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Posts Tagged ‘Scripture’

I’m back from New Attitude, a cleverly-advertised conference that has slogans like “Forget Reinvention; Save the Wheel,” and “I *whale* New Attitude,” or “Yes, na.”  My mom asked what were the shapes on my wristband.  They were letters: almost shapeless letters. 
 
The conference had dozens of insights and applications that I may or may not share.  The one I thought about today at work was evangelism.  God always talks to me about evangelism.  And I don’t know how to respond.  What about gender roles?  Should I be at work?  Work is where I know people who aren’t saved.  But I don’t really talk to them about the gospel – or anything else.  How do I start a conversation at work?  Is it appropriate?  What about outside of work?  Should I witness to little kids or to women, or is it good to tell men, too?  Should I be sharing with every person, or wait for those special and obvious opportunities? 
 
Why do I have to do it alone?  Do I? 
 
Searching for answers in the Bible, I wondered about the early Christians.  The women were taught to be keepers at home, which shuts down access to non-Christians beyond your household.  But there was food that needed to be acquired.  Did they talk to their grocers?  If you’re a farmer, male or female, you probably spend entire days alone.  So you’re not spending your whole life evangelizing.  Is that an excuse or a motivation for someone like me? 
 
CJ Mahaney preached one night about talking to yourself.  He said it’s good as long as you’re intentional about telling yourself true things, like God’s promises, and what God’s done for you.  One way to do this is to sing Christian/true/worship/Scripture-based songs.  So at work over lunch I listened to some of RC Sproul Jr’s (and the Highlands Study Center’s) Basement Tapes.  On the way to and from work I listened to a Michael Card tape I have in my car.  About a decade ago he wrote the official song for that year’s National Day of Prayer.  “If my people will humbly pray, and seek My face and turn away from all their wicked ways, then I will hear them and move my hand, and freely then will I forgive, and I will heal their land.” 
 
Near the end, the prayer-song continues, “Grant us hope that we might see a future for the land we love: our life, our liberty.”  I was driving on a boring American road with fences and cement sidewalks, a few trees that were artificially located there.  The politics are less than hopeful to me.  I didn’t mind visiting Kentucky, and Chicago is my climactic and cultural home away from home, but the only hopeful and redeeming and loved thing about this country to me is the people.  I wonder how much longer the rest of it will last. 
 
That’s one of the things that contributes to my evangelism angst.  America is so lost, and as much as someone who barely talks about God to people can judge, fairly closed to the gospel.  I want to change the world (and be in community with those who change the world), but I don’t know how.  We watched a video about the Bible shortage in Uganda.  In a congregation of 210, there were ten Bibles.  Everyone was eager for a Bible, desperate to hear even one verse read.  Those with Bibles handed them off to unsaved neighbors who read it and got saved themselves.  Does that work here? 
 
I have a friend who is planting a church.  His family is a missionary family to Denver, Colorado.  They’ve studied the Bible and decided that the way to plant a church is to live out and preach the gospel in their neighborhood as they go.  I’m afraid or shy or lazy or doubtful, because I don’t see my neighbors as that open.  The questions come back: how many neighbors does it take to obey?  I only have to talk to one at a time.  And don’t I care? 
 
Amy of Humble Musing Fame writes about different callings, and her life.  She wants to raise her kids in a safer, less worldly place.  Is that wrong? she wonders.  Her answer is that she’s doing this out of faith, following what God has called her to do: raise a big family and blog and support her husband and talk to checkers in the supermarkets.  I hope, at least, that my calling is different.  Like I said, I want to change the world. 
 
It’s so much easier to love the apparently more-open people groups in Uganda, or in the Middle East where there is a hunger for the Bible and the gospel.  Does that mean I should go there?  Or should I do hard things?  Should I evangelize Denver?  Or should I meet my neighbors? 
 
The comforting, answer-part of the New Attitude weekend was its focus on and faith in the Bible.  The messages convicted me that if I were reading, studying, memorizing, and meditating on the Bible more, I wouldn’t be worried about all these questions.  My next step would be evident and my faith would be ok with knowing just that.  The answers would come up, and I would be peaceful.  My suspicion is that prioritizing Scripture would also make me a ready and passionate evangelist. 
 
So here’s what I’m doing: memorizing Psalm 37, and reading Genesis (along with Henry Morris’s The Genesis Record, I think).  We Christians, we’ve generally been let off the hook, bribed into daily devotions by the dangling offer of “all it takes is ten minutes a day.”  I have a feeling that is the wrong perspective.  From my own personal experience I know I waste way too much time, and that I am more peaceful, obedient, and close to God if I spend more time intentionally studying His Word.  Pray for me.  Join me.  See if it makes a difference in my blogging. 
 
To God be all glory,
Lisa of Longbourn
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In case you haven’t determined from my other posts, especially those about “Changing Church,” I have some serious concerns about the evangelical Christian Church in America. A year ago I led a Bible study. And it is a symptom of the problems with evangelicalism that I must clarify: that means we took passages of the Bible and studied them. We figured out what the words meant, how the passages were connected with other parts of Scripture, and how to apply them. The topic was spiritual gifts. One of the primary passages on spiritual gifts in the Bible is 1 Corinthians. Typically a theologian would point you to select verses in chapter 12. However, spiritual gifts are the topic throughout 12, 13, and 14. This information fits because, in context, we saw that spiritual gifts are (this is so obvious) part of Church structure and purpose. Our group ended up discussing and discovering a lot about how the Church was intended to “run.”

from Whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” – Ephesians 4:16

Ephesians 4, also a defining passage for the Church, is another chapter describing spiritual gifts. There are also passages in Romans and 1 Peter. In none of these do we see church buildings. The four-point sermon is not described, nor the “invitation.” Come to think of it, a weekly offering wasn’t part of the instructions. There is no gift for “treasury,” though there is one for “giving.”

To some extent, I am still trying to figure out what the Bible teaches about the design for the Church. What did Paul tell Timothy the Church should look like? How should the assemblies go? Who should assemble; when; where; how often? Is it like a network of small groups that interact and overlap? How do elders fit in? What does an elder do? How many elders did God plan for churches? Do they need to be formally ordained? Does a teacher have to be an elder? Does an elder have to teach? If they do, is it every week?

*Deep breath* I have a lot of questions. And I have some ideas I’m exploring. Some might ask how relevant my search is to real life. Occasionally God reminds me He is more important than a completely worked-out theology. He’ll teach me what I need to know. Mostly I need to know I should trust Him.

So I read up on these things. And I try to have an application-oriented study. But I’m not pragmatic. Truth is more important to me than success. I won’t take a group that “does it right” without believing the right thing. I’d rather not be part of a church that is high on creeds and low on follow-through. For one thing, that is my tendency, and I need influences to counter my laziness.

I’m not alone in my dissatisfaction with the Church. A lot of people my age leave, and I can’t entirely blame them. For one thing, my friends and I want challenged. We want examples. We need interaction across generations that is generally unavailable to us at traditional churches. Some who leave their childhood churches gather with others craving spiritual experiences though they were raised outside of church. An overall term for these gatherings is the “emergent church.”

This church and its leaders tend to have embraced a unique philosophy/theology. It is unitarian, communal, experiential: meaning respectively that there could be many roads to salvation and a relationship with God, evangelism and the Christian life should be more about serving the poor and building real there-for-you relationships, and worship must be a multi-sensory encounter.

One of the most frequent things I hear is an emphasis, almost a demand, for “alternative worship.” There is also contemplative prayer. The idea that conversion is a process can be found. In a book I am currently reading, a missionary is encouraging Muslim converts to keep the Koran, keep the the mosques, and be “Messianic Muslims.”

Here’s the thing. Most of these emergent believers and former evangelicals (and some others: family-integrated church members, some house churches, other conservative “fundamentalist” movements) are identifying real problems in the Church. The difference is the source of their solution.

I am searching for a back-to-the-Bible approach such as advocated by the New Testament Reformation Fellowship. The other options would be slight reform (as explained in the Purpose Driven Church and other such books) or theological abdication for what works. These alternatives are man-centered, offering either that which appeals and entertains men, or that which men think will work, borrowing “truth” from “wherever it can be found,” including pagan religions, popular psychology, New Age spirituality, Hollywood, and ancient mysticism.

Back to the topic of spiritual gifts, one oft-overlooked and even supressed gift is that of discernment. “Discerning of spirits,” can mean telling whether a spirit (message or soul) is from God or not. John MacArthur has compiled an entire book on the subject for contemporary issues, entitled Fool’s Gold. There are websites like Let Us Reason, Apprising Ministries, and the Christian Research Net. I believe this is one of my gifts as well as a topic I believe to be vital to the Church.

So I feel obligated to warn you about reliance on The Message paraphrase of the Bible, Brennan Manning’s writings, Rick Warren’s writings, anything Emergent Church or “Christian mysticism.” The argument that one must have read a book to denounce it, or have met a person to know that they are false teachers is invalid. The spiritual gift of discernment comes from God, and is primarily a testing of spirits against the pure, absolutely true Word of God. For specifics of why these people, books, movements, and ideas are unbiblical, please consult the links above. I have personally had exposure to each of these, but not immersion. However, the links provided do go into detail, with quotes and point-by-point refutations.

To summarize: the Church has problems. The solution to these problems can be found in the Bible, and the cause in how we have sold out to our culture and human philosophies rather than believing the instructions God gave. Some people who recognize these same problems and are very insightful in how they are related to each other and to statistics coming out about the Church have resorted to unbiblical “solutions,” which will cause more harm than good. Christians must be on their guard against these philosophies and practices. This is done by being solidly grounded in the Bible, and testing every movement against it.

Colossians 2:6-8, “As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him: Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving. Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.”

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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