Prophet Priest King

Do you preach a three-fold Mediator?

Sometimes when God grips my heart in a certain area or when I have grown in my understanding of some aspect of biblical understanding/interpretation, I can allow that to dominate my teaching. While it is unavoidable (and even to some degree vital for the things I am personally learning) for things to come through my teaching, we should allow the text itself to shape our message. If our emphasis is always in one direction, then other areas become deficient. One of the areas we can do this is in our proclamation and understanding of God’s Mediator, Jesus, as Prophet, Priest and King.

As Prophet, salvation is proclaimed. One of the ways that Jesus is mediator is that he comes and proclaims to us the way of salvation. In John 1:18, Jesus tells us that he has made the Father known to us. (made known in Greek is exegeomai, where we get the word exegesis). In other words, one of the offices of Mediator is declaring the way of salvation. If Jesus is not the prophet (as Deut 18:15-22 describes), then the way of salvation is left to us to discover. We must find an invisible God (Col 1:15). Without Jesus’ mediatorial role of Prophet then who’s to say that there is only one way to God. It’s up to us to find it ourselves, which in that respect means we mediate ourselves. Sadly this is the only natural route for sinners because it is self-blinding and self-exalting. God must penetrate our self-exalting world with a prophetic message, turning on a light in darkness, causing faith at the hearing of God’s prophetic message (Rom 10:5-17).

As Priest, salvation is obtained. Jesus’ priestly role is critical to mediation. Someone had to stand in the gap to effect reconciliation. Of course that reconciliation is uni-directional. It is us who have to be reconciled to God. God has not sinned against us, we have sinned against him. This makes us objects of God’s wrath (Rom 1:18; Rom 2:5). Our sin against a holy God is heinous. Without Christ as our preist, we must become our own priests. No earthly priesthood is sufficient for such reconciling work, because then the reconciler needs himself to be reconciled just as the high priest would have to offer up sacrifices for himself (Lev 16:6; Heb 5:1-3). The true Priest, must hold a forever priesthood (Heb 5:6). One of the things that makes this so unique, is that the true High Priest, not only offered a sacrifice, but was himself the sacrifice. Yet he was raised from the dead meaning his priesthood isn’t for a term, but eternal. This means he is always in the position of bringing us to God. God’s wrath is appeased by his sacrifice. We have true hope because our priest represents our new selves before his Father.

As King, salvation is applied. The King has power to rule his subjects. The world is subject to him. We are not monarchs of our own little kingdoms. We are taken captive by the devil to do his will (2Tim 2:26). We need a King with power to deliver us from the guerilla domain of darkness (Col 1:13), having been conquered by the benevolent King of kings (2Cor 2:14). It is the king who has the might and right to set captives of sin free and to establish legitimate rule. He also has every right to wield the sword of justice (Rom 13:3-6). We respond then in love to the King.

If he were to simply rule us without a priestly work, we would be judged in our sin. We would never know such a king without his prophetic work. Only as Prophet, Priest, and King is Jesus all sufficient. Sin is entirely dealt with. Righteousness is fully applied. The invisible God is clearly seen by faith through prophetic revelation. We serve a great Mediator. He declares the way as Prophet, prepares the way as Priest, and preserves the way as King.

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Directed Worship

As pastors, what do we teach our churches about worship? Do we approach worship as an event or a lifestyle? As singing or breathing? As being or attending?

In John 4 Jesus tells the woman at the well, “We know what we worship.” He is putting his finger on the fact that worship of God is a response to revelation of God.  How much emphasis do we put on the idea that we are able to worship God because he has revealed himself to us (primarily through his Word)? For years I referred to our singing as “the worship”. I know all the readers here at Cross Connection understand that our music is an opportunity to worship according to a certain form (singing). But how much do our churches catch that? Is worship event based or life based? No doubt there is something special about worshipping God in the assembling of ourselves, but the fundamental fact is, we never actually stop worshipping.

We are incessant worshippers. Jesus doesn’t deny that the woman at the well worshipped. He simply said that she didn’t know the object of her worship. This is why idolatry is such a strong theme in Scripture. Our hearts fixate on objects to worship. In fact, Harold Best, in his book Unceasing Worship, says that when we sin, we don’t actually stop worshipping. Our worship has simply changed direction. This reality is touched on by the woman who asked Jesus about the locality of worship (this mountain or Jerusalem). Jesus moves the discussion from one of locality to one of centrality (spirit and truth).

As the gospel is revealed to me over and over through reading the Scriptures, preaching, good books, the church community etc., my heart is thrilled by the revealed Christ which leads to Godward worship. So too, for our churches. If our churches think that worship is more the issue of on or off instead of direction, then we will be content worshipping the wrong thing on Monday morning or Friday evening. Connecting worship of God to revelation of God helps people see Jesus as all satisfying. This means at work Monday morning they can joyfully and diligently, work fully satisfied in the acceptance and work of Christ versus the acceptance and satisfaction from the job in an of itself. The office then becomes a sanctuary of worship. The mother with small children can joyfully serve her needy little ones recognizing that all her needs are met in Jesus and her service to her kids becomes an outpouring of worship to God.

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What in the Worldview….

This article is an excerpt from my book Ahead of the Curve (published in 2011)

We need to put ourselves in the shoes of the non-believer. We need to think about how they see the world. We need to analyze how they interact with the world. Cross-cultural missionaries have been doing this for thousands of years. It is time, however, for us to apply the same skills here in the West to bridge the great divide within our culture. On any given Sunday, in most communities across America, there are vastly more people not going to church than there are in church. Fifty years ago, there was not as drastic a difference between the worldviews of the churchgoers and those of the non-churchgoers. But now there is a great divide, and in order to be effective, we must take the time to understand how the non-churchgoers think and feel. We have just seen what makes up a worldview. Now we will take some time and look at what has made the twentieth century what it is, the worldviews of modernity and postmodernity. My intention in this book is not to be exhaustive in any sense of the meaning, but will briefly sketch some of the defining contours of both modernity and postmodernity so that we can see what this emerging worldview actually is.

Modernity is often called the Post Medieval period. It runs roughly from 1400 until about the 1930s. Historians tend to break modernity into an early and a later period. The early modern period continues until about 1800. The modern era begins in the nineteenth century with the advent of industrialization. It is this latter period of modernity that has the most weight for us. It is what is commonly called the Enlightenment. The Enlightenment paradigm is also known as the “representation paradigm” in academic circles. Its goal is to see the world empirically. Reason has the upper hand. Proponents of modernity see the world as a mapping of what can be empirically understood.

Although the church seems currently obsessed with understanding postmodernism, I find it interesting to note that postmodernism began as an intellectual and cultural phenomenon in the 1920’s. That was almost a century ago! Postmodernity’s focus on social and political out workings has been the norm since the 1960’s. The church is behind the time. We are trying to understand something that is nearly a century old, yet we still don’t quite have a handle on it. Even the name by which we call the worldview, postmodernity, shows that we do not quite understand it. Think about the name of the first automobiles. They were called a horseless carriage. They didn’t know what it was, but they knew it wasn’t what they were used to. They had been used to horse drawn carriages and these new things did the same thing but without the horse. We call it postmodernism because we know that it is beyond modernism, but we do not quite know what it is still. This is more than a little disconcerting.

Tim Keller, the pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, gave a basic outline of Western intellectual history in this way: Pre-modern (or Medieval) thought posits that we can know things truly through both reason and revelation. Modern thought believed that we can only know things truly through reason but not through revelation. But postmodern thought believes that we cannot know things truly either through reason or revelation. This is what Gerry Grant Madison meant when he said Post Modernism leads to aporia or intellectual exhaustion. This is why postmodernity is typified by relativism (there is not truth as it is all relative) and pluralism (one understanding is no better than another).

Postmodernity’s great critique of modernism is that it left out the individual in understanding the world. The individual himself brings something to an understanding of the world. In many ways, this is why postmodern thought tends to be overly self-focused. Joe Queenan’s book, Balsamic Dreams: A Short but Self Important History of the Baby Boomer Generation, is masterful at showing how self-improvement and self-centeredness is the predominant ideology of the boomers. Postmodernity brought the self to the forefront of the discussion and obviously, the self enjoys the adulation. It has been commonly said that the postmodern worldview has three problems that must be overcome in order to do effective Christian evangelism.

You will notice that all three problems exist on individual and personal grounds. The problems are: the guilt problem, the truth problem and the meaning problem. There is a guilt problem because most postmodern people do not have guilt over their mistakes because of their truth problem. They essentially do not believe in truth. Like Pilate, they ask the question, “What is truth?” It is a rhetorical question that assumes there is no such thing as truth. The guilt problem stems from the truth problem, which stems from their meaning problem. Because truth is relative and unknowable, how can anyone know what something really means? You can see how pure postmodernism leads to intellectual exhaustion!

Two of the main consequences of postmodern thought are the fragmentation of authority and the commoditization of knowledge. Postmoderns see things in terms of power plays. All authority is seen as an oppressive hierarchy. Karl Marx and Sigmund Freud’s theories on this subject set the stage for what have now become readily accepted cultural beliefs. The whole situation is exacerbated by modern technology, which brings the world closer and makes it seem smaller. The Internet brings knowledge to us at a rapid pace. The postmodern person is used to having information from all over the world instantaneously accessible. This is a lethal combination. When distain for authority (and their truth claims) meet copious amounts of knowledge mixed with self-centeredness, the result is an inability to correctly assess meaning, truth or guilt.

Postmodernity, by and large, rejected on a grand scale, the empirical and rational claims of modernity. Postmodernists rejected truth and accumulated information. Postmoderns typify what the Bible speaks of when it says, “always learning but never coming to the knowledge of the truth.” But as I look at the prevailing worldview of both the Northeast and the West Coast, I see something different than postmodernity. There is not the rejection of truth claims at all. But what is unique is that rather than rejecting what has come before, there is a prevailing sense that other viewpoints should be integrated into the worldview. Not just in an acknowledgment of viewpoints, but in the actual amalgamation of truths.

In the report from the After Post Modern Conference it says this:
General statements of “truth” and objectivity’ are permanently ambiguous––but this does not mean that truth and objectivity are lost. Rather they require more––they need a further contextual completion from what we are just then living, before we can choose among variants for an activity at hand. Instead of mere pluralism, we can create “complexes of multiple truths” involving a demanding and sophisticated steering of scientific research with multiple applications and resonance to local contexts.

It is these complexes of multiple truths that I see clearly on the coasts of our country. But this is just the tip of the iceberg. At this point, I am happy to introduce you to post-postmodernity. Let us give it a proper name. I would like you to meet the “Integral Worldview.”

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By Any Means Necessary

I have been thinking much lately about ministerial preference. What I mean by that is simply that every minister (and ministry) has a preference for ministry style. Some enjoy large churches the best. Some small churches. Some think church planting is the way to go. Others think church revitalization is the key. For some, multi-site campuses are the way to go. For some it is native missionaries. For others it is cross-cultural missions. For some, house churches and for others it is institutional churches. And on and on.

What I have come to appreciate is that the work of the kingdom is truly “by whatever means necessary”. What I mean by that is simple, that in the work of the kingdom we need to trust that the Living God will encourage and move in His church by diverse means. In the work of ministry, we should feel comfortable to trust that God can and will use whatever means necessary to get the job done.

I share this because oftentimes we spend so much energy and time fighting for our preference. I know that I have done a lot of that in my life. Please don’t get me wrong, it is very normal to believe strongly and champion your preference. But I think we need to be careful not to value our preference higher than another. The work of the kingdom is to important to invalidate another methodology just because it is not our preference.

Biblically speaking, Paul was called to the Gentiles and Peter to the Jews. Paul moved cross culturally where many disciples stayed locally and served. Paul spoke to multitudes while Aquila and Priscilla seemed to do one on one ministry. What is common is that there was no competition. They worked together although uniquely, yet all for the same cause.

The more time I spend seeking God about the work of ministry in the 21st century, the more I find myself repenting of taking certain means off the table. The cause of God’s glory is too great to ‘thin the herd’ based on preference.

But these are just my humble thoughts. What do you think?

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Spiritual Friendships

As this article is being published, I am traveling back to the Evergreen State (Washington, of course) after spending the last three days at the 2012 Calvary Chapel Senior Pastors Conference. It dawned on me that I have been a yearly attender at these conferences for eight years. There are many draws to this conference. The conference center in Southern California is beautiful. There is teaching and worship. They give you free books and resources.

But more than anything, the greatest blessing of this conference is the friendships that have developed over the years. I am continually amazed at the number of pastors that I have been blessed to get to know. Some of those relationships are slowly evolving. Other of those relationships are fully formed. But either way, it is the friendships that draw me to the conference year in and year out. Out of those relationships, there are Paul, Barnabas and Timothy types. I am grateful for the Pauls in my life. There are men who have made significant investments in my life as mentors. I had many conversations this week with men who challenge me, teach me, encourage me and sometimes just let me process out loud. I am also grateful for the Barnabas’ in my life. These are the men who are my brothers and co-labors. Like Paul and Barnabas, these relationships are those amongst people who walk through life together. I always enjoy the Timothy type of relationships. These are guys that I can pour into. Realistically, I get to function as a Paul to men who are Timothys to me.

No matter what the relationship is, he reality is that spiritual friendships are essential to our growth. Sanctification does not happen in a vacuum. Instead growth happens in community and relationship. I have many conversations to process through. Many new ideas and thoughts to pray and think through. I just find myself extremely grateful for the spiritual friendships that God has blessed me with.

I also realized that 8 years of continued attendance has greatly fostered these relationships. A good relationship needs to be invested in. True interpersonal intimacy is fostered by communication over time. We are not entitled to deep relationships but we need to make an investment in them with intentionality. I am absolutely blessed by the investment people make in me. I am so thankful to have peers who I walk through life with. I am humbled to get to poor into people’s lives. Overall, I am eternally grateful for the intentionality of all involved to fill my life with spiritual friendships.

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Unspiritual Christianity

Today is one of those articles that I am going to try and say something that I don’t really know how to say. I really have struggled over the years to articulate this reality and find myself struggling today again to find the words to express something of value.

My pondering began with a simple question, “How is it possible for Christianity to be perceived as unspiritual?” The gospel is simply the Lordship of Jesus. When a person believes in Jesus, they are indwelt by the Spirit of God, the third person of the Blessed Trinity.There is no Christianity without the Spirit. Yet, as I look around the body of Christ, there seems to be way more examples of unspiritual Christianity then there are spiritual ones. Now when I speak about the need for Christianity to be spiritual, I mean “of the Spirit” in the simplest of terms. Not even necessarily the expression of spiritual giftings. I am talking about the basics of love, joy, peace, kindness, gentleness, patience, goodness and self control (Galatians 5:23). I am talking about lives that are lived out in the simplest aspects of agape love and service. I am talking about the ‘shalom’ of God being at work and being outworked through the body of Christ. Concepts such as agape, simplicity, service, unity and peace-making are in my mind.

As I survey much of the Christianity around today, I don’t see much of this. So I started to wonder why. Why is so much of Christianity look so little like the life of Jesus? I see much personal politics, attack-dog disagreements, sin cloaked in religion, bickering, jockeying for position, niches and cliches. It is so common for people to rise up in churches if they are charismatic or sychopantic rather than having a Jesus-formed character.

So I am going to list a few reasons why this may be the case. Instead of commenting on each of them, I will simply list them and let you all have fun with them.

1) When information is king
2) When theology is not translated to the street level
3) Classic Self-salvation plans
4) Cultural Idolatry
5) A lack of any focus on spiritual formation (true biblical discipleship)
6) A western individualistic focus rather than community formation
7) Prayerlessness
8) The Curse of Affluence
9) The Influence of Business Practices upon Church Leadership
10) Tax-exempt status
11) Church as entertainment

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The Historical Problems with Preterism

I am more familiar with Preterism than I care to be. I will be frank in that I believe it is one of the biggest false doctrines in the church today. If you don’t know what Preterism is let me give it to you in a nutshell:

Pretersim:

The belief that all prophecies in Matthew 24-25 and Revelation 6-18 were fulfilled prior to 70 AD when Jerusalem was destroyed by the Roman Army. The period commencing after this event is known as the Church Age or Millennial Reign.

We won’t even get into the literal or figurative definition of Millennial (Thousand year) Reign. Let me also preface this with the suggestion if you don’t have wade into the knowledge of Preterism then don’t. In my opinion it is a complete waste of time. I was drug into this debate when I had a rogue employee who was causing grief in several churches over his zealousness for this topic.

The position that I want to discuss is the historical issues that plague Preterism. Most scholars agree that the Book of Revelation was written between 88 and 92 AD. Preterists argue that John wrote Revelation during the reign of Nero in the 60’s AD and not during Domitian’s reign (81-89 AD).

The question I want to present to you today is: “What was the age of the Apostle John when he walked with Jesus?” This gives us a key how old John was in 60 AD and 80 AD. You see John was old and frail when he wrote Revelation and his epistles. Stories have people carrying him into churches because he couldn’t walk. One has to be advanced in years to be in that state. (It is true injuries could’ve have caused that but no where is it mentioned that he suffered that and that he was the only disciple not to die a martyrs death but from old age)

Let’s look at an obscure passage to help us determine John’s age:

Matt 17:27 However, not to give offense to them, go to the sea and cast a hook and take the first fish that comes up, and when you open its mouth you will find a shekel.Take that and give it to them for me and for yourself.”

This is an interesting scene that is usually over looked but it points out some important cultural things about John’s age. The first thing we see is that only Jesus and Peter pay the tax. What about the other disciples? Was Peter alone with Jesus? Jesus wasn’t alone with Peter but only Peter and Jesus had to pay the tax because they were of age. You only paid a temple tax when you were over twenty years old. So this shows us that of the disciples who were present (likely Peter, James, and John) the rest of them were under the age of twenty. This would fall in line with how old disciples were who followed Rabbi’s during that time. Grown men with families did not follow Rabbis. Teenage boys who showed promise in the Torah followed renowned Rabbis.

If that is the case then John is probably between sixteen and eighteen at this time, which was likely 32 AD. If this is the case then John would’ve only been at most fifty years old in 64 AD and probably not the old man who is ready to die of natural causes. If you have him penning the book in 88 AD then he would be close to seventy five years old and more likely to be old and frail from all of the travels and the attempted boiling in a vat of oil.

So you see there is a history problem with Preterism based on the age of John when he walked with Jesus. He just wasn’t old enough in 60 AD to exhibit the characteristics that history attributes to him in his old age, couple that with the fact that there is no mention of Nero persecuting Christians outside of Rome and you have some major obstacles to overcome to prove this theory.

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Seeking that Still Small Voice

I have to admit that I am in a transitional season in my life. Newly transplanted in the Pacific Northwest, transitioning into the Senior Pastor position at Crossroads Community Church, changes are everywhere. I have moved from young, small churches to a very large and established church. New surroundings and experiences. New challenges and events. But truly the biggest change that is happening is in my own heart. God is doing something in me.

I have realized in a new and profound way how loud our world has gotten. I have always been a fan of technology. I have always been an early adopter. But whether it is the Twittesphere, the blogosphere, the new Facebook crazes, viral YouTube videos, so much of it is just straight up noise. For some time I have been noticing how most of the internet chatter is just a regurgitation of a few profoundly gifted people. I find myself waking up and checking the phone first off, Twitter, Facebook, email, texts. All noise I tell you. I have no less than three noise devises on my person at any given time. How many of us find ourselves staring at our devises while people, true and living images of God, are right in front of us being ignored? How many of us hide behind our emails or computers while there is a vast and lost world needing to be connected with in Jesus’ name?

Deep within my heart there is a longing for the simplicity of the still small voice of God. The voice that doesn’t pander to celebrity or the winds of culture. The voice that speaks of love, community, hope and redemption. It’s that voice that doesn’t live in our superficial divides over theology or ministry style. It’s the voice that is deeply Biblical without being legalistic or superficial. It has nothing to do with the proclivities of modern evangelicals and the various camps. That voice has everything to do with love and truth. The voice that wants to help us help others see God’s grace at work in their lives and circumstances.

I have also realized that that still small voice is terrifying renegade. We come seeking one thing and we get another thing. We have wants/desires/hopes/dreams and we get God’s alternative and deeply perplexing agenda. We want to do and God says don’t do. We want reward when God says decrease. We want American dreams spiritually fulfilled and instead we get our status quo called into question and new and terrifying horizon energized.

I cannot speak for you. But for me, I am seeking that still small voice.

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General & Specific Revelation

I posted this blog before we actually launched this blog so I thought it would be worth a repost.

The arguments never seem to end.

There are those who argue that evangelism must come only through words. “The Gospel must be preached!” They yell.

Then there are those who argue that evangelism must come first through actions. “Preach the Gospel always and when necessary use words.” They parrot (supposedly attributed to Francis of Assisi).

Both sides are very adamant that they are right and yell at the other camp. Well more honestly, one side yells and the other side shakes their heads condescendingly but in the name of love will not address it publicly. :-)
So Christians are again finding themselves fighting against other Christians instead of outshining the lost in the cause of Jesus.

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Idolatry

Ministry Idolatry

Our hearts are idol factories. We all know this to be true. Ever since the fall of Adam and Eve, humanity has been doing its best to value itself outside of God and for its own purposes. Martin Luther was correct in his assessment that if a person gets the first commandment right (having no other gods before Him) then they would not ever transgress the rest of the commandments. All of our sins are rooted in our heart’s predisposition towards idolatry.

This can become increasingly a problem for people who have been called into ministry. Because the human heart is always looking for a way to justify itself outside of Jesus, it is very easy for us to try and find our standing before God in our service. Let me say from the outset, there is a fine line between walking out our callings and having ministry idolatry. Only God knows the intricacies of the human heart. So please do not think that I think that I know the motivations of another’s heart. I do not and realize (more and more each day) that before his own master a servant stands or falls. There are too many people writing in the comments sections of internet sites that think that they can speak about the motivations of another’s heart. I do not wish to add myself to that cacophonous chorus. But I do want to address a very present struggle that is at work within the heart’s of every minister.

For many of us, we struggle with finding our full identity in Christ alone. There is something glorious about being used by God to bless the world in the name of Jesus. But it is very easy to find our identity in our ministry rather than in Jesus alone. I believe that this is why so many cannot imagine their spiritual lives outside of the work that they do for Jesus. I often ask myself, “How would I do if God asked me to leave the pastoral ministry? Would I be bored? Would I like going to church? Would I feel a void?” By asking these questions, I have found that my heart finds its value in a million things other than Jesus. Looking back over my past as a Christian, I have found my heart exalting “being a Christian”, “being on the worship team”, “being an elder”, being an assistant pastor”, “being a church planter”, “being a part of a specific movement”, “being a conference speaker”, “being an author”, and on and on ad nauseum. Do you see how this goes?

Ministry idolatry is a way to allow our service of God to keep us from actually relating with God. We can be incredibly busy and effective but yet really not relate with God at all. We allow our service for Him to define us rather than allow Him to define us for us. Anything that we value ourselves by or whatever our allegiance is outside of the person and work of Jesus, that is idolatry. So let us ask the Spirit of God to expose our heart idolatry!