Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Sharing the Gospel In The Everyday – A Narrative Exemplar - Part 3

That was a great way to handle opposition (Atheist) to the Bible Studies, and it probably provides for greater opportunity of sharing the gospel, that wouldn't be there had Nigel demanded his rights. Now lets see what Nigel does as he remembers God is making an appeal through Nigel, in Part 3:
___________________________________________________________

“Hey, Nigel! I could really go for some of those great Tacos at Tres Hombres right about now. Wanna join me?” Nigel had been walking back to his office deep in thought about the conversation with Larry that had just taken place. He heard Sam’s greeting and glanced at his watch and couldn’t believe that it was lunchtime. The conversation with Larry had lasted longer than he’d anticipated but he couldn’t complain: he was just amazed and grateful that it had happened at all. He was hungry he realized, and he looked up to give Sam a grin.
“You bet, Sam!” Nigel really enjoyed Sam’s company, and he’d been working on building a relationship with him for the past year. Sam was several years younger than he was and had a likeable and easygoing personality. Sam loved his dogs and was a big movie buff, and there always seemed to be easy and natural conversation between the two men about these and other things. Nigel hadn’t really broached the subject of faith with Sam yet. He knew that Sam knew he was a Christian, and he’d really wanted to make sure that he didn’t look like he was only interested in being his friend if he could convert the younger man. He genuinely enjoyed Sam’s company.
“Lord, would you use me again today? Would you open a door with Sam and give me an opportunity to present your truth to him, and would you help me to be wise so I see that opportunity?” Nigel prayed, as they headed for the nearby restaurant that was a favorite for both of them. Nigel had been praying for Sam’s salvation for about a year but today it seemed that he was especially aware, with gratitude, of the many opportunities being placed before him. God did provide just the right circumstances, and Nigel knew that it was God who would ultimately draw people like Larry and Sam to Himself in His timing, yet today, that verse from II Corinthians kept running through his head: God, making his appeal through us…
As they settled into a booth and ordered drinks, their conversation flowed easily. Nigel talked about his kids and soccer, and Sam related the latest escapades of his two dogs and had Nigel howling in laughter by the time their drink orders came.
“So, what good movies have you seen lately, Sam?” Nigel asked, knowing this was a favorite topic of conversation for his friend.
Sam’s eyes lit up as he gave Nigel an animated account of how he’d just re-watched the whole Matrix Trilogy that past weekend. “I just can’t seem to get enough of them no matter how many times I see them,” Sam said, enthusiastically.
“Yeah, me too, Sam. Mary and I love to watch those,” said Nigel. At the sudden quizzical look on Sam’s face, Nigel added, “You look surprised!”
“Well, I…” Sam looked a little flustered. “It’s just that, well, you’re a Christian and all, I’ve heard and, you know, those movies being rated R, somehow I just thought that…” his voice tapered off.
Nigel scrambled to answer quickly, not wanting Sam to feel embarrassed by his assumption. “Well, there might be some scenes in those movies that I don’t agree should be there, just like I don’t always agree with every page in a book I read. But I don’t think a Christian needs to hide from culture. There are actually a lot of good things in those movies. For example, why do you think you like them so much?”
Sam thought for a moment, and then replied that he loved the action scenes. “And, there’s something else about them too… It’s like, like, maybe they just make me think about life in a different way.”
Nigel thought the Holy Spirit might be providing that opening he’d asked for, and was amazed again at the way God was putting opportunities before him that day. His amazement continued as Sam went on with his observations.
“In fact,” Sam was saying, “They make me think about death, too, and questions like ‘What happens when we die?’ I think they kind of make me feel like there’s a real community here with the human race, and at the same time wonder what it’s all about. It’s funny really,” he continued, “I never noticed until now that part of the reason I really like them is because they make me think about stuff I don’t know the answer to. That’s a weird reason to like something, huh?” he said with a chuckle.
Nigel grinned back at him and took the plunge. “Well, Sam, it sounds to me like maybe you’re asking the questions that we were all meant to ask. I mean, maybe you’re being drawn to ask those questions and in a way, drawn to see that you have a need for a relationship that will make this all make sense. I believe that God created us to have a relationship with Him and that He’ll use whatever he wants to get us to the point of seeing that need.”
“So you think ‘God’ is talking to me through the Matrix movie?” Sam’s voice wasn’t mocking, just mildly teasing.
“Not quite the way you’re saying, maybe,” said Nigel, with another grin. “But I do think that all truth is God’s truth, and that when a movie like the Matrix causes you to ask the right questions, that’s certainly within God’s control.”
“Ok. So why The Matrix movies? Why can’t When Harry Met Sally get me to wonder about the deeper truths of life?” said Sam.
Nigel took a sip of his Coke, and thought about Sam’s question.
“Well, for starters, there seem to be lots of parallels between the plot and characters of the movie, and the ‘plot’ of God’s plan for saving His people. Whether that was intentional on the part of the film maker or not, I think there’s something in us that resonates with the parts of the story that mirror a bit of God’s truth,” said Nigel.
“Like?” asked Sam
“Like the fact that Neo is a ‘Savior’ in the story. He’s called “the one”, and he’s the only one who has the ability to free humans from the Matrix. His arrival and purpose has been prophesied, and in order to set people free he ultimately sacrifices himself for all of humanity. It’s a great story, but maybe you’re so drawn to it because it mirrors, in some small, imperfect way, the greatest real story there is.” Nigel studied Sam’s face, and seeing he was listening, went on.
“That great real story is that humanity really is in trouble, because of our sin. Our sin separates us from the God who created us for perfection and glory. But the problem is that our sin also prevents us from doing anything to save ourselves. We’re like those bodies that live their whole life blindly in the Matrix – we’re essentially trapped – dead, in fact, in terms of being able to get ourselves out of this mess.”
“That’s pretty depressing,” said Sam. “And you’re usually a positive guy!”
Nigel chuckled. “If that were the end of the story, it would be more than depressing. Since we can’t help ourselves, we need someone from the outside to do it for us and, the ‘non-depressing’ end of the story is that that person has been provided for us. God gave his own Son to save us: to sacrifice His life in place of ours, and to give us the good standing with God that we’d never be able to give ourselves. He’s ‘The One’ that maybe your questions from the Matrix are leading you toward. I hope so. And I’d love to tell you more about Him if you keep having those questions, which I’m guessing you will.”
Sam was playing with the wrapper from his straw, flicking it back and forth and staring into his glass. Nigel wasn’t sure what to make of the expression on his face and decided to wait. “God, I praise you for the opportunity to speak about you. But help me to be wise here with Sam. Help me to have the right words as we end our lunch. Help me to show him Christ as the answer to his questions and the source of his life.”
“Hey, Sam,” said Nigel, “I just thought of one more thing from those movies. Remember at the end of the last movie when the Oracle is speaking to the little Indian girl, and she tells her that all you have to do is believe?”
“Yes, that’s where the Sun comes up and she says that that’s something new in the Matrix, right?” asked Sam.
“Yeah, that’s right, ” Nigel smiled at him and went on. “I was thinking last time I saw that movie about how that’s the essence of Christianity. It’s believing in “the One”, Jesus. It’s faith in Christ that saves us from eternal separation from God. He’s that savior that God might be using Neo, partly, to get you to wonder about.”
“Ok, Nigel.” Sam nodded. “You’ve got me thinking. Hey - is this the type of stuff you guys talked about in that bible group that Larry made such a stink about back at the office? Do you Christians sit around talking about movies like the Matrix?”
Nigel laughed. “I can’t say movies never come up, but you know, really, all we were doing those mornings was trying to learn more about the ONE who really saved us… Not Neo, of course, but Christ. A movie might get you thinking, but God’s provided the whole story – the real thing – in the Bible.”
Nigel and Sam were silent for a while then, as they munched on the last of the chips and salsa and waited for their check. On the way back to the office, Sam was pretty quiet until, just about the time they pulled into the parking lot, he asked,
“So, how do you know the Bible is true? Even if it was true once, hasn’t it been tampered with through the years? How can you really trust it?”
Nigel laughed and clapped Sam on the shoulder. “I see God’s just going to keep at you Sam. Those are good questions. I don’t think you’re going to find the answers in The Matrix, so how about if we have lunch again soon and keep talking?”
As Sam walked away, Nigel paused to pray, “Father, thank you for your Word. Thank you for Christ, the One. Please continue to draw Sam to you. Amen”
A few minutes later, settling back into the pile of work at his desk, he thought again: God making his appeal through us… “Wow!” he said out loud, then picked up the report on the top of the pile, and breathed out a long, amazed sigh.
___________________________________________________________

To be continued...>>>

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Sharing the Gospel In The Everyday – A Narrative Exemplar - Part 2

Welcome back to the story of Nigel, lets see how Nigel's day starts out at work and see if he takes on the role of an "Ambassador" for Christ...
Part 2:



Glancing at his watch as he rounded the corner from the stairs, Nigel grimaced, realizing he was going to be late for his meeting with the project team. He’d hoped to get to the office a bit early to put some finishing touches on his report, but he was also hoping for a few minutes to gather his thoughts before he had to face Larry. Why did it seem that he barely had time to catch his breath lately? Between work, soccer, the kids’ homework, his responsibilities at church, and the never-ending projects around the house, it seemed that he and Mary would never regain those sweet times they used to have together when they would simply sit and quietly enjoy each other’s company. Life really did seem to just get busier and busier.

Walking into the kitchen, Nigel found Mary negotiating with Katy to finish the scrambled eggs on her plate. Although running late, Nigel took a deep breath and called his sons into the kitchen for prayer. A few moments in prayer before the start of the day had become a regular practice in their home, and as Jason and Drew appeared behind him, bags and duffels in tow, Nigel was grateful for this simple routine which brought them together for a few precious minutes each day. Bowing his head, Nigel appealed to God to bless and protect his family and asked that He would enable each of them to respond to others throughout the day with deference, compassion and understanding: that they would esteem others over themselves and represent Christ well as His ambassadors.

When his prayer was done, he kissed Mary and, spilling only a little of his coffee, made his way to the car. Traffic wasn’t bad and he was grateful when he found himself arriving at the office only ten minutes later than planned. It was Wednesday morning and Nigel sighed as he mused how, until two weeks ago, he would have been here no later than 7:30. Until two weeks ago, he had lead a small Bible study with some of his fellow employees. Nigel had been surprised and grateful when Donna approached him in April, asking if he would consider leading the small group; he’d been excited about the opportunity and glad that Donna had asked. Most people at the office knew of Nigel's faith in Christ and, while he didn’t think he had the reputation of being insensitive or inappropriately pushy with his faith at work, when asked, Nigel always tried to be very forthright in speaking the truth of the gospel boldly and telling others about the person and work of Jesus Christ. Nigel had received permission from management before agreeing to lead the study, and he’d made sure that the group would conclude before the official start of the workday at 8:30. However, not everyone had been pleased.

Larry had been with the company for over twelve years and felt that he had a great deal of authority in the office. Larry was also a rather vocal atheist and would gladly engage others in conversation about his views. When he became aware of the Bible study, Larry had immediately complained to management, with the result being that while the company initially allowed the study, Larry's vociferous complaints caused them to waffle. Larry had called the Bible study an "inappropriate use of company property,” protesting that the study "distracted his people" from their work. He had further criticized the meeting by stating that clients and customers would be offended if they saw the study taking place in a business office.

Some of Nigel’s co-workers in the bible study got quite angry at Larry, declaring that they had the right to have the study – especially since management said that it was okay and they met during non-business hours! They’d asked Nigel to confront Larry and management to demand that they be allowed to continue meeting. Nigel however, had asked that they remain calm and allow him some time to think. Sure, he could confront and demand – but was that the best way to proceed? Nigel had wrestled with how to make the best testimony to the office as a whole, and had questioned whether or not pushing for his “rights” would be best. Would he, in effect, win the battle, but loose the war? Admittedly, some of the group didn't understand why Nigel would hesitate. Why wouldn't Nigel show this unbeliever that God is in control and that He wouldn’t let Christians be pushed around?

But even as he’d struggled to make a decision about the bible study, Nigel had indeed wanted Larry to see that God is in control: not to “beat” him, but to win him! And so, as the workday was drawing to a close yesterday, Nigel had stopped by Larry's office, intent on engaging the other man in an attempt to understand him. He’d asked him, in an affable way, to explain further why he objected to the bible study. He’d told Larry that he didn’t want to offend him, and that he wanted to hear what Larry believed - or didn't believe - about God and the Bible. Nigel was grateful that Larry didn’t respond to his questions with hostility. The other man had even seemed to relax and respond the sincerity of Nigel’s interest by dropping his guard a bit. To Nigel’s delight and surprise, they’d been engaged in conversation right up until the time when Larry had to leave for the day. When Nigel asked if they could talk more the next day, Larry had guardedly agreed.

"So, you're saying that the evolutionists are correct, and that man actually evolved over millions of years and that earth has been around for billions of years?" The meeting with the project team was over and Nigel found himself in the conference room alone with Larry as they looked over the data from the other team members. Their conversation had drifted back to where they had left off yesterday, and Nigel was gently pressing Larry to support some of his assertions.

Larry retorted to Nigel's latest question with, "Of course! Scientifically that’s the only explanation that makes sense. I suppose that you believe that our world and the entire universe were actually created in a week's time?!"

"To be honest with you, I do. But let me ask you this: do you believe in any type of original Creator?" Nigel asked, searching his co-workers face for an answer.

"Are you referring to all of that Intelligent Design stuff?" Larry asked, with a scoff that showed his skepticism.

"Well, sort of…" Nigel answered, "But actually, I’m asking about an Intelligent Designer, a personal Creator/Designer, not an impersonal force of some kind out there, somewhere."

"That doesn't make any sense - it's ridiculous!" Larry countered with a wave of his hand.

Nigel thought for a bit. He thought about being an ambassador. Sure, ambassadors needed a good apologetic for the faith, but he didn’t want to just win some intellectual battle with Larry, he wanted God to reach his heart. Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation. Surely what Larry needed the most was to be reconciled to God.

“God, help me to know where to speak to this man’s mind and where to speak to his heart. Give me wisdom to speak the truth of your Gospel in whatever I say,” Nigel prayed silently, before going on.

"You know, Larry, let's put creation and evolution aside for the moment, because we could go back and forth for days with different theories and evidence. Let me ask you this – what will happen when you and I die?"

Larry's expression slowly changed and he didn't answer right away. Nigel continued to patiently look at him, waiting to hear the man's thoughts.

"Well," Larry shifted a bit uncomfortably in his chair. "Nothing. We die and are buried. That's about it." Nigel could tell Larry wasn’t even comfortable with his own response, and so he continued to prod gently.

"Well, then what’s the purpose of our lives? Why do we choose to act morally, trying to do what is 'right' and avoiding those things that are 'wrong'? Why bother? I mean, why do you bother Larry? I've known you for several years and I know that you're very concerned with doing what is right: helping people, being fair and honest... You've got a good reputation and you’re well respected. What do you hope for? When your life is over, what will be the point of it?"

Larry grew visibly more uncomfortable. His frustration was evident in his facial expression and the way he diverted his eyes. Finally, Larry said, "Well, all I can say is that after I'm gone – I hope to be well remembered".

Nigel stared at Larry and suddenly realized the sorrow he felt for this man. This man who was sitting across the table from him was living his life denying his Creator, railing against God, His Word, and His offer of salvation through grace. The best he could find to hope for was to be remembered as a good person when his life was finally over!

Made bold by his compassion for the man, Nigel continued, “What about our sin, Larry? What happens to that?"

"Well, nothing happens to it,” Larry responded. “We all sin: no one's perfect, we all know that. We just have to hope that at the end of the day, the good in the world will outweigh the bad and mankind will continue to progress until sin is done away with. I know that there can't be any utopia, but as we learn more and science and technology advances, our society will continue to get better. Can't you see how far man has progressed over the centuries?"

Nigel looked pensively at the papers in front of him. "Actually Larry, the heart of man has remained the same since the beginning. Yes, we do all sin – you're right – and we can’t help ourselves or fix that problem – no matter what science or technology does. We need help from someone apart from ourselves."

Larry nervously shuffled the papers in his hands; "Nigel, I have to get back to my office. But, tell you what: I’d like to pick up this conversation at some point. I appreciate your honesty and the fact that you haven't tried to push 'religion' down my throat. I respect you for that. But, I've gotta get back to work now.”

Nigel watched as Larry left the conference room, amazed at the conversation that had just taken place.


To be continued...>>>


Monday, February 26, 2007

Sharing the Gospel In The Everyday – A Narrative Exemplar

Over the next several days I'm going to be posting parts of a Group Project that was assigned as part of an Access Residency Class attended by the below classmates.
The residency was titled: Communicating the Gospel.
The professor is Zack Eswine of Covenant Theological Seminary.
Each student provided part of this Narrative and colaborated via email to produce the final project. We used 2 Corinthians 5:16-21 to be our text to be the foundation for communicating the Gospel, and we tried to incorporate the idea of being an Ambassador for Christ throughout the story. The main Charachter is named Nigel and throughout his day he encounters opportunities of being an Ambassador for Christ. He is involved in imploring people to be "reconciled" to God as "God is making His appeal through us".
I hope you enjoy it.

Grace and Peace,
Chris Allen
Coram Deo!!!

Covenant Theological Seminary
Access Residency - January 2007

<>Group Paper By:
Heidi Stevens,
Matt Eastman, Bill Barrow, Chris Allen, Jed Jedlicka


"From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." II Corinthians 5:16-21

<>

Nigel closed his Bible as he heard the sound of Katy's footsteps coming down the carpeted stairs. He always held his breath as she descended, and wondered whose idea it was to make the feet of those fuzzy, footed, zip-up pajamas out of slippery plastic. She'd fallen more than once. This time though, she arrived at the bottom step safely, and toddled over to his chair, thumb in mouth, dragging her beloved blankie and the tattered, stuffed lama that accompanied her everywhere. Nigel hoisted her onto his lap, burrowing his nose down into her tangled hair so he could smell the sweetness there.

"Morning', papa," she said, snuggling into the position where she fit so perfectly, between his lap and chin. As she reached up and patted his cheek, he felt the warm, moist, smallness of her fingers against his face, and smiled as butterflies of pleasure danced in his chest. Sitting there quietly with his three-year-old daughter, Nigel listened to the sound of his house waking up. Mary was starting the coffee in the kitchen, and he could hear the muffled sounds of arguing coming from upstairs as Jason and Andrew drew their morning battle lines. Nigel sighed in frustration as the sounds of bickering steadily escalated, knowing that in a moment he'd need to stand up and go referee. Procrastinating, he smiled wryly as he thought about how God painted pictures for him with his children: all that was beautiful and all that was broken about a father's relationship with his children played out each day in Nigel's life. He had to admit that his attitude toward God was more like the grumbling and whining that seemed to be constantly at his sons' lips than like the still, sweet contentment of Katy on his lap. And if he was honest, it was much easier to picture God sighing in frustration over him, than feeling butterflies of love and joy.

He thought about what he'd just been reading in II Corinthians: "We are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us." He'd been trying to read slowly, and understand the background of familiar texts like this one rather than just passing over them without much thought. Nigel knew that Paul was painting a picture for the Corinthian church with his word choice... so what did he know about ambassadors? Nigel had to get past the unhelpful pictures he had in his head of fancy clothes and state dinners... Ambassadors were sent out, and they lived as minorities in alien cultures, representing the one who'd sent them. He knew that Paul had to deal with members of the Corinthian church who were challenging his authority, so it made sense that the apostle had chosen to use that word picture: he was an ambassador for Christ and it was God who was ultimately making the appeal to the Corinthian church to stop their conflict and be reconciled to Himself.

Nigel sighed as he heard his sons' arguing escalating. He kissed Katy's head again and swung her off his lap, heading for the stairs and trying to control his own inward grumbling at being jostled out of his comfortable musings. Couldn't there be just one morning of peace from those boys? Why did things like misplaced soccer cleats and broken zippers on book bags always have to be someone's "fault"? Nigel never felt like he knew what to say in the face of the constant conflict, and he prayed desperately that he would have something a bit more sage than "Cut it out!" to impart to Jason and Andrew when he reached the top step. Was this what an ambassador to a hostile nation felt like?

He rounded the corner of the landing and met his eight-year-old son's rage.

"Dad, he's so unfair! He's such a liar! He promised I got to take Super Mario Advance today, because he got it all weekend. He promised! He's so stupid! Daaa..aad, he PROMISED!"

Nigel started counting quietly to himself as he struggled to figure out what his face should communicate. Why did a Gameboy have the power to create such unrest? Had he completely failed to teach his children about more eternal things like brotherly love and dieing to oneself? He stepped to the door of Jason's room, and saw that the boy was packing up his soccer bag, getting ready for school, as if nothing at all were wrong. Taking a deep breath, he addressed the thirteen-year-old.

"Jason, are you breaking a promise to your brother?"

"Yes, but, I need..."

Nigel interrupted him. "Jason, are you breaking a promise to your brother?"

"Yes, but, he said..."

Nigel stopped him again. "Jason, are you..."

He stopped and thought. We implore you on behalf of Christ..." But how do I make this about Christ, not about me?” he thought desperately. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

"Jason, are you remembering who you... who we, belong to? Are you remembering that you have the righteousness of Christ? Are you remembering that He has set you free so that you can love your brother?"

Nigel watched his son's face, hoping that his words didn't sound manipulative. He wanted Jason to melt; he wanted to see his heart really "get it." He longed for a moment of communion with him: Dad and son, fellow sinners saved by grace. He wanted his words to be wise and winsome and not come off like a smug sledgehammer of spiritual guilt...

But things rarely quite looked like Nigel wanted. Jason slumped his shoulders, then huffed and shrugged and threw the game cartridge at Andrew, before going back to packing his duffle bag. Nigel noticed that both cleats seemed to be there, and that for the moment, the tension seemed to have left the air, and he thanked God sincerely for those small mercies. Not knowing what else to say, but glad for the peace, he ruffled Jason's hair and headed downstairs to grab some coffee and a kiss from Mary on his way out the door. "...God making his appeal through us" What did that look like? "God, help me to understand this," Nigel prayed. He thought of the day ahead and what he'd face at the office, and he prayed that he'd miraculously become better at this "ambassador" stuff on the way to work, before he had to face part two of the conversation that had started yesterday in the office.


To be continued...>>>

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Jesus Calms the Storm

Matthew 8:23-27
Jesus Calms a Storm
23And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. 24And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. 25And they went and woke him, saying, "Save us, Lord; we are perishing." 26And he said to them, "Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?" Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. 27And the men marveled, saying, "What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?"
This story always makes me smile about how Jesus handles those disciples. I like to imagine that Jesus was in the boat asleep, but at the same time causing the waves to toss the boat about. And he does it just enough to really freak them out and all the while it was in His control. The other funny thing is that Jesus may have calmed the storm but he most certainly didn't calm the disciples fears. In fact it seems that although they were extremely afraid of the storm, they were even more freaked out by the power of the one in their midst who could stop it instantly. So, I guess sometimes we need storms in our lives so that we'll marvel at how much power God has. Therfore, we ought to be even more afraid of His power than any kind of storm that can come in our lives. We should be very greatful that He has given us Grace and He is our Father. If God is for us, who can be against us??
Romans 8:31
God's Everlasting Love
31What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be[h] against us?

Grace and Peace,
Chris

Monday, February 05, 2007

A LIVING HOPE IN A HOPELESS WORLD:

I would like to direct you to the link above which will take you to the website Echoes of Grace. My dear friend Dr. George Bloomquist writes a monthly newsletter. Please check it out. I've inserted an sample of the article below>>>


A Bible Teaching Newsletter of Dr. George E. Bloomquist ….

A LIVING HOPE IN A HOPELESS WORLD:
A Study of I & II Peter, Part XXIV, II Peter 2:1-3 February 2007 Issue

If you notice from the title of this issue, this is the twenty-fourth month that we have been walking through Peter’s epistles to the church. We have had a few months when we focused on Christ’s coming into the world and His resurrection. However, in keeping with the purpose and focus of this monthly epistle, we return to II Peter and three verses that focus on the danger of false teachers.
In these two epistles, Peter has emphasized true heart-knowledge, the need to be serious about our Christian life, the certainty of the prophetic Word of Scripture, and the Second Coming of the Lord. He now warns us of one of the most insidious dangers to the church, false teachers.
In an age in which doctrine is becoming less important and methods and schemes for “church development” engulf our discussions and practices, this passage must be understood. To assume that every successful-appearing work with the name church on it is kosher is to be blind to what the apostle predicts and we see unfolding before our eyes. Thus, Peter’s words are a clear guide concerning true and false teaching.


Click here to read the rest of the article: http://www.echoesofgrace.com/feb2007.pdf

More and more, in our churches in America today, we have been receiving a message that doesn't at all sound like anything that Peter or Paul had communicated to any of the churches in their Epistles. It has become an internal, self-centered, ME-ism, that has infiltrated our churches with a consumerism mentality, that sells ideas and techniques that are new, innovative, and pragmatic. Whatever shows results, and is meeting the "felt needs" and is "touching the heart" of the people, that's what we have become as a church. We will do "Whatever it Takes" to bring people into the church. Sadly this means we think that doctrine is antithetical and un practical or irrelevant. And, we have also pushed aside an encounter with God and his attributes. That makes people uncomfortable. People will say "We need something that is relevant." Since when is God not relevant? That is like saying that "Jesus at times didn't behave as a very good Christian."
What if we were to revisit the concept of God's Holiness? I totally believe that everything in the church centers on this attribute of God. This informs how the church is to do everything. It impacts evangelism, discipleship, and leaving a legacy to the family. If we would remind ourselves that God is Holy, and try to understand what that means, I think we just might see less of an embrace of a "ME-ism" and a greater embrace of God, His Holiness and an appreciation of His Sovereign Grace.
If I want to leave a legacy to my family I need to show them this about God. They need to know why I am SO consumed with his Holiness and His Sovereign Grace, that it compels me to dig into His word more and more. These are things that they will see and observe day-in and day-out and can not be burned up (like a letter) in a fire or eaten by the dog.
Dads!!! If you were to write a letter or even BE a letter to your family to pass along... Write something like this:

2 Timothy 3:10-17 (English Standard Version)

All Scripture Is Breathed Out by God
10You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, 11my persecutions and sufferings that happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra--which persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me. 12Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, 13while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. 14But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom[a] you learned it 15and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17that the man of God[b] may be competent, equipped for every good work.
1 Peter 4:10-12 (English Standard Version)
10As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace: 11whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies--in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

2 Peter 1:15-17 (English Standard Version)

15And I will make every effort so that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things.

Christ's Glory and the Prophetic Word

16For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, "This is my beloved Son,[a] with whom I am well pleased,"
This month's edition of the Echoes of Grace Newsletter by Dr. George Bloomquist does a really good job of bringing these things to light. As well does this weeks topic on the White Horse Inn called Narcissism Gone Wild.
Grace and Peace,
Chris Allen
Coram Deo!!!