- Love Jesus before all else - in mind, heart, strength, relationships,
- Believe in the scriptures as the highest measure for life's decisions,
- Are continuously getting soaked in grace, faith and love,
- Give themselves to passionate pursuance of prayer, praise and piety,
- Love the brotherhood, doing everything to sustain divine unity of the Spirit,
- Make community gatherings a priority with faithful discipline,
- Dwell with expectation for miracles, signs and wonders,
- Are generous-in time, abilities, finances believing in a massive God whom you simply cannot out give,
- See themselves as 'missionaries in their shadowlands' taking the gospel wherever they go,
- Enjoy marriage and family but never as idols, only as gifts...
- Have a heart to see this gospel go to all nations, desiring to be part of that big story,
- Lastly, let me let it all hang out. I suspect the world is desperate for this kind of believer who is real, radical, relevant and relational. Who delights in Jesus and is totally committed to instant obedience when Jesus speaks. Who honors the scriptures and will not manipulate it to satisfy their own selfish needs, who believes that the weekly gathering of believers is of the highest priority and not an optional extra, who wants to see folks come to Jesus with repentance and a transformed life and sees it as a privilege to share in this, who believe you cannot out-give God - who give beyond their 10% with faith and joy, who walk with love, humility and sacrifice desiring the best for others before ourselves, who praise passionately, pray relentlessly, and who by service and story are a Jesus presence in their world, lastly who want to see everyone have the opportunity to hear the gospel, and then the end will come... [now I feel a lot better]
Friday, October 29, 2010
Thursday, October 28, 2010
Monday, October 25, 2010
Sunday, October 24, 2010
Friday, October 22, 2010
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
- Everyone knows everyone,
- Caring is measurable and achievable,
- Everyone feels like they belong,
- Role and positions are clear and secure,
- The pastor and leaders are accessible to all,
- All activities are attended by all,
- Communication is informal, face to face and very verbal,
- Arrangements can be changed at the last minute, as 'everyone will understand',
- Administrative deficiencies are overlooked because 'that is the way he is',
- Admin chaos is called 'organic', [but is extremely frustrating to all]
- A spirit of 'generalists' exists as everyone is involved everywhere-'just fill the gaps' ,
- Lack of excellence is forgiven as we 'know the person's heart',
- The cringe factor of poor presentation is more readily understood and accepted,
- Gatherings are more like casual family dinners than having guests around so we accept shoddy table settings and left overs,
- There is not a high desire for evangelism for there is not a real drive to grow - it will disrupt the status quo,
- Friends, family, work associates are not brought along as there is no expectation for salvation and, truth be told, folks are embarrassed,
- Gatherings are scripted to facilitate the community and not to get folks to Jesus,
- It is expected that the visitors must 'fit into our world' not we who are to be 'all things to all so by all means possible, some might be saved',
- It is expected that 'the priesthood must have room to operate' often without the reality check of whether they are truly gifted in that area, - 'just let the gifts flow or you are controlling',
- The community is held together around relationships that are often highly sentimental and are to be loyally defended at all costs.
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
Sunday, October 17, 2010
Unity in Diversity.
The ongoing Trinity Story as applied today.
Deut 6:1 – 20 esp vs4.
‘In 1967, Karl Rahner famously drew attention to the then widespread neglect of the Trinity, claiming that “should the doctrine of the Trinity have to be dropped as false, the major part of religious literature could well remain virtually unchanged”.’
Letham then goes on to quote Augustine in his De Trinitate: ‘in no subject is error more dangerous, or inquiry more laborious, or the discovery of truth more profitable.’
Rob Bell, in his book “Velvet Elvis” suggested that doctrine was like a wall made of bricks. If this were so, a few may be removed, and the wall would still stand - this is such dangerous thinking. Even when Bell then goes on to say that Doctrine should be more like a trampoline, flexible, expandable, stretchable, he is simply putting into words what so many believers grapple with-namely how important is all this anyway. Whilst he attempted to clarify these notions later, they did reflect the mind of many, especially when discussing the Trinity. Most believers have a Sunday School grasp of this most essential of doctrines.
- Based on poor, limiting metaphors / analogies, [candle, tree, man,3 leaf clover…],
- Dramatically and dangerously over simplified,
- Little text or theological study,
- Without regard for the historical journey,
- Certainly not reflected on for its weight and influence on all else.
Actually I want to argue that, the Trinity is the focus of all doctrine. If this is treated lightly or is subtly dismissed as of little importance, we are in serious danger of building a Leaning Tower of Pisa – a building founded on a poor foundation that became a monument of human stupidity rather than a facility of long standing life.
I eagerly await Prof Fred Sanders new book: ‘The Trinity changes everything’
Why then do we study the Trinity?
- Unfolds to us, daily the wonder, mystery, complexity, extravagance of who our God really is – and how we are to partner with Him,
- Reveals to us who we are, why we desire what we do and what can only fully satisfy the longings of our heart,
- Exposes and prevents the drift toward heresies with all the devastation that that brings,
- Places at the hub of life the central piece of divinity around which everything spins or spokes outward,
- Without the Trinity we have no true and complete atonement, there is then no salvation to take away the sins of the world with the full personal life transformation that it brings,
- He / they provide the template for all of life – “the Trinity is the first community and the ideal for all communities… the Trinity is the ideal community in every way.” Be it marriage, family, church, leadership, businesses, nations…
If I may stay with Robert Letham’s book for just a little longer, here is something of note that he argues:
‘The East [church] early on faced the danger of subordination, viewing the Son and the Spirit as something derivative, with their divine status not precisely clear… the east has sometimes tended to see the Father as the source not only of the personal subsistence of the Son and the Spirit but also of their deity. In this way, it is easy to see how the Son could be viewed as a little less divine than the Father, his deity by derivation rather than of himself…the recent awakening of interest in Eastern theology in the West, a social model of the Trinity has arisen in the West that focuses on the distinctiveness of the three persons often tending toward loose tritheism…
The West, for its part, has fallen more toward modalism. By this is meant the blurring or eclipsing of the eternal personal distinctions. This can come about either by treating God’s self-revelation as the Father, the Son, and the Spirit as merely successive modes by which the one unipersonal God revealed himself… Western Trinitarianism has been based on the priority of the one divine essence and has had some difficulty doing justice to the distinctions of the three persons.”
Whilst to some, this may appear to simply reflect a theological / philosophical discussion that really has no daily relevance, the opposite could not be truer. So many Christian movements in the west honestly believe that they have the “right’ to choose which person of the Trinity they emphasize. This they do with
- The use of selective texts,
- Testimony accounts,
- Using highly emotive language and
- The ‘evidence’ of God’s blessing to legitimize their stance.
Tragedy. All of this is earthed in a poor Trinitarian understanding and revelation that leads to a ‘legitimate’ form of ‘modalism’. Lets look at these realities: [I am aware of the dangers of generalizations]
- Father God – the therapeutic movement has latched onto the healing Father [often in quite a generic form] almost exclusively,
- The Son – the new reformed emergence, has placed enormous [almost exclusive] weight and emphasis on the Son, the cross, the tomb,
- The Spirit – the ‘kingdom now’ theology, often strongly loaded by an Armenian bias, has drifted to a Spirit-exclusive encounter-based journey.
My appeal for us is to posture ourselves with humility around this glorious conversation – The Trinity. We surrender our right of choice [not that we have one]. There remains an ongoing commitment to mine these truths, to keep building on the solid rock of “a God who is one, who is three equally distinctive, with all three uncreated and eternally God”.
AW Tozer as so often is the case, says it the best - “Our sincerest effort to grasp the incomprehensible mystery of the Trinity, must remain forever futile, and only by deepest reverence can it be saved from actual presumption.” He adds later: “We cover our deep ignorance with words, but we are ashamed to wonder, we are afraid to whisper ‘mystery’”.
Sunday, October 10, 2010
Tuesday, October 5, 2010
Saturday, October 2, 2010
In response to my last blog, a pastor from Asia wrote me and asked why I believe that Ephesians 2:20 is not referring to the Old and New Testament respectively but the actual gifts of the apostle and prophets and their role in the church today. This is an elaboration of my reply to him:
Have you ever wondered, thought, let your imagination drift toward what God did before the beginning? C.S Lewis suggested that the three in one God was involved in a glorious dance, a harmony of oneness. This dance is so magnificent, I suggest, that Paul, when he went to the third heaven, was not able to describe its wondrous beauty.
The purpose of the blog is not to discuss the Trinity but to draw the wonder of a relational God into our conversation. God is not unipersonal, meaning there is not only one of Him, without the three. If that were the case, He might well have been a deity of laws, rules and impersonal justice. Rather, this glorious God of harmonious relationships, robed all of His creation around the affection of these relationships.
I say that because I believe these are pivotal starting points on any matter under discussion. There is a temptation to take texts like these [Eph 2:20] and interpret them purely on the basis of principles and rules. This they are not. They are truths robed around people, gifts and relationships.
Ephesians 2:20 (New International Version)
20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone
The notion that this Eph 2:20 text is referring to the OT and NT is the position held by the conservative evangelicals. It does suit their agenda, which is that these offices / grace gifts ended at the end of the 'apostolic age'. Their position is that there are no apostles today. There are no prophets today. In fact, a chaplain at one of these Christian colleges said to me, that when we say, "the Lord spoke to me", we are drifting towards heresy - we already have the bible.
I obviously know that that is not your position. Now I certainly believe that we need to be an all Bible people. The revelation of God is seen as we mine both portions of the scriptural texts. We soak ourselves in the mystery of the Old Testament story and then sit and marvel reading the New Testament encounters. What is so apparent is that we do need the actual realities of these two grace gifts in the church today. Look at these texts. They give us an inkling that foundations are not just the scripture.
It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known, so that I would not be building on someone else's foundation.
By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds.
For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God. [given to apostles via the ascension gifts]
· The Old Testament was referred to in the New, as “the Law and the Prophets” [For example Matt 17:12, 11:13, 22:40, Luke 16:16, 24:14, Jn 1:45, Acts 13:15]. This may well suggest that Paul was not referring in the text to the Old Testament but to actual prophets given as gifts to these new churches. Of course the New Testament was not yet written and we also know that it was not only written by apostles. Luke was a physician, Mark was Peter’s traveling companion and we are not certain who wrote Hebrews.
· The ongoing challenge of the New Testament, esp. when we look at the Acts of the apostles - 'is this book prescriptive or descriptive?' May I suggest we find both in the workings of the Spirit. The early church did not have the scriptures [NT]. They only had the gifts. These gifts helped them on their journeys... in person, in partnership. When one looks at every account of a local church mentioned in scripture, there is always an apostle mentioned in partnership [for example Phil 1:5, 1 Cor 3:4 – 9, Col 1:1, ] these relationships were real, affectionate, personal and true. Paul would write to these churches with such knowledge of their journey. He mentioned people by name, their challenges by detail and their required responses with personal wisdom.
· The foundation that is laid by these gifts has to do with their job description, the role they play in the churches. Now the apostle's role is so much easier to define as there is so much to measure it by. They are architects / engineers. [ Cor 3:10, Heb 3:1 – 6 where Jesus is the first apostolic gift to the church]They take the blueprint of the text and apply it in each church with wisdom and sensitivity - as the epistles clearly indicate. Each church recorded in the text showed a wonderful 'partnership' between the local elders / community and one or more apostles. The elders are the highest human authority in those churches. Churches do not need coaches, mentors, presidents, team leaders. They need apostles who will journey with them in prayer , love, visiting, collaboration, in instruction. I loved that there was no territorialism, [us and them], just whatever is best for that community. I can write heaps more about this but that is not really your question.
· Now the role of the prophets is more intriguing. Little is said beyond the texts that you have mentioned. What contributions do the prophets bring to each church that are foundational to their existence? Well here are some thoughts: Prophets obviously equip the saints [Eph 4 is important to explore what New Testament prophets are called to as opposed to their Old Testament companions]... they do ensure that the church is living both in the today and tomorrow [already and the not yet]... they continuously reveal the Father's heart to the church... they do 'unblock the wells'... they catalyze the priesthood to engage in the gifts... they play a pivotal discerning role in the work of the enemy... they help in hearing the voice of the Father in identifying and releasing leaders... Prophets can pick up any drift towards heresy or idolatry...The role that prophets play is different and appears to be less frequently needed by the local churches. However, when churches never have the prophets in, they tend to drift towards either a highly cerebral journey without power and Holy Spirit presence, or they tend to lose the sense of the 'nowness' of the spiritual journey. The gifts also tend to dry up, when not honored. As a result, the priesthood drifts to be seen more as volunteerism than power players.
There is always more to say but we can allow the conversation to continue…