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All things to all men. . . December 8, 2008

Posted by Nate in Christianity.
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I was thinking about the idea of “being all things to all men,” when I realized something. Never in Scripture is it found that Saul changed his name to Paul when he was converted. In fact, in Acts 13 (when he’s first referred to as Paul), the passage says, “Saul, who was also called Paul. . .”

As I did more research (said research was done a couple years ago, but it was only recently that I saw the application), I discovered that Saul most likely carried both names throughout his life. Saul was a Jew. The name “Saul” is a strong Jewish name. It was kind of like “Alistair” or “William” in English. I think Saul carried that name because of where he was in his life. He was a student of Hebrew law and on the verge of becoming a member of the Sanhedrin. He was a “Pharisee of the Pharisees” and blameless in the eyes of the law.

Interestingly enough, he continues to use the name “Saul” even after his conversion. I’m betting this is because his ministry was to the Jews for a while. In Acts 11, Saul and Barnabas taught the Jewish Christian church in Antioch. He carried that name because of who he was among and who his ministry was directed to.

But in Acts 13, when the Jews rejected his message, Saul began to close his ministry to the Jews and focus nearly entirely on his ministry to the Gentiles. “Paul” was a common Roman name. He used this name to connect with the people he was ministering to.

So what am I trying to get at? Well, I suppose the application is that God is trying to tell us to be and do whatever it takes to spread the gospel. When among differing groups of people, are we “changing our names”? After all, we were born humans. We have that much in common with people. Paul maintained his identity as a Christ-follower, but his identity as a Roman or Jew was ever-shifting back and forth.

So, in my life? Among the poets, I’m a writer. Among the athletes, I’m a sports fan. Among the broken and fallen, I am broken and fallen. To share the gospel, I need to be able to say the two most powerful words in our language: “me too.”

(Twenty) First Century Church. . . November 8, 2008

Posted by Nate in Christianity, Church.
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At the beginning of the First Century, a group of ragamuffins were given a crazy mission: take the Word of God to the whole frickin’ world.

In 1996, a couple guys coined the term BHAG, or Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal. That’s what Jesus gave his first followers. It was crazy, and I’m betting those eleven guys were thinking stuff like, “What the heck did I get myself into? Why couldn’t I have said ‘no’ three years ago?”

But it was totally worth it; 3000 people became Christ-followers in a day. This new Jesus movement was spreading like wildfire, and nothing anyone could do would be able to slow it down, let alone stop it.

But don’t think that no one tried. Plenty of people gave it a shot. But everyone was powerless to shut these radicals up. A wise teacher of religious law said these words during the beginning of the Jesus movement:
the-pharisees-conspire-together-giclee-print-c12015015

“Men of Israel, consider carefully what you intend to do to these men. Some time ago Theudas appeared, claiming to be somebody, and about four hundred men rallied to him. He was killed, all his followers were dispersed, and it all came to nothing. After him, Judas the Galilean appeared in the days of the census and led a band of people in revolt. He too was killed, and all his followers were scattered. Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.”

To this very day, the Jesus movement continues to spread like wildfire. Check out the Chinese underground church. Look at the Russian believers. For 2000 years, the Jesus movement has continued to spread.

luthers-95I firmly believe we’re in the midst of a massive surge in Christianity. Every few centuries, something big happens that sets the Faith on fire. In the Sixteenth Century it was the Protestant Reformation. In the Eighteenth Century it was the Great Awakening.

The songwriter Brooke Fraser put it this way:

I see a generation
Rising up to take their place
With selfless faith
Selfless faith

I see a near revival
Stirring as we pray and seek
We’re on our knees
On our knees

There is a revolution coming, and I believe it is already among us. Millions of people are already stirring the metaphorical fires of revival within their own hearts, and when God begins to move in people whose hearts are broken for what breaks His, the movement is unstoppable.

Let’s bring it home and make it tangible. New Jersey is America’s #1 most densely populated state. Yet it ranks near the bottom in church attendance. “A spiritually dry region,” Tim would say.

But like the First-Century Church, which surged like a tsunami through regions that were dying of spiritual thirst, the Twenty-First-Century Church is on the brink of doing the same thing. With the vision of taking church to the people (instead of taking people to the church), Liquid is about to surge through New Jersey.

For months, I’ve been itching to post about this, and FINALLY we’ve officially announced our vision for UNSTOPPABLE 2010. God is doing something amazing through His church in New Jersey.

Can you “see the King of Glory” at work here?

Whatever is true. . . October 31, 2008

Posted by Nate in Christianity, Scripture musings, Spirituality.
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Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

~Philippians 4.8

“Whatever.

“Anything.”

I think I’ve had it backwards all along. I think we all have. For too many years people have used this verse to limit themselves and others around them. It’s sad, really. I even had this verse thrown at me when an authority figure confronted me about the fact that The Matrix had found its way onto my list of favorite movies.

This is a pivotal passage, to be sure. Your interpretation of it will dictate how you live your life and how effective you are in cultivating meaningful relationships with those who haven’t heard the gospel. But beyond that, it’s a command. A statement with the understood subject you. So naturally, it’s something we need to obey.

I guess how we obey this command isn’t as important as simply obeying the command, but I want to present some ideas here about one kind of “how.”

Last night during a vision and strategy meeting for Liquid Kids, I stole a few minutes with Bill, one of our new pastors and ultimate cool guy with glasses and no hair. (Tim Stevens now has competition!) Our conversation quickly moved to topics like the TV show “Saving Grace” and XXX Church. What got me about him wasn’t that he was okay with the content in “Saving Grace,” because even he admits it’s not the greatest. What hit me was that he found something redeeming in it. He found the story of redemptive love and radical grace in the middle of so-called “trash on TV.”

And the guys at XXX Church are doing something amazing. They’ve found something worth loving in what every Christian agrees would be the worst possible environment for a follower of Christ to be found. But that is what it means to show a radical kind of love. Imagine, if you will, what Christianity would look like if Jesus didn’t spend so much time among whores and thieves, insurrectionists and freedom fighters. How life-changing would grace be if He were unwilling to do that?

Here’s an excerpt from an email that Craig from XXX Church received after a gay erotica show his team spoke at:

No, thank you guys for coming! Your crew was incredibly friendly and welcoming and willing to speak with anyone and everyone. We even gave them stage time in a prime slot to promote your message. . . Your message that he loves everyone and the fact that your determination to spread that word even in what I’m sure was the craziest and weirdest event and location your crew has witnessed shows me that you guys are doing a great and selfless thing. . . Please keep doing what you are doing.

P.S. The gays thought your crew was adorable, we loved them! It was a total shock to have a bible handed to you in the midst of such debauchery.

XXX Church found something worth loving at that event—human souls. Just like Christ found something worth loving on earth. Satan meant for an event like this to destroy men’s souls. But God has different plans. I can almost hear Joseph’s voice here: “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”

Whenever I hear a story of redemption, something inside me rejoices. But when that story comes out of the darkest place possible, it’s that much more beautiful.

Let me ask you something. How far are you willing to go to find the noble, true, right, pure, lovely, or admirable? If you come across it, are you willing to embrace it? Or will you shun it because it doesn’t fit into your box?

How do you choose to obey that verse? Do you think only on what you already know to be noble or lovely? Or do you see the pure and admirable in places that others are unwilling to go?

In The Matrix there’s a story of a man who has come to rescue people from the destructive path that they had chosen by creating AI. He possesses a unique ability and is the only one who can save them. And he will do everything in his power to secure their salvation. Even go to his death.

Sound familiar? Is it a beautiful story? Is there something noble and true in it? Then why not embrace it?

Baptism. . . October 9, 2008

Posted by Nate in Christianity, Church.
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Looks like I’m getting into the habit of posting videos here. Well, I promise. . . next post I’ll actually write something.

We’ve got our baptism service coming up on October 26. It’s one of the most beautiful services our church has. Witnessing dozens of people announce to the world that they’re joining the Jesus Movement is an awesome thing.

But beyond that. . . they’re telling everyone that they’re new creations. They’ve been reborn and renewed, and they want the world to know.

To find out more, go to the Liquid Church Baptism page

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Saviour King. . . October 3, 2008

Posted by Nate in Christianity.
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This song is quickly becoming one of my favorites. It speaks so powerfully of Christ’s work and our response.

This weekend. . . September 17, 2008

Posted by Nate in Christianity.
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Sometimes we can feel overwhelmed by what’s going on in life. There are countless weapons at Satan’s disposal that he can use to weaken the believer: sexual temptation, spiritual complacency, burnout. . . the list goes on. Over the next five weekends, we will learn how to successfully defend ourselves against our Enemy’s attacks and become warriors in the army of God.

i ♥ revolution. . . August 24, 2008

Posted by Nate in Christianity, Church, Social Justice.
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“The King will say, ‘I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'”

You’re not looking, are you?

I’ll admit it. . . neither was I. The hungry, the thirsty, the poor—I didn’t see any of them.

Because I wasn’t looking.

But here they are. We can choose to look away. And it’s easy for us, isn’t it? It’s easy because we’re isolated. We have no contact with any of them. We can’t touch them, hear them, see them.

They don’t exist to us.

But they do exist. Stop looking away.

There they are. We’re ignoring them, and they’re dying. Do you see her? She’s three years old. She’s drinking water that is killing her. She will not survive another sip.

How can we sit here, watch her die, and not do anything?

Do you believe Jesus was a social revolutionary? Do you believe He called us to see God differently? If so, don’t you think He’s calling us right now to follow Him in a radical way?

Have you ever looked at the way He lived and studied His actions?

From the outset, Jesus healed the sick, associated with undesirables and ate with social outcasts. These social categories—the sick, the poor, and public sinners—were despised groups, marginalised because their own society believed God had marginalised them, regarded literally as “outlaws” (undermining by their lives and presence the observance of the Law). By associating with sinners (meaning not simply those who occasionally broke the law, but those who broke it in a flagrant and systematic way), Jesus was consorting with the “wicked”. He didn’t wait for them to repent and change before he sat down to eat with them (challenging the authority of the Law of Moses) and even more scandalously he starts to let these excluded groups know that God has a special love for them.
~John Battle, Member of Parliament for Leeds West

What about this?

How will you react? Did you catch what Battle said? “He didn’t wait for them to repent and change before he sat down to eat with them.” If Christ didn’t demand that they change before He shared their company, why do we?

Christ told us to follow Him. In doing so, we must live like Him. We must do the very things He would do were He to set foot on earth in the 21st century.

He is setting foot in this century, isn’t He? If we are His hands and feet, He has certainly taken steps in this generation. So are we going to live like Him? Are we going to be the social revolutionaries He called us to be?

Are we going to change the world?

“The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'”

The Republicans murdered Jesus. . . August 18, 2008

Posted by Nate in Christianity, Church.
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I’ve discovered something about following Jesus: I think He wants me to sever any political associations. I find it interesting that our American culture has embraced the idea that Christ should be married into campaigns, debates, and political agendas as a whole.

I want to travel back in time about 2,000 years to the ancient land of Judea. This point in history was marked by some of the most pervasive political tension ever. The Jewish nation was torn between two massive political engines, each aiming to destroy the other.

There was the “Religious Right” of the day, led by the powerful government system of the Sanhedrin and enforced by the Pharisees. This political party was given power by the Roman Empire to keep the Israelis from stirring trouble. Their favorite weapon was the Sabbath. By creating and enforcing rules about the Sabbath day, they were able to keep the deeply religious Jews under control.

Then there was the movement of insurrectionists known as the Zealots. As powerful as this political movement was, it was also the scourge of Jewish society. Secretly admired by many people, these insurrectionists wanted nothing more than the overthrowing of Roman power in Israel. Their favorite weapon was the sword. Nothing would make these men happier than taking down a centurion or praetorian guard.

Enter Jesus.

Fascinated by this new and unusual movement, the Pharisees probed and prodded Jesus of Nazareth with a barrage of tests and questions, looking for any sign of weakness. These men knew the Scriptures. They knew about Messiah and feared that, if this man were Messiah, their relationship with the Roman Empire would be over. The power that Rome had given the Sanhedrin would disappear.

The Zealots, on the other hand, rallied behind Jesus and His group of ragamuffins. If this man were truly Messiah, He would free the Israeli people from the Romans. But Jesus didn’t come to free Israel from Rome. He came to free the world from sin.

So at the end of the day, both political parties were completely pissed with Jesus. The so-called Messiah hadn’t fulfilled any of their dreams, hopes, and desires. So the insurrectionists and religious leaders set aside their political differences, shook hands, exchanged money, and murdered Jesus.

News like this forum bothers me. Anytime political parties decide to play the “Christ card,” I grow very suspicious. But I grow even more suspicious of the church that opens its doors to politics. Are you seeing where I’m going here? Christ isn’t interested in the kingdoms of the world. He’s not planning to use the world system of governments to proclaim His kingdom. He plans to use the Church. We have no business getting involved in the petty arguments between political parties. We exist for a much higher calling. Democrat, Republican, Independent, etc. The Bride of Christ must transcend these divisions.

Like my pastor once said, “Christ didn’t come to take sides, He came to take over.”

Eternal life on earth. . . August 13, 2008

Posted by Nate in Christianity, Social Justice, Spirituality.
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Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
~John 4.13-14 (ESV)

I’m sure you’ve heard the old colloquialism, “You’re so heavenly minded that you’re no earthly good”? Probably less familiar is the traditionalist ideology that this is actually a good thing. I really don’t think that mindset should characterize Christians. But the thought process is out there, pervading many churches that preach a “Get Out of Hell” gospel.

I don’t think that’s what Christ died for. Sure, there’s the beauty of an afterlife spent by His side. But is that the emphasis of the story of Jesus? Christ said He came “that [we] may have life, and have it to the full” (Jn 10.10). The assurance of an afterlife spent with Christ is a wonderful thing, but is that the point of faith in Christ? I really believe God did something bigger than that when He spilled His own blood for us.

All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.
~2 Corinthians 5.18-20

Did you catch that? “God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ.” There’s something amazing in that sentence.

God created the world and everything in it and said that it was good. Creation was good. But it was broken. Humanity, once the Crown Jewel of Creation, became its Scourge as Man chose to turn his back on God and taint the earth with his rebellion.

But God never turned His back on Man, and in an amazing act of purest love, poured everything He was into humanity and set in motion the reconciliation of Creation. That was the very moment Eternal Life began.

There’s something else in that passage. “He has committed to us the message of reconciliation.” God is using us to reconcile the world to Himself!

Wow.

Each Christ-follower has been given a priceless gift and an incomparable charge.

Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.
~John 1.12-13

We’ve been given the power of Christ. But like Uncle Ben said, “With great power comes great responsibility.” Christ has charged us with the spreading of His gift here on earth.

Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”
~Matthew 28.18-20

If God is reconciling all of Creation to Himself through Christ, and Christ has given us the right and responsibility to be His hands and feet here on earth, shouldn’t our goal be the uniting of Heaven and Earth? Or as Pastor Tim puts it, “Bringing up there. . . down here.”

What do you think that would look like?

This is a large work I’ve called you into, but don’t be overwhelmed by it. It’s best to start small. Give a cool cup of water to someone who is thirsty, for instance. The smallest act of giving or receiving makes you a true apprentice.
~Matthew 10.42 (The Message)

I think it’d be a good idea if Christians stopped thinking so much about eternal life in heaven and started thinking more about eternal life on earth. You’re going to die; there’s nothing you can do about it. You can’t do anything about what lies on the other side of that. But Christ has given us the power to do something about what’s going on around us now. He’s given us the power to bring an eternal, more abundant life to earth.

Are we even trying?