HOPE…

25 01 2013

hope graphic

…the difference between life and death.

I just finished reading Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand. It is a tale of the almost unbelievable ordeals of POW Louie Zamperini. I was fascinated by the contrast of Louie who had hope, and survivd, and others who did not, and death quickly came. It was a real life example of the power of hope. I was challenged to consider how Christians speak of hope. Often it seems that our use carries connotations of wishful thinking, or wispy desires. But that is not Christian hope! No. Our hope is grounded in Christ, giving us certainty! Hope grounded in Christ truly can be the difference between life and death.

 

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Culture & Christianity

4 12 2012

Have you ever wondered how, as a Believer, you should respond to certain events or topics in society? I know I have! And I have come to realize that there is no pat answer that works across the board for all things. It is tricky. The thing that we are really wrestling with is how as a Believer, one who is called to holiness (set apart-ness), we should engage/participate/exist within culture (the behaviors and beliefs characteristic of a particular group of people). Given that this time of year we encounter many significant cultural days…Halloween, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Thanksgiving, Ashura, Hanukkah, Yule, Christmas, and many more…this question surfaces to the forefront of our minds. I don’t have an answer that holds true across the board. BUT, I do know there are biblical principles that should shape our thoughts & behaviours, and provide a foundation for us to discerningly ENGAGE our culture…and maybe even CREATE culture.

Here is a helpful quote from missiologist Lesslie Newbigin that frames the extremes, irrelevance & syncretism, we should seek to avoid. Newbigin is addressing cross-cultural missions, but this applies just as well to engaging our local culture:

Everyone with the experience of cross-cultural mission knows that there are always two opposite dangers, the Scylla and Charybdis, between which one must steer. On the one side there is the danger that one finds no point of contact for the message as the missionary preaches it, to the people of the local culture the message appears irrelevant and meaningless. On the other side is the danger that the point of contact determines entirely the way that the message is received, and the result is syncretism. Every missionary path has to find the way between these two dangers: irrelevance and syncretism. And if one is more afraid of one danger than the other, one will certainly fall into the opposite. (Lesslie Newbigin, A Word in Season (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1994), 67.)

Consider these passages that speak to engagement without compromise…

  • 1 Corinthians 9 — Paul expresses that he has full freedom, even rights, in Christ! He becomes all things to all peoples that by all means he might save some (vs 22). Yet, Paul says he endures everything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel (vs 12).
  • Acts 17 — Paul engaged the local culture in order to have a platform for the gospel. He frequented the Athenian marketplace and reasoned with people there, including philosphers. He was quite familiar with their philosophies and beliefs.
  • John 17 — Jesus prays for his disciples, that they would be IN the world, though not OF the world.

We need discerning hearts and minds guided by the Spirit of God. Perhaps the biggest challenge is that personal conviction is not elevated to the status of biblical principle that is for all believers for all times.





Preaching & Teaching for Change

10 07 2011

This blog post offers a good reminder for teachers & preachers: Preaching ‘How to’ Instead of ‘You ought to’

I remember struggling in my first preaching course because DTS requires that the sermon ends with an application point that challenging the listeners to do something and showing them how to do it. It seemed corny to require people to “list 5 areas on a notecard,” or “carry this pebble in your pocket during the week and think about…,” or “go home and write down 3 things…” But, it challenged me to think about action applications that give people something to start doing that they can then build on. We are lazy…even mature Christians, some seminary trained, can hear a message and do absolutely nothing with it. When the preacher says “do this,” then we may actually do it. But if no direction is given, few people take the initiative to change. And, those things that I thought were corny, really aren’t that bad, because there is a good chance that no one has ever asked the listeners to do something before!

I especially like these statements:

Never settle for messages that educate people. Instead, teach the application of Scripture and you will transform the lives of many. 

Preaching & teaching the Word of God is not about education for the sake of mere knowledge. Being a detail-oriented person, I really, really want to back up the dump truck of all the details of my studies of a passage…I mean it is fascinating stuff!!! By far it is easier to focus on learning the timeline of Paul’s missionary journeys, the order of churches he visited, the chronological order of NT books…BUT my goal is to teach TRUTH so that our lives are changed by the power of the Holy Spirit! It is still good to have the background of authors, books, and settings…but let’s make sure we are proclaiming the Truth and assisting the listeners (and ourselves) in conforming our lives.





27 03 2011

However, in a therapeutic worldview, the whole purpose of religion is to improve our sense of well-being rather than to address the situation of sinners before the judgment of a holy God.

— Michael Horton, The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims On the Way, p. 510





thought provoking…

5 08 2010

I haven’t met anyone who says, “I became a Christian because I lost an argument one night.” I’ve met many who say, “I became a Christian because someone loved me.”

Philip Yancey





a gift passed down

8 06 2010

postmodernity…POSTmodernity…postMOdernity…postmoDERnity…

This is a buzz word flying around these days with as many definitions as there are people talking about it.  I would write a few thoughts about it, but I’ve been struck by something different. I figured if I threw postmodernity out there I’d get a few more readers (notice the inclusion of it in the tags!). No, I’ve been struck by something different that has revolutionized the world, a paradigmatic shift in philosophy from which the world has not recovered…a gift of not postmodernity, but modernity itself. What saddens me most is that this gift has been fully embraced by Christianity…even myself.

Cogito ergo sum

This is the famous statement of Descartes…I think therefore I am. There are many aspects to this statement, but I cannot get past the first word, the subject of the statement…I. It’s all about the individual! I, the individual, the singular, has been exalted above the plural, we. Oh what damage has been done by the warm receiving of this gift! So many of our churches embrace this gift in the fullest: individual chairs to sit in, individual bibles, individual bulletins, quiet prayer by myself, talk about a private relationship with Christ, my own individual cracker and juice cup…the list goes on. Now I know I surely have offended some, and I fully recognize that for some things in this list there are other things to consider (such as health responsibilities), but do you catch the results of this gift of modernity??? Let’s see if I can offend some more…do you realize that the biblical text declares, without apology, that YOU WERE NOT CREATED TO BE A PRIVATE, INDIVIDUAL CHRISTIAN!?!? Oh that’s right, listen to the biblical language: the body is made up of many parts, brothers (and sisters) in Christ, family of God, it is not good for man to be alone.

So, what do we do? Well, whatever we do it has to be INTENTIONAL and we have to persevere. I vote for returning the gift of modernity. Instead, how about adopting a concept like ubuntu that stems from the Zulu people of Africa. I’ve heard that a valid expression of ubuntu is “I know who I am because we know who we are.” Wow! What if that is how the Church thought!!? Notice that the individual is not repressed…but notice that the individual is not the singular focus. As a Christian, my identity is found in the community, in the body that is formed around the Lord Jesus Christ. But it doesn’t even stop there! My identity is found as a member of the family of God. I am a member only through Jesus Christ, by means of the Holy Spirit. Did you catch that?!?! My identity is rooted in the Triune God…now that is a distinctly Christian reality!





troubling

31 03 2010

(*yawn*…stretch)

Yeah, I’m coming out of my near month-long slumber 🙂 I guess my life isn’t that different from anybody else’s (busyness), I have just decided that blogging is of distant importance to so many other things. You can check up on what has consumed the bulk of my time by clicking “Readings” page above…and there is more to add to this list. I might quite possibly have read more in the first 3 months of this year than in the rest of my life combined. Sheesh! As if my eyes aren’t bad enough already! Perhaps I’ll write some more about the thesis topic and progression of research. I did make my first deadline (see here)…props to Mere!

The link above also refers to our current Sunday School series…which is AWESOME, by  the way (and I’m not teaching right now). A tidbit of inspiration that leads to troubling thoughts:

…as the prophets from the beginning [have declared] concerning Him, and the Lord Jesus Christ Himself has taught us, and the Creed of the holy Fathers has handed down to us.

This is the final statement from the Chalcedonian Creed. Isn’t it beautiful?!?!?! I wish more of my peers, my generation would read this. Sure, there is this whole issue of reading/accepting “the creeds” today…sounds too Roman Catholic or Orthodox…but this is our (Protestant) heritage too! Do you catch what the writers are saying?? They are basically saying that they are not writing anything new, anything original. They have simply set forth what was originally declared by the prophets of Scripture. Jesus Christ said the same things. The early Church fathers echoed the same thing. Wow!

Too often today I hear troubling ideas from my generation about doing things right…not in so many words of course. Our predecessors clearly didn’t get it right (and some surely haven’t), so it is high time for them to move out of the way and give us the reigns. Whoa! Christian orthodoxy is like a river flowing down through time. The fountain head is found in God’s revelation to mankind, first heard in the prophets. Christ taught the same. The apostles echoed Christ’s teaching, and passed it to the Church. Today, I seek to plant my feet in this flowing river. I affirm that methodology may change, but I do not so frivolously dismiss my predecessor. God be praised for their obedience to Him…and I pray that I may be found faithful with what they have passed on to me.

Friends, will you, by the grace of God, plant yourself in the river of Christian orthodoxy with me? Let us not lose the zeal that accompanies our youth…but let us not so quickly dismiss the wisdom gained by our predecessors!