Saturday, January 29, 2011

Marriage: Head = Authority?

 Until recently I have been satisfied with considering myself in the complimentarian camp.  Now, I'm not so sure.  I grew up in Baptist churches and later attended a Reformed Baptist church where I heard a lot of talk about the roles of men and women both in the home and in the church.  I have read numerous books and articles discussing the difference between the complimentarian and egalitarian views of men and women.

This post is not going to be in any way exhaustive.  There have been books written on this subject that are thicker than the Bible itself discussing what the Bible has to say about it.  I am only going to give some very brief definitions of each camp as it pertains to my thoughts in this particular post.  Mostly this post is about authority.  In that sphere of thought authority according to a complementarian rests fully in the hands of the husband and the egalitarians believe that it can be either the husband or the wife or even a mutuality in decision making between the two.

There is only one place I have found where the New Testament mentions authority in the marriage.  The passage reads as follows:
The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. 
(1 Corinthians 7:3-5 ESV)
This passage makes me think that authority is mutual, especially in the physical nature of the relationship.  So why would anyone contend that this mutual authority is granted only for physical matters?  Why wouldn't a man and wife devote themselves to prayer regarding every decision in their lives and then come to a consentual agreement?

Another place I found the same word for authority was in Luke.  It says:
And he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. 
(Luke 22:25-26 ESV)
Now this really makes me think about authority differently.  Leadership is not about authority but rather about serving one another.  How would this understanding apply to the marriage relationship?

Then there are the scriptures that compare man and wife to Christ and the Church.  Surely Christ has authority over the Church and so a man has authority over his wife, right?  I'm not so sure.  Again, Christ demonstrated what leadership is by giving his life for the Church.  This can be seen also as he washed the disciples feet at the last supper.  Well we have scriptures that say that Christ is the head of the Church and man is the head of his wife like this one:

But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God. 
(1 Corinthians 11:3 ESV)

Doesn't this assume authority?  Yes, it does seem to.   But if headship meant authority wouldn't that skew the Godhead?  But...if head doesn't mean authority, what does it mean?

I don't know what to think right now.  I'm really confused.  The whole issue seems to be a paradox.  I'll keep reading.

Challenging traditional teaching is good for building up our understanding but...  my, my, my ... it is sometimes quite burdensome.  Have you thought about these things?  What has helped shape your understanding the most?

Thinking about stained glass

Alan Knox brought the song Stained Glass Masquerade by Casting Crowns to mind as he commented about another post written by Arthur Sido at The Voice Of One Crying Out In Suburbia titled : hiding behind our suits and smiles
 "The way we do church, gathering on schedule for an hour to “worship” leads to people hiding their hurting behind smiling faces and their Sunday best. We are rarely honest with each other because we spend so little time together. We need to get out of the pew and get into the lives and homes and families of other believers.
I get what they are saying:  the church is hiding behind stained glass and putting on a show for one another.  There is no intimate connectedness in any way that allows us to bear one another's burdens as we should.  I say we should stop hiding behind the stained glass and become like stained glass.  We should be transparent like glass although our lives are stained with sin, suffering and imperfections.

The Bible has a lot to say about the difference between the darkness and the light.  When we hide our lives from others it is like we are living in the dark.  Things cannot be hidden in the light.  The light exposes them for all to see.  I believe that the way we hide from one another is darkness that must be driven out by the light.  As the light begins to shine through the stained glass which is our lives it is then that the beauty of Christ's work can be seen by others.  Stained glass is not beautiful unless the light is shining through it.


Thursday, January 27, 2011

Reading out of my comfort zone

I requested my next book from the Booksneeze program. The selection is dwindling down like Thomas Nelson is on the endangered species list but I'm a sucker for free books so I chose Finding Our Way Again by Brian McLaren.

I don't expect to find my way again by reading this book. Actually, all I expect to find is bad theology from Brian. I may be surprised at what I find. This is not a book I would normally spend the money God has trusted me with to purchase for myself so I am glad I am getting it for free. In fact, as I write I have some reservations for spending the time He has given me by reading it. Still yet, in order to not close myself in a box with those who think and write the same things that I do I will read it and I trust that God will use this book to reveal something of himself to me.

Here is a blurb from the publisher.
Why have certain spiritual disciplines been in use for centuries, and why are they so important?
It is questionable if one can ever be exactly the same person waking up on two consecutive days. How are spiritual sojourners to cope with the constant change? Many are beginning to explore the ancient Christian spiritual practices, such as fixed-hour prayer, fasting and sincere observance of the Sabbath. What is causing this hunger for deeper spirituality?
Brian McLaren guides us on this quest for an explanation of these spiritual practices, many of which go all the way back to Abraham and the establishment of Israel. In the midst of contemporary Christianity, we discover the beauty of these disciplines and the transformation through Christ that each can provide.
Includes foreword by Phyllis Tickle and leads into seven additional titles, The Ancient Practices, a classic series featuring some of the leading writers on spirituality in the world today.

The case against Christ

We love Jesus.  Because of this love we overflow with good tidings and service for our neighbors. We can wait for opportunities to speak of Christ or create those opportunities by demonstrating his love to us and through us.  Conversations about our faith can range from being a testimony of the hope that is within us or a defense of the validity of our beliefs.  There are many arguments against the truthfulness of the Bible and the foundation of our faith.

The foundation of our faith is the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  This is the good news that has brought life to scores of men and women through faith.  There are many who deny that the gospel is historical truth and they do so with numerous and sometimes compelling arguments.  For many, blind faith that believes because the Bible says so is not good enough.  Charles Foster is one of these people and so he sets out to write a book presenting both the case for and against the Christ.

Charles was created and molded for this work.  As a lawyer he makes a living arguing for and against evidence in a court of law.  In his book The Jesus Inquest he takes every valid argument against the gospels, the death, burial, resurrection of Jesus, and the beliefs of the early church regarding the gospel and presents them in a very convincing manner.  The format is done in such a way as I would expect it to be done in a court of law.  First he presents the arguments and evidence against the Christ and then he responds the those arguments from a Christian perspective.  In the end, you are the juror and you decide which side has the better case.

This book did not put me in a place where I can say that I believe in Jesus beyond a reasonable doubt.  What it did is present to me many arguments that created reasonable doubt and then reasons why those doubts weren't very reasonable.  (did that make sense?)  If I learned anything by reading this book it is this:  there are many ways to try to discredit the truth of the gospel and that left purely to reason I would not be a believer.  I know the gospel is true because it has been made true for me not because I could win an argument with an unbeliever and for that I am thankful for the revelation God has given me of who He is in Christ.  

If you love apologetics or you find yourself at a loss for words when confronted with someone who can present a solid case against what you believe to be true about the gospel then this book is for you.  Every valid argument I have ever heard and many that I have never even considered are contained within.  It was nearly exhaustive.  If are interested in a purely existential argument regarding the historicity of the gospel message then you will enjoy this book.

 I received this book free from Thomas Nelson as part of their BookSneeze program.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

God doesn't forgive you just because you ask him to.

  • "I'm not a bad person. I try to do the right things. When I mess up, I ask God to forgive me and He does."

    If I have heard it once, I've heard it a thousand times and it bugs me because many believe that God's forgiveness is granted upon request. No! We are not forgiven because we ask God to forgive us. We are forgiven because our sins (past, present and future) are covered by the blood of Christ.

     for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. Matthew 26:28
     In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, Ephesians 1:7
    Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins. Hebrews 9:2 

    Some agree and say "yes, our sins are covered by the blood of Jesus but we still have to ask for forgiveness in order to receive it". Again I say, NO! We are not forgiven because we ask for forgiveness. Our sins are forgiven only because we believe that Christ's blood covers our sins (assuming we agree with God that we have sinned, confession IS necessary).

     To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”Acts 10:43
     to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’ Acts 26:18

    Should we ask for forgiveness? Yes. Jesus taught us to pray "forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us." But our forgiveness does not come because we ask. We are forgiven because Christ paid for our sin. The blood is for God to see. When God looks at those who have placed our faith in Christ, He sees blood. He no longer sees our sin.

    He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, Hebrews 1:3
     But when Christ1 had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, Hebrews 10:12

    When we hear a person say that they have asked God to forgive them we must let them know that God does not forgive on the grounds of our asking. He forgives not because of what we do or what we say or what we ask. He forgives because Jesus' blood was spilled for our sin.
  •  in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. Colossians 1:14

  • It is only on these truths that we can move out of the bondage that sin holds us in. It's is like a never-ending cycle. We sin, we ask, we sin, we ask, we sin, we ask, we sin, we ask, we sin, we ask. It does not have to continue. Instead of we sin, we ask we have Christ died, IT IS FINISHED! It is finished and so we are free. No longer should we worry about whether we have asked to be forgiven for every sin. It is finished. All of our sins are covered by the blood of Christ. He finished the job. He left nothing undone where we have to pick up his slack. Believe it.

     And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Acts 2:38
     Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin. Hebrews 10:18
    If you are struggling with some past or present sin, let me assure you of something;  if you are in Christ then your sins have already been forgiven.  If you believe that the same one who created everything by the divine power of the words from his mouth has declared you to be innocent on his account then nothing can change that.  The key is to be in Christ.  To walk by faith in Him.  To believe and trust Him.  Day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute in fellowship and conversation with your King.  If ever we lose sight of the beauty of the good news that God has come to dwell within man then our sights are set on ourselves again.  We see our failures, our shortcomings, our sins, our inadequacies.  Christ doesn't want you looking to yourself, He wants you to look to Him.  So right here, right now, pray to your brother, your Lord, and your savior and ask Him to reveal Himself to you as never before.  Open your Bible and look for Christ.  When you see Him more fully you will be so overwhelmed by His majesty that your struggles will be overcome by His worth.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Divine Life

Here is a wonderful reminder of what our union with Christ effects in our heart and mind.  As we find our rest in Christ I hope this excerpt blesses you as much as it has blessed me.
I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. (John 10:10 ISV)
Remember - "In Him was life" (John 1:4). Is He different in nature from other men? Everyone can see that He is different from other men in His very nature, and the difference is made by this Life that is in Him. This Life brings with it a new and different consciousness. Look at the Lord Jesus! What was His real consciousness? This was a thing about which He was always speaking, and it was so very evident in His case. He said: "I and the Father are one" (John 10:30); "I do always the things that are pleasing to Him" (the Father) (John 8:29); "The works that I do in My Father's name" (John 10:25). Oh, this word 'Father' in John's Gospel!
The consciousness of Jesus Christ every day was of His union with His Father, the oneness that existed between them: "As Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee" (John 17:21). The consciousness of the Lord Jesus was of the very closest union with God as His Father, and that was because the very life of God was in Him. His life was a God-conscious life; but God-consciousness in the sense of perfect oneness. And that is what it means to have this Life. Man never had that. Jesus came to bring it in His own person: not to talk about union with God, but to live out a life of union with God and to bring His disciples into the same union. "I came that they might have life" - in other words: "I am come that they may have the same consciousness of God as Father that I have and that they may have the same Divine nature in them as I have."

By T. Austin-Sparks from: Discipleship In The School Of Christ - Chapter 2 

President Obama makes statement on Roe v. Wade 38th anniversary

Thank you Justin Taylor

The President’s statement on the Roe v. Wade anniversary:
Today marks the 38th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that protects women’s health and reproductive freedom, and affirms a fundamental principle: that government should not intrude on private family matters.
I am committed to protecting this constitutional right. I also remain committed to policies, initiatives, and programs that help prevent unintended pregnancies, support pregnant women and mothers, encourage healthy relationships, and promote adoption.
And on this anniversary, I hope that we will recommit ourselves more broadly to ensuring that our daughters have the same rights, the same freedoms, and the same opportunities as our sons to fulfill their dreams.
Which reminds me of this response to the President a few years ago:

Charismatic Chaos?

Many preachers today when preaching through 1 Corinthians get to the passages in chapter 14 that give instructions to the church and declare that what Paul is correcting in the church is the chaos of the gathering.  Clearly this is a correct understanding of what is going on in Corinth.  Believers were coming together and trying to speak over each other.  There were folks speaking in tongues all at the same time with no interpreter.  There was no order.  So, Paul writes instructions to the church regarding the gathering.

What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up. If any speak in a tongue, let there be only two or at most three, and each in turn, and let someone interpret. But if there is no one to interpret, let each of them keep silent in church and speak to himself and to God. Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others weigh what is said. If a revelation is made to another sitting there, let the first be silent. For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all be encouraged, and the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets. For God is not a God of confusion but of peace,...(1 Corinthians 14:26-33a ESV)
 So we can see in this passage that when the church gathered (when you come together) everyone was bringing something to add to the gathering (each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation.  Now the question is:  was this the problem?  Clearly it is not.  The problem was that they were bringing things in a way that was not intentional for building up others.  In fact, Paul in order to correct this, instructs them how to bring order to their gathering.  Yet, contrary to what we see today, Paul does not instruct them to appoint one spiritually mature person to speak for the building up of the body.  Rather, He instructs them to let two or three members speak in tongues (with an interpreter).  Then he says let two or three prophets speak.  Then if there is a revelation made to another, let the first be silent.  Also there are the other prophets who are to weigh what is said.  If correction needs to be made it is understood that that person would be speaking as well.  Then there is the mention from the beginning of the passage regarding hymns and lessons.  Earlier in this letter and in numerous other places we see that public prayer was a part of the gathering and that a meal was shared and it would be crazy for us to think that they were completely silent throughout the meal.

So how many people are speaking?  Three tongues, at least one interpreter, three prophets, someone speaking to weigh and correct the prophets if needed, someone bringing a song, a lesson, a revelation...what are we up to now...eleven?  This was Paul's instruction to bring order to the gathering and today we have one preacher and a handful of others (hand-picked by the pastor) to contribute a prayer or a public reading of scripture.

Those who would contend that there was charasmatic chaos in the church of Corinth are absolutely correct but these same men discard Paul's instruction on how to make the gathering more orderly and replace it with an order of worship that centers on their sermon.  In my opinion, the sermonized centerpiece is another facet of the problem Paul was addressing where gifts were being put on display in such a way as to draw attention to the person in order to build themselves up.  This is evident by the numerous mentions by these men of the  authority they have been given over the church.  The only authority in the church is the Word of God.  That word became flesh and dwelt among us and now has come to live within us.  Each and every believer is in Christ (who IS the word) and has Christ in them.

The solution for charismatic chaos is not a sermon.  It is to have the mind of Christ in which mutual edification is the intention and the purpose of those who gather.

God is not an individual

As you gather together with other believers this is very important to remember.  God is not an individual.  God is a community of three persons who are One and since we are made in the image of God we are to live in Him not as individuals but as a community made up of different persons, yet all one.  Each one distinct in role and function yet working with and for the others. The top picture depicts an orthodox understanding of the Trinity.  God is One with three distinct members who are each fully God.   Each one doing everything for the other.

For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.  (John 6:38 ESV)

Community, diversity, oneness, family, mutuality.  The fellowship of God the Father with the Son and the Spirit gives us a better understanding of who we are meant to be as the church.  The picture below depicts it well.

We must get rid of the individualistic thinking as believers.  We were not called into Christ to be individuals.  We were called into Christ to be the Church.  The Church is not a gathering of individuals.  She is one body of many members, each one a piece of the whole.

  • 1 Corinthians 12:12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.

  • 1 Corinthians 12:18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose.

  • 1 Corinthians 12:25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.

  • 1 Corinthians 12:27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.

May we no longer think about what God is telling us (individuals).  Rather, let us seek what God's will is for us (corporately).  Let us see ourselves not as a collection of individual precious stones but as ONE spiritual building built out of many precious stones.

As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 2:4-5 ESV)

God is not an individual.  In Christ, we are not individuals.  We should live, serve ,and pray for the whole and not for ourselves. Like the Triune creator in whose image we are made we should do all things for one another to the glory of God.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

worldwide phenomenon

Modern technology is amazing!  In this day and time we have the ability to write things that software on our computers will translate for others who do not speak our language to read.  We also have the ability to read the writings of others who speak a different language than we do.  The following is a clip from a blog from a french speaking brother in Canada.  It seems that the problems with the institutional church is a phenomena that is not  exclusively in the United States.  Check this (the translation is a bit hazy but I think you'll get the picture):
People are much more open to spiritual realities that we are often led to believe.But the church is an obstacle. They are often open to God and Jesus, but reject categorically the traditional church. Often not by malice, but simply because they find it odd, and because the weight of history is against her.
We must stop trying to attract people to us. They will not, or very little. Because they have no reason to come. They are not interested in what they are given answers all our beautiful pre-chewed. And it is the pride of thinking that they should normally (not?), Be interested in our programs and our "help."

 Unless the church returns to her first love of being the body of Christ, we will not be bringing people to be disciples of Christ. We will only be bringing them to be disciples of the system.  Folks do not want or need another system.  What they need is to be a part of the family of God.

you feeling it?

Have you ever heard the expression "you could really feel the spirit move during the worship service this Sunday"?  I have.  Everywhere.  Not just in charasmatic or pentecostal churches but in Southern Baptist and even (gasp) reformed churches!  EVERYWHERE I'VE BEEN...  This cartoon made me chuckle and sigh all at the same time.  My lungs are confused.

Yeppers....thats about right.  It's all about knowing your audience and giving them what they want.  As long as you know what they want and then deliver it, the crowds keep coming.  Everyones happy because everyone is entertained.  This is NOT what the church looks like in the New Testament.  This is what is looked forward to by those who plan to "go to church" every week.

But is anyone growing?  Is anyone being equipped to minister?  Is God's temple being built?  Is Christ's body displayed including all its members?  Is Christ the Head (and by head I mean director)?  Is everyone able to participate and minister to one another freely yet with order as we see in 1 Cor 14?

The traditional church of today looks nothing like the church of the NT.  Do we really think that is a good thing?

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Are you a Calvinist?

This question and I have a love/hate relationship.  I hate this question because usually the person asking it has already drawn conclusions (usually false conclusions) about what a person believes simply by the "calvinist" label.  As a result, the rest of the dialogue turns into a sovereignty vs mindless robot debate.  What I love about the question is that it gives me an opportunity to share how indestructible our faith is when it is founded upon Christ and his unassisted, finished work in the lives of all those who have faith in him.  I thought that this debate among Christians would be worth a few thoughts as we focus especially this week on unity and where unity is needed the most.

Today I read the Desiringgod blog where John Piper encourages us to tell what we believe rather than assuming that the label is good enough.  This is most definitely the best approach to the type of questions that intend to apply labels.  Consider this:

If they say, “Are you a Calvinist?” say, “You decide. Here is what I believe . . .”
I believe I am so spiritually corrupt and prideful and rebellious that I would never have come to faith in Jesus without God’s merciful, sovereign victory over the last vestiges of my rebellion. (1 Corinthians 2:14Ephesians 3:1–4Romans 8:7).
I believe that God chose me to be his child before the foundation of the world, on the basis of nothing in me, foreknown or otherwise. (Ephesians 1:4–6Acts 13:48;Romans 8:29–3011:5–7)
I believe Christ died as a substitute for sinners to provide a bona fide offer of salvation to all people, and that he had an invincible design in his death to obtain his chosen bride, namely, the assembly of all believers, whose names were eternally written in the book of life of the Lamb that was slain. (John 3:16John 10:15Ephesians 5:25;Revelation 13:8)
When I was dead in my trespasses, and blind to the beauty of Christ, God made me alive, opened the eyes of my heart, granted me to believe, and united me to Jesus, with all the benefits of forgiveness and justification and eternal life. (Ephesians 2:4–52 Corinthians 4:6Philippians 2:29Ephesians 2:8–9Acts 16:14Ephesians 1:7;Philippians 3:9)
I am eternally secure not mainly because of anything I did in the past, but decisively because God is faithful to complete the work he began—to sustain my faith, and to keep me from apostasy, and to hold me back from sin that leads to death. (1 Corinthians 1:8–91 Thessalonians 5:23–24Philippians 1:61 Peter 1:5Jude 1:25;John 10:28–291 John 5:16)
 This reminds me of a debate I read about between Calvinist Charles Simeon (1759-1836) and Arminian John Wesley (1703-1791) about what they had in common in the midst of the controversy.

[Simeon] Sir, I understand that you are called an Arminian; and I have been sometimes called a Calvinist; and therefore I suppose we are to draw daggers.  But before I consent to begin the combat, with your permission I will ask you a few questions.  Pray, Sir, do you feel yourself a depraved creature, so depraved that you would never have thought of turning to God, if God had not first put it into your heart?
[Wesley] Yes, I do indeed.
[Simeon] And do you utterly despair of recommending yourself to God by anything you can do; and look for salvation solely through the blood and righteousness of Christ?
[Wesley] Yes, solely through Christ.
[Simeon] But, Sir, supposing you were at first saved by Christ, are you not somehow or other to save yourself afterwards by your own works?
[Wesley] No, I must be saved by Christ from first to last.
[Simeon] Allowing, then, that you were first turned by the grace of God, are you not in some way or other to keep yourself by your own power?
[Wesley] No.
[Simeon] What then, are you to be upheld every hour and every moment by God, as much as an infant in its mother’s arms?
[Wesley] Yes, altogether.
[Simeon] And is all your hope in the grace and mercy of God to preserve you unto His heavenly kingdom?
[Wesley] Yes, I have no hope but in Him.
[Simeon] Then, Sir, with your leave I will put up my dagger again; for this is all my Calvinism; this is my election my justification by faith, my final perseverance: it is in substance all that I hold, and as I hold it; and therefore, if you please, instead of searching out terms and phrases to be a ground of contention between us, we will cordially unite in those things where in we agree.
We so easily disagree when we assume the worst in one another.  If only we could lean more on what we have in common, then maybe our differences would make more sense.  In order for that to happen we actually have to listen to one another rather than just waiting for our turn to speak. 

Monday, January 17, 2011

too much is never enough

On the way back to our shop today we drove past a car accident that consumed the entire road.  There was plenty of time to take a look at the damages to the vehicles and as I looked on something struck me as strange.

The accident was between only two vehicles:  a Range Rover (like the one pictured) and a total beater.  The front end of the pristine white SUV was smashed beyond recognition.  The beater was totalled from the collision on it's driver side.  The strangeness of what I was seeing began when I looked past the vehicles and saw the drivers on the curb.  It was clear who was driving which car by how they were dressed.  I noticed that the driver who was operating the beater looked somewhat dazed and annoyed from the inconvenience of it all.  Then my eyes moved to the very well dressed woman sobbing nearly hysterically as she gazed at her totally smashed possession.

I thought:  here is a man who, if I ventured a guess, just smashed in the only car he could possibly afford and the insurance was likely not going to pay enough to buy him more transportation.  Even if it was a beater of lesser value (if that were possible).  He should have looked distraught and worried about what he was going to do, how he was going to get around, what he was going to do to get through this.  He just looked like he wanted to move on, go on about his day and do what he could to finally get to his destination.  The much more affluent woman was covering her face and wailing like she a mother who had just run over one of her children.  She likely had at least one other vehicle at home and she would be back behind the wheel of another status symbol on wheels in no time.  But she was clearly overwhelmed with the condition of her vehicle.

Isn't it obvious how the things we own end up owning us?

Where were you @ 11 oclock on Sunday?

I have been bouncing an idea around in my head. What if my family and I wander around our neighborhood during the corporate worship service hour and look for folks walking their dog, washing their car, cleaning their yard or whatever and tell them all about what Jesus has done, is doing, and will do for us and listen for ways to serve them? I'm thinking it would be a great way to get to know our neighbors and maybe advance the kingdom. What do you think?

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Virtual community in the wilderness

If you have been reading my blog any you know that my convictions prevent me from being a part of an institutional church gathering.  Because of that we have spent some time with some families who house church locally.  More recently we have been looking forward to gathering with the believers in our own neighborhood.  So far this endeavor has been disappointing.  Things aren't moving along as quickly as I expected or hoped.  I have been starving for community with folks that love Jesus and thinking about joining back with the house churching families sometime soon.

Today we had a bit of a house party and one of those families joined us for the fun and fellowship.  I had some time to talk with Eric about my hopes and frustrations.  He said some very encouraging things.  He reminded me of missionaries that spent years in an area before they saw any conversions.  They faithfully followed where God brought them and trusted Him for the matter how long it took.  That is exactly what I needed to hear.  After the party I checked my reader and there I found a wonderful post by Jeff at Losing My Religion.  Jeff tells about what he calls the in-between and it sounds just like what I refer to as the wilderness.  His words echo my heart.  Here is a bit:
 "That being said, because of the blog, I've obviously become friends with a lot of people who are Christ-followers but aren't currently engaged in a regular gathering with other believers. Some of these folks have been 'outsiders' for several years, others for a few months. Some of them even believe it's okay not to belong to a community, and have no plans to be in one. Many others, though, express a sense of loneliness and loss, because they actually want to be in community--they just feel sort of exiled because they can't in good conscience belong to any of the traditional forms of gathering taking place around them. (That longing is actually what's drawn many of us into the blogosphere, because at least we can find someone else online who has an inkling of what we're feeling--and that's actually drawn some of us into a sort of pseudo-community.)"
 I thank God for providing me with fellowship manna.  Just the right amount, you know?  Not too much, not too little.  It has come in different forms.  The right encouragement at the right time face-to-face like Eric and the right post at the right time from Jeff.  It's nice to know that I'm not all alone out here in the wilderness.  God will carry us through.  I know He will.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Defining the "local church"

I have been thinking and writing about the biblical basis for denominations recently.  As I look at scripture the only reason I see for a body of believers to be divided is geography.  The church is one but it is located in different towns cities and nations.  Churches in the New Testament didn't divide from one another according to doctrines, races, spiritual gifts or musical preferences.  There were no membership classes or votes to be accepted.  There were no confessional statements that everyone agreed on.  The only thing that distinguished one church from another is the city they were in.

Alan Knox has published a re-post of a blog he wrote some time back that asks the question "what is a local church?"  Click the link to read the entire article.  Alan asks some very significant questions that I think are directly related to the denominations we see in churches today.  Here are just a few questions to spark your interest.  I'm especially interested in how those of you who defend denominations would answer these questions.
What do you think of when you hear the phrase “local church”?
Do you think of a building on the corner with a steeple? Most believers will admit that this is not a church, but may be a building where a church meets. But, what about the people who meet there?
Is the local church a group of believers who meet regularly at a specific place and at a specific time? Does a regularly meeting define a “local church”? Again, most believers will accept that someone may be part of a “local church” even if that person cannot meet at each regularly scheduled meeting. So, what about membership?

Law before Gospel?

Recently as I have been reading I have crossed a common thread, especially among reformed writers, that in order to effectively reach unbelievers with the gospel we must first use the law to expose their sin.  They say that without knowledge of sin there is no need for a savior.

Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron have a popular show on television called "The Way of the Master" that shows how this method can be used to reach people with the good news of Jesus Christ.  Basically it works like this:  you quote each of the Ten Commandments one by one and ask the person if they have obeyed each commandment perfectly their entire lives.  When they answer "no" then you are able to show them that by their own admittance they are a "God hating, adulterous, liar or a idolatrous, thief and coveter..." whatever the case may be.  Now they are primed to hear the gospel that Christ came to save us from our sin.  But is this the way of the master?

In Luke 10 Jesus is confronted by a lawyer and tested.  Jesus asks the man "What is written in the law?  How do you read it?"  After he answers Jesus said to him "You have answered correctly.  Do this and live."  So clearly Jesus did use the law to show the source of eternal life (the lawyers original question).  Yet earlier in the same chapter of Luke's gospel Jesus sends out the seventy-two.  Here is what He instructs them to do:  "Whenever you enter a town and they receive you, eat what is set before you. Heal the sick in it and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you." (Luke 10:8-9 ESV)  No mention at all of the law only to speak and show that the Kingdom of God is near.

If the way of the master is to preach the law before the gospel then Paul directly contradicted this in 1 Cor 9 where he writes:  To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. (1 Corinthians 9:20-21 ESV)

So then the law is a good evangelistic tool for those who are already trying to follow the law but not for those who are without knowledge of the law.  If that is the case then evangelistic methods that put the law before the gospel in order to reach non-Jews aren't the way of the master.

We should preach Christ and Him crucified.  We should seek to put Jesus on display through our words and deeds.  When unbelievers see the body of Christ, when they are given a revelation of who God is, when they see him high and lifted up, when they see his glory in the face of Jesus Christ they will be convicted of sin.  They will know their need for him.  The law may bring us to the knowledge of sin but it is ineffective to bring us to a knowledge of Christ.  It is not necessary to bring someone to the knowledge of sin through the law, that knowledge will come as they are shown the glory of Emmanuel.

It is the Holy Spirit that convicts us of sin and He does so through a revelation of Jesus Christ.  Jesus told his disciples:   "And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged." (John 16:8-11 ESV).

Because He is Good-Sermon Jam

I love the work they are doing at  Some of he beats are great and coupled with the priceless truth contained, what you have left is a gospel masterpiece of epic proportions.  It's amazing how much more willing someone is to hear a presentation of the gospel when there is a beat in the background.  Anyways, enjoy this video.  It's one of the best I've seen.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Should we examine ourselves?

Examining ourselves...What does the bible teach us about this?  I'm wrestling with this topic right now.  To examine or not to examine, that is the question...I'm beginning to think not.  Let me explain.

This quote from Watchman Nee sent me scurrying for my Bible:
We are never told in the Word of God to examine our inward condition.
Immediately my head floods with scriptures that I think contradict his statement.   So I search and find that none of them actually do.  I continue reading and find that the Bible in fact says numerous times that God reveals our hearts to us.  Our hearts are not revealed to us by our turning within.

Psalm 36:9: “In thy light shall we see light”.

“The entrance of Thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple” (psalm 119:130 A.V.).

“The word of God is living, and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing even to the dividing of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and quick to discern the thoughts and intents of the heart.  And there is no creature that is not manifest in his sight:  but all things are naked and laid open before the eyes of him with whom we have to do” (Heb. 4:12,13).

Later Nee writes:
Scripture shows us how the saints were brought to self-knowledge.  It was always by light from God, and that light is God Himself.  Isaiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Peter, Paul, John, all came to a knowledge of themselves because the Lord flashed Himself upon them, and that flash brought revelation and conviction.  (Isa. 6:5; Ezek. 1:28; Dan. 10:8; Luke 22:61, 62; Acts 9:3-5; Rev. 1:17).
These passages show us that it is God who reveals our heart to us and He does so by revealing Himself to us.  We cannot discover this knowledge by turning within and examining ourselves.  Knowledge of self is revealed through a knowledge of God.  Knowledge of God is revealed through His Son Jesus Christ.  In Christ all of our trying, effort, and energies are unnecessary.  It is his work in us that brings about revelation and change of self.  This would include our efforts to examine our own hearts to discover what needs to change and our efforts to change by our own strength.  Christ has done all the work, we are called to walk by faith in his finished work.

 Faith says with Christ "it is finished".

 Self-examination asks:  what is undone?

one last quick clip from Nee:
only a thorough understanding of the Cross can bring us to that place of dependence which the Lord Jesus Himself voluntarily took when He said: “I can of myself do nothing:  as I hear, I judge:  and my judgment is righteous; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of him that sent me” (John 5:30).