Saturday, September 17, 2016

Stephen King and Walt Disney; Gethsemane and Eden

Some notes from my study of Hebrews 5:1-10 So here we are after a discussion of what it means for Jesus to have fulfilled His obedience to the Father. He obviously had some decisions to make in the Garden of Gethsemane. He prayed for the Lord to allow the cup of suffering to pass from Him, yet he followed through with His mission on the cross. At some point, Jesus really didn’t want the cross. He didn’t WANT to feel the agony that he KNEW was coming. He didn’t want to feel the exhaustion. He didn’t want to pass out who knows how many times in the course of the day on which He took His beating. He didn’t want to feel the nausea and dry heaving the probably came from dehydration. He didn’t WANT the sting of blood and sweat in His eyes, which were probably nearly swollen shut, all day long. He didn’t want the stabbing pain of a hundred thorns pressing into His scalp that probably turned into a pounding headache, magnified by the dehydration He was already experiencing. He didn’t want to have to walk on feet that were bare and blistered carrying a hundred and fifty pounds on His already flayed back. He didn’t want to walk through a crowd of people spitting on His wide-open and flowing wounds. He didn’t want to be paraded through town, a disheveled mass of quivering flesh. In the hours before His death, how many times did He silently pray for death to come early? “Just end it NOW, Father! Why not NOW? Let Me die NOW! My friends are gone…I can’t walk…I can barely stand…I’m so thirsty, Lord…I’m so tired…my entire body aches…this hurts SO much…PLEASE bring me home…” BUT… He did it anyway. Jesus made a decision. He decided to submit. He decided to relinquish His will to that of the Father. He moved beyond the limitation of human emotion and desire. He said “yes” to the Lord and “no” to his own wants and needs. That night in the Garden of Gethsemane, He knew what was coming. He just didn’t care enough about the agony and humiliation to leave humanity hanging over an endlessly deep and dark precipice with no hope of salvation. He knew that WE needed Him…so He decided…in one moment He decided that God’s will was right. He decided that God would see Him through it all and that the Christ would be just that. He would become the slain Lamb who makes all things new. Jesus willed to go to a horrible end for us. The question I have is “To what length would I go for Him?” How far would I go to display the type of obedience, the iron will, that Jesus displayed in Gethsemane when He decided that He would do all of that for me? I want to say that I would do anything for Him. I really think I would, too! I just want to be the type of man who, when Jesus calls and says He needs me to go somewhere, just says “yes” to His will. I want to be the kind of man who lets go of my emotions and just wills myself to obey the Christ. The problem I have is that I don’t want the Garden of Gethsemane as much as I want the Garden of Eden. If I’m being honest, what I really want is just to walk through some sort of Walt Disney fantasy land where cute little birds light on my shoulder and a variety of smiling, happy rodents run at my feet as I stroll carelessly along, singing about what a beautiful day it is all while on my way to sit at the center of the garden and wait on God to come to me to have a cozy picnic all so that HE can enjoy MY presence! I want the ease of Eden and not the decision of Gethsemane. Gethsemane comes with an infinite number of crossroads. Gethsemane represents the choices I have to make. Eden is just the presence of God. There aren’t any decisions to make in Eden except for which tree I want to eat from. There isn’t any real will to be exercised in Eden. In Gethsemane, real life crashes in on us. My Gethsemane is more like a Stephen King novel than a Disney movie. It’s dark there. It’s twisted there. It’s foggy and confusing. People are dying, children get sick, jobs get lost. Betrayal, murder, and lies happen in Gethsemane and I have to decide in my own personal Gethsemane how I will react to the Lord. Will I bend to His will or will I cut and run? Will I decide that it’s all worth it in the end if I just say “yes” to the Father? Will I let go of emotions and even logic and decide that His will and His way are worth my allegiance? H. A. Hodges writes, “By our steady adherence to God when the affections [i.e., emotions] are dried up, and nothing is left but the naked will clinging blindly to him, the soul is purged of self-regard and trained in pure love.” May I be trained in this way.

Friday, September 9, 2016

The Church Needs An Enema

I don’t want to come off as critical here. I’m just asking questions and really just thinking and processing as I type these words. Here’s the big question that I am exploring right this very second: are North American churches God-centered or self-centered? Are they outwardly focused or inwardly focused? Is the church set up to give Christians a safe place to minister to other Christians or is the church set up to mobilize Christians to the community around them? In other words, is the church holding fast to its own wants, desires, and comforts, or is the church reaching out to the community and holding fast to those relationships, messy as they may be? I share the complaint with a number of people that the church seems to be constantly asking for money. Of course, I will not deny that the church does need money in order to operate. However, how much money does it need to operate? How much money does it need in order to meet community needs? How many full-time staff does a church need? How many programs does a church need for its members? I know a number of people who are engaged in ministry and aren’t even on a church staff. They don’t get paid a dime to work at a church. They have full-time jobs in the secular work force and engage in ministry after hours. I have been asking myself a lot of questions lately regarding how the church uses its resources to do ministry. Are we using our resources to keep Christians comfortable or are we using resources to help non-believers to see Jesus? If some folks can get involved in ministry on their own time and be effective in it, can a senior pastor reduce his support and perhaps work bi-vocationally even in larger ministries? What is it that a senior pastor actually DOES that others can’t be trained and equipped to do? I’m not knocking churches that have full-time senior pastors, but some senior pastors get paid to do things that stretch them way to thin to begin with. Is he (and should he be) the ONLY one who can visit sick people? Can the pulpit be shared? Can he delegate logistics to other folks? If the pastor is in the office or with Christians most of the time, how does he get to know those in the community who are lost? Shouldn’t he have a contact to the community that keeps him connected on a regular basis? Do we have to have full-time worship guys and youth guys on our church staff? I WAS a full-time youth guy. I filled my time, but I remember times when I filled it with some things that I could have done had I not been full-time at a church. (I ALSO remember being part-time and wishing I was full-time so I could get some of the ministry tasks done that were slipping, so there’s that, too...) Does the discipleship guy have to have an office in the church building, too? Now, depending on the church and the responsibilities of these folks, the answer is “yes, we do need our ministerial staff to be full-time”. However, I just am not sure that the first thing a church needs to do is start hiring full-time people and rounding out a staff just like every other church. Of course, we need someone to handle money, track people, answer the phones, make copies, etc, but these are folks who are not really considered ministerial staff (yes, they have a ministry, so I’m not knocking them. I’m just differentiating between “professional clergy” and others). I’m coming to the conclusion that there are some churches that need way more full-time administrative staff more than it needs full-time ministerial staff. I’m just not sure that today’s minister cannot serve the public better by having a job in the secular work force that connects with families than if they sit in the office all week long. Sermon prep is important, but there are pastors in the world who are able to pull off great sermons while working a job. (By the way, I do realize that in five years, I may be eating these words, as I need to be full-time at a ministry in order to get things organized and to accomplish the tasks necessary to carry out a successful ministry.) I think my reaction here is against bloated budgets that cause a church to begin to focus too much on money. I confess that I have, for years, had a problem with a church sending money away to and association in order to help the association to do ministry. Yes, I am in favor of cooperation, but why do we farm out the mission to an association? I am all in favor of missions and ministry, but can’t the church use its own dollars better and more effectively if it isn’t sending money to pay for the association’s rent, building payment, insurance, salaries, etc.? Why are so many communities crumbling physically and spiritually if the association is using those dollars for missions? My own hometown is, by our own association’s standard 70% unreached (I think it’s worse than that, actually). So, are we self-centered or God-centered? I don’t know. Maybe I’m just being a judgmental jerk. I do know that when every other article comes out and says that the church is losing ground, we have to do something different. A new church with a new model and method for doing and financing ministry is definitely in order. Someone has to do something different. It’s almost like we need to make the shift from the proverbial country club and back to the rescue mission.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Applying the Old Testament Today

Note: Spacing and such don't transfer well from Word to this blog. Might be a little "discombobulated". Also, this is an essay I wrote in was written for academic purposes and, thus, uses way bigger words than I normally use. Please don't accuse me of having a stick up my butt...enjoy! Introduction I must admit that I have been caught up in the argument that so many of the Old Testament laws do not apply as they are under the “old covenant” and I have struggled with how the ones that obviously do apply to me fit into my life. An example of one that I do not apply to me is Leviticus 19:27 (NIV), which states, “Do not cut the hair at the sides of your head or clip off the edges of your beard.” Instead of determining if it applies or not, there exists a method that helps me to investigate how it does apply. In so doing, I find that in what was a very specific instruction for ancient Israel has not been rendered useless by time; rather it can be applied by applying the five steps of principlism. In this essay, I intend to discuss the benefits of principlism and how it can help in studying the Old Testament. I will also use principlism as a method to do a brief devotional study of Leviticus 19:9-10. Principlism I believe that the greatest strength in the Mr. Hays’ approach is in that it avoids the pointless argument of whether or not a certain Old Testament passage applies or not. If Christians believe that the Bible, in its entirety, is the inspired word of God, then God’s word should be timeless and applicable to all situations. The principlism method gives students of God’s word a method by which he or she can use the Old Testament law to interact on a very deep level with God’s instructions in the Old Testament in a practical way. Hays states in his article that the method “may tend to oversimplify some complex issues.” I will concede that this may be a weakness, however I would contend that it might work to the advantage of those who tend to complicate God’s word. I will add that, as an added caution to using this step, there seems to be a bit of a subjective nature to step one in determining what a particular Old Testament Law meant in that day. There could be a propensity towards eisegesis or “guessing” that could lead the inexperienced Bible student astray. In this case, I would recommend either consulting a commentary or a pastor to gain insight and clarity before proceeding with study. My understanding of how to use the Old Testament law has been challenged and expanded in that I can utilize the steps for my own Bible study and enrichment. I confess that I am one to quickly brush off the “quirky” commandments that just seem odd by using the “that doesn’t apply to me” excuse. However, I am challenged to dig deeply and find where and how those same “quirky” laws can build my faith. This method of principlism gives a method that ties the Old Testament with the New Testament and helps believers to reconcile the old with the new. Reconciling the Old and the New Hays states in his article, “Jesus was not stating that the Law is eternally binding on New Testament believers.” It may not be binding, but that does not mean that it is not useful. The Law was put into place so that the nation of Israel could properly worship God and be adequately prepared for the advent of the Messiah. Once the Messiah came with the new covenant in his blood, the Law was fulfilled. It is interesting that a great many of the laws in the Old Testament are not only repeated in the New Testament, but they were intensified. Jesus not only fulfilled the Law, but He brought a new meaning to the law. Hays states that Jesus proclaimed, “that meaning of the Law must be interpreted in light of His coming and in light of the profound changes introduced by the New Covenant.” Jesus brought a new and deeper meaning to the law that causes believers to read it differently and apply it differently than it was originally meant. It is through Jesus’ fulfillment of the Law that New Testament believers are “no longer under the Law” and its requirements, but it “does not pass away” in that it is practically applicable. Addressing the Contradiction As has been lightly touched upon until now in this essay, there is a gigantic elephant under the table manifest in the contradiction that is inherent in discussing whether or not the Law is relevant to the New Testament believer or not. There are many questions that remain. “Do I follow the Law or not?” “Do I just follow the 10 Commandments and ignore everything else?” There are other questions, but I think these two will suffice for the purpose of discussion here. When Jesus says that the Law shall not pass away, I agree with Him, but not in that we are to follow the Law today. As I see it, the ultimate end of the Old Testament Law was not an actual end but a fulfillment in the person and work of Christ. The Law taught Israel how to be in right relationship with God until such a time as the Messiah could come and replace that Law with His death and resurrection. The fulfillment of the Law was the death and resurrection of Jesus. I believe that the Old Testament Law was a very literal set of rules for a time when God’s people needed very clear and detailed direction in how to live righteous and pure lives. There was no lens or filter through which to apply the Law other than a literal interpretation. Then Jesus came and changed everything. With the New Covenant in the blood of Christ, there comes a brand new filter through which to view and apply the Old Testament. The Old Testament is simply not to be taken as literally as it was originally intended save those commands in the New Testament, which Jesus repeated and validated. When we read the Old Testament Law, we now have to ask ourselves some new questions. We have to apply the teachings of Christ to glean meaning from the Old Testament. But doesn’t this just make sense? Do Christians not apply the teachings of Christ to just about every situation in order to glean meaning and make sense of the world? When I look at the Old Testament from this angle, even the “quirky” rules to which I referred earlier actually make some sense. Not cutting the hair at the sides of one’s head is not about literal grooming standards when Christ is applied to that scripture. This law becomes about loving Christ so much that I will do everything that I can to look differently from a corrupt world so that I am set apart for Christ’s mission. When Jesus Christ, the slain Lamb of God, is applied to bring meaning to the Old Testament something truly amazing happens. Crystal clarity comes as the Old Testament and the New Testament are found to be in a beautiful, perfect harmony and unity. Application: Leviticus 19:9-10 “When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the foreigner. I am the LORD your God.” (NIV) Initial Meaning This was a law put into place for the benefit of the poor. This is obviously meant for someone who was looking for food to be able to pick through a harvested field and gather whatever he or she could in order to eat it or sell it. Differences Between Then and Now Farming is still widespread, but it is not a common activity for poor people to walk through a field in order to find that leftovers or gather that which a person or machine dropped during the harvest. Today, there are many more organizations created to prepare food or hand out resources to those in need so that the poor do not need to actually glean from a field for food. Universal Principles What I see here is a care for the poor. Those who have are required to have compassion on those who do not have. Foreigners who did not have the benefit of a large family from which to draw support should be cared for, as well. Correlation with the New Testament Among other passages, Matthew 25:31-46 comes immediately to mind in that Jesus tells of separating out those who love Him from those who do not by how they care for the poor and the needy. Application for Today If I am to show myself as a disciple of Christ, I am to make an effort to care for the poor and needy. I am to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and comfort the sick. Conclusion As discussed and actually proven in this essay, the Old Testament is truly applicable to today. I see the Old Testament as I see some of the senior saints in our congregation at New Bridge. I have some very dear old friends whose world fifty or sixty years ago looked very different from my own today, but they walked through many of the same issues through which I currently struggle. If I glean some of their wisdom, I may just avoid some mistakes in my walk with Christ. I look forward to gleaning countless lessons from my old friend, the Old Testament.   BIBLIOGRAPHY Hays, J. Daniel. “Applying the Old Testament Law Today.” Bibliotheca Sacra 158:629 (2001): 21-35. (accessed Nov 20, 2011).

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Filters and Lenses; Hebrews 4:11-12

God’s word pierces as far as dividing soul and spirit, but what’s the difference between soul and spirit? Isn’t a soul a spirit? Or isn’t a spirit a soul? There may be a division meant between natural thought and those impressions that come supernaturally. The word for “soul” is psyche, which is where we get our words that indicate the mind such as psychology and such. I think that the division meant here between soul and spirit indicates those thoughts and actions which comes from the deduction of the human mind/soul and that which is gleaned from the truth of the Holy Spirit, which is the mind of God. So dividing soul and spirit means that we can think about a problem all we want. We can work out a solution based on our impressions and the input of others. We can even develop our ideas and ethics by observing the world around us, but we cannot really know spiritual truth unless we get it from a supernatural source. The Word of God is that supernatural revelation from which we gain our truth. So in this way, the Word of God separates what comes from our own natural processes of discernment and shows us where they either align with or diverge from the heart of God. I grew up in Texas. I was just looking at some pictures of my old high school friends and remembering some of the good times we had in athletics, marching band, and in class and such. That caused me to reflect on my days in the Marine Corps, as well. As a young man in high school and in the military, I developed a number of ethical and moral stances that were based on my own interactions with people and with the world. These stances were also based on how I wanted to be treated and on what I wanted to get from and give to the world around me. I have to admit that a large percentage of the values that I landed on were not Biblical in nature at all. Some of my ethics were really admirable, but not really very many of them were. Most were pretty self-righteous and just plain selfish. I based all of my decisions on what my father and family taught me, on what I learned in the Marine Corps, and on what I selfishly wanted. Now, if I’m being honest, this is still true even at 42 years old. However there is a difference in the 42 year-old Dave and the 20 year-old Dave. I had no spiritual filter whatsoever through which to sift my thoughts. Now this was NOT necessarily a good thing. As a young man, I could tend to be pretty angry and violent. For a United States Marine, these qualities were actually validated and encouraged. Who wants a soft, sissified Marine in a recon unit, right? Am I still angry and violent in my heart? Yup. The difference is the lens through which I see the world and the filter through which I send my emotions before I let words come out of my mouth (those who know me would argue that I need to let the Holy Spirit filter me a WHOLE lot more)! For what it’s worth though, the Holy Spirit of God now tempers the natural Dave Wilde. I do my best to allow the Word of God to tease out the natural from the supernatural; the soul from the spirit; my own thoughts and desires from the thoughts and desires of God. The whole thing with “joints” and “marrow” indicates the depth to which the Word of God can go into our lives if we allow it. Historically the term “marrow” indicates the absolute deepest recesses of the human existence. I do my best to allow the Word of God to penetrate deeply to my own joints and marrow in order to root out darkness, bitterness, and evil. I let the Word shine light into my dark corners so I can see what’s there. When I see it, I try to sweep that junk out of there!

Friday, July 29, 2016

Touch My Wife and You Have A Problem: The Concept of Rest in Hebrews

Just some summary thoughts/notes from my study of Hebrews 4:1-11... The writer seems to be reminding his readers that the people did not enter into any sort of permanent rest in the days of Joshua. If they had, there would have been no reason to bring up the concept of entering rest after the fact except to bring up God’s goodness in providing rest. So the concept of “rest” seems to be a little vague here, but I’ll just tell you what I think is meant by the term “rest”. The term seems, to me, to indicate a faith journey. It’s a little like the concept of salvation. I am, as I am sitting here writing these words, saved by my faith. This means that I have come to a head and heart knowledge of who Jesus is. I have accepted that He is God, and that He died on a cross for my sins, that He was resurrected, and that He will come again. This isn’t the end of my journey, though. The day I came to this recognition of my need for a Savior and committed myself to it was only the beginning of salvation. When I die and cross the proverbial finish line of life, I will have completed my journey and will be saved in the sense of having finished the journey. Salvation is a work that Jesus does in my life that can only be consummated with my entry into heaven. Entering into rest isn’t just a “now” thing. It isn’t just that we are supposed to rest as believers because God rested on the seventh day. That’s just part of it. The rest that we receive now is the rest from seeking out the Lord and seeking out our purpose. If my wife goes missing, I am obviously going to go look for her. If I find her in her car broken down on the side of the road, I can rest from my distress in knowing she was lost, but she isn’t completely safe until I get her off of the side of the road and home. She can rest from her distress at having been sitting on the side of the road in a broken down vehicle. Will anything or anyone hurt her before I get her home? Not likely with a 6’4” prior service Marine who is most likely armed with a 9mm pistol and quite willing to do violence on her behalf if necessary (Sorry. Not very “pastorly”, but just being honest here…touch my wife and you have a problem…) escorting her home! She can rest from being exposed to whomever would hurt her or take advantage of her as she is now under protection that she trusts. CAN something happen to her? Well, theoretically, yes. She could walk away from my protection and be harmed, but if she’s smart, she will stay close and let me protect her. So she can rest in having been found, but she will experience the permanent rest when she is safely delivered home and is totally out of harm’s way. We experience rest from our wandering when we place faith in Christ. We can know that no matter what comes, we can be kept from harm as long as we stay close to Him. We know that our salvation will be completed, much as a journey home is completed, at the end of our lives. It is in that knowledge of future and permanent rest that we can experience the rest that confidence in Christ brings. So until our journey is finished, we would be well-advised to stay close to the one who can protect us and keep us until we are finally home.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Road Hogs, Organization Charts, and the Southern Baptist Papacy

From my study of Hebrews 3:4-6 Let me first state: I am about to step all over my own toes here. This passage makes a pretty bold statement about the hierarchy in the church today. We live in an age when clergy, while I agree that they (we, since I would consider myself clergy) have a special gifting, are sort of put up on a pedestal in a church. There is this thing that I call the “Southern Baptist Papacy” that I have a real problem with. In a lot of churches, whether those churches will admit it or not, the pastor is given a great deal of leeway and freedom. This leeway and freedom sometimes balloons into privilege. This privilege can sometimes become entitlement. (By the way, I’m not knocking my fellow pastors out there, I’m just pointing out something that I think I see a little too often.) There is a misconception today about the clergy, and I think it goes back to, or is at least illustrated by the tradition in the Roman Catholic Church of Papal Infallibility (again, not dogging Catholics, just making a point here, so just bear with me). The Catholic doctrine of Papal Infallibility, which was declared by the First Vatican Council on July 18, 1870, basically states that when the Pope is exercising his office as shepherd and teacher of all Christians the doctrines on faith and morals that he declares are without error. In other words, if the Pope says that he’s making a statement for all Christians from the position of Pope (“ex cathedra”, or “from the chair”), then he’s always right. So hold that thought for just a second. When we look at the analogy of the “house” in Hebrews 3:4-6, there is nowhere in the house where the prophet (Moses) is given a different degree of preference from the rest of the servants in the house. I agree that Moses was special in that God chose him to do a great work, but he's still just called a servant here. VV.4-6 uses a sort of “construction language” to make a point about the Lord as a builder. The Church is considered to be the house that is being built here. God is the builder of the house. Moses was referred to as a servant in the house while Christ is the One OVER the house. Did you catch that? Jesus owns the house. It could be easily drawn from this passage that all Christians are servants in the house, which means that the house is, quite literally, built OF servants. This means that the entire church, clergy included, has service to God and others as an underlying principle. So let’s take a step back here. I don’t want to come off as critical (even though I am criticizing a little here). I want to paint a picture of what I think the relationship of the pastor of a church should be to the laity (that’s basically a churchy word for the non-professional church folks; non-professional ministry personnel, if you will) and the rest of the church. Organizational charts basically tell an organization who reports to who and who is someone else’s boss. I often think in organizational charts, so let me just try to think of it in that way. At the top of our church organizational chart is God. He is the builder of the house, like we just stated. Right next to God on the same line is Jesus, who is over the house, or church. Draw a line down to the next level and you have the church. Now let’s just say that line below God connects to the pastor of the church. Which direction do we draw the line now? Sideways or down? Is the pastor now OVER the rest of the church or on the same level as the rest of the church? Before I answer that question, let me first say that this organizational chart that we’re creating here has nothing to do with the administration of the church. A church needs someone to run the staff and to be a decision-maker. I’m just saying that for the purposes of this discussion, we need to separate out the temporal administration of the church from the ultimate authority and responsibility IN a church. So which direction do we draw the line? Lots of churches would draw that line straight down to the rest of the congregation. I don’t think that they necessarily do it on purpose. I think they do it with great intentions. However, I humbly think that this is wrong. I think this sets up the “Southern Baptist Papacy” that we talked about earlier. I think this gives the pastor of a church authority that he was never intended to have. I think the line should be drawn to the side. If Moses was a servant in the house, why would I not be a servant in the house with everyone else? Here’s how I see it: I am a member of the church. Those who come to the church are members of the church. I am gifted in a certain way. I am gifted to prophecy (preach; although I am not the ONLY one gifted to preach; and administrate.) As a pastor, I am a facilitator. Is the pastor the only one who has vision for the church? If you asked a teenager in your congregation what they would do differently in a ministry would you get an answer? Could you ask a police officer who attends your church what he thinks about the direction of ministry and get an answer? What if you asked a stay-at-home mom what her vision is for her children and how that relates to the church? Do you imagine that she thinks about those types of things? What about a middle school teacher? Do you think that person has been given a word from God about connecting the families in the community to faith in Christ? Do you think the high school principal isn’t burdened for meeting the physical needs of kids who go home on the weekend and may not eat until Monday morning when they return to school for breakfast? As a pastor, I preach and pray. I facilitate the church. I even have a certain vision for what the church can be. Here’s the question: is mine the ONLY vision? What if a pastor took a step back and started looking at his position a little differently? What if a pastor looked at the position of pastor as an equipper and supporter rather than “the boss”? What would it look like if I as a pastor (now I’m talking about myself here more than anything, so don’t think that I am self-righteously pronouncing that everyone else on the planet is doing it wrong and that I have all the answers) decided to let other voices and visions for church steer the direction of the church? How much pressure for ministry would be lifted from my shoulders? You know why people don't show up for business meetings? They feel like their voice often doesn't matter! Start letting the congregation make some ministry decisions and see where participation in the church goes. I think church will run best when a pastor “stays in his lane”, so to speak. Well, let me be clear here. I think a church will be most effective when the pastor “stays in his lane” and doesn’t run everyone else off of the road. There are a LOT of voices that represent a LOT of hearts that bleed for a LOT of people that attend churches in this great country of ours. I think it’s time to start taking the chance that some of those voices may have some really great ideas as to how to do ministry. In fact, some of those voices may have BETTER ideas for how to do ministry than the pastor! The thing is that those voices don’t have to be a threat to a pastor. If a person has an idea for ministry, it doesn’t mean that they want to kick the pastor out of the church and take over. It just means that God uses people; lots of people, to build His kingdom. When a pastor steps back and remembers that he’s just another member of a congregation doing the best he can with the gifting and calling that he has been given, he is freed up to listen and HEAR what God may be doing in the life of the church. He is freed up to let others lead and cast vision. The church if freed from the bondage of the vision squelching one-man show that is the “Southern Baptist Papacy”. Pastors, let’s all remember to stay in our lanes…my toes hurt…I need some ice…

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Reppazent, y'all!

Thoughts from study of Hebrews 2:17-18 V.17-18 speak of Jesus identification with mankind. If I were going to truly try to help someone in an inner city project or in a place where there is little food, water, or other basic resources necessary for survival, could I do that if I did not go to that place? Of course, I could hear about it and send those resources, but would I really be able to help all that much if someone didn’t go there? How do you stamp out the root of the problem that causes a shortage of those resources if you don’t go and investigate in order to put a solution in place? The situation with Jesus becoming our sacrifice is a little like that. The major difference is that Jesus wasn’t just providing a resource for our survival. He WAS the resource. As we know, the OT sacrifice was an animal of some type. This animal was never going to be a complete sacrifice for mankind as it was simply not the same trade. The trade was simply blood for blood. In the OT case it was animal blood for human blood. If the sacrifice were to be truly complete, it would have to be human blood for human blood. Furthermore, it would have to be perfectly sinless human blood for sinful human blood. Animals can’t sin as they have no will to defy God, so it is true that a bull is a sinless sacrifice. However, as I just said, the bull can’t represent a human. Even some humans can’t represent other humans. You would never send a Chinese national who had never been to the United States in his life to go to the UN to represent the interests of the United States. Neither could God, at the end of the day, say that all humans on the planet could be redeemed by the blood of something that was not human. “But doesn’t this mean that God supports human sacrifice?” Well, I would agree with that if God ever allowed a mere human to be an adequate sacrifice for our sins, which He has never done in history. The one “human” that died for sinful mankind wasn’t JUST a human being. He was the God-man. He was human, but ALSO divine placing him in a class set apart from humanity. He linked humanity to the divine, but he was separate from humanity as well. So we have Jesus represented here as the sacrifice and as the High Priest who offered the sacrifice. As our high priest, Jesus offered Himself for us. Jesus was made like us, His brethren, in all things (V.17) so that he could perfectly represent us in all things. The way that Jesus represented us on the cross was as a substitute. Jesus stood in the gap for you and me. He basically said, “Yes these people are guilty. They are sentenced to death. Something has to die. That something will be me.” Death as separation from God has always been the penalty for sin. In the OT, when a person sinned, something had to die. It was either the person who sinned or an animal. An animal was not always going to work (3.5 billion people on the planet today X the number of sins committed daily = not enough animals to go around; therefore people would have to die for their sins for a literal lack of enough animals to die for sin). So what’s the answer? One final sacrifice for all forever. We don’t rely on death after our sin in order to be made right with God. We rely on a death that happened a long time ago. The problem FOR death is that death didn’t work on Jesus. He didn’t STAY DEAD! So now, instead of putting our faith in the blood of animals, we put out faith in the blood of Jesus, who overcame death. I won’t pretend to yet understand all of what happened when Jesus overcame death, but I will say that when Jesus overcame death on the cross, he became the sacrifice to which we could look and put faith for salvation. I think that the death that Jesus overcame was the necessity for any further death on the part of any animal or human to die for sin since He did it for us. I mean, we all still die. Jesus’ death didn’t make us all immortal or something crazy like that. It just means that His one death was the final one that was necessary for salvation if we decide to place faith in Him. The difference between believers and non-believers, even in the OT, was whether or not they placed their faith in the death of something to atone for sin. If a person let an animal be the sacrifice for sin in the OT or if they let Jesus be the sacrifice today, they are still putting faith in a system that God put into place for them.