High Point Church

So, I went to Victoria, British Columbia last weekend to visit a Salvation Army church called High Point Church.  It is pastored by Lieutenants Peter and Alison Lublink.  I “met” Peter about a year and a half ago on Facebook because he makes some of his own uniforms.  We have sort of kept in touch over twitter and he recently told me that it would be great if I could come up and see what the Lord was doing in the church in Victoria.  I had just come off a couple weeks of preaching and had a free Sunday which corresponded to the grand re-opening of their building, so I decided to drive up.

I am currently reading a book that uses sports metaphors to describe the church.  In light of that, they play the game a little differently up in Canada.  Victoria, according to Peter, is very non-Christian.  I was told that something like 3% of the city professes faith in Christ.  There are large groups of atheists, other religious adherents, and general spiritualists.  High Point Church is the only church in their area of the city.  It’s an incredibly different context than the one that I work in.

One of the exciting things for me though is that immediately after arriving there, I was in the presence of the body of Christ.  I love that no matter where you go, Jesus’ bride is there faithfully fulfilling her calling.  I got to attend the back half of a cell group meeting on Thursday night and Friday I was given a tour of the facility and neighborhood.  They were busy remodeling and I got to spend some time helping set up their light board.  Saturday I got to see a little bit of the city, and Sunday I got to play synth for the worship service.

Sunday morning was great.  I was told they typically have 70 in attendance.  120 showed up.  I got the impressed that the Lublinks were well loved by the community, and many came out to see their new meeting place who didn’t follow Jesus.  A testimony was given and Peter shared the gospel with the group.  I met many people who had been changed by the gospel through High Point over the years.

I can tell that Peter and Alison see a chance to really change their city with the gospel of Jesus and they aren’t afraid to be creative with their methods to achieve that goal.  The way I saw them live and contextualize the gospel was refreshing.  Their lives motivated me to move forward on some things that God has been stirring in me for awhile.

I got four days of not worrying about a ministry.  I got to serve and watch as other people did their thing.  We shared ideas and stories, disagreed a little, and had some fun too I think.  They were great hosts and tour guides.  I am looking forward to returning the favor some day soon.

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High Point Church

Membership Class – Week 3

We had a really great membership class on Monday.  We started with a review of last week’s topics.  This quickly turned into an impromptu discussion of the reliability of the Bible.  Some quick facts about how the Bible stacks up amongst other historical documents can be found here.  We can trust God’s Word.

So, this week we started with doctrine #4:

We believe that in the person of Jesus Christ the Divine and human natures are united, so that He is truly and properly god and truly and properly man.

The fancy theological word for this is the “hypostatic union.”  Similar to the trinity in it’s weirdness, Jesus was, and is, both fully God (the second person of the trinity) and fully human.  We looked at evidence for Jesus’ divinity (John 8:58 and John 10:30 among others) as well as evidence for his humanity: John 1:14, Hebrews 2:17 and Philippians 2:5-7.

The great thing about this truth is that it shows that 1) Jesus has the ability to pay for our sins as a human representative with the sinless deity worthy of such a huge sacrifice, and 2) Jesus understands us.  He’s been there.  He probably lost his earthly father at a young age, he grew up poor and misunderstood, he worked hard with his hands, he was ridiculed by friends and family, betrayed and denied by his closest companions, and brutally murdered even though he committed no crimes.  If you can resonate with any of that, realize that Jesus gets what you’re going through probably more than you do.

We briefly talked about the Chalcedonian Creed in 451ad that put to rest this issue.  It’s important to understand the theological battles of the church in the past, because the Devil continues to use the same old tricks.  When the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons and others deny the deity of Christ, we can understand that that issue was already dealt with fifteen hundred years ago and that just because it has come up again doesn’t mean the argument has any more merit than it did then.

Doctrine #5 is a heavy one:

We believe that our first parents were created in a state of innocency, but by their disobedience they lost their purity and happiness, and that in consequence of their fall all men have become sinners, totally depraved, and as such are justly exposed to the wrath of God.

Total depravity is a foreign concept to our culture.  Voices from everywhere talk about how people are “basically good” and they go wrong because of their environment and the things that they are taught.  You’d think that anyone with children would laugh at that idea.  We are born in sin, wicked rebels, dedicated to our own selfishness at the expense of God’s law.  The class was thoroughly depressed by Isaiah 64:6, Jeremiah 17:9, Psalm 51:5 and Romans 3:10-11.

Total depravity doesn’t mean that all that humanity does is totally evil, but that all of our good works can never meet God’s holy standard.  We bear the image of God that Adam and Eve (real people btw) have passed down to us, but it is marred by sin.  We are unable to fix it and deserve to be destroyed for our wickedness.

This doctrine is incredibly important.  First, it tells us that something has gone terribly wrong.  Things are not the way that they are supposed to be.  God is not the author of evil.  Secondly, it helps us to understand sin.  In their book Doctrine, Mark Driscoll and Dr. Gerry Breshears quote Cornelius Plantinga:

The Bible presents sin by way of major concepts, principally lawlessness and faithlessness, expressed in an array of images: sin is the missing of a target, a wandering from the path, a straying from the fold.  Sin is a hard heart and a stiff neck.  Sin is blindness and deafness.  It is both the overstepping of a line and the failure to reach it – both transgression and shortcoming.  Sin is a beast crouching at the door.  In sin, people attack or evade or neglect their divine calling.  These and other images suggest deviance: even when it is familiar, sin is never normal.  Sin is disruption of created harmony and then resistance to divine restoration of that harmony.  Above all, sin disrupts and resists the vital human relation to God.

Doctrine #5 further helps us understand our need for a savior.  Because we can’t fix the sin problem, someone else needs to, and that brings us to doctrine #6.

We believe that the Lord Jesus Christ has by His suffering and death made atonement for the whole world so that whosoever will may be saved.

There is a lot of confusion about whether or not the Bible is true, whether we can trust it.  I think it’s very important to understand that our faith is built on facts.  I gave 5 facts in class that support the resurrection.  Theses are not points of faith that Christians hold to; these are historical realities that secular historians have to explain away if they are to deny the Bible.

  1. Jesus was crucified.
  2. Jesus’ disciples believed that he rose and appeared to them.
  3. The church persecutor Paul was suddenly changed into a Christian evangelist.
  4. The skeptic James, Jesus’ brother, was suddenly changed and became a leader in the church.
  5. The tomb was empty.

Jesus really did die on the cross and the world was changed because of it.  The only reasonable explanation for this is that Jesus actually rose from the dead like the Bible says.  So what did his sacrifice do?

Jesus made atonement.  The word atonement holds two other words: propitiation and expiation.  To propitiate (1 John 2:2, Romans 3:25) means to “satisfy the anger of a deity.”  The word expiate means “to remove guilt.”  There is a great picture of this in Leviticus 16.  In it, Moses describes a procedure that is carried out once a year on what is called The Day of Atonement.  All the people of Israel gather and confess their sins.  The high priest places his hand on a goat and confesses the sins of the people, symbolically transferring them to the goat.  Then they kill the goat.  The death of the goat covers the sins of the people for a year.  Then they get a second goat and the high priest confesses the people’s sins on that goat.  But this time, they drive the goat out into the wilderness so that it can’t find its way back to the camp.  The sins of the people, symbolically transferred to that goat, are removed from the people for a year.

Jesus, whose sacrifice was better than that of goats, satisfies God’s wrath against our sin and removes our sin from us.  He is the perfect sacrifice, and the benefits of his offering are available for anyone.

Doctrine #6 reminds us that we have a faith built on facts, that our sins can really be forgiven and that God is not angry with us, and that our sin has been removed from us forever and will never be brought up again.  Praise God!

 

Membership Class – Week 3

Arminians vs. Calvinists

Here’s my problem with this classic debate: time.

I readily admit that I haven’t read all the literature on this subject, but from the books I have read, the Calvinists believe that those who are predestined to salvation are elected in eternity past.  He then empowers them by His Spirit to have faith and believe.  Arminians believe that God sees into the future, through his foreknowledge, those who will believe on His name and elects them based on their faith.

Both of these ideas require God to exist in time.  Granted, this concept of God can travel through time, or at least see into the future like a wizard with a crystal ball, but He deals inside a concept of time nonetheless.  If God exists outside of time, if time was created with space in Genesis 1:1 (that’s an Einsteinian thing) then it is possible that God elected those predestined for salvation in His foreknowledge while simultaneously knowing that the elect are those that respond to Him in faith without any need for a “what happened first” discussion.

Doesn’t that solve the problem?

Arminians vs. Calvinists

Membership Class – Week 2

So, on Monday at Kroc Church Membership Class we talked about the concept of doctrine and looked at Salvation Army doctrines 1-3.

We looked at how doctrines have different levels of importance.  I shared Mark Driscoll’s levels of doctrinal importance that correspond to national and state borders.  I also used an example that I stole from Dr. Gerry Breshears.  Dr. Breshears says that there are Die For issues, Divide For issues, Debate For issues and Decide for issues.  The important thing is that we have the Die For issues (salvation by grace through faith, the trinity, the exclusivity of the gospel, one God) in the right place.  There are scads of other things that fall into the other categories.  There are some legitimate things that we may need to divide for as Christians that don’t reflect upon our salvation.  There are also some things that we should believe and commit to living with each other in our differences.  We get in trouble when we move the Debate Fors and the Decide Fors into the Die For category or, conversely, when we put the Die Fors into a lower category.

After that we looked at Salvation Army doctrine #1:

We believe that the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments were given by inspiration of God and that they only constitute the Divine rule of Christian faith and practice.

We looked at the issue of inspiration and we discussed inerrancy (2 Timothy 3:16, 2 Peter 1:21).  We looked at different ways to gain information (our experiences, the teaching of others, and the Word of God) and saw how the first two, while useful, can fail us.  Because of this, scripture is our highest authority.  The Salvation Army’s doctrine on scripture is very old (the doctrines were developed in 1878)

Doctrine #2 is:

We believe that there is only one God who is infinitely perfect, the Creator, Preserver, and Governor of all things, and who is the only proper object of religious worship.

We checked out the idea of monotheism, the scriptural evidence for it (Deuteronomy 6:4), and why it is important.  That’s one thing that I want to keep in the forefront of any discussion on doctrine.  If doctrine is a subject that we learn and then set up on a shelf to get dusty, we missed the point.  Doctrine is a systematic explanation of the truth we find in scripture.  It needs to be the basis for how we live our lives.  If these doctrines don’t shape our understanding of the world, they are worthless.  Monotheism is important because if there is a single being that created the universe, our world, and ultimately each of us, we are accountable to him.  In a polytheistic or atheistic universe we are ultimately accountable to no one.  It’s a big deal.

Doctrine #3:

We believe that there are three persons in the Godhead – the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost, undivided in essence and co-equal in power and glory.

The trinity is probably one of the hardest to understand doctrines on this list.  How does it work, and why does it matter are big questions here.  Really, no one knows how it works.  The word trinity isn’t in the Bible.  However, it is a word that was coined by a church leader named Tertullian in ~200ad.  It is a compound word (tri and unity) that means three in one.  The concept of the trinity was not invented, but discovered as God interacted with his people over the centuries.  It is all over the Bible (Genesis 1, Deuteronomy 6:4-5, Matthew 3:16-17, Matthew 28:19, and many others).  God exists and has existed eternally as three distinct persons.

The tricky thing with the trinity is the “who cares” question.  There may be a myriad of reasons why understanding the trinity is important.  We looked at 2 of them.

  1. Love is absolute. – For God to be love, as the Bible tells us (1 John 4:8), love needs to be eternal.  If God is a singularity, God is incapable of love prior to creating something to love.  Therefore, love is not eternal.  However, if God is a trinity, as we see Him in scripture, He has eternally been the giver, receiver, and spirit of love in the relationship of Himself.
  2. We need people. – We are made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26).  The first thing that God says is not good after He creates the world is that man is alone (Genesis 2:18).  Man has God, but that’s not enough.  In order to image God well, man needs an equal partner to give and receive love and community with.  That’s the basis of marriage, but I think it’s much more than that.  I think God’s eternal community is the basis of our need for one another.  Human beings need each other, and I believe that’s because we are created in the image of God, who Himself is in community.
Some great resources for exploring these admittedly big ideas are:

 

 

Membership Class – Week 2

Kroc Church Membership Class – Week 1

It is my great privilege to be able to teach new member classes at Kroc Church.  Tonight I started the second set of the year.  They run for six weeks and cover TSA history, doctrine and distinctives about Kroc Church.  At the end of the class participants (hopefully) have learned a bunch about their church and have the opportunity to become members.  It’s a lot of fun.  Over the next six weeks I’ve decided to post brief synopses of the classes for you who happen to view this blog.

History

Tonight, week 1, was Salvation Army history.  We watched an hour long documentary called Our People:

[youtube_sc url=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tEpAAp2PSlo” title=”Our%20People%20Preview” autohide=”1″]

It’s a really well done look at the founding of The Salvation Army.  William and Catherine Booth are shown in a really fairly honest light (TSA often idolizes their “founder”).  The Holy Spirit really moved in this couple to do a great work of God.  They were often stubborn and autocratic, but God used them in powerful ways.  Many people owe their salvation (humanly speaking) to the Booths and the movement they started.  It’s interesting because so few people know about the history of the Army.  These are the same people that are surprised that I am a pastor at a Salvation Army church.  “It’s a church?”  If I had a dollar for every time…

I believe that this is primarily because The Salvation Army is such a good social service organization (and it is).  Our humanitarian work often overshadows our Gospel work.  I think this is a shame and something we definitely need to work on nationally.  However, the people who deal with The Salvation Army know that we are a church and our motivation is the love of Christ.  I guess that’s what counts the most.

Membership

The other thing that we talked about tonight was the idea of membership.  Membership is hard for a lot of people in the church.  The Salvation Army requires members to sign a membership covenant.  Full members, called Soldiers, have to swear off drinking, smoking and gambling too.  It’s a big deal and many people aren’t excited about it.  In the church I grew up in, “come once you’re a visitor, come twice you’re a member.”  This worked well until the congregation was required, according to the church’s bylaws, to vote on something.  Then membership was based on tithing records.

I don’t think it matters how a church decides to keep track of members as long as the leadership acts according to their convictions.  I do think the idea of belonging is really important, and the New Testament is full of passages showing an inside vs. outside distinction.  We are called to obey our leaders (Hebrews 13:17), judge those inside the church in regards to sin (1 Corinthians 5:12), and support those in the household of faith (Galatians 6:10).  We can’t do that if we don’t know who is part of the church and who isn’t.  The way I like to say it is that The Salvation Army chooses to identify those that are part of the local expression of the body of Christ here through a formal membership process and member’s covenant.  Other churches are free to use other methods to handle the question, but a more “traditional” membership is how our church does it.  The onus is on us to make sure our methods don’t focus our effort on numbers and membership rolls just for numbers sake.  If you are a member here, we are gonna make sure you have a job to do and we are going to do our best to help you grow in Christ.  It’s the leadership’s responsibility to do that, not just count people (Ephesians 4:11-12).

Overall it was a good class.  There were 22 in attendance.  I’m hoping that many last until the end.  We start discussing doctrine next week.  That’s when it really gets fun.

Kroc Church Membership Class – Week 1