Thursday, May 31, 2012

10 easy steps

David Rudd proffers this timely post on Launching a New Community in 10 Easy Steps. It's a fairly decent list and coincidently I'm starting a new small group (from scratch - something I rarely do) in 2 weeks.

While there are no magic formulas which will enable you to create a true community of people who are sharing life, these ten steps can get you moving in the right direction:

Ten Easy Steps

1. Form a committed launch team. You need 2-3 partners in this venture, and all of you need to be deeply committed to one another and to making the community go. You'll support each other through the tough stages and celebrate together when you taste success.

2. Create a prospect list. I know, this isn't marketing and a "prospect list" sounds cold and uncaring. But you need to work with your launch team to make a list of people you can envision being a part of your community. Put the names on paper and start praying specifically for each person.

3. Invite every prospect. This is just the first invitation, and it should simply be informative. Tell the people what you are planning to do, and when you are planning to do it. Don't ask for a commitment, but ask them to begin thinking about it.

4. Personally follow-up every invitation. If your first invitation was by email, facebook, or phone you need to have a face-to-face follow-up (a phone call is okay, but is not preferred). Ask if your friend has any questions about the group, and if they are thinking they want to check it out. Don't ask for a firm commitment, let them know you'll get them more info.

5. Send out clear information about the group. This information should include where you'll meet, when you'll meet, how long you'll meet, what you'll do at the meeting, whether or not there is food, and whether or not there is childcare. Include contact numbers and emails for those who want more information. Only send this information to people who have already been invited. This shouldn't be someone's first exposure to the group.

6. Make the final invitation. Go back to each person and ask them if they are going to try the group out. Encourage them that they don't need to make a life-time commitment, they can just show up the first week and see what they think.

7. Create a "launch day" checklist. Include everything you need to do to be ready for the first meeting. Think about things like food, chairs, Bibles, handouts, pens/pencils, babysitters, videos, music. It's helpful to walk through the entire time in your mind (from the time the first guest arrives to the departure of the last guest) to get a feel for all the things you'll need.

8. Send out a reminder. Use postcards, facebook, email, text, or phone to remind everyone who has committed to show up that you are launching. The reminders should be no more than two days before your first gathering.

9. LAUNCH. Together with your launch team, make sure everything on the list is taken care of, and enjoy your first gathering. Be relaxed, be informal, be welcoming. Invite everyone to attend the next gathering.

10. Follow-up. Send out a thank you to everyone who attended. In your thank you, reference something they said or did that contributed to the group, and let them know you'd love to have them at the next gathering (remind them when it is). Make a personal contact with everyone who didn't show. Let them know that you would still love to have them at the next gathering.

At the core of every successful community is CONVERSATION. As you can see from these 10 steps, your communication is crucial to creating a healthy space for conversation to happen. There really isn't room for shortcuts, but if you have to take one, don't cut out the communication and the contacts!

the bible has errors

Most people question the reliability of the Bible. You’ve probably been in a conversation with a friend or met someone in a coffee shop who said, “How can you be a Christian when the Bible has so many errors?

How should we respond? What do you say?

Instead of asking them to name an error, I suggest you name one or two of them. Does your Bible contain errors? Yes. The Bible that most people possess is a translation of the Greek and Hebrew copies of copies of the original documents of Scripture. As you can imagine, errors have crept in over the centuries of copying. Scribes fall asleep, misspell, take their eyes off the manuscript, and so on. I recommend telling people what kind of errors have crept into the Bible. Starting with the New Testament, Dan Wallace, New Testament scholar and founder of the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts, lists four types of errors in  Understanding Scripture: An Overview of the Bible’s Origin, Reliability, and Meaning .

Types of Errors

1. Spelling and Nonsense Errors

These are errors that occur when a scribe wrote a word that makes no sense in its context, usually because they were tired or took their eyes off the page. Some of these errors are quite comical, such as “we were horses among you” (Gk. hippoi, “horses,” instead of ēpioi, “gentle,” or nēpioi, “little children”) in 1 Thessalonians 2:7 in one late manuscript. Obviously, Paul isn’t saying he acted like a horse among them. That would be self-injury! These kinds of errors are easily corrected.

2. Minor Changes

These minor changes are as small as the presence or absence of an article such as “the” or changed word order, which can vary considerably in Greek. Depending on the sentence, Greek grammar allows the sentence to be written up to 18 times, while still saying the same thing! So just because a sentence wasn’t copied in the same order, doesn’t mean that we lost the meaning.

3. Meaningful but Not Plausible

These errors have meaning but aren’t a plausible reflection of the original text. For example, 1 Thessalonians 2:9, instead of “the gospel of God” (the reading of almost all the manuscripts), a late medieval copy has “the gospel of Christ.” There is a meaning difference between God and Christ, but the overall manuscript evidence points clearly in one direction, making the error plain and not plausibly part of the original.

4. Meaningful and Plausible

These are errors that have meaning and that the alternate reading is plausible as a reflection of the original wording. These types of errors account for less than 1% of all variants and typically involve a single word or phrase. The biggest of these types of errors is the ending of the Gospel of Mark, which most contemporary scholars do not regard as original. Our translations even footnote that!

Is the Bible Reliable?

So, is the Bible reliable? Well, the reliability of our English translations depends largely upon the quality of the manuscripts they were translated from. The quality depends, in part, on how recent the manuscripts are. Scholars like Bart Ehrman have asserted that we don’t have manuscripts that are early enough. However, the manuscript evidence is quite impressive:
  • There are as many as 18 second-century manuscripts. If the Gospels were completed between AD 50–100, then this means that these early copies are within 100 years. Just recently, Dan Wallace announced that a new fragment from the Gospel of Mark was discovered dating back to the first century AD, placing it well within 50 years of the originals, a first of its kind. When these early manuscripts are all put together, more than 43% of the New Testament is accounted for from copies no later than the second century.
  • Manuscripts that date before AD 400 number 99, including one complete New Testament called Codex Sinaiticus . So the gap between the original, inerrant autographs and the earliest manuscripts is pretty slim. This comes into focus when the Bible is compared to other classical works that, in general, are not doubted for their reliability. In this chart of comparison with other ancient literature, you can see that the New Testament has far more copies than any other work, numbering 5,700 (Greek) in comparison to the over 200 of Suetonius. If we take all manuscripts into account (handwritten prior to printing press), we have 20,000 copies of the New Testament. There are only 200 copies of the earliest Greek work.
  • This means if we are going to be skeptical about the Bible, then we need to be thousands of times more skeptical about the works of Greco-Roman history. Or put another way, we can be a thousand times more confident about the reliability of the Bible. It is far and away the most reliable ancient document.

What to Say When Someone Says “The Bible Has Errors”

So, when someone asserts that the Bible has errors, we can reply by saying:
Yes, our Bible translations do have errors—let me tell you about them. But as you can see, less than 1% of them are meaningful and those errors don’t affect the major teachings of the Christian faith. In fact, there are a thousand times more manuscripts of the Bible than the most documented Greco-Roman historian by Suetonius . So, if we’re going to be skeptical about ancient books, we should be a thousand times more skeptical of the Greco-Roman histories. The Bible is, in fact, incredibly reliable.
Contrary to popular assertion, that as time rolls on we get further and further away from the original with each new discovery, we actually get closer and closer to the original text. As Wallace puts it, we have “an embarrassment of riches when it comes to the biblical documents.” Therefore, we can be confident that what we read in our modern translations of the the ancient texts is approximately 99% accurate. It is very reliable.

For Further Study

In order of easy to difficult:

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

worship out loud

Joe Thorn writes Worship Out Loud in Note to Self. In this I am reminded that our day of rest, the Lord's Day, is at the end of our week, not the beginning. I like the notion that the Body of Christ coming together for His glory is the culmination of our praise through the week as opposed to a recharging experience to get us through the following days. Here are Thorn's thoughts:

"Ascribe to the Lord, O heavenly beings, ascribe to the Lordglory and strength. Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness." PSALM 29:1–2

Dear Self,

It’s pretty clear that sometimes you think about gathered worship in the wrong way. So let’s just clear up what it isn’t. Gathering with the church for Word, sacrament, prayer, and song was not commanded by God to put “gas in your tank” for the rest of the week. You know it is not a show meant to entertain you, but it’s also much more than a refresher. It is deeper than momentary inspiration, and it is bigger than simply “being fed.”

Of course, gathering with the church and worshiping a risen Savior will feed, encourage, and equip you. It should also be one of the primary contexts in which God brings about real and lasting change in your life. Where else can you receive such concentrated doses of the gospel? However, this gathering does not exist only for your good. Its primary aim is the glory and pleasure of God.

Public worship is your response to the gospel, but it is a response meant to be expressed with other believers. It amounts to the collective offering of praise and adoration to God. You should think of worship as an opportunity to offer something to God, not just to receive something. You should come with the intention of offering your words, your mind, your heart, and your entire life to the God who has rescued you from sin, death, and hell itself. And when you gather for worship in this way, you can also come with the eager anticipation of grace from God. You will be convicted and encouraged, humbled and made strong by the Word and Spirit of God. And one other thing—you should think of public worship as the pinnacle of the week. It is not the catalyst that gives movement to the other six days as much as it is the goal toward which you are working throughout the week. Your week should consist of days of private and family worship in which you are being prepared to meet with God as a church family.

Stop thinking so small when it comes to the church gathering for worship. It is for God’s pleasure, your good, and the health of your church. Prepare for such a meeting with God today, and worship out loud with your brothers and sisters.

ecclesiology of exile

An amazingly insightful and thought provoking post by Michael Bird - My Solution to the Same-Sex Marriage Debate, with an Ecclesiology of Exile:


Okay, no surprises, I’m not a fan of gay marriage. I have two non-theological arguments against it:

(1) It reduces marriage to a legal fiction. Marriage has traditionally or historically been a union between man and woman for the purpose of preventing promiscuity and promoting procreation and life-long partnership. Marriage creates healthy families and healthy families creates healthy societies. Philosophers from Aristotle to Confucius have recognized the importance of the marriage-family bond for society. Same-sex marriage, however, supposes that marriage is simply a legal recognition of a citizen’s preferred relationship status, and marriage has no function, goal, or value for the state; marriage is something that just happens, and the state has no preferred policy whether marriages take place or who they take place among. Counter-response: Yes, indeed, marriage is nothing more than a legal contract; it has no inherent moral quality, it is no different from a business contract or a real estate lease. Thus govt. cannot prescribe some relationships to be more valid or more valuable than others (i.e., it cannot say that marriage is better than de facto relationships without prejudice to the latter) nor can it discriminate against types of relationships. Counter-counter response: Exactly my point. This debate is not about who I chose to love, this debate is about the nature and function of marriage in our society. I concede that if one abandons the Christian/historical definition of marriage, then you can redefine it how you like. We just need clarification on whether this abandonment is a conscious departure from the Christian heritage and are you prepared for the consequences.

(2) It paves the way for polygamy. The same arguments used for same sex marriage can be used to justify polygamy. Marriage is about love not law, get your Mormon religion out of my bedroom, it discriminates against bisexuals, it is a social justice issue, and blah blah blah. I blogged on this earlier, I think the argument stands. So why don’t advocate of same sex marriage advocate for polygamy? The only answer can be: we don’t like it (aesthetics) or we are not ready for it (popularity). But aesthetics and popularity are not legal or moral arguments. The logic of same sex marriage demands bisexual and polygamous marriage, even with the apocalyptic legal scenarios that it brings. Counter-response: Well, there is polygamy in the Bible, so what’s wrong with Polygamy. Counter-counter response: Polygamy in the Bible, well duh! It was part of ancient near eastern culture which the patriarchs and Israelites lived in, but it was not the intended creational norm in the beginning (Genesis 1 -2) and Jesus and the Apostles specifically endorse marriage as one man and one woman only (Matt 19:8-10; Tit 1:6). Any way, like I said, now you have no reason for not having polygamous marriages, let me know how that works out for you, will be a good time to be lawyer.

I also recognize that those objections will not persuade most non-Christians anymore than reading the Sermon on the Mount will persuade Lady Gaga to start wearing a chastity belt. So where do we go from here?


There are two problems as I see it here. (1) Christendom is over. We are no longer chaplains to a nominal Christian society in the West. You don’t have to like it, but build a bridge and get over it, its where we are. (2) We need to get government out of marriage and religion out of civil unions.

Here is what I propose:

I say we adopt a European model on civil unions and marriage. Basically, everyone gets a civil union. So on Friday, rock up to town hall with your fiance, see the magistrate, get licensed as a couple, so all the legal bases are covered. Then on Saturday, if you so chose, go to your Cathedral, Synagogue, or Mosque and get sacramentally married with divine blessings. This provides a base level of rights and benefits for everyone and gets government interference out of what has normally been a religious ceremony. As far as the state is concerned, there are only civil unions. Marriage, as a sacramental union, does not exist in the state’s eyes. They only recognize contracts between people … any people and as many people as you like. If you want to be in a civil union with a pretty girl, your biological brother, three Ukrainian women you met on-line, two pet monkeys, a racoon named “bongo,” and a box DVD set of Supertramp, go ahead. If it can physically sighted you can be civilly united. If marriage is just a legal fiction, then there is no legal argument why you cannot do this. You want to throw that bigoted Christian heritage away and discover your inner pagan sexuality, gratify your every lust with state approval, go ahead, fill your boots, throw off the shackles of those perverse Christian values. If you need me, I’ll be on a family picnic with my wife and kids while you’re in law court figuring out who gets the house and kids in the love dodecahedron you’ve made for yourself.

That might sound strange, but here’s my thinking.

Christianity is no longer the default setting in the West. Christian ethics are no longer mainstream, normal, or even make any sense. Yes, in some places we have remnants of this, esp. in parts of the UK and USA, but Christendom is over folks. We are no longer calling people back to values they nominally consent to. There is no silent moral majority; we are now the minority, we are the odd balls, we speak a different language, we inhabit a different symbolic universe, we are now regarded as enemies of the state’s values, we are the new villains, we are the greatest threat to what the secularists think is a fair, just, and inclusive society.We are subversive ideological terrorists because we order our lives according the story, symbols, and sovereignty of Jesus Christ, all of which stands in violent opposition to the values of the secular order. We Christians represent a clear and present danger to the very edifice of secular pluralism because we refuse to believe in it and we tell a story that undermines it – and some people believe us not the powers that be, that’s the problem. Ancient critics of Christians called them “haters of the human race,” which ironically justified inflicting the most hateful and hurtful of punishments upon Christians! That figures, since I’ve been accused of hating homosexuals with the most hateful and acidic language I’ve ever seen on the comments of this blog. Tacitus noted that Christians were convicted under Nero “not so much for the crime of burning the city, but for hatred of the human race“. Why were they accused of hating the human race? Because they believed in the Trinity? Because they believed in the imputation of righteousness? For holding to the doctrine of sublapsarianism? No, they were called human-haters because they failed to affirm the politics of Rome with Caesar at the top, they refused to embrace the pantheon of Roman gods, they refused to do their civic duty to honour the values of Rome, and they did not imitate the permissiveness of their society.When Christians are called “homophobes” for refusing to affirm and endorse gay marriage, it is just a variation of this theme. But how do we respond?

We need to develop an ecclesiology of exile. This best explains the situation we find ourselves in. This is why Peter exhorts the believers in Asia Minor: “They are surprised that you do not join them in their reckless, wild living, and they heap abuse on you.” Christians are the new fruitcakes. We don’t belong here, we don’t fit in, that is why they hate us! People look at us with a mixture of disgust and confusion. Why don’t you abort your babies if they’ll inconvenience your life? Why do you stay faithful to your wife even you could keep your adultery a secret? Why don’t you abandon your husband and kids and go and “find yourself”? Why give up your disposal income to help kids in some god-forsaken country west of Timbuktu? Why don’t you divorce your spouse and find something better? Why ruin your career and risk your life in Africa to help out some half-evolved jungle bunnies who just got religion? Why don’t you hook up with cute boys or chug beer with the frat boys – is there something wrong with you? Why waste your Christmas mornings at a drop in centre for schizo’s and urban vermin – that’s what the government is supposed to do?

As we construct a Christian response to gay marriage, the evangelical and apostolic churches (not the liberals churches who are little more than chaplains for Nero) need to do from an ecclesiology of exile, not from an ecclesiology of christendom. We are on the periphery of society, not in its privileged position. We do it recognizing we are the outsiders, we not the respected authority we once were.


The same sex marriage debate is not about law, genitals, and marriage. Its about whether we are a Christian society. For secularists, the answer is no, we are thankfully not a Christian society. Their frustration, however, is due to the fact that faith communities continue to exist and even prosper when they should have faded into oblivion long ago. That’s the story they’ve been telling since the Humanist Manifesto in 1933. But Christians (and other faith communities too) are ruining the secular script simply by the fact of their persistent existence. They refuse to retreat into some dark corner, where they are neither seen nor heard, and just die off. The secular frustration with faith communities is very much like that of Agent Smith with Neo in The Matrix Revolutions. In one of the final scenes, Neo won’t give up in their battle even when the result of their conflict looks inevitably, and Smith is confused and enraged by Neo’s unwillingness to quit. After Smith has belted the snot out of Neo and Neo gets up yet again, Smith launches into a tirade against Neo which I’ve recorded with midrashic additions:
Why, Mr. Christian ? Why do you do it? Why get up? Why keep fighting? Do you believe you’re fighting for something? For more than your survival? Can you tell me what it is? Do you even know? Is it freedom of religion? Or ultimate truth? Perhaps inner peace? Could it be for the love of god? Illusions, Mr. Christian. Vagaries of perception. The temporary constructs of a feeble human intellect trying desperately to justify an existence that is without meaning or purpose. And all of them as artificial and pointless as life itself. Although, only a religious mind could invent something as insipid as love for a god. You must be able to see it, Mr. Christian. You must know it by now. You can’t win. It’s pointless to keep fighting. Why, Mr. Christian, Why? Why do you persist in this contest?
Neo’s response to Smith is, “Because I chose to.” To which I would amend to, “Because I’m called to.” We are not called to Christianize the state, there is no point prescribing Christian values for people who are not Christians. But we are in the industry of being a really, really annoying force of resistance in the world around us. We are fundamentally called to be witnesses to a new regal order (the kingdom of God) and a new way of being human (the new creation). We are establishing a state-within-the-state, setting up an underground network with a message so subversive that it would warrant instant arrest, a praxis that is virtual treason, a secret rebellion against the imperially sponsored secularism around us. When Christians are hated rightfully, i.e., for being different, not for calling for gays and lesbians to be locked up in some big paddock like one lunatic American preach said, then that is a good sign we are doing our job correctly.

We need to take a leaf out of the book of the Epistle to Diognetus:
For the Christians are distinguished from other men neither by country, nor language, nor the customs which they observe. For they neither inhabit cities of their own, nor employ a peculiar form of speech, nor lead a life which is marked out by any singularity. The course of conduct which they follow has not been devised by any speculation or deliberation of inquisitive men; nor do they, like some, proclaim themselves the advocates of any merely human doctrines. But, inhabiting Greek as well as barbarian cities, according as the lot of each of them has determined, and following the customs of the natives in respect to clothing, food, and the rest of their ordinary conduct, they display to us their wonderful and confessedly striking method of life. They dwell in their own countries, but simply as sojourners. As citizens, they share in all things with others, and yet endure all things as if foreigners. Every foreign land is to them as their native country, and every land of their birth as a land of strangers. They marry, as do all [others]; they beget children; but they do not destroy their offspring. They have a common table, but not a common bed. They are in the flesh, but they do not live after the flesh. They pass their days on earth, but they are citizens of heaven. They obey the prescribed laws, and at the same time surpass the laws by their lives. They love all men, and are persecuted by all. They are unknown and condemned; they are put to death, and restored to life. They are poor, yet make many rich; they are in lack of all things, and yet abound in all; they are dishonoured, and yet in their very dishonour are glorified. They are evil spoken of, and yet are justified; they are reviled, and bless; they are insulted, and repay the insult with honour; they do good, yet are punished as evil-doers. When punished, they rejoice as if quickened into life; they are assailed by the Jews as foreigners, and are persecuted by the Greeks; yet those who hate them are unable to assign any reason for their hatred.

In a nutshell:

- Gay marriage is inevitable, so we need to rethink how we relate to society.
- We can expect to be called human-haters (homophobes, biophobes, polyphobes, treasonous, anti-social, etc.) because of our refusal to endorse and affirm the culture around us.
- Gay marriage is about a larger trend in western society edging towards an aggressive secularization that permits religious communities to exist but only on the grounds of an unwritten non-interference clause (i.e., shut up, sit down, say nothing, and please die out quietly).
- Fidelity in this state of exile is not Christianizing, but witnessing to a different way of being authentically human, whispering across a table that “Aslan is on the move,” declaring that a new thing is happening in our midst, being proud of those things that makes us better than the pagans (i.e., we don’t kill our babies), reflecting love in the face of prejudicial hatred, blessing others when we are cursed, and pointing towards Jesus Christ who brings the redemption and transformation that we everybody in the world needs.

more than unconditional love

I like John Piper's post on Hope for More Than Unconditional Love. God's unconditional love it both true and amazing. And yet when that becomes the ultimate hope, or our greatest desire, it simply isn't enough. We need to be transformed into the fullness of the knowledge of the glory of Christ. We need to do more than receive His love - we need to be transformed by it. And in that, not just to a place of positional righteousness but a righteousness that is real and lived out moment-by-moment for His Name's sake.

Here is Piper's post.

If you only hope for unconditional love from God, your hope is great, but too small.

Unconditional love from God is not the sweetest experience of his love. The sweetest experience is when his love says: “I have made you so much like my Son that I delight to see you and be with you. You are a pleasure to me, because you are so radiant with my glory.”

This sweetest experience is conditional on our transformation into the kind of people whose emotions and choices and actions please God.

Unconditional love is the source and foundation of the human transformation that makes the sweetness of conditional love possible. If God did not love us unconditionally, he would not penetrate our unattractive lives, bring us to faith, unite us to Christ, give us his Spirit, and make us progressively like Jesus.

But when he unconditionally chooses us, and sends Christ to die for us, and regenerates us, he puts in motion an unstoppable process of transformation that makes us glorious. He gives us a splendor to match his favorite kind.

We see this in Ephesians 5:25–26.

“Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her [unconditional love], that he might sanctify her . . . and present the church to himself in splendor” — the condition in which he delights.

It is unspeakably wonderful that God would unconditionally set his favor on us while we are still unbelieving sinners. The ultimate reason this is wonderful is that this unconditional love brings us into the everlasting enjoyment of his glorious presence. But the apex of that enjoyment is that we not only see his glory, but also reflect it. “The name of our Lord Jesus will be glorified in you, and you in him” (2 Thessalonians 1:12).

This glory that we have in the last day is profoundly pleasing to God. This will not be unconditional love. This will be God’s response to us when he has finished making us “worthy of his calling and fulfilled every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power” (2 Thessalonians 1:11). Then we will receive praise from God (Romans 2:29; 1 Corinthians 4:5).

So put your hope in the unconditional, electing love of God for sure. But don’t stop there. Let that glorious news catapult you into the greater hope that this very love will make you worthy of his calling, glorify you, and fit you to receive the praise of God.

Monday, May 28, 2012

freedom proclamation

Ray Ortlund writes:

“Let it be known to you therefore, brothers, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and by him everyone who believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses.” Acts 13:38-39

This is a royal proclamation: “Let it be known to you . . . .” The King of the universe proclaims total amnesty for all his enemies through Jesus his Son. This royal proclamation doesn’t say, “Forgiveness of sins is negotiated with you.” We don’t negotiate with the King of grace. The proclamation doesn’t say, “Forgiveness of sins is forced on you.” We have to open our hearts. The response God wants is that we would believe him. We don’t believe because we deserve it; we believe based on God’s testimony alone. We look at our sins and think, “God couldn’t forgive me. God shouldn’t forgive me.” But the gospel tells us to stop listening to ourselves and start listening to God and believe him.

Here is how far-reaching God’s policy is: “Everyone who believes is freed from everything.” What do you need to be freed from? What do you so wish you had never done? What do you wish you had done? What makes you say, “Oh, if only I could go back and relive that moment”? Now listen to God: “By Jesus everyone who believes is freed from everything.”

We might have thought that God’s law was our second chance. We might have thought that doing the right thing from now on would free us from our past. But the truth is, the law can make us worse. After all, what is our deepest sin? It isn’t this behavior or that. Our deepest sin is that we put ourselves at the center, and we expect God and everyone else to orbit around us and please us. The law can’t save us from that. But obeying the law — doing the right thing — we tend to think we’re obligating God and others to adjust to our self-exaltation even more.

How can we be set free both from our ugly disobedience and our cosmetic obedience? Paul tells us: “through this man” in verse 38, “by him” in verse 39. Not the law, but Jesus. “Through this man” and “by him” we can come to God right now. We might have thought, “I need to live a better life first,” or, “I have to stop doing this or that first.” But let’s hear the policy of heaven: “Let it be known that through Jesus forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and by him everyone who believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses.”

Spread the word.

the problem of good

Greg Koukl writes on The Problem of Good:

The atheist who challenges Christianity by asking how God can exist in a world with evil faces a bigger problem than the theist.

The theist must rise to the challenge, to be sure. But the atheist must also take his turn offering his own explanation, and his task faces a complication the theist does not encounter. He must explain how evil itself could exist in the first place to make room for his complaint. He must account for the objective, transcendent moral standard that has to be in position before moral judgments of any kind can be made.

This difficulty signals an additional problem: The atheist must also solve the problem of good. How can anything ultimately be evil or good in a universe bereft of any standard to make sense of the terms?

Darwin will not rescue the atheist here, because evolution is a materialistic process that can only produce material merchandise. No stirring and recombining of molecules over time will ever cause a moral fact to pop into existence in the immaterial realm. At best, Darwinism might account for behaviors or beliefs that human beings falsely label “moral” because the deception accomplishes some evolutionary purpose. But it is deception, pure and simple. The kind of robust morality necessary to ground the atheist’s complaint about evil is impossible on a materialist take on reality.

No, the atheist has not gotten rid of the problem of evil by rejecting God. He has compounded the problem. The only thing he has gotten rid of is hope.

free from shame

John Piper in This Momentary Marriage writes:

The very essence of the new covenant is that Christ passes over the sins of his bride. His bride is free from shame not because she is perfect, but because she has no fear that her lover will condemn her or shame her because of her sin.

This is why the doctrine of justification by grace through faith is at the very heart of what makes marriage work the way God designed it. Justification creates peace with God vertically, in spite of our sin. And when experienced horizontally, it creates shame-free space between an imperfect man and an imperfect woman.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

can homosexuals be christians

In a previous post, Are Homosexuals Going to Hell?, I reference several other posts which some have already not bothered to read choosing rather to respond only to the headline. So let me bring to the top-level a key reference that asks the question in the positive. This one is from Michael Patton, Can Homosexuals Be Christians? I should add that I agree with much of what Patton writes yet I struggle with the conclusion - well actually, I think my struggle is more with the conversation itself. While I accept this reasoning when couched in a discussion about how we can show up in a loving way to those wrestling with sin, it is more often posited by those seeking comfort in their sin - which in itself is a demonstration of a sinful heart. It's simply the wrong question to be asked by one claiming to be redeemed. The better question is, how can I throw off this body of sin (Rom 6.6)? Remember John tells us no one born of God make a practice of sinning, for God's seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. By this it is evident who are the children of God ... (1 Jn 3.9-10) ... but enough of that, here's Patton's post ...

Can homosexuals be Christians? Or, better, is there such a thing as a “homosexual Christian”? Many would believe that someone who engages in a homosexual life style is necessarily excluded from the Kingdom of God unless they repent. Repentance here would mean a change of thinking and, shortly following, a change of action – no longer participating in this lifestyle. In other words, while some would be willing to say that a homosexual can be saved, their salvation necessitates their change of lifestyle within a short period of time.

While I agree with those who say that homosexuality is a terrible sin (Lev. 18:22, 20:13 Rom. 1:27; 1 Cor. 6:6; 1 Tim. 1:10), I do not believe it is one that is outside the realm of a believer’s carnality. Neither do I believe that if one practices homosexuality their entire life, they are necessarily excluded from the Kingdom of God. I hope people do not misunderstand my purpose here. I in no way endorse homosexual behavior or seek to relativize its standing before the Lord as an abomination. But I do think that sometimes, we who are not tempted in such a way can fail to see the seriousness of the struggle experienced by people who are tempted towards homosexuality.

Sexual sin and temptation are part of everyone’s life. We are born with a drive toward fulfillment of this God-given part of our humanity. Some will deny this drive because of God’s calling in their lives (e.g., singleness). Yet sin has corrupted this drive and we are all born infected with sin. Because of upbringing, genetics, cultural influences, and other factors, people will experience this corruption to greater and lesser degrees. I personally have never felt any inclination toward expressing my sexual corruption in a way that was focused on the same sex. Why? Not necessarily because of good choices I have made, but because the genetics, upbringing, and influences were not there. I have just never had the sinful bent within me that compels me to lust after someone of the same sex. Don’t get me wrong. I have a sinful sexual bent, but it is of the more natural kind. This does not justify it or make me more innately righteous than the homosexual, it is just a fact that this is not a sin I have ever had to deal with.

I thank God that this is the case because I know that whatever sinful bent I have, it will get the better of me at some point. It is just the way it goes, living with corruption. I also know that I will not be alleviated of my bents until the restoration of my body at the resurrection. I just have to do whatever I can to master my sinful tendencies until then. As the U2 song goes, “some days are better than others.” I can identify with sinners because I am one. I can identify with those who have a bent, because I have one (many actually). Therefore, when I see someone giving in to the bent of homosexuality, I am saddened. My heart goes out to them because their problem is essentially the same as mine. We have a corrupted nature that causes us to give in to our bents.

Now, back to the question of the hour. Can homosexuals be Christians? This is really a theological question that evidences a lack of understanding about sin and redemption. It reveals a major misconception about the nature of sin, placing homosexuality in its own category because of its depraved nature. While I do believe that homosexuality is a worse sin than many others (that is right, not all sins are equal like some would have us believe), I don’t believe that those who have that bent should be seen differently than others.

We could ask the question this way: Can people who have sinful bents be Christians? Of course. Who else can be? Christ was the only one that did not have a sinful bent. Okay then, how about this: Can people who have really bad sinful bents be Christians? Again, the only biblical answer is yes. People who have really bad sinful bents can be Christians. Really, the question that is being asked is this: Can sinners be Christians? To that, I say, is there any other kind of Christian?

Some would respond and say that while they are willing to concede that homosexuals can be Christians, they must be in the process of overcoming this sinful behavior. In other words, they must have consistent and perpetual victory over this bent. Hold on there. While I agree that homosexuals can and many times do have victory over this bent to the point where they redeem themselves completely from this lifestyle, I don’t necessarily think that this is always going to happen. I would say that in my life there are some bents I have had victory over, and some that remain as a naggingly persistent web. This web is one of deception and destruction that can easily trip us up. Listen to the writer of the book of Hebrews:

“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith” (Hebrews 12:1-2).

The writer of Hebrews says that it is “easy” to get entangled in this web. The passage warns of the ten euperistaton hamartian - literally, “the easily ensnaring sin.” I believe the primary referent for “the easily ensnaring sin” is the sin of unbelief (the subject of the book), but this sin of unbelief expresses itself in the sin of the hour. In other words, the sin of unbelief leads to our practicing our particular bent. Most importantly, it is “easy” to fall into this.

Again, while I agree that homosexuals can and should be overcoming this sin, it could be the case that they have become entangled in it. This entanglement may be the very acts of homosexuality, or it may be the plight of struggling with it until redemption. It is no different for those of us who are not bent toward a homosexual lifestyle. Some of our most serious bents may plague us, literally, until Kingdom come.

Many refer to Paul admonishing the Corinthians to look back to their victory over sin, implying that they did not practice such things any longer or were completely delivered from them. One of these sins is homosexuality. “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).

While this seems straightforward upon a cursory reading, I don’t believe that it supports the case that homosexuals can’t be Christians for two primary reasons. First, the people to whom Paul was writing were sinners and were in the process of being rebuked by Paul. Notice here just three chapters back:

“And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to infants in Christ. I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able, for you are still fleshly. For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men?” (1 Cor. 3:1-3).

They were fleshly. The sins described in 6:9-10 are fleshly sins. This means that the Corinthians were not necessarily doing well. Yet Paul says they were washed and sanctified. Now either Paul has a slight case of amnesia, or we have to understand 6:9-11 differently, which brings me to the second reason I believe this passage cannot be used by the person who says homosexuals cannot be Christians. Paul identifies Christians with Christ, not with their sinful disposition. In Pauline thought, people who are clothed in Christ’s righteousness are no longer named according to their sinful bent, even if that bent may continue to entangle them. The Corinthians were entangled in their bents to be sure, but Paul sees them through the righteousness of Christ. This is why Paul could say “such were some of you.” This does not make their sinfulness any less severe, but it does say that Christ’s redemption, in Pauline theology, has redeemed the sinner, though he remain in a sinning state. Those without the covering of Christ’s righteousness are still identified by their sin in the eyes of God. Therefore, in this context, it is true that fornicators, thieves, coveters, homosexuals, and all unrighteous people (those not covered by Christ’s righteousness) will not inherit the Kingdom of God. But thankfully, we have been covered by His righteousness and set apart, though we are still sinners.

One more thing. I often hear this concession: While I believe that homosexuals can be saved, they cannot believe that homosexuality is approved by God or attempt to justify their sin. I understand and agree with this to some degree, yet I still say that this is not always the case. We all have ways of justifying our bents, whatever they may be. Sometimes we minimize their seriousness, while other times we outright deny them. It is also often the case that we just do not ever deal with them. For twelve years after the resurrection of Christ, Peter continued in his belief that Jews were better than Gentiles. He lived twelve years after becoming a Christian believing that he, by virtue of being a Jew, was so much better than Gentiles that he would not even set foot in their house. Speaking to the Gentile Cornelius and his family, he said, “You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a man who is a Jew to associate with a foreigner or to visit him; and yet God has shown me that I should not call any man unholy or unclean” (Acts 10:28). What if Peter had died in year eleven? He would have died living his entire Christian life as a prideful racist. Racism is spoken of in the New Testament as a mark of ungodliness even more frequently than homosexuality. Therefore, while I believe that the conviction of the Holy Spirit should be there and it should change our hearts, we have this uncanny tendency to justify our sinfulness to ourselves and to others or to just ignore it.

Having said all this, we all need to recognize the utter sinfulness of sexual perversion. Homosexuality is a sin, and a terribly destructive one at that. But we need to be careful and gracious with those who struggle with this sin, understanding that the struggle against sin is the plight of us all. The solution is not for us to compromise to the politically correct agenda of our culture, which seeks to turn this sin into a perfectly acceptable lifestyle choice. But at the same time, we need to be gracious, knowing that the only hope anyone has is to be covered in Christ’s righteousness, not our own.

Can a homosexual be Christian? Yes. All sinners can be Christians. Indeed, all Christians are sinners. Let us all view this important issue in light of a deep understanding of the plight of sinfulness and may God help us to overcome the resulting bents.

“Sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it” (Genesis 4:7).

what does jesus do with sin

A post by Jared Wilson - What Does Jesus Do With Sin?

“The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!’” – John 1:29

John the Baptist commands a beholding of the sin-taking-away Lamb. What do we see in this beholding? How exactly does Jesus take away our sin?

Here are 6 things Jesus does with sin:

1. He Condemns It.

Jesus puts a curse on sin. He marks its forehead.

Romans 8:3 – “For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh.”

Jesus says to sin in no uncertain terms, “Sin, you’re going to die.”

2. He Carries It.

Like the true and better scapegoat, Jesus becomes our sin-bearer.

1 Peter 2:24 – “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.”

2 Corinthians 5:21 – “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

3. He Cancels It.

He closes out the account. (Even better, he opens a new one, where we’re always in the black, having been credited with his perfect righteousness.)

1 Corinthians 13:4-5 – “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful”

That word resentful is more directly “to count up wrongdoing,” which is why some translations of this text say that “Love keeps no record of wrongs.”

Colossians 2:13-14 – “And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.”

That last proclamation leads us into this great truth:

4. He Crucifies It

1 Peter 3:18 – “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit.”

At the cross, Jesus dies and takes our sin with him. Only the sin stays dead.

5. He Casts It Away

Jesus takes the corpse and chucks it into the void.

Micah 7:19 – “He will again have compassion on us; he will tread our iniquities underfoot. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.”

Psalm 103:12 – “as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.”

6. He Chooses to Un-remember It.

Jesus is omniscient. He is not forgetful. But he wills to un-remember our sin.

Jeremiah 31:34 – “And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”

Hebrews 8:12 – “For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.”

Hebrews 10:17 – “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.”

Astonishing. We bring our sin to him, repentant and in faithful confession, and he says, “What’re you talking about?”

This is how Jesus forgives sin: He condemns it, carries it, cancels it, kills it, casts it, and clean forgets it. If we’ll confess it.

1 John 1:9 – “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

are homosexuals going to hell

Are homosexuals going to hell? I have already referenced Alan Shlemon's response.Well, doesn't God punish them for being gay? Again, Shlemon has a good response. Ok, let's take this from a positive, can homosexuals be Christians? Michael Patton shares his thoughts. Yet some would call folks like me a homophobe. So what if a homophobe was interviewed? Trevin Wax takes a shot at that. And now, Frank Turk also takes a hypothetical interview approach to the debate focusing on the question, "are homosexuals going to hell?"

[HOST]: What do so many of the churches have against homosexuals?

[FT]: I’m not sure what you mean.

[HOST]: I wrote a book about the gay rights movement because I was appalled by the oppression and the discrimination against homosexuals in my America. What about your church’s approach to homosexuals? Is it a sin? Are they going to Hell?

[FT]: Do you believe in Hell?

[HOST]: You can’t really answer a question with a question, Frank.

[FT]: No, but I also can’t answer a question I’m not sure I understand. You asked me if homosexuals are going to Hell – as if that’s an option, one possible outcome. Do you think it’s a possible outcome for anyone to go to Hell?

[HOST]: Well, I’m not a Christian. I don’t think in those terms.

Friday, May 25, 2012

good theology

Another good Note to Self from Joe Thorn:

Good theology will always lead to humility and worship. It displays the greatness of God. It shows that he is transcendent, sovereign, holy, and good. It reflects the beauty of Jesus and the gospel, and the wonder of God’s justice and mercy coming together in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Good theology uncovers the truth about ourselves—that we are men and women made in God’s image, who exist for his glory, but have turned inward and ugly through our own sin. Without the hope of the gospel we are objects of wrath and await destruction. But in Christ we are reconciled to God.

John 17.1-3: When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

he cares

Some simple yet wonderfully wise words from Darryl Dash:

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. (1 Peter 5:6-7)

Some say that the two words "But God" in Ephesians 2 are the best two words in the Bible. I tend to agree, but two words in 1 Peter 5:7 come pretty close.

He cares.

Think about that for a while.

We live in anxious days. I talked to a high school teacher recently. She told me that anxiety is rampant among the students. We're not talking about average levels of anxiety. We're talking about major, life-altering anxiety. Students aren't the only ones. As I look around and within, I see high levels of anxiety almost everywhere I look.

Whatever your level of anxiety, God invites us to cast our anxiety on him. I don't know anyone else offering this. He's best equipped to handle the stuff that we can't. As Charles Simeon said about our anxieties, "None are so small but they shall be regarded, none so great but they shall be alleviated."

The best news of all: he cares.

We don't have to make something of ourselves, because God will look after exalting us when it's the right time. Our job is to stay humble and to keep giving him all the stuff that keeps us awake at night, knowing that he has our best interests at heart.

"God extends his care to the whole creation; but in a more special manner cares for his people" (Charles Simeon).

I don't know what you're going through today. Maybe nothing. Maybe a lot. But keep these two words in mind today: He cares. I know those two words are going to help me shift my anxieties over to him, work to stay humble, and trust that he will work everything out when the time is right.

shepherd leaders

Excellent anecdote from Timothy Witmer in The Shepherd Leader: Achieving Effective Shepherding in Your Church:

The story is told about a group of tourists in Israel who had been informed by their Israeli tour guide, after observing a flock and their shepherd, that shepherds always lead their flocks from the front. He told his attentive listeners that they never “drive” the sheep from behind.

A short time later they drove past a flock along the road where the shepherd was walking behind them. The tourists quickly called this to their guide’s attention and he stopped the bus to step out and have a word with the “shepherd.”

As he boarded the bus he had a sheepish grin on his face and announced to his eager listeners, “that wasn’t the shepherd, that was the butcher!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

keep your heart

On Proverbs 4.23, Joe Thorn in Note to Self:

To keep your heart means that your focus and work is on maintaining communion with God and pursuing the transformation that only God can accomplish in you. It is not performance-based religion, nor the moral improvement of your life, but the ongoing work of cultivating love for God and hatred for sin. It is the unending effort of guarding ourselves against idols while resting in the promises of the gospel.

wax on ladd

Trevin Wax (and I) recommends George Eldon Ladd (who coined the phrase "Already/Not Yet"). In his post are these two great Ladd quotes:

“I can only bear witness at this point to what Heilsgeschichte means to me. My sense of God’s love and acceptance is grounded not only in the resurrected Christ but also in the Jesus of history. He taught something about God that was utterly novel to his Jewish auditors: that God is not only gracious and forgiving to the repentant sinner but is also a seeking God who, in Jesus’ person and mission, has come to seek and to save the lost…

God has shown me that he loves me in that while I was yet a sinner, Christ died for me (Rom. 5:8 ). This is not faith in history; it is not faith in the kerygma; it is not faith in the Bible. It is faith in God who has revealed himself to me in the historical event of the person, works and words of Jesus of Nazareth who continues to speak to me though the prophetic word of the Bible.”

- George Eldon Ladd, “The Search for Perspective,” Interpretation 25 (Jan. 1971), 56 and 57.

“This is the good news about the kingdom of God. How men need this gospel! Everywhere one goes he finds the gaping graves swallowing up the dying. Tears of loss, of separation, of final departure stain every face. Every table sooner or later has an empty chair, every fireside its vacant place. Death is the great leveller. Wealth or poverty, fame or oblivion, power or futility, success or failure, race, creed or culture — all our human distinctions mean nothing before the ultimate irresistible sweep of the scythe of death which cuts us all down. And whether the mausoleum is a fabulous Taj Mahal, a massive pyramid, an unmarked spot of ragged grass or the unplotted depths of the sea one fact stands: death reigns.

“Apart from the gospel of the kingdom, death is the mighty conqueror before whom we are all helpless. We can only beat our fists in utter futility against this unyielding and unresponding tomb. But the good news is this: death has been defeated; our conqueror has been conquered. In the face of the power of the kingdom of God in Christ, death was helpless. It could not hold him, death has been defeated; life and immortality have been brought to life. An empty tomb in Jerusalem is proof of it. This is the gospel of the kingdom.”

everything matters

It is common to hear Christians talk about “living in the light of eternity.” Not too long ago, there was a popular video going around in which Francis Chan talked about this very thing, using a long rope as an illustration. The Bible, of course, speaks of this too—Paul says that “we fix our eyes not on what is seen but what is unseen. For…what is unseen is eternal (2 Cor. 4:18). And the glorious vision of the New Jerusalem in Revelation 21 gives us great hope for an eternal life in the new creation.

While such a perspective is clearly biblical, it needs to be understood properly. When people begin to think in these categories, a common temptation is to view life as split into two areas: spiritual things that matter and that have eternal significance, and everything else, which does not. This perspective is not true to Scripture, and doesn’t honour the confession that most Christians—despite the glaring inconsistency—are eager to make: that Christ is Lord over all.

What then does it mean to live in the light of eternity? It begins with recognising that the “all” in the statement above refers to the whole of created reality. This is where the root of the problem often lies, for many Christians have a narrow view of creation that does not go beyond the physical stuff that we can see and touch. But creation includes the whole of our creaturely existence, the norms and laws and structures that God has woven into the fabric of reality that guide and give shape to our life on this earth.

If all we wanted to say is that everything matters, we could stop here. But we need to go farther. The distorting effects of sin have touched every part of creation. This reality is what often gives rise to the dichotomy many operate with, for the goodness of the created reality is so marred by sin that it can be hard to even see it anymore. Our response is to give up on what we perceive to be temporal things—large swathes of our life within culture—and to go into preservation mode, concerning ourselves with our personal piety and with saving the souls of others.

But God doesn’t abandon any part of his creation. As that great line in “Joy to the World” goes, the redemption that comes through Christ extends as “far as the curse is found.” God is committed to redeeming every single part of his creation from sin.

Just as God is committed to his creation, so we should be. Nothing is so distorted by sin that it is unredeemable. Our call in culture is to bear witness to the redemption of Christ in every area of our creaturely lives. Nothing that we do is insignificant. Work, play, art, music, politics, journalism—these are all shaped by God’s creative design. It is true that Satan wants control over all of them; indeed, he desires control over the totality of creation. As servants of Christ, we must respond by demonstrating what all of life looks like under the rule of Christ and resolutely refuse to allow Satan to have mastery over anything good that God has made.

Living in the light of eternity means actively seeking to demonstrate Christ’s rule over all of life, offering the world around us a foretaste of “what is unseen” – that glorious future when the whole of creation is redeemed and everything finds its fulfilment and flourishing under the consummated rule of the true King.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

god's glory

Terry Virgo in The Spirit-Filled Church:

The writer to the Hebrews says (Hebrews 1:3) that God spoke in several ways in the past but in these last days God has spoken to us in His Son, who is ‘the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature’.

He is the outshining radiance of God. No man has seen God at any time. Just as we cannot gaze directly at the sun, but can often see magnificent rays of sunlight pouring through gaps in the clouds, so we cannot see God but we can know Him through the One who has come to us where we are.

The sun’s rays are the outshining of the sun. They are the sun coming to us in ways that it is possible for us to see. Jesus came to man radiating the presence of God.

Saturday, May 19, 2012


Tim Suttle quotes Alexander Schmemann (For the Life of the World) on marriage as mission:

“A marriage which does not constantly crucify its own selfishness and self-sufficiency, which does not “die to itself” that it may point beyond itself, is not a Christian marriage. The real sin of marriage today is not adultery or lack of “adjustment” or “mental cruelty.” It is the idolization of the family itself, the refusal to understand marriage as directed toward the Kingdom of God. This is expressed in the sentiment that one would “do anything” for his family, even steal. The family has here ceased to be for the glory of God; it has ceased to be a sacramental entrance into his presence. It is not the lack of respect for the family, it is the idolization of the family that breaks the modern family so easily, making divorce its almost natural shadow. It is the identification of marriage with happiness and the refusal to accept the cross in it. In a Christian marriage, in fact, three are married; and the united loyalty of the two toward the third, who is God, keeps the two in an active unity with each other as well as with God. Yet it is the presence of God which is the death of the marriage as something only “natural.” It is the cross of Christ that brings the self-sufficiency of nature to its end. But “by the cross, joy entered the whole world.” Its presence is thus the real joy of marriage. It is the joyful certitude that the marriage vow, in the perspective of the eternal Kingdom, is not taken “until death parts,” but until death unites us completely.”

Suttle adds:

Schmemann is rightly claiming that marriage is unintelligible not only outside of the church, but more importantly outside the mission of God. The mission of God is what gives marriage a proper sense of itself. He's exposing one of the realities of our current culture on marriage: Most people think of their own marriage as something that exists “for my spouse and I, so that we might be happy and have our needs fulfilled.” Schmemann unequivocally says this is idolatry. It is allowing the marriage to turn in on itself – we look to our marriage to meet our needs and it will always fail and thus so many marriages end in divorce.

Christian marriage does not exist for the benefit of the two people in the marriage, it is for the benefit of the world, that God would be glorified. The main purpose of marriage is not the enjoyment of the two people who are married, the main purpose of marriage is to glorify Christ as we participate in the Mission of God. Anything less is making an idol out of marriage.

(via) with further references ...

Friday, May 18, 2012

paul's thorn

Finally, a viable answer to what is Paul's thorn in the flesh (2 Cor 12.7-10) ...

how to treat homosexuals

I've posted briefly in the past on the question "can homosexuals be christian"? Here Tim Keller does a nice job speaking on how to treat homosexuals ... I agree with his thinking and thought it integrated nicely with the earlier post.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

warren wiersbe quotes

Ten great (ok some just pretty good) Warren Wiersbe quotes from the folks at Logos.

1. “The Christian life is not a playground; it is a battleground, and we must be on our guard at all times.”—from The Bumps Are What You Climb On
2. “This modern emphasis only on personal salvation makes us lose sight of the grandeur and glory of God’s church. I am not minimizing our personal experience with Christ, but I am affirming that it is not the primary goal that God has in mind. He is building His church. He is building up the Body of Christ. The glory and greatness of our personal salvation is but a reflection of what God is doing corporately in and through His church.”—from Prayer: Basic Training
3. “You don’t have to read very far in your Bible to discover that God forgives His servants and restores them to ministry.”—from Be Amazed
4. “The immediate purpose of prayer is the accomplishing of God’s will on earth; the ultimate purpose of prayer is the eternal glory of God.”—from On Earth as It Is in Heaven: How the Lord’s Prayer Teaches Us to Pray More Effectively
5. “For the most part, the people we serve in our congregations don’t look like Josephs, Esthers, or Davids, nor do we; but the same God who glorified himself in the lives of ‘ordinary people’ in ancient days will glorify himself in our lives today if we will trust him.”—from 10 Power Principles for Christian Service
6. “God’s people don’t live on explanations; they live on promises.”—from Be Heroic
7. “We may be statistics and numbers as far as the world’s computers are concerned, but we are precious individuals as far as our Shepherd is concerned. He knows his sheep personally.”—from Be What You Are
8. “Satan wants us to think that our ‘disobedience detours’ must become the permanent road for the rest of our lives, but this is a lie.”—from Be Obedient
9. “The most important meeting we as leaders attend is that daily personal meeting with the Lord, before the day begins, when worship and meditation increase our faith as we receive the orders for the day.”—from On Being a Leader for God
10. “If you serve only to earn a salary, you will never do your best as long as you think you’re underpaid. If you minister to get recognition, you will start doing less when people don’t show their appreciation. The only motivation that will take you through the storms and keep you on the job is, ‘I’m serving Jesus Christ.’ “—from On Being a Servant of God