Christianity 201

January 18, 2015

What Grace Looks Like

John 8:3a The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery.

If you’re unfamiliar with the story, read verses 2-11 by clicking here.

At the end of several of the chapters of Rick Apperson’s book Killed by the Church, Resurrected by Christ there is a section called “What I Learned on the Way to the Resurrection.” These are teachable moments gained from some rather unpleasant church experiences. To learn more about Rick and the book, visit his blog, Just a Thought.

Those caught in the act of sin need to hear and see God’s grace in action.

Who knows what was running through the woman’s mind? As she was dragged into the street where Jesus stood, the Pharisees began eagerly sharing the woman’s sin with Jesus and the people around Him. The woman had sinned. She had been caught in the act—the very act!—of adultery.

Killed by the Church Resurrected By Christ - Rick Apperson“Moses said that, according to the law, she should be stoned,” one of the Pharisees said.

“What do you say, Jesus?”

Stooping down, Jesus took His finger and began writing on the ground.

Again, He was questioned. “What do you say? Should this woman be stoned?”

Jesus stood up and, looking around, said to the scribes and Pharisees, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.”

With that proclamation, Jesus returned to writing on the ground.

The crowd of accusers drifted away until no one was left. Jesus then stood again and asked the woman if there was anyone left to condemn her. When the woman replied, “No,” His response to her echoes as a lesson to us all. “I don’t condemn you either. Go and sin no more.”

I love this passage from John 8. It is one of hope and mercy, grace and truth! Note that Jesus didn’t condone her sin. He told her, in fact, to stop sinning! However, He showed her grace and mercy while also addressing those who would condemn her.

The accusations laid against her weren’t wrong, but the heart motive of her accusers was. Sadly, my motivations weren’t always pure when I confronted someone about their sin. You can also see a poor demonstration of how to treat someone caught in sin when I wrote about my church’s response to the unwed mother.

I think we struggle in the church with how to respond to those whose sin is glaringly obvious. We seem to forget Jesus died for them. His harshest words were for the religious people of the day. Pride and religiosity may be greater barriers to relationship with God than the things we tend to judge in our own minds.

Maybe we’re afraid that by demonstrating grace and mercy we will seem weak on sin. Need that be so? Jesus spoke to the heart, not to the behavior. As demonstrated in the John 8 story, He told her to sin no more, but by His act of mercy, He also demonstrated love!

There is a wonderful passage of Scripture found in Matthew 7:1–5 (NKJV).

Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, “Let me remove the speck from your eye”; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

If we would remember that we ourselves have sinned and been forgiven much, we would find it easier to extend grace to others.

So the next time you feel the need to “help” someone by pointing out their offense, swallow your spiritual pride, check your heart, and show the love of Christ! I say this recognizing that there will be times when we need to speak truth in love, showing a brother or sister their need to repent. Most often though, people know when they are sinning, and our kind words and actions can help them find their way back onto the path of righteousness. As I mentioned before, restoration and redemption should be the end goal. Our desire should be that of seeing a brother or sister restored in their relationship with the King of Kings and Lord of Lords!

~Killed by the Church, Resurrected by Christ pp 26-28


Read a review of the book at Thinking Out Loud

September 10, 2014

Greater Works than these Shall He Do

“…nearly every miracle has a human element…” ~ Mark Batterson

I thought I’d throw a little King James into today’s title.  (I thought it was “shall ye do.”) That’s the way I first heard this verse, but now, as a mature adult, I still find my mind carries the baggage of expectations that like Jesus, I would raise the dead and walk on water. Or greater, right?  Because the verse is about greater. So I appreciated reading what follows from Mark Batterson’s new book The Grave Robber: How Jesus Can Make Your Impossible Possible (Baker Books, Sept. 2014).

Grave Robber - Mark BattersonOne of the boldest statements in the Bible is found in John 14:12:

Whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing and they will do even greater things than these.

Greater things?  It would sound like heresy if it didn’t come from the lips of Jesus.  It’s one of those verses that we tend to rationalize, so let me tell you exactly what it means.   If you follow Jesus, you’ll do what He did.  You’ll seek to please the heavenly Father first and foremost.  You’ll care for the poor, you’ll wash feet, and you’ll offend some Pharisees along the way.  You’ll also traffic in the miraculous.  And it won’t just be as an eyewitness.  It’ll be as a catalyst.  Please believe me when I say, you are someone else’s miracle!

Make no mistake about it:  only God can perform miracles.  So God gets all of the glory.  But as you’ll see, nearly every miracle has a human element.  Sometimes you need to step into the Jordan River, like the priests of Israel, before God will part the waters.  And sometimes you need to wade into the Jordan seven times, like Naaman.  Only God could miraculously heal Naaman’s leprosy, but he would have forfeited the miracle if he hadn’t positioned himself for it by repeated obedience.  So while some miracles take only a single step of faith, others require multiple attempts!  But whether it’s ankle deep or waist deep, you’ve got to wade into the Jordan River.  Sometimes you’ve got to do the natural before God will do the supernatural.

The playground we live on, planet Earth, was designed with natural boundaries that mark the outer limits of human possibility.  The speed of light is the fence line, and the laws of nature are the fence posts.  some of them are well-known, like the law of gravity or Newton’s three laws of motion.  Others are more obscure, like Bell’s theorem.  While those fence posts are constantly being repositioned by scientific research, they establish a borderline between what is possible and what is impossible.  It’s the invisible, impassable fence between the natural and the supernatural, and no human can dig under it, climb over it, or walk around it.  But God has put a gate in the fence.  His name is Jesus.

If you follow Jesus long enough and far enough, you’ll eventually trespass into the impossible.  You’ll turn water into wine, feed five thousand with two fish, and walk on water.  I’m not suggesting that you go walk off the nearest dock and see ho many steps you can take.  God will probably manifest His power very differently for you than He did for the original disciples.  But if you believe what Jesus said, then you’ll do what Jesus did.  The miracles you experience should be even greater than the miracles Jesus performed, in terms of both quantity and quality.

Grave Robber, pp. 25-26

June 22, 2014

Two Testaments, One God

Isaiah 6:1 In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. 2 Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying.

Revelation 4:1 After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.” 2 At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it. 3 And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and ruby. A rainbow that shone like an emerald encircled the throne. 4 Surrounding the throne were twenty-four other thrones, and seated on them were twenty-four elders. They were dressed in white and had crowns of gold on their heads. 5 From the throne came flashes of lightning, rumblings and peals of thunder. In front of the throne, seven lamps were blazing. These are the seven spirits of God. 6 Also in front of the throne there was what looked like a sea of glass, clear as crystal.

Isaiah 6:3 And they were calling to one another:“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty;
the whole earth is full of his glory.”

Revelation 4:8 Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under its wings. Day and night they never stop saying:

“‘Holy, holy, holy
is the Lord God Almighty,’
who was, and is, and is to come.”

Today we feature an excerpt from a new book, God is Near: His Promise to His People by Clark Bunch (Outskirts Press). Read a full review of the book at this link to Thinking Out Loud.

God is Near - Clark BunchThe camp of Israel was often on the move. Sometimes God in the tent became God in the box. The tabernacle was finely made from all of the very best materials, but it was basically a tent. The Ark of the Covenant was expertly crafted from the finest wood and ornately covered in pure 24-karat gold, but at the end of the day it was still a box. It was a very nice box, but yes, God lived in a box.

He didn’t even dwell “inside” the box, but rather on the lid of the box. Inside the Ark of the Covenant, also referred to as the Ark of Testimony, were the stone tablets carved by Moses, Aaron’s staff that miraculously budded, and an omer (small jar) of the manna which fell from heaven each night and fed the Hebrews for 40 years. On top of the ark was the mercy seat, and two cherubim made of solid gold covered the mercy seat by stretching their wings over it. It was on this mercy seat that the high priest would sprinkle the blood of atonement once each year. Only the high priest could do so, and only one time each hear. Let’s recap: God’s dwelling place was on the lid of a box, inside a tent, hidden behind a curtain. Why on earth would he do that? …

…Everything we know about the design of the tabernacle (and later the temple) is patterned after the design of heaven. Isaiah 6 and Revelation 4 both describe God sitting on his throne. One is Old Testament, the other New Testament. One is written in Hebrew, the other in Greek. Both accounts describe visions of the throne room of God, with thunder, lightning, smoke and worship that never ceases. The descriptions of the creatures may vary, but what they say is remarkably similar: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD God.”

Other passages in both Isaiah and Revelation describe a new heaven, new earth, and the city of New Jerusalem. The ark eventually disappears from mention in the Old Testament; the truth is we don’t really know what happened to it. In the New Testament it once again appears before God’s throne in Revelation. The tabernacle design, dictated to Moses by God, is like a scaled-down replica of heaven’s floor plan. There are many parallels between the events of this story and events in the New Testament…

Their story is an allusion to our story. The two are very much related… God is the same yesterday today and forever. The notion that God is angry and vengeful in the Old Testament and merciful and kind in the New is misguided. God gave the Hebrews another chance time and time again. The God of the Old Testament is long-suffering when dealing with mankind. In the New Testament God’s wrath is poured out on sin, as Jesus hangs on the cross. We live today in the Age of Grace but that window of opportunity will one day close. All will stand before the judgment seat as he judges the nations.

The typical hellfire and damnation sermon, all about God’s wrath, may fail to share the Gospel by leaving out grace. We are all sinners, but forgiveness is offered as a gift.

On the other hand, preaching only God’s grace and mercy may also fail to share the Gospel. We must be made aware of sin and our inability to do anything about it before we can accept the gift. God’s wrath and God’s grace are both opposite sides of the same coin. Both covenants, and therefore both testaments of the Bible, share both.

Jesus reprimands the Pharisees for keeping the letter of the Law but not understanding the spirit of the Law. They tithed out of their spice rack but let the widow starve in the street. When asked about the greatest commandment, it is worth noting that Jesus quotes from Leviticus and Deuteronomy. Rather than any one of the Ten Commandments, Jesus says we must love the LORD our God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength, and also love our neighbor as one’s self. It is an eye-opener for many to realize those are Old Testament commands.

Clark Bunch, God is Near; pp. 51; 52-54

April 30, 2013

Intricasies in the Jesus Narrative

The story of Jesus is simply incredibly complex. It seems a simple story and for just a little money you can purchase any one of hundreds of Bible story books which will provide the story to children. But as you dig deeper, even a children’s story you’ve heard many times over reveals layers of significance you never considered.

I’m currently reading Jesus, A Theography by Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola. The use of theography is to suggest that while most stories of Jesus are simple biographies that is, they narrate “from womb to tomb,” this one is attempting to begin with “Christ before the manger,” and then move into eternity. While this isn’t meant to be a book review, I’m not sure the book lives up to its own expectations on this and other fronts.

I’ve mentioned before that the ancients viewed scripture as a multi faceted jewel that revealed more and more with each slight turn; capturing and reflecting and refracting light in infinite combinations. To Sweet and Viola, the preferred image is that of a constellation with phrases from various sections combining to form images.

In the case of John’s gospel, the birth narrative is paralleled to the “I am” statements which are unique to that book.

Jesus A TheographyThe seven I AM metaphorical statements of Jesus in the gospel  of John are followed by their corresponding circumstances in the story of Jesus’ birth:

“I am the bread of life.”
Jesus was born in Bethlehem, which means  “house of bread.”

“I am the light of the world.”
Jesus was born under the light of the star of Bethlehem.

“I am the door of the sheep.”
The doors of the guest house were closed to Mary and Joseph, but the gate to the stable was open.

“I am the good shepherd.  The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.”
Baby Jesus was sought by shepherds looking for a baby wrapped in swaddling bands (used for birth or burial) and lying in a manger.

“I am the resurrection and the life.”
Jesus survived King Herod’s attempt to kill him.

“I am the way, the truth and the life.”
Wise men found their way to him, recognized the truth about him and defied King Herod’s evil plot.

“I am the true vine.”
Jesus was born in Bethlehem Ephrathah, which means ‘fruitful.’

The example above, while not the strongest of the parallels introduced, is fairly typical, and the reader must decide if the this information is significant spiritually or merely reflective of the Bible’s literary value. To the believer and Christ-follower, the Bible has to be more than great literature.

The book is well crafted and well researched and on average, each of the sixteen chapters has about a hundred footnotes. Still, I find a good filter is needed when reading this; each reader has to determine what they want their ‘take away’ to be from each chapter.

Probably more than anything else, the book highlights the issue of reading of Christian books versus only reading the Bible. I am where I am today spiritually because of the influence that Christian writers have had on me. If anything their words have drawn me into a deeper examination of scripture. I am also a strong believer in owning Bible reference material, and I opened the pages of this book fully expecting it to fit into that category.

But instead, I found myself drawn into consideration of matters I would consider secondary issues, and often found my head spinning with the overall complexity of the issues under examination.

Can we know too much? In terms of Bible study is there such a thing as too much information? I believe Jesus: A Theography is on one hand a valuable addition to my library, but on the other hand, it’s important that I not stray too far from the simplicity found in those children’s Bible study books.

Matthew 11:25-26 (NIV)

25 At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. 26 Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do.

Matthew 18:2-4 (NIV)

He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

February 23, 2013

Jesus, The Holy Nomad

To start today, another section from Matt Litton’s book Holy Nomad, The Rugged Road to Joy (Abingdon).

Holy Nomad - Matt LittonReading the Gospels, I discovered that the Holy Nomad is not the least bit interested in the laws and doctrines of religion.  He is more radical than any philosophy of life.  He does not associate himself with a particular political agenda, a government, a race, or even a nationality.  He is not a hip cultural trend, and based on his violent reaction to people setting up storefronts in the temple, not cool with being presented as a business venture to be marketed and sold.  From the way he interacts with the sick and sinful it’s clear that the Holy Nomad is kind and compassionate, but, also obvious from his harsh words with the religious leaders… The Nomad is not safe.

The Gospel of John says that he was present at the dawn of time but broke into human history, climbed into human skin and walked around in it so that we could see and understand the true nature of God, his father.

In this Nomad we find the universe’s source of compassion, the essence of love, the loyal friend, the divine comforter.  In him we meet the intolerance of inequality, and the very power of freedom.  He is the Resurrection, the foundation of life and the leader of the most important invasion in the history of the universe – the invasion of light.

Witnessing the Nomad on the path of the Gospels, I am left believing he must be the source, the antidote for Spiritual Stockholm Syndrome, the one to bring us out of darkness.

But I also discovered again that there is urgency for us to respond to his call.  The gospel of Luke tells us a story of Spiritual Stockholm Syndrome.  It is a poignant scene where several men are asking Jesus what it means to follow:

On the road someone asked if he could go along. “I’ll go with you, wherever,” he said.  Jesus was curt:  “Are you ready to rough it?  We’re not staying in the best inns, you know.”

Jesus said to another, “Follow me.”

He said, “Certainly, but first excuse me for a couple of days, please.  I have to make arrangements for my father’s funeral.”  Jesus refused.

“First things first.  Your business is life, not death.  And life is urgent: Announce God’s kingdom!”

Then another said, “I’m ready to follow you, Master, but first excuse me while I get things straightened out at home.”

Jesus said, “No procrastination.  No backward looks. You can’t  put God’s kingdom off till tomorrow.  Seize the day.”

“When once the call of God comes, ” wrote Oswald Chambers, “begin to go and never stop going.”  These words often remind me of my friend Craig.  They remind me of Jesus breathing on his followers as he sent them to their work.  I wonder how close the Nomad was in those moments and if we could see it – how he breathed on my friend to empower that first step from the cell of addiction.

Perhaps with each decision, every new step, we should take a fuller breath of God’s spirit – the sacred wind that powers our journeys.

For another excerpt from Matt’s book, click here.

October 4, 2012

Grace is Getting More Than We Deserve

John 8 : 2 (NLT) …but early the next morning he was back again at the Temple. A crowd soon gathered, and he sat down and taught them. As he was speaking, the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. They put her in front of the crowd.

“Teacher,” they said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the act of adultery. The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?”

Today’s reading is from the new book by Max Lucado, Grace: More Than We Deserve, Greater Than We Imagine (Thomas Nelson). I love the way he is able to paint a descriptive picture of this familiar text, and offer a fresh take on Jesus writing in the dirt.

Stunned students stood on one side of her.  Pious plaintiffs on the other.  They had their questions and convictions; she had her dangling negligee and smeared lipstick.  “This woman was caught in the very act of adultery,” her accusers crowed.  Caught in the very act.  In the moment.  In the arms.  In the passion.  Caught in the very act by the Jerusalem Council on Decency and Conduct.  “The law of Moses says to stone her.  What do you say?”

The woman had no exit.  Deny the accusation?  She had been caught. Plead for mercy?  From whom?  From God?  His spokesmen were squeezing stones and snarling their lips.  No one would speak for her.

But someone would stoop for her.

Jesus “stooped down and wrote in the dust” (v.6 NLT).  We would expect him to stand up, step forward, or even ascend a stair and speak.  But instead he leaned over.  He descended lower than anyone else – beneath the priests, the people, even beneath the woman.  The accusers looked down on her.  To see Jesus, they had to look down even farther.

He’s prone to stoop.  He stooped to wash feet, to embrace children. Stooped to pull Peter out of the sea, to pray in the Garden.  He stooped before the Roman whipping post.  Stooped to carry the cross.  Grace is a God who stoops.  Here he stooped to write in the dust.

Remember the first occasion his fingers touched dirt?  He scooped soil and formed Adam.  As he touched the sun-baked soil beside the woman, Jesus may have been reliving the creation moment, reminding himself from whence we came.  Earthly humans are prone to do earthly things.  Maybe Jesus wrote in the soil for his own benefit.

Or for hers?  To divert gaping eyes from the scantily clad, just caught woman who stood in the center of the circle?

The posse grew impatient with the silent, stooping Jesus.  “They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up” (v. 7 NLT).

He lifted himself erect until his shoulders were straight and his head was high.  He stood, not to preach, for his words would be few.  Not for long, for he would soon stoop again.  Not to instruct his followers; he didn’t address them.  He stood on behalf of the woman.  He placed himself between her and the lynch mob and said, “‘All right, stone her.  But let those who have never sinned throw the first stones!’  Then he stooped down again and wrote in the dust”  (vv.7-8 NLT).

Jesus wasn’t finished.  He stood one final time and asked the woman, “Where are your accusers?” (v. 10 NLT).

My, my, my.  What a question – not just for her but for us.

~Max Lucado

After reading this again, I thought to add this scripture, suggested in Lucado’s text above:

(NLT)Psalm 103 : 13 The Lord is like a father to his children,
    tender and compassionate to those who fear him.
14 For he knows how weak we are;
    he remembers we are only dust.

October 1, 2012

Living in a Christian World

KJV Ephesians 5:18 …be filled with the Spirit;  19 Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord;

Phillips  Ephesians 5:18 l…let the Spirit stimulate your souls. Express your joy in singing among yourselves psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, making music in your hearts for the ears of God!

NASB Phil. 4:8 Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.

Message – Phil 4:8Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse.

The verses above usually receive a fairly specific application. The first, from Ephesians, has to do with allowing the Word of God (in a parallel Colossians passage) and the Spirit of God to overflow from your heart resulting in worship to God, in this case worship that is specifically musical; with the result that Christianity is essentially “a singing faith.”

The second verse from Philippians is usually used in reference to controlling our thought life; controlling what we allow to control us. Both verses have been referenced here at C201 in their primary contexts.

But today I want to think in terms of the everyday lives we live on Monday morning, after weekend services are over and we’re back to work, or school, or raising children. We spend at the very least an hour on Sunday in the “world of church” or “world of faith.” But many people walk out the door when the service ends and find themselves back in a culture situation that afford no opportunity for “psalms and hymns” and makes it hard to think about things which are “pure, lovely and of good repute.”

Their connection with Christian culture vanishes.

Those of us that blog, or work in vocational ministry at a local church or parachurch organization can be thought to represent one end of a continuum which has, at the other end, people who attend a church, but don’t allow the a Christian “seasoning” to permeate their lives throughout the week.

They possibly don’t read a daily devotional either; in print or online, so we’re not speaking to readers here necessarily.

Now having said that I can anticipate two objections.

The first is that we’re supposed to be “in the world” (though “not of it.”) This means that we’re not to spend our week living in the religious bubble or the Evangelical bubble. We’re expected to be out there getting our hands and feet dirty. Our time at worship before God is a type of retreat from the cares of the world, but then we return to the mission field where God has placed each of us.

The second objection would be that Christian culture, such as it exists, is somewhat flawed. ‘Christian’ is not an adjective that can be layered over music, books, radio, movies, web channels, restaurants, video games, etc. Reading Christian blogs — which I do a lot of — doesn’t make me more spiritual.

And yet, it bothers me that despite these valid objections, there are people who choose to almost abdicate from the world of faith for the other 167 hours of the week. They don’t have a preset for the local Christian radio station, they don’t take advantage of the resources available from online ministries, they don’t read any Christian books in the course of a year. Some don’t read their Bibles all week either; whatever reading is done in the worship service constitutes their only direct contact with the God’s Word throughout the week. (No pressure, pastors; right?)

Personally, I could survive a month on a deserted island with just my Bible, but in general, I need help. I am a better person in terms of my interactions with the world at large if I can approach those interactions with the flavor of faith. I need books to keep me thinking on things that are “true… honorable… right…” and I need music to keep me “singing and making melody to the Lord.”

I’m not trying to justify an industry, or several industries, or those industries’ excesses, but I’m saying that I do believe that at their genesis, there was a noble purpose of fanning the flames of faith; fanning the flames of what the Holy Spirit is already doing in our lives and wants to do.

And I’m concerned for people who are missing out on programs, resources, and opportunities that could greatly enhance their relationship with Jesus and their knowledge of God’s ways.

 

 

July 11, 2012

Build, Pray, Love, Look

I’m currently reading one of a number of “never before published” books based on the writing of A. W. Tozer.  This one is titled The Dangers of a Shallow Faith: Awakening from Spiritual Lethargy, released this year by Regal (Gospel Light). In Chapter 3, he speaks about having a wrong concept about God himself.

If you do not have a right concept of God, of yourself and of sin, you will have a twisted and imperfect concept of Christ. It is my honest and charitable conviction that the Christ of the average religionist today is not the Christ of the Bible. It is a distorted image — a manufactured, painted on canvas, drawn from cheap theology Christ of the liberal, and the soft and timid person. This Christ has nothing of the iron and fury and anger, as well as the love and grace and mercy that He had, who walked in Galilee.

If I have a low concept of God, I will have a low concept of myself, and if I have a low conception of myself, I will have a dangerous concept of sin. If I have a dangerous concept of sin, I will have a degraded concept of Christ. Here is the way it works: God is reduced; man is degraded; sin is underestimated; and Christ is disparaged.

Does this mean we must be tolerant? Actually, men are tolerant only with the important things. What would happen to a tolerant scientist or a tolerant navigator? The liberal religionist simply admits he does not consider spiritual things as vital.

No wonder Jude said the terrible things he said in his epistle to the Church. I recommend you read the book of Jude

…We are not called to always show a smile. Sometimes we are called to frown and rebuke with all long-suffering and doctrine. We must contend for but not be contentious. We must preserve truth but injure no man. We must destroy error without harming people…

A Call to Remain Faithful

(NLT) Jude 1:17 But you, my dear friends, must remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ said. 18 They told you that in the last times there would be scoffers whose purpose in life is to satisfy their ungodly desires. 19 These people are the ones who are creating divisions among you. They follow their natural instincts because they do not have God’s Spirit in them.

20 But you, dear friends, must build each other up in your most holy faith, pray in the power of the Holy Spirit, 21 and await the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will bring you eternal life. In this way, you will keep yourselves safe in God’s love.

22 And you must show mercy to those whose faith is wavering. 23 Rescue others by snatching them from the flames of judgment. Show mercy to still others, but do so with great caution, hating the sins that contaminate their lives.

…Now He’s come to His own — true believers in God and in Christ. And then He gives them four things to do:

  1. Build up — “building up yourselves on your most holy faith…” (v. 20) Do you have a Bible, and do you study it? Have you read a book of the Bible through recently? Have you done any memorization of Scripture? Have you sought to know God or are you looking to the secular media for your religion? Build up yourselves on your most holy faith.
  2. Pray — “praying in the Holy Ghost” (v. 20) I do not hesitate to say that most praying is not in the Holy Spirit. The reason is that we do not have the Holy Spirit in us. No man can pray in the Spirit except his heart is a habitation for the Spirit. It is only as the Holy Spirit has unlimited sway within you that you are able to pray in the Spirit. Five minutes of prayer in the Holy Spirit will be worth more than one year of hit-and-miss praying if it is not in the Holy Spirit.
  3. Love — “keep yourselves in the love of God…” (v. 21) Be true to the faith, but be charitable to those who are in error. Never feel contempt for anybody. No Christian has any right to feel contempt, for it is an emotion that can only come out of pride. Let us never allow contempt to rule us; let us be charitable and loving toward all while we keep ourselves in the love of God.
  4. Look — “looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life” (v. 21) Let us look for Jesus Christ’s coming — for the mercy of the Lord Jesus Christ at His coming. Isn’t it wonderful that His mercy will show forth at His coming? His mercy will show itself then, as it did on the cross; as it does in receiving sinners; as it does in patiently looking after us. And it will show itself at the coming of Jesus Christ unto eternal life.

~A. W. Tozer, The Dangers of a Shallow Faith pp. 44-46

(scripture text added)

June 6, 2012

On the Nature of Benevolence

Today, for C201 post #800, we’re featuring the writing of fellow-Canadian, Jamie Arpin Ricci, who recently blogged an excerpt from his book, The Cost of Community: Jesus, St. Francis & Life in the Kingdom (InterVarsity Press) available at your local Christian bookstore. To read what follows at source, which we always strongly encourage, click over to Of Love and Charity.

Recently I took part in a lively discussion about the word “charity”.  While the intended use of the word in the discussion was referring to “voluntary giving of help, typically money, to those in need”, someone else mentioned that the word “charity” is often used as an explicitly theological term meaning love- specifically agape, the unconditional love of God and/or the love we are called to hold for all others.  I argued that the use of “charity” to refer to “love” is the result of the Vulgate translation of agape- a likely use to differentiate it from sexual love. However, etymologically, “charity” has primarily been used to reference benevolence to the poor.  I contend that the very small segment of Christian usage of the term as love does not accurately represent the words original and most common usage, historically or today.

Be that as it may, the intersection of love and charity became the heart of the discussion.  Jesus said:

“When you give to the needy, do not let you left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is don in secret, will reward you” (Matthew 6:3)

So how should we understand these secret works of righteousness? Interestingly, the Greek word used for “acts of righteousness” is not the same word in every manuscript. Some ancient manuscripts that include this passage use the same word for “righteousness” as the one in the Beatitudes, the righteousness/justice we are to hunger and thirst for. Other manuscripts, though, use an entirely different word meaning “almsgiving” or simply “gifts to the poor.” After shooting off a few e-mails to some Bible scholar friends of mine, I learned that while the best manuscripts use the former meaning (that is, they refer to works of justice), the reason the other meaning is used at times is because the primary “act of righteousness” in the Judaism of Jesus’ day was almsgiving.

The use of both Greek words suggests that Jesus was referring to the Jewish practice called tzedakah, a Hebrew word that loosely means “charity” but has as its root the Hebrew word for justice (tzedek). Rooted in the gleaning laws of their agrarian past, the complexities of the developing economy led to a more sophisticated set of guidelines and requirements about giving to the poor.  However, consistent throughout that development was the central fact that such giving was always to be done anonymously. What we can glean, then, is that while Jesus is commenting broadly on works of justice, most of his listeners would have thought immediately of tzedakah. And given that Jesus continues by directly addressing the practice of almsgiving in the following section, this connection is obviously intentional.

The connection between righteousness/justice and providing for the poor must not be missed or minimized. Its long history in Judaism and Christianity, and Jesus’ clear affirmation of its continued practice, should be more than enough to make us mindful of its significance for the church. As we have explored earlier, it is not uncommon these days for Christians to believe that God calls us to care for the spiritual needs of others, with material needs being of secondary priority (and often a distant second at that). Some even go so far as to say we are not called meet the material needs of the poor at all. However, most would simply minimize such charity as a secondary, less important aspect to the higher spiritual calling of saving souls.

We cannot miss that Jesus makes no such division or distinction between the spiritual and material needs of humanity. The righteousness and justice we are called to hunger and thirst after, and the shalom we are called to create in the world—even in its brokenness—is absolutely concerned with the whole person, in- deed all of creation. The disintegrative nature of sin is being reversed by the work of Christ’s redemption, moving us toward the intended wholeness of creation, reflected in the nature of the Garden of Eden before sin. It was good! Our commitment to Christ and his mission, then, must be equally devoted to the restoration of the whole person and the whole creation.

When we understand the dynamics at work here, we see that Jesus is not teaching anything new in respect to the requirement of giving to the poor (and acts of justice in general), nor are his warnings about doing so to be seen as righteous by those watching us. This was something all good Jews knew to avoid. Something clearly distinguishes Jesus’ admonition. He is not forbidding us from doing works of righteousness before others (which would indeed be a contradiction of his earlier mandate in Matthew 5:13-16), but rather he is warning us against doing such works for the purpose of being seen by others. Once again, Jesus is forcing us to examine the intentions of our heart, for the true nature of our righteousness is found there, not in the act itself. We must live in the tension between the interior formation of our hearts and the ethical behavior it gives birth to. We should not be surprised that this was such a common problem in his day. After all, which of us does not like getting praised for our good works? This is a universal temptation that we all face.

~Jamie Arpin-Ricci

 

Jamie was featured previously here at C201 on January 2nd, 2011 with an article entitled The Biblical Concept of Godly Leadership.

April 16, 2012

Tempted by Good

From Empty Promises: The Truth About You, Your Desires and the Lies You’re Believing by Pete Wilson (Thomas Nelson).

I think I get more questions about Jesus’ teaching in Luke 14 than probably any other text in the Bible:

Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters — yes even their own life — such a person cannot be my disciple.  (vv. 25-26)

What? Hate your mother and father?  Hate your wife? Your children? What was Jesus talking about?

Well clearly he’s not calling us to actually hate our families.  Just a few chapters before this text, when he was asked what the most important law was, he’s quoted as saying, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’ and ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'” (Lk. 10:27)

Later he told his disciples, “This is my command: Love each other.” (Jn 15:17)

So what’s going on here?

First, you need to know that Jesus was using hyperbole. He was using exaggeration to make or reinforce a point — something we do all the time.

The other day my son wanted to go to a basketball game, and I told him we couldn’t go, he said, “But Dad, everybody is going to be there.” Did he literally mean the world’s population of 6.9 billion people would be at that game? No he was exaggerating to make his point and I understood exactly what he meant.

I believe Jesus was doing the same thing when he told his followers to hate their families. He was using hyperbole to say, “All other relationships and activities should pale in comparison to following me.”

In other words, “Don’t take what is good and make it ultimate.”

And isn’t that what often happens with religion?  We take traditions and preferences, which are good and lovely things, and we make them ultimate things. We give them idol status.

After an extended amount of time reflecting on this passage, I once wrote this in my journal: “Pete, your greatest temptation in life will be to chase after not what is ridiculously evil, but what is deceptively good.

While I may not know you personally, I believe this is probably your greatest temptation as well.

You see, Jesus never said you can’t have religious preferences.

There’s nothing wrong with preferring traditional music over contemporary music (or vice versa).

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to go to church in a gym or even under a bridge instead of in a building with a steeple.

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to take Communion weekly instead of quarterly.

There’s nothing wrong with having a heart for social justice, Scripture memory, or being part of a comunity group.

Jesus just said, don’t allow those preferences and traditions to become rules that you force other people to obey if they want to follow him. Don’t take good tings and make them ultimate things.

Another way to say this is: Be careful not to worship a good thing as a god thing, for that is an idolatry thing that will become a destructive thing.

Why? Simply because no religious tradition or preference can purify the sinner’s heart or give eternal life. No law or rule can ever lead to an explosion of love and joy in the human heart. What the Law could not do, God did through his own Son, Jesus. But religion tends to take the focus off what Christ did and put it on our own efforts instead. It tends to make us focus on what’s in the blank of

Jesus + ______

rather than on the cross.

~Pete Wilson; Empty Promises pp. 118-120

Pete Wilson is the author of  Plan B (Thomas Nelson) and pastor of Cross Point Church in Nashville, TN.  He blogs regularly at Without Wax and is on my top five list of people I’d like to be seated next to on an airplane.

April 1, 2012

The Spirit Gives Life

Today marks the beginning of Year Three here at Christianity 201. As I’ve stated before, I began writing this for purely selfish reasons: To keep my personal devotional life grounded and accountable, and to keep from being distracted by the issues, controversies and news stories that characterize tens of thousands of other Christian blogs, including Thinking Out Loud.

I am learning so much in the process of doing this, and I thank all of you who read regularly for your support and comments, and especially those of you whose writing has been “borrowed” to be part of the collection here.


I’ve just started reading Spirit Rising: Tapping Into the Power of the Holy Spirit by Jim Cymbala (Zondervan). His first book, Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire was a unique reading experience simply because the story of what God did and continues to do at the Brooklyn Tabernacle is a very unique story. It’s a church that was birthed into existence through prayer. I’m only a chapter in, but I hope I can whet your appetite for Jim’s writing through this and a couple of other excerpts I’m sure will run here.

First, from the introduction by Francis Chan:

It is the Spirit who gives life. The flesh is of no help at all. (John 6:63)

The Holy Spirit is not merely helpful. He is our only hope. He is the one who gives life. Yet when people lack life, the church often points to other solutions. When church services lack life, we grasp at so many other methods to gry to generate excitement. This is not true at Brooklyn Tabernacle, where Pastor Jim has served faithfully for decades. Their solution to everything is prayer. And it shows…

…We all see problems in the church. We don’t need another book to point those out. We need the faith to believe that the solution is really quite simple: The Holy Spirit.

And from the first chapter by Jim Cymbala

The Holy spirit is God’s agent on earth, yet ye is the least understood, least preached about, and least discussed member of Trinity. And that is sad, because without him, our spiritual lives will always become a dry, mechanical struggle… I can’t think of anything else that will change your prayer life, your study of God’s Word, and your experience during worship in church more than inviting the  Spirit to join you in a new way…

…If you want power, confidence, joy, peace, and more love in your life, ask the Spirit to come in and do something new in you… I promise you that when he does, your spiritual life will cease to be dry and mechanical. Instead, it will be filled with awe at the power of the Spirit and the wonder of God’s goodness.

January 19, 2012

Eugene Peterson on American Christianity

It’s not like this blog to get stuck on a particular writer, but I am so impressed with The Jesus Way by Eugene Peterson; and can’t believe this writer has been so obvious, so in plain sight, yet I’d never read anything beyond his Bible translation, The Message.   In a couple of places he contrasts “the way” Jesus pioneered with the very different state of things in the modern church.  I have a section I want to include here, but will need to type it out manually; so in today’s busy-ness, I’m giving you a similar passage from the publisher’s blog. (Eerdmans)

Here is a text, words spoken by Jesus, that keeps this in clear focus: “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). The Jesus way wedded to the Jesus truth brings about the Jesus life. We can’t proclaim the Jesus truth but then do it any old way we like. Nor can we follow the Jesus way without speaking the Jesus truth.

But Jesus as the truth gets far more attention than Jesus as the way. Jesus as the way is the most frequently evaded metaphor among the Christians with whom I have worked for fifty years as a North American pastor. In the text that Jesus sets before us so clearly and definitively, way comes first. We cannot skip the way of Jesus in our hurry to get to the truth of Jesus as he is worshiped and proclaimed. The way of Jesus is the way that we practice and come to understand the truth of Jesus, living Jesus in our homes and workplaces, with our friends and family.

A Christian congregation, the church in your neighborhood, has always been the primary location for getting this way and truth and life of Jesus believed and embodied in the places and among the people with whom we most have to do day in and day out. There is more to the church than this local congregation. There is the church continuous through the centuries, our fathers and mothers who continue to influence and teach us. There is the church spread throughout the world, communities that we are in touch with through prayer and suffering and mission. There is the church invisible, dimensions and instances of the Spirit’s work that we know nothing about. There is the church triumphant, that “great cloud of witnesses” who continue to surround us (Heb. 12:1). But the local congregation is the place where we get all of this integrated and practiced in the immediate circumstances and among the men, women, and children we live with. This is where it becomes local and personal.

The local congregation is the place and community for listening to and obeying Christ’s commands, for inviting people to consider and respond to Jesus’ invitation, “Follow me,” a place and community for worshipping God. It is the place and community where we are baptized into a Trinitarian identity and go on to mature “to the measure of the full stature of Christ” (Eph. 4:13), where we can be taught the Scriptures and learn to discern the ways that we follow Jesus, the Way.

The local congregation is the primary place for dealing with the particulars and people we live with. As created and sustained by the Holy Spirit, it is insistently local and personal. Unfortunately, the more popular American church strategies in respect to congregation are not friendly to the local and the personal. The American way with its penchant for catchy slogans and stirring visions denigrates the local, and its programmatic ways of dealing with people erode the personal, replacing intimacies with functions. The North American church at present is conspicuous for replacing the Jesus way with the American Way. For Christians who are serious about following Jesus by understanding and pursuing the ways that Jesus is the Way, this deconstruction of the Christian congregation is particularly distressing and a looming distraction from the Way of Jesus.

A Christian congregation is a company of praying men and women who gather, usually on Sundays, for worship, who then go into the world as salt and light. God’s Holy Spirit calls and forms this people. God means to do something with us, and he means to do it in community. We are in on what God is doing, and we are in on it together.

And here is how we are in on it: we become present to what God intends to do with and for us through worship, become present to the God who is present to us. The operating biblical metaphor regarding worship is sacrifice — we bring ourselves to the altar and let God do with us what he will. We bring ourselves to the eucharistic table and enter into that grand fourfold shape of the liturgy that shapes us: taking, blessing, breaking, giving — the life of Jesus taken and blessed, broken and distributed. That eucharistic life now shapes our lives as we give ourselves, Christ in us, to be taken, blessed, broken, and distributed in lives of witness and service, justice and healing.

But that is not the American way. The great American innovation in congregation is to turn it into a consumer enterprise. We Americans have developed a culture of acquisition, an economy that is dependent on wanting more, requiring more. We have a huge advertising industry designed to stir up appetites we didn’t even know we had. We are insatiable.

It didn’t take long for some of our Christian brothers and sisters to develop consumer congregations. If we have a nation of consumers, obviously the quickest and most effective way to get them into our congregations is to identify what they want and offer it to them, satisfy their fantasies, promise them the moon, recast the gospel in consumer terms: entertainment, satisfaction, excitement, adventure, problem-solving, whatever. This is the language we Americans grew up on, the language we understand. We are the world’s champion consumers, so why shouldn’t we have state-of-the-art consumer churches?

Given the conditions prevailing in our culture, this is the best and most effective way that has ever been devised for gathering large and prosperous congregations. Americans lead the world in showing how to do it. There is only one thing wrong: this is not the way in which God brings us into conformity with the life of Jesus and sets us on the way of Jesus’ salvation. This is not the way in which we become less and Jesus becomes more. This is not the way in which our sacrificed lives become available to others in justice and service. The cultivation of consumer spirituality is the antithesis of a sacrificial, “deny yourself” congregation. A consumer church is an antichrist church.

We can’t gather a God-fearing, God-worshipping congregation by cultivating a consumer-pleasing, commodity-oriented congregation. When we do, the wheels start falling off the wagon. And they are falling off the wagon. We can’t suppress the Jesus way into order to sell the Jesus truth. The Jesus way and the Jesus truth must be congruent. Only when the Jesus way is organically joined with the Jesus truth do we get the Jesus life.

~Eugene Peterson

January 17, 2012

One Thousand Gifts

One of the blessings of living in Christian community is the variety of people that you get to meet; the unique individuals who form the body of Christ.  A year ago here we introduced the ministry of Ann Voskamp, and included a short book trailer, but I thought you might appreciate hearing more of Ann’s story. She is the author of the bestselling Zondervan book One Thousand Gifts.

Part two:

January 4, 2012

Brennan Manning Quotations

Brennan Manning (christened Richard Francis Xavier Manning) is an author, monk, priest, contemplative and speaker. Born and raised in Depression-era Brooklyn, New York, Manning finished high school and enlisted in the US Marine Corps, where he fought in the Korean War. When Manning returned to the states, he enrolled at Saint Francis University in Loretto, Pennsylvania. Upon his graduation from the seminary in 1963, Manning was ordained to the Franciscan priesthood.In the late 1960s, Manning joined the Little Brothers of Jesus of Charles de Foucauld, a religious order committed to an uncloistered, contemplative life among the poor. Manning then spent time diversely, transporting water via donkey, as a mason’s assistant, a dishwasher in France, a prisoner in a Swiss jail (by choice), and spending six months in a remote cave somewhere in the Zaragoza desert.In the 1970s, Manning returned the US and began writing after falling into, and climbing out of, alcoholism. 


The Word we study has to be the Word we pray. My personal experience of the relentless tenderness of God came not from exegetes, theologians, and spiritual writers, but from sitting still in the presence of the living Word and beseeching Him to help me understand with my head and heart His written Word. Sheer scholarship alone cannot reveal to us the gospel of grace. We must never allow the authority of books, institutions, or leaders to replace the authority of *knowing* Jesus Christ personally and directly. When the religious views of others interpose between us and the primary experience of Jesus as the Christ, we become unconvicted and unpersuasive travel agents handing out brochures to places we have never visited. ~Ragamuffin Gospel


“The deepest desire of our heart is for union with God.  God created us for union with himself.  This is the original purpose of our lives.”


“My deepest awareness of myself is that I am deeply loved by Jesus Christ and I have done nothing to earn it or deserve it.” ~ Ragamuffin Gospel


“The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians: who acknowledge Jesus with their lips, walk out the door, and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.”


“In a futile attempt to erase our past, we deprive the community of our healing gift. If we conceal our wounds out of fear and shame, our inner darkness can neither be illuminated nor become a light for others.” ~Abba’s Child


“I am deeply distressed by what I only can call in our Christian culture the idolatry of the Scriptures. For many Christians, the Bible is not a pointer to God but God himself… God cannot be confined within the covers of a leather-bound book. I develop a nasty rash around people who speak as if mere scrutiny of its pages will reveal precisely how God thinks and precisely what God wants.” ~ Signature of Jesus


“The defining moments of my life have not been my sins or successes.  They’ve been a depressingly small number of decisions that involved real risk.”


“There is the “you” that people see and then there is the “rest of you”. Take some time and craft a picture of the “rest of you.” This could be a drawing, in words, even a song. Just remember that the chances are good it will be full of paradox and contradictions. ” ~Furious Longing of God


“Everybody has a vocation to some form of life-work. However, behind that call (and deeper than any call), everybody has a vocation to be a person to be fully and deeply human in Christ Jesus.” ~The Wisdom of Tenderness


“Jesus said you are to love one another as I have loved you, a love that will possibly lead to the bloody, anguish gift of yourself, a love that forgives seven times seven, that keeps no record of wrong. This is the criterion, sole norm, the standard of discipleship in the New Israel of God.” ~Furious Longing of God


“The god who exacts the last drop of blood from his Son so that his just anger, evoked by sin, may be appeased, is not the God revealed by and in Jesus Christ. And if he is not the God of Jesus, he does not exist.” ~Above All


But the answer seems too easy, too glib. yes, God saved us because he loved us. But he is God. He has infinite imagination. Couldn’t he have dreamed up a different redemption? Couldn’t he have saved us with a pang of hunger, a word of forgiveness, a single drop of blood? And if he had to die, then for God’s sake — for Christ’s sake — couldn’t he have died in bed, died with dignity? Why was he condemned like a criminal? Why was his back flayed with whips? Why was his head crowned with thorns? Why was he nailed to wood and allowed to die in frightful, lonely agony? Why was the last breath drawn in bloody disgrace, while the world for which he lay dying egged on his executioners with savage fury like some kind of gang rape by uncivilized brutes in Central Park? Why did they have to take the very best? One thing we know — we don’t comprehend the love of Jesus Christ. Oh, we see a movie and resonate to what a young man and woman will endure for romantic love. We know that when the chips are down, if we love wildly enough we’ll fling life and caution to the winds for the one we love. But when it comes to God’s love in the broken, blood-drenched body of Jesus Christ, we get antsy and start to talk about theology, divine justice, God’s wrath, and the heresy of universalism. ~Ragamuffin Gospel


Sources: Good Reads; Quoteland; A Daughter of Grace; Apprenticeship to Jesus; Zedekiah List; After All; Quoting Quotes

November 28, 2011

Prayer Postures

This is a section from Mark Batterson’s new book The Circle Maker: Praying Circles Around Your Biggest Dreams and Greatest Fears, releasing this week in hardcover from Zondervan.  Mark serves as the lead pastor of National Community Church, one church with seven locations in Washington, DC.

Physical posture is an important part of prayer.  It’s like a prayer within a prayer.  Posture is to prayer as tone is to communication.  If words are what you say, then posture is how you say it.  There is a reason that Scripture prescribes a wide variety of postures such as kneeling, falling prostrate on one’s face, the laying on of hands and anointing someone’s head with oil.  Physical postures help posture our hearts and minds.

When I extend out my hands in worship, it symbolizes my surrender to God.  Sometimes I’ll raise a clenched fist to celebrate what Christ has accomplished for me on the cross and declare the victory He has won.  We do it after a great play, so why not during a great song?

During the most recent Lenten season, Parker and I got up a half hour earlier than normal to allow a little extra time to read Scripture.  We also decided we would get on our knees when we prayed.  The physical posture of kneeling, coupled with a humble heart, is the most powerful position on earth.  I’m not sure that the kneeling position betters my batting average in prayer, but it gets me in the right stance.  All I know is this: humility honors God and God honors humility.  Why not kneel?  It certainly can’t hurt.

One of my favourite prayer postures I learned from the Quakers.  I lead our congregation in this prayer frequently.  We begin with hands facing down, symbolizing the things we need to let go of.  it involves a precess of confessing our sings, rebuking our fears, and relinquishing control.  Then we turn our hands over so they are facing up in a posture of receptivity.  We actively receive what God wants to give – joy unspeakable, peace that transcends understanding, and unmerited grace.  We received the fruit and gifts of His Spirit with open hands and open hearts.

There is nothing magical about the laying on of hands or bowing the knee or anointing the head with oil, but there is something biblical about it.  There is also something mystical about it.  When we practice these prescribed postures, we are doing what has been done for thousands of years, and part of thinking long is appreciating the timeless traditions that connect us to our spiritual ancestors.

The church I pastor is absolutely orthodox in belief but somewhat unorthodox in practice.  Meeting in movie theaters makes it difficult to have a lot of High Church traditions.  The movie screens are our postmodern stained glass; the smell of popcorn is our incense.  But just because we don’t practice a lot of extrabiblical religious rituals doesn’t mean we devalue biblical tradition.  Just because we believe the church should be the most creative place on the planet doesn’t mean we devalue tradition.  We aren’t religious about religion, the human constructs created over the generations to surround our faith with rituals.  We do, however, hold religiously to the timeless traditions of Scripture.

 

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