Jan 31, 2011

Neglecting the assembling of the saints

Ecclesiastical tradition is a hot topic for many Christians. Especially those that direct our 'coming together.' For some it evokes feelings of splendor, liturgy, and commonplace. For many others, it sparks debate, hostility, and downright angst. Even though I am beginning to feel that traditions might rank up there with the no-no's of silence regarding Politics and Religion.

Falling somewhere in the middle of the two camps, I find myself always questioning what it is we do, why do we do it, are we doing it right, and does our Christian liberty give us the flexibility to be 'right' even when we are way off in left or right field?

I suppose I could elaborate a million miles in many directions about the impact that liberty has on our 'Christian Practices.' But, I have grown weary of justifying what liberty allows. Today, as a believer, disciple, and wretch, I am more concerned with what did the scripture really say about what we do.

It is really easy to look at events in scripture, compare them to our current church traditions, and then read back into the text why it is okay to do it as we do it, even thought they do not align. Sprinkle a little liberty on top, and now we have justification for our behavior.

I am sorry if I fulfill my calling as a dissident, and resist this. But I am going to anyway. I cannot in good conscience continue to accept the Romish practices of yesteryear we call Protestantism (evangelicalism), and not protest that which at least is contradictory to scriptural revelation. And with that said, I am being pretty liberal here.

There is a great number of 'traditions' I have been looking at with great scrutiny as of late, and I am beginning to find that they are all inextricably linked together.

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
(Heb 10:23-25)
If I have your attention, and you are interested in joining me in this discussion, or even plausibly visiting my electronic monastery of ecclesiastical reflection and vein monkish babbling, here is what I am looking at the most lately.

  • The breaking of bread - Is it sacrament, oyster crackers and dainty plastic cups of grape juice, transubstantiation, consubstantiation? Can we justify this current practice by measuring it against the examples of the New Testament?
  • The meeting dynamic - What impact does the actual practice of breaking bread have on the meeting and the order we conduct our service?
  • The apostolic ordinances/traditions - What of Paul's instruction in 1 Corinthians? What is our response to Paul's instructions regarding the Lord's table, breaking bread, the gifts, and the issue of women speaking/not speaking (not teaching, prophesying) in the meeting?
How are all these tied together you might ask? Well, for this post I will leave it stated as simply as I can with all the information I have been absorbing concerning all of these topics.

If the assembling of ourselves together, to stir one another on to good works, in an 'official' manifestation of the assembled church meeting is as the New Testament demonstrates (coming together to break bread), then what do the apostolic ordinances of Corinthians, the existence of gifts, and the role of men and women all look like in that meeting?

I do plan to elaborate more on my thoughts regarding these issues here at the blog, and definitely amongst the beloved brethren I share fellowship with, but now I pose the question to you. While we may not be forsaking the assembling of ourselves together even in the most liberal of ecclesiastical practices, are we neglecting it?

Jan 30, 2011

A Twisted Scripture 4

In the spirit of Alan Knox's "Scripture...as We Live It" series,

Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received act like you want it, and it will might be yours.  (Mar 11:24 Twisted)

Jan 29, 2011

Seeking a Kingdom: New Devotional

New devotional posted at Seeking a Kingdom. Titled, Nourished through the vine. It is my prayer that our righteousness be strengthened through the food that comes from the Father. If we submit ourselves to his care, abide in Christ, and do his will, we will abide in the Father, and be friends of God.

You can subscribe to Seeking a Kingdom through Twitter, Facebook, Feedburner, and in the future, Youtube.

Jan 28, 2011

Good Ministry, Bad Ministy, You Decide...

Good Ministry: Enrolling widows that qualify, have faithfully served the saints, cared for the afflicted, and devoted themselves to every good work into support of the church. (1Ti 5:9-10)

Bad Ministry: Not helping a sister who is struggling in the assembly because she does not qualify for the 'widows' roll. (2Co 8:12-15)

Prayer Request!

I am taking my state licensing exam for my Social Work License today at 11:00 AM (EST). I have not prepared as well as I should have, and have had great anxiety doing what preparation I have. Please lift up my time of testing in prayer, and on my behalf, request with me that the Lord would forgive my oversight and quicken my mind to do well.

"Well" for me is good enough if it is passing!

Jan 27, 2011

Free Audiobook: The Pursuit of Holiness by Jerry Bridges

The Pursuit of Holiness
You can still get in on this months free Audiobook from christianaudio. It is a book I have long wanted to read, but have not quite gotten to yet. Maybe I will get to finally check it out on the daily commute. It is Jerry Bridges' "The Pursuit of Holiness" and is available until the end of January.

If you prefer the print version, and have a few dollars to spend on it, you can order it here.

Jan 26, 2011

A Twisted Scripture 3

In the spirit of Alan Knox's "Scripture...as We Live It" series,

Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place which is inconvenient, but instead let there be thanksgiving.  (Eph 5:4 Twisted)


Jan 25, 2011

Excellent Hymns from Page CXVI Hymns

Page CXVI Hymns has graciously posted their new Hymns III album and is streaming them for free. You can preview the entire album before you purchase it. They have seemingly found an excellent compromise between a modern sound and classic hymns. They have truly made hymns accessible and known again. What I love most about this group is that they are a cool drink of water in a desert of worthless contemporary Christian music that makes my ears bleed sometimes. This is a worthy purchase indeed, and I hope you enjoy it.

Jan 24, 2011

The Mosaic Law, do we have a dilemma?

The Mosaic Law. What is it exactly? Is it just the Ten Commandments? Is it all of the laws of the Old Covenant given to Israel? What is the correlation to the Old Covenant that the phrase "The Law" has in the New Covenant?

There are a million other questions that can be asked in relation to this topic, I am sure of that. But, the answer, has vast implications to the practical life of a modern day disciple of Jesus Christ. Without the reference we see from Paul in the New Testament, we would be left with a phrase that is either definitive or confounding from the mouth of the Lord,
Mat 5:18  For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.  
Ranging from old perspective to new perspective regarding Paul, the debate will in dubiously rage on well beyond any answers or conclusions I could personally surmise. But, I do endeavor to reason it out through a biblical understanding. I am hoping that my next 'heady' book I undertake will assist me in the matter. Here's to opening up a can of worms. Anyone have an aspiring ideal about the law?

I will post a review of the book The End of the Law: Mosaic Covenant in Pauline Theology (Nac Studies in Bible & Theology) as soon as I finish it. If you have read it, please comment on your thoughts. Or if you care to engage in discussion on the matter, likewise. I would love to hear your opinion!

Jan 23, 2011

Evangelism report: 01.21.11

Ann Arbor, Michigan. We journeyed to downtown Ann Arbor again this past Friday night. Yes, it was ridiculously cold, and with a couple of us wearing several layers (I had at least 3 and thermals), Antarctica and Michigan were neck and neck for near uninhabitable.

The night started in Liberty Plaza, distributing food with other organizations and 'church' groups that feed the homeless and working poor each Friday night. Afterward, we headed toward downtown Ann Arbor and U of M's campus.

We were fortunate enough to be in town at the same time as a Robert Plant concert, so there were plenty of people to talk to. Tracts were distributed across U of M's campus and there were quite a number of discussions had. Paul a drummer, who believed there was an essential need for 'experiencing' God. Bill, a drunkard, who believed his habit was justified because he does good works, and he is experiencing rough times right now. But, he knows the scriptures and their stories, and his knowledge is almost just enough to make him dangerous to his own soul.

Also, pray for the laborers and their households. Pray the Lord would protect their families from the attacks of the enemy for their faithful service.

Of note, prayer for the "History Teacher" are in order of request. He claimed his life was over because he caught a few cases some years back. He also justified his marijuana habits through open promotion of his fiscal need on his sign (the very thing that caused him to acquire criminal cases). He was adamantly opposed to religion in general, but very vitriolic toward Christians, the Bible, and Christian History. It was one of those interesting discussions where only one person hurls claims at the other without any opportunity to dialog. As difficult as it is to be faced with opposition to one's faith, it is even more difficult to respect their opinion, validate their claims, and have a civil discourse when they do not even come up for air. Please pray for this man, and hope that our conversations, or future interactions would be fruitful. Pray that his anger would not consume him, and that the bitterness over the course of his life would be seen for what it really is.

When he would not listen to reason, or exchange views regarding other options to provide for himself, or work for money as opposed to begging for change on the street, he state that his life was completely over. In an attempt to address something with a greater impact on life here on earth, and because there were few topics covered that resulted in much substance, he was asked about the next life, what happens when you die? He did not like that question at all, and knew immediately that we were Christian. In lieu of all of my opinion on the matter, I would like to address him directly below,

History Teacher, if for some reason you come across this post. I pray you will be interested in discussion next time. I would even be willing to buy you dinner, coffee, or whatever it is you might need that day. I absolutely will not buy you pot, but I will buy you something of sustenance. I also hope, that with all the knowledge you express, and claim to have, you would humble yourself to an exchange of opinion and worldview, maybe even a bit of debate. Either way, the claims you made on Friday were very lofty and significant. The irony that you knew we were Christians before we announced it to you says something profound to you does it not? I hope it says we care about your eternal state. I hope it says we are interested in more than just 'forcing our religion' down your throat. I wish I would have been able to say enough to own that claim, but respectfully understand how one bearing the name 'christian' would warrant so much anger.

History Teacher, next time, I hope you will let my life be an example of what I believe, and not preconceived notions or concepts of those who have approached you previously. We truly had no intent on making you angry, and we pray, next time, you will forgive us for what it was that angered you.

We will see you next time, hopefully.

Jan 22, 2011

Peace in a greeting, peace for eternal life: in full

As I recently posted the devotion at Seeking A Kingdom, Peace in a greeting, peace for eternal life, I was a little constrained by the devotional format. That is okay, at least in part, as I tend to be wordy. But, I also wanted to give the full thrust of what I intended to say. I will let you be the judge, if you have read the devotional post, let me know if they are comparable, or if one is lacking? Or, maybe I didn't do justice to either? Either way, here it is.

Consider Matthew 10:7-15 as the text for this meditation. I would also like to draw focus on Matthew 10:11. The contrast of going with nothing is accentuated with the command of going into the homes of those who are found to have been worthy, that though they have nothing, they have sustenance and shelter provided by them that are worthy. (Mark 6:10, Luke 9:4)

And when ye come into an house, salute it. And if the house be worthy, let your peace come upon it: but if it be not worthy, let your peace return to you. (Mat 10:12-13)

This is ironically, a greeting that is customary in Middle-Eastern/Jewish culture. It is also said by some commentators that the blessing of the disciples through their presence and prayers is in view in the peace to you salutation. But if the house is unworthy, or inhospitable, this instruction, let your peace return to you, implies a retraction of the blessing on an unworthy household.

We greet those we visit with gifts, and blessings, and sometimes with statements like Ata Shalom! Peace to you and your house!

If we investigate the Lord's usage of the phrase, we see it only occurs post-resurrection. Examples include Luke 24:26, and John 20:19-26. The only other time we see this phrase outside of the New Testament is in the Old.

Genesis 43:23 And he said, Peace be to you, fear not: your God, and the God of your father, hath given you treasure in your sacks: I had your money. And he brought Simeon out unto them.

Please, do not misunderstand me here. I am not promoting the prosperity of wealth and riches, and the subsequent peace that is brought with financial security. But it is noteworthy that the peace spoken of here is that which is brought through provision God had given the Israelite's through the hand of Joseph, by means of Egypt, which in turn is an interesting provision for Hebrews indeed.

Turning back to Matthew 10:14-15 now. What words would the disciples have been bringing to the households they visit? Is it inherent in the blessing contained in the phrase Peace be unto you? Or is it simply a prayer of blessing upon entry or departure from household to household? The instruction then comes, and brings some clarity laden with conviction in v14. Jesus says, "when you depart out that house or city, shake off the dust from your feet." When Jews would travel from Gentile roads and cities and then return to Jewish land, they would shake the dust from their feet because of its unworthiness, they believed it would defile the 'Holy Land.' This is interesting for us to observe, because in Matthew 10:6, it is the lost sheep of Israel the Lord is sending them to.

In Matthew 10:15, the Lord pronounces condemnation upon rejection that the disciples will inevitably receive. The paradigm that is given for them is the tolerance for Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment. Simply stated, those who reject the disciples will have it far worse than the city that was leveled by the wrath of God through hellfire and brimstone.

I believe the peace being brought to these households is the same peace that Christ brought to the disciples when they were locked away in fear and trembling because of the Jews (John 20:19). This peace is the news that the Father has sent the Lord Jesus, and he now sends us. And this peace is the same that greeted the doubting Thomas (John 20:26) who was then convinced of the Lords resurrection upon witnessing a living Christ.

The punishment Sodom and Gomorrah received was not due to a total lack of hospitality, as some have claimed, and some of us have heard. We know that they received punishment because of their wickedness, and received death the first time, and an eternal punishment slated for the next. They however did not receive the peace of the gospel. The missing piece there is the glorious news of a resurrected savior from the mouths of those who are witnesses thereof! Those who receive, then believe.

Looking at Mark 6:12 and Luke 9:5-6 we can see clearly this message the disciples brought. We also see the peace given unto others in their homes and towns, and that is that men everywhere should repent. Whoever rejects this message, rejects the Messiah, the one who issued the command with authority from on high. This rejection of the Christ is a testimony against them.

We preach Christ and him crucified. We rejoice in the power of him resurrected. And, we bring peace to those who receive it, believe it, and are baptized into his body.


Jan 21, 2011

Seeking a Kingdom: New Devotional

New devotional posted at Seeking a Kingdom. Titled, Peace in a greeting, peace for eternal life. It is my prayer that the understanding of peace is not grounded in the political climate of a land, or the result of radical social movements. But, that peace is only wrought intrinsically, in man's soul, and in his environment, through a vertical relationship with God the Father and his Son Jesus Christ.

You can subscribe to Seeking a Kingdom through Twitter, Facebook, Feedburner, and in the future, Youtube.

Jan 20, 2011

Quotables: William Booth

"The greatness of a man's power is the measure of his surrender to God." - William Booth (1829-1912)

Jan 19, 2011

Scripture...As We Live It #2 From Alan Knox

Featured from Alan Knox's blog, The Assembling of the Church, one of my favorite entries in his Scripture... As We Live It series,

If a brother or sister member of your particular church organization is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body referring them to the Benevolence Committee, what good is that? (James 2:15-16 remix)

You can find more in the series here. You can also see the original entry for this post here.

Jan 18, 2011

Some miracles in life are truly profound!

It is not generally a practice of mine to disclose abundant amounts of personal information here. But this is just too good to pass up!

Some of you already know, and many of you have no clue, but I am going to be a father! Yes! It is true. My wife has been carrying this blessing for the past 8 months now, and WOW how the time has flew by. We would like you to pray for us, and the child, as we approach the final weeks before she goes into labor. We are asking for a few things,
  • Pray for a drug-free delivery, Mrs. Lee needs all her strength, focus, and grace from our Father in Heaven so she may do what she has been preparing for these past 8 months.
  • Pray for a healthy baby, most importantly, pray for God's will in the life of our child, that he would consecrate a servant for his Kingdom, and that we would be good, godly parents for our child to emulate (need lots a help with that last one)!
  • And, pray for the salvation of our child. As we have prayed for others, and others have prayed for us, we ask you to join us in praying for this new addition to our family.
Thank you in advance for praying with us, and hopefully, when the time comes, we will be able to share the news of our little one's arrival with you. Stay tuned, because as excited as I am at the time of writing this, I am sure I will be much more when my little one arrives!

Jan 17, 2011

Reminder: Seeking a Kingdom Devotionals

I have created a new devotional blog. You may find it at http://seekingakingdom.blogspot.com, this is currently the primary URL.

The site is dedicated to posting devotionals with an emphasis on Kingdom centered and Kingdom mindedness. Essentially, the goal is to promote the edification of believers in Jesus Christ through devotions that focus on preparation, participation, and practical living for the Kingdom of God.

This site is currently still under construction. There is accessibility via social media outlets like Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter. The goal is to encourage readers to spread these devotionals freely and to encourage others in hopes of magnifying God's wonderful guide to living a life pleasing to him, His word.

This site was constructed out of a desire to glorify the name of Jesus Christ, promote His Kingdom, and develop a heart of devotion in His followers.

The premise is simple. All of Scripture is profitable for cultivating a mindset in those who have been redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ unto obedience, servitude, and application. Therefore, all devotions found here will be useful toward stopping for a moment, meditating upon the Word of God, and disciplining oneself into devotion to the Kingdom of God.

Interested in submitting?

The formula for the devotions is as follows,

  • They begin with a portion of Scripture, the number of verses varying, yet remaining sufficient enough to convey context. The whole of the devotional should not extend beyond 600 words or more.
  • That Scripture is then expounded upon in varying ways depending upon the style employed by its author. Then, a practical application, summary, or message is surmised from the entry.
  • A prayer is offered. And the text is categorized for organization.

This site utilizes the thoughts and writings of several authors. Authors are attributed appropriately in their posts by their initials. Contacting site authors can be done through the contact tab in the menu bar at the site.

From time to time you may see a devotional posted from a well known source, author, or voice of the past. These devotions will be attributed properly and sources posted for reference.

Comments are welcomed and gladly accepted. However, they will be moderated and deliberated upon by the author of the devotion receiving comments, and the site administrator for validity, and profitability for edifying other site readers. Profane, obscene, perverse, spam, and other non edifying comments will be discarded swiftly.

Jan 16, 2011

Book Review: Making a Meal of It: Rethinking the Theology of the Lord's Supper, by Ben Witherington III

Making a Meal of It: Rethinking the Theology of the Lord's SupperMaking a Meal of It: Rethinking the Theology of the Lord's Supper by Ben Witherington III addresses the topic of Communion in the history of the Church. Beginning with a survey of the cultural factors contributing to historic 1st century practices, Ben illustrates a profound progression and description of 'secular' traditions that are eerily similar to that of which Paul was addressing in 1 Corinthians.

Ben also goes on to discuss the trajectory of the Lord's Table from the final night of our Lord's earthly ministry with the Disciples, to the stratification and elitism of the 1st and 2nd centuries, on to the eventual liturgical and sacramental mystery that became the sacrifice of the mass.

Making a Meal of It serves as a running commentary that sheds light on the mystery that seems to surround the practice as we see it today. Regardless of the view a Christian has on the actual rite itself, this book covers the nuances between them, and then demonstrates why not even those were a matter of debate in the 1st Century Church practice. As it would seem, and according to the author, the meal of breaking bread in the scripture would be so much more inclusive than even the most liberal celebrants amongst us could imagine.

I personally enjoyed the conversing tone of this book. The author presents interesting information that gives a clearer portrait of what we traditionally see as the Lord's Table in our minds. With limited technical and scholarly jargon, the historical narrative provided by Ben made the read enjoyable. Consequently, I read this book via Kindle, and mostly on my Blackberry. Now, I typically do not enjoy reading on electronic devices, and the level of engagement I enjoyed with this title, led me to disregard that inhibition. Ben offers closing comments on practical implications and gives personal anecdotal evidence that supports what one would find in the scriptural support that does exist in the New Testament, that are helpful and encouraging.

If you find yourself questioning or curious about the modern practice in comparison to the scriptural practice of the Lord's Table in meetings across the globe, this book is a good primer for you. Enjoy!

Jan 15, 2011

The Lord's Table, sippy cup and all

Okay. So I am having a real hard time believing that there are so few Bible reading believers who are not willing to stand in unity against the disunity of what passes for today's supposed Lord's Table, or Remembrance, or Breaking of Bread meetings.

If in John 17, the Lord Jesus himself prays for the unity of the disciples, and by proxy those who would become disciples in the future, unity is important right?

In Acts we see evidence of true communion through having everything in common, and truly bearing the burdens of the brethren that Christ may be glorified, including eating together.

In Luke we see bread being broken with sinners, tax collectors, and pharisees. Then we see the Lord break bread with the disciples on the night of his betrayal. Then we see him break bread with them again after he had risen.

Was Christ fractured into self-serving, compartmentalized, portions of individuality, or was he broken once for all that we may commune with him in the Kingdom?

I must say, I may be completely reactionary and responding to some things I am emotionally invested in working out. But, what I feel I am reacting to can be summed up in the simple purchase of ease, and convenience via individualized, sterile, disposable, longer shelf-life communion cups that include unleavened bread AND juice all in one for celebrating (?) the breaking of Christ's body and pouring out of his blood. Swallow, sip, and toss it away. No muss, no fuss.

Another reason to look at the scripture and ask, is this what it really said?

Jan 14, 2011

Half-baked sacrament or breaking bread?

As early as the late 1st century, and well into the 2nd, we begin to see a form of gatekeeping or table-fencing creeping into the meetings of Christians. If grace is a means received when one partakes of the Lord's Table, eating the bread or drinking the cup, then Christ really is only partly sufficient as a sacrifice no? Then the result would require an administration of the element of grace to those who are seen as worthy would it not? Interesting and yet perplexing thought here if you think about it.
"The Church had come a long way since the Last Supper, and much of it had involved a journey away from, and even against, it's original Jewish recipe. The result was half-baked sacramental theology with too many foreign flavors overwhelming the main ingredient."

-Ben Witherington III, Making a Meal of It: Rethinking the Theology of the Lord's Supper
Now, if the means of grace must be administered properly, then an effective system must be adhered to. Why not implement priests, altars, and appropriate delegates to serve the means of grace as it should be. If the sacrifice is being re-initiated, then the priesthood and temple shall be also. I wonder if this would look anything like the modern evangelical landscape, or would it look like the breaking of bread seen in the assembly of Christians?

Ben Witherington goes on to make another interesting point in Making a Meal of It,

"One wonders what Jesus, dining with sinners and tax collectors and then eating his modified Passover meal with disciples whom he knew were going to deny, desert, and betray him, would say about all this. There needs to be a balance between proper teaching so the sacrament is partaken of in a worthy manner and overly zealous policing of the table or clerical control of it."

What do you think? Is the Lord's Supper really something that has so much liberty of interpretation that we can do it in this way or that way? Or is it really so simple that a plain reading of scripture reveals the manner in which the disciples, and ourselves, should take it?

Jan 13, 2011

Book Review: Come to the Table by John Mark Hicks

Come to the Table: Revisioning the Lord's SupperCome to the Table: Revisioning the Lord's Supper is an interesting treatise concerning the manner in which the Eucharist is observed in modern Christianity. This book takes the reader through a journey from the Scriptural attestation, a brief early Christian witness, and a modern application in 205 short pages. John Mark Hicks' treatment of this debated, diversely observed, and often divisive issue is fair-minded and communicated in a conversing manner. Come to the Table invites the reader to do just that, come and dine with the master, who is host of the table.

The Table discussion has long been a controversial subject amongst believers. The debate of trans-substantiation vs. con-substantiation has raged for ages. Zwingli and Luther debated the manner in which the table was conducted and sparked a reformation dialog the carried on for centuries. Is it really that simple? Or is it actually much simpler? Some questions that lack answers normally, receive an admirable treatment in Come to the Table. Some of them include,
  • What is discerning the body?
  • What is eating and drinking unworthily?
  • What is the table of demons and the table of the Lord?
I really enjoyed this book for it scriptural substance. Hicks is very purposeful in painting the picture of what the Lord's Table was according to Luke, Acts, and 1 Corinthians. You begin to find yourself seated at table with not only the Lord and his disciples, but also with those whom Paul is addressing in Corinth. Giving data from the Old Covenant, showing more clearly the data of the New, and modernizing our approach for today all come together quite well. I also  really enjoyed the audacity that Hicks demonstrates by taking the road less traveled and taking the debate out the picture by stating pretty plainly what scripture is saying.

If I could have my druthers with this book, I would opt for a more systematic approach to the topic. I am not sure that it could do the subject justice, but that tends to be my reading preference anyway. Of all the systematic deductions I have read, this book has gone an extra mile by delivering a simple, logical, and plain view without mucking it all up with presuppositions to support.

This book was much worth the read and if you are interesting in learning more about the Lord's table, maybe even 'revisioning' it, then this book will get you started. Hicks also provides a bit of a practical application guide for believers or congregations who are currently exploring the topic and looking for an example to kick things off with.

Hope you enjoy it, I did!

Jan 12, 2011

Coming up Methodist: Fire in the bones

continued from Coming up Methodist: God’s wonderful plan

Imagine the majesty of a sanctuary built and fashioned in the likeness of Noah’s ark, is intricately designed with sculpted wood, and has acoustics that power the message of any orator well into the vestibule with nary a sight of electronic amplification. It would be beautiful no? The vestige, edifice, and pomp that accompanied the services in that sanctuary over the years have surely done it justice, and the architects must have been proud. David Wilkerson and other circuit riders even used to preach to packed audiences of Christian youth that once populated the numbers of evangelicalism and showed a faint promise that Methodism was being blessed by God.

That was one of my first impressions of “Church.” I was impressed by a building.

Now it has become a hallowed orifice. Revival was only a hope of those who dared pray the Lord would fill the pews with soldiers donning the armor of God. Some would even drop to their knee and pray to the Lord a mighty spirit of proclamation would whisk across the weary saints who still dared to stand for the Kingdom of God. Now the attendance on a given Sunday is a mere trickle compared to its capacity, and another staggering 50% of the formerly mortgaged parcel lay in ruin occasionally intriguing members with its ghosts of a brimming past that once promised life to the congregation. Bearing with it all, the news that one could only surmise, is that this steeple house, has seen her day. She now lay there dying, waiting for her last breath. And yet countless resources are poured into keeping it all going. For what I would ask?

The day I departed the First United Methodist Church of Wayne I felt a great sadness in my heart. I wish I could explain to you what it was exactly, but can only begin to mark it with great burden. The overwhelming feeling of hope that had been born in me the day I made it my home, inherited my new family, made new friends, and became invigorated with the zeal of Christ’s Gospel was a distant shadow. Having a desire to preach the Gospel that had given me life was my sole passion. I could hardly think of much outside seeing the Kingdom be proclaimed, and witnesses encourage other witnesses to not look back from the plow (Lk 9:62). My shoulders bore a weight I could no longer carry, and my prayers, as though they were not being answered, actually were.

Sadly, the church, while teeming with the life of humans who had breath in their lungs, was spiritually gasping for air as the same old same old was the accepted, and yet revered, norm. A fish fry was no place for evangelizing the ‘un-churched’ and council meetings were regularly being held to discuss the squawking of those zealously desiring to proclaim Christ and Him crucified. A thick air of sectarianism could be sensed between what seemed like an organized army dashing the dreams of some barbaric tribal upstart with nothing but hope on their side. Eventually, the upstart limped off into the sunset in defeat, but not in surrender. Even though many were attempting to silence those who were pointing out the obvious offense there is the resonation in the faithful to speak with Jeremiah the Prophet,

If I say, "I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name," there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot.
(Jer 20:9)

How could a place that bore the name ‘church’ be such an enemy of the Gospel of Christ? Would those who faithfully remain, those who genuinely love the Lord, those who would lay down their lives for the Master ever realize that they had been overrun with tares? Can you see the wheat of the field if the tares have outgrown it? Is it plausible that the once potent Methodism of yesteryear had smoldered like a candlewick at its fateful end? One could only imagine, one could only dream, that Christ would revitalize the hearts of those who have chosen ‘church’ over Him. Truly, the first love had become an edifice. Truly, the faint knocking at the door is the Christ calling out to those inside to repent (Rev 3:20) and sup with Him. If the Christ has set the fire in the bones of those who are sent to preach His word, then surely those who seek to quench it cannot possibly be of Christ, can they?

next: Coming up Methodist: Messengers from on high

Jan 11, 2011

Good Ministry, Bad Ministry, You Decide...

Good Ministry: Partaking of the table of the Lord, eating and drinking with the brethren, waiting for those who have not yet come, and seeing to the needs of others with whom you partake. (1 Cor 10:21, 1 Cor 11:20-22, 1 Cor 11:33)

Bad Ministry: Partaking of the table of Demons, forsaking your brethren, and eating and drinking all that you can before anyone else partakes of that which you have brought for them. (1 Cor 10:20-21, 1 Cor 11:18-22, 1 Cor 11:33)

Jan 10, 2011

A Twisted Scripture 2

In the spirit of Alan Knox's "Scripture...as We Live It" series,

But to all who did receive him pray a prayer, who believed in who wore t-shirts bearing his name, he gave the right to become children of God came into their hearts, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of the revivalist, a paid preacher sent by God.
(Joh 1:12-13 Twisted)

Jan 9, 2011

Book Review: The Quotable Chesterton by Kevin Belmonte

The Quotable Chesterton: The Wit and Wisdom of G.K. ChestertonThe Quotable Chesterton: The Wit and Wisdom of G.K. Chesterton is a handy little compilation of quotes, excerpts, and pithy sayings from the renowned, and plenteous works of G.K. Chesterton. The editor, Kevin Belmonte has poured through Chesterton's works, and cleverly arranged them according to topic alphabetically. The book contains not only excerpts of Chesterton's magnanimous labors, but also includes brief interludes and introductions on selected topics scattered throughout.

I have not even known how extensive this man's writing has been until I was exposed to this book. I have not ever read Chesterton. In the exposure that I have had, I do know that he is prolific, honored, and thoughtful. Some may even label him a philosopher. To me, this book was a good primer for all things Chesterton. Having grasped just a few nuggets here and there while diving headlong into extended samples in this book, I feel acquainted with The Quotable Chesterton. I doubt I would ever pull this book out as a venerable reference, but it certainly is worth a glance now and again. To make a long review short, I would recommend this book to anyone who likes books. If you are a Christian, I do not know much of what this mans theology entails, but I am not sure I have heard so much as a gripe against him  for it.

"I received this book for free from the publisher through the BookSneeze.com book review bloggers program for this unbiased review."

Jan 8, 2011

Book Review: The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

The Cost of DiscipleshipThe Cost of Discipleshipby Dietrich Bonhoeffer is not new to the "Christian" book world per se, but it is a new read for me. Technically, I did not read this book, I listened to it. I have never listened to an entire audio book previously, but this was a good one to start with.

One of the forgotten doctrines of this age, an overlooked necessity in modern Christendom, is discipleship. Bidding believers, or would be disciples, to 'come and die' with Christ is a central call of the book. Bonhoeffer, fixes on a position that many in today's evangelical climate would not be intimate with, one that listens to and obeys the words of Jesus Christ.

Stunningly deep at times, this is a book that warrants a second pass in order to fully grasp. Even then, it might be worthy to purchase a paperback copy to wear out. Bonhoeffer's emphasis on personal holiness may put off a few readers who subscribe to free, cheap, unhinged grace, but hopefully, will win them with the work of effort he puts into illustrating true cost counting for Christ.

Leaning on Luther in many instances, Bonhoeffer also offers commentary and correction regarding certain emphases in Reformed doctrine. Being a personal believer that the Reformation was only an instance and not an end-all to Christian principle, this book will encourage you to tread lightly on dogmatic assertions of once-saved-always-saved'ism that lack power and proof and rely confidently on the security and call to discipleship given of our Lord Jesus Christ, to 'come, and follow me."