Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Across the Spectrum

I just finished reading a fantastic book entitled Across the Spectrum: Understanding Issues in Evangelical Theology by Gregory A. Boyd and Paul R. Eddy. It is an introductory book on the various doctrinal viewpoints of evangelicals, including the foreknowledge debate, the creation debate, the Christology debate, Calvinism/Arminianism, charismatic gifts, women in ministry, and end times, and I've been using it as a resource for my Theology 101 class. It is not meant to be a systematic theology textbook nor is it written from the doctrinal positions of the primary authors. It does not attempt to present a balanced overview of Christian doctrine or to argue for the superiority of one viewpoint over the other. Rather, it serves as an introduction to the diverse theological perspectives represented in the evangelical church. Obviously, we don't have everything figured out yet and probably won't have most things figured out this side of heaven. But this book made me want to dig into Scripture more, search for the Truth more, and appreciate the diversity of the Body of Christ more.

As endorser Dennis Okholm of Wheaton College said,
"At a time when some are tempted to mistake the white light of evangelical orthodoxy for a single band in the spectrum, Boyd and Eddy remind us just how colorful evangelical theology can be. The authors do what no book on the market does: In one volume they faithfully represent divergent views on the crucial issues that divide evangelical, and they do so in an ubiased, succinct, and lively manner."

If you are looking for a quick snapshot of Biblically-rooted theological perspectives, I would recommend Across the Spectrum.

Psalm 119:10

"I have tried my best to find you-- please don't let me wander from your commands."

This reminds me of the same desperation we heard in verse 8: "please don't give up on me." When was the last time I truly searched for God as though my life depended on it? The NASB translates the verse "I have searched for you with all my heart," and that phrase pops up over and over again in Psalm 119, included verses 2 and 145.

It also reminds me of Matthew 7:7, "Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you." I love the way the NLT translation captures the continuous tense of the verbs-- I need to keep asking, seeking, and knocking. I've got to keep pressing forward.

I need to get desperate in my search for God, and digging into Scripture is the best way to do that.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Calvin vs. Arminius

At the risk of being labeled a semi-Pelagian again, I thought I would post some thoughts from an email I sent earlier today. An individual contacted us wanting to know where we stand on the issues of Calvinism/Arminianism, foreknowledge, and election. Personally, I wish people were contacting us to find out how many people we were baptizing, how much money we were giving to missions, and how we were helping people become fully-devoted followers of Christ.

Before the comments come pouring in, I understand that our views on the aforementioned doctrines affect how we carry out those missions. But let's face it. People have been debating these issues for two thousand years, and we are still finding a Biblical basis for each. I'm not saying they aren't important. They are very important. What I am saying is that I can become so wrapped up in trying to unravel the mysteries of those doctrines that I neglect the commands that Jesus clearly and unarguably gave me to go make disciples, to feed the hungry, to care for the sick, to release the spiritually captive, etc.

By the way, I'd highly recommend the book Across the Spectrum by Gregory Boyd and Paul Eddy. It examines some of the doctrinal tensions present in evangelical Christianity, and I've really enjoyed reading it.

Anyway, here are some of the thoughts that I shared with the emailer:

For starters, I would point you towards our church’s statement of beliefs here. As we’ve printed at the top of the belief statement, we really do embrace “In the essentials we need unity, in the non-essentials we need freedom; but in all things we need love.” In this statement, we set forth the things we view as “essential” to the faith (those things on which all orthodox Christians will agree) and those things that are non-essential but distinctive to our community (those things that we hold to be Biblical but do not affect our ability to identify with and fellowship with those of other doctrinal persuasions. For example, our practice of believer’s baptism by immersion and our view of the Holy Spirit’s active presentation of all spiritual gifts throughout the church age.)

National Community Church is non-denominational in make-up, and we have members from a wide array of backgrounds- Catholic, Episcopal, Pentecostal, Charismatic, Presbyterian, Baptist, Lutheran, etc. We are affiliated with two networks of churches. The first is the Assemblies of God, which serves as our theological connection. The second is the Willow Creek Association, which serves as our methodological connection.

On the issue of Calvinism/Arminianism and the detailed doctrines that flow from that (such as election and foreknowledge), we do not take a hard stand one way or the other. At NCC, you will find people who lean more Arminian and people who lean more Reformed/Calvinist. There are certainly extreme positions of both of these views that we would reject as a church, but in general, we land in the middle of the tension we see in Scripture; there are multitudes of verses that seem to validate both views. I believe that both views have much to teach us and that an understanding of both leads us to a more balanced perspective of the grace of God and the salvation he offers us. We believe that God elects us unconditionally, through absolutely no merit of our own (Ephesians 2:8-9), but that he extends to us a choice that we must make (Romans 10:13).

Did he choose us or did we choose him? Based on reading both Deuteronomy 30:15-20 and John 15:16, I acknowledge a tension that leads me to answer, “yes.” He chose us and we chose him. Personally, I believe the most Biblical position is discovered when properly understanding both positions and acknowledging the Scriptural truths found in each. The Calvinist rightly emphasizes God's sovereignty and divine prerogative, while the Arminian rightly emphasizes man's free will and responsibility. When considered together, we stand in awe at the mystery of our salvation.

The questions of foreknowledge and election often stem from a cause-effect understanding of how things work. Did God elect us because he foreknew? Or did he foreknow us because he elected us? Because God exists outside of time, it’s very difficult to assign a cause-effect relationship to these things. In many ways, it remains a mystery. Scripture clearly states “For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren.” We believe in foreknowledge and election. The questions and debate surrounding the doctrine of election revolve around how election works, when it occurs, and on what basis it occurs. Again, you would find people at NCC on both sides of that debate.

I guess the bottom line is that we really try to focus on the essentials here at NCC. We are diligent to discover the truths of Scripture and teach them. In fact, we just talked a length about election, foreknowledge, and the Calvin/Arminian debate at my Theology 101 small group last week. However, we know that these debates have been going on for two thousand years now and we will probably never have our theology worked out 100% on this side of heaven.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Psalm 119:9

"How can a young person stay pure? By obeying your word and following its rules."

There is a pattern emerging here, isn't there? Obeying God's Word, following his rules, keeping his commands, learning his principles-- seems to be the answer for everything, huh? There is a tendency for me to become very tired or legalistic when trying to comprehend and apply that. But...

This verse emphasizes a point that I learned early on in my youth group days. The laws of God are not given to us to kill our fun; they are given to us to protect us. When we understand that God's precepts are a gift of his grace-- to give us the life he designed us for and to lead us to the grace he offers us-- then we step out of legalism and into freedom. It's a mystery.

In this verse, the Message refers to the Word of God as a map. So many young people are searching for their "purpose" in life and the "meaning" for their existence. Go to the Scriptures! We only understand our story when we see it against the backdrop of His Story. But it's not just about knowing the Scriptures; it's about living life with the Scriptures as my map. It reminds me of 2 Timothy 2:5, "And athletes cannot win the prize unless they follow the rules." God gives us his Word because he wants us to win. He wants us to live in a way that is pure, holy, and abundant.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Psalm 119:8

"I will obey your principles. Please don't give up on me."

You can hear the desperation in the Psalmist's voice. It's like he's been building his case for the importance of obeying God, and as he pronounces his confession of obedience, he is also faced with his own shortcomings-- please don't give up on me-- I'll get there-- be patient-- I can't do it on my on. This is one of my favorite verses in the whole chapter-- I'll follow you because I know it's best, but I know I don't always do that perfectly, so please don't give up on me!

It reminds me of something I said yesterday: "I understand that I am responsible for what I teach and will be judged accordingly-- so help me God." I made a bold statement that I know I cannot fulfill on my own. Faced with my inability, I pleaded to God for help. I and my teaching are subject to your judgment-- please don't give up on me!

The NIV and the NASB say, "Do not forsake me." It's the same word used in Psalm 38:21: "Do not forsake me, O LORD; O my God, do not be far from me!" and in Psalm 71:18: "And even when I am old and gray, O God, do not forsake me, until I declare Your strength to this generation, Your power to all who are to come."

We've got a job to do. It's to declare the strength of God to this generation. Ultimately, that won't come from our innovation, our creativity, or our outreach methods. While I'm all for innovation and communicating the Gospel in a language that is understandable to those around us, our success in declaring the strength of God to our generation will ultimately be the result of our dedication to the Truth of the Word of God and our obedience to its principles.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Chase the Lion Curriculum

I'm super excited that the new Chase the Lion small group curriculum is available for pre-order from Lifeway's Threads! Big thanks to Mark for letting me run with this thing!

The curriculum is based on Mark Batterson's In a Pit With a Lion on a Snowy Day, but I expanded the topics to include more in-depth Bible study on each. There's a member book for each person in the small group-- kinda like a workbook with reflection questions. And there's a leader kit with creative ideas for group interaction, community building, Bible discussion, Scripture memorization, and prayer experiments.

Pre-order your copy here! You can also read a sample chapter here!

NCC Small Group FAQs

I've received several emails this week from other churches asking questions about how we do groups at NCC, so I thought I'd post a link to my frequently asked questions series. It's my answers to some of the questions we're asked the most about our discipleship philosophy and strategy, our small group system, finding leaders, multiplying groups, promoting groups, recruiting and training leaders, etc. Here's the link:

NCC Small Groups FAQ

Thursday, July 26, 2007


I'm heading offsite today. One of my favorite spots to get offsite is Great Falls, VA. Sometime, my mom can tell you about her adventures there; it's a much better story than mine.

Anyway, it's always good to get out of the office and into the outdoors to help me gain perspective. I'll be doing some studying and prayer and hopefully hearing God talk about fall semester and 2008. I'll be proactively scheduling some things in compliance with my new take back the calendar initiative. And I'll be studying for and gearing up for some of our fall teaching series on zonegathering. Good times.

Name Calling

I was just accused by another blogger of demonstrating "centered of the self semi-pelagian new evangelical emerging rebellion against the Bible."

Um...does anyone even know what that means?! :) Okay, yes, I do know what all those words mean and can comprehend the meaning when strung together...but...wow. It made me laugh a little bit. Funny that I blasted pelagianism in Theology 101, but they weren't in that class. Obviously, this person has never met me nor heard my strong exhortations to people to dig into the Bible, guard the Gospel, etc.

On the Desk Today...

I'll be reading about pneumatology and ecclesiology today. Those are just really big fancy words for the Holy Spirit and the church. I've really been enjoying this Theology 101 class, but it's requiring massive amounts of prep work. I read over 500 pages last week on the doctrine of salvation, and it covered a wide range of perspectives at just about every point along the Arminian/Calvinism spectrum. That will blow your brain to little tiny pieces.

The Holy Spirit and the Church are probably my two favorite topics, so I'll enjoy the reading assignments today.

Next week is End Times. Ugh. Anybody want to fill in for me?

Theology 101 Notes: Doctrine of God

These are the notes from the third week of Theology 101:


There is one true God.
There is one true God. God is called by many different names because of the different dimensions of His personality, but God is one (Deuteronomy 6:4). God is super-dimensional and eternally self-existent (John. 8:54-59). God is omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent. He is the creator of the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1-2). While God is one, He has revealed Himself in three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19).
- From National Community Church Statement of Beliefs

Does God Exist?
Since we have adopted a “faith seeking understanding” posture for this class, we have basically assumed the existence of God because the Bible assumes his existence. However, from the Middle Ages and into the Enlightenment, Christian thinkers developed three basic types of theistic proofs:
  • Ontological Argument- the idea of God must exist; his nonexistence is inconceivable. Man cannot consider the finite without at the same time thinking of the infinite which bounds and determines the finite. Devised by Anselm. (Georg Hegel, The Phenomenology of the Mind; Stanley Grenz, Theology for the Community of God)
  • Cosmological and Teleological Argument- God must exist as the cause of the world or as the cause of what we observe in the natural world. Thomas Aquinas used this argument in Summa Theologica.
  • Moral Argument- the practices of all social communities reveal a universal code of morality. Immanuel Kant was the first major philosopher to use the moral argument. The moral argument has been popularized in modern times by C. S. Lewis.
Romans 1:19-20
Because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.

The Trinity
“May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” (2 Corinthians 13:14)

“The concept of tri-unity lies at the heart of the Christian understanding of God and therefore is necessary in order to maintain the central message of the Bible.” (Stanley Grenz, Theology for the Community of God, p. 54)

Trinity: The term designating one God in three persons. Although not itself a Biblical term, “the Trinity” has found a convenient designation for the one God self-revealed in Scripture as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It signifies that within the one essence of the Godhead we have to distinguish three “persons” who are neither three gods on one side, not three parts or modes of God on the other, but coequally and coeternally God. (Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, p. 112)

Trinity: the doctrine that God eternally exists as three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and each person is fully God, and there is one God. (Wayne Grudem, Bible Doctrine, p. 494)

“The only distinctions between the members of the Trinity are in the ways they relate to each other and in the ways they related to the creation.” They have “ontological equality but economic subordination.” In other words, “equal in being but subordinate in role.” (Wayne Grudem, Bible Doctrine, p. 117)

Presence of the Trinity in Scripture
The concept of the Trinity is not clearly spelled out in Scripture. However, this truth is revealed in various parts of Scripture. The following passages illustrate the Trinity:

  • The Creation- Genesis 1:26: Then God said, “Let us make man in our own image, according to our likeness.” The Holy Spirit was “hovering over the face of the waters” according to Genesis 1:2. In John 1:3, Jesus’ role in creation is revealed: “All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.”
  • Birth of Jesus- Luke 1:35: The angel answered and said to her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God.”
  • Baptism of Jesus- Matthew 3:16-17: After his baptism, as Jesus came up out of the water, the heavens were opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like dove and settling on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, and I am fully pleased with him.” **See also Mark 1:9-11, Luke 3:21-22, John 1:32-34
  • Great Commission- Matthew 28:19: Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.
  • Pauline Blessing- 2 Corinthians 13:14: The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
  • Salvation- John 14:26: But when the Father sends the Counselor as My representative—and by the Counselor I mean the Holy Spirit—He will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I myself have told you. The Trinity is revealed in the salvation process- the election of the Father, the sanctification of the Holy Spirit, and the sprinkling of the saving blood of Christ. See also Ephesians 1:13-14: In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation--having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God's own possession, to the praise of His glory.
  • Book of Jude- Jude 20-21: But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life.

Content of the Doctrine of the Trinity
  • God is one- Deuteronomy 6:4, Isaiah 44:6, 1 Corinthians 8:6, Romans 3:30, Ephesians 4:6, 1 Timothy 1:17
  • God is three- John 1:1-4, John 20:28, Colossians 2:9, Hebrews 1:8 (Jesus is God); Acts 5:3-4, 1 Corinthians 2:10-11, 1 Corinthians 12:4-6 (Holy Spirit is God)
  • God is a diversity- Matthew 11:27, John 14:26, Hebrews 7:25, 1 John 1:2
  • God is a unity- John 17:22-23

Historical Development of the Trinity
  • Deity of Christ- First Ecumenical Council of Nicea, 325 AD
  • Deity of the Holy Spirit- Second Ecumenical Council of Constantinople, 381 AD

Three Trinitarian Heresies
  • Tritheism- there is not one God. God is three persons and each person is fully God.
  • Modalism- one person who appears to us in three different forms or “modes”
    • Chronological
    • Functional
  • Arianism- Jesus and the Holy Spirit are not eternally and fully God.

Attributes of God
”What comes to mind when you think of God is the most important thing about you.” (A.W. Tozer)

The characteristics of God are sometimes divided into two categories: incommunicable attributes and communicable attributes.

Incommunicable attributes: aspects of God’s character that he less fully shares with us. (Grudem, Bible Doctrine, p. 486). These can include self-existence, immutability, infinity, and unity (Grenz, Theology for the Community of God, p.90)

Communicable attributes: aspects of God’s character that he more fully shares or “communicates” with us. (Grudem, Bible Doctrine, p.481). These arise out of God’s spiritual, intellectual, and moral nature and include knowledge, wisdom, truthfulness, goodness, holiness, righteousness, and sovereignty (Grenz, Theology for the Community of God, p.90-91)

We can also divide the attributes into categories of eternality and goodness.

Attributes of Eternality

“God is present in all time, and therefore all time is present to God.” (Grenz)

“God, being eternal, has no beginning or end or succession of events in his own being.” (Grudem)

“God is the one and only reality that is without beginning, middle, or end.” (Williams)

Psalm 90:2, Psalm 102:27, Isaiah 57:15, 1 Timothy 1:17

God does not need us or the rest of creation for anything. (Grudem)
John 5:26, Acts 17:24-25

God is unlimited, unbounded. There is no confinement, no limitation. He transcends everything in his creation. (Williams)
Genesis 14:18-22, 1 Kings 8:27, Psalm 145:3, Nehemiah 9:5, 1 Corinthians 2:10-12, Romans 11:33

God is unchanging in his being, perfections, purposes, and promises, yet God does act and feel emotions, and he acts and feels differently in response to different situations. Also called immutability (Grudem, and Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology, p.58) There is dependability, constancy and stability in all that he is and does. (Williams)
Malachi 3:6, James 1:17, Hebrews 13:8

God exists as a being that is not made of any matter, has no parts or dimensions, is unable to be perceived by our bodily senses, and is more excellent than any other kind of existence. (Grudem) The Bible doesn’t give us a definition of “spirit,” but it does give us descriptions- immortal, invisible, eternal. (Horton)
John 4:24

God’s total essence, all of his spiritual being, will never be able to be seen by us, yet God still shows himself to us through visible, created things. (Grudem)
Exodus 33:20, John 1:18, John 6:46, 1 Timothy 6:16

God does not have size of spatial dimensions, and is present at every point of space with his whole being, yet God acts differently in different places. (Grudem) All things are present to God in of themselves, whether they be events past, present, or future. (Grenz)
1 Kings 8:27, Psalm 139:7-10, Jeremiah 23:23-24, Colossians 1:17

God fully knows himself and all things actual and possible in one simple and eternal act. (Grudem) The divine mind perceives the entire temporal sequence—all events—simultaneously in one act of cognition. (Grenz)
Job 37:16, 1 John 3:20

God is able to do all his holy will (Grudem). The word “Almighty” (el sadday) occurs in the Old Testament 48 times; thirty-one of those times are in the book of Job. (Williams) Omnipotence is God’s ability to bring completion to his design for creation. (Grenz)
Genesis 18:14, Jeremiah 32:17, Matthew 19:26, Ephesians 3:20

Attributes of Goodness

“God is, by his very nature, inclined to act with great generosity toward his creation.” (Stanley Horton, Systematic Theology, p. 127)

God is separated from sin and devoted to seeking his own honor. (Grudem)
Exodus 3:5, Leviticus 11:44, Psalm 71:22, Isaiah 6:3, Isaiah 43:3, Luke 4:34

Moral Standard
Rather than being ruled by some moral concept, God is the standard by which we will be judged and we are to judge all human conduct. (Grenz)
1 Peter 1:16, 1 John 3:16

Humanity will never be able to fully comprehend God. However, he has shown himself at different times and in various ways, indicating that it is his will for us to know him and to be in right relationship with him. (Horton) He wills to be known by personal names, he shows himself to be the one who enters into personal relationships with man, he is revealed uniquely in the person of Jesus Christ, and his character is deeply personal. (Williams)
Psalm 46:10, Jeremiah 9:23-24, John 1:18, John 17:3, Philippians 3:10, 1 John 2:13, 1 John 5:20

God always chooses the best goals and the best means to those goals. (Grudem) The Hebraic understanding of wisdom was both intellectual and practical.
Job 9:4, Psalm 104:34, Romans 8:28, Romans 16:27, James 1:5

God is the true God, and all his knowledge and words are both true and the final standard of truth. (Grudem) God’s truthfulness means he also demonstrates complete integrity, dependability, and faithfulness. (Williams)
Numbers 23:19, Psalm 141:6, Jeremiah 10:10, John 1:14, 1 Thessalonians 1:9

God is the final standard of good, and all God is and does is worthy of approval. (Grudem)
Psalm 100:5, Psalm 106:1Luke 18:19

God eternally gives of himself to others. (Grudem) God is centrally the God of love. Love is the very essence of the divine nature. (Williams)
John 3:16, Romans 5:8, 1 John 4:8

Righteous and Just
These two terms are actually the same word in both Old Testament Hebrew and New Testament Greek. God always acts in accordance with what is right and us himself the final standard of what is right. (Grudem).
Deuteronomy 32:4, Psalm 25:8, Psalm 89:14, Psalm 97:2

God continually seeks to protect his own honor. (Grudem)
Exodus 20:5, Deuteronomy 4:24, Isaiah 48:11, Revelation 4:11

God intensely hates all sin. (Grudem)
Exodus 32:9-10, Deuteronomy 9:7-8, Romans 1:18, Romans 3:25-26, Colossians 3:6, 1 Thessalonians 2:16, Revelation 6:16-17

The Creator God
God first revealed himself to us as Creator (Genesis 1:1)
  • God created out of nothing (ex nihilo)- Psalm 90:2, John 1:3, Colossians 1:17
  • God created by speaking it into existence- Genesis 1, Psalm 33:6,9, Hebrews 11:3
  • God created Adam and Eve in a unique way- Genesis 2:7, Genesis 2:21-23
  • Jesus and the Holy Spirit played a role in the creation- Genesis 1:2, Job 26:23, 1 Corinthians 8:6, Colossians 1:16
  • God is distinct from creation, but he is involved in creation and creation is dependent upon him- Ephesians 4:6, Acts 17:25, 28God created the universe to show his glory- Isaiah 43:7, Psalm 19, Revelation 4:11

What is the relationship between Scripture and the findings of modern science?

Creation Theories
Creation theories seek to answer two basic questions regarding creation: 1) Age- how old is the earth? 2) Method- how was the earth created?
  • Young Age View- the days are literal, successive twenty-four hour periods of time. Therefore, the world is no more than 10,000 years old.
  • Day-Age View- the “days” in Genesis are best understood as indefinite periods of time.
  • Restoration View- also called the “gap theory,” this theory argues that a large gap of time occurred between Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:2. The original creation, therefore, may be very old and the “days” of Genesis may be literal twenty-four hour days or more indefinite ages.
  • Literary Framework View- this theory proposes that a literal reading of the text as a chronological order of events is not the purpose of the text. Rather, the purpose of the creation account was to establish monotheism in a polytheistic context. The creation account is organized thematically, not chronologically.
  • Theistic Evolution- God directed the evolutionary process to bring about all life forms on earth.
“While the various arguments for the two basic views of the age of the earth are complex and our conclusions are tentative, at this point in our understanding, Scripture seems to be more easily understood to suggest (but not to require) a young earth view, while the observable facts of creation seem increasingly to favor an old earth view.” (Wayne Grudem, Bible Doctrine, p. 139)

A good overview of these theories can be found in the book Across the Spectrum.

The Providential God
  • Preservation- an aspect of God’s providence whereby he keeps all created things existing and maintaining the properties with which he created them. Hebrews 1:3, Colossians 1:17
  • Concurrence- an aspect of God’s providence whereby he cooperates with created things in every action, directing their distinctive properties to cause them to act as they do. Ephesians 1:11, Psalm 148:8, Matthew 6:26, Matthew 10:29
  • Government- an aspect of God’s providence that indicates that God has purpose in all he does in the world and that he providentially governs or directs all things so they accomplish his purposes. Psalm 103:19, Romans 8:28, Romans 11:36

Psalm 119:7

"When I learn your righteous laws, I will thank you by living as I should."

Obedience is a form of thankfulness. It's the same sentiment we hear in John 14:15 when Jesus says, "If you love me, obey my commandments." But it's not about a personal striving to be perfect; the next passage of verses talk about the promise of the Holy Spirit.

Permission to speak frankly? Sometimes around NCC, I hear people talk about how the sermons are not deep enough, expository enough, intellectual enough, Biblical enough, etc. Besides the fact that I think that is an absolutely ridiculous statement, my response is always, "Are you putting into practice those things you've already been taught?" For some people-- people like me-- it's easy to hide behind knowledge. That can be dangerous because knowledge without obedience puffs us up (1 Corinthians 8:1). I agree with Pastor Mark that most of us are educated beyond our level of obedience.

I'm not saying that we should not teach and preach more and more of the Word of God until we have what we know "down." Because that will never happen. What I am saying is that we should not walk out of a sermon only intellectually processing what we've heard. We should also walk out asking, "How does this change my life? What did I learn today that requires obedience in some area? How can I thank God through my words and actions?

Have we ever thought about obedience in terms of thankfulness? How might that change our views of obedience?

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Gearing Up for the Fall

Yesterday was our group registration deadline for the Fall semester. I usually wind up cranky on those days because it's like passing appropriations bills in the Senate to try to get our leaders to submit their information. But for some reason, I remained happy this time! In fact, I'm super excited about the groups we'll have in the fall. We'll be offering several core discipleship groups, including Alpha, Journey, Holy Spirit Encounter, The Story, New Testament Survey, and Crown. We've got a new group for women (Twisted Sisters) and men (Dangerous Men, The Masculine Journey) that I'm excited about. Some of our groups are multiplying; some are launching new leaders. It's great.

August was supposed to be a little bit of a breather for me, but now I'm super pumped about thinking about the fall, the Georgetown Launch, and the 2008 Leadership Retreat.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Psalm 119:6

"Then I will not be disgraced when I compare my life with your commands."

What do I compare myself to? We live in a competitive world that is always looking for benchmarks. What are our comparative markers? Friends? Co-workers? Competitors? Past productivity and successes?

The Psalmist compares his life to the commands of God. It's so much easier to compare ourselves to those around us, isn't it? There's always a chance that we'll look good when we step up next to someone else. But when we go toe to toe with God's commands, it's the great equalizer- "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God."

In the Psalmist's world, disgrace does not come from falling short of other's expectations or falling short of personal expectations. Disgrace comes from falling short of God's perfect way for us.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Psalm 119:5

"Oh, that my actions would consistently reflect your principles!"

You can hear the desperation in the voice of the Psalmist. It's easy for us to know and understand God's principles. It's the action that proves difficult. As Pastor Mark has said, most of us are educated well beyond our level of obedience.

The word "consistently" jumps out at me on this one. It's not enough to do right some of the time; consistency is the key. We see this theme throughout Scripture; here are just a few:
  • Pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17)
  • Keep on being filled with the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18)
  • In eating and drinking, and in everything you do, do it for the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31)
  • Keep on loving one another (Hebrews 6:11, 13:1)
  • Keep on doing what is right (1 Peter 4:19)
Like an athlete who trains, we've got to work hard at living according to God's principles.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Taking Back My Calendar

I made a decision this week: I'm taking back my calendar. Over the past several months, my calendar has been controlled by everyone but me. My calendar is my calendar, but I had been scheduling it as though it belonged to everyone else.

I don't mean to sound selfish or like a control-freak. I'm also not an introvert who is looking for more alone time. I'm just discovering that I will be a much better leader if I make some intentional, proactive decisions about how I invest my time.

As a pastor, I know that in some ways my schedule will always revolve around the people I minister to and with. Even on a day of personal tragedy when Jesus tried to get away from the crowds to be my himself, he tended to the needs of the crowds when they pressed in (Matthew 14:9-14). There will always be times when I've got to follow the lead of Christ in this way. Life happens, and when it does, I need to be there.

But historically, I have bent over backwards to make my schedule conform to the schedules of everyone around me. And I'm learning that means I am not being a good steward of my time.

I'm slowly realizing that I won't have anything to offer anybody if I don't take time outside the camp. That's the way we describe what Moses did at the Tent of Meeting in Exodus 33:7. We've got to be intentional about removing ourselves from the context and people of ministry in order to be with God. I need time to study and to pray. And ultimately, I think I will actually have more to give people as I make more time available to God.

Also, I need time to get away and dream with God about what's on the horizon for NCC small groups and leaders. I need time to read, to do reconnaissance, to reimagine ministry. I need time to sit in the presence of people who have spun around the sun a few more times than me and learn from them.

Practically speaking, what does this mean?
  • The only small group I will lead during the fall semester will be a group that meets during the day. I need to take back a night of my week. And I need to invest more time in visioneering for 2008.
  • I will stop working on my day off.
  • I will proactively schedule study times into my calendar for the fall semester. Unlike previous attempts at this, I will treat these as meetings that cannot be changed.
  • I will proactively schedule offsite reading and vision days. Again, I will not change these unless there are emergency circumstances.
  • I will proactively schedule more time with my zone leaders.
  • I will prioritize time with my husband and friends.
  • I will establish a regular meeting day and night in which I will try to schedule the bulk of my meetings.
This list isn't static. It's just the initial thoughts. We view everything at NCC as an experiment, so this will be my fall experiment.

Psalm 119:4

"You have charged us to keep your commandments carefully."

I'm one week into this new discipline of blogging through Psalm 119, and one of the things that I love the most about it is that I wake up thinking about the verse for that morning. The word that popped out to me in verse 4 was the word "carefully." We are charged not only to keep the commandments, but to keep them carefully. The New American Standard says that we are to keep them "diligently." The NIV says we are to "fully obey" them.

To keep the commandments, we must know them. To know them, we must read the Word of God. To keep them carefully, we must desire to know God himself. I think intentionality is the key. As with any relationship, you have to be intentional about growing it. For me to keep the commandments carefully, I need to be intentional about spending time with God in his Word, spending time with God in prayer, and spending time with God in the community of the Body of Christ.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Three Amigos Video

The NCC Variety Show is Sunday night! Like last year, I've been roped into stupidity. Check out the Three Amigos trailer at evo-media.

Theology 101 Notes: Doctrine of the Bible

Here are the notes from the second week of Theology 101:


The Bible is the Inspired Word of God. The Old and New Testament are verbally inspired by God, the only written revelation from God to man. The Bible is infallible and the authoritative rule of faith and conduct for mankind (II Timothy 3:15-17, I Thessalonians 2:13 & Peter 1:21).
- From National Community Church Statement of Beliefs

The Authority of the Bible
“The authority of Scripture means that all the words in Scripture are God’s words in such a way that to disbelieve or disobey any word of Scripture is to disbelieve or disobey God.” (Grudem, Bible Doctrine)

Authority of the Old Testament
  • The religion of ancient Israel was founded upon the written words of the Old Testament.
  • The concept of written revelation may have derived from God’s inscribing of the Ten Commandments.
  • Hundreds of Old Testament writings begin with “Thus says the Lord” (examples: Exodus 4:22, Joshua 24:2, 1 Samuel 10:18, Isaiah 10:24).
  • Old Testament writings often indicate that God spoke through prophets (1 Kings 4:18, Jeremiah 37:2, Zechariah 7:7)
  • Jesus viewed the Old Testament Scriptures as authoritative (Matthew 19:5, Luke 24:25, John 5:45-47)
  • 2 Timothy 3:16: All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness. (The word Scripture comes from the Greek word, graphe, which occurs in the New Testament 51 times. In each instance, it refers to the Old Testament writings.)

Authority of the New Testament
  • 1 Timothy 5:18: For the Scripture says, "(a)You shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing," and "(b)The laborer is worthy of his wages."
  • (a) is from Deuteronomy 25:4
  • (b) is from Luke 10:7
  • Both are referred to as “Scripture”
  • 2 Peter 3:16: and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation; just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction.
  • Peter speaks of Scripture and Paul’s letters
  • Peter shows a willingness here to classify Paul’s letters as Scripture
  • 1 Corinthians 14:37: If anyone thinks he is a prophet or spiritual, let him recognize that the things which I write to you are the Lord's commandment.
  • This verse is evidence that some New Testament writers were aware that their own writings were the words of God. It seems that there was a general awareness that “additions” were being made to Scripture during the writing of the New Testament.
  • See also 2 Peter 3:2, 1 Thessalonians 4:15

Two Considerations:

(1) The Holy Spirit convinces us that Scripture is authoritative. The Westminster Confession of Faith includes the following:

We may be moved and induced by the testimony of the Church to an high and reverent esteem of the Holy Scripture. And the heavenliness of the matter, the efficacy of the doctrine, the majesty of the style, the consent of all the parts, the scope of the whole (which is, to give all glory to God), the full discovery it makes of the only way of man's salvation, the many other incomparable excellencies, and the entire perfection thereof, are arguments whereby it does abundantly evidence itself to be the Word of God: yet notwithstanding, our full persuasion and assurance of the infallible truth and divine authority thereof, is from the inward work of the Holy Spirit bearing witness by and with the Word in our hearts.
(bold mine)

(2) Are we making a circular argument?

The Three “In” Words


Inspiration: Refers to the fact that the words of Scripture are spoken by God. (Grudem, Bible Doctrine)

Inspiration: A supernatural influence of the Holy Spirit upon divinely chosen men in consequence of which their writings become trustworthy and authoritative. (Evangelical Dictionary of Theology)

The word “inspired” comes from the Greek word “theopneustos,” which literally means “God-breathed.”

All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness. (2 Timothy 3:16)

For this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe. (1 Thessalonians 2:13)

For no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God. (2 Peter 1:21)

What was the method?
  • In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways (Hebrews 1:1)
  • God spoke directly to the writer (Revelation 2)
  • Author research (Luke 1:1-3)
  • The Holy Spirit reminded the writer of events (John 14:26)

What are other views?
  • Schleiermacher
  • Karl Barth

“As it is wholly trustworthy regarding its truth, so must it be wholly reliable regarding its facts. And because it is both, it is our divine authority in all things that pertain to life and godliness.” (Evangelical Dictionary of Theology)

Infallibility: The idea that Scripture is not able to lead us astray in matters of faith and practice. (Grudem, Bible Doctrine)

Sanctify them in the truth; your word it truth. (John 17:17). The word Jesus uses here is the noun aletheia and not the adjective alethes (“true”), to say that God’s Word is not just true but the truth.

Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. (Proverbs 30:5, NIV)

Inerrancy: the view that when all the facts become known, they will demonstrate the Bible in its original autographs and correctly interpreted is entirely true and never false in all it affirms, whether that relates to doctrine or ethics or to the social, physical, or life sciences. (Evangelical Dictionary of Theology)

Inerrancy: the idea that Scripture in the original manuscripts does not affirm anything that is contrary to fact. (Grudem, Bible Doctrine)

Inerrancy emphasizes truthfulness. Infallibility emphasizes trustworthiness.

God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should repent; has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good? (Numbers 23:19)

So that by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us. (Hebrews 6:18)

The hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised long ages ago, (Titus 1:2)

Other Views
  • Pluralism
  • Postmodernism
  • Authoritative only for faith and practice
  • Inerrancy is a poor term
  • There are no inerrant manuscripts
  • There are some clear errors in the Bible

Characteristics of Scripture

Clarity: the clarity of Scripture means that the Bible is written in such a way that its teachings are able to be understood by all who will read it seeking God’s help and being willing to follow it. (Grudem, Bible Doctrine)

The law of the LORD is perfect, restoring the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple. (Psalm 19:7)

The unfolding of Your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple. (Psalm 119:130)

But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. (1 Corinthians 2:14)

The doctrine of clarity does not mean that all believers everywhere will agree in their interpretations of the teachings of Scripture (Acts 15:7, Galatians 2:11-15). However, the doctrine does tell us that the problem lies not with Scripture itself, but within ourselves.

The doctrine of clarity also affirms that the writings of Scripture will not be clear to those who are unwilling to receive them or obey them (1 Corinthians 1:18-25, James 1:5-6)

Questions to Consider When Faced With Interpretation Differences:
  • Am I trying to make a statement on an issue where Scripture is silent?
  • Have I made a mistake in interpretation?
  • Is there a personal inadequacy (moral, sin, or personality issue) or a lack of prayerful study?

Necessity: the necessity of the Scripture means that the Bible is necessary for knowledge of the gospel, for maintaining spiritual life, and for certain knowledge of God’s will, but it is not necessary for knowing that God exists or for knowing something about God’s character and moral laws. (Grudem, Bible Doctrine)

For “Whoever will call on thename of the Lord will be saved." How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news of good things! However, they did not all heed the good news; for Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believe our report?" So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ. (Romans 10:13-17)

General Revelation vs. Special Revelation
  • General Revelation- knowledge of God from general observations (Romans 1:18-20) of nature or from one’s own conscience (Romans 2:14).
  • Special Revelation- God’s words addressed to a specific people, Scripture

The Tension
Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me. (John 14:6)

And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him. (Hebrews 11:6)

Other Views:
  • Inclusivism- it is possible to be saved through Christ’s work if one is sincerely following the religion they know.
  • Universalism- God will eventually save everyone.

Sufficiency: the sufficiency of Scripture means that Scripture contained all the words of God he intended his people to have at each stage of redemptive history, and that it now contains everything we need God to tell us for salvation, trusting him perfectly, and for obeying him perfectly. (Grudem, Bible Doctrine)

All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping it according to Your word. (Psalm 119:9)

  • Reading- devotional reading allows us to grasp the big picture of the Biblical story by reading large chunks of Scripture in one sitting.
  • Study- the systematic dissection of Scripture through a process of observation, interpretation, and application.
  • Meditation- is the process by which we allow Scripture to dissect us as we let God’s word soak into our imaginations. It is not a process of emptying the mind but filling it with the God’s truth.
  • Memorization- enables the Word to become a living and active part of our lives, and we grow closer to God as we internalize his truth.

Read and meditate on Psalm 119 each day. What does this chapter say about the authority, inspiration, infallibility, inerrancy, clarity, necessity, and sufficiency of Scripture?

Psalm 119:3

"They do not compromise with evil, and they walk only in his paths."

The trouble with our English versions of the Bible is that the verses are not always divided up in a way that makes single verse consideration easy. To know who "they" are, you have to bump back up to verses 1 and 2 and we learn that "they" are people who are happy and blessed because they:
  • Live with integrity
  • Follow God's law
  • Obey his decrees
  • Search for God with all their hearts
In this verse, we learn two more things-- they do not compromise and they walk in the God's path. Compromise is so deadly. We often think of compromise as something we do "for the greater good." In the movie The Kingdom of Heaven, the hero Balian refuses to comply with the plan of the king because he would compromise his integrity in doing so. He is told by the king's sister, "There will be a day when you will wish you had done a little evil to do a greater good." And yet it is because of his integrity that Balian is victorious in the end.

Compromise does not bring us to a greater good; rather, it puts us into contractual agreement with evil, as Psalm 3 states. God's path may not be the quickest, most direct, or easy to see, but it is the best way we can walk.

By the way, Sarah Owen wrote a great post on Integrity for Bible Drill Wednesday over at zonegathering.com yesterday.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Psalm 119:2

"Happy are those who obey his decrees and search for him with all their hearts."

Once again, God's word clearly tells us what will bring us happiness, hoy, and blessing. Obedience. We typically see laws and obedience as painful things, yet God says they will bring us joy. We've got to turn our understanding of these things upside down and recognize that God's Word and the statutes it contains are good and are designed to draw us closer to him. We will also find joy when we put all of our passion and energy into knowing him- searching for him with everything we've got. How driven am I to see and know God? It's an adventure, like seeking after hidden treasure. In fact, we see that metaphor in a number of places in the Scriptures. In Job 22:25, we read, "Then the Almighty himself will be your treasure." Psalm 119 includes this picture later in the chapter in verse 111: "Your decrees are my treasure" and in verse 162: "I rejoice in your word like one who finds a great treasure." The prophet Isaiah tells us that the "fear of the Lord will be our treasure." (Isaiah 33:6) In the New Testament, we are told that treasures are found in Christ (Ephesians 3:8, Colossians 2:3)

What am I searching for? Is God the ultimate goal of my heart and my life?

Monday, July 16, 2007

Group Registration

It's July 16, but we are already planning for our groups for the Fall semester. Each semester, we publish a small group magazine, or Discipleship Atlas, that lists all of the small group opportunities for the semester. This week is group registration week. Any leader that wants to lead a group in the fall is required to submit their information to us for the Atlas using this form:


Group Name:

Contact Information:






Details: (please include only critical information here, such as costs or pre-requisites)

Group Category: (pick only one: Core Discipleship, Bible/Book Study, Missions/Service/Outreach, Interest, Women, Men, Couples, Weekend Ministry)

Group Focus: (pick the primary focus: Seeker, Learner, Influencer, or Investor)

Psalm 119:1

Happy are people of integrity, who follow the law of the Lord. (v1)

I'm beginning my journey through Psalm 119 today, and I woke up thinking about this verse. Verse 1 is the thesis statement of the entire chapter. How often do I think about my happiness being related to integrity? Have I ever thought about setting a life goal of "being a person of integrity?" Do my daily actions reflect a desire for a life of integrity?

A few years ago, a joint study conducted by the UCLA Graduate School of Management and Korn/Ferry International surveyed 1,300 senior executives about qualities needed to succeed in business. Seventy-one percent of them cited integrity as the character quality most needed to succeed in business.

The Psalmist connects integrity to following God's law. Happiness is connected to following God's law. Do I long to know and follow God's law like the writer of Psalm 119?

Friday, July 13, 2007

Theology 101 Notes: Introduction

I'm going to post our notes from the NCC core discipleship group Theology 101. This set is from our first night and is an introduction to the course topics.

I'd be interested in any feedback or suggestions you might have.


“Then we will no longer be like children, forever changing our minds about what we believe because someone has told us something different or because someone has cleverly lied to us and made the lie sound like truth. Instead, we will hold to the truth in love, becoming more and more in every way like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church” Ephesians 4:14-15, NLT


Introduction (June 11)
  • Information, Definitions

Doctrine of the Bible (June 1)
  • Authority
  • Clarity
  • Necessity
  • Sufficiency
  • Inerrancy

Doctrine of God (June 25)
  • Attributes
  • Creation
  • Trinity
  • Sovereignty and Providence

Doctrine of Man (July 9)
  • Creation
  • Responsibilities
  • Sin and its effects

Doctrine of Christ and Redemption (July 16)
  • The person of Christ
  • Covenant and atonement
  • Resurrection and ascension
  • Common grace
  • Calling
  • Regeneration, justification, adoption, sanctification
  • Perseverance
  • The Arminian/Calvin debate

Doctrine of the Church (July 23)
  • Ekklesia
  • Sacraments- communion and baptism
  • The role of the Holy Spirit and spiritual gifts

Doctrine of the Future (July 30)
  • Return of Christ
  • Millennium
  • Final Judgment
  • Heaven and hell
  • Differing eschatological views


“Theology” is derived from two Greek words:
  • Theos (God)
  • Logos (speech or reason)

Therefore, theology in its simplest terms is rational discussion about God.

In secular Greek, the word theologia referred to the discussions amongst the philosophers about divine matters. Plato called the stories of the gods “theologies.” Aristotle considered theology to be the greatest of all scientific studies since its subject, God, was the highest reality. Mark Batterson would echo Aristotle’s thoughts in his claim that every “-ology” is a branch of theology.

B. B. Warfield promoted a classic definition as follows: “Theology is the science of God and his relationship to man and the world.” In greater detail, it is the discipline which 1) presents a unified formulation of truth concerning God and his relationship to humanity and the universe as this is set forth in divine revelation and that 2) applies such truths to the entire range of human thought and life.” (Evangelical Dictionary of Theology)

Theology: the contents of the Christian faith as set forth in orderly exposition by the Christian community. (Renewal Theology, J, Rodman Williams)

Theology: the attempt to reduce religious truth to an organized system (Evangelical Dictionary of Theology)

Systematic theology: any study that answers the question, “What does the whole Bible teach us today?” This definition indicates that systematic theology involves collecting and understanding all the relevant passages in the Bible on various topics and then summarizing their teachings clearly so that we know what to believe about each topic. (Bible Doctrine, Wayne Grudem)

Doctrine: What the whole Bible teaches about some particular topic. (Bible Doctrine, Wayne Grudem)

Major Doctrine: one that has a significant impact on our thinking about other doctrines or that has a significant impact on how we live as the Christian life. (examples: authority of the Bible, deity of Christ, justification by faith)

Minor Doctrine: one that has very little impact on how we think about other doctrines and very little impact on how we live the Christians life. (examples: differing views of the future, forms of church government, forms of communion and baptism)

Paradox: a seemingly contradictory statement that may nonetheless be true (example: the doctrine of the trinity)


Biblical Theology: historical development of theology throughout Scripture.

Historical Theology: study of Christian doctrines as they have been considered at different points in church history.

Philosophical Theology: a study of theological topics largely without the use of the Bible. Instead, philosophical tools, resources, and methods are used to organize theological thought. (example: Paul Tillich’s Systematic Theology)

Narrative Theology: a 20th-century development of theological thought predicated on the idea that the Bible should be considered as narrative more than a system of theological truth.

Dogmatic Theology: a study of theology as set forth in the creeds, dogmas, and pronouncements of the church.

Apologetics: a defense of the Christian faith for the purpose of instructing believers or convincing unbelievers.

Ethics: the application of God’s Word to real life situations, problems, and questions.

  • Biblical
  • Traditionalist
  • Subjectivist


Presupposition: an assumption that forms the beginning point of any study.
  • Bible is true and is absolute standard of truth
  • The God of the Bible exists, and he is who the Bible says he is.

“Faith seeking understanding” (Anselm)


“It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.”
Ephesians 4:11-16, NIV

“Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.”
Hebrews 5:13-14, NIV
  • Clarification (Ephesians 4:14)
  • Correction (1 Timothy 1:3, 2 Timothy 4:3-5, Hebrews 5:13-14)
  • Declaration and Unification (Ephesians 4:13)
  • Obedience (Psalm 119:11, Matthew 28:19-20, 1 John 2:3)
  • Growth (Ephesians 4)
  • To love and glorify God (Matthew 22:37, Philippians 1:9-11)

  • Biblically (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
  • Guided by the Holy Spirit (John 14:17, John 16:13)
  • Humbly (2 Timothy 2:23-25, 1 Peter 5:5, James 1:19-20)
  • With discernment (1 Corinthians 2:14, Ephesians 1:17-19)
  • In community (Proverbs 11:14, 1 Corinthians 12:27-28)
  • Prayerfully (Psalm 119:18)
  • With application to life (1 Timothy 6:3, Titus 2:1)
  • With a familiarity of church history (context and perspective)
  • With worship and praise (Deuteronomy 6:1-9, Psalm 19:18, Psalm 119:14, Psalm 119:103, Psalm 119:111, Psalm 119:162)

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Shadows of Embarrassment to Come...

The Variety Show is coming...

July 22, 2007...

Get your act together.

(can someone tell me why I keep agreeing to do this stuff?)

Journey Through Psalm 119

For the past year, I've been digging in and out of Psalm 119 quite a bit. Sarah Owen just wrote a great summary of the book over on zonegathering.com yesterday. In this Psalm, the writer extols the value of learning, knowing, memorizing, meditating, and acting on the principles of Scripture. I once set a life goal of memorizing Psam 119, but so far, I haven't gotten very far.

On Monday, I will begin to blog through the book of Psalm 119, taking one verse a day to meditate on. My blog posts are not meant to be a commentary on the verses or the chapter. Nor are they designed to be a devotional guide to others. Rather, it will be an online representation of a personal spiritual discipline. Why am I putting it online? First, as a way of accountability. When you see the posts disappear, feel free to pipe in and kick my butt. Secondly, as a way to encourage others to dig into the Scriptures, as well.

Willow Creek Small Group Blog

I don't know how I missed this, but it looks like Willow Creek has launched a small group blog. Check it out here. Not sure yet what kind of role or function it will evolve into, but it looks like it could be a great resource to those of us trying to navigate the tricky waters of community, discipleship, and group life.

Also, check out Willow's new group life website here. You can find links here to group life resources, conference information, articles, etc. It appears to be much more user friendly and targeted to the group audience than the previous site.

Anybody going to their AncientFuture Community conference in September? If you are heading out there, let me know! Not sure if I am going or not, but I'd love to connect with some folks if I do.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Emails, Emails, Emails

The thing I hate about vacation is the email load upon my return. I have been answering emails non-stop for the past 2.5 hours, and I've still got 96 emails in my inbox.

So...if you are waiting to hear from me...I promise I will get to you soon!!

Monday, July 09, 2007

Adventures in Alabama: Yankees in Fort Morgan

Ryan and Heather at Fort Morgan

Fort Morgan overlooks Mobile Bay and was attacked by the Yankee army in 1864 when Admiral Farragut sailed his wooden navy into Mobile Bat. It's a kid's paradise of steep stairs, cannons, batteries, dark and deserted bunkers and storage rooms.

Ryan had never been to Fort Morgan, and I always believe it's productive to immerse him into Southern history and heritage. So we went.

Halfway through our tour, I realized I was wearing a Yankees cap. I have no idea why I would wear a Yankees cap to Fort Morgan. It's sacrilegious, disrespectful, and just plain stupid. Southerners take this stuff seriously.

Adventures in Alabama: Fried Dill Pickles

Ryan and Heather enjoying Shannon's Fried Dill Pickles

My regular readers know of my love for fried dill pickles. Yum. I first discovered them at Cock of the Walk restaurant as a youngster in Mobile, and Ryan and I delighted (or horrified, in some cases) our dearest friends and family by serving them at our rehearsal dinner. The beloved Cock of the Walk restaurant was blown away by the Hurricane, so I have to find new venues for this wonderful appetizer.

My good friend Shannon Simmons had read of my anticipation and excitement and made them for us on Sunday night. Shannon has been a friend since the summer between freshman and sophomore year of high school when we met in Health/Driver's Ed in summer school. Over the course of that summer, I shared with her the plot of Phantom of the Opera and she shared with me her love of Les Miz, and our friendship was cemented. She's built an impressive resume as pianist extraordinaire (she was playing Rachmaninoff before we were old enough to spell it), versatile musical theatre performer (from Eve to Fruma Sarah), Miss University of Mobile, and even Azalea Trail Maid.

Here is Shannon's recipe: All I do is mix some eggs and milk together, dip the dill pickle slices in that, and then throw them in some Zatarain's Fish Fry (southern crispy style) and then deep fry in a fry daddy.

**Heather's note: you want to use dill pickle slices-- the flat round kind like you put on burgers, not the pickle spears. That would be gross.

Thanks for the pickles, Shannon. And come visit-- I mean move to-- DC soon!

Adventures in Alabama: Gran's 90th

Ryan, me, Gran the Birthday Girl, Laura the Pregant Girl, and Casey

Our primary reason for making the long journey home was to celebrate my Gran's 90th birthday. Technically, she did not roll over to the start of the 10th decade mark until July 5, but we decided to celebrate early on July 30. Over sixty of her friends and family, spanning several generations, came out to dig into some cake and punch. My personal favorite part of the lavish food bar was the bacon cheese ring from Naman's. Sound weird? You haven't tried it. I gained my first five pounds of the trip eating that.

Back to Gran...

Gran, known originally as Edith Massey, was born in 1917. That's the year that the United States entered World War I. And that means Gran has seen a lot of history in her life-- the roaring twenties, the Great Depression, the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the baby boom, the birth of rock and roll, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, Watergate, the fall of the Berlin wall, Desert Storm, September 11. She saw the rise of communism and the fall of communism. She saw the evolution from phonograph to boombox to walkman to iPod. She saw the annual Christmas toy craze move from Raggedy Ann to the viewmaster 3-D viewer to Mr. Potato Head to Rubik's Cube to Cabbage Patch Kids to Tickle Me Elmo.

She married my Granddaddy, James Berry, in 1943. Granddaddy was in the Air Force, so Gran followed him to St. Johns, Newfoundland; Holyoke, Massachusetts; Bunker Hill Air Force Base, Indiana; and Mobile, Alabama.

She's been known to my friends for the past several years as "GranBerry."

Here are just a few of the reasons why I love Gran:
  1. She was always my back seat buddy on road trips- both short and long.
  2. She was my partner in crime when we needed a "coke break" on a long school-shopping day. Mom wouldn't make a coke stop for me, but she would do it for Gran. I could also count on her to hint to mom that we needed to make a trip to Dairy Queen (pronounced Day-ree Queen)
  3. She makes the best cherry pie. Period. And the best chocolate pie, pecan pie, carrot cake, lemon pie, and pound cake.
  4. She enjoys a good, funny movie.
  5. She has a servant's heart and took/takes care of everybody- from her husband to her children to her grandchildren to the kids across the street. She was still cooking 3 hot meals a day until just a few years ago.
  6. When I brought fellow camp counselors over for lunch during the summer, they were blown away by the spread of food. As Julie once said, "This is better than Thanksgiving."
  7. She gave me the money to pay the tax on my Star Wars tie-fighter toy. I had saved my 50 cents per week allowance for months to purchase the tie-fighter, but I had not taken tax into account. When I proudly approached the counter with new toy in hand, she saved my from extreme disappointment by pulling out the extra dollar I needed.
  8. She loves sports, and I think she attended every t-ball game and softball game I ever played. If not all then most. She also endured countless painful dance recitals, piano recitals, theatrical productions, spelling bees, and graduation ceremonies.
  9. She bought me my first Stryper album- The Yellow and Black Attack.
  10. She let me watch the Dukes of Hazzard when we spent the night at her house.
  11. She prayed for me. I remember spending the night at her house as a little kid and watching her pull her verse of the day out of the "Daily Bread" box, read her Bible, and do her Sunday School lesson. I know her prayers for me have been answered, are being answered, will be answered, and they will outlive her to reach generations beyond today.
Thanks for all the good times, Gran! Looking forward to many more to come!

Adventures in Alabama

I'm back from my trek South-- what a great time! We got fat at Wings, got fried at the beach, got fired up at Fort Morgan, and got fried dill pickles at Shannon's.

I'll post a few thoughts and a few pictures.