake.”2 Corinthians 4:5 (NKJV)

Assigned Reading
  1. Richard Foster: Celebration of Discipline

    • 8. Submission
    • 9. Service
  2. Donald Whitney: Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life

    • 7. Serving
  3. Eugene Peterson: A Long Obedience in the Same Direction

    • 5. Service: “Like Servants . . . We’re Watching & Waiting”
    • 15. Community: “Like Costly Anointing Oil Flowing Down Head & Beard”
  4. Ruth Haley Barton: Sacred Rhythms

    • N/A

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