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Archive for the ‘Christian Living’ Category

I think this is the toughest blogpost I have ever read! There are times I wish I didn’t check certain websites. Men like Alan Knox and Dave Black, women who blog about doing it makes me question am I doing enough! I know, I know, the Gospel is about believing a bunch of abstract facts that really have no real bearing on our lives, other than accumulating good Podcasts, reading great books. Living the Gospel is an oxymoron right? Well tell Dave Black that who writes this wonderful post:

 

How Are Your Verbs?

 David Alan Black  

verbs

My sabbatical officially ends today. On Monday I’ll resume my teaching duties at the seminary with my J-term Greek class.

I can honestly say that 2008 was a tremendous year in every way. I have learned more about language than ever before – the language of love in particular. I have seen how the intellect is so easily enslaved by bizarre abstractions. Education has become a Utopia for Americans, and becoming a “Christian intellectual” a god.

What is the use? Knowledge is an impotent end incapable of creating the means. Why, then, do we so easily “Christianize” it? I refuse to believe in the power of education. For truth we need a source outside ourselves – a far greater Light than our puny human candles can provide. I want to proclaim only the Word of God this year – not by words alone but by sharing in Jesus’ sufferings. I no longer want to camouflage my bondage by calling it “scholarship.” Jesus alone is Truth. He Himself says so. It is Him I want to know. No more disguises! No more pedantic, puerile obfuscations! What good is life without Truth?

In Ethiopia I taught the book of Acts for a week. Here’s my rendering of a key verse (2:42): “They spent their time learning from the apostles, taking part in the fellowship, eating meals together, and praying for each other.” Note the second element if you will: “taking part in the fellowship.” That’s how the early believers spent a good deal of their time, says Luke. They emphasized Body Life and genuine relationships. Each one of them had a gift, a talent to share with others. The same is true today. Each one of us has a contribution to make to the health of the Body. Why is that so hard to see? It is a false humility that says, “I have nothing to contribute.” Your ability may be small or large, but your gifts are vitally important to the fellowship. No talent or ability is of our own making. Peter puts it like this: “As each of us has received a gift, we are to use it for the good of one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace” (1 Pet. 4:10). The Bible says plainly that I have a gift, and I am being just plain lazy if I do not exercise it!

The essence of stewardship is responsibility. I have a divinely-ordained responsibility to live a life of blessing to others. How, then, can I be so responsible with my finances but not with my gifts and talents? No gift is small in the eyes of God. Every gift is a token of His grace in our lives. And the early Christians realized this. They did not shake off or shirk their responsibility to serve others. They did not reason, “I have nothing to give.” They did not bury their talents in the ground. They did not write books about the New Testament but not practice its simple teachings.

This is the question I am asking myself this year: Am I giving to the Lord what is His? Is He first in the stewardship of my time, my friendships, my possessions, my resources, my strength, my abilities? I often think, How much more I could do for my Lord is I wasn’t so lazy and self-centered! It’s as if Jesus is telling me, “Don’t neglect the gift you have!” (1 Tim. 4:14). I returned from Ethiopia with a new realization that God will reward me in heaven according to my stewardship, not my knowledge. I must seek to be a wise and trustworthy steward of all He has given me. Only by a diligent application of the truth can I prove that I am a trainee of Jesus. My faith must be proved by my actions. Otherwise I will be like that student who once told me, “My Greek is excellent, except for the verbs.” My profession to be a Jesus-follower is worthless unless it has verbs to back it up!

I can say this: I am ready this year to lay down my life for Jesus if necessary. But even more, I am ready to forfeit things so that others might find the Way of Jesus more easily. I will not evade the burden. I will not say but not do. I will not pray for prisoners – I will visit them. I will not debate the morality of capitalism – I will feed the poor. I will not discuss the Gospel – I will share it with one and all. I am done with debates about this or that. How dare I claim to know truth and display the approachability of a porcupine!

So back to school I go – after a glorious rest and a wonderful romp in Africa. On Monday I will teach my students something about the Greek language. But I don’t want to stop there. I also want to teach them, by actions and not merely by words, that nothing remains more important yet more demanding than that we reflect in our lives the unfailing, scandalous love of Jesus.

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16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.

The question is this? Does my prayer effect change in the heart and mind of God? I was talking to a good brother (one who I will not expose due to heresy hunters 8) ) about the fact does our prayers make any difference or are all of the outcomes predetermined by God regardless of our requests?

As I read through the scriptures I have to argue for the former. I believe God’s mind can be changed on a particular situation and that the outcome is not predetermined to the point where regardless of what I ask God has set the course in “eternity past”.

Reading through James he says in Chapter 5 “the prayer of a righteous man has much power”! Power to do what? Power to submit to the predetermined plan of God? Or power to effect change in the circumstances of others? I think the latter in these two rhetorical questions.

I recall many times in both the Old and New Testament, God willing or saying one thing but then changing His mind due to a human response. Rather that is prayer, sin, a righteous act or faith. I think the predetermined view robs prayer of its power and does a disservice to quite a few narratives God has revealed through His word. For example, the stories of Hezekiah, Moses interceding twice for Israel, the Flood, numerous times in the Gospels where someone’s faith got them or someone else healed. A few times in Acts and so on.

I close with this. We have the authority and power through the Spirit through prayer to effect change. Everything from healing the sick, changing the predicaments of others, having God restore what the enemy has stolen and so forth. I don’t believe that the only thing prayer is good for is to “change our hearts and minds” as I was once told. I believe many times we miss out on the move of God and opportunities to restore and heal because of a lack of faith (at least this is what Matthew implies in Matthew 13).

So again I will only quote what the Spirit has already revealed “the prayer of the righteous has much power”.

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myth1

Christian Books has “A Myth of a Christian Nation” on sale for $0.99.  This is a really good book. I have posted a few quotes from it but here is one I really really like on Civil Religion:

When we fail to distinguish between the quasi-Christian civil religion of America and the kingdom of God, two things happen.

First, American kingdom people lose their missionary zeal. Because we buy the myth that we live in a Christian nation, as defined by the civil religion, we don’t live with the same missionary zeal we’d have if we lived, say, in a country where Buddhism or Hinduism was the civil religion. This is why American Christians so often define “missions” as sending people to other countries—as though there was more missionary work to do there than here.

I believe this sentiment is rooted in an illusion. If you peel back the facade of the civil religion, you find that America is about as pagan as any country we could ever send missionaries to. Despite what a majority of Americans say when asked by pollsters, we are arguably no less self-centered, unethical, or prone toward violence than most other cultures. We generally look no more like Jesus, dying on a cross out of love for the people who crucified him, than do people in other cultures, and thus are generally no closer to the kingdom of God than people in other cultures. The fact that we have a quasi-Christian civil religion doesn’t help; if anything, it hurts precisely because it creates the illusion in they minds of kingdom people that we are closer to the example of Jesus than we actually are (cf. Matt. 21:31).

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My good brother CJ at Christ My Rightouesness is doing a series called “Race Relations and Unity. So far there are three posts up.

The Cross and Racial Reconciliation : Jews and Gentiles in Christ  by Kehpa

Kingdom of Men or Kingdom of God: How Your View of Diversity Defines Your Kingdom by Lionel Woods (AKA Hot Chocolate)

Love is Beyond Diversity by Bradley Cochran

There are a few more coming, but if you have a heart for racial reconcilation and diversity within the Body of Christ, I think these would be good reads. Coming from the Reformed persuasion I belive this to be a critical issue, as the Reformed faith is highly Eurocentric and has a superiority complex!

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Why is my marriage always better on Sunday?

Why are my kids the greatest on Sunday?

Why do I like everybody in my church on Sunday?

Why am I so excited about Jesus on Sunday?

How come I always find my bible on Sunday?

Why do I like the worship music on Sunday?

Why don’t I have a problem with the preaching on Sunday?

Why do I love “church” on Sunday?

Why is the job going fine on Sunday?

Why do I care about the poor on Sunday?

Why do I like giving on Sunday?

Why are missions so important on Sunday?

Why can I remember so many verses on Sunday?

Why isn’t race a problem on Sunday?

Why do I hug so many people on Sunday?

Why don’t I have a problem with her dress on Sunday?

Why come that tattoo isn’t a big deal on Sunday?

Why don’t I gossip on Sunday?

Why does my anger problems cease on Sunday?

Why don’t I struggle with sin on Sunday?

Why am I so nice on Sunday?

Why is the bible so important on Sunday?

Why is everybody a brother and sister on Sunday?

Why do I wave at my neighbor on Sunday?

Why do I love my wife soooo much on Sunday?

Why isn’t that joke funny on Sunday?

Why do I smile so much on Sunday?

Why come I am never scared on Sunday?

Why is serving people so easy on Sunday?

I tell you for some reason Sunday is always the best day of the week! How about you?

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I don’t remember how I came to embrace what is know as Calvinism or the Doctrines of Grace. And as much as I try to find a way around it I can’t get pass what I feel to be an honest reading of the scriptures. There are times I come across scriptures that seem to tug me in the other direction, but by the end of all of my reading and rereading of the New Testament, things such as the sovereign and unconditional election of the believer, the security of the believer, by being seated with Christ in heaven, and the depravity of mankind to the fact that it seems that they will not search out God seems to be the most consistent.

I think the biggest problem that many people have with those who embrace the Doctrines of Grace is the fact that they have big heads and the hearts of ants! I can’t deny this because most of those I interact with online and even some in person happen to fit the bill. The Doctrines of Grace become something to believe that separates us from other believers and not something to live that drive us to serve other believers and even the lost. So I am going to attempt to tackle 3 points of the doctrine of grace and how they should be lived out. Let me know what you think (all checks can be mailed to…)

Perseverance of the Saints

Many who hold to the Doctrines of Grace simultaneously embraces the Puritans. I will tell you upfront I am no fan of the Puritans. I tried the little reading club and purchased a bunch of books from Banner of Truth but by the second book, I felt that I needed to go to confession, Celebrate Recovery, Excommunicate myself, and then join a monastery! Why? Because they focused on Sin more than Christ. I found myself policing my entire life, instead of depending on and trusting in the only one who could save me. I found myself doing the opposite of what they were saying. Which was applying the blood to the doorposts of my life, instead of trying to stack up enough chips to pay the house back what I owed!

The perseverance of the saints happen to be the most beautiful doctrine for the believer. I believe it goes hand in hand with justification, regeneration and adoption. I will go on the record to say that the perseverance of the saints actually encompasses or I would say actually can be defined by the simultaneous and seamless work of God in regenerating, justifying and adopting us.

So how does it work? Simply put. When I understand that I am secure my focus shifts from me trying to earn righteousness, favor and divine blessing and my focus shifts to the one who imparts righteousness, favor and divine blessing. So Christ can now be my treasure. Unlike the pirate who can never rest because he knows the owner will come looking for his treasure, perseverance gives me the treasure with full title! I don’t have to worry about protecting it, it is fully mine. Many Christians today who don’t believe that find themselves, focusing their energy on trying to stay reconciled to God instead of reconciling the world to God. I live for self preservation versus sharing the Divine Father and all He has to offer to the world. I believe this is why many Christians don’t reach out to others and have very little relationships with those who threaten their safety from all things sin.

Depravity

Two of my favorite verses are found in Ephesians 2:1-10 and Titus 3:1-8. In both Paul reminds the believers of their past depravity and hopelessness in order for them to see the graciousness of God but also to see their total inability to come to God on their own accord. I want you to also note that in both of these sections, Paul turns them to good works to be done because of God’s grace in their lives. Because God has done a gracious work in us, that is, Him sending His Son to secure all who are the elect, we are now to extend God to the world by doing good works!

I also want to focus on our graciousness towards the sinner. We were dead and without hope. And God loved us and showed us the richness of  His mercy.  But for some reason those who embrace the Doctrines of Grace seem to be the most judgmental and abrasive. We who uphold depravity, especially total inability should be the nicest folks on the planet. We should make the Cleavers look like the Bloods and Crips. But we can be the harshest, the most impatient, and the most judgmental, easily forgetting our inability and God’s work of Grace in regeneration. We were dead and there was nothing we did to be regenerated or to have God shine His love in our hearts. We should extend grace like its nobodys business.

Election:

Election goes hand in hand with Depravity. But we understand that God loved us because of His own divine mercy and the only and I do mean only reason we are saved is due to the extreme grace of God. We didn’t pull the long straw or pick the right number, nor was there any spark of goodness in us. We could have easily been on highway to hell doing a 150MPH with no brakes. But God chose us from the foundation of the world that He may show His kindness. We understand that God is so totally self sufficient that He doesn’t need humans nor angels to worship Him. We understand that it is God’s mercy that allows us to worship Him. We understand that it costs the Father a Son to redeem us. We understand that we weren’t the cream of the crop. Paul says to the Corinths that “you were a bunch of nobodys”. We should be the last to boast! We should be the last to look down our noses. We should be the last to shake our head at the nonbeliever. Or call the Atheist dumb, or mock the Muslim, or belittle the Witch. We should be quick to show mercy and compassion because we understand that it was God alone who accomplished the salvation we now enjoy and walk in. The Doctrine of election should be the most humbling and humiliating doctrine, but it seems to produce the most proud. Given the scope of our condition before God I can’t understand how.

I close with this. If you are one who upholds the Doctrines of Grace, you should be quick to show mercy and be a sloth at judging (myself included). Why? Because God interrupted history in His Son to reverse the curse and the subsequent damnation that we were all faced with. It was not because God saw a spark of good in us, it is because He is good alone. The next time you see a guy boasting in his righteousness in the name of the Doctrines of Grace you may want to remind him what such a doctrine implies.

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I love this quote from Greg Boyd’s The Myth of a Christian Nation

So, too the reason God now calls kingdom people to remain separate from the ways of the kingdom-of-the-world is not to isolate them from their culture but to empower them to authentically, serve their culture and ultimately win it over to allegiance to Jesus Christ. The reason we are not to be of the world is so we may be for the world

This point is especially important today, for a significant portion of evangelical Christianity has come under the influence of an escapist apocalyptic theology. Believing Jesus will soon “rapture” Christians out of the world before destroying it, they have little concern with the church being a witness on issues of social justice, global peace, the environment, and so on. To the contrary, in the name of fulfilling biblical prophecy, many are actively supporting stances that directly or indirectly encourage violence, possibly on a global scale (of instance, extremist Christian Zionism). Since the world is doomed for soon destruction, the thinking goes, the only thing that matters is getting individuals ready for the rapture.

Whatever else one thinks about the New Testament’s eschatology, it certainly does not encourage this sort of irresponsible escapism. The hope offered to believers is not that we will be a peculiar elite group of people who will escape out of the world, leaving others behind to experience the wrath of God. The hope is rather that by our sacrificial participation in the ever-expanding kingdom, the whole creation will be redeemed (Rom. 8:20-23; Col 1:18-20)

I believe Mr. Boyd to be correct in his assessment. It is much easier to let the world go to hell in a hand basket then engaging it with Calvary type love. It is much easier to look at homosexuals with AIDS and say “this is God’s judgment” than to put our arms around them and love them. It is much easier to ignore the rapid decline of our environment than it is to march hand in hand with “tree lovers”. It is much easier to say “we will be raptured away from it all, so prepare yourself for the next kingdom” while ignoring the world around us. Why care about child slavery? Why care about Darfur? Why care about world hunger? It is funny that Jesus came to reverse the curse of the fall while we not only avoid assisting Him, we actually applaud such destruction and pain in the name of God’s judgment!

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