Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Eternal security

My friendly theologian Marie sent this Fodder for us to chew on.

The Shave
After twenty years of shaving himself every morning, a man in a
small Southern town decided he had enough. He told his wife
that he intended to let the local barber shave him each day. He
put on his hat and coat and went to the barber shop, which was
owned by the pastor of the town's Baptist Church. The barber's
wife, Grace, was working that day, so she performed the task.
Grace shaved him and sprayed him with lilac water, and said,
"That will be $20."

The man thought the price was a bit high, but he paid the bill
and went to work. The next morning the man looked in the
mirror, and his face was as smooth as it had been when he left
the barber shop the day before.

Not bad, he thought. At least I don't need to get a shave every
day. The next morning, the man's face was still smooth. Two
weeks later, the man was still unable to find any trace of
whiskers on his face. It was more than he could take, so he
returned to the barber shop.

"I thought $20 was high for a shave", he told the barber's
wife, "but you must have done a great job. It's been two weeks
and my whiskers still haven't started growing back."

The expression on her face didn't even change, expecting his
comment. She responded,

"You were shaved by Grace and once shaved, always shaved!"

~Author Unknown~

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Why all the fuss John?

In the Epistle of First John the author is addressing a heresy common to the first century known as Gnosticism. So what is this Gnosticism that caused such a ruckus in the churches scattered throughout Asia Minor?

Well, that was a question asked at Fight Club last Saturday and my friend Kurt said he would look into it. This is what he sent me this afternoon. Thanks Kurt for your friendship and faithful attendance on Saturday mornings.

Anyone else want to contribute to the research? You know, I need all the help I can get these days! So, who will write tomorrow's blog for me? :-)


Consensus on a definition of gnosticism has proved difficult. The groups conventionally classified as gnostic did not constitute a single movement with relatively homogeneous organization, teachings, and rituals. Even the self-designation gnostic is problematic, since it is attested for only some of the traditions conventionally treated as gnostic and its connotations are ambiguous. Whereas some researchers argue that the term gnostic should be restricted to the sects or schools that called themselves by this name, others extend the category to include additional religious movements that allegedly shared various distinctive features.

Gnostics believe that they have secret knowledge about God, humanity and the rest of the universe of which the general population was unaware. It became one of the three main belief systems within 1st century Christianity, and was noted for four factors by which differed from the two other branches of Christianity:

Novel beliefs about Gods, the Bible and the world which differed from those of other Christian groups.

Tolerance of different religious beliefs within and outside of Gnosticism.

Lack of discrimination against women. Although Jesus treated women as equals, and Paul mostly did the same, the other Christian belief systems started to oppress women in later generations.

A belief that salvation is achieved through relational and experiential knowledge. In the words of The contemporary Gnostic Apostolic Church, humanity needs to be awakened and brought "to a realisation of his true nature. Mankind is moving towards the Omega Point, the Great day when all must graduate or fall. This day is also the Day of Judgment in that only those who have entered the Path of Transfiguration and are being reborn can return to the Treasury of Light."

Many of the so-called gnostic groups are characterized by a mythology that distinguishes between an inferior creator of the world (a demiurge) and a more transcendent god or order of being. Another frequently encountered theme is that there is a special class or race of humans that is descended from the transcendent realm and is destined to achieve salvation and to return to its spiritual origins.

Salvation is understood as a revelation that reawakens knowledge (gnosis) of the race’s divine identity; in contrast, the more “orthodox” Christian emphasis is on redemption through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Although the myth of a demiurge and the theme of reawakened awareness of divine origins have parallels in Platonic and Neo-Pythagorean philosophy—and in fact were partly derived from those traditions—it is often asserted that in the gnostic myths there is a far sharper dualism, involving a much more negative attitude toward the inferior creator god, the material cosmos, and the human body.

The doctrine of salvation by knowledge. This definition, based on the etymology of the word (gnosis "knowledge", gnostikos, "good at knowing"), is correct as far as it goes, but it gives only one, though perhaps the predominant, characteristic of Gnostic systems of thought. Whereas Judaism and Christianity, and almost all pagan systems, hold that the soul attains its proper end by obedience of mind and will to the Supreme Power, i.e. by faith and works, it is markedly peculiar to Gnosticism that it places the salvation of the soul merely in the possession of a quasi-intuitive knowledge of the mysteries of the universe and of magic formulae indicative of that knowledge.

Gnostics were "people who knew", and their knowledge at once constituted them a superior class of beings, whose present and future status was essentially different from that of those who, for whatever reason, did not know. A more complete and historical definition of Gnosticism would be: A collective name for a large number of greatly-varying and pantheistic-idealistic sects, which flourished from some time before the Christian Era down to the fifth century, and which, while borrowing the phraseology and some of the tenets of the chief religions of the day, and especially of Christianity, held matter to be a deterioration of spirit, and the whole universe a deprivation of the Deity, and taught the ultimate end of all being to be the overcoming of the grossness of matter and the return to the Parent-Spirit, which return they held to be inaugurated and facilitated by the appearance of some God-sent Savior.

Tuesday humor

A guy walks into a bar wearing a Browns jersey and carrying a cat that also has a Browns jersey on with a little Browns helmet on his head, too.

The guy says to the bartender, "Can my cat and I watch the Browns game here? My TV at home is broke, and my cat and I always watch the game together."

The bartender replies, "Normally, cats wouldn't be allowed in the bar, but it's not very busy in here right now, so you and the cat can have a seat at the end of the bar. But, if there's any trouble with you or the cat, I'll have to ask you to leave"

The guy agrees, and he and his cat start watching the game. Pretty soon the Browns kick a field goal and the excited cat jumps up on the bar and walks down the bar and gives everyone a high five.

The bartender says, "Hey, that's pretty cool! What does he do for a touchdown?"

The guys answers, "I don't know, I've only had him for 2 years!

Thanks for sharing this one with me Kurt. I loved it! Obviously the cat was not a member of our church :-)

God -vs- the Scienctist

My friend Chuck Ruth sent this out today. I have got to share it with you!

God is sitting in Heaven when a scientist says to Him, "Lord, we don't
need you anymore. Science has finally figured out a way to create life
out of nothing. In other words, we can now do what you did in the

"Oh, is that so? Tell me..." replies God.

"Well", says the scientist, "we can take dirt and form it into the
likeness of you and breathe life into it, thus creating man."

"Well, that's interesting. Show Me. "

So the scientist bends down to the earth and starts to mold the soil.

"Oh no, no, no...." interrupts God,

"Get your own dirt."

Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Well ... what do you know?

As I continue my personal study of First John I keep bumping into the word "know." John chose to use it frequently in his Epistle. He was writing to dispel the false doctrine of the Gnostic and to remind his readers of what true doctrine and behavior looks like. What does it mean to be "in the know" according to John?

There are several words from the Greek which are translated into the English word "know" in the Bible. Each one offers a different meaning which I will briefly share with you in the next paragraph. It is important to note that John only uses two of them in his First Epistle.

The two Greek words John does not use are: "Epiginosko" - which means to have complete knowledge of something, or to have something figured out completely. The other word is "Proginosko" - meaning to know before hand, or to have foreknowledge.

The two words John does use in the Epistle are "Ginosko" and "Eido". These are great words which give meaning and understanding to the text in study. Ginosko means "to know intuitively, to feel the knowledge. To be one with an object both abstractly and dynamically." It is commonly used in the scriptures when speaking of sexual intercourse between a husband and wife. John uses "Ginosko" in the following verses: 2:3, 4, 5, 13, 14, 18, 29; 3:1, 6, 19, 20, 24; 4:2, 6, 7, 8, 16, 18; 5:2, 20b.

The second word John uses for "know" in the Epistle is "Eido". Eido refers to the acquiring of knowledge. It's often used in the past tense, meaning "to be taught or come to understand or realize something through an educational process or intellectual accent. The references for John's use of "Eido" in his First Epistle are 2:11, 20, 21,29a; 3:2, 5, 14, 15; 5: 13, 15, 18, 19, 20a.

John's point (at least one of them) in using these two Greek words for "know" is clear. The more we subject ourselves (eido) to the life and teaching of Jesus the more intuitive, natural (ginosko) they will become in us. When you study the Bible, whether it is Old Testament or New, look for Jesus. To become one with God's will and way is conditional upon Jesus. He must be the common thread we use to find meaning in the Bible and purpose for life.

Thanks for stopping by!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Saturday Men's Fight Club

Oh my... It looks like an entire week has gone by since my last post. Wow, where has this week gone? Anyhow, this week (Lord willing) men will gather once again on Saturday at 7:30 am in the WHFC Cafe for Fight Club. Our study time will take us deeper into the Epistle of First John.

We will begin this week with section two of John's writings. In this section John is describing for his readers how Jesus Christ is the embodiment of right doctrine and behavior. In verses 1:5 through 4:6 John presents a two-fold test which determines if a Christian has right doctrine and practices right behavior according to God's expectations and standards. The first part of the two-fold test is fellowship. The following is a portion of the outline we will be using as a guide over the next few weeks.

The Two Part Test of Right Doctrine and Behavior (I John 1:5-4:6)

I. The First Part of the Two-fold Test for Right Doctrine and Behavior is Fellowship (1:5-2:29).

A. Walking in the Light is a true sign of fellowship (1:5-2:4)

1. God is Light (1:5)

What is significant about this statement?

2. True Christians walk in the Light (1:6-10)

What are the two results of walking in the Light? (1:7)

a) _________

b) _________

What are the three consequence of not walking in the Light? (1:6, 8, 10)

a) _________ (1:6)

b) _________ (1:8)

c) _________ (1:10)

3. To not walk in the Light is the meaning of sin (1:6, 10)

4. Jesus Christ provides forgiveness of sin for those who have not walked in the Light (2:1-2)

5. The benefit that comes from walking in the Light (2:3-29)

1) The assurance of knowing Christ (2:3)

2) Is deemed perfect in the eyes of God (2:5)

a. Perfection equals obedience in God's eyes (2:3-6)

b. Perfection is demonstrated through love for fellow man (2:7-11)

c. Perfection is the litmus test for ones love for God (2:12-17)

d. Perfection proves loyalty to Christ (2:18-25)

e. Perfection is the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of a believer (2:26-27)

f. Perfection is the only source of confidence one can have in preparation for Christ's appearing (2:28-29)

Thanks for stopping by!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Men's fight club

This Saturday at 7:30 am we will gather in the church Cafe to discuss the beginning section of John's First Epistle. We will continue to work through the outline I posted a few weeks back. I'll include another copy just incase you have misplaced yours. I hope to see you Saturday!

I. John Shares an Introduction and Invitation for his Readers to Know the Embodiment of Right Doctrine and Behavior (I Jn. 1:1-4)

A. John's Introduction to the Embodiment of God - Jesus Christ (1:1-2)

1. As God Jesus Christ is Eternal (1:1)
1). Jesus is in Genesis 1:1
2). Jesus is the Word in John 1:1
3). Jesus' life parallels God's life

2. Jesus Christ is the Source of God's life (1:1)
1). This life is Zoe
2). This life is the work of God - Logos (Greek)
3). This life is unstoppable - deber (Hebrew)

3. John's Testimony about Jesus Christ (1:1)
1). John is testifying against Docetism (a form of Gnosticism)
(1) Docetism taught that all matter is evil
(2) Docetism taught that sin cannot be separated from the material nature of man
(3) Docetism taught that if Jesus Christ was divine and sinless he had to be a spirit who simply appeared in human form.

2). John's testimony is as a credible witness (1:3)
(1) He saw Jesus with his own eyes (beheld, KJV: watched for a long time)
(2) He touched Jesus with his own hands
(3) He heard Jesus with his own ears
(4) Later John writes, "this is how you test if a person/spirit is from God: can they say Jesus Christ came in the flesh" (4:2)

B. John's Invitation for his Readers to Know the Embodiment of Right Doctrine and Behavior (1:3-4).

1. Fellowship is the Reason for the Invitation (1:3)
1) Fellowship refers to relationship
2) Fellowship connotes a mutual sharing of life forces
3) John wants his readers to have fellowship with one another, God, Jesus

2. Fellowship provides complete joy (1:4)
1) A divine joy
2) Complete joy (360 degree - up, in, out, and over)

3. Fellowship means to walk in the reality of truth and revelation

Thanks for stopping by!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

What can I control? (part 2)

Have you noticed that there is really not a whole lot in life we can control? For example, I received my first Christmas card today! What's up with that? If I was in control there would be no Christmas cards sent until after Thanksgiving Day weekend. My heart would have been much more receptive to the salesman had he sent me a bag of peanut M & M's in a Halloween card or a "thinking of you" penned in a Happy Thanksgiving card. Oh well, that is just another one of those things (variables) that I cannot control in life.

Recently I dug out some old Systems notes from my doctoral studies and refreshed myself on the "Holon" principle referred to a lot in the field of conflict management. It's a theory put forth by Arthur Koestler which suggests that everything is always a part and a whole simultaneously. It alerts leaders to the awareness that information can be obtained from any level of the congregation and use to understand what the Church is experiencing at any given time. This is particularly useful to the leader during times of unrest or transition in the Church. The Halon theory also reminds the leader that in order to accurately discern what the congregation is experiencing at any given time they must gather information from all the levels within the organization.

So back to my original question, "What can I control as a leader?" The Halon theory encourages those in Church leadership to remain mindful that the way they relate, react, and respond to information and circumstances in times of change and unrest, is the property of the relational system of the Church and not just the individual leader. Eventually what the leader is feeling, reacting and responding to will impact others because all provide emotional energy and impact to the organization.

So it is beneficial for leaders to process their experiences well. And, to know the more effectively they are able to record, recall and communicate their experience, feelings, reactions to others in times of transaction the better off others will be in their transformational journey. Knowing what leaders experience in decision making process will build trust and confidence, and give hope to others in times of transition.

God help me to be such a man.

Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, October 12, 2009

What can I control?

I have enjoyed re-reading "Leading Change in the Congregation" by Gilbert Rendle. Many of the thoughts he presents stimulate me widening the narrow box(s)of my thinking. I like the insight he gives on what one can and cannot control in leadership. Rendle writes, "Given the variables of the world today and the impact it has on the local congregation, only 40 or 50 percent are actually under the control of the congregation: Such as shifting values and lifestyles of people; people moving; changing neighborhoods, etc. These are just a few examples of significant change that congregations cannot control but impact the ongoing life of the congregation" (page 60).

Rendle continues by saying, that "it is the role of leadership to recognize the uncontrollable variables impacting and influencing the congregation and to inform people within the congregation. The role and responsibility of the leaders is not to fix whatever is causing the problem but to describe and understand what various issues or variables they will need to address in order to lead change in the system" (p. 61). Leaders are to be a point of convergence for communication and information within the local church fellowship and they are to be social connectors in that they invite people to the table of discussion and discernment to formulate a response to/for the information received.

What variables can a leader control? Rendle lists five that are within the control of every leader. One, present a positive identity (personally and corporately); Two, promote congregational harmony and unity; Three, generate enthusiasm within the leader's area(s) of influence; Four, be involved in spiritual action and social service; Five, participate in the programming of the congregation" (ps. 61-62).

I guess that is all I can really control as a leader. What say you? My prayer is that God would help me to be found faithful in each of these areas and raise up others in the church to do the same.

Thanks for stopping by!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Men's Fight Club

This Saturday men, we will meet in the church Cafe at 7:30 am to study the Bible. Our topic will focus on the worthiness of Jesus Christ. Our study will concentrate on select passages from John's Revelation. Here is the outline we will follow. Please print it off and come prepared to share your thoughts.

Why do we worship Jesus Christ? Because Jesus Christ is Worthy of our worship

We will examine four aspects of His worthiness:

I. He created all things Rev. 4:9-11
Genesis 1

John 1:1-3 In the beginning was the Word, Word was with God … was God (Word became flesh 1:14); All things were made through Him. Without Him nothing was made

II. He determines the end of all things Rev. 5:1-7; 6:1-8
(5:1-7) Setting is heaven – “no one” is worthy to take the scroll of God. Some of the highest order of God’s creation is listed. (v. 7) Jesus is worthy to take the scroll from God

(6:1-8) Content of the scroll: the release of God’s judgment on the earth …identified as the 4 horseman of the apocalypse.

III. He redeems all things Rev. 5:8-10; 11-14
(5:9, 12) Worthy is Jesus because He was slain; redeemed us by His own blood

IV. He is worthy and He can extend His worthiness to you Rev. 5:10; Eph. 4:1
(5:10) He has made us priests and kings before our God

(Eph 4:1) He calls us to walk worthy. What does this mean?

Thanks for stopping by!

Surf's Up!

Leadership Weekly posted an article called “Open Source Activists: The surprising impact when leaders tap the power of a generation of influencers,” by J.R. Kerr (posted 10/01/2009). It states that not long ago the term "open source" was common lingo among technology geeks and computer programmers but few others. However with the advent of popular websites like YouTube and Wikipedia, the masses are now experiencing the power of open source platforms. They allow ordinary people, who were once passive observers, to now create and contribute to all most anything in previously unimaginable ways.

J.R. Kerr states that the younger generation has been deeply impacted by this trend, and they now expect the church to be an open source missional platform. Its known as “Wiki-ministry” and it requires church leaders to shift from a posture of command and control, and allow the people to shape and influence the mission of the church.

Open source is everywhere and it is changing the world. Thomas Friedman's book “The World is Flat” documents the way open source is changing how software is developed and how news is reported. Past generations went to a trusted authority, like the Encyclopedia Britannica, to find answers to their questions. The new generation logs on to Wikipedia, an open source web encyclopedia that doesn't just provide answers but allows users to contribute their knowledge as well. The Apple iPhone now has thousands of user-created applications available as a result of becoming an open source platform. The younger generation expects to participate in the creation and formation of products and organizations in a way earlier generations simply did not. This is a fact that the Church cannot ignore.

We need new ways to look at and understand our congregation. Its not that our old ways are wrong, rather they are simply too limiting at times. When we start to view the situations our congregation faces as spiritual and not managerial or problematic in nature, we will respond differently to them. We must view the uneasy situations we face in the Church not as problems to be fixed but opportunities for us to see the hand of God in our midst and discern His will.

“Open source” for us in this case involves people in relationship contributing and communicating their passion and discernment with one another. It involves fact finding, information gathering, with each one trying to figure out how to ride the wave God is sending our way. God is in the business of making waves. In His sovereignty He chooses the areas of change and influence for His Church. Through His stirring He captures our attention for the need to engage and change. In a healthy situation the Church will declare: “SURF’s UP!” and invite everyone to the beach of discernment and planning.

We currently have a generational gap in the leadership of WHFC. There is a missing generation who should be poised to assume headship of the congregation but are not. How do we engage them? How do we get them to the beach of discernment and planning with us? How do we open source with them for the health of our congregation? Ideas?

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

A matter of perspective

If people naturally assume their congregation is besieged by problems when dis-ease, anxiety and change occurs then the only response they can visualize is to identify the problem and fix it. But, if the Church can frame unrest as "Theo-emotional" (how do you like that word? I just made it up), meaning, emotion stemming from God in order to stimulate change and growth in His Church (a transformational moment) then leaders will seek to do more than just make things right using old paradigms.

Maybe we should consider "Theo-cycles" more often? (another word I just made up! I'm on a roll today!). Theo -cycles in the sense that God intentionally transitions His Church in change. This is not a new thought in scripture for sure! He seems to always be shaking the status quo. He instructed Abram to walk; Jacob to wrestle; Why look at the crazy stuff He had Ezekiel and Jeremiah do! He instructed Solomon to write in Ecclesiastes 3, "There is a season for everything" ... ready or not, here it comes! In the New Testament Paul tells the Romans that God is using "all things" for His purpose ... to conform His bride into the likeness of His Groom. (8:28-29).

"All things" ... Theo-cycles? It works for me. I can see God dumping emotion into the Church system in the way, creating dis-ease for the sake of our maturation and effectiveness. Otherwise like stupid sheep we would be content to graze down the same field and miss being lead to the streams of living waters and feast at the table He has prepared for us (Psalm 23). We would run "into the fields that are ripe unto harvest" with tools that no longer work.

Yep, the Church needs "Theo-stirrings" (nice word... You can use it if you want) for health, growth and effectiveness. So what are we to do when Theo - "emotion, cycles and stirrings" occur in the Church? One, embrace it as normal. Two, Assume God is in it for the maturation and effectiveness of His people. Three, come together in prayer petitioning God for discernment, direction and unity as a body. Four, gather as much information as possible, process it, fashion a plan and ask God to bless the plan for His glory. Five, talk with God and others about the feelings we are experiencing in/through the change process. Six, celebrate the relationship and passion God has for the Church and world as demonstrated through the dynamic relationship He has with both. Seven, anticipate more anxiety and dis-ease stemming from God (you know... that Theo - emotional, cycle, stirring thingy we talked about).

Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, October 5, 2009

The two greatest fears in Church

The two greatest fears associated with "change" in the Church today are: (1) there will not be enough change take place and (2) too much change will take place. Factor into this the idea that the Church is a living organism filled with free floating anxiety as a result of ongoing challenges and disappointments ... well you can see why people in the congregation search for what is wrong and try to fix it.

A lot of what the Church deals with is external in nature however. The world we live in is ever-changing, requiring the Church to adjust her methodology in order to address her mission. Change however makes people feel uncomfortable and most will try to hang on to the staus quo if they can. Instead of viewing change as an opportunity to "grow and go" into greater effectiveness many will look at the changing world and the emotional impact it is having on the local church and view it as a problem. We know from studies in conflict management that the emotional impulse of people prompts them to search for what is wrong. When they do not find clear and agreeable answers, they quickly try to determine who is wrong and label them as the problem. One of the basic principles in conflict management is to separate the people from the issues and to teach them how to talk about and address change focused on the issues and not personalities.

Rendle states in his book "Leading Change in the Congregation" that an emotionally/spiritually immature Church will generally follow the "Three P approach" when charged by the pressure to change. Rendle says, the three P's are "often quick fix exercises intuitively designed not to bring any real change to the congregation but to offer the feeling that a problem has been identified and something has been done. The three P's of problem solving in the Church are: people, programs and policy (page 34-35).

Rendle continues by saying, "The most popular people for congregations to change are the clergy. They often will call a pastor to change the staus quo but collusively enforce old rules that make it impossible for any real change to occur. A new strategy sounds and feels good until it confronts the old rules of people's tradition" (p. 35). Generally this leads to the demise of the change agent.

The second P is programming. Rendle states that because most anxiety "stems from poor attendance and money a congregation will invent a program to address the problem. For most, a common solution is to invent a ministry as a way of increasing growth in attendance and giving" (p. 36). However, "the rush to do something, to come up with a solution to decrease the anxiety of the congregation, subverts a solution to the deeper issue at the heart of the people and leads to greater loss of motivation, trust and intimacy (p. 37). The third P is policy. "The rush to do stimulates activity that leads to further discomfort among leaders so policies are created to control the anxiety" (36-37).

How do we avoid the "Three P's" at WHFC? Embrace anxiety as normal and view it as a sign of a healthy church. To remember that the Church is a living organism and not a business. Some business practices will prove valuable and some to be fatal. We must discern wisely between the two.

We must consistently remind one another that the intelligence of our Church is determined by our ability to communicate effectively throughout our organization and to gather, process and respond to information based upon our vision, mission and objectives. We need information! We must also frame anxiety that occurs in the fellowship as God presenting an opportunity for our greater effectiveness and unity rather than as a bone of contention and just a problem to be solved.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Saturday Men's Fight Club


This Saturday we will gather in the church Cafe for prayer, fellowship and Bible study. This week Kurt will lead a discussion based upon a DVD he will show on the "Great Emergence." This is a 30 minute teaching I highly recommend you see. The speaker is Dr. Alice Tickle and the material shared is an accurate recounting of the changes that have occured in the Church since its conception and what we are experiencing at this time. Be sure to bring a note pad. You will want to take notes and review them several times I'm sure!

Thanks for stopping by!