Saturday, October 05, 2013


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Friday, October 04, 2013


Defy Convention

Justin Taylor looks at a book and accompanying interview by Ken Bearding:

So argues Ken Berding in his book, What Are Spiritual Gifts? Rethinking the Conventional View.

The conventional view is that the “spiritual gifts” (Eph. 4:11-12; Rom. 12:6-8; 1 Cor. 12:8-10, 28-30) are God-given special abilities that Christians are to discover and then use in ministry. Berding’s argument is that the spiritual gifts, understood contextually in Paul’s letters, are actually ministry assignments or roles, that is, the actual ministries themselves.
The post then goes on to list 10 reasons why this may be the case. It's all exegetical and translation argument. I think Bearding is on to something here, but my argument would be purely spiritual and psychological.

When you "find your gift" you are focusing on self - when you serve in a job you are focusing outwardly. I don't think it has to be any more complex than that. One view is selfish and one is selfless. Which do you think Gdd would like best?


Illuminated Scripture

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Thursday, October 03, 2013


A Simple Exclamation

Mark Roberts:
"But God…" That's how Ephesians 2:4 begins when translated literally. The NIV, trying to translate the Greek into intelligible English, reads, "But because of his great love for us, God…" That's an acceptable rendering, but it misses the bluntness of the beginning of verse 4: "But God." We were dead, "but God." We were stuck in sin, "but God." We were in bondage to Satan, "but God."

I can still remember the first time I heard someone explain the central importance of these two words in Ephesians 2:4. I was about twelve years old when a beloved Bible teacher, Rev. Earl Palmer, came to my church to teach a series of summer Bible classes. He was expositing Ephesians 2, filling the blackboard with all sorts of Greek words. When he got to the beginning of verse 4, he wrote in larger letters, "ho de theos—BUT GOD." Then, with much excitement, Rev. Palmer talked about how these two words summarize the whole message of Scripture, the heart of the Gospel. We disobeyed, but God. We sinned, but God. We rebelled, but God. We wandered away, but God." I can still hear Rev. Palmer's words ringing in my ears as he energetically celebrated God's grace in the words "But God." (Little did I imagine that, years later, I'd have the privilege of joining Earl Palmer as we co-taught a retreat at Laity Lodge, and that I'd consider him a friend.)
If, in the middle of your sharing some personal difficulty with me, I simply said, "But God," would you not respond, "But God what?" We do tend to complicate things that do not need complicating. God is simply sufficient. He is sufficient in power. He is sufficient in mercy. He should be sufficient for me.

But we do not want to let go. We do not want to give up control. We want God to give us what we need to do what need to be done rather than simple rest and let Him handle it. We wait, with baited breath to see what God will do for fear that God will do the wrong thing. We forget that wrong is not an option for God.

I wonder if we should pray in this way. Not that "God you're awesome" stuff, that's just sort of exaggerated thanks for giving us what we need - rather, simply "God, handle it."

Or better, simply "God."

Wednesday, October 02, 2013



Jonathon Parnell @ DG:
Fear is like the monster under my kids’ beds — its power is fueled not by what’s really there, but by what might be, what we imagine could be. Fear is a hollow darkness in the future that reaches back through time to rob our joy now by belittling the sovereign goodness of God.
Fear...worry...anxiety - I have been crippled by them and I have seen them cripple many. He goes on to point out reasons and scripture as to why we need not fear. Here is but a few:
God will be with us, help us, and uphold us in trouble. - Isaiah 41:10, 13
When God Almighty is your helper, none can harm you beyond what he decrees. - Hebrews 13:6; Romans 8:31
Man cannot harm us beyond God’s gracious will for us. - Psalm 118:6; Psalm 56:11

I really like the balance that is presented here. It is not that God will prevent us from meeting scary circumstances and it is not that we will not experience difficulty - it is hat we have the necessary means to overcome whatever difficulty we encounter.

Would that more Christians understand this balance. When you look at a situation, one that seem hard and fraught with peril, your concern is not unfounded - but you cannot let that concern stop you.

Victory is not easy, but it is assured.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013


Working vs Being Together

Developing unity and friendship among your elders is critical for the health of your church. The way that the leaders of your church relate to one another will eventually be reflected in how the congregation relates to each other. Disharmony at the top will create serious division in the body. Harmony at the top creates safety and security for the flock.
That's advise for control freaks, not leaders. Good leaders will have different opinions - if you want "unity" you want control. If you don't have differing opinions, you have a rubber stamp. Of course, that IS what a lot of pastors are looking for.

Friendship is a different story. Leaders should be collegial; they should respect each other. They should not let their differences lie in the way of their Christian brotherhood. Not all of them will be bosom buddies, share meals and vacations together, but they will respect each other and their opinions.

I seriously doubt if Peter and Paul hung out much at all. They did not agree on much. But they did hold the Body of Christ as more important than themselves - and that is the key. Unity between them would, I think, have reduced the church to another of the minor sects floating around.

Think about it.


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Monday, September 30, 2013


What SHOULD Be There

Jeff Dunn @ iMonk describes a service he attended and says:
A pretty typical evangelical Sunday service, at least typical of the services I have been a part of for four decades now. Yet this last Sunday I really felt like I was missing something. There was plenty there about what God would do for me and what I could do for God. But where were the songs about God’s majesty? Where was the focus on Jesus and his redemptive act on the cross? Aside from the three minute sprint through Romans, the Gospel was nowhere to be found.

There was a lot about us, what God would do for us, and what we need to do in order to be Jesus’ disciples in the sermon. There was a lot about us pursuing God’s passion, whatever that means, in the songs. And of course, there was the tribute to U2.

I thought about the Catholic mass and how different it is from the typical evangelical service. The Anglican and Lutheran services I have been to also have the something that is missing from evangelical services. What is this element that Catholics and Anglicans and Lutherans have, but evangelicals don’t?

Surprisingly, it’s the one thing that supposedly defines evangelicalism.

The Gospel.

He declares that the reason it is missing is that we no longer believe:
The focus of the service Lutherans and Anglicans and Catholics is the cross of Jesus. The focus of the service for evangelicals is me and you. It has become the church of the Golden Calf, and we are fashioning God into the image we want. Need a more cuddly God? No problem. We’ll sing songs that tell of God making everything right. Want a more spiritual experience? Let’s sing of pursuing his presence. Then we can all grab a microfiber cloth and give that calf and good shine. We wouldn’t want it looking bad for any “seekers” who are visiting. The horrible, vengeful, angry God who demands the law be kept or punishment will be meted out, the God who says the wages of sin is death, the God who is an all-consuming fire is not welcome in our evangelical services. We want the nice, clean-shaven God who minds his manners in front of company and always comes with a new toy like a father returning from a business trip. The one who says “come and die with me” is just not good for business.
I think Dunn is overstating a bit, but essentially correct. We certainly want no part of the punishing God - that's true. Services are definitely about us, not about God - I've been saying that for a long time. I do; however, think that if pressed hard enough, most evangelicals could tell you the Four Spiritual Laws, or some other encapsulate version of the salvation message of The Gospel. But there it would end - they could take you no further on the journey. And that, I think is where the problems arise.

Evangelicalism is a base form of life - it exists purely for self-replication - it eats and it reproduces, but it does nothing else. That's an animal, not a human. One would expect the living body of Christ to do more, to be more human.

The thing I hate most is it reduces us to our animal basics. Life is reduced to what we consume - no scratch that - life it reduced to the utilitarian. Not that the Christian life is about frivolity, mind you, but it is about elevation, it is about discovering not our animal nature, but our human nature. The animal can do what it needs to survive. Only the human can change its environment. Only the human can create from the material God has supplied. And yet we reduce ourselves to adaptation. We're surviving, not elevating. It doesn;t mean we're missing The Gospel, just the best parts of it.

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