From Lisa Robinson: On Loving the Body…even when we think it doesn’t look right

I am re-pressing this WordPress post by Lisa Robinson: On Loving the Body…even when we think it doesn’t look right.

At the end of 6 1/2 years of seminary in Dallas, I can tell you that I look a bit different than when I started.  I put on quite a bit of weight, more than I am comfortable with. There are certain parts that just flat out embarrass me, which is why I try to take pictures from certain angles. These are the parts that have really been impacted by the weight gain, like my middle section. I hate what it looks like and long to be back to a certain weight. I want my body to look a certain way, at a certain size and it just doesn’t.

megachurch_2Well, if you are a Christian and reading this I think you know where I’m going with this analogy. If you are committed to a particular church model/structure/paradigm, we might find that there are those practices that are out of step with Scriptural faithfulness. When I consider my very eclectic doctrinal journey through varying church paradigms, I confess to having a two-fold reaction. On one hand, I cringe at some of the stuff I’ve been exposed to and foundation for abusive tendencies. On the other hand, through that journey, I’ve been privileged with the example of so many who sincerely love the Lord and want the best for His church, even if I thought the methods were not supported by Scripture.

I came across this post a while back, What if a Presbyterian minister gave a good, old-fashioned altar call? Now that I am in a Presbyterian church, I can’t imagine this ever happening. Just mentioning altar calls (and other forms of experientially oriented “worship” tactics) reminds me of the many years of emotional manipulation I observed. But I was sobered by the balance of the article;

Therefore Reformed friends, take it easy on our Christian brothers who call people to Christ after their prefered traditional manner. Cut them some slack and quit throwing the “Regulative Principle” in their face. Joshua called people to “choose this day whom they would serve.” Jeremiah called people to “circumcise themselves.” John the Baptist called people out into the wilderness to be baptized afresh. And Jesus commanded people to publicly and boldly proclaim their faith before men. Sure, any religious rite, ritual or traditional can become emotionally based, man-centered, and manipulative, but this does not necessary mean all are wrong in their practice because some are wrong. God has done some very good work through altar calls andinvitations given by his ministers in his evangelical church.

And now a word to my Non-Reformed friends. Come on, take it easy on your Christian brothers who call people to Christ after their traditional manner. I am fairly sure Jeremiah did not have a wooden pulpit and an altar/platform with steps. I am fairly sure he did not ask individuals to raise their hands or throw a stick in the fire. And I am absolutely sure they did not sing, “All to Jesus I Surrender” fourteen times. Jeremiah was not influenced by Charles Finney, and therefore he was comfortable calling people to repent according to his own cultural manner. So my fundamentalist and broadly evangelical friends, please do not consider your Christian brothers to be worldly compromisers who care not about calling people to Christ simply because they issue forth God’s call in a different manner than you and your tradition prefer.

What a unifying message! Not because he’s saying that church practice and liturgy does not matter, but because he recognizes the core message is turning to Christ. Even if the altar call can be manipulative, it still serves a purpose for those who genuinely experience regeneration and truly repent. Sure it might produce some false conversions, but more importantly, for those who genuinely experience regeneration, their steps to the altar reinforce this conversion.

I confess, I’m quite quick to get on my soapbox about the benefits and faithfulness of Presbyterian worship as I wrote about in Refreshment for the Soul. It is mainly born out of a desire for Christians to experience worship that I believe truly invokes rest in Christ and provokes love of God and neighbor. But I also realize I am not alone in my commitment to what I think is faithful ecclesiology born out of convictions from the study of Scripture and church history.

church stage_emptyBut at the same time, given the increasing number of Christians who have been so worn out from bad church experiences that they want nothing to do with it, that there is some kind of commitment to corporate worship should be applauded and encouraged even if it promotes a model we don’t agree with. Sure they may be participating in a paradigm that we don’t think is the most faithful to Scripture, but given the reality of increasing abandonment of any type of church structure, I fear that too much “bashing” will just reinforce the disinterest and work against the church that Christ said he is building.

I also grieve at the insistence that those who adhere to a particular paradigm must ALL be like X, as if faithful, pastoral types are exclusive only to their own model. I particularly find this true with those who reject any kind of institutionalism or hierarchy citing abuse and manipulation in the structure. So any leader from that model must be the same and people are not really getting shepherded. On the flip side, you have adherents of higher church models dismissing home church gatherings as those who aren’t serious about Christ or his church. While we may maintain that our own model is faithful to Scripture, where do we get to judge that those who participate in other models must not be taking their shepherding role serious? We don’t and we shouldn’t.

The bottom line is that Jesus said HE will build the church. If our eyes are on him we may be able to relax them when they land on others.

 

Racial Reconciliation: Jarvis Williams

Jarvis Williams understands the concept of reconciliation better than most. He is  a scholar on the concept of racial reconciliation, especially within the Pauline corpus of Scripture. Enjoy him as he expounds Scripture.

You also will enjoy greatly his, One New Man: The Cross and Racial Reconciliation (B&H).

PBS: Secret State of North Korea

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PBS/Frontline’s “Secret State of North Korea” is worth watching. While watching, my wife quipped, “Look at the scope of the Evil One.” I remember, too, the word of a friend from South Korea: “We [South Koreans] believe North Korea will soon collapse; it cannot survive.” Find the air time of the show in your area.

I just added Lankov’s, The Real North Korea to my Amazon cart.

 

 

 

Themelios 39.3 and Review of Preaching the Farewell Discourse by Kellum

UnknownThemelios 39.3 posted today. Kindly they included my review of L. Scott Kellum’s, Preaching the Farewell Discourse: An Expository Walk-Through of John 13:31-17:26 (Broadman and Holman). Scott’s book is worth  reading in its entirety. Themelios has many very good articles and reviews.

Ferguson, MO, Unreached

imagesSomeone who loves me dearly asked me not to make public commentary on the happenings in Ferguson and the related conversations about racial injustice in America. (Sigh.) It is hard to let such a significant series of events pass without comment. However, it is great to have someone who deeply loves you make a plea for you to use wisdom. So I am not making public commentary.

I do not need to add my little voice to the streams of important observations made by the likes Wm. Dwight McKissic, Sr., Voddie Baucham, Thabiti Anyabwile (also here), Benjamin Watson, Leon Brown, Jarvis Williams, Carl Ellis, Russell Moore, Al Mohler, and Harold Dean Trulear. However, I do want to say this again: I ask, “Where are all the brothers?” because African American men remain one of the most Unreached People Groups in North America:

An unreached or least-reached people is a people group among which there is no indigenous community of believing Christians with adequate numbers and resources to evangelize this people group.

The original Joshua Project editorial committee selected the criteria less than 2% Evangelical Christian and less than 5% Christian Adherents. While these percentage figures are somewhat arbitrary, “we should not underestimate the significance of the small group of people who have a vision of a just and gentle world. The quality of a whole culture may be changed when two percent of its people have a new vision.” – Robert Bellah, Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton University, originally quote in Psychology Today in the 1970s, currently quoted in Christianity Today Oct 2011: 42.

(The Joshua Project provides this definition. We assume African American men are reached. I would suggest they fall well within the definition of “Unreached.”)

Reaching my brothers in the flesh is part of the task of those being obedient to the Gospel. If those men of color in Ferguson we see in the news throwing rocks and bottles, swearing in absolute rage, burning cars and buildings, and taunting the police and National Guard were, instead, men transformed by the good news of Christ’s death for sin and resurrection for righteousness (cf. Rom. 4:25), the local and national responses to Ferguson would be vastly different – even in the midst of a perceived miscarriage of justice. Such truth does not nullify the need for institutional justice. Yet it does remind us that the real battle lines are not in human realms even though they are played out in the human realms:

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore… as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. (Ephesians 6:12-15 ESV)

Comments are good and necessary. Boldly sharing the Gospel has eternal and present implications. Go tell an African American man about the love of God in Christ, and do so without fear.

 

 

 

 

 

Pre-Thoughts for Reading through the Bible in 2015

“ ’The days are coming,’ declares the Sovereign LORD, ‘when I will send a famine through the land—not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the LORD. Men will stagger from sea to sea and wander from north to east, searching for the word of the LORD, but they will not find it.’ ” (Amos 8:11-12)

“It is easy to see how this judgment works out in history. For complex historical reasons, France turned on the Huguenots and persecuted them almost out of existence, so the Bible and the Reformation never took hold in France as it did in England. Sometimes the antipathy toward the Bible has arisen from drift, rather than from persecution. In many Western countries, the public sense of morality was until a few decades ago largely tied to the Ten Commandments. Nowadays very few even know what the Ten Commandments are. The result is not freedom and integrity, but a lilting scorn that flaunts its superiority over something no longer even understood, much less respected—and what shall the end of these things be? So many Bibles, so many Bibles—and so little thoughtful reading of them. The next stage is the Bible as source of prooftexts; the stage after that is the Bible as quaint relic; the next, the Bible as antiquarian magic; the next, implacable ignorance—and all the while, a growing hunger for something wise, something stable, something intelligent, something prophetic, something true. And the hunger is not satisfied.

The only answer is the fulfillment of Jesus’ prayer in John 17:17.”

D. A. Carson, For the Love of God: A Daily Companion for Discovering the Riches of God’s Word, vol 2. Online.

Also see Justin Taylor, “How to Read the Whole Bible in 2014.”

 

Montgomery County Board of Education B-Ballin With Holy Days

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Christmas and Easter have been stricken from next year’s school calendar in Montgomery County. So have Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah.

Montgomery’s Board of Education voted 7 to 1 Tuesday to eliminate references to all religious holidays on the published calendar for 2015-2016, a decision that followed a request from Muslim community leaders to give equal billing to the Muslim holy day of Eid al-Adha.

In practical terms, Montgomery schools will still be closed for the Christian and Jewish holidays, as in previous years, and students will still get the same days off, as planned.

Board members said Tuesday that the new calendar will reflect days the state requires the system to be closed and that it will close on other days that have shown a high level of student and staff absenteeism. Though those days happen to coincide with major Christian and Jewish holidays, board members made clear that the days off are not meant to observe those religious holidays, which they say is not legally permitted. (Donna St. George, “Holidays’ Names Stricken from Next Year’s Montgomery Schools Calendar,” The Washington Post, November 11.)

The move by the Montgomery County (MD) Board of Education to cease recognizing religious holidays seems to concern budgets. The school system retains traditional Jewish and Christian religious holidays on their academic calendar due to the scores of children who will miss school by choice on these days. They do not recognize the days because they are religious days. Instead, they recognize them because opening schools on these days would not be the best use of resources. Seemingly, therefore, the issue for the board is economics, not religion. So the request for recognition of a Muslim holy day is rebuffed; it is not (yet) economically necessary.

I would love to explore the religious beliefs of the members of the Montgomery County Board of Education. I am wondering if this was a vote by a body predominantly non-religious in individual practice, or a group of whom several would hold to a false fact/value dichotomy with respect to religious ideas. But board members don’t post their religious beliefs with their biographies. Certainly that portion of their personal lives now will be kept from public consumption.

What then is the message we should take from a State action such as this? Here are some options:

  1. If you can gather a significantly sizable student pool, you can create your own holiday on whatever academic calendar day you wish. You simply need enough members of your group to be absent the same day or days every year in order to force the hands of the Board of Education.
  2. Christians and Jews would be wise to stand up in the Public Square for the religious concerns of Muslims. The issues of not adding and not recognizing religious holidays are not issues of Religious Freedom. Muslim families can practice their beliefs associated with their holidays, including pulling their children from school on such days if desired or needful. Then they can write notes to the schools to cover the absences of their children. An issue of the wisdom of the State toward religious groups will remain. Thus, no major religious group should sit on the sidelines and watch another get pummeled. With kindness, it would be wise to clear the bench on such issues, or soon there will not be a need for this bench within your school system.
  3. Churches in our community should begin to think seriously about speaking with local politicians about the value our religious holidays hold. Remember too, however, that days off are not necessary for us to maintain the faith and practice of the holidays. The death of Christ for sin, his resurrection from the dead, and his offer of eternal life to all who believe on him are things Christians can celebrate privately, daily, publicly, and corporately at least once a week, uniquely on Christmas and Easter, and on all of the other special days we have created in our churches. These celebrations do not require days off, except for a day to maintain the New Testament appropriation of the Sabbath regulations.

Either way, based on the Montgomery County Board of Education’s deliberations and decisions, I want to see if I can get another day off school for my children in our county. I would need it to be a non-religious holiday that will create a large enough absentee base to force a school board to see that it would be wise to codify a full day off. Also, I do not want to risk another crashing of our pluralistic car into the Wall of Separation. So I need all of the NBA fans near me to boycott school the day of the third game of the NBA finals each year so we can force the creation of B-Ballinday. It will be a few years before the WNBA and MLS fan bases will be devout enough to give the school board members any further concerns.

(If you have not yet read D. A. Carson’s, The Intolerance of Tolerance, I would suggest that you should hurry to get a copy and read it over this weekend or the coming week.) (Kindle version)