Monthly Archives: January 2009

Thoughts on “feel good theology”

Lately I have had kind of a backlash against “feel good theology,” the kind of biblical teaching that talks about all the good and happy blessings that will pour from the sky when we live a good life as good Christians. I’m not sure why it’s been so on my mind lately. Just as I study the bible and preach on Sunday’s I realize that our promise from God is not riches and fame falling from the sky, it’s pain and suffering that we’ll continue to suffer as “exiles” here on Earth. It’s the truth that we have been, and will continue to be, jacked up sinners (albeit with grace and forgiveness when we accept into our lives what Jesus accomplished on the cross). This morning as I was driving to the office I was reflecting on this and thinking about the depth of truth in this reality and then I thought, “Why doesn’t this depress me?” Logically it seems we seek spirituality and religion to find peace and happiness in this life, but all I seem to think about lately is how screwed up we are and how life will be tough even as Christians. But I’m more excited about my faith than ever, I’m more focused on God than ever. What’s going on? Then it occurred to me, there is a whole lot of freedom in acknowledging, being honest and coming to terms with who we are. Have you ever experienced confessing something that you had been hiding and feeling like a weight was lifted? It didn’t change what you had done, but there was freedom in being honest. That’s where it starts with our faith. Just being honest with who we are, good and bad brings freedom. Then within that honesty is a God who loves us right there, right there in our jacked upedness (new word I invented, but it’s a good one). He knows exactly who we are, while we were still sinners He sent Jesus for us. That’s real joy, being loved for EXACTLY who we are. The pitfall of “feel good theology” is there is always this feeling of not adding up, if you’re not as blessed as the next person it’s because you’re not good enough yet, you haven’t done enough yet, and in that is condemnation, not freedom. Quickly, I’m not saying we don’t dig into growth and discipleship, I’m talking about a different thing. Also, I’m not saying we don’t strive to be more like Jesus, that we can continue to be flagrant sinners and bask in the “freedom in Christ.” That’s not biblical either, but being honest about who we are and then discovering the love and acceptance available to us even while we continue to struggle and perhaps face incredible hardship in this life brings freedom and unexplainable joy. Because we’re loved and accepted by the Creator of the Universe. That makes me feel good!

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Some more thoughts on being missional

I’ve become a part of an online community at goideation.org. It’s mostly tech and worship leaders but opens up a lot of great discussions, you should check it out. I just posted this question below on their forum, any thoughts would be very cool…

Heading into a strategic/creative planning meeting tomorrow so I’m pondering this an awful lot. Now I know every city and community is different, but I’m just curious what are people finding to be the so-called “keys” to their community and/or city? What ways have you discovered to be missional to where God has put your church? We’re in a vibrant, urban center so the typical children’s ministry and catchy mailer/sermon series isn’t enough. We’re working on drilling down to where this young, mostly single, affluent crowd God has surrounded us with is going to discover Jesus in a way that fits the context of their seeming affluence and non-perceived need for Jesus. Good times! Not looking for ideas that will necessarily fit our context, I’d just like to see what God is revealing to folks in other places and how you discovered it. Thanks!

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Some more on water baptism

This past Sunday at Ephesus we looked at Matthew 3 and Jesus’ baptism by John. As usual, there was a lot to cover! Below are some additional points on baptism that I wanted to get out there for everyone interested in more on water baptism. Also, we’re going to have a water baptism at Ephesus on February 22nd for anyone who has a relationship with Jesus and has not yet been baptized. If you go to the Ephesus web site you can get registered for baptism. Hope this gives you some more insight into water baptism as we see it at Ephesus Church.

First and foremost, Jesus modeled full immersion baptism by John the Baptist in Matthew 3. Jesus directs us in Matthew 28.19-20 to baptize and we then see it carried out throughout the book of Acts as the early church was getting it’s start. Therefore, because it was exemplified in Jesus, declared by Jesus, and lived out in the life of the early church, we continue to practice it today. At Ephesus, we conduct baptism through the full immersion in water of the individual. This is due to the examples we see in the bible and the original Greek word from which baptism is derived being defined as placing someone fully in water. It’s that simple. Baptism takes on several forms of symbolism as does the Lord’s Supper. I’ll examine a few.

  1. Forgiveness of sins-water is naturally seen as a cleansing agent, we bathe in it, wash dishes in, clean off dead bugs from our windshield with it. So as we are outwardly expressing our cleansing of sin through Jesus, it makes sense that water would physically symbolize a spiritual house-cleaning
  2. Regeneration-Water brings life and baptism again symbolizes this. Jesus told Nicodemus one must be “born of water and spirit” in John 3.
  3. Resurrection-Traditionally, when baptized one goes down into the water (careful to hold the nose for obvious reasons!) and comes up again. This symbolizes our connection with the resurrection of Jesus and is spoken of by Paul in Romans 6 and Colossians 2.
  4. Unity of the church-Baptism is (at least it should be) a common experience for Christians, a sort-of “rite of passage” that is a jointly shared experience in several ways. First, we all, as followers of Jesus, have most likely been baptized at some point and see it as a shared milestone in our growth. Secondly, baptism is designed to be a public event where a shared joy and excitement occurs between friends and family. In these things we are further unified as the body of Christ.
  5. Commitment to God-Baptism on a certain level also holds a degree of accountability. You have publicly declared your acceptance of Jesus’ death on the cross and folks around you now have no doubt about where you stand. You now have no excuse when you flip someone off in traffic for cutting you off and then being right next to you at the next light anyway…not that I’m bitter.

Water baptism is a powerful, personal experience as you seal in your own life what God is doing in you. It’s also a powerful public experience that allows Christians to celebrate with you  and others around you to get a glimpse of what is happening in your life.

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What is “Missional” really?

I’ve been prepping for a strategic/creative planning meeting with some folks on my team and re-engaging the issue of being missional in books and articles. Came across this post from Scott Thomas at Acts 29 from last week. He nails it. Good read.

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