Sunday, October 31, 2010

making a name for yourself

Do you want to have a great reputation? 
Do you want your name to be held in high esteem?
Do you want others to honor and respect you?
Do you want to be recognized as the greatest?  

If you answered yes to all these questions then what it is that you want is to be like God.  This could be a good desire or a bad desire.  It all depends on who God is to you.

According to the Bible, because God is great he does certain things.

 For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who is not partial and takes no bribe.
 He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing. (Deuteronomy 10:17-18 ESV)
Widows, orphans, and travellers; these are the folks that have nothing to call their own and nothing to offer to others.  These are the lowest of the low, the poorest of the poor and God demonstrates his greatness and power by taking care of them.  To be the greatest is to serve the lowest.  The first shall be last, the least is actually the greatest.  The greatest among us must be the servant of all.  The highest and best seat is on the floor where we can wash each others feet.. 
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
(Philippians 2:5-8 ESV)
Christ shows us what greatness is...what real obedience is.  It is to be humble and care nothing for ourselves but rather to give ourselves for others.  We cannot do the work of Jesus and die on a cross for the lowest of the low in order to save them and bring them to God but we can die to our wants and desires in order to give of ourselves and our possessions to those who cannot give back.  That is...if we truly want to have our yes to all the questions we began with...
Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
(Philippians 2:9-11 ESV)
So, if you are like me and you want to make a name for yourself now you know how to do it.  All you need is a new nature that is like God's nature and to walk in obedience.

He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it.
Revelation 2:17

The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name
Revelation 3:12

Thursday, October 28, 2010

promised or predestined?

This post is not going to be about election conditional, unconditional, political or otherwise.  Rather I have been thinking a lot about straw man arguments and the "end of the road" scenarios.  Will adherence to particular sets of doctrines inevitably lead to the extreme of those beliefs?  Do all Calvinists eventually become fatalists?  Do Armenians eventually trust in themselves and their works for salvation?  Do all those who leave the institutional church eventually become emergent?  Are we predestined to become the straw men that others so easily destroy?

Who knows?  Sure some will go to the extreme.  Some won't.  When we discuss things among one another we should deal with the present, with where we are and what we believe right now.  If we are in Christ and we are carrying our cross then we will be growing.  Who we are today is not who we will be tomorrow.  If we are going to build a straw man argument and superimpose it onto a brother or sister in Christ it should make them look more like Christ than they do today, not less.  Especially if we take God's promises to us in Christ seriously.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

denominational danger

I have my blue-eyed beauty to thank for inspiring this idol smashing, body building attempt at deconstruction.
Do you not know that you are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy him. For God's temple is holy, and you are that temple.
(1 Corinthians 3:16-17 ESV)
Believe it or not the above verse isn't talking about smoking, drinking, or chewing (or hanging with those that are doing, hehe).  It is talking about building up God's building, God's garden; the assembly of believers which is God's chosen temple in which to dwell.  You destroy the assembly, God destroys you...any questions?
Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19-21 ESV)
I find it telling that the apostle puts divisions in the same list as sorcery, drunkenness, and orgies yet we think it is perfectly acceptable to have a seperate church for every tribe, tongue, denomination, and confession up and down main street, USA.  If our doctrinal differences and our confessional divides leading to denominations are what Paul is calling rivalries, dissensions, divisions, enmity, and strife then our church buildings would be no worse with a hash bar in the vestibule, a dancing pole instead of a pulpit, and a community bath in the baptismal.  Division is just as evil.

Now if you that that is sacrilegious speech and it brings up emotions in you because you want to defend your precious building then my response is to think of how God's wrath burns against those who divide his family into these denominational battlegrounds.  If I intend to divide anything it is to divide God's temple (the ekklesia or assembly) from the idols we call church buildings that we have built to keep us apart.  May all of God's children come out of the buildings, denominations, and divisions and come together as one unified body.  If your building is an idol for you, you are pretty hot with me right now for attacking it.  If the building you meet in is not an idol for you then you probably think I should have been less, shall we say, abrasive.  Maybe so, yet I still pray that God will take the seed I stomp into the ground and have it bear fruit because I love my brothers and sisters and I hate the divisions.

Remember it is all about Jesus Christ.
For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.
(Ephesians 2:14-15; Ephesians 2:16-22 ESV)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Why We Love the Church

I've finished reading the book Why we love the Church by Kevin Deyoung and Ted Kluck. This is not going to be a book review.  It will be more of a rant at times and a personal reflection at others, very much like the book was.

I expected a book that would challenge me because I am someone who has left organized, institutional church, but I was quite disappointed.   It made me uncomfortable but not in a good and challenging way but more in a knowledge that one of these guys is a preacher.  Their definition of "church" is not the same what we have in the Bible as it seems to include all the things that happen in or around a particular building rather than the body of believers that gather there.  As far as I can tell the biggest reason that these authors love the church is because they are very afraid of becoming emergent or being labeled as emergent.  This is a fear I can relate to as I come from a "reformed" and a somewhat biblically intellectual viewpoint.  To many in the reformed camp "emergent" and "postmodern" are swear words that reek of heresy.  Therefore when I see that the authors who set out to write a book on the "praise of organized, institutional Christianity" and throughout the book they revert to scare tactics it makes my blood boil.  At worst it is manipulative, at best it is simply weak. 

Deyoung and Kluck write in such a way as to promote the idea that everyone who leaves the institutional, organized church is disgruntled in some way and dissatisfied with Jesus.  They seem to think that those who are dissatisfied with the institutional structures have taken a backward step in growing in our faith or we have left the faith altogether.  Throughout the majority of the book one would get the impression that those who leave the church do so primarily for personal reasons because we are biblically ignorant and lack a good foundation in doctrine and history.  Buh - lone - knee.

I am reminded of Romans 8:28 as I think back on this book.  I can say with confidence that God has used this book for my good because now that I have read the best that has been written to the praise of the organized, institutional church the more confident I am that it is not where I need to be.  I have seen such an overwhelming amount of biblical evidence for gathering in a more simple, organic, participatory house church setting that the reading of 'Why we love the Church" with its utter lack of biblical emphasis makes me jump for joy that I have faithfully come out of the religious systems I once embraced.

This book may have been a good sequel to Why Were Not Emergent but it was a far cry from "Why the bible says we should love the organized instututional church". 

  • I am not going to be re-joining the choruses that are singing praises to the church as we know it. 
  • I am not going to re-attatch myself and my family to the things that are called church. 
  • I am not going to run back because the heretical boogey-man might get me. 
  • I do feel at times like I am out in the wilderness.
  • I am looking for a better place to rest.
  • I know there are more that have been called out and God will bring us together.
  • In trust, I'm marching to Zion.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Holy of Holies=Church=new Jerusalem?

Recently Eric asked a question that has had me thinking about the New Jerusalem in John's revelation and how we should understand it.  I came across the following passage today and never before meditated on the mention of the heavenly Jerusalem. It says "we have come" as if to say that we have already arrived.  See for yourself.
But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.
(Hebrews 12:22-24 ESV)

For me this is a new revelation and the implications of this are staggering because he is writing to the assembly of believers now alive.  Now, look at what John wrote regarding the new Jerusalem as he described his revelation :
And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. (Revelation 21:2-3 ESV)
Granted the old heaven and earth have not yet passed away and every tear has not yet been wiped away in this age but much of this is true for us today.  Consider what Christ has already accomplished once and for all :
he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.
(Hebrews 9:12 ESV)
A little later he tells us how we enter in.

Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.  (Hebrews 10:19-22 ESV)

Now let me try to pull these thoughts together.  In the Jewish temple, the Holy of Holies was the place that God dwelled.  No one could enter there except for the high priest.  He could only enter once per year.  The Holy of Holies was shaped like a cube and the entrance was covered with a curtain.  All these things pointed forward to something greater.  The curtain that covered the Holy of Holies ws torn from top to bottom when Christ breathed his last on the cross.  Hebrews tells us that we enter into the Holy place through the curtain, that is, through his flesh.  So the curtain pointed forward to the once for all atoning death of Christ on the cross and only through Christ can we enter into the Holy place (the dwelling place of God).  So Christ is the curtain and it is only through him that we can enter in.  But enter into what?.

The Holy of Holies of course!  Now, what about the cube shaped Holy of Holies?  The new Jerusalem in John's revelation is also a cube and describes as being "adorned as a bride for her husband".  Could it be that the Holy of Holies was a foreshadowing of the new Jerusalem and that the new Jerusalem is symbolic of the assembly of believers?  They are all described as the place where God dwells.

I am beginning to think so and it is a glorious thing to meditate on.

What do you think?

Sunday, October 24, 2010

perfect post for a Sunday sick day

Yesterday was misery for me.  I was like someone was blowing a balloon up in my head and then trying to pop it through my ear.  When I wasn't cowering in a dark corner of the house, hiding from the light and the noise, I was thanking God for the dizzying relief of some leftover tablets from the medicine cabinet.  Today I feel much better than yesterday but still wincing at loud noises.  Combine that with more than a week of In-laws visiting and one of the busiest home school weeks we've ever experienced thus far and what you have is a lost boy and a blue-eyed girl thinking our rest will be best at home this Sunday.

 This morning I woke with feelings and thoughts of guilt over wanting to stay at home rather than gather with the believers today.  Granted, I should want to be with my brothers and sisters as often as possible and I don't do everything I can to be in daily contact with them.  But that is not why I was beating myself up this morning.  Today it is more about sinning by being home on the Lords Day. 

By God's providence I read this morning where Arthur at The voice of one crying out in suburbia has shared more of his thoughts on the sabbath and how it fits into the creation order.
"See when I read Genesis 1, the primary message I see is not the seventh day. It is God creating the heavens and the earth, God creating ex nihilo all that we see around us and on the sixth day God's crowning achievement, creating man in His own image. The day of rest is what He did after He carried out His primary purpose of creation and creation was not merely a vehicle to get Him to that seventh day. Genesis 1 is not a story primarily about the Sabbath. It is a story of creation by the Creator, a grand framework to understand who God is and who man is in relation to Him."
You should read the rest of his post.  What he writes resounds with me because I know he hails from the sola-scriptura side of any argument which sometimes leaves him with a different opinion than our other "reformed" brothers.  I can most definitely relate to that.

So on this morning I am reminded that to be separate from the rest of the body of Christ leaves me lacking and incomplete and I realize that guilt over not gathering with them today is not from God.  I am resting in Christ today and I look forward to my next opportunity to join with believers that we may be mutually edified. 

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Do not quench the Spirit

What does it mean to quench the Spirit? 
There is a great post at Participatory Church Gatherings on the freedom of the Spirit.  They make the point that "the spirit blows where it wills" (Jn 3:8) is not just for bringing about new birth.  The spirit is free to move as it will at all times including when the church gathers together.  That is, unless we quench the spirit.  A quick look at the context from which we get the term quenching the spirit reveals that Paul is talking about silencing the prophets in the church.

 Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil.
(1 Thessalonians 5:16-22 ESV)
What do you think?  As we re rejoicing, praying, and being thankful in all things should we not also, with the same zeal, give place to the gifts of prophecy and be faithful to test what is said? 

Is the Spirit free to blow as it will when you gather with the church?  Or is the ministry of the spirit confined to the chosen few and must stay within the parameters set by the predetermined order of worship as written in the bulliten?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

What's Behind Blue Eyes?

My lovely wife has just launched her new blog.  She has a very unique perspective on all of life.  I'm sure we could all benefit and be challenged by her ponderings and persuasions.  Click over to her blog and take a look at whats Behind Blue Eyes.  Add her to your reading list, tell your wife, tell your daughters, tell your friends, tell your own blog readers.

One of her first posts is about motherhood and she gives us a glimpse into her mind as she ponders this monumental responsibility.

Luke 6:40 A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher.

Ok so I'm sure no one else has ever had this convo in their head as a parent after reading something or talking to someone. "Oh crap, I am totally going to screw my kids up! Why the heck did God give me these little people that I can ruin???" "Relax, you aren't going to ruin them." "Relax? RELAX?!? How can I relax? Did you read that passage? it says that the kids when they are fully trained will be like me!!! ME?!? I'm a basket case, why the heck do I want them to be like me, I want them to be better than me" "But Self, that is what the verse says, they will be like me." Really? do we really want them to be like me? I mean look at me I'm holding a whole conversation in my head."  "Good point....ok so the only other option is to freak out." "my sentiments exactly.'' FREAK OUT!!!!!!

Yep sounds like my wifey!  The rest of her post is more rational I assure you.  Her honesty and the genuine nature of her musings from the mind of a woman who loves the Lord is refreshing.  Don't miss this, I surely won't.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

A new favorite

Ephesians is quickly becoming my favorite letter in the Bible.

In recent history my personal fave has been Romans.  I love the letter to the church in Rome mainly because I have come to love the way that the Apostle Paul explains what He has learned about the sovereignty of God over all of His creation.  I rejoice the most in the knowledge that I now stand forgiven and innocent before Holy and Almighty God because of what Jesus did for me.  Since God did for me what I could not do for myself, no one can undo what God has done and is doing in my life.  I love how rock solid those promises are for us in Christ.

Ephesians is one of Paul's last letters (if not the last).  We should be able to expect to see in Paul's understanding a noticeable growth as his understanding is shaped by fellowship with Christ in the Spirit.  It seems to me that much of the beginnings of his letter to the church in Ephesus is spent trying to write words that would describe the indescribable desires and revelations that have been given to Paul.

It has given me a fresh perspective on how vast and immeasurable is the knowledge of God.  God is ... like ... huge.  There are so many wonderful words we could use to describe Him and all of them only catch a glimmer of His radiance.  With this fresh perspective of God's holiness has come a fresh embrace of the news of the life, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  It is by faith in Christ that we have been brought back to God.  Now we can begin to see Him for who He is.  How exciting!

In Paul's letter to Ephesus He says a prayer for the saints.  In this prayer we get a glimpse of how immense and profitable our union with Christ is for us.

I've been chewing on this for a while and it never loses it's flavor.  We are His body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.  How can we possibly live in a manner worthy of such a calling?
15 For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love [6] toward all the saints, 16 I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, 18 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might 20 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22 And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Individual Maturity

Mature in Christ ... Oh how we long for this to be a description of our lives.  Sermons and books and Sunday school lessons have all played a part in equipping individuals with the spiritual disciplines necessary to strive for holiness.  These are all good and beneficial but do they lead to the kind of maturity we long for?  Sure, practicing good self discipline will aid to the health of individual members in the body, but what of the health of the whole body?  After all, isn't the body of Christ made up of many members?  Shouldn't we long for and strive for maturity not just on an individual level but also on a corporate level? 

It is my hope for the Church that God would give us a vision and a desire that would match His own.  We were created in His image and redeemed from sin and death so that we would be a body through which He could manifest Himself and a temple in which He could dwell.  We are the family of God.  His bride, his children and the brothers and sisters of His only begotten son:  our Lord and Savior Christ Jesus.  I want to be a part of an assembly that is known as "the house of God".  Not some building, but a body of flesh and blood made of people who love and serve and stir one another up to love and serve others from every tribe, tongue and nation.  A body set apart and marked by godliness. 

Maybe I'm reaching for something too lofty.  What I long for is maturity in Christ within a body of unified believers with a single banner:  our love, devotion, and insatiable desire for more of Jesus.  I hope that as we gather together this will be our goal and vision.  May we edify one another in such a way that we are made to be one.  One with Christ and with one another and mature as an individual, not only an individual person but as an individual body in Christ.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

grammatical millstones

In past times as I have grown to see Jesus more clearly I have also grown in my desire to serve others.  It makes sense that I would resemble Him more as I see Him and His example. Jesus demonstrated this in His life and ministry and as I have understood more fully my union with Him I notice His Spirit moving me to live for others. I want to be a servant and a minister. I have been taught that this is the role of a deacon in the church.  With this knowledge my mind moved in the direction of being recognized as a deacon so that I would have more opportunity to serve the body. Yet, I have consistently been wary of moving in that direction because I perceived within myself that my desire to serve was being replaced by a desire to be recognized so that I might be sought out for service.

Now that I gather with believers in a more participatory fashion, my desire to serve hasn't diminished but it is no longer being answered with a desire for recognition.  Sure, when I serve others it is a joy to see the recipients of God's grace glorifying Him due to my ministry and the praise of His glorious grace should be my desire in all I do.  My difficulty comes in knowing how bent I am for my own praise and recognition and it seems that positions and titles only promote this kind of self exaltation and all in the name of Jesus!

Maybe we should think of words such as minister, deacon, pastor, shepherd, elder, leader and teacher as adjectives (describing a person) rather than prepositions (positions a person is in) so that the works are magnified rather than the person.  Maybe then I would have been free to serve without feeling as though I had to be recognized as qualified before I obeyed.  I can't blame grammatical error for my own sins of ommission.  Still though, if I am not alone in feeling unqualified because I am not recognized then in light of the consistent admonishment and exhortation for all members to serve one another we read in scripture, maybe we should hand a millstone around our necks next time we participate in an ordination for causing little ones to stumble.
Agree?  please share your experience

Disagree?   Is there scripture I should consider more that would help shape my understanding? 

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

still under construction...

I've been fooling around with the template code in my blog today.  I wasn't fond of the dark screen and the matrix background image wasn't really what I wanted.  I'm liking this a lot better.  I think it's still legible enough and I'm hoping that when I pull it up on my mobile browser I will actually be able to post comments on my own blog!  (yay!) 

What do ya think?  better?  worse?  advice?

feedback and constructive criticism will be greatly appreciated.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Replaced by Pointers

Several years back there was a billboard near my home with this message on it from the ever-so graceful and tactful Saturday only Jesus followers.  I remember being angry when I first read it.  I had passing thoughts of vandalizing it for spreading lies.  I hated that sign.

Years have passed since then.  Many things have changed in my thinking.  I'm no adventist (for sure) but as I drove past that spot the other day I looked up at that billboard sign.  Even though the adventist advertisement is long gone I remembered it as I looked on and I thought about religious traditions.

When it comes to questioning traditions we find it very easy to challenge other peoples traditions and consider them foolish, even heretical.  We never stop to think about the similarities between what we believe and what "they" believe and how we can be the same yet divided.  Sure there are lots of differences and that is why we find it so easy to point them out. We are supposed to be defenders of the truth, right?   But maybe there is more to it than that.  What if our defence of our traditions is an exercise in futility as we defend and cling to what have become meaningless and maybe even harmful practices. For instance,  in the case of adventism, how easy is it to get distracted on the Saturday versus Sunday debate and completely lose sight of Jesus Christ.  He is Lord of the Sabbath and is the embodiment of our rest.  We find our rest in Him.  In His finished work over sin, in His sovereignty in all things, in His authority and power and dominion.  The day is supposed to point to the Man yet the traditions took His place.

As we ponder this, let us not get distracted with adventism but think of other traditions, even those debated among more orthodox Christian establishments.  How many of our traditions have taken the place of Christ instead of remaining the pointers to Christ that they were meant to be?

Saturday, October 2, 2010

breaking the skin

I've been thinking alot about church structure lately.  Structure entails many things:  buildings, programs, systems, schedules, and organization.  While all of these things occupy my meditations at some time or another recently right now I am mostly thinking about structure as it pertains to the religious system.

Here's my thoughts:  In the Old Testament God ordained and commanded that a tabernacle be built in the wilderness, a temple to be built in the promised land, endless animal sacrifices for endless sin, a priesthood, and strict adherence to the laws and ordinances.  In the New Testament we are told that all of these things were a shadow of the things to come.  A pointing forward to something greater.  The greater thing has now come and His name was Jesus Christ.  He is the embodiment of all these things.  They all pointed forward to Him.  Now that He has ascended He dwells within us who have placed our faith in Him.  We are His body.  we are His temple.  We are His family.  We are His bride.

Now my question:  Since Jesus is the fulfillment of all the pointers of the OT and He is now manifested as a corporate body here on earth making us a corporate manifestation that fulfills all of the same foreshadowing...why do we continue to build and hold tight to religious systems that are meant to point us and others to Christ Jesus?   Isn't that the same as putting new wine into old wine skins?
This is a test of the mobile blogger system. This is only a test.

deconstructing is under construction

It has been such a long time since I blogged I have forgotten how to build a good page.  Right now I'm going to focus on getting some of these things off my mind  and at least into draft form.  If you stumble over to my blog and want to drop some advice to help me build my page I would appreciate it.