If Jesus Gave a TED Talk

"He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross." – Colossians 1:15-20

 

In our fast-paced, globalized, and attention-deficit world, we are consistently searching for something new. In Acts 17, though, we are told that this is not a modern phenomenon: “Now all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there would spend their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new.”

I can do this now from the comfort of my home, easily finding anyone in the Internet world (“twitterverse” is one of my particularly favorite terms) that agrees with my conspiracy theories, or someone to rage against on a message board. We are very Athenian. And as John Piper said, “This is not a compliment.”

At a recent staff meeting for the school where I teach high school students, we watched a TED Talk saying that the way we teach needs to change. Rather than drilling the answer into kids, we should encourage creativity and “divergent thinking” (TED Talks, while very interesting, often remind me of the Athenian setting of constantly gathering to find something “new”). While I agree that many forms of education as we know them are stale and underutilize the resources available to us, there is a great danger in this idea, namely that we will create Athenians—or, rather, reinforce our natural Athenian tendencies.

I can see this in the way that my mind works. I tend to drift in and out of encouragement, depression, excitement, laziness, diligence, and a variety of other emotions. In all honesty, as I write this I am most acutely fighting a streak of discouragement. When I am not encouraged in the gospel, I can have the tendency to cheer on ideas that lead to divergent thinking.

This is sin, or more specifically, idolatry. If only I can find a way to be celebrated for my creativity, find the cool thing before anyone else (this is the closeted hipster within me), or produce something meaningful, then I will find joy. These are lies that I believe. Do my students, my neighbors, or I need new ideas, new answers, or “divergent thinking?” No. We need Colossians 1. 

Imagine if the homepage of every website or the headline of every newspaper read, “Jesus is King” or “God is reconciling all things to himself through the cross of Christ.” We would be tempted to say that this would be boring – always hearing the same message in every arena and in all forms – but this is what God proclaims in creation and in the Word. Every “new” solution or answer is dishonest and denies reality.

I would love to write those articles or create those webpages. They would give me a chance to practice 2 Corinthians 10:5, taking “every thought captive to Christ,” to bring my thoughts and the events of history in line with reality. My article about the cross-country meet I was at yesterday, titled “Jesus is our Champion,” would be about how our desire for sports and contests is really a reflection of our longing to see the true champion return. Or, an article about a drive-by shooting, titled “God is both Just and Justifier,” could tell of God’s anger at sin as well as his grace, compassion, and sadness for both the suspect and the victim, with the reminder that this is not our home. These articles would allow us a chance to dwell upon the preeminence and supremacy of Christ in all aspects of life.

God has created amazing diversity and given us millions of gifts for us to enjoy and with which to create. All of that is not for us to neglect and circle the wagons, nor to create a world of a million divergent, “coexisting” answers. We must not neglect that all of this was made by, through, and for Jesus. He is the answer by which all of our divergent experiences converge and give us joy.

Missions Mentoring at Summitview

It was once said that the true greatness of a church is demonstrated not in how many it seats but in how many it sends. That statement seems to line up well with the Biblical pattern.

Jesus travelled Palestine for three years and spoke to untold thousands of people, most of whom were completely overwhelmed by what they saw and heard. But upon completion of his earthly ministry, the number of people claiming an allegiance to Jesus was unimpressive at best. Acts 1 records only 120 people in the company of believers immediately after Jesus’ ascension, even though more than 5,000 had seen him multiply the loaves and fish, and more than 500 had seen him after his resurrection.

Similarly, Paul mentions in 2 Timothy, his final letter, that everyone in Ephesus had deserted him at his first defense. After decades of ministry in Asia Minor, nobody in the region was willing to associate with Paul during his time of greatest need. There were only a few people scattered abroad – Timothy, Luke and others – that endured. So it seems that upon their deaths, the two most influential men in history left behind what could be described as a very meager following.

While meager numerically, those followers were not meager in power and effect. Jesus and Paul had developed men and women that were ready, willing and eager to take the message around the world. If we measure by sending, Jesus and Paul had extraordinarily successful ministries indeed.
 
The temptation, however, will always be to measure church success by more tangible and recognizable standards. It takes intentional effort to become and remain a “sending” rather than a “seating” church, but that’s our goal. And specifically, we want to send people to places where there is very little gospel witness, which often means international settings. The problem, though, is that cross-cultural ministry in a foreign setting is profoundly difficult. Every international work our church has been involved with has encountered unexpected and nearly overwhelming challenges.

It’s easy to be naïve about those challenges, imagining that a heart for the nations is all that is needed for effective missionary work, but the reality is that foreign missionaries need training. It takes stellar character and an assortment of unique skills. We currently have a course of training for potential pastors, called Aspire, because we believe that the work of a pastor requires intentional preparation. But does it not require just as much intention to develop overseas missionaries? Will not their challenges be just as intense if not more so?
 
With that in mind, we are in the early stages of developing a “missions mentoring” program to intentionally train and assess potential overseas workers. We are working to create a curriculum of study that will adequately prepare men and women for missions in a foreign setting. But this program is not to be simply informational. We believe effective training needs to be incorporated into a community environment with hands-on experiences. We’re therefore combining missions mentoring with our existing international student ministry. We hope to provide potential missionaries cross-cultural experiences right here in Fort Collins, uniting with like-minded people in close community to reach international students with the gospel.

We are extremely excited to see this take shape, trusting that men and women will be trained and sent to places where a gospel witness is desperately needed. May our church reflect the ministry of Jesus – developing men and women ready and willing to be sent.

God, Christians and Coffee

 

Fill in the blank:

By this we know that we love the children of God, when we _________.

I used to despise and avoid the book of 1 John because of the confusion it caused me.

When I was young, I used to despise the taste of coffee. Too bitter, too strong, and too surprising to my taste buds.

I started drinking coffee three years ago. The acquired taste has grown on me a lot. I drink it every day.

A while back, I caught wind that we were going to go through the book of 1 John at Summitview on Sunday mornings. I spent the next three weeks going through the book again and again in my quiet times. I now have an acquired taste for 1 John that continues to grow.

In the midst of all the black-and-white verses, the surprising verses, the circles of thinking, two verses stood out to me: 1 John 5:2-3.

What did you fill in the blank with above?

Here's the answer:

“By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.” – 1 John 5:2-3

This one surprised me. I would have thought that I love my brothers and sisters by praying for them, serving them, sacrificing for them. Yet this verse says if you want to love fellow Christians, then love God. How do you love God? Keep his commandments.

1 John 2:4-5 says, “Whoever says ‘I know him’ but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him.”

So if I say I know God, if I'm truly in Him, I'll obey him. In so doing, I'll fulfill the great commandment: Love God and love people. By obeying God, I love God. By loving God, I love Christians.

This idea has really made me check my heart when I got to spend time with believers. Am I loving God? Am I abiding in Him? Is my heart aligned with him so that I obey him? Is He my greatest desire?

It's been refreshing, the times I recognize this, as it brings a vertical component into time with other believers. Instead of fretting trying to meet horizontal needs merely through my own means, I'm trusting that abiding in God and obeying Him is perhaps the most powerful first step in loving believers around me.

I love the taste of the book of 1 John. It's an acquired one. I want to enjoy its stirring aroma and taste everyday.

inFellowship and Our New Website

Hello, Summitview!

The video below is a quick tour of our new website and how it enables easy access to our new communication tool, inFellowship. This video is a good refresher for those aware of inFellowship, but haven't created their profile yet. It's also a great introduction for those of us who may have been out of town the last couple weeks for what this new tool is about and how to get started with it. So, sit back and enjoy the show. For more on inFellowship, feel free to visit summitview.com/f1.


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God in the Rocks: Seeing the God Who is There

I love to travel. I especially love to drive through open countryside, and recently got to drive from Fort Collins to Seattle with my wife Carol.

I've learned enough about geology and biology that there is always something making me think about the work and actions of God in the history of our world. This trip was no exception. And my wife is always graciously patient as I explain what I think I'm seeing in rock formations around me, or stopping occasionally to take pictures of some interesting road cut on a highway. 

On one stretch I was thinking about the reality of the Mind that exists all around us: how immense and staggering that intelligence is, and how all that I see is a product, directly or indirectly, of that Mind. Then I remembered that many people would consider my Christian faith to be an anti-intellectual position, and I quietly smiled to myself. How strange to label a viewpoint that places a Mind as the Source of all things as an anti-intellectual view. No idea could so exalt and honor the place of the intellectual as that which roots everything in the mind and thoughts of God. There is a reason that the vast majority of the world's greatest thinkers have at least been theists.

The God who is there is Mind and Heart and Relationship, and everything we will ever see of His work is meant to teach us something about Him, or about us. The communication written into the creation is an important, God-designed part of our faith. If we don't see God in the world around us, then our view of the Bible becomes merely academic, compartmentalized and divorced from the real events of our day-to-day lives. When that happens, true, whole-life faith morphs into what is only a religious slice of our life, shared in a religious sub-culture of people who schedule meetings and events together to give the slice a place in their lives.

Connecting the Bible with science and history has helped me some in the struggle against that.  Perhaps the most powerful specific instance of connection for me in the past 10 years has been reflecting on the tremendous implications of the flood of Noah, and then finding evidence for it in our world. The claim of a worldwide flood not that long ago has tremendous implications for both science and history. The fossil record, the age of civilization, the age of the earth, as well as the gene pool for both animals and man are some of the things that would be determined by such a flood.

But the Flood's biggest visible impact in our world would be the surface of the earth. A worldwide water cataclysm covering the earth for a year would leave unmistakable marks everywhere. Which means it shouldn't be very hard for an open-minded observer to find evidence for such a flood if the Bible has its history right. One of the highlights of my last 10 years has been discovering, marveling at, and sharing that information with others. I have discovered in a new way that God has been here and has acted in our world, just as the Bible describes. And in the flood, that engagement was judgment. God judged us for sin. Finding physical evidence in the world that speaks of such a near and profound judgment is a sobering thing. God is not just a character in a book. God is a Person who is here: a Mind and Heart that is engaging with us, and that will engage each of us at the end of our life. We live in God's world. 

Monday’s this fall I have the privilege of teaching for a second time a class called “God's Word, God's World.” It is a six-week course that includes a local field trip and an optional three-day trip to Moab, Utah. Many people who took the class last year say they will never see the world the same way again. And that makes me smile, because that is exactly what has happened to me. I even stop at roadbeds now to take pictures. 

Dear Christian, no one has a better basis for an intellectual worldview that you do. You believe Mind is the source of all things. And if you want training to strengthen your connection between the Bible, science and history, many good resources are out there. You could even consider joining us this Monday, September 10, to learn about the Flood. You can find more information about the class at http://summitview.com/resources/classes/gwgw.

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