Contend Earnestly: April 2010

Friday, April 30, 2010

#Christian #Fail

Thank you t-shirt company for continuing to make Christianity a fricken joke. Stop making Christian T-Shirts...they.are.lame.

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Francis Chan: The New Middle Road

HT: The Resurgence

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The Regulative Principle and Infant Baptism

Inspired by the blog 22 Words by Abraham Piper.

People who hold to the Regulative Principle and believe in infant baptism should be called Sola Oxymoronics.

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Thursday, April 29, 2010

Rick Warren On Criticism

I posted this last year and found it today...quite informative.

The following is advice from Warren on what someone should do when facing criticism:

1. Turn your critics into coaches by hearing what they are saying and humbly considering if there is any truth to their criticism.

2. Never engage the critics on their terms because it only escalates the conflict and is not productive.

3. Be very careful about firing off emails or leaving voicemails and responding out of anger in a way that you will later regret.

4. Shout louder than your critics to define yourself, and do not allow them to define you.

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My Honest Reaction After Being Called a Heretic

I have written for over 4 years now on this site and I know I can be pretty polarizing on certain subjects. I know that there is much I need to apologize for in regards to my postings in the past. Recently, I have really been desiring to write, not only honestly, but also, like I have always done, write on subjects that I have personally been either studying, or struggling with. Even through all these posts, although many have disagreed with different convictions, I have only been seriously called a heretic twice before. Once was from a hyper Calvinist that said because I believe in duty faith, I wasn't saved and the other came from a site that called me a heretic because I was a Calvinist and believed in the Trinity.

But, this past week, I and my church, have been called many names from a certain blog and its commenters. We have been called, "dumb so-called Christians", "heretics", "a reprobate church", "denying Sola Scriptura", "Christian dupes", "den of thieves" and "false teachers."

As I read this, because it was sent to me by someone else who wanted me to respond, I got very angry.

I have decided not to respond to the one who emailed me, nor to the post itself. The reason is that I just don't want to continue the dialogue with someone who has literally slandered my church and myself, has never once tried to contact us and wasn't at the event nor has ever attended my church. What I wanted to do is give you how I have responded and maybe it will aid you when you encounter something like this in the future.

1. Anger

I am not sure the reason for my anger. I think some of the anger was actually good anger. The reason I say this is because a lot of what was written was false and misleading information. Also, people I know and love were being attacked wrongly. This angered me. But, I was also angry because I am prideful and I want to be right. I still do a lot of things in my life because I want to be built up. So, when someone tears down "my work" I get angry because my idol is being attacked. This type of anger is wrong and is something I am repenting of. Because of this type of anger, I wanted to respond angrily by posting a comment on the blog, but after tweeting asking for advice, I had good brothers tell me to chill out and take a breath. Which I did and gladly so.

2. Sadness

I actually found myself a little sad. Not like a little boy in the corner crying sad, but emotionally sad within. The reason is because the church of Christ was being attacked. Not from those on the outside, but from those in the inside. The attack didn't seem to be to aid us by admonishing us, but to merely spread slander. This is always hard to take. We, as Harambee, are trying our hardest to spread the fame and glory of Jesus and when you are attacked by those who are supposed to be standing together with you in the universal church of Christ, yet attack instead, this makes me sad. It wouldn't have made me as sad if this particular blog author, or commenters, tried to contact us or aid us in why they believe we were off track. That is called admonishment. At least at that point, we can see that they do love us and desire for us to live for Jesus. But, instead, it looks as though this was merely to get hits on a blog and spread their own fame. Again, this is the perception since we were never contacted privately.

3. Conviction

I was harshly convicted. I have written about loving my neighbor and about loving those who attack me. What was I going to do now? What was I going to do now that I was literally being attacked? I did what Jesus has called me to do. This was very hard and in my face. I first asked God to forgive me and to guide me, to show me any truth in any of the claims that were purported. I asked God to direct my life to show off his glory. I then asked God to bless and to give abundant grace to the people who publicly attacked me and Harambee. I asked this, not to build up pride, but so that God's glory would be made known. The more grace and blessing one gets from God, for his glory, the better. I will have to continually do this for this blog author and for myself because we are both sinners seeking to live a life for the glory of God. To pray only for them would be wrong. To pray only for myself, likewise, would also be wrong.

These were my honest reactions to being called a heretic and all the above mentioned names. My life is one where many mistakes will be made. But, that's the point. My life is a mess, and so is yours, and that's why we desperately need Jesus. That's the good news in all of this. Being called these things are actually pretty truthful. I am a heretic sometimes, I am a dumb so-called Christian sometimes, I am duped by the devil sometimes, I teach falsely sometimes, I deny Sola Scriptura sometimes, but I know this! This is why I continually thank my God that He sent the King of kings and Lord of lords to die in my stead for the wretch that I am.

May God be praised alone.

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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

3 Minutes to Live: What Would You Say?

As I was standing in the Cry Out! studio this past Friday, listening to the young emcees writing and spitting some freestyle, I stood up and read something on the wall. It was a challenge by Celestine and Tara. It simply asked, "If you had 3 minutes to live, what would you say?" I thought about this. Would I declare the love I have for my wife? For my children? What would I do? I think that what I would say, or what I think I would say would have a lot to do with what I worship or idolize the most. The one thing I do know about myself is that I am a finite sinner with zero prominence or power of persuasion. I won't be remembered much after I die. I won't have people bringing flowers to my grace in the thousands, like some famous celebrities. Because of this understanding, I figured why wouldn't I say something that has stood the test of time and has real power over the thoughts and minds of people? My wife and kids know I love them, as I tell them so much that my oldest son has repeatedly told me, "Dad, I get love me..."

If I had 3 minutes, this is what I would say, what would you say?

“Men and women that have come to hear me speak or will read of this later, I observe that you are very religious in all respects. For while I was passing through this earth and examining the objects of your worship, I notice that you all worship different things, with different thoughts and ideals. They seem to change yearly, if not daily. You worship money, you worship self, you worship your good deeds, you worship sex, and because of this, you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things; and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we also are His children.’ Being then the children of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like the dollar, or gold, or an image formed by the art and thought of man. Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead. For all of us have become like one who is unclean, And all our righteous deeds are like a dirty tampon; And all of us wither like a leaf, And our sins, like the wind, take us away. Because of this, Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit; He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

Now I make known to you, my wife, my children, my family, my friends, my enemies, those unknown to me, the gospel, which I am delivering to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time; then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles; and last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to Paul also. Afterwards, at the right time, appointed by God, Jesus spoke the truth into my heart and revealed to me His Gospel that was passed down from the prophets of old, to the church of history and to the continual truth bearers until Jesus returns. For I am the least of the children of God, and not fit to be called His child, because I persecuted the church of God and everyone else I came into contact with. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored, yet not I, but the grace of God with me. Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed. Now if Christ is preached, that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain. Moreover we are even found to be false witnesses of God, because we testified against God that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise, if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

What must you do? You must repent, believe in the Lord Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Turn to him and believe, knowing that there is no other name under heaven by which we must be saved. Do this and know that you and I will worship the one true God forever in heaven. No work, besides the work of Christ will save you. Know that it is not because of who you and I are, but because of who Jesus was, is and always will be.

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Friday, April 23, 2010

MMA Fight Embarrassment: "Hello Japan!"

Here is my goodbye to you this week, as this fighter tells those in Japan hello. This is funny.

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The Church Sucks: The Response (Part 2)

In the first post, I showed the clear understanding of our condition as the church, namely, that we suck. The idea of this was to be clear and show that we shouldn't be too surprised at this understanding. Most people within the church, have had odd experiences where arguments seemed petty, the vision of the church wasn't focused on Jesus, but self, or have just been treated very harshly within the church. Now, when we get into this response, I am not trying to say that you should just deal with these issues and stay within a certain local church (I will write a post on when someone should leave a church), but what I am saying is that we shouldn't abandon the church gathered altogether.

The rave today is that since the organized church has taken advantage of people, seem to lose focus, has hurt me, has abused it's power, etc. etc. etc. then we should just abandon the church gathered and find Jesus, either on our own, or in small groups within our homes. (I am not arguing against house churches if they still look like the New Testament church discussed throughout Acts and the epistles of Paul). This response is wrong. We don't just leave something because we don't believe it is working. We must look back to the one who is all knowing and all powerful and focus on His work and not our own eyes. We must be as Paul tells the Corinthians:

Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.
1 Corinthians 15:58

I am not saying that Paul was trying to tell the church in Corinth to "keep meeting together as an organized church", but what Paul IS saying is that although our toils seem to be in vain we must continue to press forward in the will of God knowing that it isn't in vain. George Barna thinks he is starting a "Revolution" by leaving the local church, but what is actually doing is leaving the mission of God that God has within the local church.

But, why do I think this? Why do I think that although we are jacked, that we still need to continually pursue the church gathered? The reason is because I think God actually knows the future and is in control over it. God isn't surprised that our churches are a joke at times, abusive in other times and downright idiotic at times. So much so, that even before Paul takes aim at the local church in Corinth, notice he doesn't tell them to find themselves outside of the church but actually encourages them:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given you in Christ Jesus, that in everything you were enriched in Him, in all speech and all knowledge, even as the testimony concerning Christ was confirmed in you, so that you are not lacking in any gift, awaiting eagerly the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will also confirm you to the end, blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
1 Corinthians 1:3-9

So, why is it obvious that God desires us to stay in the church, instead of leaving it and doing it on our own?

1. God Knows the Hearts of Man

God knows exactly who we are. We love to wander from authority and wander from the truth. This is what we always do and, although this is mostly spoken of in the form of us wandering from God, it can be seen that this is our make up and what we desire to do in general.

We see this in the Prodigal Son story, which tells of the boy leaving the truth, love and security of his father. We see this in Isaiah 53 that tells us that we are all like sheep who go astray. We love to out on our own and leave the authority established over us. This is why Paul has to tell us to be in subjection to the governing authorities (Romans 13:1), because we naturally don't want to be. We desire to be our own god, making our own decisions. We love to continually commit the first sin in the garden by usurping authority, to become our own. Whether we like it or not, we are all Adam's desiring to become our own God. This is our heart. God knows it.

2. God Establishes Our Leadership

Because of the first, that we are wanderers and love to be our own authority, God has always established leaders and authorities for us. Think about it. He established judges, he established kings, he established priests and he established prophets. Whether it was political or spiritual, God has always established authorities above us to rule us. There is no difference for the church. God establishes pastors, overseers, bishops, elders, deacons and teachers all to give us godly leadership examples. They are there for our good and to lead us. They are there to admonish us, to teach us the precepts of God, to guard us against heresy, to defend the truth and to lead us. (1 Tim 3; Acts 11:30,14:23; Titus 1:5-9; Acts 20:28; Phil 1:1; Eph 4:11-13;Acts 13:1; 2 Timothy 4) So much so, that God tells us to:

Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith...Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you.
Hebrews 13:7,17

I know we don't like authoritarian people who rule over us. But, maybe that's the point? Maybe the point is that we were not made to be lone rangers, on our own, doing as we wish. Maybe we were made to be ruled over, to guard us, to protect us and to take care of us.

3. Why?

Think of this. Why would God do this on earth? Why would he give us people to rule over us, lead us, watch over us and care for our souls? The biggest reason "why?" is because these leaders are a picture of our God in heaven. Paul puts this plainly, when he states:

Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.
1 Corinthians 11:1

Paul, being an apostle and a leader to the Corinthian people tells them to imitate him. This is very closely related to Hebrews 13:7 (from the same root word in the Greek) where it tells us to imitate the faith of those who lead us. The reason is because our leaders are to be showing us Jesus. Spiritually, we have always desired to go our own way, we desire to exchange the truth for a lie (Romans 1:25) and to leave the safety of our God. So, what God has done is given us imperfect saviours and leaders on this earth (i.e. elders/pastors) to show us and have us yearn for our perfect Saviour and Leader in heaven.

God does this in other areas as well, not only in church leadership, but also in marriage. We are told to submit to each other, to know our roles in marriage, but why? Because marriage is a shadow of the perfection of our Christ and his perfect leadership for the church of God (Ephesians 5:22-33). Honestly, because of the rejection of the roles in marriage, it is no surprise that church roles and leadership is now being rejected.

4. Admonishment

So, what have people been doing because leadership has been done imperfectly within the church? They have left it. This is wrong. Hebrews speaks to this when the writer tells us:

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.
Hebrews 10:23-25

The church is the physical manifestation of what is our spiritual hope and promises. Yes, they are messed up, sinners, taking advantage of people and sometimes ruining lives. But, nonetheless, it is how God has guided his people to function. Even with all this, there is still much to praise the church for. It is not all bad, there is much good. We cannot allow some bad apples ruin the whole harvest. This is what I believe happened in marriage. Because some husbands have sucked in leading for the cause of Christ, the roles in marriage have been questioned and thrown out. But, just because it seems as though something isn't working, or we have been burned by it, we can't throw it out if it's been ordained by God.

Where does it stop? The next step from leaving the church gathered, is leaving the people of God altogether. Check out this verse and see how this plays out and the harsh words from John:

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 believe if one says that they hate the church gathered, that they are very close in saying that they hate God. That is a bold statement, but God has given us physical leaders and authority to show us the hope and perfection in God, our perfect Authority. He established this, knowing that this gathered church would screw up a lot, and screw up often, yet he still established it.

We are all sinners. Only when you believe your sin isn't that bad will you decide to leave the church altogether. You have put your hope in people instead of God. You have put people on the throne, instead of God. And, because people have become your god and they have disappointed you, you have left what God ordained.

But, if God is your only hope, your only God, your only Saviour, you will trust in what HE has established, and what he has given us and not in the actions of man.

Don't leave the church gathered, but love it regardless of it's faults. Sounds a lot like what Jesus did for you, or have you forgot?

as it is written,
"There is none righteous, not even one;
There is none who understands,
There is none who seeks for God;
All have turned aside, together they have become useless;
There is none who does good,
There is not even one."
"Their throat is an open grave,
With their tongues they keep deceiving,"
"The poison of asps is under their lips";
"Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness";
"Their feet are swift to shed blood,
Destruction and misery are in their paths,
And the path of peace they have not known."
"There is no fear of God before their eyes."
For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit;
He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
Romans 3:10-18, 1 Peter 3:18, 2 Corinthians 5:21

In the last post, I am going to give some thoughts on when and why one should leave one church for another.

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Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Gospel Is Not Western Culture

I received this book in the mail today and read the preface. This is a strong start and one that excites me to read this and glean from Dr. Hiebert and his experience in the field and in his studies. Enjoy.

There is, today, in churches around the world a renewed vision of their responsibility to bring to people everywhere the Good News of salvation, and to minister to their needs. This can be seen not only in the revival of interest in missions which has occurred in the West, but also in rapid growth of missionary outreach in the churches of Asia, Africa, and Latin America, the so-called Two-Thirds world.

With this renewal has come the realization that missions must be far more sensitive to people and their cultures. The modern mission movement was born during a time of Western colonial and technological expansion, and too often Western missionaries equated the gospel with Western civilization. Here and there individual missionaries identified closely with the people they served, and learned their ways. Many more showed their love for the people by their deep commitment to their ministries. They went abroad often knowing that they faced death in a few short years, and those who survived gave their whole lives to the task. But the identification of the gospel with Western power and technology made it foreign, and therefore unacceptable, to many people

Today the young churches planted by the early missionaries are speaking out, calling us to be more aware of human cultures and their differences, and reminding us that God is not a tribal God, but the God of the world; that the gospel is for everyone; and that the church is one body that breaks down walls of ethnicity, class, and nationalism that divide humans into warring camps. At the same time, there has been a growing awareness in the social sciences, particularly in anthropology, of the need to understand people in their cultural settings. Out of this has come the growing realization that missionaries today need not only a solid understanding of the Scriptures, but also a deep knowledge of the people they serve...Every missionary must experience God's call to missions and be rooted in a love for God and his glory, and in a love for people, their salvation, and their well being.

Paul G. Hiebert, Anthropological Insights for Missionaries, Preface

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The Church Sucks: The Facts (Part 1)

I debated whether or not to title this post, "Church Sucks" or "The Church Sucks", but figured, without the invisible church, there would be no visible church or church as an organizational structure. So, why not start at the root instead of the branches. I know some of you are throwing up in your mouth when you hear me refer to church as an organizational structure, but in some form, it definitely is. But, however I titled this post, the fact is, the church sucks. The reason I write this post, is because in reaction to this fact, people are abandoning the church and deciding to live out their faith without community, or in ways contra to the formal, organized church. Which I find to be an overreaction to the facts laid before us.

If you have been apart of the church for any number of years, you know that this is definitely true. There are petty arguments that we continually have that seem to have very little to do with the mission of Jesus and making him known. Most of us have been totally lost on how some people could act, what certain things are argued over and how some things seem to continually creep in. But, the fact to be argued isn't, "Does the church suck?" because that should be well established. The fact to be argued should be, "Why does this surprise us?"

Tim Keller was the first I heard talk about why the church sucketh so (In his book, "The Reason for God"...which is pretty funny when you think of it). He mentioned, and I am paraphrasing here, that the reason the church is so filled with hypocrites is because the church is filled with the worst of sinners.

Let's work through some of this together on why the church, meaning, the gathering of the elect of God, sucks so bad and sometimes is very hard to be around.

We have all had those times where we can't believe what is going on in the church. Whether it is figuring out a budget, the color of the carpet in that weird room in corner of the building that's called "the prayer room", whether or not we should "support" a missionary by giving them $50 a month or $75 a month, or whether or not the bulletin should have a picture of an old country church or sun rays coming through clouds. These arguments all seem retarded when thinking through the mission of God. But, since most of us aren't oddball Regulative Principle Wackos (that's a jab for all my friends who are...which I am sure they'll comment, and if they better be funny or I won't accept the comment ;)), there are many things we aren't told in regards to what to do as the Church gathers. We aren't told:

- What day and time to come together as the church gathered (notice I didn't say worship, as this should be everyday)
- What kind of building we should be in
- What songs to sing
- How many songs to sing
- How long to preach
- What we should wear (although the NT only talks in the negative for those who dress up in church, and I'm pretty sure that Jesus is against those shirts with bible verses and sunsets)
- How to set up the chairs (or the pews if you are a Reformed Baptist)
- Which instruments to use and whether or not we should allow that lady to sing who's voice sounds like a used up car horn
- How often to take communion

I could continue this list for a while. The point being is that we are living in the NT, we are the church continued, and many details are left out, which means many chances for sinners to fight over weird stuff.

Not only are we not told many specifics, but look at how God refers to us:

For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God.
1 Corinthians 1:26-29

For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
Romans 5:7-8

There are other passages that sing our filth and show our utter failures. But, God calls out the idiots of the world so that he is praised and we are not. Think of 1 Cor 1. He says we are dumb, weak, fools and the opposite of noble can mean vulgar, common or lowly. Not only this, but God shows in Romans 5 that he didn't come for those who believe that they are righteous, but those of us who know we are sinners and vile. Not only this, but the church gathered has always been a mess. The letter to the Corinthians should be enough for us to realize that we are a mess. Look at how Paul describes the Corinthians:

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.
1 Corinthians 6:9-11

Look at that list! Is there any surprise that this church is a little crazy and off point? This church was such a mess that they were allowing family reunions to be date night, using communion as a way for free booze and using the gift of tongues as a reason to get up in the middle of the sermon and yell craziness. The same is with us. The problem is that for some reason, we go to a church and believe it is some sort of perfect country club with no issues instead of crappy sinners who have been saved by grace. The problem is that we think that heaven is realized now, instead of a not yet future perfection. We go to church and live in community with our church as though Revelation 21:3-4 should be our church now:

And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.”
Revelation 21:3-4

Revelation is a beautiful picture of what will happen as the bride is called to be with the groom in perfect worship of the Perfect One. I am sure you have seen Revelation 21 depicted on a t-shirt on that dude who won't stop smiling and shaking hands during the "turn and greet the people next to you bit after the first praise song where the same verse was repeated 19 times." I'm pretty sure that there is a verse somewhere against this. But, for now, we have to know that we are merely sojourners, living in the flesh as sinners with other sinners who are just as messed up as us. When we start losing focus of our sinfulness is when we see the church as more jacked up than it really is.

My second post will be what our reaction should be to this messed up, crappy gathering of sojourners. The answer is not to run, but to fight alongside and support. This is made clear in the Bible and I will show it's fullness tomorrow.

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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Cake Competition: Me vs The Wife

Today...I made the ugliest cake ever made. I bet you can't tell which one I made and the ones that my wife has made for the kids in the past.

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Paul Tripp: What Makes a Word a Bad Word?

I posted this before, when it first came out, but thought I would post it again. Great thoughts from a great thinker and father.

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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Relating to Muslims

Interesting video from Carl Medearis. Enjoy.

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The Most Prophetic Chapter in the Bible

Job chapter 9 has to be the most prophetic book in the Bible. The reason I say this is that Job is called the most righteous man to walk the earth by God himself in Chapter 1. After everything is taken away from Job he comes to the conclusion drawn in chapter 9. It is packed with wisdom from a man who knows his condition, knows God's goodness and perfection and is left to just complete bewilderment of what he can't do. The amazing thing is that there is only one person who can answer the most prominenant conclusion in chapter 9 by Job. It comes in verses 32 through 35 and it states:

For he is not a man, as I am, that I might answer him,
that we should come to trial together.
There is no arbiter between us,
who might lay his hand on us both
Let him take his rod away from me,
and let not dread of him terrify me.
Then I would speak without fear of him,
for I am not so in myself.
Job 9:32-35

Read Job chapter 9 and just glean from its beauty. Amazing that this came from the man that God described as, "...none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?” Job 1:8b

Then Job answered and said:
“Truly I know that it is so:
But how can a man be in the right before God?
If one wished to contend with him,
one could not answer him once in a thousand times.
He is wise in heart and mighty in strength
—who has hardened himself against him, and succeeded?—
he who removes mountains, and they know it not,
when he overturns them in his anger,
who shakes the earth out of its place,
and its pillars tremble;
who commands the sun, and it does not rise;
who seals up the stars;
who alone stretched out the heavens
and trampled the waves of the sea;
who made the Bear and Orion,
the Pleiades and the chambers of the south;
who does great things beyond searching out,
and marvelous things beyond number.
Behold, he passes by me, and I see him not;
he moves on, but I do not perceive him.
Behold, he snatches away; who can turn him back?
Who will say to him, ‘What are you doing?’
“God will not turn back his anger;
beneath him bowed the helpers of Rahab.
How then can I answer him,
choosing my words with him?
Though I am in the right, I cannot answer him;
I must appeal for mercy to my accuser.
If I summoned him and he answered me,
I would not believe that he was listening to my voice.
For he crushes me with a tempest
and multiplies my wounds without cause;
he will not let me get my breath,
but fills me with bitterness.
If it is a contest of strength, behold, he is mighty!
If it is a matter of justice, who can summon him?
Though I am in the right, my own mouth would condemn me;
though I am blameless, he would prove me perverse.
I am blameless; I regard not myself;
I loathe my life.
It is all one; therefore I say,
He destroys both the blameless and the wicked.
When disaster brings sudden death,
he mocks at the calamity of the innocent.
The earth is given into the hand of the wicked;
he covers the faces of its judges—
if it is not he, who then is it?
“My days are swifter than a runner;
they flee away; they see no good.
They go by like skiffs of reed,
like an eagle swooping on the prey.
If I say, ‘I will forget my complaint,
I will put off my sad face, and be of good cheer,’
I become afraid of all my suffering,
for I know you will not hold me innocent.
I shall be condemned;
why then do I labor in vain?
If I wash myself with snow
and cleanse my hands with lye,
yet you will plunge me into a pit,
and my own clothes will abhor me.
For he is not a man, as I am, that I might answer him,
that we should come to trial together.
There is no arbiter between us,
who might lay his hand on us both.
Let him take his rod away from me,
and let not dread of him terrify me.
Then I would speak without fear of him,
for I am not so in myself.
Job 9

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Monday, April 19, 2010

"Cry Out" Rap Studio Teaches Teens About Life

This was done by our local Fox affiliate last week. Amazing to see how the word is getting out and our community is pubbing it like crazy. Enjoy.


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Nicene Creed: Part 4

Crucified for us (Mark 15:25; I Corinthians 15:3; John 1:29; Gal 1:4; Heb 5:1, 3; 1 Pet 2:24)
Jesus Christ was crucified for us. He not only literally came from heaven and walked among us, but he literally was nailed to a cross and died for us. The Qur'an claims that Jesus was not crucified by the Jews (Surah 4:157), as the Jews were seemingly bragging about it during their time, and we accept this. We believe that although the Romans literally nailed Jesus to the cross, not the Jews, this plan of crucifixion for our sins was the predetermined plan of God alone and not man. The fact remains that my Christ died on a tree to pay for my sins, as my atoning sacrifice. Because, as all monotheistic faiths believe,

For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood by reason of the life that makes atonement.
Leviticus 17:11

Hebrews 9 explains why Jesus, the eternal One, had to be the sacrifice for our sins, instead of merely a finite animal:

And according to the Law, one may almost say, all things are cleansed with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. Therefore it was necessary for the copies of the things in the heavens to be cleansed with these, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. For Christ did not enter a holy place made with hands, a mere copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us; nor was it that He would offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the holy place year by year with blood that is not his own. Otherwise, He would have needed to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now once at the consummation of the ages He has been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment, so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him.
Hebrews 9:22-28

I believe that Jesus the Christ, the Son of Man, was crucified for me.

Under Pontius Pilate (John 18:29-19:30; John 19:10-11)

Jesus was merely crucified under the local rule of Pontius Pilate. This is mentioned for historical reasons and for the reminder that only God has authority to put to death his own Son. Not only that but Proverbs reminds us the following:

The king’s heart is like channels of water in the hand of the Lord; He turns it wherever He wishes.
Proverbs 21:1

The conversation between Pilate and our Lord reminds us of the sovereignty of God and that his will is the only will that is perfect and worked out every time.

So Pilate said to Him, “You do not speak to me? Do You not know that I have authority to release You, and I have authority to crucify You?” Jesus answered, “You would have no authority over Me, unless it had been given you from above; for this reason he who delivered Me to you has the greater sin.”
John 19:10-11

I believe that Jesus was crucified under the rule, not authority, of Pontius Pilate.

He suffered (Mark 8:31–9:1: Matt 16:21–28; Luke 9:22–27)

Jesus Christ was a real man, because of this, he suffered. Jesus was not as the Gnostics say, merely looking like man, but really only spirit. Jesus was a real man, in the flesh (sarx), came down and became man (carne), so suffered like one. He was not released from the duties of suffering, but because he became like us, he suffered like us. He did this to be our closely related high priest, who can truly understand our sufferings, yet say that he suffered much more. He suffered to be our mediator between us and God (read Job 9). Jesus was not rescued, he in no way was allowed provision from suffering, but truly suffered as any man would suffer if he were to be scourged and killed on a cross. But, because he is the Word incarnate, his eternal suffering, is far more, not far less than man's. I believe that Jesus the Christ, the Jesus of Nazarath, born of the virgin Mary, suffered.

and was buried (Luke 23:50–56: Matt 27:57–61; Mark 15:42–47; John 19:38–42; 1 Corinthians 15:4)

Because Jesus, the incarnate Word, was crucified on the cross, he literally died. Because of this, like any other Jewish man, was buried in a tomb. He was treated like any other man, by being buried as local tradition and culture would have buried him, hence the burial spices and linen cloth. But, most men who were crucified were then thrown into the trash pile to be eaten by the animals, yet our Lord was prophesied to be laid in the grave of a rich man, instead of with those who were called, "cursed."

His grave was assigned with wicked men,
Yet He was with a rich man in His death,
Because He had done no violence,
Nor was there any deceit in His mouth.
Isaiah 53:9

Jesus' traditional burial, being wrapped in white linen and over 100 lbs. in spices, shows that according to every "professional" that saw him, saw him actually dead. Even if somehow he survived the cross and merely passed out, after being wrapped tightly in burial linens and spices, he would have then suffocated. This pronouncement of death included the Romans, the Jews and Jesus' followers. No one in the days of Jesus ever had reason to suspect that Jesus of Nazareth survived such a gruesome day, but all were under the correct conclusion that Jesus had literally died. I believe that not only was Jesus scourged and crucified, but was buried because he literally died.

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Thursday, April 15, 2010

Recent Book Purchases

I just bought three books that I am pretty excited to read and figured I would share them here. I am currently reading "Why We Love the Church" by DeYoung and Kluck. I agree with their thoughts on the church, for the most part, but only one page in book would actually constitute as a solid biblical reason to desire organized church. Kluck's chapters crack me up and are solid. DeYoung's, supposedly the exegetical part, haven't been overly exegetical. So, I think those of us that enjoy church and see it's calling, will like the book. But, those who disagree, won't find much to convince them otherwise, besides that one page in one of DeYoung's chapters.

Anyways. Here are the three books I recently purchased:

This book peaked my interest after one of my elders quoted it while we were doing a bible study (through BILD) in Acts. It sounds very interesting because it exposes some of the things that are merely cultural that we as Westerners might (and usually do) consider to be truth and normal cultural standards. I look forward to stripping more of my Western thought and get some good insight into cultural and anthropological studies.

This book was recommended by another elder and friend of mine who is a linguist and works for a Wycliffe company called "The Seed Company." The book takes thoughts from theologians and pastors from around the world and has them interpret the bible in the culture that they live in. We speak about persecution, poverty and stress, these theologians are living this every day. Again, excited to be able to learn about Jesus from a different cultural perspective.

This last book is one that I am picking up to aid me to teach in our urban setting. Although I have loved hip hop for most of my musical life (which my love started back when I was around 10 in Oklahoma), I wanted more insight to it's beginnings and struggles to gain listeners. As I have tried to show before, I believe hip hop is a culture that has many redeemable qualities.

These three books will hopefully make me understand those around me a lot more as I engage them face to face on a weekly basis. I have a lot of reading now, as these books are long...and I usually get bored of a book by page 200.

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Satan is a Bitch

Some who read this are reading it because they find the term used in the title offensive. They might even say I am immature or looking for attention by using the term. Both of those are fine. I am okay with you thinking either of those things, because I do want to make a point with this term and I hope you read the whole post to get the point.

I don't know your background that you grew up in, but within my circles growing up and in many circles today, to call someone who is a dude, a bitch, are fighting words. There wasn't many terms that you could use to get the attention of an enemy more than this term. I am not using this term as some do with females, but using it in terms of a male, and those who grew up with this term, or still use it today, will understand the gravity of me calling Satan a bitch. I want myself, and others, to understand this fact. When I hear someone call another a bitch my hair stands on end because I know how I would have reacted back in the day if someone were to call me a bitch and I saw many time what happened when that term was thrown around. But, the real question must then be: Why is Satan a bitch?

1. Satan is a Slanderer

A bitch in everyday life is one who likes to talk behind your back. They aren't man enough to talk to you face to face about stuff, but they like to talk about you to everyone else. They love to spread rumors, whether true or not, to others to tear you down. Most know this, but the term "devil" literally means slanderer or false accuser. The devil shows how much of a bitch he is the very first time we see him. We see him in the garden telling Eve lies about God and God's word. He preys on the weak to make himself higher, to try and have power and fame, because he really has none. If you have ever come across a dude like this, they are persistent and really dumb. They are two faced. So is Satan. He not only comes to man to speak ill of God in the garden, and continues to do so, but he then is said to be doing the same thing with God in regards to man.

Now the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down, he who accuses them before our God day and night.
Revelation 12:10

Satan accuses us day and night to God. The next verse states that we overcome because of the blood of the Lamb. Notice we don't overcome these accusations on our own accord, as Satan is actually right. We have no merit for righteousness, but only the merit of the Christ, the Son of Man. But really? Come on Satan. This is the best you got? You're going to try and slander God to man, then slander man to the all knowing God?'re a bitch.

2. Satan is a Liar

Not only did those dudes slander people, but they just outright lied to look good. This seemed to always be how these dudes worked. Always covering one lie with another, whatever they had to do to make sure they didn't lose face, but in the end, they always do. Satan is no different.

You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.
John 8:44

Satan constantly lies. It is his nature. He is the father of them. He started in the garden and hasn't stopped. He continually tells us that God is not in control, that God isn't pleased with us, that we need to do more work to earn righteousness. If it isn't this, then he is telling people that there is no God, that God isn't loving, that you have done too much evil for God to actually love you. Satan will lie about anything to make sure you stay away from God. He wants the focus to be on you, because if it is all about you, then you'll never see God for who He truly is.

3. Satan is a Glory Thief

You ever notice this about that bitch growing up? Never an actual leader, never took risks in life, never put himself out there and always trying to steal someone else's spotlight. Exaggerating how good he is at something, always tearing others down to make himself look better. Just a glory thief. This is Satan.

“How you have fallen from heaven,
O star of the morning, son of the dawn!
You have been cut down to the earth,
You who have weakened the nations!
“But you said in your heart,
‘I will ascend to heaven;
I will raise my throne above the stars of God,
And I will sit on the mount of assembly
In the recesses of the north.
‘I will ascend above the heights of the clouds;
I will make myself like the Most High.’
Isaiah 14:12-14

Satan can't stand that we worship God. He can't stand that he is not worshiped, but mocked and scoffed at. He can't stand the amazing glory of our God. He can't stand that Isaiah is floored when seeing our God in the heavens (Isaiah 6:1-6). He hates to know that he will never be first, but always under God. We know, and so does he, that whole earth is full of His (God's) glory (Isaiah 6:5), that God is in control of all things and that Satan has to ask God permission to do anything (Job), that God owns everything (Exodus 19:5, Psalm 50:12; 1 Cor 10:26), and that in the end, God's Kingdom will be established and Satan will be crushed. But, because Satan is a bitch, he continues to try and steal God's glory for himself and will do anything to do it.

These are three reasons. One thing I know is that people, once they find out that someone is a bitch, avoid them at all costs. They don't want to hang with someone who is a slanderer, a liar and a glory thief. Why would we allow Satan to have any place in our lives? Why wouldn't we be trying to kill sin and living for God? God is the complete opposite of Satan.

God is truth

God is faithful

God is glory

Anything with truth points to God

Anything with faithfulness points to God

Anything with glory points to God.

Why would we choose the bitch over God? We wouldn't do this in our own lives on this earth, so why would we do it with the creator, sustainer and redeemer and exchange that relationship with someone called the father of lies, the slanderer and the accuser of both God and us?

The last thing about Satan is that he is called a murderer. He will murder your spirit if we allow him to enter into our fellowship. This why John Owen stated, "Kill sin or it will be killing you." He is dangerous. Just like that bitch growing up that we all kept at arms length and avoided, we need to do the same with Satan. We need to see the signs around us that point to Satan and rid ourselves of them.

On the other hand, we need to stop exchanging the truth of God for a lie and turn to God:

Behold, God is my helper;
The Lord is the sustainer of my soul.
Psalm 54:4

“The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things;
Acts 17:24-25

I hope you can see why I use such strong language against Satan. It is so that I, and you, can see the gravity of hanging out with such a one as him.

Then Jesus said to him, “Go, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only.’ ”
Matthew 4:10

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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Translating the Bible From An Idiot's Perspective

If you have read this blog for any amount of time, you know one thing: Seth isn't a theologian. I have no formal training in the Greek or Hebrew, I have no formal training in Christian History, I have no formal training in Preaching or teaching and I have no formal training in writing. I am your average idiot when it comes to these things. The other thing you know about me if you have read this blog is that I have never allowed these things to hinder me from learning or stating my convictions on a lot of subjects. In many ways, I am like most of my readers. Just a regular American citizen, who loves Jesus trying to figure out how Jesus should impact me every day through my reading and research in the Bible and culture. I think one thing I have that some don't is that I get that I am an idiot in these things. I get that those who have studied the things listed above are far more qualified to speak on these subjects than I am. I am merely a Berean.

The reason I get this is because the one thing I am trained in is investments. I would bet that compared to those reading my blog I am far superior in my knowledge of how to make money in both investments domestically and globally and in business. It's funny when I hear people try to speak about investments as though they know what they are talking about and they sound like a toddler giving their dad directions in the car.

Because of this understanding, I go to those I believe are experts. This doesn't mean I trust all the experts, but I try to discern from the experts, which ones I believe are true and which ones are just plain wrong. Recently, because of my friendships with people from different perspectives and cultures it has got me thinking of our English Bibles and the way that they are translated. I have spoken to Arab Muslims, today I spoke to a Westerner who just got his MBA in Turkey and is going back to start a business there, I also have a friend in my church who is a linguist (so is his wife). He is with Wycliffe Translators and actually built a written language for an Indonesian tribe where he translated two New Testaments from the ground up. He literally invented an alphabet for these tribes. It took him and his wife 15 years, which he said was quite fast for what they did, but the people were really hungry for a written language and specifically a New Testament in their language. As a side note, he pointed me to a book I am excited to read called, "Voices From the Margin: Interpreting the Bible in the Third World"

As I spoke to him, some of my "worries" or insights were confirmed about our translations of the Bible into English. This is what I mean. Ask yourself this:

What is the most important issue when dealing with translating the Bible into one's language and culture?

Think about it. Honestly, ask yourself, what is the most important thing about translations and the Bible?

The most important is simply this: To get the intent of the author across to the reader so that they can understand what is being said. That's it. It's not about certain terms or which words should be used or not, but about the author's intent to be clearly represented to the reader so that they can either clearly submit to the word of the Lord or reject it. What we shouldn't hold on to is making sure that certain terms are used, but making sure that certain terms are given over to clearly represent their meaning in their language and culture. Let me give you an example from the field.

My buddy, who is a linguist, said that the term "charis" or "grace" didn't exist in the language of the tribe he was working with. Not only that, but most tribal cultures don't have that term. Historically, what translators have done is been so forceful to make sure that the "charis" be coined as the western thought of "grace" that they miss the point. What my friend found out is that as he explained the term to the natives, they had the concept in their culture, but not the term. So, from that, he was able to translate the term "charis" into a concept that they would understand in their New Testament. Isn't that the point? We sometimes feel in the Western world that some terms are untouchable and should be literally translated. Some of these would be: Christ, propitiation, atonement, redemption, sin, Son of God, Son of Man, etc.

Let me ask you this. When you read the Bible with someone who has never sat under the reading of the word and you come to one of these words, do you just read it and expect them to understand it? Or, do you explain it to them so that they can understand what the term is speaking of? Just to give you another example. My buddy Michael, who presented Jesus at the dialogue with Muslims, had someone tell him that Michael's explanation of Jesus being the Lamb of God was transforming. He said before the explation, he thought that the reason he saw so many pictures with Jesus holding a lamb was because Jesus liked animals. Showing, once again, WE HAVE MISSED THE POINT OF PRESENTING THE GOSPEL CLEARLY!

I have preached and taught for the past 7 years, not long I know, but one of the first things one understands as a Bible teacher is that you must get the intended message to the hearers in a way they understand. It is not my job for them to respond, that is the Holy Spirit's job, but my job is to clearly articulate to whatever age group, culture, sex, that I am speaking to.

Why shouldn't our translations be the same? We are so worried about word for word translation that some don't even really understand how translations happen. Usually, what happens is that if a Greek word has multiple words in the English that can be used, the translator picks the one he believes is the best and then uses that English term throughout the entirety of his translation. But, what happens if Paul meant something different than Peter with that term. Or what if Paul meant something totally different depending on the context? Shouldn't we desire to get Paul's intended message across to the reader to make it easier to understand? If you want an example, just look at Romans 8 where Paul uses the term "flesh" 13 times yet the term isn't meant to be taken the same way each time. What if instead of translating the term as "flesh" it was translated so that we could actually understand it? This would be a far greater translation. The problem is that we are too bent on word for word translation instead of bent on getting the correct concept to be presented so that the reader clearly understands. Some say that if we allow this type of translation then the translator has too much room to be a "commentator" on the passage. But that is exactly what happens when someone picks from 15 different English terms to translate a Greek term. He chooses the one he feels fits the best. Plus, this is how good translations in tribal settings are put forth, they give the meaning, instead of merely a term. This is also exaclty what we ask our pastors to do every Sunday when they preach. We ask them to exegete Scripture. Meaning, we ask them to tell us what the passage means!

I think with our translations, we are so bent on getting the word right, we miss out on it's actual meaning. One that is clearly misunderstood is the term "Son of God." Ask an average Christian, they have no idea how to unpack this term and revert to merely saying that Jesus had no earthly father, but his father was God in heaven. That isn't the entirety of the meaning of this term. This is NOT what was meant primarily with this term. Most of the time, you'll see the term closely related (usually in the same context) to the term Christ, which means to those Jews in the 1st Century as one who will come to redeem them from oppression. Why not use that explanation instead? Because Westerners are so bent on word for word translations and then don't even understand the actual words used because they are from a different culture and vernacular. (there is much more to unpack with the terms Son of God and Christ, but hopefully you get the point)

If we desire to see people hear the Gospel clearly, we need to ask ourselves if we care more about the terms used, or the concept that was intended by the author and by God himself. I believe most of the time, people care more about dying for a term than for the concept. It is actually killing opportunities to speak to other cultures about Jesus as America is becoming more and more global.

We should seek out to explain the concepts of terms instead of getting too concerned with the term itself. If the term itself is too loaded with controversy just because of how it has been misused, then why not explain what the term means instead of getting stuck on the term itself? Why get mad when someone hates the term Christianity or Son of God because it has been so abused? Why not explain the terms instead? You are not watering down the Gospel when doing so, but you are actually making it clearer to the hearers.

Honestly ask yourself. Are you more concerned with being able to clearly articulate who Jesus was, is and what he accomplished, or are you more concerned with holding certain terms "dear to your heart"? If someone rejects what you are saying because you can't articulate, maybe they aren't rejecting the Gospel, but rejecting you.

Just some thoughts from an idiot who loves to interject his opinions.

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Monday, April 12, 2010

Interfaith Dialogue a "Tremendous Success"

Most of the readers know of the dialogue that happened at Harambee last month. I thought I would share the press release put out by CAIR Seattle in regards to the dialogue. Many friendships were made and more dialogues and get togethers are being put together for the future. It is truly exciting to see what God is doing.

Interfaith Dialogue of Evangelicals, Muslims a 'Tremendous Success'

Some 300 Participants Explore Similarities, Differences in Perspectives on Jesus

Some 300 members of a Renton area Evangelical church, a Redmond area mosque, and other local mosques and churches participated in a dialogue on the Islamic and Christian perspectives on Jesus on Saturday, March 27th at the Harambee Church in Renton, WA.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations of WA (CAIR-WA), Muslim Association of Puget Sound (MAPS) and Harambee Church, partnered to organize the event "Jesus, Who is He?" The event included a reception, presentations by leaders on the basics of each faith, readings and table discussions of relevant passages from the Bible and Qur'an, and a question and answer session.

Participants read verses from the Qur'an as well as verses from the Bible, comparing each book's accounts of Jesus' birth, descriptions of the Virgin Mary, and attributes of Jesus.

Michael Ly, a Pastor at Harambee and Vice President of Peace Catalyst International, has been a major part of interfaith work with CAIR-WA and local mosques. Ly started bringing together leaders of both faith communities through small gatherings and mosque visits, leading up to large dialogues between entire congregations. "It is truly an honor to be part of an effort to build bridges of understanding between Evangelicals and Muslims," said Ly. "I believe this is the first of many future religious and social interactions between these two faith communities."

Arsalan Bukhari, Executive Director of CAIR-WA participated in the event. "A gathering like this brings forward issues of interest to both Muslims and Christians" he said. "It is our goal to build interfaith communities through dialogue and mutual respect."

Imam Mohamad Joban, Imam (Muslim religious leader) at MAPS commented on the success of the event. "What happened this past Saturday night at Harambee Church was a bounty of our Lord," he said. It was a combination of thoughtful preparation, generous efforts by the organizers, and our trust in Allah."

Gina Mahmoud, Secretary of the Interfaith and Outreach Committee at MAPS viewed the event as a 'tremendous success.' "The event was a tremendous success and exceeded all expectations in attendance, organization and impact," said Mahmoud. "I am also very proud of the many young people of both faiths who attended."

Many future events are planned. Those interested in having their faith community involved in an interfaith endeavor are encouraged to contact CAIR-WA or Pastor Michael Ly.

CAIR-WA is the local chapter of CAIR, America's largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.

Muslim Association of Puget Sound, MAPS, is an Islamic organization founded in 2006 with the intent of serving the Muslims of Puget Sound. Its mission is to provide Islamic educational, social and cultural services to the Muslim community in the region and to promote the teachings of Islam to the inquiring non-Muslim. MAPS strives to build links between Muslim families, businesses and organizations, provides year-round activities and religious services and is committed to helping the needy.

Peace Catalyst International exists to stimulate peacemaking between individuals and between peoples. Our mission is to catalyze peacemaking initiatives for multi-dimensional reconciliation in the way of Jesus. Two of the greatest areas of conflict in the world today are between Christians and Muslims and between the West and the Muslim world. Thus, we give special priority to these relationships.

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Friday, April 09, 2010

Cry Out! For the Fatherless

Two of my friends, Celestine and Tara Ezinkwo, have started a mentorship program called Cry Out! I have written about them before, but now our community is starting to get wind of their efforts. I am really proud of what these two are doing for the sake of the glory of God. The following video and article was written by the Renton Reporter. Enjoy.

Renton recording studio looks to get kids off the streets and lead others to do the same

Renton Reporter Staff Writer
Apr 08 2010, 9:42 AM · UPDATED

Renton's youth are finding their voices and learning how to shout out on behalf of others.

"We complain that there is a lot of violence in the streets, but we don't do anything about it," said Celestine Ezinkwo, a 26-year-old rapper.

Working alongside wife Tara Ezinkwo, he opened a recording studio in downtown Renton called Cry Out to not only get youth off the streets but to teach them how to lead others in the same way.

The couple comes from Los Angeles with a passion for inner-city youth and a heart for social-justice issues.

"If we start talking to these kids and treat them like human beings, they're going to change," Celestine said.

Renton High School is just a few blocks away, so teens walk to the studio after class to hang out.

Cry Out has an open-door policy, but most days Tara, 29, gathers the teens for discussion and attendance.

The teens squish together on a corner sofa. Photos of Third World children hang above their heads. There are about 80 kids on the roster with about 27 regulars, Tara said.

"They would be here 24 hours a day, if we let them," Celestine said.

Some days the teens just hang out, and others they write and record music together.

In a freestyle session, Celestine plays a new beat loud enough to silence out distractions. Three of the group's rappers sway with the rhythm.

Music unfolds from one rapper’s mouth like a prayer that takes time to form its meaning. Ironic self-praising remarks intermix with deep thoughts and poetry.

Then like a man cutting into a dance, another rapper begins his verse. Messing up here is a cause for laughter, not criticism.

"Everyone is welcome here," said 17-year-old Chris Robinson. "No one is judged like that stuff out there."

Regular attendees are invited to weekly workshops that either offer practical skills for producing and creating music or develop leadership qualities.

Celestine is planning to produce an album with the teens that focuses on their stories and social-justice issues.

"Our whole vision is to have them (students) cry out their story and to cry out for those who are oppressed," he said.

Understanding how much time kids spend at the studio, Cry Out balances the distraction by requiring students with bad grades to attend tutoring sessions twice weekly with a teacher.

The students also work through relationship and sometimes behavior problems.

"We do a lot of life-on-life mentoring," Celestine said.

To enforce life lessons at home, the Ezinkwos try to meet all of the teen's parents, Tara said.

"That way we're working in the same direction," Celestine said. "Sometimes the parents can reverse what we do."

The name Cry Out comes from Bible verses, Proverbs 31:8-9.

"It says basically be a voice for those who can't be a voice for themselves," Celestine said. "Be a father to the fatherless, a mother to the motherless."

For Celestine, Cry Out is the fulfillment of a prophecy.

He was raised in Nigeria, where immigrating to the United States seems an impossible task for most.

At a church event a prophet called on him and told him he was going to make music in the United States.

"I didn't believe it at all, I thought it was crazy," Celestine said, adding that he decided to write the prophecy down for the sake of curiosity.

About six months later, his name came up in a visa lottery, and he was on his way to stay with an uncle in New York.

Studying international business in Los Angeles, he met Tara at a Bible study. The two both had a passion for working with inner-city youth.

Tara worked for Athletes in Action; but as they discussed their marriage, they learned the youth program only accepts marrieds as a couple.

Celestine wanted to pursue his passion for music, he said. "We wanted to start something of our own."

At about the same time the couple met Mike Gunn, pastor of Renton's Harambee Church, which runs a popular after-school program called The HALL.

Gunn heard Celestine rap at a conference in LA, and invited him to perform in Renton.

After the show, Tara and Celestine had found their next ministry. They moved to Renton in September 2009.

Eventually Gunn offered the basement of his church to open the studio.

At the time it was filled with abandoned boxes, food and books from the building's former tenants, but it came with its own entry.

The volunteer-led remodel was done on a tight budget, but hard work made up the difference.

The studio has two meeting spaces and a small office linked to a recording box with a separate entry.

They opened in February.

Like Harambee, Cry Out isn't a bait-and-switch tool for proselytizing. The Ezinkwos do invite the kids to Friday night Bible studies at their home, provided they have parent permission.

"Our goal was too keep kids off the street," Celestine said. "Our goal is to provide kids with a place they could go and be themselves without feeling pressure whatsoever to be a certain way."

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Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Sho Baraka: We Could Be More

I wasn't highly impressed with Sho's first album, but if the album sounds like this song, it could be legit.

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Saturday, April 03, 2010

Rules Before Entering a Church?

This is an actual sign outside of a church that was supplied by Jim Gaffigan on twitter . And people wonder why he has such funny observations of churches? Actually this sign would be helpful outside some other churches I know, it could go next to their neon "Open" sign so people would know when they were being their country club, I mean church, and when they were their other self.

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Friday, April 02, 2010

Why is Good Friday, Good? John Calvin Answers

Many hear that this Friday is called, "Good" Friday. When they hear what Christians celebrate, namely the death of their Master, it probably puts quite the confusion in the hearers heart. The Reformer and Pastor, John Calvin gives a great explanation on why we consider this day, to indeed be, good.

The very form of the death embodies a striking truth. The cross was cursed not only in the opinion of men, but by the enactment of the Divine Law. Hence Christ, while suspended on it, subjects himself to the curse. And thus it behoved to be done, in order that the whole curse, which on account of our iniquities awaited us, or rather lay upon us, might be taken from us by being transferred to him. This was also shadowed in the Law, since אשמות, the word by which sin itself is properly designated, was applied to the sacrifices and expiations offered for sin. By this application of the term, the Spirit intended to intimate, that they were a kind of καθαρμάτων (purifications), bearing, by substitutions the curse due to sin. But that which was represented figuratively in the Mosaic sacrifices is exhibited in Christ the archetype. Wherefore, in order to accomplish a full expiation, he made his soul to אשם, i.e., a propitiatory victim for sin (as the prophet says, Is. 53:5, 10), on which the guilt and penalty being in a manner laid, ceases to be imputed to us. The Apostle declares this more plainly when he says, that “he made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him,” (2 Cor. 5:21). For the Son of God, though spotlessly pure, took upon him the disgrace and ignominy of our iniquities, and in return clothed us with his purity. To the same thing he seems to refer, when he says, that he “condemned sin in the flesh,” (Rom. 8:3), the Father having destroyed the power of sin when it was transferred to the flesh of Christ. This term, therefore, indicates that Christ, in his death, was offered to the Father as a propitiatory victim; that, expiation being made by his sacrifice, we might cease to tremble at the divine wrath. It is now clear what the prophet means when he says, that “the Lord has laid upon him the iniquity of us all,” (Is. 53:6); namely, that as he was to wash away the pollution of sins, they were transferred to him by imputation. Of this the cross to which he was nailed was a symbol, as the Apostle declares, “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree: that the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ,” (Gal. 3:13, 14).

In the same way Peter says, that he “bare our sins in his own body on the tree,” (1 Peter 2:24), inasmuch as from the very symbol of the curse, we perceive more clearly that the burden with which we were oppressed was laid upon him. Nor are we to understand that by the curse which he endured he was himself overwhelmed, but rather that by enduring it he repressed broke, annihilated all its force. Accordingly, faith apprehends acquittal in the condemnation of Christ, and blessing in his curse. Hence it is not without cause that Paul magnificently celebrates the triumph which Christ obtained upon the cross, as if the cross, the symbol of ignominy, had been converted into a triumphal chariot. For he says, that he blotted out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross: that “having spoiled principalities and powers he made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it,” (Col. 2:14, 15). Nor is this to be wondered at; for, as another Apostle declares, Christ, “through the eternal Spirit, offered himself without spot to God,” (Heb. 9:14), and hence that transformation of the cross which were otherwise against its nature. But that these things may take deep root and have their seat in our inmost hearts, we must never lose sight of sacrifice and ablution. For, were not Christ a victim, we could have no sure conviction of his being ἀπολύτρωσις, ἀντίλυτρον, και ἱλαστηριον, our substitute-ransom and propitiation. And hence mention is always made of blood whenever scripture explains the mode of redemption: although the shedding of Christ’s blood was available not only for propitiation, but also acted as a laver to purge our defilements.

7. The Creed next mentions that he “was dead and buried”. Here again it is necessary to consider how he substituted himself in order to pay the price of our redemption. Death held us under its yoke, but he in our place delivered himself into its power, that he might exempt us from it. This the Apostle means when he says, “that he tasted death for every man,” (Heb. 2:9). By dying he prevented us from dying; or (which is the same thing) he by his death purchased life for us (see Calvin in Psychopann). But in this he differed from us, that in permitting himself to be overcome of death, it was not so as to be engulfed in its abyss but rather to annihilate it, as it must otherwise have annihilated us; he did not allow himself to be so subdued by it as to be crushed by its power; he rather laid it prostrate, when it was impending over us, and exulting over us as already overcome. In fine, his object was, “that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage,” (Heb. 2:14, 15). This is the first fruit which his death produced to us. Another is, that by fellowship with him he mortifies our earthly members that they may not afterwards exert themselves in action, and kill the old man, that he may not hereafter be in vigour and bring forth fruit. An effect of his burials moreover is that we as his fellows are buried to sin. For when the Apostle says, that we are ingrafted into the likeness of Christ’s deaths and that we are buried with him unto sin, that by his cross the world is crucified unto us and we unto the world, and that we are dead with him, he not only exhorts us to manifest an example of his death, but declares that there is an efficacy in it which should appear in all Christians, if they would not render his death unfruitful and useless. Accordingly in the death and burial of Christ a twofold blessing is set before us—viz. deliverance from death, to which we were enslaved, and the mortification of our flesh (Rom. 6:5; Gal. 2:19, 6:14; Col. 3:3).

Calvin, Jean ; Beveridge, Henry: Institutes of the Christian Religion. Oak Harbor, WA : Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997, S. II, xvi, 6

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Thursday, April 01, 2010

Incarnational Ministry and the Unique, Incarnate Christ: Part 2

Here is the second part to yesterday's article put out by Modern Reformation.


While I share Lingenfelter's practical missiological concerns, I think that his close analogy between the Incarnation and cross-cultural ministry is not the best way to address these concerns. It depends upon a questionable interpretation of Philippians 2 and a reduction of Christology to a problem of math. (How exactly is a "200 percent person" one person rather than "two sons," as the ancient heresy of Nestorianism claims?) But for our present purposes, I will focus upon two observations.

First, Lingenfelter's portrait of the Incarnation tends to conflate the unique Incarnation with our own process of learning about another culture. The deity of the Son is seen as a "culture" and the taking on of humanity as a second "culture" taken on in the Incarnation. Thus, Jesus, as the pioneer of our faith, shows us how to take on a second culture as well. But here is the problem: the divine nature is not a "culture," and we cannot (and should not) see ourselves as analogous to the pre-incarnate Word that then takes on humanity. The deity of the Word won't fit into the box of "culture" because God is not a creature-and culture is a characteristic of creaturely existence. Instead, God is the transcendent and mysterious creator of the universe. The truth of the Incarnation is that in the eternal Word, this same transcendent God takes on the flesh of human beings for the sake of our salvation.

Second, this doctrinal conflation can lead to a significant problem in practice: it can conflate the mission of Jesus with our own mission. While Lingenfelter certainly would not want to be promoting a messiah-complex among missionaries, the close analogy between the incarnational as a culture-crossing action and our own culture-crossing action makes this a constant issue. I recall times in which missionaries schooled in incarnational ministry told me they were "cheating" from the model if they gave something away to persons in need, or if they presented any ideas that were not already inherent in the culture of reception. Behind this sense of "cheating" is the assumption in that our identification with the culture is enough-that is our mission. Yet, while I agree that missionaries should seek to identify with the receiving culture, our identification with that culture is not inherently redemptive. We should identify with the culture so that our lives offer an intelligible witness to the one Redeemer of peoples from all cultures, Jesus Christ. It is not enough to bear witness to Jesus as the model for crossing cultures. Jesus is much more than a model.

Instead, in our teaching about the Incarnation, we must be crystal clear about the fact that this is a unique event. Jesus Christ is central to the gospel because the Incarnation is not something that happens in various forms to various persons. Jesus Christ is the one and only incarnate Word. There is redemptive power in the Incarnation; apart from the Incarnation, Christ's obedient life, death, resurrection, and ascension would be of no use to us. Because of the Incarnation, we know that it is none other than GOD who has sought us out and cleansed us from our sins. "In Christ" we know and have fellowship with God. If God and humanity were not united in Jesus Christ, then being "in Christ" would not be a locus of our communion with God.

Indeed, if we are to make analogies between the Incarnation and our own lives, it should point us to the reality that Jesus Christ is not a "200 percent person"-in which deity and humanity are framed competitively, two persons smashed into one. Instead, the Incarnation shows us how God's action in our life does not mean the evacuation of human agency, but the empowerment of it. Augustine points this out in his debate with Pelagius about grace. Augustine writes, "This birth [of Christ], which joined the human to God and the flesh to the Word in unity of one person, was undeniably gratuitous; Good works followed; they did not earn this birth." In other words, just as the divine Word takes on flesh in the Incarnation-before the flesh could merit anything on its own-so also God's work in our lives is received as an unmerited gift, with good works following.

Christians often struggle with spiritual pride-we find it difficult to take a compliment in a way that does not give ourselves "spiritual bonus points" for our own faithful acts. We know we should give credit to God-but really, I was the one who performed that act of service and love, right? Ultimately, a competitive, non-incarnational view of divine and human work underlies this ambivalence. In the Incarnation we see that true God and true humanity are brought together in one person, Jesus Christ. When we perform an act of love and service, we can give the Spirit the credit while still recognizing that this act is our own in a secondary sense. Why? Because as we become more like Christ by the Spirit, we are not becoming "less human" by becoming more like God. Our true humanity is being restored as the Spirit unites us to God in Christ.
The Unique Incarnation and the Work of the Church

If it is misleading to see the Incarnation as an example of culture-crossing or to conflate Christ's mission and our own, what can we say positively about the ways in which our lives and ministries participate in the incarnate Christ and his mission? The Holy Spirit has united believers to the living Christ; thus it is important to think about the positive ways in which we participate in Christ. I think that the Heidelberg Catechism (HC) is very instructive on this point. Rather than taking the Incarnation as the point of departure for how we participate in Christ, it speaks in terms of the three offices of Christ:

Question 31. Why is he called "Christ," meaning anointed?

Answer. Because he has been ordained by God the Father and has been anointed with the Holy Spirit to be our chief prophet and teacher who perfectly reveals to us the secret counsel and will of God for our redemption; our only high priest who has redeemed us by the one sacrifice of his body, and who continually pleads our cause with the Father; and our eternal king who governs us by his Word and Spirit, and who guards us and keeps us in the redemption he has won for us.

Question 32. But why are you called a Christian?

Answer. Because by faith I am a member of Christ and so I share in his anointing. I am anointed to confess his name, to present myself to him as a living sacrifice of thanks, to strive with a good conscience against sin and the devil in this life, and afterward to reign with Christ over all creation for all eternity.

Note how the HC does two things simultaneously. First, it speaks about a profound union between believers and Jesus Christ-we are not lone-ranger Christians; we are profoundly connected to the living Christ: "I am a member of Christ and so I share in his anointing." Its language is strong and unequivocal on this important connection.

But secondly, note how our "membership" in Christ and "sharing" in his anointing are derivative and subordinate to the living Christ. Christ alone is the "chief prophet and teacher," our "only high priest," and our intercessor to the Father. In our own person, we can do none of these things. The Son is a child of God by nature, but we are children of God by grace. This difference has profound consequences for ministry.

The consequence of this distinction is that we should not seek to simply "copy" Jesus as the "missional blogger" advocated at the beginning, or as some other advocates of incarnational ministry suggest. We belong to Christ-"in body and soul, in life and death," as the first answer to HC states. But we are not Christ. And, in spite of a potentially misleading claim in the "mission statement" of my own denomination (the Reformed Church in America), we should be cautious about seeing ourselves as "the very presence of Jesus Christ in the world." We belong to Christ, but the only Savior is the living Christ himself-the Son by nature, not simply by grace. Our ministries should point to the Head of the body, the One to whom we belong. Paul brings together these teachings of union with Christ and yet pointing to Christ when he writes that God has made known his riches among the Gentiles in the mystery of "Christ in you, the hope of glory." But rather than follow up with this stunning affirmation of union with Christ by focusing upon our own redemptive action, Paul continues: "It is he [Christ] whom we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone in all wisdom, so that we may present everyone mature in Christ" (Col. 1:27-28, NRSV). We are united to Christ in a profound way, yet we do not simply copy the action of the one Redeemer. We bear witness to Christ the Redeemer rather than ourselves; we find our maturity and identity as ones united to Christ but also as "servants" of Jesus Christ (Rom. 1:1), the one Incarnate Word who reconciles us with God.

The answer to HC 32 above is also instructive for thinking through the implications of the three offices of Christ-the difference between Christ as prophet, priest, and king and our own lives that participate in the one prophet, priest, and king. We are "anointed" by the Holy Spirit to bear witness to Christ, to "confess his name." We are not the great prophet and teacher, but we confess the One who is. Secondly, we offer our entire lives as "a living sacrifice of thanks" to "strive" against "sin and the devil." Christ alone offers the perfect atoning sacrifice. Our own sacrifice is one of gratitude and thanksgiving-done with a "good conscience" because of the complete work of Christ our high priest. Finally, we "share" in the kingship of Christ by sharing in his resurrection and exaltation, looking to the day when we will "reign with Christ over all creation for all eternity." Christ is prophet, priest, and king. We are united to this same Christ. But as members of the body serving the one Head, we participate in Christ through acts of professing Christ and his truth, loving God and neighbor in gratitude, and living in hope of our final resurrection, exaltation, and reign with Christ. We do participate in Christ's "mission," in a certain sense. But precisely because Christ is the only mediator between God and humanity-the only perfect prophet, priest, and king-our "mission" is distinct from that of Jesus Christ himself.
In terms of Christian ministry, the result of this approach is one that gives a central place to the church's ministry of Word and sacrament. Negatively, this means we are not sent to go out and "take over the culture," or to seek to be the Savior to those around us. Positively, it means that we point to Christ, the Head, through the word of the gospel held forth in both Word and sacrament. There is no human set of activities-no matter how loving or revolutionary-that can bring redemption. Redemption comes through Jesus Christ alone, made possible by the Spirit's work in uniting us to Jesus Christ.

This approach toward Christian ministry overlaps, on some key points, with some visions of incarnational ministry. As Lingenfelter suggests, we need to seek out relationships with those to whom we minister, displaying our faith in lives of humility and service. We need to approach ministry as learners of the culture and history of those around us. Yet, it is not necessary to draw upon the Incarnation as a model for culture-crossing in order to promote these virtues in Christian ministry. These norms coincide with the humility and gratitude of those who know they belong to Christ but are not Christ themselves: we present our lives as "a living sacrifice of thanks," serving God and loving our neighbor in humility and gratitude. A life of gratitude humbly recognizes that we are not our own, but that we belong to Jesus Christ. Ultimately, the fact that we are "not our own" should call into question our allegiance to national or cultural priorities that fuel our ethnocentric tendencies that compromise our witness to the gospel. As a way of giving thanks to God, we are called to seek out relationships with those in need and move across cultural barriers that threaten to block our grateful witness to Jesus Christ, the One to whom we belong.

Moreover, in contrast to seeing incarnational ministry as the model for culture-crossing, the Heidelberg Catechism's teaching directly counters our own messianic tendencies: we are not the Redeemer-we belong to the Redeemer. We are freed from manipulating those to whom we minister because we do not need a list of spiritual accomplishments to please God; and it is with "a good conscience" that we strive "against sin and the devil." In the unique Incarnation and the once-for-all sacrifice on the cross, we have been cleansed from our sins and filled with the Spirit who brings new life. Precisely because the Incarnation is unique-and we do not need to copy it -we are freed for humble, non-manipulative witness and service for the sake of the gospel.

1 [ Back ] See
2 [ Back ] Sherwood Lingenfelter and Marvin Mayers, Ministering Cross-Culturally: An Incarnational Model for Personal Relationships (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2003). Lingenfelter also uses the analogy in Teaching Cross-Culturally: An Incarnational Model for Teaching and Learning, coauthored with Judith Lingenfelter (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2003).
3 [ Back ] Lingenfelter and Mayers, 17.
4 [ Back ] For further analysis of the biblical and christological issues raised in proposals such as Lingenfelter's, see my article, "'Incarnational Ministry': A Christological Evaluation and Proposal," Missiology: An International Review 32:2 (April 2004), 187-201.
5 [ Back ] Augustine of Hippo, quoted from "On Rebuke and Grace" in Theological Anthropology, ed. and trans. J. Patout Burns (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1981), 101.
J. Todd Billings (Th.D., Harvard University) is assistant professor of Reformed theology at Western Theological Seminary in Holland, Michigan. He is the 2008 winner of the John Templeton Award for Theological Promise for his book, Calvin, Participation, and the Gift: The Activity of Belivers in Union with Christ (Changing Paradigms in Historical and Systematic Theology) (Oxford University Press, 2008).
Issue: "The Imitation of Christ" March/April Vol. 18 No. 2 2009 Pages 19-22
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