Archive for the ‘Theology’ Category

If you have an itch…

Posted: November 14, 2012 in Discipleship, Theology

I once had a professor at Southwestern who impressed me in a profound way. Maybe it’s because he the first professor that had a brain and a personality. Or, maybe it was his well-rounded intelligence….He could speak a little bit about nearly any subject. Whatever it was one day after class I asked him a question (in my uniquely goofy way), “How do I get as smart as you?” His answer wasn’t exactly what I expected. He said, “When you have an itch, scratch it.”

It was obvious a follow up question would be needed, so I said “What do you mean?” He responded, “Someone I admired once told me that if was curious about anything I should read 3 books on the subject. If you read 5 you’ll be an expert. That’s because every author reads dozens of books to write their own. If you read 5 its like having read the highlights of 50 books.”

I’ve read 5 books on many subjects and never been invited to pontificate (my prof’s favorite word) on CNN, but I know I’m a lot smarter. Maybe I’ll never be like Dr. Sands, but I know I feel prepared to talk intelligently on a lot more subjects than I did 10 years ago. As a starting point for your deep journey I’m listing my favorite books on various subjects. If you finish this list you probably won’t be an expert either. But, that itch you have will be a lot less annoying after you’ve scratched it…

Prayer:
Spiritual Disciplines:

The short lived fashion trend of wearing a WWJD bracelet has been dead for years. If you’ve been a Christian a decade or more you probably owned one in your life. If not, be grateful that you can be asked that question without immediately thinking of an armband.

So, “What would Jesus do?” If Jesus were living in America in 2012 just before an election of our next President, with debates about homosexuality raging, and the national debt climbing out of control…what would He do? How would He vote, what issues would He comment on, what plan of action would He suggest to climb out of the hole we have dug for ourselves financially as a country?

Nobody can really answer that question, but it’s fun to pontificate…

Have you ever heard about a servery overweight person getting kicked out of church for being a glutton? Why don’t Christian picked buffets? Are divorced people told to stay home by pastors until they are remarried to their original spouses? Do we make liars pass a polygraph before they can take communion?
If the Bible teaches the borrower is a slave to the lender (Proverbs 22:7), that immigrants are to be treated as one of our own (Leviticus 19:34), and that If God hates divorce (Malachi 2:16), a gluttonous son was to be stoned (Deuteronomy 21:20-21), and liars are destined for a lake of fire (Revelation 21:8)…why has an issue like homosexuality so easily divided us? With this many Biblical convictions to consider, can we really pick our leaders based solely on their political party?

Maybe, Jesus would stay out of politics and hide behind His “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above” comment (John 19:11), because His Dad puts people in office. Maybe, He would simply say, “Then neither do I condemn you” (John 8:11) to the woman who has had an abortion or the man who has committed adultery. It’s even possible that he would hangout with people who would prefer to murder people with fire from Heaven (Luke 9:54) rather then send them away until they matured.

So, here is my WWJD conclusion…

We are not called to judge the type, severity, and quantity of others sin. We are called to love people and share the truth. The truth we share shouldn’t be “YOU ARE A SINNER and headed to Hell!!” The truth they need is that even if you are dying for the crimes you’ve committed (Luke 23:39-43) Jesus loves you and will save you. In other words…there is hope! Hope for salvation, unification, finding our purpose, and a better future (Lamentations 3:22-23).

Train Wrecks

Posted: October 25, 2012 in Church Leadership, Ministry, Theology

There is a sentiment that continues to be perpetuated in Christian circles that we need an amazing testimony to relate to people who have made amazing messes of their lives.

I’ve often wondered, “Why are we so infatuated with the ‘train wreck?’” and I think I understand it now.

Do you really need to have an affair, embezzle money, or just do something stupid to help people who have messed up respond to the Gospel? Would Jesus have done better if He killed off a few pharisees or stolen money out of the Temple to fund His ministry?

On one side it’s true that our sin resume isn’t a ticket to rapport with others who have failed. It shouldn’t be our catalyst to being a guest speaker at a local church or conference. I’m convinced that we love the “train wreck,” because it helps us feel better about our failures when we compare our stories to others. This just shows we don’t understand happens to our sin through the Cross. An axe murder deserves the same thing as a liar, because grace is not getting what we deserve. We all deserve Hell, but get Heaven through Jesus.

So what’s so fascinating about those with gaudy testimonies of God’s grace? Why do they have an audience and have our rapt attention when they share? Why don’t we see the Gospel  as the unifying standard that shows us all that we need God’s grace. The answer might shock you…

People who have messed up just may love Jesus more than you…and that’s contagious. See Luke 7:40-43

Benchmarks

Posted: November 1, 2010 in Church Leadership, Ministry, Theology

Lots of different ways to see the principle of benchmarks in the world and in the Christian faith.  Accordingly, they can become idols if viewed as more important than our present relationship with God.  Yet, I think Joshua’s leadership in asking the appointed leaders of Israel to gather stones was a powerful tool for recalling God’s miracle.

If you look at the story of Israel it was one of constant backpedaling.  Kind of like the saying, “2 steps forward, 1 step back.”  Of course in their case it might have been more like: “1 step forward and 3 steps back.”  Either way, they struggled to see God’s hand of protection, His will for their nation, and to stick with His guidelines for living.

We are no different today.  Accordingly, we need to write, mark down, or even get a tattoo when God speaks to us about what He said and what happened as a result.  Nothing is more powerful than God’s voice in our lives for knowing what to do.  Our sinful nature makes it tough to continue on the path He gave us and we often need reminders that God neglects to give…with just cause.  It’s like a President having to remind his staff by text about his last instruction after clearly conveying it in a meeting.  I think the best thing we can do is to go back to last time he spoke, moved, or did something in our lives as fuel to carry on…instead of asking for Him to repeat Himself.

Israel didn’t gather stones for exercise they did it for recall.

Got rocks?

Magic 8-ball

Posted: October 29, 2010 in Church Leadership, Theology

How God speaks, if He speaks, how you can tell what He is saying, what He sounds like and how you can be sure it’s God are all great questions of our faith.

As Christians we are looking for His voice to be a little bit more substantial, like a flaming paper airplane out of Heaven with a message about what degree to get, guy to marry, job to take, or business venture to undertake.  Maybe it’s whether or not our kids will ever follow Christ or if the business we started is going to make it.  I would say that no matter the request, at times, we all feel we need something more then “peace” or “fleeces” to guide us…right?  We want our relationship with God and time in prayer to be conversation and for God to let us know what He is up to.

Here is a secret…the God of the universe isn’t a magic 8-ball.  We can’t shake Him up with our prayers and force Him to speak to us.  The complexity, size of the decision, or it’s importance to us won’t force Him to send an angel or burn a bush in our front yard to get us going in the right direction.

I know God the Holy Spirit gives us thoughts, guides us through peace (or a lack of it), and helps us by reminding us of Scripture, but we all long for the supernatural.  We want concrete words, circumstances, and miracles we can use as benchmarks that will give us hope to continue.  According to the Bible even Jesus didn’t get this kind of treatment.  God sent Him to Earth with a mission, but God only “spoke” to Jesus two times in the New Testament that were audible and miraculous.  Once at His baptism and once at the transfiguration.

Obviously, this doesn’t mean that it was the only time God led His Son, but it sure means that if God wanted us to have an expectation of constant, supernatural, and insanely obvious feedback to our circumstances, you’d think He would have spoke at some other huge crossroads in Jesus life too.  Like…the death of Lazurus, His arrest, His trial, and at least one or two times the Pharisees cornered Him about being a heretic blasphemer.

I’m trying to learn this reality while still looking for still hoping for “signs” and a vision for our church.  BUT, the reality is just like with Jesus,  all God may give me is a mission to plant a church in Gainesville.  Only I can decide if that will be enough…

As we wrap up this little journey it’s important to discuss the way Paul and the other New Testament writers addressed the church.  The emphasis became focused on the church of a city.  Not individual churches, nor churches in very specific locations, but rather churches called by the name of the city where they were located.  In other words, we have city churches, not churches on a particular street or part of town.  I only mention this because we tend to make huge distinctions now in the church about everything from location, to worship style, to the diversity of our population, and so on and so forth.  New Testament writers were just addressing the issues that they heard or observed in a church of a particular city.

Additionally, Archeologists have claimed to uncover the remains of the first church buildings in 257 A.D. Dura-Europos.  You might say it took at least 200 years for the first Christians to get up the nerve or the finances to have their own place of worship…and we have come a long way.

Back to my original thesis.  The book of Acts and the New Testament isn’t a manual on how to organize a church service, nor does it provide directions on where someone should gather a particular church in their town.  Instead, the New Testament is a summary of instructions that the inspired writers felt compelled to give, the churches in various cities, on how to live as a believer.  A believer who was part of the Christian body, namely the church.

Consequently, everything we have chosen to do to create churches that meet only in buildings or only in homes come after the messages and examples of the Bible.  They are “extra-Biblical,” but it doesn’t mean they are wrong.  It means they are ideas based on practical solutions to logistical problems, or possibly opportunities seized by its leaders.  They may have even been adjustments to try and derive some growth for the Kingdom of God.  Nothing in the New Testament said we have to organize a church like they did during the first 50 years after Jesus died.

The creative God and Savior we serve, who created people in his image, can certainly inspire and develop the church beyond what it looked like, how it was organized, and what it could offer 1900 years ago!!

So, please, please, please don’t try and say the church you lead or the one you attend is “Biblical, New Testament, or 1st Century.”  They are the best your leaders (or you) could do with what they have and/or the vision they were given.  Just as it’s retarded, insane, and foolish to claim the King James Version as the only good or legitimate version of the Bible, a church that tries to emulate 1st Century Christians in the location or the way they organized their church had better do the following:

—  Have church every day in a church building and at home.

—  Sell everything and live communally.

—  Do the Lord’s Supper with incredible regularity.

Otherwise we should just go make disciples at whatever church God has called us to attend.

Amen.

Moving forward we see, in Acts 2:44-46, a reminder that functionally the church was using a two-pronged approach of daily meetings for prayer in the Temple and the Lord’s Supper in private homes.  They also essentially adopted a complete and total rejection of personal property and individual ambitions.

Later, Peter appears and preaches his brave message (after a miracle of God) and we are reminded of the Temple being used for prayer in Acts 3, but not necessarily for the “church.”

In Acts 4 we see the believers gathered again for preaching and prayer, but the “place” they were meeting isn’t identified…we just learn that it is “shaken.”  On a more alarming and convicting note we get reminded that they still hadn’t abandoned this idea of communal property.  Individuality was obsolete with these first Christians.

In Acts 5, we see their meeting place and choice of frequency.  Again, it was a combination of the Temple and the home (with daily frequency).  What can we glean from this information?

Not entirely sure, but it was obviously a workable solution to making converts.  In Acts 5:12 the believers met in the Temple and despite striking fear in observers, people kept joining them!

Whether for convenience or curiosity Peter went from House to House preaching and teaching.  Seems pretty logical that it was believer’s houses that he approached.  Nothing like knocking on the door of a Temple Guard’s house trying to preach Jesus to ensure you will get arrested.

Acts 8 begins the persecution of the church, which forced it underground and seemingly into homes exclusively for that is where Paul went to arrest people.

In the very next chapter we see the church enjoys a peaceful time where they are strengthened and encouraged by the Holy Spirit.  Much of the reason for this may have been the conversion of their greatest enemy…Paul!  Nothing is said specifically here about where they worshiped or how they did those meetings during these two phases.

In Act 12 “many people” were praying for Peter to be released from prison in a home.  It’s odd for Peter to know to come there after his miraculous escape from jail if this wasn’t a normal meeting place for believers, but they aren’t called the church here.

We find the church gathered, with its leaders, in Acts 13 and 14, but the location and the way they worshiped is still missing.

As we move to Acts 15 we find a much better organized church trying to get clarity on some church polity issues and receiving encouragement from the Apostles.  At the end of Acts 15 we hear that the church of the entire city gathers to hear from Paul and Barnabas as they read a letter that contains some instructions from the church in Jerusalem.  No idea where they met…

In Acts 16 Paul goes into Lydia’s home to encourage her and other believers, but this may have just been for the benefit of her and her family.  It doesn’t mention a church.

Acts 20 gives us Paul doing an evening service Troas, which may have been in a home.  It had multiple rooms and an upstairs, but it could have been a church building with a balcony for all we know…although is very unlikely.

In the next chapter, Acts 21, Paul stays with various families, but nothing is said about if it was the “church” or what he did there.  At one point a prophet does come and prophesy that Paul will be arrested and bound by the Jews.

The book of Acts ends abruptly, with Paul doing regular teachings about the Kingdom of God and Jesus Christ, from his rented home in Rome.  It doesn’t mention the church, but it could be assumed that those who were coming were Christians.

The only other mentions of Churches, in specific locations, are in the closing of Paul’s letters.

Romans 16:3-5 and 1 Corinthians 16:19 tells us that the meeting Paul had with Pricilla and Aquila in Acts 18 resulted in a church being started in their homes.

To Be Continued…