Moving on from Modernist Perspectives of Theology & Mission

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Currently I’m working towards my Doctor of Intercultural Studies/Missiology with Fuller Theological Seminary. The theme of my dissertation will be the impact that missional formation (both missional learning and praxis) has upon spiritual formation. We usually focus on how spiritual formation (or spiritual growth) leads to mission. But I am convinced of the reverse as well: missional formation will lead to the church’s spiritual formation. My short time of research thus far has not led me to many works that focus on this angle. And I’m particularly considering this topic and its effect amongst emerging creative folk, which is the context of those I participate with in work and ministry each day at Visible Music College.

Tonight I was reviewing a certain work on mission: The Changing Face of World Missions: Engaging Contemporary Issues and Trends. It’s a book that deals with 12 issues of change in our world today and how the church needs to rethink mission (both globally and locally) in light of these issues. It has some good stuff we need to think through as we participate in mission in the 21st century. Continue reading

Dr. King Reminds Us of Another

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Today marks a day of remembrance for a man who pioneered one of the greatest developments in modern American history – the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s. Or, better articulated, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., helped open the doors of dignity and respect for our African-American brothers and sisters. For he knew, was correctly convinced, that these honors were due to all humanity created in the image of God.

And as I was pondering this morning who this man actually was and what he actually did, I realize that he embodied the Jesus of Scripture in a unique way, in a way that gets easily overlooked in our western evangelical context.

How so? Continue reading

Identity in Christ – Truth Sets Us Free

This article commences a five-part series on our identity in Christ as those who have come into relationship with God. What do I mean by ‘identity in Christ’? Well, that is what I hope to explore over the next four articles.

To start off, let me throw a question your way: If someone asked you, ‘Who are you,’ how would you answer them? Or, let’s redirect the question to me: If someone asked me ‘Who are you,’ how would I reply?

I might answer something like this: I am Scott Lencke. But is that really me, or is that simply my name? I could change my name and still be me, right? I might answer the question posed by replying that I am pastor of Cornerstone International Church. But that is really my calling and my role to the people within the church, but not the core of who I am. I could go on to reply to the question by stating I am an American, but that more speaks of my nationality. As a final response to the question, I might respond by saying I am 6ft 1in tall (185 cm), have dark hair and hazel-colored eyes, but that is simply describing my physical attributes. In actuality, I could bleach my hair blond, or even cut off my arms and legs, and I would still be me. Matter of fact, if I had a physical heart transplant, would I not still be me?

So, who are we? It seems that this question is not an attempt to truly know our name, occupation, calling, nationality or even physical appearance. This is a question of our core identity. I would say that the ultimate answer to this question is found as we discover our identity in Christ.

In John 8:32, Jesus makes a simple statement, but one that we probably know very well:

And you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.

Of course, we know this is not referring to the knowledge of specific mathematical equations such as 2 + 2 = 4, nor that our car runs best on 10W/30 oil. This is speaking of spiritual truth that sets the captives free.

I do wholeheartedly believe that the greatest truth one can possess is that of knowing God. But I believe the truth that runs in a close second is that of knowing who we are in Christ. Not only that, but I am convinced that not having a healthy understanding of this second important truth can impede our growth in the first. And, though, Jesus stated that knowing such truth sets us free, there is a call to our hearts that we will only be set free as we are willing to receive the truth. So, let not these only be wonderful words found on a computer screen, but let us receive it with open hearts. For if we do receive this truth, I believe we will step more into the freedom that belongs to the children of God.

One thing that most of us are aware of is the reality that when we were born from above, Christ came to live in us by His Spirit. Colossians 1:27 makes it simple when Paul stated:

Christ in you, the hope of glory.

It is a mystery how the God of the universe lives inside us, but nonetheless, it is truth and an empowering piece of truth at that. But, what we many times might not realize is that the reverse is true as well. Not only is Christ in us, but we are also in Him. Matter of fact, for every verse that speaks of Jesus being in us there are another ten Scriptures that speak of us being in Him. In Paul’s letters alone, there are some 164 references to us being in Christ.

This is what we are going to explore – the reality of our identity in Christ, or as the fathers of a few centuries ago termed it, our union with Christ. What do we mean by ‘union with Christ’? It simply refers to the fact that we have been joined to, or united to, Christ. It’s a beautiful truth, a lovely reality to ponder. Paul declared it this way:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places…In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace. (Ephesians 1:3, 7)

God not only goes out of His way to save us from our sin and eternal wrath, but He goes the ‘extra mile’ by both coming to reside in us and bringing us to dwell in Him. This sounds a little scary to the conservative, a little too mystical. But it is a reality and the only relationship God would want between a Husband and His Bride (Revelation 21:1-2).

Stay tuned over the next week as I look to add four more blog posts looking at our identity in Christ. Click here to read about our new standing in Christ.

Why The Title, ‘The Prodigal Thought’?

rembrant-prodigal-son-detailI once looked into contributing regularly for an online Christian magazine. When asked the title of my column, I gave the name, The Prodigal Truth. Though one cannot very well know tone of voice or body language through email, I think the title somewhat shocked the editor. The title did not sound overly Christian, possibly even anti-Christian in one way or another. And it is understandable. I suppose the same might stand true with the title of this blog. Thus, I find the need to provide a little helpful explanation for the choice of such a title, since words are life and semantics are important, at least from my standpoint.

I know God has placed a desire deep within me to teach, explain Scriptural and theological truths, to exegete and understand what all Christians might not be so excited about studying. But I must make clear that I do not do so (or do not plan to do so) with the aim of sounding smart and theologically noble. I do all of this with the purpose of seeing people set free.

Jesus did teach, ‘…you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free’ (John 8:32). Truth equals freedom. Not necessarily 2 + 2 = 4, although that could be helpful. But rather the truth of God coming forth and setting captives free – in their minds, in their hearts, even in their bodies. Set free from fear, from depression, from self-contempt, from anxiety, from bondage, from false concepts about our Father, and so much more. And that’s where I want to go.

I do not believe we are called to study the Word so we can write systematic theological treatises, though those can be helpful. I believe the people of God are called to dive into the Word so that we can know the truth and be set free by it.

But some of our thoughts have gone ‘prodigal’, if you will. By this, I mean they have gone astray, gone down the wrong path. Not so much along the lines of heresy or perverse thinking, though maybe for some. But rather our thoughts have gone astray from a sound and helpful understanding of the Scriptures. I am not trying to sound all pious and overly religious about reading our Bibles twice a day and memorising five Scriptures each week. But there has been some unhelpful teaching out their on specific topics, and this has led people down wrong paths in their own thinking. It has even caused some to be seriously locked up.

Therefore, I find myself developing a heart to try and bring us back to true Biblical teaching. Again, all for the sake of seeing us set free by the truth so we can fully and faithfully love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. As a result of this, over the next days, weeks, months, years, and maybe even longer, I give you The Prodigal Thought.

The title is not about seeing our thoughts run ‘prodigal’. Rather, it this blog is about seeing God reel in any prodigal thoughts as He reveals His truth. I expect that you will not agree with everything I write, but know that, if you are a Christ-follower, then we are starting from the same standing ground. So read, ponder, consider, discuss these articles. Then, when the day is over, I hope we can all truly be encouraged that our thoughts were corralled in by the truth of God and that we tasted a little more freedom as well.