Friday, March 17, 2017

Impressions - HIM 2017 conference Honolulu March 16

The lovely Carol went with me to the Hawaiian Islands Ministries 2017 conference. The conference started Thursday evening 3/16, which felt like drinking from a fire hose. I took a couple hours Friday morning to digest Thursday evening's notes...

Thursday's general session and the Jeff Vanderstelt "Gospel Fluency" session reinforced the centrality of the gospel in the life of the church, both for leaders/teachers/preachers but for every disciple.

So I've read Romans 1:16 (I'm not ashamed of the gospel, for it's the power of God...) and 1 Corinthians 2 (I was determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ crucified) and 1 Corinthians 15 (gospel that saves you... that Christ lived and died and was raised according to the Scriptures... OK, it's 1 Cor 15:1-5), but I think yesterday's sessions (particularly David Choi and Jeff Vanderstelt) gave me a clearer understanding of Paul's mindset than I'd had before. Or reminded me of it.

In other words, I was somewhat surprised that we'd need a conference focused on a concept so basic to the faith, but upon reflection it shouldn't be surprising at all, because the idea of mercy is one that repels the mind. It crucifies pride and vainglory, and this is hard for flesh and blood to bear (with apologies to E.M. Bounds, but the idea's the same).

A video from Thailand, "Giving is the best communication," illustrates the theme of mercy. Here's the link: That was shown Friday morning.

EXTREMELY long notes follow. You have been warned. Editorial comments shown like this

Dan Chun: Today's youth see Christians as hypocritical, judgmental, anti-homosexual [etc.], unfortunately for good reason. Indeed, would Jesus say Mt 23:23 to us today? How much like Jesus are we in his outreach to the Gestapo of his day (the centurion), the Syrian refugees of his day (the Syro-Phoenician woman), the AIDS patients of his day (lepers), etc.?

"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices--mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law--justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.
-- Matthew 23:23, NIV [1984]
We must remember what we've forgotten: that we've been shown mercy and we must show it to others (1 Ti 1:16).
But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life.
-- 1 Timothy 1:16, NIV [1984]
David Choi: The Greatest Challenge. It's not evangelism, prayer, or Bible study, or even loving our neighbor. The greatest challenge is to believe that I'm truly the beloved of God, and that for only one reason: the finished work of Jesus Christ, in his life, death, and resurrection.
(Reminds me of John 6:27)
"What must we do, to do the work God requires?"

Jesus answered, "This is the work of God: to believe in the one he has sent." [vaguely reconstructed from memory.]

The point is not: To do the work, you must believe. Rather, the point is: Believing is the work itself.
We want someone to know us with all our mess, and love us anyway, like Beauty loved the Beast. This makes it uncomfortable, so when Beauty comes to us, we push her away
Thus do smart women make foolish choices wrt nice guys. (Reminds me of the verse that says the gospel is a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense.)
Therefore, we we try to earn love. We are driven by the desire to earn applause: by getting good (perfect?) grades, by being funny and athletic, by having correct doctrine and preaching well. But unbelievers can do ministry: Matthew 7, Lord, Lord, didn't we drive out demons and prophesy and work many miracles in your name? Why does Jesus call them evildoers? Because they tried to justify themselves by their works.
(I want to check this interpretation with commentaries.)

Antidote: the prayer from Ephesians 3:14-21. Power is mentioned 3x. Is it power to prophesy, to evangelize, to do miracles? No, it's power to believe in Christ and be rooted in love and know his love.

For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge--that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
Ephesians 3:14-21, NIV [1984]
(Reminds me of Col. 1:9-12, power to have endurance and patience)

Jeff Vanderstelt, Gospel Fluency (see the 2017 book): Big point here is that the good news of Jesus (cf. the greatest challenge) has something to say about everything in life. So when we talk about premarital sex, we shouldn't use purely hedonistic or public-health arguments; instead we should talk about the groom who pursued his filthy bride for years, who by his blood purchased a perfect wedding dress for her, and still waits for her.

(This is a valuable perspective, but I'm not 100% on board with it. When Jesus saw people jockeying for the best seats at a banquet, what did he say? Not some theological paradigm; his appeal was directly about avoiding embarrassment. In other words, it was practical/hedonistic... Luke 14:7-11)

When someone complains about being underpaid and unrecognized and poorly treated at work, we mustn't just empathize; we must also remind each other of Romans 6:23 and Paul's exhortation to work "as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving." (Col. 3:23f, NIV [1984])

(Key words above are "just" and "also": we must show love by truly listening and understanding, validating their feelings. But we must not stop there.)
What must we do to be able to do this?
  1. Know and believe the gospel for all of my life. Do I love the gospel? Do I love Jesus? Has the gospel changed my life?
  2. Regularly take thoughts captive (2 Cor. 10:4-5) When a stray thought comes, give it the Acts 17:11 treatment. Four helpful questions:
    • Who is God (what am I believing about who God is)?
    • What has he done (what am I believing about...)
    • Who am I? (ditto)
    • What do I do?
    The answer to the last reveals my thoughts about the first three. If I'm anxious, it might be because I think I should be in control but I'm not. And I think I should be, because I think God has lost control or isn't watching. And *that* I think because he's uncaring or inattentive.

    I may need someone to help me overcome my blind spots here. We must gain a hearing and show we understand (James 1:19f) but we must also speak Jesus and the gospel into their lives (Acts 20:26f, "I am innocent of the blood of all men, for I haven't hesitated to proclaim the whole will of God.", cf. Pr. 24:11f)

    It's not enough to say "God loves you," because that could be any old god, and besides what's love anyway? But if we say Romans 5:8, that's more definitive. Likewise, "God is powerful" isn't nearly as good as remarking on the resurrection of Jesus (Romans 1? yeah, 1:4). Or "God is present" isn't as good as saying that he's present in the Holy Spirit (2 Cor 3..., ah, Romans 5:4).

  3. Immerse myself in a gospel-saturated community, where in every testimony we should ask ourselves, "Is Jesus the hero?" and after every meeting we should ask ourselves, "Was Christ proclaimed?"
  4. Tell it to each other regularly
Those are steps toward gospel fluency.

Following are questions to ask myself... ourselves.

  1. What about the gospel do we not know or are we unaware of?
  2. What about the gospel have we forgotten?
  3. What about the gospel don't we believe
  4. How does the gospel speak to this situation?
If somebody cuts me off on the freeway and acts like I'm cheating, and I want to yell at him that I just came from the on-ramp and therefore was just doing what I'm supposed to... why am I so excited about that? I'm pursuing a righteousness that's predicated on this random guy's opinion of my driving? There's a lot about the gospel I'm forgetting!