A Working Microwave


When you introduce someone to the offer Jesus made you're not offering something better in the sense of "this microwave is better than that one." Which is how many in our postmodern world feel. They think you're arrogantly saying Christianity is better. But that's not what you're saying. Because in such an illustration either microwave may indeed work, the only difference is one is superior in the number of features, or the speed of cook time, or cost to take home.

With Jesus it's completely different because nothing else works. Nothing else is even remotely comparable.

Or to carry out the analogy, nothing else can even begin to heat up food. Everything else you put the food in to poisons and kills you.

Is God Good? (Part Four: Why Didn't Jesus Abolish Slavery?) ➙

A few weeks ago I subscribed to this blog in my RSS reader and I've been really enjoying it. For the most part it's very well-written book reviews about books of which I'd probably only read %50, but nonetheless it's been interesting.

This link points to a concise series on the goodness of God. Here's a sample:
How can we transform a corrupt and wicked system? Can we do it by forcing people to follow set rules and patterns? This almost never works. I don’t think many people would advocate slavery as an ethical system irregardless of their views on slavery for productivity or economical reasons. Yet, various forms of slavery have and do exist. It seems such tendencies of selfishness and ownership go hand in hand with human nature. And if this is the case–if slavery is a manifestation of unethical thoughts and desires within certain people–then the solution is to change those thoughts and desires. Would it be possible to transform the hearts of the masters to such an extent that they willingly set their slaves free? If so, this would be more efficient than forcing abolition.

Church Shopping

I hear a complaint frequently about the flakiness of church goers. Mostly it comes from the leadership of churches when they have people come in and out of their congregation while "church shopping." I'm not sure who coined this term, but the church goer sees it as a necessary thing to find a church which suits them, and the pastors see it as a bad/sinful thing motivated from unbiblical American consumerism. Afterall, the church isn't about what the individual can get from the church, they'll say, but rather what the individual can give to the church.

But maybe it's not that people are wrong in their search, but that they're searching endlessly because nothing good actually exists. We inherently know we are not getting enough from church and that that is bad. Sure we need to give, but a church that does not feed its' sheep must have something wrong, right? At least this is our gut feeling. So we look elsewhere, continuing our hunt for a church which somehow brings a community we instinctually know we need. But in America it's hard to find.

Is the issue our pulpits and rows of pews/chairs?

Were we created for community we're not getting from big church? I did just write a post about the unity we should experience in Christ. Sadly the experience of most of us in big church is anonymity rather than unity.

It seems like the teaching is great, but apparently teaching is not sustaining us. Whether you're preaching exegetically or topically might not matter if it's still just teaching. But the churches keep complaining something is wrong with the people because the church is so certain about the way it's doing things it can't possibly be something wrong with themselves — can it?.

But where is the Biblical model for their lectures from the front? Where in the New Testament is the word "pulpit" used? Or instruction to Timothy for picking out one with just the right oak? And yet seminary grads cite their desire to preach from the pulpit as their reason for pursuing the pastorate.

Also I wonder what role lecture played in the life of the shepherd with his sheep. Was it an essential part of his raising the sheep into healthy adults? Did a lecture lead the sheep where they were supposed to go? Or did the shepherd lead by walking where he wanted his sheep to go?

Does preaching from the front effectively lead us to Christ? Or are people "church shopping" because they instinctually know it is not?

Scripture as the Basis for Truth ➙

Video where Don Carson, John Piper, Tim Keller sit around in a very uncomfortable circle and discuss scriptural authority in relativistic times. The discussion is great, although Piper is almost awkward.

It's interesting because just today when working on an analysis of 2 Timothy for a seminary class I wrote in my Bible the following summary of the book:
1. There are foolish people who choose no standard for truth.
2. Scripture is breathed out by God. It is truth (the standard).
3. Preach scripture.
Interesting this book was written nearly 2,000 years ago, and the message is so very apt in our day.

Driscoll Can Tell You What it Really Says ➙

Regarding Mark Driscoll’s preaching style Matthew R. Malcom says:
In the excerpts of his sermon on Song of Solomon available here, I keep getting the sense that he’s trying to explain what the Bible “really” means – if only God had thought to just talk straight.
This never occurred to me but many, many of the sermons I’ve heard in my life were taught this way.

via The Elaborated

Corinthian Elders by Jack Fortenberry

Recently I was contacted by a man named Jack Fortenberry and asked if I’d be interested in reviewing his book Corinthian Elders. As a general rule, free books are good. And this was sent in response to my post recently about ecclesiology.

The book is interesting because it’s such a departure from the way so many people think. For instance:
“The church meeting prescribed by Paul was very different from what many believers experience in churches across the United States. Whereas contemporary church services are usually led by one or two professionally trained pastors or elders with a scripted program of hymns, prayers and a sermon, I Corinthians 14:26-31 describes interactive meetings of believers with no professional speaker, no script and many sermons by both new and old believers. Everyone was encouraged to participate without emphasizing any gifts over others.”
Or elsewhere:
“For the church to present one or a few preachers to a passive audience who attend services because they enjoy the sermons or preaching style is a violation of Paul’s commandment to the Corinthians when he redirected them from men to Christ. Why do we persist in disregarding this commandment? Do we know better than Paul?”
I appreciate that the writing style is a little in-your-face unapologetic, but there certainly are things in the book with which I disagree. As usual I’ll let you decide for yourself, but the book is not overwhelmingly long (about 85 pages) so it wont take too much of your time. I suggest it for those chewing on why they can attend church so faithfully, enjoy the teaching/preaching, and yet still feel like they get next to nothing out of it. Perhaps our system is broken. Dependance on a “leader” from the front, as opposed to a system of interaction and community (with Christ as the head) may be the primary cause of our frustration with the way church is run in America.

Then again. Maybe you have no problem with the way things are being run.

A Plea for Unity

I’ve been dwelling a lot on the concept of church unity lately since finishing my most recent seminary class on the Pauline epistles. Paul talks about unity a lot. But sadly it’s not something I’ve paid a lot of attention to. I suppose we all know we’re supposed to be unified, but probably in the same way we all know we’re supposed to drive under the speed limit. Unity just feels inconvenient, and nobody is doing it anyways.

The first scripture on unity I want to look at is in Ephesians 3:6. This is about the mystery of the gospel. I’ve always heard that the mystery of the gospel is that the gentiles are fellow heirs. And I suppose that is nearly an acceptable reading of the passage. The reason to read it otherwise is that everyone already knew the gentiles were brought in. Therefore the mystery Paul speaks about in this passage isn’t the fact that they were saved, but rather the fact of how they were saved.
“This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel."
The “how” is “in Christ Jesus.” The gentiles are fellow heirs because they are one in Christ with the Jews. The whole of chapter 2:11-22 expounds this. See the “in Christ Jesus” of 2:13, “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.”

Also note verse 21 talks about how being joined together we (with Christ) grow into a holy temple in the Lord. This brings me to my second point.

I have read 1 Corinthians 3:16-17 many times and never understood something fundamental. First of all look at the verse:
“Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.”
If you’re like me you’ve read this verse a million times and thought, “Yea, I am the temple of God and the Spirit of God dwells in me. Cool.” But that’s not what this says. Unfortunately our English Bibles are incredibly unclear on this. In other languages it sticks out like a sore thumb that this “you” is plural. My ESV simply notes this in a footnote I’ve never read.

Paul is literally saying that we (as in together) are God’s temple. And then verse 17 tells us that when we destroy God’s temple God will destroy us. When we divide as the church we are literally destroying the temple of God because we corporately are the temple of God.

The mystery of our salvation is related to our being united with other Christians in Christ. I have to then conclude that there is something fundamental about our Christianity which requires unity. I have to imagine this is part of the reason for the Lord’s supper. After all Paul tells us “For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself.”

If you take the Lord’s supper and you don’t discern, remember, recognize, the body of Christ (the church!) in which we are unified, then you are eating and drinking judgment on yourself.

There is something about unity which is outrageously fundamental to Christianity. And if we’re not seeking unity, praying for unity, or at least praying for our fellow brothers and sisters then I’m arguing that we’re missing our Christianity. We can not forget that we are Christians because of Christ. We cannot be Christians unless we are in Christ.

Finally, what if Galatians 3:28 read, “There is neither Pentecostal nor Calvinist, there is neither Baptist nor Wesleyan, there is no Episcopal and Lutheran, for you are all one in Christ Jesus”?

Unity. I plea. Unity. If you don’t see it in the Word, then you aren’t reading it. If you don’t recognize it as essential to who we are — change.

Unity. I plea. Unity.

Thoughts on Spirituality for the Rest of Us by Larry Osborne

I've been reading Larry Osborne's Spirituality for the Rest of Us and now that I'm nearly done with it I believe I can suggest it with some confidence. A friend of mine suggested the book to me in April and I just now got around to reading it. There are a few things I disagree with in it, but on the whole I've been very impressed. Here are a few selections. First on spiritual growth he says:
Contrary to what so many of us have been led to believe with sermon illustrations and Sunday school stories, the greatest sign of God's work in our life is not a pattern of rugged self-denial and dig-deep obedience. It's wanting what God wants — then going out and doing it.
Then regarding what he calls "Gift Projection" he says:
Gift Projection takes place whenever we begin to project our own unique gifts and calling upon everyone else, as if our assignment should be their assignment, and our strengths their strengths. At its core, it's an arrogant assumption that my calling is the highest calling, and my gifts are the best gifts.I call it chocolate-covered arrogance because on the surface it often looks like nothing more than a sincere desire and passion to carry out God's agenda. In fact, gift projectors never see it as arrogance. They think they're humbly helping God out by fervently recruiting others to a vital task.

But It's arrogance nonetheless. And God's not too hip on arrogance, even if it's chocolate coated.
. . .
God-pleasing spirituality is found in pleasing him — not everyone else.
The last thing I'll share is from a chapter titled "Why Results Don't Matter." This was challenging to me because I think about results a lot. But Osborne says,
Faith and obedience always matter.
Results don't.
In this section he basically argues that success in your job or ministry is no sign that God is necessarily pleased with you. The only thing that matters is faith and obedience. What is difficult about this is my strong desire to see results. And he's arguing that the Lord will not necessarily give results. Even if you do everything right. Even if you share the gospel with more people than anyone and that is exactly what the Lord wants you do, it doesn't necessarily mean you will see any converts.

I've been tossing around the idea of a PhD in missiology and I'm just about to apply. But gosh, if my thesis proposal is to research missionary methods which are working best in certain places I may just be researching the methods which have yielded results and end up completely missing the missionaries who are fully in the will of God. I'd hate to walk away from years of research thinking I had found out what is best to emulate when in fact there is no correlation. I wonder if the school would accept a thesis proposal on missionaries who the have seen zero fruit for years, but are still trusting the Lord in all they do (faith) and obediently doing what they think they're supposed to despite not seeing fruit.

Updates

If you decide to move overseas be advised that flying home for furlough sucks. Unless you live in Mexico, then I suppose it wouldn't be too awful. Our three flights nearly killed us. They would be fine I suppose if we didn't have small children. Then the free flowing wine and beer would have made up for the pain of the flight. But alas.

Also, American food is way better than I remember. Specifically the beer. My first beer after arriving home was a Fat Tire (I'm from Ft. Collins very near to New Belgium) and I think I commented after every sip about how amazing this was. Yes — I home-brew, no — my beer is not as good as Fat Tire.

Finally, America has gotten stinkin' expensive. Wow. And Wow.

That is all.

Stetzer on Disciple Making and The Elephant in the Room ➙

Let me be frank. The elephant in evangelicalism is this: We have focused our energies on our corporate worship gatherings, sermons, and organization— while we have struggled to produce disciples. If the central command of the Great Commission is to make disciples, and your church’s philosophy of ministry revolves around marketing, facilities, and programs, you have missed the point. You must have a plan for discipleship if you want to be missional.
When an elephant is in the room it means everyone recognizes there is a big problem, but no one wants to talk about it. I would argue most people don't even recognize there is a problem.