The journey of a nerd who loves the Lord

Posts tagged ‘church’

Response to John Piper Part 2

Welcome to the bonus blog entry of New Direction, where we search the Spirit, Scripture and more discovering the New Direction God is leading his church in this post modern culture.  Today, we take a  look at a statement from John Piper stating that those who walks away from the viable, traditional church, walk away from Jesus.
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Response to John Piper Part 1

Welcome to the bonus blog entry of New Direction, where we search the Spirit, Scripture and more discovering the New Direction God is leading his church in this post modern culture.  Today, we take a  look at a statement from John Piper stating that those who walks away from the viable, traditional church, walk away from Jesus.
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What’s In A Name? Everything.

This is a follow up to my last post.

Recently, I contacted a local pastor to discuss evangelicalism and challenges in the Salt Lake Valley area.  The time we spent together over a meal went rather well.  We lost track of time talking about numerous topics, despite our dramatically different backgrounds.  Later, I sent a follow up email asking him if we could get together again, as brothers, and discuss the Word of God further and become friends.

The letter, politely worded, indicated that while he did not question my heart (for God?), he could not consider me a brother. (more…)

Church is not Church

goingtochurchOnce again, a facebook posting inspired my faith based article for the week.  This one has to do with a picture which states, “Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than standing in a garage makes you a car.”  Numerous posts (some in total CAPS) preceded and followed the picture.

First, my blood pressure rises just a bit when I see pictures and posts like this.  If someone honestly believes that going to a weekly church event will, alone, qualify them for entrance into heaven, their strong delusions will not be dispelled by a simple internet posting. I have yet to see a posting like this ever receive even one response of sudden realization that the point made has changed their life. (more…)

Protestantism: Catch 22… Or Is It?

warnSalutations.

For the most part, I plan to avoid lengthy studies into the finer details of theology.  They not only do little to move a post modern mindset so prevalent in our world today, but I believe scripture teaches us that God desires we focus our time and energy serving Him faithfully, primarily by loving one another.  With that said, occasionally I receive a question, or concern, which I do like to address. (more…)

Merry Christmas vs. Happy Holidays

Salutations.

First, and foremost, I hope that everyone out there enjoys the blessings of our Lord and Savior today… whether you celebrate Christmas, or something else.

As  I monitor the news I have noted that the “Merry Christmas vs. Happy Holiday” wars continue to escalate.  Recently, a store owner posted “Merry Christmas” on her store window, along with a picture of a manger scene.  She received some scathing emails in return.  Allow me to share my somewhat rare view on the matter.
yellingHere’s the thing. The heart of the matter, is a matter of the heart.  You cannot force people to believe in God. The changes in our government and culture, (e.g., changing “Merry Christmas” to “Happy Holidays” or removing prayer from schools) are merely the symptoms of the core concern…. a turning away, by the people in this country as a whole, away from God.  So, screaming the loudest and insisting people use and/or allow “Merry Christmas” instead of “Happy Holidays” will not solve the problem.  Jesus, through his ministry, showed us that change come from inside, by walking with Christ in faith.  He never encouraged His disciples to join government or protests in an effort to force cultural changes from the outside in.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  As an American, I believe in our rights of free speech.  Private citizens should have the protected right to say “Merry Christmas” without fear of violence or anything along those lines.  However, actions have consequences, and God calls us to act with the wisdom of serpents.  Paul lived his live within the context of his culture that he might be all things to all people so that he might win some for the glory of God.  It seems to me that by drawing this line in the sand we waste time and energy over a secondary matter by trying to force people to embrace our point of view.  Again, this seems contrary to the spirit of Jesus’ message.

We would do well do consider how we, as a country, got to this point in the first place.  Now, my mother raised her boy to take responsibility.  Which means, when I face a problem with multiple causes, like this, I should seek out any of those I can take responsibility for, first… and spend as little time as possible blaming others.  That does not mean other factors did not play a role, nor does it mean that the problem would not benefit from others helping to fix the issue.  However, if we waste time blaming each other, we do not solve the problem.  Instead, each of us should take responsibility and moves forward, addressing anything within our power.  Doing so, we cover a lot more distance.  With that said, why have we, as a country, fallen so far away from God?  And what should we, as believers, do about it?

Brennan Manning said, “The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians: who acknowledge Jesus with their lips, walk out the door, and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.”  As I mentioned in an earlier post, America (and most western cultures) began moving to a post modern style many decades ago.  Yet, most churches and pepole of faith have changed slowly, if at all.  They continue to show their faith with talking, use of logic and debates, rather than actions, relationships and stories.

I know I paint with some mighty broad strokes here.  However, ask a few non-believing friend about their perceptions of Christians, as a whole.  The answers may shock you.  An article I read recently completed a poll study, showing,

A majority of unchurched Americans (79 percent) think that Christianity today is more about organized religion than about loving God and loving people; 86 percent believe they can have a good relationship with God without being involved in church.

letyour“These outsiders are making a clear comment that churches are not getting through on the two greatest commandments,” to love God and love your neighbor, said McConnell.

What they see the church as is “candles, pews and flowers, rather than people living out their love for God by loving others,” he noted. “Such skepticism can only be overcome by churches and believers who demonstrate the unity and love for which Jesus prayed.”

Jesus said “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” Let those of us who want to see a Christian country, state, county or neighborhood…heck…even just our family… keep these things in mind and start with the man, or woman, in the mirror 🙂  If we want others to believe in Christ (and, by extension, the true meaning of Christmas), let us dedicate ourselves to living out His love and truth every, single day.

Jesus said, ” let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”  Therefore, let us get down on our hands and knees, and first seek God for faith and true righteousness.  Let us remember what culture we live in, and dedicate ourselves to winning them over on their terms, the way Paul did.  Jesus died for us, so let us live every day to glorify Him and love others as He commanded us to.  By doing so, we will show them the real reason for the season, and a glimpse into the heart of God.

Cherry Picking The Bible

book

In a quick updated I posted a week ago, I mentioned that I read the book, “A Year of Biblical Womanhood: How a Liberated Woman Found Herself Sitting on Her Roof, Covering Her Head, and Calling Her Husband “Master,”  The book covers a multitude of issues regarding women’s roles in society and church as understood by the evangelical church.  Better still, she compares those viewpoints of scripture, as a whole and blows a number of our assertions out of the water.  I hope to take the time to dive into a number of the finer points in future blog posts.

However, in discussing this book further with my wife, after reading it, a major theme popped out.  It seems that as a culture, evangelicalism really cherry picks those pieces of scripture that supports its setup.  In doing so, it completely ignores other passages and, more importantly, misses the most excellent way of love.

For nearly half a decade, I have studied the epistles, to learn more about how they structured their church organizations back then, and how they conducted their gatherings.  Pastors use numerous passages from this section of the Bible to justify a number of church elements including the pastoral leadership system, elder oversight, and programs designed to assist the poor.  Interestingly enough, different domination and different religions (such as Catholicism and Mormonism) also draw much of the inspiration for their current setup from this section of the Bible.  For example, Mormons cite 1 Cor 15: 29 to support their current process of performing baptisms for the dead.

I always felt that most of these denominations and religions ignore huge parts of the New Testament.  For example, Paul gives us fascinating insight into how worship gatherings worked in those early times, with numerous people participating in the discussions.  Furthermore, in addressing a concern with disorderly conduct in the services, Paul makes it clear that if one is talking, and another wishes to say something, the first person should stop talking and allow the second to express what God has laid on their heart.  The idea of one, qualified speaker (a pastor) dominating the entire gathering with a long monologue seems out of place in the context of this passage.  When I have discussed this with Pastors, many feel that this would not work in churches today.  Our gatherings are too large!  It would be chaotic!

This continued to confuse me during my studies.  In questioning about other, ignored passages, I received answers ranging from practicality concerns to “that was limited to the culture of their time”.  Who decides which passages we ignore in the name of culture?  Our church leaders instruct us to read the Bible to learn more about God and important spiritual matters (such as how to conduct church), but how can it mean anything to me if I have to have a PhD in history to understand these passages properly in context of their history so I can decide which ones no longer hold any weight?  If the epistles prescribe to us (or at the very least, give us glimpses) how to run church, then why do we ignore whole parts of it?

Reading this book, I began to understand the evangelical approach to cherry picking certain parts of the bible and turning those into a list of rules patterned the Pharisee’s approach to interpreting Old Testament scripture.  More importantly, I began to see the problem in my own approach of the last five years.  Perhaps the Epistles were never designed to be a prescriptive list of how to run church (or boiled down into such a list).  Perhaps, just perhaps, Jesus said all there was to say on that in the Gospels.  “Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, mind and soul” and “Love your brother as you love yourself.”  And, then, the epistles are examples of Peter and Paul putting those principles into real life context with the Christian groups of their time.  In other words, what if we looked at the Epistles as descriptive instead of prescriptive?    

When I began to consider this possibility, so many things started to make sense to me, and missing pieces of this five year old puzzle started falling into place.  The implications blow my mind.  That would mean, among many other things, that the way we, or any denomination/religion, structure church gatherings is no longer a sacred cow.  I had to work hard to view this ideal outside the context of our culture, which embeds itself deeply into each one of us.

Ultimately, this approach fits scripture best, as well.  God could have written out church organization step by step.  After all, He wrote Leviticus which details the Old Testament temples and ceremonies.  Yet, we get nothing close to that in the New Testament.  And, the reality is, if you want to cherry pick, you can find scripture to support any way you want to live your life and/or structure your church gatherings.   Rachael Evans makes this point wonderfully clear in her book.  If you want to teach people that tithing 10% is a rule, there’s scripture to support that.  If you want to teach people should, instead, give as the Spirit dictates, you can find that.  If you want to keep women from teaching men, you can find that scripture.  And, if you want to teach that the spirit gives all gifts, including teaching, to all people in the body regardless of gender, you can find that as well.  And, yes, if you want to preach that God approves of slavery, you can find passages that support that, too!

Again, the implications are staggering, and you can expect for me to write more about them in future entries, but I’m very close to my 1,000 word limit on blogs, so I’ll save those for later.  In the mean time, consider what Jesus said regarding eternal life and how to best serve God.  You will see little or no mention of church structure or list of rules.  Instead, you see a simple message repeated over and over again.  “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”