Guarded Heart Commencement

My 28th Western commencement was great . . . again. Friday began in Anchorage with a 12:40 am flight toward Portland. I’d asked some very righteous people to pray that I could get a whole row of seats so I could get some sleep. I heard the terminal clerk tell another passenger requesting a seat change that there were only center seats left. Sigh! I went to 29A toward the back of the aircraft and watched the long line of passengers coming and seats filling, quite a few with all three seats occupied. No one joined me. Then they stopped coming. Righteous friends later denied responsibility, but I celebrated their character by curling up for two and a half hours of sleep. Not at all adequate for the day, but way better than none.

My appointments included Lebanese lunch with Bill and Robin Mounce. He was the commencement speaker. We spent two hours in intense discussion of living in a world where the devil is still quite active. He went to teach his Greek class and I went to meet with Mark and Grace Driscoll before the graduation banquet. We talked on the phone, agreeing on the meeting time at the hotel after the rehearsal for Saturday’s graduation. When I got there, the desk clerk told me they were still stuck in traffic. So I spent the next hour and a half with Mark’s parents while they looked at tail lights. My talk time with Mark was quite abbreviated!

There were six outstanding student testimonies at the banquet. The first four speakers were ones I’d done or am doing pre-marital work with. The other two were Mark and Paul Jackson, both of whom made jokes at my expense! All very fun.

Bill’s commencement sermon had a different opening: He spoke tearfully of his son’s bicycle accident back in Spokane a couple of hours earlier resulting in two broken wrists, that on top of three other broken bones in the last year and a half, and then prayed his hatred for the devil who attacks children along with his love for his son. It gave great power to his gripping exposition on the dual figure of the gate and the path. We enter the narrow gate (conversion, justification, regeneration, adoption, etc.) and then continue on the path. He took us to Romans 8:17-18:

Now if we are children, then we are heirs– heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.

and Philippians 1:29

For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake,

He warned the graduates of the dangers of well meaning evangelists such as children’s workers who tie believing in Jesus as something to do so they can get snacks with assurance that this "decision" means they are certainly going to heaven. There is no entry into the gate and certainly no joining Jesus on the path.

Following the conferring of degrees, Bert Downs added punch to Bill’s sermon as he charged us powerfully to guard our hearts.

They were very meaningful words to me, since guarding my heart is a deep passion for me. That doesn’t keep me from hurting others, but it does mean a lifelong commitment to purity to Sherry and to Jesus as a basis for other relationships and ministry. I’m very glad for others SF who help me in guarding my heart.

I preached at Grace today on Luke 11:33-12:3, asking about religion vs. grace, ending with "what will I do with the darkness in me?" What will I do when I see blackness in another? When they tell me of my darkness? Very provocative for me. You can hear it on line in a day or two at gracecc.net. I’d love to hear your comments.

Contrasts

DBL Cover

I’m busy working on Vintage Church, the third book in the series with Mark Driscoll. As I looked at Amazon, I found the cover from the second book, Death by Love. The difference between them is dramatic. The current suggestion for Vintage Church follows the themes set out by Vintage Jesus, the first book. The cover will have a bunch of church kitsch, flannel graph, bad pot-luck Jello fruit salad, satin "Praise" banner, WWJD bracelet, reader board, etc., covered by a brown plasticized cover. Buy Death by Love will be in black and while with red for blood in each picture. The drawings are stark, both the cover and the internal drawings which picture each story addressed by the pastoral letters based on atonement themes. They are very powerful.

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As I’ve been writing, I’ve been thinking a lot about what is gospel, what is the church, whether it can legitimate expression to be multi-site with sermons by video, what part sacraments play in the life of the church. All this comes in the context of thinking what we want to do to Grace to reach to unchurched people who are interested in spiritual things. There are lots of them, but they aren’t likely to come to Grace where we assume a Christian world view and a basic Bible knowledge. That’s not conducive to reaching out to these folk, though it does make for a strong discipleship church where broken people can find a safe place for healing. So we wonder how we can expand to reach this target group. Is it enough to do multi-format services with different worship formats surrounding a similar sermon as the other services? Or do we need to go to being a multi-congregational church, with completely different services and distinct groups of people working under the single church leadership? Or should we just plant a new church, perhaps meeting in our building, but with separate budgets, leadership and such. There are lots of questions coming out of a basic theology of church.

Wednesday I’ll fly to Anchorage for conversations between a church and a ministry organization to see how they can partner to reach people there more effectively. Being involved in the discussions is good, but flying up for Wednesday evening and Thursday before doing an all night flight back for Friday’s graduation banquet. Will there be any energy in my body??

I do like exploring the Flickr site. One category is what they call Little Girl Looks 6 interestingness. Somehow they select images from the huge number of pictures posted on their site. This one grabbed me. The wistfulness of the little girl who is looking for something draws me in. The delicacy of her features reflect her soul. Will she find what she’s looking for? Where is Jesus? I suspect there’s a little boy somewhere whose sadness cannot be eased. Who can not be drawn to help?

I saw snow flakes in the air at 10:30 this morning. They are predicting more tomorrow morning down on the valley floor. For sure global warming is on vacation somewhere.

Sunday’s sermon is on Luke 11:33-12:3. What if the light in you is darkness? Can religion save?

Deistic Evangelicals?

3_31retreatcenter I spent the first part of this week at a beautiful retreat center near the entrance of Sequoia National Park. It overlooks the valley on one side and the mountains on the other. There is a babbling river, a big rock perfect for lizards (and a kitty who was also intrigued!) You can see more here

The North American Baptist pastors from all over California came together for spiritual retreat where they were in the alta_peak_1_12_05_smalloversight of Alta Peak. We talked a lot about the true spirituality as opposed to the pantheistic spirituality of Oprah and Star Wars on one side and the mechanistic, scientific deism of many Americans on the other. He is the creator God, the Intelligent Designer who created a world that runs under scientific and moral laws. Those who pay attention to the rule book will succeed. Those who don’t will be in trouble.

The frustrating thing to me is that many evangelicals are pretty deistic. God and heave are way out there somewhere. In the Christian version there are occasional miracles, the biggest one being Jesus. We were headed for hell because of sin. But Jesus died so that if we believe in Him, we’ll go to heaven when we die.

Of course that’s true, but the gospel is a lot more than that. Jesus is God with us, who died but also rose again to new life. He was exalted to the right hand of the Father and the dark powers are defeated. Those who repent (change their mind about who is God and what is important) and believe (trust that what God says is true) get forgiveness of sins (justification, imputed righteousness at conversion by grace alone through faith alone) and also new life of the Spirit (regeneration, imparted righteousness at conversion by grace alone through faith alone). Living from the new heart, people can act with joy in living out the life in them. Lots more to say. What do you think?

previa When I returned, Sherry picked me up at the airport in our faithful Previa and brought me home after an 11 hour journey home. This morning when I went to start the Previa to go to Westnomah, it didn’t. Dick Anderson checked it and found the leaking head gasket! Same problem as the Geo!! But we’ll not sell the Previa. It has a lot of miles left and very special memories of the children. So we’ll get it repaired.

But I’ll wonder if it is deja vu!