Wednesday, October 30, 2013

10 Reasons Why You Need to Go to the Integrating Faith and Work Class

This Sunday we will begin a six week class on Integrating Faith and Work. The class will loosely follow Tim Keller's Every Good Endeavor but it will also draw from some other great resources like Os Guinness' The Call and Andy Crouch's Culture Making.  The class begins at 9:30a in the small fellowship hall downstairs. But let me tell you why you should go.

1) You work too much
The pressures to work A LOT are great in Silicon Valley. This is the case for most of us, which means we have little margin for personal pursuits.

2) You don't work enough
Maybe because you can't find a job or maybe because you are giving minimal effort for a job you barely like.

3) You tend to think your job and your faith are not related
Is there anything really that the Bible has to say about a basic job where you punch in and punch out? What about a basic corporate job in tech where you are not faced with major ethical issues like in politics, medicine, or education? There is PLENTY that can be said.

4) You think you are going to change the world
Careful Google. Last I checked, God has the copyright on omniscience. But what does that mean on a day to day basis?

5) You think your company is revolutionizing the industry and how we live
Maybe it is. The iPhone has been a game changer but what does that mean for human flourishing?

6) You struggle with how beneficial your company's products are for humanity
Is it only missionaries and pastors that do work for the kingdom? Technology, and in particular software development, seem so disconnected from their effects on people. Is there really anything significant about that kind of work?

7) You think increasing profit is the most important way to serve your company
Profit margins are very important, but are there other ways to serve your company, investors, and God beyond a successful business?

8) You think the best way to honor God is evangelizing your coworkers
It isn't. Shocking I know. Come to the class.

9) You think being a good employee is all there is to it
It is nothing less than that but ought there be something distinctive about being a Christian at your particular job?

10) Because I am teaching it
And I get really discouraged when people don't show up for my classes. Sensitive, I know.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

From Pastor Jason: Four Things You Need to Know, Right Now

ONE | Harvest Carnival. You know it, you love it, and it’s here once again. Our annual Harvest Carnival is coming, this Thursday on October 31st (aka Reformation Day). Come, bring your friends, serve our neighbors, and enjoy a great night of games and candy. If you have questions or need more information, check out this page on our website.

Friday, October 25, 2013

10 Reasons Why You Should Go to the Overview of Minor Prophets Class

1) You wish you knew your Bible better.
Have you thought to yourself, "I wish I knew the Bible as well as they do."? Perhaps you have read the whole Bible but you really didn't study it or understand a lot of it. A brief survey over a book of the Bible is precisely what is done in seminaries to train people for ministry.

2) Having a basic outline of a book greatly enhances personal study and reflection
When I was in seminary we often had to memorize outlines for exams. At the time many of us felt like this was a silly exercise but in hindsight, nothing has helped me more in understanding the whole thrust of a book of the Bible. Outlines help you remember where passages are. They help you wrestle with the central themes of the book and the flow of thought so you can keep CONTEXT in mind when looking at a single verse.

3) Knowing the major themes of a book helps to understand its message and application
Every book in the Bible is written for particular circumstances and people. Paul does not use the word "works" in the same way James does. John uses contrasts like light and dark. An overview class helps you identify the major themes and how they may apply today.

4) You would like to more a more in-depth study but don't know where to begin
Included in our overview class is recommended commentaries and other resources that may help you probe a book more further.

5) You need a better understanding of how the parts fit into the whole
Many people may be familiar with certain verses or phrases in the Bible but they neglect knowing the context of that verse. Additionally, it is often difficult to see how a particular book contributes to the whole message of the Bible. An overview helps to explain why God gave us books like Nahum, Daniel, or Habakuk.

6) You don't have time to go through the whole Bible in a reasonable amount of time
The Bible is worthy of a lifetime of study and worthy dedicating time to parse every word for spiritual benefit. At the same time, a brief overview can be just as spiritually beneficial and in some cases better. A person can parse every word as lose sight of the forest for the trees.

7) You have never studied the Minor Prophets
Admit it. You never have. Christians these days are woefully ignorant of this portion of scripture.

8) John Lunsford is a good teacher
There are a lot of wonderful wise saints that sit in his class no matter how many times they have heard it before. It is always fresh and engaging. Get to know one of our elders and the older wiser saints in the class.

9) It will bring clarity to how God was working redemptively then and setting the stage for the coming of Jesus

10) You need to be reminded we are Israel, our society is Israel who have wandered and rebelled against God.
Only the arrogant and foolish think there are not things to be learned and sanctified by in the Minor Prophets. There is hope, but you cannot appreciate the hope if you don't work through all the horrible sin that the bulk of the prophets focus on. God's judgment always has redemptive aims but you can't appreciate it if you are not in touch with your flesh still waging war against your soul.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Questions and Answers from "The Good News and Marriage"

On Sunday I preached on "The Good News and Marriage." Prior to Sunday I understood this particular subject would be impossible to appropriately cover in a single morning. So I thought it would be helpful to ask you, the good folks of Dwell, what sorts of questions came to mind during the sermon. I ventured to answer ten questions, but soon realized that was more than I could conquer in a single post. So here are the first five questions and answers; I'll answer another five by the middle of next week. Thanks so much for participating! I hope you find these helpful and let me know if you have any additional questions ...

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

From Pastor Jason: Stop. And Listen.

One of my heroes, the late Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones was addressing a room full of budding preachers. He was speaking about the importance of personal Scripture reading …

"Here I want to say something that I regard as in many ways the most important discovery I have made in my life as a preacher. I had to discover it for myself, and all to whom I have introduced it have always been most grateful for it. When you are reading your Scriptures in this way–it matters not whether you have read little or much–if a verse stands out and hits you and arrests you, do not go on reading. Stop immediately, and listen to it."

Friday, October 18, 2013

Recommended Books - Reason for God

I wanted to get into the habit of provided reviews of books that we recommend. Pastors often read more than the general population so of course we run into good and bad books all the time. But there are some books that stand out. Ones that we think will be of benefit for you. Considering our current series of "Rock and Hard Place" (which is attempting to address controversial issues facing Christianity today), it seems natural to recommend a book that addresses such questions.

There are plenty of books that address many difficult questions but if I had to chose the first one to go to it would be Reason for God by Tim Keller. This is the book that I think first put him in the more popular consciousness of Christians in America. It came out around the same time as other books by the "New Athiests," Dawkins (The God Delusion) and Hitchens' (God is not Great). Reason for God was also a New York Times bestseller. It is one of the more popular apologetics book to come out recently. For years many people have been recommending C.S. Lewis' Mere Christianity or Case for Christ by Lee Strobel. But those books are dated a bit even though they are quite good. Reason for God is good because it addresses many of the current nuances of people's objections to Christianity and faith in God in a way that is accessible. The basic arguments don't change and are in fact as old as philosophy itself. But the way they are presented, their overall tone, and their concerns often do.

Let me give an example. The book begins with what I think is the most common objection. The objection is that their cannot only be one true religion and that it is arrogant to do so. Many may take a more strict logical approach to this objection by appealing to the historical truth claims of Christianity versus Buddhism, or that monotheistic faith is more rational than other views of God. Those may be true, but Keller pinpoints that the objection is more based on the perceived arrogance of claiming only one religion is true and that we cannot know which one is. He then demonstrates that such a claim about the nature of the world's religions is in itself an arrogant claim that assumes it has the one objective all-knowing perspective. All worldviews and religions are making claims about the nature of religion and how we can know that it is true. What matters is we realize our assumptions and recognize it is just as much as, if not more so, an act of faith to believe in this one or that one. But that doesn't mean there are not better reasons to believe in one religion or another.

Reason for God is separated into two parts. The first part address objections to Christianity and the second part addresses reasons for Christianity. The first part covers seven major objections: there can't be just one true religion, how could a good God allow suffering, Christianity is the enemy of freedom, why is the church responsible for so much evil, how can a loving God send people to hell, science has disproved Christianity, and you can't take the Bible literally. The second part covers seven reasons for faith in Christ: Clues of God (which are basic arguments for his existence), knowledge of God, the problem of sin, religion versus the gospel, the true story of the cross, the reality of the resurrection, and lastly the dance of God.

If I had any critique, it would be that some of the arguments for Christianity focus on making sense of basic Christian principles and neglect historical evidences that demonstrate such a belief is warranted. Its one thing to say Christ was crucified, buried and rose on the third day. Its a whole other thing to say what that means and how. Keller focuses on the later, rather than any historical evidence for the former like many other apologetic type books. The book does not deal with how the Bible came to be or whether we can trust it. But no worries (shameless plug) - I am doing a sermon series in November on those very subjects (Lord willing they will be profitable for you). By and large Keller is successful at achieving the basic aim of the book: faith in the God of the Bible is not crazy, but in fact quite reasonable.

What are some books that you have found beneficial for faith in Christ? Or ones that have been a source of great doubt?

Check out Reason for God by Tim Keller and share you insights with us. You can get it at Amazon or almost any major bookstore (Christian or otherwise).

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Discipleship Training - Faith and Work, Minor Prophets

This November we will have several exciting new Discipleship Training opportunities!

Overview of the Minor Prophets - 8 weeks
John Lunsford will teach this class in the chapel. The class will cover  the OT books from Daniel to Malachi, but it will cover them chronologically—not the order they appear in the Bible. This will give a better sense of how God continued to reveal himself through Israel's decline as a nation and as emerging superpowers - Assyria, Babylon, and Persia - came into existence. The class will begin with Jonah, Amos and Hosea; followed by Zephaniah, Obadiah, and Joel; then Micah, Habakkuk, and Nahum; then Daniel, and finally Haggai, Malachi, and Zechariah.

Integrating Faith and Work - 6 weeks
Pastor Chris will teach this class downstairs in the small social hall. There have been an abundance of books recently published on the subject of Faith and Work. No doubt this is related to people's increasing struggles with their jobs—a lack of fulfillment, the pressures of their job, or the social implications of their work. Work consumes a huge portion of our lives and we just don't talk about it enough from a truly Christian perspective. This class will encourage and equip you with the rich Biblical resources on this subject. The class will closely follow Tim Keller's recent book Every Good Endeavor.

The two new classes begin on November 3 at 9:30 AM, BEFORE the new service time of 10:45 AM. I hope you are able to join us for one them.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

From Pastor Jason: A Brief Note on Sorrow

I am not a very sorrowful person. That's probably not the most shocking statement I've ever made. Generally speaking I see things positively, happily, and with an annoying optimism. In some respects I think it's just my personality. In other ways it seems Biblical to me. After all the Jesus story is one that speaks of forgiveness, rescue, healing, restoration, freedom, and salvation … no matter what you have done, no matter where you go, and no matter who you are. Through Jesus there is always a way back to God.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

From Pastor Jason: Two Things to Pray About

One. Three of our worship leaders are in southern California this week. They are at a conference together considering the subject of worship in the local church. I am praying that God will use this time to encourage them, expand their vision for God's glory, and give them fresh ideas to equip our church to worship Jesus better. Please join me.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

On Deacons: a brief overview

The Elder Board has been working to put together a deacon board. In conjunction with that, I have put together a brief description on the role of deacon.
The New Testament speaks of two primary ministry roles in the church: elder (or overseer) and deacon (1 Tim. 3). I will focus exclusively on the role of deacon in this post. There are several primary to address, three being quite basic and the forth is often asked: 1) What is a deacon?  2) What does a deacon do?  3) Who can be a deacon?  4) Can women be deacons?
The word group associated with deacon (diakonos, diakoneo, and diakonia) is very common in the New Testament (100x). These words can be translated as serve, servant, assistant, ministry, office, helper, or deacon. The ESV translates the word diakonos as deacon, only four times (Rom. 16:1; 1 Tim. 3:10, 12, 13). It is most often rendered servant and at other times as minister. In Greek culture it was mostly used for a waiter or waitress, which was a job for a slave but not fitting for a free man. Interestingly, the word is not used much in the Greek translation of the Old Testament (aka LXX). Meaning, there is something different that happens as a result of the New Covenant inaugurated by Christ. The service one does is not only to meet another’s needs (1 Cor. 16:15; Acts 11:29) but for the proclamation of the gospel (2 Tim. 4:11) and for all gifts of the body of Christ (Eph. 4:12). This word group is different from doulos (bond-servant, slave, servant) in that doulos is the Christian’s utter subjection to Christ. Diakonos is to the church, family, and fellow-man. A Christian is a servant of Christ, serving others on Christ’s behalf and in Christ’s name.
It is apparent than that the decisive shift happens as a result of the ministry of Jesus. Consider how diakoneo is used in Mark 10:45 (par. Matt 20:28; Lk. 18:26) –– “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” What is important to understand is that the word itself and especially in the Bible, conveys not just the idea of humble service for the benefit of someone else, but that such service is voluntary. What is remarkably counter-cultural is that such service is not just done for superiors but for people deemed inferior - sinners, the poor, the widows, and the orphans. If the Son of God who came from heaven served us, then no one is beneath our service. It is no surprise then that this becomes Paul’s favorite term to describe Christian ministry.
So it is clear a deacon is about serving, especially in aiding the needy. But why does it get singled out as a formal position? There is the general sense of a deacon as any Christian serving God, the church, and their neighbor. But there is also a special sense of a Christian holding the office of deacon.  This is when a few people are singled out as full of the Spirit and wisdom for the edification of the body and proclamation of the gospel (Acts. 6:3). This distinction is often referred to as the general office vs. the special office. Those who hold the special office have been called by Christ and recognized by the body as having a high degree of gifting for serving the church.
What does a deacon do? Deacons are people who serve the poor (Stephen in Acts 6) and attend to bodily needs, but also spiritual ones as ministers of the Word. Often deacons have assisted with the administration of churches and sometimes deacons have become elders. So there is no strict limitation to what they can do. But most of the stress is on the fact that deacons are people who serve the body, tending to the physical needs, in particular of the poor and widows. The other primary distinction between an elder and deacon in 1 Timothy 3 is that an elder is “able to teach.” On a very basic level, deacons are better servants than speakers. An analogy can be made that they are diligent managers but not visionary executives.
But who can be a deacon? 1 Timothy 3:8-13 is the primary passage to examine. The list of qualities mostly entails being firm in one’s conviction of the truth of the Christian faith and living a lifestyle of sufficient Christian character which is demonstrated in their fidelity to their family and treatment of their children (if relevant). A deacon is to be tested and this probably means that enough is known that they can complete the tasks to which they are trusted. The last piece may be a little more obscure and controversial to some. That is, does 1 Timothy 3:8-13 prohibit women from being deacons (aka deaconness)?
There are two main passages of note: Romans 16:1 and 1 Timothy 3:11. A cursory reading of the NT shows that both Jesus and Paul worked with women in their ministries and to a degree that was counter-cultural to the people of their day. Most notable for the role of deacon though is that Paul mentions “Pheobe, a servant” in Romans 16:1 (the ESV includes a footnote that servant could be translated “deaconness”). Indeed it is the word diakonos that appears here. The form of the word and the syntax of the sentence is consistent with her possessing the formal office of deacon and not a mere helper of some generic kind. It is quite clear she served in an official capacity.
There are three exegetical arguments that argue against a reading of 1 Timothy 3:11 that excludes women. One, there is no “their” in the greek text. It literally reads, “likewise wives/women must be,” (ESV and NIV84 footnote that wives can also be rendered women). It has been translated with the possessive pronoun their because it can be inferred from the context, and because in English translations it has traditionally been rendered that way. The verse without the pronoun serves to both stress the conduct of a male deacon’s wife, and a female deaconness. Two, likewise is often used to introduce instructions to a different group of people (cf. 1 Tim. 3:8; 1Pet. 2:13-3:7). So it is more natural to assume it is including female deacons. Three, the admonitions to wives is remarkably similar to those given to deacons in vv. 8-10. If male deacons are only in view, it seems redundant if it is not also addressing female deacons before moving on to more instructions to men and the general charge to all deacons.
In conclusion, a deacon is a servant of God for the benefit of the body of Christ. This includes the general call of all Christians to serve each other with the ministry of the word or of deed. It also means the special office of deacon when the church singles out a particular individual with a higher degree of gifting and character in order to serve the needs of the body. It is common for the office of deacon to be focused on physical needs of people in and out of the church. But this does not exclude administrative or teaching gifts. Character is the primary test for the qualifications of a deacon, particularly demonstrated in how their care for their family. They should be a mature believer who has demonstrated character and competency.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

From Pastor Jason: Seven Realities from Henry Blackaby

God is at work. The nature of his work is that of reconciling the world to himself by his love through the work of Christ. As if that wasn’t amazing enough he welcomes his kids to join him in this work. How good is that? Henry Blackaby notices this divine activity through the life of Moses in his classic work, Experiencing God. Using the story of Moses as a backdrop, Blackaby discerns seven different realities about the nature of God’s work in and through his people. I trust you will find each to be a refreshing reminder of God’s power, grace, and love that will help you “live the full adventure of knowing and doing the will of God,” as the book’s subtitle suggests.

Reality 1: God is always at work around you.

Reality 2: God pursues a continuing love relationship with you that is real and personal.
Reality 3: God invites you to become involved with him in his work.
Reality 4: God speaks by the Holy Spirit, through the Bible, prayer, circumstances, and the church to reveal himself, his purposes, and his ways.
Reality 5: God’s invitation for you to work with him always leads you to a crisis of belief that requires faith and action.
Reality 6: You must make major adjustments in your life to join God in what he is doing.
Reality 7: You come to know God by experience as you obey him and as he accomplishes his work through you.
Let’s discovery the reality of what God is up to here in San Jose … jump on board!
Peace …
Pastor Jason