Monday, February 28, 2005

Expectation, meet reality

I apologize for the long delay in posting. Between preaching three sermons in the four days, thirteen hours of a week of seminary, twenty-six hours a week of working, fourteen hours of field education at Friendship Village, and trying to spend time with my wife, I have had to put the blog on the back burner.

Anyway, after studying Luke 7:18-35, I noticed something quite interesting, which I spoke about in a sermon this past Sunday.

It's this. The Messianic expectations of the people of Israel did not match the reality of the messiah. Even John the Baptist sent some of his people to "check him out" if you will, to see if he really was who he said he was.
We do that to in our lives. We want to make Christ in the image that we so choose, which is foolish. Later in the passage, Christ compares the Pharisees' and legal experts' thoughts on him to a children's game. A mere children's game. These were the top religious leaders of their day. THEY were the people we would all look to as a model for piety and service. They followed all the rules, they prayed, they fasted, they memorized scripture.
But it didn't matter.
The only ones who understood Christ for who he was, were those who repented of their sins. That's what's meant by the ones who recieved John's baptism. It wasn't that they were baptized, but it was the reason they were baptized. Baptism was commonplace in that time, but it meant that a Gentile was undergoing Proselyte baptism to become a member of the covenant people of God. If you were a Jew, and you were seeking baptism by John, that went against the cultural grain. It meant that you realized your external actions were not what brought you acceptance by God, but it was your heart.

That's the problem with all of us, really. We like to hide behind our good deeds and our external testimonies, but what it comes down to is our heart. There are also times when we want to make Christ to be something he is not. But we must get our view of Christ as is revealed in his word and not rely on our feelings. This may mean, we must change our minds or beliefs, but we must do this if we are to understand Christ for who he is, and what he does and will do.

Book of the day, The Person of Christ by Donald MacLeod

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Popping the bubble

There was a song in the late 1990's by the late Christian band, Silage, called Billboards and it dealt with a problem within the Christian community. What problem is that? Let me give you a lyrical sampling: life in the bubble, there ain't no trouble, we like to judge our books by just staring at the cover, if one of us should stumble, we'll hide in undercover, 'cause you can't have trouble when you're living in the bubble.
The chorus then goes on to talk about "the bubble" and why we do not want trouble in our little Christian bubble.
This is a huge problem because it is so easy to hide inside the Christian bubble. We become frightened by "the world" and are afraid of their influence on our lives and, in effect, we say that Christianity cannot influence our culture; Christianity is weaker than our culture.
That does not match up with the notion we get from the Bible. Throughout Scripture, we can get a taste of what Christianity does as it spreads throughout culture. Christianity engages Greek thought in Athens, as Paul uses the language of the Greek philosophers to show them Christianity is true; and there are other areas as well from Peter addressing a Jewish crowd at Pentecost in Jewish terms to show the truth of Christianity, and so on and so on.
This did not happen because Peter or Paul wore a parody T-shirt with a Jesus message, while driving a car with an ICTHUS fish sticker, they bought at the Christian store, while listening to a Christian band, while on their way to the repairshop they found in the Christian phonebook.
It doesn't work that way.
We must go out and engage our culture with Truth.

Book of the day, Chameleon Christianity by Dick Keyes.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Breaking the color barrier

It's saddening for me to think that the words spoken by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr concerning the most segregated time in America as Sunday morning, 11am still ringing true in the 21st century.
Sure, we pat ourselves on the back when we make attempts at racial reconciliation, or tell others they need to be engaging in that as well, but the thing to think about is this: is it forced because we are trying to look racially sensitive, or does it come from within?
That's a sticky thing to think about because we know we should be colorblind, but is it out of a sense of looking the part, or is it a genuine embracing of the Biblical principal of humanity?
One thing to look at would be the makeup of one of the Churches in Acts.
Acts 13:1 Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a member of the court of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.
Barnabas= wealthy Levite from Cyprus.
Simeon= Black man. That's what Niger means.
Lucius of Cyrene. Where's Cyrene? North Africa, so he's black or Egyptian looking.
Manaen= man who was a member of the household which persecuted the Jews and crucified Christ.
Saul= former Pharisee from Tarsius, a Jew who is a Roman citizen.
Does it get much more ecclectic than that?

In Acts we get a hint of what the gospel does to the Church, it doesn't divide, it unites and breaks barriers. And it doesn't break barriers by force or against the will, it does it in a way that seems natural. The Gospel is transformational in that respect, and we must pray for it to continue to transform our lives.

Book of the day A Mighty Long Journey: Reflections on Racial Reconciliation by Timothy George.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Getting Apostolic

In studying the book of Acts, I have been struck at one thing in particular, and that is this: when the Gospel breaks through and people's lives are changed, community breaks out. By community breaking out, I do not mean a commune, I mean people with utterly diverse backgrounds, racial, economic and social, all coming together and engaging in the community of faith. In Acts we see Gentiles embracing Jews, we see Jews reaching out to their hated Samaritans, and we see people's lives being transformed in such a way that it creates a new community.
I think the best way to bring this out in today's terms is this. I have two professors at seminary with extremely diverse backgrounds. One is an older Jewish man, the other is a professor from Germany. Now the interesting thing to think about is that they co-teach a class together. This should be something that doesn't happen. My Jewish professor should not be on such friendly terms because of the way that ethnic Germans treated his family so many years ago, but that doesn't happen.
I think it's because the Gospel breaks past those things in others heritages and backgrounds and we see that the person that society says we don't have to love, as someone with whom we share many things.
We see this pattern in Acts, and I believe we still see it today.

Book of the day, Witness to the Gospel, the Theology of Acts, edited by I. Howard Marshall.

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