The Trinity protects us

Trinity

I am so glad to be preaching at CIL on Trinity Sunday – May 27. We have such a wonderful faith passed down to us, but it is more than a tradition, culture, or preference. We worship a God with a distinct, unique personality. We worship a God that is personally close to us, and still sometimes hard to understand.

What a mystery.
What a challenge.
What a need for spiritual revelation.

Christians have wrestled with who God is from the beginning, and for centuries have agreed that the term Trinity encapsulates the answer to the many debates, councils and consensus of interpretation. The understanding of the Trinity has protected our faith.

As we celebrate, declare, and worship the Trinity this Sunday …

“May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” – 2 Corinthians 13:14

The “Already, Not Yet” Kingdom of God

CIL-PROCESS-EXPERIENCE-Logo

I preached on Sunday an important theological message called The “Already, Not Yet” Kingdom of God. The points of my sermon are as follows:

            The kingdom of God is the reign of God
             Matthew 24:13-14, Acts 8:12, 19:8, 28:23

            The kingdom is “not yet” fully here
             Matthew 25:31-34, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10

            The kingdom is “already” here when the future reign of God breaks into the present
             Matthew 12:28, 10:5-8, 16:18-19, Romans 14:17

Presence of the FutureThis is not a concept I made up, as many evangelicals today hold to this perspective.   George Ladd of Fuller Seminary introduced this concept in a 1964 book now called The Presence of the Future. John Wimber popularized this when leading the Vineyard movement, and the Vineyard churches still hold to this statement as a theological beacon. I discovered this concept in Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology text, which is one of the more influential theology books among evangelicals in the last twenty-five years.

Let me give a short, practical application of “already, not yet” concept. God still moves experientially through salvation, deliverance, healing, a manifestation of His presence, and reviving the church (among other things!). When those types of experiences happen, the future reign of God breaks into the present. These experiences are not anything we can control, but as we are faithful to God He “breaks in” by His sovereign will.

Therefore, we will pray and believe for the miraculous. However, we will not try to control God (as if we could) through demands, special phrases or projecting our expectations upon His will. Instead, we need to submit our expectations to His will.

To hear the sermon, take a listen here:

http://indianlake.sermon.net/main/main/20419847

Hey church, it’s not 1992

book_seeker_sensitiveIn the early 1990’s I attended a seeker church for the first time, and loved it! This church was reaching my friends, impacting our city, and presenting the message of Jesus in a fresh way. As a high school student who had grown up in church, this seeker church invigorated my faith and passion for Jesus. In those days, “seeker church” was not a dirty word.

Then, pastors discovered the seeker church movement in the 2000s, and it has been a downhill slide for the American evangelical church ever since. Instead of transformational art in church that attracts non-Christians, duplication has produced a bad imitation of culture on Sunday morning platforms. In my opinion, a lot of the cultural imitation churches now practice actually repels more non-believers than attracts them.

More disturbing than the bad programming is that Christians now expect church to be entertaining. The intent behind the seeker church movement was not to entertain Christians, but to engage non-Christians who found church irrelevant. Some churches still do the seeker-model well, but most do not.

Looking beyond what is happening inside the church, culture has changed so much in America over the last 25 years, that seeker churches are no longer relevant to Millennials and many Gen Xers (some Baby Boomers still enjoy hearing Journey cover songs in church). I believe the seeker-model was generally effective from 1975 when Willow Creek was launched until the September 11th era began. We fundamentally changed as a people after 9/11.

Superficial entertainment still has its place in our culture, but not in the church. When considering church, believers and non-believers both want sacred space each week to find meaning for their life. Relevancy is over. People are not looking for a relevant message, but a transformational message. I thank God for the impact the seeker church had on my life, but it is no longer 1992.

I am so glad God is patient

hourglass

We are in such a hurry.  I am so glad God is patient.

The patience of the Lord appears many times in Scripture, but I was impacted by this concept recently while reading 2 Peter chapter three.

People were growing impatient with the delay of the Lord’s return, even scoffing at the concept (see 2 Peter 3:3-4).

To impatient people, the Spirit wrote through Peter:

Dear friends, don’t let this one thing escape you: With the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day. The Lord does not delay His promise, as some understand delay, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish but all to come to repentance. – 2 Peter 3:8-9 (HCSB)

God is patient by withholding His judgement.

God is patient when we are rebellious to His will.

God is patient with our slow development into Christ-like character.

God is patient with me.

I am so glad God is patient.

Is God Sovereign Over the Weather?

Weather - big rig

Well, yes. That seems obvious.  He is sovereign over all things. Yet, we often complain about the weather mindlessly, as if our negative attitude about the heat or cold will change the situation. Now I understand that most of our complaints about the weather are simply conversation fillers as we participate in small talk throughout the day. But, I have met many people whose disposition is determined by what is happening in the weather.

As we looked at the Providence of God in my Wednesday class, we found many Scriptures that acknowledged and praised God through the expression of the weather. Here is a sample of some of the most impactful verses on this subject:

Psalm 148:7-8 (HCSB)
Praise the Lord from the earth 
. . .
lightning and hail, snow and cloud,
powerful wind that executes His command.

Job 37:6-13 (ESV)
For to the snow he says, ‘Fall on the earth,’

    likewise to the downpour, his mighty downpour.
He seals up the hand of every man,
    that all men whom he made may know it.
Then the beasts go into their lairs,
    and remain in their dens.
From its chamber comes the whirlwind,
    and cold from the scattering winds.
10 By the breath of God ice is given,
    and the broad waters are frozen fast.
11 He loads the thick cloud with moisture;
    the clouds scatter his lightning.
12 They turn around and around by his guidance,
    to accomplish all that he commands them
    on the face of the habitable world.
13 Whether for correction or for his land
    or for love, he causes it to happen.

Matthew 5:45 (HCSB)
For He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

While I do believe we need to care for creation as Christians conservationists, we have far less control of the weather than we’d like to think.  Just consider about how often the meteorologist miss it on their prognostications!

Father, the weather is another example of your Sovereign, Providential character!

A deeper look at Acts 16:16

During my message Sunday, I briefly mentioned the connection in the people’s mind that the slave girl in Acts 16:16 had with the Greek-god Apollos.

Acts 16:16-18 (NIV – 1984)   16 Once when we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl who had a spirit by which she predicted the future. She earned a great deal of money for her owners by fortune-telling. 17 This girl followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved.” 18 She kept this up for many days. Finally Paul became so troubled that he turned around and said to the spirit, “In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!”

Most of the commentaries give a statement similiar to this one:

“Luke’s description of the slave girl in Greek indicates that she had a “spirit of Python.” The python was a mythical serpent killed by Apollo, who took both the serpent’s gift of predictions and sometimes its form. Apollo became known as Pythian Apollo. When it was said that one had a “spirit of Python,” it meant that the person was controlled by an evil force. Apparently those who knew the girl did not regard her as insane or fraudulent. Rather they viewed her ability to foretell events as genuine. People paid the girl for her divination services, earning her masters a lot of money.[1]


[1]Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. (1997). The Nelson study Bible : New King James Version. Includes index. (Ac 16:16).Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers.

 

 

The Prayer-less Church

It’s scary to consider that we can present great music, in state-of-the art buildings, with entertaining messages and neglect prayer.   Yeah, I’ve done it.   I don’t like to type that, but it’s a real temptation.  Pastors can improve in strategy and excellence while neglecting prayer (yes, I understand it’s “both”, but the other stuff seems so more compelling than prayer).

I’m being challenged this week by Kent Henry in the area of prayer.  Tonight (Thursday, March 24) we have a special worship night with Kent at 6:30 p.m. As he puts it, we’ll “tip over” into times of prayer and intercession.  I’m looking forward to growing in the blending of worship and prayer.   Worship leads to prayer.   Prayer is worship.