Tozer and Beliefs

Quote from AW Tozer:

The history of mankind will probably show that no people has ever risen above its religion, and man’s spiritual history will positively demonstrate that no religion has ever been greater than its idea of God.  Worship is pure or base as the worshiper entertains high or low thoughts of God…

Were we able to extract from any man a complete answer to the question, “What comes into your mind when you think about God?” we might predict with certainty the spiritual future of that man…

It is my opinion that the Christian conception of God current in these middle years of the twentieth century is so decadent as to be utterly beneath the dignity of the Most High God and actually to constitute for professed believers something amounting to a moral calamity…

The essence of idolatry is the entertainment of thoughts about God that are unworthy of Him.  It begins in the mind and may be present where no overt act of worship has taken place.

May we regain right thinking about God as He has revealed to us in God’s Word.  And may this be our true thoughts and not some doctrinal statement we agree with to become a member of a church or to be able to get a job or lead a ministry.

GODSPEED

The above quotes are from Chapter 1 of The Knowledge of the Holy by A. W. Tozer.

What is a “Missional” Community? Interview with Jeff Wall

Soma in Tacoma, WA is a church that has been leading the way in the Northwest in developing “Missional Communities,” which have been highly successful in reaching people for Christ.  The pastor of Soma (until recently) has been Jeff Vanderstelt.  I heard him speak at a CBNW (Conservative Baptist Northwest) conference in 2005.  He was speaking on the Gospel and how to reach people effectively in the Seattle / Tacoma area.  He started by talking about what does not work anymore.  He shared how churches in the West traditionally have been able to build a church building in a community and that many people would automatically attend because, for the most part, everyone was either Christian or had a Christian worldview and knew that they were supposed to be in church.  He pointed out that the reason this doesn’t work in the greater Seattle area is because a large percentage of people are un-churched and have no desire of ever setting foot in a church building, and that a large percentage of Washingtonians are de-churched (they once attended church but for some reason do not desire to come back).  Vanderstelt pointed out that a majority of people who have never been to church only know what they know from the media and first hand experience with Christians.  Therefore, depending on the experience, there are a lot of misperceptions out there and it is our job, as disciples of Jesus, to fulfill the great commission by sharing the gospel with people and showing them what true Christian community is all about.

Pastor Vanderstelt gave an illustration when he shared about his experiences trying to get to know his neighbors and from there trying to start a missional community.  He shared that the neighborhood he moved into was relatively disconnected.  He and his wife started trying to get to know their neighbors and invited people over for dinner.  Pretty soon they were being invited over to other people’s houses and eventually the topic of the gospel would come up.  But Jeff and his wife focused on other people, being intensely interested in them, their interests, and needs, taking the spotlight off of themselves and showing love to others.

One night the Vanderstelt’s had a couple over for dinner and they asked the question, “So, Jeff, what do you do for a living?”

Jeff said, “I’m a pastor.”

The couple said, “You’re a Christian! Wow, you’re so different than the other Christian in the neighborhood…”  and then that couple proceeded to make fun of the other Christian and complain about him for being a jerk (you see, the other Christian was a Seminary Professor, and he had a private parking space in front of the condos, which reads, “No Parking!” – and so whenever someone would park there, like a friend or neighbor coming over for dinner, the seminary professor would put glue on the windshield of the car and stick a sheet of paper to it, which said, “Can’t you read?”).

As Jeff Vanderstelt heard his neighbors talk about this other Christian he cut them off, politely, and said, “You know, he’s a friend of mine, you should really get to know him…he is not like what you would think.  I know it is wrong of him to stick a piece of paper on your friend’s windshield…I’ve talked with him about that and he feels bad.”

The couple then felt a little uncomfortable, but eventually agreed to have dinner all together with the Vanderstelt’s, the Seminary Professor, and the un-churched couple and the relationship was resolved and peace was made.  In other words, Jeff was able to bring about what only the Gospel can begin to bring about in people.  Eventually this turned into a “Missional” community and many un-churched people from the neighborhood became Christians and started attending Soma in Tacoma.

This last week I had the privilege of meeting with my area mentor, Pastor Jeff Wall from Soma Communities in Tacoma.  He has worked with Jeff Vanderstelt and has been a part of leading and shepherding “Missional” communities.  You might ask, What is a missional community?” A missional community is a group of Christians who live in a neighborhood and who are intent on serving one another, being the church to one another, and saturating that neighborhood with the love of Jesus Christ eventually earning the right to tell the story of the Gospel.

Jeff Wall’s group meets weekly on Thursdays at his home.  In the Fall they use curriculum called The Story of God, which goes through the story of the Bible from Genesis to the cross of Christ.  Each week there is one rule, you need to answer the questions related to the Bible story for that week and you are not allowed to rush ahead to Romans or some other story in the Bible.  The goal is for everyone in the room, no matter their biblical knowledge, to start at the beginning and come together as a group as the learn the whole story together.  By the time they get to the cross everything is in its proper context and the light bulb goes on for many people because the cross is the climax, which has been built up to in the Old Testament and in the life of Jesus.  Those who respond to the story are given the opportunity to continue the story in the book of Acts and beyond to learn to form a church community (an EVERYDAY church as Chester and Timmis would call it).

Then when summer begins, Jeff Wall switches his group from Thursday nights to Friday nights and they invite their neighbors to a weekly bond-fire, BBQ, roast marshmallows, hang out and build relationships between the churched and the un-churched.  Then at the end of the summer the invitation is given to all to join the group starting on Thursday nights and they would begin again The Story of God.  The one rule about joining this group is that if a person has been through The Story of God, then they are not allowed to come unless they bring someone who has not been through it before.

This is awesome.  This is a missionary way of living the gospel on the mission field called “Chronological Bible Storying.”

Friends at Grace Church Seattle, if we live in a mission field and if 42% of the people in our community have not been to church and have no intention of going to church, then what could we learn from above about how to tell the story of the Gospel to reach people for Christ?

GODSPEED

The Difference Between Ethics and Morals

Is there a difference between ethics and morals?

I was conversing with a very good friend of mine on Sunday after church and we were discussing the difference between ethics and morals (bet you didn’t know there was a difference):

Ethics – is what ought to be.

Morals – is what people are actually doing.

 Throughout the Bible there are ethical standards such as:

“Thou shalt not murder…”

“Thou shalt not commit adultery…”

“Thou shalt not steal…”

“Thou shalt not covet…”

When a person murders someone, he is falling short of an ethical standard established by God and by the State.  When a man commits adultery, he is not living up to the ethics established in his wedding vows of faithfulness “till death do us part.”  When a man like Ariel Castro abducts teenagers and keeps them as sex slaves, he is violating multiple ethical standards of God and our government and he must be held accountable.

Our country has been at a crossroads in defining ethics for the last 70 years.  The majority in our country once agreed with the Judeo-Christian standards of ethics as spelled out in the Ten Commandments and the teachings of Jesus (see for example the Gospel of Matthew chapters 5-7). 

Now the majority in our country are defining ethics based on what is actually happening.  In other words the standard is shifting based on what is acceptable and not based on a fixed standard. 

Is this safe and right? What will be the consequences for basing ethics on what people are doing?

I first began to understand the difference between ethics and morals when I had a discussion with one of my aunts who was a school counselor when I was 13 years old.  She was asking me about what I was learning in school.  I explained we were learning about sex education and I made the point that we should not be taught about all the different ways of having “safe” sex, rather that we should be taught to wait to have sex on our wedding night.

She retorted, “Why would you wait, they’re not going to listen to you anyway…since they’re gonna experiment and start having sex when they reach puberty in late elementary school we should be teaching them about how to do it safely so they don’t make mistakes like get an STD or get pregnant and then have to get an abortion.”

I commented, “But most kids are introduced to methods and ides and ways of having sex during sex education…so if you want to prevent kids from getting STDs and getting pregnant…the best way is not to show them how to do various different sex acts…but to explain to them the ethical standard of waiting for your wife or husband.  Some will still likely ignore you and ‘make mistakes’…but if you’re not teaching them how, but rather teaching them that they shouldn’t be having sex until they are ready to have children and that the best environment to raise kids is in a stable marriage…then it is likely that less kids will be having sex before marriage and thus less ‘mistakes’ will be made.”

We went round-and-round and I am sure my logic was not quite as refined, but the point I make above is the point I was trying to make then.

So what’s the point?

The Creator God has ethical standards – as the Creator, God designed us to live and function a certain way and not to live and function contrary to God’s ethical standards. 

Our moral responsibility as humans is to stop looking at what people are doing to try to create man-made ethical standards based on the morality of the majority; rather we should look up to the God of Heaven and say, “Lord Jesus, teach us your ways and provide help for us to live, in reality, how you designed us to live.”  Pray this prayer and the Lord will send His helper, the Holy Spirit, to enable you to morally live by His ethics as outlined by Jesus in the Gospels.

GODSPEED

PSA – You Don’t Own Me!

I recently watched a video with women singing, “You don’t own me!” Written on the screen between different women singing were statements about Roe vs. Wade, specifically that if Romney becomes President he will overturn that court case.  The point of the video was to say that women have the right to do with their bodies what they will, and the implication is that if a woman wants to have an abortion it should be her choice (i.e., “Romney and the GOP, don’t tell us what to do with our bodies!”)

I get what the video is trying to say, but I think the issue about control is misplaced.  Before I explain what I mean, I feel compelled to ask two questions:

(1) What is the different between a child crying minutes after being born vs. a fetus being aborted a week earlier?

(2) When does an embryo become a human worth protecting? At conception? Four weeks after conception? Eight weeks in utero?

Look at the following pictures, which I think help to answer these questions…

Baby at 8 weeks after conception:

fetal development at 8 weeks

Child at 12 weeks:

Human fetus in utero at 12 weeks

Child at 20 weeks:

Human fetus in utero at 20 weeks

Child at 36 weeks:

fetus in utero at term

A baby just born between 38 – 42 weeks:

Newborn baby at birth

Is it logical to say this child is more human than at 8 weeks?  Let’s go backwards from 8 weeks for a moment…

A developing child at 6 weeks:

A developing child at 4 weeks:

fetal development at 4 weeks

Fertilization:

sperm fertilizing egg

Before this, there was a choice related to self-control.  After this, the sperm and egg turn into an embryo and a new human individual, with sex, and its own DNA and blood type is instantly formed (i.e., 23 chromosomes from the man are added to 23 chromosomes from the woman to develop 46 chromosomes plus the combination of the X and Y chromosomes, which determine the sex of the child,equalling 48 chromosomes — when all this happens a new human being is formed because the embryo has new DNA that is not strictly the mother’s DNA, and hence a new, distinct human individual now exists in the womb of its mother).  At this point the embryo is not a part of the mother’s body, rather the womb becomes an environment in which to protect the new individual as it grows and develops as a human being.  If nothing prevents the implantation of this embryo to the uterine wall, and if nothing removes this developing embryo, then this individual human being will go through the natural stages of human development.

The issue some women are trying to make is that men (like Romney and in the GOP) should not try to control women by overturning Roe vs. Wade; but the real control issue is a matter of self-control before sex and the issue of ownership of the embryo after sex.

To men – we need to control ourselves! Think about it, if a woman doesn’t want to have sex, it is possible she might still be forced upon by the man (please know I do not condone this).  If a man doesn’t want to have sex, sex is not going to happen.  Men, be men and control yourselves! Wait to have sex until you are ready to settle down with a woman, care for her and the children you produce.  If you are not ready for this, you are not ready for sex.  To have sex without being committed is inconsiderate and irresponsible.

To all – who owns who? No one owns anyone! We should not live in a society of ownership and slavery! At the same time, the question related to embryos is this – who has the right to say, “You don’t own me!” The mother to Romney and pro-lifers? Or the individual human embryo that is relying on its mother in the womb for protection?

GODSPEED

Democracy vs. Theocracy

Hello All,

I thought I would take this opportunity to talk about Democracy Vs. Theocracy, church government and why we do what we do at Grace during business meetings:

First, a little Church History; the early Church in the 1st-3rd centuries was an illegal, underground church.  They started out as a form of Judaism and were protected by the Roman Empire until the Emperor Nero started persecuting Christians in the mid 60s AD.  There was a Jewish / Roman War from 66-70 AD culminating in the destruction of Jerusalem and at that point Judaism and Christianity officially went underground.  Various Emperors would order Empire wide persecutions at different points up until 311 / 312 AD when Emperor Constantine made Christianity legal.  By the middle to the end of the 4th century AD, the majority of the Roman Empire was Christian and soon became the official religion of the State.

During the Middle Ages and through the Crusades up until the Renaissance and Reformation in the 1500s, there was no separation of Church and State.  The Emperor and the Pope were constantly vying for power and control resulting in much corruption and hypocrisy within Christendom.  The vision of St. Augustine in the 300-400s AD was that the Church and State would be one, a Theocracy like that of Israel.  The word Theocracy means God (Theos) is ruling the State.  So Augustine’s vision was that everyone in Western Europe (and eventually the entire world) would become Christian under the authority of God ruled by Christian Law.  He believed this vision would culminate in Jesus returning (Post-Millennialism) to sit on His thrown ruling the earth.

Many Christians throughout history have shared this vision, but with variations as to how this would come about.  Plus, many Christian leaders in the 1400-1500s saw hypocrisy and corruption in the Holy Roman Catholic Church and therefore decided to challenge and ultimately break away from Catholicism.  William Tyndale, Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Huss, and John Knox are just some of the names of leaders who broke fellowship from this corrupt Theocracy.  The result? Many leaders were burned at the stake or beheaded, while others went underground and eventually came here, to America to start a new life free from persecution.

In the forming of these new groups, they were separated by miles, cultures, and language barriers; the only thing they had in common was the Scriptures.  Each of these groups in forming their new “Denomination” decided to base their theology and practice on the Word of God.  They each intended to “do church” like the early Christians did in the First Century.  Therefore, different groups developed different forms of Church governments.  For example:

–   The Presbyterians established their church government around the Greek word “presbyteros”, which means elder (Titus 1:5).  Hence the Presbyterians believe the church should be ruled and governed by a Council of Elders.

–   The Episcopal (Anglican) Church established their form of government around the Greek word “episkopas” in 1 Timothy 3:1, which means Bishop or Overseer.  Hence they believe a Bishop should oversee a region of churches with a priest appointed by the Bishop at each church.

–    The Lutheran Church in Germany was still state run and therefore operated in that country in a very similar way to the Catholic Church.  Same with the Anglican Church (of England).

–     Free Churches began to develop in which the people did not believe that an outside entity like the State or a Pope or a Bishop from a “Denomination” should control what they did.  So they formed what is known as Congregational Churches within which everyone had a voice.  The challenges of this system is that it becomes a Democracy and people tend to fracture into different factions of people who agree with them resulting in church splits, etc., which is not good for unity or the name of Jesus.

In America these different kinds of churches with people from different nationalities came to our country for religious freedom from persecution, which they achieved, but a new problem arose, people started dividing over which kind of church is best.  Now I want you to imagine you are a son or daughter of an immigrant and your friends in your neighborhood go to different churches with different cultural ways of doing things and with different languages, etc.  You have the same basic beliefs, but perhaps the form of communion, music, or the sermons or even prayer is different, and the way decisions are made in those churches is different as well.  Growing up in America we know that people have been turned off by the idea that my church is better than yours.

At Grace we realize there are people from different church backgrounds with exposure to different forms of Church Government and that they might have questions as to why we do what we do.

Democracy Vs. Theocracy – I heard a Pastor I respect once say that many churches are crumbling because they are run like a Democracy.  In such a church the different branches of the church are “checks & balances” to prevent anyone from having too much control.  The problem with running a church like a Democracy is it actually creates division.  It causes people not to trust one another and causes leadership to fear making decisions, which results in making no decisions.  Biblically, the Church is not a Democracy, but rather a Theocracy over which Jesus is the Head.

The basic bottom line for us at Grace is that Christians are supposed to be united under Jesus Christ and that He has appointed leaders (Elders / Overseers [Bishops]) to Sheppard  / Pastor the flock (1 Peter 5:1-4).  We recognize that the Bible says nothing about exactly how these decisions were made.  Therefore, at Grace Church the reason we post the names of our potential Elders and “Deacons” three weeks in advance is so that you have time to follow the biblical guidelines of Matthew 18:15-20 if you think a person is not qualified for a leadership position.  Then when we vote to affirm a person for leadership it is because we have not heard any accusations as to why such and such a person is disqualified.  So what we are doing is giving people a voice (Free Church background) while doing it in a biblical way so as to affirm the decisions of our leadership in appointing leaders (Elders in Titus 1:5-6 & Deacons in Acts 6:1-7).

I hope this was informative and I hope to hear from you if you have questions.

GODSPEED

EVERYDAY Church

What is church?

Is it a building? Is it an event on Sunday mornings? Is it a group of people who gather to listen to some guy talk about the bible and then for us to sing songs we don’t know that well and then for us to go our separate ways without thinking about what we have learned?

There was a lady who grew up in England in the early 1900s and church was a part of her everyday life.  There were only about a hundred people who attended the church and about fifty of those people were children.  The church building was the center of community activity.  There were essentially two options in town for places to hang out with friends – the church or the pub.  As this dear woman grew older and the culture began to change, less and less children came through the front doors.  Eventually the church was only filled with a dozen or so people who were all over the age of fifty.

So begins the book “EVERYDAY CHURCH” by Steve Timmis and Tim Chester.

These two authors go on to talk about the cultural shift resulting in people finding other things to do and ultimately the church became irrelevant to them.

The solution of the Baby Boomers was to create big events with entertainment and programs done with excellence.  The result has been many large mega churches being built, which depend on the personality of the pastor or the attractional / entertainment value of the program.  But most churches can’t afford to hire enough quality pastors, musicians, artists, etc. to create a church with this kind of excellence.  And so the average church finds itself competing against Xbox, NFL Sunday football, sleep, a weekend away, or the mega church down the street.

The problem with the above is that the point of church is lost.  When church becomes about the attractional event, then discipleship on a person-to-person level doesn’t happen like it should; and so people learn more from the world and their friends about how to live and deal with problems than they do from Scripture or the pastor or a godly mentor.

Everyday church points us to be just that – a community committed to the gospel of Jesus Christ, living it out, and working together within a community of committed believers who are committed to Christ and committed to one another in such a way:

  1. That they are willing to serve one another.
  2. That they are willing to lay down personal preferences.
  3. That they are willing to sacrifice for one another.
  4. That they are willing to spend time praying with one another.
  5. That they are willing to spend time confessing sins to one another.
  6. That they are willing to call each other to obey Scripture.
  7. That they are willing together to be on mission, sharing the gospel with the world.

These seven points (and many more) are what it means to be a church.  You can’t do these seven things without committing to one another and seeing each other more than one day a week.  And it is near impossible to do this with more than about a dozen people.

The early church in the time of the Apostles meet in homes.  Each house church had a leader called an elder who was responsible for shepherding the people.  As each church grew, the elders would reproduce and grow up new elders who would take on shepherding responsibilities and multiple the church.

The early church also had deacons, men and women who had the time and would serve and care for the needs of those who needed nurturing care.  They also assisted the elders by doing what the elders didn’t have time to do so that the elders could focus their time on prayer and preaching.

The early church also was a communal affair.  Everyone in each house church daily cared for each others needs, daily were involved together in prayer, daily were involved in evangelism.  Daily had a deep love for one another like a family.

As the church became institutionalized, this daily care stopped.  The professionals took over (in the Roman Catholic Church) and started making lots of money off the people manipulating them into giving money for forgiveness of sins.  The average person became an attendee rather than a participate in the life of the church.  And so the average person was turned off and many stopped coming to church.

Throughout this time there were different leaders who turned people back to the way of the early church as we read in Scripture.  St. Patrick developed a missional community, which worked together to reach the Celtic people of Ireland.  John Wesley learned from him and used his method to create congregations (societies), home communities (classes), and accountability groups (bands).  The Celtic way and the Methodist way is a biblical way because it does not focus on creating attractional events, but rather attractional and biblical communities.

Here at Grace Church we (the elders and staff) are intentionally trying to become a missional, biblical, gospel community.  The sermon series beginning this Sunday is based off of 1 Peter and the book “EVERYDAY CHURCH” by Chester and Timmis.

We (the church) on Sundays are purposing to come together to learn how to become an everyday church.

We (Home Communities) are purposing to come together in a more intimate way to actually live out everyday church principles.

Please join us this fall to learn how to do this will us onto the glory of God.

GODSPEED