Feb 22, 2011

Neglecting the assembling of the saints: The Meeting Dynamic

In the previous 'Neglecting the assembling of the saints' posts, an intro, and breaking bread, I laid out quite a few points of doctrine that I have been focusing my thoughts and devotions on lately. It may be that I am obsessed with ecclesiology or it may be that I am trying to learn how important the meetings are to the unity and edification of the body. This entry will mainly concern itself with the importance of getting the Meeting Dynamic right.

If we have established, or at least considered, that the primary event in the meeting of the saints is the breaking of bread, then a few questions remain regarding how it all plays out logistically. Admittedly, one is hard pressed to develop a rubric or blueprint that stands alone as a sufficient foundation for all meetings in all places under all circumstances. But, it is obvious, from the pages of scripture, and early church history, that there was a common bond and thread running through the recorded meetings which took place in the churches of the saints. This common thread was the breaking of bread.

Overlooking the seemingly obvious feasting aspect of the meeting, we turn turn our gaze to the current approach to the Christian meeting in contemporary evangelicalism. It is, the "Sunday Service." Excepting to those who would hold the Sunday Service on Saturday, or substitute the meeting for some other day, the coming together in our modern context is similar in most occurrences.
  • Designated place of worship (usually a building/steeple house)
  • Designated order of service (welcome, prayer, singing, sermon, etc.)
  • Designated teacher(s) or clergy
  • Dismissal of the congregation or attendants
Now to the credit of some of those striving to build up the saints through the use of gifts given to "non-clergy" we can appreciate the invention of small groups, cell-groups, and bible studies that are more informal and can at times become involve open dialog rather than monologue. Although these insertions are a step in the right direction, they still do not represent a faithful adherence to scriptural examples of a meeting (or corrections of errors in said meetings, ie., 1 Cor 14:26 and following) where interaction, even spontaneous interaction, may occur.

If indeed the new status quo is the top-down pastorally directed order that we see today, then what impact would practicing the breaking of bread we see in the New Testament have on the meeting dynamic we currently see and practice today? I would conclude that there are negative and positive aspects. Whether they are seen as negative or positive, however, depends on your perspective.
  • Relationships with believers you do not know would be formed
  • The focus would be on body unity and not body separation
  • People will get to know you intimately
  • Having things in common, treating each others homes as if they are your own would be the norm
  • Time-frames and schedules would be difficult to adhere to
  • The brethren would bear the burden of ensuring the public reading and teaching of doctrine, relieving the chore of a singular individual to do it week in and week out
  • Brethren would be more compelled to bear one another's burdens
  • The weaker members would be more difficult to ignore and neglect
  • You would have to share your food with others
These are just a few of the things which would accompany a meeting that resembles the New Testament practice of "breaking bread." Of all these, I believe they may be summarized in this statement...

"...we as Christians would be required to step outside of ourselves, our individualism, and our selfishness and become genuine members of a functioning, living, breathing body, and that body is Christ's."

Feb 21, 2011

Book Review: Ultimate Allegiance, The Subversive Nature of the Lord's Prayer by Robert D. Cornwall

Ultimate Allegiance: The Subversive Nature of the Lord's PrayerThe second entry of the Energion Areopagus Series is Ultimate Allegiance: The Subversive Nature of the Lord's Prayer by Robert D. Cornwall. This entry in the series takes on the content of the Lord's Prayer as written in a series of sermons that were once delivered by Mr. Cornwall during the 'Lenten season.' Regardless of denominational affiliation, the Lord's Prayer is profoundly familiar to many believers and is easily one of the most recited. In sixty short pages, Cornwall addresses each stanza of the prayer as it was once taught to the inquiring disciples several thousand years ago. There is a catch however. Cornwall stands firmly on the premise that the prayer itself has a different agenda. Instead of rote liturgical repetition, the prayer really is an example of the disciple seeking his true and proper place and subverting himself to God the Father through Christ the Son in allegiance to the Kingdom of God.

Ultimate Allegiance spells out much of what I have been finding to be the most challenging in my own studies of the scriptures these days. Mr. Cornwall highlights the subversive nature of this prayer and brings a view not often seen at first glance. What I enjoyed most about this book is that it remains in line with the proclamation of the Kingdom of God, and in likewise manner is consistent with the teachings of Jesus to followers living in a Roman ruled empire. That fact alone illuminates statements like hallowed be your name, thy kingdom come, and forgive us our trespasses. He also goes on to elaborate on the phrases that are not scriptural in and of themselves but are additions added through years of Christian repetition and practice, like for thine is the kingdom, the power, and glory forever, and other ancillary additions. But of most importance, Mr. Cornwall remains diligent in bringing truth to the subversive nature of the Lord's Prayer, the true example of radical transformation of self, others, and the world around you through submission and obedience to God. As the title of the book proclaims, the prayer teaches us where our Ultimate Allegiance should lay.

This book comes highly recommended for those interested in new insight provided for this prayer. As Mr. Cornwall attempts to address the dryness of this prayer in congregations across the land and within his own life as well, he plainly accomplishes his initial objective to make this prayer living, breathing, and power filled for the life of the one who prays  it. Most importantly, the central theme of the prayer aims to glorify God. The book is inexpensive, short to read, and deep in content, well worth the investment on all accounts.

I received this book in exchange for a review from Energion Publications. No books were harmed in the reviewing of this title. You can order this book at Amazon or from Energion Direct (which offers free shipping).

A reminder from NorthRidge Church

I write this to voice my concern over a piece of literature I came across from NorthRidge Church. (If you are not a local reader of this blog, you can visit NorthRidge Church's website and see what they are all about, or at least what their website conveys.) The item in question is a reminder card given to new members being prepared for membership a few years back. I am not sure if it is still being used today. I dug it up in an old bookmark box trying to find a placeholder for a new book I am reading. Rather than scan and post the original, the table below will suffice. The glossy 2.5" wide by 5.5" tall (apx.) card reads,

Side 1
Side 2
Our Strategy (The Spiritual Journey)

I.                    The Journey to Faith:  SALVATION

1.       Build Relationships
2.       Live and Share Faith
3.       Invite: To Weekend Services and Events
4.       Persist One-at-a-time
Our Strategy (The Spiritual Journey)

II.                  The Journey to Full Devotion: SPIRITUAL GROWTH

1.       Attend Weekend Services
2.       Attend New Life Services
3.       Connect: to NorthRidge Groups
4.       Serve: in NorthRidge Groups
5.       Give: ‘excel in the grace of giving’

and this is what I see,

Side 1
Side 2
Our Strategy (Growing NorthRidge)

I.                    The Journey to Faith: NORTHRIDGE

1.       Build Relationships
2.       Live and Share NorthRidgianity 
3.       Invite to NorthRidge
4.       Persist One-at-a-time until they come to NorthRidge
Our Strategy (Growing NorthRidge)

II.                  The Journey to Full Devotion: NORTHRIDGE PIETY

1.       Attend NorthRidge
2.       Attend NorthRidge
3.       Connect: to NorthRidge
4.       Serve: in NorthRidge
5.       Give: your money to NorthRidge

Anyone else seeing this?

Disclaimer: I am not a critic of NorthRidge church for the sake of being a critic. I am however, deeply perplexed and disturbed by the true message that is promoted by this establishment. I am afraid, that it is no gospel at all. Just because the name of Jesus is on it, doesn't mean he's in it.

Feb 20, 2011

Good Ministry, Bad Ministry, You Decide...

Good Ministry: Walking with confidence in the Son of God, the light of the world without fear of the world because Christ has overcome the world, and seeking to do the will of God, proclaiming liberty to the captives. (John 11:9)

Bad Ministry: Seeking to live according to the power of the flesh, refraining from being seen in the light because the light exposes your true deeds, and walking without the light of Christ in you. (John 11:10)

Feb 19, 2011

A Twisted Scripture 6

I am the living bread matzo cracker which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread cracker, he shall live for ever let him always attend communion: and the bread cracker that I will give is my flesh communion, which I will give for the life of the world only those that attend communion. (John 6:51 Twisted)

Feb 8, 2011

Book Review: Fasting, The Sacred Practices Series by Scot McKnight

Fasting: The Ancient Practices (Ancient Practices Series)Admittedly, I am intrigued by the topic of fasting. As sparse the evidence in the New Testament may be for pragmatism, I honestly believe the symphony of scripture provides plenty examples for our own personal implementation. What is addressed in this particular book treating the topic, is obviously anecdotal. What exactly is fasting, its past manifestations and origins, its contemporary examples, and just how do some of humans conduct ourselves while doing it? Jews, Christians, Muslims, and many other world religions, practice fasting. The question this book seeks to answer is, what in the world is your point? If you are fasting, is it to convince God to create a result in your favor? Or do you fast in response to something requiring the practice of body submission?

This is the first time reading any works by the author Scot McKnight. This particular offering was well balanced and demonstrated scholarly aptitude worthy of examination. At times, the book does begin to smell of ecumenism, but only to the extent of acceptance of ancient Catholic scholars and authorities on the practice of fasting. The author also systematically treats the various pros and cons related to the abundant forms of fasting we see occurring today. One of the examples treated in the book are a comparison of abstinence to fasting. This reminded me of my employment with McDonald's Restaurant and the purposeful marketing of the Double Filet O'Fish during Lent. It was amazing how many fasting Christians would demonstrate their piety with their manners and super-sized fish meals. I mostly enjoyed this book and found it interesting to see a fair treatment of the variety of fasting one could observe in practice in most every given circumstance fasting occurs.

In Fasting, The Sacred Practices Series by Scot McKnight, you will find that he is consistent with his thesis, critically treats the text, and concludes the book with a fair view of the 'medical' impact fasting has on the human body. The most interesting nugget of them all came in knowing that physiologically, the human body can hold out during a fast for 40 days before all things go haywire. Pick this book up today if you are at all interested in learning about fasting and what it really is about biblically. Hint, it is not about what you will get, it is about why you do it. Sorry Jentezen Franklin, I'm going to have to go with the Anabaptist Scholar on this one.

I received Fasting: The Ancient Practices Series as part of the Book Sneeze program in return for posting an unbiased review.

Feb 4, 2011

For the first time ever...

I think I might have broken a record. For the first time at Deliver Detroit I have posted for four weeks in a row. That is twenty-eight days straight. Just thought I would tell you that.

Oh, and because I wanted to maintain my integrity and excellence in persistent blogging, I had to boast in this post, because my mind is toast right now.

I have nothing.

See you tomorrow.

Feb 3, 2011

A Twisted Scripture 5

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

In the same way, let your light the Pastor's sermon shine before others at church on Sunday, so that they may see your good works his exegetical prowess and give glory to your Father who is in heaven his seminary training. (Matthew 5:16 Twisted)

Feb 2, 2011

Bible study software: The Word

Have you heard of The Word? Not bird....The Word! Apparently, while trolling around the internet looking for E-Sword modules, I discovered a dissenting E-Sword user's website who is actively promoting The Word in protest of Rick Myers. Of minor note, E-Sword has also recently released it's software with a module down-loader built right into the software. It tells you what modules are installed and which ones currently available that you do not posses.

The Word appears to be a fantastic alternative to the E-Sword free bible software. Over the years, E-Sword has been unprecedented in bringing bible study software to the masses for free, while be comparable to many of the paid modules on the market.

Some of the functions I really enjoy are the enhanced graphical interface, the plethora of free modules and resources available, the compatibility with E-Sword modules (has a built in module converter), and the portability of the USB option. You can install the entire module library, plus the software on a single USB drive and take your Bible software and library anywhere you go.

I have also been able to successfully run The Word with the WINE program for MAC OS/X as if it were operating in it's native PC environment. So double the freebie value and now you have double sweetness!

I will be adding the links for this awesome resource to the "resource" tab here at the blog for future use.

So before you check it out, here are some of the highlights from The Word website include,

Fast and responsive
Tired of waiting for the program to follow you? Afraid of trying out new things? Not any more!
Configure everything
Tailor the software to your liking. Rearrange everything, configure every little detail to your heart's liking.
Everything for free
Unless you try it, you will not believe that free software can be of such quality. No catches, no ads, no nags, no registration, not even your e-mail to download.

Write down your notes!
Add notes to verses, chapters, whole Bible books or create you own personal hierarchical books. Highlight your favorite Bible passages. Edit, print, share you own modules.
Take it with you
The Word is portable! You can put it on a USB flash drive and carry your favorite Bibles, Books and personal notes wherever you go.
Enjoy an ever-growing library
Expand your library with many add-on modules, most of which would cost hundreds of dollars to buy.

Feb 1, 2011

Neglecting the assembling of the saints: Breaking bread

Yesterday I brought up a foray of topics in an attempt to clear the cavernous recesses of my mind. It did not work too terribly well, as it is still pretty dusty up there. But, I shall keep trying!

I would like to provide a synopsis of the three topics breaking bread, the meeting dynamic, and apostolic ordinance/tradition in 1st Corinthians. It is my hope that my study into the topics can spark discussion and hopefully enlighten myself, my readers, and others to glean from the scripture what I feel has richly blessed me as of late. The freedom of allowing the text to speak for itself is a wonderful experience. Before you think I am going all froo froo on you, do not fret, I am far from it.

Why is breaking bread so important to me right now? Well, there appears to be significance in the meals that transpire in the scripture when Jesus is present. I may be reaching at times, but It is a faithful reach. It is a reach that I believe seeks to be obedient to the custom in which our Lord implemented the practices that bore out our modern day Lord's Table.

For example, take note of the following scriptural examples from Luke's gospel, and as you reference them, ask yourself, what kind of meal is taking place, who is at the table/meal, what purpose does it serve, and what was the outcome of our Lord's teaching/purpose?

Luke 5:27-32, Luke 7:36-50, Luke 9:10-17, Luke 10:38-42, Luke 11:34-54, Luke 14:1-24, Luke 19:1-10, Luke 22:7-38, Luke 24:13-35, and Luke 24:36-53. (note: if you do not read these texts with the question above in view, you will be wasting your time)

One must also consider the Exodus account of the Elders ratifying a covenant with the Lord, at table, in his presence in Exodus 24:1-12. The Lord's final meal with his disciples and the meal between God and the Elders of Israel bear an uncanny similarity to one another.

Now that we see a pattern of bread breaking and fellowship at table in Luke, it logically makes sense to carry this context of what 'breaking bread' is into the account of Acts. Now compare  Luke 24:5-46 to Acts 20:7-12. Luke genuinely draws a striking paradigm between the two accounts, and they all entail coming together, breaking bread, eating together, the first day of the week, conversation, teaching of the word, and rising from the dead.

With the significance that is given to the contemporary practice of 'communion' this is not a subject that is often broached without raising a few eyebrows. Tradition, liturgy, and sacred rite are all things that can flare tempers and encroach upon individual preference. I am not sure the excuse of Christian Liberty finds itself wholly applicable to the disservice done to the body dynamic of God's people when they come together to break bread. The scriptural evidence is quite clear. The breaking of bread is a meal with God's people, gathered together, at table, in covenant with Christ, and remembering him. That meal was quite literal to our Lord, the disciples, and many other early Christians. Why has it become second place to us, and been relegated to oyster crackers and souffle cups of grape juice?

If the emblems have taken on more significance than the purpose of coming together in communion together and with the Lord, then why do it at all? The Church gathered is significant because the Church dispersed is the Church militant, diligently laboring in the fields for the harvest of our great King.

Special thanks to John Marks Hicks' book, Come to the Table for the light it has shed on many of the scriptural nuances illustrated in this post.