Mission

My Story, Gods Story, & My Theology

One of my biggest mistakes I believe that I was making as an early bible student was assuming that scripture was all about how to ‘get saved and go to heaven.’

To my pleasant surprise, (as it turned out) that was not what Featured imagescripture or God himself was concerned with trying to reveal. I’m so glad that the year I had decided to do the SBS in YWAM, a Chronological SBS was starting in Los Angeles and that happened to be the place where I was planning to go. I spent the first 6 months of the bible school trapped in the Old Testament. I was just nineteen years old when I began the CSBS and I struggled with the violence in the OT but for the first time was struck by the goodness and mercy of God. Instead of being fixated on his wrath or anger It became clear that though God interacted with violence at times mankind was constantly prone to violence, murder, lies, cheating, stealing, and many other violent and destructive behaviors. God not man is the hero of the OT.

Often people struggling with God, fixate on specif instances of his judgement. But the consistent story of the OT is about the ongoing and worsening behavior of man. Yet the primary theme emerges. Scripture when given a chance and looked at as a unified whole reveal a good God, a loving and patient God, a just and right God who does not gleefully destroy anyone or anything that he lovingly created.

The emerging theme is what we sometimes call the theme of Gods Redemptive Plan. It is evident from book one that he had a plan to turn everything around. To reverse the curse that began with mans rebellion from God. Abraham was the man God chose and his family to undo the sin of Adam and bring blessings instead of curses onto the earth and to every family in it. Just as God planned in Adam and Eve to fill the earth with Adam seed and nurture Eden until it consumed the whole earth. God wanted for Abraham to continue in that great vocation though sin and its curse had already begun to have its effect on the earth and on all the families of the earth including Abraham’s family.

The overarching story of those first 6 months of bible study told us that this chosen family was failing. Though there were many bright spots, many shining examples of faithfulness, the people of Abraham failed. They again, like Adam faced exile from their home, from the place which in Gods design they would spread out from and bless the world. When we arrive at the gospels in the New Testament Jews believed that though the had been preserved they were still in an exile of sorts. Still awaiting the day when God would act on their behalf. The day when God would restore their fortunes and make the world notice that God was for Israel.

Interesting for me that after about 5 years in the CSBS I had not developed a strong appreciating for the New Testament. I did not dislike it. But I was intrigued and drawn to the Torah and to the story of Israel and their God. But after 5 years I finally fell in Love with the gospels. In particular I fell in love with the the Gospel of Matthew. This makes a lot of sense to me since Matthew is the most Jewish Gospel. Written to Jews no doubt, Jesus engages a lot with Pharisees (with the lament of the pharisees in particular), Law (with the Sermon on the mount in particular), and Temple (with the Olivet Discourse in particular). It is a master piece seeking to convince any doubters that Jesus really is the Messiah that the Jewish people have been waiting on. But its going to be tricky cause he is a little different than expected. I found it more exciting because Jesus was not simply telling people ‘this is how you get to heaven or get saved.” It was more rich than that. He was teaching what his kingdom was like, how those who were a part of his kingdom must live, think, and feel about the world that they live in and will inherit. Only after I really grasped some of these essentials about Jesus and his kingdom, about the ongoing use of the Jewish Narrative and their Law was I able to appreciate the work of Paul the Apostle.

For many Christians, I believe, their “Christian” Theology is actually a “Pauline” Theology. Whether they worked for it or inherited it from sermons and popular teaching people understand the OT through Paul’s lens, and people understand the Gospels through Paul’s lens. Not that there is anything wrong with Paul’s lens in itself. Its just not the way Christians, I believe, should go about study and compression of the Canon of Scripture. I have heard it pointed out that our “Theology” is often based on creeds rather than on Canon. That theology is inherited from the teachings, the sermons, the songs, the liturgy, and the creeds, of the church. This is a valid point that Reformers themselves fought against. We tend to think that the reformers had a great victory in riding the church of allegiance to creeds and bring the people of God back to the whole witness of the Canon of Scriptures. But they did not once and for all rid Christianity of allegiance to creeds over Canon. They simply set an example to follow. It remains a task of Christians to follow in their footsteps and not allow Tradition to overtake fresh engagement with the Word of God. Even if that means that we challenge some of the traditions developed in our post reformation christian world. Of course I am not suggesting to throw out doctrine of John Calvin, Martin Luther, and the like. We should work with their readings and commentaries and go back to the text and have fresh insights that derive out of careful exegesis.

One of these Post-Reformation ways of engaging with the Canon is to read through the lens of Paul rather. As inductive bible students who seek to establish a context for each book, its author, its audience, and its occasion we should not approach Genesis for instance simply with what Paul said, though we do not dismiss him. It helps, I believe, to approach these text fresh, with as much knowledge of the context as possible. To work through the unfolding story, in context, to arrive at Jesus and the Gospels still engaging with their context, and then arrive at Paul and his letters to see how he engaged with the Old Testament and the Gospels and add on to what we have already learned and perhaps adapt it where it needs to be adapted. The thing I’m not suggesting is a a sort of either or, that we either go with what Paul said about the OT or we just do it on our own. Instead we do a little of both. I believe if we learn to work with the OT in context then instead of forcing Paul to say what we want him to we become familiar with how he may have actually come to think about the OT and Jesus.

In other words, what Paul says about the use of the Law is not extensive and final. Most come away from Paul with clarity that the Law brings condemnation. He says that it does, but for those who are “in Christ” the law does not bring condemnation. Therefore the Law becomes simultaneously; condemnation for those who are not “in Christ”, a tool for those who are to know God better, to look more like God, and to bear a greater witness to those who are not “In Christ.” Multiple uses for the Law abound when we look at Paul’s explanation of the Law from the angle of how Jews in the first Century struggled with the Law and how to actually go about observing it. Paul now has the key, Jesus and the Spirit. All of these uses are evident if we study the law in context. Paul becomes more clear when we see for ourselves that the Law is about humbling the people of God, revealing God to the people of God, and making the people of God a greater witness to those around them.

It is the issue of the Law that brings me back to my own story. Just as I had mistaken all scripture to be about Salvation, or how to get saved and go to heaven. Jews in Paul’s day had mistaken the Law for a formula for assurance of their own future vindication. If they were circumcised, if they ate right, observed holy days, and followed the rabbinic teachings of the day then they would have some assurance of their Salvation. In others words for many Jews in Paul’s day they have mistaken the Law for a way of salvation. Saul of Tarsus certainly must have believed in some form of this, until his conversion, and maybe some time away in Arabia to sort things out a bit. The new Paul was able to clarify that Law on its own brings condemnation, that without Christ there is no hope of future vindication of the righteous, no matter how righteous, without Christ and also the spirit there is not hope for the people of God. So for Paul, if he were asked directly, “How do I get saved?” He might respond with well really its not about how you get saved but about how you have been saved, or better, how salvation has come into the world for the world by way of those in the world. It is a story that in Romans Paul actually decided to tell from Creation, Fall, Judgement, Law, Sacrifice, Atonement, Adam, Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Pharaoh, Prophets, exile, and Messiah. This is the story not of how you can get saved and go to heaven but about how God has brought salvation into the world that he loves and to that which he loved the most, mankind.

It would be silly of me to completely leave out what Paul says about “Justification by Faith”. Some might say well actually Paul answers the quest more basically. He says, to those who ask, You get saved by faith in the Messiah. But that I believe is sometimes the answer we give a bit to soon. Paul labors heavily to tell the story of how Salvation was provided for us by God  throughout history climaxing in Jesus the Messiah. Then when it is heavily evident Faith in the messiah becomes a reaction, and a work of the spirit, through the telling of the story of Gods Faithfulness. In other words, we are saved by the faithfulness of God. By Faith for Faith as Paul says in Romans chapter one.

Some Suggested Reading on topic

Conversion of the Imagination – Richard B. Hays

Ancient Near Eastern Thought Relating to the OT – John H. Walton

The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah – Alfred Edersheim

Paul and the Faithfulness of God – N.T. Wright

How God became King – N.T. Wright

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Categories: Bible, CSBS, Doctrine, New Testament, paul, Romans, Theology, YWAM | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Paul’s Reasons for Writting to Rome

Paul - Spain.001For Personal, theological, and for geographical reasons Paul writes to the church in Rome.

As I just said in a recent post, “Romans in not simply a theological book that Paul sought to write” but there were sociological reasons, perhaps political reasons. As we try to be aware of weather or not we are reading into Romans our perception of Paul’s theology we find that the book clearly addresses many things in the life of the church in Rome.

But I mean to highlight that Paul specifically in the beginning and ending of his book he speaks of 1) wanting to visit Rome, but 2) returning to Jerusalem from Macedonia region (likely Corinth) first, 3) finishing his work from Jerusalem to Illyricum and not wanting to build on others foundations, 4) wanting to finally come to Rome and get the churches help for further expansion west to Spain.

In other words one of Paul’s primary concerns outside of this specific group of believers in Rome is that he wants to see the ongoing mission of the church. He believes that since Jesus is in fact the Messiah then now is the time when Gods purposes for Israel are being realized when Gentiles believe and worship the God of Israel now revealed in the Messiah.

That said, if the church in Rome wants to be a part of this ongoing mission. Then they, a mixed group of Jews and Gentiles need to learn to get along. Paul speaks plainly in chapter 14 about not despising each other over issues of food and drink, or holy days. But before that Paul goes much deeper in chapters 1-11 as to what exactly they are to find their common ground in. Paul is careful not to shift the balance to far to one side which would lead towards anti-Semitic attitudes, or to attitudes of Jewish superiority.

This becomes more clear with just a simple knowledge of the timeline and historical events of the time. Paul is writing this letter in his third missionary journey 53-57 AD. He is near the end of it. At 54 AD Emperor Caligula died and his edict to ban Jews from Rome ended. The church that had once been Jewish and Gentile had become purely Gentile for a number of years, then the Jews came back. Not difficult then to image hostility towards the Jews from Gentile believers who do not feel the need to observe Jewish holidays and Jewish diet. The returned Jews may be causing some confusion. They may be narrowing the grace of God to yes embracing Jesus as Messiah but also doing the rest of the requirements in order to really be part of the Family of God. Gentiles are not only resisting this but perhaps getting into arguments and judgements directed towards those who historically rejected Jesus and depend on their traditions to much. They need some intervention and conflict resolution. Paul goes to the deepest possibly roots of this conflict. It is no wonder that this book has primarily been used to answer questions of how people get reconciled with God. Since there is a major emphasis on unity it is easy to narrow the discussion to unity between man and God. Really the roots of the problem presented here for the church in Rome goes then to the question of mans unity with God irrespective of their racial ethnicity. So it is not that Paul never talks about reconciliation with God but i would say the primary purposes of Paul in the letter and therefore the emphasis is on getting the church unified by the Faithfulness of God to his covenants.

Categories: Bible, Church, Context, Doctrine, Faith, Mission, New Testament, Romans | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Living with Evil, living between the Cross and the Resurrection, and actively anticipating a New World.

Devotion to Saint Death in MexicoSo I’ve been reading steadily again. Also we are in full swing of things here at YWAM San Diego Baja. We have DTS running with 30+ students. We have the CSBS starting its 4th school now here with 15 students. And we have the brand new Titus Project running with nine students of which I am one.

I’ve been learning to improve my own teachings with more practical skills and a lot of good reminders and heart checks along the way. Also I read through the book “The Seven Laws of the Learner” by Bruce Wilkinson. Its been a great start to these new challenges I am excited to face over the next few months.

I’ve also begun to read the book “how to read the bible for all its worth” by Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart. I read it for the first time 7 years ago when I was accepted to do the CSBS in LA. I’m enjoying it even more then I did then. I also just finished reading a wonderful short book by Richard Bauckham called “Bible and Mission”. What I wish to comment on though in this post is a topic I plan to read into further. Evil-and-the-Justice-of-God-0

I just finished the book “Evil and the Justice of God” by N.T. Wright. It is a basic 180 page run through on an intense topic. He quickly introduces the current problem of Evil that continues to be a relevant issue with the ongoing issues with the terrorist group Isis. There are other sensitive issues as a missionary that I am aware of but would rather not going into. Along with those sensitive issues there are some of my good friends who work down in the Red Light district of Tijuana. While people tell us we are foolish for being here and no matter how hard we try to convince them that we are safe. We also recognize with Samwise Gamgee that,

“It’s a dangerous business… going out your door.”

Truly anything can happen but more then that a good many things could happen. We don’t have to try to hard to use our imagination because the reality is that people often disappear in Mexico. People disappear in the USA. Big cities are a risk in general. So with all the potential for evil that looms it is for sure the because of the Grace of God that we step foot out our front doors and proceed to get in cars and drive down to the Red Light area to work with homeless men and women and attempt to bring some light, love, and life.

I am challenged to be proactively thinking about what the nature of evil really is. To write the word, to say the word, and to use it in a way the is consistent with the way scripture uses it and how God has dealt with it and plans to eradicate it. Beyond that I am challenged not just to have thoughts, or philosophies about evil but that when I come face to face with it I will have a response that is consistent with Gods own model. So how then should we be preparing ourselves. A couple months ago i finished listening to the dramatized version of the book by C. S. Lewis, “Screwtape Letters”.  In the preface he describes two wrong approaches to the demonic. One, an over emphasis on the power of demons, and dark spiritual forces of evil. Two, to not give a proper acknowledgement to the world of spirits and demons. So I feel no hesitation to prepare my own philosophy on evil, and to prepare myself for right actions or responses to the evils that may come. Of course we never fully know what we will do until such moments come.

What is our reaction and response to the crisis for Christians and citizens of Iraq and Syria under the terrorism of Isis? N.T. Wright points out that we can not draw the line with terrorists on one side of the line of evil and the innocent on the other side. Because no one is really innocent. In that he really means to say that evil is a line that runs through all men and women. Thought he avoids talking about that line running through children or infants is beside the point. All men and women from an early age develop rebellious, sinful, and yes the potential for evil. Well this is a more and more difficult thing to say in a post christian world. People used to say that divorce was a terrible scandal, homosexuality was an outrage, and pedophilia a an outright disgrace to the human race. This point Wright also pints out is interesting because perhaps the only remaining of these three in a category of ‘evil’ would be the issue of pedophilia. When we consider the line of evil and that it runs through all men we are reminded of another area of weakness in the Christian response to evil. We might go to another extreme and say since the line of evil runs through all men and I am a sinner just as Hitler is a sinner then there are no categories or varying degrees of evil action in the world. This is also a huge mistake and a huge immaturity when it comes to the issue of evil and justice in our world. While both myself and Hitler are sinners, both capable of extreme evils, both prone to hatred, envy, bitterness, violence, manipulation, hurt, and confusion. While I may have killed men in my thoughts toward them, committed adultery with women in my thoughts towards them, and even cursed God himself, I have not committed the same acts in space, time, and history, leaving my mark upon the human race and on Gods good creation. I have left a mark with my sin, my lies, my foolishness, my immaturity, my anger, and my tongue have done damage and the consequences I too must face up to. Among the consequences of my sin, an eternal death and separation from God does not have to be a reality because of Christ. Same for Hitler. Wild as that may sound it is true. But the overarching point here, though God forgives trespasses of those who have trespassed the most there is still a responsibility by authorities put on earth by God to prosecute and provide consequences for all human evil. There is a right consequence for theft and fraud and there is a right consequence for those who commit violent crimes such as murder, rape, child abuse, hate crime, bullying, cruelty to animals, and outright abuse of the environment. Only to name a fraction of crimes that do violence to Gods created order.

The consequences for such crimes ought to fit the crime done. This is a basic rule of law and order. This is at least the beginning of the way in which such a discussion must go. That evil is something found in all men also conceived of biblically as ‘sin’. But though it is in all men not all evil done to man, creation, and to God is to be considered equal not the treatment of it.

The final few thoughts on the subject come to us as we engage with the message of scripture. That all of histories evils and injustices were building up as a case not only against mankind but as a case against the good nature and purposes of God. What was Gods way of addressing in the most meaningful way the problem of evil and injustice in the world?

His own death and resurrection gives us a shocking answer if we allow it. Notice we mean to say that it is God’s own death on the cross that makes a way. For it is on the cross and in his suffering that the perfect lamb of God would take on all evil, and injustice, as a way of dealing with the case that was building up heavily against man. And In a way the injustice and evil of God. At least in the minds of men and women in his good creation does the idea of God’s evil and injustices exist. That too was however addressed also with the final act of removing all guilt from men and all possible guilt previously heaped on God by men now atoned for and finished with the work of the cross. Easter then acts not only as a resurrection of the one God-Man Jesus Christ. But as the resurrection of all men and women who receive the cosmic gift of his atoning sacrifice.

While Christ has undergone his own resurrection we await our own. For we are still hear between the cross and the resurrection. We are challenged live now with the atoning work of Christ and the secure hope of resurrection in active anticipation of the new heaven and the new earth. Just as Jesus teaches in a number of parables on forgiveness, that the kingdom of God will look like a place where debts are cleared and jubilee is at last a reality. We can actively anticipate this new world by engaging in a real kind of addressing evil as evil but then trying to help people and help ourselves take steps to forgive the debts of others.

I am extremely challenged then to live not only in between the cross and resurrection but between the resurrection and everything else before. All of the previous evils, the evils we will face tomorrow once they have been committed and even my own evil. How will I actively and honestly address my evil, the evil of others, as well as find forgiveness for my own evil and the evil of others. While I anticipate the ongoing evil works around me I am also actively anticipating the resurrection and the day when all evil, injustice, and suffering will be done with for Good. These are the wonderful challenges to both philosophy, biblical understanding, as well as current and active dealings with evil that I have received in prayer while reading a wonderful little book in the issues.

Please Read: “EVIL AND THE JUSTICE OF GOD” – by N.T. Wright

Also I suggest on Topic some more balanced reading relating to the world of spirits, demons, and devil.

C.S. Lewis “Screwtape Letters”

Dean Sherman “Spiritual Warfare”

My next Three Books on the Topic

“Exclusion and Embrace” – Miroslav Volf

“No Future without Forgiveness” – Desmond Tutu

“Raging with Compassion” – John Swinton

Categories: Bible, CSBS, Culture, Doctrine, Ethics, Faith, Mexico, New Testament, Philosophy, Theology | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Goals for Reading, Writing, Teaching, and Creating

So Lately I have been on a writing and reading lull. I have a number of books i need to get started. I’ve also been hitting a wall with any kind of writing. A guess it is just the end of an other year for me and I am catching my breath for the next long stretch. The year for the last 7 years goes from September to August.

Thought this might be a good time to set out some of my goals for this next year. Reading, writing, teaching, creating, and personal goals need to be laid out.

Here I will mostly layout some of my reading, writing, and teaching goals because that is what I will likely be continuing with here on my blog over the next year.

This past year I ended up reading around 15 books. That actually means there are about 6-8 on my shelf that I purchased and have not finished. I am by no means a speed reader. It takes me a lot of hard work and focus to finish books. I’m have a bit of an attention disorder. I still, like when i was a kid, find myself wanting to be outside on the soccer field running. I’m the guy who’s leg wont stop twitching. This next year I think it would be cool however to actually read 15 books again. It was a good year for me in being able to get through this many books. A few of them were 500 pages or more. I read a lot in the area of History, Sociology, Philosophy, and Theology, and in that order.

Im eager to read more in these categories, as they are my favorite. But I’m also very fascinated by ecology. I may pick up a few books dealing with the environment from people that I like. Bill McKibben, Paul Hawken, and Joel Salatin are popular authors and practitioners in my wish list. I’m very interested to see people who love God pointing the rest of us toward a more biblical attitude towards the environment.

That and a handful of good theologians. My two favorite currently are John H. Walton for the OT and Tom Wright for the NT. These guys both point to the whole picture of Gods design and redemptive purpose for all of Gods creation. In the beginning man had a special job of caring for and making it better. In Christ man is re-created for the same good work. I love it. 🙂

If I can manage to read more then 15 I would be happy, but we will see.

If I am reading consistently then I’m sure I will be able to find the energy to write more and continue my blog. I want to write on the issues coming up in my reading and have some fun posts but also informative with footnotes and keep myself a bit scholarly and studious.

As for the area of teaching. I want to challenge myself with a few new books in the CSBS. Im thinking I will finally get around to teaching Romans. I have a a dream of getting to fully teach the book of Exodus. Love that book. Outside of teaching in the class I will be teaching and training staff. One of the new developments for this year will to begin our media initiative of the CSBS. I want to be able to do way more in the area of media. So I have learned to do some basic editing. We are going to get a good bit of equipment and begin developing some quality teaching videos. Some short ones with solid information and some longer overview lectures. I of course will have to practice to get what we are looking for and will have the chance to develop some of my own teachings just for video. But eventually we will have our staff using it and all our incoming speakers. I’m going to incorporate it into the preparation for each staff as they prep a book. There will be 2-4 sessions working with the equipment and cranking out good media related to their teachings.

Im also looking to develop what we are calling a “Word of Hope” pamphlet for the Homes of Hope work we are doing here in Mexico. Every family that receives a Home will receive the pamphlet and someone to being to explain some of the contents. It will literally be a Word of Hope. We want to introduce the families to God not just with the home we give, and the bible we give, and the love we give. We want them to know a bit more of what is in the book we give them. We want them to begin to grasp what the Hope really is. Its not just a home to make there crappy life a little better. Its not just a book and a God that will take you to heaven later after your crappy life. But it is the hope of a God that comes into our lives and begins to show us how we can live this life to the fullest and begin to see his trans-formative work here in our life and in our families and communities. We hope ‘Word of Hope’ will make that just a little more clear and bring more light to why we gave them a Home and a Bible.

I final idea that I may be working on this summer is to create an accredited course with YWAM for the churches and the families of the communities we are working to see transformed. It would be equivalent of a small 3 week course. I think I would like to see it called a Genesis Course. We would begin in the area of Worldview. Particularly looking at Genesis 1-2 and getting a clear picture of who we are. It is important to know your value. Even in the rest of Genesis to know that even as a fallen being you have great value to God and in all of creation. The second week would give people tools for biblical studies and learning how to value Gods word and receive from it. The last week would be taking the model that God gave Abraham to bless other families. We would have them develop their own ‘seed project’. They will end the course with having one thing they will do to begin the blessing of other people. In summary gaining value of self, value of the Word, and value of giving. This I think expresses what we want people to grasp as they begin their walk. That they have value, that Gods Word has immense ongoing value, and that being a blessing to other people and our environment begins to give value to the rest of Gods creation.

These are a handful of the ideas, goals, and thoughts about the coming year. September through August. 🙂

Categories: CSBS, Mission, YWAM | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Biblical Worldview and the Whole Commission

A common buzz word around Christian circles is the “Great Commission”. Many people know of this commission from the words of Jesus in the final chapter of the Gospel of Matthew.

There is perhaps two important elements of this commission that I think people miss. So I want to be direct in talking about it cause if your reading I know how easy it is to lose interest in something you might be reading on an obscure blog.

1. Original Context of the Commission

2. The Commission in today’s context.

The Commission in today’s evangelical western context is 200+ years in the making. Something wonderful has happened according to most evangelicals. That is the evangelical missions movement. The Christianity of the 1800’s until this day have been one of extraordinary growth in the way of numbers, and nations reached with the message of salvation and the establishment of a local church. For many the great commission is a call to continue this great work of church planting and spreading the message of salvation with the nations. Is this Jesus’ Great commission? Great Commission

When put into its original context and the passage observed carefully, Jesus’ commission has much more to say about the task of the church.

First of all the Book of Matthew was written primarily to a Jewish audience. Other Gospels had Jewish characteristics but not a strictly Jewish audience in mind. Jesus was addressing the commission to his disciplers and followers and the book of Matthew was addressed to a later audience of Jews.

What does that mean? What does it have to do with how we understand the commission?

Well, In order to put it into the right context we need to know what the task of the Jewish people was. How was Jesus expanding their concept of the task given to them in the Old Testament?

Simply put, the people of Israel had a task of living according to the law of God. This is not to be understood as simply a very rigorous moral code. The Law includes their history of the origins of all of humanity and Israel’s place in the family of human kind. Then they learn their own origin as a nation. They learn of the origin of their specific task as a people with the life of Abraham. Their task is to be a blessing to nations. They learn that they will be able to be a blessing because God speaks to them and reveals the way. Nations around them learn to fear God when they see what great laws the people live by and by what wisdom they have had revealed to them. But in the end they fail to maintain that blessing to the nations. Then God in the Incarnation and following his Resurrection gives his commission anew. His commission for his disciples to bless nations by discipling them is really not to different from before, there is simply a new dynamic because Christ has removed the barrier and initiated the kingdom.

In many respects the “Evangelical Modern Commission” falls very short because we see nations becoming more Christian by ratio, and by number of churches, but we see something private, something that has brought little fruit. Rwanda was devastated after the 1900’s brought the percentage of Christians from 0% to 80% in about 80 years only to see 1 million people exterminated and calamities ensue. Christians fought Christians and little changed on the level of Rwanda’s culture.

There are many stories where the “Evangelical Movement” has boasted of its great accomplishments to plant churches and save souls. Little has been accomplished in the last 200 year by the evangelical missions movement that would seem to have touched on the original context of the great commission.

The great commission is really an extension of all of Gods commissions given to Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses & Israel, and David. These covenant commissions remind us that Gods goal is not redemption of souls alone but whole people, whole cultures, and the whole of creation.

What we need to know is the whole picture of Gods redemptive plan. It involved discipling nations and bringing the kingdom as well as the king into whatever communities we touch, baptizing them in the name of the father, son, and holy spirit. Our brokenness in the Christian worldview is due to the last 200 years of our Evangelical Christian theology.

It is a theology that has rejected secular studies, or humanities, for fear of being humanistic, or secular, or a social gospel adherent. There is a real lack of knowledge with regard to creating and nurturing culture. The abandonment of the studies of humanities has created a really big problem for the defense of the Christian worldview. Because for the past 200 years there is little evidence to defend it. There is a reason to defend it and reason to live it. There are enough examples of this, there are also wonderful examples of this before this whole western strand of evangelicalism began to plague the church. In fact it is dominantly an American Evangelical disaster. America as a nation made strong efforts to break with its European past. This was seen in the movement of the church as well. What the American Christian needs is a better starting point then American Missions movement. We obviously need the whole picture of scripture, the early church, the middles ages, the reformations, the Renaissance, the enlightenment, and the birth of the modern era which has all become the foundation for the modern day, evangelical, missions movement.

We need a better worldview, our belief systems as Christians have been infected throughout a long history of influence. Gnosticism and Platonism of the early church gave us our dualistic Greek thinking. The “enlightenment” encouraged us to keep looking to Greek dualism and add to it all the ‘isms’ of Modernity; humanism, scientism, materialism, rationalism, empiricism, Marxism, existentialism Darwinism, est. These worldviews have corrupted and contributed to the Christianity that we have inherited today. Truly, the only way to cure this begins with seeking God and his truth through commitment to study of the scriptures, and through steady increase in the knowledge of history and worldviews. Then one day you might be able to hold up on one hand a christian worldview that is unparalleled to that of all other worldviews because it is not something man made but God given.

Categories: Anthropology, Bible, Church, Context, Culture, Doctrine, Mission, Modern, Modernism, New Testament, Old Testament, Philosophy, Renaissance, Salvation, Society/Culture, sociology, Theology, Worldview | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Pluaralism & Sexual Orientations: A Moral Roller Coaster Ride

bildeThe past week we have been on a post-modern moral roller coaster ride.

World Vision recently embraced new policies that honor same sex relationships within their organization only to reverse their decision days later for the sake of the poor across the globe. My wife and I are regular supporters of the organization and we are happy to learn that the donations will continue coming in for all the good work WV is doing across the globe.

I wish to weigh in on this in such a way that may provoke thought and discussion over the nature of human morality. Obviously in our pluralist culture we may wish to say that we should treat people well no matter what their sexual orientation is. That is culturally, the correct answer. To answer otherwise would make for ones self, many new enemies.

On the other hand are the religiously devout immoral in their imposing religious agendas on others in this pluralist era?

In consideration of the whole World Vision drama people are asking, what is more immoral?

Is it it more immoral to be a homosexual?

or

Is it more immoral to consider homosexuality immoral?

And if we want to be good pluralists, we are forced to say that both are in fact immoral but it would be immoral to pass judgement on the immoral. But my question was which is more immoral. I did not say that those who consider homosexuality to be immoral are to also be passing on judgement. But maybe there is a such thing as using your good judgement to make the case that homosexuality is actually immoral.

People speak of the love of Christ as if it were the only element of the character of Christ Christians were to imitate. Jesus speaks often of this kind of moral judgement. That is not something that we seek because we are left to ourselves in this world to determine our own version of morality. But our judgement is to determine what is right and what is wrong. Many things are permissible but not all things are beneficial.

Maybe then we can say with the Apostle Paul to the present issues of our day, “many things are permissible culturally, or naturally, but not all things are beneficial.” This line comes in reference to consistent biblical concept from Genesis that man in all of his humany-humanity is prone to choices that are not beneficial for his life, his health, the health of others, the future world of the next humanity. Are we to accept our present sickness and not look for a restoration and a completeness. This line from the apostle Paul is part of the answer to these moral challenges.

Is wrong wrong because it offends ‘the conservative right wing” or is it wrong wrong because it is actually not beneficial for the world of tomorrow’s?

The church is learning to accept what is beneficial from post-modern culture. Modern Evangelicals would never give in to the pressure to accept what is being accepted in today’s culture. But post-moderns are learning to be okay with people making choices for themselves even if the church feels they are wrong choices. But that is exactly the point. The church (that can actually call itself the church) will not give in to pressure that says, “these choices people are making are right because they love each other and they love God”. It will still be a wrong non beneficial choice.

So for me, I’m okay with my friends and family making their own choice in their sexual orientation. I will not shun you. I will not quote scripture at you. But I will believe, and if asked, I will say, “the choice your making is not going to be a beneficial one. In other words it wont be healthy. Granite you may find some happiness, you may have companionship, but you will miss the benefits of the life God intended for you to have had you made the tough choice that is right.” That opinion I will not force on you but if you have to ask, that is my belief. Truth be told, I’d rather not have to say any of that. I would like to display what I think would be the most Christ-like thing, that would be to spend more quality time, and share a deeper friendship with you. I love you.

The problem with most Christian theology on the issue is that people would prefer to make their standards clear in order to not be mistaken by other evangelicals as an advocate for homosexuality. So I make a point here not to engage heavily in all the bible verses one might wish to throw at this issue. I’m not interested in that in the least.

I’d rather be a friend, and go have a drink with the ones who’s choices are non-beneficial. The problem with theology on the topic is not that it is wrong. It is that it is theology. Theology does not help people wrestling with choices, passions, temptation, and Love. It helps to have someone who is not pretending to love them from afar. It helps to have a person to share that drink with, and to share their love with, and to speak of passions and temptations and choices.

So I challenge me, and I challenge you, do not love from afar, and don’t love with your theology. I appreciate good theology. But in almost every relevant case, theology is at its finest when it is acted upon. When people are treated as whole people or at least people that might one day be whole.

 

*** I will be monitoring comments for this post. Appropriate comments will be allowed. By rules of general fairness towards humans on both sides of the argument.

Categories: Bible, Church, Culture, Ethics, Mission, Modern, Philosophy, Post-Modern, Society/Culture, Theology, Worldview | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Incarnation, Death, Resurrection and the End of Christian Gnosticism

mountainflowersI want to begin this blog with a reminder that the bible affirms environmental stewardship and the sanctity of human life. Gods created order in Genesis one and two reveal a God who created man to partner with God in the good care of all forms of life.

The rest of the bible makes a strong case that man not God brings harm to the many forms of life. The fate of man us intertwined with the treatment of all other life forms.  So man not God hurts God created order.

The other biblical reminder is of Gods Incarnation, Death, and Resurrection. His incarnation initiates the redemptive work in nature and humankind. The idea that the all mighty, powerful, creator putting on human flesh transforms our idea of a distorted humanity. He continues this redemptive work when he is killed, buried and then resurrected. He is reversing what Adam had broken in humanity by taking on death, and overcoming it for all mankind. That he would take on the flesh of a sinful race, die, and be resurrected confirms that Gods creation is still worthy of preservation.

We are challenged to be better caretakers of our environment, because God has carried for it, because he created it, because he incarnates it regularly, because he has future plans for its full restoration.

His plans for the future restoration includes the present. Right now God’s Word is to be incarnate in our lives. We are to follow the model he sets, the job he gives in creation, the job he gives, “go make disciples of all nations” and again in Acts “to the ends of the earth”. So all nations, all people, all lands, all of nature is to be touched by people of God bringing reconciliation and trans-formative restoration. His holistic approach reminds us when we attempt to evangelize a man that we treat him as a whole man. We make our appeal not simply in mechanical terms of truth but in the spirit of Love. We are not appealing simply to a soul without a mind or a body. Love means physical emotional connections must be made. When appealing to the mind we must bring some facts, some reason, some absolute certainty. Yes, and the third, man is a spirit and not just a mind with a body. Man is a metaphysical creature.

Just as our appeal is not only to on part of nature, or one nation of people. It is also to all of creation, all of humanity, and all of what is human. Jesus came to bring back to life all that is dead in his created order. trinity-172175215_std

The Doctrine of the Trinity affirms these many beliefs. That God is in some way inseparable from his creation by the three facts; that it is his creation, that he acted by his word to protect and guide the future redemption of all of creation and that he has taken on flesh and entered into creation. That man is made in Gods image affirms the three part of man that are to be redeemed. Non Human nature also bears the mark of trinity in Protons, Neutrons and Electrons. These three particles are the building blocks of all physical substances. Protons have a positive charge, electrons are negative and neutrons are neutral. In the same way we have the basic particles made up of Hadrons, Leptons and Bosons.

So how is it that we can get the trinity right without getting rid of Christian Gnostic attitudes towards creation. So much negativity has been built up towards the natural order. We are ready to see it all come crashing down. We are ready to see Jesus come back and save it all. But why are we not ready to defend the earth, to defend what God made in humanity.

Maybe we need to set our eyes anew on the last book of our sacred library. Maybe Revelation has something to say. For isn’t it this book that many think confirms our fears, that it is all coming down. That when it does then the rescue comes. Why not just hold on until the end, be raptured, be rescued, and forget about trying to make a pathetic effort to fix any of it.

Just as Jesus left it to his church to go into all the world and disciple nations. Revelation 21 reveals the climax of this work. That when Jesus kingdom comes in full the kings of the nations will bring into the kingdom of God the glory and honor of nations. (verses 24-26). How sad it will be for those who simply held on until the end. There will be no glory and honor being brought into the kingdom of God. There will be no part in bringing in the kingdom of God. Discipling nations to walk in holistic renewal, not just their churches, and the souls of people. But whole people,  whole nations, and the whole of creation. Only this work will be brought into the kingdom of God when it is in its fullness.

My friend Ron Smith, says that “The trinity, is a theological hill to die on”. I think I get what this means when I consider that God also has a certain kind of wholeness. We can distort his image to being parts of the trinity. When we do this we are vulnerable further to distorting the parts of man, parts of nature, and the nature of the Christian mission. A single crack in the trinity can wreck the churches witness.

 

Categories: Authority, Bible, Church, Context, CSBS, Doctrine, Eschatology, Mission, New Testament, Old Testament, Orthodox, Salvation, School of Biblical Studies, Theology, YWAM | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Divine Human Nature

What does it mean to get saved according to Genesis one through three?

This is a term I heard so much growing up in the Baptist Church. Its a term I still use on occasion. It is a word that starts to sound really weird after hearing so much.

“Do you want to get saved?”   “Are you Saved?”    “Am I Saved?”

Now nearing about 7 years of being part of the School of Biblical Studies in YWAM, I have taught Genesis 1-3  more than any other passages in the bible by far.

For the past few weeks I have been talking about the book, going through the first few chapters, with about 10-15 youth here in Mexico. All of the kids would say they are Christians. By and large, Mexican people would claim Christianity more than most Americans. It is a very religiously minded culture. Some of the boys are actually seeking discipleship and have began a real relationship with God that is evident in their life. But some of the boys are not in that place.

So I have been doing these bible studies for a mixed group, some of the boys have not been “Saved”.

So my thought has been, “what would that look like according to Genesis one through three”?  What is it to be saved?

First I have decided that its nothing to do with religion. No religiousness is needed to begin. In fact there is very little that is religious at all about these few chapters. If religion involves rules, than there was only one. Enjoy everything do everything your were created to do, just don’t eat of that tree. It brings death.

Of course God is involved. So if God = religion than maybe this is religious. But according the the great dreaded biblical scholar, Jesse Levi Evans, Genesis one, two, and three is not about religion.

It is about being a whole person. It is not until after man freely chose death for his race that man became somethingda-vinci incomplete. Before his choice, he had work that was fulfilling and meaningful. God had delegated to him the of job running everything he had set up. Not only meaningful work, but meaningful sex and relationships, and family. The very breath of the creator filled your lungs and gave you your full existence. Life was very good. Life was full. Man was whole. Man knew God. Man knew nature. Man knew himself.

What does it mean to be saved according to Genesis one through three? It means that being made whole again is possible. You learn what it means to be a person.

Though chapter three brings death, -death to the whole man, death to fulfillment in work, relationships, and mans relationship with his creator, man begins to set his eyes on a resurrection, on a recreation.

Studying the bible has become I hobby and a deep love affair for me. I still cry just reading specific passages. I get excited about the connections. Studying the bible is not a religious endeavor but me 1)becoming a whole person, 2) knowing the whole story, 3) knowing my environment and my role in it, 4) gaining perspective on Gods whole character.

In other words being saved is not religious nonsense found in a religious book created by fanatics. In fact that’s why I don’t use that phrase much.

Being saved becomes becoming whole, knowing myself, my environment, my friends and family by way of revelation from God and not being left to deal with only my bad choices that lead to death, frustration, toil, anger. The bible is not about becoming more religious its about become more human, which according to Genesis one through three is in the image of the divine.

Categories: Anthropology, Bible, Church, Context, Cosmology, CSBS, Culture, Doctrine, Faith, Genesis, Mexico, Old Testament, Origins, Orthodox, Philosophy, psychology, Salvation, School of Biblical Studies, sociobiology, sociology, Spiritual, Theology, YWAM | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Everyone I know Needs to do CSBS

I grew up in the church. I’m glad I did. Though many Sunday’s I made the “Lords day” more like hell for my parents. I would have rather spent my Sunday mornings sleeping in until pregame started and then pure football all day.

Given some time with good influences, some within the church and most once a made a decision to go work with some wonderful people at a summer camp for a couple summers I found that the Christian life had strong merits. I’ve always been emotional about the gospel of Jesus. I cried at church from time to time as a child when we sang my favorite hymns.

logo_uofnEvery now and then my dad, the pastor, would give a sermon that really got me. And I would ask Jesus into my heart, again. I think I got saved at least 100 times as I was growing up. After summer camp I went to YWAM. I found out later lots of people feel that YWAM is a cult. Really its actually just an inter-denomination, multicultural, worldwide missions organization and its roots are actually in the Assembly of God Movement. But again, it is inter-denominational. I don’t have to speak in tongues if I don’t want. 🙂

It wasn’t until after my DTS that as I and my good friend Justin Lechner were preparing to head out to LA for the School of Ministry Development, that his mom, gently encouraged us to check out the CSBS now starting in LA. We actually said we would go look at it and we both felt strongly that we were to go for the Bible School instead.

I did not realize that I was about to make one of the best decisions of my life. I also did not realize how much I needed the story, (That’s what I may now refer to the school as).  I needed the beginning all the way to the end. I needed it in order too. And for the first time in 30 years of this school being run in YWAM it was going to be put in Chronological order.

I did not feel academic enough to start this fairly rigorous course. They said it was at least the equivalent to the study of a 2 year collage course crammed into nine months. They said, I would be graded, and that it was a school in which you could fail. Regardless, I was so ready to do this.

We began with the Gospel of the John; “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.”

How better to begin the story to find out that your central character God was incarnated in the Word and then later in flesh. So that you know that what you are engaging with is not a dry old book but the incarnated God later to be revealed in flesh.

Cliff Davis our school leader. A brave man who took on way too many teachings pushed us as students all throughout the OT, to look to Jesus without the name Jesus, to anticipate a messiah without injecting everything we think we know about him until you meet him afresh as a student. Though all of us Christians with his Holy Spirit in us guiding us through the school we entered the shoes of the Original Readers, the Original Audiences of the OT message. We became a little stiff-necked in the process. When we reached the book of Matthew we, along with the 1st Century original audience we wrestled with this new character who claimed he was from heaven, who spoke beautifully, and challenged the leaders of the synagogue, who was eventually crucified, and stories of a Resurrection began to spread. As students we had truly entered the ancient world of and allowed our thoughts to conform to theirs.

I needed to see the story unfold in a powerful way, and more than seeing, I needed to study it in context as if I was a part of the story. Because at the end it became clear to me. The story I worked hard to try to inject myself into really was a story that I was a part of. The crazy thing is that this is not just a story for the few who might like to engage in it as I have. It is ‘the’ story; That takes us back to the beginning. The ‘good news’ for all humanity needs to go back to the very beginning. So that all of humanity can be sure that this message is not just for certain people.CSBS Emblem

Crazy enough, the God who created all things began with a garden called Eden. Located in modern day Iraq. God created man and women. He began to create and co-create humanity with Adam and Eve. Two people capable of co-creation. All nations came from God, all nations came from those who he created. The narrative of Genesis 1-3 shows us that Gods purpose for humanity was pretty simple. Co-Create, and Co-nurture. Gods two jobs given to Adam and Eve where to create more people, and to have dominion over the things God created. In dominion is implied not what is often misunderstood about this word. That man can do whatever he wants because he has dominion. Rather he is to nurture, to understand, to value, and help make what God created even better. It is no wonder why man has grown to love science so much, why conservation groups are growing more popular. One of the primary roles of man is to care for nature. One of the other primary roles is creating other men and women. We tend to think of things with a naturalistic framework. That makes man and woman’s role in child making purely physical. But if you take a step back there is much more of a dimension to co-creating. God made man in his image. Part of the role in co-creation is following the example of God in parenting the child in order that they too learn to function as a caretaker of nature, and creator of life. Of course one last crucial element was that God had perhaps a third role of man. That was continued allegiance to God the ultimate creator. This is demonstrated in Gods warning not to eat of the “Tree of Knowledge of good and evil” for the day you eat of it death will come into the world.

This brings us the reality we are more familiar with. Death, murder, disasters, chaos, random chance. We know that Adam decided for all of humanity that death we be a normal part of our lives. From the time of Adam man has looked in hope to the idea of a resurrection. When one dies what will bring them back. Death though is a reality was not meant to be.

The reality we are familiar with may be such a strong reality it blinds us from the hope of a Resurrection, or simply from a full life. According to the story mans hope is not in vain. Nor does the story leave out this common hope. God is not silent as to this resurrection hope. Though death is the common reality that seemingly has nothing good to do with it. It is not all bad. For when a plant dies its seeds fall to the ground and produce more life. Death is a reminder that man has fallen. It is a reminder of the garden, and there is hope for a resurrection.

All this to say, the bible in Genesis is helping us to see who we all are, what we are to be doing that brings fulfillment, why certain things don’t fully fulfill any more, and what we are looking forward to. Man has always been faced with yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Every moment is fleeting. But there is always past, and always future. Knowing where we came from and what we can rightly look forward to can help us make decisions in every moment.

The power of this story is a reminder that human choices have a special power endowed by God for creation, nurturing, building up. That our choices are however are own, that we can choose not tear down, infect, and destroy. Morality or ethics.

The Story; Origins of All, Purpose of All, Morality of All, Destiny of All

The story touches on all of these things not just for those like me who feel like giving it some time. But this is the missing link for all peoples. No one single piece can bring your life into perfect harmony. But together knowing where you came from, where your fulfillment is found, what your responsibility is, and where it is all leading is what we all need.
Christian or Not. The bible has answers for what it means to be a whole person, and what it means to be a real Christian.

Categories: Bible, Church, Context, CSBS, Ethics, Faith, Genesis, New Testament, Old Testament, Origins, YWAM | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

God – Man – Nature

Genesis 1-2 outlines Gods design for the relationship between 1)man and nature, 2)man and God, 3)nature and God.

God created the cosmos for which he then created a human caretaker. Dominion was given to man. Though it is quickly seen in chapter 3 when man ‘sins’ it is not just a sacred thing between him and God. His ‘sin’ had a negative impact on nature around him.

God is owner, and founder of the Universe.

His relationship with nature is primarily by way of the managers he set in place. Men and Women created in his own image.

Mans relationship to God is then briefly outlined; You have a unique father like relationship with your boss who made you like himself. Mans relationship with nature is outlined as well, the system God created is open. It is effected by mans choices, there is great potential in nature both for good and for harm.

Modern man (1600-1900’s) began to see man and nature anonymous of Gods direct influence. Their first mistake was the deist theology. That God though he is there has no involvement in the universe or in the affairs of man. Their first mistake lead quickly to man becoming the complete measure of all things. That God no longer seemed rational therefore man and nature is all that there is. Terms such has humanism, modernism, and then enlightenment refer generally to this theological and philosophical activity.

The effect on theology was that those who continued to engage with scripture did so without any commitment to the bible as something reliable. There priory effort was to untangle the bible and its message from all reality. They were very effective in their work. The church reacted. Their reaction was not to guard the message of scripture by way of critical literary studies, or contextualism, rather they gave in to the new onslaught of scholarly activity an retreat inward. Since closer analysis seemed to contradict scripture as reliable the evangelical world put their emphasis on experimental faith experiences. People kept getting ‘saved’ and the church still grew steady. The missions movement thrusted forward with men like John Wesley with a passion to see the lost reached with the gospel of Christ. Certainly we are reminded that in a generation when such attacks on scripture were so effective, Christ is not bound. Though to end there would be to disregard that the church had failed to see the importance for future generations of the battles lost of the historicity and literary, and cultural legitimacy of scripture.

Just as culture and philosophy moved away from a more unified worldview, where God/Man/Nature where a tangled messy relationship. So the church rejected the modern notion of natures biblical significance. Since modern man sought to remove God, modern evangelicalism sought to remove the man/God relationship from nature, history, fact, science, critical studies.

The great commission of Christ is not merely a save souls plan. It is a disciple nations plan. It surely includes the evangelical biblical concept of salvation of the soul, but it includes the mind, and the body.

Mans relationship with nature is not everything.

Mans relationship with God is not everything ( though when man is in ‘right’ relationship with God it would mean that his relationship with his whole self, and with nature is coming in line as well)

Gods relationship with Nature: He created it and it was Good. We screwed it up. But his plan was to use humanity to make it even better. God is in the process of redeeming all things. Not just souls, but the whole man. Not just man but the whole of creation.

The Great Commission is better understood when Gods whole narrative is in our grasp. The from the beginning Gods Commission for man was to care for nature, to nurture and bring life forever. The Great Commission in Matthew 28 is God using the church of Christ to fulfill his Genesis 1 Commission.

Categories: Bible, Church, Context, Doctrine, Enlightenment, Faith, Genesis, History, Mission, Modern, New Testament, Old Testament, Origins, Orthodox, Philosophy, Renaissance, Salvation, Science, Society/Culture, Spiritual, Theology, Worldview | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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