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Archive for the ‘Jesus Community’ Category

Oh, my dear children! I feel as if I’m going through labor pains for you again, and they will continue until Christ is fully developed in your lives. (Paul the Apostle, Letter to the Galatians, 4:19, NLT)

This line from Paul has stayed with me for two days. It comes from a section of the Galatian letter when Paul has shifted from teaching to recounting his personal relationship with the Galatians and the love he has for them. The metaphors here are especially insightful.

Paul isn’t in labor pains for the Galatians to come to faith as new believers. That’s already a reality. No, Paul is in “labor” as the Galatians are struggling in their journey toward Christ being “fully formed” in their lives. In other words, Paul is watching the struggle of real disciples, in the growth process, and his heart is the heart of a mother in labor and a father who longs to see a healthy child.

The Galatians aren’t the Corinthians, but they are in a mess. Flatterers have taken them down the road of a false Gospel. What was a solid church plant is at real risk, but Paul is not just concerned about doctrinal correctness. He is concerned over what will be the result of moving away from Jesus and the work of the Spirit, instead encouraging a dependence on flesh and the works righteousness of the old covenant. He sees dark results ahead if the Galatians lose this battle. (more…)

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This post is inspired by a FoxNews piece updating the situation of disgraced megachurch pastor Ted Haggard. Haggard was a major leader in evangelicalism until he was brought down by evidence of sexual sin and drug use.

Dear Ted,

May I call you Ted? Not “Pastor Ted,” “Reverend Haggard” or any other ministerial name.

You may not feel like it, but you’re at a good place. Finally. It’s taken a while, but you’ve made it to the place where the Gospel of Jesus has its power. On the verge of the fourth Sunday of the season of waiting, you’ve made it to the place where all that can happen now is for a savior to be born to a virgin. Your savior, no less. Yours and all the other losers.

Yes Ted, honesty, your best gift now has arrived. (more…)

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I teach Bible at a Christian school, so I am something of an authority on how Christian teachers decorate classrooms.

I really don’t want to talk about it. Let’s just say that what passes for Christianity in the art that most Christians surround themselves with has all the perception and Biblical depth of Thomas Kincaid meets Precious Moments.

If the use of art were the measurement, Christianity is about a God who gives us the occasional upbeat slogan. Sort of a Mountain Dew….spirituality speaking.

I moved to a larger classroom this year, and I had to do something with it, so I decorated with new posters. I dropped some semi-serious coin on this, because I knew what I wanted.

A lot of Jesus on the cross. (more…)

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Jesus Shaped Church

Jesus Shaped Church…

is simple.

skips the mortgage.

gives lots of money to good, responsible ministries that help people.

starts churches.

is centered around the Lord’s Table each time it gathers. (more…)

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Luke 21:1-4 Just then he looked up and saw the rich people dropping offerings in the collection plate. Then he saw a poor widow put in two pennies. He said, “The plain truth is that this widow has given by far the largest offering today. All these others made offerings that they’ll never miss; she gave extravagantly what she couldn’t afford—she gave her all!” (From The Message)

Yesterday, I noticed a new post on the blog of one of the country’s most prominent young pastors. It was entitled “Spurgeon is The Man!”

I like Spurgeon. I really do. I’m a great admirer and I’ve devoted considerable time to reading his sermons and books as well as books about Spurgeon. But this is hardly the first preacher to say, “Spurgeon is The Man!” Spurgeon is an icon- both visually as in print- for many young, restless and reformed pastors. He makes into a lot of sermon illustrations, I’ve noticed, as do a lot of preachers, celebrities and well known people. (more…)

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Dear Mr. Spencer:

I’m a big fan of both the website and the podcasts, and since you say you always welcome questions I’m going to take you up on that offer!

My question is how does pastoral leadership fit into a Jesus-shaped spirituality? Is the current system even necessary? (By which I mean, the churches that have staffs of dozens and a pastor who gets up and speaks on some topic every week, not discussions with wiser people on spiritual issues). Something that has always deeply troubled me is the cult of personality that often arises around pastors in evangelical churches- the pastor’s always right, a receptacle of great wisdom, has a better opinion than anyone else, has a direct line to God, etc. This is an old issue, of course, but it seems worse today when pastors seem to want to develop multidisciplinary “ministries” whose main outcome seems to keep them away from the church they are supposed to be “pastoring” a majority of the time. What place does “full time Christian service” have in the post-evangelical wilderness?

I hope I’ve been clear. Thanks for your time and thoughts on this subject!

Thanks, Carl

Carl asks a great question that will eventually deserve more than a little attention from this blog. Until then, Carl and the JSS readers will have to get by on these tantalizing tidbits hinting at the posts to come. (more…)

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One of my readers sent me two very interesting links. The first is on the phenomenon of “subcultural segregation,” especially of the politically like-minded, and the second is on a similar topic, but more applied to the overall quality of civic life in our culture.

Let me translate some of these ideas out a bit: For a Jesus follower, spending all our time in various club-like enclaves with people who are just like ourselves is simply not an option. We must cross the cultural and subcultural barriers that are around us, and we must make intentional, missional efforts to do what Jesus did in going to/relating to Samaritans, Gentiles, women, lepers, Romans, sinners and people from various circles on the cultural map. (more…)

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This post is also appearing at Steve Brown, Etc’s “Guest Room Blog” this month. If you don’t subscribe to the SBE podcast, what’s wrong with you?

I’m finishing Susan Cheever’s biography of Alcoholics Anonymous co-founder Bill Wilson, My Name Is Bill. For those who enjoy distinctively American biography and the intersection between spirituality and cultural history, Cheever’s book is outstanding and interesting.

It’s also a great prompt for those who are living through a “church crisis” and feeling spiritually homeless.

That would be me in the middle of that crisis, and best I can tell from my email, thousands and thousands of others are on the same bus. (more…)

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This is a three part post dealing with a classic Roman Catholic critique of evangelicalism followed by a missional defense of evangelicalism on my part.

If you haven’t read Bouyer, you will be at a bit of disadvantage. Same if you don’t know anything about Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill Church in Seattle.

In part I of this post, I review Louis Bouyer’s The Spirit and Forms of Protestantism, perhaps the most solid Roman Catholic criticism of Protestantism in print. In Part II, I respond to Bouyer’s criticism with an exploration of what evangelicals mean by a missional understanding of being the church of Jesus, as exemplified by Mars Hill Church in Seattle. And in Part III, I assess the prospects for unity considering the value of both these models. (more…)

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A good place to begin with this subject is to get some idea of how the word translated as “justified” is used in the synoptic gospels.

The basic meaning of dikaioo is to announce and declare someone righteous, with the normal consequence of continuing to treat the subject as just, innocent or righteous in the future.

In Luke 7, Jesus is discussing the reception of John the baptizer and his message.

28 I tell you, among those born of women none is greater than John. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he. 29 (When all the people heard this, and the tax collectors too, they declared God just, having been baptized with the baptism of John, 30 but the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected the purpose of God for themselves, not having been baptized by him.)

Verse 29 is an unusual phrase because here people are declaring God to be right and John the baptizer to be doing the right thing. The Pharisees, on the other hand, treat John’s baptism as wrong, and Luke comments that this was rejecting the purpose of God. (more…)

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