Archive for July, 2007

Themes from David’s Life

Monday, July 30th, 2007

At Hope Chapel, we’ve been doing a sermon series since January on the life of David, using Eugene Peterson’s Leap Over A Wall: Earthy Spirituality for Everyday Christians. One of the first sermons was “Themes From David’s Life”, preached by David Taylor. He preached again today, and started off with a reminder of the themes. So, I decided to share them, using my notes from February:

  1. In the middle of all the parts of our lives, we must keep praying and praising.
  2. God uses all the stuff of your life to form you in His image.
  3. Fear makes you stupid. So does sin.
  4. The matter of the heart matters most.
  5. The Lord is sovereign over all your life, at all times, in all things.

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Things To Reconsider

Thursday, July 26th, 2007

C Michael Patton has an interesting post at his blog: Things I used to believe, but now I am not so sure

It’s a list of things he’s reconsidered over his life as a Christian, such as “All sins are equal in God’s site [sic],” and “The unbeliever’s skepticism is always unfounded.”  Some of them I recognize from my own past, others were never part of the way I viewed things.  The comments accompanying them are thought-provoking, regardless.

Understanding God’s Word

Monday, July 23rd, 2007

Easy Exegesis

“Exegesis” is a technical term for interpretation of a text. It’s about serious interpretation–doing your best to get past what you want it to mean, or what you’ve always assumed it means, or what you’ve been told it means, getting through to figure out what the author actually meant. The nutshell definition is “drawing meaning out of a text”.

It’s the opposite of “eisegesis”, which means “reading meaning into a text”. (Calling someone’s interpretation “eisegesis” is basically polite, scholarly trash talk. Any time I read something like, “That’s really more eisegetical than exegetical,” I imagine the target of the comment saying, “Oh no you di-int! Snap!”)

An in-depth exegesis involves looking at the context of the individual verse or passage, at the flow of thought, at the details of the language, at the original audience, at the historical context, and at the other writings of the author (if there are any). That’s the best way to get the most confidence that you’re understanding the fullest meaning of what the text was intended to say.

But…Well, all that makes it sound very complicated, very involved, and much too difficult for anyone who can’t read the Greek text and translate it on the fly. But it’s not. It doesn’t have to be. Don’t get me wrong, some passages really are very challenging, even for the brightest minds with the best resources and the strongest education. But most of the Bible isn’t like that. To get the fullest meaning, it may take practice and a lot of effort–but there are very simple ways to study the Bible that will help you understand quite a lot.

There’s a simple, easy rule of exegesis–one you’ll find yourself using all the time, one that’s widely useful, one that will prevent you from making most of the easy mistakes of interpretation.

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On Jesus, Mission, and Church – Pt. 2

Tuesday, July 17th, 2007

Another excerpts from Confessions of a Reformission Rev.: Hard Lessons From An Emerging Missional Church, by Mark Driscoll:

“[A couple leaving the church] complained that since the church had grown a bit bigger and things a bit busier, my wife and I had become less available to them… We were stunned. We needed couples like this to help the church survive… I simply gave up and sent them on their way because they were not on our mission to bring the gospel to Seattle.”

This touches on the way that people choose churches–our expectations, our criteria, our view of the proper relationship between us and a church. Are we looking for something to meet our needs, or are we looking for ways to serve?

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On Jesus, Mission, and Church

Sunday, July 15th, 2007

Excerpts from Confessions of a Reformission Rev.: Hard Lessons From An Emerging Missional Church, by Mark Driscoll

“No matter what the tradition or theological perspective, the one common thread that wove all of the churches together was that they were each on their on mission instead of on Jesus’ mission to transform people and cultures by the power of the Holy Spirit through the work of the gospel. And each church conveniently grabbed the snapshot of Jesus that best suited their mission and used it to legitimize and bless their mission in his name. Theologically, this was profoundly troubling, because I was certain that Jesus was his own mission and that any church not on that mission had what Paul called another gospel and another Jesus, concocted by a cunning serpent.”

“For me, our church was not the people we had but primarily the people we did not yet have, and I needed to go get those people… I kept scheduling meetings in an effort to convert the lost to Jesus and convert the found to our mission with Jesus so that the church could move forward.”

D. A. Carson Audio

Saturday, July 14th, 2007

D. A. Carson is a professor of the New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, and is one of my favorite preachers. Another blogger has collected links to many of his lectures & sermons here:
D. A. Carson Audio sermons and lectures.

There’s something about his style that warms my heart–something about his language, his heart, his passion. I appreciate his strong exegesis, his broad scholarly awareness, his pastoral focus.

His various lectures on the Emerging Church are an informative & helpful contribution to that broad conversation. His sermons on the way the book of Hebrews quotes the Old Testament is meaty. His two sermons on evil and suffering are touching.

Enjoy!

Simple and Pure Devotion to Christ

Wednesday, July 11th, 2007

This question was sent a few days ago in the mailing list for Hope Chapel.

How would you describe “the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ”? This phrase comes from 2 Cor 11:3. I’d like to know what different people think about this.

We could answer that in many ways. If we simply take the phrase by itself, there are many aspects of “devotion to Christ”, and many senses in which we could talk about its simplicity and purity. It’s like talking about what the love of family means; each of us has a different perspective, and can provide a different answer. There’s value in that kind of meditation and sharing, helping each other see new aspects of the truth.

If we take the phrase as part of the passage in which Paul wrote to the Corinthian church, it has a more particular meaning. To figure it out, we don’t think solely (or even primarily) about our own experiences–rather, we look at the way Paul used the phrase. What was the broader subject when he said it? What did he compare it to, and what did he contrast it with? And then there are questions about the translation of the words–how well do the English words (like “simplicity”, “purity”, and “devotion”) convey the meaning of the Greek? That is, can we expand the meaning of the words at all?

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To Know God Better

Sunday, July 8th, 2007

The name of this blog, of course, is a reference to 1 Corinthians 13:12, “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.”

The context is 1 Cor. 12-13, on the primacy of love and community in the church. Paul discusses spiritual gifts in chapter 12, how there are many gifts and types of service empowered by God for the common good. (The importance of community was on is mind; he had just chastised the Corinthian church in chapter 11 for the way they profaned the Lord’s Supper with divisions. Instead of being an expression of each believer with Christ and with each other, they ate for their own bellies and they got drunk; those with food ate their own meals while others went hungry.) The whole body is to be joined together so that “If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.” Each type of service is needed, whether “humble” or “great”. Some are gifted to help others, or to administration, while others are gifted to teach, to heal, to work miracles.

And yet, he says in chapter 13, each gift is a vain and worthless thing if divorced from love. “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.” (v. 1) And even great acts of charity are made meaningless if done without love: “If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned but have not love, I gain nothing.” (v. 3) Love holds a unique in the world; it will never cease, through all eternity. It has the ultimate staying power; it will last to the end, when Christ comes and this fallen world passes away, when every partial, passing, and imperfect good we now know will be consummated and fulfilled in the new heavens and new earth.

Love and community is a taste of heaven. The sacrifice of Christ was not to give people their ticket out of hell; his sacrifice was to create a unified body of serving believers, of disciples and followers. We are made in the image of God, but fallen and twisted; He transforms us to fulfill the image of Christ, showing mercy and love to those who have rejected Him and lived in rebellious selfishness; He saves us by grace through faith, not based on our own efforts to be good. Salvation is freely given to sinners, but we are His workmanship, created for the very purpose of walking in good works, in service and generosity and love. We cannot earn forgiveness, but we can live transformed lives, working out our salvation through His power. We can be one, even as the Son and the Father are one, as Jesus prayed for the disciples in John 17.

The unity and community that we can know is a taste of the nature of God; community is so fundamental that it is part of His eternal being; He is three Persons, eternally knowing and loving one another. The more we understand love, the better we know God.

And so it is that Paul says in 1 Cor 13:12–after saying that love never ends, as some things will–that, “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.” The promise of the gospel is not fundamentally about punishment and reward; eternal life is not a matter of never-ending physical pleasures; it is not about the feasts and 70 virgins that some men die to acquire; it is not about the self-centered bliss that some Christians seek. God so loved the world that those who believe in Him should have eternal life–and Jesus defined eternal life in John 17:3: “And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”

Eternal life is knowing God. The ultimate death is not to know Him. The heinousness of idolatry–in all its forms, such as greed & materialism–is that we expend our focus and energy on things that do not matter. It is a tragedy to waste a life created in the image of God for service. We can fritter our lives away, devoted to money, to watching television, to sex, to reading fiction, to science, to alcohol, to drugs, to a romantic relationship, to the next exciting thrill, to food, to fame, to fortune. These things may have good in them, but it is a waste of a life to devote to them all our focus, our time, and our energy. They may be part of a life worth living, but they must not be the whole. The greatest commandment is to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, strength, and mind, and to love our neighbors as ourselves.

And so, I come to the purpose of this blog: To know and to show God better, in whatever ways I can. It is to share what I learn, to organize my thoughts, to provide resources, to summarize what I study, and to offer up my own best efforts at understanding God and the world. We are called to service, to fruitful labor, to live for the community; I can point to very little in my past or present life where I have answered this call.

This is one thing I can do. I want this blog to be an expression of my own longing to live out whatever grace God has given me. I’ll post a variety of things–anything I’m thinking about, reading, learning. I’ll post simple quotes from books I’m reading, and sometimes I’ll add my own thoughts. I’ll summarize some nugget of information from a subject I’m studying. I’ll present my own observations, whatever they’re worth. And I’ll link to meaningful, interesting, and helpful entries on other blogs.

I want to do what I can to wipe away grime from the glass through which we see God, to wrestle with confusions and uncertainties, to see more clearly the light of who He is, and to be transformed to reflect that light more brightly. I want to reach the end, and to hear the Father say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Bear with me. We’ll see how it goes.