Trail Blazer Ministries
Base Camp for Life: A Spiritual Journey...

Santa's Elves Have Been at Work :-)

5:40 PM
It looks like we now have some new features on the blog, including picture updates from Nasa, an improved Twitter feature, and a new feature that allows us to track the number of readers we have and their locations. I really like the new features - especially the pictures from Nasa, which show us the tremendous miracle that is God's creation! Awesome work! I hear the elves will be tinkering with the main website soon :)
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Merry Christmas Everyone!

1:02 PM
May this celebration of our Lord's birth be a reminder of that magnificent day in human history when God Himself stepped down from heaven and assumed human flesh, to walk among His people and make Himself known to all the nations of the Earth. May God richly bless us all as we reflect on that moment when the course of history was forever changed, and a new story was written in the midst of human striving. Today, over 2,000 years after that pivotal moment, the story of Jesus continues to unfold throughout the world, as lives are changed and transformed by the good news of His Kingdom. The next chapter in the story of God's Kingdom is being written right here in Gallatin Valley, and all across the world as men and women are drawn into the life of Christ.

May this be a day of rich blessings as we step forward in faith on this journey and proclaim to all the world the miracle of Christmas - God is with us!
-
Michael

Luke 1: 46 And Mary said: "My soul glorifies the Lord
47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed,
49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me— holy is his name.
50 His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation.
51 He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
52 He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble.
53 He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful
55 to Abraham and his descendants forever, even as he said to our fathers."
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A simple question, but complex answer. How do you define Worship?

9:36 AM
What is the definition of Worship?:

I think we would all agree it's more than a specific act[s] of religious devotion. But how? What emotions are involved, or in what matter of attitude do we worship?
Christian mystic Evelyn Underhill defines worship this way:

"The adoring acknowledgment of all that lies beyond us—the glory that fills heaven and earth. It is the response that conscious beings make to their Creator, to the Eternal Reality from which they came forth; to God, however they may think of Him or recognize Him, and whether He be realized through religion, through nature, through history, through science, art, or human life and character."

I would agree totally with this definition. Worship can manifest itself in different ways:
  • prayer;
  • sacrifice;
  • rituals;
  • some forms of meditation;
  • holidays, festivals;
  • sacraments;
  • pilgrimages;
  • music or singing;
  • dance;
  • eating food;
  • readings from sacred books;
  • listening to a talk or sermon;
  • the construction of temples or shrines;
  • the creation of idols of the deity.
  • private acts of devotion
In Christianity, check out "Christian Worship" or "Contemporay Worship" on Wikipedia. Personally I was surprised 99% of the information pertained to music, while most Christians would profess music is only one aspect of Worship, while in the same breath talk about how "Worship" (pertaining to music) was good or bad in their church.


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Vespers worship at Hope Lutheran

10:07 AM
This narrative/music liturgy will involve the whole congregation. The musicians will include the Bridger String Quartet, 2 percussionists, flute, bell choir, church choir, organ, harpsichord, harp, and piano. The music is complex, yet very worshipful.
This will be Sunday Dec 7th 7:00 at Hope Lutheran.
Directions are easy, go south on 19th, take a right at the blinking light past Grace Bible.
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Happy Thanksgiving!

1:47 PM
Hi everyone,

Just a quick update to wish everyone a very happy and blessed Thanksgiving day, and to remind the group that we will not be having a meeting tomorrow (10/26) due to the Thanksgiving holiday. I hope that everyone has a wonderful holiday surrounded by friends and family, but more importantly, I hope that we each use this day as an opportunity to remember how richly God has blessed us in Christ.

In the Book of Genesis, God blessed Abraham so that Abraham, in turn, might become a blessing to those around him. While Abraham was blessed with physical wealth and numerous offspring, the greatest blessing of all would come centuries later, when the Savior entered the world through Abraham's line. As we recount our many blessings, I pray that we will be moved by the Holy Spirit to share the abundance that God has given us, both spiritually and physically, and that this would be an opportunity for us to share the love that God has shown to us in Christ Jesus.

Be blessed,
Michael

"Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours. Yours, O LORD, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all. Wealth and honor come from you; you are the ruler of all things. In your hands are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all. Now, our God, we give you thanks, and praise your glorious name." - 1 Chronicles 29:11-13
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When you think about Christmas, think about changing the World. Follow Christ's example.

4:49 PM





Christmas Can [Still] change the World



The story of Christ's birth is a story of promise, hope, and a revolutionary love.

So, what happened? What was once a time to celebrate the birth of a savior has somehow turned into a season of stress, traffic jams, and shopping lists.

And when it's all over, many of us are left with presents to return, looming debt that will take months to pay off, and this empty feeling of missed purpose. Is this what we really want out of Christmas?

What if Christmas became a world-changing event again?

Welcome to Advent Conspiracy.




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What is 'emerging church'?

3:38 PM
Here is another attempt to 'nail jello to the wall' for anyone interested in what the emerging church is. I have found Andrew Perryman's site to be very informative and engaging.
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"Of Kings and Covenants" Conference in Helena

3:24 PM
I'll be going to this conference in Helena on Saturday if anyone would like to hitch a ride!

Election Sermon and "Of Kings and Covenants" Conference

Call me at 406-570-0413 if you'd be interested!!!

Ryan
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This Week's Spicy Talk: Jesus Christ - Superstar?

2:23 PM

Today’s church often finds itself caught between two extremes. On the one hand, Christians sometimes take an insular approach to the world, thereby weaking our impact on our community. On the other hand, we often find the church employing the means and attitudes of the world in order to advance itself and gain power and influence. What does the Bible teach about the relationship between God’s people and the world? How is the term "kosmos," or "world," used in the New Testament?
What is the relationship between God’s Kingdom and “this present world, which is passing away?” Join us this week as we explore the complex relationship between God's people and the "world!"
(His) Peace,
Michael

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Grace…

3:40 AM
Grace…

I spent yesterday in bed. Why? Really I am not sure. I just felt empty and uninspired. Yet, in that moment where I slept more than thought I sensed that I was fighting something bigger than myself. Why in this moment did I want to shut down and not face the “whatever” I sensed was bugging me. Oh, and I hate to confess this so openly, it was the first day I tried to stop smoking cigars. Yep… addicted again to the devil’s weed. Arrgh.

It was not that facing the prospect of not smoking though that was bothering me. It was in a sense the idea of having lunch with a friend I had not spent time with for a while. Again, I was not sure of the “why” I was feeling as I was. I slept instead of facing the strange desire to call him and make up some excuse. “I am just too busy today.” “I have too much homework today.” “I don’t feel well today.” All excuses… to not face this strange feeling of dread…

Now, I finally got up. I had stayed up way to late as it seems I do too often and am doing now as I write this. I stayed up until 4:30 am Sunday. I know that is part of the reason I slept so much Monday. Yet, when I woke a noon, I just did not feel like getting up and out to face the day. I did check my blood sugar which was much too high again and took the dose of insulin. I also took care of some bodily functions that need attending…. Yet instead of going out and seeing what type of day God gave me today… I went back under the covers and hid. Sleep gave me the comfort and grace to face the day I dared not face.

My friend is a good guy though he is a bit messed up. He smokes, which I can’t hold it against him as I seem also to have this unhealthy fixation with tobacco, yet also he is stuck in a hold that seems to in able him to get a job and live his life more fully. He medicates himself with what is illegal in many states as he has horrendous back pains he says has kept him from working. We have prayed for healing and yet it seems that it does not come. He believes that this substance should be legal and is one of the best ways to help people like him. I agree that some people who have cancer or other issues may need this, yet I wonder for him if it is his “staying in bed all day” remedy. I try not to judge him about this as I know he loves Jesus as much as I do… maybe more. I also wonder though if I have the right to tell him that this may not be the remedy he truly needs. By the way, I do not indulge in his remedy if you were wondering.

No, I have my own that I face. Not “illegal in some states” types maybe, rather I tend towards things like eating, or in the case of Monday, shutting down.

It seems though as I woke up at 1:30 this morning that Grace is on my mind. Not at first, as I took a walk to buy a cigar and cursed my failings. I took a drive and listened to a recent book on tape about grace and found that just maybe that is what I was hiding from. You see, I believe I am grace to my friend. I am that safe space where he can be himself with all his flaws and find acceptance. I also realized my friend is grace to me. This was a bit of a shock as I thought about it. God’s grace covers our shortcomings. I am not saying that we should pursue our short comings as most often those are unhealthy ways of dealing with life. I see my friend in a bit of a different light tonight as I write this. I desire to fix him, yet also see I cannot fix myself so how could I fix anyone else. I sometimes wonder if God cares about fixing us… as I see that God seems more intent on making New Things out of the old. Is this the same? I do not think so as I ponder this idea.

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The Kingdom of Heaven/God is…

2:24 PM
Kingdom of Heaven/God is…



Ephesians 1: 3.Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.
4. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5. he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will-- 6. to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. 7. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace 8. that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. 9. And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, 10. to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment--to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ. 11. In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, 12. in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory.
13. And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14. who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession--to the praise of his glory.


The word “Logos” used in John 1:1 which is often interpreted as “Word”. We use it today in the word “logic” which has part of the meaning as when God created all things it was out of a chaos that existed. Both Genesis 1 and John 1 start with “in the beginning”. This should show us that we exist outside of the eternal and in a different dimension called time. The word “logos” is very much misunderstood and is really watered down in our English translations and understanding. God spoke “let there be…” and though it was not it was. Yet, we see in Ephesians, that there was a mystery that was before all things began. In the eternals (if there be a way to grasp this idea outside of Plato’s dualism) we see that we were chosen to be in Christ before creation. That means that before God created he had a plan that was that all things dwell in Christ.

Logos lost some of its meaning in our translations and understandings as we grasp that John was playing a trick on the Gnostics. John uses the Platonic concept to show that this is even greater than Plato’s ideas of dualism. In a simplified understanding it means a conversation. In a fuller meaning it is an ongoing conversation that started in the Godhead with the Father and Son and their unity or the Holy Spirit. Now I do believe the Holy Spirit is a Person, so don’t get me wrong on that. Yet this eternal conversation was of a Kingdom in the form of a Person being Jesus.

Jesus is not only the savior of me and my kingdom, which in the end is that of death; rather he is also the King of all Creation. I see that just as David desired the Temple to be built; it was his son Solomon who finished the Temple in which God filled with His Glory. This is the idea that God the Father desired for us in His Son Jesus. Instead of temples made by man, we are now the Temples of God in which He dwells and also we dwell in Christ Jesus for he is the New Jerusalem.

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We've got a license to lie .... (to the tune of "Ticket To Ride" by Lennon/McCartney)

2:41 PM
(The following is a lead in to this Thursday's study / discussion)

Dozens of times in the Gospels, Jesus declared, "I tell you the truth." Today, some Christians claim to believe in "absolute truth." Some even put the Ten Commandments in their yards and crusade to place them in courthouses. Yet American Christians of recent decades are widely perceived, by the public, as ... compulsive liars.

We've all heard the lies. Perhaps we've even parroted some of them:

"Our nation's founding fathers were all evangelical Christians!"

"America was founded as a Christian nation."

"Intelligent Design has nothing to do with creationism."

"You can't be a Christian and vote for _______!"

"________ is a socialist!"

"God hates liberals."

"There is no proof for evolution."

"The Bible says abortion is murder!"

"God wants you to be wealthy."

"Unless you believe like me, you're going to hell."

And the list goes on. History. Science. Politics. Religion. The lies spew forth easily, glibly, without second thoughts. It is as if many Christians just can't help themselves, as if lies are necessary to prop up God on a daily basis.

The story of how so many modern American Christians have come to be habitual liars needs to be explored.

But perhaps a more urgent issue is this: can Christians ever be trusted again? And if so, where do we start?
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Is Heaven a Place… or is it more?

1:45 PM
Is Heaven a Place… or is it more?




A while back there was some controversy over Doug Pagitt asking Todd Friel if Heaven was a place. In essence he asked, “If heaven is a place, where is it?” Todd was very indignant yet seemed unwilling or unable to answer… Many overlooked that as it is more acceptable to just “believe” in a “place” called Heaven. Even theologian N.T. Wright seemed to indicate in his recent interviews that Heaven is more than a place…

The issue is deeper than whether Heaven is a literal place. Jesus stated it was “at hand”, “Near” and “within you”… this seems to indicate that Heaven is more than a place if it is a literal place.

In a sense I agree with Doug Paggit yet in a sense I disagree.

Heaven is often thought of as the end place where we as believers in Jesus spend eternity. I agree, yet there is something missing in many people’s understanding as the “Heaven” now will not be as it is after the regeneration of all things. In that age, there is a renewed Heaven and Earth… meaning that this heaven and earth now will one day be restored to its original glory yet even more glorious than it was originally. We will move from “It is good.” to It is perfect in Christ Jesus.

One major issue is that many think of time in a linear fashion. We have all seen time lines where time is laid out in a line so we can see history in an overview. We see in a biblical view, Creation, Noah, Abraham, King David, Jesus, and the New Creation in its fullness. Yet if one notices time lines also have parallel history, Columbus discovering the Americas and Naval expeditions of the Ming Dynasty happened in the same timeline yet never interacted. (Though there is some indication Columbus may have used the knowledge that the Chinese gained in their expedition but that is a huge sideline) They paralleled each other in history. If we go off the map a bit, there is a separate history for Earth and Mars for meteorites have hit Mars that never hit Earth. If one can start seeing that history and time is brought into other dimensions one might start beginning to understand that when we bring in eternal things time begins to even take on a deeper and broad perspective.

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"One Little Miracle"

5:23 PM
(You know, I always wanted to be a DJ, so this one's going out to everyone here at TrailBlazer! I didn't know that it was a "Christian" song until after I googled the lyrics, but I think it has a great message. If anyone would like to google the YouTube video and post it up here, that would be awesome.)

"One Little Miracle"
By Hawk Nelson

I know sometimes it's hard to find the strength to turn the page
When all of our tomorrows look like used up yesterdays

Maybe this path we're taking
Could really be the road to breaking free
Are you with me?

One little revolution could turn it all around
Back to the Kingdom we once knew

Just a little bit of me, just a little bit of you
One little miracle to get us through

Broken, empty promises are all we knew before
Our fathers' dreams of better days lay shattered on the floor

It's not too late to start believin'
Take me by the hand
I'm reaching out
How about now

One little revolution could turn it all around
Back to the Kingdom we once knew

Just a little bit of me, and a little bit of you
One little miracle to get us through
We can right the wrong
From this moment on

One little revolution could turn it all around
Back to the Kingdom we once knew
Just a little bit of me, and a little bit of you
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My Democrat friends...

1:11 PM
Just came back from a mini-tour from Shelby, MT. I found it funny the way my band members railed against the Republicans. I don't mind pointed criticism, which is healthy, but an outlook that says everything Republican is bad and full of corporate greed, while the Democrat position is the solution. I heard comments like, "I think most Montanans are clay pigeons." (reference to Brian Schweitzer's TV ad shooting clay pigeons) Other comments were tearing down "Joe the plummer", Sarah Palin, and the IQ of Republicans.
What I can't stand is not because they hate Republicans, but they think Democrats have all answers. None of them understood free-market, none of them saw the beauty of the community of Shelby, then putting it together that the people of Shelby are primarily Christian Republicans.
We need Christians (not partisan bickering on both sides) to show the world true community. More and more of us need to help our neighbors, not always identifying our enemy.
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Colloquial Spiciness of the Week: Dueling Views of Jesus

8:31 PM

Since it seems we should move on from talking about Religion and Politics, I think a more relevant subject deserves recognition this week. I can’t stand talking about politics anymore, anyhow. This election season has me completely worn out from listening to politicians blabber. What I’d like to talk about this week stems from a discussion we had on one of Michael’s posts a couple weeks ago that led to the question of who Jesus was. I don’t want to get into how Jews vs. Christians view Jesus like the previous discussion, but I’d like to explore how Emerging Christians see Jesus compared to Conventional Christians. Essentially, what makes us different and why.


“Jesus, I believe, saw that his contemporaries were stuck in their own suicidal system, driven by their own defective framing story. He proposed a radical alternative—a profoundly new framing story that he called good news. News, of course, means a story—a story of something that has happened or is happening that you should know about. Good news, then, would mean a story that you should know about because it brings hope, healing, joy, and opportunity. Jesus was saying, in essence, “There are a lot of bad stories in our world. But I have a good story that frames the bad ones, that puts them in a new light, that says they aren’t the last word. I have a good story that inspires healing and transformative action in our world.”


The preceding quote is from Brian McLaren in his book, “Everything Must Change.” This statement sets the stage for the questions he asks next; comparing the two views (I’ll paraphrase his words to keep this short).


The Human Situation: What is the story we find ourselves in?

Conventional View: God created the world as perfect, but because of Adam and Eve’s sin, we have evil and injustice.

Emerging View: God created the world as good, but human beings—as individuals, and as groups—have rebelled against God and filled the world with evil and injustice.


Basic Questions: What questions did Jesus come to answer?

Conventional View: How can individuals be saved from eternal punishment in hell and instead go to heaven? How can God help individuals be happy and successful until then?

Emerging View: What must be done about the mess we’re in? The mess refers both to the general human condition and to its specific outworking among his contemporaries living under domination by the Roman Empire (Kingdom of God vs. kingdom of man).


Jesus’ Message: How did Jesus respond to the crisis?

Conventional View: Jesus says, in essence, “If you don’t want to burn in hell, repent of your sins and go to heaven when the earth is destroyed.” This is the good news.

Emerging View: Jesus says, in essence, “God loves humanity, even in its lostness and sin. God graciously invites everyone and anyone to turn from his/her current path and follow a new way. Trust me and become my disciple, and you will be transformed, and you will participate in the transformation of the world, which is possible, beginning right now.” This is the good news.


Purpose of Jesus: Why is Jesus important?

Conventional View: Jesus came to solve the problem of “original sin,” meaning that he helps qualified individuals not to be sent to hell for their sins.

Emerging View: Jesus came to become the Savior of the world, meaning he came to save the earth and all it contains from its ongoing destruction because of human evil.


“The conventional view is very familiar to many of us; it is frequently defined as ‘orthodoxy’ and any departure from it as ‘heresy.’ It contains much of value; however, more and more of us agree that for all its value, it does not adequately situate Jesus in his original context, but rather frames him in the context of religious debates within Western Christianity, especially debates in the sixteenth century.”


This was just a small slice from Brian’s book and I encourage everyone to read it if you get a chance. Brian says he believes Jesus saw that his contemporaries were stuck in their own suicidal system, driven by their own defective framing story. To make what we are doing here with Trailblazer Ministries more apparent to people that don’t understand what we’re all about, I think we need to try to point out the differences that contrast the paradigms. It has been said amongst our group that if Jesus were to return to earth today and settle in for a while on the streets of Bozeman, he would probably be rejected for being too radical (or a “dissident”—from previous post on VR). For discussion I would like to hear other contrasts that people might have had with the conventional view and continue with six unintended negative consequences of that view. Jesus’ good news was and is better news than we have been led to believe!


Cheers, see you all on Thursday,

Ryan

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The Velvet Revolution of Christianity

9:23 PM
Building from last week’s titillating discussion of Religion and Politics, I would like to continue with some thoughts from the former president of the Czech Republic, Valclav Havel. He became a leading figure in the Velvet Revolution of 1989, the bloodless end to communism in Czechoslovakia. Many similarities can be found from Havel’s circumstances in Czechoslovakia in the 1980’s to our present political situation in America. Here is an excerpt from his essay, “Power of the Powerless”:

“The original and most important sphere of activity, one that predetermines all the others, is simply an attempt to create and support the independent life of society as an articulated expression of living within the truth. In other words, serving truth consistently, purposefully, and articulately, and organizing this service. This is only natural, after all: if living within the truth is an elementary starting point for every attempt made by people to oppose the alienating pressure of the system, if it is the only meaningful basis of any independent act of political import, and if, ultimately, it is also the most intrinsic existential source of the "dissident" attitude, then it is difficult to imagine that even manifest "dissent" could have any other basis than the service of truth, the truthful life, and the attempt to make room for the genuine aims of life.”

Havel and his colleagues were not dissidents just because they thought it was a novel idea at the time. In the pursuit of truth, they were thrown into dissent by a personal sense of responsibility. “You are cast out of the existing structures and placed in a position of conflict with them. It begins as an attempt to do your work well, and ends with being branded an enemy of society.”

What similarities do you notice with Havel’s circumstances in totalitarian Czechoslovakia and our current political scene in America? I think Havel’s tale of the green grocer and my neighbors that proudly display their Obama or McCain posters have a lot in common.

Do you notice any similarities with the Velvet Revolution and the rise of Emergent Christianity?

I think this discussion comes full circle back to another discussion we had here at this blog over a month ago with our friend Nick. Nick, I hope you’re still following our developments because we love your feedback. I think for the benefit of people like Nick that would rather not be associated with the term “dissident,” we need to be a little more apparent on what we are doing here and why a “Velvet Revolution” is necessary to return popular American Christianity back to the genuine pursuit of truth. If it were true that “the failure of the revolutionary philosophy is ultimate and fatal,” as Nick puts it, then we might as well give up and go back to our obedient conformist ways.

“All revolutions begin with a few people recognizing the lie and beginning in small ways to live the truth in the face of the system.” (Fr. Emmett Jarrett, TSSF)
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The Ordinary Radicals

9:42 AM
I came across this video, and it looked interesting.


The Ordinary Radicals - Trailer from Jamie Moffett on Vimeo.
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Looking For a New Friend?

3:43 PM
Just FYI if anyone is considering buying a new pet, I'm trying to find homes for these two dogs from Heart of the Valley Animal Shelter. They're both really cool dogs, as are all of the pets at HOV, and I'd be happy to help anyone who is interested in adopting them. Both dogs come spayed/neutered and vaccinated:



NightTrain:




NightTrain is my buddy! If I had space for him, I would have taken him home weeks ago :-)

He's easily the best looking dog in the shelter right now, and I'd hazard a guess that he is a purebred malamute. NightTrain came into the shelter as a stray, and he tends to be shy around people. He is still coming out of his shell, but with consistent care, he would make a great pet. He loves to go for a run, and at 5 years old, he would make a great companion for someone looking for a high-energy pet.


Ruwitz:

Ruwitz is a well-mannered old gentleman. At 10 years old, he's looking for an easy-going home where he can lounge around - preferably in front of a warm fireplace :-) He's still very active for his age, and enjoys going for leisurely walks outside and rolling over to have his tummy scratched. He's well-behaved, housetrained, and good tempered both on the leash and off. Ruwitz would make an excellent companion for elderly dog-lovers, or anyone looking for a mild-mannered pet.



If anyone is interested in meeting either of these dogs (or both!), you can contact HOV at: 388-9399
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TrailNotes Newsletter Update

2:45 PM
Hi everyone,

I am currently in the process of updating our "Trail Notes" newsletter. For those of you aren't familiar with the newsletter, it can be found by going to our website and clicking "Trail Notes" at the top. If anyone has any contributions for the October-November newsletter, please send them to me at: trailblazerministries@ymail.com

(His) Peace,
Michael
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Some more Spicy Talk: A Christians role in politics.

10:11 AM
I'll keep this short but our next discussion will be:

Myth, Lie, or Half-Truth?: Religion and Politics Do Not Mix

What role do Christians have a responsibility in when it comes to political activism. I'm talk more than just McCain-Obama, but social issues as well. To often Christians remain neutral and let our country and world take it's own course, because "God is in control."
We will discuss "change" from a Christian perspective, and why we need to be well informed about social issues.
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This Week's Spicy Talk: Sam and the Sheep Pen

6:59 PM
What does it mean to look at the world through God's eyes? That's the topic of this week's "Spicy Talk," as we explore the story of the prophet Samuel and his search for a new king... in a sheep pen, of all places!



"The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart." - 1 Samuel 16:7



I've always enjoyed the book of Samuel, because it is one of the more epic books of the Bible. It's storyline would make an incredible movie. In 1 Samuel 16, King Saul has been rejected by God, and we find the prophet Samuel going in search of a new king for the nation of Israel. God has told Samuel that the next king will come from the household of a man named Jesse, so Samuel packs his bags and heads south to the small town of Bethlehem, where Jesse and his sons live. Jesse is the town's resident cellist, you see, and.... oh, wait, that's a different story.


Anyway, Samuel's about to go down to Jesse's place and look for the new king, but he suddenly realizes that he can't exactly barge into Jesse's house and announce that he's looking for a king. For one thing, the reigning king, Saul, probably won't be very happy to hear that he's been divinely laid off from what looked like a promising career as a powerful tyrant - I mean, really, who would want to lose a job like that? And then there's that whole deal about barging into sheepherders' houses and announcing that you're looking for a king making you look somewhat crazy and all.


So Samuel comes up with a plan. He takes a head of cattle down to Jesse's spread and invites Jesse and the boys out to a sacrifice in the local park - which was kind of like a barbecue, with deep religious significance. (I'm still waiting for my church to do this in lieu of the annual church picnic.)


When they get to the park, Samuel looks around at Jesse's boys and catches sight of Eliab - a big, well-built fellow who probably looked like someone I saw coming out of the Hyatt House in Livingston on a Friday night. Eliab wasn't the sort of guy you'd want to tangle with. In fact, he was the kind of guy who could send the Philistines diving for their foxholes with a single, well-placed glare.


"Ah ha!" Samuel says. "Here's the guy I've been looking for! When it comes to laying the smackdown on Israel's enemies, this is the right man for the job!"


So he goes over to anoint Eliab as king, when suddenly God taps Samuel on the shoulder and whispers in his ear: "This isn't the one. Yes, he's taller than all the others and he can swing a fist like nobody's business, but I haven't chosen him to be king. The Lord doesn't look at the things man looks at. Man looks at outward appearances, but the Lord looks at the heart."


You see, God had to challenge Samuel to gain a new perspective on life. Samuel had been looking at things from the human perspective - big guys who win barroom brawls get to be king. After all, the last king, Saul, was head-and-shoulders taller than the rest! But God wanted to teach Samuel to see the world from a different perspective - the Divine perspective. And I believe that's God's challenge to us today: to learn to see the world as He sees it, even when that flies in the face of conventional wisdom. This Thursday, we will discuss what it means to see the world through God's eyes in relation to three different areas of life: how we view others, how we view organized religion, and how we view ourselves. Hang on tight, because we're in for a wild ride!


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Jesus Questions

4:20 AM
Jesse and Michael, thanks for having the vision to begin these conversations - both online and off - and for inviting me to join in.

A few Jesus questions for the day, arising from readings and reflections of recent days:

* Was Jesus born to die, or to show others how to live?

* Are we born in order to die and jump into eternity, or to live as Jesus did?

* Does belief in an afterlife make us secure, or does following Jesus shake loose our certainties?
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L'shana Tovah!

6:28 PM
Leviticus 25:23 The LORD said to Moses, 24 "Say to the Israelites: 'On the first day of the seventh month you are to have a day of rest, a sacred assembly commemorated with trumpet blasts. 25 Do no regular work, but present an offering made to the LORD by fire.' "

Before I get caught up in the weekly rat race and forget to post, I'd like to wish everyone a very happy Rosh Hashana! Rosh Hashana, or "Jewish new year," begins tomorrow at sunset, and is one of the most holy days of the Jewish religious calendar. But, it is also an important day for Christians to remember, not only for its Old Testament significance, but also for what it can teach us about God's plan for humanity.

Rosh Hashana, which literally means the "head" or "beginning" of the year, is a beautiful holiday of new beginnings. Symbolically, the holiday commemorates the creation of the world, and one source indicates that "Jewish tradition sees everyone as being created anew at this time of year." ( http://judaism.about.com/od/roshhashana/a/shana_ten.htm) Observant Jews will often go down to a local river on Rosh Hashana to symbolically cast their "sins" into the water, which are sometimes represented by small pieces of paper or pieces of bread. This custom is called "tashlikh," and it is traditionally associated with a passage from Micah 7:18-20: "You will cast all of their sins into the depths of the sea."

But Rosh Hashana is also viewed as a day of judgement. On Rosh Hashana, it is believed that God opens the Book of Life and pronounces judgement for the coming year. The Book of Life is said to remain open throughout the ten days following Rosh Hashana, which are called the "Days of Awe." During this time, observant Jews will ask forgiveness for their sins and do good deeds, in the hopes of securing a more favorable judgement on Yom Kippur.

The most famous symbol of Rosh Hashana, however, is the shofar, or ram's horn. The shofar is blown much like a trumpet, and it is from this instrument that Rosh Hashana derives its other name - "The Feast of Trumpets." One hundred notes are sounded on the shofar during each day of the festival. While no Biblical reason is given for this practice, several theories have been advanced, including the idea that the sounding of the shofar marks a call to repentance, the coronation of God as King, or the wailing of God's people throughout the world.

In the New Testament, Paul beautifully connects all of these images and uses them to paint a picture of the believer's future state:

1 Corinthians 15:50 I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— 52in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.

The New Testament teaches that we are new creations in Christ. Rosh Hashana, then, looks ahead to the restoration of all things - the "new beginning" that we have found in Christ Jesus. This restoration begins at the personal level and extends outwards to include all of creation. The Festival of Trumpets, then, is a celebration for all of God's people, as we rejoice in the wonderful new work that God has begun among us - the creation of a new heavens and a new earth, starting right now with me and you.

Isaiah 65:17 "Behold, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind.

2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!

Revelation 21:1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." 5He who was seated on the throne said, "I am making everything new!" Then he said, "Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true."
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Prayers for the Journey

5:04 PM
It's always exciting to see Christian brothers and sisters joining together in prayer for one another. This Wednesday, I shared a bit about our ministry with some of my friends at church, and the response was overwhelmingly positive. One of our church members, Jake Baker, asked the church to pray for our group, and I was humbled by the powerful prayer that he offered for us at the end our Bible study. It's great to know that we have people in our churches actively praying for us!

Please join me in praying for our area congregations and their work in the Gallatin Valley area.
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My sister's cancer story.

11:24 AM
Hope you like the video I posted.
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Looking Ahead Down the Trail

8:10 AM
Happy Sunday morning, everyone! I trust that you are blessed on this special day of worship.

I wanted to take a moment to update everyone on some of the exciting things that will be happening in the TrailBlazer Community during the next months. Please keep these projects in prayer as we move forward on this crazy adventure God is leading us on:

1) Weekly Bible Study: Starting next week (10/2), we will begin holding a weekly Bible study during our Thursday meeting at Wild Joe's. I'll bring the first message, and then we will begin a weekly rotation, with a different group member leading the discussion each week. Everyone is encouraged to participate by preparing a short message covering some aspect of Biblical teaching that they feel is important for the group to discuss. After every meeting, one of us will post a summary of the message on the blog, so that discussion can continue after the meeting closes.

2) TrailBlazer Prayer Chain: In the coming weeks, I would like to develop a "prayer chain" network for the TrailBlazer Community. The way it works is fairly simple: each member of the group will choose one day out of the week and commit to spending a half hour that day praying for the other members of the group. The idea is to have a constant rotation of people praying for one another. We will discuss this in greater detail on Thursday.

3) TrailBlazer Worship Service: It's still on the horizon :-) Please pray that God would help us to develop and organize an interdenominational worship service that would be honoring to Him and that would communicate His love to all in attendance. We will continue developing this project throughout the coming months.
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The Power of the Gospel

8:34 AM
I want to start off by thanking Jesse Ahmann and Pastor Michael Wainwright for inviting me as a contributor on this blog. It is an honor and a privilege. I was truly blessed when I came to Bozeman and visited their group. I expect great things coming out of Bozeman. I also hope to visit again soon.

The Power of The Gospel



There are many who preach about the Power of the Gospel yet often the gospel they preach about is not The Gospel. It seems to me often the gospel that is preached is that of a superficiality that promotes a certain powerlessness instead of offering people the Power of salvation.



Most often when I hear this other "gospel" I hear it taught as "getting saved from hell." This is not the same gospel that Jesus taught. In fact it demeans the True Gospel.



Jesus spoke of a Gospel... and taught a Gospel that seems almost lost in many churches today. This Gospel is "the gospel of the Kingdom." (Matt 4:23, 9: 35, Mat 24:14; Luke 4:24, 8:1,) This Gospel of the Kingdom is so much more than about my own personal salvation. It is bigger than my little kingdom.

If we do not look at the Gospel as more than about me, then we miss the overall glory. This Gospel is not "just" about "me". It is the gospel of the glory of Christ. It encompasses all that God is doing... meaning the regeneration or "renewal" of all things. (Matt 19:28)

Often I have heard some teach that the gospel is all about "getting saved from hell and then you get to go to heaven"... if that is all there is, then it does not seem to have that much power.

The Power is in the understanding of the magnitude that Salvation is in Christ Jesus. God has come in the Person of Jesus to set all things right... for God alone is Righteous.

The Power to save is the Power that God has to redeem and set all things right. To take back this lost world and reform it into His Son's image.

We need to turn from our little kingdoms and come the The Kingdom of God. It is that we live "in Christ" the King that we come to live in the Kingdom. We exchange out life for His and become dependant on Jesus for all things.

We have been given the keys to this Kingdom... We have been given all we need for Godliness in the Person of Jesus Christ. It is in the coming to understand how huge the Kingdom is and that all God has accomplished through Jesus that the Power of the Gospel can truly be seen. Once we see the bigger picture, we are free from the bondage of our own little kingdoms. The Power is in the surrender of our kingdom for His in all its glory.

Be blessed,
iggy
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A Kick in the Teeth for a Feigned Peace

10:32 PM

I think there are more things mixed here than your reaction to the Chronicle article.  Words are very important, especially when criticizing.  Yet they have been flung about on this blog to the point that the confused Chronicle article was a fair assessment of this movement thus far.  


We must keep in mind that our hearts are deceitfully wicked and that the majority of our sin comes from the desire to do good.  But, our good intentions are no excuse for the chaos we bring or the damage we inflict.  God's ends plus our means is still a recipe for sin.


"For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to right teaching.  They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever they want to hear.  They will reject the truth a follow strange myths." II Tim. 4:3,4


That time is now.  In our attempt to reach out to the lost we must not fall into the temptation to preach myths pleasing to the ears of the world.  Which is kind of what the following sounds like.


____________________ 


". . . But that's what makes the emerging church such a joy to be a part of. It's not dogmatic. It's a conversation. . ." -PastorMichael, posted 9/2/08


v.s.


"But first, let me say that I struggle with the term "emerging church," and that I am not one hundred percent certain that this is the best label to describe our group."-PastorMichael, posted 9/19/08


"This is simply incorrect. I have never stated that there is to be 'no dogma.' "-PastorMichael, posted 9/19/08



____________________



"We do not ask people to leave their churches or abandon their denominational distinctives." -PastorMichael, posted 9/19/08


except perhaps John MacArthur's church, for he is simply:


"an exegetical preacher whose career thrives on an authoritarian, top-down system of teaching. . .


The emerging church movement totally undercuts the authoritarian church structure that has made MacArthur famous - and wealthy. . .In other words, we no longer need a John MacArthur to tell us what the Bible means. " -PastorMichael, posted 9/2/08


____________________


"I beg to differ. I see a lot of emerging-oriented Christians fighting tooth and nail for what they believe in, even in cases where brothers and sisters in Christ have approached them with negativity. It baffles me why, when it comes "fighting for our convictions," emerging Christians and their convictions about the Church don't seem to count." -PastorMichael, posted 9/19/08



Of courses they fight, as everyone does for themselves.  This is the two faced nature of false religions from Islam to the postmodern academics of our day.  On the one hand they cloak their rebellion, they claim they only want an open minded conversation, they claim to be a peaceful religion.  On the other hand they openly attack, they take every opportunity to shut down speech from the opposition, or outright kill the infidels.  Embracing this 'emerge' is no act of valor, it is simply going along with the flow of elite rhetoric, and the only fight occurs when this cultural foolishness forces itself onto the Church.  It's not as if both sides started with scripture and came to different conclusions.  The emergent side started with the assumption that something must be changed because the youth are leaving the church.  They don't like the church, therefore we need to make a 'church' more palatable to them.  We need to incorporate as much of the philosophy of the world as we can tolerate.


____________________



"But, again, if fighting for your beliefs is a good thing (and I'm convinced that it is), why is it that when I take up the challenge advanced by a book like 'The Truth War,' my willingness to stand firm in my convictions is discounted as "arrogant" or "rebellious?" -PastorMichael, posted 9/19/08



"Reading 'The Truth War' is kind of like watching a reactionary fundamentalist doing a bad impersonation of a reactionary fundamentalist. MacArthur's fear and anger are palpable on almost every page of the book, leading him into long, venomous tirades that lead me to wonder just how confident he is that God's truth can stand up to scrutiny. After reading a few chapters of the book, one reader I know of concluded that MacArthur must have been red in the face, covered in sweat, and about to burst a blood vessel as he sat growling over the pages of this polemic tome."  -PastorMichael, posted 9/2/08


Take up the challenge?  Stand firm on convictions?  Accusing MacArthur of fear or anger and calling him names like; venomous, red-faced, or reactionary is certainly both arrogant and rebellious.  


In the spring of 2003, we at Petra Academy hosted MacArthur for our annual fundraising dinner.  He proceeded to layout the case for Christians to proactively resist the temptation to take the easy way out, simply placing your child in the public schools(Which coincidentally, is most likely the explanation for the phenomenon of the youth leaving the church).  Using simple scriptures like Psalm 1: "Blessed is the man Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, Nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful"  he exposited the truth of scripture with no apology.  No apology for the responsibilities it requires for his audience and for himself.  For he was attacked by those who attended our dinner in a way no other speaker ever was.  Our fundraising efforts and enrollment also suffered, from this and similar stands.  This is what it means to sand up for Christ.  Quite a different thing from glomming onto the latest trend and 'fighting' the 'establishment.'


____________________



"Christianity is and always has been a revolutionary (in the broad sense) faith." -PastorMichael, posted 9/19/08



"Do not think that I came to destroy the law or the Prophets.  I didn't come to destroy but to fulfill." -Jesus, Matt.5:17



____________________


Rather, these may have been the words you were looking for:


"This startling swiftness with which popular systems turn oppressive

is the third fact for which we shall ask our perfect theory of progress

to allow.  It must always be on the look out for every privilege

being abused, for every working right becoming a wrong. 

In this matter I am entirely on the side of the revolutionists. 

They are really right to be always suspecting human institutions;

they are right not to put their trust in princes nor in any child of man. 

The chieftain chosen to be the friend of the people becomes

the enemy of the people; the newspaper started to tell the truth

now exists to prevent the truth being told.  Here, I say,

I felt that I was really at last on the side of the revolutionary. 

And then I caught my breath again:  for I remembered that

I was once again on the side of the orthodox.


     Christianity spoke again and said:  "I have always maintained

that men were naturally backsliders; that human virtue tended

of its own nature to rust or to rot; I have always said that

human beings as such go wrong, especially happy human beings,

especially proud and prosperous human beings." G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy

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Revolution or Humility? - A Response

6:28 PM
Hi Nick,

Thank you for your thoughtful post. I appreciate the honest criticism and would like to take a moment to respond to some of the points that you have raised. But first, let me say that I struggle with the term "emerging church," and that I am not one hundred percent certain that this is the best label to describe our group. I would also point out that there is an important distinction to be made between "emerging" and "emergent," with "emergent" being the more liberal wing of the broader movement, associated particularly with Brian McLaren's Emergent Village.


"I am quite surprised that I am to be included in this amalgam of conversation. Yet it is a privilege I will not delay in shrewdly abusing."

You need not be surprised; this is a conversation for Christians from all walks of life. You are more than welcome to share your thoughts, even if they run contrary to my own or those of another group member. We all need to be challenged so that we stay sharp and remain accountable to God's Word :-)

"Dogma number one: There is to be no Dogma. The first delicious contradiction is of course nearly identical to the elitist double speak which has become a tactic of non-debate for the masses."

This is simply incorrect. I have never stated that there is to be "no dogma." We all come to the table with our own dogmatic presuppositions, and those need to be compared against Scripture. If you visit our website, you will see (on the "about") page that we are developing a confessional statement describing the key truths of Christianity that we hold to be common to all orthodox Christians. Belief, doctrine, and teaching are all important. I do not deny that. What I maintain, however, is that right doctrine leads to right living. Unless our beliefs compel us to take up our cross and follow after Christ - day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute - they will avail us nothing. That is why I place so much emphasis on active discipleship over passive intellectual belief. It is not that the latter is unimportant; it is simply that I see a need in our churches to re-emphasize what it means to proactively "be" the community of Christ. For a Biblical and historical model of this emphasis, see the Book of James and the writings of John Wesley.

"It goes something like this: you are old fashioned, and fearfully cling to your dogma whilst we ethereally float above such definitions in an unbound theoretical conversation. For the moment the securing of such a utopia, requires this squelching of all debate for our ideas are simply superior. Yet in time, when all are assimilated true peace and unity will be achieved."

I don't recall ever having said anything remotely like this, nor have I heard any statements to this effect advanced in our meetings. I think the closest I have come to making a statement like that given above is in my response to John MacArthur's "The Truth War," which was equally unfair in its treatment of the emerging church. I do not see how an interdenominational ministry built on open discussion could "squelch all debate." If this were true, then your post would not be on our blog, would it?


"We as Christians certainly don't want to be viewed as 'dogmatic' or 'unloving' or 'intolerant' or whatever other names they might hurl at us. So, we put on a pensive face and attempt to sell out our ideals until common ground is reached, until we are again welcomed declawed into their 'conversation.'"

I would agree that Christians should not be "unloving" in any sense of the word. "Intolerant" and "dogmatic" are words that raise more questions than answers. Tolerant of what? Dogmatic about what? There are things that we should be dogmatic about and things that we should be intolerant of, just as there are areas where we can be charitable in our approach.

"The call away from dogma is, of course, played out in the way we form our public worship. It is no call away from liturgy it is simply a call to a chaotic liturgy. We present a God of spontaneous chaos as if he were the God of scripture."

Or spotaneous joy, at least. Since we have not organized a worship service yet, I really cannot comment on this area, except to emphasize that we have discussed and intend to create an order of worship that will include the best of traditional worship alongside opportunities (before and after the service) for orderly private worship.

"It is almost as if we expect God to each day present us with a different sun. Or perhaps a different Son based on whatever, whim happens to be taking Him in that moment."

Not at all. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. But I am not. I expect (or, I should say, hope and pray) that God will continue to reveal new facets of our Savior's life and teaching to me as I walk beside Him each day, and He works in me, by His grace, to conform me to the image of the Son. The 'journey' we speak of is not about Christ becoming more like us or our culture, but about us becoming more like Christ.


"This of course is nothing new, 'a return to the early church'--that generic club with which most recent 'new' movements fein to beat back whatever issue they happen to dislike--address the same problem. "

Yes, and I am honestly wary of anything claiming to be a 'return to the early church,' as many cults make this claim. This is the reason why I do not say that we are 'returning to the early church,' although we are certainly making an effort to learn from the practices of early Christianity. Personally, I don't believe that we are necessarily obligated to emulate every aspect of the early church. Early Christianity was as much a response to the culture of its time as the so-called 'emerging church' is a response to contemporary postmodernism.

"Dogma number two: Sectarianism is bad so we are starting our own, whatever: A call to unity whilst we readily hop onto the newest ride 'Emergent' and attempt to leave the denominations in our dust, simply another split. Yet this time, we will refrain from using such a term and instead blame the establishment for forcing us out."

This is actually the opposite of what we are trying to accomplish. We are an "interdenominational," rather than "nondenominational" ministry. We do not ask people to leave their churches or abandon their denominational distinctives. In fact, we encourage all of our members to get involved with a local congregation of their choosing. Our group is intentionally structured so as not to compete with area churches. Our message is not "abandon your Baptist/Presbyterian/Catholic/etc. church," but "be a better Baptist/Presbyterian/Catholic/etc."

"This is simply a lack of respect for the recent historical way in which the Holy Spirit directs the Church. Do we think the purest ideal of what the Church is supposed to be was given only to us at this moment?"

I'm not sure that I would agree that every trend of the church is necessarily the work of the Holy Spirit. And, no, I do not suggest that the "purest ideal of what the church is supposed to be" is a recent innovation at all. God has been at work in His church throughout the centuries, and he will continue to be at work in his church long after we're gone and Trailblazer is a forgotten memory. However, the question remains - is it not possible the so-called 'emerging church' is the way in which the Holy Spirit is currently directing the Church? Why do you assume that the forms of church we are presently familiar with are the result of the Holy Spirit's leading, but that any change to that structure cannot also be the "recent (or present) historical way" in which the Holy Spirit is directing the church?

"The elderly establishment, faithfully taking their pews each week, deserve our respect. Many of these church bodies are also faithfully pursuing huge missionary efforts in this country and abroad."

Of course - where did I say otherwise? I have repeatedly said (both on this blog and in our meetings) that we should learn from the 'established' churches and the so-called 'elderly establishment,' as they are a treasurehouse of wisdom and learning. It appears that you are the one relying on stereotypes in this case.

"Whilst we sit and 'debate' on how we can stop offending the post-church fools amongst us."

When did this discussion take place? I wasn't a part of it.

"Or, perhaps we think that our times are so much different that we need something drastically new to meet these times. The arrogance of novelty seems contained within the term 'emergent' itself. While there is of course nothing new under the sun, the embracing of this 'emerge' exemplifies a dangerous trend of our time, our unwillingness to fight for what we believe in."

I beg to differ. I see a lot of emerging-oriented Christians fighting tooth and nail for what they believe in, even in cases where brothers and sisters in Christ have approached them with negativity. It baffles me why, when it comes "fighting for our convictions," emerging Christians and their convictions about the Church don't seem to count.

"What of holding on to beliefs to the point of death? I can think of nothing more characteristic of the early church. Yet today the enemy convinces us to question ourselves to the point that no fight is necessary. We find a happy medium and float along in our lukewarmness."

I think "lukewarmness" is a problem we all face. I've seen my share of it in "respectable" denominations, and I'm sure the emerging conversation is just as prone to it. But, again, if fighting for your beliefs is a good thing (and I'm convinced that it is), why is it that when I take up the challenge advanced by a book like "The Truth War," my willingness to stand firm in my convictions is discounted as "arrogant" or "rebellious?"

"I know all the things you do. I have seen your hard work and your patient endurance. I know you don't tolerate evil people. You have examined the claims of those who say they are apostles but are not. You have discovered they are liars." -Rev. 2:2

But why do you assume that you are on the side of the church being commended, while the emerging church is on the side of the "lukewarm" Laodiceans? It seems to me that many emerging Christians could advance a similar criticism against the more traditional churches.


"What is it that fuels us to feel so left out of the 'establishment' churches of our time?"

I really don't know. Different people have different experiences. My experience with the so-called "establishment" has been mostly positive, and I aim for our group to make a positive (rather than simply polemical) contribution to the Church as a whole.


"With the creation of every maxim and the presentation of every truth, our evil hearts are at work insidiously corrupting and seeking self glory. There was a time when Christ's call to self sacrifice was a potent weapon against the arrogance of the Pharisee. Yet today we turn our little martyrdoms into a badge of honor, just as they did their prayers and offerings. We have each become a slighted minority of one. Little Hitler, whine about Mein Kampf. Bill Clinton, feel my pain. Obama, down with the struggle? Politicians use their relation to our selfishness to promote their false gospels, we need to be careful lest we do the same."

I agree, but doesn't "fighting for your convictions" necessarily entail a degree of struggle and personal sacrifice? I'm still scratching my head and trying to figure out why standing firm in one's beliefs and convictions is a "bad" thing when emerging Christians do it....

"Thought the false churches may provide many social services, food, water and shelter, these are not the answers to the ultimate problem here on earth. The only thing that really matter is our hearts and the hearts of those we minister to."

Please define a 'false church.' Do you mean a church that is embracing unbiblical teachings?

I completely agree that external elements are not the answer to humanity's problems. If you ever catch me teaching that the "social gospel" will save humanity, please smack me over the head with the nearest blunt object. My goal in all of this is to teach the gospel of transformation, which is what being "born again" is really all about - becoming a "new creation" in Christ. External changes - whether personal or social - are simply the outworking of the "new heart" that God creates in us at the moment of salvation.

"For not only do these contradictions point out your association with the tenants of 'revolution' you have used the very term. A term which, given the mass killings and chaos of Robespierre and Lenin, I will have no part of. Now this is no mere criticism of a few sets of circumstances in which a beautiful ideal failed to be adequately realized. Instead the failure of the revolutionary philosophy is ultimate and fatal. The French Revolution and the Napoleonic wars it ushered in were responsible for the deaths of over one million people. The Bolshevik Revolution and the successive USSR is responsible for an estimated twenty million deaths. The thirst for chaos which dwelt in the heart of these men was a novelty which we have yet to get over. Though we wouldn't claim to want the overthrow of an entire country, our evil hearts want something of a similar nature. We want just enough evil to be titillated, but it is still evil."

Ok, here is where we get to the heart of the problem. You seem to be responding to one post that I made, titled "Be the Revolution." I stand by that post, but I think you are stretching my use of the word "revolution" too far. I am not advocating a literal "revolution" (religious or otherwise) of any sort. What I am advocating is a revolution of the heart and mind. This revolution comes about through our encounter with Christ. Christianity is and always has been a revolutionary (in the broad sense) faith. It turns our perception of the world and its structures upside down and challenges us to go beyond our immediate boundaries to share the love of God. Any Christian advocating a literal revolution of any type should consider Christ's words that those who live by the sword will die by the sword.

"Perhaps the best agent of our sanctification is the humility of taking our place in the churches with which we find fault. The world offers another solution, one which simply ends in death."

And this is precisely what we are advocating - that our members maintain involvement in a local congregation, and that they use their time in that congregation for the betterment of the Church as a whole and for the glorification of God.
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