Tag Archives: reformation

God causes the growth (2)

God causes the growth

I am moved to hang on to some basic teaching today.

What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. (1 Corinthians 3:5-7)

This morning, as I listened to God and prayed for the church, I took heart in in Paul’s teaching. He laments the deep problems in the church in Corinth, where he had spent so much time laboring and loving. His disciples shocked people with their immorality. They divided up the church in factions. They had a strong contingent who thought they were spectacular, and better than Paul, their father in the faith. Some of them re-thought the gospel to reflect themselves rather than Jesus.

Some days, I look out over our beloved community of Circle of Hope and am tempted to lament. I just see the holes in the Swiss cheese. It is not a nourishing practice. Today God saved me from that by reminding me of what he has done, which is what he is likely to do again. Circle of Hope is so astoundingly rich in faith, hope and love that I begin to get nervous when there is a little dip in our storehouse of all the good things God has given us. My standards are very high. I forget that God created it all from nothing not too long ago.

It is, again, like Paul told the Corinthians:

“Think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. (1 Cor. 1:26-30)

I totally relied on this wisdom from Paul when I came to Philadelphia. I am convicted today to keep walking in it. God is bigger than our capabilities and our critics. God is greater than our wonderful history and our sinfulness. God is hopeful because of our good track record and in spite of our mediocritizing.

If we live or die, as the church, Jesus is Lord. But I am sure we will live and God will cause the growth.  inside and out. Here are several reasons to believe that such a life is likely which come from just the people I talked to yesterday:

  • A man walked into our door last week looking to be restored to God after medicating his mental illness with drugs and alcohol. He is finding rest.
  • A man is overcoming his sin and the wreckage it has caused in his family and circle of friends.
  • A man is experiencing the fruit of his act of courage in taking risks to follow his truest calling and it has opened up the door to welcome God into the deep parts of his being.
  • A woman is celebrating how our church came through for her when her husband was jailed and is thankful that her own new faith sustained her.

God is causing the growth. Like Jesus says, the kingdom of God is like a seed that grows day and night and one can only be in awe of it, and never presume to cause it. We plant and water, but nothing will happen without God creating the environment in which it can flourish. And that is just what God does.

BTW — Today is Brigid of Kildare Day! I’m a fan.

Subscribe to Development! Hit the “follow” button after you type in your email. Thanks for reading!

About “Losing My Religion”

I have been pondering the de-evangelization of a few of my friends, lately. So it struck me when a blog kept popping up on the WordPress “hits list” about “Losing My Religion.” I have one friend whose new buddy is a Moslem. I have another who has “these Buddhist friends.” And I know all sorts of ex-evangelicals who are struggling to overcome years of trying and failing to “get it right.” They are losing their faith, too — or, at least, it is being undermined. There are a lot of attacks on faith in Jesus being waged, some with good targets in bogus Christianity and others attacking the truth. It is not an easy day to be a follower of Jesus.

So this person’s top-twenty reasons for losing faith kind of stung me. He seems to be losing what I call “crap Christianity” not any real faith. I think most people should lose what he is losing in order to form an actual relationship with God! So I feel compelled to try brief answers to his brief statements, just to get my two-cents worth in – and maybe to dissuade someone from thinking they are losing their faith when they are just asking the right questions.

His thoughts are in italics, my replies are not. I hope you’ll add to my thoughts, as well.

[This post is so long, you may as well take more time and go here, too, before we get started]

“I began to question why the god of the Bible is more believable than all other gods worshiped on earth. With the mountain of evidence staring me in the face, my faith began to die.”

Trading faith in God for an assessment of evidence is a definite change of world view. My faith is evidence of things unseen. Jesus is revelation, not another fact among many with me at the center living a life of endless sorting.

I finally moved past guilt and admitted to myself that I no longer believe in Jesus or the god of the Bible. Surprisingly it was a relief. Not because I wanted to run wild and sin freely, but because I no longer felt the weight a Christian carries. The weight of guilt, unworthiness and fear of god’s judgment.

This seems like a true sign that a person has only met religion, not God. The whole point of the work of Jesus is to free us from the weight one feels, not induce it! We may sense a weight of glory, but hardly of judgment.

His top twenty reasons for losing his faith.

1. God is wrathful, jealous, hateful, and kills nations of people like it is a bodily function. He is certainly not just or “holy” in nature.

The formation of the chosen people of Israel is not the last thing God did. Postmodern people parse Bible data as if what one did when he was twelve is equal to what one did when he was fifty. Humankind has been growing and God has been very creative in working out how to redeem us. We relate to God, not assess his immutable character, as we see it.

2. The act of throwing people into infinite torture and punishment for not believing a Jewish guy from 2,000 years ago was God’s son, or unknowingly worshiping the wrong god, is extremely cruel and sadistic.

Which is why I don’t believe that. People who follow Jesus rise from the dead to everlasting life and those who don’t follow don’t have the life. There will be a painful recognition of this lack for those who don’t, but no eternal torture.

3. The statements, “God works in mysterious ways,” or “It will all make sense in heaven,” are little more than irrational cop outs. This God allows horrible atrocities to be committed against innocent men, women and children every day.

I mostly agree; those are cop-outs. I don’t throw God out for inept or wrong-headed followers.

4. Bloody animal and human sacrifices are illogical demands by a divine god as payment for petty wrong doings. These actions are no different than the rituals of archaic pagan religions. Not to mention the bizarre ritual of symbolically drinking human blood and eating human flesh.

Archaic pagan religions may be smarter than sanitized, atomized, OCD, postmodern religions of no religion. Regardless, a bloody, bodily, connective God who connects with us in Jesus is beautiful.

5. If God loves us and wants us to know and believe in him, why be so completely invisible? What is the purpose of being so illusive to those who believe and worship him?

For one thing, God is not us, so it takes some multi-dimensional capacities to have a relationship. More to the point, turning our backs makes him invisible. Nevertheless, Jesus is visible. The body of Christ is visible. The works of God’s Spirit are visible. The creator is visible in the creation.

6. God never manifests himself or performs miracles as he regularly did for the Israelites in Old Testament stories.

I’m not so sure about that. The OT is the condensed version of hundreds of years of history. If one condensed the last 2000 years into the same amount of written material, the miracles would be incredibly dense.

7. Prayers are never answered. Certainly not in the way Jesus described. Prayer has absolutely no affect on the world around us.

Nonsense. Even I have my own anecdotal evidence to refute that. God responded to my prayer last night.

8. Jesus did not fulfill major Old Testament prophesies or even fulfill his own promises and predictions.

So? Chances are he will. But I am not sure he was obligated to do anything but what he was sent to do, anyway. People do, however, make a big deal about how Jesus “proves” his validity as Savior by being the fulfillment of prophecies, so it is a worthy criticism. If Jesus were Nostradamus, maybe he would be untrustworthy.

9. The authors of much of the Bible are unknown. And of these unknown authors, the men who wrote the gospels likely never even met Jesus considering they were written 40-70 years after his death. A far cry from reliable testimony.

The man who wrote these questions does not even use his real name on his blog, so he is unknown as well – he has an ironic complaint. Regardless, hundreds of people validated the testimony of the gospel-writers. The whole community of believers has been assessing the testimony and validating it for centuries. It is hard to imagine a more reliable and tested revelation. But everyone writing the Bible thinks God will verify the testimony himself, anyway.

10. The Bible is repeatedly contradictory with itself, reality, and the laws of morality. Couldn’t God inspire a less poorly written book?

Of course the Bible contradicts itself if all one thinks it is is a moral lesson or systematic theology. The whole Bible is not meant to be morally exemplary. When King David has Uriah set up, that is hardly a suggestion to “have someone killed effectively.”

11. The Bible is open to interpretation. Everyone interprets it in the way that suits them best or serves their purposes.

Of course we interpret. We are humans, not robots. Hopefully, we discern, not just compare notes.

12. Throughout history, Christians have justified horrific actions by the Bible and its teaching.

So? They were wrong. They have also caused amazing transformation.

13. The Bible promotes hate and persecution against women, homosexuals and those who worship other gods or no god at all.

No, it actually promotes their wholeness. What’s more, the western world’s promotion of human rights is a direct expression of the Christian respect for human dignity and individual value. Democracy is basically Christianity without God, which is what makes it so attractive and dangerous.

14. According to the Bible, nearly 70% percent of the people in the world will burn in hell because they don’t believe Jesus was the son of God.

Another ironic complaint. If you don’t care about God, why would you care about being with God? Just go ahead and die. Again, I don’t think the scripture fully teaches that people burn in hell forever. They may go to ash; but all dead bodies, do.

15. The only reason I was a Christian was because I was indoctrinated into the religion as a child as a result of the culture and region of the world in which I was born.

That is too bad. A lot of people never gain faith because of that.

16. Christianity has no more rational or factual foundation than any other religion on earth that I openly reject.

These points are all just personal reactions, so it is hard to understand what is behind them. Maybe the writer has done some great thinking, but it does not appear so. Having done an awful lot of research, myself, I think religions are much more different than people have been lead to believe by postmodern, dumbed-down, pluralism promoters. The similarities are great; people come up with great stuff and long for love and life, but Jesus is a deeper foundation. Faith in Jesus is rich and very satisfying rationally, too.

17. The Christian church is disjointed and can’t even agree with one another.

That’s for sure. This is the best reason so far, that I can see, for not being a Christian. I’m often surprised that God keeps drawing people to himself by means of the church. But it happened last night after our 7pm meeting.

18. Christians are not at all ethically or morally different from non-Christians.

I think that is a good reason to become a Christian. We need to be saved. My morality does not prove Jesus, but my immorality proves my need for Him.

19. Today, powerful church leaders steal, lie and molest young children. The church repeatedly attempts to cover up these atrocities, only to reluctantly apologize as a last resort.

I think the author is mostly talking about the Roman Catholic church, which should either reform or disperse. The number one reform that needs to happen is ending the requirement that priests are celibate.

20. It is absolutely irrational to continue to believe archaic teaching with the amount of knowledge we’ve gained through science and technology. The Bible reads like a book of primitive folklore, not divinely inspired insight into our true reason for existence.

The Bible is hardly the only source of inspiration for Christians, as the Bible teaches. I agree that everything about God is not summed up in the Bible. But it seems crazy to think that knowledge is summed up in “science and technology,” which is what plenty of scientists say.

What do you think? Any faith out there? Having any stories about speaking back to the de-evangelizers?

God causes the growth

God causes the growth

I am moved to hang on to some basic teaching today.

What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. (1 Corinthians 3:5-7)

This morning, as I listened to God and prayed for the church, I took heart in in Paul’s teaching. He laments the deep problems in the church in Corinth, where he had spent so much time laboring and loving. They shocked people with their immorality. They divided up the church in factions. They had a strong contingent who thought they were spectacular, and better than Paul, their father in the faith. Some of them re-thought the gospel to reflect themselves rather than Jesus.

Some days, I look out over my beloved community of Circle of Hope and am tempted to lament. I just see the holes in the Swiss cheese. It is not a nourishing practice. Today God saved me from that by reminding me of what he has done, which is what he is likely to do again. Circle of Hope is so astoundingly rich in faith, hope and love that I begin to get nervous when there is a little dip in our storehouse of all the good things God has given us. My standards are very high. I forget that God created it all from nothing not too long ago.

It is, again, like Paul told the Corinthians:

“Think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. (1 Cor. 1:26-30)

I totally relied on this wisdom from Paul when I came to Philadelphia. I am convicted today to keep walking in it. God is bigger than our capabilities and our critics. God is greater than our wonderful history and our sinfulness. God is hopeful because of our good track record and in spite of our mediocritizing.

If we live or die, as the church, Jesus is Lord. But I am sure we will live and God will cause the growth. Here are several reasons to believe that such a life is likely which come from just the people I talked to yesterday:

  • A man walked into our door last week looking to be restored to God after medicating his mental illness with drugs and alcohol. He is finding rest.
  • A man is overcoming his sin and the wreckage it has caused in his family and circle of friends.
  • A man is experiencing the fruit of his act of courage in taking risks to follow his truest calling and it has opened up the door to welcome God into the deep parts of his being.
  • A woman is celebrating how our church came through for her when her husband was jailed and is thankful that her own new faith sustained her.

God is causing the growth. Like Jesus says, the kingdom of God is like a seed that grows day and night and one can only be in awe of it, not cause it. We plant and water, but nothing will happen without God creating the environment in which it can flourish. And that is just what God does.

Teilo’s Head

Today is St. Teilo’s Day. When we went to Llandaff Cathedral, outside Cardiff, Wales, last summer, the docent said we could open the cupboard that was around back, behind the altar, and get a peek at Teilo’s head. The great church planter’s skull was preserved there, as a relic of a life admirably lived. He died sometime after 560, which was not an easy time to live.

I think his story might encourage a few of the people I have been talking to who think their time to live is pretty challenging, too — especially the people who either need to get their head into the game of church planting again, or who feel like the church has their head stuffed in a cupboard and they don’t like it.

We’ve had some dialogue and a meeting about Circle of Hope Broad and Washington, lately, and one of the words that has risen to the surface is that we need some revival and reformation. We need to get back to basics and give our gifts. As a result, some patterns that people have established in relationships and mission are getting disrupted; people are feeling challenged, and things are changing for the better (already!). Some people feel excited; some people don’t feel so good. Especially for the people who have been giving it their all, it feels like a bit of an insult – “I give my gifts and resources already. I can’t do more.”

What I have been saying to a few of the stalwarts, where it fits, is, “The problem is not that you don’t do things, the problem is that you just do your things. You might not be a church planter, but you need to concern yourself about whether the church gets planted. You might not have time to care for the children but your love has to be great enough to care about whether they are cared for. And if you do lead the worship, or care for kids, or lead a cell or do the limited thing you can do, you need to fill it with enough love, and let it be filled with God’s Spirit, so that it can make an impact beyond the borders of your smallness.”

Maybe this is what the famous story of Teilo is about. One day his settlement was attacked and they were robbed of all their stores of fuel. In the cold, Wales winter, that meant they had to immediately go to the woods and cut down more trees. Their work was made easier when a great stag came to help them by delivering the wood with his antlers. Teilo is often pictured riding a stag. Life gets hard. Irritating things must be done. God shows up.

It will be great when you and creation are in such harmony that you can ride stags. Maybe that won’t happen. That’s no big deal. You can be in harmony with God’s own Spirit. The challenges of this day can be met. And even the small things you can do will probably end up magnified, if you allow them to be in the hands of Jesus. Let’s keep our heads in the game — it’s bigger than our incapability.