Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Christ-Centered Preaching

Rev. Tim Keller from Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City publishes a newsletter called The Movement which has a great article on preaching. The article made me realize how few Christ-centered sermons I've actually preached in my 24 years of preaching. Click here for the article titled "Keller on Preaching in a Post-Modern City."

What I've come to realize is that much of what we call Bible-based preaching is not really Christ-centered! Rather, sermons tend to be moralistic rather than rooted in the gospel. It's wonderful that even after preaching thousands of sermons in 24 years, that there is still so much to learn.

Not all Bible-based preaching is Chrsit-centered. We can approach the Bible in one of two ways: It is either about me or it is about Christ. When I approach the Bible in a me-centered way, then it is a book full of exmaples that I "should" follow. It is a book that teaches me to try harder to be like the characters in it.

But if I (rightly) approach the Bible in a way that says it's about Christ then I don't see the stories as examples but I see Christ there. It points me to Christ everytime whether I am preaching on Abraham and Isaac, David and Goliath, or on tithing. It all points to Christ. Tim Keller's article shows how to do this.

Let me know if this article was helpful to you and what thoughts it may have stimulated about your own preaching.

A Few Pics from Orlando

Monday, April 17, 2006

Now This Is A Vacation!

Well we got back from Seattle and 4 days later...Here we are in Orlando, Florida - home of Micky Mouse!

We drove 26 hours from Ottawa to Orlando without spending a night in a hotel. Surprisingly, it was a nice trip here. We left Friday night around 8pm and arrived about 11:30pm on Saturday - guess that makes it a 27 hour trip. 3 of those hours were spent going to the bathroom, getting lost on the Pennsylvania Turnpike (FOG!), eating breakfast at an IHOP in Washington DC etc.

We're staying at Orange Lake Resort - beautiful, spacious, clean, and only 15 minutes away from Micky, Epcot, Universal Studios, and Seaworld. Since it was the Easter weekend, we won't be able to get into Disney until tomorrow. So we're just chillin' here at the resort. Nice 2 day rest after such a long drive.

We make the long drive back to Ottawa Saturday morning...

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

The Sky is Falling?!?!

Found Alan Roxburgh's new book waiting for me when I got back from Seattle tonight. Got ambushed by something in the preface. I noticed the popularity of Joel Osteen's book, "Your Best Life Now." I can't help but mention that Oprah Winfrey popularized the phrase, "Living Your Best Life!" Then here comes Roxburgh in his preface:

Throughout Western societies, and most especially in North America, there has occurred a fundamental shift in the understanding and practice of the Christian story. It is no longer about God and what God is about in the world; it is about how God serves and meets human needs and desires. It is about how individual self can find its own purposes and fulfillment. More specifically, our churches have become spiritual food courts for the personal, private, inner needs of expressive individuals. The result is a debased, compromised, derivative form of Christianity that is not the gospel of the Bible at all. The biblical narrative is about God's mission in, through, and for the sake of the world and how God has called human beings to be part of God's reaching out to that world for God's purpose of saving it in love. The focus of attention should be what God wants to accomplish and how we can be part of God's mission, not how God helps us accomplish our own agendas. -Alan Roxburgh

In our desperation to connect to a lost and fallen world, is part of the Church pandering to the self-centered, self-fulfilling humanism made popular by celebs like Oprah?

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Gospel Response

If the gospel we preach is not understood as ultimately an invitation to radically change our lives for Jesus Christ so that people either desire to change or rebelliously reject the message then the following might be the problem(s):

1. We did not communicate the gospel message in a way that our culture understood.

2. We compromised the contents of the gospel to make it less offensive thus making it an impotent message.

3. We (Christians in that culture) created an unreceptive environment through legalism or compromise or anything else that distorted people's perception of the church, God, and/or Jesus Christ.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Radical Reformission by Mark Driscoll

Here are some excerpts from the book as promised:

The way to avoid sin is not to avoid sinners but to stick close to Jesus.

Anytime that Jesus is used as a means to an end, a false gospel has been introduced and the thing improperly focused on becomes a false god.

Reformission requires that every Christian and church realize that is about not something they do but something they are. We are all on mission with Jesus everyday, and we are either good missionaries or bad.

Reformission requires that in our increasingly individualistic, lonely, and depressed culture, we avoid proclaiming soley a personal relationship with Jesus. The gospel requires us to proclaim and embody the full work of Jesus' death and resurrection. Jesus has accomplished four things which people long for. First, Jesus takes away the sins that separate us from God so that we can be connected to God, which fills our spiritual longings. Second, Jesus takes away the sins that separate us from each other so that we can be reconciled to each other as the church, which fills our social longings. Third, Jesus forgives the sins we have committed, thereby cleansing us of filth, which fills our emotional longing for forgiveness. Fourth, Jesus cleanses us of defilement that has come upon us through the sins of others, which fulfills our psychological longing for healing, cleansing, and new life.

To be faithful in reformission, we must embed ourselves in a culture and develop friendships with lost people so that we can be informed and avoid making erroneous judgments.

Reformission is not about abstention; it is about redemption. We must throw ourselves into the culture so that all that God made good is taken back and used in a way that glorifies him. Our goal is not to avoid drinking, singing, working, playing, eating, lovemaking, and the like. Instead, our goal must be to redeem those things through the power of the gospel so that they are used rightly according to Scripture, bringing God glory and his people a satisfied joy.

Alki, Seattle

These are pics from a place in West Seattle called Alki. I wish I could say Alki Beach but that's a couple more miles further from where these pictures were taken. It was so beautiful. The sun was already setting so the lighting is dimmer that I would have liked. The road running along this shore goes to Alki Point. I think it's called Harbor Blvd. We ate at a place along the road called Spud's Fish and Chips. It's been around for 70 years! It turns out that the road, which was lined with a mix of old homes and condos becomes a beach near Spud's. Sweeeeeeeet!

We stayed until it got dark. The Seattle skyline was beautiful in the dark. I loved the sound of lapping waves on the shore. And the view of the stars in the crisp night sky. The sky seems bigger here.

Mars Hill Church: Gospel, Culture, and Church

I recently attended Mars Hill Church in Seattle where Pastor Mark Driscoll has been leading a postmodern congregation of about 3000 for the past 7 years. You can check out their website at www.marshillchurch.org. They have downloadable sermons and vodcasts available there. We attended their morning service in Shoreline (north Seattle) last Sunday. The Shoreline congregation started last January lang. It was a great set up with only a drummer, bassist, and pianist/guitarist leading worship. Simple but really cool. I was inspired by the style of worship. 3-piece band with drums, bass, and keyboard/guitar. Simple but musically really good.

Before we left the service, I bought 2 books at a discounted price. One of them is Mark Driscoll’s book, “The Radical Reformission: Reaching Out Without Selling Out.” I’ll be posting some quotes from the book shortly after I finish writing this. My favorite quote from chapter 1 is...The way to avoid sin is not to avoid sinners but to stick close to Jesus.

One of the issues that Driscoll has me dwelling on is the importance of knowing our culture so that we can reorganize ourselves to be able to connect to people in ways that clearly communicate the gospel. In the book he makes the point by citing that Billy Graham’s Steps to Peace with God appealed to a generation that understood the gospel in terms of peace because they had gone through the experience of World War II and were searching for a way to find peace. Bill Bright’s Four Spiritual Laws appealed to a generation of students who accepted the absolutes of Newtonian physics. But this wouldn’t fly to a generation that’s been raised on Quantum Physics and the New Sciences. It’s very interesting how Mars Hill Church has contextualized the gospel for the Seattle culture.

I'm including below a list of questions from the book that I think would be helpful for anyone seriously thinking of impacting a culture for the kingdom of God. You will need to spend some time to talk to people about these issues -especially disconnected pre-believers.

This issue has caused me to plan to stop and take the time to do this exercise myself before we start anything in Ottawa. Here are the questions for understanding the cultural context in which we advance the kingdom. I think it is important to begin with specifying which age group or mindset you are trying to reach and how they would answer these questions.

Understanding the Culture We’re In

1. Where do people spend their time and money?
2. What do people do during their free time?
3. What do they fear?
4. What do they dream about?
5. Where do they shop?
6. What cultural experiences do they value?
7. What are the most painful experiences they have had?
8. What music do they listen to?
9. What film and television do they watch?
10. What do they find humorous?
11. In what ways are they self-righteous?
12. What do they read?
13. What is their spirituality?
14. Whom do they trust? Why?
15. What do they think about the gospel?
16. What sins will the gospel first confront and then heal for these people?

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Questions for Designing Worship Gatherings

Dan Kimball has a great list of 7 questions to ask when designing worship experiences:

1. Did we lift the name of Jesus up as the centrepiece of why we gathered?

2. Did we have a time in the Scriptures learning the story of God and man? Did we invite everyone to be part of his story in kingdom living?

3. Did we pray together and have enough time to slow down and quiet our hearts to hear God's voice and yield to his Spirit?

4. Did we experience the joy, love, and encouragement of being together as a church?

5. Did we take the Lord's Supper together as a church regularly?

6. Did we somehow remind everyone of the mission of the church and why we exist?

7. Did we enable people to individually contribute something as part of the Body of Christ?

I think this would be great to ask both during the design process AND after as an evaluation...

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Lifestyle Change

I've been thinking about our new life in Ottawa. Not so much the ministry aspect as the personal aspect. I know I need to make lifestyle changes. I want to live a more active life. I want to lose a considerable amount of weight. I want to enjoy the outdoors and sports more. But I want it to be a joy not an obligation.

When I was in high school, I must have spent 5 hours a day in physical activity. I would go to school early so my friends and I could use the gym to play full court basketball. During the lunch hour, we would play volleyball. And then after school, I would spend 2-1/2 hours in practice (basketball, volleyball, or rugby - depending on the season). When we were in between seasons, my friends and I would drive over to the other side of town to the Nepean Sportsplex to play a pick up game of semi-competitive volleyball.

What I look forward to are bike rides, daily walks, trail hikes, camping, basketball, volleyball...and more. Hmmm....bike rides along the Rideau Canal (check out the pic!)...B-E-A-utiful! Now I'm excited! When will this vacation end?! :-)

Still On Vacation!

10 more days before we go back to Ottawa. Now Beth has joined the kids in their chorus of wanting to get back. We have 4 big boxes that just came in containing alot of our stuff from the Philippines. She's anxious to unpack and get started with our new life. Can't say I blame her.

I'm enjoying the down time. But it is difficult to live in someone else's house where you have to keep your guard up to make sure you don't wreck anything or disturb something that shouldn't be touched.

In a few hours, I'll be meeting up with a couple of guys to teach them how to do a Life Transformation Group. I wonder if they'll even show up?

Acts 10, 2006

Just got back from a very interesting experience.

I was invited by a friend of mine visiting Seattle from New Jersey to come over to his sister's (Chinky) house to pray for his brother-in-law (Jun) who has cancer in his lungs. We got there around 7pm and the living and dining rooms were full! Even my friend did not expect that many people. Apparently, Jun and Chinky called the extended family over for the "healing service."

We sang a few song led by Marion (my friend's wife) on the piano. My friend, Luther, opened in prayer. Then I came up to share about Jesus from Mark 1 where He healed a leper. I pointed out that it wasn't Jesus' ability that was in question but his willingness. I think a lot of people are like that. They don't doubt God's ability to heal but His willingness to do so.

I preached about Jesus and who he was and what he did on the cross. I felt like I was in Cornelius' house (cf. Acts 10). It was quite a sight.

Then we prayed for two people's healing. Jun, who was suffering from lung cancer. And Edna, who has thyroid cancer. Both felt something as we prayed. I sensed the presence of the Lord. We ended the night with dinner for all. Wow! It was like living the New Testament. I loved it. I had everyone hug the person next to them before we ate. Great atmosphere!