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Monthly Archives: November 2009

Breaking down the dividing wall

Yesterday, the eyes of the world focused on Berlin as Germany celebrated the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. As one writer described the event,

“Thousands of cheering Germans re-enacted the electrifying moment the Berlin Wall came crashing down — toppling 1,000 graffiti-adorned 8-foot-tall dominoes that tumbled along the route of the now vanished Cold War icon, celebrating 20 years of freedom from separation and fear.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel — the first east German to hold the job — called the fall of the wall an “epic” moment in history. “For me, it was one of the happiest moments of my life,” Merkel said.

Within hours of a confused announcement on Nov. 9, 1989, that East Germany was lifting travel restrictions, hundreds of people streamed into the enclave that was West Berlin, marking a pivotal moment in the collapse of communism in Europe.

20 years ago, the Berlin Wall fell and freedom and unity were now possible.

Almost 2,000 years ago, an even more significant barrier was torn down. It was the wall that divided God and men and women. Through his death on the cross, Jesus Christ removed the barrier that existed because of sin. By dying for our sins, Jesus made it possible for us to experience peace with God. Sin could be forgiven. Those who were once God’s enemies could be reconciled.

As the apostle Paul explains in his letter to the church in Ephesus,

For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility (Ephesians 2:14-16).

 When the Berlin wall was torn down, East Berliners and West Berliners could be united as “Berliners.” When the wall of sin was torn down, men and women could become members of the family of God.

 
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Posted by on November 10, 2009 in News stories, Scripture, Theology

 

Who determines the role of the church?

What is the role of the church in today’s world? What on earth is the church supposed to accomplish?

As important as that question is, perhaps a more foundational question is, Who decides that role? Who is in charge of setting the course for the church? Who determines what the church is to be and to do?

There are several places and/or people one could turn to for answers to that question.

Community – You could survey the neighbors who live near the church and ask them what they want to church to do. A pastor friend gets suggestions from his neighbors because they have the word “Community” in the name of the church. The neighbors feel they should be in charge.

Culture – A church could take its cues from newspapers, television, radio, movies as to what its role should be. You could follow the latest trends and fashions in determining your programs and lessons.

Christians – You could survey other Christians and see what they want in a church.

Chain of Command – This could take different forms. You could follow a “state church” model and let the government determine the role of the church. You could employ a hierarchical model and follow the dictates of a particular denomination. You could allow the leaders of each respective church determine their own destiny.

Champions of the past – Another source of authority might be the traditions handed down from past generations. “If it was good enough from them, it should be good enough for us” might be our theme.

Christ – Rather than turn to any number of possible authorities, we could recognize what the Scriptures say, that Christ is the head of the church (Colossians 1:18). As such, he has already revealed the nature and purpose of the church in the Bible.

To answer the question, “Who determines the role of the church?” we have to ask a second question, “What does the Bible say? What did God reveal in Scripture about the nature of the church?”

 Whom we recognize as our authority makes a huge difference in the answer to that question.

 
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Posted by on November 9, 2009 in Church, Ministry

 

Missed opportunities

Which is worse–to live with unrealized potential or to suffer the pain of missed opportunities? After watching the University of Washington Huskies lose by 1 to the UCLA Bruins this afternoon, I agonized over that question.

When UW defeated USC back in September, the Huskies were blessed with potential. After three football games in the 2009 season, we had won 2. Only four more wins and the Dawgs were bowl-eligible. Now six games later, UW is mired at 3-6 and their pockets are stuffed with unrealized potential. Yes, if the Dawgs win their three remaining games, a bowl is still within reach. But only the staunchest fan would believe the Dawgs will beat OSU, WSU, and Cal. The fat lady may not be singing yet, but she is warming up in the wings. SIGH!

The UCLA game this afternoon was a clinic of missed opportunities. A defensive stop here, a third down conversion there. Make the field goal instead of missing it. Score a touchdown or two instead of kicking three field goals. Don’t throw an interception in the final minute. Kick the field goal in the closing seconds. If UW scored touchdowns instead of field goals, it could have 35-24 on the final drive and the interception would have been moot. If we had only made the one field goal we missed, the score would have been 26-24 on the final drive. If we kept the ball and kicked a field goal in the final seconds, we would have won. If, woulda, coulda, shoulda. SIGH!

I’m not sure which hurts more. Unrealized potential and missed opportunities both sting quite a bit. SIGH!

Sounds like there may be some life lessons here.

 
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Posted by on November 7, 2009 in Culture, Personal growth, Seattle, Sports

 

The “after-life”

“When one thinks about the world, certain dates come to mind which forever changed the course of history; dates on which we declare ‘before’ and ‘after.'”

So begins the opening sentence of “Are you living the after-life?”, an article written by my son, Jonathan. It appears in the Opinion section of The Chimes, the student newspaper of Biola University. If I may say so myself in a proud-fatherly-sort-of-way, it is pretty insightful and thought-provoking.

 
 

A striking failure

Unresolved anger erodes character, dishonors God, and leaves lasting and painful consequences.

At the age of 40, Moses killed a man in a vengeful fit of rage (Exodus 2:11-12; Acts 7:22-24). At the age of 80, he stormed out of Pharaoh’s presence in a hot-tempered fury (Exodus 11:8). He smashed the tablets of the Law in indignant retaliation for Israel’s sin of worshipping the golden calf (Exodus 32:15-19). Nearing 120 years old and tired of Israel’s complaining and criticism, Moses lashed out at the people verbally and struck the rock physically (Numbers 20:10-11). While God forgave his sin, Moses’ anger disqualified him from further leadership (Numbers 20:12). A lifelong habit of uncontrolled anger finally exacted its toll.

Are there any besetting sins in my life that will eventually trip me up if I continue to ignore them?

 
 

Am I becoming a respectable hobbit?

During my daily commute, I tend to listen to books on CD rather than the radio. This morning, I plugged in Disc 1 of The Hobbit, written by J.R.R. Tolkien, and read by Rob Inglis. As I listened to the description of what a hobbit is, I began to wonder if I am a hobbit in disguise, or at least in danger of becoming more hobbit-like as I grow older.

According to Tolkien, hobbits are comfort-loving creatures who eat many meals a day and avoid adventures of any sort. A truly respectable hobbit is one who never did anything unexpected, but rather chose to live a quiet, predictable life. They prefer to stay close to home, and wile away the time with food, drink, and a good pipe. Things remain largely unchanged from one generation to the next. Hobbits prefer it that way and leave the adventures to the “big folk.”

Like looking at myself in a mirror, I wondered, “Is Tolkien talking about me? Does that describe my life?”

How many of God’s blessings have I missed out on because I prefered comfort instead of change? How many riches have I never received because I chose to stay home rather than follow God on a great adventure? How much of the abundant life have I not lived because I was more concerned that people think I was respectable rather than rash?

Am I becoming too much of a respectable hobbit?

 
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Posted by on November 3, 2009 in Books, Personal growth

 

The seduction of the saints

“Worldliness . . . is a sleepiness of the soul in which the status, pleasures, comforts, and cares of the world appear solid, stunning, and affecting, while the truths of Scripture become abstractions–unable to grip the heart or guide our everyday activities. This means that the greatest challenge facing most Christians is not persecution but seduction.

Becoming ‘all things to all people’ (1 Corinthians 9:22) does not mean fitting in with the fallen patterns of this world so that there’s no distinguishable difference between Christians and non-Christians. When this world’s sin patterns start to seem normal and God’s ways start to seem strange, we know we’ve been seduced. When this happens, Christian become miserably ineffective.”

Tullian Tchividjian, in Unfashionable: Making a difference in the world by being different

 
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Posted by on November 2, 2009 in Books, Culture, Quotes