But this I have against you…

February 11, 2010 at 6:21 am (Uncategorized) (, , )

“…But I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place–unless you repent.” (Revelation 2:4,5)

This message is to a church, the church (lampstand) in Ephesus (which is modern day Turkey – note: a Muslim nation). How was this church known? Even God affirms the good things this church was doing –

“I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot tolerate evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you have found them to be false; and you have perseverance and have endured for My name’s sake, and have not grown weary…you hate the deeds of the Nicolatians, which I also hate.” (v.2-3, 6)

These are all commendable attributes and likely things that we would be high on our list of priorities if we were judging visible indicators of a healthy church. Yet, God sees beyond the actions of this church and points out a dangerous truth – they have forgotten their first love. God gives His prescription and pronounces a clear consequence if they do not heed His instruction. God tells this church in Ephesus, “Repent and do the things you did at first.”

In looking at the first things or the priorities of the church, there are many arguments for what we are supposed to be doing and even how we are supposed to be going about our task as the body of Christ. I don’t see how anyone can read through the account of the 1st Century Church and be discontent when comparing it to the reality of church, at least church in the West.

I believe the prescription for Ephesus is the same prescription for our church today – repent and do the things you did at first. So, lets look at what the church did at first, taking inventory of our practices today and whether they reflect what God’s design for the church is.

Remembering that Acts is a narrative, the second volume in a complete historical presentation of 1) the life of Jesus [The Gospel of Luke] and 2) the life of the early church [The Acts of the Apostles]. In the telling of the story of the early church there is an initial pattern that I want us to reflect upon. Jesus has just ascended and returned to heaven to be with the Father as He had promised. The apostles and several faithful, about 120 people in all, are gathered in the Upper Room in Jerusalem waiting, as Jesus had instructed, for the coming of the Holy Spirit (see more John 14:16-31; 16:5-22).

These all with one mind were continually devoting themselves to prayer (Acts 1:14)…they were all together in one place (2:1) when the Spirit comes and fills them all (2:4). The gospel goes out from them in clarity and power through the public proclamation of Peter (2:14-40) then Luke records, So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls. (2:41) In one spirit filled day, the church grows from 120 to over 3000 and we see the beginning of a pattern:

1) devoted prayer – utter dependence and obedience to God;
2) faithful proclamation – without mixing words, declaring the truth and calling men to repent;
3) God’s anointing – expressed in this sense through souls being added to their number.

Not only are souls added to their number but those souls are eager and devoted to experiencing God’s anointing daily and together (see 2:42-47). They continue to be devoted to prayer and to knowing God’s word, their fellowship is robust and they follow God’s outlines for the church. God is binding them together in true unity and showing His anointing through healing, freeing from demons and continually adding to their number.

The pattern we noted earlier is repeated, we have the newly expanded mega church devoted to public and private prayer (2:42), again the gospel is proclaimed with clarity and boldness (3:12) and God honors His anointing by increasing their number to nearly 5,000 (4:4 – note: this is just the number of men in the gathering).

The church faces opposition, fierce and heavy from the get-go. Yet in this opposition we see how the church is known even by its oppressors – Now as they observed the confidence of Peter and John and understood that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed, and begun to recognize them as having been with Jesus. (4:13)

Peter and John are released from captivity, go back to the church and they all pray (4:24) – “…and now, Lord, take note of their threats, and grant that Your bond-servants may speak Your word with all confidence, while You extend Your hand to heal, and signs and wonders take place through the name of Your holy servant Jesus.” (4:29-30)

How does God respond to this church that is devoted to prayer, faithful to proclaim His gospel and whom abide in His anointing? And when they had prayed, the place where they had gathered was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God with boldness. (4:31)

They pray (4:24), they proclaim (4:31) God anoints with healing (5:12) and multitudes…were constantly added to their number (5:14). And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they kept right on teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ. (Acts 5:42)

The apostles declare the focus of their role in the administration of the gospel, “We will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”(6:4) Even in a seemingly simple decision of selecting men to minister to the widows, they pray (6:6). After a short detour to take care of this internal matter (which do matter to the apostles and to God), we are back to faithful proclamation (6:7), this time by Stephen who speaks boldly knowing this is likely his last sermon – not to be met with cheering crowds or a rush to the altar, but the hurled stones of his death (7:58). Even as he is being stoned Stephen is praying and proclaiming (7:59-60). From this the church is scattered, yet God’s purposes are not deterred as He intended for the church to spread, and faithful proclamation continues – those who had been scattered went about preaching the word. (8:4)

A simple pattern, the first things wherein the church: 1) devoted prayer – utter dependence and obedience to God; 2) faithful proclamation – without mixing words, declaring the truth and calling men to repent; 3) God’s anointing – expressed in this sense through souls being added to their number.

The church in Ephesus was remarkable by today’s standards and probably looked like an exemplary gathering, “But I [God Himself] have this against you, that you have left your first love.” God is gracious and gives them His prescription with clear consequence, “Repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place–unless you repent.”

What prevented the church at Ephesus from changing? God was obviously on their side, clearly communicating His intentions and instructing them in the way He wanted them to go. Jesus is clear that our responsibility as followers of Christ (Christians) is clarified to the irreducible minimum of “Love God – Love People” (Mark 12:29-31). Jesus doesn’t just tell us to love, He speaks of the kind of love we are to have – “Love the Lord your God with all your hearth, and with all your soul, and with all your mind and with all your strength…You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Paul shares with the young pastor Timothy, “The goal of our instruction is love, and qualifies what sort of love by continuing, from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” (1 Timothy 1:5) Paul shares in Corinthians, what God Himself affirms to the church in Ephesus, stating, “…but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal…but do not have love, I am nothing…but do not have love, it profits me nothing…the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:1-3; 13)

Even the people that hated the early church, who wanted nothing more than to kill all Christians and wipe their memory from the face of the earth could not escape the glaring reality that these men had been with Jesus (Acts 4:13). The early church had a thriving love for God and operated in a love for each other through fellowship and a love for the lost in faithfully proclaiming the gospel.

There was a disconnect in Ephesus, whatever they had going they apparently were satisfied with that and would not repent and do the things they did at first. Are we so attached to what we are doing that we are willing to allow God to remove our lampstand? Are we willing to settle for what we are rather than allow God to transform us into what He intends us to be? Remarkably, God’s path isn’t a bunch of hoops we have to jump through, the outlines are clear, they are simple but obviously they come with a cost.

Devoted prayer – faithful proclamation – abide in His anointing as we Love God and love people.

To the church in ________, write…

Permalink Leave a Comment

How big are you?

January 18, 2010 at 6:04 pm (Biblei-Octopi) ()

The thoughts that we need to entertain are those thoughts that elevate our view of God, as opposed to those which attempt to elevate our view of ourselves. When we begin to take God’s Word (the Bible) to heart, to apply all of our minds to pondering the awesome holiness of the one true God—there begins a healthy shrinking of our view of ourselves that is replaced by an awe, a proper mix of fear and admiration, towards this God.

For the sake of humoring the concept, let’s imagine for a minute that your self-help and self-image exercises work (even those that are spiritual or reportedly Biblical). Imagine that your self-image expands to where you are now taller than the tallest building, you’ve become as big as you think you are. What changes? You now see everything below you as small, but when you look up you realize you haven’t even begun to touch the extent of earth’s atmosphere.

So, your self image propels you to a height above the clouds. The things below you are smaller still yet again, when you look up, you haven’t reached the end of earth’s limits and you begin to see the expanse beyond what is visible from the ground. Through your self image additions you are able to take yourself beyond the moon. You are massive, larger than anything known to man. Everything is so incredibly small below you, literally you can see nothing but the outline of earth and even the moon seems small to you in comparison. Yet, as you look around, there is still an expanse that surrounds you and you realize, though bigger than anything you’ve ever known you are still inconceivably small.

You make the push again and expand yourself past what we once called the planet Pluto. It is incredible how large you are and when you compare yourself to all that is around you, the distance that you can reach and all that you can see from this vantage point, you truly are massive. Yet, still, you look above and beyond you and there is still an expanse of space that is wildly beyond comprehension. If you could get beyond our Milky Way Galaxy, you’d still be chasing down the boundaries of 350 trillion more galaxies (that’s 350,000,000,000 – and possibly more!).

You are small in comparison to all that is around you. Even if you could make yourself larger or feel better about yourself than you ever have, you’d still be small. In the scope of all that exists, you are like a grain of sand (or smaller). You are small and relatively insignificant except that the God who created the entirety of all that we can see, even what we cannot see, has an interest in you.

Imagine, as David does in the Bible who says, “What is man that you are mindful of him?” (Ps 8.4) God created man, created you, in His own image. He created you to know Him. He has placed a value on you by sending His own Son, Jesus Christ, to die in your place so that you can have a relationship with that God whom created the expanse of the universe and you.

When we elevate our view of God, when we ponder God through the viewing guide that He has given us, the Bible, the shape of our understanding can be correct. God has not hidden Himself from you. He has taken every step to make Himself very clear, through creation, through sending His Son Jesus as 100% God who came to this earth as 100% man, and through the written record of the Bible.

For those who have never looked upon the cross and seen or understood what Jesus is doing there, what a great time to listen to what God has to say to you through His Word, His communication to you—the Bible. For those who believe in God, it is always a good thing to make sure that you are believing in the right God, the true God, who is revealed in clarity through His Word, His communication of Himself to you—the Bible.

NOTE: It is helpful to understand the basic communication of the Bible, the Bible primarily teaches us two things: 1) WHO God is, and 2) WHAT God wants us to do. If you are wondering WHO God is, open the Bible. If you are questioning WHAT God wants you to be doing, start with the Bible.

Permalink Leave a Comment

FNB WIRe 9.12.09

September 14, 2009 at 2:10 pm (Biblei-Octopi, Sports) (, , )

Flesh & Blud – Week In Review [09.12.09]

>Items That Grabbed My Attention This Week<

sea.hdr_200x129

>>I was exposed to a proverb that I was previously unaware of, speaking in regards to the Seattle Seahawks signing aging Safety Lawyer Milloy and releasing Safety Brian Russell, the author concludes, “This could be the proverbial poop in the birthday cake.” I’ve never heard that one before, but since it is proffered as a well known axiom I shall look for my opportunity to impart it’s wisdom. PS – I am ready for some Seahawks!

leadership_200x129

>>Church structure (eccesiology) continues to be a front running stream of thought. The principle that we serve a person (Jesus), rather than a purpose, and He has instructed us to declare a unique message (the gospel), continues to cleanse my mental temple. We labor for gospel clarity and gospel transformation in our families, our churches and our community.

Gospel Clarity – Gospel Obedience – Gospel Transformation

Our practical approach must be to labor for gospel clarity, seeking God’s Word to know WHO God is (right theology/doctrine) and WHAT God wants us to do (right action/doctrine). As such, God’s Word will take center stage, we will look to His Word to have the first and final say in how we live our lives and the practices of our churches. What we believe about WHO God is and WHAT God wants us to do can be very liberating (the truth will set you free – My burden is light) or it can be very dangerous (errant theology). Josh McDowell emphasizes the importance of just how much what we believe affects how we act (see Beyond Belief to Convictions).

The pursuit of gospel clarity must flesh itself out in gospel obedience (aligning ourselves to the revealed will of God) in the lives of every individual, every family, our corporate gatherings (churches) and our community (gospel overflow!). Right doctrine is a right pursuit and right doctrine is not a concept but a shaping of our heart and actions in accordance with God’s instructions that we might know the fullness He has designed us for.

As we labor for gospel clarity and raise the standard to gospel obedience, we will see the Holy Spirit work gospel transformation in people, families, church and communities. The relationship of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit is one of undisturbed intimacy, a relationship we are designed to share (see John 17 and Philippians 3:20,21). The intimacy of our right knowledge and faithful obedience is part of a greater work of gospel transformation.

jesus.cross_200x129

>>The next time someone says, “We need to see people as Jesus sees them.” I want to say, “We do need to see people as Jesus does – broken, filthy and dead in their sins. But we also must embrace them as He does – with the power of the gospel to save and transform their lives.”

Permalink Leave a Comment

FNB WIRe 9.5.09

September 7, 2009 at 5:13 am (Biblei-Octopi, Words (Not Mine)) (, , )

Flesh & Blud – Week In Review [09.05.09]

>Items That Grabbed My Attention This Week<

leadership_200x129

>>Church structure (ecclesiology) is fresh on my mind because we are going through team development and principles of recruiting/developing people into followers of Christ. In thinking through this, some clear principles come to the forefront to guide strategy:

:: The Command (our foundation for life) – Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength…love your neighbor as yourself (Mark 12:29-31)
:: The Commission (our focus/process for ministry) – Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. (Matthew 28:18-20)
:: The Tool (God’s breath of life for all we do) – All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God many be adequate, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16,17)
:: The Mechanism (our obedient service) – Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage–with great patience and careful instruction. (2 Timothy 4:2)
:: The Application (our relational approach) – We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us. (1 Thessalonians 2:8)
:: The Gospel (clarifies our message) – See 1 Corinthians 151-9

It is incredible how much information and “this is the way” material is out there. Another point that seems clearer to me now is that we do not serve a purpose, we serve a person (person obviously in the sense of a being not exclusively corporeal – although Jesus is 100% God and 100% Man and ascended bodily into heaven). As in all of life, we must guard against improper extremes wherein our good intentions override our clear calling. Jesus made things incredibly simple – Love God with your all. Love people as you love yourself. Everything God commanded is pretty much summed up in these two. (paraphrase) We love God by living out the gospel and we love people by showing and declaring the gospel. The church serves to uphold, instruct and equip the body of Christ Love God and to Love People, thereby fulfilling the mandates of it’s commission (Matthew 28:18-20).

>>An brutal post by Phil Johnson in which he quotes JC Ryle, speaking on pastors:

ryle_200x194

Those who think that unsound ministers ought never to be exposed and held up to notice, and men ought never to be warned against them, would do well to study this passage. No class of character throughout our Lord’s ministry seems to call forth such severe denunciation as that of false pastors. The reason is obvious. Other men ruin themselves alone: false pastors ruin their flocks as well as themselves. To flatter all ordained men, and say they never should be called unsound and dangerous guides, is the surest way to injure the Church and offend Christ.

chan200_134

>>Francis Chan popped up on my radar, surprising that we were that close (I used to live in Ventura, CA and he has been pasturing in Simi Valley, CA) and I was ignorant of his presence. He challenged me with two things: 1) to pray the prayer uttered in Proverbs 30:7-9; 2) his message Lukewarm & Loving It (link to video here – WARNING: This message is brutal as it will transform certain passages of Scripture from, those guys to, “He’s talking about me!” I don’t yet know much about Chan, but this is worth the 40 minute investment.

Permalink Leave a Comment

Caution – I am rich…

September 3, 2009 at 6:32 am (Uncategorized)

Perhaps the most convicting message I have heard recently…what Jesus says to the rich, He speaks to me. Not because I am rich by American standards, but I am rich and spiritually this is a dangerous place to be. Jesus shreds the layers that inhibit intimacy and that can be painful – blessedly painful. This message from Francis Chan is refreshingly brutal.

Permalink Leave a Comment

Tools for Intimacy: Prayer

September 2, 2009 at 4:41 pm (Biblei-Octopi) (, )

After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone (Matthew 14:23 NIV)

Jesus set the example of purposefully carving out time in His day, often early in the morning, to spend time with The Father. Jesus practiced an intimate and robust relationship with God. Jesus calls His disciples, those who follow Him, to pray and teaches them how to do so. We see Jesus’ commitment to this discipline as Christ nears the time of His crucifixion, removing Himself from all else to again be close to The Father.
Something that should ring in our ears, is the same question that Jesus posed to His disciples in the garden of Gethsemane: “Could you men not keep watch with me for one hour?” (Matthew 16:40 NIV) We can hear in this interaction that:

1) There is a sense of diligence and discipline in prayer – Jesus set aside time to pray, He didn’t squeeze it in, He would wake up early and even retreat from the crowds when needed.
2) There is a sense of importance and intimacy in prayer – Jesus didn’t treat prayer as a good idea, He practiced a disciplined and intimate daily retreat with The Father.
3) There is a sense of consequence when we disregard prayer – Guilt alone should not be our motivation, but there is a reality to intimacy lost when we do not carve out time to be with God.

When we look at the example and teaching of Jesus on prayer, there are a few key foundations we must understand in order to exercise this tool of intimacy properly.

Prayer is not a vending machine – While Jesus taught that we bring our requests to God because He is our loving Father who enjoys to give us good things, we must understand that He gives the good we need in accordance with His plans for us rather than the good we want and think is best for ourselves. In the prayers and instructions on prayer from Jesus, the consistent phrasing is that of, “Your will be done,” even while He is at His deepest struggle in preparing for His death upon the cross.

Prayer is intimate – The address that Jesus instructs is, “Our Father who is in heaven, hallowed be Your name.” God is above us but He is not detached from us. We approach God with the proper respect and love of a child toward a loving and holy father. In Christ we are heirs to a promise, we are sons of God, as such we come in confidence before our holy God and our foremost desire is to honor our Father.

(Controversial) Prayer is not powerful* – God is. We come in loving submission, in a time set aside for intimacy with our heavenly Father. We come to submit and appeal to the holy will of God. As we abide in His presence and walk in loving obedience, His power and blessing go before us. His kingdom fleshes out in our lives, our needs are met, Satan is defeated and our love for God is shown in our love for others – this is the power of God transferred through the intimacy of prayer.

Take some time to read and/or recite the Lord’s Prayer (aka The Model Prayer, found in Matthew 6:9-13) – pray through what Jesus is teaching us about where our hearts should be directed when we set aside time for intimacy with God.

—–

*Powerful and effective as described in James 5:16, it is powerful because it brings man under submission to the instruction of God and effective because God answers righteous prayers – prayers that are consistent with His revealed will. The verse does not teach that if we are righteous we can ask for whatever we want and God will bend to our will, a righteous man is walking in step with God and by that intimacy his requests are in accordance to God’s will (no more clearer than Jesus in Gethsemane).

Permalink Leave a Comment

AccounTEXTability

May 24, 2009 at 11:33 pm (Biblei-Octopi, Inspirational) (, , )

Tools Needed: cell phone w/ active text capabilities

[WEEKLY]

At the beginning of each week (i.e. Sunday):
1) Text or call each other with an update on a prayer focus for the week;
2) Share a verse that you’d like to memorize for the week (option of memorizing each others verses)

[DAILY]
1) Agree on a time to regularly expect a text from each other (i.e. AM, PM, lunch break, etc). Text a simple prayer (most cell providers cap out a single text at 120-160 characters) – can be as simple as “I’m praying for you today” but I recommend you to be more specific, as this will go along way to provide a boost of daily encouragement to each other.

[RECOMMENDATIONS]
>I’ve been doing this for a week now with 3 close friends and have been blessed/encouraged beyond what I initially imagined. My friends have been very specific and challenging in their prayers which has both refreshed me and given me something to ponder for the day. I look forward to praying for them and the discipline of doing so reminds me to be praying more fully for other people and aspects of my life.
>Augment your texted prayers by calling/meeting each other regularly, whether weekly or monthly. My friends are all long distance, so the power of technology has been well used to bring us closer.

[TRY IT TODAY…]
Send a simple text to your friends (not everyone that I sent the initial text to responded or wanted to do it, that’s fine, it’s not for everyone). Text I used (took 2 messages):

[MSG #1] Would you like to commit to accounTEXTability w/ me? Rules: DAILY 1) send a quick text prayer for each other, as simple as “Im praying for you” or a specific…
[MSG #2] prayer. 2) send a verse, request or praise as it comes up. WEEKLY (on Sunday) 1) prayer request for the week, 2) a verse for the week (option to memorize)

Let me know how it goes.

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints. Ephesians 6:18 (NIV)

Permalink Leave a Comment

Obamasiah

April 28, 2009 at 4:16 am (Biblei-Octopi, Politic) (, , , , )

Obama has completed his first 100 days as President of The United States of American, congratulations. So, as art often likes to renown itself with an innovation of offense, we have the most recent poli-religious painting of note. What better time to have a religious/spiritual discussion as brought into the public arena via art and by the artist’s own declaration as a discussion of “truth”.

The object inspiring this post is the most recent messianic depiction of Obama (not the first, probably not the last), it brought to my mind a comparison of the accomplishments of Christ what might be perceived as the highest nature of the accomplishments of our President, Barak Obama.

In regards to the implications of this painting, I’d like to state that first of all, I hope that Obama does lead in a Christ-like manner. How amazing would it be that he would lead the nation to consider the laws of God, honoring the will and kingdom of God above all else? I pray that he would take to himself the words of Christ in saying, “My delight is to do your will, oh God.”

When you look at the historical cross, what imagery does it bring? I suppose that most would associate it with salvation, though even in Evangelical circles there would be some disagreement as to the definition, nature and extent of that action. If you look to the Biblical account of the cross, you find the culmination of the redemption narrative – in other words, this is a pivotal moment, a climax in the entire story of God’s salvation plan for mankind.

From the account of Adam, who did have a choice to sin or enjoy the full presence of God. Whom God gave every excuse not to sin but did indeed choose to disobey, chose to disregard a very simple and plain command and thereby calling upon himself his removal from the blessing of pure fellowship in the presence of God. Even in that account, there is the promise of the Savior to come, the One who will crush the serpent’s head, the One who will conquer the work of Satan, the hold of death and the bondage resulting from man’s sin.

The message of the cross is salvation, but when you see Christ upon the cross, from WHOM and/or WHAT is Christ saving us from? Who set the consequence for the disobedience of Adam and Eve? Who cast Adam and Eve out of the garden? Who made the promise of redemption? Who will we (you and I) face when this short life ends and to whom will we have to give an account to?

If Obama is in any sense a savior, whom and/or what is he saving us from? If Obama’s most ambitious goals are accomplished, will we be saved – saved from what? As intriguing of a historical figure Obama may be, do we really put that many of our chips in the ability of a single political figure to reshape our collective and individual paths? (Parenthetical sidenote: when one political figure is looked to as the lone figure to reshape a nation’s course, it historically doesn’t tend towards a positive end)

As a historical observation on the definition of the messiah, when Christ came many were expecting a political ruler, for that King of the Jews to rise and bring a sword to crush the Roman Empire (Herod feared this at Christ’s birth, going to great lengths to kill Him even as a baby). There were many in Jesus’ day that were severely disappointed that He came not for political rule upon this earth (something Satan offered Christ), but came to offer His life as a sacrifice for many. Now, in our current illustrations of “the messiah” the redemptive work is still seen as insignificant/trivial and reduced to a politicized imagery.

To be sure, Christ is THE Ruler of all, He is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, do not confuse His patience for laziness/forgetfulness. In this artful or political search for a “messiah” perhaps one should account for the consequence of finding a political savior but meeting the end of life without an eternal one. Another job, a dent in the federal deficit, even the end of war are some of the highest political possibilities (stretch) but death is certain.

As a people who claim to follow Christ, take a moment to recheck your Christ against the Christ that Christ revealed. If you are a person who has never encountered Christ’s command to, “Follow Me.” Perhaps today is that day. The cross is a message of salvation, salvation in Christ alone.

Link to article that brought this painting to my attention – HERE

Permalink Leave a Comment

FNB WIRe 3.30.09

April 6, 2009 at 6:53 pm (Biblei-Octopi) (, , )

Flesh & Blud :: Week In Review :: 3.30.09

::Items That Grabbed My Attention This Week

Looking back, the topics of this week had a lot to do with the Emergent Church, which is something that I have been discussing with others to some degree, but the points that grabbed my attention this week were those that addressed the nature of how we view and treat the Bible.

>>Redemptive Movement Hermeneutic (RMH) – From what I can tell this was officially coined and launched with the release of Willam J. Webb’s book Slaves, Women and Homosexuals: Exploring the Hermeneutics of Cultural Analysis.

I found Wayne Grudem’s review of this publication to be very helpful. Here’s an excerpt:

At the heart of Webb’s system is what he calls a “redemptive-movement hermeneutic.” He says that some may prefer calling his approach a “progressive” or “developmental” or “trajectory” hermeneutic and he says “that is fine” (p. 31). Webb explains his hermeneutic by what he calls “the X→Y→Z Principle.” The letter Y indicates what the Bible says about a topic. Webb says, “The central position (Y) stands for where the isolated words of the Bible are in their development of a subject” (p. 31). The letter X represents “the perspective of the original culture,” and the letter Z represents “an ultimate ethic,” that is, God’s final ideal that the Bible is moving toward.

Therefore in Webb’s system, what evangelicals have ordinarily understood to be “the teaching of the Bible” on particular subjects is in fact only a point along the way (indicated by the letter Y) toward the development of a final or ultimate ethic (Z). Webb says,

The X→Y→Z Principle illustrates how numerous aspects of the biblical text were not written to establish a utopian society with complete justice and equity. They were written within a cultural framework with limited moves toward an ultimate ethic (p. 31).

In addition to this new paradigm for looking at the Bible, Webb also proposes 18 hermeneutical criterion for understanding Biblical passages. From what I can discern, the underlying themes leading to these conclusions are:

1) A problem with Sola Scriptura (readily admitted by many emergents, though probably not by my definition) – a fundamental shift, rather than starting with Scripture as the guide for how we understand the culture(s) and engage people with the gospel, Scripture becomes a part of the equation, often verbally esteemed, but in reality culture has more of an effect on interpretation than does God’s own revelation of Himself.
2) An incorrect understanding of the flow and nature of the relationship between the Old and New Testaments.
3) A problem with the perpescuity (basically the clarity) of the Scriptures, Webb’s work improperly complicates a clear understanding of The Bible and has at its roots a belief that Scripture is insufficient to answer all of our questions relating to life and practice (which is the heart of Sola Scriptura).

>>A panel discussion on the topic of The Emerging Church with Kevin DeYoung, Tony Jones, Scot McKnight, Alex and Brett Harris.

One of the most encouraging things that came from the discussion was a comment from one of the Harris brothers where he states that if on the one hand you are arguing for an orthodox faith that is grounded in Scripture and on the other side you are calling for an active faith, grounded in love and engaging social issues, the youth we are meeting with are asking, “Why do I have to choose between the two?” He commented that they youth they are meeting want to dig into the truths of Scripture (mentions them leaving conferences with Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology in one hand and their book Do Hard Things in the other), want an active and loving faith as well as being involved in social issues.

>Resources to discover more about the The Emergent and/or Emerging Church:

::Kevin DeYoung’s book Why Were Not Emergent by Two Guys Who Should Be, as well as his blog (clever title)

::Scot McKnight’s blog; he mentions in the panel discussion that he has been writing articles in Christianity Today for the last 3 years to help explain and answer the critics of the Emergent Church

::Mark Driscoll would be another voice in the conversation, Driscoll has said that he is not Emergent but Emerging. I’ve referenced his church’s blog (Mars Hill in Seattle, WA) The Resurgence earlier; and he wrote a book Confessions of a Reformission Rev.: Hard Lessons from an Emerging Missional Church (which I recently ordered, so perhaps there will be more on that later)

Out of this, I didn’t realize that younger Harris brothers (you may remember Josh Harris from his most popular book Why I Kissed Dating Goodbye, he has continued writing on other topics since) existed or were having such an impact. Their book Do Hard Things is basically young authors speaking to their generation about battling the low expectations society/church has placed upon them, inspiring a movement that lives out the heart of 1 Timothy 4:12.

>>Reformed Theological Seminary has made available through iTunes an extensive course on Systematic Theology. Technology meets theology, it’s like a theological drive thru.

>>Started reading through Hebrews and found that James White is preaching through Hebrews, he’s posted his sermons on youtube.

>>Some great details on the heart and effects of Calvin’s teachings in Geneva (quick read).

Permalink Leave a Comment

Skinny and the Gospel

April 4, 2009 at 8:34 pm (Biblei-Octopi) (, , )

I walked into Starbucks the other day, to purchase a hot caffeinated beverage for my wife. Apparently I had quite the look of consternation as the attendant, correction-barista, commented that I looked as though I were concentrating and trying to remember something. We laughed and I made the order, “Grande, nonfat-no sugar-Carmel Macchiato.”

Macchiato & Contextualization

Macchiato & Contextualization

She was very gracious and permitted me temporary access behind the veil, enlightening me with an excerpt from the top secret Starbucks glossary . She said that it may simplify things to order a, “Grande-skinny-Carmel Macchiato.” Marvelous. I expressed my deepest gratitude as this indeed does simplify my journeys into the depths of corporate evil (much sarcasm – the only thing more evil than Walmart is Starbucks, right?).

My benevolent barista was quick to qualify stating that the beverage wasn’t truly “skinny” as the final carmel topping isn’t non-fat/non-sugar. This is a surprisingly consistent qualification as near every time that I make the order there is some casual comment either to me directly or between baristas as to the true nature of “skinny”. I admire that there is a consistent clarity amongst baristas on this Starbucks truth.

As I was leaving Starbucks today, a pit stop on the way home from a meeting in which we had several discussions pertaining to matters of the church, so the two experiences were blending in my mind. My experience at Starbucks is a fitting example of what we face in communicating the gospel within our current cultural environment(s). The baristas had a firm understanding of the deeper truths of the Starbucks menu as well as an understanding of practical terminology and were joyous in enabling me to function with a better understanding that simplified my experience without sacrificing a standard of truth.

Though I am exaggerating a point, I believe the discussion touches on a real task of the church in every generation, meeting people where they are at, being diligent to present Christ and His Word in a manner that people can understand without sacrificing truth or undermining/countering His own revelation of Himself. Culture does not create the context for understanding the Bible, but the Bible must wisely be contextualized to engage the culture. This distinction is far from merely a matter of semantics, how you view and apply the Bible is foundational truth; core truth that should not be compromised.

Permalink Leave a Comment

Next page »