Repenting in the good

In the wake of Jeremiah’s ministry and the sad downfall of the southern kingdom of Judah; Ezekiel calls out to the exiled Israelite community that they should, “repent and live”!  His prophetic appeal is that they can still turn from their evil ways and choose the right path of God’s promises.

This is of course and good thing, and part of what it means to repent.  The emphasis place on repentance in western Christian communities is usually around this theme: Turn from your worldly ways.  However, there is another part to repentance that is at least overlooked and at most, under-appreciated.  Israel is challenged to repent in tumultuous times, ultimately because of poor behavior and sinful attitudes of the heart.  However, repentance also has a role to play in the good parts of our lives; the joyous and victorious parts as well as the bad.

The greek word for repent literally means to change one’s mind.  Change your mind.  See things differently; but not just differently, see things the way God sees them.  Allow your thinking to be transformed in a manner that is so profound that your are literally changed on the inside so that the outside follows.  As Paul so eloquently states it in Romans, “Be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”  In this light it isn’t so hard to see why this leads us to the confirmation of God’s will.

A new job.  A new church plant.  That well deserved vacation.  The wedding of a loved one.  Christmas.  Even a simple weekend BBQ.  These are just some examples of the good moments that life may offer us.  It does seem unusual to suggest that we might repent in these times.  Or does it?

When life throws us a curve ball or when we’ve done something stupid, the drama itself is enough to send us reeling and seeking God’s face.  Yet when things are going well; when we’ve experienced any one example of life’s favorable moments, we tend to go on autopilot.  This could prove to be the missing link in our personal journey of sanctification.  What if, when we went through good times, we continued to ask God how it was that he wanted to change our minds and lives?

It may be yet another peril of our consumer culture that we assume our joys have no grander purpose than our consumption.  While we can safely conclude that God does in fact want us to enjoy these moments, it is even safer to conclude that he is always at work.  If he speaks in our pain, why wouldn’t he also speak in our victories?  The life that constantly seeks God is one which constantly takes the position of learner (aka disciple).  To humble ourselves in all seasons of life is to delve that much deeper into the fullness that God has promised us.

We’ll always emphasize the need to repent of/from the bad; but it may be time to also explore what it means to repent in/during the good!

 

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The Prophetic Vision of the New Testament

Many of us can become quickly discouraged and even frustrated when we take an honest assessment of the church, the behavior of some Christians, and even our own lives.  Whether its people like Westboro Baptist playing out their unspeakable misunderstanding of the Christian Faith or just taking assessment of our own lives, perplexed by the yet un-sanctified brokenness with which we still wrestle; we see clearly that Christians, churches and Christianity can disappoint.

My discouragement is the same as yours and at times I’m almost overwhelmed byNew_Testament what I see.  But Good news is as much for the church as it is for the world.  There is yet hope to be had in the midst of what is often legitimate concern for western Christianity.  For me, this hope remains as the prophetic vision that the New Testament offers for how life can be radically and significantly different.

We believe that communities can be real and life giving, that individuals can experience real freedom and that grace can be known in a way that literally transforms everything.  There is a wildness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ that stands against the disappointment we experience in this life.

Spearheaded by Jesus himself, the New Testament offers us this vision without hesitation and we must hold fast to this in every facet of our lives.  If our observations of Christianity promote discouragement, then we have even more reason to proclaim what we believe to be the true potential of God’s people.  We must lean into the grace and truth of Jesus with our whole life and seek to experience whatever he has proclaimed for us.  We need to remember, proclaim and seek God’s vision for who and what we can become.

It is probable that our lives, communities, ministries, churches and families will never reach perfection in this regard. Most likely, some of this is left for eternity.  Yet a lack of perfection must not lead us to a lack of progress.  Part of faith is believing that God wants for us what he has already proclaimed and that our submission to his grace will lead us deeper into it.

Preaching to Multiple Generations

As we explore what it means to be an intergenerational family of God, there are legitimate questions about how to communicate the Gospel.  Unfortunately our recent structures have allowed us the inconvenience of separation; which has ultimately rendered us unable to adequately communicate to various generations.  This problem is only exacerbated when you get multiple generations in the same room.  Here’s an offering of my thoughts on how to best preach in a context where multiple generations are present.

Target1.  Choose a target age group and aim for that.  In other words, think through which of the generations has something in common with both those above and below them.  Preach in a way that will connect with them so that you might potentially connect with everybody.  Don’t stress perfection; but only do what is possible.  In my experience, this target is still a fairly young age group.  I’ve often aimed for high school seniors/college freshman.

2.   Tell lots of stories.  If the story can be followed by everyone and helps to illustrate the scriptures in some way: use it.  Stories will always engage an audience and done properly can interest both the intellect and emotions of our listeners.  In addition, personal stories carry even greater weight.  The vulnerability of sharing your life with the audience is powerful tool which can effectively cross the generational gaps.

3.  Avoid obscure cultural references that will alienate any generation.  This can be hard when we find that perfect illustration/story/reference to illustrate our points. However, our illustrations are meant to illuminate the scriptures to our audience rather than alienate them.  Keeping this in mind will help us avoid the temptation to use something which ultimately will not bear the fruit which it is iWindowLight_1ntended to bear.  In Lectures to My Students, C.H. Spurgeon observes that illustrations are meant to shed light into the Gospel, much like a window is meant to shed light into a room.  To carry Spurgeon’s illustration further, we should avoid using windows that will not let light in.

4.  Be intentional about the application for all generations.  If we are accustomed to preaching to young people our tendency will be to forget the later life stages.  The opposite is also true; potentially causing others to forget the life stage of our youth.  Generally speaking, we must consider where and how each generation lives as we prepare to speak from the Word into their lives.  For example; avoid only drawing applications for marriage and family or student life.

449780dbc6412b05b6a9326a3587c4cc0a9d9c71_large5.  Speak well of all generations and life stages.  It seems that if we’re to be whole communities, we all need to maintain accurate and positive perspectives of other life stages.  We must avoid the temptation to dismiss and/or stereotype an entire generation of people.  They will eventually become discouraged by our lack of concern for them which can also deter from the fruit we intend to bear.

No one said that this is or would be easy.  It’s not something that can be taken lightly and cannot be done perfectly; certainly not all the time.  However, the desired fruit is worth both the risk and the learning curve!

 

Samuel L. Jackson Delivers Boy Meets World Slam Poem

Not only is this brilliant for eighty-eight million reasons, but Samuel L. Jackson’s description of Feeny is reminiscent of all those who spend their lives investing in young people.

Wisdom

iStock_000007646510XSmallI recently finished reading the book of Proverbs and was struck by four basic, yet challenging elements of a wise life.  These are some (not all) characteristics of wisdom that I desire to have both as an individual and as a leader.

1. To be a person who learns from others mistakes, experiences and advice.  This theme is found literally throughout the entire book of Proverbs.  It seems simple, but I find it to be both rare and desirable.  The skill of heeding the warnings or insight of another and applying it requires incredible foresight and self knowledge.  What is impressive about this skill is that it creates a cache of knowledge to be used in circumstances not yet experienced.  

2. To receive rebuke from others. Proverbs 9:8 & 15:31.  It is one thing to receive well the advice of others.  It is another thing entirely to receive their rebuke and requires a genuine emotional security.  To be comfortable with even a trusted friend telling us how wrong we might be is an uncommon characteristic; one which I can plainly admit to having struggled with.  

3.  To foresee consequences before they play out.  Proverbs 16:15 & 22:3.  There is plenty to say both in proverbs and in life about true foresight.  This isn’t specifically a prophetic gift as much as it is a discerning mind.  This woman or man can effectively see farther down the road than the average person, accurately predicting the outcomes of choices and circumstances.    

4.  To learn from, or even be rebuked by circumstances.  Proverbs 24:32 & 26:11.  In the first of these proverbs, the author is ultimately talking about an actual lesson he’s learned.  However, he has gone out of his way to point out how he learned it: through the observation of choice and circumstance.  In many ways, you could say that this person has gained the ability to learn from consequences.  While this seems profoundly simple, it unfortunately remains an under developed and under utilized skill.  In Proverbs 26:11 we find an oft quoted saying that points out the negative example.  Very simply, this person has not learned from consequences and proves themselves a fool by returning to the same set of circumstances and/or choices.