Sunday, April 03, 2005

Some Important Foundational Thoughts

A significant and increasing aspect of the vision of ATI involves an emphasis upon building or rebuilding the theological / doctrinal foundation upon which we represent God and Christianity; upon which we proceed with the mission of the church to make disciples (evangelism; bringing people to Christ) and to teach them to observe all He commanded (discipleship). I have long been interested in revival, renewal, reformation and restoration. It seems, however, that the effects of revival will be short lived if there is not reformation and restoration on the foundational level referred to above. In light of this particular vision and interest, I am encouraged when I read perspectives like the ones alluded to in the quotations that follow. It is with this backdrop that I offer the following quotations from Dr. Gregory Boyd.

“When people believe that everything is already part of God’s ‘secret plan’, they won’t work with passion and urgency to establish God’s will on earth as it is in heaven. Rather, as much popular Christian piety reveals, they resign themselves to all that happens as coming ‘from a Father’s hand’. They pray for the ability to accept things more than the ability to change things. They seek the power to comfort more than the power to deliver. This quasi-peaceful resignation expresses the kind of piety sought throughout history by pagans – ancient Stoics, practitioners of most Eastern religions and adherents of all forms of religious fatalism. But it definitely is not the kind of piety Jesus encouraged us to seek.” (Is God to Blame?; p.74)

“The blueprint worldview also has contributed to passivity in the church.” (Is God to Blame?; p.59)

(The church) “…is to be about what Jesus was about: aggressively breaking down Satanic fortresses wherever we find them. In people’s lives, in families, in churches and in society at large, the church is to expand the rule of God on the authority of Christ by binding evil and setting people free. In a word, our charter is to live a theology of revolt, throwing all we are and all we have into guerilla warfare against the occupying army, the tyrannizing powers of darkness. When the church opts instead for a theology of resignation and thus attempts to accept from God what Jesus fought as coming from Satan, the church exists in radical contradiction to its defining vocation.” (God at War;pgs.217-218)

“When we trade our mandate to revolt against Satan for an attitude of resignation, we end up accepting things that come from Satan as coming from the hand of God! We trade in a perfect peace (that motivates us to fight) for a worldly peace (that leads to passivity). We tarnish the character of God by confusing His activity with Satan’s, and we undermine the mission of the church. We trade the legitimate challenge to overcome actual evil for the illegitimate challenge of accepting that God’s will is ultimately behind every evil event.” (Is God to Blame?; p.75)

“God’s plan has always been that we would align our will with His will. But because His plan is a plan of love, this alignment could not be preprogrammed or coerced. The possibility of rejecting it had to exist. If love is the end, freedom must be the means to that end.” (Is God to Blame?; p.70)

Let me close with a reflection concerning the relationship between “sovereignty” and “love”. It is often a concern that an emphasis on the free will of man will infringe upon God’s sovereignty. This is largely the result of assuming that sovereignty is somehow associated with God getting His way or controlling all things that happen. It is also widely recognized that love requires a free reaction and expression of appreciation and cannot be caused or, in the final analysis, guaranteed. In the same way that one might be accused of denying sovereignty when emphasizing man’s free will, others can be accused of denying love when emphasizing sovereignty to the exclusion of human freedom since love requires this free reaction and expression.

Let us pray that this age will be remembered for a major breakthrough in many of the foundational perspectives from which we operate; that a powerful Biblical theology will prevail over the theology that has been largely handed down to us by way of the Greek philosophers, laying the foundation for a revival of revolutionary and long standing results.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

A Reflection on Proverb 16:4

This proverb must be understood 1) as a proverb and 2) in conjunction with the context of the surrounding verses. It is also significant to consider the fact that presuppositions that exist for a wide variety of reasons influence our comprehension of further truth. We will tend to build upon previously established, basic, foundational premises. That a mild or blatant determinism highly influences popular Christian thinking in our generation is very obvious. Therefore, isolated and taken out of context, we conclude that God ordained wickedness and evil for a purpose. I submit that this is an errant conclusion. Please read the following with this passage open in front of you, comparing the brief explanation I offer for each of these proverbial verses with the Biblical text.

In Context of Surrounding Verses:

Verse 1 – In it’s simplest meaning we are informed that both man and God have a role in the unfolding of the way things go. To take it to another level it seems to indicate (in proverbial fashion) that man is, indeed, responsible for deciding what he is going to do. In doing so, he will not necessarily choose wisely but truth and reality are always what God reveals.

Verse 2 – Humans will tend to be ready to view what they do as acceptable but God investigates the issue more deeply to find out what is at the bottom of it.

Verse 3 – When we seek to approach life through the guidance of God, we are on solid ground.

Proverbs 16:4 – In light of what the previous verses reveal, not contrary to it, we are being told that each path chosen (and there are only ultimately two) will produce a definite and particular outcome. Even the wicked will produce results; evil, disaster, destruction. It is not intended to communicate that God has purposed them to be wicked but He has purposed what will result of their wickedness. Whether one is wicked and experiences that established end result of his wickedness or whether one commits his works to the Lord is another issue altogether.

Verse 5 – This verse affirms what has been stated above. There is a particular approach which God must take His stand against and the one who chooses this approach is being informed that he, assuredly, will not go unpunished; he will suffer the consequences appropriate and consistent with this unacceptable path.

Verses 6-9 – These verses reveal the positive results of trusting, following, obeying and cooperating with God; committing our works to the Lord.

Verse 6 – It is possible to cross over from iniquity to a right approach toward life. This involves and requires mercy and truth (lovingkindness, loyalty, faithfulness, etc.). In order to stay away from evil, one must fear God; have the highest regard for Him.

Verse 7 – When we are pleasing to God, even unexpected, extraordinary consequences can transpire.

Verse 8 – A life based on this righteousness is of greater value then all the material possessions we might otherwise accumulate. This would seem to relate to the idea that there might be a tendency and temptation to operate on the path that leads to evil when captivated by the effort to gain worldly success.

Verse 9 – You will still be involved in the process when in right relationship with God but as you approach life from this proper foundation, God will give direction and guidance that leads in a more appropriate and valuable direction.

I will close with a wonderful passage found in Psalm 145.

17 The Lord is righteous in all His ways,
And kind in all His deeds.
18 The Lord is near to all who call upon Him,
To all who call upon Him in truth.
19 He will fulfill the desire of those who fear Him;
He will also hear their cry and will save them.
20 The Lord keeps all who love Him;
But all the wicked, He will destroy.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Further Ambassador Training International Information

We proceed from the basis that truth must first result in a change of Heart, then a renewed Mind and then a transformed Life. Consequently, those who have had a changed life should prepare to be used of God to change lives and reach the World. ATI is involved in three categories of ministry. We are involved in impacting those who have been producing bad fruit by engaging in pre-release ministry at Lancaster County Prison and post-release ministry with Transition to Community. We are pursuing opportunities to impact those who have been associated with the church and yet have been “fruitless”, showing little or no sign of growth & maturity by offering Renewal Ministry & Discipleship within the local church. We are also engaged in Mobile Missions and are contributing to the training experience of those preparing to do fruitful ministry. We are largely pursuing this area of ministry in conjunction with Youth with a Mission.