Friday, August 31, 2007

All Systems Geaux

I love college football. Especially SEC football and even more specifically LSU Tiger football. They opened their season in Starkville, Mississippi last night with a 45-0 win over Mississippi State. I didn't actually get to watch the game because I had meetings with zone leaders and a kickball game last night (yes, I am in a kickball league-- that's another post). Bummer. I've also got to figure out the best way to watch the games since Ryan and I currently don't have television. If anyone wants to do a little football watchin' this fall, I'll grill the burgers.

LSU is ranked #2 in the nation at the start of this season, right behind USC. Love it!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Book Review: Organic Community

You know a book is going to be good when you find yourself underlining stuff in the forward. After reading Search to Belong and Organic Community, I think I would be willing to plop down money for just about anything that Joseph Myers writes. Like most of my favorite authors, he drives me crazy. I tried really hard to not like him. I wanted to brand him as anti-small groups. I tried to zoom in and focus only on the areas where I disagreed with him. But I just can't. Joseph is writing from lots of a experience and from a heart that truly desires to see people grow in real, authentic community. Anyone who works with small groups, discipleship, or community needs to read this book. Like me, you may find yourself disagreeing with certain things or getting defensive, but you still need to wrestle with it.

Organic Community challenges us to create environments where true Biblical community can flourish. It is not a step-by-step master plan or some new model for ministry. Rather, Joseph presents nine ideas that we need to consider when designing community experiences that allow community to "emerge" instead of being fabricated. He gives principles for being an environmentalist instead of a master planner. I found two chapters particularly helpful. The chapter on "Patterns" helps the reader identify how and why people connect. The chapter on "Partners" challenges our ideas about accountability and encourages a new approach of editability. I have lots of good, constructive questions after reading this book. For instance, what are we measuring and why? Are we measuring the right things? What are we really trying to accomplish in the small group environment?

Organic Community is easy to read, and the tone is straightforward. I still have some bones to pick with the author about certain issues lingering from Search to Belong, but that's a good thing.

If you have not read Search to Belong, I would recommend reading that first. If you are interested in reading more about community, I would also recommend John Ortberg's Everybody's Normal Till You Get to Know Them.

Psalm 119:24

"Your decrees please me; they give me wise advice."

Sometimes, I find myself looking for advice everywhere but in God's Word. The NIV says it this way, "Your statutes are my delight; they are my counselors." The NASB refers to Biblical principles as "counselors" as well. How often do we stress our personally or suck the life out of others when all we need can be found in Scripture? I am in no way speaking against professional counseling; I am grateful for God-glorifying, professional psychologists and counselors. I am talking primarily about how we go about our everyday, walking around lives. Am I rooting myself in the pleasing decrees and wise advice of Scripture?

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Book Review: Go Big With Small Groups

The introduction of Bill Easum's and John Atkinson's Go Big With Small Groups ends with this exhortation: "Our book is meant to be a guide, not a model. Don't copy us. Develop a process that will work in your setting." That makes me happy. I love learning from churches who know that their model won't necessarily work in every setting. So the reading began well.

This book starts by encouraging small group ministry leaders to ask the hard questions and begin with the end in mind. It is extremely practical, giving details about their own systems and structures at Bay Area Fellowship and offering step-by-step guidance for managing small group system, multiplying groups, finding and training leaders, and recruiting members for groups. It is written by practitioners, and that is abundantly clear. You don't get this kind of raw, honest, and practical information from theorists. The chapters are tight, concise, and full of helpful ideas.

Our small group structure at National Community Church is similar in some ways and very different in other ways from the structure at Bay Area Fellowship. But this book challenged some of my assumptions and stretched me to thinking in new ways. I picked out of it a couple of practical ideas about changing the way we do training for groups and recruitment for groups.

I was a little disappointed in their negativity towards singles groups and their encouragement to not provide childcare. I know they are writing from a place of their own experience, but perhaps they could have they could have tempered these statements by pointing to other churches who have taken a different approach and been successful. The only other critique of the book relates to the changing tone and style. I'm sure that comes from the dual authorship, but it was a bit confusing as the text sometimes swung wildly between sarcasm, hyperbole, and solid information.

I recommend this book to churches that are starting or re-engineering their small group ministries. Don't copy their model, but learn from it. I also recommend it to small group pastors who want to remain an open system and learn from other churches.

Psalm 119:23

"Even princes sit and speak against me, but I will meditate on your principles."

I get upset when anybody speaks against me, much less princes. I know I've already mentioned old Petra songs at least once during this devotional series, but this verse reminds me of their song, God-pleaser-- I want to be a God pleaser, don't want to be a man pleaser. It's so easy to take my focus off of the main thing-- loving God and glorifying his name. I have to keep coming back to that place where I realize that I play for an audience of One. Period. Regardless of what is going on around me, what people are saying, or what people are thinking, I can live in a way that is pleasing to God. And that will only happen if I remain rooted in his Word.

Theology 101 Notes: Doctrine of the Church

These are notes from week 6 of our Theology 101 group, Doctrine of the Church.

Theology 101
Doctrine of the Church

The Church and Its Mission
The Church is the body of Christ (I Corinthians 12:12-27) and has a three-fold purpose: To evangelize the world (Acts 1:8 & Mark 16:15-16), to worship God (I Cor. 12:13), and to equip for ministry (Ephesians 4:11-16 & I Cor. 12:28, 14:12).

The Ordinances of the Church

Baptism in Water
The Scripture teaches that all who repent and believe in Christ are to be baptized by immersion (Matthew 28:19). Baptism is a public profession of faith in Christ. It is symbolic of the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. It is a declaration to the world that we have died to sin and have been raised with Christ to walk in newness of life (Romans 6:4).

The Lord's table consists of two elements: the bread and cup. Those elements are symbolic of the body and blood of Christ. Communion is a memorial of Christ's sufferings on the cross and a celebration of our salvation. It is an opportunity for a believer to examine himself and experience forgiveness.

- From National Community Church Statement of Beliefs

“I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven." Matthew 16:18-19

Ecclesiology: the study of the biblical teachings concerning the church and its practices (Horton, Systematic Theology)

Church: the community of all true believers for all time (Grudem, Bible Doctrine)

Church: a people standing in covenant, who are a sign of the divine reign and constitute a special community. (Grenz, Theology for the Community of God)

Ekklesia is the Greek word that is used to refer to the church in Biblical writings. It was a commonly used word in first-century Rome, and it connoted an “assembly.” In Theology for the Community of God, Grenz wrote, “The choice of ekklesia as the designation of the Christian community suggests that the New Testament believers viewed the church as neither an edifice nor an organization. They were a people—a people brought together by the Holy Spirit—a people bound to each other through Christ—hence, a people standing in covenant with God. Above all, they were God’s people.”

Identity of the Church
The New Testament gives us several pictures of how Jesus intended the church to look. There are several relational metaphors, including a body (1 Corinthians 12:12-31, Ephesians 5:22-23, Colossians 1:18, Ephesians 4:15), the family of God (1 Timothy 3:15, Ephesians 2:19, John 1:12, Galatians 4:6-7), the bride of Christ (2 Corinthians 11:2, Ephesians 5:22-32, Revelation 21:9), and a royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:9, Hebrew 10:19-21). The New Testament also uses agricultural pictures such as branches on a vine (John 15:5), and olive tree (Romans 11:17-24), and a field of crops (1 Corinthians 3:6-9).

“Wherever we see the Word of God purely preached and heard, and the sacraments administered according to Christ’s institution, there, it is not to be doubted, a church of God exists.” (John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion)

Mystical Church: the one body composed of all believers of all ages (Hebrews 12:22-23. (Grenz, Theology for the Community of God) This has also been called the “invisible church.” It transcends time and spatial boundaries.

Universal Church: the body of Christ followers on earth at any given time. It transcends spatial boundaries.

Local Church: the visible fellowship of believers, gathered in a specific location. It is the most concrete expression of the “church” and has been referred to as the “visible church.”

Mission of the Church
The mission of the church can be separated into 3 large categories- our outward mission of evangelism and service, our upward mission of worship, and our inward mission of discipleship.

  • Evangelism: proclamation of the Gospel to unbelievers. (Grudem, Bible Doctrine)
  • Acts 1:8, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.”
  • Mark 16:15-16, “And He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.”
  • Matthew 28:19-20, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age."
  • Evangelism is more than just speaking the Gospel; it is also demonstrating the love and mercy of God through action (Acts 11:29, 2 Corinthians 8:4, 1 John 3:17)

  • Worship: the dramatic celebration of God in his supreme worth in such a manner that his “worthiness” becomes the norm and inspiration of human living. (Ralph Martin, The Worship of God, see Grenz, Theology for the Community of God)
  • Colossians 3:16, “Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”
  • 1 Corinthians 10:31, “Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”

  • Discipleship: becoming a complete and competent follower of Jesus Christ. It is about the intentional training of people who voluntarily submit to the lordship of Christ and who want to become imitators of Him in every thought, word, and deed. It is about being and reproducing spiritually mature zealots for Christ. (Barna, Growing True Disciples)
  • Ephesians 4:12-13, “And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.
  • Matthew 28:20, “teaching them to observe all that I commanded you”
  • Galatians 6:2, “Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted. Bear one another's burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.

Ordinances of the Church
The acts of baptism and the Lord’s Supper (Communion, Eucharist, etc) are symbolic acts through which we celebrate God’s salvation, declare our allegiance to Christ, and affirm our presence in his church.” (Grenz, Theology for the Community of God)

Sacrament vs. Ordinance
Those who hold to the sacramental view of baptism and communion believe that these practices are gifts of God to his church by which he conveys grace and blessing. Those who view the practices and ordinances view them as practices that were ordained by Christ and the church practices in obedience to him. In the sacramental view, baptism and communion are vehicles of grace. In the ordinance view, baptism and communion are symbolic of the grace we have already receives.

In Theology For the Community of God, Grenz argues for a balanced approach: “We continue to observe these acts because Christ ordained their use. Our Lord gave us the ordinances for a purpose, namely, to be the means to express our loyalty to him in a vivid, symbolic manner. Because they are oaths of loyalty—beautifully symbolic vehicles for confessing our faith in Christ—they are closely bound up with the reality they symbolize and are channels of the Holy Spirit at work in our lives. And they are sermonic pictures that graphically depict the truth we verbally declare in the gospel message.”

We must consider two primary questions:
  • What is the appropriate mode of baptism?
  • Who should be baptized?

Baptism has taken three primary forms: sprinkling, pouring, and immersion. At National Community Church, we embrace baptism by immersion.
  • The terms “baptism” and comes from the Greek word “baptizo,” a non-religious term meaning to dip, dunk, immerse. The word was originally used to describe sunken ships, a person who had drowned, a person deep in debt, a dyed cloth, swimming, etc. Until New Testament times, it was used to describe dipping or dunking a substance in a liquid.
  • Full immersion paints the most vivid picture of what baptism is—the identification with Christ in his death, burial, and resurrection
    • Romans 6:4, “Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.”
    • Colossians 2:12, “Having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.”
  • Full immersion seems to be the practice of the early church, as reflected in certain Biblical passages:
    • Mark 1:5, “and they were being baptized by him in the Jordan River
    • Mark 1:10, “Immediately coming up out of the water, He saw the heavens opening, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon Him;”
    • John 3:23, “John also was baptizing in Aenon near Salim, because there was much water there.
“Historically, baptism has not been understood to be an optional practice. It is commanded by God. But there has often been disagreement about whom baptism is for, how it should be done, and why it is significant.” (Across the Spectrum)
  • Infant Baptism- Infant baptism is practiced by many denominations, but they vary quite significantly in their understanding of its meaning and purpose. For instance, Roman Catholics baptize infants in order to remove original sin. Eastern Orthodox traditions baptize infants as a rite of joining them to the Church. Protestant paedobaptists embrace the covenant view of baptism. Protestant paedobaptism is argued on the basis of three things: 1) baptism is an initiation of children into the covenant of God, 2) the book of Acts records household baptisms, and 3) baptism is the New Testament form of circumcision.
  • Believers’ Baptism- proponents of this view believe that baptism was intended to be a part of the disciple-making process after an individual crossed the line of faith. Scripture passages to support this view include Acts 2:41, Acts 8:12, Acts 10:44-46, Galatians 3:27. These passages all assume that the baptism candidate has already made a personal decision to follow Christ.
In Theology for the Community of God, Grenz argues, “baptism is the God-given means whereby we initially declare publicly our inward faith. If this is the case, believer’s baptism is obviously superior. Infant baptism simply cannot fulfill this function. Because it cannot be an outward expression of an inward faith, infant baptism also loses its value as a day to be remembered. Believer’s baptism, in contrast, does offer the means to confess personal faith. For this reason, it deserves to be the standard practice in the church.”

Likewise, National Community Church embraces believer’s baptism by immersion.

To read more on this topic, see Across the Spectrum, Chapter 14, The Baptism Debate.

While baptism is experienced once as a public expression of faith and identification with the church, communion is a regular, ongoing experience that Christians celebrate to signify their continued fellowship with Christ and his followers.

It is a repeated affirmation of what we initially declared in baptism—namely, our new identity in Christ. (Grenz, Theology for the Community of God)

Communion was instituted by Jesus on the night before he went to the cross. (Matthew 26:26-29). Paul teaches about it in 1 Corinthians 11:23-29.

The Purpose of the Lord’ Supper
  • It functions as a memorial meal- “do this in remembrance of me.” In celebration of it, we symbolically enter into the story of our Lord.
  • It is a proclamation of the Gospel (1 Corinthians 11:26)
  • We participate in the benefits of Christ’s death (Matthew 26:26)
  • It spiritually nourishes us (John 6:53-57)
  • It brings the followers of Christ into unity around the table (1 Corinthians 10:17)

The Presence of Christ at the Lord’s Supper
  • Roman Catholic- transubstantiation
  • Luther- consubstantiation
  • Zwingli- memorial
  • Reformed- spiritual presence

In Theology for the Community of God, Grenz argues, “The Lord’s Supper is not a means of grace that works apart from faith (ex opere operato). Instead, it is a symbol of spiritual truth and a reaffirmation of his loyalty to Christ. Only believers can testify to the gospel reality depicted by this act. Likewise, only those who are in fellowship with God are able to reaffirm personal loyalty to Christ by this act. For these reasons only Christians ought to partake of the elements (1 Corinthians 11:27).”

To read more on this topic, see Across the Spectrum, Chapter 13, The Lord’s Supper Debate.

At National Community Church, we engage in communion regularly to remember the sacrifice of Christ and to live in the fullness of the new life he has given us. The table is open to all who profess their faith in Christ.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Fall Semester Launching

Our Fall Semster of small groups kicks off in 2 weeks, and I'm so excited about the opportunities we are giving people this semester. We've got lots of core discipleship groups, three new men's groups, lots of book and Bible study groups. 75 groups. 90 leaders. Good stuff.

Radical Femininity

So, I threw out this women's retreat idea to about 50 of our women leaders at NCC to get their reactions/feedback. It's definitely been a mixed bag. I tossed out the theme--

Radical Femininity
No pink. No fluff. No crap. Just Jesus.

Reactions have been varied. So far, 2/3 of the responses have been overwhelmingly positive. They love the combination of "radical" with "femininity." Personally, I really like it because it makes you stop in your tracks and go, "huh?" because it sounds so close to "radical feminism" and yet the meaning is so completely different. It challenges stereotypes on both ends of the spectrum. Some of them answered they weren't interested in women's retreats, but then they saw the theme and it made them interested in coming.

The other 1/3 haven't been as excited. Some are offended by the "no pink." Some don't like the word "crap." Some don't like "radical femininity" because it sounds too much like "radical femininism," despite the meaning difference.

I want it to be edgy and maybe even a little uncomfortable for people. And we want to challenge stereotypes. Ideas? Thoughts? What would make you come to a women's retreat?

Friday, August 24, 2007

The Lion is Here!

I just got my grubby little hands on the new Chase the Lion member's workbook. Mark just brought it in for me. It looks great! Huge thanks to the Threads team for doing such a great job with it. I really think this curriculum will help a lot of small groups. The topic seems to be particularly relevant to youth groups and men's groups.

The curriculum is available now for pre-order, and it is based on Mark Batterson's In a Pit With a Lion on a Snowy Day. 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!

Book Review: Why Didn't You Warn Me?

"Have you noticed that Christians are often afraid or unwilling to live in the mess for very long? We expect things to be neat and tidy, for people to fall into alignment quickly, for them to repent and turn around and get it right-- hopefully by tomorrow afternoon. In my experience, that's a fairy tale. People and situations can get real messy before they get better." (Why Didn't You Warn Me?, page 64)

That one paragraph sums up the major challenge of discipleship and the primary reason we need this book. Huge thanks to Pat Sikora for sending me a copy of Why Didn't You Warn Me? How to Deal with Challenging Group Members. Gossip, rabbit trails, discussion domination, control freaks, mental and emotional problems, people who don't want to pray...who wants to lead a small group?

Small group leadership is extremely messy, but there is absolutely no way to adequately prepare a person for the surprises of leadership; we can only coach them through it. At several of our leadership retreats, we've offered a session called "What No One Ever Warned Me About Leading a Small Group." Recently, NCC small group leader wrote "What They Didn't Tell Me About Small Group Leadership." So I was excited to see a book by this title!

Why Didn't You Warn Me?
is a short but information-packed, practical book. In fewer than 90 pages, Pat introduces us to 18 challenging personalities that are sometimes encountered in small group ministry, and she gives step-by-step ideas and advice on how to pray for, approach, and tackle each one. From the ubiquitous discussion challenges like Mona Monopoly and Rhonda Rabbitrail to more difficult character challenges like Griselda Gossip and Travis Troubled, Pat succinctly outlines both the proper approach and-- perhaps more importantly-- the Biblically appropriate attitude for dealing with each.

Here are some of the strengths I found in the book:

Starts with Self-Examination. I really liked the fact that the book started out with self-examination. All good leadership begins by being a leader worth following, and you can't surgically remove sawdust from the eyes of others until you deal with the log in your own. Pat devotes the first two chapters of the book to helping leaders "deal with their own stuff" and become leaders worth following.

Prioritizes Prayer. Pat also does a fantastic job of establishing the priority of prayer in the process of working through difficult people and situations. Sometimes, we can get so caught up with trying to clean up, work around, hide, or ignore the mess that we forget about the power of prayer.

Emerges from Experience. The book obviously emerges from a place of experience. Pat has been involved in small group ministry for more than 30 years, and it is evident from her writing. This is not just theory, it's coming from the place of a practitioner. As you read about each challenging personality, you know that Pat actually knows these people by name and face. She has walked through these messes and emerged on the other side with hope and Biblical principles for leading through them.

The only criticism I would offer is related to the layout. I loved the pull quotes and statistic boxes, but the book looked extremely busy to me. It was distracting. Some of the pictures of people tossed randomly throughout the pages were just odd or goofy looking. It felt like it was trying too hard to be cool, hip, and relevant. But that is a publishing problem and not a content problem.

For future editions of the book, I would offer a new personality: Robbie Relativist or Polly Pluralist. One of the new challenges in groups, especially among younger Christians, is the postmodern approach to Scripture: "this is what it means to me; what does it mean to you?," "this is what is true for me," "I don't think that's what God would want for us," etc. Rhetoric that exposes our pluralistic, relative, or non-absolute truth tendencies. I think it would be helpful to have a chapter on how to keep groups and discussion rooted Biblically and under the authority of Scripture when people are more likely to drift into "this is what it means for me" kinda discussion.

This book could be a great supplement to a small group training program or for use in a coaching environment. It is extremely practical. To check out other Small Group help books by Standard Publishing, click here. Also, be sure to check out Pat's blog to continue the discussion or to find ongoing training and discussion about the adventures of small group leadership.

Psalm 119:22

"Do not let them scorn and insult me, for I have obeyed your decrees."

"Them" refers to those proud people who disregard God's word. The Psalmist's prayer for such protection against his enemies is a theme running throughout this chapter- v.42, v.51, v.69, v.84, v.121, v.134, v.154, v.161. It makes me wonder exactly what was going on in his life when he wrote this. How often have I been scorned and insulted for following God's Word? Those are strong words. I've definitely encountered times when I was mocked or talked about or been left out of certain opportunities. But scorn and insult indicate a level of persecution that I don't often encounter much now that I work at a church. I need to "get back in the game" and start living outside the church bubble I've been in for the past 2 years. It's not a search for hurling insults; it's a commitment to be salt and light.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Upward Bound 2007

I just got really excited about our upcoming Upward Bound Retreat in October. Historically, we've done two retreats at NCC: Inward Bound, which focuses on how God has created and wired us, and Upward Bound, which focuses on helping people connect with God through spiritual disciplines. At the last Upward Bound, we used the Tabernacle as the organizing metaphor for the retreat teachings and experiences. We are in the planning phase for thinking through this year's retreat.

In years past, these retreats have been very large-- some with as many as 100 attending. I think we are going to keep Inward Bound large like that. But it just feels weird for Upward Bound. I'd like to keep it around 30. We may even go smaller than that and have it at a local evangelical monastery retreat house. Registration will be first come, first serve. The dates will be October 19-21.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Psalm 119:21

"You rebuke those cursed proud ones who wander from your commands."

These are strong words. Is this a statement of fact? Or is it a prayer? Does the author know this from personal experience? This is a tough verse. We know that those who do not live according to God's laws are cursed. We also know that it is impossible to find salvation by keeping the law-- because all of us wander. This verse makes me so thankful for the grace of God.

Studying this verse led me to Galatians 3:10-14, which is like a New Testament commentary on it:

But those who depend on the law to make them right with God are under his curse, for the Scriptures say, "Cursed is everyone who does not observe and obey all these commands that are written in God's Book of the Law." Consequently, it is clear that no one can ever be right with God by trying to keep the law. For the Scriptures say, "It is through faith that a righteous person has life." How different from this way of faith is the way of law, which says, "If you wish to find life by obeying the law, you must obey all of its commands." But Christ has rescued us from the curse pronounced by the law. When he was hung on the cross, he took upon himself the curse for our wrongdoing. For it is written in the Scriptures, "Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree." Through the work of Christ Jesus, God has blessed the Gentiles with the same blessing he promised to Abraham, and we Christians receive the promised Holy Spirit through faith.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Psalm 119:20

"I am overwhelmed continually with a desire for your laws."

I feel overwhelmed from time to time. Sometimes it's a bad version of being overwhelmed-- like when I am swamped at work. Other times, it's a good version of being overwhelmed-- like when God's goodness and blessings pour over my life. Sometimes it's a nervous version of being overwhelmed-- like when I'm approaching the start of a new small group semester.

Honestly, I don't know that I can ever pinpoint a time that I was overwhelmed with a desire for God's laws. Yet the author of this Psalm says that he is continually overwhelmed with that desire. The NIV says "my soul is consumed with longing."

Throughout this Psalm, the writer seems to be claiming to have certain thoughts/emotions/reactions and then asking God to give him those very thoughts/emotions/reactions that he claims to possess. I think that's how thing typically work. We state in faith our love for God, but at the same time, we must ask him to help us love him the way that he desires to be loved. It's like the man in Mark 9 who said, "I believe; help me in my unbelief." Christianity if a cycle of stating what we believe in faith and then believing in faith that God will get us to where he wants us to go and into being what he wants us to be.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Why I Love Alabama

Okay, it's 3:00pm on a Friday, and I need a sermon prep break. Here is another reason why I love Alabama:

#9- Supermarkets have cute names like Piggly Wiggly and Winn Dixie.

Speaking of Winn Dixie, if you've never seen the movie Because of Winn Dixie, you should!

My Tennis is Bad

Ryan, Jim, and I played tennis last night. It was bad. I was particularly bad. I don't know what's happened to me, but it's rather embarrassing.

On a related note, I am in the market for a new tennis racquet. I'd love to blame my bad game on my racquet. It's an old graphite Wimbledon racquet with bad strings and an annoying shudder that it sends up my arm on a solid hit. But I used to play really well with that racquet, so I think it's just me. Nevertheless, I'm ready for a new racquet. Let me know if you've got any suggestions!

Theology 101 Notes: Doctrine of the Holy Spirit

These are notes from week 6 of Theology 101. We also covered the Doctrine of the Church during week 6. I will post those notes next week.


The Holy Spirit
The nine fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23) are the by-product of a Spirit-filled life and evidence of spiritual maturity. The nine gifts of the Spirit are different manifestations of the Spirit to build up the body (I Cor. 12:1-11). We are instructed to diligently seek the gifts (I Cor. 12:31, 14:1), but they must be exercised in an orderly way (I Cor. 14:26-33) in the context of love (I Cor. 13:1-13).
- From National Community Church Statement of Beliefs

“But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” John 14:26

Pneumatology: A study of who the Holy Spirit is, what He does, and the gifts He gives. (Horton, Systematic Theology)

The Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity. He comes from the Father and is sent by the Son. Symbols of the Holy Spirit include wind and breath (Genesis 1:2, John 3:8, John 20:22, Acts 2:2), water (John 4:10, 15, John 7:37-39), fire (Matthew 3:11, Luke 3:16, Acts 2:3), oil/anointing (Exodus 29:7, Acts 10:38, 1 John 2:20, 27), a seal (Ephesians 1:13-14, Ephesians 4:30, 2 Corinthians 1:22), and the dove (Luke 3:22). Each of these symbols gives us a window into the personality and work of the Spirit.

Work of the Spirit
  • Creation
    • Genesis 1:2, “The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters.”
    • Genesis 2:7, “Then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.” The Hebrew word used here for breath is ruach, meaning “Spirit.” Thus, the Spirit brings physical life.
    • Ezekiel 37:14. “I will put My Spirit within you and you will come to life, and I will place you on your own land. Then you will know that I, the LORD, have spoken and done it," declares the LORD.” Thus, the Spirit brings spiritual life.
  • Conviction and Calling
    • The Holy Spirit works in the conversion process as the agent who fosters conviction of sin. In addition to convicting people of sin, the Spirit is at work in conversion as the agent of God’s call directed towards sinful humans. (Grenz, Theology for the Community of God)
    • John 16:8, “And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment.”
    • John 15:26, “When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify about Me.”
  • Adoption
    • Adoption is the act whereby the Spirit makes us members of God’s family.
    • John 1:12, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name”
    • Romans 8:14-17 “For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, "Abba! Father!" The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.”
    • Ephesians 1:4-5, “He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will”
    • John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist church, explained his Christian conversion this way: “I exchanged the faith of a servant for the faith of a son.”
  • Sanctification (Spiritual Growth)
    • In sanctification, the Spirit of God works to make us more and more like Christ. “It is our cooperation with the Spirit in living out in daily life the regeneration, justification, freedom, and power which is ours through conversion, so that we grow into Christlikeness and service to God.” (Grenz, Theology for the Community of God)
    • The work of God’s free grace, whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God, and we are enabled more and more to die unto sin and live unto righteousness. (Westminster Catechism)
    • Fruit of the Spirit- Galatians 5:22-23, But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
    • He helps us in prayer (Romans 8:26-27) and illuminates Scripture (John 16:13, 1 Corinthians 2:10) for us
  • Empowerment
    • “When the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost and thereafter, He gave power than enabled the ministry of Christ to be carried forward. It was not power in a general sense, that is, an increment of supernatural strength that could have many uses, but power for ministry that flowed from the Father through the Son.” (Williams, Renewal Theology)
    • Acts 1:4, 8, “Gathering them together, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised, ‘Which,’ He said, ‘you heard of from Me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now...but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.’"
    • Romans 15:18-19, “For I will not presume to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me, resulting in the obedience of the Gentiles by word and deed, in the power of signs and wonders, in the power of the Spirit; so that from Jerusalem and round about as far as Illyricum. I have fully preached the gospel of Christ.”
Gifts of the Spirit

A spiritual gift is any ability that is empowered by the Holy Spirit and used in any ministry of the church. (Gudem, Bible Doctrine)

Gifts of the Spirit are list in the following passages:
  • 1 Corinthians 12:8-10
  • 1 Corinthians 12:28
  • Ephesians 4:11
  • Romans 12:6-8
  • 1 Corinthians 7:7
  • 1 Peter 4:11
The “charismatic gifts” are referenced in 1 Corinthians 12:8-10:

“For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, and to another the effecting of miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another the distinguishing of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues.”

At NCC, we believe that the Holy Spirit continues to grant all gifts to the church. We believe the spiritual gifts…
  • Are designed to build up the body
    • 1 Corinthians 12:7, “But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.”
    • 1 Corinthians 14:26. “What is the outcome then, brethren? When you assemble, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification.”
  • Should be actively sought
    • 1 Corinthians 12:31, “But earnestly desire the greater gifts.”
    • 1 Corinthians 14:1, “Pursue love, yet desire earnestly spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy.”
  • Should be exercised in an orderly way
    • 1 Corinthians 14:26-33. Verse 33, “for God is not a God of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints.”
  • Should be exercised in a context of love
    • 1 Corinthians 13:1-3, “If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.”

Spiritual gifts are given for the following purposes:
  • To authenticate the Gospel message throughout the church age
  • To help those in need, thereby demonstrating God’s mercy and love
  • To equip people for ministry
  • To glorify God (Grudem, Bible Doctrine)
Two views on the charismatic gifts include cessationism and continuationism. They are defined as follows:
  • Cessationsism: the charismatic gifts were intended to cease after the New Testament
  • Continuationism: the charismatic gifts were intended to continue throughout history. Therefore, contemporary believers should be open to them and seek them.

For additional reading on this topic, see Across the Spectrum, Chapter 15, The Charismatic Gifts Debate.

At National Community Church, we boldly assert that all gifts of the Spirit are still present and active in the church today and should be aggressively sought by followers of Christ.

Being Filled With the Holy Spirit
“We have an old gas boiler in our house. The pilot light is on all the time. But the boiler is not always giving out heat and power. Some have only got the pilot light of the Holy Spirit in their lives, whereas when people are filled with the Holy Spirit, they begin to fire on all cylinders )if you will forgive me for mixing metaphors!). When you look at these people, you can almost see and feel the difference.” (Nicky Gumbel, Questions of Life)

In the Old Testament, the Holy Spirit came upon particular people at particular times for particular tasks (Bezalel- Exodus 31:3-5, Gideon- Judges 6:34, Samson- Judges 15:14, Isaiah- Isaiah 61:1-2)

Now, the Holy Spirit is no longer reserved for particular people at particular times for particular tasks. Rather, he is poured out on all who follow Christ.

Joel 2:28-29
“It will come about after this that I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind; and your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on the male and female servants I will pour out My Spirit in those days.”

Examples of the Holy Spirit being poured out on believers in the early church:
  • Disciples- John 20:21-23 and Acts 2
  • Samaritans- Acts 8:14-18
  • Ephesus- Acts 19:1-7

Psalm 119:19

"I am but a foreigner here on earth; I need the guidance of your commands. Don't hide them from me!"

As I read this verse this morning, I am reminded immediately of two things. One, I am reminded of the first Petra album I ever owned: Not of This World. ("Grave Robber" was one of my favorite songs!) "We are strangers, we are aliens, we are not of this world." Two, it reminds me of all the other places in Scripture where we are reminded that this is not really our home. The writers of Hebrews and 1 Peter refer to us as "aliens" and "strangers." The New Living Translation refers to us as nomads. 2 Corinthians 5:20 says, " So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, 'Come back to God!'"

When I wander to foreign lands, I spend a lot of time trying to prepare myself for what I will encounter. I try to understand their culture, their language, and their customs. But I always learn it first from the perspective of someone in my own country. I read travel manuals written by people in my own language. God has given us a travel manual for this earth- the Bible. It tells us our purpose and mission. It gives us guidelines about cultures and customs and lifestyles. It provides us with the language to speak to the people around us.

We are all missionaries on mission, and we need to constantly be checking back in with the travel manual.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Book Review: They Like Jesus But Not the Church

Anyone who is serious about sharing their faith with others in this generation and culture needs to read Dan Kimball's They Like Jesus But Not the Church. Not so that we can package a church that they will like, but so we will, like good missionaries, understand the culture and the spiritual climate in which we minister.

The book convicted me on the very second page when I realized that I had become so busy "doing ministry" that I had lost almost all contact with those outside the church. My prayer now is "get me back into the game."

Dan's tone is full of grace and understanding, but his words are straightforward and prophetic. Based on several years of interviews with folks outside the church, They Like Jesus But Not the Church highlights the reasons that emerging generations respect Jesus but are totally turned off by his bride. Many of the reasons are misperceptions; many are not. Some of the reasons that really jumped out to me included the following:

"The church is an organized religion with a political agenda."
"The church is judgmental and negative. It is known for what it is against more than for what it is for."
"The church is homophobic."

Dan is whole-heartedly committed to the truth of Scripture , and he shows us how we can uphold the authority of Scripture while stripping off some of the extraneous trappings we have picked up along the way. I love Dan's humility and transparency. He is fair and gracious to both sides of the conversation, and he offers hope to those in the church and those outside the church.

This is one of the best books I have read, and I believe all pastors need to read it. We need to understand the culture in which we minister. We need to understand the people we are trying to reach. We need to get outside the walls of our church office and get to know the people in our communities. And we need to think Biblically and critically about how we do church.

Psalm 119:18

"Open my eyes to see the wonderful truths in your law."

This is a great prayer to say before reading Scripture. I often ask the Holy Spirit to illuminate the Scriptures for me before I begin to study them. 2 Corinthians 3 teaches us that we all have veils over our faces that keep us from seeing the truth. When we put our faith in Jesus, the Holy Spirit “give us freedom” and “removes the veil” as stated in verse 16. He removes the barrier to seeing God. I need the Holy Spirit to open my eyes so that I can see God, his ways, and his truth.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

This Blog is Rated "R"

There's a website that will give a movie rating to your blog site. Looks like Wineskins for Discipleship is rated "R" for the use of the words death, dead, and crap. Too bad theology notes have so much discussion of death. :)

For whatever it's worth, Zonegathering got a nice "PG" rating.

You can get a rating for your blog here. Thanks to Dan Kimball for the link. His blog was rated "R," as well, so I feel like I'm in great company. But then I discovered that Pastor Mark's blog,, was rated "G." Uh oh.

Anybody else want to share their rating?


I had a strong sense of history and destiny as I was preparing for our team leader training yesterday. That nostalgic feeling doesn't hit us often because our church is only a little over ten years old. But as I thought back over the trajectory of our groups, I realized how far God has brought us and I noticed a cycle. NCC seems to run on roughly a 2-year cycle; two years is about the average life-span of an NCCer. (More on that here).

Anyway, here are some milestones:

1998- The first NCC group multiplied.
2000- Several NCC groups multiplied. First major expansion of groups into Northern Virginia.
2002- First annual leadership retreat. First zone leaders established.
2004- Small group structures formalized- move to semester system and move to free market model of discipleship.
2006- Introduced the NCC Discipleship Map to provide our framework for making disciples.
2008- I'm sensing a multiplication of leaders and and expansion of groups. I want to work on getting our structure in place so that growth can happen. The body cannot grow unless the skeleton grows. We need to grow our skeleton.

Team Leader Training

Last night, I met with 10 potential team leaders for Team Leader training. I'm really sensing an expansion of our small group ministry coming in 2008, and we've got to be prepared for it. Our zone leaders are totally maxed out overseeing all their groups, so we are moving to a new structure of zone leaders, team leaders, and small group leaders. We've had team leaders for over a year now, but in 2008, we are going to move completely to zone leaders overseeing and team leaders overseeing small group leaders. You can read more about that structure here.

I was really excited about the people that we had at the training last night. Really solid, committed people. As I was going around the circle, I was thinking that I would love to have any of them on my zone leader team. That's a great sign! Our zone leaders have really raised up a great group of disciple-makers, and I believe the team leaders we establish in 2008 will move us to the next level.

To read more about what zone leaders and team leaders do, check out the Frequently Asked Questions series.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Book Review: Ancient-Future Evangelism

I have thoroughly enjoyed Robert Webber's Ancient-Future series, and I recently completed Ancient-Future Evangelism. Webber was an evangelical theologian that urged the church to look backwards as it looked forward; to find strategies for reaching the post-Christian world in the faith formation strategies of the pre-Christian world of the early church. As the book flap states, the book presents "A model of evangelism and discipleship firmly rooted in Scripture, attested to in the history of the church, and authentic to the postmodern world in which we live.

Webber's tone is gracious, and his style is academic but easily accessible to all readers. He seemlessly weaves in quotes from ancient church leaders from Athanasius, Tertullian, and Augustine to modern authors such as Robert Clinton, Rick Warren, and Marvin Olasky.

Ancient-Future Evangelism focuses on the topics of faith formation, spiritual growth, and discipleship. It is both a primer in church history and a practical manual for implementing discipleship in our churches today. Webber begins by demonstrating that evangelism and discipleship are not two separate activities, but two parts of the same process of spiritual growth.

I'm particularly fascinated by Webber's encouragement to use rites of passage to help people define and mark their spiritual journeys. In most evangelical churches, the only two such rites are baptism and communion. At NCC, we are very intentional and strategic about trying to draw out the rich symbolism and to make them meaningful for participants. For instance, we create baptism videos to give to each baptism candidate and we give them each a towel to memorialize the day. At some communion services, we serve the communion elements in a special tin and bag that participants can take home with them to remember the experience. But I believe there are other rites of passage that the evangelical church could implement to help their people mark their steps. How can we help people cross the line of faith? How can we help them progress through different stages of spiritual development?

Webber uses the last section of the book to remind us of the story of our theology and how that story can be communicated to post-modern ears. His thesis is that we do not need new methods; we simply need to communicate the ancient truths of Scripture in a way that is understandable in a postmodern and post-Christian context.

I'm not quick to jump out and implement everything Webber advised, but his books always stretch me outside my current thinking, and they help me think critically and theologically about why we do what we do. If you are new to the Ancient-Future series, I would recommend reading Ancient-Future Faith first and then Ancient-Future Time.

Psalm 119:17

"Be good to your servant, that I may live and obey your Word."

Verse 17 begins the third stanza of Psalm 119. The first stanza tells us that living according to God's word is a good idea. The second stanza tells us that we should start living with that wisdom when we are young. The third stanza begins to introduce us to some of the trials and hardships that come along with living in such a way.

The stanza begins with a plea for goodness. The NASB says, "Deal bountifully with your servant." This is a cry for not just existence, but for full life. The kind of life that Jesus promised when he said, "I have come that they might have life, and have it to the full" (NIV). This verse demonstrates a joy in finding one's purpose in serving God.

"Be good to your servant." That's a simple prayer that I should pray often.

The Great Big Book Grab

For any of you readers who live in DC:

Ryan and I are in the process of purging our bookshelves, so I’ve got two boxes of books to give away. If you are interested, come by the office at any time during office hours. Or set up a time to come by at night. First come, first serve. Take as many as you want.

Authors include John Eldredge, Max Lucado, Tony Campolo, Chuck Colson, Peter Wagner, and many more!

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Top 10 Reasons for Majoring in Engineering

Ryan and I are currently purging our place in anticipation of a move later this year. Right now, we are targeting our closets. There comes a time in the life of every t-shirt when it's just time to gracefully find its way to the dumpster. A lot of my LSU shirts have made that sad journey today. They are torn with holes and threadbare. One shirt had more holes than cloth.

There is one that is particularly difficult to part with, but it's just time (Mom- it's got a big hole in the front and it's virtually see-through. One more run in the washing machine would probably cause it to disintegrate). It's one of the first t-shirts I bought as a freshman entering the engineering department in 1992. At the top, it says, "The Top 10 Reasons for Majoring in Engineering" and the reasons are listed below:
  1. I wanted a real major.
  2. I thought the computers in CEBA were big screen televisions.
  3. I can't pass without a curve.
  4. I couldn't get into the monastery.
  5. Someone had to know how to tap the keg.
  6. I already had insomnia.
  7. For the free pocket protector.
  8. A free body diagram sounded like a good idea.
  9. I stood in the wrong line at registration.
  10. I always wanted to drive a train.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Book Recommendations

I just made some book recommendations to an NCCer who is thinking about pursuing full-time ministry. For whatever its worth, here they are:

Spiritual Leadership (Oswald Sanders)

Who Needs Theology? (Stanley Grenz)

Humility (Andrew Murray)

Imitation of Christ (Thomas a Kempis)

The Master Plan of Evangelism (Robert Coleman)

God is Closer Than You Think (John Ortberg)

Courageous Leadership (Bill Hybels)

Next Generation Leader (Andy Stanley)

Mere Christianity (C. S Lewis)

Becoming a Person of Influence (John Maxwell)

I might want to add to that list How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth (Gordon Fee) and Across the Spectrum (Gregory Boyd).

Why I Love Alabama

I haven't posted one of these in a long time. Here is another reason why I love Alabama:

#8- Unlike less-fun Yankee states, it only takes one snowflake to create a state-wide holiday.

Psalm 119:16

"I will delight in your principles and not forget your word."

This idea of delighting in the Word of God shows up 9 times in Psalm 119 alone. We also see it in the 2nd verse of the 1st chapter of the Psalms: "His delight is in the law of the Lord." I am not only to study the Word of God, but I am to do so with joy. I'm reminded of a scene in the movie Luther when Martin Luther presented the German Bible to Prince Frederick. The Prince's hands shook in anticipation of opening the pages and reading the words of Scripture for the first time. Missionaries tell of people taking Bibles and running with them for fear that someone might take it away from them. How fortunate we are to have Bibles (multiple Bibles) printed in our language, and yet most of them sit on shelves gathering dust. I pray that God would give me a new appreciation and thankfulness for his Word.

Theology 101 Notes: Doctrine of Christ and Salvation

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


Jesus Christ is the Son of God
Jesus Christ is the second person of the Trinity, the eternal Son of God. The Scripture declares his virgin birth (Matthew 1:18-23); His sinless life (Hebrews 7:26 & I Peter 2:22 & I John 3:4,5); His miracles (Acts 2:22 & 10:37-38); His substitutionary death on the cross (II Corinthians 5:21 & I Peter 2:24 & I Corinthians 15:4); His bodily resurrection from the dead (Matthew 28:1-6 & I Corinthians 15:4); His exaltation to the right hand of God (Acts 1:9,11 & Philippians 2:9-11).

- From National Community Church Statement of Beliefs

“And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)

Christology: the study of the identity and mission of the Christ whom Christians proclaim is Jesus of Nazareth. (Grenz, Theology for the Community of God)

Matthew 16:15
He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?"

This is the most important question we will ever answer. The way we answer that question will have profoundly personal and eternal consequences. We can summarize the biblical teaching about the Jesus as follows:

“Jesus Christ was fully God and fully man in one person, and will be so forever.” (Grudem, Bible Doctrine)

Jesus was fully human:
  • Jesus was born.
    • Matthew 1:18, “Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: when His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit.”
    • Luke 2:7, “And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.”
  • Jesus had a human body and experienced physical limitations.
    • John 4:6, “…So Jesus, being wearied from His journey…”
    • John 19:28 “…I am thirsty…”
    • Matthew 4:2 “…He then became hungry.”
    • Luke 23:46 “…Having said this, He breathed His last.”
  • Jesus grew intellectually, emotionally, physically, and spiritually.
    • Luke 2:40, “The Child continued to grow and become strong, increasing in wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him."
    • Hebrews 5:8, “Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered.”
  • Jesus expressed human emotions.
    • John 12:27, “…Now My soul has become troubled.”
    • John 13:21, “…He became troubled in spiri…”
      • In both verses in John, the word "troubled" comes from the Greek word tarasso, which was used to describe people who were anxious or suddenly very surprised by danger. (Grudem, Bible Doctrine)
    • Matthew 8:10, “…Now when Jesus heard this, He marveled…”
    • John 11:35, “Jesus wept.”
  • Jesus was sinless.
    • Hebrews 4:15, “For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.”
    • Hebrews 7:26, “For it was fitting for us to have such a high priest, holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners and exalted above the heavens”
    • 1 Peter 2:22, “Who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in his mouth.”
    • 1 John 3:5, “You know that He appeared in order to take away sins; and in Him there is no sin.”

“…the conditions of human existence include such common dimensions of life as knowing human needs, undergoing times of trail and temptation, and being subjected to a variety of limitations. According to the Gospels, all of these aspects of human life characterized Jesus’ existence.” (Grenz, Theology for the Community of God)

Because Jesus was fully human, he has the ability to act in the following ways:
  • Jesus represents us- Romans 5:19, “For as through the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous.”
  • Jesus pays the penalty for us- Hebrews 2:17, “Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.”
  • Jesus mediates for us- 1 Timothy 2:5, “For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,”
  • Jesus serves as our example- 1 Peter 2:21, “For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps,”
  • Jesus understands us- Hebrews 4:15, “For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.” And Hebrews 2:18, “For since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted.”

Jesus was fully God.

The word “Incarnation” refers to the fact that Jesus was God in human flesh. In Bible Doctrine, Grudem defines “incarnation” as “the act of God the Son whereby he took to himself a human nature.”

  • Jesus’ birth was supernatural.
    • Matthew 1:18, “Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: when His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit.”
    • Luke 2:11, “for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”
    • Galatians 4:4, “But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law,”
  • Scripture claims that Jesus is God.
    • Colossians 1:19, “For it was the Father's good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him,”
    • Colossians 2:9, “For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form,”
    • Hebrews 1:3, “And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,”
  • Jesus claimed that He was God.
    • John 8:58, “Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am."
    • Revelation 22:13, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end."
  • Jesus displayed attributes of deity and performed miracles.
    • He changed water into wine (John 2)
    • He multiplied food (Matthew 14)
    • He calmed a storm (Matthew 8)
    • He knew people’s thoughts (Mark 2, John 6:46)
    • He forgave sins (Mark 2:5-7)

Because Jesus was fully human, he has the ability to act in the following ways:
  • Jesus bore the full penalty of sin- Isaiah 53:6, “…But the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him.”
  • Jesus offers salvation to man, Jonah 2:9, “….Salvation is from the LORD."
  • Jesus mediates between God and man, 1 Timothy 2:5, “For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,”

Fully God and Fully Man
Jesus was both fully God and fully man.

Romans 1:3-4
“Concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh, who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord”

Hypostatic Union: the description of the unity of the divine and human natures in Jesus’ one person. (Horton, Systematic Theology)

The Virgin Birth Provides a Link
“But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law” (Galatians 4:4)

“Since as early as the fourth century, theologians have proposed that his special birth forms the link between Jesus eternal sonship and his historical earthly life as a human being.” (Grenz, Theology for the Community of God)

Four Historical Heresies
  • Arianism- Jesus was not fully God but was created by the Father.
  • Apollinarianism- Jesus had a human body, but not a human mind or spirit. His mid and spirit were part of his divine nature.
  • Nestorianism- Jesus was comprised of two separate persons- one for the human nature and one for the divine nature.
  • Monophysitism or Eutychianism- Jesus had a hybrid human and divine nature.

The Kenosis Theory
The Kenosis Theory purports that Jesus gave up some of his divine attributes while on earth. Did Jesus empty himself of his divine abilities? What is the meaning of Philippians 2:5-7?

Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.

“The reformulated theory postulates that in the incarnation the Logos did not lay aside the divine attributes themselves, nor those powers inherent to deity. Rather, the son gave up the independent exercise of these powers. In other words, although he retained all the attributes, powers, or prerogatives of God, the earthly Jesus refused to draw on his divine abilities merely at his own whim. Rather, he willingly submitted his prerogative to use his divine capabilities to his Father’s will as directed by the Spirit.” (Grenz, Theology for the Community of God)

“When we use all the data of the New Testament on this subject, we realize that Jesus did not stop being God during the Incarnation. Rather, He gave up the independent exercise of the divine attributes. He was still fully Deity in His very being, but He fulfilled what seems to have been a condition of the Incarnation, that His human limitations were real, not artificial.” (Horton, Systematic Theology)

**For further reading on this topic, see Across the Spectrum, Chapter 7, The Christology Debate.

“The fact that the infinite, omnipotent, eternal Son of God could become man and join himself to a human nature forever, so that infinite God became one person with finite man, will remain for eternity the most profound miracle and the most profound mystery in all the universe.” (Grudem, Bible Doctrine)

Atonement: the work Christ did in his life and death to earn our salvation. (Grudem, Bible Doctrine)

Atonement: “the act of reconciliation” to God by covering with a price, the blood of a substitute, so that no punishment is necessary. (Horton, Systematic Theology)

The word atonement actually means “at-one-ment.”

“The word ‘atonement’ is an Anglo-Saxon term deriving from the sixteenth century. According to the New Oxford Dictionary, it first appeared as two separate words, ‘at onement,’ and referred only to harmonious personal relationships. By the seventeenth century the word ‘atonement’ had come increasingly to be used as a quasi-theological term.” (Williams, Renewal Theology)

Propitiation: a sacrifice that bears God’s wrath to the end and in doing so changes God’s wrath toward us in favor. (Grudem, Bible Doctrine)

Foundations of the Atonement
The atonement was an act of the love of God:

John 3:16
"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”

Romans 5:8
“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

The sacrifice of Christ was necessary for atonement:

Hebrews 9:22
“And according to the Law, one may almost say, all things are cleansed with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.”

Heb 2:17
“Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.”

Views of the Atonement
  • Ransom Theory- Jesus’ death and resurrection defeated Satan and set humankind free of his oppressive rule. Thomas Finger, Gustaf Aulen, and Gregory Boyd are modern proponents of this view.
  • Satisfaction Theory- Jesus’ death brought “satisfaction” between God and humanity by paying the penalty that humanity’s sin deserved. Anselm offered this theory in the 11th century.
  • Governmental Theory- Jesus did not literally take on the sin of the world and suffer God’s punishment on behalf of humanity. He did suffer but as a demonstration of God’s wrath against sin. Thus, the cross preserves God’s moral government in the world. Hugo Grotius presented this view in the 17th century. Gordon Olson and George Otis, Jr. are modern proponents of this view.
  • Moral Influence Theory- Jesus’ death provided us with an example of how to live. The perfect love that Jesus demonstrated on the cross is a model for us to emulate. It is also called the subjective view of atonement. Abelard proposed this view in the 12th century.
  • Penal Substitution Theory- Jesus bore the sin of humanity and took the punishment that humanity deserved. This view was advocated by Martin Luther and John Calvin and has been defended in recent years by Leon Morris and John Stott. This is the view most embraced by the evangelical community.
    • 2 Peter 2:24, “and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.”
    • Romans 3:24-26, “being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.”
    • 2 Corinthians 5:21, “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”

In the book Who Needs Theology?, Stanley Grenz states, “we might say that each of these theories presents a dimension of what remains a mystery greater than any single explanation—the mystery of salvation.” There are elements of truth in each of these views. Christ’s death does ransom us from the grip of death and Satan. Christ’s death does provide satisfaction and give us an example of how to live. However, the Penal Substitution Theory most adequately and completely describes the Biblical view of atonement.

** To read more on these views, see Across the Spectrum, Chapter 8, The Atonement Debate and Theology for the Community of God, pages 340-345.

Significance of the Atonement
  • Sacrifice- Ephesians 2:13, Romans 5:9
  • Redemption- Matthew 20:28, Romans 3:24
  • Reconciliation- Romans 5:1, Romans 5:10-11
  • Justification- Acts 13:39, 1 Corinthians 6:11

“How are we to understand this central declaration of our faith? What is the significance of his death? And how does his sacrifice affect us? We cannot understand the full meaning of the cross of Christ. We can only stand in silence before it, acknowledge its wonder, and submit to its power.” (Grenz, Theology for the Community of God)

The Salvation of Man
The only means of salvation is Jesus Christ (Acts 4:12 & John 14:6). He died on the cross to pay the penalty of our sins (I Peter 2:24). He offers each of us a pardon for our sins (Hebrews 9:26) and wants us to become children of God (John 1:12). When we put our faith in Christ, it triggers a spiritual chain reaction. We become the Temple of the Holy Spirit (I Cor. 6:19). Our names are written in the Lamb's Book of Life (Rev. 3:5). We become citizens of heaven (Phil. 3:20-21). We are given eternal life (John 3:16). We are adopted and become children of God (Gal. 4:4-7). Our sins are forgiven and forgotten (Heb. 8:12). We are credited with the righteousness of Christ (Rom. 4:4-5). We are born-again (John 3:3). God takes ownership of us (I Cor. 6:20). We receive an eternal inheritance (Ephesians 1:13-14 & I Peter 1:3-5). The evidence of salvation is two-fold. The internal evidence is the direct witness of the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:16). The external evidence is the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22, 23). We become a new creation (II Cor. 5:17) and are transformed into the image of Christ (II Cor. 3:18).

- From National Community Church Statement of Beliefs

We find forgiveness of sins and peace with God through the sacrificial death and victorious resurrection of Jesus alone. Our salvation is entirely a work of God’s and God’s alone.

The following passages from Romans summarize beliefs about salvation; you may find it helpful to memorize these verses so that you can use them when sharing your faith and beliefs with others.

Romans 3:23
“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,”

Romans 6:23
“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Romans 5:8
“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

Romans 10:13
“For whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved”

Romans 10:9-10
“That if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.”

Calvinism vs. Arminianism
**Refer to the handout from Across the Spectrum for a summary of Calvinism and Arminianism.

Components of Salvation
No one verse or passage of Scripture contains the chronological order of salvation. However, we see

Ephesians 1:11-14
“Also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will, to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory. 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.”

Romans 8:29-30
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; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.”

“We experience salvation because the triune God, who is relational in his own nature, chooses to enter into relationship with us his creatures. He calls sinful humans to share in the divine fellowship. This central dimension of God’s eternal intentional leads us to the concept of election (Grenz, Theology for the Community of God)

John 15:16
“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit”

Ephesians 1:4-5
“Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him in love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will”

2 Thessalonians 2:13
But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth.

The questions and debate surrounding the doctrine of election revolve around how election works, when it occurs, and on what basis it occurs.

The Holy Spirit calls us into relationship with God. The Gospel call is often made in the proclamation of God’s Word.

Calling involves illumination and enablement. Illumination enlightens the minds of the hearers of the Gospel to see the divine truth disclosed therein. Additionally, the Holy Spirit enables an individual to respond to the Gospel call in repentance and faith. Illumination is directed primarily at the mind while enablement is directed primarily at the will. (Grenz, Theology for the Community of God)

1 Corinthians 1:9
“God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”

2 Timothy 1:9
“Who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity,

Regeneration is a secret act of God in which he imparts new spiritual life to us; sometimes called “being born again.” (Grudem, Bible Doctrine).

Regeneration effects a change in our nature (Horton, Systematic Theology)

Ezekiel 36:26-27
"Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.”

Ephesians 2:4-5
“But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)”

1 Peter 1:3
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead”

Conversion is the life-changing encounter with the triune God which inaugurates a radical break with our old, fallen existence and a new life in fellowship with God. (Grenz, Theology for the Community of God). Grenz goes on to state that “exactly how this ‘great transaction’ transpires—how God brings us to know him—is beyond our comprehension.”

Conversion is our willing response to the Gospel call, in which we sincerely repent of our sins and place our trust in Christ for salvation (Grudem, Bible Doctrine). Conversion involves conviction, repentance, and faith. It is a turning from sin and a turning to Christ.

Conviction- the work of the Holy Spirit to expose sin and foster within us an awareness of our need for forgiveness.

Repentance- a heartfelt sorrow for sin, a renouncing of it, and a sincere commitment to forsake it and walk in obedience to Christ…It is an intellectual understanding (that sin is wrong), an emotional approval of the teachings of Scripture regarding sin (a sorrow for sin and a hatred of it), and a personal decision to turn from it (a renouncing of sin and a decision of the will to forsake it and lead a life of obedience to Christ instead). (Grudem, Bible Doctrine)

Repentance was a central theme in the teachings of John the Baptist (Matthew 3:5-12, Luke 3:7-14), Jesus (Matthew 4:17, 11:20-21, Luke 5:32, 13:3-5, 15:7, 16:30, 24:45-47), the early church (Acts 2:38, 3:19, 8:322, 17:30, 26:19-20), and the apostolic teachers (Romans 2:4, 2 Peter 3:9).

2 Corinthians 7:9-10
“I now rejoice, not that you were made sorrowful, but that you were made sorrowful to the point of repentance; for you were made sorrowful according to the will of God, so that you might not suffer loss in anything through us. For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death.”

Faith- trust or dependence on God based on the fact that we take him at his word and believe what he has said (Grudem, Bible Doctrine). This is also called “saving faith,” and it involves knowledge, assent, and trust.

Acts 20:21
“I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus.”

Romans 3:28
“For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law.”

Justification is an instantaneous legal act of God in which he 1) thinks of our sins as forgiven and thinks of Christ’s righteousness as belonging to us and therefore, 2) declares us to be “just” or morally righteous in his sight. (Grudem, Christian Beliefs)

Justification is a forensic term, referring to a change in our legal standing before God. (Grenz, Theology for the Community of God)

Justification effects a change in our status before God. (Horton, Systematic Theology)

Romans 3:24
“And are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”

Romans 8:1
“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

Galatians 2:16
“Know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified.”

Adoption is an act of God whereby he makes us members of his family. (Grudem, Bible Doctrine)

John 1:12
“But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name”

Romans 8:14-17
“For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, "Abba! Father!" The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.”

Ephesians 1:4-5
“He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will”

** See also 1 John 3:1-3, John 1:12, and Hebrews 2:10-11

Sanctification is a progressive work of God and man that makes us more and more free from sin and like Christ in our actual lives. (Grudem, Bible Doctrine)

Sanctification is the Holy Spirit accomplishing God’s purpose in us as Christian life proceeds. (Elwell, Evangelical Dictionary of Theology)

Romans 6:11-14
“Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace.”

Romans 12:2
“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”

Ephesians 4:24
“And put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.”

** See also John 17:17, 2 Corinthians 3:18, 1 Peter 2:2, Philippians 3:12-14, and 1 Thessalonians 5:23.

Perseverance refers to the ongoing operation of the Holy Spirit through which the work of God begun in our hearts will be carried on to completion. (Horton, Systematic Theology)

John 8:31
“If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine”

John 10:27-29
“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand.”

Ephesians 1:13
“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”

** See also Colossians 1:22-23, Matthew 7:21-23

The final step in the application of redemption. It will happen when Christ returns and raises from the dead the bodies of all believers for all time who have died, and reunites them with their souls, and changes the bodies of all believers who remain alive, thereby giving all believers at the same time perfect resurrection bodies like his own (Grudem, Bible Doctrine)

Glorification refers to the Spirit’s eschatological completion of our salvation, when he brings us to reflect perfectly the goal of our conversion and sanctification. (Grenz, Theology for the Community of God)

1 Corinthians 15:51-52
“Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.”

Romans 8:11
“But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies [a]through His Spirit who dwells in you.”

** See also 2 Thessalonians 4:14-16, Revelation 21:3-5

Read the book of Romans.