Monthly Archives: April 2011

Solid Doctrine

I was moved tonight to be thankful for sound doctrine. In the Church of the Nazarene we have a great gift called the Manual. One of the reasons I started this blog was to express publicly how much I value our tradition as stated in the Manual.
Recent books and sermons on hell and heaven are another opportunity to highlight what’s right about our doctrine. We are careful to let Scripture be our guide. So we believe salvation is for all who repent of their sins, confess Jesus as Lord, and faithfully follow him. We don’t believe in a limited atonement. Whosoever will may come to Jesus. But we also follow the Bible on judgment. Everlasting punishment awaits all who fail to repent and/or callously reject Jesus as Lord.
Rob Bell, for example, wants to question this idea based on the philosophical idea that this makes God mean. But we’re not God so it’s not our place to reject clear Scriptures because we’re uncomfortable with the results. Mark Driscoll, on the other hand, goes so far as to teach (along with John Piper and others) that one must agree with him on hell to avoid going there. The Bible has a lot to say about punishment for false teachers. But The New Testament is clear: it’s what we believe and obey concerning Jesus which determines our destiny. That he’s the Son of God, that he came in the flesh, that he died for the sins of the world, was raised and is coming again to judge us all. But there is room for some variety on some details about judgment, hell, and heaven, where Scripture is less specific. But it’s pretty safe to say that no one will be in hell because they interpreted the Scriptures differently, unless their belief keeps them from repenting, confessing faith in, and following Jesus.
Thankfully, the Nazarene church has hammered out (and continues to study and debate for greater accuracy) clear doctrines on all major issues. These are found in The Articles of Faith. But the church has also pared these down to an Agreed Statement of Belief, which reflects the most foundational Christian beliefs (such as the Apostles Creed, etc…) as the required faith profession for membership. These are the things Scripture is undeniably clear on in multiple places, being affirmed in every age of Christianity.
I encourage you to go to nazarene.org for more information.
Recently some of our views have come under attack from relative newcomers who are committed to Reformed Tradition ideas. (As are Bell, Driscoll, and Piper). We are part of the Wesleyan-Holiness Tradition, not reformed. As one professor at Olivet Nazarene University said, “Issues like emergent are not primarily our fight. They are more of a family fight in the reformed movement. As Wesleyans we aren’t hung up on these questions.” Discipleship and evangelism form our mission.
Rob Bell has been an interesting figure, because even though he’s reformed, he believes in free will. So sometimes Nazarenes have been intrigued by him, but none I know would say he represents our views. As I pointed out in my review of his book, his views are different than ours. Quite different. But not so different as to call him unChristian. I have no agenda but truth and love in reviewing his book or in any other comments/posts I make.
I’m thankful for sound, biblical doctrine. Nazarene doctrine. Because it’s good classical Christian doctrine. I want to teach and preach that good news until Jesus returns or calls me home.
If you don’t know Jesus or even about him, can I challenge you to read the New Testament and check out a church? Jesus can save you from your sins, help you change your world, and get you ready for heaven! Join us at NewHope Community Church of the Nazarene This Sunday 10:30am, we’ll actually search for Jesus in the Scriptures! Be part of it!

And Can it Be?

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“And can it be, that I should gain an interest in the savior’s blood. Died he for me, who caused his pain? For me, who him to death pursued?
Amazing love. How can it be? That Thou my God shouldst die for me?”
Charles Wesley

Good Friday Service 7pm
NewHope Community Church of the Nazarene

What love is this?

Today is called Maundy Thursday in the Christian tradition. It commemorates Jesus’ last meal with his closest followers before his death. From this meal we have the Eucharist (thanksgiving) or Communion as the way to both commemorate Jesus’ sacrificial death and to experience the power of it in the present. It is considered by all or nearly all Christians to be a sacrament, a way that we intersect directly with the grace of God in our time. In our tradition (Church of the Nazarene) we call it a means of grace. So it’s not just an outward ritual. It’s a way to commune with God. We don’t emphasize anything magical happening with the elements of communion (bread & cup), but rather the act of obedience to Jesus’ command (do this…) puts us in a position where God can bless us in a special way. God uses the bread and the cup to draw us near to the center of our faith and Christian experience. It reminds us that it’s a relationship with God (expressed here in a meal) and not just a set of beliefs.
But in John’s Gospel the Last Supper commemorates the act of love where Jesus washed the feet of his followers. (John covers the Eucharist mainly in John 6). He wanted his community to understand that Jesus’ community was to be a community of servant-leaders who love and serve. You can read about it in John 13. Peter demonstrates that for some, the hardest part is being served. And so this keeps our communities of faith communities of Grace. Salvation is a gift and a calling. If we don’t keep these in balance, we lose our way.
So both traditions have been a part of celebrating Maundy Thursday. (The name probably comes from the Latin , Mandatum, which is the first word in John 13:34 “A new COMMAND I give you…, that you love one another.”) Celebrating the Eucharist/Communion and foot washing.
This year, our church is not having a Maundy Thursday service. But one could spend some time today reflecting on the meaning and significance of both of these traditions. Perhaps you’ll commemorate the powerful love of Jesus on Good Friday and receive communion on Easter Sunday. Spend time today preparing yourself for these events. Then think about how you live in community with others. If you’re not part of a worshipping community, consider connecting with one this weekend. We can’t really love one another if we’re isolated on our journey of faith. It’s in serving others that we really find fulfillment. And once we drop our guard, it feels great to be served. Let love not take advantage of others-those who are served are empowered to return the gift of life. It not only feels good, it feels right.
So there it is- Maundy Thursday. A chance in the middle of Holy Week to consider the awesome gift of love that we can share with others, if we would.

Good Friday service 7pm
NewHope Community Church

Is God your Spiritual ATM?

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Is God your spiritual ATM? Has it sometimes (or often) been your pattern to come to God only when you need something? Has confession of sin been like entering your PIN, something you do to gain access to what you want? At this point we’re slipping out of an authentic relationship with God and into a manipulative religion of convenience. Our god is reduced to a robot dispensing grace when we want it, resources when we demand them, and instant circumstance gratification. Sound good?
The problem is a machine god that does our bidding is an illusion. In this scenario we’re a little too clever. We’re not smart enough to know when we need grace. We have very little imagination when it comes to our resource needs. (Similar to the limited balance in our bank account.) And circumstance manipulation is a pipe dream. We lack control and our machine god is powerless to move others. (Remember it’s merely doing our will.)
What Jesus offers us is radically different than religion as usual. There is no guarantee of material comfort. There is a near promise of human rejection. In fact, sometimes Jesus seems really bad at marketing:
“Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done.”
Matthew 16:24-27 (NIV)
Religion of convenience is out the window. But in return:
We get a dynamic relationship with a living God who has walked in our shoes and overcome every trial we face. We lose automation. We gain relationship. We lose cheap grace and gain costly but infinite grace. We lose the illusion of control and gain the reality of trust. We lose material comfort and gain communion with God. We lose the world and gain The Kingdom.
In short, we follow. We lose. We find. We are kept.
In this scenario, forgiveness is something we ask for quickly because we want the relationship to be restored. Because we love someone and genuinely grieve over our own selfish actions.
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
1 John 1:9 (NIV)
He’s not a machine. He is the righteous judge of all the earth. He is the God who loves us, a friend who sticks closer than a brother. He is the jealous lover of our souls.
Gut check. Is it time to walk away from the machine god of our own making? Is it time to take up our cross and follow Jesus? (Hint: this works a lot better in community with others, called church.) He even promised to reward our new way of life when our journey comes to an end…
It’s Holy Week. Never a better time to get in step with Jesus on the way to Golgatha, where his cross was lifted up with Him nailed to it. He gave up everything. He gained even more. He invites us to follow

Good Friday Service: 7pm
NewHope Community Church of the Nazarene

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Who is This?

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This Sunday, Christian believers and seekers will gather in churches around the world to celebrate Jesus’ final arrival in Jerusalem 2,000 years ago. Many will be asking the same question that was heard on the streets that day—”Who is this?”
Crowds of people came to meet him! They welcomed him into the city, believing he might just be the answer to their prayers. Many were holding palm branches. Others laid their coats down for him. A scene fit for the arrival of a king. But Jesus didn’t look like a king. He looked like someone they’d never seen before, but had always been seeking. Still the question remained. Who is this?
It’s a question we should all answer. Who is Jesus? But make sure you don’t answer from your easy chair.
This Sunday, go to church. Hear the story. Experience the people who follow him. Get caught up in the moment. Come see for yourself. Many have testified to experiencing Jesus, directly, in worship. Most have told a story of transformation and hope. At NewHope Community Church we welcome you to come just as you are to experience Jesus just as he is. If you’re in Chicagoland, come check us out in NW Indiana. 10:30am (You’ll find directions by clicking on link) Good Friday (7pm) and Easter Sunday (10:30am) are additional opportunities to discover faith and and check out the church experience. Who is Jesus? Wherever you are keep seeking until you discover a life changing answer! Grace and Peace to you!

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Education Reform Done Better!

Powerful unions key to education reform package.

I hope Wisconsin and Indiana are watching. The above link to a Times article showcases what can happen when all parties come to the table and have students in mind. Everyone gave and the kids gained. Better to actively negotiate with teachers than try to silence them. After all we trust our kids to them every day, so maybe we should listen to their ideas before charging ahead. Hopefully all teachers will now be motivated to serve well (as most of them do).
I also like the final quote reminding parents they have the largest single role in educating their kids. Churches can help to empower parents to pass on values of faith, respect, and discipline. This will transform the typical classroom far more than any legislation ever could. I’m offering up a prayer for parents, kids, teachers, and leaders.
“Lord, let Your Word be a lamp for our feet and a light to our path. Help students to believe in a better future. Help parents and teachers to believe in their students. Help teachers always remember it’s about the students. Help leaders and parents to respect the good work most teachers do sacrificially everyday. Help parents love their kids through discipline, respect, and spiritual training. Protect us all from principalities and powers that would destroy our future. Show us the way, the truth, and the life!”

The Preacher Your Preacher Could Preach Like!

Click the above link for access to awesomeness! (It helps if you know who the Old Spice guy is…)
I’m indebted to my preaching student Matt Upshaw for the link!

“Bulldogs”, the movie

This movie writes itself. Opening scene, actual footage from the last 5 seconds of 2010 National Championship Game, fading as the shot bounces off the rim…
TEN YEARS EARLIER appears on a black screen.
Young Brad Stevens is sitting in an office cubicle at Lilly. Picture of his girlfriend on his desk. He’s on the phone, but his mind keeps wandering back to big shots he made to secure victory for Zionsville High School. Then to the moment he received the Coaches award at DePauw.
His manager stops by to remind him how pleased they are to have him on the team. How he’s sure a bright young man like him will go far. Points to the hall where photos of Lilly leaders of the past and present line the wall. Someday you’ll be up there…
The phone rings.
“Better get that,” he says pointing again to the photo wall. “It might be your future calling!”
Picks up ringing receiver. “Brad Stevens, how can I help you?”
It’s a rather terse and disinterested woman in a very noisy office somewhere deep within the bowels of the Butler University Athletic Department.
“Is this Bradley Stevens?”
“Um, yes? Who’s calling?”
“I’m calling from Butler University. There’s an opening for a volunteer assistant position with the Bulldog basketball program. Coach wants to know if you’re interested in an interview.”
Face lights up like a Christmas tree. Drops the receiver. Starts shouting to the phone “Yes, Yes, Yes….” picks it up.
Glances at photo of girlfriend.
“…ah but I have to speak to someone else about this first… Can I call you back.”
“Yes, but let me know by tomorrow morning. Coach won’t want to delay…”
“Thank you. Thank you…um I’m sorry what did you say your name was?”
“I didn’t. But it’s Sally.”
“Sally. Sally, I think I love you!”
“Yeah, yeah. Just call me back by tomorrow…click”
On his lunch break, Brad calls the girlfriend.
“Are you crazy? You got an amazing break to get this job with a future! Our future! Remember, we talked about getting married?”
“I know, but you know it was my dream to coach. I just never thought…”
“I gotta go, click”
“Wait, no. Hello? Hello? Ugh!” end scene…
Brad is back at his cubicle prison trying to duct tape the cracked receiver when the phone rings loudly jarring Brad and us.
“Hello?”
“Okay, here’s the plan:”
“Tracy?”
“Yes, Tracy, who else? Here’s the plan. I go back to Law school. Someone has to pay the bills for this fantasy camp! You live in Bob’s basement and get an hourly job. Are you sure you want to do this?”
“Tracy, I love you forever!”
“We’ll see…”
Music comes up. Brad shouts and raises his arms.
Next scene: we see practice ending and Brad is heading back to his Coordinator of Basketball Operations cubicle. New coach Todd Lickliter (in a cameo playing himself) steps up and invites Brad into his office.
Next scene: Brad carrying a box into an office where a janitor is screwing in a new nameplate above Assistant Basketball Coach.
Next scene: last few seconds of 2nd Round 2008 NCAA Tournament loss. Speech to team afterwards with freshman Matt Howard listening intently…
And the rest is history!
Will the movie end tonight? Or is the story just getting started?
Here’s to great real life stories that fill us with hope!

Welcome to NewHope!

 

 

Welcome to NewHope!.

Click the above link to check out NewHope Community Church of the Nazarene.  Come grow with us as we share the good news of Jesus with our world!  It’s almost Easter time so there are some fresh opportunities to get connected to the church experience.
Join us Friday night April 8th as we head to a local theater for Soul Surfer a truly inspiring movie event!  The cost is $10 but the experience is priceless.  (Sarah & I saw a special screening in January and her comment: “The Best movie EVER!”)
Palm Sunday April 17th is a special outreach service for people new to the church experience. 10:30am
Good Friday April 22nd-brief family service helping you experience just how much God loves you!
Easter Sunday April 24th- Experience the life-changing power of Easter with your family! It’s the most joy-filled service of the year celebrating the event that changed the world forever. Let it change your world this year!

These are just a few of the ways you can discover new hope! Your journey begins at www.discovernewhope.org

Cubs Perfect Season on the line as Hope Springs Eternal…

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http://chicago.cubs.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20110328&content_id=17170372&vkey=news_chc&c_id=chc

Nice article about a wonderful family tradition! Yes, I’m one of those deeply committed Cubs fans! Got the bug at age 9 watching Ivan DeJesus, Manny Trillo, Bruce Sutter, and Rick Reuschel! Baseball cards, breaking in a new glove, and discovering I could pick up the games on 720AM WGN radio all the way in Iowa City made that summer perfect!
Once a Cubs fan, always a Cubs fan. It’s kind of like being a Christian. It requires faith. It requires devotion. Suffering is involved. But hope always Springs eternal!
It’s Opening Day and anything is possible! Amen!

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