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Friday, July 31, 2009

Bible Alone?

I hear a lot that all I need is my Bible and I can figure things out myself. While I do believe the Bible's main themes are plain for all to see (like Jesus is the Messiah), we are often ignorant of something things the Bible assumes we know. The big one is that the Bible was never meant to be explored solely in a single person's experience. It is to be explored in a community. Why?

Justin Taylor wrote a great article (found here) talking about this very thing.

He writes:
And yet the irony is that if we use only this book, we may in fact be in disobedience to it. We should count good teaching about the Bible — whether through commentaries, books, sermons, study Bibles, and so on — to be a gift from God for the good of His church (see Eph. 4:11; James 1:17). So what may look pious on the outside (“Just me and my Bible!”) can actually mask pride on the inside.
We cannot have a arrogance to believe that we are all alone. NO one (including me) is above community. Carl Truman basically said the same thing in his warning to Ph.D. students in a recent article. Every heretic starts out doing the same thing: studying the Bible alone.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

This week at Payne Church




Traditions are the things we either hold to or run from, especially in the Church. This week we look at what Jesus says about traditions. Are they straight jackets to restrain our freedom or as Tevye says in Fiddler on the Roof, the practices that give us balance?

Join us at 9:30am on Sunday at Payne Church of Christ located at 220 W. Merrin St in Payne OH.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Political Importance doesn't mean Theologically correct

Jimmy Carter was at one point the most powerful man in the world. He is also credited for helping the Christian Right get the idea that religion and politics should mix together in 1976 (The Year of the Evangelical). For a long time, he has taught a Sunday school class in Georgia at a Southern Baptist Church. In 2000, he said he no longer wanted his name linked with the Southern Baptist convention. No big deal. You don't have to be a Southern Baptist to be saved (they will even tell you that), just a Christ Follower (See 1 John).

On Al Mohler's Blog today, he talked about an interview Jimmy Carter had with a London Paper. Carter says (quoting from Mohler's blog)
Instead, his reference to the Southern Baptist Convention introduced his argument that any religious teaching that denies what he construes as full equality for women "is in clear violation not just of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights but also the teachings of Jesus Christ, the Apostle Paul, Moses and the prophets, Muhammad, and founders of other great religions - all of whom have called for proper and equitable treatment of all the children of God."
Mohler rightly points out that
[Carter] opens and closes his article by citing as his main authority the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the United Nations in 1948. This text, we might note, also declares "freedom of thought, conscience, and religion" as basic human rights. The more important question is this: Does President Carter really believe that he will convince Christians -- Southern Baptist or otherwise -- to see any human statement as holding a higher authority than the Bible? That question, more than anything else, points to the real reason that President Carter and the Southern Baptist Convention have parted ways. The point of division remains the ultimate authority and total truthfulness of the Bible as the Word of God.
I think Jimmy Carter is a good guy and has done a lot of good for this world. Much of this came out of his Christian worldview. I am not questioning, his salvation (because that is only something I believe God has a right to do). So, this is not meant to vilify him

I bring this up because this points to a problem I've seen a lot through history. People of power will become consumed with their position and thinks that gives them the authority to speak on anything and everything. If that person is a Christian, that is especially true. Christian politicians can and should speak authoritatively on politics and religions.

Ever since Emperor Constantine made Christianity legal in the Roman Empire in roughly 323 AD, Emperors could influence how the Church was governed without a accurate understanding of the Bible/theological truths. He meant well but many of successors probably didn't. They would make decisions that made political sense but not theological (since they were not trained scholars or in many cases confessing Christ Followers).

A good example is an early one. The council of Nicaea was called because Constantine wanted unity in his Empire and could not have it until the Christians stop fighting. He did turn to a theological adviser to understand the issue at the center of the fight (the doctrine of Christ's divinity) but I'm not sure if he actually understand the magnitude of the issue. He just knew he needed peace. Because his own religious adviser, Hossius, over saw the preceding and he was bank rolling everything, it probably brought a "quick" end to discussion for fear of being against the government (they knew which side Constantine was on). They also knew Constantine wanted unity and a creed fast. I'm not saying that they didn't decide correctly but I am saying that for centuries, these issues lingered on in large part because the desire for political unity trumped the desire for doctrinal understanding. Pragmatism ruled the day.

Eventually, the east would adopt Ceasaropapism (Emperor is Pope) and when Constantinople was over taken by the Ottomans Turks in 1453, a Muslim was the head of the Christian Church. Obviously, a Muslim would not do what is best for a Christian Church. The same though could be said for the west. While the West would adopt the supremacy of the Roman Bishop (the Pope), Charlemagne, Frederick II of HRE, Charles V and even Louis XIV would all influence how the Church operated for political reasons. They w not understanding the theological ramifications of decisions (and probably many Popes for that matter).

In America, Thomas Jefferson has the foresight to know that a wall to protect the Church from the State had to be erected. Church would remain separate from State (for the most part every one said they were Christian) until the 1900's. Politicians would not meddle in Church affairs (though the Church would in civil affairs) The deathblow to the Fundamentalist resurgence was the Scopes Monkey Trial when politician William Jenkins Bryan (a Sunday School Teacher, not a Theologian like BB Warfield,Charles Hodge or even Machen) was schooled by Atheist Clarence Darrow on the witness stand. Here, an arrogant politician made a public statement in an area of ignorance that hurt the Church. He could only speak on his limited experience and not on behalf of Historic Biblical Christianity (though he though he could).

Many feel that the Christian Right being "in bed" with Evangelical America could be a reason for a decline in the veracity of the Church. Because we have been pigeonholed as abortion hating, gay bashing, death penalty loving republicans by Christians Politicians by making political statements coming off as theological statements, we have a lot of work to do to show why some believe these things are not just politically based but Biblical base. In many cases, I feel the republican "tail" have been "wagging" the Christians "dog" to do its bidding. The politicians probably only have themselves in mind and not the effect it will have on the Bride of Christ.

We have a hard time contending for the faith when any one believes that they are not ignorant of some things. A Christian speaking on theological issues with a right life can be just as damaging. That's why 1 Timothy 4 says
9This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance 10(and for this we labor and strive), that we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, and especially of those who believe.

11Command and teach these things. 12Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity. 13Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching. 14Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through a prophetic message when the body of elders laid their hands on you.

15Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. 16Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.
As a christian, I know every time I open my mouth I am saying what I believe about God. Every time I act, I showing what I believe about God. So I wrestle with the texts and wrestle with those who in both different eras and different culture have wrestled with the text first. I want to make sure I am not leading people astray and saying something that is not what the Bible is saying. Because of my education, I know how easy it is to say something is Biblical when it is not. I see this throughout the history of the Church when many well meaning people are caught up in saying something contrary to God's word.

I have found the things that I am the most sure of are not only things that make the most sense to me but are the things believed by those that are not bound by my time and my space. I'm sure of all of my opinions (who isn't) but that is why I don't trust my opinions alone. I always submit what I believe to Scripture, to watch both my life and doctrine as I read the Word. My authority to speak comes not from my knowledge but from the great cloud of witnesses before me that believed what I believe now.

I am always afraid of being too proud. I am arrogant by nature and most false teachers I've experienced (including me at one point) say something like this: "I'm sure this is right and I'm not going to budge on the issue." This reminds me of 2 Peter 2:
10This is especially true of those who follow the corrupt desire of the sinful nature and despise authority. Bold and arrogant, these men are not afraid to slander celestial beings; 11yet even angels, although they are stronger and more powerful, do not bring slanderous accusations against such beings in the presence of the Lord. 12But these men blaspheme in matters they do not understand. They are like brute beasts, creatures of instinct, born only to be caught and destroyed, and like beasts they too will perish.
I, like these politicians, can be blinded by power and not understand fully what we say. When we aren't willing to let people question our faith/life, we will probably end up preaching/living a false Gospel.

If I only point to my experience or your experience for truth, I can't be "judged" because it is a experience; it cannot be measured by another. However, if I point to my experience with a Transcendent Truth along side of others crossing multiple times and multiple experiences, I can rest upon a standard that can judge me and I know that is true. Much like I can throw a ball up and know it will come down because it has been believed by a Assyrian, a Roman, an Aztec and an American, I know it is true and important. If I throw it and it doesn't come down, I must question my experience.

I can speak with confidence because I teach the Word of God, not just a word about God. I have interacted with many other experience in a scientific method sort a way to fish out the Truth. I don't have to trust my experience alone and believe every voice I hear because I have history, cross cultural emissaries, the Church, and others who watch my life to tell me if I'm branching into false teaching/living/ mishearing the Spirit of God. I am constantly seeking and learning because my position does not mean that I am experiencing truth. I just want to stand by the Truth and with the Truth, Jesus, who has given us all of these witnesses and evidences to me so I can know him more and not have to question.

So Politicians (and other who want to use their position in this time and space to speak about truth that transcend this time and space) please lets humble ourselves and see the picture is far bigger than what we can often see. Let us admit when we are ignorant in doctrine or in life. Until we can point to more than our experience, let us only speak of what we know :
1 Cor 15: 1Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. 2By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. 3For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. 6After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. 7Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, 8and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Prayer: what is it good for?

So who finds prayer hard? What to pray? How do I get out of the praying for myself only trap? How can I pursue God and experience his goodness and joy as mentioned in in Psalm 63

Psalm 63
A psalm of David. When he was in the Desert of Judah.
1 O God, you are my God,
earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you,
my body longs for you,
in a dry and weary land
where there is no water.

2 I have seen you in the sanctuary
and beheld your power and your glory.

3 Because your love is better than life,
my lips will glorify you.

4 I will praise you as long as I live,
and in your name I will lift up my hands.

5 My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods;
with singing lips my mouth will praise you.

6 On my bed I remember you;
I think of you through the watches of the night.

7 Because you are my help,
I sing in the shadow of your wings.

8 My soul clings to you;
your right hand upholds me.

9 They who seek my life will be destroyed;
they will go down to the depths of the earth.

10 They will be given over to the sword
and become food for jackals.

11 But the king will rejoice in God;
all who swear by God's name will praise him,
while the mouths of liars will be silenced.

I saw a good post by Steven Furtick talking about some "tricks". He says

Preemptive praise lays a foundation for present tense blessing.
Retroactive gratitude counteracts apathy.

Together, these two habits form a powerful tag team to defeat depression and despondency. They draw our attention away from our hurts and needs, focusing our affection on the character of our faithful God.
I must say I'm mostly retroactive praise and preemptive gratitude. God I am grateful now but may not be if you take something away. God, thanks for given me this thing. Go to his blog to read more about what he is taking about. I can see how this approach will not only change my heart but help me see where the Spirit of God is working (that and I see this all throughout he Psalms).

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

This week at Payne Church


This week- Redefine: Life.

When you hear words, you give them a definition. Are you right? This week we look at how we define life and how the Jesus defines life.

Come Sunday at 9:30 AM to Payne Church of Christ at 220 W. Merrin in Payne, OH to find out more.

Kissing "Kissed Dating Goodbye" Goodbye


If any one has ever been in a college ministry or youth group during the late 90's and early 2000s, you've probably seen the book by Joshua Harris "I Kissed Dating Goodbye" in some form or another. It was THE dating book for the longest time. Well, you may be interested to know that a bunch of my college friends in 2002 were bored on a Mid Summer Thursday night. So we decided that burning Kissed Dating Goodbye was a good idea. I think it came after a friend was having girl issues and we were sick of the legalistic treatment of the book . So we torched the two copies we could find (see picture above). I can't remember why; I just remember it is was fun.

Maybe others have done this before but I must confess our immaturity now. Especially so after reading Joshua Harris's Blog (the author) where he talks about the Pros and Cons of the book. Very interesting read. I also heard him interviewed by Mark Dever and talked very candidly his life and upbringing and that provided more context for the book.

Two things come to life through all of this. 1) I pledge never to vilify a person based on a book but only to deal with the argument presented in that book. I will try to understand context of the person. 2) I find it funny today the extent we would go to find a scapegoat for our relationship woes. Like burning a book of an author would make us all of the sudden married. It is easier to blame some one (or an author) than actually look to the Sovereign God of the Universe to see where we need to grow ourselves. Pointing fingers is easier than admitting our own problems. The Blame Game is much easier than admitting failure. As I single person, I should have learned that then. As a husband now, I see marriage is all about taking responsibility and actively pursuing Jesus to show me my sin.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Secret Sins

Ed Stetzer delivered a great message on secret sins and their influence on the people around us. Really good message for everyone to hear. You can see his outline here.

Big Idea:
The lie: Secret sin in your life and in the church will not hinder the mission of God.
The answer: Live a gospel-centered, repentance-filled life.

"Secret Sin and Spiritual Power" from Ed Stetzer on Vimeo.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Burqa or no Burqa?



Over at Jezebel, I saw that a Muslim Woman was killed in a German Courtroom. Couple that with the French Prime Minister wants to ban all women from wearing Burqas in the country.

I'm left wondering if this is where the US is moving towards? Europe is suppose to be more "enlightened" and "tolerant" but they are preventing Muslims from practicing their faith. Some will say that these "Christian" nations are doing this but no one will say that Europe today is christian. Europe is a secular area acting trying to ban religious expression.

I only mention this because it is nice to see many progressives see the stupidity in banning Burqa because they don't think that government should be telling any woman what she can or cannot wear. Not because it is religiously oppressive but womanly oppressive to tell a woman what to wear. John Stewart's team at the Daily show poked fun at this by encouraging Governments to ban high heels and bulimia as well.

Reading the comments on these stories echoes the thought the current major objection is that freedom of a woman's expression is greater than their ability to worship freely. Many of the comments pretty much downplay the "enlightenment" of women wanting to do this for God/Allah/Yahweh but applaud the right for them wear what they want.

In this instance, both sides have come to the same conclusion though for different cultural obligations. This reminds me of what Josh Patterson wrote on The Village Church Blog today. Quoting from the book "Bobos in Paradise", He additionally writes
[The author David Brooks]says this about American spirituality: “[We] are trying to build a house of obligation on a foundation of choice.” This sentence is provocative. As an American I am inundated with the notion of freedom, democracy and capitalization. These are all great things. One of the consequences of this environment is that I can begin to think that my freedom is paramount. It is not. The “house of obligation” that Brooks’ refers to in his book is the fact that as a believer I am enslaved to Christ. Ht Village Blog
This Burqa flap is a good illustration of this and I do believe this will be the battle for the United States in the future. We are trying to fight between what we are obligated to do and what we are free to do. The problem is we have different obligations and based upon we believe our obligations are, we will choose what we have freedom to choice. Because I have an obligation to my wife, I am I limited in how I choose to interact with other women. Because I am a Pastor, I am limited in what I can do on Sundays.

Today, we are going to fight over our obligations. What is Government's obligation to the poor? Morality? Marriage? What is my obligation to God? Until we can agree on our obligations. We are probably always going to disagree.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

This week at Payne Church


This week- Redefine: Mature.

When you hear words, you give them a definition. Are you right? This week we look at how we define mature and how the Jesus defines mature.

Come Sunday at 9:30 AM to 220 W. Merrin in Payne, OH to find out more.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

E-Conflict

I've been taking a blog break recently because I've been finding myself getting into a lot of e-fights. I was a little surprised but then started to realize that I have been pretty negative as of late. Being a critic more than being a cheerleader. I've been especially convicted of this after reading Vince Antonucci's post on Negativity. He writes:
The ironic thing is that I think we'd all say, "I prefer to be around positive people?" but we have to ask ourselves the question, "Am I a positive person?" Are you? Are you positive you're positive?
Well, I'm asking it and I really don't think I am. I am really good at looking at why something is wrong but not as good at saying something is good. I'm not as good at giving people the benefit of the doubt and looking for Graces in their life.

No where have I seen this more is in reaction to blogs or Facebook comments. For some reason, something wells up in me and I get VERY anger. Why? Also, I've had many of bad experiences trying to hammer out conflicts over e-mail. Facebook. Why? Is it my negativity that is the common thread? Or is something else?

I've been reading Shane Hipps book Flickering Pixels dealing "how technology shapes your faith." One chapter called "Our Nomadic Lives" dealt with this issue. He writes
The problem is that email and other test-based e-communication are designed for efficiency and, therefore, severely truncated. Intonation, body language, context, the rules of civil discourse, and the opportunity for midstream clarification are all stripped away, despite our best efforts to create a never-ending stream of emoticons. Given the limitations of email, the chances of miscommunication are near certain. (Pg. 118)
I intuitively know this but I don't know why I constantly try settle argument online. It is impossible. I know I'm negative and I do believe a good majority of are too. So if I say something, I should automatically someone might see it in a negative.

That's why I'm going to spend more time considering my words and asking am I positive that I am writing to be positive/constructing an idea versus being negative/deconstructing society. I repent. If I have given you the impression that I am a negative, angry guy, I repent that I have given people a false view of Jesus. I hope to make amends in the future and keep it simple and view things through the lens of grace.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

This week at Payne Church


This week- Redefine: Afterlife.

When you hear words, you give them a definition. Are you right? This week we look at how we define afterlife and how the Jesus defines afterlife.

Come Sunday at 9:30 AM to 220 W. Merrin in Payne, OH to find out more.