We live at a time when the connectedness of the world brings us a daily deluge of difficult news from all over the world. Thankfully, the same technologies that introduce us to so much hardship also allow us to tangibly respond through a global movement that makes financing available to those most in need.Read more
We often think we can discern God’s will from the circumstances in our life. An answered prayer seems like a definite green light to go a certain direction. But can we rely on what we believe to be an answered prayer as an indication of God’s will for our life? Have you ever experienced a situation where you believed God answered a prayer, you went down that path, and things didn’t work out?Read more
In my previous blog post, I mentioned that I am going to be posting some of the sermons that I’ve taught as part of the teaching team at NewSong Church. While these sermons aren’t quite as interactive as our podcasts from the Interactive Forum, we do allow a time for Q&A at the end of many of our sermons, so you’ll still get a chance to hear the interactions we’ve had with those who are part of the congregation.
The first series we are posting is my most recent on Discerning God’s Will. Many who are familiar with our podcasts will recognize this as one of our most popular podcasts from the Interactive Forum, and we frequently hear from our online listeners about this topic.Read more
Some time ago, we posted the last of our Exodus Podcasts, concluding with The Final Series. But we know that many of you are still discovering the podcasts for the first time, or continuing to listen along to series you’ve missed. It’s my hope that we can continue to update the blog with new posts that relate back to the many podcast topics we’ve covered, and we’re going to be posting some of my recent sermons at NewSong Church for those who’ve wondered if we had any more content to post.Read more
If there was such a thing as theological amnesia, it would be caused by any discussion about God’s will. Without fail, I find myself repeatedly in conversations about how to find God’s will – often with the same people I’ve already had the discussion with before.
Most of the time, the problems we have with finding God’s will stem from a fundamental misunderstanding of how we seek out His will.Read more
One ever-present element in the Christian culture is a fundraiser for a worthy cause. It might be a building initiative, a mission trip, the construction of a water well or raising scholarships to send kids to camp. Setting aside the fact that it is sacrificial giving that is taught in the scriptures, not fundraising, the practice of fundraising has several downsides.Read more
Spending time in Russia inevitably leads me to think about the communist system, especially when you see how quickly it was replaced with a Russian form of capitalism after the fall of the Soviet Union. Karl Marx famously proclaimed that “religion is the opiate of the masses,” but it seems that he may have missed the fact that material possessions are the strongest opiate of all.Read more
I spent the morning worshiping alongside Russian brothers and sisters at St. Petersburg Christian University at a time when relations between Russia and the West seem to be growing more tense every day. During the worship service, I was struck with the reality of how and why it is that Jesus Christ alone can bring peace to this world, both now and in the world to come.Read more
One more than one occasion, I’ve had the chance to teach on the Lord’s Prayer. Each time I got to the line “and lead us not into temptation,” I struggled with how to best explain this petition from the prayer. I knew there was a deep insight that lay just underneath these words, but I needed to experience these words a deeper level, to not only understand them in my mind, but in my heart as well. A month after I last taught on this petition, I found myself fervently praying these same words, but this time appreciating this line of the prayer at a level I had not previously grasped.Read more
Here is a verse that is not in the Bible: “Everything happens for a reason.” While the statement is logically true – everything does happen for some reason – the phrase itself is useless. It does not tell us what that reason is, nor does it tell us whether the reason is intended, accidental or naturally occurring. Saying that everything happens for a reason is no more informative than saying that something did or did not happen. The statement is always true, and yields nothing insightful.
Why are we so quick to write off real issues with trite phrases?Read more
Many of us lament the outright hostility to faith that has become its own institutionalized religion in secular universities, but how is it that so many students at Christian universities experience the same loss of faith, especially while they are still at school? Perhaps it comes from the temptation of so many Christian professors to deconstruct students in order to break down what they consider elementary or fundamentalist beliefs, with the goal of replacing those beliefs with more mature formulations of our faith. While deconstruction is a good first step to a more mature understanding, deconstruction by itself is sinful and abusive unless we are committed to reconstruct those with whom we interact.Read more
We naturally consider the end of our life to be the conclusion of our life’s work. But I wonder what God could accomplish through us if we saw our life’s work as something that could only be completed by the Lord after we had departed this life. What if we were intentional about building our life’s work so that it had to be completed by someone else, such that without God’s involvement, it would not come to fruition? What if we trusted that God would inspire others that came along after us to bring about the culmination of what we began?Read more
In John 15, Jesus teaches that “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.” (v. 1) He goes on to tell the disciples that “you are the branches,” and the Father “cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes.” (v. 2) We often focus our attention on the part of Jesus’ teaching that relates to remaining in him, so that we can bear fruit and avoid being cut off. But we ignore the fact that Jesus said that even branches that bear fruit will be pruned. How does the Lord prune those who bear fruit so that we bear even more fruit?Read more
It was Martin Luther, the great reformer, who said that printing was God’s “highest and extremest act of grace.” After all, the printing press finally allowed widespread access to the scriptures, giving fuel to the Reformation along the way. But in our time, when every translation of the scriptures travels with us on our phones and tablets, are we any more Biblically literate than our medieval counterparts? We are in danger of becoming the medieval church all over again, where the clergy are the only ones that read and interpret the scripture for us. No wonder our understanding of key doctrines is commonly distorted, and our teaching reduced to pithy statements and superstitious sayings.Read more
While Christians are keenly interested in hearing from God, our churches are structured in a way that misses one of the key ways in which God speaks: the deliberation of the body. Can churches practically engage in deliberation? After all, our church services — especially at our “successful” churches – have grown to a size where this type of interaction is unwieldy. But if we want to open up another avenue of hearing from God that we have long ignored, maybe we should stop questioning how we can practice deliberation in large groups, and start questioning the size of our groups.Read more
One of the subjects that always seems to find prominent space on the shelves of Christian bookstores is the subject of hearing from God. Many of you know that Exodus was founded in large part on a belief that God speaks to us all, but that our churches are structured in a way that misses one of the key ways in which God speaks: the deliberation of the body. From the birth of the early church, we see the apostles routinely deliberating together as a means of hearing from God. So here is an audacious claim: when you listen to the interaction which we recorded in our podcasts, you may be listening to the voice of the Spirit, manifested in the deliberation of the body.Read more
In my last post, I highlighted the discomfort that Americans have with hospitality, and gave the first part of a response to those who wonder why hospitality should be an important part of the Christian life. For example, we often miss the emphasis of Jesus’ teachings because of our lack of familiarity with the practices of hospitality. Yet, despite their unfamiliarity or discomfort with the centuries-old customs of hospitality, Americans remain the most generous people in the amount of dollars contributed to causes outside of themselves. Why is it that those who are so generous and possess such a desire to help others are so uncomfortable expressing hospitality? In this post, we examine the obstacles created by privacy and our discomfort with receiving as possible explanations to resolve this seeming contradiction.Read more
One stark observation made in our series on “Recovering Christian Hospitality” is that Americans, by and large, are uncomfortable with hospitality. In response, one of the most frequent comments we get from people who have wondered about whether to engage the series is, “What is so important about hospitality?” Because most of us have never heard a sermon about hospitality, we’re often skeptical that this practice could be a priority for us as Christians. But many of the key teachings of Jesus were placed in the context of hospitality. Even more importantly, the practice of Eastern hospitality was central to the spread of the Gospel throughout the Roman Empire, and it might be that our own awkwardness in practicing hospitality in the West is part of the reason we are encountering so much difficulty engaging others with the Gospel today.Read more
Recently, Christianity Today published the testimony of Kristen Powers, a contributor to USA Today, a columnist for Newsweek/The Daily Beast and a Democratic commentator for Fox News. She describes her transition from a person who doubted God, and was repelled by Christians, to one who personally encountered the Lord Jesus. The article also touches on her surprising encounters with Christians, and how those brought her closer to faith. The testimony is well worth the time to read, providing compelling evidence to the truth of Jesus Christ in a way that our series — by themselves — cannot.Read more
I am the first to state that we are often much better about talking about Jesus, rather than testifying to His very real action in our lives. Because of the importance of hearing directly from those who personally experience the work of Jesus in their lives, there is a rich tradition of Christians sharing their testimony with one another. It is meant to encourage one another, and it is born out of the Acts tradition of providing eyewitness testimony to the Lord Jesus Christ. While we have repeatedly relied upon and studied many “experts” in order to develop the teaching series we presented in our interactive forum, it is best to remember that the testimonies of the people who witness the activity of Christ in their life speak volumes to those who are weighing the evidence for Jesus Christ. It is in that spirit that I recently came across a few testimonies that I thought were worth passing along.Read more
Often times the reason we give for expanding our ministries to galactic proportions is that we are doing it for God. But what if we discovered that our Western mindset pushes us to expand our footprint in the world — even when we have no belief in God? Observing atheists gathering together allows us to examine how a group of people who profess no belief in God behave following the successful launch of their first church plant, and sheds light on how closely our behavior mirrors theirs.Read more
The question of “who is my neighbor” is a familiar one from Jesus’ interaction with the teacher of the law in Luke 10. It leads us to recognize that if we are to be obedient to Christ and love our neighbor as ourselves, everyone is our neighbor, even those whom we would normally regard as enemies.
But what about our actual neighbors? Do our actual neighbors qualify as “neighbors?”Read more
Over the years, we’ve received repeated requests from our online listeners for access to the PowerPoint slides that accompany each of our podcasts, and many times we have emailed them directly to those who were looking to use them. One of the great features built into the redesigned site is the ability to add these slides as part of each series. Now that the new site is live, we are gradually uploading the slides for each of our podcasts. So far, we’ve uploaded slides for each of the following series:Read more
We’ve been working for several months behind the scenes on a new website, and if you’re reading this, then you’ve found it. In addition to a fresh look for the site, we’ve added a number of features which we will increasingly use in the months to come. Whether you have journeyed along with us for many years, or just discovered ExodusPodcasts, we hope that you take the time to engage these podcasts. Please share them with others who might benefit from them, and take the time to write to us to let us know about how these podcasts have impacted you.Read more
There has never been a greater congregator of people than the Internet. It is fair to say we have scarcely begun to appreciate its impact on humanity. Yet in some ways, the Tower of Babel still casts a long shadow over the manner in which we live our lives in these digital collectives. We couldn’t possibly list the vast number of changes that have come about as a result of this unprecedented means of communing together, nor list all the potential downsides that have accompanied it. But there is at least one danger that is worth singling out, and that is the tendency to justify (and often celebrate) sinful behavior in the online collectives to which we belong.Read more
One of the most difficult questions to address is the one regarding the salvation of young children and infants. In Part 7 of our Questions About Salvation series, we urged humility and honesty, and said that the most humble and honest response is that we don’t know for certain how God will deal with infants and those who do not appear able to put their faith in Christ. The Bible is silent on the point, and we have to recognize that many of our formulations are seeking to fill a void that is outside of God’s revelation to us. Yet even in the absence of solid direction from the scriptures, we can confidently say that we know the character of God, placing our faith in God’s love, mercy and grace.Read more
Author and pastor Drew Dyck recently put into words a dilemma we have all observed, but have rarely stated so eloquently:
“How is it possible for someone to go to church year after year, listen to great sermons, read the Bible, absorb Christian classics, find ways to serve, and even attend ministry conferences — and change very little. Strange question, I know, but not hypothetical. I ask it with someone specific in mind, someone whose minimal spiritual progress I’ve watched with mounting frustration. That person is me.” . . .Read more
I was recently listening to the keynote address at a large conference. The speaker was really enthusiastic about our collective obligation to help the “least of these,” urging those of us who had been given so much to be responsible to give back even more.
But I can guarantee that no matter how many conferences you’ve been to, you’ve never been to the type of conference I am talking about. This wasn’t a church growth conference. It wasn’t a missions conference. In fact, it wasn’t a Christian conference at all. It was a conference of 1500 lawyers . . .Read more
One view that is commonly shared among those skeptical of giving to the church is the belief that the church cannot utilize our giving as effectively as a non-profit organization. We’ve all heard these concerns, and some of us agree with them. You might hear someone ask, Isn’t the church mainly using the money to pay for buildings and salaries? Or you might wonder, Will anyone outside the church benefit from the gift that I am giving?
There was a time when I was tempted to view those who worked full time in ministry as living off the rest of us who had “real jobs.” As a result of unexamined pride, I challenged myself to make . . .Read more
In Part 1 of this blog post, I stated that it was my belief that giving to/through the church should be our primary means of giving. I pointed out that Acts 4:34 describes those who sold property laying the proceeds at the apostles feet. And I stated that this served as a model for our giving that is rarely articulated by the church.
The struggle many of us have is that we wonder whether our gift would be properly used if we laid it at the apostles’ (the church’s) feet. But for now, we need to ask the deeper question: Why is our skepticism limiting our generosity and preventing us from simply laying our gift at the apostles’ feet in obedience . . .Read more
Whenever we’ve discussed stewardship, generosity or giving, one question is sure to come up: How much of our giving should go to the church vs. a non-profit organization? Given the way that non-profits target very tangible needs, the proliferation in the number of non-profits, and the growing skepticism of the church as an institution, it’s no wonder the question keeps coming up.
I am not taking the position that there is anything wrong with giving to a non-profit. My wife and I do it regularly and we give to several different organizations. But the person asking me the question is not really looking for my opinion about whether it is acceptable to give outside the church. Instead, . . .Read more
What does it say that atheists in London have formed their own “church”?
Several news outlets have recently featured stories about Sunday Assembly, a “church” comprised of atheists who meet each Sunday in a deconsecrated London church. According to one report from the Spring 2013 volume of Leadership Journal, “it looks a lot like Christian churches around the corner — just without God” and features a welcome, announcements, a message brought by a guest speaker, readings, and of course, the congregation singing to hit songs by Queen and Stevie Wonder. . . .Read more
We received this email last night. I thought I’d pass it on. It hit me pretty hard getting this news literally 30 minutes after our discussion about what true Discipleship costs. —— Dear Partner, It is with a heavy heart…Read more
Exodus has partnered with World Vision for a while now and, in continuing with what God is doing through them, some of us have decided to run the Los Angeles 5k on March 20th in order to to help raise…Read more
Something that Phil and I discussed later in the evening, after tonight’s talk had ended, was what it means to give and act responsibly. Let us start out with the premise that it is best to act responsibly whenever possible….Read more
This last Wednesday night, we started discussing the book Irresistible Revolution and the subject of service came up. Specifically we began talking about our interactions (or lack thereof) with the poor and homeless. Everyone in our group agreed that it…Read more
Several weeks ago we viewed and analyzed the video, “Prayer is Superstition” from the people at Why Won’t God Heal Amputees.com. During that discussion, the comment was made that the video assumed that prayer had absolutely no effect on healing, when…Read more
A few weeks ago during our Wednesday night series on Lamentations, the concept of cursing our enemies during prayer came up. It seemed as if there are multiple places in the Bible where people call on God to be wrathful…Read more