Tuesday, February 27, 2007

All over the world ...

It amazes me how technology has allowed communication to become so worldwide. Look from where Google Analytics tells me people are viewing this blog. Isn't that amazing?! It is also humbling and sobering that my ideas are traveling so far. I pray to God that they are sound and according to truth.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Amazing Grace - the movie

Cindy and I had the opportunity to see a free pre-screening of Amazing Grace (we were blessed with two free tickets in my college faculty mailbox). It was a good movie, not so much about John Newton (the author of the hymn Amazing Grace) as it was about William Wilberforce and the English abolition movement. The characters’ faith was depicted unashamedly. Consider this great statement that John Newton states in one scene: “I am a great sinner, and Christ is a great savior.” I strongly recommend that you go see Amazing Grace. This movie is rated PG, probably for the occasional cursing and the 18th century cleavage.

Picture taken from http://www.wildaboutmovies.com/movies/AmazingGraceMoviePosterTrailerMichaelAptedIoanGruffudd.php

Friday, February 23, 2007

Entertain strangers

Just the other day Alan, at the Assembling of the Church, posted an article entitled Justice, Kindness, Mercy..., reminding us that the early church followed the mandates in Scripture to take care of the elderly and the poor. He then shared his own struggles and need for God’s teaching and guidance in the matter.

With that post in the background, let me share with you some of my struggles. Yesterday I was walking home after class when, while still on campus, I was approached by an elderly lady who asked me for $10 so that she could get some food. As has been my custom now for years, I told her that I would not give her money, but I’d be glad to buy her some food. This is a practice that I learned from my mom, who taught me to have compassion for people in need. I can remember many times when mom stopped at a store to buy a beggar something to eat. She always told me never to give them money, for who knows what they will use it for, but instead, to go ahead and buy them some food. Sadly, I have to admit that I did not put her advice into practice until after I became a Christian: before Christ transformed my life there was much selfishness and very little compassion in my heart.

But getting back to my story … so I asked the lady where she was planning to go eat. She told me Skippers. Now, Cindy and I rarely go out to eat (our entertainment budget is set at $20 per month) and thus I had no idea of the price range of dishes at Skippers, all I knew is that it was located close by. On the way, the lady shared with me that she has a couple of young ones at home, so I kindly suggested that maybe we could go to Domino’s and I could buy her a pizza that she could take home. She told me that she had been craving real food, so we continued to Skippers.

Upon arrival, I discovered that the dish she wanted was $15.99. I told her that was too expensive and that it would be better to go and get her a pizza. She then asked if she could get the shrimp dish instead of the barbeque, she thought it was less expensive. It turns out that it was $10.99: cheaper, but still very expensive for a single meal. I reasoned with her that it would make more sense to get a pizza for that price, so that she could share it with her family. Apparently, her heart was set on shrimp because she told me that she would not eat it all and would share her leftover shrimp with her family. I couldn’t believe my ears!

I finally told her that I would buy her a pizza, and we headed over to Domino’s. On the way and as well as in the store, I shared with her about the God who changed my life: the reason why I was actually doing this. She told me I was a good person, to which I answered that I was not: the good she saw was God acting in my life.

I was not being pious, inside I was extremely frustrated with her, and the only thing that kept me from just leaving was the love of Christ. Cindy and I had discussed earlier that day that we did not have money to go eat at Taco Bell, and here I was buying a stranger food and she was being picky about the food she was getting, wanting to go eat out at a restaurant that my wife and I would not go to because we consider it too expensive.

I sit here asking myself did she just take advantage of me. Then I think of Alan’s post and Scriptures like Heb 13:2 which states: Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels.

And there in lies my struggle: what has God called me to do in a situation like this?

Ephesians 4:11 - Spiritual gifts or positions?

And He Himself gave some [to be] apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers,

For quite some time I have been thinking of this verse, Eph 4:11, as being a list of gifts, not a list of positions in the church. As usual, I have godly brothers in Christ who will call me to account for my opinions, and so I've decided to spend some time looking into this passage.

Where could the idea of gifting come from when looking at this passage? After all, the NKJV titles it Spiritual Gifts, the NLT actually renders it “He is the one who gave these gifts to the church: the apostles …”. Paige Patterson and D.A. Carson both present this passage as a list of gifts1, and Horner entitles this section of his commentary “The distribution of the gifts,”2 just to name a few examples.

If you look back at v. 7, "Paul states that each believer is given a gift according to the measure of the gift of Christ."3 Paul then proceeds to quote Psalm 68 in v. 8 in which we see that the one who ascended on high, that is Christ, gave gifts to men. Ephesians 4:9-10 then parenthetically comments on Psalm 68. Thus v. 11 is positioned on the tail of a discussion about gifting, not positions in the church, and from that perspective it seems logical to assume that in v. 11 the topic of discussion continues to be gifting rather than positions.

One could point out that this is not a list of gifts, but a list of gifted people. I would agree with that, but the fact that they are gifted people does not make this a list of positions, or as some would call them: offices (I personally do not like the term office … I guess that will be the topic of a future post). We see something similar in 1 Cor 12 where Paul lists gifts in vv. 8-10, and then in vv. 27-30 he lists people who are gifted in such a way. The fact that he is talking of gifted people rather than positions in the church is emphasized by v. 31 where he states: “But earnestly desire the best gifts” (emphasis mine) not “the best positions”. In contrast, we see Scripture teaching in 1 Tim 3:1 that the people desiring the position of overseer desire a good work, not a good gift.

As a final note, I would say that if this were a list of positions in the church, one would expect to see overseers and deacons mentioned as well, but they are not. Some might counter that pastor/teachers are mentioned in the place of overseers. I would argue instead that here we read about the gifting, pastor/teacher, that every overseer/elder should have (see Acts 20:28, 1 Peter 5:2, and the qualifications for overseers in 1 Tim 3), but which gifting some others in the church could have even though they do not have the position of overseer/elder.4 I co-pastor a congregation which has many who are gifted as pastor/teachers, but at this time the congregation only recognizes two as holding the position of pastor/elder.

1 Paige Patterson, The Troubled Triumphant Church – an Exposition of First Corinthians (Dallas: Criswell Publications, 1983), 211 and D.A. Carson, Showing the Spirit – A Theological Exposition of 1 Corinthians 12-14 (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1987), 35-6.

2 Harold W. Hoehner, Ephesians - An Exegetical Commentary (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2002), 538.

3 Ibid, 541.

4 Ibid., 544-7.

Young Christian Filmmaker

I just wanted to put in a plug for one of my students: Josef Solc. His passion is movie making and will soon transfer from Southeastern College to UNCW to pursue a filmmaking degree. Josef has recently submitted an entry to the new FOX reality show On the Lot. You can view Shadowlight here. His movie is about hopelessness resulting in suicide: a hopelessness which is way too common among unbelievers and unfortunately also among believers. Even though it was hard to portray this in a 5 min film, Josef has shared with me that his passion is to be able to make movies with an underlying Christian worldview. So, if you get a chance, support young Christian filmmakers like Josef.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Church stretching

So I'm trying a out this new term. Since I don't like the term "church planting" (see here), I was wondering what term I should use. What do y'all think of church stretching (again go here to see where I am coming from)?

Also on the same topic, Cindy and I were talking and we were discussing that all the times we saw people traveling alone they were going to an established church, thus not necessitating the 2 or 3.

Thinking in community ...

The other day I was talking to a friend about a variety of things including the church. His opinion, and he is not alone on this, is that the preferred mode of teaching/learning in the church, is for a learned man to study a scripture passage for 20+ hours (preferably 40+) and then explain it to others at a weekly meeting.

Why am I mentioning all of this? It has been my conviction for some time, that lecturing is not the ideal way of learning for most people. I put this conviction to practice in my math/physics/computer classes by alternating lecturing with practice time, work on the board time, discussion time, etc. I put that conviction to practice in the classes I take by participating and asking questions. I put that conviction to practice when I disciple, by not relegating discipleship to just sitting down and teaching, but by also making sure that I live out my faith (on this last one, see a great post by Alan).

But I think that this discussion goes beyond the best way for the pupil to learn and includes the best way for ALL to learn. The other day I was sitting in Philosophy class and the professor stated that class discussion was beneficial, even for him, because it helped us ALL to learn. That is learning in community. Think about it this way ...

I stand and state my knowledge. Guido disagrees with me. If I am just lecturing, that is where Guido's learning process and my learning process stops (at least in that occasion). If we are learning in community, Guido states his disagreement. To be able to do that Guido has to think about his opinion and formulate it in a intelligible way. It is also possible that Guido has a good point and in that case I am forced to adjust my views. OR Guido has a flawed view and I then reply to Guido. To do that I have had to process Guido's view, which might be something I have never thought about, and see its impact on my views. After I stated my reply Guido is faced with a challenge to his opinion which forces him to see it from a different perspective and possibly adjust his views. As you can see, learning is happening everywhere in this scenario. Disagreement is not necessary, though. Guido could be furnishing complimentary information.

Consider the following scenario. Mandie comes to the house for supper. As usual we talk about many things and I mention that I have been trying to understand why I think that Eph 4:11 is talking about spiritual gifts and not positions in the church (post to come soon). I am doing this because of a question asked by another brother in Christ while we where learning in community on a Wednesday night home group. Immediately Mandie, who is very interested in women's issues, starts thinking out laud about this passage and the implications of the spiritual gift vs. position discussion from the perspective of women in the church, authority, etc. I, who love women, after all I married the best one out there, realize that I had not even thought about those implications while I was thinking of Eph 4:11. You see what happened? We learned in community. Had Mandie not come by the house or had I been lecturing, this stretching of my thoughts would not have happened.

Should I study 20+ (or even 40+) to understand God's word better. Yes! Should the people I interact with do the same and be allowed to share their thought publicly for maximized learning of all parties. Yes!

Grout gives hope ...

Just a word of encouragement to y'all tiling out there. Grout really makes a difference. You might look at your pre-grout work and even be slightly disappointed, but once the grout goes down ... wow, what a difference. I furnished the three pictures above to make my point. BTW - we are almost finished with the kitchen floor. Praise God!
Another tip: since we could not go without using the kitchen, I grouted the inside and I will grout the outside on Friday, that way there was always a part of the kitchen that we could walk on.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Alan's Blog, a must read!

* that is a reference to a comment Margaret made on my blog.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Not planting churches

This past Wednesday we discussed the beginning of Acts 13 in our home Bible study. We were discussing how, most often in the New Testament, we see people going out in groups of two or more. We spent some time discussing the fact that we thought there was much wisdom in sending groups versus individuals, but soon after that , our discussion turned to how this might relate to Matt. 18:20

"For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them."

(This passage is clearly in a section dealing with church discipline, and this should not be forgotten, as many do when they quote it out of context. In its context, though, it can help us understand the church since in v. 17, Jesus had just told them: "tell it to the church." As Miroslav Volf points out, as seen in More on Defining the Church..., there is a long tradition [Ignatius, Tertullian, Cyprian, John Smyth] that sees Matt. 18:20 as the foundation of, not only determining what the church is, but also of how it manifests itself externally as a church.)

Maybe, then the importance of sending out two or three was not only practical, but was also a way of sending the essence of the church. In our discussion Theron S. (who, by the way, has NOT written much at all lately) stated it best: they were not planting churches, they were sending the church there so that it might be salt and light and God might grow it in that new location.

Friday, February 2, 2007

I was reading an article by Alvin Reid in which he states:

...if the 1950s come back, we are ready.

They are not coming back. We must affirm the truth more than ever. We must teach our children the best of our heritage, including great hymns and the best of our past—how God has moved in mighty awakenings, how Christianity has influenced society for the better time and time again. We need to keep a love for preaching the Word and a love for the Word, and a passion for souls. But we must also be the people of God for this time, in this culture, in a way that brings glory to God and makes disciples of men and women.

I wish I knew a simple way to accomplish that. I don’t. I don’t think the early church had a clear idea of how to do that beyond the Great Commission and walking with God. ...

I just wanted to encourage you, as I tried to encourage him, that the answer is just that. It is not a program, but radically changed lives. It is people that disciple as they go (Matt. 28): lost people for the purpose of seeing God change their heart and saved people for the purpose of seeing them mature. It is leaven that leavens all the meal around them (Matt 13:33). It is believers who are all in one accord (Act 1:14; 2:1, 46; 4:24; 5:12; 15:25) and who love one another (Jn 13:35) and therefore become irresistible light and salt (Matt 5:13-16).
When people look at me, is that what they see? When people look at you, is that what they see?

Second snow of the year ...

Well ... yesterday it snowed again! It came down harder than last time, but did not stick as much. I got to stay home from work: I slept in, spent some good time in Bible study and scripture memorization, got some school reading done, and got some work done on the house. As for the dogs ... as you can see, they loved to play in the snow ... just like kids.

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