Contend Earnestly: March 2010

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Incarnational Ministry and the Unique, Incarnate Christ: Part I

I was sent this by a friend of mine, Mike Gunn. Mike is the director of Acts 29 International and also still preaches at Harambee and is one of our pastors/elders. The opening is his introduction to the piece and the actual article was written by J. Todd Billings for Modern Reformation. Enjoy.

I have used the word "Incarnation" quite a bit these past 5-10 years. My main intent in using it is to flush out verses such as John 20:31 in which Jesus says, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent Me, so I am sending you!" It is to express the need to cross cultures, and barriers to reach others for the gospel much like Paul seems to claim in 1 Corinthians 9 when he says, "I am all things to all men in order to win a few." Obviously we are called to be "In the world...but not of it" (See John 17), but what does that mean, and can we truly "Be" Jesus to others like we hear so often? Is that possible? Yes, we are to love like He loved, and give like He gave, but is "Like" a good word? Do we love "Like" He did? Do we give "Like" He did? What does it mean to be "Incarnational?" Below is an interesting article from The Modern Reformation written by J. Todd Billings (March/April 2009). Read closely Incarnational Ministry and think hard, it just may challenge your thinking! Ouch!

Mike Gunn

Incarnational Ministry and the Unique, Incarnate Christ
By J. Todd Billings

The term "incarnational ministry," like "missional" or "Emergent Church," is used in a wide variety of ways. Sometimes "incarnational ministry" means ministry that crosses cultural barriers to be an embodied presence to people in need. At other times, it's used to talk about culturally relevant analogies for the gospel. In still other contexts, "incarnational ministry" has become shorthand for affirming that intellectual assent to faith is not enough-faith needs to become embodied and "incarnate" in acts of love and service, as in the earthly ministry of Jesus. It is understandable if you find these different uses of the phrase puzzling. For in its common evangelical usage, "incarnational ministry" often has surprisingly little to do with the unique Incarnation of the Word made flesh in Jesus Christ. For instance, surely Muslim, Jewish and other religious practitioners would affirm that faith should be made manifest in concrete, physical acts of love and service. But these persons would not affirm the Incarnation of the eternal Word made flesh in Jesus Christ.

This leads us to a question underlying the coupling of the term "incarnational" with "ministry." What is the relationship between the one Incarnation, and the activity and ministry of the church? Should our ministries be guided by analogies between the Incarnation and our own Christian lives?

As Timothy Cowin-one missional blogger-suggests, the Incarnation is important for ministry because it teaches that "Jesus came to physically be with us" to show the Father's love to tax collectors and sinners, seeking not to retreat from culture but to "penetrate" it. The Incarnation applies to us because "the missional church sees its mission as the same as the Lord's." Stated differently, for Cowin, the Incarnation is about engaging in a set of inclusive and loving activities (like in the ministry of Jesus), since the mission of Jesus Christ is the same as our own.
Although Cowin makes some legitimate points about the church's calling to be in but not of the world, approaches like this one risk missing a profound truth of the gospel that the Incarnation is utterly unique. Whereas it may sound empowering for us to have the "same" mission as Jesus in the Incarnation, there is a subtle but profound danger in this incarnational analogy. It is God alone who saves, and God alone saves through the Word that takes on flesh in Jesus Christ. The Incarnation is not a pattern of activities that we copy. The Incarnation is unique-it is not simply a truth that Jesus lived a self-sacrificial life, but that the eternal Word became incarnate in this man Jesus who lived such a life. The Incarnation is a reality without which the ministry of Jesus, his death, and his resurrection would have no significance for our salvation. As such, the Incarnation is a central, constitutive truth of the gospel.

Yet, there is something right about those who seek to recover the doctrine of the Incarnation and its implications for our lives and ministries; there is something right about the sense that we should not enter into ministry in a prideful way that looks down upon others rather than serves others; there is something right about the calling to cross-cultural barriers for the sake of the gospel. In order to explore this further, I will examine how the incarnational analogy has functioned in evangelical missiological circles. After this analysis, I will point to one area in which I think analogies can be made from the Incarnation that do not compromise its uniqueness or centrality; finally, the article ends by drawing upon the wisdom of the Heidelberg Catechism in articulating the ways in which we participate in Christ and his mission, and the ways in which our mission remains distinct from that of Jesus Christ himself.

A common example of the use of "incarnational ministry" in missiological circles comes from a widely used textbook, Ministering Cross-Culturally: An Incarnational Model for Personal Relationships, by Sherwood Lingenfelter and Marvin Mayers.

In Ministering Cross-Culturally, Lingenfelter argues that the Incarnation has profound consequences for cross-cultural ministry. Jesus came into the world as a "learner," needing to learn about Jewish language and culture. Like a careful anthropologist, he studied the culture of his people for thirty years before he began his ministry. Key to the rationale for this position is the Christ-hymn in Philippians 2. In Lingenfelter's rendering, although Jesus Christ was "in very nature God," he identified with humanity and human culture, taking "the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness" (Phil. 2:6-7). In fact, Jesus not only completely identified with humanity but with Jewish culture in particular. Thus, Lingenfelter sees the Incarnation as the model for incarnational ministry, for Jesus was "a 200 percent person": "he was 100 percent God and 100 percent Jew."

Lingenfelter goes on to make a direct analogy with our own ministry: we should seek to become 150 percent persons, becoming less like persons of our own culture and more like persons of the culture to whom we seek to minister (thus 75 percent of each culture).

Lingenfelter has legitimate and pressing missiological concerns that underlie his use of the incarnational analogy. He has seen the tendency of Western missionaries to retreat to their safe missionary compounds, rather than approaching the receiving culture with humility and respect. He has seen how this action-of distance, rather than humble engagement-distorts the message that Christian missionaries try to communicate. Thus, the Incarnation seems like an attractive analogy to inspire missionaries to acquire a posture of learning and cultural engagement.

Copyright © 2010 White Horse Inn

(the conclusion to this paper will come tomorrow along with the end notes)

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3 Tips on How to Hate and Build Walls

Most wouldn't admit it, but many of us practically hate others by the showing of our actions towards them. Whether it is homosexuals, democrats, republicans, people of other races, Muslims, the guy next door who keeps borrowing your stuff and not returning it, or even for a lot of others...Christians. Personally, I am a white, totally Western, businessman, follower of Jesus, moderate and I am the guy who borrows every tool I can get my hands on from my next door neighbor (although I return them). I keep talking about how to love your enemies, but I figured today, I could teach you just the opposite: how to continue to hate your enemies and how to build walls instead of bridges.

1. Read Articles and Books From Others Who Hate Your Enemies

This is one of those things that makes it easy to continually hate your enemies. Just find things written by those with your same convictions, stick your head in those words and don't look up. I have never seen more hatred and prejudices happen than from those who just read from those with their same convictions. Let's be honest, if someone is published, they must be an expert on those that you hate. You can easily live out your hatred by living through someone else's experiences. Why go to Africa when you can look at someone else's pictures? Whatever you do, don't read the opposite view of your enemy, don't read from those who have actually learned to love and befriend your enemy, and don't read anything from those whom you would consider to be your enemy. If you do, you might actually start to understand where they are coming from and that would really suck because you might start hating them less.

2. Stay in Your Bubble, Don't Befriend

The one thing we know is that the more you get to know someone, the less likely the chance you'll hate them or be prejudice against them. So, whatever you do, stay away from them. If ignorance breeds fear, stay ignorant. Keep your face in the books, but whatever you do, don't get to know any of them. And, not only this, if you happen to know someone that is "them" and they were nice, tell yourself that was just an aberration. If you happen to know one of "them" that was evil, make sure you make that the norm for all those you hate. If one of them is like that they must all be like that. Friendships with other people groups, other faiths, other convictions on politics or religions, is just dangerous. I mean, what if you actually start to like them? What if you start to them? Worse, what if you become one of them? You must protect yourself from them, because they are the enemy and can't be trusted. They should be like the lepers in the Old Testament who were commanded to scream "leper" as they went through the crowds so no one would be infected. You? You are always right and your perspective on things has nothing to do with your culture or with how you were brought up. The way you think and process information is because you are right. So, just to make sure, when you walk out to get the mail, or when you go to the mall to buy your hate literature, climb in your bubble and get a look on your face that would rival any dog with rabies.

3. Don't Pray for Their Blessing

Jesus tells us the way to love our enemies. He tells us to pray. He didn't tell us to pray something like this:

Dear Lord.
Could you make Sally just like me? She is sinful and dumb. She needs to be just like me, and if she was, I know that you would love her more. Could you forgive her of her sins and open her eyes to how despicable she is? Can you turn her from her ways of ignorance into the light that I obviously always see? Show her the sin that is so apparent in her life and have her come to me and apologize, that way, we could be friends.

Thank you Jesus for loving me more than Sally...she is so blinded.


If you keep praying that, you'll be able to continue to harbor hatred and build walls. So, keep praying that. Since you are right, and they are obviously wrong, they should become just like you. We know that they are the enemy and we are the chosen of God whom he is well pleased. Whatever you do, don't pray for their blessing. Jesus tells us how to love our enemies by specifically praying for their blessing. He knows that if we do this for our enemies and we truly mean it, it will be very difficult to hate them and we'll only want the best for them. That is just way too dangerous, and won't help harbor our hatred, so refrain from such prayers and thoughts.

I believe if you can take these three principles and stick to them, you'll continue to hate and continue to build walls. If there is a God, he must have an enemy. We call him the devil, Satan, Beelzebub. We know that whoever we are, that God is on our side and all others are of Satan. We know this because we love to read about them, continually refrain from engaging them and we love to pray that they would convert to look like us in every way. Keep this up and hatred will prevail.

One problem with this thought process:

Now it came about when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, a man was standing opposite him with his sword drawn in his hand, and Joshua went to him and said to him, “Are you for us or for our adversaries?” He said, “No; rather I indeed come now as captain of the host of the Lord.” And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and bowed down, and said to him, “What has my lord to say to his servant?” The captain of the Lord’s host said to Joshua, “Remove your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did so.
Joshua 5:13-15

Maybe we shouldn't be concerned on whose side God is on, but the question should really be, "Are we on God's side?" Are we breeding hatred? If so, God is not on our side, but we are on Satan's.

If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also.
1 John 4:20-21

I implore you to look to do what Jesus called us to do:

Love, pray for and bless our enemies. To love God with all our hearts, souls and mind and to love our neighbors as ourselves.

Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God

Matthew 5:9


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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Sho Baraka's New Album: Lions and Liars


Thats right Sho Baraka's Lions & Liars is available in stores now! Featuring Lecrae, JAMM, Trip Lee, Tedashii and many more. Pick it up your copy at Walmart w/bonus tracks for only $9.99

Also available at:
Family Christian, LifeWay, Berean, and Mardel Christian stores

Deluxe versions are available here. There are five versions to choose from.

For more information on Sho Baraka visit

For promos and snippets go here

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Audio from Muslim and Christian Dialogue

Here is the audio from the dialogue we had at Harambee this past Saturday. If you have any questions in what was said, let me know. I can also make the powerpoint that was used for Michael's part available if you want it. Just let me know. Thanks to MAPS Redmond for the following photoraphs. If you would like to see the full flikr stream, click here.

Imam Joban’s Presentation on Islam and Jesus in the Qur'an

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Monday, March 29, 2010

My Reaction to the Muslim & Christian Dialogue

:::If you want to see more pictures of the dialogue, click here...blogger is having issues right now in uploading photos:::

Saturday night we had a dialogue at Harambee between Muslims and Christians called, "Who is Jesus?". We were not sure how popular this type of thing would be. I spoke to my friend, who is the President of Seattle CAIR, and he told me this was the first of such dialogues he has heard of between Muslims and Christians with a conservative theology church in the Northwest. There has been many dialogues or meetings between liberal churches and Muslims, but none to his knowledge with those of the historical orthodox Christian faith.

What happened was nothing short of the providence of our God. Over 250 Muslims and Christians showed up for the event. Not only that, but one of the concerns was that if we did have a big showing, that one "side" might be overwhelming in attendance with the other having little to show for. But, it felt that it was about 50/50 between Muslims and Christians. As far as the congregations from the Muslims, I know that there were at least 5 Masjids/Islamic Centers represented from the Islamic Center of Kent, Olympia, Eastside, Seattle and Muslim Association of Puget Sound. There might have been more, but these were the ones I know of. As far as churches, I know that at least 6 different churches were in attendance. There was Harambee, First Presbyterian Church of Bellevue, Oikos Fellowship, Highlands Community Church, Northshore Baptist Church and Spring of Life Slavic Baptist Church.

The evening started with Christians seeing the hospitality of our Muslim friends. As they showed up, food and more food showed up as well. There was a wedding that some attended beforehand, and they brought what seemed like all the leftover food from the wedding. My wife was with me and she was a little nervous just because she desired to be culturally sensitive and didn't want to offend those we were hosting. After helping setting up the food with some of the Muslim women, my wife's demeanor completely changed. She was very excited to be able to speak with these women, share some laughs, frustration (because of the amount of food and confusing menu items) and even made some new friendships with these women.

The fellowship beforehand was awesome, as I pretty much expected. I met many new Muslim friends, introduced many to others and saw many of my Christian and Muslim friends sharing stories and lives together. Two of the men that I met beforehand work right around the corner from me, so we are going to try and get together for lunch or coffee to extend our conversations from the evening.

After fellowship, and adding many chairs, sofas and tables for the event to house all the guests, the night continued.

Michael Ly stood up and told a couple of stories of his interactions with Muslims and how his view of Muslims changed drastically when his wife had their first baby. One of their neighbors, being a Muslim, came over and said that they knew that Michael and Shannon didn't have any family in the area and in their culture when a woman has a baby the new mother does nothing besides care for the mother for 40 days. Knowing she was in a different culture, the Muslim woman asked if she could care for her for the next week, allowing Shannon to just concentrate on the baby. This love and hospitality from the Muslim woman struck a cord with Michael and Shannon and the understanding of them challenged the Lys.

Michael went on to give his presentation on "Who is Jesus?" from the Christian perspective. The presentation was one that involved showing our understanding that whether one is a Christian, Muslim, or whatever, it didn't matter, everyone needs to know the straight path to the Kingdom of God. He then went to show how through Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, Jonah and John the Baptist, God was always giving us a sign pointing to the greatest sign that was to come in the sacrifice of Jesus the Messiah. It was a clear presentation and one that was highly focused on showing more than just our beliefs, but showed how we see Jesus as the clear sign given by God from the Old Testament.

After Michael was done presenting, it was time for the Maghrib, or the prayer (salah or salat) at sunset. We cleared the bottom tier of Harambee and the Muslims prayed. It was pretty awesome to have Christians have the opportunity to see the Muslim prayers up close. Not only that, but one of the Muslim leaders gave a quick explanation of what happened afterwards and so did Imam Joban during his presentation.

After the Maghrib, it was time for Imam Joban's presentation of Islam's view of "Who is Jesus?" I have to be honest, Imam Joban's presentation, for the first 30 minutues wasn't "Who is Jesus?" but could have been titled, "What is Islam and Why Should You Trust in the Qur'an?" It was a little odd, but even so, Imam Joban was a great presenter and very funny. When he got through the first 30 minutes of trying to convince us to trust in the Qur'an (which I actually didn't mind hearing at all, just wondered if if should have been done at a different time) Imam Joban gave us some information of who Jesus is in the Islamic understanding. I felt like Imam Joban was very clear and didn't pull any punches. As one who follows Jesus, it is hard to hear what others think of Jesus, but this is always the tension in a dialogue. I am sure it was difficult for some of the Muslims to hear what Michael Ly presented as well. But, I believe the tension is fine as long as loving our God and neighbor is supreme.

After the presentations were completed, it was time for the tables to discuss what was presented or just anything of interest between the two faiths. I loved this time. Our table was one to where we were able to have conversation of our two convictions and just some questions from each faith. One of the Muslims that I met beforehand was at our table and one of the women Stacy met was at our table as well. We went through John 9 and I was able to give a quick history lesson that led to this discussion between Jesus and his disciples.

We also spoke about:

Do Christians believe Adam was forgiven? (which was because of the difference of convictions of imputation of Adam's guilt)

Do you have to be Muslim to go to heaven?

Why 5 prayers?

What is the Injeel?

What do the Muslims and Christians believe is the written word of God?

There was even an interesting discussion between a Muslim man and a Muslim woman on whether one can tell if someone loves God because of external actions. The man was trying to say he could tell, while the woman disagreed and said it is not for her to judge whether someone loved and worshiped God based on external actions that are supposed to be "common" for Muslim believers. It was interesting to hear, but was never at a point of anger in any way.

I honestly wish we could have continued, but I believe that my new friendships will allow it to continue at a later date.

Lastly came the Q&A panel. There was 4 Muslims (one a woman convert from Christianity) and 4 followers of Jesus. The questions were written on note cards, so that Michael and Imam Joban could control the content a little. Some of the questions that were answered were:

Is Jesus the Lamb of God and is He God?

Did Mohammad travel to Jerusalem and is that where he could have received his information on who Jesus is and on the information from the Bible?

How can we continue to develop friendships from other faiths?

Do those on the panel have long developed friendships from other faiths?

In Islam we don't have the idea of inherited sin. How is it fair that we have inherited sin from Adam when we weren't there?

There were other questions that I can't remember, but these were the main ones that impacted the evening. I think whether one is a Muslim or a Christian, we can all say that God/Allah was glorified and worshiped together. It was a night of peace, of new friendships and very good dialogue to help bridge the gap that stands between the two faiths. What we also found out, as a reminder, is that we definitely have points of difference in theology between us that are not to be overshadowed or forgotten. What we did show is that even with these, we can still be friends and love each other instead of being fearful or at war with one another.

This is what is important. To truly understand each other so that we can love each other. We don't have to agree on everything to call each other "friend."

I pray that each side will come away with this:

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?”
And He said to him, “ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’
“This is the great and foremost commandment.
“The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’
“On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”

Matthew 22:36-40

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Friday, March 26, 2010

Who Is Jesus? A Dialogue Between Muslims and Christians

This is my one last attempt to get any Christians or Muslims to come by tomorrow night starting at 6:30pm to interact and share with one another about our perspectives of Jesus the Messiah/Isa al-Masih. This is not a debate, but a peaceful dialogue on understanding what each other believes about Him.

Let me know if you are interested in coming by commenting below or dropping me an email.

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Excerpt: A New Kind of Christianity by Brian McLaren

I read this on npr's website and wanted to see what all the gripes were about. I'll be totally honest, I have never read anything at length by McLaren. I have heard quotes and heard him explain some things that both make sense and make me vomit in my mouth. Whatever you think of the man, the one thing that we all know is that he is having an impact on young minds in this postmodern world. I read this excerpt from his book and found myself scratching my head, but I also don't agree with the counterpoint in the article:

The only reason Jesus came was to save people from hell. . . . Jesus had no social agenda. . . . [He didn’t come to eliminate poverty or slavery or] . . . fix something in somebody’s life for the little moment they live on this earth.

I also don't agree with McLaren's points on Jesus and his mission. He seems to have some of it correct, but what you will notice is that McLaren uses Scripture to prove a point, instead of allowing for the author to have an intent in his message. The point of all the Scriptures is to continually show this theme: God's redemptive plan to save sinners for his glory, by Jesus Christ's death and resurrection and through the regeneration of the Holy Spirit. When one starts to have their own agenda to push or another point to prove they take odd stances on Scripture, as McLaren does pointing to his thought that Jesus walking on water was obviously pointing back to the parting of the Red Sea. We must continually seek out what the author was intending, not what we desire to get from the text. McLaren pushes religious folks in a good way sometimes, but it isn't worth these giant missteps he takes to get there. Here is the excerpt.

Excerpt: A New Kind of Christianity
by Brian D. McLaren



Jesus Outside the Lines

I am blessed, it turns out, with more than one loyal critic. Another one, even more well known than the first, on a widely disseminated radio broadcast (and in a book with a rattlesnake on the cover) contrasted his views of Jesus with my own:

The only reason Jesus came was to save people from hell. . . . Jesus had no social agenda. . . . [He didn’t come to eliminate poverty or slavery or] . . . fix something in somebody’s life for the little moment they live on this earth.

Now what could possibly cause this earnest and educated Christian to assert that Jesus had no agenda regarding poverty and slavery? What could motivate a dedicated Bible teacher to minimize horrible social realities as minor inconveniences or pet peeves—“something in somebody’s life for the little moment they live on this earth”? How could a pious and devoted believer ignore all of Jesus’s words about the poor, all his deeds for the poor and oppressed, beginning with his first public sermon, in which he quoted Isaiah 61?

The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. . . . Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing. (Luke 4:18–19, 21)

My faithful critic’s statement is even more amazing in light of the rest of the New Testament, where concern for the poor and oppressed remains strong page after page (see, for example, Gal. 2:10; Philem. 16; 1 John 3:17–18; James 1:27; 2:2–17). Yet for him, the only way we can understand Jesus is as the one who saves from hell (a subject to which we will return in a later question). For him, Jesus is not the one who saves from poverty, captivity, blindness, or oppression, even though these are Jesus’s very words (borrowed from Isaiah) to describe his mission. I think you’ll agree, my faithful critic’s statement can only make sense, first, if we interpret Jesus within the confines of the Greco-Roman sixline narrative; second, if we predetermine to read the Bible as a constitution; and third, if we construct and solidify our understanding of God before seeking to understand Jesus, rather than letting Jesus serve as the Word-made-flesh revelation of God’s character. In contrast, our quest allows us—and requires us—to put these precritical presuppositions aside and approach Jesus differently. Our quest invites us to understand Jesus in terms of the three- dimensional biblical narrative we introduced earlier—to see him in terms of the Genesis story of creation and reconciliation, the Exodus story of liberation and formation, and the Isaiah story of new creation and the peace-making kingdom. We could choose any of the four gospels to illustrate this alternative view, but let’s choose the least likely of the four, John.

John’s gospel is the one most often used to buttress the Greco- Roman story. Verses like John 3:16; 5:24; and 14:6 are routinely interpreted to address a set of problems defined by the six- line narrative, namely, how to remedy the “ontological fall” and legally avoid eternal conscious torment, which you’ll recall is the punishment for “original sin” required (I suggest) by the Greco-Roman god Theos. But these verses and all the others in John’s gospel look very different when we read them in the three-dimensional biblical paradigm (creation, liberation, peacemaking kingdom) rather than the six-line paradigm, starting with the gospel’s first words:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him. . . . What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people . . . the true light, which enlightens everyone. (1:1–4, 9)

With those first words—“in the beginning”—John clearly evokes the Genesis story. The story of Jesus is identified with the creative Word, the “Let there be” by which all things are created. He is associated with light, the first thing that God “lets there be.” He is associated with life, the life that God breathes into the clay of humanity. The Psalmists tell us that all creation— the heavens and earth and all they contain—reflects the glory of God, and similarly John tells us, “We have seen [Jesus’s] glory, the glory as of a father’s only son” (1:14). Later, we see Jesus creating wine from water, a creative act with clear echoes of the Genesis story. In fact, just as Genesis begins with the Holy Spirit “sweeping over” or “hovering over” the waters, throughout John we have interwoven references to the Spirit and to water, most obviously when Jesus walks on (hovers over) the water, when he tells the woman at the well or the crowd in Jerusalem about the living waters that he will give them, and when he tells Nicodemus he must be born of water and the Spirit (6:16–21; 4:10; 7:37–38; 3:5).

His other miracles—healings, provision of food for hungry people, giving life to a dead man, conquering death himself—all suggest Jesus’s life-giving, health-giving creative power. Together, these examples make clear that from the first sentence John is telling us that a new creative moment, a new Genesis, is happening in Jesus. The Genesis echoes keep resounding to the end of the book, where they ring out powerfully in the climactic account of the resurrection:

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. (20:1)

Consider the imagery: the first day of a new week, the coming of light into darkness and life into a void. The language evokes a new day, a new beginning, so the tomb becomes the womb giving birth to a new creation. Not only that, but just as the book of Genesis ends with reconciliation as Joseph and his brothers are brought together, and just as it concludes with God’s good intent overcoming evil human intent, John’s gospel ends in the same way, with a reconciliation among brothers. The risen Jesus could have been angry with his disciples for betraying, abandoning, and disbelieving him, but he tells Mary, “Go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God’ ” (20:17). Soon we see doubting Thomas being restored to his brothers and denying Peter being restored to his brothers. The gospel fittingly ends not during a scenic sunset, but just after daybreak, around a breakfast-cooking fire, the beginning, as it were, of the first day of a new world, a second Genesis.

In this light, Jesus’s offers of “life of the ages” and “life abundant” sparkle with new significance. When Jesus promises “life of the ages” (a far better translation of the Greek zoein aionian, I believe, than “eternal life,” the meaning of which is poorly framed in many minds by the sixline narrative), he is not promising “life after death” or “life in eternal heaven instead of eternal hell.” (John, it should be noted, never mentions hell, a highly significant fact.) Instead, Jesus is promising a life that transcends “life in the present age,” an age that is soon going to end in tumult. Being “born of God” (1:13) and “born again” or “born from above” (3:3) would in this light mean being born into this new creation. So again, Jesus is offering a life in the new Genesis, the new creation that is “of the ages”—meaning it’s part of God’s original creation—not simply part of the current regimes, plots, kingdoms, and economies created by humans in “the present evil age” (a term Paul uses in Gal. 1:4). No wonder the risen Christ’s fi rst appearance is in a garden, and he is imagined to be a gardener (19:41–42; 20:15), just as Jesus has portrayed the Father as a gardener (15:1)—John wants us to see in Jesus a rebirth of the original garden.

These Genesis themes are strong, but the prime Exodus narrative of liberation and formation resonates even more strongly in John’s gospel. Notice the obvious resonances with Moses in chapter 1:

He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him.. . . The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. (1:11, 17)

Just as Moses was initially rejected by his brothers (Exod. 2:14), so Jesus was initially rejected. Just as Moses led the way in liberation from Egyptian oppression, Jesus leads the way in liberation from the social and spiritual oppression of his day. Just as Moses gave the Law, Jesus gives it even more so—as we shall explore in more detail shortly. In fact, although much attention has been given to the ways in which “the Word” or “Logos” of John 1 evokes Greek thought, we should also note that for Greek-speaking Jews “Logos” evoked Law. The Law was understood not simply as a list of rules or requirements, but as a kind of inherent logic or wisdom that is woven into all of creation—a way, a truth, a life, another resonance with John’s gospel (14:6).

In Exodus, God’s presence was associated with the tabernacle, a sacred tent, and John says, “The Word became flesh and lived [made his dwelling, tented or tabernacled] among us” (1:14). Moses once asked to see God, but was only permitted to see God’s aftermath, as it were (Exod. 33:18–23). John writes, “No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known” (1:18). Moses once asked God’s name, but was told only “I am” (Exod.3:14), and this is how Jesus habitually identifies himself in John’s gospel (see especially 8:58).

John the Baptizer introduces Jesus as the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (1:29). Here John the Baptizer evokes not (or not only) the sacrificial lambs of Leviticus, but (or but also) the lamb that was slain at the Passover to protect the people from the tenth plague, the plague that finally convinced the Egyptians to liberate the Hebrew slaves. And the term “Christ” or “Messiah” literally means “anointed one,” suggesting a king or leader chosen by God to—like Moses—liberate the people from oppression.

Jesus evokes Moses directly in his conversation with Nicodemus, saying that the Son of Man (a complex term drawn from Dan. 7:13–14, which I believe suggests a new generation or genesis of humanity) will be lifted up as Moses lifted up a bronze serpent in the wilderness (Num. 21:9). Jesus’s provision of bread and fish (6:1–14; 21:4–13) similarly evokes Moses’s provision of manna and quail, suggesting that Jesus is leading the people on a new Exodus journey. Even his walking on water (6:16–21) evokes the crossing of the Red Sea.

Along with many other direct references to Moses and the Law (7:16–24; 8:4–7) and indirect references to being liberated from slavery (8:31–38) and leading the flock of God through the wilderness (10:1–18), we find Jesus giving a new command, one word (or logos) that in a sense will transcend and include the ten words (or Decalogue) given by Moses: “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another” (13:34).

And at the end of John’s gospel, we find Jesus telling his disciples they will see him no longer, that the Spirit will guide them, and that they will now feed and tend his flock in his place—echoing, it appears, Moses’s commissioning of Joshua to lead into the promised land the people Moses had led out of Egypt and through the wilderness. Just as they followed Moses, they should now follow Joshua, Moses said; now Jesus says his disciples should follow the Spirit just as they followed him. Interestingly, John ends his gospel with the command Mark uses to begin his gospel: “Follow me” (John 21:19; Mark 1:17). It is as if Jesus is saying, “Okay, you’ve now been liberated from Egypt. My death and resurrection are like crossing the Red Sea. But our journey has only just begun. Keep following now, through the wilderness and into the promised land. Just as fire and cloud guided your ancestors, my Spirit will guide you now.”

The promised land, of course, suggests the third dimension of the biblical narrative: the peace-making kingdom celebrated by all the prophets, especially Isaiah. As we considered earlier, the narrative begins with the longing for a literal homeland—first, for Abraham, a home outside the Sumerian Empire, and later, under Moses, a place of freedom outside the Egyptian Empire, and later still, for the exiles, a return to their homeland, liberated from the Babylonian/Medo-Persian Empire. Gradually, the idea of a promised land morphs from a geographic reality into a social one; “a land flowing with milk and honey” becomes a society in which justice flows like water. This new society or kingdom is also described as a new era—a new time of shalom, harmony, social equity, prosperity, and safety.

Key to this golden time is light (Isa. 2:5; 42:6–7; 49:6; 60:1–3), and along with light the healing of blindness (35:5–6; 42:16) and other maladies. So it’s no surprise that John’s gospel begins by telling us that Jesus is the light of the world that shines for all people in darkness (1:3; 3:19; 12:33–41), and that central to John’s gospel is the healing of a blind man, with a lengthy reflection on the deeper meaning of this miracle (9:1–41, echoed in 12:37–43, where Isaiah is directly referenced).

Isaiah’s vision of the peaceable kingdom includes bizarre imagery (to us, that is; we considered earlier the images of children playing with snakes and wolves living peacefully with lambs), including pictures of geographical transformation (40:1–5) like this one:

In the days to come
the mountain of the LORD’s house
shall be established as the highest of the mountains,
and shall be raised above the hills;
all nations shall stream to it.
Many peoples shall come and say,
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD,
to the house of the God of Jacob;
that he may teach us his ways,
and that we may walk in his paths.”
For out of Zion shall go forth instruction,
and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
He shall judge between the nations,
and shall arbitrate for many peoples;
they shall beat their swords into plowshares
and their spears into pruning hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war any more.

(2:2–4, echoed in Mic. 4:1–3)

Obviously, the prophet isn’t predicting a literal tectonic shift in which Jerusalem rises farther above sea level and Mt. Everest sinks, but rather a time when God’s wisdom draws nations up to a higher level of relating, so disputes are settled nonviolently, wisely, peacefully. (John may be echoing this global attraction in 3:14; 8:28; and 12:19, 22.) We find in Isaiah another set of geographical images associated with springs transforming the desert into a garden (32:1–2; 35:6–7; 44:3). John picks up this water image in the conversation between Jesus and the unnamed woman at the well (4:1–42), where a dispute about mountains and a conversation about water give way to a deeper insight: that God is seeking worshipers who come not to the correct mountain, but with the correct spirit.

Similarly, the thirst for physical water (Isa. 55) points to the present availability of living water (echoed in John 7:37–39). Strikingly, Jesus says to the unnamed woman, “The hour is coming, and is now here” (4:23), echoing Jesus’s words elsewhere (Luke 4:21; Mark 1:14) that the long awaited time of the peaceable kingdom has indeed arrived. Just as Isaiah’s poetry is filled with images of war giving way to peace, Jesus makes clear to Pilate that in the kingdom Jesus represents disputes aren’t solved with swords (18:36).

Both Isaiah (1:11–17; 55; 58) and John’s Jesus critique the religious establishment (implied in Jesus’s use of ceremonial water jars for producing wine in 2:6, in the clearing of the temple in 2:13–22, in the interchange with Nicodemus in 3:1–10, in the marginalization of Jerusalem in 4:21, in his healing on the Sabbath in 5:1–8, and in his subversion of a stoning in 8:2–11). And both Isaiah and John work with the rich imagery of a vineyard (Isa. 5:1–7; John 15) and emphasize the role of the Spirit of the Lord (Isa. 11:1–5; 42:1; 61:1; John 14–16). John picks up Isaiah’s theme of joy as well (Isa. 26; 35; 51; 55; 60; John 15:11; 16:22), along with Isaiah’s use of wine imagery (Isa. 25; 55:1; John 2). In Isaiah we see the precursors of Jesus’s powerful shepherd imagery (Isa. 40:11; John 10:1–18; 21:15–17) and childbirth imagery (Isa. 54; John 16:19), and even the precedent for calling God our Father (Isa. 63:16; 64:8).

For Isaiah, the same “day of the Lord” (5:22–30; 9:39; 22:31) that will bring liberation for the oppressed will mean accountability for the oppressors (5:8–23; 10:1–4), a theme that John picks up again and again (5:22–30; 9:39; 12:31). And we can’t forget Isaiah’s striking theme of the Servant of the Lord (Isa. 42; 49; 50; 52), which John employs poignantly as Jesus literally costumes himself in the role of a servant (John 13). Just as Isaiah’s Servant of the Lord liberates and heals through suffering (52:13–53:12), so John’s Jesus goes through mockery and torture to the cross. And just as Isaiah predicts beauty beyond ashes, joy beyond mourning (Isa. 61) and new heavens and a new earth beyond the suffering and stress that must first be faced (65:17), John presents us with a Jesus who raises the dead (11:38–44) and ultimately is raised from the dead himself (20:18), evidence of a new creation arising from the old (Isa. 66:22).

All of Isaiah’s powerful images are interwoven with the dream of a peaceable kingdom, one that fulfills the unfulfilled promise of David’s kingdom (9:7; 16:5; 22:22; 55:3; 11:1; 11:10). Of course, Isaiah is only one of many prophets who fund our imaginations with the peaceable kingdom dream, and John similarly draws from other prophets too (for example, note how strikingly John 12:13–15 echoes Zech. 9:9).

But even these few examples, selected from so many more, make it clear that Jesus, contrary to my dear loyal critic’s assertion, did not come merely to “save souls from hell.” No, he came to launch a new Genesis, to lead a new Exodus, and to announce, embody, and inaugurate a new kingdom as the Prince of Peace (Isa. 9:6). Seen in this light, Jesus and his message have everything to do with poverty, slavery, and a “social agenda.”

When we try to read John as well as the other gospels within the flat, six- line Greco- Roman narrative, the sandal just doesn’t fit. But when we see Jesus in the three- dimensional Jewish narrative, we discover a gift from the Jews to the whole world— good news (that pregnant term being another powerful resonance with Isa. 40:9; 52:7; 61:1) of a new Genesis, a new Exodus, and a new kingdom come.

So many people are like my loyal critic; they have so utterly bought into the six- line, black- and- white, soul- sorting heaven- or- hell Greco- Roman narrative that it has become the precritical lens through which they see everything, causing them to see some things that aren’t there and rendering invisible many things that are. If they could only take off that set of glasses long enough to see Jesus in full color, in three dimensions, everything would look different. If only.

Thankfully, more and more people are realizing that there’s a renaissance under way regarding our understanding of Jesus. More and more of us are discovering Jesus as Word and Lord colored outside the conventional six lines. This Jesus, we discover, is far more wonderful, attractive, compelling, inspiring, and unbelievably believable than Jesus shrunk and trimmed to fit within them.

From A New Kind of Christianity by Brian D. McLaren. Copyright 2010 by Brian D. McLaren. Reprinted by permission of HarperOne. All rights reserved.

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Thursday, March 25, 2010

All Qur'anic Passages About Jesus

What I am NOT trying to say by posting some of these articles is to say, "Christians and Muslims are the same", but what I AM saying is that maybe we are closer to understanding each other than we think. You'll even notice that in these passages below that some of our disagreements of who Jesus is and what his work accomplished is at a disagreement. One can even see the wrong information that Muhammad was given at his time from Syrian Christian apostates, namely, that Mary, the mother of Jesus, was part of the Christian Trinity. Although there is much disagreement between the two religions that will never be brought to agreement while on this earth, there is some things to where we can start the conversation with each other. With the dialogue coming up this Saturday at my church, I figured it would be good to show all the passages in the Qur'an about Jesus, or Isa. Thanks to Jesus in the Qur'an for this list.

My favorite of all the Qur'anic passages involves the one that speaks about those who follow Isa.

57:27 We sent after them Jesus the son of Mary, and bestowed on him the Gospel; and We ordained in the hearts of those who followed him Compassion and Mercy . . .

(Quotations taken from the Yusuf Ali Interpretation of the Qur’an)

2:87 We gave Jesus the son of Mary Clear (Signs) and strengthened him with the holy spirit.

2:136 We believe in Allah, and the revelation given to us, and to Abraham, Ismail, Isaac, Jacob, and the Tribes, and that given to Moses and Jesus, and that given to (all) prophets from their Lord: We make no difference between one and another of them . . .

2:253 . . . To Jesus the son of Mary We gave clear (Signs), and strengthened him with the holy spirit.

3:45 O Mary! Allah giveth thee glad tidings of a Word from Him: his name will be Christ Jesus, the son of Mary, held in honour in this world and the Hereafter and of (the company of) those nearest to Allah.

3:46 “He shall speak to the people in childhood and in maturity. And he shall be (of the company) of the righteous.”

3:48 And Allah will teach him the Book and Wisdom, the Law and the Gospel.

3:49 And (appoint him) a messenger to the Children of Israel, (with this message): “I have come to you, with a Sign from your Lord, in that I make for you out of clay, as it were, the figure of a bird, and breathe into it, and it becomes a bird by Allah’s leave: And I heal those born blind, and the lepers, and I quicken the dead, by Allah’s leave; and I declare to you what ye eat, and what ye store in your houses. Surely therein is a Sign for you if ye did believe.”

3:50 (I have come to you), to attest the Law which was before me. And to make lawful to you part of what was (Before) forbidden to you; I have come to you with a Sign from your Lord. So fear Allah, and obey me.

3:52 When Jesus found Unbelief on their part He said: “Who will be My helpers to (the work of) Allah?”

3:55 Behold! Allah said: “O Jesus! I will take thee and raise thee to Myself and clear thee (of the falsehoods) of those who blaspheme; I will make those who follow thee superior to those who reject faith, to the Day of Resurrection: Then shall ye all return unto me, and I will judge between you of the matters wherein ye dispute.”

3:59 The similitude of Jesus before Allah is as that of Adam . . .

3:84 . . . and in (the Books) given to Moses, Jesus, and the prophets, from their Lord.

4:157 That they said (in boast), “We killed Christ Jesus the son of Mary, the Messenger of Allah”;—but they killed him not, nor crucified him, but so it was made to appear to them, and those who differ therein are full of doubts, with no (certain) knowledge, but only conjecture to follow, for of a surety they killed him not.

4:163 We have sent thee inspiration, as We sent it to Noah and the Messengers after him: we sent inspiration to Abraham, Ismail, Isaac, Jacob and the Tribes, to Jesus, Job, Jonah, Aaron, and solomon, and to David We gave the Psalms.

4:171 O People of the Book! Commit no excesses in your religion: Nor say of Allah aught but the truth. Christ Jesus the son of Mary was (no more than) a messenger of Allah, and His Word, which He bestowed on Mary, and a spirit proceeding from Him: so believe in Allah and His messengers. Say not “Trinity”: desist: it will be better for you: for Allah is one Allah: Glory be to Him: (far exalted is He) above having a son. To Him belong all things in the heavens and on earth.

4:172 Christ disdaineth nor to serve and worship Allah . . .

5:17 In blasphemy indeed are those that say that Allah is Christ the son of Mary.

5:46 And in their footsteps We sent Jesus the son of Mary, confirming the Law that had come before him: We sent him the Gospel: therein was guidance and light, and confirmation of the Law that had come before him: a guidance and an admonition to those who fear Allah.

5:72 They do blaspheme who say: “Allah is Christ the son of Mary.” But said Christ: “O Children of Israel! worship Allah, my Lord and your Lord.” Whoever joins other gods with Allah,- Allah will forbid him the garden, and the Fire will be his abode.

5:75 Christ the son of Mary was no more than a messenger; many were the messengers that passed away before him. His mother was a woman of truth. They had both to eat their (daily) food.

5:78 Curses were pronounced on those among the Children of Israel who rejected Faith, by the tongue of David and of Jesus the son of Mary: because they disobeyed and persisted in excesses.

5:110 O Jesus the son of Mary! Recount My favour to thee and to thy mother. Behold! I strengthened thee with the holy spirit, so that thou didst speak to the people in childhood and in maturity. Behold! I taught thee the Book and Wisdom, the Law and the Gospel and behold! thou makest out of clay, as it were, the figure of a bird, by My leave, and thou breathest into it and it becometh a bird by My leave, and thou healest those born blind, and the lepers, by My leave. And behold! thou bringest forth the dead by My leave. And behold! I did restrain the Children of Israel from (violence to) thee when thou didst show them the clear Signs, and the unbelievers among them said: ‘This is nothing but evident magic.’

5:112 Behold! the disciples, said: “O Jesus the son of Mary! can thy Lord send down to us a table set (with viands) from heaven?” Said Jesus: “Fear Allah, if ye have faith.”

5:114 Said Jesus the son of Mary: “O Allah our Lord! Send us from heaven a table set (with viands), that there may be for us—for the first and the last of us—a solemn festival and a sign from thee; and provide for our sustenance, for thou art the best Sustainer (of our needs).”

5:116 Allah will say: “O Jesus the son of Mary! Didst thou say unto men, worship me and my mother as gods in derogation of Allah’?” He will say: “Glory to Thee! never could I say what I had no right (to say). Had I said such a thing, thou wouldst indeed have known it. Thou knowest what is in my heart . . .”

6:85 And Zakariya and John, and Jesus and Elias: all in the ranks of the righteous.

9:30 The Jews call ‘Uzair a son of Allah, and the Christians call Christ the son of Allah.

9:31 They take their priests and their anchorites to be their lords in derogation of Allah, and (they take as their Lord) Christ the son of Mary; yet they were commanded to worship but One Allah: there is no god but He. Praise and glory to Him: (Far is He) from having the partners they associate (with Him).

19:19 He said: “Nay, I am only a messenger from thy Lord, (to announce) to thee the gift of a holy son.”

19:20 She said: “How shall I have a son, seeing that no man has touched me, and I am not unchaste?”

19:21 He said: “So (it will be): Thy Lord saith, ‘that is easy for Me: and (We wish) to appoint him as a Sign unto men and a Mercy from Us’:It is a matter (so) decreed.”

19:22 So she conceived him, and she retired with him to a remote place.

19:27 At length she brought the (babe) to her people, carrying him (in her arms). They said: “O Mary! truly an amazing thing hast thou brought!”

19:30 He said: “I am indeed a servant of Allah: He hath given me revelation and made me a prophet.”

19:31 “And He hath made me blessed wheresoever I be, and hath enjoined on me Prayer and Charity as long as I live.”

19:32 “(He) hath made me kind to my mother, and not overbearing or miserable.”

19:33 “So peace is on me the day I was born, the day that I die, and the day that I shall be raised up to life (again)”!

19:34 Such (was) Jesus the son of Mary: (it is) a statement of truth, about which they (vainly) dispute.

19:88 They say: “(Allah) Most Gracious has begotten a son!”

19:91 That they should invoke a son for (Allah) Most Gracious.

19:92 For it is not consonant with the majesty of (Allah) Most Gracious that He should beget a son.

21:91 And (remember) her who guarded her chastity: We breathed into her of Our spirit, and We made her and her son a sign for all peoples.

23:50 And We made the son of Mary and his mother as a Sign: We gave them both shelter on high ground, affording rest and security and furnished with springs.

33:7 And remember We took from the prophets their covenant: As (We did) from thee: from Noah, Abraham, Moses, and Jesus the son of Mary: We took from them a solemn covenant.

42:13 The same religion has He established for you as that which He enjoined on Noah—the which We have sent by inspiration to thee—and that which We enjoined on Abraham, Moses, and Jesus: Namely, that ye should remain steadfast in religion, and make no divisions therein: to those who worship other things than Allah, hard is the (way) to which thou callest them. Allah chooses to Himself those whom He pleases, and guides to Himself those who turn (to Him).

43:57 When (Jesus) the son of Mary is held up as an example, behold, thy people raise a clamour thereat (in ridicule)!

43:61 And (Jesus) shall be a Sign (for the coming of) the Hour (of Judgment): therefore have no doubt about the (Hour), but follow ye Me: this is a Straight Way.

43:63 When Jesus came with Clear Signs, he said: “Now have I come to you with Wisdom, and in order to make clear to you some of the (points) on which ye dispute: therefore fear Allah and obey me.”

57:27 We sent after them Jesus the son of Mary, and bestowed on him the Gospel; and We ordained in the hearts of those who followed him Compassion and Mercy . . .

61:6 And remember, Jesus, the son of Mary, said: “O Children of Israel! I am the messenger of Allah (sent) to you, confirming the Law (which came) before me, and giving Glad Tidings of a Messenger to come after me, whose name shall be Ahmad.” But when he came to them with Clear Signs, they said, “this is evident sorcery!”

61:14 O ye who believe! Be ye helpers of Allah: As said Jesus the son of Mary to the Disciples, “Who will be my helpers to (the work of) Allah?” Said the disciples, “We are Allah’s helpers!” then a portion of the Children of Israel believed, and a portion disbelieved: But We gave power to those who believed, against their enemies, and they became the ones that prevailed.

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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

VERGE 2010: Jeff Vanderstelt

Ed Stetzer interviewed one of the pastors at my church and has it up on his blog. I thought I would highlight one aspect of the interview, but click here to see the whole thing at Stetzer's site.
Ed: Soma Communities is not a typical church. Or the typical name for a church. Tell us a little about the work of Soma.

Jeff: Soma is the greek word Paul uses to describe the Church as the Body of Christ in and through which Jesus fills everything in every way (Eph. 1:22-23). When we started Soma 6 years ago it was our desire to become the kind of church that fills the city of Tacoma and the region of the Puget Sound with the presence of Jesus in every way through the Church being the church (not just attending 'church') in the everyday.

We started Soma as a Missional Community-- a small group of believers who radically reorient their lives together as Family around the daily mission of making disciples of a particular people group as missionaries, demonstrating Gospel-changed lives through tangible acts of service as servants and giving a Gospel explanation through proclamation as disciples of Jesus.

We discipled and trained others to lead Missional Communities in the midst of life and mission and after about 9 months we sent four teams of leaders out to start their own Missional Communities. This pattern continued... MCs making disciples, training up leaders and sending them out to start new MCs. As this continued, elders were being trained through this process and the collection of several MCs formed new churches. Presently we have about 50 MCs and 8 churches all in different stages of development. These churches gather together on Sundays in three different locations, in two states over four different times for the preaching of the Gospel, equipping for ministry and mission and celebrating and remembering Jesus through song, communion and meals.

A few years ago we changed our name from Soma Church to Soma Communities-- One Body, Many Expressions because we were becoming a multi-site church. Presently, our Gathering Hubs are located in Renton, WA, Tacoma, WA and Boise, ID. We have MCs in many other cities where we hope to also have Gathering and Equipping Hubs. Our long-term vision is to have a Soma Communities Hub in each major city on the West Coast as well as in four major cities inland.

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Nicene Creed: Part 3

true God of true God (John 1:1; 17: 1-5; 8:58; 17:24; Phil 2:6)

Not only is Jesus called the Light of Light, but He is called true God of true God. He is one with the Father and as the Word, He is not created, but has always been, just as God has been. They have always been glorified together from all eternity. Never changing, always in unity, perfect communion. I believe that Jesus Christ is true God of true God

of one essence with the Father (John 10:30;38; 17:11,21)

Jesus is in one essence with the Father. They are distinct persons, as you and I are distinct persons, but of essence, they are One and are Deity. As we have distinctions in beings and persons, so we have a distinction found in the Scriptures. This is why we can still call ourselves monotheists, although we believe in One God and three Persons. I do not believe in three gods, I do not believe in tritheism, I am not a polytheist. I wholeheartedly believe in only one God with One essence, and three distinct persons. I believe in Jesus Christ who is of one essence with the Father.

through Whom all things were made (Hebrews 1:1-2;11:3; John 1:3; 1 Cor 8:6; Col 1:16)
Being of one essence, and three persons, we can start to understand why in the Old Testament that we find the terms "Us" and "We" when speaking of our One God. This is not only meant to be showing the royalty of our Almighty El Shaddai, but it is also to show the unity of the Trinity in creation. God created all things, through the Son, the Christ by which all things are held together and made for Him. I believe that God alone created all things, through Jesus Christ.

Who for us and for our salvation (1 Timothy 2:3-5; Ezek 18:23, 32; John 3:17; 1 Tim 4:10; Titus 2:11; 2 Pet 3:9)

Jesus Christ came down to save us. This was His mission. He came to save us for the glory of God so that we might be in heaven with God worshiping Him. Without our sin, there would be no need of salvation, but because of our first father, namely Adam, we needed redemption. Because of our sin, Jesus was sent by the Father to save us from our sin and our condemnation. Because of Jesus, God can show us mercy and forgiveness through His Son, His Christ for us. God is our Saviour and shows through whom He is our ultimate Saviour, which is Jesus. I believe that Jesus came for us and for our salvation.

came down from the heavens (John 6:33-35;41,48,50)

Jesus, the Word, who is eternal, did not start his existence at his birth, but he has always been, therefore, came from heaven, not from the earth as our first father, Adam, did. Being that the cross was predetermined before the earth began, it was not predetermined without the Christ's knowledge, but was predetermined in congruence with the Christ's knowledge, knowing that when the time came, he would come from heaven as the bread of life to show us the straight way to God. Uncreated, He came down to us from the throne room of God. I believe that Jesus, the Christ, came down from the heavens.

and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary (Luke 1:26-38; Isaiah 7:14;8:10; 9:6-7; Matthew 1:18-25)

Jesus is called the Son of God because, like Adam, He has no earthly Father, but only one Father, who is in heaven. He was not conceived through traditional ways, but like Adam, was conceived through the Spirit of God. Born of the virgin Mary, she was his earthly mother. Mary was truly a virgin and was not like the pagan myths of earthly women having sexual relations with the gods, but she was truly a virgin in every since and miraculously was with Child, by the Spirit of God. Jesus had to be born of a virgin, so that he would be born sinless and could fulfill the role of the Son of God, which was to be the Messiah, the God of our salvation. I believe that Jesus was incarnated by the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary.

and became man (John 1:14; Rom 1:3; Gal 4:4; Phil 2:7f; 1 Tim 3:16; Heb 2:14; 1 John 1:1f; 4:2; 2 John 7)

Jesus, the one whom the fullness of Deity dwells, laid aside his power and became man. This does not mean that he was only man, as some regard, but he, as fully God, became fully man. It wasn't 50/50%, it wasn't 0/100%, it was 100/100%. Jesus' mission was two parts. One, as God, to fulfill the satisfaction of wrath upon the heads of man for eternity, namely the eternal death due. And, to live as man, to become like us, so that he could actually die as man. Not only did Jesus become man to die for us, but to sympathize with us. He was like us, yet without sin. We can go to Him, our Christ, who like us never sinned and can aid us in our temptations. Jesus became fully man and I adhere to any verse, any statement, any word that associates Jesus as anthropos, as fully man without ever denying that Jesus is also fully God. It is like calling myself a "father". By doing so, it never denies that I am also a husband or a brother. By calling Jesus anthropos, never does the Scriptures deny His Deity. I believe that Jesus became man.

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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Carl Medearis on Using Christianese

I found this to be somewhat helpful. Although I think it can be misleading at times, or just unhelpful, Medearis' overall point is a good one.

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The Nicene Creed: Part 2

and of all things visible and invisible (Colossians 1:15-16; Eph 1:10; John 1:3; Rom 11:36; 1 Cor 8:6)

Here is where we start to get the specifics on creation and through whom all things were created, namely through and by Jesus Christ. He is called the first of all creation, not because he was created, but because he is preeminent and before all things. Everything and everyone we can see, and everything and everyone we cannot see were created specifically through Jesus Christ. I believe in the person of Jesus Christ, whom all things were created.

and in one Lord, Jesus Christ (Acts 11:17; Romans 5:11; 15:6; 16:20; Eph 1:15; Phil 4:23; 1 Thess 5:9; Jude 4; 21)

Jesus is the one whom I follow. I am his disciple and He is my Lord. He teaches me by His words and His actions how to fully glorify God who is in heaven. He has always been before me and will always be above me. I surrender my life to Him knowing that He bought me with a price. I am not my own but I am His. I am only His because God loved me first, and through the grace of God I am allowed to be a follower of Jesus. He is my Master, I am His servant. I believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ.

Son of God (Matthew 14:33; 16:15-17; 26:63-64; Mark 3:11; 5:7; Luke 1:35; 4:41; Luke 22:70; John 1:34,49; 11:4; Acts 9:20)

Jesus, my Lord, is also the Son of God. He is not called the "Son of God" because The Holy Spirit and Mary had sexual relations, as Mormons believe, nor was there any sort of sexual relations between the Father and Mary as some Muslims think we believe. Jesus, is the Son of God, because he was born of the Spirit of God and has no earthly father. He is also the Son of God, because the title itself is closely related to the term "Christ" or "Messiah". He is the long awaited Messiah from the line of David, which started with Adam, who was first called the son of God in Luke 3:38. Adam, our first father failed in the garden and we have been awaiting for the Messiah, the Son of God, from the line of David to come ever since. I believe that Jesus is the Son of God, the Messiah.

begotten of the Father before all ages (John 1:2; 1:18; 3:16-18; 8:24; 1 John 4:9)

Jesus is eternal. He, like the Father, can only be described in his truest form as "I AM Who I AM." (John 8:24) Jesus exists because of Himself, because of the Godhead. He is not created and is called "begotten" because there is only one of His kind. There is no other. He is the only true Son of God, the only Messiah, the only true Christ, the only One who can explain God perfectly for us to see. He is called the radiance of God's glory (Hebrews 1:3) because He shows us who God is, because He has always been, the same today, yesterday and forever. I believe in the Son of God, the Messiah, who was begotten of the Father before all ages.

Light of Light (Psalm 27:1; 18:28; Is 60:20; Mic 7:8; John 1:4; 9:5; 12:35,46)

In the Old Testament God was referred to as "light". From this, the Light is called "my salvation" by David. Through Jesus, salvation has come. Jesus calls himself the Light of the world, He is the one whom those that are in darkness will come to salvation through for the glory of God. Because Jesus is described as "I AM" He is also referred to as being the Light, who proceeds from the Light. Those found to be against God are said to be in darkness. Being that Jesus is perfect and is the great I AM, He has no darkness in Him at all and not only is He in the Light, He IS THE LIGHT. I believe in the Light of Light.

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Monday, March 22, 2010

The Nicene Creed: Part I

This is how this will work. I am going to break up the creed with Scriptural support, then a quick summation of my belief on each one. Whether or not this is how the original writers intended some of these summations, one can debate, but isn't my intent. These posts are going to be scriptural support of my own study and the summation my own as well. The reason is because the very first term in the Creed is, "I believe..." and I want the reader to know what I believe to be true and the reasons, not just what those who first put this forth in AD 325.

The Nicene Creed

I believe in (Deuteronomy 30:11-14; Romans 10:8-13; Matthew 10:32; Joel 2:32; Acts 2:21; Luke 12:8; Phil 2:11)

When I speak of the following, this is what I believe. The following statements are what one would call the things I consider to be "closed." I believe the following to be of so much importance that this is what I consider to be true if one desires to stand beside me as a follower of Jesus. It has nothing to do with denomination, nothing to do with which culture you come from, which 5 points you follow or don't follow, what color your skin is, whether rich or poor, man or woman, deaf or dumb. The following points that are made in the Creed cannot be dismissed. They are the truths that...I believe in.

One God (Deuteronomy 4:35, 39; 6:4; Mark 12:29; John 10:30; 1 Cor 8:4-6; Eph 4:6)

I fully believe there is only one God and besides Him, there is none. I stand with the other monotheistic faiths and adhere to the strong belief that God is only one and that all other gods are mere demons disguising themselves as angels of light. I believe that this understanding is far above my knowledge and I believe that God's own description of himself is so perfectly described, I cannot define it any clearer: I AM Who I AM. God is the only perfect describer of himself and we should not ascribe worship to anyone else but our one true God. This description of God by God, through the Scriptures continues in the following verses of the Creed. I believe in One God.

Father (John 8:42; Matthew 6:9; Romans 1:7; 1 Corinthians 8:6; 1 Corinthians 1:3; Galatians 1:3; 4:6; Ephesians 1:2; Phil 4:20; Colossians 1:3; 1 John 3:1)

Our God is One. Within this Oneness there are three persons. The first to describe, is the Father. In the Arabic and the Qur'an, the term is "Rabb" and in the Bible, he is known as Abba, or Father. He is the One who sent us the Christ, He is the One whom Jesus submitted to while on earth. He is the One with whom the Spirit proceeds from. He is the One who is invisible. He is the One whom Jesus glorified while he walked this earth. He is the One whom we are called to glorify in all things. I believe in the Father.

Almighty (Genesis 17:1; 28:3; 35:11; 48:3; Exodus 6:3)

God the Father is described as El Shaddai, or God Almighty. We describe this as God being omnipotent, meaning he is all powerful. Because our God is El Shaddai, the Almighty One, the Omnipotent One, none can overpower Him. He alone is the one whom none can conquer, and if it seems He is conquered, it is only because He has allowed it to be perceived as such to accomplish His will. Many verses allude this understanding and my trust in anything other than God shows my ineptitude to understand the power of God. Like the apostle Paul asked, "If God is for us, who can be against us?" (Romans 8:31). I believe that a correct title of God is truly, El Shaddai, my God is Almighty.

Creator of heaven and earth (Genesis 1:1; Job 38:4; Is 42:5; 45:18; Rev 4:11)

God the Father, the Almighty, created the heavens and the earth. I reject those sciences who ascribe the creation of our earth or heavens to anything else. Although our finite minds cannot understand how God created all things ex nihilo, I affirm it. Our One God, who was never created, created all things. From Him all things were made, although in Himself He was not made, but eternally existent. Some have started to speak of intelligent design, which I object to. We should ascribe the design of the earth to the correct designer, which is God alone. The specifics of the seen and the unseen, and of which source it was created comes in the further statements of the Creed. I believe that God is the Creator of heaven and earth.

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Saturday, March 20, 2010

Matt Chandler - De-Churched

This was me. When you remove the grace of the cross and the love of God from your sermons and from your ministries, this is what you will get in your pews. I still am struggling to strip all the bad teachings from past churches I was in, yet I pray that those who are still in those will be blessed and be fruitful and used by God in his will.

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Friday, March 19, 2010

Discovering True Conversion: Part II

Yesterday, I gave you the first part of this paper by Mark Siljander, here is the second part. Enjoy.

Discovering True Conversion: Surrendering/Discipleship© : Part II
By Mark Siljander

Use of “Conversion” in the Bible

The King James Version of the New Testament uses the word “convert” eleven times and in the Hebrew Old Testament four times. Surprisingly, the meaning in the Semitic languages is very different than the English construct of the word “conversion.” This misunderstanding of the language has earth-shattering implications for Western Christian “conversion” strategy. While many Christians use newer English translations of the New Testament text, the study of the King James is helpful in that it highlights an extended period of time where it was the supreme English translation and thus shaped our cultural understanding of the word and verses that were translated into the English “convert.”

Below are uses in the KJV (and a few others from the Lamsa translation from the Peshitta) where the English “convert(ed)” is used and the corresponding Aramaic word and its meaning is given. (20)

10:23 (Lamsa) -Shelem - surrender, finish, complete, fulfill (21,22)
13:15 - itpisen - return, turn [self] around, restore
13:52 (Lamsa) - talmed - instruct, make disciples
18:3 - hepak - turn, return, change, overturn
28:19 (Lamsa) - talmed - instruct, make disciples . . . followed by
- yilep - learned, instructed

4:12 KJV - itpisen - return, turn [self] around, restore

22:32 KJV - itpisen - return, turn [self] around, restore

12:40 KJV - itpisen - return, turn [self] around, restore

3:19 KJV - tawoo - turn back, change mind
6:7 (Lamsa) - semay - heard, obedient, compliant
10:45 (Lamsa) -aha geizara - circumcised brothers
15:3 -Punaya "turned around [to serve God]" (23)
28:27 KJV - tawoo - turn back, change mind

5:19 KJV - itpisen - return, turn [self] around, restore
5:20 KJV - hepak - turn, return, change, overturn

While these words above have different roots, the word for turn and surrender is heavily emphasized in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Arabic. Here is a rough summary of roots:

SheLeM - surrender, finish, complete, fulfill & of course peace
PiSeN - return, turn [self] around, restore
TaLMeD - instruct, make disciples
HePaQ - turn, return, change, overturn
TaWoo - turn back, change mind
SeMAy - heard, obedient, compliant

It should be clear that every use of Aramaic words by Jesus and/or his followers later translated to the word “convert” is simply incorrect. Fortunately, these instances are more accurately rendered in more recent translations. But over time, the West and the East adopted their own notion of conversion, despite the lack of solid scriptural evidence that a religious “conversion” was necessary. It is very difficult to argue linguistically or historically that Jesus or the writers of the New Testament, told us to make “converts” in the traditional understanding of changing/denying one's culture, traditions or "religion" (defined as institutional, hierarchical, forcing man made traditions and doctrines on others in order to be member of the club/religion).

A real “convert” in the New Testament is a “learner,” a disciple and follower of Jesus, nothing more, nothing less. The Bible more correctly reflects that this real “convert” is a person who “submits” to the will of God through a process of “turning back to” and “completing” what the Lord told us in Deuteronomy and Jesus reiterated in several Gospels: “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your might.” Moreover, since Jesus is (in both the Qur’an and Gospels) the Messiah, Word of God, Word of Truth, Spirit of God and the “straight path” (way) to God, he is undoubtedly the one God is commanding us to follow. Bringing this perspective to our understanding of the “Great Commission” can change the way we look at the strategy of Jesus and the way Christians view Muslims and vice versa.

The bridge building possibilities in bringing better understanding that all three faiths have equal desire to be spiritually surrendered (mu-salems) is staggering. The radical “convert or perish” theology is undermined since many who once were “infidels” can now be viewed as surrenders/converts, opening a new era of common ground and shared mission.


End Notes

20 These word transliterations and definitions can be supported by a review of the Peshitta as well as standard lexicons, e.g. Jennings and/or Smith. Note the richness of meaning in the passages when the words are translated in their pure Semitic form.
21 Lexicon to the Syriac New Testament; Jennings p. 224
22 Old Testament Light by George Lamsa, says “shalama “peace” also means to surrender; that is, to give up hatred and enmity, and become reconciled. Peace becomes a reality through recompense, which brings harmony between man and his adversary. The worshiper is required to make peace with his God and his fellow men.”
23 Dr. Eldon Clem Semitic language scholar in Israel says: “In the entire NT [Acts 15:3] is translated by the Peshitta NT as “punaya” [“turning around, conversion”].” Sometimes the Greek verb “metanoeo” is translated in English as “to convert,” but all the reference in the Peshitta NT were translated by the Syria “TUV” (“repent”). A quick check of a concordance reveals that this verb never has the meaning “to convert” in the Peshitta of the Pentateuch. I also checked Kiraz’s (also a Syriac Christian, from Palestine) concordance to the Pesyriac New Testament and discovered that it also never is used in the sense of “to convert.” “Shalem” literally means “to be complete,” and that is how Kiraz translates it in his concordance of the Syriac NT. The verb “shalem” may have come to mean convert in later Syriac.

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Thursday, March 18, 2010

Discovering True Conversion: Surrendering/Discipleship Part I

I wanted to keep up this discussion from yesterday as I am finding it very helpful. Even if I don't respond to your comments, I am reading all of them and taking them in and taking it to God in prayer. I honestly appreciate every one of the comments given, even if I don't fully agree with them. I also want everyone to be clear, I didn't write yesterday's post. I put in the first sentence that it was a post by the website Jesus in the Quran, not myself. Sorry for the confusion. Meaning, I don't agree with all the wording in the post, but I do agree with the overall premise.

Today and tomorrow's posts are from Mark Siljander. He has been someone that has been helpful in allowing me to understand where he is coming from. While Mark and I wouldn't agree on everything, I do respect what he is doing and glad that I have started to build a friendship with him. He is one that has shown to be very humble and willing to dialogue on subjects with me "behind closed doors" and I feel like I understand him more.

Also, please understand that when you read stuff on the internet, or over comments or on email so much is "lost in translation." That's one of the reasons I have thought about closing down this blog in the past, but I think that it has helped people think more than it has hurt, so I continue. Know that dialogue about these subjects can't just happen over the internet, it must happen in real life, seeing each other face to face and seeking out each other's hearts and the truth of God's word. Be patient. Be forgiving. Be understanding. Be gracious. Be trusting in the power of God and not in your ability to prove a point. We should all be reading, writing and developing friendships for only one purpose and no other: for the glory of God. With that said, Mark Siljander emailed this paper to me and gave me permission to put it up on the blog. I am still weighing it and will continue to read it and study its content more fully. Let me know your thoughts on it as it helps me to discern. Peace.

Discovering True Conversion: Surrendering/Discipleship©
By Mark Siljander

Wars, mistrust, division, and hatred are just a few horrible results from various religions attempting to convert one to the other. What if we had the idea of conversion wrong? What if the Bible actually directs us in a different strategy? What if that strategy had the power to unite rather than divide the three Abrahamic faiths? This paper explores these distinct possibilities through a closer study of the Semitic languages of the three Holy Books, the Torah’s Hebrew, Qur’an’s Arabic and the Gospel’s Aramaic.

The lack of Christian “conversations” in Muslim countries is unmistakable. For example, there are 3000 Christian workers for 4000 converts in Turkey with a population of 70 million. In his 1999 comments on conversion, Rev. Prof. William Montgomery Watt, highlights the need for another ideal:

In the outburst of missionary activity round about the year 1800 the ideal was to go into the non-Christian parts of the world and convert everyone to Christianity; and this is still the ideal of some Christians. From Islam, however, there were very few converts. I have now come to doubt the appropriateness of conversion in many cases. (1,2)

Traditional understanding of “Conversion”

It is a wonder what Bible verses were used to legitimize the Crusades and the Inquisition that tortured people to gain conversions, as did the Pogroms in Europe against the Jews. This inflamed injunction to convert also appears in Islam under Sharia Law interpreted by Muslim fundamentalists who carry out death sentences against those “converting” from Islam to anything else. Even in modern times, those who convert are often condemned, shunned, and ostracized from family and society.

This embedded tradition to convert others is prevalent in Western culture. The dictionary defines a “convert” as “One who has been converted, especially from one religion or belief to another.”(3) The World Christian Encyclopedia agrees by defining “conversion” as when one leaves one religion and joins another. They go on to present figures that indicate some 950,000 people “convert” to Islam from some other persuasion and some 2.7 million “shift their affiliation to Christianity and presumably, their allegiance to Christ from some other religion” each year. What they don’t describe is the enormous upheaval these kinds of shifts cause in the social fabric surrounding converts.

Traditions promulgated at different times in history to address a particular situation (political or religious) then practiced over centuries become so intractably part of the belief system that when conflicts arise, can become equal or at times more authoritative and powerful than Scripture.

So is this contemporary notion of conversion as changing religions consistent with what Jesus preached? To help answer this critical question, one might consider the Eastern construct of the words behind the English translation to “convert” or “conversion.” The Aramaic language spoken by Jesus of Nazareth in Palestine 2,000 years ago is a helpful contextual link to the answer. Because all three Semitic languages originate in the same roots, studying the Aramaic is a key to understanding across all three languages.

The True Path to “Peace” & the “Great Commission”

In the first and second century believers did not see “conversion” in the same way the modern world does. There was not a new religion, or club which one could join, but a movement within Judaism. Perhaps it was Roman Emperor Constantine’s declaration making “Christianity” the official religion of the Empire in 325 A.D. that promulgated a wrong westernized idea of “conversion.” Throughout generations armies and missionaries have at times promoted or forced “conversions” based on a flawed Holy Book strategy premising the true teaching of the prophets. So what is the true meaning of “conversion”?

Aramaic and other Semitic languages often use poetic prose, especially in the Holy Books. One aspect of the poetic structure is using different words with similar meaning to get the point across. This writing style is often used in the New Testament. (4) Understanding the specific meaning and the poetic compatibility of three ancient words may help dispel the mystery around conversion and how to best carry out the edict in Matthew 28:19.

1. PEACE shalom is the Hebrew cognate of Arabic salem and Aramaic shlama. They all have essentially the same meaning with some distinction in history, context and religious application. For example, the word Yarushalem (Jerusalem) is derived from this word. (See Appendix 1 for specific Bible references using various forms of shlama)

2. LEARNER The Aramaic, Arabic and Hebrew words for “peace” have a companion word with a similar meaning in the Gospel, “learner” or “disciple” which is the Aramaic word talmida. It comes from the Semitic root lmd, which means, “to learn”.(5) Both Aramaic shalem and talmida were used by Jesus and his disciples and often translated in English as “converting,” or “making learners/disciples.”(6) Many have devoted their life to this concept with the Biblical reference to “the Great Commission.”

3. TURN Acts 15:3 uses the Aramaic punaya (Gospel form: itpisen), which would better be interpreted "turned around [to serve God]." This was often used in reference to “turning” the Gentiles away from polytheism and another form p’na: means “to turn, return,” or “restore” as used primarily to the Jews, urging them to “turn back to” the notion of one God. (8,9)

Meaning of words can change drastically over time as in “gay”, “cool”, “sick”, etc. Hence, it is helpful to go back to the root meaning and the historical context of the time it was used in the original language of the speaker/writer. For example another very misunderstood idiom of Jesus is actually Aramaic poetry using two different words in a metaphorical fashion for one meaning (like an English poetic technique such as rhyming); i.e., “I have come to set the world on fire” and “I have come to bring peace on earth?, but divisions.”(10) “Set the world on fire” and “divisions” are metaphors alluding to the same meaning in Aramaic.

The history or background helps us better understand the three Semitic words for “peace” and their secondary meanings. In ancient times, cautious travelers in the East would not draw attention to themselves fearing falling prey to robbers.”(11) Opening the hands in a “surrendering” posture when meeting a person on a journey was a way of “saluting”(12) to show they had no weapons and peaceful intent. Today, we use the salute in the military and offer the open hand (handshake) as friendship. So you can see how “peace” and “surrender” became meaning of these words. (13,14)(See Appendix 2 for a comprehensive review of key related words that build a clear construct of the meaning of “shlama” as one “surrendered”).

Many lexicons and concordances of the Hebrew, Arabic and Aramaic combine the three words under the same definition. (15) While there are slight differences in the Hebrew, Aramaic and Arabic, they all are defined as a greeting and later became indicative of a process (16) that leads us closer to God. It is critical to view these three words interchangeably, as Semitic cognates.

The various meanings drawn from the lexicons and the Holy Books are as follows:


Go/Turn back (17)
Complete/fulfilled (18)
Surrender/submit (19)

In Old Testament Light, Dr. George Lamsa comments on Isaiah 57:19

“Peace is a key word that is used constantly…which introduces two strangers…whenever two easterners meet they greet by saying ‘peace unto you,’ and the greeting is returned by the same words ‘to you be peace’…The term shallam (peace) means, ‘I surrender to you.’ When two strangers surrender to one another, they surrender to God.” (P.712)

No wonder the Catholics use this Eastern greeting “peace be with you” at every Mass. Israelis still use shalom and Arabs, salam, for “peace,” completing the meaning of Mu-salem as “surrendered to God.” the Bible presents making talib “learners” or disciples, and shelem/itpisen returners/surrenders to God but this is not equivalent to our modern use of “conversion.”

End Notes:

1. Bashir Maan & Alastair McIntosh, “An Interview with Rev Prof William Montgomery Watt,” 1999 ( The Rev. Watt has written over 30 books including Islamic Political Thought (1968). In Scotland he has been a member of the ecumenical Iona Community since 1960. Amongst Islamic scholars he has been held in an esteem described as “most reverential.” The Muslim press have called him “the Last Orientalist.”
2. Also see Samuel Zwemer (1867-1952) called “the Apostle to Islam” for over 30 years as a missionary. He spoke at hundreds of churches & conferences throughout the world and published over 30 books calling Christians to Muslim missions. He was able to secure one dozen ‘converts’.
3. Dictionary definition of convert from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Copyright © 2004, 2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
4. See examples in Ruach Qadim, by Andrew Gabriel Roth; p. 51-65, 131-150 & 296.
5. The Hebrew and Aramaic word for "learner" or “pupal” is also the name of the Hebrew ancient Rabbinic writings of Talmud . Interestingly it is the same as the Arabic talib. We have all heard of the radical Taliban, which also means student or learner in Arabic.
6. See Matthew 13:52 & 28:19. George Lamsa translates the Aramaic root lmd to “convert” in both verses.
7. See Acts 15:3 where punaya is translated by Dr George Lamsa as “converted.” but “turning” seems more accurate. Also see other uses of punaya (it-pisen) Matthew 13:15, Mark 4:12, Luke 22:32, John 12:40 & James 5:19.
8. Newton, Adam Zachary "Versions of Ethics; Or, The SARL of Criticism: Sonority, Arrogation, Letting-Be "American Literary History - Volume 13, Number 3, Fall 2001, pp. 603-637
9. In Hebrew “convert” means shuwb ‘to turn back, or ‘return to a starting point’; shabuw el means ‘turn back to God’ Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance word #’s 7725 and 7619 respectively.
10. See Luke 12:49 & 51 also Matthew 10:34
11. The people of the time would rarely ‘salute’ someone of another tribe or religion, preferring to look straight ahead as they passed by.
12. Lexicon to the Syriac New Testament; Jennings p. 213 & 225.
13. Semitic language scholar Neil Douglas-Klotz, internationally known scholar; reinforces the Aramaic meaning of Shalem as “surrender” in his book: The Hidden Gospel: Decoding the Spiritual Message of the Aramaic Jesus. p. 168-169 & 196.
14. Also see More Light on the Gospel, by Dr. George Lamsa; Doubleday 1968, p. 141 ref; John 14:27 “peace” having the meaning to “surrender.”
15. Englishman’s Hebrew & Chaldee (Aramaic) Concordance, 1972; The New Brown, Driver, and Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (Hebrew, Aramaic & English) by Francis Brown, S.R. Driver & G.A. Briggs, p. 1022-1024; A Complete Hebrew & Chaldee (Aramaic) Lexicon, 1882 by Benjamin Davies, p. 646-647 and others.
16. In his book Buried Treasure, Secrets for Living from the Lord’s Language, Rabbi Daniel Lapin discusses shalom “peace” as “completing” a process, p.211-213.
17. I heard Dr. Darell Bock, professor of New Testament research at Dallas Theological Seminary, say on the John Ankerberg Show that “Jesus provides us a way to ‘turn back,’” further confirming the Biblical use of this construct.
18. Shalem: Aramaic for “completeness” and “fulfilled.” See Matthew 13:14, Mark 14:49, 15:28, Luke 21:22-23, 22:16, 23:46, John 13:18, 18:19, 18:32, 19:24 & James 2:23. Also see Jennings Syriac commentary p. 224.
19. Matthew 10:23, Galatians 4:25 & 5:25. (Andrew Gabriel Roth in his New Testament translation from the Aramaic p. 560 in footnote #57 deals with Galatians 5:25 and the word shlama meaning “surrender”).

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