Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Class on "Learning to hear God's voice"

Jim Mellor and I (John White) will be leading an adult Sunday School class at Greenwood Community Church on "Learning to hear God's voice".

Jesus said, "My sheep hear my voice."  John 17:27.  This class will be a "community of practice" for those who desire to grow in their ability to hear His voice.  "This practice of listening to God has increased my intimacy with Him more than any other spiritual discipline." says Sarah Young.  We will use Sarah's daily devotional Jesus Calling as a spring board to practice listening prayer.

Class begins March 11 and concludes May 6.  No class on April 8.  Sundays at 11am in the Longs Peak Room.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Seth Godin: The definition of a revolution

The name of this blog is "Stories From the Revolution".  It's taken from George Barna's book, Revolution.

Concerning this revolution, Barna writes, "(It is) an unprecedented reengineering of America's faith dimension that is likely to be the most significant transition in the religious landscape that you will ever experience."

Seth Godin gives us further insight into the nature of revolutions:

Perfect and impossible

The definition of a revolution: it destroys the perfect and enables the impossible.

The music business was perfect. Radio, record chains, Rolling Stone magazine, the senior prom, limited access to recording studios, the replaceable nature of the LP, the baby boomers... it all added up to a business that seemed perfect, one that could run for ever and ever.

The digital revolution destroyed this perfect business while enabling the seemingly impossible: easy access to the market by new musicians, a cosmic jukebox of just about every song ever recorded, music as a social connector...
If you are in love with the perfect, prepare to see it swept away. If you are able to dream of the impossible, it just might happen.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Increasing number of Americans are saying "No!" to traditional church

Check out this remarkable article from The Huffington Post:

Something startling is happening in American religion: We are witnessing the end of church or, at the very least, the end of conventional church. The United States is fast-becoming a society where Christianity is being reorganized after religion.
In recent decades, untold numbers of people have left the Roman Catholic Church. In a 2008 survey, Pew research found that one in 10 Americans now considers themselves an ex-Catholic. The situation is so dire that the church launched a PR campaign inviting Catholics to "come home," to woo back disgruntled members. There was a slight uptick in Catholic membership last year, mostly due to immigrant Catholics. There is no data indicating that Catholics are returning en masse and much anecdotal evidence suggesting that leaving-taking continues. Catholic leaders worry that once the new immigrants become fully part of American society they might leave, too.
The end of church, however, is not merely a Catholic problem. For decades, mainline Protestants have watched helplessly as their membership rolls dwindled, employing program after program to try to stop the decline. In the last 15 years, conservative Protestant denominations have witnessed significant erosions in membership, money and participation -- with some of the greatest drops in groups like the Southern Baptist Convention that once seemed impervious to decline. In a typical week, less than a quarter of Americans attend a religious service, down from the half of the population who were regular churchgoers a generation ago.
There are successful individual congregations -- Catholic or Protestant, mainline or evangelical, liberal or conservative, small or large -- everywhere. But the institutional structures of American religion -- denominations of all theological sorts -- are in a free-fall.
The religious market collapse has happened with astonishing speed. In 1999, when survey takers asked Americans "Do you consider yourself spiritual or religious," a solid majority of 54 percent responded that they were "religious but not spiritual." By 2009, only 9 percent of Americans responded that way. In 10 years, those willing to identify themselves primarily as "religious" plummeted by 45 percentage points.
In the last decade, the word "religion" has become equated with institutional or organized religion. Because of crises such as the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the Roman Catholic abuse scandal, Americans now define "religion" in almost exclusively negative terms. These larger events, especially when combined with increasing irrelevance of too much of organized religion, contributed to an overall decline in church membership, and an overall decline of the numbers of Christians, in the United States.
There may be hope, however, regarding the future of faith. Despite worry about the word, "religion," Americans are extremely warm toward "spiritual but not religious" (30 percent) and, even more interestingly (and perhaps paradoxically), the term "spiritual and religious" (48 percent). While "religion" means institutional religion, "spirituality" means an experience of faith. Large numbers of Americans are hankering for experiential faith whereby they can connect with God, the divine, or wonder as well as with their neighbors and that lead to a more profound sense of meaning in the world. Maybe Americans once called this "religion," but no more. Americans call it "spirituality."
Some Americans want to be spiritually left alone, without complications from organized religion. But nearly half of Americans appear to hope for a spiritual reformation -- or even revolution -- in their faith traditions and denominations. Congregations that exhibit a vibrant spiritual life embodying a living faith in practical ways succeeding, even in the religion bear market. These sorts of communities are models of what might be possible to renew wearied organizations. But the macro-structures of American faith -- denominations -- have yet to hear this message. They are still trying to fix institutional problems and flex political muscle instead of tending to the spiritual longings of regular Americans.
"Spiritual and religious" expresses a grassroots desire for new kinds of faith communities, where institutional structures do not inhibit or impede one's relationship with God or neighbor. Americans are searching for churches -- and temples, synagogues, and mosques -- that are not caught up in political intrigue, rigid rules and prohibitions, institutional maintenance, unresponsive authorities, and inflexible dogma but instead offer pathways of life-giving spiritual experience, connection, meaning, vocation, and doing justice in the world. Americans are not rejecting faith -- they are, however, rejecting self-serving religious institutions.
The end of conventional church isn't necessarily a bad thing. Christianity after religion, a faith renewed by the experience of God's spirit, is closer to what Jesus hoped for his followers than the scandalous division, politics, and enmity we have now. Will there still be Christianity after the end of institutional religion? Yes, there will be. But it is going to be different than what Americans have known, a faith responsive to the longings of those who are expecting more spiritual depth and greater ethical integrity rather than more conventional church. Indeed, I suspect that the end of church is only the beginning of a new Great Awakening.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Powerful new insights on how to resist the devil

Too often we separate Scripture and spiritual principles from the real world.  As a result, these principles loose much of their power.  For instance, James 4:7 tells us to "resist the devil and he will flee from you".

But, how exactly to we do this?  

No doubt, James had in mind real life examples of combat when he wrote these words.  No doubt, he had seen someone physically attacked and he could picture the one being attacked resisting the attacker.  (In the Greek, "resist" is a compound word:  anti + istemi.  Literally, "to stand against".)  Seeing a literal picture of someone resisting or standing against an attacker gives us powerful insights into how to engage in spiritual warfare against the devil.

Here's an example.  In this short video, Tony Blauer, an expert in personal self-defense, demonstrates a key skill in resisting.  Here are some things that I notice.

1.  Perhaps most important is Tony's attitude.  Because he is both conditioned and skilled, he exudes confidence.  He isn't "quaking in his boots" at the prospect of being attacked.  If anything, the attacker is in for a rude awakening.  This reminds me of Jesus' attitude during his encounter with the devil in Matthew 4.  Can you picture yourself having this same confident attitude?

2.  Resisting requires particular skills.  In this video, Tony is teaching "Outside 90".  What skills are necessary to resist the devil?

3.  Resisting requires that we practice the skills of combat.  Just knowing the theory isn't enough.  We must become practitioners.  We know that God is infinitely more powerful than the devil and could get rid of him at any moment.  Why doesn't He?  At least one reason is that we need an opponent to grow stronger and more skilled.  (1 Peter 5:8 even calls the devil our "opponent" or "adversary".)

What else to you learn about "resisting the devil" from this video?