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Its the Remix #18

1 Corinthians 12:7-11

To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom teaching, and to another the utterance of knowledge  teaching according to the same Spirit, to another faith teaching by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing teaching by the one Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles teaching, to another prophecy teaching, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits teach, to another various kinds of tongues teachings, to another the interpretation of tongues teachings. 11 All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills. (1 Corinthians 12:7-11, TSV-Theological Standard Version)

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If you don’t know what Biblical Theology is, buy this book. If you do know what Biblical Theology is, buy this book. If you read the bible buy this book, if you don’t read the bible, then shame on you 8) .

This book serves as a mini commentary, has helpful articles on biblical theology and is a dictionary that follows themes (such as the Temple/Tabernacle or High Priest) in the overall story of the bible. That story being the redemption of mankind through the sovereign hand of God. The articles alone are worth the price of the book and when you add what the book was actually published to accomplish you have just robbed the contributors.

I don’t want to get into biblical interpretation here. However, I have to say, the majority of churches that meet on a weekly basis rob their congregants because of a lack of biblical theology. That is why proof texting, topical sermons that never point to Christ and His redeeming work throughout history and the “what does this mean to me” syndrome is causing, in the name of one author, “a famine in the land”. Whenever we interpret the bible in the way the Holy Spirit never intended we “deinspire” the bible and it becomes as supernatural as any other piece of literature we find in our local bookstores.

I think this book will help you get a grip on biblical theology, its contribution to biblical interpretation and help you read your bible as an overarching story of God’s redeeming work in HIS-story. Buy this book read it and let me know what you think.

One of the biggest transition that I have wrestled through for the last 1.5 years is that of how to do church and is there a correct way? I am not convinced of “the” correct way. As Joe Miller says “the bible is really silent on how the church should function”. I think I agree more with Joe and here is why. If we look through the Pauline Epistles and Acts we can’t see “one way” to do church or how the church should meet or function. There seems to be  a great amount of diversity on how people met. If we are honest it would be hard to make any clear case either way. From single elder led meetings that was one of many meetings in a particular area (there seems to be multiple houses in Romans and Ephesus while there may have been only one in all of Corinth at least when Paul wrote Corinthians 1). I think some place had women leaders (Philippi as the church met in Lydia’s house who would have been the most mature disciple in Phillipi), to some places where women not being able to teach due to the mess it was making (Ephesus). 

So I am thinking this. I have come to the conclusion that it is the individual need, temperament, cultural setting and preference. I believe some people enjoy the weekly clear biblical exposition, while others like it more emergent. Some people like the big churches with worship leaders, good youth programs and simple, clear, biblical but practical sermons. Some people like the big weekly atmosphere with the tight nit small groups. Some like young energetic funny pastors like Driscoll and Chandler while other folks like the more detailed old school fellas like MacArthur and Swindoll. I think some people like strong doctrinal preaching while others enjoy a more interactive participatory. I think some people love churches that are heavily involved in overseas missions, while some people likes to see their church focus more on their local community. Some people like heavily evangelistic churches while others like churches who feed the poor and clothe the naked more. Some people like to meet in houses because they are convinced if Paul was here that is what he would do, while others feel the church that is growing and bursting out the seams is blessed by God (I neither agree or disagree).

Some people like the church with all the bells and whistles; from coffee shops, to work out facilities where they fell safe and believe that the church should do such things. While others believe that such a thing is why Jesus turned over the money changers table. Some people believe it is oppressive to keep women out of teaching ministries while others believe you are liberal loving heretic for such a stance.

I will tell you where I stand brothers and sisters. I like it simple and that is maybe because I am stupid. I am not convinced that we should meet in homes but if in a building it should be rented and for celebration style gatherings (unless that building is used to help rebuild the city more on this later). I think homes with 15-30 members with independent/interdependent shepherds/elders that come together once a month for celebration or maybe have to come together more frequently for some matter (maybe in March they meet weekly to teach a certain doctrine) seems to me to be the best way to meet. I think the Church that meets in America has way too much money wrapped in single use infrastructure (in the 100’s of billions). I think we should drink coffee at Starbucks and meet more nonbelievers than build one in our local church. I think we have way too much money wrapped up in staff positions, while I do believe an elder/teacher can receive a stipend due to the fact that he may have to take a job that allows him to provide oversight and lose out on potential income. I don’t believe a man who has the DESIRE (I Timothy 3) to provide oversight and walk in his gifting should be negotiating a salary, nor expect one as Jesus instructed “freely you have received freely you give” or Paul “it is better to give than to receive” our hearts should be to provide oversight for free and even at our own expense if necessary (that is why most men don’t want to go plant in rural or impoverished areas, the suburbs take much less faith and getting donors before one provides oversight is a sign of that).

I think many churches today to be complicated business entities who live for the entity and not the “Church” (the people who meet collectively). Many pastors are CEO’s and elders are “board of directors” they provide more business direction than care for the souls of those entrusted to them. They spend more time in “business meetings” than meeting with the saints in their homes or for lunch or for dinner. We know them as figure heads more than loving shepherds.  Someone leaving their church isn’t really a concern for them because another person will come to take their spot! Many are sheepless shepherds which bibilcally speaking are no shepherds at all.

I think most of this falls away when we being to meet more simply! When we have shepherds caring for less people (in a lot of churches there are 6-8 elders for ever 2000 members, that is about a 300 to 1 ratio and I am being generous). Most elders have no clue if their members are maturing and I dare to say that most don’t even care. They provide more oversight to the entity anyway and the measure of a maturing church is numerical growth and church income not strong marriages, growing disciples, maturing parents, and loving disciples. Those things are left up to the expository sermons and conference numbers. However, in the simple church you don’t have more than 30 per elder. And since the elder/shepherds know those placed in their care they can recommend them for eldership and they do life with these individuals as they have more time to care for their souls. In most churches the Pulpit provides more shepherding than the Shepherds themselves.

Another plus for the more simple church to me is the level of flexibility provided. You don’t have to put on the “World’s Greatest Show” week after week. One can be led by the Spirit to pray the entire meeting. Or to provide counseling, or to go out collectively and beautify a park, or go over a sick members house and clean up for them and love on them and serve them. Or they can go to a nursing home that Sunday, or to a women’s shelter. However in the more traditional setting, one must put on the show, because it is the glue that holds the entire congregation together and sick members get put on prayer lists not visited. Going to a shelter or a nursing home is an event not part of the gathering and to miss income for a week can really throw a loophole in the “church budget”.

The last plus for the simple church is the flexibility to move economic resources and the trust given to the individual Christian to give his/her resources as needed. The first is a genuine plus for me. When we have a member lose his/her job, or if we have a member who needs a car fixed, or if they need help burying a love one or a doctor bill, or some other financial crisis, money isn’t earmarked for salaries, mortgages, building funds, or some other reason. So the red tape that many believers experience goes away. We can raise funds on the spot or over a given period to meet that need, not to mention since we know each other and are a family we ACTUALLY KNOW the need! The second is another big plus for me. Christians should be given the freedom to meet needs as they make disciples and pray for God’s direction with their finances. The more traditional setting has way too many fixed costs and things such as “tithing to the local church” or in more theological jargon “giving where you are being fed” are the norm. A great deal of the money (8-90%) is wrapped up in these fixed costs. And a saint on a tight budget who has a sick relative or coworker or sees another need has to say “I have given to my church I will have to send you to them”.  And when the individual comes to that church the money is already spent or is locked up in “reserves” when saints don’t give as much during certain times of the year (Summers and Christmas).

So I really like the simple structure. There are many drawbacks. But a dependency upon the Spirit is where the simple church has to fall back on. Unlike the traditional church which has pragmatic pillars that support it, the simple church has to trust that the people who come will stay, the resources it needs will be provided and the growth will come through genuine loving disciples not “good church ministries”.

I close with this. The simple guys shouldn’t be so cocky to say they have it right and the the more traditional guys shouldn’t write off the simple guys as some incompetent emerging liberals who despise “church leadership” though we do despise “church authority” but so does Jesus (Matthew 20 and 23). I think both can play a huge part in the Sovereign plan of God to build His Church. So I think maybe we should spend more time loving and praying for one another versus “biting and devouring one another” as Paul says in Galatians 5.

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.

 

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”.

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).

I wonder if we take the plain writing of scripture seriously? In both Galatians and Hebrews. Lets look at the two warnings:

Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace.

For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.

Now the argument usually goes like this. “Well that falling from grace in Galatians 5, means a lost of rewards” or “this is hypothetical and doesn’t mean that” or most common “they were never saved at first”. Why? Because our theological presuppositions tell us that one who comes to faith can’t fall away. Usually Romans 8 and John 5:24 are quoted.

The argument for Hebrews is usually verse 9 again this is a hypothetical statement and doesn’t mean what it says. But Paul says in Hebrews 6 that these individuals have been “enlightened”, have “tasted the heavenly gift” and “shared (partaken) ” of the Holy Spirit”. These aren’t experiences of the nonbeliever this seems to be the language of one who has trusted in the Gospel and has been born again.

Here is what I am not saying. I am not saying that sin seperates us from God and I think this is what John 5 and Romans 8 convey. I am saying that a man can willfully follow Christ trust in Him and as Matthew says in his Gospel the 13th Chapter one can get so concerned with this world, count the cost of the Christian life and walk away. I believe this is what Paul is conveying in Hebrews 6.

If we follow the letter to the Hebrews. The theme is one huge warning. “To turn back to Judaism due to persecution is to reject the true High Priest, the true land, the true sabbath rest, the true Son of God, the true temple and to turn back to Sinai which has been replaced by Zion”. That is why the writer tells the Hebrews to “go outside of the camp”. Because this is where the scapegoat goes, to take the guilt of Israel away. We see Jesus as that scapegoat, who takes our sins away and bears our guilt and shame, however, this is predicated on a continual faith.

Now there are two camps who agree with OSAS. The first are those who reject the Doctrines of Grace and for some reason these are the people I have the greatest quarrel with. They reject the Doctrine of Election by saying “Jesus would never force anyone to come to Him”. Which is fine. However, in the same breath they say “Jesus would never let someone go who doesn’t want Him anymore”. This is a blaring inconsistency here. To say Jesus won’t force you to believe but He will force you to continue believing once you have believed is a bit weird to me. The big reason this train of thought follows is to protect and uphold the erroneous doctrine of the “Carnal Christian”. Which, biblically speaking, is false.

The other camp is the Calvinistic camp. I don’t agree there anymore; however, they are the most consistent. They say “God elected you, Christ died for you, so God will sustain your faith, less He proves to not be totally sovereign over your salvtion”. I applaud the consistency though I disagree with the conclusion.

Here is why. Paul gives a stern warning in Galatians. We all know the issue. They are looking at turning back to the Jewish law for justification (Chapter 5). Paul says once you attempt to be justified by a Covenant God has rejected and replaced with the New Covenant (the Gospel), you have in turn rejected the subject of that Covenant, who is Jesus. So in essence to attach anything to Christ’s work is to reject Christ wholeheartedly. As Paul says in Chapter 2 “Christ died needlessly”. Paul goes on to say “I would have labored in vain”. This doesn’t seem like the language of the hypothetical and Paul seems to be convinced that they were born of the Spirit but now want to be justified in the flesh.

In Hebrews Paul is saying “if you turn back to a dead, obsolete, worthless, Covenant, then there is no way for you to gain favor or repentance from God”. Paul was not saying that they could never trust in Christ again. He was saying that you can’t reject the New Covenant and gain repentance from God, thus to turn back to the Old Covenant is to reject God and that Old Covenant can’t save you thus you have no hope!

I close with this. We can’t allow our theological presuppositions to drive our hermeneutic. If we do, we can’t reject the way others read and interpret the bible, because we do the same we just dress it up in theological jargon. Let me know what you think! 8)