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

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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Revolution or Humility?

10:20 PM

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.  In the spirit of Luke 16 of course.  I wish to take note of a few contradictions in the previous posts.


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.  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.  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.' 


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.  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.  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.  


For God is not a God of disorder but of peace as in all the other churches

I Corinthians 14:33


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


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.  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 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


vs.


"I know all the things you do, that you are neither hot nor cold.  I wish you were one or the other!  But since you are like lukewarm water, I will spit you out of my mouth!"  Rev. 3:15,16


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


"Your attitude should be the same that Christ Jesus had.  Thought he was God, he did not demand and cling to his rights as God.  He made himself nothing; he took the humble position of a slave and appeared in human form.  And in human form he obediently humbled himself even further by dying a criminal's death on a cross".  -Philippians 2:5-8


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.  


Jesus replied, "The truth is, you want to be with me because I fed you, not because you saw the miraculous sign.  But you shouldn't be so concerned about perishable things like food.  Spend your energy seeking the eternal life that I the Son of Man, can give you.  For God the Father has sent me for that very purpose." -John 6:26,27


"Many will say to me in that day, 'Lord, Lord have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!' "  -Matthew 7:22,23


Aside from the fun of pointing out these contradictions there is a problem much more serious. 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.  


There is a path before each person that seems right, but it ends in death. -Proverbs 14:12; 16:25


We are again faced with the age old problem, who is our authority?  The word of God, or some amalgam of our evil desires and the philosophy of this world.  The word of God gives us the solutions of repentance and sanctification.  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.

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Come Join Us On Facebook!

2:33 PM
We have organized a new Facebook group for TrailBlazer Ministries. To join, visit us at: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=26508208516
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Boiler Room Communities (Millenium 3 Monestaries)

7:25 PM
I really like what these guys are doing in the UK (and around the world):
http://boiler-rooms.com/cm/

I brought this up in one of our earlier meetings, but I think that this movement can give us some good ideas about what it means to be a "community in Christ." Although Trailblazer will remain a unique community without formal affiliations, the outline that they provide as a "customary" for their communities has been instrumental in shaping my vision for Trailblazer. Although details will vary from community to community, I think that the six core practices that they list are a good guideline for community development. You can read the "customary" at: http://boiler-rooms.com/cm/resources/27
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Website Update II (Going Out On A Limb....)

7:04 PM
Hi everyone! In light of our recent discussion on the Athanasian Creed, I've updated our "about us" section to include only the Apostles' Creed, in addition to a general statement that I have written. We will need to continue to discuss our confessional basis and use of this creed as things continue to develop.

I've also added a "vision and goals" section, which is a work in progress. I would like everyone's feedback on this. The last "goal" (which is a long-term future goal) might catch a few people by surprise, but it is ultimately where I hope we are headed as we look further ahead down the road :-)

I look forward to everyone's feedback on this section! There is still a lot that we need to hammer out (especially in terms of the creeds), but we're getting there! (Or, I should say, God is getting us there!)
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The Cloaked Stranger on the Road

7:00 PM
This was initially written in reply to a point that Jesse raised on the "website update" thread concerning the potential salvation of someone of the Hindu faith. These are just my thoughts on the matter and are not conclusive by any means. I especially like the quote from Pope Benedict XVI that I've included at the bottom of the post, so if you'd like, feel free to skip over my comments and see what Pope Benny has said about this subject, because his remarks are pretty thought-provoking. Besides, how often do you get to hear a Baptist quoting the Pope? :-)

The issue of whether or not someone must profess the Christian religion in order to be "saved" is a subject that would require a much more detailed treatment then I am prepared to offer right now. Realizing that I'm stepping into a theological minefield, let me offer some preliminary thoughts on the subject.

As you know, I take seriously the Bible's claims that salvation is to be found in Christ alone, and in no other:

John 14:1"Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. 2In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. 3And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. 4You know the way to the place where I am going."Jesus the Way to the Father 5Thomas said to him, "Lord, we don't know where you are going, so how can we know the way?" 6Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him."

Verse six of the passage given above is often taken in isolation, but I quote it with the surrounding context to give you a better idea of what Christ is actually saying in this statement. The Father is known through the Son, and those desiring a relationship with God must recognize that Jesus is "emmanuel" - God with us. In other words, Jesus is our "contact point" with God, the place (or, rather, Person) in which God has agreed to meet with us. In order to have a saving encounter with God, we have to come to Him through Jesus God - God manifest in the flesh.

Acts 4:12 Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved."

With that being said, I am willing to acknowledge that this "saving encounter" with Christ may play out in a variety of ways, and that God uses many means to draw men and women to Himself. There are times, I believe, when the Lord comes to us as the cloaked stranger on the road (Luke 24). We may spend years - or perhaps even a lifetime - walking beside Him without even knowing His name or His face. I believe that He will reveal himself to all of His children, including those without a full understanding, in His own good timing (Luke 24:31).

Certainly, this has been true of my own spiritual journey. Throughout my life, I have had a deep yearning (some might even call it an affliction) for something deeper and more beautiful than anything this world has to offer - something that we glimpse, from time to time, in this world, but which can only here be seen in shadows and reflections.

C.S. Lewis put it this way:"If I discover within myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world."I believe this yearning for Something Greater is a common experience for many people, and it is through this yearning that God prepares the heart for its saving encounter with Christ.

So the Hindu, through his own faith tradition, may find himself yearning after God and seeking after that numinous Something that no earthly pleasure can satisfy. He may not, at first, comprehend Christianity, or he may even find himself rejecting it outright. But still the yearning remains, growing deeper by the day. St. Augustine described it as a God-shaped hole in the heart.

Then one day, the Hindu encounters that Stranger on the road - "emmanuel," God with us - and something inside of him intuitively knows that here at last is the Something (or the Someone) that he has been searching for all of his life. You see, God was drawing him all along and preparing his heart for this encounter with Christ, even in the man's Hindu context, by awakening a desire for God. All find what they truly seek, and those who desire the company of God will by no means be turned away.

I really like what Pope Benedict has said on this topic:"We want to commend to St. Augustine a further meditation on our psalm. In it, the Father of the Church introduces a surprising element of great timeliness: He knows that also among the inhabitants of Babylon there are people who are committed to peace and the good of the community, despite the fact that they do not share the biblical faith, that they do not know the hope of the Eternal City to which we aspire. They have a spark of desire for the unknown, for the greatest, for the transcendent, for a genuine redemption.And he says that among the persecutors, among the nonbelievers, there are people with this spark, with a kind of faith, of hope, in the measure that is possible for them in the circumstances in which they live. With this faith in an unknown reality, they are really on the way to the authentic Jerusalem, to Christ. And with this opening of hope, valid also for the Babylonians -- as Augustine calls them -- for those who do not know Christ, and not even God, and who nevertheless desire the unknown, the eternal, he exhorts us not to look only at the material things of the present moment, but to persevere in the path to God. Only with this greater hope can we transform this world in a just way." (http://www.zenit.org/article-14703?l=english)
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And Now For a Touch of Humor....

4:26 PM
Sometimes critics of the emerging church get a few things right. These guys have created a whole collection of motivational posters just for the emerging church... and they crack me up!

If you don't mind a little self-deprecating humor, take a gander at these "inspiring" posters. "Apologetics" is my favorite. I'd love to have a full-sized copy of that one on my office wall. Please note, however, that these posters were created by critics of the emerging church to poke fun at the movement, so if you're easily offended or can't handle a little self-critical humor, these posters might not be for you :-)

UPDATE: Wow! They actually added some new ones since I last visited the gallery.
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Be The Revolution

3:29 PM
It's not often that you get to see a Hindu quoted on a Christian blog - especially in a positive light. But, as I study the message of God's Kingdom and reflect on what we are trying to accomplish as a community in Christ, I find myself returning to a famous quote from Mahatma Gandhi: "You must become the change you wish to see in the world."

As we work together to build the Trailblazer community, we find ourselves struggling with questions and doubts. What if we don't find an adequate facility to worship in? What if no one is interested in our project? What will our friends and families think? How will we be viewed by our established churches?

I struggle with these questions too. As a seminary student and Baptist missions pastor, I find myself wondering how a movement like Trailblazer will effect my career in the ministry. Will I be viewed as a theological 'renegade?' Will my conservative seminary ask me to leave? Is this revolution really going anywhere or not? Where (and what) will Trailblazer be a year from now?

As I contend with these questions, I find that the answer is that it really doesn't matter whether we find a "perfect" place to worship, or whether we're ostracized by friends and loved ones, or whether (on a personal level) my career tanks and I spend the rest of my life pushing shopping carts for a living.

Regardless of what happens on an external level, this revolution won't stop.

Because we are the revolution.

Whether I'm filling a pulpit or pushing a shopping cart, I bring the revolution with me, as I seek to show others the love that God has shown to me. Whether we meet in a coffee shop or build a cathedral on 19th street, the revolution we've begun will go with us, wherever we gather and wherever we part. Because it's not about the externals. It's about who we are in Christ.

One of my favorite passages of Scripture can be found in Luke chapter 17. Here, we find Jesus debating the nature of the Kingdom with the Pharisees.

The Pharisees raise a question that was probably on a lot of people's minds at the time:

"Ok, so you've said that the Kingdom of God is at hand. Well, where is it?"

You see, at the time of Christ, many pious Jews were looking for an earthly Kingdom, in which the Messiah would reign as the literal heir of King David, throwing off the yoke of the Roman oppressor through sheer military might.

But Jesus gave a surprising answer.

"The Kingdom of God doesn't come in a way that you can observe. People won't say "Look! It's here!" or "Look! It's over there!" For the Kingdom of God is in your midst." (Luke 17:20)

Now, there is some debate about how this passage should be translated. Some Bibles (KJV, NIV) have "the Kingdom of God is within you," while others use "the Kingdom of God is in your midst (NASB)." The latter seems to be more accurate, but there may be some truth in either translation.

If "in your midst" is accepted as the more accurate translation of the phrase, then it is apparent that Jesus is pointing to Himself as the manifestation of God's reign on earth.

In effect, he is saying: "So you want to see the Kingdom? I'm it. I am the revolution."

On the other hand, if we accept "within you" as the better translation of the Lord's phrase, then we find that He is pointing to the existential reality of the Kingdom in the life of the believer.

There is some Biblical grounding for this view as well. Throughout the New Testament, the reign of God is described in terms that depict both a present reality, and a future manifestation. Theologians call this "apocalyptic tension," which is a fancy way of saying that the Kingdom is both "now" and "still to come." It is here "now" in Christ, and it continues to be here "now" through His people, faithfully proclaiming His message to the world. On the other hand, it is "still to come" in its fullness, as God's reign becomes external over all the earth.

It is interesting to note that Christ said in John 9:5: "While I am in the world, I am the Light of the world." Yet, he also said, in the Sermon on the Mount: "You are the light of the world... let your light shine before all people, so that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father who is in Heaven (Matt. 5:14)."

In the ultimate sense, Christ is the Light of the World - "the true Light that gives light to every person (John 1:9)." But as we come into contact with Him, some of that Light rubs off on us, and He sends us out into the world as lesser lights, that people may catch a glimpse of the Kingdom in us and give glory to God our Father.

In other words, we are the revolution.

The revolution is taking place wherever we go. It's taking place in coffee shops and under bridges and in the parking lot of Wal-Mart. It cannot be stopped and it cannot be held back, because it lives in us.

May God bless us all with the courage to be the revolution, both now and forever. Amen.
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Website Update

2:17 PM
I've added a new (and very important!) category to our "about" page. If you've viewed the page before, you would have seen that it highlighted three key aspects of the Christian conversation: the conversation between God and humanity, the conversation with our heritage, and the conversation with each other as a community in Christ.

But one important category is missing from that list.

Did anyone catch it?

It's the conversation with our culture and with the world around us. I've been meaning to add this category to the list for a while now, but haven't had a chance (partly due to my frantic schedule and partly becomes my views on incarnational ministry are still evolving).

In other news, the TrailNotes newsletter will remain as it is until the end of October. The reason for this is that we do not have many readers at present, so putting up a new newsletter every month would be unecessary. However, if you have an article or thought that you would like to add to the newsletter, feel free to contribute. Just email your contributions to: trailblazerministries@ymail.com

(His) Peace,
Michael
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What Church do you go to?

9:15 PM
Asking this question is like asking, "What Jesse do you go to?" It doesn't make sense. See the Church is who I am, along with 2000 years of Christianity. Christ said, "Upon this Rock I will build my Church." Not, "A bunch of groups of people who divide."
The beginning of a church is usually full of the spirit of God, not the needs of the institution. But that usually fades over time as financial pressures and the desire for routine and order become priority. A facility shouldn't be the main focus of any Christian gathering, but true community. Let us not be the church of Ephesus, but always have Christ the center of our community. Not losing our First Love. I hope we can be praying, sharing, exhorting, edifying, and worshiping freely when we gather. The Kingdom of Christ is bigger than any institution, whether Eastern Orthodox, Reform, Evangelical, Catholic, Emerging ect.
As a "trail guide" I have a huge responsibility to lead others on the narrow path. My goal is to enable people to live more deeply in Christ. May God and my fellow Christians help me as I am on that journey myself.
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