Friday, June 22, 2007

On Vacation...

Lack of posting due to being on vacation at Nathan and Cassie's in Franklin, Tennessee.


Saturday, June 09, 2007

December 1980

Feel Free to keep commenting on my JOY post below. Thanks if you've commented. I could always do with more help.

In the meantime, a quick story: My family and I traveled across Australia from Sydney to Perth in December 1980. Click on this MAP -- it’s that little road that hugs the southern part of the continent. That’s a looooong way. It was, of course, as hot as any antipodean summer. And air-conditioning was for the haves, rather than the have-nots. There were 4 kids in the backseat for basically nine days of outback. I know it sounds like hell. But it was a blast, as I remember. Totally defining.

We had, of course, no CD player. (I didn’t see my first CD until 1986.) We had only a portable tape player. And only one compilation tape of classic hits from 1980. Needless to say, those songs are burned on my brain; burned as only desert sun can. For your Youtube-ing pleasure, this one carried us, as on the wings of eagles in the desert:

And this was a 1980 CLASSIC (also on that tape):

What was a song that defined your age 10?

PS Thats us in Perth with Grandma plus cousins.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Sermon Help: Joy in the Morning.

I've been given a text for Sunday: Psalm 30, and a title: 'Joy in the Morning'.

A Song at the dedication of the temple. Of David.

1 I will extol you, O Lord, for you have drawn me up,
and did not let my foes rejoice over me.
2 O Lord my God, I cried to you for help,
and you have healed me.
3 O Lord, you brought up my soul from Sheol,
restored me to life from among those gone down to the Pit.

4 Sing praises to the Lord, O you his faithful ones,
and give thanks to his holy name.
5 For his anger is but for a moment;
his favour is for a lifetime.
Weeping may linger for the night,
but joy comes with the morning.

6 As for me, I said in my prosperity,
‘I shall never be moved.’
7 By your favor, O Lord,
you had established me as a strong mountain;
you hid your face; I was dismayed.
8 To you, O Lord, I cried,
and to the Lord I made supplication:
9 ‘What profit is there in my death,
if I go down to the Pit?
Will the dust praise you?
Will it tell of your faithfulness?

10 Hear, O Lord, and be gracious to me!
O Lord, be my helper!’
11 You have turned my mourning into dancing;
you have taken off my sackcloth
and clothed me with joy,
12 so that my soul may praise you and not be silent.
O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you for ever.

Some questions that might help you to help me...
  • From V5: So, is there a clock to joy? Or maybe a season? ('Weeping at night; Joy in the morning'?)
  • What is the relationship between suffering + death + fear and Joy?
  • Has God ever 'hid his face' from you (V7)? What does that mean?
  • Have you ever had people question whether your joy is real? (God has turned your mourning into dancing; and clothed you with joy, but someone else can't see the clothing?)
  • Is there a relationship between this Psalm and John 16:20-22?
  • Dietrich Bonhoeffer identified the Psalter as the "Prayer Book of Jesus." How does this Psalm find it's fulfillment on the lips and in the life of Jesus?
  • What is your experience of Joy?
Feel free to comment anonymously. And say what you want about Joy!

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Advice to churches: 'Anyone new feels alone and stupid!'

Interviewer: In your visits to churches, how important were first impressions, say during the first 5 minutes of arriving? If the first impression was negative, did you sometimes find the overall experience overcame that?

Jim: VERY important- if ANYONE approached us (without it being their job) it was the exception rather than the rule. It hardly ever happened but when it did we NOTICED. Frankly the lack of that failed to change much else for us since we adapted to the environment and simply stopped expecting spontaneous, unsolicited, non-directed greetings. Here’s how people feel whenever they enter a new experience—alone and stupid. Churches need to “attack” those feelings by training Christians (the non-professional and non-highly motivated kinds) to simply say “hi” to someone who they have not noticed before. That one small action would do more to increase church attendance than any other single action currently being tried.

H/T Benjamin.

Pic is by Elektracute on Flickr

Friday, June 01, 2007

(#8) John 16 Sermon: Conclusion

Some of you are not Christian (or at least you are not sure of it), and yet at the same time, you are attracted to Jesus. It’s almost like you’d like to be free of this meddlesome person. But there is something inside of you that keeps drawing you to Jesus.

And I want to help you see that God may have a presence in your life; that you may have God working in the deep places of your heart, drawing you right now to making a choice to follow Jesus. Don’t walk past the violinist. Don’t walk past Jesus.

Some of you are Christian and you are not sure of the presence of God in your life; you are called into this service of Jesus and therefore you are called to be testify to him. And yet at the same time– you are have suffering with (pereivced or real) hatred and hardship.

And I want to help you see that God is present in you as you join his mission to the world, in a way that gives you confidence, even that it feels difficult.

The upshot of all of this is: Love Jesus, and read your Bible, be a part of a community that reads the bible, and he will guide you, my friends.



(#7) John 16 Sermon: In order to teach Something New, he has to explore Something Old

(This is my SECOND sermon on the Work of the Spirit in John. Read John 16:5-15 before reading.)

And the last paradox: In order to teach Something New, he has to explore Something Old.

In verse 12-15, Jesus has his disciples in a room. They haven’t understood what he has been saying. They don’t get why he must die. And they certainly don’t get a Resurrection. No – the Spirit has to come before they fully get that and explain that. And so he says:
V12 I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; …
There is still more that you cannot bear. But the Spirit will give you that more.

Some of you will see the difficulty: That Jesus seems to be saying that his Word is not enough. That there is a deficiency in all he has said. And that he is opening a blank check to all sorts of abuses in the church. That is: People claiming a whole lot because the Spirit 'told me this' and the spirit 'told me that'.

Laurel and I sat next to someone at a wedding once who said to us: "The Spirit told me I could fly"; and I thought: "This is more than I can bear right now."

But that’s relatively harmless stuff (or is it?). I guess it is compared to the claims of people all over the world saying that the Spirit told them this or that. When ‘this’ or ‘that’ is a damaging claim to speak for God.

And more, this verse has been used for the basis of much revisionism and progressive theology that leaves the old gospel behind.

But no – and here is the paradox: He has more to say; and yet the ‘more’ will be the old Gospel made clear in a new context.
14 He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you.
And it is even clearer in John 14:26:
26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.
So there is at least a tension to hold. This makes total sense when you read the epistles. The letters. Because the basic new context is this:

First, the reality of the Resurrected Jesus. (Something that the disciples could not have imagined) And in our reading from Acts, we witness the coming of the Advocate: Like a wind. And if we had kept reading, we’d hear Peter (who is famous for getting things half right.) fully proclaim the implications of the Resurrection within a few weeks of this moment.

And Second, the pushing of that gospel into all the world and how especially non-Jewish people would practice a faith in the Jewish Messiah. So if we kept reading Acts, we’d witness Peter again worry about eating with a Non-Jew and accepting him as a brother, and the Spirit has to awaken him to the reality that a Non-Jew is clean if he accepts Jesus as Messiah.
Something he couldn’t bear until it happened.

A case can in fact be made that the ‘more than you can now bear’, that ‘the Spirit brings’, is the ministry and writing and preaching of the Apostles in the early church. And simply the gospels and the letters; the New Testament.

But today, the Spirit takes what belongs to Jesus, and things that you cannot bear, and makes them plain to you.
Conclusion to come...

(#6) John 16 Sermon: In order Comfort, the Spirit has Convict.

(This is my SECOND sermon on the Work of the Spirit in John. Read John 16:5-15 before reading.)
Who is the Holy Spirit, and what does he do?

Who is he? He is the Advocate. (V7). Last week we discovered that the word 'Paraclete', translated here 'Advocate' could also mean comforter, helper, or counselor.

What does he do? (V8). He comes to 'prove the world wrong' (NRSV). And when he (the Advocate) comes, he will 'prove the world wrong' about sin and righteousness and judgment. I'm told that 'prove wrong' is probably an unfortunate translation, for it then appears that the Spirit's work is to win an argument about sin, like He is beating the world at Chess or something.

The Greek work for 'prove wrong' is elencho. The Spirit will 'elencho' the world. Another translation - He will convict the world with regard to... The Advocate will reprove the world. He will lay it bare, expose it; or in the Moffatt translation, he'll take it to task!

Have you noticed the paradox then?

The Advocate: he Prosecutes?

You say: I thought Advocate defended. And prosecutors prosecuted. But here the Advocate Prosecutes. I thought that the Spirit would always make me feel good. And now Jesus is saying he will 'elencho' me? I'll get elenchoed. The World will get elenchoed?

But the Spirit does both: he defends and he prosecutes. And in fact, in order Comfort, the Spirit has to Convict.

We all know this a true paradox in intuitively. In any relationship, for someone to defend and comfort you and be on your side, that person will need to be upfront about things that damage the relationship. Otherwise the relationship cannot survive. We all need to be elenchoed in a functioning relationship. Are any of you married? You know this every other day. You know instinctively that the path to healing comes through openly dealing with the wound.

And what does the Advocate do? He convicts the world of sin, righteousness and judgment, for she has it all wrong.

  • She is wrong about sin, says Jesus, because she doesn't realize that unbelief in me (through whom the world was created) is the basic human tragedy.
  • She is wrong about righteousness for she fakes and falsifies righteousness; covering up the basic human tragedy with pretend acts righteousness for show: Giving a donation here and there and performing a good deed every now and then; pretending that we part of the solution by our own righteousness, and not part of the problem. And Jesus exposed that in his ministry, and when he goes to the Father, he'll be able to expose that in all the world.
  • She is wrong about judgment, for she sides with common opinion all the time, but the ruler of this world stands condemned.

There's lots of sin in the world. And I don't care what you say: we all know it's effects. And the Spirit will work to convict the world. I think that without being born again, the world knows something of the conviction of God. They know that things are NOT RIGHT. What did Reinhold Niebuhr say?

The only empirically verifiable doctrine of Christianity is the doctrine of original sin.

The more we learn about The Darfur conflict (At least 200,000 dead and million refugeed); and about what is happening in every corner and in every home in America; The more we examine with full disclosure our own lives, then we know something of the work of the Spirit. Because the ONE thing we cannot abide is when one who has committed a crime shows no remorse behind their eyes.

We have enough knowledge to potentially be driven to the cross; to Jesus; to our knees to plead for his Advocacy; to beg him to forgive me to find ease our troubled hearts.

The last paradox next: In order to teach Something New, he has to point to Something Old....

(#5) John 16 Sermon: What does this mean?

(This is my SECOND sermon on the Work of the Spirit in John. Read John 16:5-15 before reading.)

What does this mean?

Jesus WITH them...

All through his mission, Jesus has been in the flesh, localized in Galilee and Jerusalem; sometimes with his disciples, and sometimes not with them. But what about the disciples’ NEW mission? Well, by leaving them and going to the Father and sending his Spirit, Jesus will be with them the whole time. How will this help them? When they are speaking the Gospel in a hostile environment or about to die they can know personally that Jesus is WITH them & has not left them as orphans.

Jesus IN them...

And more … By leaving them and going to the Father and sending his Spirit, Jesus will be in them the whole time. How will this help them? There’ll be an new internal dynamic of change and growth, and power, and revelation through a person: through the Spirit. They can know personally that Jesus is IN them & has not left them as orphans.

Jesus present IN all the world...

And more … By leaving them and going to the Father and sending his Spirit, Jesus will be present in all parts of the world, and not just in Jerusalem and Galilee. How will this help them? Wherever they go, Jesus will have his presence there. Here in this room, thousands and thousands of miles from Jerusalem. You can know that Jesus has his presence.

It is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.
If you will not think me blasphemous, any company can catch a glimpse of this. If the founder of a company has to be physically present at every meeting, and at every branch of the company, then that company will remain very small indeed. No – the company works out a way to live beyond the physicality of its founder or CEO.

There is something of that here in this text; with the important difference being this: That the founder IS present at every point (in your heart) and every branch (in every believing church) by his Spirit.

One reason it’s wonderful to know this is this: We would like to have been there in Jerusalem, watching Jesus live and touch people’s lives and speak. Like our violinist friend, I would have liked at least to have the opportunity of stopping; stopping to appreciate his life. But the truth is… Without the Spirit, I would not have stopped. (A point made very clearly in the Bible) And so order for Jesus to stay in the world (by his Spirit), he had to go.

Next, Paradox #2... In order Comfort, the Spirit has Convict.