Monday, September 22, 2008

Regen Reorg: Some initial thoughts

I've been mulling over thoughts about possible reorganization and redirection of our efforts in Regeneration as we had discussed at our last planning meeting. Based on my own experience, I think that our biggest issue to overcome in reaching people has more to do with individually living missional lives than changing the activities that Regeneration does or the way that we do them. Let's face it: If I'm not meeting new people, talking to them, building friendships, and drawing them into the Regen community, then it really doesn't matter if Regen has the perfectly organized and executed activity program, we are still only going to "reach" the limited number of believers who walk through the doors looking for a church home.

If being settled and not making those steps to meet and build friendships with new people is common to more of us than just me, then I think that if any structural change is to be made, it should be done in a way that encourages, equips, and frees us to put our missional convictions into practice individually.

There are probably many reasons why I (and others?) do not do well at engaging new friends, some of them personal and some of them cultural. These issues, at least for me, are not entirely new, and discussion on why I haven't done better at growing in this area could certainly be a topic of discussion, though better suited for my own personal blog or over a cup of coffee on a relaxing hike. For us as a whole, I would propose three questions:
  1. Am I alone in feeling like we aren't doing well at meeting new people and engaging them with the community of faith?
  2. If you agree that this is a significant weakness that needs to be addressed, how can we address it?
  3. What priority should this have relative to other areas of growth?

Friday, September 19, 2008

Authors@Google - Tim Keller

What is Authors@Google? According to Google's website, "The Authors@Google program brings authors of all stripes to Google for informal talks centering on their recently published books. Through the program, we invite authors to our Mountain View headquarters . . . where Googlers are treated to readings of everything from serious literature and political analysis to pioneering science fiction and moving personal memoirs."

On March 5, 2008, Google invited Tim Keller (pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City) to give a lecture about his book, The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism. The video is about 1 hr long (roughly 45 min lecture, 15 min Q&A). I encourage you to take a look!

This is a great example of what being missional is all about: getting outside of our Christian bubbles and engaging with people who don't know Jesus.

Monday, September 15, 2008

The Events at Caesarea Philippi (Part III)

We have now wrapped our three-part series about the pivotal events at Caesarea Philippi in Matthew 16. We began this series by asking two questions: Who is Jesus? And what are the implications of his identity for us as his followers?

The answer to the first question is that Jesus is the Messiah. In fact, he is the Messiah who wants to build a messianic community around himself called the church. But he is not the Messiah of Jewish expectations. He did not come in the first century to overthrow Rome, restore Israel to her former glory, and set up the kingdom of God on earth. He did not come to change Israel’s circumstances. He came to change people’s hearts. He came to give Jews and Gentiles alike new life through his suffering-death-resurrection and the gift of the Holy Spirit.

In Matthew 16, Jesus predicts his suffering-death-resurrection for the very first time. Peter is horrified and rebukes Jesus. In reply, Jesus says that Peter is not thinking the things of God, but the things of men.

Jesus is the Messiah, a suffering servant who came to give new life to Jews and Gentiles alike. What about our second question? What are the implications of his identity for us as his followers?

In vv. 24-28, Jesus speaks honestly about the cost of discipleship.

What does he say? (1) Deny yourself, (2) pick up your cross, and (3) follow me. This is hard teaching. Jesus is calling his followers to be self-abandoned, not self-absorbed.

If you want to be a part of Jesus’ legacy, you must make a change of course—no matter what the cost—and follow him. And you must follow him daily. Being a disciple is about staying the course.

By charting this new course in life (and staying the course), you will take part in Jesus’ mission of seeking first the kingdom of God: a realm where God is rightly worshipped, neighbors rightly loved, and the earth rightly ruled and cared for.

Here are my notes:

Monday, September 8, 2008

The Events at Caesarea Philippi (Part II)

Sometimes God intervenes in our circumstances in miraculous ways. But sometimes he doesn’t. Does he just love some people more than others? Do we just not have enough faith sometimes? I guess the real question is, what exactly is God interested in doing in our lives and our world? Is there some rhyme or reason to his ways?

Last week we began a trek through Matthew 16:13-28. In vv. 13-20, Peter confessed that Jesus is the Messiah. For Peter, the Messiah was a conquering king who would overthrow Rome and restore Israel to her former glory. In reply, Jesus taught his disciples that he wants to build a messianic community called the church.

This week, in vv. 21-23, we find that Jesus’ own ideas about the Messiah are very different from Peter’s ideas. For Jesus, the Messiah is a suffering servant (cf. Isaiah 52:13-53:12). This is the first time in Matthew’s Gospel that Jesus predicts his suffering-death-resurrection.

Living under the thumb of the Roman Empire, Peter was looking for a Messiah who would change his circumstances. But Jesus did not come to change Peter’s circumstances. He came to give Peter new life.

What does Jesus’ suffering-death-resurrection have to do with our lives today? Simply put, Jesus did not suffer-die-resurrect so that he can intervene in your circumstances at your every whim. He did not suffer-die-resurrect so that any unfavorable circumstances outside of your control can be changed in your favor. He suffered-died-resurrected in order to give you new life.

God has not promised to always change your circumstances. But he has promised to give you new life in Jesus so that you can worship him rightly, love your neighbor rightly, and rule over the earth rightly. And he has promised to give you grace and mercy in your time of need (Hebrews 4:16).

Sometimes God does intervene in our circumstances in miraculous ways. When that happens, we should be overjoyed and praise him and tell the story. But the gospel is the good news of the Messiah doing what he came to do. It is the good new that Jesus is a suffering servant who suffered-died-resurrected in order to give us new life. In the future, Jesus will come again: this time as a conquering king. He will come as the Messiah who changes our circumstances: there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain (Revelation 21:1-5).

Right here, right now, God is not always interested in changing your circumstances; he is interested in changing you.

Here is a link to my notes:

Monday, September 1, 2008

The Events at Caesarea Philippi (Part I)

Jesus is the greatest leader that the world has ever seen or ever will see. But who is Jesus? We need to know, because his identity has implications for us as his followers. It impacts whether we decide to follow him at all. In fact, we make decisions about any leader based on two things: their identity and their ideas.

So who is Jesus? What is his identity? And what are the implications of his identity for us today?

In Matthew 16:13-20, we find out that Jesus is the Messiah, and he wants to build a messianic community called the church. Preaching-teaching-healing is Jesus’ life. The church is Jesus’ legacy. The church is people. It is a community of people who have been given new life in Christ. They are committed to his leadership and work to carry out his mission.

So Jesus wants to build the church. What is the implication for us? Loving the Messiah means loving his legacy. Simply put, loving Jesus means loving the church.

Here are my notes:

Leviticus - Don't Undo What God Has Done

Well, we have wrapped up our summer study of Leviticus here at Regeneration! The final chapters, Leviticus 25-27, cover a range of topics. Ch. 25 is about the jubilee year. Ch. 26 is about blessings for obedience (covenant-keeping) and judgment for disobedience (covenant-breaking). Ch. 27 is about the regulations for dedication and redemption of persons, animals, houses, land, and tithes.

By studying the story of YHWH and Israel, we learn that God has given us a dwelling place and a covenant relationship with himself. What is the big idea in these final chapters of Leviticus? Don’t undo what God has done!

God has given us a dwelling place (the earth) and put us in charge. But it’s a stewardship, not an ownership. We must not undo what God has done by acting like we own the place.

God has given us a covenant relationship with himself through the person and work of Jesus. In our relationships, we are to extend the same goodness and generosity to others that God extends to us in our covenant relationship with him. We must not undo what God has done by looking out for number one when we ought rather to be loving our neighbor.

Here is a link to my notes:

This has been a great study! Leviticus is one of the most frequently avoided books in the Bible, but this summer I think we have seen that, indeed, all Scripture is profitable.