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Posts Tagged ‘1 Corinthians’

Last Friday I had some of my dear friends over to spend the night.  As the girls fell asleep to a movie in my living room, I prayed for them because I had to.  There was no urgent need, but urgent feeling.  The next day as we spoke I felt convicted to get back to praying specifically on a regular basis.  I have been praying, but it has been need-based, and not diligent. 
 
Sunday morning my pastor preached on prayer.  I know this fact, even though I wasn’t there, and that’s enough.  Sunday afternoon there was a youth leaders meeting where the veterans reiterated the essential role prayer plays in making a meeting or ministry successful.  Filled with a sense of the needs, and the knowledge that God wanted me to refocus, I had a marvelous Sunday and Monday filled with intentional prayer.  And then I stayed up late, and slept in and stayed up and slept in.  I’ve been praying, but it hasn’t been the intentional, set aside time I resolved to do. 
 
Wednesday my mom taught the Awana Sparks about the Lord’s Prayer, and in our weekly debriefing of funny things kids said, she shared part of her lesson.  Afterward I read a new article on one of my favorite websites – it was on the Lord’s Prayer, too. 
 
This week I also received in the mail the newest Michael Card album, Hymns.  The first or second song (most listened to if you push play right before you fall asleep each night) is Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing.  There is a part of that song I remember a pastor talking about a long time ago.  The author of the hymn wrote “Prone to wander, Lord I feel it… Here’s my heart, o, take and seal it…”  He did wander.  That’s the testimony of his life.  He knew himself.  His heart needed sealed. 
 
So does my heart, because it wanders.  In some ways this week has been beautiful, but it’s only because I’ve spotted God’s grace and messages, not because I’ve had victory in yielding to them.  I know everything about the need to be content, but I just am not content.  My heart isn’t focused.  I’m not diligent with my time or energy, or responsible with my money.  I’m tired. 
 
On Sunday something said at the leader’s meeting reminded me of Galatians 6:9: “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.”  Like a breath of keenest fresh air to one suffocating, I needed every ounce of the hope in that verse.  There is conviction in Paul’s words also.  That is what I want to focus on today.  
 
Proverbs 4:20-27, “My son, attend to my words; incline thine ear unto my sayings.
Let them not depart from thine eyes;
keep them in the midst of thine heart.
For they are life unto those that find them, and health to all their flesh.
Keep thy heart with all diligence;
for out of it are the issues of life.
Put away from thee a froward mouth, and perverse lips put far from thee.
Let thine eyes look right on, and let thine eyelids look straight before thee.
Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established.
Turn not to the right hand nor to the left: remove thy foot from evil.
 
The word “keep” in verse 21 is shamar, “keep, give heed” like a shepherd or watchman. The word “keep” in verse 23 is natsar, “guard, watch over.”  So Solomon’s words, inspired of the Holy Spirit, are to be kept.  And my heart is to be kept.  How is this done? 
 
The first thing Solomon mentions after this command is speech.  There is a lot about speech in Ephesians, but this reminds me also of James, whose vivid description of the tongue as the spark that sets a forest on fire opens with “If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body.” 
 
We’ve probably all heard the question, “Who’s being walked?  The dog or the human?”  A man holds a leash with the cord wrapped around his hand several times in the manner of a bull-rider.  The dog strains ahead, eager, easily distracted.  Sometimes the man seems to be pulled along against his will.  Other times the firm hold on the leash restrains and directs the pet.  The image of a bridle in James is that of me being both dog and master, horse and driver.  The bridle doesn’t just restrain; it guides.  It controls and regulates.  This is self-control, one of the fruit of the Spirit, also known as temperance.  Many of the fruit of the Spirit involve a self-command or restraint. 
 
Solomon goes on to talk about our eyes.  Ok, I can’t resist.  One of the best songs kids ever learn is “Oh be careful little eyes,” and actually I think we should make teenagers and adults sing it, too.  Do you remember it?  Oh be careful little tongue what you say, oh be careful little tongue what you say.  For the Father up above is looking down in love, so be careful little tongue what you say.  Oh be careful little eyes what you see.  Oh be careful little feet where you go.  Tongue, Eyes, Feet.  Ponder your path.  Don’t get distracted.  Keep control of your tongue.  Guard your heart.  Commit to focusing on wisdom and truth and goodness.  “Set your mind on things above.”  
 
Galatians 5:22-23 lists the fruit of the Spirit.  All the virtues are connected.  Love is a choice.  Joy is something we are commanded to have.  Peace, Philippians tells us, is a result of giving our anxieties to God in prayer.  Patience, kindness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance.  Meekness has been described as power under control.  This may be what Mr. Darcy had in mind when he defended his character and his quiet nature by saying, “Where there is real superiority of mind, pride will always be under good regulation.”  While at first impression this seems like another evidence of Mr. Darcy’s arrogance, it has been suggested by those sympathetic to his character that what he was saying was a strong enough mind knew how to keep his pride – his selfish impulses – under control.  His reluctance to speak when he might be tempted to go too far is a sign of his meekness rather than of his pride. 
 
Dennis Prager is a strangely blended Jewish moralist who speaks, writes, and hosts a radio show.  Though his is by no means an absolute authority, he makes a good point by saying that happiness comes from the mind making choices over the instinct for fun or pleasure.  The mind knows better than feelings.  It can make choices based on the long-term.  Essentially he is saying that self-control brings happiness. 
 
Self-control, or temperance, is from the Greek egkrates, “strong, robust; having power over, possessed of (a thing); mastering, controlling, curbing, restraining; controlling one’s self, temperate, continent.”  Strength is active, working both on itself and on progress.  Tolkien describes a curb not only as a limit to where one can go, but as a tool for navigation: a ditch, bank, or curb would enable one to stay on a road in the dark or in a fog.  So limits restrain us, but they also get us to our destination.  Solomon warns against off-roading. 
 
Peter says to add temperance to knowledge, and patience to temperance (2 Peter 1:6).  A pastor is told to be temperate in Titus 1:8.  He is also required to be sober: “curbing one’s desires and impulses, self-controlled, temperate”  Titus 2:5 uses the same word to describe that which a young woman ought to be taught.  It is translated “discreet” in KJV.  Modesty is a consequence of discretion.  Sobriety is the opposite of drunkenness or dissipation, in which control of yourself is loosed.  Dissolution is a word meaning exactly that “cut loose”, and it leads to all sorts of sinful indulgence and decadence.  I need to be moderate. 
 
Paul depicted this virtue in 1 Corinthians 9, in the metaphor of an athlete. 
 
1 Corinthians 9:24-27, “Know ye not that they which run in a race run all,
but one receiveth the prize?
So run, that ye may obtain. 
And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things.
Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. 
I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: 
But I keep under my body,
and bring it into subjection:
lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.
 
Every man who strives for the mastery (enters the contest, contends for the prize) is temperate in all things.  Verse 27 says “I keep under my own body,” the word used here is a practice of athletes, to use their bodies roughly to make themselves tough or conditioned.  It comes from a word for the part of the face that turns into a black eye if punched.  Some Christians known as ascetics took this too far; they were so focused on abusing themselves that they forgot to do anything fruitful.  Rather, this is the same word Jesus employs in Luke 18, where He is teaching me to be diligent in prayer. 
 
Luke 18:1-8, “And he spake a parable unto them to this end,
that men ought always to pray, and not to faint; 
Saying, There was in a city a judge, which feared not God, neither regarded man: 
And there was a widow in that city; and she came unto him, saying,
Avenge me of mine adversary. 
And he would not for a while: but afterward he said within himself,
Though I fear not God, nor regard man; 
Yet because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her,
lest by her continual coming she weary me. 
And the Lord said, Hear what the unjust judge saith. 
And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him,
though he bear long with them? 
I tell you that he will avenge them speedily.
Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh,
shall he find faith on the earth?”
 
The judge was made weary (kept under, conditioned) by the widow’s persistent appeal. 
 
Back in 1 Corinthians 9, Paul also says that he brings his body under subjection, he makes a slave of it using stern discipline.  One stern discipline, an exercise in self-control and dependence on God, is fasting.  Fasting should never be about indulging my own cravings, whether sensual, for food, for the praise of men, or to soothe my conscience.  Isaiah 58, beginning in verse 3, contains God’s design for fasting. 
 
Isaiah 58:3-11, “Wherefore have we fasted, say they, and thou seest not?
wherefore have we afflicted our soul, and thou takest no knowledge?
Behold, in the day of your fast ye find pleasure,
and exact all your labours.
Behold, ye fast for strife and debate, and to smite with the fist of wickedness:
ye shall not fast as ye do this day, to make your voice to be heard on high.
Is it such a fast that I have chosen? a day for a man to afflict his soul?
is it to bow down his head as a bulrush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him?
wilt thou call this a fast, and an acceptable day to the LORD?
Is not this the fast that I have chosen?
to loose the bands of wickedness,
                            to undo the heavy burdens,
                                                   and to let the oppressed go free,
                                                               and that ye break every yoke?
Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry,
and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house?
when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him;
and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh?
Then shall thy light break forth as the morning,
and thine health shall spring forth speedily:
and thy righteousness shall go before thee;
the glory of the LORD shall be thy rereward. T
hen shalt thou call, and the LORD shall answer;
thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am.
If thou take away from the midst of thee the yoke, the putting forth of the finger,
and speaking vanity;
And if thou draw out thy soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul;
then shall thy light rise in obscurity, and thy darkness be as the noonday:
And the LORD shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought,
and make fat thy bones:
and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water,
whose waters fail not.”
 
In a paradoxical way, while fasting is about denying one’s self, it is for the purpose of releasing bonds and weights.  Fasting is reliance on God, not only for what I don’t have, but also with what I do.  Fasting is always accompanied with prayer.  1 Peter 5:7 says to cast all your cares on Him, for He cares for you.  In the Sermon on the Mount, right after Jesus speaks on prayer, He goes into teaching on fasting.  Though food is good, or other things from which you might fast, the exercise of self-denial and sacrifice and dependence and focus on God is good.  All things are lawful, Paul writes in 1 Corinthians, but not everything is beneficial.  When I practice what is beneficial, I am stronger for the unexpected temptations when I must deny myself. 
 
I must be ready, then, by exercising self-control, to do good works.  Pray with perseverance and persistence.  Be steadfast.  Stand therefore.  Gird up the loins of your mind, and be sober, that you may be ready in and out of season to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you.  Hope is even described in the Bible as an anchor – the image of stability and strength.  Do not be slothful, but fervent in whatever you do.  Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.  
 
To God be all glory,
Lisa of Longbourn

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Last fall I read George MacDonald’s The Highlander’s Last Song: a beautiful book if you read it for the descriptions of the Scottish landscape and life, and for the romance. When I read it, I was trying to enjoy some easy fiction instead of deep theology, but my discernment alarms started to go off when he wrote about the Cross.

A burdening selection: “Mother, to say that the justice of God is satisfied with suffering is a piece of the darkness of hell. God is willing to suffer, and ready to inflict suffering to save from sin, but no suffering is satisfaction to him or his justice… He knows man is sure to sin; he will not condemn us because we sin… [mother speaks] Then you do not believe that the justice of God demands the satisfaction of the sinner’s endless punishment? [son] I do not… Eternal misery in the name of justice could satisfy none but a demon whose bad laws had been broken… The whole idea of the atonement in that light is the merest figment of the paltry human intellect to reconcile difficulties of its own invention. The sacrifices of the innocent in the Old Testament were the most shadowy type of the true meaning of Christ’s death. He is indeed the Lamb that takes away the sins of the world. But not through an old-covenant sacrifice of the innocent for the guilty. No, the true atonement of Christ is on an altogether higher and deeper plane. And that is the mystery of the gospel…” (The Highlander’s Last Song, originally “What’s Mine’s Mine” by George MacDonald, this edition edited by Michael R. Phillips and copyright 1986, published by Bethany House)


Tonight, opening Tag Surfer on WordPress, I came across this post (and sermon link – advertised as only 14 minutes) titled, The Cross. The author begins, “The Father was not punishing Jesus in our place on the cross.” In the fourteen minute sermon, though he uses several Bible verses, all of them are taken out of context, contexts which usually include a reference to the blood of Christ taking away our sins, redeeming us, etc. I felt at one point like there was a blow to my heart, when he reported that at the Crucifixion, Jesus and God cheered and celebrated. So much for man of sorrows, and sweating blood in Gethsemane. And the whole way through this horrible, deceptive sermon, this man is associating the biblical view of the Cross and atonement with darkness, with a shackled and blind and guilty perspective of our own that we project onto the Cross, creating a mythology. That is not true! The Bible teaches clearly that Jesus had to suffer and die on a cross so we would not have to die. He is the propitiation, the sacrifice, the lamb, the substitutionary atonement, the righteous fulfillment of God’s wrath against our sin. By His stripes we are healed.

The wonderful young men over at Elect Exiles have been doing a wonderful job reminding their readers what the Cross was. Come on, readers; click the links!!

Why Did Christ Die?
Christ’s Righteousness, Not Our Own
Saving Reconciliation
The Need for Reconciliation

I started looking up the verses about why Jesus died. There are a lot. There couldn’t have been a better reminder of what my God did for me, this Good Friday. (all verses are from the KJV)

Isaiah 53:5-10, “But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken. And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth. Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.”

2 Corinthians 5:21, “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.”

Romans 5:8-11, “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement.”

1 John 4:10, “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”

1 Corinthians 15:3, “For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;”

Colossians 1:20-22, “And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven. And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled In the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight:

Ephesians 1:7, “In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;”

Colossians 2:14, “Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;”

Matthew 20:28, “Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.”

Matthew 26:28, “For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.”

Romans 4:25, “Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.”

Galatians 3:13, “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree:”

Titus 2:14, “Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.”

Hebrews 2:9, “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man.”

Hebrews 9:28, “So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.”

1 Peter 2:24, “Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.”

1 Peter 3:18, “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit:”

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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Emergent Cloister – Emerging Church Nothing New

Idiosystematic, a critique of change in the Emerging Movement

John MacArthur on The Emergent Church

Evaluation of the “gospel” in Rob Bell’s Nooma videos in 3 parts.  Part 1. 

Part 2

Part 3

A long review of Rob Bell’s book, Velvet Elvis: Repainting the Christian Faith

Doug Pagitt on whether Good Buddhists go to Heaven

Brian McLaren sounds like my brother’s Buddhist friend explaining John 14:6

 

Too many web pages open – and most of them are about the Emergent Church.  Rob Bell and Nooma, Brian McLaren’s broad-way interpretation of John 14:6, and a variety of Christians warning other Christians about the subtle heresies of the Emergent authors and leaders.  I have a lot more links about Rob Bell, and I think that’s because he’s more accepted by the people I know.  He doesn’t push everyone into joining the Emergent Movement.  But he’s a part, and basically he wants to infiltrate the existing Church with emerging theology – which is actually more philosophy, because God is a song in everyone’s heart.

McLaren, Pagitt, they say things that are extreme.  The links I have up for them are not ones that say: when McLaren said this, he was wrong because…  No.  The links I have for them are from their own mouths or pens, self-explanatory in their heresy.  Yes.  Heresy.  The Bible may not be all about who gets to heaven and who goes to hell, but it is about something; it’s about God, the God who so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.  Jesus is the center; not only His teachings or His compassion, but also His fulfillment of prophecy, His divine miracles, His judgment, His death, His resurrection, His ascension, His return.  The Bible is about having a relationship with God, God dwelling with individuals, but it is about grace.  God chooses.  God pursues.  God enables the relationship when we rebel and deserve to perish. 

 

I read a McLaren page to my brother, and afterward I asked him, “Isn’t that horrible?  That someone can teach that about John 14:6?  I don’t understand how he can believe that.”  My brother added that the sad thing is, McLaren had a lot of cool stuff to say mixed in with the bad theology. 

 

Emergent books are like that.  Especially the beginning is usually full of the enthusiastic, God-acknowledging, people-loving, truth-seeking community we’re looking for.  And then, slowly at first, the authors begin to slip in their man-centered words, and then they talk about worship and evangelism.  I wonder if the authors or editors intentionally include the controversial things in the latter halves of their books.  My friends read these books very trustingly.  Without being too critical, they think these books and teachers are just encouraging us to have a personal faith, to fulfill Jesus’ command to love. 

 

But if I read closely, and look at other things these guys have said, I start to wonder…  Faith in what?  Who is the Jesus they say commanded love?  What is worship?  What gospel are we bringing to the world through our love and concern for social justice and community? 

 

Rob Bell interprets Peter’s walk on water as faith (or little faith) in himself.  The Jesus these guys mention omits mention of condemnation, hell, judgment, and sin.  Their Jesus was an all-inclusive non-judgmental type.  If we must acknowledge Jesus criticized some people, it was the favorite bad-guys, the hypocrites of Judaism, the exclusive and legalistic Pharisees.  Good followers of Jesus would be the opposites of the Pharisees.  Their gospel is some vague idea of the kingdom of God, a culture where people interact with God and love each other, all accomplished here on earth by Jesus’ trusted followers.  Their gospel is joining God on His mission to make the world a better place. 

 

They don’t talk about the gospel of life for the spiritually dead, or salvation for the sinners who have earned the eternal wrath of God.  Without acknowledging our horrible guilt and God’s just right to wrath, we have no ability to understand His grace and His love and His sacrifice.  Without acknowledging our total depravity, religion is not only not about the awesomeness of God; it inevitably plummets to being all about us. 

 

Which is maybe why the emergent definition of worship is so disturbing.  Worship to them is recognition of the spiritual.  It can be expressed in more than music because candles are also spiritual, and painting is spiritual, and the beauty of nature is spiritual.  To me, to the Bible, and to the English language, worship is recognition of the worth of its object.  Yes; worship has an object, not in name only, but an inspiration.  We don’t just sing praise songs because we feel like it, or because it’s a spiritual experience.  Worship is not an experience; it’s an action.  It either proclaims God’s glory or yields to it.  We sing because God, about whom and to whom we sing, is worthy of it.  Worship is more than music because our lives, sacrificed to His service and to His glory, can be a response to His wisdom and sacrifice and glory.  God spoke light into the world, and created the nature we like to paint.  He has done great things; therefore we will not keep silent.  We will thank Him for His goodness toward us, marvel at His attention, proclaim His mighty works to the nations. 

 

What worship should never be is about us.  It should never be about recognizing the spirituality of a candle-lit room.  Our songs cannot be about how much we love God, unless they are the overwhelmed effusions of people who cry on Jesus’ feet in gratitude.  It isn’t about the art, or the environment, the sensation; worship is about the Almighty Creator of the universe who knows my name and who died for a wretch like me. 

 Rob Bell says in his Rhythm Nooma, “An infinite, massive, kind of invisible God—that’s hard to get our minds around. But truth, love, grace, mercy, justice, compassion…the way that Jesus lived. I can see that. I can understand that. I can relate to that. I can play that song!”  But Isaiah said, “Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding.”  I relate to – and worship – a God who is bigger than me or my comprehension!   

A month ago or more I watched Persuasion on PBS’s Jane Austen season, and commented that the best thing about the movie was that it made me want to re-read the book.  The best thing about studying the Emergent Movement is that it makes me want the real thing, the solid truth against which I need no guards.  I read the Bible to see what God really said, who Jesus really was, to find the passages where Jesus is the Savior, the Man of Sorrows, the Almighty God.  And I get caught up again in the story.  The story that has to do with my day, right now, but that casts me to my knees.  I despised and rejected God.  I betrayed and abused Him.  And He loves me.  He will never leave Me.  He died for me.  He gave me a beautiful day, and His pure Word.  He enables me to teach about Him, and to coach my friends in study of His Word.  Truth.  His understanding is unsearchable, but whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing. 

 

1 Corinthians 2:12-16, “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.  Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.  But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.  But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man.  For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ.

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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Actually, it’s old, so old that we hardly use it.  Tolkien used it because it was old and English.  When I write about the Church so much, and am trying to emphasize original meaning instead of what the word has come to mean in our culture (I despise redefinitioning), I resort to long explanations each time I describe what happens when the people of God get together.  One can use Greek, ekklesia, or start by defining the English word, church (which has so many uses now that it is about as ineffective as love), or say assembly, meeting, gathering, or fellowshipAssembly reminds people either of six grades of public school children seated in the cafeteria, or when speaking of religion, the semi-charismatic Assembly of God denomination.    Meeting was actually used in its common sense (I have a meeting to attend) by nonconformist religious groups, and continues to be used by the Quakers.  Gathering tells you nothing about what is going on.  And fellowship indicates that people are getting together for chit-chat.  See how inadequate these words are to express the potent prescription described in the New Testament for the followers of Jesus when two or more were together. 

The first occurrence of “church” in the Bible is Matthew 16:18, where Jesus promises that on the truth Peter confessed 2 verses prior, the Church would be built, and even the gates of hell would not prevail against it.  The context is, like much of Matthew, very kingdom-focused.  As usual, the disciples were hearing Jesus to speak of an earthly kingdom.  No doubt they had in mind governments (like that described in detail in 1 Chronicles), armies, governors, judges, and councils.  The word ekklesia (translated church) was the word for the political assemblies at which the citizens would deliberate.  We might think of parliament or legislatures, or even a townhall meeting.  It could refer to any gathering of people, and was applied to religious gatherings.  Matthew 18:17, in the passage used for church discipline, Jesus indicates the church is a judicial body.  Paul goes along with this in 1 Corinthians (a great textbook on church structure, life, and leadership), when he suggests that rather than bringing “brothers” to court, they should submit to the judgment of the Church. 

All this to set up my new synonym for church, a word so out of fashion that it is very unlikely you will think of it meaning anything else.  The word is moot.  You have heard it, but you didn’t know what it meant.  It was used colloquially in the phrase “moot point,” or “moot case.”  The common use is a perversion of the original use.  A moot was a deliberative gathering, often for discussing hypothetical cases (this is the sense in which the word does not apply to church).  If something was hypothetical, it was debatable, in that there was no final word to be said on the matter.  But a culture that does not appreciate the hypothetical has transferred the phrase “moot point” to mean not worth discussing. 

JRR Tolkien used moot in his chapter on the Ents.  Their gathering was called a moot.  In this case, he blended two meanings: the newer one applied to deliberation, and the etymological one in which the word simply meant assembly.  The Online Etymology Dictionary defines moot as “a meeting, especially of freemen to discuss community affairs or mete justice.”  Its root is in a word for “encounter.” 

So a church, which is a gathering of disciples to manage the affairs of their community, to build each other up in unity and provide accountability towards godliness, could be described as a moot.  That’s just what I’m going to do. 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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This afternoon I spent several hours studying dispensationalism.  I feel sort of guilty for not having studied it before, because I have heard of it, and realized that I did not know exactly what it was.  After my research, I conclude that I had some right ideas of what it was, and that some who ascribe to “dispensationalism” would say that there was nothing more to the theological system than what I already knew.  They would be wrong. 
 
I’ve decided not to call myself a dispensationalist because of the “extra” doctrines I did not know, but for which, I suspect, the theologians I respect have not respected the system.  Some of the more basic tenets make sense to me, and have been part of my theology for ten years (which is saying something).  For example, I believe that God’s plan for Israel is not yet finished, and that some Old Testament promises to Israel remain to be fulfilled.  My interpretation of eschatology is literal and contains a pretribulational rapture and literal posttribulational millennium.  Finally and least surely held is a fancy that God is glorifying Himself through history by proving through as many different dispensations imaginable that man cannot achieve righteousness or even a pleasant world on his own. 
 
For some reason I have encountered many self-professed “Christians” who have very obscure theology.  Fortunately God has given me a sure foundation, a logical brain, and a willingness to search things out.  As a freshman, I researched free will and secular humanistic transcendentalism.  (In other words, the popular beliefs described in That Hideous Strength by CS Lewis, and now promoted by atheists and left-wing activists who want to turn the world into machinery – remind you of the apocalyptic time represented in The Matrix?)  Soon I was refuting Sabbath-legalism; defending the Trinity, working out a comprehensive eschatology, studying the applicability of Jewish dietary and feast laws, grasping security of salvation; refuting the Search for the Historical Jesus Peter Jennings special, head coverings, seeker-sensitive movements; investigating house churches, and understanding predestination/Calvinism.  Most of these are responses to strangers.  Honestly, a woman once began a conversation about the impending judgment of God at a thrift store!  I have a file in my room of literature people have given me explaining their newly-discovered, minority-accepted doctrines.  As a result, I am so grateful, I have a faith and theology that doesn’t get shaken much.  God’s grace is in all of this.  Without being forced into study by these confrontations, I wouldn’t have any of this knowledge. 
 
I want to quote George MacDonald here because I was reading The Highlander’s Last Song late last night and just wanted to share the experience: “Ian was one of those blessed few who doubt many things by virtue of a larger faith – causing consternation among those of smaller faith who wrongly see such doubts as signs of unbelief.”  I think my friends and family worry sometimes.  Apparently the doctrines I consider are adopted into my theology about half of the time (if you include defending doctrines like the Trinity and eschatology).  Let that reassure you if you will. 
 
Originally I was going to ask my blog readers (may I hail those from Korea, Ghana, Australia, Canada, the United States, and any other countries I missed!) for their understanding on dispensationalism, but Google had a wealth of information that seemed clear and reliable, though varied.  So now I’m going to share what I learned.  In some cases I am dealing point by point with the arguments presented to me this morning. 
 
What is dispensationalism?  Here I have compiled the best explanations Google provided, and their links, so you can look up more information. 
“Now, there are those who see seven dispensations. They see the dispensation of innocence, when God placed Adam in the Garden of Eden and God relating to man there in the garden in man’s innocence. Then they see the second dispensation, (I forget what they call it), but it is from the time of Adam’s sin unto the time of Noah, in which they see the third dispensation of the government of God which lasted until the time of the law, which they see the fourth dispensation of the law. And the fifth dispensation of Jesus here; the sixth dispensation, the dispensation of grace; the seventh dispensation, the millennial reign.” – Chuck Smith

“The method of salvation, justification by faith alone, never changes through the dispensations. The responsibilities God gives to man does change however.” – End Times.org
‘Though it may not be spelled out so explicitly, the [Scofield] footnote to Matthew 5:2 in effect says that sinners during the millennium will be saved, not by the blood, merits, and grace of Christ, but by their obedience to the beatitudes, which are “pure law.” But this contradicts the universal proposition of Acts 4:12: “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” The Scripture, quite the reverse of Dispensationalism, asserts that there is just one way of salvation. True enough, the divine plan in all its completeness, as Paul said in Ephesians 3:5, “was not made known unto the sons of men in other ages as it is now revealed to his apostles and prophets by the Spirit”; but Paul’s fuller doctrinal explanation is precisely the same covenant that was less fully revealed in Genesis 3:15— “I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.” ‘ – Arthur Pink

Other semi-dispensationalists (like me) are John MacArthur and Dr. Henry Morris. 
In Ephesians 3:2, what is “dispensation”? Does it mean ‘house rules,’ like in Poker, so that Monday is deuces wild, Tuesday is threes are wild; and if you come with a three on Monday, you’ll be excluded from winning?  (Application to spiritual things is that some Dispensationalists say that Israelites were saved by keeping the law before Christ, and that in the tribulation or millennium, that will be the standard again.  I was told that if a post-rapture believer then sins, breaks the ten commandments, he is doomed forever.)  The Greek here for “dispensation” is oikonomia – “management of a household, administration, stewardship.”  This stewardship was given to Paul.  Ephesians 3:2 couples it with the prepositional phrase, “of grace,” and it was given to Paul to the Ephesians.  (That’s as literal as I can make the Greek.) 
 
What is the ‘mystery’ in verse 4 of Ephesians 3?  Keep reading until you get to verse 6.  Also read Ephesians 1:7 and Colossians 1:18-29.  These verses explain that the mystery was God’s inclusion of Gentiles into the one body of the redeemed.  In English we think of “mystery” as a puzzle not yet put together, the secret of a magician’s trick, or the unsolved riddle of a mystery novel.  In the Greek it meant something that used to be hidden but is now revealed.  A pastor once explained that the word was originally used to describe the tactic of only revealing a military strategy/orders at the last minute, to keep it a secret as long as possible.  Hebrews addresses perhaps a reason for the mystery: Hebrews 11:39-40, “And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise:  God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect.”
 
Ephesians 3:5 says the mystery is now revealed to “apostles and prophets.” Who are they?  There is no indication the text means anything but what it says.  “Apostles” generally referred to those left of the Twelve, but also included Paul and some other early believers.  Apostleship and prophecy are both listed as spiritual gifts.  Though the dispensationalist who spoke to me this morning said that “apostles and prophets” referred to the young pastors and missionaries (like Timothy) whom Paul was teaching via this letter, note that verse 5 says not that Paul was revealing the mystery to them, but that they mystery was revealed to “his” (God’s) holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit
 
The parable of the 10 virgins speaks to accepting salvation before Jesus returns unexpectedly.  It is a parable, and does not address either losing salvation or ecclesiology.  Nor is it particularly talking about the church.  Get caught up in the story; find the moral of the story; and apply it to Christianity.  Parables are not allegories
 
Jesus was said to have taught on the conduct expected of Jews in the millennial kingdom (thus the emphasis on the “kingdom gospel,” as supposedly separate from “Paul’s” gospel of grace).  Since Israel rejected Jesus as their Messiah, and they should have known better from the prophecies, dispensationalists would say the church (and grace with it) has been parenthetically inserted until God resumes His everlasting covenant and law with Israel.  However, Colossians 1, Romans 9-11, and Ephesians (the passages submitted as evidence) rather speak of the Church as the one body in which the Jews and Gentiles are unified in reconciliation to God until in the last days God continues his plan specifically for Israel (see Revelation 7). 
 
Ephesians 2:11-20, “Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands;  That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world:  But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.  For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us;  Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace;  And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby:  And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh.  For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father.  Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God;  And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;”
 
Ephesians 4:4-7, “There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling;  One Lord, one faith, one baptism,  One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.  But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ.”
 
1 Corinthians 12:13, “For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.”
 
Law was not the means of salvation even in the Mosaic “dispensation.”  Being under the Law did not disqualify David from salvation when he committed adultery.  He repented again, and was forgiven.  Psalms 51:1-2, 17 –  “<To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet came unto him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba.> Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions. Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin… The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.
 
Is grace taught by Jesus? Luke 7:42-43 records Jesus’ use of a derivative of the common word (charis) for grace.  He also talked about grace without using the word: “And I give them eternal life…” or “He who hears my words and believes on Him who sent me has everlasting life.”  John focuses on this.  Eternal life was a gift.  Jesus often pointed out that the “good works” and law-keeping that had become Judaism were insufficient for salvation.  No man was perfectly good, but he tried to stack up his ideas of goodness against the perfect law of God, who also sees and judges the heart.  Still living in the Law system so that He could fulfill it, Jesus consistently pointed out the inadequacy of the Law or of man to keep it. 
 
Now that you understand that dispensationalists believe the Law will apply again during the Millennium or tribulation, let me try to explain their take on Hebrews.  They (or the man to whom I spoke this morning) would say that Hebrews was written as a manual for life after the reinstatement of the Israel dispensation.  It was written to the Jews, and so accordingly is separate from any instructions to the Church.  From this they argue that Hebrews 6 does not teach that Christians today can lose their salvation (which would be inconsistent with the rest of the epistles), but that the Jews can. 
 
I love Hebrews 6.  My favorite part is where it exhorts Christians to move beyond the basics.  To me this refutes the seeker-sensitive “conversion”-driven style of church.  I need fed the meat of the word, not just milk.  Several years ago my pastor taught on the second part of the chapter, the controversial part, which at first glance seems to have nothing to do with verses 1-3.  But verse 4 begins, “For,” so obviously the author felt he supplying the reasoning behind those first verses as he continued.  I remember that my pastor was arguing that here in Hebrews 6 there is evidence that the author makes an aside, discussing non-Christians who have been among the Church and witnessed God’s saving power, but never actually accepted the gospel for themselves.  His Bible interpretation for this passage seemed forced into the mold of his preconceived theology; he was proof-texting much like he did when justifying female leadership in the church.  So even though I believe no one once saved can lose their salvation (you did not earn your way in; you cannot earn your way out), I went searching for a more solid exposition of Hebrews 6. 
 
What I found was a lot of controversy and stretched interpretations, and one explanation that made perfect sense to me.  It was provided by Charles Spurgeon (a genius preacher, and eloquent!).  PLEASE read the whole thing.  I’m including the following two quotations just to summarize.  Truly.  His sermon transcript ties the entire passage together.  
“In order to make them persevere, if possible, he shows them that if they do not, they must, most certainly be lost; for there is no other salvation but that which God has already bestowed on them, and if that does not keep them, carry them forward, and present them spotless before God, there cannot be any other. For it is impossible, he says, if ye be once enlightened, and then fall away, that ye should ever be renewed again unto repentance…
 
“Well, there never has been a case of it yet, and therefore I cannot describe it from observation; but I will tell you what I suppose it is. To fall away, would be for the Holy Spirit entirely to go out of a man—for his grace entirely to cease; not to lie dormant, but to cease to be—for God, who has begun a good work, to leave off doing it entirely—to take his hand completely and entirely away, and say, “There, man! I have half saved thee; now I will damn thee.” That is what falling away is.” – CH Spurgeon
 
Compare to the logic-based argument Paul used in 1 Corinthians 15, where he was not saying that Jesus did not rise, but for the sake of argument posed a “what if”:  “But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen:  And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.  Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not.  For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised:  And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins.  Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished.  If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.”
 
My conclusion is that God always works for His glory.  God does have a special plan to use Israel in the world just as He has a special plan to use you and me, except that He published His plan for Israel in His eternal Word.  Man is never able to save himself.  God has always saved men only by His unfaltering grace!  His grace cannot let a man fall from His hand, so there is no loss of salvation. 
 
To God be all glory.  

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The evangelical community is not split fifty-fifty whether to celebrate Reformation Day or some form of Halloween or substitute still involving candy and costumes. But there are a lot of Christians who spend October 31 celebrating Luther’s 95 Theses being nailed to the door of his church – and the reformation it helped to establish. My family has traditionally pretended this day does not exist. Like fourth of July in India, it meant nothing. This is because my principled parents were raised to celebrate Halloween but didn’t want to teach their kids to do the same. They were never exposed to reformation celebration.

In fact, my life has been rather lacking in following the history of my faith. Personally, my faith history is being raised in church and at home taught about how Jesus died for my sins. I was saved at age 6 by my personal, private choice, not by “walking an aisle” or making a profession. I wasn’t baptized until fifth grade, and even then didn’t completely understand. Then again, I didn’t completely understand all the theological positions to choose from when I was saved, but from my present theological perspective, God called me, by His grace I responded, and His Spirit has been indwelling me since, revealing more and more of the truth of what He did for me. This might be called sanctification, which has to start somewhere, and just like salvation, is a grace-governed process.

Sorry for the sidetrack; my testimony is important to me. Sharing it is important, too. I’m practicing.

Today is my first excursion into celebrating Reformation Day. I have been reading about the Reformation all morning, and wish to draw a comparison between the two historical interpretations of October 31.

Are Indulgences Tricks or Treats?
You may have heard on TV like I have that when a Catholic goes to confession for their sins, sometimes the priest gives them an assignment, like praying the rosary three times, or five “hail Mary’s”. This concept is apparently very old, based on the belief that to be made right with God and the congregation you have to show some proof of repentance beyond confession. Over the centuries this developed into a formal practice. A person who sinned could sometimes obtain an indulgence, which relieved him from earthly punishment (the need to perform “satisfactions” like those described above). They were usually purchased.
Johann Tetzel (1465-1519)
Johann Tetzel (1465-1519)

At the time of Martin Luther, the Pope wanted to hire Michelangelo and others to renovate St. Peter’s Church. To pay for this artistic upgrade, he decided to make a push for selling indulgences (like promoting war bonds). He chose a man, Johann Tetzel, who was a gifted and persuasive speaker, to go city to city selling indulgences. The claims Tetzel made about indulgences began to get extreme. Buy one for yourself. It will get you out of punishment for all sins past, present, and future. Buy one as a get out of purgatory free card. Or buy one for a relative to get them out of purgatory.

The indulgences were tricks played on superstitious, papacy-worshiping people. Tetzel went city to city much like children tonight will go door to door. He offered a trick and called it a merciful treat. The children will ask for a gift, be it a trick or treat.

Attractions: Tricks or Treats?
Evangelical churches across the country will provide a Halloween alternative tonight, calling it a Fall Fair, a Harvest Festival, or a safe place to trick or treat. Some will take the opportunity to share the gospel. In this way they are attracting the community to their churches. Pope Leo’s focus was similar (even if his motives were different): he wanted to make St. Peter’s beautiful so it would attract the world.

History: Trick or Treat?
When I went to look up books about the Protestant Reformation at my library, I could choose from two options: biographies of Martin Luther or a few books in the religious section of the Dewey Decimal System (anyone know who invented that and what he believed?). I would have put them in the history section, since the hundred years of heavy reformation in the Western world was a huge historical event, driving the rise and fall of kingdoms and the colonizing of America. You do not understand the history of European politics or the history of the United States, let alone our laws and culture, without understanding the Reformation.

Likewise Halloween is a little-understood historical day. Its origins are Celtic Paganism. See the Wikipedia article. This is not a cute time for children to have fun. All of it is about paganism, whether Catholic-tainted “All Souls’” or “All Saints Day” or purely pagan. The history of both of these topics is being suppressed.

The Gospel: Trick or Treat?
Finally, the Church should not have to Trick people before Treating them to the gospel. You do not need to bribe them with freedom from community-enforced punishment for their sins, or with beautiful buildings, candy and safe alternatives to Halloween. We need to be compassionately caring for the poor, loving our neighbors, etc. – but to do that as the door to share the gospel has two problems.

  1. It is a bait and switch. We tell the poor we want to take care of them, and then when they are captive audiences or grateful enough to politely listen, we share some version of “good news” about how Jesus loves them.
  2. We give the impression that the only reason we did the good deeds was to get people to listen to us, like the marketers who will give you a free trip to the mountains or a free knife if you just listen to their sales’ presentation.

Ephesians 1:3-7, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;

The gospel is the grace of God. It is the most needed and priceless gift available. If we really believed that salvation is what Ephesians calls it, we would determine with Paul to know only “Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2)

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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