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Born and Born-Again

When my wife and I were having our first child, we determined that it was pretty important to make sure that she and our daughter were provided for if I were to die unexpectedly, so we researched the options and I took out my first life insurance policy. I set it to withdraw the monthly premiums automatically from my bank account and don’t think about it any more. The only time I thought about it was when I changed my bank account and received a letter from the company to make sure the premiums continued to get paid. I am concerned that this is a similar story to how many experience “praying to receive Jesus.”

We saw yesterday that the word “believe” is the central instruction on being “saved” from our condition of separation from our eternal creator. So, what is it to “believe”? It seems that in our times it is mostly understood as “think the right thoughts” or “know the right information” or “agree with a set of expressed truths”. But this is not what it is primarily about. “Believe” in the Bible comes from the verb form of the word for “faith”, but our English language doesn’t have a verb form of faith. To believe something is faithing. Active faith is belief. Certainly one must know something about the specific truth to believe it, but it is not merely knowing something, it is acting on our knowing. These actions can be big or small, but it is active.

The most concise chapter in the Bible about faith is Hebrews 11. Read how it begins: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.  For by it the people…” and the whole chapter goes on to list action after action of people believing.

It is the orientation of one’s life and actions around the person of Jesus, his death and resurrection, and forgiveness of our sins. By the way, I think this is why baptism is mentioned so many times (though not always) with “believe”, it is active faith, a public proclamation. In an excellent, and exhaustive work on faith, Paul Tillich expresses this even more emphatically:

“Faith as ultimate concern is an act of the total personality. It happens in the center of the personal life and includes all its elements. Faith is the most centered act of the human mind. It is not a movement of a special section or a special function of man’s total being. They all are united in the act of faith. But faith is not the sum total of their impacts. It transcends every special impact as well as the totality of them and it has itself a decisive impact on each of them.” (Paul Tillich, Dynamics of Faith, 1957 ; p4-5)

Secondly, the Bible doesn’t instruct us to just say a prayer to receive Jesus and we are done. I have been wondering if people walk away from Christianity because they did the prayer thing and it has no further impact on their life. Like a life insurance policy, just make sure the premium gets taken out of the “bank” once a week by going to church (or at least twice a month). To be fair, I admit that this isn’t the teaching of most churches, but it has become too familiar in the action (belief) of peoples’ lives in American Christianity.

Furthermore, I am even more concerned about this in Christian believers’ households because the angst of many parents until their child “prays to receive Christ”, after which they stop the continual teaching, mentoring, and encouraging their child because “now they are ‘IN’ for eternity”. I celebrate BIG TIME when a child expresses faith in Christ, in fact one of my nieces took that step on Christmas Eve! But let’s treat re-birth (born-again concept from John 3.16) in the same way we treat birth. Could you image, parents give birth to their baby and then just let life happen, because now their born? Life wouldn’t “happen” very long and these parents would be in jail shortly after the baby’s life ends. After birth, we nurture new life, we continue this in such a way until they are able to live independently. This is a strong burden of mine after 18 years of working with teenagers, many of whom give a testimony of praying to receive Christ at a young age and yet are no different than their peers who have never had such an experience. Believers, we must disciple our children in a continual conversion process and a series of commitments at various life stages and crises.

It is reported that one of the greatest influencers of converts in recent history, Billy Graham, said, “Being a Christian is more than just an instantaneous conversion – it is a daily process whereby you grow to be more and more like Christ” (multiple internet sites attribute this saying to Graham, but I was unable to find any source citation) It is important to emphasize both an instantaneous conversion (although many times imperceptible) as well as an ongoing transformation.

Tomorrow I will bring this series to a close with an additional part of this point and a then bring it back around to where I started 9 days ago.




Pursuing Truth or Rational Conclusions?

Which is more dangerous to the message of Jesus Christ (or to society), modern or postmodern approach to the truth? Are we in a pursuit of Truth or rational construction of knowledge?

I’m not sure I could say that one or the other epistemology is more dangerous than the other, as there are great dangers in both approaches to knowledge and truth. I can say, however, that like it or not, we are in the times of postmodernity (some say even something beyond it) and there is great danger in not adapting and growing in science or faith. (for more on this in the scientific realm see the works of Thomas Kuhn)

“Postmodernism poses certain dangers. Nevertheless, it would be ironic – indeed, it would be tragic – if evangelicals ended up as the last defenders of the now dying modernity. To reach people in the new post modern context, we must set ourselves to the task of deciphering the implications of postmodernism for the gospel.” (Stanley Grenz, A Primer on Postmodernism, p 10)

I have set myself to the task because I believe the gospel (good news for all peoples) is important, life-transforming, and transcends human trends or systems of thought. I believe that through the postmodern structure, one can actually strengthen the concept of Truth and bring some people back into the conversation who have dismissed the biblical faith as implausible. I think postmodernity is bringing “reason” to question more than it is bringing “truth” to question. It seems the modern thought structures gave human “reason” a sacred place of ultimate proof. Christian faith has an opportunity to grow stronger.

“Ironically, [Christians] who denounce postmodernism imply that Christian dogma cannot withstand rough handling, betraying perhaps a subconscious fear that the structure of Christianity might prove flimsy or false. Postmodernism, however, has exposed the flaws not of Christianity but of modernism, arguing that the modernist line of thought – which disdained Christianity – is “out of true.” Modernism therefore lasted only three hundred years, while Christian orthodoxy has stayed true for over two thousand years.” (Crystal L. Downing, How Postmodernism Serves (My) Faith; p229-230)

It is interesting to take a look back to a time before modern epistemology and read the words of one of the great theologians and see how he thought. Martin Luther certainly had some choice words to say about reason as he lived in the pre-enlightenment era and was possibly resisting the encroachment of new ways of thinking:

Martin Luther

Image from Wikipedia

“Reason is the Devil’s greatest whore; by nature and manner of being she is a noxious whore; she is a prostitute, the Devil’s appointed whore; whore eaten by scab and leprosy who ought to be trodden under foot and destroyed, she and her wisdom… Throw dung in her face to make her ugly. She is and she ought to be drowned in baptism… She would deserve, the wretch, to be banished to the filthiest place in the house, to the closets.”
—Martin Luther, Works, Erlangen Edition v. 16, pp. 142-148.

“Reason is the greatest enemy that faith has; it never comes to the aid of spiritual things, but—more frequently than not—struggles against the divine Word, treating with contempt all that emanates from God.”
—Martin Luther, Table Talks in 1569.

(quotes used from: Joshua Sowin’s blog)

Don’t get me wrong, I think human reason is a great tool, and I certainly wouldn’t go to the conclusions that seem to come from Luther’s words (perhaps even they are misunderstood out of original context). Reason is a very strong tool and necessary for science, faith and the rest of life. I believe we have a rational faith, that we can “prove,” through reason, many beliefs/doctrines, and can arrive at a strong historicity of the biblical texts we read today, but there must be room for something more, for supernatural, for mystery, for the unknown and unreasoned. There are things that we don’t yet know and some things we won’t know. We must be on the pursuit of truth through all disciplines.

On either side of this conversation we can get out of balance and be over taken by hubris attitudes, thus solidifying the divide and continuing the disconnection of some between faith and life. I believe that the recently deceased, outspoken author and self described antitheist, Chrsitopher Hitchens, is a person who took the enlightenment/modern epistemology to its logical end. You can hear both his huberistic disdain for faith/god andhis search for truth through human reason alone (along with a hint of postmodern openmindedness).

Christopher Hitchens

“Our belief is not a belief. Our principles are not a faith. We do not rely solely upon science and reason, because these are necessary rather than sufficient factors, but we distrust anything that contradicts science or outrages reason. We may differ on many things, but what we respect is free inquiry, openmindedness, and the pursuit of ideas for their own sake. We do not hold our convictions dogmatically…but we shall resolve [our disagreements] by evidence and reasoning and not by mutual excommunication…

One must state it plainly. Religion comes from the period of human prehistory where nobody…had the smallest idea what was going on. It comes from the bawling and fearful infancy of our species, and is a babyish attempt to meet our inescapable demand for knowledge (as well as for comfort, reassurance, and other infantile needs). Today the least educated of my children knows much more about the natural order than any of the founders of religion…
All attempts to reconcile faith with science and reason are consigned to failure and ridicule for precisely these reasons.”
-(Christopher Hitchens, God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything; 2007, p64,65)

I leave you with those thoughts for today…more of Hitchens, Truth, and Christianity to come in the following days.

What is Christianity All About?

Simply Christian Book Cover“Christianity is not about a new moral teaching – as though we were morally clueless and in need of some fresh or clearer guidelines…Christianity isn’t about Jesus offering a wonderful moral example, as though our principal need was to see what a life of utter love and devotion to God and to other people would look like, so that we could try to copy it…Nor is Christianity about Jesus offering, demonstrating, or even accomplishing a new route by which people can ‘go to heaven when they die.’…Christianity isn’t about giving the world fresh teaching about God himself…Christianity is all about the belief that the living God, in fulfillment of his promises and as the climax of the story of Israel, has accomplished all this – the finding, the saving, the giving of new life – in Jesus.  He has done it.  With Jesus, God’s rescue operation has been put into effect once and for all.” (N.T. Wright Simply Christian)

That is the story of the whole of scripture…God’s Epic Rescue of his creation, heaven and earth colliding and the power of grace and mercy triumphing over the power of the law.  We are to daily experience the rescue of God in our lives and be the rescue of God in others’ lives!  David Crowder’s song Remedy constantly pours through my head…

Oh, I can’t comprehendDavid Crowder Remedy Album cover
I can’t take it all in
Never understand
Such perfect love come
For the broken and beat
For the wounded and weak
Oh, come fall at His feet
He’s the remedy
He’s the remedy

He is the one who has saved us
He is the one who forgave us
He is the one who has come
and is coming again

The Epic Rescue Title ImageWe are currently teaching an 8 week series through the story of all of scripture and making sure we don’t lose or cut up our scriptures into unrelated parts, resulting in just a collection of stories and truths.  I am rediscovering how by keeping the whole in perspective, it brings out the richness of the details and specifics of scripture AND how my life is still part of this great rescue story.  This isn’t something that has merely taken place thousands of years ago, but a new-life story that is played out over and over through the days that you and I live!

If you are interested, I am posting the audio recordings of each week in my podcast media tab of this site.
(We have had some problems with some of the recordings that we hope to have worked out in the future.)

Shifts in Student Ministry (and beyond)

I just read a great article from Willow Creek Association about 5 shifts that need to take place in Student Ministry because of the greatly different culture that students are growing up in from when youth ministry began to be common. Like the term or not, I believe that these changes are necessary because of the postmodern ethos that surrounds us. Postmodernity is not simply a cool trendy term to throw around in philosophy or theology circles, it is transitioning to be the prevailing world view to and in which we must minister.

So Willow Creek is using the term “Youth Ministry 2.0” signifying that the program needs an update. Here are their 5 areas in brief:


The quintessence of Youth Ministry 2.0 is user-generated content. Thanks to YouTube, MySpace, Facebook, and Wikipedia, students are no longer content to just consume … they now want to participate. We have moved from simply presenting the “answers” to students, to allowing them to co-create the content. We recently featured three short films in our youth service that were written, edited and produced by students. We also launched a brand new Web site to be the central information source of our community. Students can interact and create content with polls,blogs, photos, and videos…


We recently taught a four-week series called “Hot Topics.” We covered homosexuality, war, MySpace and drugs and alcohol. Instead of offering simple, trite answers to these weighty subjects, we created environments to wrestle with these issues together. With leaders helping to guide them, students were encouraged to search the Scriptures to learn what the Bible says about these topics.


We have been encouraging our students to imagine new ways of expressing their faith. Students have been living out their faith on their school campuses in extraordinary ways. Recently a group of students decided to raise awareness and money for children in Uganda. They held a huge event at their school and promoted it by wearing white ripped T-shirts with black writing across them. They had hundreds of students show up to this event. It was all planned, organized, and implemented by students.


We continue to try and think of new ways to engage the senses. We want to include visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learners. We recently cooked a steak on stage to teach about the aroma of Christ. We gave out 3-D glasses and taught about the power of vision coming to life. Because the overwhelming majority of teenagers now own a cell phone, we use mass text messaging as a primary means of communication for our ministry.


We have discovered that students are no longer satisfied with just confessing what they believe — they want to live it out. With James 1:27 as our inspiration (Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you). Our student ministry has now partnered with a high school in Zambia, Africa, to serve HIV/AIDS orphans and has established a partnership with a local transitional housing ministry for homeless single moms.

It seems that in the DRINK AND FLOW ministry at Calvary Church we have made some of these shifts, but I see areas of growth still needed. Leave a comment on how you think we can successfully make these shifts to call more worshipers to know God through Jesus Christ and make an impact in this world!

Big thanks to Steve Kilgore for a heads up on the article!

Theology Thursdays

I would like to begin a new blogging series here…dedicated to considering how Christian theology works out in our lives and culture.
This is one of the things that I like to do…theology. I firmly believe, as do many, that theology isn’t theology if it is simply in the academic world. In fact, I think something that is very pastoral and life-on-life has been pushed off to those who read about it, have well sounding theories, or a systemitized box to hold it all in. It’s kinda like asking the former football player, turned commentator, about the game of football. He will have a lot of good information and necessary angles to look at things, but can he get out there and run the play or teach the team how to run it…will he see the struggles or simply demand that his ideas get done??

I am taking a theology class in seminary right now and our staff is reading a book about 5 emerging church leaders, so there is more than usual thoughts on my mind in this area. Let me share my professor, John Franke’s, definition of theology first (I did it from memory on the mid-term, but I’ll consult the notes just to make sure I get it):

“Theology is an ongoing, second-order, contextual discipline that engages in the task of critical and constructive reflection on the beliefs and practices of the Christian church for the purpose of assisting the community of Christ followers in their missional vocation to live as the people of God in the particular social-historical context in which they are situated.” (you can also find this in his book The Character of Theology)

With that as an introduction, my first theological post is going to be on something that has received much attention to date and will continue to receive more… The Emergent Church, Emerging Church, Emerging Conversation, Emergent Village, etc.

Wikipedia actually has a pretty good description, here is the beginning:

“…is a controversial 21st-century Protestant Christian movement whose participants seek to engage postmodern people, especially the unchurched and post-churched. To accomplish this, “emerging Christians” (also known as “emergents”) deconstruct and reconstruct Christian beliefs, standards, and methods to accommodate postmodern culture.” (you can read the rest here)

I have been following some of these discussions of “deconstructing and reconstructing” for at least 4 years here and like much of what I see! Surely there are some caution flags as with anything that we go into, but I believe that we in the North American Churches are going to need to be more like the missionaries that we send out to other countries… studying the culture, understanding how the truth of the gospel impacts that culture and communicating the good news in relevant 21st century ways!

Well, the definition said it was “controversial” and IT IS! Wow, is it ever, which is good to help process theology! But I do hope that we can be more characterized by what we stand for and support rather than what we are against. I came across some well done anti-emergent posters, themed like the traditional motivational posters, but jabbing fun at some of the perceived or real weaknesses or differences with those who are emergent minded. Below is one I enjoyed and a link to a whole lot more!

Emergent Bashing Poster

by Phil Johnson and the PyroManiacs

I’ll probably be using some more of these as I bring up other topics in Theology Thursdays!

School Days, School Days…

…Good old Golden Rule Days!

Life has been very crazy here in the Moore family…but sometimes crazy is good. I have described it to several friends as the “perfect storm” of life coming together all at once…nothing of a tragic nature though, so we can be thankful for that!
One of the exciting things is that Addie returned to school to 2nd grade and Emma went to school for the first time in Kindergarten! It has been a great transition back to school schedule and seeing the excitement of the girls. Addie is well adjusted to a full day of school after making that step last year to 1st grade. Part of the excitement is that Emma gets to ride the bus home with Addie. Also, Emma is taking off in reading skills already.

Isabelle is not without her new things as she is back in pre-school twice a week and now is doing her speech therapy once a week and learning very quickly. She is saying many more words, and beginning to use some without being asked. Someone passed her in church on Sunday and said “Hi Isabelle” and she responded back “Hi” with a little wave! That hasn’t really happened before like that. A big help in our communication with her is that she is using “yes” and “no” very well. Sometimes she may be confused by the question and the default response is “yes”. One day when she wasn’t obeying in something continually, I asked her “do you need to have a spanking?” and she looked at me with bright eyes and said “yes”! I just laughed with her! She says “eease” more (which is Please) and other new words.
Below is a picture of her friend Sawyer taking her on another car date! Last year Sawyer had trouble getting her in the car, this time it appears that he’s having a tough time with the conversation! Click here for her last date last year.
And lastly, I have started another round of classes at Biblical Seminary. This trimester I have decided to try two classes. I am taking Missional Theology on campus and Greek 1 online. I commute once a week to the Philadelphia area and am able to carpool with another student from our area. I chose to do the online greek because I have taken 2 years of greek in my undergraduate work and have a familiarity with the material. Even with that familiarity it is a lot of work!
Despite the craziness and the loads of work, I am really enjoying the challenge of studies at Biblical Seminary. I chose this seminary because of their unique pursuit of training ministry leaders very practically to minister in the culture in which we live. In fact their mission is:

“To prepare missional leaders who incarnate the story of Jesus with humility and authenticity and who communicate the story with fidelity to Scripture, appreciation of the Christian tradition, and sensitivity to the needs and aspirations of postmodern culture.”

The school is taking much criticism these days from some alumni and others that have been afraid of the direction of the emerging church movement that the seminary is involved with. I find it very stimulating to study there even when things are said that I am uncomfortable with, it causes me to think more deeply about what I think and believe and why. The professor of my Missional Theology class, John Franke, has been one of the people that the critics are most critical of…all I know right now is that I have a lot of reading to get done before I see him in class today at 1:30!!! Better GO!

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