Monday, May 26, 2008

Friday, May 16, 2008

What does it mean to have a Jesus shaped spirituality?

What does it mean to have a Jesus shaped spirituality?

Albert Benjamin Simpson (1843-1919) the founder of the Christian and Missionary Alliance was a leader of the church during the early days of the Pentecostal movement. As a result many of the big debates in the church were around the topics of holiness, sanctification, and the charismatic gifts of the Spirit like speaking in tongues or healing. In the middle of those debates he spoke very clearly. The Christian journey is not about seeking after new experiences, it is about seeking Christ "Himself". Simpson wrote both a sermon and a hymn on the topic. Both are reproduced in their entirety below.

Himself

I wish to speak to you about Jesus, and Jesus only.

I often hear people say, "I wish I could get hold of Divine Healing, but I cannot."

Sometimes they say, "I have got it."

If I ask them, "What have you got?" the answer is sometimes, "I have got the blessing", sometimes it is, "I have got the theory"; sometimes it is, "I have got the healing"; sometimes, "I have got the sanctification."

But I thank God we have been taught that it is not the blessing, it is not the healing, it is not the sanctification, it is not the thing, it is not the it that you want, but it is something better. It is "the Christ"; it is Himself.

How often that comes out in His Word - "Himself took our infirmities and bare our sicknesses", Himself "bare our sins in his own body on the tree"! It is the person of Jesus Christ we want.

Plenty of people get the idea and do not get anything out of it. They get it into their head, and it into their conscience, and it into their will; but somehow they do not get Him into their life and spirit, because they have only that which is the outward expression and symbol of the spiritual reality.

I once saw a picture of the Constitution of the United States, very skillfully engraved in copper plate, so that when you looked at it closely it was nothing more than a piece of writing, but when you looked at it at a distance, it was the face of George Washington. The face shone out in the shading of the letters at a little distance, and I saw the person, not the words, nor the ideas; and I thought, "'That is the way to look at the Scriptures and understand the thoughts of God, to see in them the face of love, shining through and through; not ideas, nor doctrines, but Jesus Himself as the Life and Source and sustaining Presence of all our life."

I prayed a long time to get sanctified, and sometimes I thought I had it.

On one occasion I felt something, and I held on with a desperate grip for fear I should lose it, and kept awake the whole night fearing it would go, and, of course, it went with the next sensation and the next mood. Of course, I lost it because I did not hold on to Him. I had been taking a little water from the reservoir, when I might have all the time received from Him fullness through the open channels.

I went to meetings and heard people speak of joy. I even thought I had the joy, but I did not keep it because I had not Himself as my joy.

At last He said to me - Oh so tenderly - "My child, just take Me, and let Me be in you the constant supply of all this, Myself."

And when at last I got my eyes off my sanctification, and my experience of it, and just placed them on the Christ in me, I found, instead of an experience, the Christ larger than the moment's need, the Christ that had all that I should ever need who was given to me at once, and for ever! And when I thus saw Him, it was such rest; it was all right, and right for ever. For I had not only what I could hold that little hour, but also in Him, all that I should need the next and the next and so on, until sometimes I get a glimpse of what it will be a million years afterwards, when we shall "shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of our Father" (Matt. 13: 43), and have "all the fullness of God."

And so I thought the healing would be an it too, that the Lord would take me like the old run-down clock, wind me up, and set me going like a machine.

It is not thus at all. I found it was Himself coming in instead and giving me what I needed at the moment. I wanted to have a great stock, so that I could feel rich; a great store laid up for many years, so that I would not be dependent upon Him the next day; but He never gave me such a store. I never had more holiness or healing at one time than I needed for that hour. He said: "My child, you must come to Me for the next breath because I love you so dearly I want you to come all the time. If I gave you a great supply, you would do without Me and would not come to Me so often; now you have to come to Me every second, and lie on My breast every moment."

He gave me a great fortune, placed thousands and millions at credit, but He gave a cheque-book with this one condition, "You never can draw more than you need at the time." Every time a cheque was wanted, however, there was the name of Jesus upon it, and so it brought more glory to Him, kept His name before the heavenly world and God was glorified in His Son.

I had to learn to take from Him my spiritual life every second, to breathe Himself in as I breathed, and breathe myself out. So, moment by moment for the spirit, and moment by moment for the body, we must receive.

You say, "Is not that a terrible bondage, to be always on the strain ?" What, on the strain with one you love, your dearest Friend ? Oh, no! It comes so naturally, so spontaneously, so like a fountain, without consciousness, without effort, for true life is always easy, and overflowing.

And now, thank God, I have Him, not only what I have room for, but that which I have not room for, but for which I shall have room, moment by moment, as I go on into the eternity before me. I am like the little bottle in the sea, as full as it will hold. The bottle is in the sea, and the sea is in the bottle; so I am in Christ, and Christ is in me. But, besides that bottleful in the sea, there is a whole ocean beyond; the difference is, that the bottle has to be filled over again, every day, evermore.

Now the question for each of us is not "What think you of Bethshan, and what think you of divine healing?" but "What think you of Christ?"

There came a time when there was a little thing between me and Christ. I express it by a little conversation with a friend who said, "You were healed by faith." "Oh, no," I said, "I was healed by Christ."

What is the difference? There is a great difference. There came a time when even faith seemed to come between me and Jesus. I thought I should have to work up the faith, so I labored to get the faith. At last I thought I had it; that if I put my whole weight upon it, it would hold. I said, when I thought I had got the faith, "Heal me." I was trusting in myself, in my own heart, in my own faith. I was asking the Lord to do something for me because of something in me, not because of something in Him.

So the Lord allowed the devil to try my faith, and the devil devoured it like a roaring lion, and I found myself so broken down that I did not think I had any faith. God allowed it to be taken away until I felt I had none. And then God seemed to speak to me so sweetly, saying, "Never mind, my child, you have nothing. But I am perfect Power, I am perfect Love, I am Faith, I am your Life, I am the preparation for the blessing, and then I am the Blessing, too. I am all within and all without, and all for ever."

It is just having "Faith in God" (Mark 11: 22). "And the life I now live in the flesh, I live," not by faith on the Son of God, but "by the faith of the Son of God" (Gal. 2 20). That is it. It is not your faith. You have no faith in you, any more than you have life or anything else in you. You have nothing but emptiness and vacuity, and you must be just openness and readiness to take Him to do all. You have to take His faith as well as His life and healing, and have simply to say, "I live by the faith of the Son of God." My faith is not worth anything. If I had to pray for anyone, I would not depend upon my faith at all. I would say, "Here, Lord, am I. If you want me to be the channel of blessing to this one just breathe into me all that I need." It is simply Christ, Christ alone.

Now, is your body yielded to Christ for Him thus to dwell and work in you? The Lord Jesus Christ has a body as well as you only it is perfect; it is the body, not of a man, but of the Son of man. Have you considered why He is called the Son of man? The Son of man means that Jesus Christ is the one typical, comprehensive, universal, all-inclusive Man. Jesus is the one man that contains in Himself all that man ought to be all that man needs to have. It is all in Christ. All the fullness of the Godhead and the fullness of a perfect manhood has been embodied in Christ, and He stands now as the summing-up of all that man needs. His spirit is all that your spirit needs, and He just gives us Himself. His body possesses all that your body needs. He has a heart beating with the strength that your heart needs. He has organs and functions redundant with life, not for Himself, but for humanity. He does not need strength for Himself. The energy which enabled Him to rise and ascend from the tomb, above all the forces of nature, was not for Himself. That marvellous body belongs to your body. You are a member of His body. Your heart has a right to draw from His heart all that it needs. Your physical life has a right to draw from His physical life its support and strength, and so it is not you, but it is just the precious life of the Son of God. Will you take Him thus today, and then you will not be merely healed, but you will have a new life for all you need, a flood of life that will sweep disease away, and then remain a fountain of life for all your future need. Oh, take Him in His fullness.

It seems to me as if I might just bring you a little talisman today, as if God had given me a little secret for every one here and said to me, "Go and tell them, if they will take it, it will be a talisman of power wherever they go, and it will carry them through difficulty, danger, fear, life, death, eternity." If I could stand on this platform and say, "I have received from heaven a secret of wealth and success which God will give freely, through my hand, to everybody who will take it," I am sure you would need a larger hall for the people who would come. But, dear friends, I show you in His Word a truth which is more precious. The Apostle Paul tells us that there is a secret, a great secret which was hidden from ages and from generations (Col. 1: 26), which the world was seeking after in vain, which wise men from the East hoped they might find, and God says it "is now made manifest to his saints"; and Paul went through the world just to tell it to those that were able to receive it; and that simple secret is just this "Christ in you the hope of glory."

The word "mystery" means secret; this is the great secret. And I tell you today, nay, I can give you, if you will take it from Him, not from me-I can give you a secret which has been to me, oh, so wonderful! Years ago I came to Him burdened with guilt and fear; I tried that simple secret, and it took away all my fear and sin. Years passed on, and I found sin overcoming me and my temptations too strong for me. I came to Him a second time, and He whispered to me, "Christ in you," and I had victory, rest and blessing.

Then the body broke away in every sort of way. I had always worked hard, and from the age of fourteen I studied and labored and spared no strength. I took charge of a large congregation at the age of twenty-one; I broke down utterly half a dozen times and at my last constitution was worn out. Many times I feared I should drop dead in my pulpit. I could not ascend any height without a sense of suffocation, because of a broken-down heart and exhausted nervous system. I heard of the Lord's healing, but I struggled against it. I was afraid of it. I had been taught in theological seminaries that the age of the supernatural was past, and I could not go back from my early training. My head was in my way, but at last when I was brought to attend "the funeral of my dogmatics," as Mr. Schrenck says, "the Lord whispered to me the little secret, 'Christ in you'; and from that hour I received Him for my body as I had done for my soul. I was made so strong and well that work has been a perfect delight. For years I have spent my summer holiday in the hot city of New York, preaching and working amongst the masses, as I never did before; besides the work of our Home and College and an immense mass of library work and much besides. But the Lord did not merely remove my sufferings. It was more than simple healing. He so gave me Himself that I lost the painful consciousness of physical organs. That is the best of the health He gives. I thank the Lord that He keeps me from all morbid, physical consciousness and a body that is the object of anxious care, and gives a simple life that is a delight and a service for the Master, that is a rest and joy.

Then, again, I had a poor sort of a mind, heavy and cumbrous, that did not think or work quickly. I wanted to write and speak for Christ and to have a ready memory, so as to have the little knowledge I had gained always under command. I went to Christ about it, and asked if He had anything for me in this way. He replied, "Yes, my child, I am made unto you Wisdom." I was always making mistakes, which I regretted, and then thinking I would not make them again; but when He said that He would be my wisdom, that we may have the mind of Christ, that He could cast down imaginations and bring into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ, that He could make the brain and head right, then I took Him for all that. And since then I have been kept free from this mental disability, and work has been rest. I used to write two sermons a week, and it took me three days to complete one. But now, in connection with my literary work, I have numberless pages of matter to write constantly besides the conduct of very many meetings a week, and all is delightfully easy to me. The Lord has helped me mentally, and I know He is the Saviour of our mind as well as our spirit.

Well, then, I had an irresolute will. I asked, ' Cannot you be a will to me?" He said, "Yes, my child, it is God who worketh in you to will and to do." Then He made me to learn how and when to be firm, and how and when to yield. Many people have a decided will, but they do not know how to hold on just at the proper moment. So, too, I came to Him for power for His work and all the resources for His service, and He has not failed me.

And so I would say, if this precious little secret of "Christ in you," will help you, you may have it. May you make better use of it than I! I feel I have only begun to learn how well it works. Take it and go on working it out, through time and eternity-Christ for all, grace for grace, from strength to strength, from glory to glory, from this time forth and even for evermore.

HIMSELF
by A. B. Simpson
Once it was the blessing, Now it is the Lord;
Once it was the feeling, Now it is His Word.
Once His gifts I wanted, Now the Giver own;
Once I sought for healing, Now Himself alone.

Once 'twas painful trying, Now 'tis perfect trust;
Once a half salvation, Now the uttermost.
Once 'twas ceaseless holding, Now He holds me fast;
Once 'twas constant drifting, Now my anchor's cast.

Once 'twas busy planning, Now 'tis trustful prayer;
Once 'twas anxious caring, Now He has the care.
Once 'twas what I wanted, Now what Jesus says;
Once 'twas constant asking, Now 'tis ceaseless praise.

Once it was my working, His it hence shall be;
Once I tried to use Him, Now He uses me.
Once the power I wanted, Now the Mighty One;
Once for self I labored, Now for Him alone.

Once I hoped in Jesus, Now I know He's mine;
Once my lamps were dying, Now they brightly shine.
Once for death I waited, Now His coming hail;
And my hopes are anchored, Safe within the veil.


Tuesday, May 13, 2008

How does a Baptist define heresy?

A recent post on a catholic site asked how Baptists would define heresy. I thought I would take a crack at responding. Here are my thoughts on the issue.

Although the Baptist cry is "sola scriptura" (the bible only), the fact remains that many Baptists are interested in the Church Fathers because they have an interest in what the church looked like in the early days.

Historically, because of persecution, there has been a distrust of the state sponsored church, so when a Baptist looks at the early church, the role of the emperor Constantine appears to be a dividing line for what they will accept as uncorrupted theology.

So for a Baptist, scripture plus the first 300 years of the church largely defines what we have in common with other types of churches. What the church believed is summarized by the Apostles creed and the Nicene creed (both the 325 and 381 versions), all of which I have heard recited in Baptist, or baptistic churches.

I should note that at the Council of Ephesus (431) it was determined that "it is unlawful for any man to bring forward, or to write, or to compose a different (ἑτέραν) Faith as a rival to that established by the holy Fathers assembled with the Holy Ghost in Nicæa." It is important to note that this third council affirmed the creed established in the first two councils as being the core of what Christians believed.

So how then would I define heresy? Heresy is that which runs contrary to these early creedal beliefs. Sure we may disagree about many things, and have different interpretations of many things, but we have together a basic set of core beliefs that we hold together.

So things that I would hold to be heresy would be things like:

  1. Denying the deity of Christ
  2. Denying the incarnation
  3. Denying God as creator
  4. Denying the resurrection
Things that are not covered by the creed I believe you should be able to have genuine differences of opinion on without being labeled a heretic. There are much better words that can be used!

For reference, here are the early creeds.

The apostles creed:

1. I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.
2. I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord.
3. He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary.
4. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried.
5. He descended into hell. On the third day he rose again.
6. He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
7. He will come again to judge the living and the dead.
8. I believe in the Holy Spirit,
9. the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints,
10. the forgiveness of sins,
11. the resurrection of the body,
12. and the life everlasting.
Amen.


Here is the Nicene creed of 325:

We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of all things visible and invisible.
And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds (æons), Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father;
by whom all things were made [both in heaven and on earth];
who for us men, and for our salvation, came down and was incarnate and was made man;
he suffered, and the third day he rose again, ascended into heaven;
from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
And in the Holy Ghost.


Here is the revised Nicene creed of 381:

We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.
And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds (æons), Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father;
by whom all things were made;
who for us men, and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, and was made man;
he was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate, and suffered, and was buried, and the third day he rose again, according to the Scriptures, and ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of the Father;
from thence he shall come again, with glory, to judge the quick and the dead;
whose kingdom shall have no end.
And in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of life, who proceedeth from the Father, who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified, who spake by the prophets.
In one holy catholic and apostolic Church
we acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins;
we look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come.
Amen.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Unity in Communion?

Recently, over at The Internet Monk, Michael Spencer asked a question about how communion relates to unity with Christ. He wrote:
All Christians are united with Christ by the sovereign, gracious work of God himself. All the benefits of salvation come to us because of union with Christ. So how does union with Christ relate to your understanding of the sacrament of
the Lord’s Supper?

Growing up that I had been taught that one of the differences between Roman Catholics and Protestants was whether Christ was physically present in the bread and the wine, or whether he was just spiritually present. I also knew that there were a variety of opinions on the topic. As I discovered in reading the comments to Michael Spencer's post, these opinions were quite varied, and held quite fervently. So fervently in fact that I found two things happening.

  1. People were less than charitable in describing each others positions.
  2. A number of people would not take communion with you unless you shared their opinion.

In response to the comments I was reading, (and I would encourage you to read the thread), I made the following comment:


I realize that this is an important topic to many by the impassioned comments on this blog, but the comments are really over the top. I am tired of people who proclaim that my (take your pick) denomination/mode of baptism/communion/union with Christ/experience of the holy spirit/version of the bible/understanding of the scriptures/understanding of truth - is better than yours.


If you want to know why young people today are being turned off of organized religion, denominationalism and the church, then just reread some of the comments posted above. As for me, I cherish my union with Christ, which has been deepened through many different experiences. My table and fellowship is open to all those who have also expressed a union with Christ, no matter what their background.


I know that there is such divergent Christian thought about so many topics that I can’t possibly get it all right. But I can try to earnestly follow Christ with all my “heart, soul, mind, and strength.”


When we get to Heaven someone may point at me and say to Christ, “He believed incorrectly about topic X”. Christ will say something like, “I died for him, and he has chosen to follow me as best as he knows how. He belongs to me. Why did you exclude him from my table/my church’s membership? He is welcome at my table and in my church.”


Bror Erickson responded:

Quite frankly I haven’t heard anyone here say you or anyone else won’t be in heaven, where all sins will be forgiven even sins of the mind.But that doesn’t mean false doctrine should be tolerated, or doctrinal divisions should be glossed over here in the church militant. God has given us his word. If we love him with all our heart and with all our mind we will take that quite seriously. And those that are teaching things contrary to the word of God should be told as much, warned, marked, rebuked and avoided, it really is the only charitable thing to do. It is infact what the New Testament tells us to do in many places. It may not be nice by worldly standards, it may not be politically correct, it may even come off as unloving. But we don’t get to choose what parts of the Bible to believe, and what parts to ignore.If I was to take what you said to heart, I would have no choice but set aside my ordination, forsake all my Lutheran distinctives, and swim either the Tiber or the Bosphurous. If doctrine doesn’t matter, than none of us had any reason to break with Rome, or Constantinople for that matter. Nor do we have any reason to split from a creedal Church chanting the mantra “only the Bible.”I’d much rather be open about our differences and discuss them candidly. No one is served by anything less.


Feeling as if I was being understood, I made the following comment back to Bror:


I think you have misunderstood my post on a number of fronts.


I agree with you that false doctrine should not be tolerated and doctrinal division should not be glossed over. I agree that “those that are teaching things contrary to the word of God should be told as much, warned, marked, rebuked and avoided…”


My point is that I am a member of Christ’s church. I believe, like the creeds, in the “holy catholic (universal) church.”


When we disagree on secondary doctrinal matters, I say, let us agree to disagree, but as long as we both hold to a classic Christian faith as expressed in the creeds, you are welcome at my church and at my communion table. Because it is not my church, and not my Communion table, but Christ’s, and if he has accepted you into his family, then I call you brother and accept you into mine.


It saddens me that I would not be welcomed into your church and allowed to participate in your communion in the same way I would welcome you into mine.


You state that you would “rather be open about our differences and discuss them candidly. No one is served by anything less.” I am totally in agreement with that, as long as it is done with a spirit of gentleness and generosity. I have felt like that gentleness and generosity has been sadly lacking in many of the posts above.


Bror respoded:


Thats just it. I think if you agreed with me, then you wouldn’t see Lord’s Supper as a secondary issue. It’s not, not for Lutherans. It is the “New Testament” Christ’s Last will and Testament, in his blood. How serious does it have to be before it is not a secondary doctrine? Your messing with God’s Testament here. For us Lutherans it is quite simply the gospel itself we are consuming. As I have said before it is at the heart of everything we believe, teach and confess. What you confess about the Lord’s Supper colors everything you confess about Christ and who he is.

And for this reason I would not want to join you in what I can only see as a profanation of the Lord’s Supper. And for that reason I would ask that you wait until you are thoroughly instructed as to what us Lutheran’s believe teach and confess, before you make a common confession of faith with us at the Lord’s Table, so that you understand what it is you are receiving and why.It may be a secondary issue for you. But understand for us it isn’t, we ask that you respect that.


So that was the start of our discussion. What do you think? I will be adding some further thoughts a little later.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Alcohol - Abstain or Moderation


The Criswell Theological Journal (Volume 5, Issue 2) has devoted their latest issue to that of Christians and Alcohol. Three of the articles are available online. Together they are an amazing resource for what the bible says about alcohol.

Ken Gentry argues for the moderation approach, while Richard Land and Barrett Duke along with Norman Geisler argure for abstaining.

I think that both sides have some good points. It seems to be more of a North American debate, with a strong cultural element. My own German Baptist church is made up of members who would definitely be on the moderation side of the argument.

From my own experience, and the experience of others that I have witnessed, I have seen the value of setting guidelines for our children. One of these guidelines is the principal of moderation. God has made many good things for us, but these things whether food or alcohol, if abused can lead to many poor outcomes. If I only say to my child, "Don't drink alcohol", and my child disagrees, have I taught them any good lessons about how to handle it safely?

I encourage you to read the articles and formulate your own opinions on the topics.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Whatever you do - do it to the glory of God

"Whatever you do, do it to the glory of God", 1 Corinthians 10:31b.

This has got to be one of my favourite bible verses. In 1996 it was expressed by this song by David Ruis - "Every move I make - I make in you Jesus."


Every move I make

Every move I make, I make in you
You make me move, Jesus
Every breath I take, I breathe in you
Every step I take, I take in you
You are my way, Jesus
Every breath I take, I breathe in you

Waves of mercy, waves of grace
Everywhere I look I see your face
Your love has captured me
O my God, this love, how can it be?




This Korean Dance troupe has put their own particular spin on it. I like seeing the expressions of joy on their faces as they are moving to the beat of a different drummer.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

What is my "100 Acre Wood" personality?

One of my favourite blogger, Dr. Platypus (a.k.a. Darrell Pursiful), mentioned The Deep and Meaningful Winnie-The-Pooh Character Test

My Score: Tigger


I scored 16 Ego, 10 Anxiety, and 15 Agency!




And as they went, Tigger told Roo (who wanted to know)
all about the things that Tiggers could do.

"Can they fly?" asked Roo.

"Yes," said Tigger, "they're very good flyers, Tiggers
are. Strornry good flyers."

"Oo!" said Roo. "Can they fly as well as Owl?"

"Yes," said Tigger. "Only they don't want to."

"Why don't they want to?" well, they just don't like it
somehow."

Roo couldn't understand this, because he thought it
would be lovely to be able to fly, but Tigger said it was
difficult to explain to anybody who wasn't a Tigger himself.

I scored as Tigger!

ABOUT TIGGER: Tigger is the newest addition to the Hundred Acre Wood, and he lives with Kanga and Roo, because Roo's strengthening medicine turned out to be the thing that Tiggers like best. Tigger is bouncy and confident -some of his friends think he is a little TOO bouncy and confident, but attempts to unbounce him tend to be fruitless.

WHAT THIS SAYS ABOUT YOU: You are a positive and confident person. You feel capable of dealing with anything and everything, and funnily enough, you usually ARE. You don't worry about much, and you love to go out and find new adventures.

Your friends and family might sometimes be a little exasperated by your boundless enthusiasm. You don't like to admit your mistakes, and when you find yourself in over you head, you tend to bluff your way out of things. You would be surprised, however, at how happy the people around you would be if you would actually admit to a mistake. It would make you seem more human, somehow.


Friday, April 4, 2008

Why the change in the crowd? Part 2

In part 1 of the topic "Why the change in the crowd?" I looked at why the crowd had changed from shouting "Hosanna", to shouting "Crucify him".

I concluded that the first crowd was made up of Jesus' supporters from the North, who were staying outside the city with him, and coming into Jerusalem with him in the morning.

The second crowd was organizes by the chief priests and temple leaders. It was gathered very early in the morning, well before Jesus' supporters had come into the city.

What struck me about this is that the chief priests, temple leaders, and pharisees represented what society would have considered to be among the most spiritual people in society. Yet these people were the ones that were most threatened by the new wave of the Spirit that had come in the form of Jesus Christ. It is a natural inclination to be suspicious of change, to be resistant to ideas that might threaten your place in society, and to be wary of a new religious movement.

Then I thought of us today in our churches. Are we suspicious, resistant, and wary of new things. Do we like things just the way they are? "If it ain't broke. Don't fix it." Over the last couple of years I have heard a couple of astute church leaders suggest that if the congregation is quite happy with the status quo, then some faith stretching exercises are in order. What happens when a new Pastor comes into our church (I am speaking generically here) and suggests that significant change is neccessary in order for our church to move beyond its plateaued state? Are we part of the crowd that shouts "Hosanna!", or are we part of the crowd that shouts "Crucify him!"

Making sure that you have the right reaction to change will have a major impact on the future ministry of your church.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Cool implementation of an online album

Another example of some of my recent work.

What could be a better way for a coffee company to display pictures than a pictures spread out on a coffee table.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Distilling the world down to 100 people

This powerful and impactful video is what the world would look like if everyone were proportionally distilled down to a village of 100 people.

If we could turn the population of the earth into a small community of 100 people, keeping the same proportions as we have today, it would be something like this...



Thanks to Nigel Barham for drawing my attention to it.


Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Time to hold my tongue (or keyboard in this case)

One of our Pastors recently released a video on YouTube. It was a very impactful video and very well done. However, I found myself not completely agreeing with his basic premise.

I said to myself, "I should write a blog about the topic." Well a couple of days went by without having the opportunity to write about it, and upon further reflection this was fortunate.

Here are some reasons why you shouldn't blog about what your Pastor has said, or written (unless of course it is in a very positive vein.)

  1. You risk undermining the message and/or the authority of the Pastor.
  2. Most don't look favourably on disputing with a Pastor in a public place, and you can't get more public than the Internet.
  3. Pastors need our support so much more than they need our criticism. You should always aim to withhold your criticism unless it is absolutely necessary.
  4. God may have given your Pastor a vision that is different than the one you have for the church. God has placed him there to lead, so follow!
  5. Just because you disagree doesn't mean that the Pastor is wrong.
  6. Encouragement should be frequent and often public. Criticism should only be constructive, and if at all possible be private.

Someday I may choose to blog about this, as yet unspoken, topic. When I do however, it won't be in the context of responding to what my Pastor has written. Pastors need and deserve our encouragement and support, not our criticism.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Why the change in the crowd? Part 1

A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,
"Hosanna to the Son of David!"
"Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!"
"Hosanna in the highest!" Matthew 21:8-9


22"What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called Christ?" Pilate asked. They all answered, "Crucify him!"
23"Why? What crime has he committed?" asked Pilate. But they shouted all the louder, "Crucify him!" Matthew 27:22-23


What a difference a week makes! In one week, the people have gone from shouting "Hosanna" to shouting "Crucify him!" Unfortunately, in almost every sermon I have heard on the topic, the pastor gets it wrong. (Not picking on any particular pastor here, I have heard this preached badly six or seven times.) The Pastor assumes that the crowd in Matthew 21 is the same as the crowd in Matthew 27. But this is not the case.


In Matthew 19 we find Jesus way north of Jerusalem, in Galilee, his home turf so to speak. This was where Jesus had grown up, based his ministry, and performed most of his miracles. Like most others he starts to make his way south to celebrate the passover in Jerusalem.


First he heads down to Judea, to the far side of the Jordan (possibly on the route that skirted Samaria.) He crosses back over the Jordan into Jericho, which we find him leaving in Matthew 20. He arrives at Bethpage and Bethany which he makes as his headquarters for Passover week (Matthew 21 & 26). Jerusalem was filled with pilgrims, and Jesus did what many others did who lived outside the immediate area, they slept in the towns surrounding Jerusalem, and then came into Jerusalem for the events of each day.


So when Jesus has his triumphal entry that we read about in Matthew 21, he is surrounded by his supporters from the north. They had also camped outside the city and were also coming in for the day.


In Jerusalem awaits the political elite, the leaders of the temple, who are quite happy with their lifestyle and the degree of autonomy that they have under Roman rule. Someone who might upset their applecart would need to be dealt with quickly.


So what does Jesus do? He drives the money changers and sellers from the temple, directly challenging the leadership of the temple. Then he heads back to Bethany for the night.


He comes back in the next morning, curses the fig tree on the way in, and then spends the day telling parables that insult the chief priests and pharisees. It is then that they decide to arrest him (Matthew 21:45-46). Note that the passage says that they were afraid to arrest him because of the crowd.


Christ continues to clash with the teachers of the law and the pharisees in Mattew 22 & 23. Jesus continues to teach in Matthew 24 & 25 and heads back to Bethany where we find him again in Mattew 26.


Meanwhile the chief priests and elders meet to plot against Jesus.


3Then the chief priests and the elders of the people assembled in the palace of
the high priest, whose name was Caiaphas, 4and they plotted to arrest Jesus in
some sly way and kill him. 5"But not during the Feast," they said, "or there may
be a riot among the people." Matthew 26: 3-5

Notice that the plot involved getting Jesus away from his followers. That is the ones who camped outside the city.


Jesus comes back into town to pray on the Mount of Olives at night. It is at the Garden of Gethsemene that he is arrested at night (Matthew 26:47). Jesus himself comments (verse 55) that he was in the temple all day, why didn't they arrest him then? Why, because his supporters were all in the temple area during the day!


He is immediately taken before the sanhedrin for his first trial. Again, this was still in the middle of the night, and the sanhedrin had gathered for the express purpose of getting rid of Jesus.


Matthew 27 opens by saying that "early in the morning" he was taken before Pilate. It is when he is before Pilate that the crowd shouts "crucify him".


This is not the same crowd that shouted "Hosanna". The "Hosanna" crowd are still camped outside the city or making their way in. The "Crucify crowd" is made up of the priests, elders, and pharisees, and those that they have assembled, who wanted nothing to do with Jesus and just want him out of the way.


So why the change in the crowd? Two different crowds. The second crowd planted at a time when the first crowd could not be there.

Continued...

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Are mega-churches destroying smaller churches?

I have heard or read four times in the last month that small churches are being destroyed by mega-churches. The argument typically goes that mega-churches offer so much in the way of family programming, skilled musicians, and outstanding preaching, that it is hard for a smaller church to compete.

It seems that this argument is a little short sighted for several reasons:

1. People tend to look for a reason to stay in a church, not a reason to leave. If people are leaving your church, it is time to take a good long look inward, and say "how are we not meeting their needs." Are they not being fed through the teaching of the word? Then how can that be changed. Are they experiencing issues with the music and worship? What can be done in that area? Are there few youth in the church? What can be done to reach out to the youth of the community?

2. If people are not excited about what is happening in your church, whatever that might be, then your church will not grow. They will find some excuse to go to the newer, bigger church down the road. What is an area of ministry in your church in which God seems to be working, and around which excitement can grow? How can you build on this area? What areas of ministry are serving as a drag on your church.

3. Strive for excellence! You don't want to practice Tuesday night for Sunday worship, then that is fine, but then you are excluding yourself from the Worship team. You don't want to take the Sunday School Teacher training? Well that is fine, then you don't teach Sunday School. People will see and appreciated excellence and be turned off by half hearted attempts.

4. Have key members of your leadership visit other churches that are growing. What is working for them that is not working for you?

5. Most importantly, work together with your leadership and your congregation to develop a vision and direction. If your people can see a positive future they will want to be part of it.

For the past 12 years we have been part of churches that have had less than 80 people. The energy that it requires to run a church of 80 well is not that different than the energy it takes to run a church of 300. Reflecting back over the last 12 years I wonder if we might have been able to accomplish a lot more for the cause of Christ, if our energy has been used to help a medium size church grow, rather than used to try and sustain a smaller struggling church. The mega-churches that I am familiar with around here seem to be doing a lot to introduce non-churched people to Christ. Unfortunately the same cannot be said for many of the smaller churches with which I have been associated.


Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Share acts of kindness - and have a donation made on your behalf.

Genuine Health is making a $0.50 cent donation to VitaminAngels on behalf of anyone who shares a "daily act of kindness". I encourage you to visit the site, and submit your own daily act of kindness.

Disclaimer: I helped in the creation of the site, so I know the offer is genuine.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The End of Religion?

Michael Spencer, The Internet Monk, has an interesting review of Bruxy Cavey's new book The End of Religion. While I have not yet read the book, and so cannot comment on it directly, I do find that ideas like "I'm not religious, I have a personal faith" or "It's not about religion, it's about relationship" are both phrases that really rub me the wrong way. Religion as defined by the American Heritage Dictionary is:
  1. Belief in and reverence for a supernatural power or powers regarded as creator and governor of the universe.
  2. A personal or institutionalized system grounded in such belief and worship.
  3. The life or condition of a person in a religious order.
  4. A set of beliefs, values, and practices based on the teachings of a spiritual leader.
  5. A cause, principle, or activity pursued with zeal or conscientious devotion.

I'm sorry, but trying to say that we are not "religious", just confuses the person with whom we are trying to communicate. Think of "religion" as being either the structure through which your "faith" or "relationship" is able to take expression, or the set of beliefs that guide your expression of your faith.

Fitness challenge

I started a fitness challenge today. Starting weight 257.5 lbs. It is about 5 pounds less than I weighed two weeks ago, so I have already had a good start.

My strategy is going to be:
  1. Gym every workday for 40 minutes.
  2. Porridge for breakfast. Sandwhich for lunch. Regular supper. Healthy snacks inbetween.
  3. No eating after supper.

My goal is to be able to play adult league soccer with my son when soccer starts 14 months from now. I figure that I will need to be under 220 lbs, and hopefully around 200.

I will keep you updated about once a week.

Monday, March 10, 2008

My latest work.

Just finished updating work on a site for International Truck and Engine.

You can view it at: www.virtualpartscounter.com

What will the future bring?

In a recent Bible study at church, our Pastor challenged three of us to prepare a ten minute presentation on one of three views of the millenium. The view that I was assigned was post-millenialism, a topic that, in spite of three years of theological education, I knew very little about. I grew up in churches that have a pre-millenial theology that believe that Christ will return to earth "imminently" to usher in his 1000 year (millenium) reign.

Post-millenialism on the other hand teaches that most of the book of Revelation was fulfilled in A.D. 70 with the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem. We are now in the Millenium where Christ is building his kingdom one soul at a time. Like pre-millenialists, post-millenialists still believe in the future return of Jesus Christ where he will come to judge the world.

I must admit I have not spent a whole lot of time studying this topic, and that is intentional because I think that we have more important things to worry about. So when it comes to end-times discussion, I would rather take a pan-millenial view. That, is, it will all "pan" out it the end.

However, if you are interested in finding out more about post-millenialism, Kenneth Gentry has some interesting free papers on the subject. I found the ones titled Apocalypse Then and Back to the Future - The Preterist Perspective expecially helpful. Another article that is a little more difficult to read, but details the biblical basis quite well is Blaising Rattles.